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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 28, 2009

HARDCORE BATRACHIAN EROTICA

As any visitor to the Weird Weekend over the past few years will know, one of my late father's friends often makes an appearance. He is the Rev. Gerald Smith who was once the Vicar of the South Pole. Honest!

OK he was actually the RAF Chaplain to the garrison on the Falkland Islands, and as part of his flock he ministered to the British Antarctic Territory - a peripetetic community of about 200 scientists and military bods - who have been there on and off since Britain claimed sovreignty over part of the southernmost continent in 1908.


However, he is a very interesting chap with a feast of interesting stories to tell, and he and his wife Ann always come to the Weird Weekend Cocktail Party where they drink my champagne like it was going out of fashion and generally have
a jolly good time

However, he is also a keen nature photographer, and sends me lots of images that he thinks may be of interest. Like these..

He knows of my interest in the stories of bright yellow, and even golden frogs in the Devon countryside, and he sent me these pictures that he took on friday of two common frogs in amplexus in his garden, with a note commenting on the marked colour difference between them

This has actually made me decide to bring a long standing project of mine back to the fore. The colour variations on British frogs are so great that we think that it is about time that they were documented, so this spring, can you all please get your digital cameras out and photgraph as many different froggies of differing sizes, markings and colouration as you can. Email tjhem to me with locality notes and we shall post them on a dedicated section of the CFZ website...

















































GUEST BLOGGER JAN EDWARDS: The Italian Job

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...

I have just got back from a holiday in Italy. When I left, we still had snow here on the hills. I got back to snowdrops in full bloom, daffodils pushing through the turf, hens laying for England... amazing what a difference a week makes.

It’s only a matter of days before the local frogs start spawning – although there are some places in the Northern hills where last year’s tadpoles are still waiting to morph... The spring/summer season is too short and tends to be cold, slowing down the process to two years instead of one.

The toads will wait until the frogs are well into their spawning season before they will start, and their tadpoles are noticeable by being small and jet black, at a time when the frogs are turning mottled and growing legs.

The robin is singing his heart out and staking out his territory, as is the blackbird, but what really caught my eye yesterday was a pair of buzzards riding the thermals in a fantastic courtship display. The sun was shining off their backs and they just took my breath away.

But I blather... What I wanted to tell you about was a Creature from Pisa. We’d stopped off at the Botanic Gardens, close to the wobbly tower. My fella doesn’t notice things unless they are blatantly obvious, so he didn’t notice the THING that was living under the flaked sun-baked plaster peeling away from a building. It was small, black, and it was next-to-silent, and it disappeared into it’s broken plasterwork home when my shadow past it. I just caught a glimpse of a fast moving blackness, so obviously, I stopped walking and watched.

It took about 3 seconds to re-appear – a quick flicker of jet black something, which hid again as soon as it realised I was still there. A few seconds later, and I was rewarded by a similar performance, but I still didn’t know what it was. I’d guessed at a lizard, a gecko perhaps, or a bat maybe... or even a huge mother**cking spider... So I did what ANY self-respecting Beast-Hunter would do... I broke a bit of the plaster off. It had lifted anyway, and wasn’t doing the building any good.

The THING hid deeper in the plasterwork, and so I broke more off. I just wanted to see what it was, you understand.... By this time, my absence had been noticed, and himself had come back to find me. He was horrified to find me “demolishing a building” as soon as his back was turned, and insisted that I stop my destruction immediately.

I said “...but there’s a THING...” but he wasn’t having any of it. I broke one more bit of plaster off, for luck, and realised that the THING was in fact some sort of lizard, before I was lead away to look at plants. I don’t think RyanAir would approve of me smuggling a reptile into Liverpool Airport, so it’s perhaps as well that I was lead away when I was.... But, girls and boys, I ask you – wouldn’t you have done the same?

Jan Edwards, Head of Animal Care
Farplace Animal Rescue - the no-kill animal sanctuary
Farplace, Sidehead, Westgate, County Durham, DL13 1LE
http://www.farplace.org.uk/

DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YER...

http://forteanzoology.blogspot.com/2009/02/eat-yer-heart-out-edward-lear.html




A week or so ago I made a certain tongue in cheek prediction about the surrealchemical follow through that would most likely result from the advent of what I dubbed the Falmouth Bay cattything. Guess what was advertised in the pub wherein Maxy, Corinna and I found ourselves in the Holloway Rd last saturday night?


