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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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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: EXCLUSIVE! A HITHERTO OVERLOOKED SEA MONSTER OFF ALASKA-1903

I have recently come across a highly interesting and useful web-based archive of American newspapers http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/newspapers/ which has enabled me, in the last few days to find a number of 'new' cryptozoological reports, namely on flying snakes in N. America, which I have passed onto Nick Sucik, probably the world`s leading authority on flying snakes. I also found today`s report on some kind of sea monster, which attacked rorqual whales near Admiraly (i.e. Admiralty) Island near Alaska in the summer of 1903.

I spoke to Dr Darren Naish on the evening of December 28th and he couldn`t identify the creature. He suggested I look at There are Giants in The Sea by Michael Bright but it wasn`t mentioned in that book either. Whatever it was, it used a huge 'club' to attack the rorquals. Darren suggested it could be mating activity, the club being the male`s penis or a giant squid. I used the phrase 'strange creature' when I used the search facility.

ENEMY OF WHALES

Strange Creatures Said to Exist in Alascan [sic] Waters

While operating a fishery on Admiraly [sic] Island, Alaska, last summer, says a writer, my attention and the attention of my fishing crew was almost daily attracted to a large marine creature that would appear in the main channel of Seymour canal and our immediate vicinity. There are large numbers of whales of the species rorqual there, and the monster seemed to be their natural enemy. The whales generally travel in schools, and while at the surface to blow on would be singled out and attacked by the fish, and a battle was soon in order.

It is the nature of the rorqual to make three blows at intervals of from two to three minutes each, and then sound deep and stay beneath the surface for 30 to 40 minutes. As a whale would come to the surface, there would appear always at the whale’s right side and just above where his head would connect with the body, a great, long tail or fin, “judged by five fishermen and a number of Indians after seeing about 15 times at various distances,” to be about 24 feet long, 2½ feet wide at the end, and tapering down to the water, when it seemed to be about 18 inches in diameter, looking very much like the blade of the fan of an old-fashioned Dutch windmill.

The great club was used on the back of the unfortunate whale in such a manner that it was a wonder to me that every whale attacked was not instantly killed. Its operator seemed to have perfect control of its movements, and would bend it back till the end would touch the water forming a horseshoe loop, then with a sweep it would be straightened and brought over and down on the back of the whale with a whack that could be heard for several miles. If the whale was fortunate enough to submerge his body before the blows came, the spray would fly to a distance of 100 feet from the effect of the strike, making a report as loud as a yacht’s signal gun.

What seemed most remarkable to me was that no matter which way the attacked whale went, or how fast (the usual speed is about 14 knots) that great club would follow right along by its side and deliver these tremendous blows at intervals of about four or five seconds. It would always get in from three to five blown at each of the three times the whale would come to the surface to blow. The whale would generally rid itself of the enemy when it took its deep sound, especially if the water was 40 fathoms or more deep. During the day the attack was always off shore, but at night the whales would be attacked in the bay and within 400 yards of the fishery.

“I do not know of any whales being killed, but there were several that had great holes and sores on their backs. Questioning the Indians about it, I was told that there was only one, that it had been there for many years, and that it once attacked an Indian canoe and with one stroke of the great club smashed the canoe into splinters, killing and drowning several of its occupants."

I found this story in the Leavenworth Echo, Leavenworth, Washington, January 30th 1914: Petrified Animal in Mine. A petrified body,apparently that of a seal, was found at a depth of 176 feet in a mine at Carthage, Mo. The head resembles that of a calf, but the body is shaped like a seal. The strange creature is now on exhibition in Carthage. (2)


It would be interesting to see if the age of the 'seal' and the age of the mine strata coincided.

(1) The Falls City Tribune. January 22nd 1904.(Falls City,Nebraska)
(2) Leavenworth Echo January 30th 1914.

Talking Heads-Life During Wartime.

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons
Packed up and ready to go
Heard of some gravesites,out by the highway,
A place where nobody knows
The sound of gunfire,off in the distance,
I`m getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone,lived in a ghetto,
I`ve lived all over this town,…

GLEN VAUDREY: U109 monster

While trawling through Bernard Heuvelmans's In the wake of the Sea-Serpent I came across the story of a sea serpent spotted by a German submarine during the First World War. The report first surfaces in the German newspaper Bremer Nachrichten in 1933 when a former U boat commander, Werner Löwisch, announced that he and his crew of the submarine U109 had seen a marine saurian in the North Sea. He described how, on the evening of 28 July 1918, he and another member of the crew had seen an animal around a 100ft in length which had ‘a long head, jaws like a crocodile’s and legs with very definite feet’.

I have to admit I have seen this sighting used as proof of dinosaur survival, but something troubled me about the description: just how do you get to see the feet of a sea creature if it’s swimming by, unless it was resting on its back, feet in the air. Still, that was only a minor quibble and I thought it was worth looking into the tale a little more. Perhaps I would be able to identify where the sighting had taken place. I figured out that these days it's no doubt possible to track down records of the voyages of U109 so I reckoned it wouldn’t take long to have a rough location.

Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered the location of U109 that July evening; it was sunk with all hands at the bottom of the English Channel having run foul of a minefield. There is some confusion of the date of the vessel’s actual sinking, either on 26 January 1918 or 4 July 1918; whichever date it was it would make spotting that North Sea creature a little hard to believe. Perhaps it’s the wrong boat, the wrong year or maybe it's been just made up. I will let you decide; personally I know which answer I would choose.

