Friday, December 31, 2010
I have kept dogs since I was 25, but they have all been basically collies, or collie crosses, and to the best of my recollection they had ordinary doggy ears.
Prudence, however, has ears like a cat, with a slit down the side. Pru, btw, is featured in the top picture, Spider (aka Orange Cat) in the bottom one.
I am not for one moment claiming that this
is a momentous discovery on my part, but I wonder whether anyone in bloggoland (and my best bets would be Karl, Scottie, or Darren, with a stupid answer froim Davey C) can answer the following questions.
1. Do all bulldogs have ears like this?
3. What other breeds have them?
4. What is their purpose?
5. How long does swine flu take to go away?
This 36th collection once again really is a collection of completely uncategoriseable stuff, including strange wind, a thief with an honest business card, a mystery man in nappies left in a car park, Uri Geller, Anna Anderson and lots more. It doesn't get much better than this. Good stuff.
Happy new year to everyone; regardless of how 2010 was for you, I hope 2011 goes better.
On this day in 1801 Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt. Ceres makes up 32% of the asteroid belt's total mass and scientists believe there may be an ocean of liquid water beneath it’s surface. And now, the news:
"Eat' Em" Stratagem for Lionfish Invasion in Flori...
Reader spots swan with frozen beak on river at Otl...
Tagged flamingo to show bird's migratory routes
Seven Brazilian bird species granted endangered st...
Secret lives of baby American beavers filmed
The smile that says rescued Mely the orangutan lov...
And what better way to start off the year than with an orangutan:
Thursday, December 30, 2010
It is sixteen years since I first sat down at what was then my reasonably state-of-the-art Amiga 500 to type out the first CFZ Annual Report. It had a circulation of fifty people, and took me about 20 minutes to write. How times have changed! The CFZ is now a massive organisation with branches on three continents, a flourishing publishing wing and research going on all over the world.
Traditionally I have always written this report during that quiet week between Christmas and New Year, and 2010 is no exception. The only difference is that this year both Corinna and I are suffering greatly from the depredations of swine flu, and that what is usually a pleasant task is remarkably more difficult as a result.
The CFZ Bloggo is one of the most popular things that we have ever done. I believe that it is unique in that it is a collaborative effort from a loose 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 going from strength to strength, and is getting an average of about 2,600 hits a day, which is about 1,000 up on this time last year.
We are consistently in the Top 10 of the Nature Blogs network, and this Christmas were mostly at #6.
This year we published 12 books:
• Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo
Shuker, Karl P.N 10/6/2010
• Tetrapod Zoology Book One
Naish, Darren 8/3/2010
• UFO DOWN: The Berwyn Mountain UFO Crash
Roberts, Andy 7/26/2010
• HAUNTED SKIES Volume One
Hanson, John 7/17/2010
• The Mystery Animals of Ireland
Cunningham, Gary + Coghlan, Ronan 6/23/2010
• Monsters of Texas
Gerhard, Ken and Redfern, Nick 5/27/2010
• The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia
Freeman, Richard 4/29/2010
• NEW HORIZONS: Animals & Men issues 16-20 Collected Editions Vol. 4
Downes, Jonathan 4/10/2010
• A Daintree Diary - Tales from Travels to the Daintree Rainforest in tropical north Australia
Portman, Carl 2/24/2010
• Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal
Roberts, Andy 2/21/2010
• Centre for Fortean Zoology Yearbook 2010
Downes, Jonathan 1/1/2010
We also published an issue of Animals & Men and two issues of The Amateur Naturalist (now edited by Max Blake) We are very aware that there are a number of problems vis-à-vis these two journals, and hope that we shall be able to begin redressing them in 2011.
We are very happy with the sales figures, bearing in mind that CFZ Press was never intended to sell books in any numbers, and believe that the books that we have planned for 2011, which include new titles by Nick Redfern, Richard Freeman, Karl Shuker, Neil Arnold and Karl Shuker as well as vols 2 and 3 of the massively successful Haunted Skies will give us another bumper year.
This summer we launched our second imprint. We are very much aware that the CFZ Press imprint should be for fortean zoology, zoomythology and cryptozoology only, and as of this summer non-animal related fortean books now have a new home.
We carried out two foreign trips this year. In March, due to the kindness of Richie and Naomi West, Corinna and I went to Texas to carry on with the work I started six years ago regarding blue hairless dogs.
We brought back enormous amounts of data, which will eventually appear in a book, and we hope to go back again soon.
Our second expedition of the year was to India and is described in a press release that we put out at the time.
On 31st of October the CFZ 2010 expedition leaves England. They will be exploring the Garo Hills in Northern India in search of the mande-burung or Indian yeti. The five-man team consists of team leader Adam Davies, Dr Chris Clark, Dave Archer, field naturalist Jonathan McGowan, and cryptozoologist Richard Freeman.
The creatures are described as being up to ten feet tall, with predominantly black hair. Most importantly, they are said to walk upright, like a man. Walking apes have been reported in the area for many years. These descriptions sound almost identical to those reported in neighbouring Bhutan and Tibet. Witnesses report that the mande-burung, which translates as forest man, is most often seen in the area in November.
The Garo Hills are a heavily forested and poorly explored area in Meghalaya state in the cool northern highlands of India. The area is internationally renowned for its wildlife, which includes tigers, bears, elephants and Indian rhino and clouded leopards.
The Indian team will be led by Dipu Marek, a local expert who has been on the trail of the Indian yeti for a number of years and has found both its nests and 19inch long `footprints` on previous occasions. The expedition team has also arranged to interview eyewitnesses who have seen the Mande-Burung.
Camera traps will be set up in sighting areas in the hope of catching one of the creatures on film.
The Mande-Burung may be a surviving form of a giant ape known from its fossilised teeth and jaw bones, called Gigantopithecus blacki, which lived in the Pleistocene epoch around three hundred thousand years ago. This creature is of course extinct. However, much contemporary fauna such as the giant panda, the Asian tapir and the Asian elephant that lived alongside the monster ape, still survive today. It is thought by many that Gigantopithecus also survives in the impenetrable jungles and mountains of Asia. Its closest known relatives are the Orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo.
The team brought back samples, footprints and lots of eyewitness testimony. The results will be released as soon as we have them.
ORANG PENDEK DNA?
In late November we released the following statement from Lars Thomas:
In late 2009 I was given a sample of hairs collected in Sumatra earlier that year by Adam Davies, Richard Freeman and several others taking part in the expedition searching for evidence of the elusive orang pendek, the Indonesian “abominable snowman.”
A small part of the hair sample was subjected to a DNA-analysis, but due to the small amount of DNA extracted and the rather poor condition of it, no firm conclusion could be reached. The DNA did show some similarities to primate DNA, possibly orangutan, but no definite results could be obtained.
Following this I subjected the remaining hairs to a structural analysis to see if this could bring any information to light that might reveal the identity of the owner of the hairs.
I checked all of the remaining 6 hairs and they were all consistent with hairs from large primates or humans. They all had the rather large medulla with a lot of pigmentation typical of large primates, and the intermittent holes in the centre of the hairs, making them look somewhat like hollowed out tree trunks. I compared the hair samples with reference samples of 3 different species of gibbon, orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo, gorilla and some 15 samples of human hairs in various colours, mainly red or reddish. I was never able to ascertain their identity with total certainty, although I could eliminate some. The hairs were not modern human, and they were not from siamangs or other gibbons. They have a very deep rusty-red colour, very similar to the colour of orangutan hairs, but varied in other structural details.
So based on these results alone I concluded that the hairs were from something closely related to orangutans or from a form of orangutan I had not seen before.
In the autumn of 2010 Tom Gilbert from the DNA Laboratory of the University of Copenhagen did a further DNA test of the remaining hairs. In this case he was able to extract a good amount of DNA enabling him to conclude that whoever used to wear these hairs were either human of very closely related to humans.
So the structural analysis point to either an orangutan or something very closely related to an orangutan. The DNA analysis on the other hand point to a human or something very closely related to humans.
Based on this information I am forced to conclude that Sumatra is home to a completely new species of large primate, but I am also well aware that these results can in no way be called conclusive evidence of the existence of these animals. But it should be more than enough reason for a new expedition to go back to the area, hopefully obtaining enough evidence and samples to come to a final conclusion.
