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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 31, 2009

SAMHAIN SPECIAL

Today is All Hallow's Eve, or Samhain if you will. It is the Pagan New Year an ancient feast day, which over the past few decades has become celebrated anew in the public consciousness.

Whether you believe that it is the day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, whether you believe (like I do) that it is the day that marks the beginning of the winter months and is a feastday to say goodbye to the days of summer, or whether it is just a day when your kids dress up as goblins and roam the streets in search of sweeties, it is a day that is hard to ignore. And as it is at least vaguely on-topic to some of what we study here at the CFZ, we have gone the whole hog on the bloggo to celebrate it. There are stories, poems, fact and fiction; lots of Good Stuff.

Corinna has got into the macabre mood over on her blog as well with two postings:

Five senses of the Moor at Midnight
Monsters Abound

And normal service (in so much as the CFZ bloggo can ever be called normal) will be resumed tomorrow.

Happy Hallowe'en

RICHARD FREEMAN: Drake's Brier

They looked like an army; the police in their helmets, armed with batons, crouching behind riot shields. They looked like Nazi storm troopers. Behind them loomed the diggers and bulldozers, their headlamps falling down like spotlights on the scene. They were an army and this was a battle in a very real war and we were ready to take the fight to them.

I was crouching low in one of the lookout posts on the edge of Elf land. That’s what we called it: Elf land, the rambling network of tree houses and rope bridges that had been my home for the last six months. I glanced around taking in some of the faces I knew from the crowds of Elf-landers now amassed to fight for their homes and for the survival of Drake’s Brier Woods. Kingsley Evans, the six-foot punk with a pink Mohawk and an absurd voice like a cartoon mouse; crazy Lil with her shaven head and extensive tattoos; Billy the Troll, a hairy little Scotsman so called for his ability to dig and live in tunnels. Oddest of all was Mrs. Parkhurst, Elf land’s oldest resident, a 70-year-old widow from the little town of Drake’s End. She had hated the proposed relief road and fought for the survival of the woods from the outset. She had been living in the ragged conglomeration of arboreal shanties longer than I had.

I clutched the cricket bat to my chest and tensed myself for the police charge. Beside me were several petrol bombs and canisters of home made napalm; a nasty mixture of Vaseline, polystyrene, and petrol. I always knew it would come down to this; the final battle. But the reality of being there, the thick pendulous atmosphere, made my stomach turn over. Then from behind our ranks came a voice:

“And when he’d eaten all he could
And when he’d had his fill
He crawled away and wound his tail
Nine times about the hill.”

He stepped out of the shadows and pushed his way towards the front line. Walking forwards into 'no man’s land' he stood before the police and work crew as bold as brass. It was Goatface.

Goatface had always been a part of Drake’s Brier as far as I was concerned; a semi-legendary character. I played in the woods as a boy. My friends and I would dare each other to go deeper in; into where the light didn’t shine. Into where the mad tramp lived. He would come scuttling out of the shadows, muttering under his breath or sometimes loom from behind an ancient oak or yew, silent as a ghost. I guess he must have looked pretty much like the average tramp. He wore a fading black trench coat, even in the middle of summer. About it was tied a piece of hairy string in lieu of a belt. He had shabby grey trousers and hobnail boots. He had a long unkempt beard that gave him his name, always flecked with spittle, filth and crumbs. It was almost as if he was cultivating something in it. His weather-beaten face had a Faginesque hooked nose and two mad pallid eyes that shone out through the grime. He looked like some ungodly cross between Old Father Time and Albert Steptoe.

And the woods themselves were equally as odd. According to the maps Drake’s Brier covered around 300 acres. Yet it seemed so much bigger. Perhaps it just looked that way through a child’s eyes but the odd effect still struck me when I returned as an adult. Even at the edges very little light penetrated. It was filtered through the dense canopy of herbage above. This gave the woods an odd sort of constant verdant twilight. Everything seemed tinted green. In Drake’s Brier you could think yourself in the middle of the Siberian Taiga. It seemed so distant, so far from civilisation. And at its centre stood Worm Hill.

Worm Hill rose several hundred feet about the middle of the woods. Visible for miles around it was a well known local landmark. No sheep ever grazed there. It was encircled by rings forming tiers up its sides. The local legend was that they were formed by the coils of a dragon that laired in the hollow hill and came out to wrap itself about the mound.

We climbed up it on a number of occasions. We were always out of puff by the time we reached the top but it was worth it for the view. Miles of the North Yorkshire Moors were visible. On a clear day you could just make out Whitby on the coast to the east. We would run down the spiral coils in the hill imagining the size of the beast needed to make them.

My dad told me Worm Hill was actually an Iron Age fort and the circles were its ramparts. Apparently in the early 1960s a team of archeologists from Leeds University dug there. The dig only lasted a week and then closed down abruptly. Apparently nothing of note was found. The team’s leader, a Professor Amos Hartley, retired afterwards. The hill was left undisturbed ever since.

As we got older our fear of Goatface lessened. He never actually did anything to us. He was never aggressive or unkind; he was just there. You would see him in the woods; he might stare briefly, but then he would back away into the trees, like an animal. He lived deep in the centre of the woods. I only saw his home a couple of times. It was in a thick tangled stand of blackthorn. I stumbled on it quite by accident. He had woven the thorny branches together to form tunnels running to a central dome of woven thicket and corrugated iron with old bits of tarpaulin strung across it. A makeshift chimney rose from it, black and sooty.

