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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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

RICHARD HOLLAND: Herring Hoggs and Sea Devils

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 to these pages and I am sure that you will all agree with me that this is jolly good news for all of us...

Richard Muirhead’s recent reference to a nautical beastie by the name of the Herring Hogg sent me delving among the landfill of dusty paper I laughingly call an archive, in search of the transcript I made of a report on just such a creature that became stranded on a Wirral beach in the 17th century. I know I’ve got it somewhere… but could I find it? No.

All I can offer in compromise is this brief reference by Christina Hole in her Traditions and Customs of Cheshire, published in 1937. I’m fairly sure Ms Hole was using the same ref. as me; a transcript of a broadside ballad reprinted in a 19th century edition of regional antiquarian journal, The Cheshire Sheaf. This is what she writes (on page 178):

‘A very curious creature, called a Herring Hogg, was said to have been stranded on the shores of Wirral in the spring of 1636. Sir John Bridgeman, Chief Justice of Chester, discovered it, when he was riding on the Lent Circuit. It was fifteen yards high, and twenty yards and one foot in length. Its voice was evidently powerful, for its cry could be heard six or seven miles away, and was “so hideous that none dared come near it for some time”. We are not told what happened to it when the local people finally summoned up courage to approach.’

I think we can guess, Christina. I imagine Herring Hogg is a generic name for any big sea mammal but the factor that sets this one apart is its loud (and probably heartbreakingly mournful) cry. Any ideas what it might have been? One suspects the Chief Justice of Chester would be unlikely to exaggerate its dimensions, which adds to the mystery.
Another critter who suffers frequent exaggeration is the Sea Devil or Devil Fish – i.e. a giant squid/ colossal octopod. Yesterday I bought a book (for £2!), which I recall reading as a youngster when it used to be on the shelves of my local library: ’Orrible Murder. This fun volume features gloriously gruesome snippets from The Illustrated Police News of the 1860s and 70s, collected by Leonard de Vries and published in 1974. Although mainly dealing with crime, there are a couple of ghost stories and an account of a Japanese Sea Devil, which I include, not for its value as a report but because of the wonderful accompanying illustration.
I’ve seen many bizarre giant squid/ octopus illos in my time but this must be the bizarrest of the lot. Don’t you just love those Cookie Monster goggly eyes? Anyway, the IPN report dates from June 21, 1873. It is quoting the ‘Japan Gazette’ of April 23. Here, just in case you’re keen, is the story:

‘We have received from the mate of an English trading vessel a rough sketch of a “monster of the deep”, known by the title of a “Sea Devil” attacking a fishing smack. We are informed by our correspondent that he can vouch for the truth of the strange encounter, which is briefly described in the paper he forwarded with his sketch, and from which our engraving is taken. It seems that a fishing boat was seized by its tentacles whilst off the village of Kononoto, in the district of Kisaradzou, and that the boatmen killed the creature by repeated blows. Its length from the tail to the insertion of the tentacles is about sixteen feet, one of the arms is from the junction of the body to the sucker at its point nearly five feet. It must be borne in mind that the polypus has shrunk since its death, so that living it would probably measure considerably more.’

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


This morning we posted a story about various CFZ animals that have passed on to the great menagerie in the sky. This morning Oll found that something had broken in to the rabbit hutch and that Maureen, Corinna's rabbit, was missing; missing, presumably, by dint of fox.

Several hours later Oll found her cowering in another run at the top of the garden. She had obviously run from the fox and taken refuge in an empty cage. She is now home, safe and sound, and back in her hutch....

HUGH HOPPER 1945-2009

From Planet Gong Site:

Hugh Hopper passed away the afternoon of Sunday 7th June. Our thoughts and love go out to his wife Christine, their young daughter Rosa, and to all Hugh's close family and friends. He was a lovely, unassuming, gently humorous man who was always a joy to be with - and of course he
was a unique, stunning, innovative and creative musician.

As we reached Fasano for Friday's Gong concert Daevid told me he had received a message that Hugh reached his final hours and very early Monday morning, as we queued for US work visas, we heard the news that he had gone. Daevid just quietly said that besides Robert, Hugh had
been the person he had played music with the longest. He will be so missed.


Hi Jon,

Hope things are good your end. It's pouring here after a very dry spell but the forecast for next week is excellent so, at the risk of sounding like someone even more elderly than I am, the gardens need the rain!

Also noted in a blog last week a profusion of tadpoles this year. I can confirm a similar picture hereabouts. I was about to give Matilda Whiskers Gertrude Treacle the garden excavator (Lord, my wife's juvenile anthropomorphism is catching) aka the dog a dunking in the mill pond after her hideous habit of devouring or rolling in other dogs' crap, when I paused as the water looked a bit odd.