On the 17th August I was happy to announce that Danish zoologist Lars Thomas had examined hair samples found in Huddisford Woods near Woolsery, and pronounced them to be leopard.
I offered the hairs (which were found by Lars, Jon McGowan and a team known as the Four-Teans) to any research group or academic institution who wanted to try and verify Lars's findings. The first person to contact me was Dr Ross Barnett from Durham University who has done DNA analysis on them, and has confirmed that they are Pantherine, probably leopard.
He is carrying out further tests to establish the species and subspecies for certain and a full announcement will be made then.
BRITISH LYNX SPECIMEN
Another remarkable recent discovery was made in the archives of the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery by Max Blake, one of the best known of the younger brigade of CFZ members, and as I have said on a number of occasions, someone who together with Dave Braund-Phillips will be managing the circus once I've finally retired or died.
Although there have been reports of unknown cat-like animals in the UK on and off for centuries, there has been a paucity of hard evidence. Until now the only reports of specimens actually being secured are from the last 40 years or so. Max has discovered an animal, which appears to be a Canadian lynx, which was shot over a century ago.
He is currently working on a technical paper with Dr Darren Naish, which will contain all the details. He has asked us not to reveal any more details until it is published, and we of course agreed. When we are able to do so we shall have more photographs, and all the technical details that anyone could possibly want. Well done.
This year we produced 11 monthly episodes of our regular show On The Track (Of Unknown Animals). Because of flu, the latest issue will be a few days late. We also produced some shorts, and introduced the irrepressible Jessica and India girly duo to the world of webTV. We covered some of Uncon, and all of the WW (editing out an unfortunate joke that one speaker made about his wife). There were no full-length films this year, although Emily and the Big Cats is 75% done, and there will be a film of the India expedition.
Most people only have one or two pets, and if their ventures into petkeeping are – for example – a cat and a goldfish, they won’t have many dead animals to grieve. We have about 300 (OK, the vast majority are small fish or inverts) and so – sadly – have bereavements quite often. Apart from Biggles (see below) the saddest loss this year was Jerry the Jackdaw, who dies in the early autumn, after having lived in our lower aviary for about eighteen months. There were no obvious signs of cause of death, and it is tempting to think that he may have had some internal problem that was the cause of him falling (or being pushed) from his nest above the village shop in the first place.
The other disaster which really rankles happened early in December when an equipment failure killed off all but two of our Alfaro cultratus livebearers, including the ones we had bred. The two survivors are - sadly – both females, and as their tank is on my desk I am forced, every day, with the reminder of what went wrong. However, we shall be getting some more in the New Year, and will try again..
We bred fourteen species of livebearer this year and joined the British Livebearer Society, which appears to be an estimable organization. We also heard – this morning – that Naomi West of the US Office is starting a tank of local (to her) fish. There are some smashing livebearers in Texas, and I have cheerful daydreams of importing some of her surplus breeding stock.
Our colony of spiny mice are now past breeding age. We are going to let them die off naturally, rather than replacing them. They were part of a project that I had hoped to do when we were still involved with the zoo. Now we are no longer involved we shall just let the colony dwindle and die.
One of the saddest, if not the saddest event of the last year was the untimely, and completely unexpected death of Biggles, our two-year-old border collie. It turned out that he was almost certainly born with a congenital defect of the liver which none of us had suspected. His death was quick, and the news was devastating both to us, and his fans across the world. The CFZ is truly a global family, and Corinna and I took great comfort from the dozens of letters of support that we received. We are at present fostering a doggie, a five-year-old boxer x bulldog cross called Prudence who is in poll position to become the CFZ Doggie MkIV. It is a bit like Doctor Who. When one dog leaves us, it is never more than a few weeks before his or her successor ambles into our lives and takes possession of our hearts.
CFZ NATURAL HISTORY LTD
In mid-September we did something we probably should have done many years ago, and became a Company Limited by Guarantee. The Centre for Fortean Zoology, CFZ Press, and The Amateur Naturalist plus all the other things we do within the realms of both Cryptozoology and Natural History are now administered by a Company Limited by Guarantee called "CFZ Natural History Ltd". A Company Limited by Guarantee is basically a limited company set up not to make a profit, and is the next step to being a charity. There are two Directors: Graham and myself, and - by law - neither director can benefit financially from the activities of the company. This has very few disadvantages, and quite a few advantages, and not the least being that we are now legally allowed to fundraise using methods that we could not before.
THE ELEVENTH WEIRD WEEKEND
This year’s event took place, as always, in August. It was – we think – a great success. Speakers included:
MATTHEW WILLIAMS: Crop Circles
CARL PORTMAN: On the track of the whistling spider
ANDY ROBERTS: The Berwyn mountain UFO crash
MAX BLAKE: Singular Species
MIKE HALLOWELL: The Kapree; the Strange Tale of Cornwall's
Out-of-Place, Cigar-Smoking Philippino Cryptid
LIONEL BEER: Treacle Mines
COL JOHN BLASHFORD-SNELL: President’s address
JON/CORINNA DOWNES: Texas Blue Dogs Expedition Report
GARY CUNNINGHAM/RONAN COGHLAN: Mystery Animals of Ireland
LECTURE: RICHARD FREEMAN: Yokai - Japanese monsters
MIKE WILLIAMS AND RUBY LANG: Australian Mystery Big Cats
RICHARD FREEMAN & CO: Sumatra Expedition Report
OLL LEWIS: The Cardiff Giant and his kin
LARS THOMAS: Identifying hair samples
MIKE DASH: The monster of Glamis
RONAN COGHLAN: The Holy Grail
JON DOWNES: Keynote speech
The day is in sight, I am afraid, when we shall no longer be able to do the Weird Weekend. I always said that we would do 10; next year’s event (held on the 19-21 August) will be our twelfth. I will continue promoting them for as long as I can, but am now just going to have forward plans on a year-by-year basis.
Although the CFZ and its sphere of influence is getting steadily bigger, the crew at Myrtle Cottage are getting older, and the younger members of the team are, because of education, work and general lifestuff are not always as available for CFZ activities as they were a few years back.
This where we need to make a serious attempt to bring in some new blood. So, if you feel like becoming involved with our activities, this is just the time for you to do it.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year. I personally (and we collectively) cannot express quite how grateful we are for your help.
Together we have achieved some remarkable things. Next year will – I hope – see that trend continuing.
Onwards and Upwards,
From The Kentish Notebook by G. Howell of 1891 in reference to an appeal for whale sightings in the stretch of river, a chap named ‘Bookworm’ responds, ‘’Whales In The Thames (Sept. 12th 1891) – I can assure “T.C.U.” that the whale is no uncommon visitor to our River, for numerous records, both ancient and modern, testify to the fact of its appearance at different times. I have made a brief compilation, from various sources, of the discovery of whales and other monsters in the Thames, which may interest “T.C.U.”:
1457 – In this year a considerable commotion took place, caused by several whales in the river. After considerable trouble two of them were caught off Erith, together with a sword-fish, and a fish called a Mors Marina.
1642 – On July of this year a “terrible monster” was caught by “a fisherman near Wollage (Woolwich”, and afterwards exhibited at Westminster. A tract published at the time informs us that the monster “is like a toad, and may be called a Toad-Fish; but that which makes it a monster is, that it hath hands with fingers like a man, being neere five-foot long and three-feet over, the thicknesse of an ordinary man.”
1699 – On the twenty-sixth of March, after an extraordinary storm, there came up the Thames a whale 56-feet long.
1718 – On August 30, great excitement occurred among the waterside inhabitants of Gravesend, in consequence of a whale forty-feet long being captured just below the town.
1746 – On the 25th of July a young whale came up the river and was killed near Execution Dock, after having sunk three boats; it measured 18 feet in length.
1762 – In February a whale was caught in the Hope and after being chased by the boats, some time it was secured and killed by digging holes in it. It was fifty-four feet long and 14-feet broad, and was landed on the shore by Greendland Dock, near Deptford. No doubt the Watermen found plenty of employment, as an immense number of people visited it by land and water. It was computed that on the first day, Sunday, upwards of fifty thousand visitors inspected it.
