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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, April 06, 2009

THE POSTER FOR THIS YEAR'S WEIRD WEEKEND

I have to admit that I am rather proud of this one...

THE LATEST TRENCHE OF BIRD RELATED CLIPPINGS (#6) FROM THE ARCHIVING PROJECT

Oll has been jolly busy and the latest set of scanned news clippings and other stuff from the Archiving Project is ready for you to download HERE should you want to..

This is the third trenche of bird-related clippings which are mostly about moas. It is strange, but I haven't actually looked into our clippings archive boxes for years - some of them not since Alison (my first wife) cut them out and put them into the files in the first place about fifteen years ago, and I had no idea that we had so much Moa stuff.

GUEST BLOGGER MIKE HALLOWELL: Geordie Shapeshifters

Having finished my series of reminiscences regarding the first Weird Weekend - thank you for the death threats I received in response, by the way, its nice to know that someone is reading my blogs - I think it would be apropos to return to more conventional cryptozoological subjects lest my legions of besotted fans (Bert and Evadne Crippen from Billericay) become bored and hove off to some inferior website for their edification.

Many moons ago, I read about a UFO encounter in the USA. I can't remember where I read it, the exact location it occurred in, who it concerned or much about what happened, which I fully confess is not much of a start. However, the one thing I do recall is that some alien-type creature (which looked pretty human, as I recall) was locked up in a jail cell and ultimately escaped or disappeared. He left behind him not much, except for a set of fingerprints which were indelibly impressed into a filing cabinet. For all the world it looked as if he'd been resting his digits on warm wax and not cold steel. Readers - perhaps Mr. Redfern, and I know you're out there, Nick - might recall this incident, and if they know of its source I'd appreciate hearing it. Whatever happened to the filing cabinet I'll never know. Its probably lying in an underground bunker at Groom Lake.

The fascinating thing about this story - or what I can recall of it - is that it has a predecessor of sorts. This, at long last, is where the cryptozoological bit comes in.

Picture, if you will, the sleepy town of Stockton-on-Tees. (If you're having trouble, visualise Newcastle-upon-Tyne, only with thicker pie crusts). The date is Thursday March 25, in the Year of Our Lord 1841. A man - if such he was - called James Robinson has been breaking into various and sundry residences and robbing them of silver candlesticks, brass toasting forks, loaves of bread and whatever passed in 1841 for a Sony PlayStation. With his bag full of swag, he is proceeding to his next target when, to his chagrin, he has the misfortune to bump into one of Her Majesty's Constables - Henry Waring Robinson, perchance - going about his business. The constable, without hesitation, then proceeds to stop James Robinson going about his business by promptly arresting him.

Robinson was promptly frogmarched by Robinson (I know its confusing, but bear with me) off to the local nick, charged with "several counts of felony", given a light but pleasant repast of gruel and cold water and bedded down for the night. Now even back then the gaols in Stockton were remarkably civilised places. Robinson's cell didn't exactly have a walnut drinks cabinet in the corner and a shag pile carpet, but it did have a fire. And this is where the enigma begins, dear reader.

At some point during the night, Robinson decided to escape. In the movies, escapees overpower their guards by grabbing them through the cell bars and removing the keys from their belt before strangling them (the guards, not the keys). Robinson came up with a different strategy. He started off by wresting one of the bars from the cell door or window (the account doesn't make clear which) and then started work on the fireplace. Within a short space of time it was demolished, and then, working with the motto, "I've started so I'll finish", he proceeded to knock down the rest of the wall. Having established an aperture large enough to drive a London bus through, the cheeky chappie walked off into the night and was never seen again.

Now on first pass the whole incident may seem like Stockton's low-budget answer to Escape From Alcatraz, but there is far more to the story than that.

Firstly, the gaol was an extremely small affair - two drunken prostitutes and a litter lout in the charge room together constituted a full-scale riot - and one wonders how Robinson managed to demolish an entire wall without arousing the suspicions of the constables sitting in the bait room next door. Secondly, one is also forced to wonder how the miscreant managed to wrest from its moorings the iron bar with which he demolished the said wall. Gaols back then may not have been centrally heated with en-suite bathrooms, but they were incredibly sturdy. The whole thing was baffling, and the good folk of Stockton were no less mystified than everyone else.

Before long, word got around that Robinson wasn't exactly - how shall I put this - of human stock. He wasn't a big chap, but he seemed to possess the strength of a herd of elephants. Yet, he managed to demolish the wall of the gaol with consummate grace and made no more kerfuffle than an ant farting in the middle of the Gobi Desert. (I don't know if ants actually live in the Gobi Desert, or fart, but I'm sure Messrs. Freeman and Downes will enlighten me).

Robinson was quickly labeled as a shape-shifter by locals; a creature of psychic or other-worldly provenance who could masquerade as a human whilst, simultaneously, doing things that real humans could not do at all. Such as demolishing the walls of a gaol without anyone hearing anything. Robinson's reputation as a cryptozoological entity of great magnitude was only enhanced by his subsequent disappearance. He had, it was reckoned, gone back to whatever dimension he had first hailed from.

Now its easy to laugh at such a tale - particularly if one envisages the faces of the local Bobbies who had "lost" their greatest capture - but the truth is that Robinson's bizarre escape from Stockton gaol does pose some very awkward questions. How did he demolish a sizable part of the nick without the constables next door hearing him - and, more to the point - how did he do it so quickly? There are no easy answers. There are many local legends around the Stockton area about shape-shifting entities masquerading as humans - some of which were said to possess superhuman powers. When cornered, they could deftly change into a horse, a cow, a pig or even a goose.

