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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Saturday, July 04, 2009

RONAN COGHLAN: Werecats and Weredogs

Well, now that I've started this blogging business, I will be hard to stop. I've forgotten my Google password, so I can't add comments to others' blogs, but congratulations to Shosh. Now that she's a vet, I have these sundry symptoms which are beyond the power of human medicine to diagnose, but maybe they are animal symptoms and she can advise me what to do. I shall be sending her a set of bottled samples to analyse soon.

I am devoting Thought at present to the Big Cat Problem. I feel there is an element present that most cryptozoologists have missed. Has the possibility that they are were-cats struck anyone? If so, they can be hunted down easily. For your own protection, procure a gun with silver bullets. Obtain a large can of Jellymeat Whiskas. Enlist the services of a were-dog. These may be obtained at www.fido.com. A large puma or black panther-sized sack completes the equipment. If the big cats are were-cats, all should be well. Just in case they're not, but are mysterious creatures impervious to dog and bullet, they may respond to your efforts with a certain ferocity. To be on the safe side, take out Funeral Insurance.

I am tired of Political Correctness. I have a diatribe against that to spew forth shortly, but not tonight. It is past my bedtime - eight o'clock. I adhere to a strict regimen, which involves sleeping for the greater portion of the time. If you're in bed, They can't get you. Not that I'm paranoid; but, if I keep my eyes tight shut, They can't tell I'm awake when They look through the window. I dare not draw the curtains - They would then know that I know they're there.

Go n-eiridh an mbothar libh,



It isn't very often that one sees all three CFZ male residents wearing suits and ties. So when we did, it was immortalised pictorially.

The best caption for this remarkable photograph gets a prize that I haven't thought up yet....


Here is the cover of Glen's remarkable new book. All things being equal, my bits will be finished within a couple of days; then it will be over to Glen and his expert band of indexers, and within a fortnight, the third volume in the series of Mystery Animals of the British Isles will be published....


As promised - the pics from yesterday proving that the CFZ now has a lifetime of free veterinary advice....


As you know, Oll has been working on the archiving project since early February, and he has just started the Mystery Cat section. This sixth trenche is mostly from the late 1990s, but with a few from much earlier, and mainly covers the south of England


AUBREY: Moas are they still with us today?

Well, according to 64-year-old cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy he believes they are.

He has found what he believes to be the footprints of the smaller Scrub Moa (Anomalopteryx didiformis) in the remote Urewera Range. He made casts of the prints and matched them to a male Scrub Moa at the Auckland Museum. Moa belonged to a group of birds called Ratites, which includes Emu's, Ostriches and the Kiwi.

Reports still trickle in to this day about these large flightless birds
from across New Zealand. In 1993 Paddy Freaney, a former member of the British Army's elite Special Air Service (SAS), witnessed a large Moa in the Craigieburn Valley in Canterbury. His photo attracted international attention. Following the Moa, he snapped its picture from a distance of 40 metres. Was it a Moa? I for one believe that smaller Moa will be found some day hiding deep within the New Zealand interior. Always fascinated with the Moa, I have studied them for years. In 2006 I carved a Moa skeleton, one bone at a time. It stands 2 feet tall. And here you can see the football size of an actual Moa egg.


So after years of imagining what it would be like to touch the murky waters of the great, long-necked Nessie, I finally made it to Loch Ness. This came close to the end of my UK tour in which I had already enjoyed the things I was most excited about and considered the rest of the trip more an indulgence of my husband Richie’s search for his Scottish roots. However, as we made our way across the dock into the boat, I reminded myself this had been a life-long dream. Perhaps I would have been more excited had I expected to see something, be it a mystical monster or an overgrown eel. But not only had I resigned myself to seeing nothing because sightings are so rare, I was now questioning whether or not there really is something to see.

Be that as it may, I stood on the deck and concentrated on the waters – not muddy and brown, like I had imagined after hearing of their murkiness for years, but a dark, lovely teal – soaking in every sight, smell, and sound to imprint them on my mind. As the boat began moving across the water, I suddenly thought how much like Galilee the lake looked, with similar surrounding hills. This realisation further dampened my attempt at a mystical state of mind. It made Loch Ness just another lake, even less so when I considered that the presence of Christ on Galilee was a historical certainty – and Nessie just a possibility.