1809 – “On the 25th March, a whale 75-feet long and 25-feet in circumference, was wounded and driven on shore off the Bligh Sands below Gravesend, by a pilot named Barnes. It weighed upwards of thirty tons. The Lord Mayor ordered it to be removed in a barge above the bridge, when it was exhibited at one shilling per head, until the officers of the admiralty claimed it as a droit, and forcibly took possession. The blubber was valued at one hundred and fifty pounds.”
1842 – In November a whale was caught off Deptford pier, 16 feet long weighting two tons. It was purchased by three individuals, and exhibited there for some time. It was afterwards shewn at the half Moon Inn, Boro’, where 2,000 persons paid for admission in one day. On being dissected, the skeleton was taken to the British Museum.
1849 – A whale 21-feet long, was taken in this year off Grays, in Essex.
A chap named Gravesender notes the following week several other monster sightings, stating, ‘I send an extract from p.159 of Pocock’s History & Antiquities of Gravesend & Milton, relating to the capture of some extraordinary monsters off the Kentish coast:-
‘At Gravesend on the 7th October 1552 three great Fishes called Whirlepooles were taken and drawn up to Westminster Bridge.
In 1786 a Fish of the Grampus kind was brought here by a fishing vessel, who found it at sea, floating on the water almost dead, its mouth was full of thready bones – and the like before the oldest fisherman at this place (Gravesend) had never seen. But neither of the above Fishes were any comparison to one that was taken at St. Peter’s in the isle of Thanet on July 9th 1574, and which Mr Kilburne says, “shot himself on shore on a little sand called Fishness, where for want of water he died the next day; before which time his roaring was heard above a mile. His length was 22 yards, the nether jaw opening 12 feet; one of his eyes was more than a cart and six horses cold draw, a man stood upright in the place from whence his eye was taken, the thickness from his back to the top of his belly (which lay upward) was 14 feet; his tail of the same breadth; the distance between his eyes was 12 feet, three men stood upright in his mouth; some of the ribs were 16 feet long; his liver was two cart loads; and a man might creep into his nostrils.”
Pocock adds, “Whatever absurdities there are in this account, the Rev. Mr Lewis has transcribed it into his History of the Isle of Thanet. I therefore give it my readers, but without desiring to vouch for the truth of any of the extraordinary circumstances of this monster”
On this day in 1879 Thomas Edison demonstrated the incandescent light bulb for the first time. It's hard to imagine a time when people would crowd around a lightbulb and gasp in awe as it went on, but it was a simpler time.
And now, the news:
Environmental Factors Limit Species Diversity, Liz...
Seal sightings baffle wildlife experts
Urban marmosets avoid pet threat
New species of fishes found in Indian waters
Penguins hop on scales in Antarctic climate study
Dog gets head stuck in wall
Cute puppy video:
KARL SHUKER ON ROC FEATHERS WITH THE MOST DREADFUL PUN HE HAS PRODUCED ALL YEAR (And that is against some stiff competition)
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I always wanted to meet the man, and now it looks like I never shall.
It is sixteen years since I first sat down at (what was then) my reasonably state-of-the-art Amiga 500 to type out the first CFZ Annual Report. It had a circulation of fifty people and took me about 20 minutes to write. How times have changed! The CFZ is now a massive organisation with branches on three continents, a flourishing publishing wing and research going on all over the world.
Traditionally I have always written this report during that quiet week between Christmas and New Year, and 2010 is no exception. The only difference is that this year Corinna and I are suffering greatly from the depredations of swine flu, and that what is usually a pleasant task is remarkably more difficult as a result. I am just about managing it, and I sincerely hope that OTT with a review of the year will be out on time.
But the 2011 Yearbook, which traditionally is published on New Year's Day, is going to be a couple of weeks late.
The snow is melting rapidly outside and just in time. Mrs B is suffering in the room above from what look like real contractions – Beachcombing conspicuously absent. Beachcombing then is going to let his source do all the talking today. If he hasn’t written much of a conclusion then the chances are that the balloon has gone up and the new world order has begun. Think Iran with the bomb, neo cons with aircraft carriers – the works in short.
The following appears in the encyolopedia of Ma Duanlin (obit 1322), a medieval Chinese scholar who had access to many ancient sources now lost to us. In his great tomes he describes the land of Fusang – the Fusang, incidentally, was the Chinese solar tree pictured here.
So each time one of us coughed an 11-stone bulldog leapt upon us to try to administer succour in the way that only bulldogs can. And not being the brightest button in the barrel, she kept this up all night with the consequence that I only had an hour of sleep and Corinna had not much more.
Prudence, however, looks highly refreshed, and has the look of self-satisfied smugness that often appears on your face when you have been doing good deeds!
And now, the news:
Bees One of Many Pollinators Infected by Virus Imp...
New species abound in Peru, but so do threats
Nose job book from 1597 sells at auction
Costa Rica Investigates Mysterious Death of Sea Tu...
Solving Turtle Life Mysteries (Lea Emery)
Fish Swam the Sahara, Bolstering Out of Africa The...
Vaguely related being fish but do you want to see a HUGE pike? Of course you do:
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
This 34th collection once again really is a collection of completely uncategoriseable stuff, including an explosion in a public lavatory, an alien in Yorkshire, ghosts, UFOs, near death experiences, cold fusion, the lobster bopy murder, and lots more. It doesn't get much better than this. Good stuff.
I have also had a telephone call from Richard Muirhead who wants to apologise that the second half of his article on Chinese knowledge of the giraffe has been postponed. Why? You've guessed it: flu. He has contracted this bloody disease as well and at time of writing (yesterday, by the time you read this) he is tucked up in bed at his mum's house.
Meanwhile Dave McMann who has also got the flu and is suffering horribly, suggested to the fortean email list that all the fortean flu sufferers should come down to Devon, so we could all die together in a Heaven's Gate sort of way. No way!! There's only enough cake and ginger beer left for me!
I might countenance the idea if I have promises of cake!
This really is peculiar and should be seen.
On this day in 1170 Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was killed by four knights in Canterbury Cathedral after a disagreement with King Henry II. Through an early example of P.R. and spin-doctoring, Henry was forgiven and exonerated for his part in Becket’s bloody murder and Becket’s shrine became the most popular site of pilgrimage in England, and Becket was canonised.
And now, the news:
Petition to Save the Grass Snake (Constantinos Io...
Tadpoles Croak Like Adults
Denver Zoo Team Creates Insurance Population to Sa...
Sonoran Desert Tortoise Gets Protected Status
Gators Thriving Along Georgia's coast
HS2 plan 'will destroy Warwickshire wildlife'
Cypriot bird trappers flock to British military ba...
Hairless animal 'could be chupacabra' (via Rebecc...
Robins in Scotland battle for survival
A very tame robin:
Monday, December 27, 2010
From Bygone Kent magazine, Vol 6, No. 9, 1985, featured in an article named ‘Submarines, A Ghost And A Sea Monster’ by W.H. Lapthorne, ‘Each year during the silly season the media revel in fresh sightings of Nessie, the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Yet the sea monster encountered off the North Foreland in 1917 was far from legendary and more than just a product of a “wee dram”. In July 1917 the ‘Paramount’, an armed drifter from Ramsgate attached to the famed Dover Patrol, was cruising a mile from the Long Nose Spit, between the North Foreland and Margate. Suddenly the sharp eyes of the look-out sighted a large snake-like creature rearing out of the sea ahead of them “hard on the port bow”, a creature which the startled man later described as being “like some gigantic conger eel about fifty-feet in length, with a long scaly body, a large spiny dorsal fin and dark olive green in colour”. At the approach of the oncoming vessel the creature inquisitively raised its head, as the craft steamed past at a steady eight knots. At a distance of 300 yards the skipper gave the order to open fire on the curious but seemingly inoffensive beast. Six shells were fired, the last of which struck the creature in the dorsal fin. After thrashing violently on the surface for a few seconds it sank from sight in a welter of blood. Years later in 1957 a sequel to this narrative came some miles down Channel at Seaford in Sussex, when local fishermen reported having their nets ripped to pieces by a strange sea serpent some fifty-feet in length, with a long scaly body bearing traces of a deep seven-foot scar. The same thing happened again in 1968, when the incident was reported in a national daily and described as the Martello Monster, as it took place off Martello Tower No. 74 at Seaford, but this time the assailant remained unseen below the surface.’