The shallows were solid with well developed tadpoles, more than I can remember in 45 years staring into water. This week I've noticed a lot of activity on the surface from young frogs. Also interesting was a predator chasing fry and frogs. As the pond contains no pike I can only assume it was a large perch or perhaps (less likely) another species turned frog and fish-eater; bream for example are known for predatory ways beyond a certain size. The obvious thing to do would be cast a small frog shaped lure (which bizarrely I have!) to discover who the culprit is but a lack of time precludes such experimentation.

Back to the point: Charles Paxton raises an issue I've often pondered, namely how much referencing to include in blog posts. Although I do include links sometimes I feel complete citation would kill the flavour of the posts. I can assure you my two penn'orth are thoroughly researched, even to the point of scouring the loft books for sometimes incidental details that are probably only of interest to me!
If a reader does want to take issue with a point or just wondered where the original conclusion/observation came from they can do it through the comments column or have my email to pursue the issue further. The worry is references might be as long as the article itself which would be a shame. All IMHO as ever,




Sad to report that Olivia's hamster, Hero and Cuthbert, the unknown emydid turtle have both died. The incidents are unrelated; one took place in Portsmouth and one at the CFZ. Cuthbert has been consigned to the formaldehyde bottle so we can - hopefully - take genetic material at some point.

In another sad incident Maureen, Corinna's rabbit, has been taken from her hutch, presumably by a fox. This is not a good day.

Better news concerns the arrival of six live eels, which came in the post this morning. Weird old world, innit?


Lat night our old friend Charles Paxton wrote the following message on the Frontiers of Zoology Usenet e-mail group:

"Hi Dale et al.,

I have found Dale's list of cryptids on the cfz cite interesting but again I would STRONGLY urge everyone to publish the list in such a way that it can be cited in a journal book or something else. Most blogs are ephemeral and difficult - if not impossible - to cite, thus rendering articles frankly unusable to the serious researcher. This is a shame so please, please, please formally publish material... an obvious location for more speculative articles would be the the CFZ's own journal "Animals and Men" or in their yearbook. This would also offer authors the opportunity to improve the articles by giving them proper bibliographical treatment. Please don't publish stuff on blogs unless it is somewhat informal fun stuff; perhaps transient news, opinion, or you intend to ultimately publish it in book form (and that is a realistic option rather than a pipe dream).

Publish articles in such a way that they can be properly cited. Original thoughts and analysis in the scientific field should not be placed on blogs but in journals and books. I say this as someone who is publishing papers on cz topics in the scientific literature and needs to cite source material correctly. Help me to help you get proper credit for your work."

Charles, I agree with you totally. We intend to continue publishing both Animals & Men, The Amateur Naturalist and The CFZ Yearbook, and we will hopefully be publishing Dale's Checklist in full in one of these; however, the most telling of Charles's statements here is "Please don't publish stuff on blogs unless it is somewhat informal fun stuff; perhaps transient news, opinion, or you intend to ultimately publish it in book form (and that is a realistic option rather than a pipe dream). " I will continue to publish stuff of substance on the blog because, in our opinion, the internet is crass and ephemeral enough already. The whole point of the CFZ is to mix serious research with fun and the bloggo will continue to reflect that.

However, we shall always publish serious research papers in one of our conventional, hard-copy journals, so we will continue to do what the CFZ do best - having our cake and eating it.

Did I hear someone say cake?

MICHAEL MALONE: Sweet Home Alabama

The bloggo is beginning to do the job that I originally intended: it is spreading the word of the CFZ's singular take on cryptozoology, animal welfare, natural history and the other stuff we do, and making contact with like minded folks across the globe. As a result, the CFZ family is expanding rapidly. Yesterday I received an e-mail from a bloke called Michael Malone: were we interested in a series of reports about the cryptozoology of Alabama and his hunt for out-of-place alligators? Well, of course we are and I told him so. Last night I came back from the pub after a convivial evening with our Texas contingent and I found this waiting for me.

I know that Michael is preparing a series of reports for us, but this initial one was too good to ignore....

I've been exploring the Flint River in Madison County, Alabama for years. It's home to several endangered species but nothing remarkable (Alabama Snail Darter; a tiny fish, for one). In the past, Big Foot sightings along the river were common but with population growth along the river, I doubt anything like a Big Foot could still be in the area.

The Alligators are all in Wheeler Lake, created by damming the Tennessee River as it passes through North Alabama. I've just started exploring the swamps in the area.

Supposedly the Alligators all come from a misguided effort to protect the species in the 70's. About 50 young 'gators were released into Wheeler Lake in an effort to control beaver populations. They were released by a well-meaning politician who didn't go through the correct channels. At least that's the story; I can not find out who released them or why. If true, and it is generally accepted as such, then the expectation was they would survive a year or two, reduce the beaver population and be captured and returned to the south or die in a harsh winter.

That didn't happen. They attempted to capture them in the 80s but didn't get them all. Best guess by the people who run the wildlife refuge is that 50+ of them may still live on the lake with another 20+ moved off the lake to other areas. None are expected to be more than four feet long.

