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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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

CFZ PEOPLE: David Kingston is very ill..

It is with great sadness that we pass on this terrible news from David Kingston, who for many years ran the Dorchester UFO Conference, and has been very kind to the CFZ, and to me personally. He released the following statement:

IT IS with DEEP regrets that I have had to CANCEL Any lectures or TALKS in the Future. Due to the worst possible scenario the Cancer Specialist has given to me.If you wish to discuss further , please ring my wife Mary on -. 01305750399 THIS IS the WORST email I HAVE HAD TO WRITE, but trust that you will all understand, My web sites and email list will soon cease.

Join with us in remembering David and Mary in your thoughts and/or prayers


This came in yesterday:

In past week we’ve had three badger kills in Glos which people cannot explain – they look like they’ve been precisely sheared in half and just fallen from the sky – no tracks, no blood, and no sign of the other half. Those who’ve seen them feel cat is a possibility perhaps, and so too is human, but it’s a mystery, even for the county badger specialist. I’m awaiting a pic from one of the locations.

Needless to say we shall be awaiting further developments with baited breath


In Animals & Men #42 we published the following story:

Numerous people reported seeing something unusual swimming against the tide in the River Medway as it passed through the town of Rochester in Kent, England.Several people thought that it may have been a school of dolphins but one lady reported seeing a single 9m (30ft) long creature. She said the animal was grey to mottled brown and moved like an eel in the direction of the Amadeus nightclub. This picture, by the way, was a mock up by the paper’s art department.

Yesterday teatime we received this e-mail from a CFZ member called Patrick Noble:

"Afternoon Jon (and probably Oll as you wrote the article), After seeing the article mentioned above I had a little chuckle to myself, as I live about 100yds downstream on a houseboat, and am very much aware of the natural way of things in the river. Needless to say 9m long sea serpents are not something I can attest to seeing on a regular basis! I though the dolphins to be a plausible but unlikely theory, however they are not unheard of in this area.

I thought it more likely to be a piece of tree floating along as this is frequent at this spot. I took these photos today of the lesser horned sea serpent from the back of the boat earlier today, hope you enjoy! Seriously freak high tide today as well, flooded the boatyard, about 4ft higher than I've ever seen it before.

On a more naturalist than crypto note, I firmly belive that the new british record Thick Lipped Grey Mullet will be caught from the medway in the next 5 years, even though the species is in decline for a variety of reasons not helped by it's slow growing and late maturing nature.

Kind Regards


There is something particularly magickal about this week. Not only because it sees the anniversaries of two particularly important and life-changing events in my life (14th Feb 2006 my father died, and 15th February 2005 I met Corinna), and not because it is St Valentine's Day, but because it always (in Devon at least) seems to mark the week when Winter becomees Spring.

I will always remember the night that my father died, three years ago. As I left home to sit by his bed on the long night before he died, the CFZ garden was wintry, grey and dead. When I returned home the next morning with my brother who had driven all the way from Germany, the flowers were out.

At the time I imbued this with a mystickal significance that was purely personal to my immediate family, but every year since the pattern has been repeated. Look at this sequence of pictures, all taken over the last four days...


Yesterday we announced that there was a big change at CFZ Press. I wrote:

"18 months ago we started a magazine called Exotic Pets which did basically what it said on the tin, and covered ummmm exotic pets really. It has been a moderate success, but for a number of different reasons we have decided to knock it on the head. However, don't be distraught, because the magazine will live on albeit under a different name.

As of issue seven which (I sincerely hope) will go to press midweek, the periodical will be called The Amateur Naturalist."

We have had several people contact me to ask for further explanations of what this is all about, so I have decided to publish - ahead of its inclusion in the magazine - my editorial...

Dear friends,

What a peculiar year 2009 is turning out to be. Everything seems to be changing.

We are in the midst of what we are reliably informed is the worst financial crisis in living memory, but at Christmas the shops were full of people spending money like sailors on shore leave.

Frighteningly, a lot of what they were spending money on was livestock, and much of that livestock was exotic.

A few days before Christmas, I was in a Barnstaple pet shop that shall remain nameless, because it's not their fault, and anyway that is where we buy a lot of our animal supplies each month, and I would hate to be banned from there.

However, back to the story.

