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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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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

PAUL HARESNAPE: Weird Winkleigh 3

A pair of Firedrake dragons, Top Secret Black military aircraft, JFK’s brother, frequent UFO sightings (including a dramatic Close Encounter on a former RAF airfield), crop circles, alien big cats, witchcraft, spectral black dogs, a pub haunted by two ghosts, the discovery of a strange tunnel...Winkleigh in North Devon, England, is an intriguingly Fortean place!

In this, our third and final foray into weird Winkleigh, we lift the lid on a variety of Fortean goings-on that all add weight to my belief that the village is a diverse and active ‘window’ for Fortean activity.

The Kings Arms public house in Winkleigh was built as a coaching inn to serve travellers on the ancient turnpike route between the cities of Exeter and Plymouth. Today it is one of two thriving pubs in the village and still retains its traditional thatched roof as well as, it would seem, two of its former residents:

‘"George been playing up lately?'' asks the chap in the tweed cap. ''Nah, but Cecilia was going some the other week,'' says his drinking companion.’ [A]

Known the landlords and locals as George and Cecelia, these two ghosts seem rather keen to remind staff and customers alike of their presence. George it seems is rather adverse to change in what must have been his former business or local and will register his displeasure by dropping breakables such as crockery and bottles in slow motion [!]. Cecelia is a mischievous little girl who apparently likes to hang on the aprons of waiting staff and knock over pots and pans to gain attention. [B]

But the intrigue doesn’t stop with George and Cecilia. One of the pub’s dining rooms, sited in what was formerly a courtyard, incorporates a glass-capped, presumably spring-fed well. Or so people thought until a team from the local Cave & Mine Exploration Group decided in 2002 to undertake a full survey of the ancient feature. They successfully drained what was found to be a 30-foot deep stone-lined shaft and were astonished to discover two 5-foot high tunnels, one leading towards the North West and the other in the direction of the church.

Silver and even gold deposits have been found elsewhere in Devon and it has thus been theorised that some enterprising villagers were engaged in surreptitiously mining for such precious - but highly taxable - metals! [C] However, I cannot help but think that as Winkleigh is home to a pair of legendary dragons, and, given the association between dragons and vast hordes of treasure - mightn’t they have been tunnelling for a rather different reason?

I grew up in the village of Witheridge, about 10 miles to the East of Winkleigh. It was whilst at primary school in the late 70s that I first heard of the ‘alien’ big cats the local farmers were sighting on Knowstone and Witheridge moors (both a few miles to the NE, towards Exmoor). The creatures were variously described as puma, lynx and leopard-like by rural folk who certainly knew their foxes from their badgers (!). A large number of sheep were being killed and the farming community had taken it upon themselves to track down - and no doubt eradicate - the elusive creatures. However, the killings continued and by 1983 the story was picked up by the press, who would dub these far-ranging cats ‘The Beast(s) of Exmoor.’

It was at this time that a resident of our village had a close encounter with a large puma-like cat whilst driving the school minibus. This sighting made headlines in the local and regional press:

‘I could have touched it...It came out of the woods in front of me. It had a long tail, a puma-like head, pricked ears and a grey-body’. [D]

As Mrs Yendell had been my next door neighbour for a number of years I can at least vouch for her integrity!

The Government of the day drafted in Devon-based Royal Marines; however, not only did the creatures avoid capture but sightings were being reported of large cats of varying descriptions the length and breadth of Britain. In the years since, there have been literally thousands of big cat sightings in Britain, with Devon consistently at or near the top of the sightings table, although like all Forteana, they have proven to be rather camera shy.

The authorities continued to deny the existence of these big cats right up until January of this year when - under the Freedom of Information Act - The Forestry Commission admitted that their own rangers had, on two separate occasions, watched big cats through night-viewing equipment whilst undertaking deer population surveys in the Forest of Dean, Gloucester, England. [E]

Moving closer to home, the North Devon Journal reported on 15th January 1999 that:

‘Newquay Zoo managing director and big cat expert Mike Thomas said a puma, with a territory of up to 40 miles and no den, would survive "brilliantly" in North Devon because of its landscape - a mixture of rocky, wooded and open spaces. "The climate is perfect for them," he said. "Their main diet would be smaller prey, such as mice, voles, rabbits and birds. There have also been some reports of cats attacking lambs." He said this sighting could be a second, third or even fourth generation puma which would have been born into the North Devon climate.’

No surprise, then, that there have been many big cat sightings in the countryside around Winkleigh over the years. Too numerous to list here, I would recommend the excellent website http://www.bigcatsinbritain.org/ and an ordnance survey map of the area to those wishing to learn more.

