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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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


This morning I received the following email:

Re Magazien

we are currently busy finalzing details on opening our exotic pet shop on teh internetz i was wondering would you be able to send me a free copy of one of your magz even if its an old one for use to look at and see what you offer

Should I:

a. Reply by writing: "I would not touch your shop with the proverbial bargepole. Before you start looking after rare and exotic creatures, you should learn to use the Queen's English."

b. Send them a copy of The Amateur Naturalist and hope that we can lead by example, teaching people that it is only ethical to keep exotic animals in captivity if they do so as part of a regime of study and investigation, and that together we can bring back the golden heyday of natural history.

c. Put my head in my hands, sigh heavily, and do my best to ignore the whole thing.


d. Think. Sod it. There is a recession on, and their money is as good as anyone else's. If it pays the mortgage it has got to be OK.

Answers on a postcard please....



Everyone knows that I am a fan of Sharon the birdchick. But here she has surpassed herself with a remarkable posting about the world's most glorious gallinaceous fowl - the North American prairie chicken. These fantastic creatures behave in such a gloriously absurd manner that I defy anyone to be able to watch the video embedded below without wanting to a) Shout Wayhay! b) Laugh very loudly or c) pick it up and cuddle it.

Or is it just me who has a complete obsession with chickens?


My old friend Richard Muirhead is staying with us at the moment, and as always when someone is staying with us, we put them to work. Richard has a Master's degree in Librarianship, and so what do we get him to do when he visits the rural CFZ for a week during this glorious spring? We get him to dig the turtle pond. No, of course we don't! We get him and Oll to start cataloguing our ridiculously voluminous library, which consists of thousands of books on obscure and esoteric subjects.

The evntual aim is to have the entire CFZ archives catalogued and indexed online, and a searchable index of all the books in the CFZ library as well. It is going to be an enormous job, and I would be very grateful if there is anyone who lives in North Devon and is a reader of the bloggo, who fancies doing a little bit of voluntary work for us, and spending a day or so helping Oll with the library.....


This video was posted up on YouTube a year or so ago with the caption "Unidentified species of bird visiting me in my London backyard". The more cynical amongst you will, no doubt, be expecting another bad tempered Jon Downes rant about people not knowing anything about the natural world. Well you would be wrong.

The bird is (as far as I can tell) an albino peahen, and it is making a most peculiar noise, and whether London is in Ontario or the UK, (or indeed any of the fifteen Londons in the USA or eight in Canada, or one of the two in Australia, or the one in South Africa or even the one in Kiribati) it is not the sort of thing that one expects to see trundling around your garden whilst you are nursing a hangover and trying to make yourself a fried egg sandwich!


An unidentified bird? Pah! This is the latest in our ongoing series of why are people so bloody ignorant about the world in which they live...

GUEST BLOGGER LIZ CLANCY: Addy and Obby move to the city

It is always nice to be able to introduce you all to a new guest blogger. Possibly the nicest thing about the CFZ bloggo is that it is a living, breathing community, and new people arrive on a regular basis. I can't tell you anything about Liz, apart from the fact that she bought some books from us at UnCon, briefly spoke to Richard, and had a charmingly old-fashioned habit of referring to me as `Mr Downes`, when everyone else calls me `Jon` or `Hey You` (or sometimes something more scatological), until I told her not to. She is obviously one to watch....

As I set out at eight o’clock from Ashton News to do my paper round (yes at twenty-four the credit crunch has brought me very low!) a very serious fact finally dawned on me: slowly but surely, the town where I live is losing its identity. It began in on 1st April 1974 when Heywood Town Council was dissolved after almost one hundred years of independence, and nearby Rochdale took over – incidentally the date chosen was rather apt since many Heywood residents still feel that Rochdale has rather treated us as a joke ever since.

The most recent thing was the much disputed move of the Heywood Advertiser, our beloved local paper, to offices in the Rochdale Observer building. The move was designed by MEN media (Guardian Group), the owners of both newspapers, to save money. Redundancies were also announced. However it does get worse. In the last couple of weeks it was announced that, actually, further cuts are apparently required and the Rochdale offices (which now home three supposedly local newspapers) will be closed and moved to Manchester, with a further 150 job losses. The same is happening all over the Northwest.

