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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Monday, August 17, 2009


The CFZ cartoonist with the Fortean Times one

WEIRD WEEKEND 2009 - the last word

So, it's over for another year. It was a success, and I am quite pleasantly surprised by the takings. However, although there were lots of high spots, there were also a lot of stressful and unpleasant lowspots. There was good and bad, black and white, yin and yang, and next year there are going to have to be changes, because I don't want to have to go through this again.

Some of the stresses and strains were caused by events beyond anyone's control, but others were caused by the selfish behaviour of various people who really should have known better. Other members of the team, however, were remarkable, but I am only going to single out three of them: David, Max, and my darling wife Corinna. I could not have done what I have done without you. I also want to thank Roy and Kaye Braund-Phillips for their immense amount of help. I am sorry that this year's event has been such a strain on you, and I apologise unreservedly for the behaviour of some of my associates and crew.

Other highlights were the gloriously surreal bar on the Thursday night run by my stepdaughter Olivia, her boyfriend Ivan, and their friends Jenny and Chris. All four of them were fantastic. Ronan C. who, despite health problems, flew from Ireland at his own expense to be with us, and Nick R. who did much the same from Dallas need to be congratulated, and I would like to thank everyone at The Farmers Arms and the Woolsery Community Centre for everything that they have done.

There are going to be changes next year, but there will still be a next year, and the changes will not effect the essential character of the event. It will still be a three day event, there will still be a cocktail party, there will still be a gloriously surreal mix of art, science and stupidity, and on the third week in August 2010 there will be the eleventh Weird Weekend.


WEIRD WEEKEND: Max's WW Scrapbook

As this has been, and is being, my first annual Weird Weekend, I wasn’t quite certain what to expect! Jon has asked me to discuss my highlight of the weekend, but this gets a trifle tricky when one has had so many interesting experiences over the course of a couple of days; however, some highlights have included managing to get 3 hours sleep last night thanks to, your friend and mine, Dr. Naish and I staying up drinking wine and pontificating on a number of zoological and paranormal ideas; meeting Lars Thomas and managing to find someone to have a look at a few specimens of Platymeris sp. “Mombo” for me, hopefully leading to an identification! Chatting to a number of people I had never met, mainly about cockroaches, and helping to dispel and morph a few general assumptions about the beasts (yes, they will survive without their head and they have a greater resistance to radiation effects than us, but other insects have much better defences. Anyway…) was good fun, and hopefully new contacts made will see me through my future Fortean career!

WEIRD WEEKEND 09 - Sunday pictures

Paul Vella: Bigfoot for Kids
Jonathan McGowan and friend outside the Farmers Arms
- renamed `The Bigfoot Arms`
Charles Fort, Emily "Emily and the Big Cats" Taylor, and Ronan

RICHARD FREEMAN: Whatever happened to the Nandi Bear?

Time for Richard Freeman again. It almost seems silly introducing Richard to you all once again when he makes an appearance as guest blogger several times a week. However, our viewing audience/ readers (whatever you like to call yourselves) is growing so fast that it is certain that some of you missed the last time I introduced him.

The chemosit or Nandi bear was the terror of east Africa in the early part of the 20th century. Much feared by even the bravest hunter it was said to feed on the brains of its victims and be able to tear through the toughest barriers to get at livestock. Some tribespeople even took to wearing protective headgear in case of a nandi bear attack.

As the name suggests the creature was bear-like in appearance, though there are no known bears in Africa since the extinction of the Atlas Mountains bear. It has been postulated that the nandi bear is a giant hyena, a monster baboon, an out of place chimpanzee or an outsized ratel. Indeed it may be a composite bogeyman based on all of these animals and more. Bernard Heuvalmans referred to it as the African proteus.

But no one reports seeing it, being attacked by it, or losing livestock to it anymore. Another east African cryptid that seems to have vanished off the map is the mngwa or 'strange one'; a lion-sized, tabby-coloured cat. It is widespread in east African legend but beginning in the 1920s these legends became very real for the folks living in coastal villages around Lake Tanganyika when one of these ‘mythical’ beasts began to kill and eat people. From the descriptions by both western hunters and natives it seems that the mngwa may have been a melonotic leopard. This very rare colour mutation leads to a tabby like coat. Then again a leopard is not nearly so large as a lion.