It wasn’t us who gave him his name; it was an older boy, Keith “Beefy” Johnson. Beefy Johnson was the bully of Drake’s End middle school, though he was quite a coward on his own. Beefy usually had an entourage of henchmen, the Beefy Johnson Gang. They took to hanging around the woods. They gave the old man the name of Goatface. They would torment him screaming “Goatface, Goatface” over and over, throwing stones then running when he hobbled after, swinging the gnarled old walking stick he always carried. He wheezed horribly and dribbled phlegm down his beard. He mumbled and hissed but I could never make out the words; they sounded foreign.

Sometimes he would play strange music on a set of carved black pipes. The eerie, disturbing sound would float down through the woods sounding more like a piping language than music.

I was amazed when my Granddad said he knew him.

“Abner Skinner were his real name,” he said. “His family came from up Northumbria way. I knew him when I were at University down in Leeds.”

My Granddad had done three years at the university; rare for a working class bloke in those days. He studied farming and agriculture. It was not long after the war. He had been a bright lad and won a scholarship. He went on to farm rapeseed just outside Wakefield.

“Wouldn’t credit it would yer, lad? He were bloody clever once; best in the year. He wouldn’t have just been a farmer. He would have got a job down the Old Smoke with the agriculture department or something. I couldn’t believe it were t' same bloke, me.”

“What happened, Granddad; if he were so clever, like, what happened to him?” I asked.

“Went mad, son; mad as bag of spoons! He got a dose of religion. Don’t ask me which one. Some crackpot foreign rubbish I think. Anyways, he found this old book in one of them creaky old bookshops up Hebden Bridge way. Said it told him how to grow crops really fast and no matter how poor the soil was. Somethin’ to do with old gods and earth fertility. The more he read the loonier he got. He would wander up onto the moors and in the woods for days on end. Miss lectures, never wash, come back to his digs covered in dirt and blood. Some of the other students said he was sacrificin’ cats and chickens to somethin’ up in Drake’s Brier but I can’t say if it were true or not. He said he had a theory that would revolutionise farming. Said there would be no hunger ever again. Now this was just after the war. People was still being rationed. Happen as that’s why his tomfoolery was tolerated up at the University, to a point. He could have made it big. I think he could have really done somethin’ special; groundbreaking. But then one night he was caught wandering through campus covered in mud and blood, screamin’ his ruddy head off. He was thrown off the course and kicked out his lodgings. He just upped and left for the woods. Lived there ever since. Never been right in the head since. He’s a wrong 'un, that bloke.”

I often wondered what the old man lived off. I supposed he must pick berries and grow his own food. I thought he must have some livestock because on several occasions I heard him mention “feedin’ it.” It seemed to be the only words he said that were not gibberish.

The Beefy Johnson gang continued to torment Goatface for a couple of years. Then Beefy disappeared. No body was ever found despite a massive police search. No one was ever charged. I supposed they would have questioned old Abner Skinner but I never heard anything about it. The Johnsons moved away down south. Some of the people in the village suspected “that mad old bastard up the woods” had done Beefy in. They spoke darkly about him but no one ever did anything. My Mum wouldn’t let me play in those woods after that. My mate’s mums all did the same thing. That was in the summer of 1977. I didn’t see Goatface again for years.

I grew up, left school, attended college, and finally moved away to study ecology at Cardiff University. I joined Greenpeace there and went on several protest marches and rallies. It was just after my graduation that I heard of the government plans to run a road straight through my childhood playground.

There were bee orchids in Drake’s Brier; there were red squirrels. Some said there were even mouse-eared bats; stuff that you rarely find elsewhere. The woods were like a little national park. The plan was to run a relief road through the woods and skirt around Worm Hill. It would destroy many acres and bisect the forest. The danger the heavy traffic would pose to wildlife was obvious.

I left immediately to join the direct action protest. The thought of another piece of green stripped away forever made my blood boil. The fact that it was ‘my’ piece of green made me all the more angry.

The group grew over the weeks and months, as did Elf land. I was surprised to find Goatface was still alive and well. We didn’t see him that often. Usually we would hear his unsettling music rising through the woods when the moon was fat. A wet, reedy, piping, pregnant with strangeness. When we did bump into him on some deep woodland path he would never speak but gave us a nod as if he knew what we were doing and was grateful. I almost got to like him. Almost.

We had cost the government hundreds of thousands of pounds and had put their nasty little project back months. Roadblocks, iron spikes in tires and caterpillar tracks, sand in engines; we tried all the tricks. Now it looked like it was all over. We were well entrenched but vastly outnumbered. All that stood between the police and the diggers and us was Abner Skinner; old Goatface.

The sun was crawling behind the horizon, throwing the whole scene into the ethereal cloak of twilight. The old man cast off the huge trench coat and stood bare-chested. His scrawny body was a network of scars. Strange symbols were carved into his flesh. I had an unpleasant feeling that they were self-inflicted.