The boat took us only a very short distance before we started hearing something about castle ruins that we would be visiting. Oh - I looked to the right - there was a castle here? Of course. Surely I’d seen the pictures before. They had to present some other attraction, some…actual reason for being here. They made a big deal out of this castle called Urquhart, something about Jacobites and Robert the Bruce we had been hearing about all through Scotland. I began to feel extremely ignorant. Was I about to visit a historically significant sight of which I knew nothing? Had I really come all this way only to look for Nessie? Worse yet, did the tour guides know that many of us had come for just that? How they probably had a laugh every day, after presenting 'mysterious' sonar readings on pictures they had taken with their cell phones – just as our guide had. I was glad I hadn’t been impressed. Again, the feeling that the Loch Ness phenomenon is based more on hype than anything substantial began nagging at me.

It suddenly seemed very important that I become acquainted with the Jacobites and Robert the Bruce (even though I’d looked him up twice this week and still wasn’t entirely sure). I couldn’t have come all this way for nothing. But until we docked, I studied the waters closely, determined not to miss anything if, after thirty-five years of a few mostly explainable events, I was suddenly rewarded with something extraordinary. The waters were constantly waving, creating small, foamy white caps on the surface. Once in a while a long, uniform wave would create a dark line, but nothing I could possibly have mistaken for a creature. No head, no neck, no silhouette, nothing. Urquhart Castle, which now seemed a large, gloomy symbol of my present academic deficiency, was drawing ominously near. Through the loud speaker, a voice had been presenting all kinds of information on the castle’s history, but I couldn’t hear well over the engine and the wind, and I don’t listen very well when there is no speaker in sight (OK - except to George Noory).

At last we docked and made our way up the many steps to the castle, parting with my mom who opted out of the castle tour to have coffee at the visitor’s centre. The first part of the castle I chose to enter contained a prison. I ascended the stairs to a niche and peered through the bars of a cell where I was startled by a dummy prisoner. This reminded me of a Ghost Hunters episode in which Grant was stunned by the appearance of a ghostly face when he peered into a similar area. I reflected fondly on this very exciting episode a moment then retreated to the visitor’s centre. I had finally resigned myself to the fact that the next half hour would not be adequate time for an education that would foster appreciation of this castle. I bought some souvenirs for friends before rejoining our tour group.

We were bussed to Loch Ness museum, where we were herded from room to room to watch a video on the history of Nessie. The video began with the story of St. Columbia who ordered the beast to stop killing people and the beast complied. None of the proceeding stories offered the same delicious mixture of religious and crypto content to hold as much of my interest. Moreover, too many pictures or sightings had proved to be hoaxes: seagulls, logs, deer, seals, or ducks. I found the theory of the sturgeon interesting, but very little was said on that.

In one room, we could not tell from which wall the video would be shown. When a picture finally appeared on one end of the room, we hustled to the other end. Then suddenly the video began behind us, and we hurried to the opposite end again. I think we all felt a little like herded cattle, and were exhausted.

I enjoyed the last couple of video presentations because we were able to sit down, and my back hurt. When the final video was finished, we waited in momentary, awkward silence and then exited. By now we had only five minutes to inspect the gift shop before we needed to be on the bus. (“4:25!” our guide emphasised repeatedly.) But I couldn’t find the checkout counter. It seemed there were many pseudo-checkout counters – elevated floors with a counter that, once approached, would have no clerk and no register. After wandering stupidly around for several minutes, I finally asked somebody and was directed to a rather hidden stairway leading to a floor I would have never noticed. I felt like I had advanced to the new level of a video game.

Almost to the counter, I suddenly realised I had been shopping for everybody but me, and I still had no souvenir for myself. Spotting some pewter key chains, I snatched one that bore Nessie on one side and Urquhart castle on the other – a fitting memento for my experience. I was a little resentful that I didn’t have more time to carefully consider my purchase, but it was almost “4:25!”.

