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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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Monday, June 08, 2009

LARS THOMAS: The Scales have fallen... or something


Dr Lars Thomas who today joins the bloggo community is one of the CFZ's oldest friends and most longstanding members. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and has helped us in the past by having our expedition samples' DNA tested. He is a leading expert in the cryptozoology of Scandinavia and is currently working on a book on these cryptids for the CFZ that we are eagerly anticipating.

Denmark has never been a country to make herpetologists foam at the mouth. Our herpetofauna is distinctly meager – two snakes: the adder and the common grass snake, the slowworm, two lizards, and a tiny handful of frogs and toads. They are fairly unevenly distributed, as Denmark consists mainly of islands – American author Bill Bryson likened the look of Denmark to a plate dropped from a considerable height onto a hard floor – so some parts of Denmark completely lacks species that are extremely common elsewhere. Things have been rather quiet for a considerable number of years, but just during the last few months, everything appears to have gone beserk. Maybe not exactly cryptozoologial, but distinctly weird.


There is always the escapees of course. We get our fair share of those, but this year... The odd python or garter snake gone walk-about is nothing new, but a king cobra in the central square in Copenhagen? And what about the two boys who claimed to have seen a rattle snake on a field outside Roskilde some 30 km’s west of Copenhagen? And then we have the very weird ones – like the couple going home by car from a meeting in Herning in western Denmark. It was late at night in the middle of April, and when they were getting close to their house, they suddenly saw a naked and rather curvy girl standing in the middle of the road, carrying a very large green snake draped over her shoulders. The couple stopped the car, but when they got out to investigate, the girl and the snake had both disappeared.



And even the common species are behaving strangely. All the books on Danish wildlife will tell you that the grass snake are not to be found on the large islands off the southwest coast of Denmark, but nevertheless scores of people now claim to have seen it on the island of Rømø. In places where adders have not been seen in years, they are now suddenly starting to appear in droves, and we even have people claming sightings of 2 and 3 feet long slowworms! None of these have been longer than normal when investigated, but still.



And the lizards – oh wow. Some have cropped up in rather special places – one on the 7th. floor of a block of flats in the outskirts of Copenhagen, and some have been sporting unusual colours – blues, reds and orange, and in one case two tails.

The amphibians have been breeding like mad as well – in some cases tadpole counts have have been off the charts. In tiny ponds where you will normally only find a couple of hundred or maybe a couple of thousand tadpoles the numbers have been up way beyond 50.000 and sometimes even more.

Oh yes – all the other creatures are behaving rather strangely too. The fox for instance was exterminated on the extreme easterly Danish island of Bornholm many years ago, but just this years it has been seen on Bornholm at least 15 times. And the bugs and assorted smal beasties – oh, to be an entomologist! Something like 30 species never seen in Denmark before, has been found during the last year or so, and several rare or fairly rare species have started to crop up in the most unexpected places too.

The stagbeetle hasn’t been seen in Denmark for something like 40 years – lo and behold, suddenly it appeared in a garden just north of Copenhagen. The blue oilbeetle, something rather special in these parts, has suddenly decided to show its fat behind far more than usual. I found my first specimen a few days ago, never having seen one in Denmark before.



Central Copenhagen where I live, is not exactly a zoological haven, but nevertheless I have found 11 species of ladybird beetles in an area, where one would normally only find the common 7-spot variety. I know the climate is changing, but come on! I am sure Charles Fort is laughing himself silly in whatever heavenly libraries he hangs out these days.

THE CATS OF UPPER MINSTER: Part 9 - Moving on Up

The other week, as an amusing one-off Tim Matthews, wrote a silly short story spoofing some of the more ridiculous exploits of various self-styled big cat researchers over the years.
It was so popular that he wrote another one, and now - by public demand - it has become a serial. Every other day will see an episode of Timmo's new Fortean soap opera The Cats of Upper Minster. And having read the first few episodes I can confirm that it is bloody smashing and highly amusing. "I'll carry on until it stops being funny" says Tim, and you can't say fairer than that!


“One thing though,” said Frieda, thoughtfully. “Shouldn’t we try and get someone involved with those ABC idiots up in the village? I was watching an old X Files episode the other day and Fox Mulder was pretending to be on the baddy’s side when he actually wasn’t!”

