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 12, 2009

What Richard did next...


Dave, Oll and I spent several hours erecting a scaffold to hang the flying saucer Graham had built on; the idea being to cover it with black drapes and have the kids walk through it to come out of the space ship dressed as aliens. Unfortunately we found it was so tall that it obscured the film screen behind it. So we took it down and erected some more, with Dave scrambling around like a blond monkey. Upon Jon’s arrival we were told we didn’t need the scaffold or back drop; just a small erection to hang the saucer on. It had been quite a lot of work, and all for nothing!

Thankfully there was a break in the rain on the day. Oll, Greg, Ross and I had a day of leafleting. It’s an oddity: there are some houses that have no post boxes. Several dwellings had no post slits in their doors and no outside post boxes. How the postie manages I’ll never know. I have to ask him when I next see him. Another post-related oddity is the fringes of brush-like bristles that surround the edges of most post boxes. The bristles are so stiff they crumple up the leaflets!

Erecting the marquee is always a pain in the backside as its plastic joints have long since fragmented and are now held together by gaffer tape. Each year the marquee gets a little more damaged so I think we will need to buy a new one for WW 2010.


We have only been doing the Daily Bloggo since January, and we never actually thought through how we would cover the WW when it finally arrived. We still haven't and are perforce gonna busk it a bit. However, various pivotal folk will be presenting a series of `Scrapbooks` giving titbits of insight into what goes into the biggest event of the CFZ year. Wayhay!!!

RICHARD MUIRHEAD: Ropen evidence

Richard Muirhead is an old friend of the CFZ. I have been friends with him for 40 years now, since we were kids together in Hong Kong. He is undoubtedly one of the two best researchers I have ever met; he and Nigel Wright both have what Charlie Fort would have no doubt called a wild talent; a talent for going into a library, unearthing a stack of old newspapers, and coming back with some hitherto overlooked gem of arcane knowledge.

Hello again. In this blog I present what might be new information on the mystery flying creature of Papua New Guinea, the ropen, which some believe to be a prehistoric survivor; a living pterosaur. It has been another of those serendipitous discoveries I make from time to time. About 2 weeks ago I went to Buxton, Derbyshire, U.K. to look around the town. Buxton is about half an hour by bus from Macclesfield where I live.

My friend and I went to Scriveners book shop in the town. It`s about 4 floors tall and whilst on the ground floor my eyes roamed joyfully along a shelf and I spotted The Two Roads of Papua by Evelyn Cheesman published by Jarrolds in 1935.

Cheesman (1881-1969) was a British entomologist and traveller. She was unable to train for a career as a veterinary surgeon due to restrictions on women`s education. Instead she studied entomology and was the first woman to be hired as curator at Regent`s Park Zoo, London. In 1924 she was invited to join a zoological expedition to the Marquesas and Galapagos Islands. She spent approximately twelve years on similar expeditions, travelling to New Guinea, the New Hebrides and other islands in the Pacific Ocean. In New Guinea she made a collecting expedition to the coastal area between Aitape and Jayapura (known as Hollandia at the time) and visited the Cyclop Mountains near Jayapura, collecting insects. Evelyn assisted at the Natural History Museum, London for many years as a volunteer. She was awarded an OBE for her contribution to entomology. At least one species of insect is named after her: the Costomedes cheesmanae

She also collected reptiles and amphibians and several New Guinea species were named in her honour: Lipinia cheesmanae (P
arker, 1940 - a skink; Platymantis cheesmanae (Parker,1940) a
direct breeding frog; Litoria cheesmani (Tyler,1964) a tree frog; Barygenys cheesmanae (Parker , 1936) – a microhylid frog; Cophixalus cheesmanae (Parker,1934).(1)

So I flicked through to see a few pages on mysterious lights and “ping” - I immediately thought “ropen”.