Our guide was late. We stood, confused, in the heat on the parking lot for several minutes until the bus finally pulled up, full of new tourists. Our guide hadn’t told us he would be picking up a new group, and this revelation made curious his permission for us to leave on the bus any items we hadn’t wished to carry. Slightly stressed, I made my way to my old seat to find two new occupants in it. Fortunately, the small shopping bag I had stuffed into the pocket of the preceding seat was still there.

“This is mine,” I said, as I snatched the bag up. My words were meant to be merely an explanation, but the occupant’s wide, apologetic eyes told me I had likely sounded three years old. I made my way with Richie and Mom to the very back of the bus, during which time a lady from the new group snapped at Richie to hurry up because she was hot. I was sorry I hadn’t heard the exchange, because I would have gladly helped her into the lake to cool off.

Once crammed in the back seats, peering at the heads of the new group I now resented, we were on our way. The guide, who had specifically been using mine, Richie’s, and my mom Barbara’s name since the beginning of the tour, was talking again. Of course, I wasn’t listening too closely, but suddenly I heard him say: “On the way to Urquhart Castle, Barbara from Indiana asked me, ‘Will there be anybody playing bagpipes at the castle?’ I told her no, because….”

I didn’t hear the rest of what he said because I was now staring agape at my mom. Had she truly asked such an asinine question?

She was just finishing applying her lipstick, and hastily whispered, “I didn’t ask that.”

“Did you ask him anything at all?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

We both sat back a moment to consider the guide’s ridiculous fabrication, and suddenly we were laughing. It was exactly the kind of laughter that would possess me as a child in church, complete with silent convulsing, tears and the hopeless inability to stop. Richie was annoyed, as he couldn’t concentrate on what the guide was saying with us falling apart right next to him. The idea of my mom – or anyone – asking such an air-headed question was too much. We attempted to stop laughing several times, but would lose it again, and continued this way until it was time to exit the bus. We never knew why the guide had chosen to make my mom look like an idiot, but it was the best entertainment of the day. If it wasn’t enough that we had harboured secret hopes of seeing Nessie, now we had a false reputation as stupid Americans who expected to hear live bagpipes being played at castle ruins.

Only my husband Richie, who is a far better listener than I, learned some things of educational value on our Loch Ness tour. He toured the entire castle and took pictures, reading all the plaques, and he listened intently to the guide – at least up until my mom and I disrupted things. In my defense, I have come away with a 700+ page biography on Mary, Queen of Scots. It might not help me with the Jacobites at Urquhart Castle, but at least I’ll be better able to appreciate Edinburgh Castle more the next time around. And the only way I would visit Loch Ness for the lake again is if I could descend it in a submarine and explore the life that does inhabit it.

For now, I’ll just settle for the web cam view.


In the new Cryptozoology Online: On The Track I sing a stupid rendition of Trucking by The Grateful Dead. I changed the words to be about the CFZ. Two hard-of-hearing viewers, asked for a lyric sheet. I don't believe they are hard-of-hearing at all,; I think they just want to learn the lyrics so they can sing it, with gusto, whilst going about their daily business. But, whatever you want them for, here they are, and remember to recommend me as the next Poet Laureate, if only for my poem about the girl from Nantucket.

Don't believe all the nonsense you've read
don't you want a proper job instead
Basically cos of what Heuvelmans said
we keep on trucking with the CFZ

June started off with the story of Jerry the jackdaw
on our way to the boozer he fell thirty feet from his nest
afraid that he would be stamped uponon by some drunken slackjaw
we caught him and took him home thinking it was for the best

But Jerry didn't want to fly free
he wanted mealworms for his tea
forget what the environmentalists said
Jerry is trucking with the CFZ

then there was the story that came from the paper in Belfast
about two blokes from ireland who went on an a quest for some snakes
They went to Peru and when they came back from the green hell fast
they said they had proof of a giant one for goodness sakes

An anaconda forty metres long
the story simply had to be wrong
but you have to check it out it has to be said
if you are trucking with the CFZ