“Well, we’re hardly The Lone Gunmen,” replied Robin, “and we aren’t half as geeky,” joked Tom. “But we’re a much better team and nobody beats the Fox clan,” added Florence.

“And I can think of the perfect person for the job,” declared Frieda, reaching for her mobile phone. “Ellie Macpherson....she likes wearing camouflage, is very nuts, is very devious, listens to music that sounds like Jack’s chainsaw and rarely takes her headphones off!”

“What’s more, she’s one of my best friends,” she continued, “and she owes me one!”

“Shame about her name though!,” Tom interrupted, being mean, “but she’s OK. Anyway, we have work to do but I vote for an X Files and Pringles night tomorrow evening!”

“If we get time,” said Robin. “But all hail the X Files. Mind you, this mystery of ours is just so much fun and we’re much cooler than Mulder and Scully.”

“Haha! Frieda’s mobile has been dropped more times than The General,” laughed Florence, on a totally different track as usual. “Look at it, it’s got dints in it!”

“At least I’m allowed a mobile, Florry,” Frieda replied. “It’s indestructible, like us,” said Robin.

“Yes well,” exclaimed Frieda, “We won’t be wearing camo gear because we have style and finesse. And I’ll tell you something else my darlings,” she continued, “The General is going to meet his Waterloo.”

“KaBOOOOM,” went Florence, making a series of exploding noises and waving her hands about in glee as she had happy thoughts of The General and Burger Van man disappearing into the ashcan of history.

At that moment Jack walked back in. He’d been making some phone calls to local farmers and friends who might know something – anything – about the mystery cat of Upper Minster.

“Fascinating news, children!” he declared. “I have made some discoveries...and I was right about some of the local people keeping quiet about this. Their reasons are, indeed, many and varied but a lot of it’s about not wanting ill-bred amateurs and ego trippers like this General coming down here and putting us on the map for all the wrong reasons. It seems as if much thought has been directed towards the potential identity of a large beast that has been attacking sheep and deer, the latter on the Minster Estate. The Fotheringays have instructed their gamekeeper to put up better fencing recently because of the attacks. They really value their deer and this is costing them a lot of money so they’ve been investigating. Paul Marsh, the gamekeeper, tells me, in confidence, that the dead deer display unusual characteristics; not those you’d expect from fox, dog, or even badger activity. The latest kills have been too clean and without going into details that might upset you youngsters, he’s thinking it’s some sort of larger predator. He has heard rumours about a large cat and a few of his workers have seen fleeting glimpses at times when they least expected it. But the activity is so random that he hasn’t given it enough thought....until now.”

“So all this IS real,” cried Florence. “I wasn’t imagining it!!!”

“You weren’t Florence,” answered Jack. “You and Tom probably did see a big cat. What it’s doing here is another story but the fact is that enough people have seen it for me to be pretty certain. There is enough livestock to keep a cat of that size well fed and happy but it would seem to covering a huge area if the reports I’ve heard about are correct.

“But I don’t want people hunting it doooown,” said Florence. “It is a such a rare beastie and all people want to do is shoot it!”

“Perhaps not shoot it, but FILM it,” said Jack. “As you know, I studied zoology many years ago at Bristol University and spent a year traipsing around South America looking for supposed giant snakes, supermega crocodiles and other weird creatures. And then, lo and behold, this thing turns up on my doorstep!”

“Indeed,” said mummy, entering the room with cocoa and biscuits for the children and something stronger for herself and Jack.

“Oh mummmyyy you’re far beyond ace,” exclaimed Florence. “We have been having a War Council......and I hereby declare this The War Room Of Joyfulness!”

“That is good, Florence, but from what I hear these cats are pretty vicious and any thoughts anyone here has of getting near one are totally forbidden. Any close up work will be done with Uncle Jack and few of his friends. And, I hear, he has a secret weapon!”

“Yes indeed, my love, I do. It’s called common sense,” he joked. “Actually,” he added, “it’s a rifle that fires a large dose of knock out drops to our favourite feline. Very much fun.”

