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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Saturday, October 24, 2009


Hi folks,

Today I`m looking at mysteries involving turtles, that is, cryptids and odd appearances, delving into the realm of folklore. Also, the information presented here cannot be presented in a strict chronological order because the starting point or origin of some of these cryptids in their impact on mankind cannot be accurately discerned.

Firstly, Dr Roy Mackal in his book A Living Dinosaur? (1987) records an animal the locals call `Ndendeki` - a giant turtle:

'Informants may have felt it was quite enough simply to say “giant turtle” about an animal whose shell was some 4 to 5 metres (12 to 15 feet) in diameter. Such a giant turtle hardly seems believeable, yet the fossil record includes both marine (Archelon ischyros) and land turtles ( Colossochelys atlas), their remains indicating animals 6 metres (20 feet) in length. However, not even the giant tortoises of the Seychelles Island (1.2metres, 4 feet ) approach the reported dimensions of Ndendecki….Based on reported descriptions, we require a very large, freshwater turtle, both carnivorous (or omnivorous) and amphibious. Marcellin Agagna was able to identify the Ndendecki as one and the same with Trionyx triunguis.' (1)

Michael Newton, in his Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology, records a creature called the Carvana. 'This insidious predator of swamplands and lagoons in eastern Texas was described by a Mexican migrant named Aluna, who allegedly lost livestock to the creature in the mid nineteenth century. According to Aluna`s story, no Caravana was ever seen alive, though its remains were sometimes found during droughts, when its marshy habitat evaporated. On those occasions, local settlers and aboriginal tribesmen allegedly discovered skeletons resembling those of huge turtles, with shells 10-12 feet long and 6 feet wide, while the beasts head and tail resembled an alligator`s. In life, the Cavanar lay submerged in mud, waiting to pounce on prey that included livestock and human beings. Skeptics suggest that tales of monsters “never seen alive” refer to early discovery of fossil dinosaurs or Ice Age megafauna.' (2)

I now come onto folklore. In the late 1990s I bought a book called The Legend of A Giant Tortoise number 331 in the Asian Folklore and Social Life Monographs published by the Chinese Association For Folklore in Taiwan (1997). It was sent to Dr. Richard Muirhead (I have many faults, but I don`t think delusions of grandeur are one of them except when I`m ill!) at 9, The Grift near Salisbury when it was actually 9, The Croft. Anyway, most of this book is in Chinese, but there is enough in English to make it worthwhile to own. I cannot speak or read Chinese. On page 77 there is a long list of folklore motifs connected with `Tortoise, see also Turtle` and Tortoise`s…etc`. Some are quite amusing if you have my kind of sense of humour:

` Tortoise, see also Turtle….breaks elephant`s back…catches ogre helping him….has no liver or teeth…speaks and loses his hold on the stick….fight between ape and tortoise…..man transformed to tortoise…tortoise`s foolish association with peacock [I wonder what that`s all about?-RM] ….why tortoise`s neck is outstretched to sky; is looking for his wife,the star.`(3)

Page 55 of the above-mentioned monograph gives an extract from Bernard E. Read`s translation of a Chinese Materia Medica:

Lu Mao Kuei Green Haired Tortoises (a) Comments. Li Shih-chen. The green haired tortoise comes from Nei hsiang and T`ang hsien. In Li`s day they came from Ch`i chou (Hupeh) and were used as presents. Taken from the streams they were reared in large jars and fed with fish and shrimps. In winter the water was removed and after a long time they grew hair four to five inches long with some golden threads. The genuine article has a carapace with three ridges, the plastron is as white as ivory, and it is as large as the Wu Chu Ch`ien…Han Dynasty money.Other turtles if kept a long time grow hairy but they are larger, the hair has no golden threads, and the plastron which is yellowish black shows a difference. The Nan Ch`I Shu ….states that in the time of Yung Ming (A.D. 483) there were presented to the court green haired sacred turtles , which refer to this turtle. The Lu Yi Chi …..staes that in Hsuan Tsung`s time (A.D. 713) a Taoist presented to the court a small turtle one inch in diameter , golden colour, very lovely in appearance, it being said that placed in a bowl it would give protection from poisonous snakes. This is one of the marvels among turtles…Qualities. Sweet, bland,acid,non-poisonous.Uses. It increases the “Jen-mo” circulation (aortic?) It stimulates sexual desire, and menstruation. A seminal tonic. It increases erection. Ch`en Chia mo. Tied on the forehead it will prevent an attack of malaria; and placed on the book case it will keep away bookworms. (4) I HONESTLY didn`t make up the second part of that sentence! So, Jon, Lizzy, remember not to place a hairy tortoise shell on your bookcases tonight!

(a) Giles and Williams both state this is the green…terrapin from Szechuan on which a species of conferva grows. Two algae are said to grow on the Geoclemmys reevesii, Gray viz, the Cladophora glomerata and Basicladia crassa. Abs from Chinese Science. Soc. Proc. Nanning 1935. Aug.

The image is from Read`s Materia Medica showing the green-haired tortoise.

Around about the time I bought this monograph there was a story and photo in the New Scientist of a Chinese tortoise with hair growing from its shell.

