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, March 02, 2009

A visit to the Oxford Natural History Museum

Gavin Lloyd Wilson is one of the most tireless labourers in the CFZ Vinyard. He single handedly does the Daily News blog (and always refuses assistants when I offer them to him), and on sunday he posted no less than 31 stories. I don't know how he does it. Over on his own blog he recently visited the Oxford Natural History Museum, and his account was so interesting that I decided to pinch it...

I only visited the Oxford University Museum of Natural History for the first time last November, but I instantly fell in love with the place and wondered why on earth I'd never been before. I'm not going to give its whole history here, but to say that the museum came into being following a competition in 1854, when Deane and Woodward's design for the museum was selected, and then in 1860 the building was opened despite being unfinished in parts. (The museum sells a booklet entitled Oxford University Museum: Its architecture and art for £2.50, and which will fill in all the historical details should you want them). Read On

A Fantastic Resource

Yesterday whilst reading the latest edition of The Entomologist's Record I was pleased to find that early editions of this invaluable publication, edited by the seminal entomologist James Tutt (no relation to Elvis's drummer as far as I am aware) are available digitised at:


So I went there, and was amazed at what I found.

"Ten major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions have joined to form the Biodiversity Heritage Library. BHL partners will digitize the published literature of biodiversity held in their respective collections, providing basic, important content for immediate research and for multiple bioinformatics initiatives. For the first time in history, the core of our natural history and herbaria library collections will be available to a truly global audience. Web-based access to these collections will provide a substantial benefit to people living and working in the developing world. "

They even have a blog. What a fantastic project!!!


MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: 600 snakes and a very big fish

Just a pair of short items today from the archives of the Macclesfield Courier in keeping with my custom of presenting pairs of cryptozoological or Fortean stories from the past,an aspect of cryptozoological research I hope to build upon in the months and years ahead.

Could this item below have been a seal or small whale? Not being a marine biologist,or even much of a zoologist I am unaware of the normal weight of these creatures.

“An extraordinary fish was caught last week near Chertsey-bridge (1): it has no scales upon it, is of a lead colour, and weighs 300lb.” Macclesfield Courier July 25th 1812 p.3.

“On Tuesday last 600 snakes which had nestled in some old manure,lying on a field at Boltham,near Lincoln,were destroyed.” Macclesfield Courier August 1st 1812. p.3

Tragically this was the all too common fate of these “snake swarms” which turned up in huge numbers all at once like this in the 19th century.

(1) In S.W. London probably



Theo Paijmans writes telling us that a small piece of cryptozoological, or at least fortean zoological history is for sale on eBay.

Thanks Theo, you have just cost me $14 because the CFZ museum should really own a copy :)



It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Professor Mike Majerus, a senior officer in the Army of Darwinism, who died of cancer in January at a tragically early age.

I would like to have claimed him as one of the `CFZ People` but although I admired him greatly, we never made contact with him. I was particularly interested in his work about the invasive Harlequin ladybird, but possibly his most important achievement was that he was "the first to show that female mating preferences could be genetically determined, thereby confirming a critical aspect of Darwin's theory of sexual selection by female choice".

He was also a staunch defender of the doctrine of the peppered moth as an indicator of evolution through natural selection, and was probably the most important person in the fight to re-establish the bona fides of this particular case after it had been discredited in the mid 1990s.

He will be sadly missed.

The role of the Amateur Naturalist in Cryptozoology

I very nearly did something very silly. About three minutes ago, (and you must remember that I am writing this last night from where you are today), I nearly started another blog as part of the CFZ bloggo family. This blog was to be entitled `The Amateur Naturalist`, and would have been partly a tie-in with the periodical of the same name, and partly a place for the more Natural History related posts on the bloggo.

But then I came to my senses. A couple of Weird Weekends ago Darren Naish made the point that the concept of cryptozoology as a separate discipline is a relatively new one. A hundred years ago, most zoologists were cryptozoologists. It is only with the rise of the blinkered specialist that it has needed to be codified into a separate discipline.

This morning I received the latest editions of the Amateur Entomological Society Bulletin, the Entomologist's Record, and Invertebrate Conservation News. It was the first time that I have read any of these publications in years, and two things struck me. The first was how good they were, and the second was how much cryptozoology (by my definition of the word) was in there.

Just look. In the January/February issue of the Entomologist's Record and Journal of Variation there are the following articles:

1 Reappearance of Celypha rosaceana (Schl├Ąger) (Lep.: Tortricidae) as a Scottish species after over 100 years. Keith P. Bland

2 Moths new to the Isle of Wight in 2008. Sam Knill-Jones

3 Westward spread of the Toadflax Brocade Calophasia lunula (Hufn.) (Lep.: Noctuidae). A. M. George

4 Larvae of the Argent & Sable Rheumaptera hastata (L.) (Lep.: Geometridae) discovered in Northern Ireland apparently for the first time, with notes on pupation. Paul Waring, David Allen and Clive Mellon

5 An unusual aberration of Mellicta sp. probably parthenoides (Keferstein) (Lep.: Nymphalidae) in SW France. Catherine Wellings and Graham Wenman

6 Emmelina argoteles (Meyrick) (Lep.: Pterophoridae) recorded in Greece – new country, new habitat and new season. Colin W. Plant and Stoyan Beshkov 44-45

New species, new records, aberrant morphs - just the stuff of what cryptozoology, at least the cryptozoology that we practise is made.

