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, August 05, 2009

WEIRD WEEKEND: only a week to go


For immediate release 2009-08-05

The world’s strangest weekend is now but a scant week away. The village of Woolsery is bracing itself for an influx of visitors from all across country and the world.

Explorers, palaeontologists, a barrister, an internationally renowned expert in gout and a world-famous rock star are among the speakers who will be lecturing on subjects as diverse as ape men, crop circles, sea monsters, South American ghosts, death-dealing medieval snakes, human/animal hybrid experiments and the Holy Grail.

ASSAP, The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena, will be conducting an experiment revolving around Woolsery’s ancient haunted pub The Farmers Arms.

The Weird Weekend will run from 14th –16th of August and will also feature entertainment for children, an art exhibition by a artist specialising in painting monsters, an exhibition of strange items from Devon museums, an exhibition of taxidermy, stalls, quizzes and a performance from the village children.

More information can be found at the Weird Weekend Website on http://www.cfz.org.uk/conferences/weirdweekend/ww2007/ww07index.htm


A number of readers, most notably `Greatbeast`, have asked us for an updated publishing schedule, as the one that we gave you about six months ago has most singularly failed to materialise.
The first out of the starting gate is this one by Andy Roberts, but the next ones are (in vague order):
1. Starseeds and other dreams by Karl Shuker
2. Daintree Diary by Carl Portman
3. Predator Deathmatch by Nick Molloy
4. CFZ Yearbook 2010
These should be out before the end of the year. Maybe some of the next trenche will be as well, but I ain't promising:
5. The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia by Richard Freeman
6. Monstrum by Tony `Doc` Shiels
7. Animals & Men Collected Editions Vol 4
Also definitely appearing at some point are:
8. Lytham and Booze by Tony `Doc` Shiels
9. The Madness of Butterflies by Jonathan Downes
and eight more volumes of the `Mystery Animals of the British Isles` series, as well as more books by Shuker, Downes, Freeman and Redfern, which are still in the planning stage.
However one must remember that we live in an ultimately changeable universe, and things can and will change... I hope this helps


"I know how you were impressed by the stuffed eskimo curlew or, er, northern curlew, lol. But this here site is full of stuffed extinct beasts, some pictures I havent seen before".


And you know what? She is absolutely right. The people who own the site have disabled the function by which we can steal photographs for the blog, and although we can still do it by other means, after they have expressly asked us not to, it does not seem ethical so you had better check it out for yourselves....


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 few days 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!

Look at this,” insisted Robin Fox as he sat in conference with his fellow conspirators, Frieda, Florence, Tom, Anna and Nicola Ridley, Ellie, Jason Smith and Jonathan Wilson. The latter were hired hands or “tech help” as Anna called them (“But they’re trustworthy and will do as I ask as they love the village and both hate outsiders,” she would tell the rest). “This is www.minstercats.co.uk and as you can see, the domain name is parked ready for use...used by US!”

“Wow, you have been a busy boy,” said Anna, giving Robin a hug, which made him slightly embarrassed but also quite happy. “It is all here and ready to go. What we need to do is start putting what little we have together and then doing interviews.”

“And it must be done under their radar, too,”
added Ellie. “That moron General has got more aggressive and paranoid since his bad time at the meeting and his credibility wasn’t helped when a member of the local journalistic community caught him reading those pornographic magazines in his command centre - sorry Burger Van. Apparently he claimed it was a plot to destabilise the ABC Team but I think he’s just a perv. Gives me the creeps.”

replied Frieda. “The man is clearly a total waster but he is a problem for all of us; Ellie especially. For some reason, the largest part of the media wants to keep this story going. Probably not much political news as it’s summer time. Even if they only keep it going a week or two further the damage will be done so we must act quick.”

“We need to start filming,” said Anna. “I can work with Robin to put some simple questions together. Now, who are we seeing as well as Marj? She’s lovely, isn’t she, and that dog of hers is manic...but quite fun.”

“Well, I asked Jenny earlier about Tony East,”
said Robin, “But he’s gone all camera shy now that locals know he’s in with The General. I can’t believe Jen has to work with him at the pub. At least she gets to do two jobs – the cafe and the pub – and only has to see the idiot at the evening time. In fact, Tony’s more than half the reason that crew of clowns arrived here; him and his big mouth and bigger ego. Grr!”

“We need,”
he continued, “to do what other documentary people would do – set the scene, speak to local people for their opinions...so I reckon the Reverend Harrison and Lady Penelope would be good. What about Brigadier Jones? He’s a bit eccentric but Jack says that he used to hunt for tigers in India or something equally mad!”

