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, March 07, 2009


Tony Lucas has been as good as his word. He has sent us an enormous cache of New Zealand press cuttings of cryptozoological interest. I have seen none of these before, and they are a great addition to our archives. You can download them from:

Our online archive of press cuttings is getting quite sizeable now, and we are desparate for an indexer. If you feel like giving us a few hours every week, please get in touch. The CFZ needs you!

OK - what causes this?

Whilst rootling around in the CFZ Picture library yesterday for the pictures of what I have dubbed the `real` jackalope, I found more pictures that I had completely fogotten that I had, and I think that I shall post them, one a day, for a while...

Cop a load of this... What do you think it is? It is a white tailed deer, and it is from the same boozer-cum-museum as the `real` jackalope, but what the heck can cause such weirdly aberrant antlers?

This is not a competition because I don't know the answer, but I hope that someone out in bloggo land does...

A Horny Rabbit

It was certainly one of the CFZ new girls who sparked this post. Dear of them..

Maybe it was Jan Edwards and her musings on the Horne'd bunny of Woolsery, or maybe it was Naomi and her wonderful reportage on jackalopes the other day, but I suddenly remembered that I had these two photographs in my collection.

They were taken in a funny bar cum museum in downtown San Antonio at the end of 2004, during my hunt for the blue dogs of Texas. Unless they are a fake, and I don't think that they are they show real jackalopes - a rabbit suffering from the effects of the papillomavirus .

This is a condition that has been much writen about in Fortean circles but seldom seen, and I am feeling mildly embarrassed for having taken over four years to actually make these pictures public.

This is a particularly grotesque museum exhibit, and I was particularly pleased to see it, because - again - I had only ever heard descriptions of the condition and never actually seen it for myself...


I got dem ol' Darwin blues again Mama

Although, as am sure you can imagine, most of my time in the last week has been taken up with the ongoing saga of the strange footprints found in the garden of one of the houses on the edge of the village. But other strange things have been happening. Someone, who shall remain nameless, because - as far as I'm concerned - he is a reasonably sound chap, wrote the following in an e-mail to Richard Freeman:

"However, played truant a minute ago to look at the CFZ website. The first item I looked at was a brief obit by Jon Downes on someone who was applauded for believing in Darwinism! I know it has some good points and is a shade more reasonable than creationism, but this shocked me. Was Downes taking the piss? Darwinism has no place in a fortean landscape, surely?"

Then I found this odd website complete with a downloadable pdf of a book called The Religion of Darwinism.

"The theory of evolution, with its scripture, its devotees, its alleged answers and explanations concerning the origins of living things, its idols and beliefs, its closed-mindedness to criticisms and developments in science, is a pagan religion that denies the existence of God."

And finally I found the BBC's Andrew Marr getting in on the act as he wrote:

"His vast brow hangs over us all. His foamy white beard cascades down in the familiar Michelangelo Old Testament style. He speaks to mankind of ancient origins and end times. In this year of his double anniversary, are we in danger of turning Charles Darwin if not into God, at least into the founder of a secular religion?"

So how has Darwinism gone from an eminently logical explanation of biological and prehistorical events, backed up by the evidence of the fossil record, to being a dangerous and pagan religion? And how come I am apparently decrying forteanism and all that it stands for by supporting the doctrine of Darwin?

Well the obvious thing to say is that it isn't, it hasn't and I'm not. Darwinism is not a "pagan religion" that "denies the existence of God" nor is it a threat to free speech or any of the other nonsense that I have found upon the internet.

I, like most other intelligent people believe that the universe is ancient, and that the progress of life on earth has been a slow and inexorable progression. Even students of the Qur'an accept this. I can see no evidence to suggest that The Almighty has tinkered with the laws of his creation, as has been suggested by the Intelligent Design brigade. But I am absolutely certain that - as in so many other parts of the natural sciences - we do not yet understand all the laws of science which control evolution, and there is a hell of a lot left to discover.

This is where being a fortean comes in. One should question everything, and be humble enough to accept that not only do we not know everything about the way that the multiverse operates, we actually don't know very much at all about it. I am a Darwinist, in that I believe in evolution rather than young earth creationism, or intelligent design, but although I believe broadly in evolution through natural selection and genetic drift, I am far from convinced that Jean-Baptiste Lamarck has had his day, and I am certain that there is more to discover, and as a Fortean I should question the scientific status quo at all opportunities.

