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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Thursday, May 21, 2009

THE BIG THREE: Nigel Wright


“Big three”
Choices of a
Lesser-known English


Nigel Wright

Ok!..So I “borrowed” some of the title of this blog from the famous film “educating Rita”, but I just love that film!...Whoops this is supposed to be a blog about crypto-creatures, not a film review, but it sounded cool anyway!. Right. Down to work!..

(Creature number one)

UK Bigfoot... Why? Because the very idea of huge, hairy creatures, running amok in the peaceful English countryside, scarring old ladies as they eat their cream teas, seems very amusing to me, in a sort of perverted way. But on a more serious note, these mysterious creatures, if they exist, in the physical sense, may just go on to prove a long-held theory of mine. That there might exist a form of “window” or “vortex” in inter-dimensional space, through which these and other types of paranormal objects materialize. I consider the possibility of these creatures being able to have existed in our UK countryside, undiscovered for thousands of years, as being totally preposterous! So, the only other explanation possible is that they “come” from another place, or time.

(Creature number two)

The Owlman. Now the reason that this creature fascinates me is easy to answer! It was the first “crypto” creature that I was introduced to, courtesy of Jon. We all had a marvelous time, a few years ago, filming a short film, with members of the CFZ posse. The memories of that summer will be with me for the rest of my life, and it led to a fantastic time, which I had with Jon and the gang, for my years afterwards. Happy days! Thanks Jon my old mate!!!

(Creature number three)

As a ufologist, you might expect this of me!. It is the “Grays” that UFO contactees often report meeting aboard these mysterious craft, that prowl in our night-time skies. I judge these creatures as counting as “crypto” others may disagree I suppose, fair enough!.

So, there you are. My selection may show all just what a narrow mind I posses, but, considering that I had very little knowledge of animals and no knowledge whatsoever in “crypto” subjects before I met Jon and the rest of the CFZ, I consider myself very lucky to have been educated in such a fascinating way!

The Weird Weekend - it's a family affair

The advent of the CFZ bloggo has not just had far reaching effects upon our publishing schedule, it has changed the human map of the CFZ. There are people who have now become part of the CFZ family, who at the beginning of the year were total strangers; Emma Biddle, Gavin Lloyd Wilson, Glen Vaudrey, Liz Clancy, Naomi and Ritchie West, and Derek Grebner, for example, and there are people whom we have known for ages like Tim Matthews and Jan Edwards who are reaching new levels of importance within the CFZ family.

Because the CFZ really is a family with all the joys, and all the sorrows that this involves.

There have been a whole spate of illnesses recently, with Marjorie Braund (my adopted mum, and Dave and Ross’s grandmother), our next-door neighbour Stuart Rickard (who some of you will remember from last year’s Weird Weekend) and our very own Emma Biddle being taken seriously ill and having spells in hospital.

It is too early for any realistic prognoses, but one can only hope (and pray) that the outcomes will be favourable.

With the Weird Weekend approaching I always find it heartwarming how nice and unselfish some of the members of the CFZ family can be. Take Davey and Joanne Curtis for example.
They, for the second year running, are travelling down from the north of England at their own expense, with their daughter Rosie and a car load of craft materials (also paid for at their own expense) to do monster model making and picture drawing workshops for the younger generation at this year’s event.

It is this, I think, which makes the Weird Weekend such a unique event. After last year’s conference I came in for a fair amount of criticism, some of it from people who really should have known better, for allowing children in to a “scientific symposium”.

The Weird Weekend isn’t a scientific symposium. Nor is it a Fortean conference. Nor is it a village fete. Nor is it a hippy-type festival. Nor is it a traditional community event. It is none of these things, and it is all of these things and more. It is the Weird Weekend and it is completely unlike anything else that I have ever heard of.

But it works, and one of the reasons that it works is because it IS a family event. And one of the reasons why I believe that the CFZ is rapidly becoming a very important organisation over and above its position within the rarefied little world of the global cryptozoological community, is because it has something to offer for all ages.

And for as long as I have anything to do with running the organisation this is the way that it will stay.

And as I don’t intend to retire any time soon, please accept the fact that the child-friendly atmosphere, the surreal silliness, the comedy and the music and theatre will stay. Because in their own little way they are as important as the publishing, the research and the expeditions that are our bread and butter.

One of the things that I think is most important about the Weird Weekend is that it is - as far as I am aware - the only even slightly Fortean conference in the world which is not just aimed at the true believers or the Fortean faithful. The general public are welcome, and they can (and do) attend.

But we don’t insult them by dumbing down the talks to make them entry-level. Our speakers are all experts in their own particular field, but they are all aware that their audience are not necessarily experts, so they tailor their talks accordingly, but they do not treat the audience – whatever age they are – as if they are stupid. And the audience - of all ages - appreciates that!
The Weird Weekend is, as I have always said, a place to see old friends and make new ones; a place where friendships and even marriages are made, where alliances forged, and working relationships formed. A place where papers are written and presented, where beer is drunk, where jokes are made and expeditions planned.

