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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

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The Father of all the Turtles

No-one would deny that there are still mysterious animals living beneath the waters of the world`s oceans, which have not yet been described by science. In 1976 for example the world`s third largest species of shark was discovered. Known as the megamouth shark because of its enormous mouth this creature (which can reach a length of seventeen feet) seems to have a worldwide distribution.

Another enormous creature which has been reported from all the world`s oceans, but whose identity has not, as yet, been accepted by mainstream science is a gigantic chelonian, known to the natives of Sumatra as `The Father of All the Turtles`. Some religions even believe that the world itself is carried on the back of a gigantic turtle (a concept taken by Scienece Fantasy author Terry Pratchett) and images of these turtles can be found in temples across the region where they are often used to hold up pillars.

Accounts of these remarkable animals first reached Europe in the early nineteenth century when Dutch settlers in what is now Indonesia reported native legends of enormous turtles. These stories eventually filtered back to their homeland in western Europe. However sightings of such beasts are not confined to the tropical waters of the East Indies.

In June 1956 seamen of the cargo steamer Rhapsody, reported that they had seen a huge turtle about 45 feet long with an all-white shell south of Nova Scotia. The Canadian coastguards warned local boats about this gigantic reptile with flippers I 5 feet long and capable of raising its head 8 feet out of the water. Seventy three years earlier, not far away on the Newfoundland Banks, a turtle 60 feet long and 40 feet wide had been reported.

What is really exciting is that these creatures have even been reported in British waters. In 1959 a shark fisherman called Tex Geddes who had once been an associate of renowned naturalist and author Gavin Maxwell and James Gavin, a friend of his who was on holiday saw a giant turtle in the sea off the small island of Soay in the Inner Hebrides for an hour in September 1959.

They had been watching marine creatures including some killer-whales and a basking shark, when Gavin noticed a black shape on the water about two miles away in the direction of the Skye shore. Although this was where the killer-whales had last been seen, Geddes was convinced that this was something new. He later wrote:

“I am afraid we both stared in amazement as the object came towards us, for this beast steaming slowly in our direction was like some hellish monster of prehistoric times. The head was definitely reptilian, about two feet six high with large protruding eyes. There were no visible nasal organs, but a large red gash of a mouth which seemed to cut the head in half and which appeared to have distinct lips. There was at least two feet of clear water behind the neck, less than a foot of which we could see, and the creature's back which rose sharply to its highest point some three to four feet out of the water and fell away gradually towards the after end. I would say we saw 8 to 10 ft. of back on the water line.”

Slowly the creature swam nearer and the two men watched it until it was parallel to the dinghy only 20 yards away. It kept turning its head from side to side, as if looking all around it. Eventually it submerged and the two men headed gratefully for the shore.

One could hardly hope for two better witnesses. They were both experienced seasfarers and fishermen who were familiar with the local wildlife. However these are only a few of many sightings of giant turtles seen in the world`s oceans. What could they be?

Firstly, in the best traditions of fisherman`s tailes, I think that we can discount any suggestion that there really is a turtle with a shell measuring between forty and sixty feet in length. At sea with no frames of reference sizes are notoriously difficult to estimate and it seems certain that whatever it was that the crewmen of the Rhapsody reported seeing it was considerably smaller.

However there is a great deal of evidence for the existence of giant marine chelonians. In the cretaceous period (which ended 65 million years ago) there was a giant turtle called Archelon. It was found in the sea of Niobrara over what is now the state of Kansas in the USA. The carapace was twelve feet long and the skull was three feet long. Some zoologists have speculated that `The Father of all the Turtles` is a surviving population of Archelon.

However it is not even necessary to hypothesise such a Jurassic Park type scenario in order to explain these magnificent creatures because there is already an animal very well known to science which could explain all these sightings.

The leathery turtle or luth is found in all the world`s oceans and although it breeds in the tropics, particularly in Indonesia and coastal Central America it regularly visits temperate waters including Scandinavia, Nova Scotia and the north of Scotland. The largest specimen ever found was found in the 1980s near Harlech in Wales and was over nine feet in length. It is certainly not impossible that even larger specimens exist!

If one plots a graph showing the distribution curve of the size of animals one can extrapolate some interesting data. An average human male, for example is just under six foot tall. I am six foot six, and have known people who do not suffer from any genetic abnormality who are considerably taller than me! There are also perfectly normal blokes who are considerably shorter than the average. If one extrapolates this frequency curve for an animal like the leathery turtle then one discovers that if the average length is between seven and eight feet, an animal of nine feet is not uncommon, and that leviathans of twelve feet or even more in length are perfectly feasible.