Has the world gone mad?! Manchester is not exactly the moon but our news will no longer be local. Such small newspapers as these are treasure troves for cryptozoologists with the wealth of clippings that can be taken but will swanky city journalists give a toss if an eider duck is found a good 40 miles from the coastline in a little town like ours or if a resident claims to have seen a panther in the park late at night? I think not. The local quirks of such towns and villages are being eroded by metropolitanisation, the reason is money and such stories will be cast by the wayside in favour of yet more photos of simpering local politicians decorating articles about what wonders they are doing for the town. Even today many young people in Heywood and Rochdale haven’t a clue about their town’s history or heritage. How much worse will this get if everything local is moved away?

GUEST BLOGGER NIGEL WRIGHT: The Exmouth Mermaid - the mystery deepens

However long one is in this weird game of being a paranormal journalist, things can still catch you out. So it is with the story of the Exmouth mermaid, as I reported in my last blog for this column. Now, one would think that, after twelve years or so of writing for a living, I would have leaned to double check my sources etc. Well, I have been somewhat caught out by this one! The story of the Exmouth mermaid of 1812 is, in its essence true, but the one thing that does not ring true is the illustration that accompanies it.

It all started due to a reader of the article asking me for a higher resolution copy of the picture. This is a perfectly fair request, and one that I was happy to oblige with. Upon deeper research on the net, I found that the picture involved almost perfectly matched a drawing of a mermaid, famous in cryptozoology circles, called the “Feejee” mermaid. This was exhibited by the famous showman Barnum, in the US in the 1840”s. “Odd!” I thought, so I dug even further. Now, this is where the tale darkens somewhat. What on earth was a picture of an 1840’s exhibit doing, illustrating a story in an 1822 newspaper? For a moment my mind raced with fantasies of time warps etc! Oh!..The follies of old age! But, I am sad to say, the answer lay in the timeline of the relic itself. Let’s have a look at that timeline:-

1822…an American sea captain, Samuel Barret Eades brought to London a wonderful relic, which he had come across in the far east. This relic had been got from Dutch fishermen, who, in turn, had obtained it from some Japanese fishermen. This was the mermaid!. It was exhibited at the Turf coffeehouse, at St. James Street. Now, the same paper that had reported the Exmouth case, The “London Mirror” also reported on the number of visitors to this exhibition, some 400 a day!

1823...The exhibition comes to an end, when Eades is sued by the co-owner of the ship he had sold to but the mermaid in the first place. The relic disappears from public view then until the 1840’s, when it is sold to Barnum by Moses Kimball, owner of the Boston museum.

So, there is the answer!. For whatever reason he had at the time, the editor of the “London Mirror” decided to illustrate the 1812 Exmouth story with a picture of the “feejee” mermaid, which was at that time being exhibited at St James Street!. Journalistic license indeed!

The moral of this story? Well always double, double check your sources! And remember, there is always more than one ending to any story!

RICHARD FREEMAN: Canadian Seal Slaughter

Canada is gearing up to slaughter 64,000 seal pups in its annual orgy of barbarity, greed and spineless cowardice. These animals die to make coats for stupid and overpriveliged women. The lies spun by fishermen about 'needing to control seal numbers' and 'seals depleting fish stocks' beggar belief. It is human fishermen who have made the fish stocks crash by greedily over fishing them. They then have the temerity to blame the seals. Nature has its own checks and balances without humans sticking their oar in. This is another example of why scientists, not politicians should be in charge.

Visit the site and lobby your MP to have this atrocity stopped.


We have been in contact with Jan for ages, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome her aboard, not only as a guest blogger, but as a Co. Durham representative for the CFZ. With Davy Curtis already at the helm in the country, the two of them will make a dream team par excellence...

According to Wiccan tradition, it is wrong to mix-and-match different traditions, and you should stick to your own culture and your own Path. I’m not Wiccan, and I believe that if it feels right to you and you have done some research into the Path, then do it. Many people believe that totem animals Native American spirituality, however they can be found in many Shamanistic paths, including Odinism.

I get annoyed with people who say that a particular animal is their totem(or spirit) animal. But, if you ask them anything about that particular creature, they don’t know. And....if snake is your totem...which snake? Cobra? Anaconda? Grass snake?

If Cat is your totem, which type? Domestic? (if so what breed); Scottish Wildcat? Puma? Siberian Tiger?

Each different species bring different qualities as a totem animal.

My personal totem/spirit guide is the serpent – actually the British Adder. It is our only venomous snake, and is secretive, sensuous and can hurt if it gets pi*sed off! I don’t know if the serpent figures strongly in the Old Path, but it feels right.