The Bird Chariot (1906)
Confucius and His Portraits (1912)
Arabic and Chinese Trade in Walrus and Narwhal Ivory (1913)
Was Oderic of Pordenone Ever in Tibet? (1914)
Bird Divination Among the Tibetans (1914)
Asbestos and Salamander (1915)
The Reindeer and Its Domestication (1917)
Chinese Baskets (1925)
Ostrich Egg-shell Cups of Mesopotamia and the Ostrich In Ancient and Modern Times (1926)
Geophagy [earth-eating] (1930)
The Domestication of the Cormorant in China and Japan (1931) (1)
In Ash and Lake`s Bizarre Books (1985 ed.) it is written `To the memory of Berthold Laufer (1874-1934), who did so much to add to the bibliography of bizarre books.' (2) And later `Merit Award for Books on Extraordinarily Specialized Subjects…Berthold Laufer of Chicago…the distinguished author of a veritable library of over 100 fascinating works, mostly published in Leiden by E. J. Brill or Chicago by the Field Museum of Natural History…` (3)
Granted, Laufer was writing a long time ago, (82 years ago in fact) but I still believe his information is worth recording here; I am not taking any position as to whether he was right or wrong; I am just recording what he said.
But on Chinese knowledge of the giraffe: The Giraffe was not known to the ancient Chinese, contrary to what is assumed by certain sinologues (4). This erroneous conclusion is based on the fact when live giraffes were first transported into China in the fifteenth century under the Ming dynasty, they were taken by the Chinese for the Kilin (k`i-lin), a fabulous creature of ancient mythology, and by way of reminiscence and poetic retrospection received the name k`i-lin. This,of course, does not mean that the ancient native conception of the Kilin was based on the on the giraffe, which in historical times was confined to Africa. In fact neither the description nor the the illustrations of the Kilin bear the slightest resemblance to a giraffe. The Kilin is said to have the body of a deer, the tail of an ox, a single horn, and to be covered with fish scales. Its horn is covered with flesh, indicating that while able for war,it covets peace. It does not tread on any living thing, not even on living grass…It is clear that the characteristic features of the giraffe which impress every casual observer – the extraordinary height, the long neck, the proportion of fore and hind legs-are not found in the Chinese descriptions of the Kilin and that several traits of the latter do not agree with the giraffe…The only points of resemblance made by the Chinese between the Kilin and the giraffe are their bodies being shaped like a deer, their tails being like that of an ox, and their gentle disposition. This identification, it should be born in mind, was established as recently as the fifteenth century when the first giraffes arrived in China. (5)
The Sü po wu chi, a book compiled by Li Shi about the middle of the twelfth century, apparently contains one of the earliest Chinese literary allusions to the giraffe. 'The country of Po-pa-li [Berbera, on the Somali coast of the Gulf of Aden] harbors a strange animal called camel-ox (t`o niu). Its skin is like that of a leopard, its hoof is similar to that of an ox, but the animal is devoid of a hump. Its neck is nine feet long, and its body is over ten feet high.'…African animals were transported to China as early as the thirteenth century under the Yüan or Mongol dynasty…In A.D 1289 the Chinese emperor was presented with two zebras from Mabar, [ i.e Malabar, on the S.W coast of India - R] and in the following year another envoy arrived from the same country and offerd two piebald oxen, a buffalo, and a tiger cat. The giraffe, as far as I know,is not mentioned in the Yüan Annals, although there is no reason why it should not have come along with the topi and zebra. Malabar, at that time was in close commercial relations with the ports of southern Arabia, and it was the Arabs who brought these live animals from the Somali coast to southern Arabia and thence transhipped them to India. (6)
TO BE CONTINUED
1 R.Ash and B.Lake Bizarre Books (1985) pp 47-49
2 Ibid no page number
3 Ibid p. 47
4 Sinology the study of Chinese language,history and culture Concise Oxford English
5 Dictionary (2008) p.1346
6 B.Laufer The Giraffe in History and Art (1928) pp 41-42
7 Ibid pp 42-43
It would, to say the least, be startling.
In fact, for generations there have been reports of truly massive “Bigfeet” seen in North America and all around the world. Coupled with claims of Sasquatch popping in and out of UFOs, they have embarrassed authors who treat cryptozoology as a serious discipline, but simply ignoring the hairy Goliaths hasn’t made them go away. Neither has the incessant ridicule heaped upon seemingly sober witnesses by sceptics and professional debunkers.
Now, at last, veteran cryptozoologists Mark Hall and Loren Coleman have tackled the problem head on, in their new book True Giants: Is Gigantopithecus Still Alive? Their answer to that question is a qualified affirmative.
Hall coined the term 'true giants' back in 1992, thirty-odd years after Ivan Sanderson proposed the prehistoric ape Gigantopithecus as a Bigfoot-Yeti candidate—or “neo-giant”—within a list of four proposed unknown hominid species worldwide. Sanderson, however, chose to skirt the issue of bipedal monsters twice the normal size ascribed to Sasquatch. Myra Shackley followed Sanderson’s lead two decades later in her book Wildman: Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma (1983; American title, Still Living?), while paleoanthropologists Russell Ciochon, John Olsen and Jamie Janes considered Bigfoot tangentially in their 1990 work Other Origins: The Search for the Giant Ape in Human Prehistory. Grover Krantz endorsed an evolved and altered species of Gigantopithecus as Bigfoot in 1992, naming it G. canadensis.
While most students of cryptozoology recognise “Giganto” as a favourite Bigfoot/Yeti candidate, many may be unaware that German anatomist-anthropologist Franz Weidenreich (1873-1948) renamed the creature Giganthropus, treating it as a primitive ancestor of Homo sapiens. Weidenreich’s view did not prevail against Edward Cope’s rule that population lineages tend to increase in size over evolutionary time, but dissenters persist—including authors Hall and Coleman, along with Australian cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy.
Whether or not readers of True Giants finally agree with their premise, Hall and Coleman rate kudos for collecting all the available evidence on “true giants” and reviewing it even-handedly. The final product is a handsome volume, featuring cover art by Alika Lindbergh (former wife of Bernard Heuvelmans) and twenty-three black-and-white illustrations, with all material fully sourced. Overall, True Giants is a valuable addition to the literature of Sasquatchery and natural mysteries.
On this day in 1895 the Lumière brothers first showed one of their films to a paying audience, creating cinema and the motion picture industry in one go.
And now, the news:
Leapin’ lizards! KU graduate student discovers a n...
Tiger team marks 20 years of conflict resolution
Bat cull 'will not stop white-nose syndrome spread...
An amazing wildlife spectacle... ruined somewhat by the addition of area seatting for tourists, but you can't have everything I guess:
Sunday, December 26, 2010
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergmann )
George W. Gill gave an important paper in regards to Bergmann's rule as applied to reported descriptions and footprints of Sasquatch in the far west of North America in 1980.  Gill's estimates were staged for different states at different latitudes and included separate tabulations for reported heights in Sasquatch reports and also heights figured from the tracks.
I have made a chart illustrating Gill's figures and I append it here. I had also done a rough statistical survey and arrived at results equivalent to Gill's, and with the results that I concluded were an illustration of Bergmann's Rule. Furthermore, Grover Krantz  spoke of the typical Sasquatch in the Washington area as typically having a male 7 feet 8 inches tall and weighing up to 800 pounds, with a female typically 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 500 pounds. He put a maximum size at 10 feet tall and 1000 pounds. After consulting Bob Titmus the latter said, on the basis of his experiences in Southern Alaska, he would modify those figures upward by as much as 15% for height and as much as an additional 50% in weight. Krantz added "And he may be right".
Another rule frequently stated in conjunction with Bergmann's rule is Gloger's rule, which states that animals of the same species that inhabit warmer and more humid climates tend to be darker in colour (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloger) and Gill also noted in his paper that the number of lighter-coloured Sasquatches in the reports is 13% in California and Oregon but 26% of the reports in Washington and Western Canada. That is twice as much, a noticeable increase in blonde Sasquatches as the latitudes increased.
 "Population Clines in North American Sasquatch as Evidenced by Track Lengths and Estimated Statures" in Manlike Monsters on Trial: Early Records and Modern Evidence, Edited by Marjorie M. Halpin and Michael M. Ames, U of BC Press, 1980.