The `Father of all the Turtles` may not carry the globe on its back but certainly exists! The irony is that these magnificent animals are in danger because of thoughtless behaviour by human beings. Like their ancestor Archelon these creatures`s main diet are jellyfish, and it is a sad fact that many of these giant turtles die each year after eating plastic bags or toy balloons which have drifted out to sea after mistaking them for their favourite food.

Remember this, next time that you see a charity or promotional event where balloons are released willy nilly into the air. Each one of these apparently harmless bags of rubber could be condemning `The Father of all the Turtles` to an agonising and ignominious death!

GUEST BLOGGER DAVID CURTIS: It's not so grim up north now the CFZ is in town!

David Curtis is one of my dearest friends. I have known him for a long time and over the years we have created quite a lot of mayhem up and down the country, and it is with great pleasure that I am publishing his first (but not, I am sure, his last, guest bloggo)

Things were, indeed, looking grim up North on a Saturday night in early February 2009.

The choice was stark in Seaham On Sea, it was either, go to the local bar to see Maurice The Gimp perform Gregorian Chants set to music by Motorhead, or stop in and watch Celebrity Curtain's; a four hour in-depth documentary on the agony Katie Price and Peter Andre went through while choosing living room haberdashery.

Luckily for me, things were a lot chirpier slightly further north! Richard Freeman was doing a talk at the Alum Ale House (South Shields) on his recent trip to Russia in search of a Big Foot type creature called the Almasty. Hurrah! I duly headed north for my entertainment. I had arranged to meet Richard at 7.30pm and as I waited outside the pub in the gloom, with the mist from the river Tyne rolling in, a car door opened 50 feet away and two figures came towards me.

One spoke to me and I recognised this as Richard's voice but what was this broad squat figure approaching me speaking in some strange language? Had Richard captured the Almasty and brought him back to the North of England to perform around Working Mens Clubs? No! It was, of course, that wonderful Geordie researcher of all-things-Fortean, Mike Hallowell!

Relieved, I shook their hands and went inside and down the stairs to the cellar bar. What a wonderful little place it was, perfect for a group chin wag about the weird and wonderful! The new owner seems to think so too because he is going to make a feature of it, so good luck to him!

I grabbed a pint, did my bit for the cause by selling some raffle tickets for Mike and took my place to hear the talks.

First up was Mike with a short talk about a giant rock (hard) lobster and a sea serpent (this is featured elsewhere on the CFZ site so I wont repeat it here but obviously Mike knows his stuff and has dug deep to bring this all to light, so well done Mike).

After his talk Mike did the raffle (the prize being a book he had just written on Haunted Pubs) while singing the praises of an elderly gentleman in the crowd. Mike informed the crowd that without this man's knowledge his book would not have been written.


He then asked this great sage to pull out a ticket, whereupon he proceeded to pick his own ticket ! “Well, you said he was good!” someone quipped. “How Fortean is that?” said another. Still on with the show!

Next up, Richard and his talk about his Russian trip and not a Ivana Humpalot joke in sight! The talk was very well received, the ale did flow and it was a very good night. I met up with some old friends and I hope it will not be too long before the CFZ returns Up North again to tell us tales of high adventures around the globe!

Because while others sit at computer screens, the CFZ are there, in the thick of it, hanging on to a cliff..... for dear life sometimes. But that is another story...

Davy.C
Feb 2009

A NEW DEPARTURE

I don't like e-books and I don't like e-journals. Indeed, several of my favourite magazines have become e-journals in the last few years, and it has invariably been the kiss of death for them. However, I am constantly being badgered by the young whippersnappers who seem to proliferate all across bloggoville. They tell me that I am old fashioned, and Oll even told me that I should "get with the times" on one occasion. (I threw a bottle at his head).

However, I have been persuaded to start issuing our two magazines in a digital download format, as well as in a more traditional form. I am dipping my toe gingerly into the difital ocean by issuing the current issue of our journal Animals & Men, which is the only dedicated cryptozoological magazine in the world, in digital format as of today.

You can see an image of the cover (featuring our dear departed CFZ Doggie `Tessie`) on the top right hand side of this page. Click on it and you will be invited to spend two quid (that's just over three dollars to you on the other side of the `Herring Pond`), for a download. That is very nearly half price.

C'mon guys. Give it a go.

CONTENTS:

3 Editorial
4 Faculty of the CFZ
6 Newsfile
13 Newsfile Xtra: Siberian vampire moths
16 Obituaries
19 Mystery cats diary: Max in Somerset
21 Letter from America: What’s new
23 Happy Birthday Nessie
24 Aquatic monster log book
28 The Oz Factor: A fake zookeeper
32 Bigfoot notebook
36 London Bear Scare
39 The Wanstead Ewok
40 Vietnamese forest man
43 Vietnamese turtle rescue
44 2009 Yearbook
45 Weird Weekend 2008
50 CFZ People: Jordan Warner
52 Letters
55 Book reviews
58 The sycophant
60 Agitprop

GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD MUIRHEAD: The Ropen - a living pterosaur in Melanesia?