“He did,”
said Jack, coming into the room with a tray of drinks and snacks. “And he is quite famous. Despite his 90 years of age he still gets around – last time I saw him he was driving at around 70 miles an hour in a sports car on a single lane track nearby – and until recently he allowed children from various backgrounds to work on his land to gain a better understanding of country life. So he is an all-round good egg. Mind you, it is said that he used to be the best shot in India and could bag a tiger from 200 yards; not that I condone that sort of thing but he’s from a different world really. Anyway, how are you getting on?”

Upper Minster’s Jack was a popular figure and his work on local farms and keen eye for garden designs meant that he rarely sat still. He did love what the children were doing, though and was eager to help them if he could.

“Well, we are making a film and putting it on the Internet,” said Florence, determinedly. “Robin says it will kick ass.”

Everyone laughed, Jack included. “Manners, young lady. No need to use Americanisms and profanity when the English language will suffice. A film does sound good though. Something needs to be done about these damned outsiders and day-trippers. I’d put some lovely hanging pots outside old Mrs Wilkinson’s cottage and some bloody townie stole them. She actually saw them but couldn’t get out of her house quick enough. They put the pots in the back of their car and she knew why they were here because another neighbour said that the people who’d done it had been acting suspiciously earlier and were wearing those ever so naff Minster Beast T-shirts. ‘Have You Seen The Beast' or whatever. Idiots! I’d love to get my shot-gun out on them,” he added, forgetting himself.

“Well, Jack; I am most appalled,
” said Florence, playing at being all high and mighty. “Violence is not the answer when we have our website. Our method of activity will go further than your shot-gun pellets.”

The children laughed and Jack looked slightly embarrassed. “You kids are far too clever for your own good,” he answered, smiling. “Just make sure you get rid of that General before the farmers skewer him and feed him to their pigs!”

As the children ate and drank it was decided that Frieda would accompany Anna and Nicola to Marj Seaton’s later on with the Tech Helpers Jason and Jon, while Robin would start writing an introduction for his website that, he hoped, would “go live” in a few short days time.

“I don’t care if I get no sleep. We need to do the media’s job for them because they’re not doing it,” he fumed.

“What can we do?” said Tom, feeling left out. “Florry and I never have as much fun as you older ones,” he moaned.

“Fear not,”
replied Robin. “I have a very important job for you and that is to take this here local map and mark down all the places that people, including yourself, have claimed to see this big cat. I have a partial list here for you. As we know it’s real, we need to work out the extent of the area it inhabits and as much good information that we can get. From what Jack says, I think an unannounced visit to Brigadier Jones is in order. He is as mad as a hatter, I believe. Although we don’t want him to shoot this cat, we could certainly ask for his knowledge in how to track it. He might be just the person we need and he hates outsiders more than we do.”

said Tom. “We could ride our bikes over there tomorrow and hammer another nail in The General’s mouldy coffin....”


For those who may be interested, a Japanese edition of my Body Snatchers in the Desert book has just been published. It will be interesting to see if this results in any more data coming forward on this particular aspect of the Roswell affair...For more data on this edition, click here.

The thing that I find culturally significant here is that the sillhouette of the humanoid figure on the front cover is significantly less human than on the English language edition. The implication being that the figure is not of earthly origin. Considering that the main premise of the book is that the Roswell bodies were from WW2 Japanese Army atrocities, this is perhaps a not unsurprising marketing ploy.


COLIN HIGGINS: Memories of the waythings weren't

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 ever-lasting 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....

Fascinated to read Richard’s accounts of false memory syndrome. I also have a few artificial recollections that have subsequently proved erroneous but have also experienced peculiar events that contain all the ingredients of FMS but for which there was corroborating evidence. I wonder how many people experience odd occurrences but find them so out of kilter with reality they dismiss them as fantasy?

One such incident happened in the late 1980s when I was living in a house in an ex-mining village on the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border. It was the first home on which I paid a mortgage, which meant the hitherto ‘bachelor’ lifestyle was forfeit to a more sober workaday existence. The one jolly I could afford was an interest in home-made wine and it was after a Friday night consuming the stuff that the oddity happened.

While opening the curtains liverishly on a grey weekend through the gap I noticed an enormous bird sitting on the wall at the end of the terrace houses opposite. It was barely light and I watched for a moment then it turned and flew away. I told someone at work next week but the anecdote combined with the consumption of elderberry wine did no more than raise an eyebrow and I’d soon dismissed the whole thing as the result of a hangover.