“This is not a schoolboy game, Jack.” Mummy was chastising him. “Nor is it some bizarre Indian adventure written in the style of a 19th racey novel! This is serious. You could get hurt, the children could get hurt, the village could get a bad reputation and I am also thinking about this cat....”

BUGFEST IS BACK

Bugfest are certainly becoming better known this year and were asked to attend the Abbey Hill Steam Rally in Yeovil, which attracts thousands of transport enthusiasts and spans an entire bank holiday weekend. Although the event is marketed as a steam rally, it also exhibits vehicle memorabilia and stages vehicle displays every other hour. The organisers wanted to refresh this 25 year old event and so Bugfest ( Nick and Kara Wadham), with the help of Curtis Lakin, Cameron Die Konigin and Richard Bradbury took over a tent on Monday, with Steve Paine from Tarantula barn wowing visitors on the Saturday and Sunday.

Cameron has to be thanked for bringing along his equipment and making a rainforest like scene, complete with evocative cricket chirping and netting. Although the day was quite drizzly, we had a steady stream of visitors some of who asked if Steve' snakes were still there from the previous days. Our answer of no brought either relief or disappointment but we were astonished by the enthusiasm with which we were met from the public and the organisers. Nick and Cameron were invited into the main ring (not to be eaten by lions) but to be interviewed over the tannoy. An astute member of the public caught this on film and it may be found under Abbey Hill Steam Rally on Youtube. Fame at last!

Bugfest are back with another show on August 4th in Yeovil at Bucklers Mead Sports Centre Yeovil BA21 4NH. Booking forms are available from Kara@bugfest.co.uk Keep checking the bugfest site for updates and details. www.bugfest.co.uk

BUGFEST 4
SAT 8TH AUGUST
BUCKLERS MEAD SPORTS CENTRE
www.bugfest.co.uk

GLEN VAUDREY: The Sea Serpent of Harris

Glen is one of the newer additions to the bloggo family. He wrote to me out of the blue last year to ask wherther we wanted a Western Isles volume in our Mystery Animals of Britain series. We argeed that we did indeed want one, and commissioned him. What we were not expecting was such a bloody good writer and all round nice guy, who - by the way - is writing several other volumes for us, and he is even going to be speaking at the Weird Weekend. Wayhay!!

Having read Richard Muirhead’s latest blog and the tale of the ‘sea serpent’ washed up in Harris near Luskentyre beach.

Having spent many months researching the mystery animals of the Western Isles for a book I have to admit I haven’t heard of such a creature washing up there at that or around that date.

There a couple of points in the tale worth a closer look at, it is not unusual for whales or at least there putrefying remains to wash up on the beaches of the Outer Hebrides, so common an occurrence it is that the council are quite speedy in removing the offending carcass to the Marybank tip just outside Stornoway for burial, much to the seagulls and ravens delight, its therefore unlikely that any local would have need to drag a carcass up the beach for burial.

So while nothing may have washed up in Harris in 1996 it was however the year that a photo taken back in 1990 of a Globster found on a beach in Benbecula made it into the newspapers.

Well never mind there might not have been a ‘sea serpent’ washed ashore in Harris in 1996 but the golden sands of Luskentyre beach are still rumored to play host to a faery dog but that is a different tale

THE ORIGINAL STORY ABOUT THE PERUVIAN GIANT SNAKE AS IT FIRST APPEARED


MORE ON THE SAGA OF THE PERUVIAN GIANT ANACONDA

The saga of the supposed giant snake from Peru continues. I am now in a dialogue with Greg Warner, the younger of the two explorers who claim to have taken photographs of a 130ft snake in South America. And - much to my surprise - he does seem to be a decent and polite bloke. But his story is so extraordinary that we would not be doing our job properly if we did not approach our investigations of the affair with as much rigour as possible.

Despite recent political changes in this country people are still just about inocent until proven guilty. However, when one is approaching a case like this one, one has to take the opposite tack.

But one thing is paramount: whereas we have to treat all claims, especially ones as extraordinary as this, with a great deal of suspicion, we also have to treat the people making them with respect.

Last year I was quoted in a press story about artist Pollyanna Pickering's trip to Bhutan where she saw what appeared to be a yeti scalp, and I was
pilloried (often illiterately) on websites across the cryptoverse. I know what it is like to have your claims under suspicion, and to be treated with ill-bred rudeness both from the canaille and from those who really should know better. Greg and his father Mike have treated us in a polite and gentlemanly manner, and we have every intention of treating them the same.