As Regular readers will know, Richard is one of my dearest friends, and furthermore someone I have known since 1970 when we were children together in Hong Kong. He is a natural polymath, and one of the best researchers I have ever met. Today he brings us an overview of a mystery flying dragon from New Guinea and Melanesia..

If there is any possibility of prehistoric survivors on the planet then Melanesia and Papua New Guinea would be the place where they might live. The Ropen (“demon flyer”) a putative pterosaur ,”said to frequent lakes and mountain caverns”according to M.Newton`s Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology (1) was brought to the attention of the cryptozoological world in late 1999 by Bill Gibbons,(2) It is actually quite suprising that the Ropen is still not particularly well known in the cryptozoological world given that it is ten years since its “discovery” though this is changing with the publication of the 2nd edition of Jonathan Whitcomb`s Searching for Ropens in 2007.

See also http://www.ropens.com/ There are also its parallels elsewhere in the world which should be considered. For example,the giant flying snake of Namibia is said by locals to have a light on its head(3.) Could this flying snake actually be a pterosaur? It is possible. Roy Mackal in his book Searching For Hidden Animals mentions reports of living members of “ extinct” “pterodactyls” in Kenya in March or April 1974 and in a swampy area of Namibia in late 1975, allegedly filmed by an American team but this is nearly all the information Mackal gives. (4.) Large flying creatures are also reported from Mexico and parts of the U.S. In Indonesia,the ahool and the Orang-bati may relate to the Ropen of Umboi Island off Papua New Guinea.

One of the earliest reports of the Ropen was from Perth, Australia,rather than Papua New Guinea. In December 1997,one evening, a couple saw a flying creature with “ a lizard appearance” and a size of “thirty to fifty feet”. Even earlier,in 1944,Duane Hodgkinson, a friend and a native guide witnessed a giant flying pterodactyl emerge from the undergrowth having been startled by a pig. “The creatures` colour was dark,its neck was long, and the head-length…Both the head-crest and beak(or mouth) were long and narrow,parallel to each other,and,in flight,almost parallel to the neck.”(4) In 2003 a man named Abram saw a Ropen glowing red and white flying 100m above Opai Beach on Umboi island. The bioluminescence is said to be related to secretions which fall from the creatures as they fly,which can cause severe burns to human skin. In October (2004?) a David Woetzel saw a golden shimmering light coming from the direction of Mount Barik,on Umboi Island,flying at mountain top height. It has been said that the Ropen light is brighter than the moon. Frighteningly, the Ropen was once said to rob human bodies from graves. It is worshipped by at least some in parts of Papua New Guinea and there are said to be grey-spotted,blue-spotted and dark-spotted Ropens. Critics of the Ropen as pterosaur theory suggest that the Ropen is a flying fox bat. But as Whitcomb points out: “……fruit bats never grow long tails,never eat fish,never glow at night, and never dig up the grave of a recently-deceased human to carry away the body”(5.)


REFERENCES.


M.NEWTON. ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF CRYPTOZOLOGY. p.401
IBID P.401
R.MUIRHEAD. THE FLYING SNAKE OF NAMIBIA: AN INVESTIGATION. IN CENTRE FOR FORTEAN ZOOLOGY YEARBOOK 1996. pp112-123
R.MACKAL. SEARCHING FOR HIDDEN ANIMALS. P.54
J.WHITCOMB SEARCHING FOR ROPENS. 2ND EDITION p.26




Yours sincerely


Richard Muirhead
112 High Street
Macclesfield
SK11 7QQ

Telephone +44 (0) 1625 869048

eMail: richmuirhead@tiscali.co.uk
website: http://www.cryptozoology.net/sabretoothtiger/

RICHARD FREEMAN: The Global Monster Template


Back in the year of the dragon, 2000, I was in Thailand on the track of the giant crested serpent known as the naga. In Thai legend there is also a birdman known as a guruda and the singa, a golden lion. It struck my how much these seemed like legends from Cornwall with Morgaw the sea serpent, the Owlman and the phantom big cats.

In 2003 and 2004 I was in Sumatra searching for the orang-pendek, a short, hairy, man-like ape. In the same jungles were stories of giant horned snakes and the cigau, a possible scimitar toothed cat.

In 2007 on the grasslands of Guyana we heard of monster snakes and a race of red-faced pygmies as well as a disease spreading, child-killing goblin.