Odin's totem animals are his ravens "Hugin and Munnin" and his wolves "Freki and Geri"
The god Ing-Frey (The Nordic Horned God of Animals, Trees, Fertility, Elves, Peace, and Prosperity) rides a golden boar.
Does anyone know of other examples?

Jan Edwards, Head of Animal Care
Farplace Animal Rescue - the no-kill animal sanctuary
Farplace, Sidehead, Westgate, County Durham, DL13 1LE

RICHARD FREEMAN: The Romance of the Televisual Arts

I was recently aproached by a company called Edge TV who asked me if I wanted to appear on a show called On The Edge. It appears on Controversial TV on Sky Channel 200. I'd never heard of the channel or the show, but crop circle master Matt Williams had been on and recommended them to me. The programme didn't pay but it was two hours of live TV, so I decided to go.

The studios were located on an industrial estate in exotic Milton Keynes. Built in the 1960s and 70s, Milton Keynes is a town with no history. Its an odd feeling to be in a quite sizeable town where none of the buildings are much over four decades old.

I was met by Theo Chalmers who would be interviewing me. He seemed well informed and genuinely interested. Among the other staff was 'Widget' a 6 foot punk with a turquoise mohican, a peirced nose, tatoos and a Dead Kennedies t-shirt (he would fitted in well at the CFZ) and his very pretty girlfriend Clair who worked one of the cameras.

The talk lasted two hours and went very well, covering most of my expeditions and discussing most of the major cryptids. I managed to get a couple of appeals for sponsorship in as well. Viwers texed in with questions all night.

However on live TV embarrasing things are wont to happen. I almost knocked over a glass of water but managed to catch it. Later there was a cock up with the sound as we went into a break. The mics were on longer than they should have been, so the viewers heard me say that I was going for a leak! One guy texted in to ask if I enjoyed it!

Theo and the others were very pleased with the show and said it was one of the most interesting they had done.


Sorry guys, there are - once again - a whole string of computer problems which is why the evening posts are a little delayed...

CHRIS CLARK: Three Little Known Cryptids

Two major cryptozoological encyclopedias have been published in the last few years. It might be thought that between them they have exhausted the field. However, I believe that there are still a handful of fascinating cryptids that failed to make the cut.

The Magnetic Mole

This animal seems to have developed the magnetic sense, used by some birds for navigation on long cross-country flights, to an extent found in no other creature. Fossil remains show the brain cavity to have contained a number of tiny nodules of haematite, an iron oxide with magnetic properties also found in the brains of pigeons and responsible for their orientational skills. The mole apparently used its magnetic sense to solve the problem of navigation underground in total darkness.

The mole, which flourished in several places in Europe including the British Isles, was believed to have become extinct in the Pleistocene after an abrupt reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field confused its orientation and caused it to tunnel ever deeper in the confident belief that it was returning to its burrow. Recently however there have been a number of extraordinary reports of this animal appearing, often in a highly exhausted state, in Australia and New Zealand…

Giotto’s Bat

This agreeable cryptid, the only one associated with Italy, was distinguished by an unusually narrow choice of habitat, only roosting within those Tuscan and Umbrian churches decorated with excellent frescoes and with a good restaurant within a few hundred yards. It flourished from the Romanesque to the Renaissance periods but was believed to have become extinct during the Baroque. Several years ago however it was tentatively identified with a small bat in the corner of a picture painted by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones during his tour of Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. Though it is impossible to identify the precise location at which Burne-Jones worked, and though this identification remains the only evidence for its continued existence, its sympathetic choice of habitat make it a favourite subject for the less intrepid cryptozoological explorer.

The Antikythira Elephant (Elephas volans)

The hypothesis that a large species can become substantially reduced in size after being isolated on islands is dramatically illustrated by the extinct Sicilian elephant, which grew to only three feet high. Even more striking confirmation came from the discovery on the tiny Greek island of Antikythira, only a mile or so long, of the fossil remains of an elephant much smaller still. The Antikythira elephant was only a few inches high, with a long slender trunk and very large ears. Recent aerodynamic calculations leave no doubt that the combination of large ears and low body size allowed this elephant to fly, and the long trunk suggests that it lived much as moths or humming-birds do, hovering in front of flowers to drink the nectar.

Like other elephant species of the Mediterranean area, it was believed to have become extinct some time during the last few thousand years and thus be of no interest to cryptozoology.

