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.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009


When one thinks of cryptids in New Jersey, most people go no further than the Jersey Devil, which is so ubiquitous that it even lent its name to an unofficial record by the State's most lucrative cultural export - Bruce Springsteen.

However, now there is another one, albeit smaller. I have always been interested in cryptic mustelids, and so was particularly interested in this story, which was sent to us by our Pennsylvania & Maryland rep, Andrew Gable.

There is quite a bit of debate going on about its identity, with the two most common identities being mooted as a mink or a fisher. I personally think it is a sable, but over to you. What do you guys think?



Greetings earthlings, or whatever. Sorry about the delay in getting this blog completed, but this narcolepsy thing has slowed my work rate down considerably. Still, I've been feeling pretty good this morning and decided to get cracking.

In August 2001 I penned an article for Animals & Men about a mystery big cat sighting in Cleadon Village, which is only a couple of miles from where I live. The case caused an absolute sensation in the local press but for some reason was never to my knowledge picked up by specialist magazines dealing with cryptozoology and other weird stuff – except for Animals & Men, that is. To be honest, given the frequency of the sightings and the multiplicity of witnesses, the fact that no one outside of the Borough of South Tyneside seemed even remotely interested in the Cleadon Big Cat baffled me even more than the critter itself did.

The Cleadon Big Cat was first spotted on January 11th 1999 and continued to make unscheduled appearances for several weeks. I wrote the entire story up in my book Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Northumberland & Tyneside (CFZ Press, 2008) and actively sought out the creature on a number of occasions. Eventually, like most out-of-place cryptids, it simply disappeared and has never reappeared since. And there the story ended, or so I thought. However, over a decade after the Cleadon Big Cat first strutted onto the cryptozoological stage, something has happened to resurrect it. Or maybe not, as it's all a bit confusing.

Several days ago I visited the Marsden Grotto pub in nearby South Shields – which I've also written extensively about (The House That Jack Built, Amberley Publishing, 2008) – and was accompanied by several researchers from Northumberland. Two of them happened to be John and Kelly Triplow, who have singularly impressed me by their professional approach to preternatural research. John told me about a website that contained an intriguing BHM story, not unlike that of the infamous Beast of Bolam Lake, which I actively investigated with a CFZ team in early 2003. What puzzled John – and it certainly puzzled me – was that this BHM sighting allegedly occurred in Cleadon Village in that very same year.

Let me explain why I was so baffled. The Borough of South Tyneside is the smallest Metropolitan Borough in the UK. It consists of six towns and villages, a few farms and…well that's about it actually. It also happens to be one of the hottest spots around for paranormal research, and I've written a good few books, articles and columns dealing with the wacky stuff that seems to happen here more than anywhere else I know. South Tyneside is Spook Central, the Grand Central Station of UFOs and the King's Cross of Weirdness. But it is incredibly small nonetheless, and nothing – and I mean nothing – of paranormal provenance escapes my notice if it occurs within this petite but perfectly formed landscape of Geordie culture. How, then, did the presence of a BHM almost literally on my own doorstep slip past me?

The website drawn to my attention by John is http://www.blogger.com/www.ufoinfo.com and the BHM report in question was posted there on http://www.blogger.com/www.ufoinfo.com/humanoid/humanoid2003.shtml

According to the website, the unnamed witness stumbled upon a large, bipedal animal. As the sighting occurred at night-time it was impossible for the witness to give a detailed description of the creature, although they did believe that it was covered in thick fur.

The witness was apparently 50 yards or so away from the creature, which they spotted walking adjacent to a nearby line of trees. When the creature saw the witness it became startled and ran into the trees and disappeared. The only other detail in the account was that the first witness saw a second person in the vicinity who was apparently walking a dog.