Local legend has it that a spectral black dog haunts the A3072 between Copplestone and North Tawton, to the south of Winkleigh and an area of former Roman occupation. This spectral beast has also been associated with the village of Morchard Bishop to the East of Copplestone [F] Details are elusive and it is a story that I personally would like to investigate further.
Finally, please forgive me for including this final Fortean legend as it belongs to the village of Colebrook, some 10 miles to the SE of Winkleigh. However, it is to my mind the most intriguing and elusive paranormal tale to come out of these parts. In the steep-sided lanes around Colebrook a phantom monkey is said to lurk. This creature apparently has red fur and attacks people! [G] Again, details are elusive but anyone who has read Man-Monkey by Nick Redfern will surely see an eerie parallel here....

Well, I hope you have enjoyed our third and final visit to weird Winkleigh. Personally, I can’t wait for the warmer weather so that I can pack up my tent and spend a long weekend at Cadbury Hill on the look-out for dragons, UFOs et al. If any readers of this blog have any further information on the phenomena we have covered, or know of any other weird happenings in the general area of Mid/North Devon, I would be delighted to hear from them: paulharesnape@yahoo.co.uk


[A] The Daily Telegraph: 14th March 2008
[B] http://www.jackiefreemanphotography.com/
[C] Ibid.
[D] Express & Echo: 29th March 1985
[E] The Daily Telegraph: 7th January 2009
[F] Weird Devon. Downes, Freeman, Inglis. Bossiney Books.
[G] Ibid.

NOW OUT IN PAPERBACK

The South Shields Poltergeist: One Family's Fight Against An Invisible Intruder by Michael J. Hallowell & Darren W. Ritson is the chilling inside story and investigation into what they consider to be the most intensely terrifying case of its kind.
This £9.99 paperback edition is based on the testimonials of those who actuallyexperienced the South Shields Poltergeist at first hand. A truly terrifying account of the authors' struggle with an invisible malicious entity that may well go down in the annals of psychical research as one of the most chilling true-life encounters of its kind.

LINDSAY SELBY RECOMMENDS

I came across this interesting article about cryptozoology, which has some insights into why people chase cryptids both now and in the past:

Cryptozoology in the medieval and modern worlds
Folklore, August, 2006 by Peter Dendle
A few lines from the end of the article:

'Just as counter-culture thrives perennially on defining itself against a "mainstream" that often has little more substance than reactionaries insist on giving it, so cryptozoology seems to draw nourishment to some extent from its own spirit of iconoclasm. Cryptozoology thus fulfils an important role: it represents a quest for magic and wonder in a world many perceive as having lost its mystique.'


Source: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2386/is_2_117/ai_n16676592/pg_10/?tag=content;col1

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: THE DRAGON OF WANTLEY (A POEM)

Dear folks,

I have in my possession a poem, or rather doggerel, about the Dragon of Wantley, which I found in Folk Tales of the British Isles, Folio Society (1985). It is far too long to reproduce in its entirety here so I reproduce 7 verses. But first of all, a little bit about the dragon him/her/itself:

'The Dragon of Wantley is a 17th century satirical verse parody about a dragon and a brave knight. It was included in Thomas Percy`s 1767 Reliques of Ancient Poetry.

'The poem is a parody of medieval romances and satirizes [sic] a local churchman. In the poem, a dragon appears in Yorkshire and eats children and cattle. The knight More of More Hall battles the dragon and kills it. The Wantley of the poem is Wharncliffe, as the dragon lived in a cave on Wharncliffe Crags, five miles to north of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sir Francis Wortley, the diocese ecclestiastic, and the parishioners of Wharncliffe had a disagreement on tithing and how much the parish owed (under the law of “First Fruits”), so the poem makes him a dragon. More of More Hall was a lawyer who brought a suit against Wortley and succeeded, giving the parishioners relief. Thus, this parody romance satirizes Wortley. The author of the poem is unknown.' (1)

The poem was transformed into an opera in 1737 attacking Robert Walpole`s taxation policies. Owen Wister wrote a novel, The Dragon of Wantley, in 1892 'It is a romantic story set at Christmastime in the early 13th century. The book was a surprise success, going through four editions over the next ten years.' (2)

THE DRAGON OF WANTLEY


Old stories tell, how Hercules
A dragon slew at Lerna,
With seven heads, and fourteen eyes,
To see and well discern-a:
But he had a club, this dragon to drub,
Or he had ne`er done it, I warrant ye;
But More of More Hall, with nothing at all,
He slew the dragon of Wantley.

This dragon had two furious wings,
Each one upon each shoulder;
With a sting in his tail, as long as a flail,
Which made him bolder and bolder.
He had long claws, and in his jaws
Four and forty teeth of iron;
With a hide as tough as any buff,
Which did him round environ.

Some say, this dragon was a witch;
Some say, he was a devil,
For from his nose a smoke arose,
And with it burning snivel,
Which he cast off, when he did cough,
In a well that he did stand by;
Which made it look just like a brook
Running with burning brandy.

