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, March 03, 2009

More on the Allendale Wolf

Last night I crowed mightily that due to the good offices of our friend Theo Paijmans in Holland we had snapped up a teensy piece of cryptozoological history. But then the e-mails came flooding in. What was the Allendale Wolf you wanted to know.....

Local farmers from the village of Allendale, very near to Hexham, had reported the loss of their livestock, so serious that many sheep were being stabled at night to protect them. A shepherd found two of his flock slaughtered, one with its entrails hanging out, and all that remained of the other was its head and horns. Many of the sheep had been bitten about the neck and the legs - common with an attack made by a wolf.

Hysteria soon set in. During the night, lanterns were kept burning to scare away the wolf, and women and children were ordered to keep to the busy roads and be home before dusk. The 'Hexham Wolf Committee' was soon set up to organise search parties and hunts to bring down the beast using specialised hunting dogs, the 'Haydon Hounds', but even they could not find the wolf. The Wolf Committee took the next step and hired Mr W. Briddick, a trained tracker.

Read on

CFZtv presents: Part Two of the Dr Strangely Strange Concert...

Last week we posted part one of this gloriously fortean musical ensemble in an extremely rare reunion concert. Here is part two, and I cannot really add anything to what I said last time except that it is a very special privelige to be able to host this concert on CFZtv...

Below is a revised version of part one, with a few minor edits asked for by the band...

The third and final part will be posted next week...



As regular readers will know, Richard Muirhead and I are working on a book called A Madness of Butterflies which is a psychotically environmental piece of historiography in which the two main themes are entomology and mental illness. It sounds awful, but I have to admit that the bits that we have finished so far are amongst the best things that I have written, and I am really rather pleased with it. I feel a little bit like Pete Townshend, though, trying to explain the plot of his (probably) never to be completed masterpiece Lifehouse to people when he had no idea what it was about either. This book is growing organically, and although we both knew some of the themes are we wanted to cover when we started the book, it has already turned into something completely different, and will no doubt metamorphise further in the months to come. It is only about a quarter finished, and with the amount of work on both of our plates at the moment, and also taking into consideration both his, and my, health problems, I sincerely doubt whether it will be finished this year.

However, we both work on it, as and when we can, and, therefore, I was not typically surprised, to receive the URL of a particularly interesting news story from Richard via e-mail. Charles Rothschild (1877-1923) was a deeply unhappy man. Not as well known as his elder brother Walter, the younger Rothschild was also an excessive naturalist, and natural history collector. The story in the Guardian sneered at how Walter "almost ruined himself financially by spending the Rothschild family fortune on his natural history obsessions", and went on to quote his great-granddaughter Hannah:
`She describes her great-great uncle as a "huge stuttering bear of a man" who kept the whole house - and it was a big house - awake with his thunderous snoring. His private life was evidently complicated. "He never married, though he did have two mistresses, one of whom bore him an illegitimate daughter, while the other blackmailed him for most of his life."`
The article goes on to admit that: "The scale of Walter's collecting is eye-boggling and now forms a significant chunk of the Natural History Museum's collection." However, even this, is said in a mealy-mouthed sort of way, interspersed with digs at Rothschild's sexual morals, and over spending. Indeed, the entire article is horribly reminiscent of a famous court case that took place in 1716 when the will of one Eleanor Glanville was challenged in the courts because - in the words of Moses Harris, usually described as the father of British entomology - "Some relations that was disappointed by her Will, attempted to let it aside by Acts of Lunacy, for they suggested that none but those who were deprived of their senses, would go in Pursuit of butterflies".
Obviously, or so the implication is that being overweight, having a less than conventional sex life, and snoring are somehow linked with his ridiculous aberration of natural history collecting. The silly buggers miss the entire point. Yes, the Rothschilds were capitalists right at the top of the capitalist food chain. They were also Zionists, bankers and all sorts of other things, but the pursuit of money was not the main focus of activities for either of the brothers. The main driving force in their lives was the obsessive study of the world around them, and through their years of toil and collection, they did far more for humanity than they ever did through their activities as capitalists.