Call me a cynic if you like, but I suspect that within this fascinating historical vignette there is a prosaic answer to be had. Like the good people of Stockton, I just can't think of what it might be.
Answers on a postcard, please....

A DAY IN THE LIFE... libraries, printers and fishtanks

Thank you to everyone who has been so kind to me over the past week or so. Your messages of support mean a lot to me. I am out of bed and doing stuff today. In fact this is the first day that I have not gone back to bed during the day for about three weeks. I am not cured, and indeed if I am going to be honest about it, I never will be. But these are diseases I will die with, not necessarily die of, and I have no intention of doing either just yet.

The people from the printer company came and took away the colour printer today. We have agreed to extend our lease period to pay off what we owe them, and to take another, smaller machine in the interim. However when the two geezers (and believe me they were geezers) turned up this morning at the unholy hour of half past ten, they tried to deliver another unholy monstrosity which was just as big (bulkwise) as the bloody thing we have been trying to get rid of. We told them to take it away, and - amidst a little bit of confusion which threatened to border on aggro at one point - they did.

It was not their fault. These were the "hewers of wood and drawers of water" who's job is to do or die rather than reason why. But we persuaded them that we wouldn't accept the bloody thing, and eventually they took it away.

I have no regrets about the CFZ renouncing the printer. We couldn't afford it and we probably shouldn't have had it in the first place. It cost a bloody fortune and I never wanted to run a print shop anyway. The printer has been replaced by the rack of two 48in tanks which we acquired on freecycle the other day, and as they are only about 1/3 as wide as the monstrous printer (which never worked properly and cost a bomb) and my study is now considerably more spacious.

You will notice that I refer to it as `my study` when for the last four years it has been the CFZ Office. Well since Mark left in September 2007 I have been planning vaguely to reclaim the space for myself. Corinna either works in the Dining Room or on her own PC in the corner of our bedroom, and Graham and Oll work in their rooms, so the only person who uses the other PC in here is Richard, and as we lived together for nearly ten years, I am quite happy to share my study with him when he is here.

Until a few days ago, the majority of the CFZ Library was crammed onto the shelves here, instead of being - um - in the CFZ library up in the museum. I have just done a radical pruning of the books in here to make room for my breeding tanks, and am trying to keep only the books that I use - if not daily - on a month to month basis, like the bound copies of Fortean Times, ther Collins field guides, Heuvelmans, and my books on fish, invertebrates and ecology. The books on dragons, bigfoot, and other esoteric subjects, which visiting researchers will need to consult, are up in the museum, awaiting a visit by Comrade Muirhead, the CFZ Librarian, who will try and make some semblance of sense of the whole goddamn mess.

Finally, if you have not done so already, check out spotify (http://www.spotify.com/) - it will change the way that you listen to music forever. I have just discovered that Lon and Derrek Van Eaton who made one album for Apple Records in about 1970 and another one for A&M a few years later before disappearing in a cloud of indifference, reformed and made another album about ten years ago, and I am presently lifetening to it - PERFECTLY LEGALLY - for free. I think that my days of illegal downloading are long gone...






THE STRANGE STORY OF BARRY THE POLYCHAETE

Don't you just love the English. In the 19th Century an intrepid explorer would travel for years across trackless wastes and impenetrable jungle, and eventually reach their destination: a malaria-infested swamp in the middle of nowhere that they would proudly call `Picadilly`

Now, this is a similar syndrome. At Newquay's Blue Reef Aquarium, "something" had been causing havoc in one of their reef tanks. Matt Slater, the aquarium's curator, said:

'Something was guzzling our reef but we had no idea what, we also found an injured Tang Fish so we laid traps but they got ripped apart in the night.

They finally found the culprit: a four foot long tropical polychaete worm which had probably arrived as a juvenile in a shipment of living rock.

'That worm must have obliterated the traps. The bait was full of hooks which he must have just digested.'

Mr Slater said:

'It really does look like something out of a horror movie. It's over four feet long with these bizarre-looking jaws.

We also discovered that he is covered with thousands of bristles which are capable of inflicting a sting resulting in permanent numbness.'

At the risk of sounding like Lloyd Grossman, let's review the evidence:

1. Giant polychaete worm
2. Ugly to the point of something out of H.P.Lovecraft
3. Destroys a whole fishtank and eats fish
4. Can digest fish-hooks
5. Four feet long and probably growing
6. Can deliver a poisonous sting which permanantly numbs the person stung

Do they call itany of the following?

a. Satan
b. Hitler
c. Blair
d. Beelzebub
e. Devilworm
f. Cthullu

No

They call it Barry! Don't you just love the English. It is at times like this that I am so very proud of my race. It is dogged stolidness like this which got us an Empire. Well done lads and lasses! You have made an ageing manic-depressive Imperialist very proud of you.

However, I have another problem. The animal-keeper in me is overwhelmed by complete avarice. I want one!

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

It’s time once more to recap yesterday’s cryptozoology news from the CFZ blog, recommend a film and tell a bad pun. This week’s film is the rather excellent movie ‘Full Metal Alchemist: The Movie- The Conqueror of Shamballa’ http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi933822745/ . I recommend watching the series first, but the movie on its own is pretty much excellent. And now the news:

Mystery black cat sightings around NY park
Skunk Ape: Area's own stinky Big Foot
Nine Lives: Cats' Central Nervous System Can Repair Itself And Restore Function
And
Russia: Search for Yeti finds nothing … yet

Let’s hope they’re not ‘Russian’ about after the creature, else they might scare it off.

INTERESTING NEW THYLACINE VIDEO

Researcher Michael Moss from Australia has just posted these videos: