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, May 11, 2009

THE BIG THREE: Fleur Fulcher


Over, once again to the divine Ms F. After a gap of a few weeks during which she has been about her studies, she is back and as charming as usual....
Choosing three cryptids is a little like going into an antiques shop and trying to choose only three things I want.
Of course for me one would be the Moa, the giant flightless bird of New Zealand, it is due to this magnificent mega-fauna that I got into cryptozoology at all and therefore discovered the cfz. Apparently wiped out by 1500 there have nonetheless been reports of them from remote valleys and beaches, a girl, Alice Mckenzie saw what may have been one in 1880 and again in 1889. she herself did not say it was a Moa but thought perhaps it was a Takahe (itself thought extinct at the time) but she realised it wasn’t when she later saw a stuffed Takahe.
There were several types of Moa ranging from the truly gigantic Dinornis robustustus, to the smaller ‘Little scrub moa’ which is the one Rex Gilroy and his wife have great hopes of finding.
Another of my favourites would have to be the tatzelwurm, apparently found in Switzerland. It seems to be some sort of lizard with only small legs, but it makes up in temper what it lacks in legs. Whilst one of these creatures was apparently found dead in 1828 and sent to Heidelburg museum where, as is usual with such bodies, it vanished. There is, however, a photograph of the Tatzelwurm, but as it appears to show a rather cheerful looking carved model I’m not sure how much value should be placed upon it.There are a few pages on this mountain-dwelling marvel in the book ‘Dragons: More than a Myth?’ by Richard Freeman, but I first learnt of it by looking at the wikipedia ‘list of cryptids’ which is a wonderful, if sometimes fairly silly resource for the cash strapped crypto-fan.
The last of my favourites was very hard to choose, and not quite as fun as the lilliputian gin drinking elephants mentioned by Chris Clark. It is the Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), and if I could choose one ‘extinct’ animal that I would want to be rediscovered well and thriving then this would be it. The giant and rather silly looking beast was discovered in 1741 by Georg Steller, although it was already well known to the people native to the lands it lived near. By the time it was discovered by white men the sea cow was already endangered, due to a mixture of over-hunting and lack of algae due to the rising population of sea-urchins. But still, it could have held on to existence if the hunting had been stopped.
The sea cow became extinct in 1768, only 27 years after its official discovery. There have been odd reports ever since from the remote seas where they lived, in 1830 a Polish naturalist was sure he had seen some sea cows on Bering Island and in 1962 Russian Whalers (familiar with the wildlife in those waters) thought they saw a whole group of them.Could they still exist?
I think it unlikely, but I wouldn’t entirely dismiss the possibility.

PAUL VELLA: Conference tribute to Patterson and Gimlin

Paul Vella has been a friend of mine for many years, and has been running the CFZ BHM Study Group since 2004. I have been pestering him to become part of the bloggo team for months, and it is great that he has finally succumbed to my blandishments....

This weekend sees a conference in Yakima, Washington, which is home to Bob Gimlin and the late Roger Patterson. I shouldn't need to explain to readers of the CFZ blog that these two men were responsible for the film of the alleged bigfoot taken in October 1967 at Bluff Creek, California.

The event is a 'gathering' of bigfoot researchers, including presentations from researchers related to the film. Tickets for the event sold out quickly, and I'm not suprised, since it sounds like a terrific event, however I was dissapointed to learn that one prominent researcher and documentary filmmaker has been barred from the event simply because he has expressed opinion that the film might be a hoax - a view I agree with, it might be a hoax - as I often tell people, I wasn't there, so I can't be certain.

Whilst conferences can only be a good thing, I don't see any point in preaching to the converted. By barring anyone who doesn't agree in advance with the theories put forward by the presenters, you are of course guaranteed a good reception, but credibility goes down the pan. I wonder why Bob Gimlin would agree to barring people who think the film might be a hoax, especially since Gimlin himself once went on record as saying that it was possible that Patterson had pulled off a hoax without him knowing about it.

Expect a report from the event sometime in the next few weeks.


I have spent much of the day working on the ongoing Indexing Project, and it is slowly coming together. However, it was only whilst I was working that I realised quite how understaffed we are. Today is normally Graham's day off, but he has driven down to Exeter with Richard Freeman to sort out some building problems on my Exeter house, which - after being a CFZ HQ for 20 years will soon be mostly a private residence again, inhabited by my younger step-daughter.

However, without Graham pootling around the grounds, and Richard muttering arcane nonsense in the corner of the office things are very quiet.

The CFZ posse works hard but there are just not enough of us. Is there anyone in the North Devon area who reads this and could give up an afternoon a week to come over and do stuff.

The pre-requisites are:

1. Preferably understand the basics of html
2. Be able to type, spell, and use a computer
3. Like listening to music as we work (preferably something cool)
4. Have a silly sense of humour
5. Eat cake!