The problem with that is there is a known Alligator, known as stumpy (see photograph), living off the refuge on a nearby army base. It's take to calling a large water impound its home and the water is artificially warmed by outflow from the base. Stumpy is nearly 10 feet long and is so named because he's missing a good portion of his tail. He crawls out onto a test range every so often and the army photographers snap his pictures. It's assumed that this large 'gator is a released pet that found a niche in which to live and is protected by the security on the base.

What haven't been found are nests or successful breeding populations. The rumors persist; far too many to just be released pets. We've had some mighty cold winters since the initial releases. What I hope to do is find and mark via GPS a few locations where the 'gators live this summer, try and find nesting areas now that the babies should have hatched and the mommies aren't going to be aggressively protecting them, then return in the fall to known sites and see how they are preparing for winter. Lots of theories but no proof.

Along the way, I'm going to keep my eyes open for other strangeness. The Flint River Big Foot supposedly migrated to Wheeler Lake and have been 'seen' swimming the Tennessee River in the recent past. I have my doubts about that; the river is quite wide and quickly flowing in the area. But hey, I'm going into places Fishermen don't go, so who knows?

Besides, on my first trip into the backwaters I'm fairly sure I saw a small (>1foot) 'gator jump off a log into the water (okay, fall off the log; 'gators aren't great jumpers) but not before I could get close enough to photograph or even confirm what I think I saw. And more importantly and fun, I got attacked by an angry mallard mama that didn't like me interrupting her evening swim with her ducklings. I didn't know ducks could swim underwater! Cool experience to learn!

Pictures are forthcoming and I'll write up my first trip soon. Thanks for your interest!


"This is an artist's impression of the Minhocao which matches the descriptions found in our research. I would like you to examine this picture and then compare it with our expedition shot (Image 317) of the creature in the channel. Consider a head and body partially submerged.

It is our theory that the Minhocao (which was considered to be a giant earthworm) is the same creature as the Sachamama. We believe that this animal exists at the Napo/Amazon confluence and is capable of burrowing under the ground.

Tomorrow we will release satellite and video evidence that shows two (almost identical) shapes in two different locations at the Napo/Amazon confluence, which we believe are caused by this creature. Mike & Greg Warner, 16th June 2009."

Mike and Greg also asked us to back-link to this comment from Dale Drinnon which was made on June 9th..

DALE DRINNON WRITES:This Sachamama stuff is more than a decade old in Peru and Karl Shuker had an article in FATE about it while that magazine was still in its old, large-size format. Shuker wrote about the Sachamama in 1999-2000 (The FATE article being "Close Encounters of the Cryptozoological Kind" in 2000, following a few in the Fortean Times) and he was connecting it to the Minhocao then but what was being described was a giant snake similar to the current reports. The stories began hitting the news suddenly in the 1990s and were an odd mixture of Sucuriju Gigante and Minhocao features but identified as another different and local cryptid, the "Snail Demon" or "Snake-with- a-shell," Sachamama. It is evidently depicted on Chimu artwork. Karl Shuker did identify it with the Minhocao and he did think it was a gigantic caecilian. It has an entry in Eberhart's Mysterious Creatures.



Monday's data release
Tuesday's data release

And here are links to some of the earlier bloggo stories on the subject

1. The original story printed by us
2. The plot thickens
3. South American newspapers which claim a titanic snake trashed a woman's house
4. Greg Warner asks Dr Chris Clark a question
5. Dale Drinnon comments
6. We finally release the pictures
7. We try to smooth over the rift with Andre Issi
8. Glen Vaudrey writes
9. Andre Issi and the anaconda

Editor's Note: I still don't get this and am unable to see any trace of a giant snake in these pictures. However, in the interests of free speech and openness, I shall continue to release the remainder of the Warners' data each day. I shall also continue to publish all comments; good and bad; that are non-abusive. However, I would like to stress that whilst the CFZ and I, personally, have every respect for Mike and Greg, and are pleased that we have managed to provide a forum for them to release their material, we do not endorse it and at present, have not seen enough evidence for us to support their theories.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

Yesterday’s News Today

It’s your favourite bloglet of the day; at least I hope so at any rate; doesn’t matter if its not anyway as nobody reads my preamble as it is mostly a bit of waffle before the real business of the latest cryptozoology-related news as posted on The CFZ daily cryptozoology news blog; regardez the link under the title as the French would say (well they would say it if they didn’t know their own language very well but spoke fluent English except for the words ‘look at’ and even then probably spelt ‘regardez’ wrong and placed it in a grammatically incorrect place in the sentence). Anyway, time for the news:

Wildwood celebrates Ten Years
Turtle will stand in for mythic creature
The cephalopods can hear you

Maybe they should get i-cephalopods. (Creative Zen’s are better of course and cheaper but cephalopods don’t know this as they have been ‘sucker’ed in by Apple’s marketing).