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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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Saturday, February 07, 2009

FAIRY PHOTOGRAPH: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF HUMAN STUPIDITY

Last summer someone emailed me a copy of the photograph on the left. I took a cursory look at it. It's a dead cat, I thought. I showed it to Richard Freeman who agreed, and then promptly forgot about it.

Some bright spark in the fortean/crypto community dubbed it `The Montauk Monster` (which is particularly silly because there is nothing the slightest bit monstrous about it) because it had been washed up near Montauk, New York in July.

The only thing that mildly interested me about it was that it was alleged in certain quarters that it had come from Plum Island, home of the U.S.Government animal diseases research facility. This only interested me because at the time I was being mildly obsessive and reading all of Nelson deMille's thrillers in order, and one of them was set on (and named after) Plum Island.

However, we basically ignored it, considering it to be a non-story. The mystery was solved by our old mate Dr Daz at Tetrapod Zoology who had got tired of the media furore surrounding it, and correctly identified it as a dead racoon, bloated by putrefecation. However, as he admits bewildered during the days when he was covering that story his daily hits increased something like tenfold, proving that people can get ridiculously obsessed over nonsense.

Now, this picture hit the headlines a couple of weeks ago, and somehow we overlooked it. However it turned up in our inbox this morning with someone claiming that it is the image of a "fairy". The picture, by the way, was allegedly taken at La Pampa in Argentina in early January.

Hmmmmmmm.

We did a bit of searching, and the Daily Telegraph covered this on January 14th, writing:


"According to the uncorroborated story that accompanies the picture on dozens of cryptozoology websites and blogs, the photographer spotted the fast-moving "being" but was only able to take a single photo before it flew away.


He reportedly sent the photo to local UFO study group which decided it showed a creature of "high strangeness" and forwarded it on to the police.


The blurb with the picture claims that officers used high-tech equipment to enhance the image, revealing that the animal had eye sockets and a beak. The special criminal division estimated that the creature could be up to 2ft 7 in tall, it is claimed. But the story have been met with scepticism among experienced photographers, who point out that it would be impossible to tell the size of the object without knowing how close it was to the camera. More mundane and plausible theories include that the photo is a long exposure shot of a bird, or an insect that flew too close to the camera. "

Well I remember from Peter Pan what happened to Tinkerbell when people say that they don't believe in fairies, but to my eyes this is almost certainly a blurry picture of a bird. It's got a beak for heaven's sake!

Over to you guys...





RICHARD FREEMAN: The lurking fear

I suppose at one point or another most people have been confronted with a dangerous animal. In the UK it will have probably been an aggressive dog or perhaps a bull. In other countries people have to contend with large, dangerous wild animals.

The release of adrenaline or the ‘fight or flight’ response gets the body ready to take action to preserve itself. However the fear felt by some witnesses who have encountered unknown animals seems to be of a totally different kind. Well, you might say, fear would be quite a reasonable reaction when confronted with a monster but this fear seems quite unlike the ‘flight or fight’ response.

In 1954 Georgina Carberry, an Irish librarian was fishing with three friends on Lough Fadda, Connermara. They had a weird encounter with something on the Lough that changed their lives. Veteran monster hunter the late F W Holiday later interviewed Miss Carberry. She described seeing a serpentine animal that undulated vertically, throwing its body into loops. It had shark-like jaws and a forked tail. She said the whole body was ‘wormy’ and ‘creepy’ with movement all over it. When the serpentine monster began to swim towards their boat the three ladies made for the shore. Running to their car they drove away as quickly as possible. Miss Carberry had a horrible feeling of pursuit, as if the thing had slithered out of the water and was crawling after the car. She did not dare to return to the Lough for seven years, and even then only in daylight and never alone.

The Loch Ness monster has also elicited such responses. George Spicer, who had the famous land sighting of the beast in 1933 called it an abomination and wanted the Loch to be dynamited.