Hard by a furious knight there dwelt,
Of whom all towns did ring,
For he could wrestle, play at quarter-staff, kick, cuff and huff,
Call son of a whore, do anything more;
By the tail and the mane, with his hands twain,
He swung a horse till he was dead;
And that which is stranger, he for very anger
Ate him all up but his head.

To see this fight, all people then
Got up on trees and houses,
On churches some, and chimneys too,
But these put on their trousers,
Not to spoil their hose. As soon as he rose,
To make him strong and mighty,
He drank by the tale six pots of ale,
And a quart of aqua-vitae.

At length the hard earth began to quake,
The dragon gave him a knock,
Which made him to reel, and straightaway he thought
To lift him as high as a rock,
And thence let him fall. But More of More Hall
Like a valiant son of Mars,
As he came like a lout, so he turned him about,
And hit him a kick on the arse.

`Murder, murder!` the dragon cried,
`Alack, alack for grief!`
Had you but missed that place, you could
Have done me no mischief.`
Then his head he shaked, trembled and quaked,
And down he laid and cried;
First on one knee, then on back tumbled he,
So groaned, kicked, shat, and died. (3)


1. Wikipedia. Dragon of Wantley. http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_of_Wantley [accessed Dec7th 2009]
2. Ibid
3. Author unknown.The Dragon of Wantley. Folk Tales of The British Isles. Folio Society 91985) pp139-144

Rich. Sorry no song lyrics today due to disorganized brain cells.

LINDSAY TAKES ON THE DWP

Our very own Lindsay Selby is taking up arms against the DWP. She wrote to me this morning:

'I won't be offended if you decide you don't want to be involved in this but if after reading it you support what I am doing, would you please put it on the blog?'

Of course I support you in what you are doing, you silly goose.

What they are doing to you now, they will do to us tomorrow: '... the government have brought in a system that even the USA are going to ditch, to use on claimants in the UK, and not had one designed for the purpose. I may be frail and short of breath but I shall use that last breath to bring this to people’s notice and fight as long as I can to stop this injustice and libellous treatment of those too ill and vulnerable to do it themselves.'

Right on Sister.

Check out her blog now:
http://lifeisquirky.blogspot.com/2009/12/possible-criminal-procedings-against.html

NOVEMBER'S HIT PARADE FROM CFZ PRESS

UK

1 Monster - the A-Z of Zooform Phenomena by Neil Arnold (2)
2 Dr Shuker's Casebook by Dr Karl Shuker (-)
3 The Owlman and Others by Jonathan Downes (6)
4 Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr Karl Shuker (2)
5= Big Cats loose in Britain by Marcus Matthews (-)
5= Man Monkey - In Search of the British Bigfoot by Nick Redfern (-)
7= Dragons: More than a Myth? by Richard Freeman (-)
7= Dark Dorset by Mark North and Robert Newland (7)
7= The Mystery animals of Britain: Kent by Neil Arnold (-)
10 The CFZ Yearbook 2009 (1)

US

1 Big Bird by Ken Gerhard (2)
2 Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr Karl Shuker (1)
3 Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals on stamps by Dr Karl Shuker (-)
4= Monster - the A-Z of Zooform Phenomena by Neil Arnold (4)
4= Man Monkey - In Search of the British Bigfoot by Nick Redfern (4)
6= Dragons: More than a Myth? by Richard Freeman (-)
6= The Mystery animals of Britain: Kent by Neil Arnold (-)
8= The CFZ Yearbook 2009 (-)
8= In the wake of Bernard Heuvelmans by Michael Woodley (5)
8= The Owlman and Others by Jonathan Downes (6)

Last month's positions in this pinky colour, which I think is called cerise.

I don't know whether it is the recession or whether it is the effect that we noticed a few years ago whereby sales plummet in the summer, but although sales have picked up a bit, they are still not anything like we would hope to expect at this time of year. I am afraid this Christmas looks likely to be our bleakest yet.


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1980 John Lennon was murdered by Mark Chapman. Sorry to put a downer on things but that really is the only thing of major note that has happened on December 8th as far as I can see.

And now the Fortean zoological news:

Rope for Wildwood rodents
Discovery Of Gorilla Species in Somaliland
Bid to capture black panther
Cougar Spotting in North Metro
DNR confirms cougar sighting in northern suburbs
Cougar sighting in Champlin
Celebrity pair charged with cruelty to rat
8th International Cats Exhibition, Moscow
Would they lye? Lutefisk lovers abound
Anti-cruelty protest in Dublin
Herpdigest Volume # 9 Issue #54 12/6/09
Video Captures Cougar Roaming In Champlin

Well, the evidence is certainly ‘mountain’ up that nobody was ‘lion’.