Recently however a small number of tourists have begun coming to Antikythira , and there have been reports of creatures ‘like grey humming birds with four feet’ feeding amongst the flowers: one woman even found a ‘tiny elephant’ perched on the edge of her glass drinking her gin and tonic through its trunk.

OLL LEWIS: Another Fine Ness

78 Years ago today, a little piece of cryptozoological history appeared in a newspaper that really should have known better. Oll Lewis investigates...

April Fool's Day has always, for me, been a day to look forward to, not least because of the many eccentric and tall tales that appear in the press. Some of my favourite April Fools have been last year’s flying penguins documentary from the BBC (which probably didn’t fool anyone but looked incredibly cute) and a fake video game preview where the aim of the game was to kill as many innocent people as possible, in a magazine called Playstation Plus. The game was obviously fake and it doesn’t seem that funny a concept, but laughs were had when a certain tabloid newspaper, upon hearing about the game decided to run a campaign to “ban this sick filth!” The magazine took great joy in pointing out that the tabloid had not only fallen hook, line and sinker for the prank, but was also guilty of copyright theft for reprinting their mocked up screenshots without permission, and served as a gentle reminder to tabloids to actually do their research before they run a story.

A hoax can be seen as a bit of jolly japery or harmless fun if the perpetrators come clean before any real damage is done. If not then it becomes a very different kind of animal indeed that can have unforeseen consequences. One such hoax occurred in the winter of 1933 on the banks of Loch Ness.

Earlier in 1933, a new section of road had been completed which, as a consequence, meant that a large number of people would get a clear view of and easy access to the shore of that part of Loch Ness for the first time ever. Sure enough it was only a matter of months before sightings of a strange animal started to filter through to the media, starting with a sighting by George Spicer and his wife on the 22nd of July 1933.

Reports of a strange animal showing up in the loch were soon tied to folkloric accounts, going back hundreds of years, of strange animals lolloping around in the waves and on the shore of the loch. Sensing that the story of the year, or possibly even the decade was about to break most of Britain’s national news agencies, and several international ones, soon had their correspondents positioned in Inverness and several other vantage points around the loch.

The Daily Mail decided to go one better though. Rather than just paying some random bloke to send them back stories of peoples sightings and negosiating the rights to any photos, their man would BE the story. The Mail basicly wanted Allan Quatermain to hunt for the monster, but as Quatermain was a work of fiction they got the next best thing, Marmaduke Wetherell. Wetherell was the perfect character to create a buzz for their paper: He was an actor and film director, so certainly knew what played well on film and cinema newsreels and he knew his stuff about hunting, having been a big game hunter in Africa for a number of years. The fact that he had the sort of looks that at the time would have caused many women to swoon in the street, also counted in his favour. The message was clear, if anyone was going to find the monster it would be the Daily Mail’s dashing action hero, you might as well not even bother reading another newspaper!

In December 1933 the Mail’s man struck gold. Wetherell found a line of large four toed footprints only a few days after he arrived in Loch Ness and took casts of them using plaster of Paris. From the spacing between the tracks Wetherell estimated that the creature must have been over 20 feet (6m) long. Wetherell sent the casts to the Natural History museum and while he waited for their staff to come back from their Christmas break so they could analyse the casts, Wetherell and the Daily Mail went public. The Daily Mail and the cinema news reels went crazy for the surrogate Quatermain’s discovery of the first physical proof of the monster’s existence, surely with Wetherell on the case it was only a matter of time before the monster itself was found. The number of Daily Mails that would be sold with a photograph of Wetherell twiddling his moustache while standing aloft a ‘bagged’ Nessie, smoking shotgun over his shoulder didn’t bear thinking about.

Unfortunately the Mail and Wetherell would come down to earth with a bump in January 1934. Upon return from their Christmas break, Natural History museum scientists eagerly unwrapped the plaster casts to take a look at them and determined that they were not only of a hippopotamus’s foot, but all of the same hippopotamus foot. It is thought that the tracks were made by somebody stamping an ashtray or umbrella stand made from a stuffed hippopotamus foot and that someone had laid out the tracks as a hoax. Who laid out the tracks is unknown; possible suspects including a local hotel owner, a rival journalist wanting to take Wetherell down a peg or two or even Wetherell himself.