OLL LEWIS: ‘Portent’-ially Deadly

I’d like to tell you all, if I may, about something that has fascinated me since I was a young boy: a loose grouping of phenomena known as ‘Death Portents’. Basically, a death portent is, as the name suggests, some sort of phenomenon by which a person can apparently predict the death of themselves or others.

There has been a large range of different methods recorded in folklore, superstitions and witness accounts whereby someone has apparently predicted their own death, covering vast swathes of the Fortean spectrum. For example, there are tales of ghosts involving a close relative seeing a ‘crisis apparition’ of a dying loved one miles away from where the loved one is currently dying, or a dying person seeing an angel or the ghost of a long-dead friend standing at the foot of their bed not long before they draw their last breath. There are also tales of time-slips. For example, Abraham Lincoln allegedly woke up in the middle of the night and saw himself lying in state. Alternatively, doppelgangers - Abraham Lincoln saw his face reflected twice in a mirror on the first night of his first term in office and noted that one of the faces had a deathly pallor to it. Such instances could be explained as dreams (which are also often cited when talking about death portents) or looking into a thick grubby mirror from the wrong angle when a bit over tired, but either way, like most death portents, they were of little use if they were intended as genuine warnings to President Lincoln.

With such a wide variety of death portents reported you would expect there to be a few Fortean zoology-related ones around too, and you’d be right. In South Wales it was once a widely held belief that to see a white or grey fox heralded a death in the family and in Gower and Swansea a black fox would also be a sign of impending doom. Even common red foxes were seen as death portents in South Wales at times; there was a legend that foxes would howl and make ‘uncommon’ noises in the village of St Donats whenever the death of the castle’s incumbent was near.

As well as foxes, birds were often cast as being able to predict death and sometimes even the manner in which it would occur. For example, in various parts of Britain there was a widely held belief that if a single crow circled above somebody’s head then that person would die from decapitation. The most famous example of birds as death portents is that of corpse birds. Miners were a superstitious bunch, as you might expect if you are spending your entire working day hundreds of feet below ground, chiselling away at things that might be holding up the ceiling, and held a healthy belief in the power of portents. The corpse bird was one of these portents and often took the form of a dove hovering near the entrance of the colliery and it was said to predict mining disasters. Birds were seen behaving in this manner in coalmines in Llanbradach, Morfa and Senghenydd before explosions caused the deaths of many miners in the pits. A bird might not seem that terrifying or ominous but if events from Glyncorrwg in the Cwmavon valley recounted in the South Wales Echo on 15th of July are to be believed then it sounds like something out of a Stephen King story:

“A Batch of Evil Omens”
“The men have been whispering their fears to each other for some time past, but the drastic action of Monday was probably the outcome of so-called evil omens which are said to have been heard in the mine. About two months ago the night-men began to tell `creepy' tales of the strange and supernatural happenings which took place in the colliery every night. Now and then a piercing cry for help would startle the men, and during the night shift horrid shrieks rang through the black darkness of the headings, and frightened the men nearly out of their wits. There is, of course, the usual tale of the dove hovering over the mouth of the level.”

These incidents (and to be honest probably the newspaper’s over-sensationalised reporting of them) resulted in around 300 men refusing to work at the mine so whether a ‘corpse bird’ can accurately predict a mining disaster or not, the miners certainly thought it was not worth taking that chance.

So, next time you see a bird or a fox, pay attention. Who knows; it might be trying to tell you something.

SHOCKING ARTICLE ABOUT ASIAN WILDLIFE TRADE

This article was sent to me by Allen Salzberg from Herpdigest and is, as he says a `must read` for anyone even slightly interested in wildlife...

'On September 14, 1998, a thin, bespectacled Malaysian named Wong Keng Liang walked off Japan Airlines Flight 12 at Mexico City International Airport. He was dressed in faded blue jeans, a light-blue jacket, and a T-shirt emblazoned with a white iguana head. George Morrison, lead agent for Special Operations, the elite, five-person undercover unit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was there to greet him. Within seconds of his arrest, Anson (the name by which Wong is known to wildlife traffickers and wildlife law enforcement officers around the world) was whisked downstairs in handcuffs by Mexican federales, to be held in the country's largest prison, the infamous Reclusorio Norte.'

Read on...

WHEREFORE ART THOUGH WENDIGO?

As you may know I’m currently working on a book about the Canadian/American Indian monster known as the wendigo. I'm very interested in finding modern accounts (20th Century/21st Century) of the creature.

I recall reading an account in one of Elliott O'Donnell's ghost books of an encounter with a creature that sounds very like a wendigo, though it is not referred to in the text. The story is set in one of the northern states, but I can't recall which one. The witness saw the creature one night near an abandoned mine that had a reputation for being haunted. The thing had grey skin and was about ten feet tall. It had an emaciated, skull-like face. This sounds very like some of the descriptions of the wendigo.

Does anyone know where I can find this account? I can't recall which of O'Donnell's many books it is in. Someone on the Fortean Times message board said it was in A Casebook of Ghosts but a look through that book revealed nothing.

Anyone familiar with this?

JON DOWNES: Yesterday's News Today..

http://cfztemporarynews.blogspot.com/

I don't know why I didn't think of this yesterday. As regular readers will know, on the 29th December 2009 our news blog with over 2000 entries was taken down by blogger on suspicion of it being a `spamblog`. Whether this was as a result of malicious intent by persons unknown (well, we know perfectly well who they are, but you know what I mean), or as a result of over zealous spambots, we don't know. However, at the CFZ we like to take inspiration from the best, and so - like London's Windmill Theatre, who presented nude tableaus vivant throughout WW2 - We Never Close!

Here with the temporary News Blog. (With news stories attached)

(I have just emailed Gavin the newseditordude with the URL)