 Grover Krantz, Big Footprints (1992 edition) p.146
As you may know, Naomi and I are field investigators for MUFON. I recently received a call from the chief state investigaor. He knows we are avid crypto-enthusiasts. He asked us to look into a case of an owlman-type sighting in San Antonio. It seems that it had never been fully investigated and he wants us to follow up on the case. It occurred a while back in April 2009. Here is the description provided by the witness(es):
"I was talking on my cell at the end of my sidewalk by the steet when I turned around facing my house and saw this huge black man bird thing gliding without a noise coming from the east maybe the distance would be like three streets over but about maybe five blocks down.[which three steets over there isnt five blocks because the woods are two blocks down. When i saw this I was stunned and stared at it trying to figure out what it was and then I saw it wasnt anything Ive ever seen. I ran into the house and yelled at my husband and my grown son to get out here quick. They came but seemed like forever and they looked and saw it too. When they saw it they thing was like the a few streets over and then disappeared behind the big trees. When we saw it we all said that no one would believe us; but I have recently been talking about it because it has bothered me so much. I lived in this neighborhood all my life and I can remember of three UFO sightings since I was five and all the sightings were in this neighborhood or around Stinson Field airport. I never came forward about them because people think ya lost your ever loving mind until recently when others Ive spoke with shared their experiences. I have other stories but this one is the most recent and I was wondering if anyone has ever seen this thing. It is silent like it was a glider but I could see the body was exactly like a man a very large man. Thank you for listening to me and I hope you dont think we have gone mad too. I called my daughter and told her afterwards and thats what made my mind up to stay silent. I had my darn cell on my the whole time and not once thought of taking a picture it happened so fast and Im not that savy on the cell."
Naomi puts her ha'pennorth in; I wonder whether you can guess what she is reading.
In January's edition Dave Sadler discusses a visit to the Deva Asylum. Kirst D'Raven & Steve Mera reveal their ten year investigation into the alleged paranormal disturbances in Stocksbridge UK. Jason Day looks into one of the world most talked about paranormal disturbances. Steve Wagner reviews some of the reports of unusual bedroom experiences. Marie D. Jones discusses the 2012 Enigma. The mystery of the Dropa Stones, the latest news & book reviews. And much more... Festive greetings and good will to you for the new year from all at Phenomena Magazine, MAPIT and the UPIA. Get your free PDF and all back issues from http://www.phenomenamagazine.co.uk/
On this day in 1831 Charles Darwin boarded HMS Beagle and in 1968 Apollo 8 splashed down after its crew became the first men to break out of earth's gravitational pull, orbit the moon, see the dark side of the moon with their own eyes and re-enter Earth’s gravitational field.
And now, the news:
Pembrokeshire big cat spotted in Crundale
Hong Kong duck returns from epic Arctic trip
Bat cull 'will not stop white-nose syndrome spread...
Guatemala rainforest in trouble – Help save this r...
Crocodile eats Kayaker
Apparently animal re-homing centres are having trouble getting people to take black cats. Personally, I can't understand why especially after seeing this little fellow:
Saturday, December 25, 2010
(Top Picture) Prudence models her new collar
(Bottom picture) And at the end of the day, three tired ones rest....
My favourite record of the year bar none. The band go from strength to strength, and on this pleasantly understated record, the songwriting is stronger than ever...
2 The Divine Comedy: There goes the Knighthood
Neil Hannon is one of the best, and most consistent of our contemporary songwriters. He is by turns funny, poignant and sad, and I am a massive fan. That being said, I saw the band live about 12 years ago and they were horrid...
3 Ringo Starr: Y Not
Bizarrely, the Beatle least likely to score on the credibility stakes has been making some smashing records since he qualified for his free bus pass. There are some really smashing moments on this record - and remember he turned 70 this year.
4 Brian Wilson: Reimagines Gershwin
Basically does exactly what it says on the tin, but does it with lashings of aplomb and flair. The man is a true hero, and one of the few people in pop music for whom the overused word 'genius' is actually apt.
5 Gorillaz: Plastic Beach
The third, and in many ways the best installment from the cartoon band, who now feature half of The Clash. This was the soundtrack for my springtime, and what a spring it was..
On this day in 2004 the third most powerful earthquake ever recorded occurred off the cost of Sumatra leading to the Indian Ocean Boxing Day Tsunami. The tsunami caused the death of over 230,000 people and is thought to be the fifth most deadly earthquake in history.
And now, the news:
Warmer seas to hit reef fish badly
First recorded Tinsel fish makes timely visit to I...
Red kites collecting odds and ends for their nests...
Drunk driver with 15 sheep in his vehicle '32 time...
'Terminator cat' survives being shot and run over ...
How 'The Terminator' should have ended:
Friday, December 24, 2010
But that is for next week. We just want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported us through the last twelve months, and to wish you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2011.
Our love to you all,
Jon and Corinna
6 Joanna Newsom: Have One on Me
She is completely nuts, but as she gets less self concious about it, her inimitably peculiar musical career gets even more worthwhile. If you were put off by the Violet Elizabeth Bottisms of her debut, and the wilfully complex stylisings of Ys a couple of years ago, this album is well worth you giving her another chance..
7 Pete Brown and Phil Ryan: Road of Cobras
If you don't know who Pete Brown is, then shame on you. His new album is magnificent, but - sadly - too obscure to have anything on YouTube. So here he is performing one of his more famous numbers..
8 Belle & Sebastian Write about Love
My other favourite album of the year. No doubt Nick Redfern will hate it. This band just gets better and better
9 Elton John/Leon Russell The Union
Once upon a time Sir Elton was known as a singer/songwriter of major reputation, rather than a Pantomime dame with a dodgy haircut. In this smashing album with his hero Leon Russell who has been absent from the spotlight for far too long, it is possible to see why. This is finely crafted piano based country soul at its best.
10 The Flaming Lips: The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon
This album actually came out last year, but in the last week of December. It is such an audacious conceit that it deserves inclusion.
You might want to save this one for Christmas. There's a Christmas tree made of jellyfish, a Christmas tree lit by an electric eel, a robot Santa Claus...in short, it's Japanese.
PS Is it my imagination or did the 2010 CFZ blog feature a lot of stories about eels?
Cryptids tend to be seen in places with difficult terrain where they cannot easily be tracked or seen. -Santa lives in an icy wasteland. Santa disappears and reappears. There are stories about bigfoot disappearing before people’s eyes and many cryptids are only spotted at certain times of the year when conditions are right. Santa flies through the air on a sled with flying reindeer. There are many flying cryptids from thunderbirds to mothman.
Then there are his little helpers –the elves. They could be a descendant or offshoot of the Hobbit skeletons that were found in recent years.
He leaves gifts. There are old stories of wildmen who left food for the starving on their doorsteps.
Santa is rather hairy according to many depictions with flowing beard and locks. Ditto are many cryptids.
He has a distinctive cry-Ho Ho Ho. So do many cryptids including a species of giant bat that is said to make a similar noise.
Santa only exists in folklore stories, so do many crytids until people start to hunt for them. Nearly all cryptids from the Loch Ness Monster to the Yeti are first discovered in old stories when one looks back at the time line.
So Is Santa Claus a cryptid? Probably not as there is no eye witness testimony to back up his appearances that I am aware of (that does not include your parent in a red dressing gown and Santa hat and fake beard leaving presents at the bottom of the bed) but next time someone scoffs at your belief in cryptids, remind them they believed in Father Christmas once so don’t knock belief in the unknown.
One other thing of note: We were all saddened by the premature passing of Biggles recently, and you might be surprised to find him in the text. This is because the greater part of this story was written in early may, and although I had momentarily thought to write him out for fear of upsetting anyone, I realised that Biggles was a much-loved member of the CFZ, and to erase him from his rightful place in the story would be disrespectful to his memory, so here he is, and this story is hereby dedicated to him.
I hope you have fun with this, and I will take this opportunity to wish all at the CFZ, and all CFZ blog readers, the happiest of Christmases, and all the best for a safe, happy and prosperous New Year.
A GHOST STORY FOR CHRISTMAS
WITH APOLOGIES TO M.R. JAMES
It was the sale at Berwicks, in the year of 18-, comprising of the greater burden of manuscripts, documents, diaries and assorted miscellaneous ephemera that had brought to light, for those who put substance and purpose to such matters, a series of incidents concerning the Downes estate in Exeter, that would serve, in whole intent, to give pause and caution to what might classify as a superstitious demeanour, or a sensitivity to the baser instincts.
