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, July 09, 2009


Proof that I am going senile:


'Hi Jon,

You said, "The other day Max posted a story about a sighting of a phantom black dog. It was, we said, the first post-1950 English sighting we had received."

Sorry to be picky - actually I'm not; I relish pointing out insignificant discrepancies to others as most males of a certain age do - but I posted a 1991 B.D. sighting at Hodsock Priory, North Notts, a few weeks ago.

Best Wishes,


OLL LEWIS: An Auk-ward Silence

Now, over to Oll Lewis, the CFZ ecologist (who also happens to be the bloke living in my spare room) who - every day - tells us about `Yesterday's News Today` with a bevy of bad puns....

Whenever a species becomes extinct it is a truly lamentable occurrence. I often wonder, late at night when I’m having problems getting to sleep, if the last survivors of a species are aware of their plight; did the last woolly mammoth endlessly trudge the icy tundra looking for others, cheerfully thinking that he might find a mate the next day or did he ever truly accept there would be no more of his kind? Perhaps I’m anthropomorphosising a bit much but if a last survivor of a species was aware of his plight it would be truly tragic.

The tragedy is only compounded when it is human activity that caused the extinction. Humans have caused many extinctions; two that spring readily to mind are that of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) and the great auk (Pinguinus impennis). Both species were huge in numbers until man started to hunt them intensively, but the story of the final demise of the great auk is a particularly sad one.

Ever since humans first encountered the great auk they hunted it, even as far back as 100,000 years ago; bones from great auk have been found in the remains of Neanderthal fires and the bird has appeared in a number of cave paintings. This predation was not a problem until the sixteenth century because the numbers taken by humans were easily eclipsed by reproduction. However, things were soon to change. Ships began to stop off at great auk breeding sites while en route to and from the Americas. At first these stops off would just be to replenish food stocks, but soon some ships would go as far as to herding hundreds of birds on board ship for needless mass slaughter.

The bird's feathers were in demand as well as its meat and many birds were probably killed for no greater reason than stuffing a rich mans pillow with its down or so its feathers could make a fetching decoration in a woman’s hat. The trade in the feathers and down of the great auk in Britain and Europe was so great it led to the near eradication of nesting sites on the east side of the Atlantic Ocean. Eventually the killing of great auks for their feathers was banned by Britain in 1794, but this was long after the species had started a terminal decline. A further blow came to the species on the west of the Atlantic when the eider duck was forced into near extinction and down collectors from North America switched their attention to the great auk in the late eighteenth century. The fact that great auk eggs were highly sought after by egg collectors did little to help the species’ long term survival prospects too, especially when the egg collectors found out that the great auks laid their eggs over a number of days so a collector could take considerably more eggs if he was prepared to wait around.

The last great auk ever found in Britain came ashore on Stac An Armin, St Kilda, Scotland and was tried as a witch by locals. It ended its life in July 1840 tied up for three days and beaten to a bloody pulp by locals armed with sticks.

Around this time, a single colony of great auks survived on the small volcanic island of Geirfuglasker, which was near Iceland and was inaccessible to humans. Disaster struck in 1830 when an undersea volcanic eruption caused Geirfuglasker to sink beneath the waves. Most of the surviving birds made it to the nearby island of Eldey, which unfortunately was accessible to humans. When news spread of the great awks' presence on Eldey several museums commissioned collecting parties to bring back as many dead great auks as possible to add to their taxidermy collections; the birds would fetch a high price due to their rarity. On 3rd July 1844, less than ten years after the colony had been discovered, the final breeding pair was located. The last two birds were strangled just before the egg they had been incubating was smashed.

One last solitary great auk was seen after the murder of the last breeding pair and their unborn chick. The last great auk was seen on the Grand Banks of Newfoundand in 1852. I wonder if he ever questioned where all the others like him were or if he knew he was alone.

More news from the Storsjoodjuret Project

Searching area

Here is a map over the searching area for our Summer Expedition of 2009


Kithra gets nostalgic

Kithra, like so many other pundits in the Fortean omniverse, is getting nostalgic....

KITHRA WRITES: As with so many other websites, I can’t let the passing of John Keel go unmarked. You only have to look around the web to see how many places are carrying obits, and appreciations about him.



OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


It’s Thursday and it's time for the latest cryptozoology news and a bad pun tenuously related to one of the stories:

Tiny monkey species discovered in the Amazon rainforest
Warnell researchers help discover smallest salamander in U.S.
The butterfly only visible at 1,500ft
Calls to review protected sites
Carbon dioxide threat to reefs
Man stung 200 times by wasps
Aquatic deer and ancient whales
Panda twins among park baby boom
Monkeys found 'chink' in security
Scientists go batty after rare woodland discovery

‘Bat’s amazing news.

