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 23, 2009


Just to compliment Karl Shuker's excellent article from last week about devil fish and Jenny Hanivers here is a picture of a Jenny Haniver from our own collection, which - like so many of the pictures we have posted recently - was taken at my favourite pecu;iar bar-cum-museum in downtown San Antonio, during my visit there in November 2004...

I have always fancied trying to make a Jenny Haniver of our own, but the weather has been so wet during the last few summers that we have not had the opportunity to sun dry anything, let alone a bloody great skate.

It is something that I would like for the CFZ collection, and apparently they are quite often found for sale in curio shops in the Canary Islands and suchlike places, so if any of you are on holiday this summer and feel in a generous mood you know what to buy your old Uncle Jon.....


Unlike the fictional main characters in our film 'Occasional Monsters', neither myself nor my cohort Sam (we being the unit 'Donside Pictures') have ever attempted to hunt or capture a monster. Certainly, we would like to. With any luck we'll find time to one of these days. Personally, I won't be satisfied until I've seen something that leaves me with a white streak of hair & night terrors.

However, one thing we do have experience in is attempting to depict monsters using the medium of film (well, video). Even this pursuit is not without its own hazards and horrors. So, in my best stab at a cryptozoology-themed article, I hereby present our Top Five Interesting Monster-Related Film-making Anecdotes:


Life In Ruins is a short mockumentary we made at the beginning of 2008. It follows a foreign film-maker's attempt to cover the life of a maniac who lives alone in an old castle, which also happens to be inhabited by some kind of pale-faced ghoul.

Being poor and bold, we had no choice but to film this on-the-sly, using a functioning tourist attraction as our location. This meant having to sneak our monster (in full make-up and costume) through the admissions gate, passing him off as a goth with very bad skin. It also meant having to work quickly & do our best to avoid wandering tourists. At least one American woman was badly frightened when our monster accidentally leapt out in front of her. Thankfully, all children present assumed he was simply part of the attraction.

If only we lived in a world where castles really did have specially-hired monster actors.


The opening section of Occasional Monsters sees our heroes investigating a possible lake monster. I will not tell you whether it turns out to be genuine or not - you will have to watch the film to find out. However, I will tell you that the man in control of our monster had to spend a dangerous amount of time standing neck-deep in a freezing cold lake, a situation made more hazardous by his being rather 'relaxed' at the time. I think we were lucky to avoid an accident that day.


f I may try to avoid a spoiler once more, there's a section of Occasional Monsters that involves a being that may or may not be a werewolf. In one scene, the actor playing said being had to roll down a hill. No big deal, you might think - however, we were working at night with very little lighting. As such, none of us noticed the piece of set concrete jutting out of the bottom of the hill. Our actor managed to avoid any head damage (which would have been extremely bad news) but did succeed in gashing his leg quite badly. For what it's worth, he didn't care. Our actors are tough.


Just to show it's not only our cast & crew that suffer, here's my own monster horror. Two of the creatures that appear in Occasional Monsters (you can probably guess which two if you've seen it) were required to look particularly horrific. Having no money, high-quality costumes were out of the question. Rather than scrap the idea, we decided we'd shoot the scenes with uncostumed actors, then apply the effects entirely in post using CG. This sounded great at the time. Later, while I was hand-arranging every element of the CG, frame by frame, entirely on my own, for MONTHS, it didn't seem so great. Hey, that's what happens when you try to make a film with a two-man crew and no money.

#1 -

THE MATA-MATA TURTLE Believe it or not, we didn't create the Mata-Mata turtle. It's a real exhibit in the Aberdeen Zoology Museum. I know, I couldn't believe it either. I think there's some sort of conspiracy among zoologists to make fools of the general public by sustaining an elaborate lie about this creature's existence. I mean, look at it. How's it supposed to get its head back into its shell? Look at the size of its neck! It's bullshit.

You can find out more about Occasional Monsters at http://www.occasionalmonsters.co.uk/. You can watch Life in Ruins online at http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi520618777/
Finally, Donside Pictures’ website is http://www.donsidepictures.co.uk/.

RICHARD FREEMAN: Urban Horrors - real fiends, or products of the mind?

The slums of East Delhi are filthy and overcrowded. Hundreds of people are compelled to sleep outdoors. Streets are usually dark, as the streetlights remain unrepaired. In some areas running water is available only one hour a day. It was into this unwholesome place a strange figure bounded on the night of May 13th 2001. Four to five feet tall, it walked upright like a man but was covered in hair. It had red glowing eyes and an ape like face. The entity was christened ‘Monkey Man.