I was pootling around by the wild bird food trying to find some softbill mix that would tempt the jaded appetites of our pet crested mynah, and jackdaw, when I heard the most appalling dialogue that I have ever heard in a pet shop. I don't usually make a habit of listening to other people's conversations, but I am particularly fond of our colony of African stiped mice, and once I heard somebody else - albeit somebody of the female gender, dolled up to the nines in a revolting Christmas elf costume that was obviously meant to be sexy, but sadly gave the completely opposite impression - mention the species, I completely unethically pricked up my ears. She was haranguing the poor beleaguered shop assistant about the animals she had seen, and more importantly, the animals she wanted to buy her family, and her poor unfortunate boyfriend for Christmas. "I saw some African striped mice the other day" she shrieked frenetically. "They were cute, but I didn't like the colour. Can you get them for me in black and white?"

I so wanted to pick up one of the long tubes of fat-based wild bird food that was displayed fetchingly on the display stand next to me, and beat her severely around the head and neck, whilst screaming that the colours of wild animals are a matter of thousands of years of evolution, and that the only reason one should keep them as pets is to glorify in the magnificence of the natural world. However, it would not have been the act of a gentleman, and I didn’t want to get arrested, so I kept my council. It was not until some weeks later that I came to the uncomfortable realisation that if there was enough of a free-market demand for zebra-striped black and white African grass mice then some venture capitalist would probably invest in the genetic engineering mechanism needed to create them.

Sadly, I have seen a lot of things like this in the last year or so. Being the editor of a magazine like this makes you, well it makes me anyway, re-evaluate one's moral stance upon the pet keeping industry. We are no longer involved with the Somerset zoo. I do not want to go into details, but sufficient to say that once again we were forced to re-evaluate our position on a number of issues.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have not become one of the anti-pet keeping lobby, or the anti-zoo lobby, but I believe that it is time for us all, whether private collectors, or zoo keepers to re-evaluate why we keep exotic animals. I have been visiting zoos now for more than four and a half decades. My first word was `zoo` according to my dear departed mother, but Gerald Durrell's mother is also supposed to have claimed that, and I have always suspected that my Mama lifted that eminently quotable line from one of Durrell's books.

The first English zoo that I remember was a long defunct collection in Southampton in 1963, but before that my mother, and the two Chinese women who brought me up used to take me, in my pushchair, to the Hong Kong Botanical Gardens, which was a particularly sordid little collection during the early 1960s, where I would gaze with delight at the rather dishevelled Celebes apes (as they were called in those days), the Chinese water monitor, and a cage of rather bedraggled coatis (one which had a tail missing).

However, I adored the place and have been an avid zoo-goer ever since. I have also kept exotic, or at least unusual, pets since I was about six years old when my first zoological collection consisted of a Chinese praying mantis, and a pair of hummingbird hawkmoth caterpillars in jam jars on my bedroom window. Hong Kong was a great place to grow up when your heart was set on the natural world.
However, even from my earliest days I have seen my forays into Nature Study, both in zoos, and in the countryside, and even - let me stress - in jam jars on my windowsill as a spiritual thing; worshipping at the altar of Mother Nature if you will.

And this is where I think we as a community of pet keepers, and zoo goers have gone wrong. For too many people this communion with the natural world has become a mere hobby, or worse a minor lifestyle choice.

Now, we may be committing commercial suicide by changing horses in midstream and transforming what was a relatively successful magazine about exotic pet-keeping into a quarterly journal of radical Natural History, but it was never about the money in the first place. The whole concept of the magazine was to encourage responsible pet-keeping, and to promote the concept of exotic animal husbandry as a part of the study of Natural History, rather than as a fatuous hobby which essentially doesn’t go anywhere.

So, in essence nothing has changed. It is still the same magazine that it always has been, except now it is over twenty pages bigger, and we hope better. The title `Exotic Pets` never really sat well with me, and I am glad that we have nailed our colours to the mast with this new re-branding.

We made the decision to change from an A4 magazine format to a perfect bound book one for several reasons. We were printing and manufacturing Exotic Pets ourselves, and the task was really too much for us. The overheads were unbearable, and it took such a long time to produce that the whole house got taken over for three nerve-juddering weeks at a time. But the other reason is that these books are more durable; they can be put onto bookshelves like proper books and not left to get crumpled and tatty like magazines, because this a periodical that I think you will want to keep to read again and again, rather than just read once and chuck away.