The thing is a ropen has never as far as I know been seen by a westerner but this light phenomena of the grave-robbing ropen has been seen by both westerners and natives alike. This bioluminescence or whatever it is, is also associated with the flying snake of Namibia. (2)

On getting home I looked up the light in my copy of Searching for Ropens by Jonathan Whitcomb, 2nd edition:

Interviews by Blume (3) suggest that the bioluminescence may relate to secretions that seem to drip from the creatures as they fly, like “sparklers” falling to the ground. The secretions are said to burn human skin, sometimes seriously. In parts of Papua New Guinea the creature is worshipped. Some islanders on Umboi want nobody disturbing ropens, but on Manus Island people are simply curious about them. (4)

Cheesman saw the lights near a settlement of Mondo. Whitcomb does not mention Mondo in his book. This is to the northwest of the location where he and his fellow cryptozoologists were looking for the ropen, which was on the east coast of Papua New Guinea. But the "modern" ropen has been seen in mountainous areas of the country, such as Mount Tolo and Mount Barik, just as in Cheesman`s time:

…Then it became evident what I had already supposed,that the flashes had been following a certain ridge of hills. Three ridges are visible one above the other in that direction, the highest one on the horizon. It was on the middle that this phenomenon appeared, and it seemed as if the flashes must have kept closely to the top of that one ridge. About a week later precisely the same thing occurred. There were the same sort of atmospheric conditions, except that this time the sky was rather cloudy...It may be dismissed at once that the flashes were due to any human agency…I could only imagine they were caused by some sort of gas escaping from crevices of rock. (5)

Interestingly Cheesman was told about similar lights in Queensland, again on a hill, and Whitcomb was told about a ropen near Perth, Australia in 1997. I e-mailed the address on the main website dedicated to searching for the ropen after seeing the book by Cheesman but so far I have had no reply.

(1) Evelyn Cheesman Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Cheesman
(2) R.Muirhead The Flying Snake of Namibia: An Investigation. CFZ Press. 1996
(3) Jim Blume, eyewitness to ropen, 1996
(4) J.Whitcomb. Search
ing for Ropens .2nd edition. 2007. p.104.
(5) E.Cheesman. The Two Roads of Papua. 1935. p.226


One of the most important things about the CFZ is how it has become a very real community, even though it is one that only meets up in person occasionally. You may be thinking that this is leading up to another shameless plug for the Weird Weekend and another last chance to buy tickets and you would be partly, but not completely right.

Sad to say, some of the CFZ family won't be here this year. Although Redders is coming over from the U.S. and is being driven down courtesy of Dr Dan, there are several of our compadres in foreign lands who we would love to have with us, but sadly won't be able to make it...

...such as Tony Lucas. He is a bloody good bloke and a dear friend who is CFZ head honcho in New Zealand (well, we couldn't really give that position to my old pal Roo Besley who runs a house of ill repute in Napier), and he has just launched his new website. You can find it here:


And he also has a blog:



Hi Jon,

Just wanted to say have a great Weird Weekend this weekend! If you noticed on the flyers I sent there is a special offer for anyone who attends and wants to buy a Sasqwatch.

Hey, did you see this?


Ok, good luck!

: ) Yolie

FRISWELL'S FREAKY FEATURES: There are robots amongst us

"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....

I love technology dept.

Yes I know that this item has bugger all to do with cryptozoology unless of course you can entertain the notion that robots are a form of life within the remit of creational sentience and machine evolution. But that's by the by. In honour of Jon, who experienced computer meltdown last week, I present this to prove that machines really are our friends...ahem....


It is the day before the Weird Weekend, and not quite nine o'clock. Corinna is doing her inimitable thing in the kitchen, and I am slightly blearily listening to Wagner in the office as I sip coffee in a desultory manner and prepare myself for the horrors of the day ahead. My medication is somewhat Russian Roulette-like: some days I wake up feeling full of the joys of spring; others I feel queasy and slightly mad. This is one of the latter days, and six pints in the Farmers Arms last night probably didn't help.

However, as I sit here trying to dispell the legion of tap-dancing daemons that are progressing up and down my spine (wearing gumboots), my mind goes to Mountain Chickens.

Mountain Chickens may live on mountains but they are not chickens at all; they're actually a fantastic froggie. The picture above was taken by me and the missus in the autumn of 2006 when we went to Jersey to see Durrel Wildlife.

But they have been in the news today, hence my rambling excuse of a story:

A rather disturbing bit of video
A news story about the fungus threat to the species
Durrell's page on the species
Durrell's blog on the species

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


More cryptozoological news from the CFZ daily news blog courtesy of our news-hound Gavin Lloyd-Wilson and a bad pun, courtesy of me, coming right up, enjoy:

Compare the meerkats in a baby boom
Amazing pics of giant-mouthed sharks off UK coast!
Thief caught with wet hamster in his glove box
Dog hailed as hero for guiding rescuers to owner's body
Grandmother saw diamond from £1,500 ring swallowed by pig

I’m sure it’ll be a ‘pig’ weight off her mind when she gets her ring back.