And, yes, I'm also a Christian, and I believe in the Alpha and the Omega, so now as a Christian, a Darwinist, a Fortean, a Scientist, an Anarchist and `Lamarckian curious (but non scene)` I have given those who wish to, enough ammunition to take potshots at me for months...

Happy hunting


Jan initially wrote to us the other day:

The horne'd bunny of Woolsery

My initial thought was ‘taint no bunny... looks more like a sheep or deer perhaps. But it’s hard to see how big these prints of yours are. Like you, I have seen lots of bunny footprints in snow, and they NORMALLY look like this http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/thumb_7/1109091111pKMBTf.jpg but in looking for this image on google, I came across this photo, which is also supposed to be rabbit footprints:
http://www.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/5542048/2/istockphoto_5542048-animal-tracks-rabbit-footprints-in-the-snow.jpg which looks very much like your images, doesn’t it?

I currently have 21 pet rabbits looking for homes here at the sanctuary... we also have some snow.... Would it be really really terribly cruel of me to test it out? You know: Bunny walking in snow; bunny running in snow; bunny freezing it’s ...err... tail off in snow.... all in the name of science, you understand...

So I wrote back:

would you? And could you film and photograph it? We have no secure area in which to do it without the sods escaping... (and the snow is almost gone)



But two days later she replied:

Typical really.... Most of the snow has melted overnight, but more is expected in the next week. I will get you photos, and try to track down a video camera too. However, I showed your footage to a friend who is a crypto-naturalist, and HE doesn’t think it’s bunny either. The track is too straight, for one thing, and it looks biped. Rabbits (at any speed) will use all 4 feet. When it’s in a hurry, the big back feet appear to be in front of the smaller front ones, but you’d see all 4 feet... especially in snow that’s not deep. I still think it could be a deer or perhaps Boar – but the footprint would be deeper in the soft soil for boar. Do you have muntjac or roe deer nearby? Sheep /lamb perhaps, but you wouldn’t just get one. Or maybe goat??

Have you thought of Springheeled Jack?
And what do you think the “original” devil prints were? I have theories ranging from elaborate hoax to weather balloon, but I don’t believe the tracks went on for hundreds of miles, as reported.
Meanwhile.... back at the Ranch... we have our own mystery here. Not nearly to this scale (always trying to get one better, aren’t you?) but a mystery all the same. It’s the Phantom Peanut Pincher. We have bags of peanuts and suet balls and things hanging on trees for the birds. Something is eating a whole bag of peanuts and stealing suet balls from one of the trees during the night. Whatever-it-is, is too timid to come close to the house, where the birds make use of the food. It doesn’t tear holes in the peanut bag, like a rat or a squirrel would. It isn’t a small bird, because they go on all our bird feeders, and the other ones are only needing topped up once or twice a week.... plus whatever-it-is, takes down the mesh bags of suet and eats the contents, 10 foot from the tree on a dry stone wall. We are going to set a trap tonight – wet sand around the bottom of the tree, to see if we can get some tracks. I’m wondering about a pine marten...

Well, as always seems to be the case, you start looking at one mystery and you end up looking at another. I have been on the track of England's elusive marten population for twenty years now, and there are, indeed, records of this rare and beautiful carnivore in Co. Durham. The only problem being that according to accepted scientific methodology the species was hunted to extinction in all of England by the 1870s....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's news today

Time for an update on the CFZ daily news blog again. Before I start the update though there is just time for this week’s recommended tea: Dahjeeling and peppermint. Don’t use milk, and add a half a teaspoon of chopped peppermint per cup to the teapot when brewing a normal cup of Dahjeeling, refreshing.

It's in his smell
Octopus Squeezes Into Tiny Box To Feed
Mayor rescues dog that didn't need rescuing
Horses tamed earlier than thought
Is the ugliest cat uglier than the ugliest dogs?
Iowans say pig-odor study passes the smell test

Good thing the funding for the pig smell study has been well spread out, it would have been a mistake if one scientist had hogged the whole $1.7 million funding.

ED: Oh come on Oliver this is getting boar-ing