The other two magazines are equally full of stuff of interest, and I spent a happy afternoon curled up with the cat (who is called `Spider` which is a suitably entomological name) devouring these journals with an appetite that I have not had for much of the stuff we are sent for many years.

So, I am glad that I resisted the temptation to start a new blog, because articles like this deserve to be on the main bloggo pages, not shoved away to the side like an afterthought because they are not credulous bunkum dealing in surviving dinosaurs or apemen coming out of flying saucers.


2nd March:CRYPTOZOOLOGY: Episode 18 of CRYPTOZOOLOGY: On The Track is now online..
Click here for further details...

2nd March: CRYPTOZOOLOGY: New documentary about the hunt for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker
Click here for further details...

2nd March: ZOOLOGY: What killed this unfortunate pussycat?
Click here for further details...

2nd March: CFZ: Have you ever fancied being an indexer? Come and join the bloggo team.
Click here for further details...



This morning Richie and I found a dead cat in the woods next to our house. We had seen the cat lounging at the edge of the yard the past couple of mornings, but it looked content, fat and happy. (I tried to approach it once and it started to run away, so I left it alone.) Anyway, I cannot tell what the cause of death is, but it has a hole in the rear left haunch with innards spilling out. That's the only injury I can see.

The hole is so odd, having the precision of a warble, but it is very deep and almost looks bored from within, or like the innards burst out of it. We turned the cat over and found no other injuries. Attached are pics -- very gross. I hope you don't think me morbid, but this is just so odd. I am not expecting anything unnatural, I am just unpleasantly surprised and I want an idea of what could have killed this poor cat. I figured you were the best person to ask.


Poor pussycat. In short I have no idea, so I am publishing these rather unpleasant photographs in the hope that one of our readers, probably one from the animal care community can help.

I will also be showing these pictures to my lovely step-daughter Shoshannah who, as regular readers will know, is in her final year at the Royal Veterinary College in London.

However, I have another motive. As Naomi so rightly wrote, there is no reason to suspect anything unnatural, but there are many folk who would need convincing of that.

I still remember with a shudder a well known UFO publication about a decade ago publishing pictures of small mammals that had suffered post mortem attacks by secondary invertebrate predators, and claiming that the `rectal coring` was the work of aliens, or at the very least shadowy Government agencies, when it was obviously the work of burying beetles. This made me furiously angry then, and as we at the CFZ, although mostly a straightforward zoological and conservation organisation, do somtimes operate in the grey area between science and forteana, I think that it is important to investigate such things as openly as possible...


Are you one of these people who reads the CFZ bloggo each day, and has vaguely wondered how you could get involved?

The Bloggo team is desperately in need of some help, and are particularly looking for indexers to work with the burgeoning CFZ Daily News blog, and the Archiving project. Even if you can only spare a few hours each week we would love to have you on board, so please do hot hesitate to email me on jon@eclipse.co.uk

You know it makes sense...

CRYPTOZOOLOGY: On The Track Episode 18

24 Hours late - but I hope you will agree that it was worth it....

The latest edition of a monthly webTV show from the CFZ and CFZtv, bringing you the latest cryptozoological, and monster hunting news from around the world. This episode brings you:

New species at a Yeovil Bug Fair (and a South African game reserve)
Jon meets the daleks
new CFZ fish projects
donations of equipment
The latest on the blue dogs of Texas
Not a chupacabra
The changing seasons
A pagan fertility feast?
Flying saucers and new species of cave snail in Puerto Rico
The Grant Museum of Zoology
Jackalopes in San Antonio
Wolves and pumas in Illinois
Bigfoot 911 call
spiny mice
Dr Strangely Strange
NEW AND REDISCOVERED: Amphibians in Colombia
NEW AND REDISCOVERED: Psychedelic toadfish
NEW AND REDISCOVERED: New freshwater fishes

Ivory Bill News


As regular readers will know, I am a fan of Sharon - the birdchick who writes the blog of the same name which is always several places above us on the Nature Blogs Netword. In fact I think that I can truthfully say that she and Darren (TetZoo) are my two favourite blogs on the network.

She has some interesting news about a documentary about the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, and links to some trailers for it. I seriously suggest that it is worth having a look...



