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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Friday, March 20, 2009


For a variety of technical reasons that I shall not ennumerate, I have been managing Karl Shuker's blog over the last few weeks. If anyone can tell me why people (including Karl and Dale Drinnon) seem to find it impossible to log-in to Google, please let me know, and I will give a free year's membership to the CFZ to anyone who can tell me hopw to fix it, but that is another story.

However, one of my jobs is to authorise comments where appropriate, and ever since we set the blog up there have beencomments every few days from someone called `anonymous`. The comment always reads `cars go fast`. I assumed that it was some automatic bot thingy, so I have been deleting the comments whenever they arrive. Yesterday, however, it read `carsgofastcars go fast` and today:

Cars go fast!
Go fast!, Go fast!, Go fast!
Cars go fast!Go fast!, Go fast!, Go fast!
Go fast! Go fast! Go fast!
Go fast! Go fast!
Fast!fast! fast!
Fast! fast!
Fast! fast! fast!
Fast fast! fasty, fasty fast! fast!

This does seem to be unlikely to be the work of an automated blog, and - as Richard points out - can be sung to the tune of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik. This puts the only serious contender for being the culprit (Nick Redfern) out of the running, because not only have they never heard of Mozart in Pelsall, but he would have done it to the tune of The Ramones singing Blitzkreig Bop.

Cars go - go fast!
Cars go - go fast!

So if it isn't baldy the bandicoot, who is it? Nick is the only person at the CFZ apart from Richard and I who really appreciates inanity.

Answers on a postcard please (or maybe an email)


This afternoon we received an e-mail from Michael Cox, one of the jolly nice chaps at Donside pictures who were responsible for the massively entertaining Occasional Monsters the best look at dole-queue cryptozoology, and tooled up losers with mad girlfriends that wasn't written be me or Freeman. He has a proper blog posting due in the next few days, but he writes...

Hi Jon

After reading the blog posts featuring Richard Muirhead & Nick Harlings' newspaper clippings, I remembered that I had notes of a few fortean newspaper entries of a cryptozoological bent dating from 1860s; these were incidental finds I happened across while researching other local weirdness from the same period.

I'm not sure whether they'll be of interest to you, but here they are all the same.

All taken from the 'Aberdeen, Banff & Kincardine People's Journal':

10th May 1862
"A farmer in the neighbourhood of Douai possesses an extraordinary phenomenon in natural history - namely, a fowl which has four legs, placed like those of quadruped. It walks with difficulty, and the other fowls drive it away, and refuse to associate with it."

18th October 1862
"An unusually large raven was lately shot in France, having round one of its legs a small iron ring, on which were engraved the words, 'Born at Courtray, in 1772'."

From the same edition:

"In cutting up a tree at Moxley, the other day, the workmen came upon a hole about three inches in diameter, and inside it was a nest containing the skeleton of a bird and two eggs. The hole was some five inches within the bark of the tree."

31st January 1863
"A letter from Rio states that the great sea serpent has been caught at last. Report says he is 150 feet long, with a head and tail like a lizard, and that it took six men to carry one of his ribs."

All place names and punctuation accurately reproduced!

All the best

Michael Cox
Donside Pictures

The Ivorybilled debate rumbles on


As regular readers will know, I am very fond of the Birdchick Blog of the delightful Sharon Stiteler, and I felt unreasonably guilty the other day when we knocked her down a place on the leader board of the Nature Blog Network . I read her blog with my naturalist hat on, rather than my cryptozoological one, but occasionally she throws up a crypto gem like this remarkable overview of the politics surrounding the supposed rediscovery of the ivorybilled woodpecker.

As any fule kno, this magnificent bird was generally believed to be extinct from the late 1940s. However intermittent sightings, most recently (and most celebratedly) in 2004/5 in Arkansas have left a bloody big question mark over its status.