Mr Richard Jenkyns and his wife, who saw the monster in September 1974, described it as resembling a huge stomach with a writhing length of gut attached. He said the thing was obscene and that it left a persisting feeling of obscenity.

Whilst investigating the monster of Loch Morar I was told by a local woman of two young men from Yorkshire who had been out on a boat fishing a couple of years ago. One lad was operating the tiller whilst the other kept watch. The one on watch shouted out that there was a tree trunk in the water. Both of them saw the ‘tree trunk’ move against the wind and draw alongside the boat. It then arched up and dived beneath them. The dead tree was in fact a massive, elongate animal. They went straight back to shore, packed up and left the area completely.

In the Gambia I have hunted a much feared swamp dwelling dragon known as the Ninki-Nanka. Some people who have seen it have supposedly gone mad with fear. Some people even refuse to speak of it. There is a tradition that the creature can strike you dead with the merest glance, or that if you see one you will die.

This recoiling of the mind is not restricted to serpentine, water based monsters. Man beasts can also have this effect on witnesses. Australian cryptozoologist Tony Healy has told me of some of the cases involving the yowie, an ape like hairy giant of the outback.

One case involved two men who saw an ape like creature peering at them through their car window in the Blue Mountains. One man was paralysed with fear and the other fainted. The latter man moved away from the area and never returned. One man told Tony that a yowie could ‘terrorize you from the other side of a mountain’.

Another case involved two 17 year old youths in a campsite at Cotter Dam outside of Canberra. They were confronted by a tall hairy creature that seemed to be able to move with amazing speed. The thing cut off each escape route they tried. In desperation one lad ‘phoned his mother from the campsite payphone begging his mother to drive out and rescue them. She found both young men sobbing like babies. The youths both felt, like Georgina Carberry, that the monster was pursuing the car on the their way back to the city.

Dean Harrison, a powerfully muscled body builder and yowie researcher is not the type of bloke to scare easily, but he admits that when he encountered a yowie a ‘hugely terrifying sensation’ overtook his whole body.

Another man, an experienced hunter was reduced to a ‘ball of jelly’ by the sight of a ten foot, hair covered ape like creature near Ewen Maddcock Dam Queensland. He hats to even think about what he saw and now will not enter the bush without a powerful firearm.

A few years ago the CFZ investigated sightings of a shadowy, hulking humanoid form seen around Bolem Lake near Newcastle. A witness called Naomi and her teenaged son saw a tall, dark, humanoid form about three hundred feet away from them. Though it was standing stock-still they got the feeling that it was ‘rushing at them’ in an aggressive manner. They got back into their car and drove away.

The Big Grey Man of the Cairngorms in Scotland is supposed to have such a terrifying effect that people have blindly run off cliffs in their attempts to get away from it.

I personally know a man who has seen the weird Owlman of Cornwall, the UK’s answer to West Virginia’s Mothman. He was so badly frightened by it that he had reoccurring nightmares for years. Even now he intensely dislikes talking about the sighting and gets very scared. This is not what you would expect if all he saw was an oversized bird.

What is this lurking fear, this nameless dread? It sounds more like the icy, heart stopping, paralysing effects of a deep phobia than of an everyday ‘natural’ fear. It is thought that tigers can freeze prey by stunning them momentarily with an infrasound component of their roar. At 18hz (cycles per second) it is just below human hearing. Is it possible that our cryptids are emitting such a sound? Possibly, but there is another more sinister explanation for this lurking fear and I shall return to this in a future post.

OLD SIAM SIR

Fleur has just emailed me with an interesting BBC story about the critically endangered Siamese crocodile, which was only relatively recently thought to be extinct. It is therefore a genuine cryptozoological success story..

