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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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Thursday, February 05, 2009

FROM THE ARCHIVES: The golden frogs of Bovey Tracey

Once upon a time, at least according to an old Devon folk story, a poor woodsman lived with his family on the outskirts of the village of Bovey Tracey. Their child was suffering from an unspecified illness and was not likely to live much longer, One night in the middle of a severe thunderstorm there was a knock on the door and a mysterious lady entered demanding shelter and food.

Despite their many misfortunes the woodsman and his family welcomed the mysterious lady, gave her milk and food (which they could ill afford) and a seat by the fire. She then blessed the ailing infant who was miraculously cured, and before vanishing (up a road called to this day Mary Street) she said that so that her benefactors would know this was not a dream, not only would the child be forever cured but that the next day the family would discover a new spring full of crystal clear water and bright golden frogs which were said to have populated the area for many years.

Another piece of interesting supportive evidence for this story is that, to this day in what is still known as Mary Street there is a Holy Well! It can be found embedded in the stone wall opposite Bovey Tracey hospital. Could this be the site of the spring created by the old woodsman`s mysterious visitor?

Unfortunately, although there is some evidence to suggest that this was not its original location and that it was repositioned there a century or so ago,m a quick trip to the Westcountry Studies Library will reap some useful rewards.

According to even the most early maps of the area there are a number opf wells and springs in the close vicinity of where the holy well now stands. Some of them are marked with a cross, which would imply that they were of some special spiritual significance.

So, assuming the golden frogs exist(ed) what were/are they? The concept of brightly coloured amphibians inhabiting the English countryside is not as unusual as one might suppose. Several small pink frogswere found in Gloucestershire in the early 1990s and others have been recorded over the years from Sussex and The Cotswolds.

But Golden Frogs?

In February 1994 local and national newspapers were full of the story of Jaffa, a three year old frog discovered in a garden in Truro. Jaffa was, as his name implies, bright orange. The Westcountry TV News carried a story about him which said that he, and a similarly coloured mate had been released in a secret location. Mark Nicholson of the Cornwall Trust for Nature Conservation revealed that far from being an isolated occurrence these oddly coloured amphibians are popping up all over the place. Ranging in colour from bright orange, through yellow to pale cream, these creatures have been reported from all over the westcountry and even from elsewhere in the UK although they appear to be much rarer.

They turn up each year, and in the early spring of 2000 we found one hopping around in the mud by the dustbins outside our front door! It was a fully grown female of a bright mustard colour and almost immediately laid copious amounts of spawn which, unfortunately proved to be infertile. We kept her for several months until she escaped into the wilderness behind our conservatory where we keep some of our animal collection during the summer months. We hope that the coming years will supply us with more specimens that will help us determine what exactly these creatures are.

Although I am as aware as everyone about the damage that man is doing to the planet on which we live, there is a distressing tendency in these politically correct days to blame all anomalies of nature on the ubiquitous `global warming` or some other plague of the modern age. Whilst not wishing for a moment to deny that these threats exist and a very serious towards the future of all living creatures on the planet, it is, I think, counter productive to blame everything on man`s stupidity. Various commentators including Internet news groups have suggested that these brightly coloured batrachians are the result of a damaged environment. Whilst not denying that the environment is certainly damaged, we have proved that these animals have been around for at least five hundred years and we are determined to find out what they actually are!

For the present however, it is fairly clear that the charming medieval legend of the Golden Frogs of Bovey Tracey might not he so far fetched after all.



GUEST BLOGGER CHRISTOPHER BONNETTE: Monsters in Art

Monsters have been around as long as man, probably even longer. From legends, prophecies on cave walls, and to present day, monsters are found in every culture.

I have always been interested in odd and bizarre creatures. Whether it is made up Hollywood monsters or actual cryptids, I find them all fascinating. I believe it was the Ray Harryhausen films Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981) that really got me into mythology. After seeing those movies I bought up all the classic mythology books I could find.

My brother, who is 10 years older than me, would force me to watch scarymovies late at night. Of course it would always lead to nightmares. I occasionally still get night terrors. However, I have built up a tolerance to monsters. I now love them and pursue to make a career illustrating them. I want to update the pictorial history on the creatures of legends.

I try to create the illustration as accurate as possible but still keep them whimsical, stylish, and modern. If the image is not fully accurate to its original description, I will state it as an artistsinterpretation. No one knows exactly how these creatures may have looked. I am dedicated to keeping the tales of the past known so they are notforgotten. I still hold the hope that mankind has a lot left to discover.

I am now at number 38 in a series of 100 paintings that I hope to publish it into a book. After seeing the response of the mythological paintings on the site (http://www.macula.tv/main.htm), I am sure it will go way past 100 and continue for the rest of my life.

To get children to like monsters I have started a series of papercraft to go along with the paintings. Several schools from around the world now know the tale of the Krampus. I have also included tutorials to help them build each creature. Children and adults alike have fun crafting and learning about fantastic creatures.I have also been lucky enough to make new friends due to this project. With the help of Richard Freeman a real cryptozoologist I can get the facts on cryptids as accurate as possible. So stop on by and have funbuilding and learning about things that go bump in the night.

Christopher Bonnette

COLUMNIST TIM MATTHEWS: Back to the Future

Tim Matthews is one of my best friends, and also - coincidentally - one of the most controversial figures in contemporary forteana. He has been involved with the CFZ for nearly a decade now, raising eyebrows wherever he goes.
Once upon a time, in the 1990s, the X Files was all the rage and various appreciation groups, fans clubs, UFO groups, magazines and similar publications appeared and many of us jumped on the bandwagon.