RICHARD FREEMAN: MONSTER HUNTER' A PALID SHADOW OF THE REAL DEAL

Guest Ranting time for Richard Freeman again. He does, however, have a point...

The other night I caught the American show Monster Hunter, wherein host Josh Gates is sent all across the globe in search of real monsters. It sounds great, but it isn't. Josh spends only a miniscule amount of time in each location, the research is non-existent and Josh has no zoological knowledge whatsoever.

A case in point was the show. I wasted an hour of my life watching the other night. Josh and his team had been sent to New Britain to look for a 'dinosaur'. Despite the fact that the beast had supposedly eaten three dogs, it was labelled as an 'iguanodon'. Iguanodon was a herbivore.

The actual sighting took place on the island in 2004. It occured near the village of Rabaul. Witness Christine Samei reported a 30 foot, grey scaled beast as thick as a 900 litre water tank. It reared up on its hind legs some ten feet tall. The monster ate several dogs and a search was launched, with armed soldiers carrying M16s. Nothing was found.

New Guinea and the surrounding islands are well known for such encounters. In 1960, a number of people in Papua New Guinea were supposedly killed by dragons that were over 20 feet long, stood on their hind legs and spat fire. Villagers built stockades to protect themselves. Officials from the government looked into the attacks and examined the bodies of the victims, but failed to find the monsters.

In the same year, Lindsay Green and Fred Kleckhan, administration agricultural officers, were shown skin and part of a jaw from a giant lizard.

Robert Grant and David George were exploring the Strachen Island district in 1961 when they saw a grey lizard some 26 feet long lying on a log. Its neck alone was 3 feet in length.

In 1969, explorer David M Davis was shown Papuan cave paintings of a giant bipedal lizard.

Fast forward to the mid 1980s and our own Colonel John Blashford Snell was told of an upright walking, fire-spitting dragon on New Guinea. The locals called it Artrellia. One story concerned a warrior who sat on a 'log' that turned out to be a giant lizard that reared up ten feet tall.

On a baited stakeout, the Colonel himself caught a glimpse of a lizard with a head the size of a horse’s head. A local shot a young specimen of an Artrellia some 6 feet long. It turned out to be a salvadori dragon (Varanus salvadori). They are the world’s longest lizard growing to 15 feet. But most of that is taken up by the lengthy tail, so they do not have the bulk of a Komodo dragon. Could the salvadori dragon grow far bigger than we know?

In 1999, two separate groups of people spotted a monster at Lake Murry near Boroko. It had crocodile like skin, a long tail, thick hind legs and smaller front ones. Varanids or monitor lizards can rear up on their hind legs using the tail as a support. The spitting flames could refer to the red and orange fork tongue they shoots in and out like a flickering flame.

CFZ member Bry Morgan visited New Guinea a couple of years back and was told that the truly giant lizards were not Artrellia but the war (pronounced whaar) dragon. One chief told him of seeing a war dragon 25 feet long. It had grey scales. Bry was also allowed to take home a small piece of preserved skin from one of these beasts. Our friend Dr Lars Thomas examined it at the University of Copenhagen, but sadly the DNA was too badly damaged from being in direct sunlight to be of use.

Could a giant 20-30 foot monitor lizard be existing on New Guinea? It makes more sense than a living dinosaur, especially a flesh eating Iguanodon!

'Monster Hunter' is a waste of time and money. Despite having all the financial backing anyone could want, an amazing array of equipment and transport, Josh achieves nothing. The reason? He spends so little time actually looking for the cryptids. In the New Guinea episode, he wastes time searching for the supposed 'Ri' mermaid. This was identified as a dugong well over a decade ago. In another episode, where he is searching for the Kongamanto, a supposed living pterosaur, he films what any ten year old could tell you is a bat. He excitedly takes this back to experts in the States who tell him 'it’s a bat'.

To add insult to injury we have expeditions backed by creationist loonies who think that finding dinosaurs will prove their crackpot young earth theories. It seems that everyone except the CFZ, the ones who really deserve it, are getting funding and wasting it. If I had half the budget of 'Monster Hunter' I think I would have found at least one cryptid.

