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, November 25, 2009


In the depths of my archives I found a story titled `The Dragon Farm` from a book called Avery Memorial. It was written by someone calling themselves 'C.C.C.' All other details are unknown. There is an Avery near Midhurst in West Sussex and one near Southampton. I have a vague memory of finding this short account whilst working in Warwickshire in the mid 1990s but I am not absolutely sure. However, the mention of Alcester (`Roman fort on the river Alne`) would seem to confirm the Warwickshire connection. The following is an abridged version.

'Though I had often heard of The Dragon Farm and the curious chimney-piece preserved there, it was not until recently that I had an opportunity of paying it a visit. The house I found to be an old half-timbered one,standing upon a base of stone-work, and moated on its hill side. From the number of perpendiculars in the timber work and the form of the angle-pieces it would appear to be a place of some antiquity, though not belonging to the Saurian period as the local tradition would imply.

'The place derives its name from two so-called dragons,carved in oak, on an otherwise plain chimney-piece in one of the rooms, and the story told of them is as follows:- In that extinct age when the dragon and the wyvern, the cockatrice and the fire-drake, to say nothing of gigantic serpents, griffons &c,existed upon the earth, there lived at the farm house a certain man who had large flocks of sheep. To his great mortification, however, these, instead of increasing, decreased in number to an alarming extent. Whither the missing ones went he could not tell, and the rangers, woodwards and verdurers (?) of Feckenham assured him that they had not strayed in the forest; neither could he find about his own pastures any trace of their having been torn by wolves. In his distress he went to consult a holy man who simply bade him “Watch and pray”, and he therefore set his shepherds to watch while he betook himself to his beads. On the night following, the shepherd came to his master and told him that two evil beasts were dragging away some lambs, whereupon the men armed themselves with (with “guns” says one of my informants) and were quickly in pursuit. They followed the ravening creatures and saw them disappear with their prey through a hole in the butt of an enormous oak tree. Having found the den of the spoilers they quickly shot them, and the flocks thenceforth began to increase. On examining the tree they found the trunk quite hollow, and there was room within to turn a coach round!

'It was in commemoration of this strange occurrence,says the tradition, that the two so-called dragons were carved over the chimney-piece at the farm. An inspection, however, of the carving will show any one versed in such matters that it is a piece of very good work of the time of James I. Did not the date 1614 on a shield inform us positively of this.

'The creatures themselves should have been described as serpents rather than dragons; their tails, barbed at the ends, are interlaced, and the eyes in their regardant heads glare fiercely at each other; the teeth, however are those of a crocodile, though the tongue ends in what is intended to represent a sting. This kind of nondescript is not unfrequent in our neighbourhood and examples may be seen at Tookey`s Farm, at Alcester, and elsewhere.' (1)

A web site about the Ropen, Papua New Guinea`s supposed living pterosaur, says: 'What do dragons and pterosaurs have in common? Celtic dragons had arrows at the end of their tails, which may relate to ptero-saur tails. What about Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur tails? Are not dragon tails also long? Perhaps most noteworthy are the wings: both pterosaurs and flying dragons have featherless wings' (2)

1. C.C.C. No. 247. The Dragon Farm. Avery Memorial. Date unknown
2.. Are Dragons Pterosaurs? http://www.objectiveness.com/dragons-1/ [accessed November 25 2009]

Talking Heads-Animals

I`m mad….And that`s a fact
I found out…Animals don`t help
Animals think…They`re pretty smart
Shit on the ground…See in the dark
They wander around like a crazy dog
Make a mistake in the parking lot
Always bumping into things
Always let you down down down down

SOSTRATUS WINSTON: Not quite cryptid horse

The horse is a relatively well known animal all over the world now. True, there are countries that have only adopted them in the last few centuries - much of South America, if I remember correctly, was horseless till the Spanish arrived. However, since the CFZ is interested in conservation as well as the hunt for survivors of extinct species and more mysterious critters, I thought perhaps you might be interested in this.

The shire horse, I'm sure most of you are aware, is that singularly large breed that used to pull wagons and canal boats along the tow path before mechanisation. These monstrous (in the original sense of the word) beasts of burden can stand at as much as six feet in height (or seventeen hands in hippological parlance), weigh up to 235 stones (3300lbs), and are basically the brick-s**t-house of the horsey family.