Check it out HERE

In 1992 the Siamese crocodile was believed to be extinct, or at least functionally extinct, in the wild. or very nearly so. However a tiny population was found in Thailand (possibly numbering as little as two individuals, discounting recent reintroductions), and there is small population in Vietnam (possibly less than 100 individuals), and more sizable populations in Burma and Laos. There is a very small remnant population in northern Cambodia. There are no recent records from Malaysia, Brunei or Indonesia.

And the beat goes on

I had a crisis of conscience in the night. At about 4am whilst answering a diabetes fuelled call of nature I suddenly had a horrible thought. I managed to convince myself that my email inbox this morning would be full of people complaining about my post yesterday morning appealing for volunteers to help the CFZ. After all, amongst the categories of volunteers I was asking for were...
BLOGGO PIMPS who can do all the chicanery which every blog seems to have to do in these debased times. If we are to compete with some of the other kids on the block, we need to use the same tactics they are.
If we can quote from our friends at the Nature Blogs Network: "Nature bloggers have yet to effectively leverage the power of social promotions networks like Digg, del.icio.us, or StumbleUpon. Yet, as anyone who's been on the receiving end of this level of publicity can attest, social promotion makes a difference. Publicize quality nature blogging by joining one or more social sites (We recommend StumbleUpon) and bookmarking posts you enjoy during your daily browsing".
This is something I know little about, but is something that we are going to have to start doing.
And I started to worry that this would imply that we were just like every other self-absorbed internet pundits - obsessed with our daily figures and trying to make money out of those people hapless enough to be drawn into our web.
Well I wouldn't put it quite like that, but of course we are!
This isn't about the money, and never has been, but running the CFZ is a ridiculously expensive business. I am very pleased with the daily viewing figures for the bloggo. This week, for the first time, we broke 1000 twice, and you can see from viewing the ratings on the Nature Blog Network that we are slowly but steadily rising up the rankings.
But I want to get the sort of viewing figures that other blogs, albeit blogs with a different agenda than ours, can get. Because when we do, we can get sponsorship, and we can sell more books, and we can raise the money to do all the things we want to do.
This is not about paying my own personal bills. That is not a problem, and my income more than covers my family expenses, but it is about continuing the CFZ programme of publications, research and expeditions, as well as our burgeoning animal rescue and educational activities.
So am I going to continue to ask for help, so that I can raise money?

Hell yeah.

COLUMNIST TIM MATTHEWS: Round And Round In Circles

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.
It takes two months of practice to move from making your first half-decent crop circle, perhaps a 30ft creation that can be made in 15-20 minutes, and something rather more spectacular. I know this because I have done it. Most people who make crop circles do so because they are told, by an increasingly isolated minority of desperados and New Age whackos, that they “cannot be made” at night with a small team of up to four individuals working together. Of course they can and always have been but it amazes me to discover, when for example speaking with work colleagues, how they just don’t get it, at least not to begin with.

If you say to them, “remember at school when you used to make nice patterns with a compass and pencil?” they go “ooooh yes” or “it was easy” and it is as if some amazing revelation has just taken place. Take them outside into the large light industrial area outside with a stick and show them how to mark out a circle using a bit of rope and one of them standing in the middle of the circle and they seem impressed. Tell them that to flatten wheat and make pretty aesthetically pleasing patterns all you need is a four foot stomper board, and that you push the wheat or barley down in the middle for the best results, and they seem to get it.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and once crop circles became widely known as a phenomenon from 1980 onwards many teams stepped into the corn to see if they could out do each other in terms of creativity. Although for obvious geometric reasons circles form the backbone of crop art - because it is art and has nothing to do with aliens, a higher intelligence or anything of the sort - triangles, squares and other simple shapes can be combined to impress even the most unhappy observer. Because circle makers opt to put formations near ancient historical and religious sites, or where they have dowsed to see if “natural earth energies” are present all sorts of pseudo religious nonsense is added to what is a simple creative-artistic process. What is more, small number of circle makers see themselves as agents of a higher power just to confuse things further.