For in one such record of days; a diary in the keeping of one Elizabeth Clancey, a comely young woman, placed as a cook-maid in the employ of the Downes estate, and also in the records of the butler Muirhead in good keeping, and even a Mr. N. Arnold, a lawyer from London, who attempted to make fair legality of the tragic affair, were discovered documentation and descriptive allowance of a mysterious occurrence comprising both sinister and tragic consequences.
The entries that should concern the attention of the reader, describe the terrible ice and storms that took hold with such ill temper, in the latter parts of the midwinter feasts.
Lord and Lady Downes’ philanthropist views were both in full and measured, as was Lord Downes’ widely applauded zoological project, in which both the lower, and those species considered to occupy the broadening edge of the scholar’s mental horizon, were brought forth from the obscurity of the recondite into the most efficacious light of popular discovery. Such was the success of Lord Downes’ campaign, that brought envy and most wounded from those who considered him as rival, and even unto slanderous liberalities, being the whole of libellous informality, and did seek to cause hurt to the reputation of a worthy man.
The Downes estate in large, had set fast in the grip of frost, and swaths and drifts of snow closed all reach and communication to the neighbouring villages, which fact in itself did not, in fine, pose halt nor intolerable inconvenience to the standing of the household, and it was in such, as later commentators have observed, unfortunate happenstance, that the first sign of ill humour, contrary to the security of the comfortably mundane, became present with an increasing immediacy.
The first entry of interest, and some might say, subsequent significance, is marked at Wed, 29th Dec, and it is, perhaps to be appreciated that Elizabeth Clancey had achieved such literary proficiency, as to disseminate said events with a lucidity to belie preconceived expectations of the serving classes. The entry is as follows:
“It was being the company of Mr Inglis, a reliable woodsman, previously of being an itinerant forester and woodcutter, and of late prominent in the office of gardener to the Downes estate, that had made sensible of the fact of reality of certain strange tracks, cast as pattern all around the house, from the yard to the field beyond the stables. This experience had summarily afforded much puzzlement and consternation in Mr Inglis, being conscious to sore vexation as to settlement or solution to the phenomena. For such tracks, as there were, followed in single-file, as laid by a solitary creature, even discovered to be over the roofs and walls of the estate, found to be most wondrous by all observers. Mr Inglis, a redoubtable practitioner of logic and utility, had endeavoured, in most steadfast manner to replace with elucidation through the rationality of his calling, the excesses of the imaginative and the unenlightened.
So the tracks led him in good temper to an overgrown hedge, thick and weighty with snow. At the very origin of the track, a most curious wedge of stone was to be seen. Mr Inglis took it up, and in his ascertainment did notice it’s form to be that of a chalky-white substance, as to be typical of the Southern seashores. Mr Inglis took this stone with all dispatch and laid it before the auspices and deliberation of Lord Downes, who, while a personage of predominantly ebullient and generous mood--this outlook final to his mind following his betrothal and marriage to Lady Corinna several summers past, took pause before Mr Inglis’ revelation, and was seen to adopt an uncharacteristically reserved countenance.”
The butler Muirhead was held to have observed much of private talk, and that denied to lower staff, having made copy of this exchange; describing thus:
“In the dark of the study, long after the household had retired, Lord Downes was heard to pass, in conservation, this passage to Mr O. Lewis, a faithful retainer, and confidant of long standing: “So here it is, Mr Lewis. I thought never to have this pass before my eyes; I had wished it buried these long years, but such ill provenance has brought it before me”.
“See here,” whispered Mr Lewis, turning the piece over in his hands, “the words upon the stone your Grandfather spoke of.”
Lord Downes took his eye to a spyglass, and read the inscription. “It seems to be a Latin cipher--it should read--paro mihi ut negotium ego vadum falter. Nutritor mihi scelero ego vadum imbibo.’ Can you make play of this, Mr Lewis?”
“ I believe so. It is surely--”‘Set me to a task I shall not falter. Feed me blood, I will drink“, or some such, at least”
Lord Downes fell back, visibly drawn by this motto, and with shaking hands made free licence with the whiskey cabinet. “I had thought this to be the province of memory. Is there no sanctity in time--another sacrifice, is that it?”
“What was your Grandfather’s claim in this?” Asked Mr Lewis, now becoming immoderately disquieted at Lord Downes’ performance.
“Why the old dear set a security in place for the protective promotion of the estate. You remember that he was by way of being a queer old bird, always digging into secrets and graves? Well this time his habits gave issue--the year before he died, had claimed to have invited something with due tenancy to stay. He always said something about being sure to be inside the circle--whatever that means, but it hungers--needs blood I think.”
At this, Mr Lewis swiftly arrived at the conclusion that he too would make fair play with the whiskey cabinet.”
Elizabeth Clancey’s next entry of relevance, is dated 30th Dec, and describes:
“A goodly part of the night is laid out to concerns in the home. Lord Downes is fairly given over to a surfeit of mannerisms most readily acquainted with those burdened with some oppression of spirit, and in both speech and demeanour does express--and I lay that it ill becomes me to afford such substance to it--as one who is haunted, as the word might be forgiven. Lord Downes keeps close council with Mr Lewis who, through whispers and glances seems as much in amaze as his Lordship.”
“And so as the old year comes to its close, the greater part of the day’s fearful acts must be put down. Last night, a thin curtain of snow fell upon the already frozen soil. Strange cries were to be heard around the house, which, despite all directions to the origin of foxes, cats or other night creatures, did not carry a familiar tune, nor did in fact impart any appreciable degree of resonance to either comfort or reassure. The loyal sheephound Biggles, in ordinary a beast of temperance, and docility of spirit, let forth with most piteous and distressingly pained howls and cries, much disturbed by the unnatural sounds. In the morning, the day’s activities continued inasmuch as the charity of unavoidable tasks would allow, and on the hour of ten, Shoshannah, a young village maid employed in the stables, gathered charcoal from one of the many braziers that furnished the house with what meager warmth they offered, for her horse sketches, a pastime for which she possessed no mean skill. She had found her way into the hedgerows to secure such twigs and small branches as would char most suitably, when she screamed at the very top of her voice, and stumbled, half-falling, into the main yard. She was indeed, in thrall of such a containment of fright, that it gave fair passing to young Master Blake, the stable groom, who ran forth from his labour, his own blood coursing with the perfection of that terrible scream. Shoshannah led Master Blake to the source of the injury, and in the very deep of the hedgerow, there was to be seen, what--but the grisly remnant of a sheep, late of neighbour Hallowell’s herd, formed into a husk, the desiccated skin drawn to the bone in a grotesque effigy of life! Lord Downes was immediately summoned to view the ghastly spectacle, and was heard to mutter under his breath: “ ‘Tis come, ‘tis come--what recompense in full must I make, for so long has it stood.” Master Blake was duly charged with negotiating a way through the deep snows to the village of Woolfardisworthy, and there to secure the service and council of Squire Richard; a freeman of this parish, whose name had long been associated with the ways and varied complexions of local legend and country folklore. And so young Master Blake in full, and in issue of saviour returned with not one, but three personages; prominent among which, was that being in the very shape and substance of none other, than Squire Richard, most recently delivered of his treatise of ‘Theoretical Principle for Varying Descriptives of Psychological Abberation to Replace Logic for Ignorance.’ Accompanying the Squire were certain other august members of a most select coterie, dedicated to the establishment of enlightenment, and there recently arrived in Woolfardisworthy as guests of the Squire. These gentlemen were summarily introduced as Dr Shuker, a worthy fellow in good standing of the Zoological Society, late of the West Midlands and an inveterate collector of specimens and curios, with which he appointed his laboratory fastidiously, and with most decorous approach; and a Mr. Redfern, temporarily returned from his recent posting in the American colonies, whereforth he had laboured in singular, and with determined speed in establishing culture and civilization among the barbaric heathen most unhappily prevalent in the ungodly region of Texas. Lord Downes was much relived in his mind by the appearance of such formidable allies, and was roundly said, by all witnesses, to exhibit a most signal lightening of spirit.”