The first mystery that had to be cleared up was the matter of the photograph that accompanied the original press story, reproduced in facsimile here just in case anyone thought that we had made it up.

If you read the article, it doesn't claim that this photograph was actually taken by the expedition. Indeed it wasn't. It appears to have been taken by a dude called André Issi and was used to illustrate a journal that can be found here. Tony Lucas in New Zealand and Dr Dan Holdsworth both provided translations which can be found here

Dan went on to write:

This page too is written in Portuguese, and once again Google translate only seems to want to translate part of it, however searching through for the word "anaconda" and translating those sections of text still doesn't seem to yield much info on the photos.

Chris Kraska wrote:

Jon-

That's looks like a dead yellow anaconda on its side. It could also be a dead green anaconda on its back but the photo is so tiny I can't tell if I'm seeing ventral scales or dorsal/lateral scales.

Bobbins.

Chris


However, Greg Warner has written to me that "The photo used is a research photo not one from the expedition although we believe it has all the charictoristics [sic] of a Yacumama or Black Boa 15-20 Meters long." That is fair enough, although I think it shows a dead yellow anaconda about 12ft long. But it is a relatively convincing explanation for how this picture became associated with the case, so I think that it is time that we took Senor Issi and his picture out of the equation, for the time being at least.

If one reads the original newspaper article from the Belfast Telegraph carefully, a lot of the more outlandish claims for the creature (which sounds far more like the minhoaco than a giant snake, but that's another issue) are from stories originally from the South American newspapers reproduced on this page.

Greg kindly provided a translation of these newspaper articles. His translations can be found here Being a suspicious bugger, (although I prefer to call it an adherance to some level of scientific rigour) I also got Chris Kraska to translate them:

(PS although I can make myself understood in New World Spanish, after my expeditions to Mexico and Puerto Rico, my grasp of the language is rudimentary at best, and mostly only good for buying beer and cigarettes, and finding the nearest bar or airport - and as I have since quit smoking, a large chunk of my bilingualism is rendered completely pointless)

It destroyed their home and devoured domestic animals. (smaller above)

Sachamama frightens elderly couple (larger below)

Next. From the text (Btw, this is basically one big run on sentence):

A nearly inexplicable act was what happened to an elderly couple residents of Committee 11 of the Michaela Bastidas settlement who from one moment to the next were swung from one extreme to the other by something large that came out from the depths of the river, from the depths it came out like a hurricane that destroyed my poor house that is more than 50 meters from where it was located, I was dying of fright because I saw it, saw it's gigantic jet black head that was about to kill me, expressed Mrs. Dolores Suna, who was sure that what had left her exposed to the elements with one canoe worth of supplies, is the mother of that island that is in front of ours, there you find her, in the aguaje tree there, finished Dolores, who along with her husband Artemio, was comforted by her neighbors, who didn't doubt in their prayer, now they wait to have the same luck with Civil Defense, we hope.

#3

Smaller above:

Knocked down a house and panicked two residents

Larger below:

Giant Boa in Moronacocha

Smaller below:

People say monster has huge eyes, scales and horns

Iquitos (Peru)-

With fear they are found the neighbors of the settlements of El Porvenir and Micaela Bastidas, located in the sector of Moronachocha, by the presence of a gigantic boa. Antonio Mayta Aricaya (64), fisherman of Moronacocha lake, attests that months prior, in the zone there were plenty of fish and that now there are none owing to the enormous reptile.

"The island is always alive at night and sounds are heard in the river, it's all a mystery. It appears the giant animal uses the vegetation as camoflage to slide through without being seen", decared Mayta Aricaya.

Admin Perez Gutierrez related that all the time the island was a peaceful place, and now it's the opposite. "Until it knocked down a house that was in the middle of the lake. It's the first time this has happened and the river has grown too much."

In the meantime, the people of the two settlements, don't go close to the edges of the river, for fear that the animal will appear, that has been catalogued as a monster with huge eyes, horns and scales.

In RED at center.