So welcome to a new, radicalised periodical. We believe that unless we can put our own house in order, then the well-meaning but ultimately misguided folk of the Animal Rights lobby will win, and in twenty years time there will be no exotic pet-keeping (in the UK at least) and every zoo will be exactly the same. No-one will roam the countryside, and children will only see animals as two-dimensional avatars on the screens of their video-games consoles, and that will be a crying shame.

Natural History is no longer seen as a suitable hobby for young people, but in many cases is now an illegal one. A colleague of mine who works for the BBC Natural History Unit told me that children making a documentary on pond dipping were forced to wear safety helmets and rubber gloves before they were allowed near a garden pond. It is now illegal to take frogspawn from your own garden pond and put it in a fishtank.

Changing social mores have meant that most of the children of people I know sit indoors all day playing computer games rather than exploring what little countryside is left. This may seem trivial to you, but Darwin, Linneaus, Mendel, and Gerald Durrell, amongst many others, were amateur naturalists first and foremost. Most professional zoologists started off as amateur naturalists. If kids are no longer able, or encouraged, to do this is it any wonder most of them seem to want to grow up to be image consultants or TV presenters?

We are not condemning the Animal Rights movement. Indeed, during my re-examination of our motives for doing what we do which has taken up much of the last three months, I realised that my attitude towards the people who want to ban exotic pet-keeping, and the people who want to close down zoos has been clouded by the fact that I adore zoos, and have kept what could loosely be described as exotic pets for over forty years.

However, if I am to be honest about it, I have been viewing both lots of pressure groups through my own “filter” of being an exotic pet-keeper who likes to go to zoos. However in the eighteen months or so since I started this magazine (under its previous moniker) I have been travelling around zoos and pet shows, as a journalist rather than as a punter, and whilst I have seen many outstanding and morally uplifting things, other things that I have seen are more than slightly disturbing.

Too many zoos that I have seen in recent months have been tourist attractions first, and centres of zoological excellence not even second. I am not naïve, nor am I stupid. I realise the commercial constraints under which zoos have to operate, and I also realise that tacky tourist rubbish makes money, but I am becoming more and more uneasy about the philosophical implications of a zoo where the animals are secondary to selling overpriced rubbish to the great unwashed. I can see why the people who wish to have zoos closed down say that such places are philosophically unsound, because by their very nature they are not treating animals with the respect that they are due. And when I see animals being treated as secondary to facepainting, circus skills workshops, and garish, noisy rides, I have to agree.

Too many exotic pet shops, and even shows that I have seen in recent months suffer from a similar malaise. They operate on a sensationalist basis, selling things that look imposing to people who are easily impressed by such matters, whether or not they have any likelihood of being able to successfully look after the poor bloody creatures. I have seen so-called specialist shops where animals are kept under completely inadequate conditions, and sold without even the most basic attempt at giving any help to the prospective buyer. One wonders how many of these poor bloody creatures are going to survive for any length of time. This, too gives plenty of grist to the mill of the people who wish to have the sale of all exotic animals banned.

So, does this mean that I have turned my back on my mindset of the past forty years and have joined the Animal Rights brigade. No, of course not. Just because I understand, and in many cases sympathise with, their grievances, and accept that there is a very real problem, does not mean that I agree with their proposed solutions.

For about a hundred years from the mid 19th Century, Natural History was the most popular hobby for people of all ages, in Britain and her Empire. And as I wrote earlier, the great names of zoology and conservation of the 19th and 20th Century were nearly all, originally at least, amateur naturalists, and some - like Gerald Durrell, for example - never attained conventional scientific qualifications. Darwin, as you will read elsewhere in this issue, in an article to mark the bicentennial of his birth, flunked his medical training, took a degree with the intention of becoming a parson, and then became the greatest zoologist of the last 200 years, without a formal zoological qualification in sight, and even I have no zoological qualifications apart from a not very good `O Level` from 1976.

I can imagine a world without the next generation of Jon Downeses in it, but a world without a 21st Century Darwin, Mendel, Linnaeus, or Durrell. That would be unthinkable.

And that is what I believe will happen if our increasingly urbanised and sedentary population are not encouraged to take an active, rather than a passive, interest in the natural world. And this is exactly what I believe will happen if Exotic Petkeeping, and zoos with anything like an appropriate agenda do not continue in this country. And, unless we as a community regulate and police ourselves this is exactly what is going to happen.

