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, April 11, 2009


Golden Frogs on Video

I haven't seen this for years, and was quite surprised to find it on YouTube. I was in a pretty bad state when we made this film for the Australian Animal X show...


Following on from Maxy's post about the strange yellow trout in Midsummer Norton, I did what I always do when I am confronted with a British freshwater fish mystery. I e-mailed Colin Higgins. I asked him about the yellow trout, but also asked him if he remembered anything about Pacific trout being found in UK waters, because my trusty Collins Field Guide to The Freshwater Fishes of Britain and Europe which my Godmother gave me as a birthday present in 1973, and which has been invaluable ever since, includes two species of Pacific salmon which have - apparently - been introduced into the White Sea by the Russians.

He wrote:

My yellow trout knowledge is confined to this found web discussion: "Yellow and wild-colored rainbow trout were first used in crossbreeding experiments to determine the pattern of yellow color inheritance. So what you have is the yellow phase of a rainbow. The color phenotypes are explained by a system of two gene loci with two alleles each. The yellow color (allele a) is caused by absence of the dominant allele A controlling wild color. Among the yellow fish (aa) the second gene locus allele B controls palomino and black eye color. Albino and red eye color (allele b) is caused by the absence of the dominant allele B controlling color development. It's like they say. "It's in the genes."Something coming out of the hatchery no doubt."

On pacific salmon in the UK I know one was caught a year or so back in the Tweed and the word was it probably came from the Russian breeding programme via the Barents. A web swot sees one came up the Camel to Wadebridge which may have piqued your interest. From my fading 50 year old memory I don't recall any pacific salmonids entering domestic waters, it's a helluva way round after all. Can't even come up with a viable theory but I'll have a look at my reference books tomorrow.

So, its ongoing. Watch this space...



I have been playing around with Spotify for the last few weeks, and I have to say that not only am I seriously impressed, but that if I was anything to do with any of the major record companies (like I was a decade and a half ago) I would be terrified. Because this application is going to change the way that we listen to music forever. The traditional publishing world has already been turned upside down by people like me using companies like LightningSource, and for people like me who's world has basically revolved around books and music for the past forty something years the world will never be the same.

Whether this is a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing, remains to be seen, but that is not what I actually set out to blog about this jolly spring morning. The thing about spotify is that it looks set to change the ownership concept of music once and for all. I bought my first LP (by Gong) in the summer of 1974, and by the time I sold my vinyl records to pay for the expenses of my divorce from my first wife, I had ammassed over 7,000 LPs in various states of repair.

I kept my CDs though, and even after doing a massive prune of my collection which ended up with me giving five or six hundred CDs to my two nephews David and Ross, I have well over 1800 CDs left, and in the past six years I have also amassed an enormous collection of MP3s - probably another 50,000 songs. But I no longer have any money - the recession has hit the CFZ badly. (The good side to this is that I was forced to give up smoking seven months ago, which has to be a good thing, but the sad thing is that I can no longer afford to buy records). The glory days of illegal downloading are now far behind us, and it is no longer safe to do so.

But along comes spotify, and I can continue doing what I have been doing for years; listening to music. Because the truth is that a large proportion, certainly well over half of my records and MP3s I have only listened to once or twice. Until now I have had to pay for the privelige, but now the game has changed beyond all recognition.

But what has this got to do with fortean stuff?

Hush now. I'm getting to that.

I have been a Beatles fan for years, and until I sold my LPs back in 1996, a large subsection of my collection was of Beatles and Beatles-related records. I collected all the solo stuff, and all the releases from Apple records, and anything any of them played on, until the shelves of my makeshift record cabinet were bulging with stuff that I never listened to (and didn't really want).

Now with spotify, I am listening to some of that stuff again, and finding that my opinions have changed drastically from when I first heard it. Take the first record from Paul McCartney's band Wings for example. The accepted wisdom is that it is diabolical, and proof (as if any proof were needed) that Paul McCartney is, was, and always has been a pompous, trite, self-serving sonofa.......

Well, you get the idea.

The truth is very different. It's actually really nice, in an early 70s slightly trippy singer-songwriter sort of way. In fact it has a lot more substance than a heck of a lot of more obscure, arty records, that are now heralded as classics. And the reason that the album was given such dreadful reviews was for one reason, and one reason only: Paul McCartney wasn't a Beatle any more, and furthermore it was he that was usually percieved as having cast the `fab four` asunder. Probably not true, but you know what people are! And for 38 years I have agreed with them, despite the fact that I have probably only listened to it twice in the time since I first bought the bloody thing.

I only discovered this earlier today, as I was trawling through spotify looking for music on the theme of `wildlife` for something else that I am planning to write. But it got me thinking. It is not just LP records which, as a cultural event, become tainted by whatever is happening alongside them.

In the same way as the first post-Beatles ensemble album has been unfairly tainted by events over the past forty years, quite a few pieces of fortean zoological evidence have been similarly tainted - also to the detriment of the truth.

The Captain Ahab factor (he smelled land where there was no land) came into effect for many of the most iconic photographs of cryptozoological history. The Mary F Photographs, for example. They are crap aren't they? Ignoring the wish-fulfillment fantasies that we all have, they are really rubbish. And if we are brutally honest so is the Tim Dinsdale film, the Robert Rines photos, and most of the other pictures that are published.

Throughout my life, people have asked me what I do, and when they find out that I am a cryptozoologist, a large proportion of them invariably say proudly (and not a little pugnaciously) "Well I believe in the Loch Ness Monster!"

Of course they don't believe in anything of the sort. They have never been to Loch Ness, studied any of the evidence, or even read any books on the subject. What they mean is that they are desperate to be seen as open minded, and not hidebound or conventional. And after all "everybody knows" that there is a monster in Loch Ness, just the same as "everybody knows" that Oswald didn't do Kennedy, Kennedy did do Marilyn Monroe, and the CIA did the WTC. And "everybody knows" that Paul McCartney split up The Beatles, and as a result his first album with his new band has been described as "awful" foir the past 38 years.

See what I am getting at?

MAX BLAKE: The mysterious trout

The title I am sure bring to mind some sort of semi-mythical pan-dimensional trout which flits around ending up in all sorts of water ways where it has not been seen before, before zooming off again to the next area. Not quite...

I introduce you to Midsummer Norton. A not terribly nice town in North Somerset, its residents are mainly yobs who like nothing more than riding their BMX’s around town and eating greasy fried pizzas. Now, I went there armed with my machete the other day to try and find a reptile shop that was reputed to be around here. I never found it, but I did spend some time looking into the stream which runs down the high street. It is only about 1ft deep, with no features at all other than the fact that some silly council planner has decided that a gently sloping normal stream is not good enough, and decided to make it run in steps. I wasn’t really expecting to see any life in its bare expanse, but I was to be pleasantly surprised.

Sticklebacks! Loads of them! I am not sure which species it was, but I expect that they were all three-spined. Very interesting, but I was not expecting to also see larger fish in the same stream, I had expected that they had all been fished out. Not so. We had a very unusual group of trout. They were a stunning yellow with black squiggly lines all over them which reminded me of a tiger trout. There were three in the stream, about 1ft long with big fat bellies, presumably from all the bread that they got given by the locals. The attached photo shows a trout with considerably less black dots and bars than the ones I saw.

The other trout was considerably larger than the others, about 1.5ft long. He was brown on top with a reddish belly and a slightly hooked jaw. Jon suggested it was a grayling, but I didn’t think the colour matched up, nor did I notice that the dorsal fin was unusual. If anyone has any idea what these “trout” were I would be most grateful!

NOTE: Jon and I have been chatting again, and he thinks it may be a Atlantic salmon (picture attached) with the hooked jaw and it’s size. I will have to go back and get a better look.


One of my favourite guest blogs over the last few weeks has been Colin Higgins from Yorkshire, who - incidentally - was the winner of the compy in January's `On the Track`.

Someone nameless - though not in the Lovecraftian sense - enquired about our native whitefishes so like Renfield to Jon’s unspeakable Count I bring news of the powan, gwyniad, skelly, pollan or more commonly Houting and Vendace for the master’s delectation.

Marked by the adipose fin, the fleshy protuberance between the dorsal and tail that divides social classes in the UK as well as fishy ones, the Houting and Vendace are of the sub-order Salmonoidei. They’re related to grayling, trout, salmon and charr; posh fish in other words, although whitefish do not attract anglers kitted out by Hardy of Alnwick, or indeed anglers of any persuasion in great numbers, fluff-chucker or bottom-fisher.