A later account from Lord Downes’ butler Muirhead would seem to, at least as far as recollection will allow, corroborate this scene in the proceedings, and went on to say:
“Oh! Gentlemen!”, Lord Downes was held to exclaim, in a sort of rapture. “You are most welcome!” Arrangements for quarters, and attendant hospitality were made with some alacrity, with provisions made for comfort as seen to by myself and Olivia, one of Lord and Lady Downes’ chambermaids.”
A continuation of Elizabeth Clancy’s diary entry for 30th Dec follows:
“And the last cold workings of the afternoon gave way to the frozen still of the night, but contrary to the inclemency without, a cheered table is hosted by Lord Downes, and with pheasant and grouse from his Lordship’s own shoot, and a charge of fruit beer and mulled wine all round, a greatly relieved Lord Downes felt assurance enough to give full disclosure and balance of receipt; but, notwithstanding, with some hesitancy to speak of matters in such contradictory terms to the ideals of rationality. Lord Downes set a generous glass of brandy before him, and began the tale: “Know then, Squire Richard, that my late Grandfather, who held this estate in fullness and good keeping, was oftimes beleaguered and badly served by the varied and unwanted appearances of robbers and poachers, who would make sport of his game and livestock with the frequency of a liberal hand. My Grandfather was greatly taken to no small distraction, and angered in reasonable degree. He had the attention of country ways, and was by no means unfamiliar with what might be described as the more pastoral faith. He had made knowledgeable his sympathies to old S. Jones, a reputed witch master and follower of the Old Path, being a wise and cunning soul, confidant to ills and maladies suffered both in fact and suggestion. My Grandfather had consulted old Jones on the matter of intruders, considered by him to be of debilitative value worthy of physical disorder. There followed long periods wherein my Grandfather and old Jones would correspond and plot in secret and--we were but children at the time--make strange noises and cast all manner of odd shadows on the walls of the study, from which we were forbidden passage, tolerance or liberty. One evening--Candlemass Eve I’m sure--the most rending cries came from the study, bringing the servants in force to compel the door, to find my Grandfather prone on the floor, trembling uncontrollably. A brazier of coals had been dashed to the floorboards, and a small resulting fire had to be extinguished. A low cedar table had been used for some makeshift altar, crowded with candles, and strangely-shaped jars of honey, blood and salt. The tang of incense was thick in the air. Old Jones had vanished, and no trace or rumour ever came to light. There were those who said that he had “gone into the dark”, and that he was “back where he belonged”, and much hearsay and conjecture of the most sinister implication. When my grandfather had been returned to some semblance of cognisant humour, he was found to be clutching a piece of chalkstone, upon which were inscribed a line of Latin characters. Yes gentlemen, the very artefact that Mr Inglis discovered in the garden, and that you now see before you. I have no doubt that it was the very object of some curse or spell; old Jones had put his hand to it--and was the actual Method in Principle through which agency the spell could work it’s malice in its most Artful Design. All through that night, terrible cries could be heard around the house, and although much attempt and goodly endeavour was made to attribute this to the full temper of winter at its worst, no earthly wind could attest to the very depth of despair, or lonely hunger of whatever was calling from the dark; and in truth, none slept well or could rest in plain absence of burden. The next morning, our faithful butler Muirhead did report of most passing uncommon tracks in the deep snow. All around the house they fell, as if by some small, but many-legged creature, to the curiosity of all. Naturally, being children, we made to dash out into the morning frost, to make greater scrutiny of the mystery, but my Grandfather, although still debilitated and caused to sicken, Held forth feebly: “Stay inside the circle! By your lives! By your lives! To our childish temper this last was so unnerving, that we dared not venture outside for fear of some invisible thing that, although unspoken, was enough to hold us. And so it was, for my Grandfather had Muirhead follow the track, being of great care to pertain to it’s very edge, and he did indeed, though dreadful to relate, find it’s end in the frozen depths of an overgrown rhododendron thicket; and there, Muirhead’s human resolve was tested most awfully, by the fact--a most gruesome remnant--of the mortal shell--for in truth, it was no more--of one C. Packham--in long standing a poacher and lately seen in pursuit and possession of the estate’s domestic fowl and Livestock in Keeping and with malice aforethought. Death had, to all intents, come upon him by the most savage and unwarrantable agency. The butler Muirhead could not look nor discern, for only bones you understand--not flesh, but only bones lay fast in the thicket, but with enough of the face still remaining as to proclaim to all, the identity of the principal player in the tragedy. I can now see what my Grandfather and old Jones had brought forth; some dark thing--call it spirit or what you will, that would afford the estate security through its malign will when invoked by any trespasser. It would leave it’s track around the house--to remain inside should ensure protection--the circle my Grandfather so warned. The very words and receipt of invitation--there upon the chalk stone. And there, gentleman, is the whole working and intention of this most hideous plan!” Lord Downes sat back in his chair, and the gravity of his address had painted a grey pall into his usually bacchinalian visage of festive glow. Squire Richard jumped to his feet: “I am for an immediate investigation!”, whereupon he sprang from the dining room in full vigor of his ambition, closely followed by his fellows. An extensive examination of the estate grounds revealed none but the very dearth of solution or all that might point to it. In fast, it was admitted to the truth of retirement to bed for the remainder of the already late night, in favour of more comprehensive exertions in the confidence of daylight that was seen by these most logical of men, to hold fair.
And as if it were some ghastly act, laid out for but fiendish amusement, the final performance did seem to find some place and standing with the New Year impending, for the hand of the midnight hour came with much weight and ponderousness, and although greetings for all and good wishes had indeed proliferated--not least from Lord Downes, whose manner and bearing--it behoves me to clarify--had most surely been precipitated in majority by concert--and readily affirmed by all fellows--that the Downes wine cellar should not suffer to remain unvisited, or indeed, unappreciated. In consequence, there was at least some degree of alleviation of mood as the Old Year reached it’s point of demise.”
In this departure from the narrative of Elizabeth Clancy, it is pertinent to refer to the accounting of the butler Muirhead, who was seen as most closely witness and participant:
“As the hour approached midnight, there was indeed, much merriment, and, could be said, a warmth of atmosphere quite unlike the mood of late. This had no doubt, been sped by the presence of Lord Downes’ worthy guests who, to my not inconsiderable relief, had apparently succeeded in rousing him to a restoration of his former vessel and carriage, and did indeed, call for the hand of twelve to be the marker of celebration. Candles had been placed in fashion by Olivia and Shoshannah, to bring better light to the great grandfather clock that commands the passageway before the front door. Silence fell in the house as the ticking of the hour drew all with anticipation; and then--oh! most hastened of ill providence!--at the very moment of the turning year, a most dreadful scream, that took all of us to chill to the plain depths of our souls, was heard from the darkness of the estate grounds. Squire Richard and his august assembly were galvanized most readily by the awful sound; Lord Downes threw back his chair, his exclamation being: “Let Master Blake set to with lanterns!” The group passed through the front door into the icy cold of the new year, but the cry was not repeated, with only the frozen stillness of the night air bearing the weight of a hidden threat, as if of a terrible forboding waiting beyond. Young Master Blake came up from the stables with pitch torches, their spitting flame only serving to illuminate the apprehension on the faces of the party. “The track! The track! It is here!” Mr Redfern had found his way in the dark to the very edge of the yard, and there, in the snow were more of the strange tracks; fresh, and transcribing a perfect circle round the house. Lord Downes ran over the frozen ground. ”Keep to within the ring, for it is your lives!” Young Master Blake had made fast in hand with the lights, and now Squire Richard in company of Dr Shuker and Lord Downes passed beyond the blackness of the house, casting their own strange shadows as they ran to meet Mr Redfern. “What is it Redfern?” shouted Squire Richard as they came to his side. “The source of that cry is here, Squire Richard, on my oath be it!” As if conjured by his words, another scream came from the darkness, an unmistakeable human cry; a wrenching, despairing sound that twisted our hearts with fear. Another, lower sound was to be heard under this, but for its subtlety, yet came no comfort, for as all ascertained, and would subsequently testify, a sound that found its origin in no human throat, as was, even unto the like sensibilities of the gentlemen present, a cry of such unearthliness to give just question to their calling. “There!” exclaimed Squire Richard; “It’s in the trees! Do you hold firm your light Master Blake!” Squire Richard and Lord Downes ran towards the small copse of bitter elm, it’s bare branches now thin, snow-encrusted fingers, with Master Blake’s lantern casting a pale, wan glow of illumination, as all from the house drew close. A dark anticipation of some finality of deed, a dreadful resolving of issue was marked by all in full part. The lantern had indeed, disclosed some movement amongst the bushes, that could initially only be discerned as a pattern of obscured shapes, jumping and scampering in a discordant rhythm, with an attitude of such stealthy threat, that gave charge to the resolve of the assembly, who yet were repulsed but compelled to give it measure, to identify the horror, such as it was most hatefully standing forth, without the protective circle of tracks. “Stand back!” cried Lord Downes. Squire Richard had now reached the perimeter of safety. “Do not extend the tolerance, Squire Richard, for of such consequence, is bitter promise!” “Beyond!” Cried Squire Richard, “There is it’s going! Let us beard it in it’s very den!” As he turned to reach into the thicket while yet remaining within the circle, a thin, white face arose from the darkness to meet him. Ostensibly a man, but with all humanity void from its blank features. Its form twisted and shuffled from the snow-covered undergrowth like a shrivelled, charred potato-skin. Squire Richard recoiled with an involuntary cry of disgust and fear, as the creature reached for him with black fingers, and as it dragged itself towards the circle, Master Blake held high his lantern, and cried: “I know him! For this is the Highland Tiger--late of the Northern hills. Lord Downes sir, do you remember? He was in fast sore your enemy!” Lord Downes, drawn back with loathing, said: “Yes, yes, it is he--but what does he do here? By what standing has he come to this? As if somehow exorcised by his very words, the black shape seemed to collapse in upon itself, as a dead flower cast into a bonfire, with what but the dust of memory and the scent of some secret corruption to stand in receipt of passing. For as Lord Downes fell in witness, he could not but invince within his soul some measure of sympathy for the wretched figure that yet lay prone before him; for whom but the most unfeeling of heart could have failed to have stood with empathy? “Enough!” cried Lord Downes. “What is to be done? Gentleman, what is to be done? Dr Shuker came to his side. “Destroy this hated stone! Send it and its cursed spell to fragments!” Said Squire Richard: “It is the agency through which this stain be made fast!” Lord Downes turned to me: “Muirhead! Let us repair immediately!” And thus, we made for the house at top speed.