The creature leapt from building to building and attacked its victims with raking claws and sharp teeth. Panic swiftly spread through the filthy, overcrowded slums. The police received accounts of fifty attacks on the night of May 14th alone. The merest mention of the creature could send whole areas into a frenzy of panic. In stampedes to escape the creature two people fell to their deaths from rooftops and stairs. One was a pregnant woman.

As accounts grew in number the sightings became more widespread across the city. Police patrols turned up nothing and the poverty stricken people took the law into their own hands. Banding together like hordes of villagers in a Hammer Horror film they took to the streets to hunt the phantom ape.

In all this confusion, false identifications were made. A four-foot-tall wandering Hindu mystic named Jamir was beaten up by residents of the nearby suburb of Noida, before being handed over to police.

A van driver in Delhi was set upon and given multiple fractures in the early A.M. hours of Friday, May 18, by people who thought him to be the Monkey Man. Three thousand extra men in Delhi were assigned by police, as of May 21, to track down the Monkey Man. Police also offered a reward equaling around 600 pounds (in rupees) for the creature's capture. The reward was never paid to anyone as the creature eluded all it’s hunters.

The terror spread even to Assam were the hairy monster was called the Bear Man. Then just as suddenly as it came the monkey man vanished. The following year, in Uttar Pradesh, another urban beast scare erupted. It manifested a weird light the size of a football was reported. It was known as "muhnochwa" or "face scratcher".Assam, a resident of Wazirganj (district) in Lucknow, said: 'I was asleep at home on Tuesday (August 6, 2002), at around 2:45 a.m. I woke up with a start to find a bright red blinking object attacking my face and trying to pull me away. I screamed. But before my husband woke up, it vanished into thin air and left scratches on my face.'

Seven people were killed in the riots that came in the wake of the attacks. Once again investigations found no trace of the attacker. Many put the whole Monkey Man and Face Scratcher down to mass hysteria. The resentment of the poor bubbling over and mixing with a superstition riddled populace created the creatures from nothing. Perhaps there were a few attacks by real monkeys that sparked the panic. Indeed those who claimed to have bite or scratch marks from the creature were found to have bites of rats, dogs and other common animals. Some wounds were even self-inflicted! But these cases are not restricted to the third world.

In the 1830s London was terrorized by a figure remarkably similar to the Monkey Man, his name was Springheeled Jack.The first sighting may have occurred in September of 1837 in London, England. A businessman was returning home from work late at night when a mysterious figure vaulted over the railings of a nearby cemetery. The railings were at least 10 feet high but the creature effortlessly leaped over the wall and landed directly in the path of the strolling man. The creature was described as having pointed ears, large glowing eyes, and a large pointed nose.A short time later, Spring Heeled Jack was said to have attacked a group of people - 3 women and 1 man. All ran but Polly Adams, who was left behind. Spring Heeled Jack tore off the top of her blouse, grabbed her breasts, and began clawing at her stomach. The attack knocked Polly unconscious where she lay until being discovered by a policeman patrolling his beat.

In October of 1837, Mary Stevens, a servant, was returning to her employer's home on Lavender Hill. While passing through Cut Throat Lane in Clapham Common, Spring Heeled Jack sprang from an alley, tightly wrapped his arms around her, kissed her on the face, and began running his hands down her blouse. When Mary screamed, Spring Heeled Jack ran from the scene. Local men were alerted by the screams and quickly arrived on the scene. They searched for the assailant to no avail.The next day, Spring Heeled Jack struck again at a location very near Mary Stevens home. He sprang in front of a passing carriage causing the carriage to careen out of control and crash. Witnesses at the scene claimed that Spring Heeled Jack escaped by springing effortlessly over a 9 foot wall.

A few months later, January 1838, London's Lord Mayor Sir John Cowan declared Spring Heeled Jack a 'public menace'. A posse of men were formed to search for the individual responsible for the attacks. It was during this time that the great Duke of Wellington, who was now 70 years old, joined in the search. Some sources indicate that the Duke may have had several close encounters with Spring Heeled Jack. Unfortunately, Spring Heeled Jack was never found and in fact, intensified his attacks In February of 1838 18 year old Lucy Scales and her sister Margaret were walking home from their brother’s house in the Limehouse area. It was 8.30 in the evening amend Lucy had walked ahead of her sister. As she came to the entrance to Green Dragon Alley Springheeled Jack loomed from the shadows and spat blue flames into her face. She fell to the ground and suffered a fit as her assailant leapt over her sister and landed on a roof before bounding off into the night.