But the thing I am looking forward to most about this year’s event, which is only a few months away now, is that I am going to get to meet some of my new friends who have become such important parts of the CFZ without us ever having met in the flesh.
And that is going to be a great privelige indeed.

Weird Weekend Tickets are available for £20 for the whole weekend (advance booking price) and can be bought online via paypal or by post from us here at the CFZ. Please make your cheques payable to `CFZ Trust`.

LIZ CLANCY: Go tell the bees

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 somethimes something more scatological), until I told her not to. She is obviously one to watch...

I was not an ordinary little girl. My friends mithered their parents for puppies and ponies. I wanted a hive of bees. To be fair, beekeeping is in my blood. My late Grandad, Cyril, always wanted bees (Gran put her foot down, though; I think she thought 4 cats, 3 ducks, 2 dogs, several chickens, a shedful of pigeons, 2 mice and a rabbit were quite enough of a menagerie!) and his father, Tom and Grandfather, William had kept honey bees on their farm on the Brecon in Wales.

As a little boy, when old Will died, my Grandfather accompanied his Dad and witnessedm in practice, an old beekeeping custom said to prevent newly keeper-less bees from swarming: after warning little Cyril to wait at a safe distance, Tom went to one of the hives (bravely without any protective gear!) and knocked three times on it's side. According to Grandad all buzzing stopped and in the ensuing silence Tom announced "Your master is dead. I'm your master now." Several 'scouts' came out of the hive and hovered around Tom's face for some minutes before disappearing back inside the hive. Soon after this the buzzing started again. Tom then went to all the other hives in turn and repeated the same process. From then on my Great Grandfather was able to take over full responsibility of looking after the colonies and harvesting the honey.

Science is not my strong point but since bees communicate with each other using pheromones I can only assume they picked up on a 'grief signal' from the son of their late keeper and understood that Will had gone. Whatever the case, in memory of my three bee-loving ancestors, if ever I get a big enough garden, I intend to continue the family tradition.

NICK REDFERN: Where Monsters Meet

One of the things that particularly fascinates me about cryptozoology, is the way in which certain places seem to attract more than one type of unknown beast - the Cannock Chase woods of central England being a classic example.

Another example - and a very little-known one - was brought to my attention a few years ago by a woman named Eileen Gallagher.

She telephoned me early one week-day morning to relate how a friend of hers – named Janice - had undergone some sort of very traumatic encounter late at night with a man-beast in the village of Childs Ercall – which can be found in the northern part of the English county of Shropshire.

Gallagher had lost touch with Janice in the late 1970s; however, she still well-recalled the salient facts.

So the story went, it was back in 1971 and Janice was fifteen at the time and living in a nearby village.

After an evening spent with her then-boyfriend at the home of his parents in Childs Ercall, Janice was happily riding her pedal-bike back home when she was shocked to see a large, hairy animal dash across the road directly in front of her, while simultaneously glaring at her in a menacing fashion as it did so.

Eileen Gallagher recalled that Janice had told her that the animal was human-like in shape, was covered in long flowing dark hair, possessed a pair of bright yellow eyes that "twinkled," and had a black-skinned and "shiny" face.

I have to say that this particular story completely fascinated me, for one specific reason: the Bigfoot-style entity seen by Janice in the Shropshire village of Childs Ercall was not the only weird creature said to inhabit this otherwise utterly normal and pleasant little English village.

Indeed, legend has it that centuries ago a deadly mermaid was said to inhabit a pool there. In 1893, the writer Robert Charles Hope described the story as follows:

"…there was a mermaid seen there once. It was a good while ago, before my time. I dare say it might be a hundred years ago. There were two men going to work early one morning, and they had got as far as the side of the pond in [a] field, and they saw something on the top of the water which scared them not a little. They thought it was going to take them straight off to the Old Lad himself!

"I can’t say exactly what it was like, I wasn’t there, you know; but it was a mermaid, the same as you read of in the papers. The fellows had almost run away at first, they were so frightened, but as soon as the mermaid had spoken to them, they thought no more of that. Her voice was so sweet and pleasant, that they fell in love with her there and then, both of them. Well, she told them there was a treasure hidden at the bottom of the pond - lumps of gold, and no one knows what. And she would give them as much as ever they liked if they would come to her in the water and take it out of her hands.

"So they went in, though it was almost up to their chins, and she dived into the water and brought up a lump of gold almost as big as a man s head. And the men were just going to take it, when one of them said: 'Eh!' he said (and swore, you know), 'if this isn't a bit of luck!' And, my word, if the mermaid didn’t take it away from them again, and gave a scream, and dived down into the pond, and they saw no more of her, and got none of her gold. And nobody has ever seen her since then.

"No doubt the story once ran that the oath which scared the uncanny creature involved the mention of the Holy Name."

Is it only a chance coincidence that the Shropshire village of Childs Ercall was said to be equally haunted by a hairy man-beast and a bizarre water-based entity? Probably not: in my view, it only reinforces the notion that many crypto-critters are far more (or, perhaps, less) than mere flesh-and-blood in origin...