He threw back his head and bellowed; an animalistic primal scream that I found hard to equate with such a frail-looking old man. Then he began his jabbering. If they were words then they were not in any language known to me. They sounded more like guttural snorts, high-pitched whines, and horrid chitterings. Perhaps they were vestiges of the original, primal, uber language rising up from the old man’s subconscious. Who knows? The police must have been slightly taken aback as they didn’t do anything. At the height of his maniacal ravings he threw back his head and whipped a black-bladed knife out of his malodorous pocket. Quick as a flash he was cutting signs in his own flesh, opening up swirls and curves of flesh that wept tears of blood. His hands moved fast across his pigeon chest whilst his face seemed lost in a ghastly expression of almost orgasmic ecstasy. As the rills of gore fell into the dust he shrieked something that I think must have been an invocation, a calling, the name of… something.

“IA!IA! LLOIGOR!”

There was a dry rustling from the woods behind us. Something stirred the treetops and made the dead leaves dance tiny waltzes. The ground began to tremble as if something were stirring beneath our feet. A murmur broke out among the ranks then someone noticed that the police were staring not at us but behind us.

As one, the crowd turned and looked up at Worm Hill. There seemed to be an odd kind of nimbus about it, like a heat haze. It seemed to trace a path down the ruts that encircled the hill. The effect seemed to move with an ophidian grace. It ran like water down the tracks forming coils about the hill. As I watched, trying to work out what was causing the strange sight, I noticed that it seemed to be solidifying. The haze was becoming more like a greenish light.

The front end of the phenomenon reached the foot of the hill and seemed to slide into the trees. There was a rustling in the woods that began to grow as coil after coil of the green light slithered down from the hill and entered the woods.

None of us knew what it was. I think we were all imagining it to be some kind of trick Skinner had engineered. I recall being impressed at that point and wondering how the old bugger had pulled it off. None of us were ready for what came next.

Out of the woods came a sound. It was like nothing I’d ever heard. I could try to explain it as being bird-like; a sort of thundering screech. But that would not do it justice. It had more bass. It was almost as if the sound was inside my head rather than external, but I know that can’t be right as I saw the others react to it. The noise seemed to stir something deep in my memory. Something bad.

There was another sound accompanying the screech. It was like the sails of an old-fashioned ship unfurling or huge carpets being beaten. I realised with shock that I was listening to the beating of huge wings.

We didn’t scream, not a first. We couldn’t even move. What came crashing out of those woods; half slithering, half flapping; burnt itself onto the mind of everyone that saw it together with one word: ‘dragon.’

It was huge: hundreds of feet long. It rose from the shadows of Drake’s Wood, its titan bat wings half open. Armoured scales glistened an iridescent green, the sheen making rainbow patterns like oil on water. Four tree-trunk-thick legs terminated in clutching scythe-talons. The tail seemed to trail on endlessly into the woods with an unceasing writhing and coiling. At the end of the long neck was a horned head, a reptilian nightmare. I saw row upon row of curved white teeth, strong as steel and sharp as razors. A great forked tongue flickered in and out of the scimitar-lined jaws, tasting the air. Caustic saliva dripped from the maw, hissing like water on a hot plate.

It wasn’t the teeth that scared me the most. It was the eyes. Vast orbs of golden fire with black slits. They looked so old; so very, very old and as it turned to glance down at the Elf-Landers it regarded them with a vile understanding.

The wings opened and beat once. It was up and over the crowd, landing with uncanny agility in ‘no man’s land.’ The jaws opened and it spat forth a white fire. Bulldozers exploded, cartwheeling high in the air and crashing down in charred ruin. The police caught in the blinding, white-hot blast were dead before they hit the floor. The heat boiled their innards, sending them vomiting from their own mouths as flaming liquid flesh. They danced briefly like ghastly marionettes before becoming whips of carbon.

Those who escaped the blast ran, bowels emptying. The dragon fell upon them and the jaws flashed down and seized a victim. It hoisted him aloft and shook him in the manner a bull terrier might shake a rat. Again and again the jaws flashed as it snapped up human prey with a lurid wet crunching.

A handful of the men had escaped, running madly into the night. The beast could have easily caught them or struck them down with a jet of flame. I think it wanted them to escape. It wanted them to tell their masters what they had seen at Drake’s Brier. I was doubled up, retching, as were most of the other protesters around me. Some had fouled themselves. I saw Billy the Troll scoop up a prone Mrs Parkhurst and run for cover.

It screeched again and some dark memory rose inside me. I was a frightened ape running across a plane under a hot sun, running for my life. A puny mammal that shat and pissed as it scampered for cover with other mewling members of its kind. A massive black shadow fell across the land as an airborne predator whirled above us. The screech came again, echoing through the ages, through the countless generations, across species and into the present day. The race memory faded leaving me in spasms. I heard a human voice and my mind clutched at it like a drowning man grabbing a branch.

“I knew he’d come, the old Wyrm. He’d come all right if he thought his home was getting messed with.” I heard Abner hiss. “Him’s like an adder, hibernates but as an adder sleeps months he can sleep aeons. There’s loads of 'em all over the world. Just not time for 'em to wake up yet.”

He began to laugh, almost doubling up as much as me in my sickness. The monstrous creature folded its titan wings and slithered back into the woods. As it went it seem to be losing form again, becoming more ethereal. I turned my head up towards the hill and saw the shimmering coils slipping ghost-like into the side of the hill itself. Goatface, his wounds now quite healed, calmly picked up his coat and followed it. I wondered about his words, about just when would be the right time for them to wake up.

