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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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Friday, June 05, 2009

BIGGLES IS HIGHLY IMPRESSED

Biggles does not take much interest in politics, but on this occasion he wants all his fans to know that he has found a political mentor, and he intends to follow in his footsteps...



TERATOLOGY - LOST AND FOUND - FROM FLEUR

How does the dear girl do it? Fleur Fulcher seems to have adopted the mantle of "Little Miss Teratology"
this season, but her latest find - a missing cat with extra toes - takes the proverbial bicsuit.
Well done dear

RICHARD FREEMAN: CHAMP IN THE PICTURE AGAIN

Guest Blogger time for Richard Freeman again. It almost seems silly introducing Richard to you all once again when he makes an appearance as guest blogger several times a week. However our viewing audience/readers (whatever you like to call yourselves) is growing so fast that it is certain that some of you missed the last time I introduced him.

What may be the most significant evidence for ‘Champ’, the monster of Lake Champlain since the Sandra Mansi photo of 1977 has surfaced. A two-minute film taken via mobile phone shows a dark creature with a moderately long neck swimming across the lake. The creature seems to pause a couple of times. Much of its back is showing, the only the thing close to it in the water to is what looks like a buoy. If we could measure this then we might get a handle on the size of the creature. . The film was taken near Oakledge Park in Burlington last weekend.

Witness Eric Olsen, does not know if the animal he filmed is the legendary Champ and calls the film, now on Youtube, simply ‘Strange Sighting on Lake Champlain’.

Olsen said… “You can see that it is moving both horizontally, across the water, and vertically, going under the surface and coming back up,” he said. “It struck me as something that was long, that it didn’t have much girth.”

Does the footage actually show the creature known as ‘Champ’? Well firstly we don’t know what Champ is, if it or rather they exist. It looks quite different to the image in the Mansi photograph, lacking the long, serpentine neck. It does not appear to show the humps often associated with Champ sightings either. It does bear some resemblance to a few eyewitness sketches from Loch Ness however.

I have compared the footage to know animals swimming. It is not a seal, the neck is too thin and the head held too high. It doesn’t look like a bear either. Bears seldom show as much of their backs as this creature seems to whilst swimming. Once more the neck seems too slender for a bear.

Another possibility is a swimming moose or some other species of deer. An adult male would have noticeable horns but it could be a youngster or female. The neck looks much more like that of a moose or deer and these animals show more of their back when swimming. The stumbling point on this theory is that there are no visible, external ears on the animal in the footage.

Apparently the creature did not leave the water as would be expected if it were a moose or deer. As always we are left with interesting but inconclusive footage.


MIKE HALLOWELL: The Great Herring-Eating Shark of Whitburn

The following accounts are all true. Only my rendition of them is totally inaccurate. The names of some persons have been kept the same to embarrass the innocent. Any similarity between the characters in this blog and real persons is intentional, because that is who they are and as they are long dead there isn't much they can do about it.

In July 1822, some workmen – sorry, workpersons – were digging the foundations of a new jail that was being erected at Morpeth, Northumberland. The jail was a purpose-built place in which prisoners could be housed instead of farming them out to local B&Bs, which had been the previous practice. By keeping all the local vagabonds, ne'er-do-wells and ruffians in one place, they could get away with having only one plasma screen TV between the lot of them, thereby saving money.

Anyway, as the labourers dug down to a depth of thirteen feet, they were astonished to come across the remains of a huge oak tree thirty-eight feet in height and nine feet in circumference.

"Look!" said one, "There's an oak tree, and its thirty-eight feet in height and nine feet in circumference!"

But there was more. They also found, according to contemporary reports, "the skeleton of a deer's head". This statement puzzled me somewhat, for although I have a rough idea of what the skull of a deer looks like, I have no idea what "the skeleton of a deer's head" might be. The phrase is as nonsensical to me as saying, "the arm of a man's hand", or "the foot of a man's toe". But maybe I'm just being picky.

Anyhoo, the skull also sported "fine branching horns", which was not at all surprising, for even Geordie deer have been known to display such appendages. Except for the Great Newcastle Hornless Deer, of course, which has none because I've just made it up.

The enigma, of course, was what the deer and the oak tree were doing together at such a depth. No one ever found out.

Mind you, Geordie animals never behave conventionally.

Cryptozoological or conventional, the beasts of our great Northern Kingdom can be guaranteed to mess around for a laugh. Take the Great Herring Catch of September 1807, for example, which occurred at Whitburn. That was a hoot, that was.

What happened was this. An eight-foot long shark, weighing 300lbs or thereabouts, was swimming around off the coast of Whitburn.

