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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Monday, February 16, 2009



Thanks to CFZ Volunteer Gavin Lloyd Wilson, we now have a daily news service. It is at the moment in its infancy, but will become something very special indeed. We have been planning this for some time. From now on news items will be posted here instead of on the CFZ forums.

There will be more developments over the next few days...

GLEN VAUDREY: The lost grey seal of Dobby's Lock

Whenever I find myself in a new place with a few hours to spare I try to visit the local museum to see what cryptozoological delights it might contain. While I have yet to find an example of anything resembling either a stuffed almasty or a glass case containing a giant spider with a body the size of a dinner plate I have nevertheless spotted a few items of interest.

The first thylacine I saw (don’t get too excited it was stuffed) was in a dusty cabinet in of all places Kendal museum, it was a while ago and all I remember about it was that it had a vague hint of purple about it. Having taken a few pictures of the unfortunate creature I then promptly misplaced them and it would be over ten years before they resurfaced. Frustrating as the search for those photographs had been I had at least the knowledge that I hadn’t lost a photo of a live thylacine.

The next rather surprising animal that I found was an out of place seal. You could say that being stuffed and put on a plinth in Warrington museum is about as out of place as a marine mammal could get and you wouldn’t be far wrong. What was truly remarkable about this grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) was how it found its way into the museum’s collection.

It was on the 17th June 1908 that the lock keeper at the delightfully named Dobby’s Lock on the River Mersey two miles upstream from Warrington noticed something unexpected in the water, an adult male grey seal. The reason that it was so unexpected is that this point is over twenty miles from the sea and considerably further still from the North Wales coast where it was believed the seal had come from.
For the creature to have reached so far it would have had to have swum up the Mersey as far as Howley weir which it was assumed to have cleared with the help of a high tide, and then continued on its way westward. The seal may have successfully negotiated Howley weir but Dobby’s lock proved more of a challenge.

Despite its obvious desire to make the journey all the way to Manchester the seal managed to get no further than Dobby’s lock for in the all too familiar ending to tales like this it was promptly shot dead. It then took a good number of men to drag the 8ft 5in long, 104 stone body out onto the quayside where it was laid out for public viewing, for a small charge of course. Word of the seal soon got around which resulted in the Warrington Museum Committee purchasing and mounting the specimen for the princely sum of £7, money well spent it seems for after it went on display in the museum’s gallery in the summer of 1908 there were an extra 14,000 visitors by the end of that year as a direct result of the interest generated in the fate of one lost grey seal.


Once again we hand you over to guest blogger Richard Holland, editor of Paranormal Magazine, and all round good bloke. He intends to be a regular visitor tho these pages, and I am sure that you will all agree with me that this will be jolly good news for all of us..

Since I have lived in Wales since I was a nipper, Welsh folklore is very much my thang, so don’t be surprised if this blog is strongly biased towards Cryptidiau Cymru.

One of the most significant cryptids from Welsh folklore is the Afanc: it features in several legends of some antiquity. And yet it remains one of the most obscure, since, as far as I can tell, there is no description of it.

The mysterious monster is linked to several lakes in North Wales: Llyn Barfog and Llyn Ffynnon Las, both in Snowdonia, Llyn Llion (unknown but possibly an old name for Llyn Tegid, ie Bala Lake) and Llyn yr Afanc, a deep pool in the River Conwy.
In two of these stories, the monster has been causing terrible floods until defeated by a hero: at Llyn Barfog by King Arthur and at Llyn yr Afanc by Hu Gadarn (Huw the Mighty, an archetype who might be a form of the Celtic Horned God). Both heroes employ enormous long-horned oxen, the Ychen Bannog – which deserve an article to themselves (I suspect they are memories of the auroch) – to haul him from his watery den.

Although these legends wax lyrical about the oxen, descriptions of the monstrous Afanc are not forthcoming, other than that he is capable of causing floods and is of great size. Although, in fact, the latter characteristic isn’t certain either. Prof John Rhys associated the word afanc with the Irish abhac, meaning ‘dwarf, pigmy, manikin, a sprite’. In one tale the Afanc throws poisoned darts and in the River Conwy story he talks to his captor: suggesting a more human form.

Afon is the Welsh word for river and afanc may therefore be a derivation, simply meaning ‘of the river’, or ‘creature of the river’, which is no help either. Today, the Afanc tends to be imagined as a dragon, fulfilling the same folkloric (and ecological) niche as English beasts like the Lambton Worm.

But it’s significant that he word afanc survived into the Middle Ages to mean beaver: in the 12th century, Giraldus Cambrensis mentions the beaver as an exotic animal still inhabiting the River Teifi in South Wales. Folklorist T Gwynn Jones made the sensible observation that we shouldn’t forget ‘the evidence of great inundations caused by the bursting of beaver dams’ – after all the only certain characteristic we do know of the legendary Afanc is that it could cause floods.
It seems likely then that in the imaginations of the early Welsh, the Afanc was not a dragon. What their imaginations conjured up was an enormous hairy beaver.

(Ahem! I’m sorry – have I said something funny? Quick someone, slap Richard Freeman on the back, he appears to be choking.)

For more of Richard Holland’s blather, visit http://www.paranormalmagazine.co.uk/ and http://www.uncannyuk.com/

GUEST BLOGGER JAN EDWARDS: "let’s lay the foundations for a better world tomorrow."

We have been in contact with Jan for ages, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome her aboard, not only as a guest blogger, but as a Co. Durham representative for the CFZ. With Davy Curtis already at the helm in the country, the two of them will make a dream team par excellence...

When this latest missive arrived in my email inbox this evening, I replied to it in just three words "RIGHT ON SISTER!"

My childhood was spent in the local wilderness. I grew up knowing every inch of the woods near my home.... indeed I was often found climbing trees or exploring the sand quarry when I really should have been in school. But nature was my teacher. I learned the names of birds along with their songs. I learned patience as I watched the squirrels in the treetops and the badgers playing in their woodland paradise. I learned DIY skills from building tree houses.

I knew where the robin nested... where the honeysuckle bloomed... where the lizard basked in the summer. I grew up surrounded by nature, and that is why it is still my passion today.

But what of today’s children? Recent studies have shown that British kids are disconnected from nature. Ferried to and from school in the family car they miss out on the daily walk that many of us used to take. After school, today’s child seems to spend more and more time in the virtual reality of the personal computer. In these days, when every child has a mobile phone, it’s no longer safe for them to walk the dog alone, or have a bike ride with friends down to the river. Camping is definitely out, for who knows what dangers are out there?

In the days long ago, when the world was green, I’d stay out of doors from dawn to dusk all summer long – getting home dirty, tired and happy with tales of water voles and weasels. My parents may have wondered where I was, but they never sent out a search party. I didn’t have a mobile phone, and didn’t feel the need for one, even if they existed.

Sir David Attenborough said recently that nobody is going to protect the natural world of tomorrow unless the children of today understand it. He’s right. Let’s do what we can to get our kids and our grandkids off those computer chairs and on to their bikes... or onto their ponies... or simply walking the dog. Enthuse them. Baptise them in the holy fire that is Nature. And let’s lay the foundations for a better world tomorrow.