It is time not only for a resurgence in the somewhat neglected occupation of the Amateur Naturalist, but it is time for the emergence of the Radical Naturalist. It is time to take a stand against the manifest stupidities and injustices which beset us at every turn. It is time to insist that those who want to keep exotic animals do so for the right reasons; in order to study their behaviour and habits, and to in their own little way add to the sum total of human knowledge. It is time to insist that zoos, petkeepers, and those who - like us - are part of the petkeeping industry treat the animals with which we deal with the respect and awe that they deserve. It is time that we stop treating the Animal Rights extremists as the unquestioned enemy and try to establish a dialogue with them, because although their methodology and beliefs are different to ours, their ultimate intention - to treat the other denizens of the world in which we live with respect and dignity - is the same. And it is time to realise that if we don’t take a stand, and furthermore, take a stand now, then the way of life that we hold dear will not exist for much longer!

I promise that I will not always write editorials of such enormous length, but the changes in this periodical needed to be explained properly, before we can all go further.

Onwards and Upwards,

Jon Downes
Editor, The Amateur Naturalist
North Devon,
February 7th 2009


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. What people may not know is that we have something else in common - we both suffer from mental health issues, and in Richard's case his problems were so bad that they landed him in hospital. I have always been open about my own battle with a bipolar illness, and I would just like to say how proud I am of Richard for `coming out` on such a public forum as this. Well done mate...

One fine mid summer afternoon in early August 1997 I was sitting at a computer in the Bodleian Library in Oxford,doing research for my MA dissertation. As I was sitting there a strange series of thoughts entered my head and I ended up believing I was the Antichrist. (I was and am not, I am a Christian.) So this delusion got worse and worse until that evening I was put in an ambulance, sedated, and taken to the main psychiatric hospital in Northampton,(because there were no vacancies in Oxford.) Coincidentally, this is where the “peasant poet” John Clare, more famous for his nature poetry, was also a patient. His harrowing poem `I am` about the alienation from those around him that his illness brought to him has inspired me down the years.

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and live - like vapors tossed

However, I digress.

So I arrived and almost immediately there were cryptozoological stories to investigate. There was a picture above my of a vase of flowers, a reprint of the 18th century horticulturalist Robert Furber`s Twelve Months of Flowers, 1730, picture for March. At the bottom, beneath the vase was a pair of animals that looked like a kind of Tatzelwurm. Jon discussed it with the other members of the CFZ, then at Exeter and they decided it was an early depiction of a dolphin.

Whilst in hospital (which was luxurious by the way) we began to talk about black squirrels in Britain.

She gave me the address of a female friend she had who lived in Cambridgeshire. Moreover this lady had photos of black squirrels. Sure enough,when I wrote to her she passed on one of her photos which was later published in British Wildlife, December 1998 along with my essay on the subject.

After a week or two in the psychiatric hospital,I was allowed to go into Northampton accompanied by a nurse. I was in Northampton until early September until shortly after the death of Princess Diana in Paris.

On one occasion I went to the local studies library and in one or two days. It turned out to be the most productive, or - at least - one of the most productive short term periods of cryptozoological research in my life. The library was a delightful old building, and the animal stories below were found by using a card catalogue system. As a qualified librarian I was taught that with the advent of information technology, this is not considered the most time efficient method of searching! But I can see no harm.

Below, in date order, are most of my unusual animal stories from Northampton. A few have been left out or abbreviated, due to their comparatively uninteresting nature.

HORNED HORSE. Northampton Mercury. June 27th 1795. Nearly all the cuttings are abbreviated “N.Merc”,so I presume that means “Northampton Mercury.”

When I first read those words “Horned Horse” I first thought “is this some kind of unicorn?”.Then I found out this was actually a gnu. “The following singular accident took place agout a fortnight since, on the Chester road, near the sand house,a short distance from Brick-hill-A Caravan in which were a Leopard, a Bison(or Buffalo) a Horned Horse, and several smaller wild beasts,owing to the axle-tree breaking,was pitched on one side….etc”

LOCUSTS. Northampton Mercury. September 26th 1857.