Wetherell is probably the least likely suspect however as if he knew that all tracks had been made by the same foot he probably would have had the good sense not to send the casts to experts who would spot that right away. Regardless of who laid out the fake tracks, the damage was done, and all the papers, including the Daily Mail, turned on Wetherell, blaming him for the hoax. His reputation irreversibly damaged the Daily Mail sacked him and wrote damming articles about him that stuck the knife in and twisted it into the open wound whilst exonerating the Mail from any blame in the matter.

All this hurt Wetherell deeply and he, along with his son, Ian, son in law Christian Spurling, planned his own revenge on the Daily Mail. Ian Wetherell bought some plastic-wood and a toy submarine from Woolworths and Christian moulded the plastic wood to form what looked like a head and neck above the submarine before setting it afloat in the loch and taking photos. The next stage of their plan was to use a go-between, Maurice Chambers, to get a trustworthy acquaintance of his to pose as the photographer and sell their photograph to the Daily Mail. A gynaecologist friend of Chambers who had a practice in London, Robert Kenneth Wilson, obliged and the photo was published in the Daily Mail in April 1934. The photo became known as the surgeon’s photo and is probably the image most people think about when Nessie is mentioned.

Marmaduke Wetherell had got his revenge on the newspaper but never personally revealed his involvement in the hoax, perhaps believing that it would be discovered as quickly as the hippo-print hoax and leaving the Mail itself with egg on it’s face this time, but by the time he realised this wasn’t going to happen he was in too deep. It was only when a 90 year old Clinton Spurling confessed to the hoax in 1993, to Loch Ness researchers David Martin and Alastair Boyd, that the photo was finally debunked. Even after Spurling's confession there are still people who believe the surgeon’s photo is not a hoax and others who believe that because the photo was a fake this means that there is no such thing as a monster in Loch Ness.

I don’t know for certain whether a monster lives in Loch Ness or not, but one thing is sure, the fact that one photograph was fake doesn’t mean that everything is. The problem comes when people base their opinion on something on a hoax related to it and ignore any other evidence that comes along after.

An ancient rock painting of a marsupial lion

Antiquity Vol 83 Issue 319 March 2009

An ancient rock painting of a marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex,from the Kimberley, Western Australia


In June 2008 Tim Willing, while exploring rock art on the north-western coast of the Kimberley, found and recorded the image of a large striped quadruped painted in a shelter near the western shore of the Admiralty Gulf. Unfortunately conditions permitted the taking of only three digital images. Reviewing these, Akerman considered that they depicted a marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex) rather than a thylacine or Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus).

In an earlier paper Akerman (1998) had described another painting of a large quadruped, also from the north Kimberley, and suggested, after reviewing the palaeontological literature and literature dealing with representations of ancient fauna in Aboriginal rock art (Calaby & Lewis 1977; Murray & Chaloupka 1984; Lewis 1986; Chaloupka & Murray 1986), that it possibly represented a Thylacoleo. The 2008 image however clearly shows a number of features, absent in the image previously described and which tend to confirm that it represents a Thylacoleo.

Read On...

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

Yesterday’s News Today

Welcome to the round up of the latest cryptozoology news, courtesy of the CFZ daily news blog:

Three Neanderthal Sub-groups Confirmed
3 new tiger cubs in Vizag zoo
Mystery ailment kills 14 horses at polo tournament
Nandankanan gets ‘wild’ gift from Bhopal
Pig Brother reality show to sell more bacon

Most reality TV is a real ‘boar’, but this gives me the chance to ‘ham’ it up by telling some truly horrific pig gags:

Q: What is a pigs favourite band?
A: Pork-wind

Q: What is a pigs favourite sporting event?
A: The Olym-pigs

Q: How can you tell if a pig is in a bad mood about something?
A: they start to swine about it.

Thank you ladies and gents, I’m here all week.

SHANE LEA: More crypto songs

Hi Jon,

You definitely got the ball rolling with the crypto songs. Proper job mate! You are right, there are more crypto songs out there!

You mentioned David Bowie, or Bowie, as he is known to us music fans. One of his greatest songs, and one very near and dear to our cause, is none other than, "Scary Monsters (and Super Freaks)". The man who fell to earth even entitled an album Scary Monsters. You gotta love David Bowie!

Another wild album title and cover, for that matter, is Bat Out of Hell, by Meat Loaf. It is a very popular album, and there is even a song on there called "Bat Out of Hell". There are even two follow up albums, called Bat Out of Hell II and Bat Out of Hell III. On Bat Out of Hell III, there is a song entitled "The Monster is Loose" and one called "Monstro".