I never went back to Drake’s Brier. The government abandoned its plans for the relief road. An enquiry into what happened stated that one of the bulldozers had exploded due to a serious electrical fault. The flames had engulfed several more machines and ignited their petrol tanks. The men were killed in the ensuing explosion. I have not seen any of my old friends from Elf land. I think that like me they have given up direct action. I now live in central London, as far as I can from any wood. Still, when the wind whips up the trees in the park, making the branches sway, or clouds send big shadows sweeping across the land, I shake. And the ancient screech of the dragon still reaches down through time to haunt what little sleep I have.

FRISWELL'S FREAKY FEATURES: A Trick of the eye


Some months ago Alan Friswell, the bloke who made the CFZ Feegee Mermaid and also the guy responsible for some of the most elegantly macabre bloggo postings, wrote me an email.

He had an idea for a new series for the bloggo. Quite simply he has an enormous collection of macabre, fortean, odd and disturbing magazine and newspaper articles, and he proposed to post them up on the bloggo.


I love optical illusions. After all, can we really believe what our eyes reveal to us? If the latest findings and theories of quantum physics are sound, then the universe that we have always perceived to be 'real' may be no more than a holographic stage set, with us as the unwitting actors--or thereabouts....

Anyway, here's a great but simple trick for Halloween. Just look at the skeleton's nose for about thirty seconds, and then stare at a dark wall or door. The skull should appear as white, while the cowl will be blue.

ALAN FRISWELL: 13 Fearsome Facts about Hallowe'en

The traditions and customs of Halloween are a familiar part of our popular culture. But what is not so well known, however, are the rituals and legends; strange and funny facts; and the sometimes gruesome and horrific origins of the creepiest festival of the year (apart from the Weird Weekend, of course).

The festival of Halloween derives from the ancient pagan ceremony of Samhain, which was celebrated by the Celtic peoples of the British Isles. It was to mark the end of the summer season, and the onset of the cold darkness of the winter months. The last Holy day became known as All Hallows Eve, which became Halloween. On this night, it was believed, the spirits of the dead could walk amongst us, to haunt the towns and villages where they once lived.

The origin of Halloween goes back to before the beginnings of recorded history. To appease the evil spirits that roamed the earth on that one terrible night human sacrifices were often made, the victim’s throat cut, and the blood drank with wine and mead. These bloody rituals were carried out across the British Isles. In Ireland the festival was called O’iche shamhna; in Gaelic Scotland it was known as Samhuin. In Wales it was Calan Gaeaf; in Cornwall, Allantide. On the lsle of Man it was Hop Tu Naa. In some parts of Ireland, it was called Pooky night after a creepy and mischievous spirit called the Puca.

Mexico and other Latin American countries have their own version of Halloween, which they call The Day of the Dead. But far from celebrating the grim and gruesome aspects of the holiday, the
townspeople throw lavish parties in their local cemeteries. Whole families with their children and babies spend the afternoon sitting on their relatives' graves in the hope that their deceased loved ones will join in the fun. The festival has its origins in ancient Aztec culture and in Mexico in particular, has become an industry, with sweets and candies in the form of skulls and skeletons sold in every high street shop, as part of the celebration.

Halloween is America’s sixth most popular holiday after Christmas, Mother’s day, Valentines day, Easter, and Father’s day. Huge parties and carnivals are staged to celebrate it every year, but Britain, the place in which Halloween originated, only began to adopt modern versions of the festival in the 1980s.

It was the Irish potato famine of 1845 that drove large numbers of the population to emigrate to America. The new arrivals brought their superstition and folklore with them, and the traditions of All Hallows Eve became a part of American culture. If not for the potato famine, Halloween would have remained as a legend from Celtic mythology, and a forgotten part of our history.

In America horror film festivals are a part of Halloween, and scary films are shown around the clock. New horror movie releases are timed to coincide with the holiday to ensure maximum publicity.

In John Carpenter’s original film Halloween (1978), the horrific face of the killer Michael Meyers is actually a Captain Kirk mask, bought from a novelty shop. The hair was cropped and dyed black, the eyeholes enlarged, and the rubber ‘skin’ sprayed with white mortician’s paint.

The Halloween tradition of bobbing for apples originated in Celtic Britain, when the Romans finished their invasion in AD 43. Pagan celebrations combined with Roman festivals, and one of the adopted rituals was the worship of the Roman goddess Pomona, the deity of fruit and trees. Pomona’s symbol is the apple; and to pluck an apple from a barrel without using your hands became part of British and later American folklore, in that doing so would grant you happiness.

The ritual of dressing up as ghosts and spirits was to ensure protection and anonymity from the real undead creatures that walked on Halloween. In these ghoulish disguises, villagers could move among the shades of the dead unharmed, and eavesdrop on the spirits' conversation. Today, it has become fancy dress, with few people realising the macabre origin of their costumes.

As All Souls Day approached, the spirits of the dead would plague the villages, taking money and food from the terrified populace, who would consequently attempt to ‘buy off’ the evil influences with gold coins or meals cooked especially for the occasion. Some unscrupulous villagers would dress as ghosts, and demand goods and property from their neighbours, who would comply, not realising that they were being fooled. This was the beginning of the trick or treaters, a mild form of demanding money with menaces.