This is one of my favourite entomological anomalies.” A locust was found in Adam and Eve street,Market Harborough on Sunday last,while the Rev.J Clifford was preaching in the open air. A servant in the employ of Mr H.Foster took it home with him;it measures more than two inches in length.One was seen on Friday last in a field of turnips in the parish of Cobourn,near Caistor. Its prescence was known by a skip of four or five yards,and on arresting the attention of the beholder impressed him at first that it was a small rising from the ground. A locust was found in St Paul`s street, Stamford, a few days ago; a dog was playing with it at the time. It survived several days.” Note the coincidences: Adam and Eve and St.Paul. Locusts in the Bible are a symbol of God`s judgement.

SHOWER OF SNAILS. Northampton Mercury. June 19th 1858.

“Shower of Snails-After the storm,on Saturday last,myriads of small snails appeared on the high lands north of Stamford and in some cases covered whole patches of vegetation. They now abound on the tombstones at the cemetery,and the lodge-keeper is firmly of the opinion that they descended with the deluge-like rain which fell on Saturday.”

Fort mentions a fall of snails in The Book of The Damned: In Cornwall,near Redruth,on July 8th 1886.This is in Science Gossip 1886-238.(1)

LOCUST. Northampton Daily Chronicle(?) August 22nd 1901

“Another locust,this time a South African one:

A fine specimen of the South Africa locust was found in Derngate,Northampton, by Mr Frank Bex this morning. Mr Bazeley,Sheep Street has it on view in his window.”

AN INDIAN MONGOOSE. Northampton Daily Record (?) September 28th 1904

“A Rare Animal. Whilst out rabbit-shooting on Tuesday last week,at Mr Banks` lime kilns,near Moulton Park.Mr W.Parbery ,of the Old Five Bells Kingsthorpe,was fortunate enough to secure a rare natural history specimen. There was a good deal of speculation as to what the animal was but through the kindness of Mr T.J.George and others it has been found out to be an Indian mongoose. The animal,when “bolted” by a ferret (which was muzzled) showed fight,but was soon despatched. It is supposed that the specimen (which is being preserved) had escaped from confinement.”

CAT FEEDING CHICK. Northampton Daily Chronicle. September 23rd 1905.

“Anomaly In Natural History. Your readers may be interested in the following anomaly in natural history:- Mrs Jackson (wife of Mr Smyth`s gamekeeper)put a lame chicken into the basket of her cat with one kitten to nurse. The cat took kindly to her charge,keeps it warm under her;treats it exactly as she does her kitten,licking it clean,etc., and if the chick is taken out of the basket carries it back in her mouth. The chick is doing well,and will soon be independent of its strange fostermother”. J.T.BARTLETT.

A GAZELLE. Northampton Mercury. May 14th 1909.

This gazelle was supposed to have escaped from a travelling menagerie. This is the usual explanation given in early 20th century British newspapers for exotic animals found or shot in the countryside. But in this story about a gazelle there is a twist: The gazelle was thought to have been being suckled by a cow belonging to a farm owner,Mr Charles Kingston! I will quote from parts of the cutting: My own comments in brackets.

“No little excitement was caused in the village (of Caldecote) on Monday (i.e. the 10th) when it became known that a young gazelle had been shot on Uplands Farm. It appears that for some considerable time the occupier of the farm,Mr Charles Kingston,had been at a loss to understand the reason why one of his best milch cows was yielding so little milk….Mr Kingston, on receiving information,* set off with his man and two lads to stalk the intruder,and after an exciting time got in a favourable position for a shot and brought his quarry down. Several people who have been in South Africa are of opinion that the animal is a young gazelle. How it came to Caldecote can only be conjectured, but the field where it was found lies close to the main road,and it is possible that it may have escaped from a passing menagerie……Judging by the time when the milch cow unaccountably failed to yield her usual supply of milk Mr Kingston thinks that the gazelle must have been on the farm for the greater part of the winter and suckled by the cow."

ANOTHER LOCUST. Northampton Mercury. September 24th 1909

An Unwelcome Visitor - A remarkably fine specimen of the locust was captured on Thursday, in a bean field belonging to H.B.Whitworth,Esq., near the Northampton toll-gate, on the Kettering-road, by a lad named John Roughton,the son of Thomas Roughton, of 111, Market street, in whose possession it remains.

A KANGAROO. Northampton Mercury. April 26th 1912.