The thrill is, of course, not to be caught and to produce a formation that pleases the senses. You, the potential circle maker, are also doing English tourism a massive favour. I remember phoning the former head of south west tourism for an interview many years ago (1999) asking for an interview about the impact of crop circles and he was of the view that crop formations were good for business. Anything to get people into Wiltshire, Hampshire and surrounding counties….

And what harm is done? Let’s just put it like this. Farmers like to moan and groan about crop circles but in some cases they profit from it. They can lower the cutters on their machinery to harvest crops affected by the circle making evil doers and, with prices for crops at an historical low, who’s losing out? The answer is simple. Nobody. You could potentially make more money by charging tourists to trample in the field to examine a crop formation up close than you will for the crop! Some farmers, where crop formations regularly appear, do indeed have a working relationship with some of the better known circle makers. An open secret, as it’s known.

If you really want to wind up the believers, fresh from a Glastonbury bookshop or of Sacred Geometrical Delusion, then why not drop some iron filings near the centre of a formation, paint balloons silver and let them off near your formation or arrange for “anomalous lights” to be seen locally. Even better, sit in a well know circle enthusiasts pub, listen to the conversation for information about the latest “projected formations” no doubt “channelled” by Miss Mystic Of Gurutania and fresh ideas will abound. I remember once talking to a circle maker who’d been for a drink with the local head honcho of a UK CSETI group (the ones that think you can shine torches at supposed UFOs and communicate with them, or that you can hold hands in a circle and wait for the aliens to land nearby). The Big Cheese told him that members of his “meditation group” had “channelled information” indicating that a huge formation would be put down in a nearby field within days. Lo and behold, my friend and his mate, after a few pints, went off into the field with his stomper boards and produced the desired result. Cause and effect! Simple!

Of course, getting used to working at night is not easy at first. Your eyes have to adjust; no wonder you often see strange things out of the corner of your eye (occasionally claimed as Paranormal phenomena). True, there is nothing like being in the fields of England at night. You want peace? You’ve got it! Circle making provides you with the most remarkable feeling of one-ness and, upon completion of your formation (nearly always conveniently located in a natural amphitheatre from where the tourists and croppies can observe), a remarkable feeling of satisfaction. You might not be good at your job but you’re good at this! Now you have a calling and it is in and amongst the sacred sites of England on a beautiful summer’s night.

If you haven’t tried it I suggest you do. Yes, it’s technically illegal so sensible caveats apply but only one man has been thus far prosecuted (our good friend and circle making hero Matthew Williams) and you will quite possibly “find” yourself whilst being amazingly creative. The highlight of the season 2009 might be a series of carefully sculpted Cryptids. The all-new physical graffiti this green and pleasant land…

BALD DOG CAUGHT ON FILM

Those of you who have followed our activities for any length of time will know that in November 2004 I went to Texas with my then girlfriend to investigate the reports that a strange, bald, blue-coloured canid had been shot near San Antonio.

Now, Naomi West, one of our Texas correspondents who is, by the way, currently visiting San Antonio with her husband Ritchie on another CFZ related mission, has sent us the following piece of film which does seem to show one of these strange canids alive and running along merrily in front of a police car.You can view the film

HERE



If this is what it appears to be then it is highly important. The claims are that these animals are nothing more than coyotes suffering from sarcoptic mange. We have taken professional advice, and not only does it seem unlikely that sarcoptic mange would turn the animal's skin blue, but if an animal was THAT badly riddled it would hardly be able to walk, let alone bounce along as merrily as a grig like the animal in this film.

The story continues..

IT AIN'T NESSIE-CERALLY SO...

It was only the other day that I found myself musing on the fact that although we have been doing the bloggo for nearly a month, there had been narry a mention of the most famous cryptid of all - the Loch Ness Monster. This morning all that has changed. Our old mate Andreas Trottmann sent us this. We are reproducing it unedited..