Firstly, it needs to be pointed out that there is nothing in this report that is inconsistent with the topography of Cleadon Village. There are numerous fields lined with trees that could tentatively serve as the true location of the sighting. However, it seemed more than a little odd to me that this BHM sighting should occur in the same village that had only a short while previously been the setting for the infamous Cleadon Big Cat incident. Two spectacular cryptids in the one village, only a few short years apart? It also seemed odd that the Cleadon BHM should have made its first appearance only months after the Bolam Lake story broke the news. Both stories had a common denominator, and it was I. I'd written both accounts up in my WraithScape column in The Shields Gazette. Further, I'd actively investigated both encounters and lived only a hop, skip and jump away from Cleadon. Was it possible that the two stories had somehow become confused?

My suspicions were further fuelled by the presence of someone walking a dog when the Cleadon BHM was allegedly seen. During my investigation into the Cleadon Big Cat case, the press (The Shields Gazette, January 14, 1999) reported that a woman who had been walking her huge Burmese mountain dog on Cleadon Hills believed that she – or rather her pet – may have been mistaken for the big cat. I was subsequently able to discount this, but the fact that both the Cleadon Big Cat story and the account of the Cleadon BHM included a dog-walker on Cleadon Hills at the time of each sighting again made me wonder if the two stories had been melded together.

And there was another similarity. One of the witnesses in the Cleadon Big Cat case claimed that he'd seen the animal running past his hedge, approximately fifty feet away. If one substitutes the words 'tree line' for 'hedge' and 'fifty yards' for 'fifty feet', the two accounts are unnervingly similar. Nevertheless, if there was even the remotest possibility that the two accounts were different and that the BHM report was essentially genuine, then I knew I'd have to look into it further. I promptly penned an e-mail to the UFOINFO site and asked them if they could provide me with the source of the original story. I haven't had a reply as yet, but as soon as I do I'll keep CFZ acolytes informed.

Until I heard from UFOINFO, I decided to work on the presumption that the story was genuine and investigate it anyway. My first task was to track down any potential witnesses, and so I decided to write up the story in my WraithScape column. The Shields Gazette is one of two provincial papers sold in Cleadon Village, and I knew that if there were any people out there who had witnessed a huge biped stomping around the vicinity then I'd sharp find out about it. My column is due to appear on Thursday 17th December, and if I get a positive result you'll be the first to know.

Meanwhile, if anyone reading this blog knows about this story or has read it elsewhere, please get in touch. Anyway, I must dash – I've a bus to catch to Cleadon Village where a hot date with a hirsute biped awaits me….

DALE DRINNON: Brief Note On The Shipton Yeti Track

Western interest in the Yeti (Abominable Snowman) peaked dramatically in the 1950s. While attempting to scale Mount Everest in 1951, Eric Shipton took photographs of a number of large prints in the snow, at about 6,000m (20,000ft) above sea level, and repeated photos of the best-preserved individual track. These photos have been subject to intense scrutiny and debate. Some argue they are the best evidence of yeti's existence, while others contend the prints are those of a mundane creature that have been distorted by the melting snow
These photographs are probably the most famous evidence of the elusive yeti to date.

Eric Shipton cast, photographed and sketched this type specimen single track of an alleged yeti, which measured 13 inches toe to heel. The footprint was found in 1951 on Menlung Glacier.

Additional yeti tracks similar in shape to Shipton's came along about the same time: Lord John Hunt, Sir Edmund Hillary, Frank Smythe, H.W. Tilman, and Peter Byrne who found a string of tracks in 1948 on one of his first expeditions near the area of the Zemu Glacier at an altitude of 15,000 feet.
None of these tracks resembled the imprint in snow of the local brown bears - bear tracks show claws and the yeti does not. Shipton's photograph show no claws.
Shipton, Michael Ward, and Sen Tensing found these tracks during the exploratory 1951 expedition in which the team worked out the now famous route over the Khumbu Glacier to assault Mount Everest.
The thing is, there is a sort of a legend going around that all that was done was to photograph the track. In this case, the track was also cast in plaster of paris and brought back from the expedition. Ivan Sanderson was in possession of a copy of the print cast in cement and contained in a large and heavy box: he mentioned having the cast in his writings (together with a similar sasquatch footprint cast in another similar box, and those boxes were heavy, let me tell ya!). The detailed description of yeti and sasquatch footprints in his book Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life come from him having the casts to examine.