Now, they are not an obvious contender for 'cryptid of the week' but shires are endangered. In fact, some experts fear the situation of the British shire horse is critical. These majestic creatures have been around in some form or another since William the Conqueror brought their ancestors over with the Norman invasion. They may not be necessary to industry as they once were, but they are a remarkable creature and it would be a dreadful loss if they were to die out completely. I have two of my own: Norbert and Hartland, and I can report that they are wonderfully docile.

UK-based charity The Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and the American organisations Equus Survival Trust and American Livestock Breeds Conservancy hope the decline in this species (and indeed the other animals they champion) can be turned around. Details of how you might help can be found on their websites. And please do think about it. We might just be able to stop a beautiful creature from going the same way as the dodo.



Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Biological Diversity

Dear reader,

Does the talking head of Big Agriculture belong in charge of America's agricultural trade relations? Obama thinks so. Despite claiming that lobbyists wouldn't find jobs in his White House, Obama recently nominated former pesticide lobbyist Islam Siddiqui to be Chief Agriculture Negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative's office.

Siddiqui's record is abysmal. He led the development of the first national organic labeling standards, which allowed sewage-sludge fertilized, genetically modified, and irradiated food to be labeled as organic before public outcry forced more stringent standards. Siddiqui currently works for CropLife America, a pesticide and biotechnology trade group that fights to weaken environmental laws and treaties and keep persistent organic pollutants like DDT in use.

Siddiqui's pro-pesticide group launched a petition campaign chiding Michelle Obama for planting an organic, pesticide-free garden and lobbied to allow pesticide testing on children. CropLife America also intervened in a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit to protect endangered species from pesticide exposure. CropLife America's Web site declares that pesticides "contribute to biodiversity conservation" and "positively impact" endangered species. No one told that to the California tiger salamander, delta smelt, and countless other species that have been sickened and killed by toxic pesticides.

Siddiqui's agenda is a threat to biodiversity and human health worldwide. The planet can't afford to have Big Agriculture's talking head in charge of America's agricultural trade relations.

Please contact your senators today and ask them to vote against the confirmation of Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agricultural Negotiator.
Urgent action is needed -- the vote could happen in the next two days.

Click here to find out more and take action.

If you have trouble following the link, go to http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=9yfqR0vprAgY2kujbhKW6wuavRc%2BHNfW.

Sample letter:

Subject: Reject Siddiqui as Chief Agricultural Negotiator

I am writing to urge you to vote against the confirmation of Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative's office.

Siddiqui is a former pesticide lobbyist and is currently the vice president of science and regulatory affairs at CropLife America, an industry trade group representing virtually all of the pesticide and biotech corporations in the nation. Siddiqui is the voice of Big Agriculture -- an industry that has increased debt for farmers, polluted waterways, spread genetically-modified "superweeds," and threatened public health and the lives of farm workers. The chemicals that CropLife's member corporations produce are correlated with developmental abnormalities, endocrine and reproductive disorders, acute poisonings, cancers, and death in wildlife and humans. CropLife America advocates for the continued use of methyl bromide, which destroys the ozone layer, and for the continued use of persistent organic pollutants which jeopardize human health.

The fossil-fuel, chemical, and water-intensive farming methods championed by Siddiqui's Big Agriculture are exacerbating global energy, food, and biodiversity crises. These crises are further worsened by current trade agreements that promote transnational corporate control of the food system at the expense of impoverished communities and small farmers. Siddiqui's confirmation would tighten corporate control of the food supply and continue to force unfair trade agreements and inappropriate technologies onto the world's poorest countries. I strongly urge you to vote against his confirmation.

Please take action immediately.

Donate now to support our work.

Crop dusting photo courtesy CDC.

The Center for Biological Diversity sends newsletters and action alerts through DemocracyinAction.org. Let us know if you'd like to change your email list preferences or stop receiving action alerts and newsletters from us. Change your address or review your profile here.

Center for Biological Diversity

P.O. Box 710

Tucson, AZ 85702


DALE DRINNON: The Great Auk and the Greater Auk

In this case there is something of a muddle to clean up, with the case of a well-known extinction at the hand of humans that might not have been so complete, conflation of an unusual cryptid ordinarily lumped in with a larger but widely reported cryptid category, and a very obscure connection to a generally uncirculated piece of local folklore from a far-distant place that provides the substantiation to an otherwise daft idea.

In this case the more widely known cryptid is called the Boobrie, which has made the migration to several Fantasy role-playing games (as have several other legendary creatures).

There is a section about it in the book In Search of Lake Monsters by Peter Costello (1974) and several sources consider it to be a form of Water Horse based on assumption alone. Costello speaks of it on page 134. In this case it was like a great northern diver (loon) with an extra white stripe on its head and neck, the back being otherwise dark, but with a white breast.