One of the most popular elements of Halloween is the Jack O’ Lantern, with many theories as to its origin. One of the most grisly is that in the barbaric times of Celtic Samhain the severed heads of enemy warriors were placed on poles in positions of honour at the winter feasts. These became adapted into the carved faces of the Jack O’ Lanterns. In the British Isles, the severed heads were later replaced by hollowed out turnips, lit from inside with hot coals. When Halloween took off in America, the turnip was replaced by the pumpkin, as it was subsequently in Britain in later years. Irish children have been told the legend of Stingy Jack, a farmer cast out of both Heaven and Hell, cursed to walk the earth with his lantern lighting the way. Hollow
turnips with candles inside were left in the porches of cottages in Ireland, so that Stingy Jack could use it to replace his burned-out lantern, and so not haunt the village.

The pumpkin is a fruit related to melons, gherkins and cucumbers. It has been grown and cultivated in North America for five thousand years. They were first discovered in 1584 by the French explorer Jacques Cartier. He described them as ‘gros melons’, which translated into
English as ‘pomions’, which evolved into ‘pumpkin’. Competitions are regularly staged in America to find the most extreme pumpkin. The largest pumpkin to date weighed 1,502 pounds, and was grown by Ron Wallace of Rhode Island. The largest pumpkin pie so far recorded was baked on October 8th 2005, and weighed 2,020 pounds. There are even competitions to carve a Halloween pumpkin in the shortest time. The record is held by Steve Clarke, who carved a 17 pound pumpkin in 1,14,8 minutes on December 2000.

Although most people see Halloween as harmless fun, it has a darker side. In the 1970s, a series of gruesome incidents horrified the police forces in several American states. Almost unbelievably, children were biting into apples given to them while trick-or-treating, only to
find pins, nails, and razor-blades embedded in the fruit. Serious injuries were sometimes inflicted, one child almost having his tongue severed. Hospitals had to treat so many cases that children were forbidden to accept fruit while trick-or-treating, for fear of what might have been placed inside. In recent years Halloween has come under fire from fundamentalist Christian groups, for supposedly corrupting children’s minds with ‘satanic’ symbolism and imagery, and
promoting elements of black magic and anti-Christian themes. To most people this is ridiculous, and Halloween is seen as being no more ‘satanic’ than a fun fair Ghost Train. Halloween may have had its beginnings in superstitious belief and bloody ritual, but now its gruesome origins
have become a holiday pantomime for both children and adults, and no more than simple spooky fun. We hope….

DAVEY CURTIS: A Horned Apparition


What is this?

Does The Horned God walk the earth on Halloween?

No, not really. It's a greedy old goat (it's an Indian antelope actually, Daveypoos) trying to get the food pellets off the dashboard of our car on Rosies Birthday visit to West Midlands safari park! Phewwww.

Regards Davy C.

FIGHT EXTINCTION WITH HALLOWE'EN E-CARDS


Center for Biological Diversity

Dear Bloggo Readers,

Click here to view and send cards.

What's more frightening than ghosts, goblins, and witches? Real life, of course. Here on Earth, we're losing dozens of species each day -- which means planetary life is dying out more than 1,000 times faster than in pre-human history. And that's no Halloween ghost story. Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in the past half-billion years -- a nightmare of global proportions.

But we can't blame the situation on zombies or ghouls. The culprit is Homo sapiens. From the massive amount of greenhouse gas we emit to the lands and waters we rampantly destroy to the simple fact that there are far too many of us (and we keep multiplying like gremlins), the main thing we have to fear in the extinction crisis is ourselves.

Scared yet?

The good news is, together we can stop rare animals and plants from disappearing into the spirit world. With your help, the Center for Biological Diversity has been successfully fighting extinction for more than 20 years. We have the power to get the message out and protect imperiled plants, animals, and wild places. Help us avoid climate-change catastrophe and save countless endangered species from the grave.

The first step is educating people about the problem -- and this Halloween is a great time to do it. The Center isn't all doom and gloom -- we're making taking action a treat this week with five clever endangered species and conservation e-postcards you can share with all your friends. Think of them as a scare tactic for change.

Click here to send e-postcards to your friends.




If you have trouble following the link, go to http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2167/t/10105/content.jsp?content_KEY=6549.


Gila monster photo (c) Robin Silver.

This message was sent to richard@cfz.org.uk.

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Center for Biological Diversity

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1-866-357-3349

SHOSH McCARTHY: An Unlikely Werewolf

This has always been a family affair, and it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to today's guest blogger, my stepdaughter Shosh. I am ridiculously proud of my girls, and indeed I don't think I could be prouder of them if they were actually my own flesh and blood.

Shosh has started on a career in animal welfare, and has just qualified from the Royal Veterinary College in London. She is in practice in Staffordshire, where she lives with her intended. She also has a cynical sense of humour quite unsettling in one so young and beautiful... .

There is a road near my house that I use quite frequently – a fairly quiet lane with houses at either end but the odd stretch of nothingness in between. There are a couple of ill-kept lay-bys along the road, surrounded by trees and dotted with the odd shopping trolley. One night I was returning home along this lane, the clock approaching midnight, when I started to near one of these lay-bys. As my car approached, out of the trees trotted a German Shepherd dog, nose to ground. I slowed down to a crawl in case it should wander in front of my car, and I subconsciously scanned the pavement and lay-by for the accompanying human... none appeared.

