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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Sunday, August 23, 2009

RICHARD MUIRHEAD: Snake stones in Yorkshire

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.

Dear folks,

About two weeks ago I was looking in my late father`s garage for a collection of his doodles (as one does) when I came across a facsimile of part of an old British atlas, which I guess originally dated from the 17th century; the original map I mean not the reproduction. So I thought, well, this looks very interesting. I found a part of it covering the East and North Riding and read the following: (Original spelling adhered to)

“Places of memorable note are Whitby, where are found certain stones fashioned like Serpents, foulded and wrapped round in a wreath, euen the very pastimes of Nature, who when shee is wearied (as it were ) with serious workes, sometimes forgeth and shapeth things by way of sport and recreation: so that by the credulous they are thought to have beene Serpents, which a coate or crust of stones had now couered all ouer, and by the praiers of S.Hilda turned to stones: And also there are certaine fields here adoining, where Geese flying ouer fall downe sodainlie to the ground, to the great admiration of all men:…At Skengrause ( a little village) some seventie yeeres since , was caught a fish called a Sea-man, that for certaine daies together fedde on raw fishes, but espying his opportunitie escaped agiane into his waterie Element…..At Huntley Nabo, are stones found at the rootes of certaine rockes, of diures bignesse, so artificially shaped round by nature, in manner of a Globe, as if they had beene made by the Turners hand. In which (if you breake them) are found stony Serpents, enwrapped round like a wreath, but most of them headlesse”.

I have asked the Bodleian Library if they can provide me with any information about this atlas but so far without success. Dr Darren Naish informed me that the Whitby and Huntley Nabo stones were ammonites and the latter were nodules but William Corliss (who I rang) and I noted that the Huntley Nabo stones were globular. Indeed, I sent Corliss the information in this blog. He had never heard of such a thing. Strangely a day or two after I had found the facsimile map I found my dad`s doodles and he seemed to have specialised in ammonite-like drawings!



Tim Matthews writes:

We are not always up-to-date in terms of things technological but we are now on Twitter so for those of you who enjoy writing minimalist musings on Twitter, please acknowledge/join/say hello/engage with us via CFZ or CFZJon. You will, we hope, appreciate our own efforts at Haiku....

And watch out for the snake!

The Management.



I have been following the ongoing creationist vs. evolutionist debate with interest. I am not going to moderate it, nor am I going to get involved other than with this posting. However, I think that I should once and for all state both my personal opinion, and the CFZ's position on the matter.

Firstly the CFZ. Part of our core belief statement reads:

"That Young Earth Creationism, and the popular conception of Intelligent Design are fallacious. Although some of us are athiests, others are deists, but those who believe in God believe in Creation NOT Creationism. We pledge ourselves to combat the disturbing rise in power of those who would teach superstition as scientific fact, and who are also linked to political movements that we believe to be dubious in the extreme."

And it is that last line, which is - to my mind (because it was me who drafted the statement, and bullied it through council) - is the most important. In the past we have published various theories that (to some people's minds) are equally as far removed from the orthodoxy of current scientific belief. However, initial bipedalism (for example) was never linked to powerful political lobbies that stand against everything in which we believe.

But on to me personally. For the first sixteen years of the CFZ's existance I managed to keep my personal religious and political views out of my public persona. But now it is impossible to do so. I am an anarchist and I am a Christian, and my personal belief system is very similar to that of someone like St Francis, (and before anyone accuses me of indulging in autohagiography I'm not doing anything of the sort. I am no saint, nor would I want to be). However, although I believe in both aspects of God (both the alpha and the omega) I see no contradiction in that belief and my belief in evolution or the big bang theory or anything else.

The story of the beginning of the world as described in Genesis is a creation myth originally espoused by nomadic tribes in the Middle East thousands of years ago. The world is not 6000 years old; Satan did not bury dinosaur skeletons in strata to tempt mankind; there is no tooth fairy. Capisce?

(Actually I'm not sure about the tooth fairy)

And as far as my core tenets of belief are concerned, it can be summed up in the following passage from the Gospel of St Matthew, Chapter 22, verses 37-40:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Treat everyone the way you would like them to treat you, and love and respect the earth. Basically, nothing else matters at all....



You may want to link to this or not. But I've waded into the controversy about Creationism. Having lived under a half-theocratic government, I don't think I want any piece of it again!


I am no Dawkins, though. I do respect people of faith, if their faith is used to set their moral and ethical standing, and actually allows them to improve themselves.

However, for your discipline, I think it's a very bad thing to be attached to. I'm sure you get lots of people making fun of it or misrepresenting your hypotheses. I really don't think you need the Creationist headache.

And they are a headache, and then some.


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Stereoscopic Sunday is here! Red and cyan glasses at the ready; this week’s photo is of the ultimate showdown. Who will be victorious? The smart money is on Pikachu, as he has bested Mewtwo in the past, a feat that thus far no Doctor Who villain has proved capable of. (Cue long rant by Richard in the comments section graphically describing Pikachu’s potential demise when faced with a Dalek, probably).

Anyway, news:

Lizard Species Projects Ribs Outwards for Defence

Pecking order: rare birds on show

Volunteers called in as zoo strike intensifies

Bizarre-looking bat's strong bite

‘Bats’ not a creature you want to mess with, then.


I would just like to say a big `thank you` to everyone who made my 50th birthday yesterday so memorable and enjoyable. As you mostly all know, I am a soppy old git who wears his emotions very close to the surface, and I blubbed like a big softy quite a lot yesterday.

I told Corinna some time ago that I didn't want a birthday party whereupon I drank too much with my friends and cronies. I can do that whenever I wanted, and to be quite honest, I always get melancholy on my birthday and miss my mother, who died back in 2002. I then forgot about it all, and was overwhelmed when - after visiting Marjorie Braund in the hospice (as I have done every day that I have been able) - I found that my dear wife had arranged a birthday tea for me for me of the sort that I haven't had since I was about 12.
Also there were Roy and Kaye Braund-Phillips and my three beloved nephews, Richard F, Graham, Oll, and by chance my old friend Richard Ingram from Exeter who made me a Victorian moustache cup.
Later that evening I was summoned to The Farmers Arms where Jennie the landlady had made me a magnificent cake, and all the waitresses kissed me. What a lucky fellow I am.
And then when I came back I found this tribute to me from Nick Redfern, and I finally burst into tears and had to be consoled by the dog.
My presents included rare books on Hong Kong from Richard Muirhead, a gilded thylacine made by Fleur, and a magnificently silly hat made by Olivia.
I don't deserve any of this. I am not a terribly good writer, and my achievements are fairly esoteric, and I am - when it comes down to it - basically a bad-tempered old hippy who drinks too much, and I am overwhelmed by all this attention from everyone. But, at the risk of sounding like some horribly shallow Hollywood actress, on her fourth marriage and eighth facelift, the only thing that I can say is "Thank you, and I love you all"....