Finally I look at Moka Moka, a giant turtle from Queensland. I couldn`t find it mentioned on the Web nor Newton's above-mentioned Encyclopaedia:

“Gigantic Sea Turtle.” Examples of this very large species of marine turtle have been recorded in areas of the South Pacific, and some fine skeletal remains have been recovered in Australia. Relatively current reports say that in Queensland there is a massive turtle known as Moka Moka. One report by a young woman named Lovell, a resident of that area, was recorded in 1890. She said that the sea turtle had either teeth or serrated jaw bones. She went on to state that “what I saw of it was about 27 or 28 feet, but I think it must be 30 feet in all. Whilst its head was out of the water it kept its mouth open,and, as I could not see any nostrils, I fancy it breaths through its mouth. The jaws are about 18 inches in length ;the head and neck greenish white, with large white spots on the neck, and a band of white round a very black eye.” (5)

1.R.Mackal. A Living Dinosaur? (1987) p267, 269
2.M.Newton Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology A Global Guide (2005) p 89
3 Y. Hung et al The Legend of a Giant Tortoise. (1997) p.77
4 B.Read Chinese Materia Medica (1977) in .Y.Hung et al Ibid. pp54-55
5.J.Sweeney A Pictorial History of Sea Monsters and Other Dangerous Marine Life (1972) p.137

Tomorrow- The Sydenham, London, panther.

And all the world is biscuit-shapped,
Its just for me to feed my face,
And I can see,hear,smell,touch,taste,
And I`ve got one,two,three,four,five,
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in
I`ve got one,two,three,four,five,
Senses working overtime
Trying to taste the difference
`tween a lemon and a lime
Pain and pleasure,
And the church bells softly chime, (XTC Senses Working Overtime)



Richard Muirhead's articles on pygmy weasels has inspired a reasonable amount of debate, especially on the forteana yahoo group mailing list. Two things of interest that have come out are an article on stoat packs and an article on pgmy weasels from a northern newspaper.

Thanks to Merrily Harpur and Steve Jones....

LINDSAY SELBY: Some more thoughts on lake monsters.

So far I have found about 70 lake monsters documented, and that doesn’t include sea serpents, on the internet alone. 70 lake monsters sounds a lot but there are many more out there. I never realised how many there were until I started blogging.

The similarities between them are also interesting. There are lots of long necks, serpentine-like and crocodile-like creatures spotted. However, they are unlikely to be plesiosaurs as scientists think they may not have been able to hold their heads out of water. See this article

Some may be big fish, some may be eels and some may even be crocodiles but some may be something new, a new species or perhaps a very old species adapted and evolved. I am not really talking dinosaurs here but something more recent from the last 10 or 12,000 years, not a billion years old. Something surviving from the ice age and evolving is more likely than a dinosaur. A lot of the lakes with reported creatures are similar in being cold, dark waters and fairly isolated until recent times and many were only formed since the ice age. There is not a great deal of information on sea creatures of the ice age, mainly I suspect because remains have not been discovered. There is a lot on woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers but not a lot on sea creatures or lake creatures of the age. The theory is that most would be similar to today’s creatures. It could be then that an undiscovered species is waiting to be found. I think a giant eel is a likely candidate but there may be big fish, prehistoric in appearance out there, like the sturgeon but a new species.

It could be a serpentine creature, a giant water-dwelling worm; the possibilities are endless. I hope when something is found we are not disappointed that it is not the prehistoric monster some hope for, nor some other strange beast. It may turn out to be something mundane but because it has been hidden for so long that it is still exciting. I know my recent forages into the past, that of other monster hunters and my own experiences for a book, have turned up some stuff I had forgotten, like stories of large eels between 10 and 16 feet long being caught in the Loch. Some locals said their fathers had seen them or their grandfather caught one. Could be tall tales but interesting nevertheless.

I am fascinated by lake and sea monster stories as you can probably tell and have spent many hours watching lochs and lakes . I am always struck by the similarities between the areas and the lakes more than anything. Is it the similarities that matter or the differences? Well, I tie myself in knots on that one. I think the similarities are important because if it turns out that these sightings are an optical illusion, then the similarities will be important. If it turns out a creature does dwell in a lake, then the similarities between lakes will also be important in assessing whether another creature could survive in another lake.

I hope one day soon to have the time to compare all the sightings I can find and the areas they take place in, to show the similarities and hope it will show some correlation to either types of species or types of place, both of which may turn out to be important in the future. Whatever the outcome of investigating the lake monsters sightings, whether misperception or creature, I want to know the answers. Curiosity is a wonderful thing and I am very curious about lake creatures!


We should have done this months ago, but for some reason never really got around to it. This morning I was on Facebook (yes, Robert Heinlein's advice to aspiring writers comes to mind: "If you must use Facebook, do it in private and wash your hands afterwards") stealing a picture of Derek Grebner to use to illustrate my `thank you` when I was jumped upon by Jessica Taylor asking if I could help with her homework by letting her use the office printer. Well duh! Of course I can, I said.

And then Ruby Lang came online.

I needed to talk to her about some CFZ Australia stuff anyway. One thing led to another, and now she has added the CFZ Australia blog to the network. Hooray!

Welcome aboard, guys.

CFZ PEOPLE: Derek Grebner

Many thanks to Derek Grebner, our Illinois representative, who has just made an incredibly generous donation to the CFZ.

Thank you, mate - it means a hell of a lot to us all!

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


I’m getting a swish new pair of glasses today, so hopefully this should bring things a bit sharper into focus. As my prescription has changed quite a bit it’ll be interesting to see what effect this has on tomorrow’s 3D picture too. Well, here’s a song, just because it is Saturday and all: http://www.last.fm/music/Johnny+Nash/_/I+Can+See+Clearly+Now?autostart
Do you see what I did there? Anyway, here’s the cryptozoology news:

Feline scared yet?
Alaskan creature stories
Bees on cocaine: The facts
'Gatorade for frogs' could stymie fungal killer
Tiny dinosaur species identified
So which hen lays the golden eggs?
Blue whale washes up in California

Scientists think it died after a collision with a boat, because apart from a deep gash on its back there was no sign of it being un-‘whale.’