The dog appeared to be absolutely alone, and I stopped the car in one of those ‘good citizen’ moments. Should I try to catch the apparently stray animal? As my car sat stationary the dog looked up at me and from that moment its eyes – shining in the reflection of the headlights – never left mine. I thought better of getting out of the car to try and approach it and perhaps negligently, drove on home. The dog disappeared into the darkness in my rear view mirror, and there was still no sign of any owner. I haven’t seen it again. OK, so it was definitely a German Shepherd and not a wolf. And OK, he probably lived in one of the houses nearby and had just escaped out of the gate or something. But being death-stared by a lone canine in a dark country lane is the nearest I have come to encountering a werewolf. In his or her canine form, that is.

Now I don’t claim to know an awful lot about werewolves... in fact, the only things I do know about them is that they are very big and drink piña colada. And I have Hollywood and Warren Zevon respectively to thank for that. In fact, based on such dubious sources, how can I be sure that werewolves don’t actually take the form of German Shepherd dogs? Or Dalmatians? Or Pugs? For those of you who have seen photographs of Sam, the World’s Ugliest Dog (Google him if you haven’t), the premise of a werewolf Chinese Crested Dog suddenly doesn’t seem so ludicrous.

Anyway, I have three pertinent questions about werewolves that I would welcome answers to:

1. Is transforming from the human form to the canine form painful? Some movies depict it as being excruciatingly so (provided they can afford the special effects required to actually depict the transformation). I mean, fur suddenly sprouts out of your body from follicles that really can’t handle a hair that size. The bones in your hands and feet get longer, which must result in pretty acute ‘growing pains’. And with very few humans being immunised against canine diseases, surely you’re going to go down with a nasty case of distemper sooner or later.

2. How come werewolves are so adept at jumping on and off cars, and climbing the Eiffel tower (did the American Werewolf in Paris actually climb the Eiffel Tower or have I just made that up?)? I suppose if you’ve been a werewolf for long enough you would be used to it, but I reckon that as a newly infected werewolf I would be stumbling about all over the place. I’m not used to strutting around on four legs, or wagging a tail.

3. If you were a werewolf, would you refer to the transformation as ‘that time of the month’? I expect many people would like to stay out of your way when the full moon came around, and it’s not necessarily because they’ll get shouted at for putting a spoon in the fork compartment of the cutlery tray again.

I suppose being a werewolf could have its perks, though. The shaggy coat would mean you don’t have to worry about what to wear when you go out on a midnight killing spree. And I don’t think you’d have to stress over-paying your Council Tax bill. Even the most belligerent of bailiffs might think twice before taking your sofa if you flashed your carnassials.

GAVIN HUGHES: Generic Slasher Movie

It is always nice to introduce a new bloggo contributor.

Gavin Hughes is Shosh’s fiancée (and therefore Jon's future stepson-in-law) and is 32 years old. He is a Service Analyst and his interests include playing guitar, tinkering around on computers, listening to and making music and anything to do with Ford Sierras. He dislikes coffee, artichokes and dieting.


Does anyone fancy a good old slasher movie? Here you are… some parts have been censored for the benefit of family readers.

As usual, the sexy teens get together during Spring Break in Colorado to visit their uncle’s log cabin in the woods. Brett, the cool surfer dude whom all the girls swoon over, offers to drive them all - as long as the rest of them supply the copious amounts of beer required to get them through the weekend. The log cabin is situated at the end of a single road into the mountains, far away from the nearest town (Hallows Hill) so they don’t need to fear disturbing anyone else while they party! The log cabin is situated on the edge of the lake in the heart of the forest and is very picturesque in the daytime.

Brett and Billy had brought along their shiny orange girlfriends Madison and Taylor (yes, those are names for girls in American films). Billy, immediately upon arriving, begins to scare them with the old ghost stories of ‘Mad Dog’ McDougan, the janitor who used to work at the old High School in Hallows Hill. As the highly original story goes, McDougan murdered all the students and allegedly died in the fire of 1932, but his body was never found!

As the night progresses Billy disappears to get more drinks from the fridge outside, and after 15 minutes Taylor is wondering where he has got to. They listen…but all they can hear is the whistling of the trees and the howling of the wind. They cautiously step outside and start to call Billy’s name. Noticing the door to the old barn is open they creep over noisily. Just as they open the door Billy jumps out and scares them in a hilarious fashion, and Taylor says, “Don’t do that Billy; you are an idiot! We certainly won’t fall for that again….”

They go to bed. Madison and Taylor are sharing the only bedroom and Brett and Billy are in the front room. Madison and Taylor are discussing Billy’s story of the janitor and Madison is scared it might be true, but Taylor tells her there are no such things as ghosts and they laugh heartily and fall asleep.

In the night there is a knocking sound on the wall that wakes Madison. She is scared and wakes Taylor and Taylor says, “Oh it’s only Billy messing around again…” Madison shouts, “Billy stop messing around again!” and the banging stops. There is a pause….then it bangs louder on the window this time. Madison expresses squeaky annoyance and yells, “That’s it Billy, I’m going to get you now”, opens the door and runs outside. Taylor follows but can’t see Madison in the darkness.