If you do not live in the area, but fanct doing some administrative stuff for us on the archiving, indexing and other projects please get in touch...

NOBBY: The Queen of Wildwoods

Another picture from the CFZ archives:

This is Nobby. Nobby was a female giant gourami who for many years lived at Wildwoods Aquatic Centre, Crews Hill near Enfield in Middlesex. I first met her whilst on tour with Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel in 1990, and regularly paid her visits until she died in the early years of this century.

She was a fantastic old fish, and was truly enormous, and was one of the few fish that I have ever met who was truly `tame`.
(The other was an elderly oscar belonging to my mate Brian back in the early 1980s.)

She recognised her favourite members of staff, would swim to the top of the tank to take processed peas off a fork, and to be fussed, and would interact with passers by in a way that very few fish ever do.

Then one day in the early years of this century/millenium/decade we paid a visit to Enfield, and Nobby was gone. Her tank was empty, and there was a sign on it saying that she had passed over to the great aquatic centre in the sky.

However, I went back to Wildwoods a year or so ago, and found that Nobby was back. Her unmistakeable visage grinned down at me from a glass case on the wall. She had always been the Quesn of Wildwoods, and now she will never leave..

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


After the weekend’s ‘of the week’ recommendations it must be good for you to all get a rest from me rabbiting on about something or other that I’ve seen, listened to or drank recently and just having a nice sedate list of links to the latest cryptozoology related news stories and a bad pun with my inane prattle kept to a minimum. So without further ado here is the news:

Orang-utan short-circuits electric fence in Zoo 'escape'
Zoological park looks forward to new arrivals
What are zoos for?
Mystery animal roaming Iredell
Frogs Rescued From Deadly Fungus Ravaging Montserrat

Good to know they’re not going to ‘croak’ any time soon…

ALAN FRISWELL: Scary Spider Stories #3 - The Fearsome frog-eating spider of Epping Forest

Alan first came to my notice when he turned up at our stall at last November's Unconvention. He was clutching a box that had once held a plastic Christmas Tree. He thrust it at me, and said "Here's your mermaid".

I vaguely remembered Richard F having said that one of his mates had offered to make us a feegee mermaid, but I had forgotten all about it. Sad to say, so many people offer to do stuff for us, and then fail to deliver, that I had got into the habit of treating all such offers cum grano salis, but the advent of Alan shows that I should not be such a cynical old sod. Now he has become a guest blogger, and furthermore a guest blogger who's output is often so elegantly macabre that I have started hassling him to write us a book..

Although the British Isles has long been a haven to crypto-legends of lake monsters, black dogs, mystery cats, seemingly out-of-place creatures such as Owlman and even putatively spectral forms of Bigfoot; giant spiders, for some reason, just don’t seem to belong.

Perhaps because of their more fictional, story-book association with forbidding, overgrown jungles and forgotten places where the unwary explorer might encroach upon forbidden territory at the risk of ending up in the cooking pot or with their head on a pole, giant arachnids certainly fit more comfortably into this more exotic milieu in the public consciousness, than the more mundane backdrop of familiar surroundings. Or in other words, a giant, man-eating spider in Peru would inspire little, or no scepticism--at least, inasmuch as having a viable ecosystem in which to potentially flourish--while one in Albert Square, however desirable, would unfortunately be rather more untenable.
But sometimes, stories of monstrous spiders do occur somewhat closer to home, and I now introduce the first of two such tales.
This first, which I present as a completely true story, is the lesser of the two in terms of the ‘fear factor’; so if this one gives you the creeps, believe me, you have no idea of what’s coming next….
Paul Hallewell, a friend of mine for many years--we were at art college together--were in a pub one evening having few pints--not an uncommon occurrence by any means. At the time we were both working on a cartoon animation film produced by--believe it or not--Steven Spielberg (one afternoon at work, I had the chance to meet Spielberg, but I preferred to stay in the pub and get pissed. Is that class, or what?). The film was called An American Tail II, and featured, among other characters, a giant Mexican spider.
We were discussing this spider, and the way that we were going to animate it in the film, when Paul told me that he had once seen a gigantic spider in the woods, to which I replied; “Well bo****ks to American Tail II, tell me about this instead!”
And so he did.

When Paul was about ten, he belonged to a local boy scout troop. Part of the orienteering exercises planned out by the scout leaders involved camping out in the woods, or some other open area; and on this occasion, the troop found themselves travelling by coach to Epping forest, a huge woodland area to the north east of London that had not only been frequented by the legendary highwayman Dick Turpin, but was also the supposed haunt of satanic groups--in whose number was allegedly Edward Heath--and the location of choice for the burial of London gangland victims.