"Some residents at Ravensthorpe have had a fright. An uncanny creature was seen in the twilight of Tuesday(i.e. the 23rd ) looping along a field. No one knew what it was, and by night the description approached the following picture from an old writer:-
The ouglie devel, with hornes on his head, fier in his mouth, a huge tayle, eies like basons, fangs like a boar, claws like a tiger, a skin like a bear, and a voice roaring like a lion.

But it was not so bad as that. Early the next morning the mystery was exploded. A kangaroo was captured on the Guilsborough road near Marrowell Cottage, the residence of Mr.William Clarke,East Haddon. Mr Clarke discovered the unusual animal entangled in some pens. He and his sons secured it and took it to the Crown Hotel where it was placed in the stables. The animal evidently had recently escaped from some menagerie or private collection".

A TASMANIAN CAT (sic). Northampton Mercury. July 19th 1912.

Now this is very interesting. As you can see from the photograph this animal in question is not a cat,but what looks like a ring-tailed lemur. Nor are these lemurs native of Tasmania, but Madagascar. So why does the text refer to “a Tasmanian cat”? Were there ever colonies of ring-tailed lemurs in Tasmania in the early 20th century or something similar and, if so,what became of them? Could a CFZ Australia member reading this look into it?

“The photograph is of a Tasmanian cat found on the line near Weedon,and given by the railway officials in charge of Mr B.Southgate,of the Horseshoe Inn,Weedon,until the owner can be found. Mr Southgate is making use of the opportunity by collecting for the Northampton Hospital".

SIAMESE WILD CAT. Northampton Daily Chronicle. October 10th 1916.

Now here is another strange one. The piece doesn`t seem to be referring to a domestic cat,but when I Googled “siamese wild cat –images” I only came up with images of domestic cats or hybrids. Please can any one tell me what “siamese wild cat” would be referring to in 1916? Furthermore, a cat,or most cats are bigger than stoats,(see below),so do we have here a cat a similar size to a stoat?

“The other night Mr Knight,a farmer of Chalveston,saw what he thought to be a stoat attacking one of his ducks. He shot and killed it,and then discovered the animal to be one of a species that he could not recognise. (emphasis mine).On taking to Mr H.H.Bryant, taxidermist,of Wellingborough,h owever,that gentleman was able to recognise it as a Siamese wild cat. How the animal, which, though small, is powerful and dangerous got in this locality is unknown, but probably it had escaped from a private collection.

GREY AND RED SQUIRRELS. The Times February 7th 1929.

This is the only item from a non provincial newspaper,nevertheless I include it here because I found it in the Northampton library and because, even though it is 80 years old, it is an early example, seemingly sincere of a certain belief about grey squirrels.This is only a very small extract:

“A few years ago my two elder sons saw a grey squirrel leave a red squirrel`s nest in a tree close by our house, Iridge Place,near Etchingham, in Sussex. One climbed up and found in the nest a dead red squirrel, warm and bleeding.”

Not only did I enjoy myself with these cuttings which now have a wider viewing nearly 12 years on but Richard Freeman of the CFZ visited me and we had a drink at town centre pub and went to a second hand book shop where Richard found a book on animal mysteries. I bought On Safari by Armand Denis which has a photo of the remains of a four tusked elephant and a book called Birth of Toads by Elvig Hansen.

(1) C.Fort. Book of the Damned in The Complete Books of Charles Fort.Dover Publications,Inc. New York.1974.p92.

GLEN VAUDREY: Steller's sea cow

There would be no mistaking an adult Steller’s sea cow, weighing in at 8 tons and measuring up to 28 feet in length. The largest member of the order Sirenia was a true monster but only in size, for this was a gentle herbivorous giant. All had been going well for the 2000 odd sea cows that could be found eating kelp in the shallow waters around the isles of Bering and Cooper in the Commander Island chain, that was until 1741. It’s funny to think that had pre-packed ready-to-eat meals been available and ships’ navigation a bit better then the story of the sea cow might have had a happier ending.

As it turned out in the winter of 1741 Vitus Bering’s ship St Peter was wrecked and the crew found themselves stranded upon the very same islands that the sea cows swam around. It is doubly unfortunate that not only was the sea cow docile and easy to approach but it was by all accounts rather tasty. From its first appearance on the menu in 1742 it would only take another twenty-six years for the animal to be eaten into extinction, or at least that’s the official line.