Some time later while decorating among strewn newspaper I noticed the local free rag had an article from a few months before concerning the escape of a red kite from a bird sanctuary that had been seen in the village at the same period. Red kites then, and quite possibly now, were unknown in the district but it did at least nail what had become a salutary warning against strong home-grown plonk. If it weren’t for the accidental display of old news print I would have even today believed the giant bird to be a FMS.

A second incident has a more ghostly flavour but is again corroborated. In 1991 I took my girlfriend (now wife) to a ruined church in the middle of open countryside that had become a favourite spot over many years to spend a quiet hour drawing, photographing or just sitting.
The present Victorian church is some distance away in the nearest village and the medieval building had been left to crumble elegantly since the C19th, as the dynamics of village life shifted leaving the old version marooned among the wheat fields.

Its picturesque churchyard is still in use, connected to the lanes by a track. I’d visited this spot alone and in company many times and never found the location sinister; quite the opposite; it’s a cheery sort of place if you ignore the grotesque carving, with the distant sound of cricket on a summer Sunday and the buzz of insect life all around.

This occasion was different. It was my girlfriend’s first visit and as we made our way into the nettle-strewn chancel I noticed a dove hung by its feet and various pentangles and candles and what-not lying around. Far from being alarmed - I was younger and fitter then - my reaction was disappointment that the spot had been spoiled by what my imagination insisted were, ‘a bunch of kids’.

We made our way out and I looked up to the lane where I’d parked the car to see four or five figures staring across at us. They were in a row, stock still, just watching. The only certain thing I recall about them is they were a mix of male, female, young, old and for no reason I can point to, I thought they might be about to steal the car although nothing about the demeanour suggests they were.

I started towards them, slightly but not unduly anxious (more young and fit stuff) looked down to find my footing among the old stones and… nothing. Gone, nobody. You’d have to know the spot to realise the unlikelihood of a bunch of people disappearing in the 2, 3 seconds it took to look down. For a start there was nowhere for them to go, this was open pastoral countryside, a bit of a hedge maybe but it would take a professional magician to pull the same stunt.

Neither was there anything about them that looked as though they were about to or needed to move. I paused, looked again and my partner said something. I looked at her, she looked ahead and I said, “What is it?” There hadn’t been time to discuss the people and I wouldn’t have wanted to worry her anyhow.
“There were a bunch of people up there just now,” she pointed to the lane.
In hindsight I might have examined her more closely on precisely what she saw but I didn’t, I said, “I know.”

We did a quick search but nothing; looked up and down the lane, around the car - nobody there.
We’ve mulled the event over many times and added who we may have recognised in the group, what their purpose was but it was all after the event and the bare bones of it are laid out exactly as described. If I was going to invent a credible ghost story it certainly would not involve a ruined church, sacrificial birds or pentangles! Was it even a ghost story or something else; a shared vision, some place guardian, a warning? One can ruminate indefinitely.

If it weren’t for her seeing the same thing I would have concluded the things I saw in the church had somehow triggered a fleeing response and my mind had conjured the people on the lane as a justification for leaving, even though I know my reaction was neither fear nor horror but annoyance and resignation.

Folklorists and sceptics will find what I’ve said too archetypal to be credible but I’d swear on oath to what I’ve written. The point is that our imagination seems capable of both manifesting impossible anomalies that go on to occupy a concrete place in our memory banks and dismissing weirdness into the trash file prematurely if it doesn't fit our own notion of consensus reality. I know that if it hadn’t have been for affirmation elsewhere both incidents would have been dismissed as tricks of the light or other errors in perception.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


In case anyone is wondering, Eel-ton John (see yesterdays ‘I told you I was eel’ post) is still doing well. He isn’t going to have a princess Diana style memorial service with people singing ‘cand-eel in the wind’ just yet. And now, sun, dolphins, animals with funny noses, human origins, Gavin Wilson, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Cryptozoology News Blog:

The weirdest animals on Planet Earth
Dolphins 'talk' to each other with tail slaps
Woman breast feeds baby ape in Malaysia
Bear hunt begins after rare attack in Russia
Bird stuffed into bag and stolen from pet shop
Strange-looking, 200-pound creature spotted here
Humans, Flores 'hobbits' existed together: study
Lyrebird loves construction noise

That bird is such a good mimic if it wasn’t there in a video you’d think the person telling you about it was a ‘lyre’.