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 16, 2009

TIM MATTHEWS: Where have all the stories gone?

Tim Matthews is one of my best friends, and also - coincidentally - one of the most controversial figures in contemporary Forteana. He has been involved with the CFZ for nearly a decade now, raising eyebrows wherever he goes.

Last week saw unprecedented media interest in the CFZ to the extent that when my friend Fleur logged on to MSN midweek a story about the Devil’s Fooprint in a Woolsery back garden was sitting there in cyberspace. It doesn’t get much bigger than MSN in the Internet age and our website and associated blogs spiked when the story hit.

The strange thing is that, in many ways, this is a non story. Whatever made those footprints, it was certainly not the devil but the lucrative combination of a winter’s scene, strange markings and a history of such folkloric goings on in Devon certainly made this a story worthy of the title “Weird in the South West”...

What we discover is that the mass media is run by people more interested in a lot of entertainment and a little news for our many serious expeditons to all parts of the globe have afforded us only patchy coverage at best. Recently, there was all the hoohah about a supposed “UFO”, some said “alien craft” hitting a wind turbine in Wiltshire. The story turned out to be a whole lot of nothing – a problem with the turbine itself – but for 24 hours the whole world was agog at the “best proof ever of aliens” or whatever UFO researcher Russell Kellett called it.

Against the background of job losses more extreme than the bout of redundancies in the 1970s and 1980s that some of us can remember and at a time when the economy is, to quote my boss at work, “on its arse” the media prefers to indulge us with stories about Cheryl Cole of Girls Aloud reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and did she have an affair with Take That’s lead singer whilst trying to reach the peak and did her husband Ashley have one too many in a club the same night.

Where did all the serious stuff go?

What this tells us is the public, through the lens of a media dedicated to telling us as little as possible about the serious issues, is looking to feed us a diet of frippery, infotainment and total bullshit. The CFZ shall, it seems, have to live and learn and provide the media with stories of gooks, goblins and gay scandal whilst scientists and cryptozoologists seeks to answer the Big Questions about rare and undiscovered species.

Throughout history there is example after example of how small groups like ours have shaken the earth with the might of their ideas and the strength of their will in terms of having the guts to push themselves forward. We find Ourselves Alone in 2009. The media has decided that we have collectively witnessed “the end of history” and that there is nothing further to discover or to learn about ourselves and sceptics agree because they know best after all...

We shall, then, have to work the CFZ media machine even harder to provide our colleagues in the national and international newsrooms with stories about very little of substance and use their occasional grace and favour to bring the few decent and sentient beings into our orbit. As every day passes the best people are coming to the CFZ. Maybe only a few “active” converts each week or month but they are coming home to us. UFO Data magazine has just closed its doors as interest in that subject has plummeted in recent months probably because there is no meat in the subject.

But there is much detailed and depthy material to put out via cryptozoological news media and we shall continue to do this. In the space of three months we have witnessed a 1000% increase in visitors to our websites and if we need to talk about The Devil Incarnate to win the battle to make ours the most relevant, updated and dynamic website then we accept the challenge as we make the world a better place...just a little bit.


Over, once again to the divine Ms F. After a gap of a few weeks during which she has been about her studies, she is back and as charming as usual....
When I was about 12 my father was visiting our house and we were outside enjoying the sunshine, when I found a grasshopper on my foot. Normally this would have led to the immediate eviction of said beast, but this grasshopper was a bright deep pink. I remember clearly picking it up and showing it to my father; he said that if we were Victorians we would have stuck a pin through the poor pretty creature but that we should let it go. So I placed it among the raspberries and off it merrily hopped.

That was not the last I thought of the grasshopper though: I have always been curious about why it was pink; was it the raspberries it was on? Was it just a bizarre mutation? It can’t really have been for camouflage unless it had evolved very quickly to live on certain of my mother’s flowers.

A probable cause is that the pink grasshoppers, (and pink Katydids in Pennsylvania) have a condition called Erythrism, which according to the ever-accurate (of course) Wikipedia, means ‘an unusual reddish pigmentation of an animal's body, hair, skin, feathers, or eggshells’.
Years later I told the lovely Max Blake about the grasshopper and its vivid pinkness, and he showed me photographs online of others, notably several from Hastings. If the pinkness is indeed caused by a mutation I suppose it would make sense for there to be areas of high concentration of them. I’ve never observed another one in my mother’s garden but I shall be having a close look this summer.

Personally, I think grasshoppers should also come in nice blue and mauve colours; a prize for anyone who finds me one!

CUTE MOOSE STORY: What happens when a moose turns up on your front lawn and gives birth

Following the ridiculopusly cute hedgehog story, here is another bid for the aaaaw factor as sent by long time CFZ cohort Lisa Dowley.....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


By now I’m sure you know the score; it’s time for the CFZ news blog update, a recommendation of something or other and an increasingly bad pun. This week’s music is ‘Float On’ by Modest Mouse and yesterday’s news was:

Man snaps pictures of 'sasquatch footprints' in northern B.C.
Rancher blames aliens for cattle mutilations
Dinosaur footprint dating back 135 million years stolen
Don’t mention the theft of the footprint within earshot of the company building the visitor centre; it’s still a ‘saur’ point.