I still remember Richard telephoning me in the middle of the night, on the day that the CFZ expedition left for Mongolia. I was fast asleep, but soon woke up when Richard gave me the news that - to quote Wikipedia - "A group of seventeen authors headed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reported the discovery of at least one Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a male, in the Big Woods area of Arkansas in 2004 and 2005, publishing the report in the journal Science on April 28, 2005 (Fitzpatrick et al., 2005).

One of the authors, who was kayaking in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe County, Arkansas, on February 11, 2004, reported on a website the sighting of an unusually large red-crested woodpecker. This report led to more intensive searches in the area and in the White River National Wildlife Refuge, undertaken in secrecy for fear of a stampede of bird-watchers, by experienced observers over the next fourteen months. About fifteen sightings occurred during the period (seven of which were considered compelling enough to mention in the scientific article), possibly all of the same bird. One of these more reliable sightings was on February 27, 2004. Bobby Harrison of Huntsville, Alabama and Tim Gallagher of Ithaca, New York, both reported seeing an ivory-billed woodpecker at the same time. The secrecy of the search permitted The Nature Conservancy and Cornell University to quietly buy up Ivory-billed habitat to add to the 120,000 acres (490 km²) of the Big Woods protected by the Conservancy".

This is all very well and good, but subsequent events have not done anything to confirm the continiued existence of this enigmatic bird. Sharon gives us an insight into the political machinations surrounding these events, and I strongly urge all CFZ Bloggofolk to go and take a look.

In the meantime, here for your delectation, is a song about the woodpecker from the rather excellent Sufjan Stevens:

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's news today


Welcome to the bad puns and biscuits column. I am pleased to inform you that after careful consideration this weeks recommended biscuit is the Garibaldi, aka the dead fly biscuit, one of the Garibaldi’s strengths is it’s adaptability, it is a truly interactive biscuit and you can choose its size according to where you snap it. Oh, but before the bad pun there is the small matter of why you’re really reading my inane prattling; the CFZ daily news blog update:

Fungus Kills About 90 Percent Of Connecticut's Bats
Fossil hints at fuzzy dinosaurs
Defunct species of bat spotted in Zanzibar
That big, strange critter still a mystery to residents
Cattle respond to magnetic fields from power lines
Mystery condition leaves hedgehog with no spines

Poor hedgehog, he’s ‘spineless’ about the prospect of being released back to the wild in that strate.

PICTURE OF THE DAY: Pink Elephants are real

It is always good to be able to have an excuse for a quote from Scott Walker. And when it is an excuse for a quote from Scott Walker singing a song originally sung (and written) by Jacques Brel it is even better:

"And tho' pink elephants I'd see
I'd sing the song they sang to me
About the time they called me Jackie"

BTW Jacques Brel has a minor claim to cryptozoological fame. ASs well as being a singer and songwriter of enormous talent, he died in 1978 on an island in French Polynesia called Hiva Oa - part opf the Marquesas Islands. Hive Oa is home to potentially one of the most exciting cryptids of all time; a purple rail which could possibly be an out-of-place takahe...
But thats's another story.
In the meantime read the rest of the pink elephant saga:
And it's friday, so here is Scott Walker singing `Jackie`:

RICHARD FREEMAN: Return of the Grey Whale to the Atlantic

The only extant populations of Grey Whales (Eschrichtius robustus) are in the North Pacific, where there are two geographically separated groups. One population occurs along the east Pacific coast from Baja California to the Bering and Chukchi seas, the other occurs in the west Pacific from South Korea to the Okhotsk Sea.

However there was once a third population that lived in the Atlantic. It was found around the coast of Europe, Iceland and the eastern seaboard of the US and Canada. There are historical accounts of living grey whales from Iceland in the early 1600s, and possibly off New England in the early 1700s. It seems that the Atlantic grey whales were wiped out before the start of large-scale industrial whaling, suggesting that grey whales as a species are susceptible to coastal community-based whaling.