ALAN FRISWELL: Memories of the way they were

Alan first came to my notice when he turned up at our stall at last November's Unconvention. He was clutching a box that had once held a plastic Christmas Tree. He thrust it at me, and said "Here's your mermaid".

I vaguely remembered Richard F. having said that one of his mates had offered to make us a feegee mermaid, but I had forgotten all about it. Sad to say, so many people offer to do stuff for us, and then fail to deliver, that I had got into the habit of treating all such offers cum grano salis, but the advent of Alan shows that I should not be such a cynical old sod. Now he has become a guest blogger, and furthermore a guest blogger who's output is often so elegantly macabre that I have started hassling him to write us a book....

The sad passing of John Michell was bad enough, but now with the death of John Keel this week, the world of Forteana has lost two of its biggest hitters.

When I was an impressionable kid, in thrall of comic books, late-night horror films and the childish sophistication of B-movies, the field of Fortean phenomena was seemingly insulated--compartmentalised, even. To me, lake monsters were plesiosaurs or a reasonable facsimile, ghosts were the shades or recordings of the unquiet dead looking to tie up loose ends on this side of the great divide. Bigfoot was some prehistoric remnant who had somehow managed to avoid being struck from the genetic or evolutionary record, and of course, UFO’s were nothing more than our distant neighbours from Gamma Regula, or wherever, popping round for a cup of Earl Grey, and then perhaps to pick up some water samples on the way back home.

It appeared that each phenomena, and all levels and associated belief systems upon which they functioned, had it’s own generic status, and recognisable identity, none of which were related to or perceived as being remotely interchangeable with their equally intriguing, but completely disparate fellow mysteries.

The first UFO book that I ever read was John Michell’s The Flying Saucer Vision, and while I was way too young to participate in--or even be much aware of--the ‘counter culture’, as posterity would have it known, Michell’s overview of cosmic possibilities, and how both prehistoric earth mysteries and the present day percipience of UFO’s and related phenomena could tie in to a cultural and folkloric gestalt was fascinating.

This was swiftly followed up by pretty much every UFO book that I could get hold of, most of which trotted-out the old extraterrestrial hypothesis with which what became tedious regularity.

Then I ran across Keel’s UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, which, quite frankly, scared the crap out of me. I would never see UFOs in the same way again.

Of course, the idea that reality--or at least as we perceive it to be so--might not only be abstract, but malleable on different levels of consciousness or temporal structure is hardly a new one--many religious doctrines subscribe to similar concepts, and Charles Fort himself appeared to arrive at conclusions not unadjacent to those of Keel’s, cumulating in perhaps his most chilling statement: “I think we’re property.” But Keel made the whole situation plain and specific, and whether you bought it or not, it still made for a very scary bedtime story.

As Jon said in his Keel obit, Keel--and Michell--were representatives of a ‘golden age’ in the study of Fortean phenomena, a time when W.H. Smiths had shelf after shelf of books full of UFOs, Loch Ness monsters, Stonehenge, big cats and Uri Geller bending forks. It was a great, and inspirational time to be an enthusiast, and I have to say that one of the things that first attracted me to the CFZ was that at the Uncons, Jon and Richard seemed to project that same sense of fun that I remember experiencing as a kid.

Although Keel and Michell are seen as being influential to, and representative of the ‘counter culture’, they are both, at the heart of the matter, much more sophisticated than that. While the counter culture movement was protesting and rejecting a system of values that it perceived as restricting and oppressive, its adherents often expressed its cosmic views in traditional terms, inasmuch as UFOs, for example, were still identified in the minds of many ‘free thinkers’ as beings from another world, ghosts were spirits of the dead, etc, and so the very people who would see themselves as being ‘far out’, still found it difficult to shake off restraint and conservatism when it came to the perception of a supernatural universe. Even David Bowie, long-time UFO enthusiast and regular sky watch attendee, believed that the phenomena was attributable to visitors from distant planets: “There’s a starman waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds.”, or words to that effect anyway; and writers like Von Daniken, while promising a revolutionary perspective, still placed their saucers and chariots in a quantifiable cosmos, which seemed, on the surface at least, to hold no unpleasant, or status-quo-threatening surprises.

It would seem, in retrospect, that Michell and Keel’s greatest legacy is in that their work was never simply a part of the zeitgeist in which they--and we--lived, and, unlike many of their contemporaries whose work has dated and lost relevance, their writing still inspires, in an increasingly mysterious universe, contemplation, and indeed, appreciation.