However, not everybody sees it like this.

Charles Rothschild suffered from mental health problems about his life, and eventually took his own life in his mid-40s. Although the argument of nature versus nurture has been going on for millennia, and sees no real chance of being resolved, it seems likely that Charles's unhappy schooldays at the prestigious British boarding school Harrow were partly to blame. In later life he wrote: "If I ever have a son he will be instructed in boxing and jiujitsu before he enters school, as Jew hunts such as I experienced are a very one-sided amusement and there is apt to be a lack of sympathy between the hunters and the hunted."

Whilst at school both he and his brother started their lifelong interest in natural history collecting with a huge collection of butterflies. Charles even wrote a book called `Butterflies of Harrow`, and when he left he donated the huge butterfly collection to the school, in order to provide comfort and interest to lonely and unhappy boys. Just over a century later Harrow are selling it. The Guardian article seems to think that this is a perfectly sensible thing to do, after all "the butterflies aren't being studied at Harrow and it costs a lot to look after them." For a significant periopd of time (it does not state how long) the collection has been stored, and ignored, in a room in the IT department used to store computer equipment, and now, in the face of apathy from the school, one of the most significant butterfly collections left in private hands is to be sold.

Hitoshi Takano, a Harrow old boy and consultant for the sale, hopes the butterflies will be bought as a job lot - the estimate for the 27 May sale is £60,000 to £80,000 - and by someone who can keep them together and allow public access and study. But we all know that is very unlikely to happen. Like the sale of Walter Potter's amazing museum of curiosities a few years ago, it will be divided up in the name of finance, and flogged piecemeal to all and sundry. The wishes of the desperately unhappy schoolboy who eventually took his own life are nothing compared with the need to get a few more quid in the bank, and a bit more room in which to store computers.
In these pages, over the last few months, you have heard me and others bemoan the fact that children are actively discouraged from becoming interested in natural history pursuits. Surely, Harrow - one of our greatest public schools - and the alma mater of a large chunk of the British establishment should lead by example. Perhaps it is. Maybe the people who seem to have become the British establishment over the past 20 years know perfectly well what they are doing, and that this act of cultural and historic vandalism, whereby a butterfly collection of immense scientific and historical interest is being deliberately discarded in favour of more IT equipment which can be used to train the next generation of venture capitalists, so that through unfettered capitalistic greed they can cause the next cycle of boom and bust economics which has resulted in the current financial depression, is a deliberate and cynical act.
Harrow, being the training ground of many of society's leaders have missed out on a great opportunity. They have missed out on the chance to use one of the world's most significant collections of insects to foster environmental activism, and promote a world where the pursuit of money is tempered by a love of, and respect for the natural world, like that of Walter and Charles Rothschild, who's activities are described in one of my favourite books Living with Butterflies by the late L.H.Newman. They have missed out on an opportunity to repromote one of the traditional concepts of the ruling classes; that with power and privelige comes responsibility and duty, not just to people but to the environment. But these seem to be alien concepts in today's Britain.
And this would presuppose that the current British establishment know what they're doing, which in the light of events, on the home and world stage over the past two or three decades would seem highly unlikely.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

"What happened in the world of cryptozoology yesterday? I was under a rock.” I hear you cry. Well luckily there’s the CFZ daily news blog to keep you informed. Yesterdays stories were:

Couple trade two children for a bird
Dog, missing 9 years, returned to family
Hurrah, it's a Turtle With Two Heads
Britain's famous Canadian polar bear gets new digs
Illusionists in final tiger act
Ottawa seeks buyer for anti-sealing ship Farley Mowat
PETA to DA: feed Ebola-infected pigs before they are culled
Hamster Power: The Greener Cleaner
Race to save stranded whales

What did the rescuers say after they herded the whales back out to sea? “Hopefully, ‘whale’ not have to do this again soon.” (oh come on it’s not that bad, lets see you come up with better whale based puns).

Jon writes: "Oliver, I am very glad to see that you have given the bloggo readers a sense of porpoise"