All around the world it seems very specific kinds of monster archetype are seen again and again in every culture. Each civilization will have combinations of these monsters in its culture. I call this the Global Monster Template. The categories are as follows.

1. Dragons: The most ancient, powerful and widespread monster archetype. These giant reptiles, or analogues of them, occur in every culture on earth. They are reptilian, elongate and associated with the element of water.
2. Hairy giants: Yeti, Yowie, Yeren, Sasquatch, Di-Di, Troll, Almasty, the list goes on. Big, man-like, powerful and hair covered.
3. Little people: Goblins, Pixies, Bush Men, Junjudee, Ebu-Gogo the list is nigh on endless. Small, sometimes hairy often considered dangerous.
4. Monster cats: Out of place panthers, American ‘lions’, cigau, singa ect. Uncatchable felines.
5. Monster dogs: Werewolves, Black Dogs, Waheela, Mirrii dogs ect Usually huge, spectral hounds.
6. Monster Birds: Thunderbird, Roc, Tengu, Guruda, Owlman ect. Giant, often aggressive, birds.

Now lets take a closer look at these categories. They all have one thing in common. They each have an analogue on the plains of East Africa several million years ago.

Our Australopithecine ancestors on the plains of East Africa had a struggle to survive. Our ancestors were being preyed upon by, and were in competition with, various formidable creatures. Crocodiles and pythons ate them as did big cats, hunting dogs, and large birds of prey such as eagles. They competed against other primates such as giant baboons and other races of hominids, some larger than them and some smaller.

All of these creatures can be slotted nicely into the universal monster template. There seems to be groups of monsters reported all around the world in every culture. These archetypes include dragons, giants, little people, monster birds, mystery big cats, and monstrous dogs. All of them have a direct link back to our ancestral horrors.

Coincidence? I think not.

Perhaps some of these monsters are escapees from the psychic zoo, a massive, collective, sub-conscious, thought form. The thought form or tulpa is said to be a 3-D semi solid image created by the power of the mind. Buddhist lamas in Tibet are said to be able to summon up tulpas during intense meditation. Western explorer Dame Alexandra David Kneel was said to have created a tulpa of a monk whilst studying in Tibet. Polish medium Franek Klusk was said to have summoned up huge cats, birds, and even ape-men during séances. Perhaps, considering the types of beast he called up, he was creating tulpas from the global monster template.
If individuals can create tulpas, imagine what the collective, gestalt mind of humanity as a species could do. Perhaps some are a giant worldwide thought forms emanating from our innermost fears.

How might this work? Perhaps in certain "window areas" something affects the minds of those who enter. The mind is an electro-chemical computer, perhaps when "scrambled" it must "reboot" like any other computer. When in this primeval state perhaps the mind raises the prehistoric terrors of our past, and raises monsters. This is not to deny that there are flesh and blood counterparts for each of the monster categories, there almost certainly are. But when these things manifest in places that could not support a "real" creature maybe we should look to thought forms for answers.





A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE NEXT BOOK OF WIZARDLY WISDOM

CFZ Press are happy to announce that 2009 will see the publication of not one, but two books from the legendary surrealist and fortean Tony “Doc” Shiels.

The first of them is a long awaited reissue of his classic book Monstrum: A Wizard’s Tale which, amongst other thing, tells the story of the events of the extraordinary summer of 1976 when southern Cornwall became a hotbed of high strangeness. UFOs crossed the skies, Morgawr (`sea-dragon` in the ancient Cornish language) the sea-serpent swam up the Helford Estuary, and in the woods surrounding Mawnan Old Church, the grotesque Owlman held court.

Monstrum was first published in 1988 by Fortean Tomes, and now sells on the second-hand market for large sums of money. This 2009 edition, with extra illustrations and a new introduction, appears courtesy of Bob Rickard, who has kindly waived his rights to the book.

Lytham and Booze, however is a brand new book; a joyous and surreal romp:

“I am picking the noses and tickling the tails of Betty Boop,Mothman, Thomas the Tank Engine, Tiger Woods, Biffo the Bear, Nessie, Batman, Sitting Bull, Dracula, Crazy Horse, Tarzan, Godzilla, Peter Rabbit, Humpty Dumpty, Owlman, Lady Godiva, King Kong and several more..”

Both books will be published on the Summer Solstice, and are certain - no doubt - to be enthusiastically snapped up by those of us, who - like the management of CFZ Press - have been devotees of the good “doctor” for many years.

For more information write to:

CFZ PRESS,
Myrtle Cottage,
9 Back Street
Woolfardisworthy,
Bideford, North Devon
EX39 5QR
+44(0)1237 431413
e-mail: info@cfz.org.uk