Taylor hears Madison call, “Billy?” in the distance and then hears her scream. Taylor rushes over and sees a figure over Madison and says, “Oh Billy, what have you done, you fool?” He turns and Taylor sees his face and it is not Billy…..it is (predictably) “MAD DOG” McDOUGAN! He steps forward and stabs her too.

Meanwhile, in the other room, Brett was woken by Taylor yelling. He staggers to his feet a bit worse for wear after all the beer he has drunk. He stumbles towards the front door only to hear Madison scream! Billy jumps up with a shock and says, “What the dickens was that?” Brett pulls the curtain and peers through the window just as the janitor stabs Taylor. Brett lets go of the curtain and says, “Oh fudge!” He looks around the room, and grabs the compulsory old hunting rifle off the wall as Billy says, “What? What did you see?”

Brett moves towards the door, puts one hand on the handle and turns to Billy. He says, in a not very evocative voice, “Wait here…” As he opens the door he sees Billy’s face has gone white. He turns back to the doorway and ‘Mad Dog’ is standing right there and stabs him.

Billy panics and yells, “Argh! What do you want?”

He stumbles backwards and reaches for his mobile phone, but his hand accidently lands on his iPod instead and the speakers blare into life, filling the room with Nick Van Eede’s searing vocals, as his band Cutting Crew told of the perils of love and death with their 1986 hit ‘I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight’.

In the confusion Billy runs out the room, through the bedroom and out the back door. Heading straight for Brett’s pickup (it’s always a pickup), he fumbles to find the right key for the lock. Mad Dog stumbles out of the door, pauses to allow enough time for Billy to fall over a couple of times, and then heads towards him. Billy manages to get into the vehicle and locks the door just as Mad Dog starts banging on the window. Billy frantically turns the key but the engine won’t start, although it was fine at the start of the movie. Mad Dog turns and walks off. Billy is confused, but continues to try to get the truck to start. Suddenly, Billy hears the revving of an engine and then sees headlights as a slightly bigger pickup truck rolls into view behind him. As he looks in the mirror, he sees Mad Dog in the driver’s seat. The bigger truck starts to push the pickup towards the lake and Billy screams. Rather than open the door and get out, Billy rather prefers to scream and shout “Noooooooooooo!” for a couple of minutes while the truck slowly pushes the pickup towards the lake. The car plummets down the down the bank and into the water. Mad Dog is seen walking off back into the dark woods carrying Billy’s iPod, the speakers dragging in the mud behind him. While Paul Weller belts out his 1993 hit ‘Wild Wood’….

That was it for the students and ‘Mad Dog’ will now disappear back into the woods, until … the first of the fourteen incredibly similar sequels.

LANETTE BAKER: Ask and ye shall recieve


Lanette is the Missouri representative of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, and when she sent us the following story with an apology that it had nothing to do with cryptozoology, we grinned and told her that we would save it up for our hallowe'en special, which we have done.

In fact, if the truth were known, it was the arrival of Lanette's story that gave us the idea for the Hallowe'en special. So it is all your fault honey :)




Upon a recent paranormal investigation we went to one of the oldest cemeteries in the Cape Girardeau MO area. There are several 'hauntings' in the area and due to the past history of the place we are wondering if many of them are connected in some way.

We went to Old Lorimier Cemetery, got there about 3:30 and found out the place closed at 3:00... go figure... So we called the people in charge, explained what we wanted to do and asked could someone let us in. They said they would not be able to that night but would set up another time of us and told us we could take pictures from outside the fence and warned us about motion sensors in the place. (glad it was mentioned because there were some areas I could of fit through) *grin*

We walked around and took a few pictures until it got dark, then once it was dark we were able to 'feel' something and knew it was time to definitely take some pictures.

The ones I am submitting were taken in a row, after the fist one with 'nothing' I asked if anyone would like to have their picture taken... I have circled what appeared besides the mist, which I did not see while taking the pictures.

There were several more pictures that are of huge interest, some have been sent to the historic society. At this point I can no longer find the large cat that I had found markings of and I am trying to find a cave where a 'hairy beast' has been seen. It has a name that probably only the older folks know and I cannot find anyone who knows where the heck the cave is. So creature-hunting is at bay and paranormal-hunting is what is going on until I get my cave info.

LINDSAY SELBY: One for Hallowe'en

Zombies, a favourite of horror movies, have a basis in fact. There are stories in folklore about people being poisoned and thought to be dead and then seen working. This article is a study by a scientist who explored this and came to the conclusion that zombies do exist. So watch out this all hallows eve...who knows what may be lurking in the shadows!

Zombies: do They Exist?

By Bernard Diederich;Claudia Wallis Monday, Oct. 17, 1983

Yes, says a Harvard scientist, who offers an explanation.On a brilliant day in the spring of 1980, a stranger arrived at L'Estère marketplace in Haiti's fertile Artibonite Valley. The man's gait was heavy, his eyes vacant. The peasants watched fearfully as he approached a local woman named Angelina Narcisse. She listened as he introduced himself, then screamed in horror—and recognition.

The man had given the boyhood nickname of her deceased brother Clairvius Narcisse, a name that was known only to family members and had not been used since his funeral in 1962.This incident and four others in recent years have sparked the most systematic inquiry ever made into the legendary voodoo phenomenon of zombiism. According to Haitian belief, a zombie is an individual who has been "killed" and then raised from the dead by malevolent voodoo priests known as "bocors."