GUEST BLOGGER NICK REDFERN: A Strange Tale of Gorillas & Man-Monkeys

As regular readers of this blog - and of my books, too - will be aware, one particularly strange British-Bigfoot story that has fascinated me for years is that of the so-called "Man-Monkey" of the Shropshire Union Canal.

Indeed, so fascinated am I by it, I even wrote a book about the damned critter!

The story essentially had its origins in 1879, when a man walking home late at night, and with his horse-and-cart in-tow, claimed to have been attacked by a bizarre ape-man style beast with shining eyes that ultimately vanished into the night.

Not only that: the beast was distinctly spectral in nature, as can be evidenced by the fact that the man said that as he struck it with his horse-whip, the whip actually passed right through its hairy body!

More intriguing: sightings of the Man-Monkey have abounded in the area ever since. Indeed, I think my current count of cases, sightings and incidents is upwards of 30 - and which covers the period from the early 20th Century and right up until September 2005.

But now, there is a fascinating development in the saga - and maybe, just maybe, it may open some doors to the question of what the Man-Monkey really was, is, or may have been.

The story comes via Fortean expert and author Mike Dash.

As Dash says, just recently he was leafing through a copy of the December 8, 1878 edition of Sheldrake's Aldershot & Sandhurst Military Gazette, and came across the following story in its pages:

CAPTURING A GORILLA IN SHROPSHIRE

For a fortnight past the district around Madely Wood, Salop, has been in a state of intense excitement, by the alleged depredations committed by a gorilla, which is said to have escaped from a wild beast menagerie travelling to Bridgnorth.

The animal was stated to have first made his appearance in the neighbourhood of that town, where in the darkness of the night it was severally seen by a clergyman and a policeman, both of whom fled.

It is also said to have appeared at several places in the immediate neighbourhood. A few evenings since the occupier of a house in Madely Wood went to bed at a reasonable hour, with the greater portion of his family, leaving his “gude wife” up, who took the opportunity to visit a neighbour, leaving the door open and a candle burning.

Returning in a short time, she was horrified at seeing a bent form, with a goodly array of gray hair around its face, crouching over the expiring embers of the fire, apparently warming itself, the light having gone out.

Too frightened to shriek, she ran to her neighbours, who quickly armed themselves with pokers, iron bars, guns, and pitchforks and other instruments of a similar character, and marched in a body to capture the gorilla.

The form was seen sitting at the fire, but evidently aroused by the approaching body, rose to its full height and revealed the figure of an eccentric character well known in the neighbourhood as “Old Johnny,” who seeing the door open had quietly walked in to light his pipe, accidentally “puffed” the candle out, and was very near being captured, if not exterminated, in mistake for an escaped gorilla.

The animal has not been heard of since.

Well, this is indeed fascinating: the story surfaced only one month before the Man-Monkey was seen - and in the same English county of Shropshire, no less.

And as Mike astutely notes:

"Old Johnny and his humorous encounter make for an interesting story, and it's easy to see why the journalist who wrote the piece focused on him. As published, though, the article ignores the central question of what became of Shropshire's mysterious 'gorilla'. The wild-beast-escaped-from-a-travelling menagerie is a common motif in out of place animal stories, as Mick Goss demonstrated years ago in a Fortean Times article on the mysterious crocodile of Cefn Caves - itself just over the border in north Wales. But it would be an ambitious showman who kept an animal as dangerous as a gorilla in a travelling show."

Indeed, Mike is right: numerous stories, tales and rumors of "circus escapees" (in Britain , in the U.S. and elsewhere) have been trotted out time and again to account for sightings of exotic animals having been seen in areas where they have no business roaming.

A perfect case in point is Britain's big-cats.

For example, in his classic title Cat Flaps, British Fortean author Andy Roberts discussed a wave of "big-cat" sightings in the English county of Yorkshire in the 1980s. One particular series of encounters led one commentator to tell Andy that: "They all come from Knaresborough Zoo, you know."

Of course, there was no evidence at all that the zoo had lost any big-cats - yet such tales and theories often spring up in such situations.

So, is that what happened back in 1878?

Had someone - or, as the Gazette's story suggests, several people - seen a weird Bigfoot-like entity that was subsequently explained (without any actual evidence to support the notion), as having escaped from a "travelling menagerie"?