"Look!" said a local fisherman - sorry, fisherperson – to his pals; "There's an eight-foot long shark, weighing 300lbs or thereabouts!"

Now shark was not common fayre in Geordie restaurants at the time, as few people had pans big enough to cook them in. However, the fisherpersons were not troubled by such technicalities and decided to worry about that later. They quickly netted the shark and hauled it all the way from Whitburn into the River Tyne and only stopped when they got to Newcastle. Here they displayed their catch to crowds of onlookers, none of whom had ever seen an eight-foot long shark, weighing 300lbs or thereabouts. Or if they had, they weren't telling.

Anyways, at some point the fishermen got bored with the Outside Bit of the shark, and decided to look at the Inside Bit for a change. But lo and forsooth, when they slit open its belly they were flabber-me-gasted when no less than !180 herrings and other small fish" spilled forth onto the dockside.

And it is for this reason, dear reader, that when the people of Morpeth brag about their "skeleton of a deer's head", the good folk of Newcastle – or maybe Whitburn – will reply, "Aye but that's nowt compared to the Great Herring Catch back in 1807".

And in my opinion they are perfectly justified.

Mind you, neither the good folk of Newcastle of the equally canny personages of Morpeth can hold a candle to those of Sunderland when it comes to animal-related japes. The Great Bull Bait – great for the bull, that is – of May 28, 1822, was proof of that.

Bull baiting was a sport – so called – in which the animal was placed in a pit of approximately thirty-five feet in diameter. Dogs were also placed in the ring, and their purpose was to "immobilise" the bull. For good measure, the idiots who took part in this event would sometimes blow white pepper up the nose of the bull to make it angry.

On the day in question, a young chap by the name of Simon Thornton was "thrown down by the crowd". What exactly this means I have no idea. Perhaps he upset his pals in some way, or maybe being "thrown down by the crowd" was part of some arcane, bull-baiting ritual. In any event, he broke his leg. Whether "the breaking of the leg" was also part of the show I have no idea either – nothing would surprise me - but in any event he died, and everyone was very sad about that. In the melee that ensued, the bull survived. The bull was presumably not very sad about that, and also presumably didn't give a toss about Simon Thornton or his leg.

Bull baiting was, thank God, outlawed just a few years later.

And we're all very happy about that.

Or should be.

IM NOT A PHEASANT PLUCKER

The main aviary at the top of the CFZ grounds is now home to a delightful pair of Reeves' pheasant (Syrmaticus reevesii) a beautiful species from China.

This afternoon whilst I have to admit that I was having a nap, Oll, Richard and Graham went to a pheasant farm at Chulmleigh to pick them up.

Those of you aware of the appalingly anthropomorphic tendancies of the CFZ management (OK this means something different these days than it did in my youth, and I would like to stress that none of us dress up in fursuits and go yiffing, although I cannot actually speak for Oll) and we always give our animals silly though apposite names.

These two are called Vic and Martha and appear to be settling in remarkably well....

PANJANDRUM: Video report

PANJANDRUM: slideshow

CFZtv SPECIAL REPORT: The Panjandrum

Back when I was a nurse, a quarter of a century, one of the Nursing Officers at Langdon Hospital was a Scottish chap called Bill Millen. I have no idea where he is now, or even whether he is still alive (and as he would be 86 now it is certainly a possibility that he won't be). But I knew him quite well for a few months in 1983-4, and I know exactly what he was doing 65 years ago tomorrow. He was one of the pipers who obeyed Lord Lovatt's illegal instruction to lead the trrops up the beach on D-Day, and was, and I hope still is, a living embodiment of the sort of foolhardy silliness that makes Britain a great country. These days the Health and Safety officers would never have allowed it, and Britain is a far poorer place because of such pettifogging wussy idiocy.

Tomorrow is the 65th Anniversary of D-Day, and as readers of a political bent will know, there is more than a little stink internationally about the celebrations. So we have jumped in with both feet (as usual) and can salve our consciences by saying, quite truthfully, that we are doing it to boost literacy (one of our stated aims as the CFZ)

Today our friends at the Appledore Book Festival launched this year's catalogue by staging a re-enactment of one of the more bizarre events of WW2 - the testing of a peculiar `secret weapon` (that actually was not so secret after all) on the beach at Westward Ho!

We would not have missed it for the world, and are happy to mark the event with a couple of articles, a slideshow, and a filmed report...