As the butler Muirhead was no longer in such standing as an observer, it is now expedient to resume the narrative of Elizabeth Clancy, in the commission of her record:
“Lord Downes had returned to the house with Muirhead, both in some degree of agitation, for which state, none could condemn, while Squire Richard, placed still fast within the circle of tracks, made attempts to attend, as ably as would be sound, the grisly remnant of the doomed poacher. But as he reached out to touch the still-living form, his arm passed over the line--oh hateful provenance!--and to our ears came the most dreadful, low thick rustling from the undergrowth, as of a spider descending upon its prey, and then most loathsome--a thin black confusion of movement emerged from behind the unfortunate Highland Tiger and appeared to be at first a solid shape; a shell or some like covering--like unto the carapace of some horrible insect. With appalling speed, it passed over the body of the poacher with what appeared in the shadows to be many legs, moving with dreadful rapidity. It was no mean, or unsteadfast endeavour to make count of these limbs--call them what you will, for at once there was the truth of few, then many, more like that of a foul illusion than a palpable phenomena, but of its reality, there was not doubt; as it reached for Squire Richard, one of its vile legs or tentacles taking firm on his lower arm. Cold to his very heart from the apparition, Squire Richard yet found his courage, kicking with the whole of his intention into the creature’s transient body. Master Blake ran forward, and dashed his lantern full into the fiend’s shell, or casing, and as the flames threw ghastly illumination over the scene of the tragedy, the true horror of the thing was revealed; some kind of hideous mouth, or at least a cavity with teeth, and as was witnessed most fearfully by all, the phantom parted back what lips it had in a sinister and deadly smile. Mr Redfern and Dr Shuker, unmindful of the peril, in fear for their friend, had crossed the line of tracks and had launched into full attack upon the fiend, but all attempts to procure any promise of damage were met with confoundment, as the spirit--as much it was--had attended to their blows as but hard as iron yet in no receipt of true substance, the whole being the act of futility, in its dealings with Squire Richard; in such there was the fact of no small immediacy, as the Squire had been dragged completely across the line, and indeed, may have succumbed in full, if not for the council of Master Blake, who had the goodly measure of Squire Richard by both ankles, and was pulling most enthusiastically in deficit of the creature’s overtures.. But horrifying to relate, these fine efforts had come to naught, for Squire Richard had arrived at the very apogee of balance, and was in no liberty of allowance, at the sad point of destruction. It was at the utmost resort of deliverance--for Master Blake had at this very moment failed in his grip upon Squire Richard and had fallen back into the snow--that torchlight attended by Muirhead flooded the frozen ground, heralding the return--oh, most timely intervention!--of Lord Downes, his face in such full flush as precipitated by much exertion. In one hand was tight yet another of master Blake’s pitch torches. In the other: what but--the very object of singularity--the cursed stone--most unhappily inscribed! In the event, Lord Downes’ arrival could hard be seen as more precipitous or of the very hour--as Squire Richard was at the final end of his strength. “Stand fast!” cried Lord Downes. “Set release upon that man! He has free passage here, and you have no claim to him!” With that, Lord Downes threw the stone with a mighty heave to the icy ground. It struck with a strange ringing sound, as if from some ancient bell, and shattered like crystal. The apparition shrank back in a shiver of dark movement, its form shimmering like a flickering candle-light. It’s grip upon Squire Richard dissolved into a watery void, and Mr Redfern and Dr Shuker fell back, turning their attention to Squire Richard, who had finally succumbed to the extreme of jeopardy, and lay yet unconscious in the snow. In procuring the form of Squire Richard--in no doubt of the very fact of extrication from the teeth of calamity--his rescuers were made in no small acuty the corpse of the Highland Tiger being now removed in whole, and part of no earthly stain or trace to be seen or mourned. “So!” cried Lord Downes: “The fiend has secured its final victim! Be swift! Let us repair to the house, for Squire Richard is fast in need of brandy!” All conclusion was made in fine to the house, and Squire Richard’s needs were attended to with due haste.
The last diary entry by Elizabeth Clancy follows as denouement or epigram in final, in description of the last chapter.
This day has been spent in quiet reflection, in both ascertainment and ostensible deliberation of the night’s events. Lord Downes has displayed evidence of profound relief for what has been confirmed by all as a deliverance of singular import. Squire Richard is to be found in full and good spirits, his experiences tempered by rigorous analysis with his fellows as to the possible metaphysical ramifications involved in the affair, to be tested in contrast with--however undesirable--and to the detriment of the enlightened dissemination of the abstruse--the possibility alas!--of the assignment of and unexplainable temper to the proceedings. The fate of the unfortunate Highland Tiger was in good finding the cause and precipitation of much speculation held in debate through the auspices of Squire Richard and Lord Downes. And to such an end, this dialogue would stand as testimony in truth:
“Who was this Highland Tiger? Asked Squire Richard; “no ordinary poacher, for such fair of plain identity is most evident, and final to my mind”.
“Yes in truth,” said Lord Downes, “ The Highland Tiger was in keeping worthy as foe and adversary, for was he not a fellow of those who sought to discredit my zoological ambition? Although as through most injustice as to test compassion and extension of empathy, I have no doubt that he meant mischief, but he has now been taken forth, in no small denial of his ambition or wish.”
Extract from the journal of R. Lang, late of the Antipodes, in recording of Strange Words and Curiosities of West Devon:
“Of late this afternoon, My manservant Williams noted the truth and substance of what could only be described by him as most peculiar markings in the snow; this being ascribed as the workings or action of some animal species. As being plainly aware of the wholly superstitious complexion assigned to the Downes affair, this last will surely conclude in a more steadfast and conciliatory perspective; the burden falling in the greater part for the rational and comprehensive analysis of fact. The reporting by Williams of sounds of distress--as some unfortunate creature in the woods which thus far have proved somewhat frustratingly difficult to identify, should not raise cause or belief in that which may be not; Mr Williams casting the opinion that--and it does find favour in my mind--if a poacher finds himself caught in his own trap, or that of some more willful agency, can he blame but his own motives and consequence therein? There ends the matter.”