Arriving at midday, the troop immediately set up camp, placing their tents to the side of a small stream; the rest of the day being spent settling in to their new surroundings and preparing the evening meal of sausages and beans.
One thing that soon became apparent, was the loud croaking of frogs from the direction of the stream, and from the many small pools and ponds that dotted the grassy marsh leading up to the thicker part of the forest. The first night the boys spent under the stars was humid, heavy with the droning buzz of mosquitoes and tiny midges; and the frogs’ resonant chorus made sleep difficult for the scouts, already oppressed by the almost tropical August heat.
The next day, the scouts were allowed to explore the woods, as long as safety procedures were observed, and so Paul and some of the others made off for the trees.
They found their way through a large group of wind-blown willow trees, behind which they could see an old deserted house. They discovered the remains of a path that had once led between the trees, now overgrown with wild flowers and brambles. The house, according to Paul, looked like: “something out of Scooby Doo, all broken down and derelict.”

Thinking that the chance to explore a ‘haunted house’ couldn’t be missed, Paul and his mates found their way in through the broken front door, which yielded to their kicks with a crunch of decaying, paint-peeling timber.
The hall, or what was left of it, hung heavy with the smell of stagnant water; the walls, once covered with fine paper, now exposed and damp, the plaster running with moisture.
A staircase led to the first floor, the banisters thick with mould and fungus. As the boys tried the steps, the rotting wood snapped and crumbled, releasing an army of shiny beetles and woodlice, which ran around their shoes.
Paul chucked a stone through one of the already broken windows, and even the sound of breaking glass was muted in the stale, dead air.
One of them suggested a game of hide-and-seek, which was met with general approval; and Paul, being duly elected, ran off to hide.
At the back of the house, a long passageway led to a conservatory of sorts, and Paul decided to find a hiding-place within it’s bushes and shrubs, now choking the window-frames with vines and roots.
Half-way along the passage, Paul found a doorway, leading down to a cellar. Thinking that this would be a great improvement on the conservatory, he pulled on the handle, the hinges screaming under the burden of years of rusted neglect. As the door swung wide, the sharp smell of bitter apples and mould hit him, and Paul realised that the cellar was probably full of rotted fruit.
He could hear water dripping down in the darkness, and the sour scent of mildew and pond weed was thick in the air. I’m going to hand over to Paul at this point, and, although--like Alfie in a previous story--I’m having to paraphrase, it’s pretty much what Paul said.
“It’s weird, but the first thing that happened, was that a huge cloud of butterflies flew past the window at the end of the passageway. It was like a mass of yellow going by. Just then, I heard the sound of frogs croaking, and I knew that they were down in the cellar; there must have been some way that they could get in. Suddenly, dozens and dozens of frogs came hopping out of the cellar. It was a bit scary, really. They were even stuck to the inside of the door, stuck by moisture, I suppose, all hopping out into the passageway. My face was right next to the door, and I pulled back as the frogs were jumping in all directions.
I first saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was very dark, and it moved quickly. I didn’t really have the chance to figure out what it was, before it came out into the light.
My f*****g head was right next to it; I’ve never been scared of spiders, but I nearly died. This thing was actually chasing the f*****g frogs, I mean really chasing them. It was a garden or house spider--the ones with the small bodies and long legs--you know, the things you find on your bedroom ceiling, but this c**t was bigger than a f*****g tarantula--bigger than any spider I’ve ever seen in my life. I jumped back and hit my head on the opposite wall, and saw the spider fully. The legs were amazingly thick--not thin or spindly--and the whole thing looked really strong. Each leg must have been at least eight inches long--I’m not kidding. It had bristles like fuse wire--stiff and black. It was a dark brown colour, the body had a dark pattern along the back. I could actually see it’s f*****g fangs--they were about an inch long at least, then the worst thing of all, it grabbed one of the frogs. It just grabbed it like an ordinary spider would a fly, and blood came pouring from it’s body as the fangs want in. F**k that for a game of soldiers.

At that point, my bottle went, and I just ran as fast as I could, to get the f**k out. All I can imagine, is that the spider had lived in peace for years, happily eating frogs, and had grown to that giant size. It’s just as well that it wasn’t living on f*****g rats.”
So is it possible that some species of spider, given peace and quiet, and a ready food supply could achieve giant size?
I certainly don’t know, but doesn’t it give you just a little thrill of apprehension, to think of what might just be waiting for you under the garden shed, or in the attic that you haven’t bothered to tidy in years….


Re. Yesterday's New Zealand Cryptozoology article:

I shouldn't actually have posted it at all. It was originally a list of NZ Cryptids meant for a NZ TV Producer. I was a bit bleary myself yesterday morning, looked at it - thought "Ooohm, this would make a nice blog posting" and after cutting out the TV related stuff (which unfortunately included the fact that we had lifted large chunks of it from Tony Lucas' website and from an excellent paper he wrote for one of the CFZ Yearbooks) posted it.

Sorry Tony