I have handled the Shipton Yeti footprint casts, in both positive and negative versions. There are 'reproductions' in circulation, which are mock-ups meant to represent the track. They do not represent the imprint faithfully in detail. The main thing about such reproductions is that they depict a relatively flat bottom with a smooth sole to the foot. The footprint is not all of one depth overall, it is much deeper off to the outside edge (darker in all the photographs of the footprint), which in the cast forms almost a ledge more than an inch deeper. The middle of the sole is shallower but has deep longitudinal wrinkles running through it, and the texture is not smooth but irregular. The toes are deeper again and as might be expected, the bigger toes are deeply imprinted while the smaller ones on the outside edge are barely printed at all.

The main concern I had was to see if the irregularities at the centre of the sole of the foot might be blurred claw marks. After I inspected both the negative and the positives of the track (the mold and the cast) it seems to me that they were not claw marks. At the SITU headquarters in the mid-1970s and shortly after Sanderson's death, Steve Mayn, Marty Wolf and I discussed the irregularities in Sanderson's copy of the footprint-in-the-box and we decided it was most likely scar tissue left because the foot had been injured going over irregularities such as sharp stones.

Which is why you can't go by the two greater toes the track shows. In my opinion the foot has been broken and the second toe healed improperly, and in part I have that opinion because it seems the sole of the foot shows other evidence of injury.

The footprint had been somewhat melted before preservation, though, and that seems to have been partly the reason why the outside of the heel was so much deeper than the rest of the track.


A few years ago, not long after my father died, I was in bed with a cold. Graham knocked on my door and told me that I should switch on the Sky news channel because there was a whale in the river Thames. As most readers of this blog will probably remember, it was an unusual species for British waters, but that the story ended unhappily.

But now our very own Neil Arnold has a similar story. Did a shark once make its way into the River Thames?



Dear folks,

This information on the rather grotesque-sounding `bosom serpent` is taken from Dr Jan Bondeson`s article `The bosom serpent` in the Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine vol. 91 August 1998. Dr Bondeson kindly sent me a large amount of material on the basilisk and also a selection of material on medical curiosities after Weird Weekend 2009.

'According to one of the old Viking annals, the Flato Book, King Harald Hårdråde of Norway once visited the nobleman Halldor, whose daughter had been very ill. Fever, increasing abdominal girth and an unquenchable thirst were the major symptoms. The old woman gossiped about her being pregnant, but the young lady denied this with great vehemence. Since she was steadily declining, the King was consulted. His diagnosis was that she had accidentally swallowed the spawn of a serpent when she drank water, and the reptile had grown within her….

'The belief in living snakes, frogs, lizards and other animals as parasites within the human gastrointestinal tract is of considerable antiquity. Already in ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian manuscripts there is mention of a `colic-snake` as a cause of painful stomach cramps. In De Morbis Vulgaribus, Hippocrates describes the case of a youth who had drunk a great quantity of strong wine. When he passed out on the ground, a snake slithered down his throat and caused his death from an apoplectic seizure….

'The bosom serpent also plays a part in one of the legends about the medical saints Cosmas and Damien, who were martyred in AD 283. A poor peasant was tortured day and night by a large snake that had crawled down his throat while he slept. No doctor could help him, but when he stepped into Cosmas and Damien`s church the serpent slithered up his throat with great haste…
'...In 1618, the Prebendary of Strasbourg, Dr Melchior Sebizius, reported another famous case. A 17-year-old youth had consulted him for stomach pains, melancholia, flatulence and epileptic seizures but he had been unable to diagnose the ailment. Some weeks later, the youth was found sitting dead in a bog-house; beneath the seat, a large snake was crawling about. In a thesis, illustrated with a figure of the snake…Melchior Sebizius concluded that the unhappy youth`s afflictions could all be explained by the presence of the snake in the stomach for an extended period of time, and that the strain of expelling it from his body had induced a fatal apoplectic fit….