Another fantastic group to check out is Uriah Heep. They have a lot of fantastic imagery in their lyrics. Take for instance, "Rainbow Demon". "The Wizard" is a great Fortean song, but I digress.

Alice Cooper, the master of the macabre, has released "Feed My Frankenstein", "Halo of Flies" and "The Black Widow".

I would be remiss, if I didn't mention "Carpet Crawlers" by Genesis, and "All You Zombies", by the Hooters.

Speaking of zombies, the album of the day that doesn't just take the cake, but takes the entire bakery, is Hellbilly Deluxe, by Rob Zombie. On there are songs entitled, "Call of the Zombie", "Superbeast", "Dragula", "Living Dead Girl","Demonoid Phenomena", "Spookshow Baby", "Meet the Creeper" and "How to Make a Monster", all on one album! I have seen Rob Zombie speak about the Loch Ness monster and bigfoot. He seems quite interested in the bigfoot phenomenon!

I believe that we have just scratched the surface of songs one could claim had some sort of cryptozoological connection.

Have a great week Jon.

Very Best Wishes,
REM have an album called `Monster`, there is that song which goes "what's that coming over the hill, is it a monster" (that the boys played incessantly at the 2007 Weird Weekend, Frank Zappa has a song including Monster Magnet, and another featuring a giant dog called Threnobulax, and yet another featuring Jean-Luc Ponty, valled King Kong. But there are more...

GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD HOLLAND: Two obscure Welsh dragons

Once again we hand you over to guest blogger Richard Holland, editor of Paranormal Magazine, and all round good bloke. He is a regular visitor tho these pages, and I am sure that you will all agree with me that this is jolly good news for all of us..

The Red Dragon (Ddraig Goch) is, of course, the cryptozoological symbol of the Principality of Wales (although only officially for 50 years). Not surprisingly, there are numerous dragon yarns from Wales, one or two of which have escaped the standard works on the subject. The following are both from ‘Bye-gones’, that little known journal I have found so useful for odd snippets of Fortean interest.

In June 1896, correspondent ‘N.W.T.’ contributed this bit of folklore: ‘I have been informed that some 50 years ago at Ystradgynlais [
Powys, Mid Wales] it was generally believed there was a flying serpent existing on a spot called “Winllan”; it was a rough, stony piece of ground covered with brambles on the river side, and is now the site of Yniscedwyn Board Schools. Lizards infested the place. My informant suggests that the story was invented to keep children from going blackberrying.’

A quick Google search finds an Ysgol Ynyscedwyn in Ystradgynlais but their website states that this school was founded in 1906, so this may not be the Board School referred to, despite carrying the same name (I attach a picture, anyway – imagine being taught over a former dragon’s nest!).

In response to this account, ‘T.H.J.’ dug out a reference to another dragon from an old Welsh language journal of 1877 and submitted a translation to ‘Bye-gones’ later the same month. This beast inhabited the valley of the River Conwy in North Wales and went by the name of a carrog. This is the only such usage I know of (although there is a village called Carrog not far from Llangollen, in the valley of the Dee). T.H.J. informs us:

‘The carrog somewhat resembled a flying serpent. According to popular tradition, this fearful creature sheltered at night in the brushwood that then grew on Dol-y-garrog, and during the day frequently visited Eglwysfach, kidnapping and eating children; and in order to slay this creature Saint Beuno paid a visit to the place.’

St Beuno is an important name in North-East Wales, a Dark Age saint to whom many churches are dedicated. He is said to have been the uncle of St Winefride, whose severed head created the famous Holywell in Flintshire. The village where the action takes place is today spelt Eglwysbach, but this is probably an inaccurate spelling. But back to the story:

‘He reached Eglwysfach very early. He went to the church, and repeated his prayers, and after the sun had shone for some time the Carrog came and lay down on the hill. Saint Beuno ascended the church tower, and directed an arrow from his bow to the tender spot on his throat, which took fatal effect; and it is said this was the only penetrable part of the creatures hide, being like that of a crocodile.’

A practical bunch these early saints. However, there is another tradition relating to the area in which a hero slays a fearsome wild boar, so this may be a variant on that theme.

Richard Holland, Editor of Paranormal Magazine (
http://www.paranormalmagazine.co.uk/) and Uncanny UK (http://www.uncannyuk.com/).