Sub-fossil remains, the most recent dated at around 1675 A.D., have been found on the eastern seaboard of North America from Florida to New Jersey, and on the coasts of the English Channel and the North and Baltic seas.

It was the Atlantic population that was described to science first. In 1861, Wilhelm Lilljeborg identified a sub-fossil, naming it Balaenoptera robusta. In the same decade, John Gray of the British Museum noted the differences between this species and the rorqual whales (Family Balaenopteridae), and so placed it in a new genus, Eschrichtius, after the zoologist Daniel Eschricht.

Sub fossil remains were collected from the coasts of England and Sweden. A sub fossil skeleton at Gräsö (Roslagen, Upsala, Sweden) was the type specimen of Lilljeborg's Balaenoptera robusta.

The grey whale was thought to be totally extinct until 1911 when the paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews rediscovered a colony of the cost of Korea. On July 22nd 1916 a Dutch sailor who only identified himself as ‘PW’ saw an odd creature 400 miles to the north of Suriname in latitude 10deg 54’ N and a longitude of 56deg 27’W. It was estimated to be 70-80 feet long and had odd protuberances on the head. The animal did not have a dorsal fin. His sketch off the beast gave a whale like outline. Grey whales will often have collections of barnacles attached to the head. These might have been the protuberances ‘PW’ saw. The grey whale is also he only one of the great whales to lack a dorsal fin.

Dr Bernard Heuvelmans though that this may have indeed been a grey whale and that the species may have lingered longer in the Atlantic than most people think. In fact the date of the grey whale’s extinction in the Atlantic is not known.

At the 19th Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, held in July 2005 in Brazil, Dr Andrew Ramsey and Dr Owen Nevin, of the University of Central Lancashire's School of Natural Resources, proposed the idea that the grey whales could be reintroduced in the Irish Sea. They proposed airlifting 50 surplus grey whales from the east Pacific coast population for release off the coast of northern England, the Cumbrian coastline, starting in 2015. According to these scientists it's ecologically, logistically and economically feasible and whale watching could regenerate struggling fishing communities around these coasts. A Lake District survey revealed that 90% of people would be in favour of re-introducing the grey whale to Britain, so it seems that this idea has already the backing of the local people. However, the idea caused division between conservationists. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society criticized this idea heavily, labeling it "neither feasible nor sensible". The group has serious doubts as to whether the Pacific grey whales could even survive in the Atlantic.

But the scientists have hit back. "Some people will say it is impossible but we are deadly serious about this," Nevin said on the university's Web site.

"It's ecologically, logistically and economically feasible and whale watching could regenerate struggling fishing communities around our coasts," he added. Ramsey said cargo aircraft can easily accommodate adult Gray whales and the journey from California to Britain would take less than 12 hours. "Providing the whales are kept moist at all times they are more than capable of surviving the long haul flight," he said.

The whales would present no threat to the fishing industry because they feed on worms and amphipods that live in sediment and do not eat fish.

I don't currently know if this scheme is still going ahead. I can find no more information on it. I hope it come to fruition because having grey whales off the cost of Cumbria is an exciting prospect.


Hello Jon,

I enjoy your blog immensely and check it every day for weird and wonderful titbits. Rather like Richard Muirhead, I am gradually working my way through bound volumes of a late 18th/early 19th century newspaper, the Blackburn Mail, in my case for local historical information (I am the town's museum curator). However, I have so far come across three interesting cryptozoological stories from the 1790s, which I attach for your interest. The first is the most fascinating to me, as it took place in a local mill lodge. The other two are not local, but no less interesting - while the creatures in the farmer's field at Hooton Roberts (near Rotherham) seem inexplicable, our old friend the entombed toad makes yet another appearance.

Anyway, I hope that you find these cuttings of some use - keep the blog rolling and take no heed of the miserablists.

Best wishes,

Nick Harling
Blackburn Mail June 28th 1797
Blackburn Mail November 6th 1793
Blackburn Mail August 13th 1797