Sometimes the light shines brightly on me
other times you can hardly see
I life in cryptozoology
what a long, strange trip its been

one morning the postman delivered a bag of live eels
two nights later we came back with a badly stuffed crocodile
and I'm telling you now that you haven't a clue how it feels
unless you're like us and beein living like this for a while

We've got no money, been screwed over by the man
but we do it cos, its something only we can
while I pretend to be the Grateful Dead
we keep on trucking with the CFZ

I know that we are never gonna be part of the mainstream
If I'm honest I don't think that's something that I'd want to be
but we're doing something that to most people is just a daydream
and we do stuff that most people never get a chance to see

this ain't about money or power or fame
its a crazy intellectual surealchemical game
so come and do something freaky instead
and keep on trucking with the CFZ

Its an epic, frustrating, psychotic heartbreaking adventure
The greatest days of zoology are not done
you gotta be crazy to embark on this sort of a venture
Believe me boys and girls the party has only begun


The other day Alan Friswell, the bloke who made the CFZ Feegee Mermaid and also the guy responsible for some of the most elegantly macabre bloggo postings, wrote me an email.

He had an idea for a new series for the bloggo. Quite simply he has an enormous collection of macabre, fortean, odd and disturbing magazine and newspaper articles, and he proposed to post them up on the bloggo.

Alan Writes: "Yes! Welcome to Friswell's Freaky Features, an ongoing spot on the CFZ blog page where you will encounter the fun, the freaky, the frightening and on occasion, the downright horrifying. Many of these items are from almost forgotten archives and no doubt should, in many cases, have stayed forgotten. But no chance of that on this site! So be prepared to be amazed by the bizarre manifestations of nature, the abberations of the natural world and the complete (on occasion) mind-bending insanity of collective humanity. Read on...."

What a smashing idea, we thought, and so with a burst of alliteration that will - I hope - make Dr Shuker proud of me, here we go....

The headline of this article from August 1960 is surely sickening enough but it's only when you read the text that you can more fully appreciate the horrifying mentality of the charming individuals who invented this 'device'. I can only say that these bastards probably missed their true vocation by being born too late, because had they been around a few years earler, they would most likely have gone down a storm in Auschwitz or Dachau....

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not sure that I agree. I was, after all, woken up at six this morning by an earnest young border collie rooting through the waste bin in our bedroom, and deciding to growl noisily at something insubstantial outside the window - probably a rook. I think electronic leashes sound a jolly good training option....


Corinna finally got home at about half past twelve last night, and walked through the front gate as me and Lizzy were just finishing proofing Glen Vaudrey's book. She is, it goes without saying, as pleased as punch with Shosh's exam results, and we sat up until gone three as she told me of her adventures.

She is still asleep, as is Graham who did the driving to and from Barnstaple while I finished.

A few days ago I wrote that things were beginning to come together and that I was not feeling as bogged-down by the backlog of work as I had been. Well, I am happy to announce that this trend is continuing. In the past few days we have finished OTT , processed and mailed out over a third of the new issue of Animals & Men and finished the second proof of Glen Vaudrey's new book. All things being equal I will get the design work finished over the next few days, and off to Glen for indexing and final twiddles by the first half of next week.

I would like to say at this point, how grateful I am to Lizzy Clancy (aka `Dizzy Miss Lizzy`; aka `Grammar Nazi`) for all the hard work she put in over the last week or so. I am very grateful, and one day she will get her reward in Devon.

Max is on his way over to spend a few days, and I am looking forward to seeing him. I have missed the little sod, while he has been gallivanting off around Britain in a beery, post A-level euphoria. Dave is coming over later, and the words `beer` and `curry` have been mentioned.

So, all in all, things could be a hell of a lot worse....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


It’s Saturday and that means it's time for the Saturday soundtrack, along with the latest cryptozoology news links and terrible, terrible pun that follows. Today’s song should really make up for the pun to come and yesterday’s ‘fact’ too. It’s Flying Sorcery by Al Stewart:
Click the link and listen to it while you catch up on yesterday’s cryptozoology news:

Escaped pet python strangles Fla. child
New dinosaurs found in Australia
Albino snake visits Derry shops
Ancient DNA reveals moa's true colours
Science doesn’t get any ‘moa’ exciting than that!