You see reported sightings of these great herbivores continued long after their supposed extinction in 1768. The first wave of sightings was reported in the 1780s but unfortunately for the sea cow’s survival prospects the report came from hunters who had just killed them.

Still there was better luck with the next sighting in 1854 when two locals saw a sea cow and appeared to have successfully fought the urge to eat it. Then it all went a bit quiet on the sightings for nearly a hundred years, that was until the 1950s when a harpooner claimed that sea cows still visited the Bering Isles each July, and it would be in July 1962 that the crew of the whaling ship Buran reported a sighting of six sea cows happily feeding in a lagoon near Cape Navarin, Siberia.

The final sighting in the area would be made in 1976 when a fisherman going by the name of Ivan Chechulin claimed that he had not only seen a sea cow but had actually been able to get close enough to touch the animal.

So the question has to be asked, do the waters off Cape Navarin still play host to Steller’s sea cow?


Max Blake has commented on Oll Lewis's bloggo article about Great White Sharks in British waters....

Read what he has to say HERE

Here, for your delectation, are a number of other articles on the subject:





We don't usually do links to anything involving The Sun but the article in question does show a graphic photograph of a dead seal that they claim could only have been attacked by a Great White. What is it with The Sun, the CFZ, and dead seals?



I was reading this intriguing post from one of Redfern's new recruits, Regan Lee, the other day..

"Not long ago, my husband “Joe” and I were talking about our childhood “weird” experiences; memories of the paranormal, or whatever word you want to use. Before I said anything, he began to tell me of something that happened to him sometimes when he was a kid. While he was in bed, furry gray “things” would gather around the edges of the bed, and tug at him, taking him away. (Neither of us remember where we went.)

I asked him if they reminded him in a way, of wolves; he said yes. Small nasty little wolf puppet, or stuffed animal-toy beings. He had never heard my story before."

And I was suddenly reminded of one of my daily time-wasting excercises. For over a year now I have been avidly reading a webcomic called Gunnerkrigg Court

Gunnerkrigg Court, the fictional school around which the story revolves, is a mysterious and vast establishment that many characters suspect hides much more than just a school. As the story progresses, it is soon revealed that the school is inhabited by a wide variety of both supernatural creatures—many of which become characters involved in the story's plot—and ultra-modern technology.

The court is built on the edge of a wide chasm, on the other side of which lies the Gillitie Wood, which is inhabited by "etheric" or magical creatures. At the time when the main story takes place, the two sides exist in a kind of truce, with the Court as the realm of science and technology and the Wood the realm of nature and the etheric.

All very well and good you might say, especially as you cribbed the two previous paragraphs from wikipedia, but what has this got to do with Regan's posting? Well, quite a lot. One of the characters is Reynardine, a fox demon who inhabits the body of a cuddly toy owned by the female protagonist of the story. Yes, I know it is a flimsy connection, but it gives me an excuse to plug Tom Siddell's excellent webcomic (now also in book form at last).

It also gives me an excuse to lean on Tom once more to appear at the Weird Weekend, because not only am I a massive fan, but I have been wanting to have a section of the event called "populating an imaginary world with creatures" for ages, and Tom would be perfect to launch it.

So, guys and girls. Go to http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/ and read the story from the beginning. I guarantee that a vast majority of the readers of the CFZ bloggo will become as addicted as I have become. Buy the book from Tom, and tell him that the CFZ sent you.....


The CFZ has, on occasion, been described as `The House that Owlman Built`. This is sort-of true, because it has to be said that my book The Owlman and Others (1997) has sold more copies than everything else I have written put together, and has been the nearest that the CFZ has ever got to a runaway success.

It tells the story of a series of encounters with a feathered humaniform creature in and around the graveyard of Mawnan Old Church, near Falmouth in southern Cornwall. I have been interested in anomalous flying creatures ever since, and so was particularly interested to read the following account by the CFZ North Carolina representative..



Nick Redfern, (Gawd bless 'im), has been gathering together a crack team of investigators across the United States. In posts to the Cryptosquad blog he has been introducing his readers to the new members. However, as the blog didn't actually join with the CFZ Bloggo Network until yesterday, we thought that you might have missed them, so here they are...