Mystery over new 'Nessie' sighting
By Donald Wilson
Published: 05 February, 2009 / Highland News


A COUPLE enjoying a romantic weekend in the Highlands believe they may have had a close encounter with the Loch Ness Monster. Experts are now investigating this latest photograph, which was taken by accident, to establish if it is in fact the Loch's most famous resident. Ian Monckton, from Solihull, took his fiance Tracey Gordon to a cottage in Invermoriston on the shores of the loch to celebrate her 30th birthday.

On their way back to the village at about 11pm they pulled into a lay-by. The driver's window was wound down and before the couple stopped their car they heard a commotion in the water. Using the car headlights and the flash from his camera to check their footing on the rocky shores of the loch, data analyst Ian unwittingly recorded this picture which he hopes could be the elusive monster.

"There is clearly a very large shape in the water that looks aquatic a few metres out from where I was standing and you just see the tips of the trees lower down the slope to the loch in the photo," said Ian who has passed the picture to naturalist Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Project to get his expert opinion. "Myself and Tracey were always quite sceptical about Nessie but after having had this experience I would say we now have a very open mind on the matter. It was the highlight of our trip. We'll definitely be back and we are struggling to get an explanation for what we caught on camera."


Ian said the pictures were taken from a small cliff overlooking the loch. But it was only when they got back to their country retreat and checked the images they realised they significance of the what they had on their digital camera.

Ian said it was his first visit to Loch Ness and the weather was reasonably clear with only a light breeze. "We decided to get away for a few days to celebrate Tracey's birthday and because it was off season we headed up to Drumnadrochit for a meal.

"On our way back to Invermoriston we stopped off at Urquhart Castle to take a few photos, but the lights that illuminate the castle were turned off, so there were no photo opportunities there. Then we pulled over at a parking point to let a car pass, as my fiancé doesn't drive as fast as the locals in the dark. I had the passenger window open as I was smoking at the time and as we pulled into the lay-by there was an rustling and a splash. It sounded as if a Mini had landed in the water. That's how loud it was.

"We both looked at each other and I said 'What the hell was that'? It wasn't a small splash like a piece of debris or a stone falling into the loch. It sounded like a car or a motorbike had rolled into the loch. I got out of the car and walked up to the edge using the light from the car headlights to see where the edge of the loch dropped away and taking snaps with the camera so the flash let me see we where to tread."


The couple called out to see if anyone was there, or in trouble in the loch but couldn't hear anything apart from the water splashing around in the loch.

"After a while we continued back to Homewood, both wondering what the hell we had heard and joking about Nessie," Ian added. "However, when we looked back at the photos I had taken up to and looking over the cliff we now genuinely believe there is something in this, there is clearly a very large shape in the water that looks aquatic a few metres out from where I was standing and you just see the tips of the trees lower down the slope to the loch in the photo."


Mr Shine, who has spent years researching the natural history of the Loch and the Great Glen and is the leader of the Loch Ness Project, commented: "We have been sent material and will be doing some on site investigations. There's not enough information on the image to hazard a guess what it could be. However, the account sounds not inconsistent with an animal such as an otter going into the loch."

Mikko Takala, who runs a webcam network for Nessie watchers worldwide, receives thousands of "Nessie sightings" every year as photos and videos.


He too has analysed the photograph and concludes it may be a dead fish.


"Obviously this photo is taken in the dark and camera flashes can accentuate details that would otherwise be barely noticeable in daylight conditions. "I think this is probably a dead fish – maybe a flatfish."


Flatfish? What flatfish? Although flounders do occasionally come into freshwater, there are no indigenous British non marine flatfishes. Anyway the picture doesn't look like anything much, let alone a flatfish of any description. I tend to agree with Adrian Shine that the description of the sound is not incompatible with an otter diving into the loch. Personally I think that the picture is too blurry to be of more than tangental interest.


But if it is not some weird lens flare anomaly (and I know to my cost that digital cameras can throw up some highly bizarre visual anomalies) I'd love to know what it is.