"That zone is known for having animals; previously there was a lizard that ate hens, but this incident was different because I saw that there was a huge one with eyes that sparkled like a lantern" says Carlos Caballero Dahua (47), subsecretary of the Micaela Bastidas settlement. According to the neighbors, the boa travels in a zone of vegetation and moves from one end to the other during the night, when there are no humans present.

In my opinion the two sets of translations are substantially the same, and that unless Greg and Mike have far too much time on their hands, and have gone to the trouble of faking two sets of South American newspapers, which is not impossible, but would seem ridiculously unlikely, that the stories that they claimed came from the newspaper were exactly that!

Whether or not a snake did attack someone's house and cause the damage described (which sounds incredibly unlikely), Greg and Mike are making no such claims from their own experience. It is tempting to suggest that someone at the Peruvian newspaper has resurrected stories of the minhoaco and used them to explain damage done to a crappily built building by a flash flood or something similar. Who knows?

The events overnight (and forgive me if they are a little confused, but I was up late watching the election results and I am less than 100% compos mentis this morning) seem to have clarified the matter considerably. And at the moment I have to say that Greg and his father Mike are coming out of this looking much better than I had at first expected.

Watch this space, for there will undoubtedly be more updates later..

COLIN HIGGINS: Redmire Carp and Goblin

One of my favourite guest blogs is that of Colin Higgins from Yorkshire, who - incidentally - was the winner of the compy in January's `On the Track`, where he won my everlasting admiration by recognising Surabaya Johnny by the ever lovely Marianne Faithfull. He also went on the lash with Shane McGowan back in his student days, and is obviously a very fine fellow...

To traditionalists, Carp are synonymous with country house lakes where beneath a canopy of weed and lilies they can grow to enormous size, unseen and largely un-fished for. The reality today is more likely to be stocked commercial pools with numbered pitches containing named fish which emerge a few times a season to give their captors momentary notoriety as ‘The Fat Lady’, ‘Two Tone’ or ‘Benson’ put on a few ounces under an onslaught of high protein ground baits.

The most famous of the former idylls is undoubtedly ‘Redmire Pool,’ a secluded three acre lake near Ross on Wye that came to national attention under this pseudonym when Richard Walker smashed the British record in 1952 with a fish of 44 lbs. Chris Yates went on to break the record again in 1980, his 51 and a half pounder coming from the same lake.

In spite of the prodigious nature of these Redmire fish, Walker, Yates and one or two others were given a glimpse of a fish that dwarfed their own captures, a carp of unspeakable proportions known as The King or simply The Monster. If the monster existed as anything other than a hallucination from too many hours on the bankside it was never landed, though estimates place its weight anywhere from 70 to 100 lbs.

Redmire is also famous for its ghosts. Rumour has it Chris Yates attempted to hold an exorcism after events he has alluded to in print and various anglers have written about strange incidents at the lake, their names being shouted, the sound of a phantom cyclist on the bankside, locomotives heard where there are no lines, sudden inexplicable winds, frost covering the contents of their bivvies in midsummer, locked car doors slamming and most frighteningly, a horrible goblin like creature that reduced two grown men to abject fear before being found cowering in the corner of their tent by fellow anglers. Other carp fishermen have admitted, guardedly in a sometimes macho world, to seeing the same staring-eyed thing.

Whatever the nature of this entity Redmire’s secrets have yielded to commercial pressure and the lake has become a sort of heritage site where, for a price, small groups of anglers can fish the same pitches their heroes once trod. Future records are unlikely though, Leney’s original stocking of fifty Galician carp having died out and their offspring showing none of the same tendency for enormous size. Whether the spooks have also departed now this quiet fold in the Herefordshire hills has gone public remains to be seen.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

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

You are now aware you are reading the daily cryptozoology news update from the CFZ’s cryptozoology news blog. Or at least you would be if anyone were to read this preamble before skipping to the links, like everyone does.

Video Tour: The Library of Dead Animals
Deer Disoriented by Power Lines
Zoo officials mourn big cat
Feral dogs may be culled to protect wildlife in Sikkim forests
Deer leaves Anoka office a bloody mess
Dolphins and porpoises stranded
The question is are they beaching themselves by accident or is it on ‘porpoise’.