Why should these smallish, herring looking species detain the cryptozoologically inclined? Well it’s where they’re found. They’re assumed to be remnant populations of migratory stocks cut off by ice sheets leading to visual and taxonomic differences among their isolated populations.

Basically the Houting, or Powan, is found in Loch Lomond and Loch Eck while the similar Gwyniad and Skelly are known in Lake Bala in Wales and Haweswater, Ullswater and Red Tarn in the Lake District. The other partner in the Coregonus pairing, the Vendace, lives only in Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite and a tiny population in Mill Loch, near Lochmaben. Or so my sources say; further enquiry suggests they’ve followed the Castle Loch vendace and entirely disappeared from their last redoubt in Scotland due to nutrient enrichment.

Presumably given sufficient time, something the Lochmaben sewage works denied its Mill Loch victims, these population varieties would turn into distinct species. The whitefishes are now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and there are plans to re-introduce them to Scotland. I can contribute little folklorish to either fish (though some to its Scandanavian cousins) but would be pleased to hear from anyone who can, as it’s unlikely such a particular fish escaped the animistic embrace of our forbears.

Although a distinct species and a trouty looking one, while we’re discussing salmonids of deep lakes and lochs it’s worth mentioning the Charr for no better reason than its propensity to endure the abysmal deeps. In Ferox and Charr (1940) R. P. Hardie mentions a charr dredged from over 500ft in Loch Ness which lead Hugh Falkus to quip that if Nessie did exist, charr would make a substantial part of the monster’s diet as they are certainly abundant to 400ft.

In the Burbot blog I joked about whitefish yet proving to be the rarest native fish, an allusion that got a few pulses racing. It was nonetheless a conceit but if any of those Mill Loch vendace did escape the predations of Dumfrieshire sanitation, who knows?

The 9th trenche of bird related clippings from the Archive Project

Oll has been a busy little beaver 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 ninth and last trenche of bird related scans, which are all from Westcountry bird reports from the early 20th Century.

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 forgotten that most of this stuff even existed.

"WATER BLACKFELLA": The story behind the picture

I have already posted this as a comment to the story about the unlikely Australian semi-aquatic BHM, but upon reflection it is too important a story to leave as a mere footnote, so I am republishing it as a post proper.
David Lee commented on the post about the "Water Blackfella?". He writes:
"A color version of this image has been passed off as a bigfoot photo for over a decade now. It seems to have fallen off the radar lately because it took me awhile to google up an example of it.

See this article here for a brief story of the hoax. "

Thank you for that, David.


This is the latest `bigfoot` video to be doing the rounds. The YouTube "blurb" reads:

"Footage of The Beast Of Gum Hill while ATV riding on 04/05/09 at approximately 6:30pm. This is the 2nd time I have seen this creature/bigfoot called The Beast Of Gum Hill. This is the first time we managed to capture it on video. This is the first known video footage of the BOGH, there was a still photo taken in the early 80's that I remember seeing . The camera used was a cheap digital VuPoint 5.0 With waterproof case that I use while fiming my ATV rides. Local legend has talked about this non-aggressive, reclusive beast for a little over 100 years. The BOGH is around 7ft tall and guesstimated at 350 lbs. I have used the name The Beast of Gum Hill on my ATV videos as a tribute to the local legend."

The video is rampaging around the Internet like wildfire, but so far I have not been able to find out anything about where "Gum Hill" is, or the provenance of either the video or the person who took it. We eagerly await your comments.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Once more it’s time for the daily cryptozoology news digest via the CFZ daily news blog, but before all that Saturday is tune of the week day, so as you catch up with the news, kick back and listen to Ramblin’ Man by The Allman Brothers Band: http://www.last.fm/music/The+Allman+Brothers+Band/_/Ramblin%27+Man. Tidy, now for the news and a bad pun:

Slow worms delay building work
Judge orders feds to reconsider help for jaguar
Egg collected by Charles Darwin found at Cambridge University after 200 years
Easter Warning After Dog Scoffs 12 Eggs
Horse hairstyles are the mane attraction
I suppose you could call that ‘Horse’ couture.