Two days later he attacked another 18 year old girl in her own home in Bearhind Lane, a quite back street in the district of Bow. Banging upon Jane Allsop’s door at just before nine he shouted “I’m a policeman, bring a light we have just caught Springheeled Jack in the lane.”The candle she brought illuminated a weird face with glowing eyes and an insane grin. The monster spewed blue flames into her face and began to claw at her clothes. He screamed for help and managed to struggle free. He attacked again scratching at her face with sharp claws. He sisters managed to drag him off and pull the victim back indoors. Jane said that he wore a strange, tall helmet, white skintight clothes and a black cape.Soon after the fiend tried the same stunt in Turner Street of Commercial Road but this time the servant boy who opened the door quickly slammed it as he saw the monster’s glowing eyes by the light of his lamp. Jack let out a terrific scream of fury, heard all over the neighborhood, and bounded away. The boy recalled seeing the letter ‘w’ embossed on Jack’s cape.

This led some to conclude that Springheeled Jack was none other than the Marquise of Waterford, an eccentric Nobleman with a love of dangerous pranks. It was theorized that he had springs fitted into his boots for the purpose of terrorizing the city. However the Marquis died after falling from his horse in 1859. Jack was still manifesting long after this.In August 1887 he attacked a sentry at Aldershot North Camp. He leapt ten feet over Private John Regan and spat blue flames in his face.Jack was never caught but strangely entered popular culture as a sort of Victorian superhero. He was a popular character in the ‘penny dreadfulls’ of the time that generally showed him as fighting crime like an early version of Batman!

What are we to make of such characters? Are they based on exaggerated attacks by monkeys and mad Irishmen or are they the product of people both physically and mentally overcrowded?


I get about 400 e-mails a day, which is why catching up on the backlog when I have been ill is always a daunting task.

I have been working on the backlog all day, and they included this one from a bloke called Mohamed Awad from the Gulf:

"Hi Jon, those are the pictures I found in the beaches of Oman. can you please till me what you think, whether its a crypto or just some whale.


Well, Mohamed, it is certainly a whale, but I have no idea as to
pecies. Richard (F) reckons that it is a baleen whale of some description rather than a toothed whale, but couldn't go any further.

However, it would not surprise me at all whether there is some set of arcane diagnostic signs of which we laymen are unaware, so over to you whaledudes and whalechicks amongst the bloggo readership.

In the meantime Mohamed - thanks for writing mate. Please get in touch with anything else of interest that turns up...

ALAN FRISWELL: Scary Spider Stories #2


Forteans have always had a soft spot in their hearts for tabloid newspapers and their Sunday counterparts. These seemingly disrespectable venues for lurid, sensationalist low-brow fodder have often--paradoxically perhaps, and even inadvertently--provided a platform for stories and news items that otherwise would be ignored and abandoned by the ‘classier’ publications who would consider such material beneath them.

Where else could we be afforded the indispensable intelligence that a UFO LANDS IN SUFFOLK, AND THAT’S OFFICIAL, or that FREDDIE STARR ATE MY HAMSTER, or that the wind-turbine in Lincolnshire was actually laid low by a low-flying mothership from Zeta Reticuli, or wherever…

But on occasion, the lower echelons of Fleet Street print something worthwhile, and even educational. The problem, however, is that I can find nobody--and I mean nobody--who has the slightest recollection of the news story that I am about to relate. Richard F has already posted
much of this information on the CFZ forum, but as the blog site is so popular, I am hoping that somebody out there might also remember this item.

In the 1970’s, my dad would regularly buy a Sunday newspaper. I can’t remember for certain, but I’m pretty sure that it was The News Of The World. On this particular Sunday, my dad had been reading all about the “SEX-CHANGE BISHOP IN PERVY PORNO PARADISE“, when he suddenly handed it to me and said: “How about that then!” I looked at the page that he indicated, and there was a reasonably long story about a group of explorers that had launched an expedition into some previously unknown jungle region. I can’t be 100% sure, but I think it was South America.

They had travelled about a mile into dense, almost inaccessible rainforest, having to literally chop their way through the undergrowth, when one of their number suffered some serious stomach illness--I think it was appendicitis but again, I’m not sure--and the expedition had to
be abandoned. They brought the chap out and got him into hospital, reporting that during their short time in the jungle they had seen previously unclassified creatures such as a species of frog that rolled downhill in order to evade predators, and a gigantic spider. I don’t actually remember if the spider attacked them, but they had killed it-- dismembered it in fact--with a machete.

Fortunately, they had taken pictures of the spider’s corpse which, although in pieces, had been ‘reassembled’ for the photo to give some approximation of it’s original form. They had placed a matchbox next to the remains to give a sense of scale, and the spider’s legs must have been at least a foot long, giving the living creature a leg span of well over two feet with the abdomen and cephalothorax in between.

I have attempted to recreate the image as well as I can with Photoshop. It’s not exact--how can it be--but I think that it’s pretty close.

So does anyone out there remember this? Did I actually see it? Or was it the bilious imaginings of a pre-teen who’d seen King Kong once too often? But seriously, it must be in a archive somewhere, or surely someone else has some record of the expedition, so now it’s over to

A random weirdo writes (His title not mine)

Hey Jonathan,
Here's a random message that's been encouraged as I've almost finished reading your book, Monster of the Mere. Excellent book and often hilarious, the line on page 145 "Preferring the advice of people who had the requisitive number of chromosomes...." still holds a smile on my face.
For almost 10 years I have supported adults with learning disabilities. The constant jargon and (in my case elusive ) daily indoctrinate of political correctness makes the above quote a refreshing change. Plus, for the last 9 weeks I've been on a Council sponsored sabbatical ( or sick leave ) and I'm facing the daunting task of returning to the madhouse tomorrow.
Well, this last 9 weeks have been spent various books written by Nick Redfern and yourself (and travelling the country). I first read The Owlman and Others several years ago, along with The Mothman Prophecies, they were perhaps the only 2 cryptozoology books I have read. My reading material tends towards the margins of the paranormal, the classics and also modern authors. Of whom I have far more respect for than the faux pas "celebrities" that the media seems to dictate that we should hold in reverence.

Anyway, I'm aware that I'm now rambling, that could be the result of the diazepam I took about an hour ago. Let me get to the point, whilst I have been on my sabbatical I also read A Can of Madness by Jason Pegler. This is an account of somebody afflicted with manic depression, I don't know if you have ever read it. If you haven't then save yourself the time, I found it to be totally crass depiction of mental illness.
Which brings me to my point, namely how you are very open in Monster of the Mere with regards to your own manic depression (or are we bi polar now? The medical profession keeps us on our toes with what label we have attached to ourselves now). I'm now 37 and live with this affliction myself. Reading Monster of the Mere has helped me more than reading Jason Pegler's book. Your book had shown that you don't need to write a book about how a mental illness has to define you. What you have done is write a book on a subject that does define you and how you function with the illness. That I admire, I feel that this is how I try and live my life ( plus I'm exploring coping mechanism's with my counsellor as I've been up and down more this last 6 months than in the last 6 years. I have to confess that sometimes I feel like a masochist for keep returning to the counselling sessions, they do leave me quite raw ).

Well, unknown weirdo's rant is almost over. I'm now going to finish your book and say thank you. I will then read The Island of Paradise. I was hoping to make it to the Weird (?) Weekend this year, however I've just booked a tour around Mexico in October (looking forward to the Day of the Dead festivities). As I live in Manchester (not by choice) I think the weekend may be now out of my budget. I've also recently received the Animals & Men magazine after joining the CFZ. Fantastic magazine. If ever I can offer any assistance then just let me know.

I'd better press "send" before I change my mind about this e-mail. So, thanks again and I hope you are well.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Good morning (and in case I don’t see you good afternoon, good evening and goodnight), it’s time for the CFZ daily news blog update. Before I do there’s my film of the week, this week it’s ‘The Trueman Show’ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120382/. Now, for the news:

Big cat sighting in north Norfolk
Rare reptile found first time in 200 years
Experts: Spider Found At Grocery Likely Not Lethal
Feathers tied to origin of dinosaurs
Turtle Traffickers Continue To Target South Carolina
Leatherback Turtle Threatened By Plastic Garbage In Ocean
Trinity River (Texas) Turtle Population Dwindles As Trappers Hunt Them
Boston Pets In Crisis - Abandonments On Rise As Economy Sinks
British Columbia Bans Private Ownership Of Exotic Pets Like Tigers, Pythons, Alligators, Caimans (and Some Poisonous Frogs)
Mutilated deer further evidence of Cannock Chase cat?

‘Deer’ me, considering the papers printed photos Matt, Graham and I took of a rotting seal, it must be bad.