In the quoted sighting from the 1860s the neck was two feet eleven inches long and the circumference was two feet (meaning about eight inches thick). The beak was seventeen inches long and hooked at the end. It had large black webbed feet with claws and it was rumoured to bellow like a bull and eat lambs and otters.

The Wikipedia and Answers.com entries on the Boobrie are not very informative: they state that:

The boobrie is a mythical water bird of Scottish Highlands folklore. It is said to be similar to a great northern diver, but with white markings and the ability to roar.

The creature is the metamorphosed form of the each uisge [Wikipedia questions this as unverified] and haunts lochs and salt wells. The Boobrie is a fabulous giant water-bird who haunts the lakes and salt-wells of Argyllshire (now Strathclyde). It has webbed feet and a harsh voice, and is capable of gobbling up sheep and cattle.

I noticed the change from otters to cattle in the last statement.

One of the things that featured in Boobrie reports was the allegation that it went ashore and left huge three-toed tracks: for that reason I had asked Ivan Sanderson in a letter sent before he died if he thought it was a type of Three-toes.

I received no reply but in fact he did die very shortly after that, and I suspect that would have been what he thought anyway.

I subsequently made the suggestion that a type of Great Auk blown up twice the ordinary dimensions would match the dimensions of the Boobrie's head and neck pretty exactly, and that it would be the closest to the description of the beak as long and thick with something of a hook at the end.

That is where the matter was left for several years until it came up again at the Frontiers of Zoology group, and then there was a corroborating matter of a similar Inuit legendary creature from around Alaska, said to be an amphibious seabird as large as a man, black on the back and white in front, and said to be the lover of Sedna, controller of the creatures in the sea (there is also a Thunderbird form for the legendary bird in question, but that is a separate matter).

I found a mention of the legend in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (1959, I own a copy), but better still, at that point in the search I found actual depictions of the unknown bird in question (the sculpture shown here was the best one)

During the Age of Mammals and about the time that there actually were giant penguins such as Sanderson mentions, there were other swimming birds at least as large in the North Pacific: these were related to cormorants and are called Plotopterids. Very meagre fossil evidence also suggsts that there was a similarly large great auk in the Atlantic at the same time. In this case I think the testimonial evidence does indicate that there was such a thing as a Greater Auk, of about twice the dimensions of the more usual Great Auk, much rarer but exterminated in Scotland at about the same time the last Great Auk reports were being recorded there. About the size of a Plotopterid or a giant Penguin, and some of them persisted on the far end of the Arctic Ocean, around Alaska. Whether there are any left there (or indeed if there are still any Great Auks remaining in the same general area) is another matter that is unresolved because the testimonial evidence in more recent decades is negligible.

[Note: the Boobrie illustration I used was from a FRPG site and I chose it as the best among several candidates. I have amended it very slightly in order to restore the actually-reported hooked end to the bill, but I have left the original artist's name on it. If the artist has any complaints about my doing that, the decision was mine alone and done for the sole purpose of bringing the illustration more in line with tradition. The other illustrations I saw were all wading-bird Diatrymas, which is specifically NOT what was being described]


The new issue of Herpdigest is out, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The contents includes:

1) ``A Framework for Categorizing the Relative Vulnerability of Threatened and Endangered Species to Climate Change''
Today the EPA announced in the Federal Register a 30-day public comment period for the above document.
2) Earlier The USF&WS also issued drafts a proposed Strategic Plan for Climate Change and an Action Plan for Climate Change, an appendix to the Strategic Plan.
.3) PIJAC Moves Forward Without APPA and PIDA Funding
APPA Expresses Concern With PIJAC's Sustainability And Leadership
4) In Issue 51 of Volume 9 I wrote about a project of the TFWTG/SSC/IUCN
Seems some elaboration on what I wrote is needed. (Also two new papers are now available.)
5) Frog Legs Trade May Facilitate Spread of Pathogens
6) Is Their a Difference in Israeli Rodents and Reptiles And Jordanian Ones?
7) Cousins of Prehistoric Supercrocodile Inhabit Lost World of Sahara

And what's more - it is free. Check out http://www.herpdigest.org/

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Here’s something you can impress your friends with: on 25th of November 1922 Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb of Tutankhamun for the first time. On the same day ‘Toll of the Sea’ became the first film on general release using the new two-tone Technicolor process.