1 Dr Shuker's Casebook by Dr Karl Shuker (5)
2 Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr Karl Shuker (1)
3 The Owlman and Others by Jonathan Downes (10)
4 Man Monkey - In Search of the British Bigfoot by Nick Redfern (-)
5 In the wake of Bernard Heuvelmans by Michael Woodley (3)
6 Dragons:More than a Myth by Richard Freeman (9)
7 Big Bird by Ken Gerhard (4)
8 Dark Dorset - Calendar Customs by Robert Newland (-)
9 Big Cats Loose in Britain by Marcus Matthews (-)
10 Centre for Fortean Zoology Yearbook 2009 (-)

Last month's positions in purple


1 Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr Karl Shuker (3)
2 Big Bird by Ken Gerhard (7)
3 Dr Shuker's Casebook by Dr Karl Shuker (5)
4 Monster - the A-Z of Zooform Phenomena by Neil Arnold (4)
5 CFZ Expedition Report: Russia 2008 (5)
6 The Island of Paradise by Jonathan Downes (-)
7 Man Monkey - In Search of the British Bigfoot by Nick Redfern (6)
8 Animals & Men Issues 11-15 (The Call of the Wild) (-)
9 The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of the Westcountry by Jonathan Downes (-)
10 Animals & Men - Issues 1 - 5 (In The Beginning) (-)

BTW Tony Lucas has won last month's stupid competition for claiming that Karl was the Abba of Cryptozoology and I was the Kiss. He has won a free year's membership of the CFZ. He would, however have won two years if he had said that I was the Joe Strummer or Keith Richards. A warning guys: When Max does his book he will insist on being the Emerson Lake and Palmer. Sad but true...

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's news today

Gavin must have worked himself into the ground today, because Sunday was a bumper day for news updates on our daily news blog so without further preamble here’s the news:

What's lurking at the bottom of your garden?
New UFO and big cat sightings
'Ugly' Cat Is Big Star At NH Vet Clinic
Roving Octopus Wreaks Havoc On Office
Expedition to track down Snowman planned in Kemerovo Region
Paws for thought on mystery tracks in the snow
Frank's on cat watch
'I saw creature too'
Big cat sightings increase
Frank stalking big cat of five valleys
Is sheep attack proof of big cat?
Bear still seems headed east; Bicyclist glimpses beast along Trace
Yellowstone wolf drifts into Colorado
Big croc seen near city
Croc spotted again
Report cougar sightings near school cancels recess
Coyote sighted at C.F. school; students kept inside
Motorist reports seeing tiger near roadway
Wolf sighting raises questions about Oregon return of animal killed off in 1940s
Air-filled bones helped prehistoric reptiles take first flight
Prints show modern foot in prehumans
Giant seabird's fossilized skull found in Peru
A rare success story; Into the wild
Dinos died of cold
Footprint that is 1.5 million years old
paleontologist is attempting to hatch a live dinosaur from a chicken embryo
Killer tigers on prowl `to save their space'
Ancient fish had sex 380 million years ago
Maker of 1.5 million-year-old African footprints had a modern gait
Lonely lady wolf looks for love in all the wrong places
Colorado Backyard Yields Cache of Stone Age Tools
Urban Fox Count: The Daily Telegraph launches study to count urban foxes


Homo erectus walked here

Normally at this point I’d make a few bad puns based upon the last news story in the list but I honestly can’t possibly think of a single joke that could be made about it…


One of my favourite guest blogs over the last few weeks has been Colin Higgins from Yorkshire, who - incidentally - was the winner of the compy in last month's `On the Track`.

There was a good deal of tabloid fuss last year when Anwar Rashid, a multi-millionaire businessman with a 26 property portfolio handed back the keys to his luxury home Clifton Hall, claiming it was horribly haunted.

Unsurprisingly the internet was full of froth and conjecture ranging from claimed eyewitness accounts of paranormal activity at the house on the banks of the River Trent near Nottingham, to the inevitable opinion that Mr Rashid had bitten off more than he could chew in the credit crunch and wanted rid of the financial albatross.

There seems little evidence the Anwar business, which the red tops might call ‘a nursing home empire’ was in difficulty and one can only imagine a man used to extensive old houses might be familiar the normal run of bumps, creaks and apparently unmotivated groans such properties make.
What wasn’t mentioned in any of the reports I came across was that the Clifton family whose estate the house belonged to were linked to a curious omen.

A number of aristocratic lineages are host to portents of one animal kind or another; the Gormanston foxes, the Oxenham white bird, the Fowlers’ owl but the Clifton’s harbinger of doom was a sturgeon that travelled upriver past the house. As the Clifton family vacated the premises in the 1950s and the house has since been a school and a university annexe it’s hard not to link their decline with that of sturgeon in British rivers.

Two hundred years ago the fish was known in domestic fresh water and rare examples were recorded into the 20th century, indeed the biggest rod caught UK species is (depending on who you read and how big) a sturgeon of some hundreds of pounds - although I reserve doubts about the ability of even modern tackle to land such a beast, netted river giants are well attested. For more detail read: HERE

Occasional specimens turn up in British off-shore waters and a few have been placed in lakes for angling purposes (an aberration to match still water barbel and chub IMO) but it seems for the moment at least, the migrant sturgeon is absent from UK rivers.

Perhaps a glimpse of a bone-headed fish the size of a midget submarine passing the bottom of the garden - having negotiated various locks and weirs - would itself bring on a seizure. Whether the portent is transferable to a new owner Mr Anwar is now unlikely to find out.