Or, incredibly, was the story actually true?

Could there really have been a travelling menagerie from which a gorilla made a successful bid for freedom? And if so, did it ultimately find its way one dark and winter night in January 1879 to the heart of the Shropshire Union Canal, where it scared the you-know-what out of the man who had the misfortune to encounter it?

Perhaps further digging will unravel the puzzle.

Could it really be the case that a fully-grown gorilla briefly made its home in the wilds of Shropshire before probably succumbing to starvation and the effects of a harsh winter? Of course, that would not explain the seemingly spectral nature of the beast reported at the canal - nor would it explain how sightings of the same beast have continued until the present day.

Unless, that is, what people are seeing today could be the ghostly-form of the long-dead gorilla; forever doomed to haunt and wander the tree-shrouded, old canal...

But, bringing animal ghosts into the story is a whole different kettle of fish that I will keep for another day!

Suffice to say for now, however, Mike Dash has made a highly significant breakthrough in a story that - despite its age - never seems to go away.

For further information, see the following links:


1. Mike Dash's original article.


2. A post on this development at Cabinet of Wonders.


SATURDAY LUNCHTIME AT THE CFZ

Once again, our ISP seems to have screwed up, and so, for the second time in the week we are unable to update the front page of the CFZ main site. So here are the saturday morning updates...

28th February: CRYPTOZOOLOGY: In the wake of yesterday's posting about the Borneo giant snake pictures, we take a look at just how difficult it is to fake such an image.
Click here for further details...

28th February: CRYPTOZOOLOGY: The latest developments from Falmouth Bay re. the cattything
Click here for further details...

28th February: CFZ NEWS: Oll Lewis brings you yesterday's news today! The puns are worse and the tea better
Click here for further details...

28th February: CFZ PRESS: Warning - A pirate edition of Karl Shuker's book
Click here for further details...

We will keep you up to date with what happens as and when we can.....

FOOD FOR THOUGHT


Lindsay Selby, regular guest blogger of this parish, sent us the above link. You will remember that she is studying cryptozoological blogs for a degree, and that she has enlisted our aid. It was interesting to read the article because Brian Regal from Kean University makes some very valid points..

"The role in amateur science is extremely important in the history of science in general, especially in the West. It goes all the way back to the late 1400s here in England when the first amateur naturalists appear. What you see happening is that if you look at the history of natural history and the role of amateurs in it you see that a pattern emerges. Whenever some knowledge domain which has the potential to generate genuine scientific knowledge appears what will happen is slowly but surely members of the amateur community will become more professional. Outside professionals will become more interested. A kind of displacement occurs where as more and more genuine information is generated and mainstream science, for lack of a better term, becomes more interested in this topic more professionals will get involved and they will push out or displace the amateurs until you reach a point where the amateurs have been pushed out completely. It becomes a professional scientific discipline. We’ve seen this over and over again with fossil hunting, with ornithology and bird watching, with plant collecting, botany, marine biology. Whenever some field is begun by passionate amateurs and it has the potential to generate genuine scientific information it will eventually professionalise and the amateurs get kicked out. "

This is the situation that the CFZ hopes to avoid. Cryptozoology has to police itself if it is going to be taken seriously. That is why I have always made such a big deal about publishing our findings, and insisting on an open information policy. There are too many people in this business who try to carve out personal empires so that they can appear on tabloid TV shows and sell their latest product. And there are too many people in this business who sit around bitching about each other and claiming to be researchers when in fact they are nothing of the kind; merely members of some Internet social club, and there are too many people who equate being members of a Facebook group with actually achieving something.

This is why the CFZ is important, and will become more important as the 21st Century shudders on....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's news today

Ok, I hope you’re sitting down with a nice cup of tea because it’s time to recap yesterday’s stories on the CFZ news blog and tell a bad pun or two. For your information, this week’s recommended tea is chai.

The latest news stories are: Ancient whale bones found in San Diego, an orang-utan that whistles, a pretty groovy looking new fish species, a mobile phone found in a fish (a new spin on the old missing ring being found in a fish story?), Turtles under threat, elephants being put to work in a circus, pictures of the massive stingray and cows taking over a Chinese railway station.

Seriously, no ‘bull’ about that, the cows are just roaming around that station and showing no signs of ‘cow’towing to convention.