And now for some cryptozoology news:

'World's biggest animal sacrifice' held in Nepal
The koala wars
Dolphin murder shocks Nitish
Man mauled after trying to have picnic with bear in Swiss zoo
The mother of all squirrels
100 volunteers using night vision search for missing dog

Hope they don’t get ‘dogged’ by the press now the story is out.


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.


Of all the creatures, monsters, zoological abberations and general weirdness in the crypto-zoo pantheon, sea-serpents--for me anyway--appear to perhaps carry the greatest burden of possible fact.

The vastness of the world's oceans, waterways and rivers could surely contain large species that have previously--and probably fortunately--escaped the attention of our beloved human race. I have to admit to a pet theory that the what-ever-it-is in Loch Ness might be a creature from the sea that visits the loch on occasion but is not a permanant resident. My thinking is that if Adrian Shine's concept of a Baltic Sturgeon entering the loch to spawn, or whatever is valid, then why not something rather more exotic? I'm not necessarily talking plesiosaurs here, but having said that, why not? I certainly don't think that it's out of the question that some prehistoric survivors from the fossil record--or even something new that we have yet to discover-- might be lurking off the Mariana Trench or wherever; although if there's one swimming around anywhere off the coast of China, the poor sod had better keep his head down, or--if Corrina's grim blog is anything to go by--he'll end up on a plate being eaten alive....


Hi again.

Today in my final look at lake and sea monsters I`m going to travel to Australia. I have recently come across a collection of material on Aussie 'Loch Ness-type monsters and a sighting or rather viewing of a possible 'monster' in Loch Alexander within Darwin city council`s remit. This happened in mid-September 2009. Of course there is the Bunyip, but I will not be looking at it in today`s blog. For those interested in it there is good information on it in Healy and Cropper`s book Out of The Shadows (1)

Rex Gilroy is Australia`s authority on the Hawkesbury river monster(s) near Sydney: “Loch Ness-type monster`s are alive and swimming in the Hawkesbury River near Sydney. Controversial Katoomba naturalist Rex Gilroy has more than a score of carefully documented eyewitness accounts of strange reptile-like creatures seen in the river over the past 20 years. I have absolutely no doubt, after piecing together the evidence from all these independent sources,that what people actually saw was the plesiosaurus…

"Rex Gilroy also claims the monsters are alive and well in Lake Taupo,near Whaiteko, in New Zealand`s North Island. On a recent trip there, with his wife Heather, Gilroy photographed what he believes is a plesiosaurus…Both my wife Heather and myself saw a long dark brownish shape a few hundred metres from the shore where we standing, moving across the lake…At least 15 metres of body length could be detected but there was no body outline…Rex Gilroy has investigated several Maori legends about water monsters and says they tally with the scientific description of the plesiosaurus or `Nessie`. And there are also Aborignal legends about the monsters of the Hawkesbury, he says. But not all the `Nessie` long necks seen in the Hawkesbury River are gigantic creatures. “ Take the case of `John` who was fishing near Ettalong in March 1971 with his father. He caught a strange little beast, about 45 centimetres long with a long paddle-like tail and fins. It had a snake-like head,and opened its mouth and hissed when `John` and his father attempted to free it.

“They kept the strange beast for some days,hoping someone could identify it. No one did. It was only later when they saw pictures of a plesiosaurus in a book that they realised they might have thrown a baby one away- and so missed their chance of making world history.” [This is interesting. Isn`t there a story of a “baby” Cadbosaurus ?]…Gilroy`s efforts have earned him a place in Von Daniken`s books where his claims are accepted. He would like to hear from anyone who has seen anything mysterious in the Hawkesbury River". (2)

The magazine then gives Gilroy`s address, which I reproduce here but please bear in mind this is dated 1981:

NSW 2780

Gilroy will reappear in a minute but we need to take a quick look at the image caught on Google Earth by security guard Jason Clarke. “The images captured on Google Earth show a large brown object in the murky water at Lake Alexander ,where a giant cod bit a woman on the foot last month [can I have cod, toe and chips please,?? The toe`s salty enough ho ho-J R] …Security guard Jason Cooke said the 65ft oblong shape followed by thin strands is actually an image of the possibly mythical creature supposed to inhabit Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands…We estimate our own “mystery” Loch object or beast to be approximately 5m long or wide…Two weeks ago Sydney cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy said he had sighted Sydney`s own “Nessie” claiming he witnessed a 12m giant surface in the Hawkesbury River. Through binoculars Mr Gilroy saw a dark shadow “with a longish neck 2 near Wiseman`s Ferry…After hearing of the Hawkesbury Monster in 1965 he found accounts dating back to pre-colonial times, with stories told of children being attacked by the “moolyewonk” When fishing boats were found overturned and the occupants missing in the 1980s,the Hawkesbury Monster was the prime suspect.”(3)

That`s all, folks. See you tomorrow. Richardo.