Graham Inglis on the historical panjandrum of 1944
Corinna Downes on today's events
Slideshow
Video Report
Appledore Book Festival

THE GREAT PANJANDRUM: Graham Inglis

In 1943, some people walking on the beach at the North Devon resort of Westward Ho! saw a strange sight: a device around eight feet in diameter, and resembling a large cotton reel, or the type of drum used to deliver large coils of cable to a building site – but rolling along, propelled by rockets that spewed sparks and smoke.

The original panjandrum devices had their hubs packed with explosive: it was basically a bomb that was intended to roll up a given beach until it encountered fortified defenses – whereupon it would explode and blow a hole in them. However, they had a tendency to fall over, or to run wildly off-course.

These experiments were part of the preparations for the Allied invasion of Europe, to drive the German armies out of France - although it’s debatable whether the device was actually intended to play a part in the Normandy landings on D-Day, or whether it was part of an elaborate scheme to mislead the Germans as to Allied intentions. Fake military activity occurred in many locations, to give the opposition a variety of false impressions.

The somewhat public testing of the device, on many successive days, could suggest the War Office wanted Hitler to hear all about it.

Today, the countdown, through a loudhailer, reached zero and a bang and a shower of sparks announced the panjandrum’s moment had arrived. Its method of locomotion is similar to the firework known as a Catherine wheel – 16 rockets attached to each wheel, dispersed around the rim, fire simultaneously and impart propulsive force to the device.

In terms of directional travel, the 2009 panjandrum out-performed its World War 2 predecessor, as today it didn’t veer off course or fall over. However, its speed was much lower than that or the originals. It progressed along the beach at around a walking pace, to cheers from the people lining the ridge. The originals were designed to go ten times as fast.

If the sight appeared strangely familar to some people, this may have been due to the “Dad’s Army” television episode called “Round and Round went the Great Big Wheel,” which featured just such a device. However, the one in this TV sitcom was radio-controlled, which neither the 1943 original nor the 2009 recreation were.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

Yesterday’s News Today
http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

What do I pop here up on Fridays along with the latest cryptozoology news from the CFZ daily cryptozoology news blog? Tea of the week? Not anymore, now its Fact Friday!
Fact: in 1450 the future king Louis XI of France Commissioned the Abbot of Baigne to create a pig organ. This consisted of a number of pigs of various ages that would emit a squeal of an exact pitch when pricked and could produce recognisable tunes.
And now, the news:

'Gay penguins' rear adopted chick
Tasmanian tiger sighting claimed
Did Burlington Man Get 'Champ' Footage Last Weekend?
Breeding like bustards
Local explorer returns to Papua New Guinea
OSPCA Suspends Toronto Humane Society's Ability To Probe Cruelty Cases After Complaints
Prince Charles calls for squirrel cull
Bear wanders into Aurora neighbourhood

What do you call a white bear with a hole in?
A polo bear.

A STRANGE ONE

I have just received the following e-mail and I really have no idea what to make of it. I also have no idea what to reply:

Dear Sir

I have been an amateur cryptozoologist for 30 years yet find myself insufficiently informed to answer the intriguing question posed by my youngest grandchild this morning who, despite her few years, will not accept a fairy-story-type explanation. Could you help me at all, please? If a mermaid were to fall ill, would one treat it as a fish or a human? As facile as it sounds, this is a serious question.

Thank you very much

Yours sincerely

Sostratus Winston

I can only refer Mr Wilson to a section of one of C.S.Lewis's books when he describes centaurs as having both human and horselike metabolisms. However, as I strongly believe that merfolk are all either hoaxes, zooform in nature, or - at best - unidentified sirenians, the answer is probably that they should be treated as any other marine mammal. However, this is a very peculiar question with which to start the day...

STARCHILD UPDATE JUST IN

Despite not believing in aliens, I have known Lloy Pye for ten years now, and am very fond of him. I also believe that the starchild skull is a very important specimen. I just don't believe it is an alien. Just in from Belinda who handles Lloyd Pye's publicity:

REMINDER: DON’T MISS!! Lloyd Pye who is currently touring Europe & UK and will be presenting the latest information on the Starchild Skull project and related matters at the following locations:
London on Saturday 20th June afternoon
Nottingham on Thursday 25th June evening
Leeds on Saturday 27th June (Exopolitics all day conference)

The London event on 20th June ‘An Afternoon with Lloyd Pye’ is from 1.30 to 5pm at the University of London Union in ‘The Venue’, Malet St., WC1 (tube: Goodge St).

To book by PayPal go to www.starchildproject.com events or send a cheque to B.McKenzie, 83 Priory Gardens, London N6 5QU. Tickets £10 advance booking till 15th June (slight extension for the favoured few!!), thereafter £15 (or £5 for University of London students).

See you there!

Belinda