Though most educated Haitians deny the existence of zombies, Dr. Lamarque Douyon, Canadian-trained head of the Psychiatric Center in Port-au-Prince, has been trying for 25 years to establish the truth about the phenomenon, no easy matter in a land where the line between myth and reality is faintly drawn. More recently, Douyon has been joined in his search by Harvard Botanist E. Wade Davis.

Next month Davis is publishing a paper on his findings in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. His startling conclusion: "Zombiism exists and is a societal phenomenon that can be explained logically." Douyon set the stage for Davis' study by foraying into rural Haiti, where he met with purported zombies and fearsome bocors. At least 15 individuals who had been branded zombies by terrified peasants turned out to be victims of epilepsy, mental retardation, insanity or alcoholism.

The case of Clairvius Narcisse, however, gave Douyon good evidence. Medical records showed he was declared dead in 1962 at Albert Schweitzer Hospital, an American-run institution in Deschapelles. Yet more than 200 people recognized him after his reappearance.The best explanation, Douyon believed, was that Narcisse had been poisoned in such a way that his vital signs could not be detected. The psychiatrist obtained a sample of a coma-inducing toxin from a bocor. The poison is apparently used to punish individuals who have transgressed the will of their community or family. Narcisse, for example, said that he had been "killed" by his brothers for refusing to go along with their plan to sell the family land. Ti-Femme, a female zombie also under study by Douyon, had been poisoned for refusing to marry the man her family had chosen for her and for bearing another man’s child.

Douyon sent a quantity of the zombie potion to the U.S., where it came to Davis' attention. An expert on tribal uses of plants, Davis flew to Haiti and began collecting his own samples. "The principal ingredients are consistent in three of four localities," he reports in his paper. Several plants containing skin irritants are used, a charred human bone is thrown in just for show, but the active ingredients are a large New World toad (Bufo marinus) and one or more species of puffer fish.

The toad, Davis reports, is a "veritable chemical factory," containing hallucinogens, powerful anesthetics and chemicals that affect the heart and nervous system. The fish is more potent still, containing a deadly nerve poison called tetrodotoxin. To learn how these poisons might relate to zombiism, Davis turned to an unlikely source: Japanese medical literature. Every year a number of Japanese suffer Botanist Davis tetrodotoxin poisoning as a result of eating incorrectly prepared puffer fish, the great delicacy fugu. Davis found that entire Japanese case histories "read like accounts of zombification."

Indeed, nearly every symptom reported by Narcisse and his doctors is described, from the initial difficulty breathing to the final paralysis, glassy-eyed stare and yet the retention of mental faculties. In at least two cases, Japanese victims were declared dead but recovered before they could be buried. Japanese reports confirmed what Davis was told by the bocors: the effect of the poison depends on the dosage; too much will kill "too completely," and resuscitation will be impossible. Even with the correct dose, the bocors said, a zombie must be exhumed within about eight hours or will be lost, presumably to asphyxiation. How zombies are revived from their deathlike comas remains a mystery. Both Davis and Douyon heard stories about a graveyard ritual in which the bocor pounds on the earth and awakens the victim, but neither was able to witness it.

Davis did learn that upon reviving, the zombie is force-fed a paste made of sweet potato and datura, a plant known to Haitians as zombie cucumber. Datura, says Davis, is "one of the most potent hallucinogenic plants known." Thus the zombie is led away in a state of intoxication, usually to work as a slave. Narcisse, who spent several years as a slave on a sugar plantation, reports that zombies do not make very good workers. Says he: "The slightest chore required great effort." He reports that his senses were so distorted that the smallest stream seemed a wide and unfordable sea, as though "my eyes were turned in." Davis has sent samples of the zombie potion to laboratories in Europe and the U.S., where in one experiment it induced a trancelike state in rats.

Such research in the past led to the discovery of curare, an arrow poison from the Amazon now used to paralyze muscles during surgery. Tetrodotoxin may also one day find its place in the medical armamentarium. "People who have lived in the tropics for centuries have learned things about plants and animals that we have not fathomed," says Richard Evan Schultes, head of Harvard's renowned Botanical Museum. "We must not leave any stone unturned, or their secrets will be lost."

— By Claudia Wallis. Reported by Bernard Diederich/Port-au-Prince

source: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,952208-2,00.html

MANY CONGRATULATIONS TO GAVIN L-W...

...for manfully resisting the temptation to be unwholesome on the news blog. I probably couldn't have done it. If he had not already been awarded a golden baboon, he would have been for this.

So we post a picture of him in Arab head-dress even though I am sure that the usual suspects who spend their time making ridiculous accusations against the CFZ will probably accuse us of being an Al Quaeda terror cell, and me of being Osama Bin Laden who has succesfully hidden from the American authorities by putting on a lot of weight...

HALLOWE'EN JACK: Yesterday's News Today

Down in the pumpkin patch at midnight
You could be in for a frightening sight
Eyes a’glowing, mouth agape
It’s Jack preparing for another jape


Radley silversmith sets off woodland hunts up and down the country - in aid of dormouse

This is how to catch fish

Chinese Fruit Bats Demonstrate Unusual Sexual Behavior Never Before Seen in Adult Animals

Parrot can go by bus

I wonder if he will get a ‘cheep’ seat?