1. T.Healy and P.Cropper. Out of The Shadows. Mystery Animals of Australia. (1994) Bunyip. Chapter 6 is pp159-180
2. G.Lyons. `Nessie Down Under`. People. June 17th 1981. pp3-5
3. M.Cunningham. Satellite shots reveal a mysterious lake monster. http://www.ntnews.com/ [accessed November 24th 2009]

The Jam `Smithers Jones`. Their classic indictment of capitalism

Here we go again,it`s Monday at last,
He`s heading for the Waterloo line,
To catch the 8am fast,its usually dead on time,
Hope it isn`t late,got to be there by nine.
Pin stripe suit, clean shirt and tie,
Stops off at the corner shop,to buy The Times
`Good Morning Smithers-Jones`
`How`s the wife and home?`
`Did you get the car you`ve been looking for?`…

LIZ CLANCY is bringing more clothes next time

"Two jumpers will be more than enough, Liz!" I exclaimed optimistically to myself when I was packing last week for my stay at CFZ HQ.

I suspect Father Christmas is able to get around all the children of the world in one night because he has regional minions and I have found his North Devonshire rep: Jon Downes. You have to admit our glorious leader resembles a younger St. Nick and it certainly feels like the North Pole here.

Anyway, enough complaining.

This week I have been floored by Biggles many times, sub-edited and proof-read till my eyes fell out and abused Jon's Spotify account when he and Corinna had to go out. You have never been smug until you have done star jumps in the CFZ office to an S Club 7 track, believe me.

I would like to thank Corinna and Jon for having me, though. Joking aside, I've had a marvellous time as usual (getting hyper on too much coffee was interesting), and though it will be good to get back home where the dog is too small to pin me to the carpet till I agree to play 'throw the squeaky bunny', I'll still be sad to say goodbye to people who have already become a second family.

Thanks to Oll too for coffees to keep the cold at bay, chats to make me forget the cold, and daft jokes that made me laugh myself warm.


6 months after turning up on our doorstep and moving in, even Pringles the cat has had enough of me and hit the bottle! Or in this case the box of cider.

LINDSAY SELBY: Memories of Loch Ness

This is an article from 2003 the year when I last saw Robert Rines at Loch Ness. It is from the The Press and Journal, which is a newspaper from the area (mainly Aberdeen I think).

It should be possible to click on it and make it bigger so it is readable. I never thought at the time when I clipped it from the paper that it would be a part of the history of Loch Ness and it's investigators.

RIP Mr Rines. I hope you found your Nessie.


I am a miserable old sod, and I will be the first to admit that I neither take fools gladly, nor do what my darling wife tells me to do and see things from the other person's point of view. Tough!

It is an open secret that I was not at all impressed by the standard of care given to my father by either the NHS or Social Services during his final illness, and that generally I think that in recent years, like so many other bits of society, the caring services (so-called) have become a bit of a shambles.

Noela Mackenzie, aged 87, and the oldest member of the CFZ, is presently an in-patient on
Capener Ward at the North Devon District Hospital, and I am afraid that there is one thing I really do have to share with you all...

... The staff there are bloody marvellous.

Even in my most bipolar mood, when my blood sugar is low, and there is every reason for me to continue being a Grumpy Sod, I cannot fault anybody on that ward. They have been kind, compassionate, helpful and informative, and always seem pleased to help.

The staff on the ward where my father spent most of his last two weeks on earth were horrible, unprofessional scum. And I was afraid that I would be faced with that again. But I am glad (and very pleased) to say that I ain't.

Credit where credit is due, and Capener Ward deserve the credit!

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


On this day in 1952 Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery play The Mousetrap opened in the West end of London. It has since notched up over 24,000 performances and is the longest running play anywhere in the world. In the play’s final twist it is revealed that the murderer is in fact a West Highland terrier called Mimsy (not really, being a mystery fan (Diagnosis Murder FTW) I know better than to give out spoilers).
Anyway, cryptozoology news time:

Foreign lizards threat to our native species
Swans set sail
Snake spits out new species of chameleon at scientist's feet
World's oldest sheep, Lucky, dies in Australia at 23

What do you call a legless sheep?
Drunk. (and you were expecting me to say ‘a cloud’, see how I expertly subvert comic convention there…)