'In 1694,the 12-year-old son of Pastor Zacharias Döderlein, of Berolzheim in southern Germany, was taken severely ill. After several fits and attacks of abdominal cramps, he vomited numerous insects, and later also 21 newts, 4 frogs and some toads…These uncanny happenings soon attracted notice among the clergy: many German parsons came to visit the house of their stricken colleague and their diagnosis was that the boy was possessed by the Devil; what particularly impressed them was that when the boy was led to take some fresh air near a pond with croaking frogs, his stomach - frogs croaked loudly in reply…In the late 18th century, most of the leading biologists, including Linnaeus, Buffon and Blumenbach, favoured the notion that snakes and frogs could live as parasites in the human gastrointestinal tract….

'In 1850, Professor Arnold Adolph Berthold, of Göttingen, published a momograph aimed at solving the burning question of the existence of living amphibians as parasites in the human stomach. He had noted that almost every German pathological museum of repute contained some snake, frog or newt which had allegedly been vomited by some patient after living for years within the human body. Berthold obtained permission to dissect several of these specimens and all had partly digested insects in their stomachs - a strong indication that they had been deliberately swallowed shortly before being vomited….

'Early in 1916, a remarkable story appeared in several English newspapers. A woman had swallowed frogspawn, which had developed inside her into a large frog. She was taken to Stroud Hospital…but the doctors were unable to operate since the animal moved about too fast. The woman was in such agony that the baffled medical men wrote to King George V in order to get his permission to kill her with poison, but his Majesty refused this plea.

'Another canard went the rounds of the newspapers in 1987. An 11 year old girl in Baku had got a 26-inch semi poisonous Caucasian cat snake in her stomach, which had slithered down her throat while she slept. The clever doctors managed to flush it out with a stomach-pump. The Scotsman added a further frisson by adding that she was still in hospital, being treated for the enraged reptile`s bites in the stomach wall.' (1)

Dr Bondeson concludes that the bosom serpent was likely psychosomatic or a parasite.

1. J.Bondeson. The bosom serpent. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Vol. 91 August 1998. pp.442-447

NAOMI WEST: Interesting deer story

A student today wrote about a strange occurrence with a deer while hunting last year and this year in Tonkawa, Oklahoma. I believe it was last year they ran across a deer both blind and deaf. The game warden had to come shoot it. But this year they shot and killed a deer, and as they were loading it into their truck its hair started falling off to the touch. On one side they saw it had a massive amount of hair loss. When they set it down in the bed of the truck the antlers literally shattered. They decided not to eat the deer for fear of some disease, and they had it sent off for analysis somewhere in Kansas. The student told me he would let me know the results.

I haven't researched anything on these symptoms, nor do I know much about deer, but I thought I'd pass this along in case you found it interesting. I could probably get a load of other interesting stories from students - many of them hunt. Incidentally, this deer story came about when I told the students to write about an unexplained mystery of their choice.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


On this day in 1907 1000 medical students clashed with 400 policemen over a statue of a little brown dog in Battersea, London, UK. The Brown Dog Affair is a bit too complex and convoluted for me to do justice in this little blog so if you want to know more follow this link (AFTER you have read the rest of today’s postings and the Fortean zoology news, though) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Dog_affair.
And now, the afore-mentioned news:

Holy cow - calf born with 'divine sign' on head
'Starfish Graveyard' In Norfolk After Storm
Mystery car brake cutter turns out to be suburban fox
I’ll bet that had them ‘foxed’ for a while.