Against this background, of every man wanting Gillian Anderson, some women preferring a Fox Mulder to their current model and teenagers scanning their heads in the barcode machine at their local supermarket checkout to see if they had an "alien implant", I came across a strange bunch of X-Files rejects on board a ferry to France the day before the famous Eclipse of the sun in 1999.

We arrived at Portsmouth one overcast afternoon, had a questionable meal in a local pub and wondered why, in a place as grim as this, the locals would have been against the practice of Press Ganging! Give them the open seas any day, I suggested!

Moving to the port where the ship was getting ready to sail into the English Channel in the direction of the French coast, I noticed some disquiet amongst a small group of unusual individuals to my left. These included a large gentlemen in a suit surrounded by a coterie of most unusual individuals that included one Richard of Freeman, Graham “Hawkwind” Inglis, a blonde floozie called Maxine and a weirdo called Jester who, it emerged, had spent a lot of time underground recently.

The large man, it turned out, was Jon Downes and I realised that I had seen him two years ago at a Conference in Sheffield mocking an American quack who claimed to be able to remove supposed “alien implants” from “abductees”. He was standing near me as the not very medical expert examined a woman by holding her head to the light in order to “look for implants”. This whole ridiculous procedure made me sick but what made me sicker was that many people watching this believed in the whole thing from the point of view that the medical establishment had clearly failed the subject in question. The woman in question, stuck in a wheelchair and clearly suffering from multiple (and obvious) medical problems looked to this charlatan for some little hope. He offered her nothing but it was an unpleasant spectacle that made a few people really think hard about the real impact of the X Files hysteria...

Downes was heard to remark, “in future we are going to have to do rather better than this” and it occurred to me then and there that his stall, selling books on mystery animals and associated subjects, was the direction things would go in years to come. “This UFO and X Files nonsense will last a few years more,” argued Jon, “and then it’ll be our turn.” And he was right but what the younger generation of would be zoologists, geologists and biologists probably don’t realise was that, back then, mainstream science was seen as an enemy of the truth. Anything using the scientific method was a problem and the weirder and more extreme the belief the more it fitted in with the believers, the publishers and the promoters of the “conspiracy”.

Perhaps, to an extent, this is still the case and it will always be difficult to adopt a 100% scientific approach when the quality of evidence for Paranormal events is so poor or is based upon first-hand accounts.

On board ship I spoke much with Downes and co and we hit it off straight away and he was most interested to learn of my family connections to various legendary underground music journals of the late 1960s and 1970s. We watched Uri Geller, another guest, bending spoons and spent some time talking publishing projects and Jon spoke of his plans for the future. I am happy to report that many of the things Jon envisaged and hoped for have come to pass although the continued call for less science and more intrigue never fails to annoy us. Seeing Cryptozoology as a mainstream scientific effort, whilst having to keep all sorts of interests on board, can never be easy and Jon likes to be at the very centre of things and in many ways he IS the very centre of things. Happily, he is more ready to delegate these days as the lessons we learned during the X Files period was that groups based on a single figure (for example UFO Magazine’s Graham Birdsall) never have a rosy future!

It is fascinating to compare the then - 1999 - with the now. The CFZ has published dozens of books, a regular magazine, appeared on numerous TV and radio shows and is making real progress with an all-new web presence. These are things of which we could only dream ten years ago when the Internet was in its infancy and Jon and I had to drive through the Cheshire countryside on ancient buses and trains to attend meetings!

Whilst many of those involved in the X Files movement have disappeared for good (thankfully), others have moved onto different pastures whether it be the Reptilian charades of David Icke or the cultism of the Raelians. We, however, have embraced the mainstream and are moving more in that direction as the days pass.

And guess what? Mainstreaming WORKS!

I remember Jon and I being invited to address the 2,000 or so Eclipsers on board the ship from the comfort on the Captain’s quarters and Jon making some comment about the sight and feeling of the Eclipse reminding him of HP Lovecraft’s work. He turned around to me and said, “The scenes during the Eclipse make me realise that Cryptozoology is the same thing; you rarely come across it but when you do it’s a magical experience that we can document for science.”

GUEST BLOGGER KARA WADHAM: The Bugfest Blog

Bugfest SW-Carnival of Monsters 21st February 2009 Stanchester School TA19 6UG 10.30am

Today I have found myself with an unexpected day at home because of the snow, so after a snow ball fight, watching Nick and the children (but mostly Nick) build a snow dalek (pictured), I found I had a little time to catch up on Bugfest preparations.
Organising Bugfest is a little like cooking a roast dinner- lots of components to bring together at the same time, which means being very organised, multi-tasking, pre empting the unimaginable and gorging yourself when it's all done ( or is that just me?). I have had to learn the art of how to twist people's arms in all sorts of devious ways. Being a woman, deviousness, as you will know, is not a natually occuring facet of mine, but in the name of Bugfest and the children's hospice we are supporting, I'll do anything (well almost).

We are very fortunate to have a cohort of charity daleks, a clockwork robot, a scarecrow and 'Bugfest' doctors adding to the visitor experience this year. This, in addition to our regular and esteemed traders; Exotic pets magazine, Tarantula Barn, Mendip Monsters, Curtis Lakin, The Phasmid Study Group as well as other new traders, and a well known Sci-fi trader; should prove a great mix of mayhem and monsters. Bugfest are also urging visitors, especially children to join in the fun and come in sci-fi fancy dress or Bug attire.

With only two weeks to go visitors are being urged to buy advance tickets . For Blog readers, there is a special discounted 'hidden' website page which allows you to buy cheaper tickets. ( eg. £10 for family instead of £14). Don't leave it too late. If it's busy on the day, you may not get in!

I may be able to multi-task but I am not cooking roast dinners for 100's of disgruntled guests!