Once more the beast seems to have vanished, with no recent sightings.

There could be several reasons for these African cryptids' disappearance. Perhaps as the century progressed the old tribal stories and beliefs died out. If the Nandi bear was nothing but a composite of various creatures then the people may have begun to see it for what it was and not blame attacks on people and livestock by rouge hyenas on the Nandi bear. Maybe the mngwa attacks in the 1920s were just one abnormally large melonotic leopard. Once the beast died the mngwa switch back to just being a creature from folktales. The lack of consistent reports for both these beasts argues against them being an unknown species and supports the idea of unusual individuals of a known species.

But then again maybe the Nandi bear and the mngwa do still prowl the night, but the reports never leave the remote African villagers.


Are you seeing a pattern developing here: long hair; boyish good looks? And we are not just talking about Jon. We have Max; Dave has grown his hair; and now Tristan, who writes: "Hello, I'm a fifteen-year-old animal and rock freak, that loves being outoors, observing nature! I'm home-educated so I have plenty of time to do stuff that most people wouldn't consider 'education,' even though I've learnt far more from being outdoors and thinking for myself (instead of being cooped up in a classroom, being taught instead of learning). I hope one day to be finding new beasties and conserving known ones so I thought it might be a good idea to blog for the CFZ!"

Having recently been away in my dream world - a bird rescue centre - feeding and caring for various forms of avian life, and catching quite a few forms of bird parasite life (all gone now, luckily), I havent been able to blog. I apologise to my regular reader, whoever you are (if I have one) for slacking, but during my time at this bird rescue centre I was not slacking.

How do I know this? Because from 10 pm to about 7.30 am I was out cold like a stone. This is very rare for me as I'm a teenager. We normally have nocturnal habits, creeping around dark, dank places, and waiting to pounce upon and frighten O.A.P s ... that's according to the newspapers anyway!

But despite the change of my normal routine I have to say that I had a great time while I was staying there. I had the privilege of holding a cormarant, learning how to feed a gannet, and getting covered in bird mites. Plus I now have seven pigeons, including two racers and a young wood pigeon. I'm quite grateful for a few more birds as at the moment my barn owl Boedicia is moulting, and therefore I am unable to fly her. Also, shortly before I went away, I spotted an article about a strange, three-toed, cloven-hooved footprint in the local paper, which certainly does intrigue the mind. But more on that next week.

But apart from that all has been very quiet; all I can say is I hope I've spoken too soon....

WEIRD WEEKEND: Oll’s Weird Weekend Scrapbook - Sunday

The last day of each Weird Weekend is the day Ronan has his talk. Ronan is the highlight of the weekend for most people and his unique tongue-in-cheek style ensures that as well as being entertained the facts and stories he imparts stay with you longer than most. For example, I doubt I’ll ever forget his tale of the ‘Ting’ from 2008’s Weird Weekend. This year Ronan was talking about Atlantis, something I had believed was a solved mystery. My own view on the subject was that Atlantis had been an exaggerated retelling of the fate of the Minoans when the neighbouring island of Santorini exploded; however, what I had been previously unaware of was that the Minoan civilisation had survived for a good while after the disaster. Ronan had his own conclusions on the matter and you will have to watch the talk on CFZTV when it has been uploaded. And with Jonathan Downes’s key note speech just after Ronan’s talk and the subsequent dinner at the Farmers Arms, so ended the Weird Weekend 2009.

There is a lot of hard work done behind the scenes every Weird Weekend and in the months leading up to it that people don’t get to see and for the past few weeks nobody at the CFZ has been standing still and we really couldn’t have done it without help from other people in the village, right down to speakers and punters that have helped us out too. I’d like to take this opportunity to offer up my own thanks to everyone who has helped us out this weekend. Dr Dan deserves a huge thank you from me in particular. I look forward to seeing everyone who came at next year's event too and to meeting all the people reading the blog over the weekend that have finally been convinced to come to the Weird Weekend in 2010.