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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Monday, January 11, 2010

OLL LEWIS: 5 Questions on… Cryptozoology - MICHAEL WOODLEY

This time the five questions will be put to Michael Woodley. Michael is an academic who has written and co-authored several papers on sea serpents with Dr Darren Naish and the book In the wake of Bernard Heuvelmans, an important and well researched tome that looks afresh at the sea monster archetypes postulated by Heuvelmans in his classic book In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents and applies facts that were unknown when it was first written. I’d go as far as to say that every true cryptozoologist should own a copy.

So Michael Woodley, here are your five questions on… Cryptozoology:

1) How did you first become interested in cryptozoology?

As a young boy I became fascinated with the idea that there existed unknown large predatory marine animals. The idea that they should exist made sense to me as the oceans are somewhat vast and we humans spend most of our time bobbing around in two dimensions on the surface rather than moving about in the depths where these things might actually lurk.

2) Have you ever personally seen a cryptid or secondary evidence of a cryptid, if so can you please describe your encounter?

Although strictly speaking it doesn't count as a cryptid, I believe that I may have caught a fleeting glimpse of the 'Surrey puma' in the back garden of my old house. Knowing my luck though it was probably just a fat moggy that had fallen into a vat of black paint!

3) Which cryptids do you think are the most likely to be scientifically discovered and described some day, and why?

My money is on Caddy or one of its long-necked cousins making an appearance in the zoology textbooks before too long. I think that the evidence suggestive of the existence of long-necked marine 'somethings' is quite compelling. This is actually the subject of a friendly wager between myself and Charles Paxton. As for terrestrial cryptids, I would pay attention to recent happenings in Sumatra, as there appears to be growing scientific interest in Orang Pendek.

4) Which cryptids do you think are the least likely to exist?

Sorry to get all existential (read as boring) and everything but it rather depends what you mean by 'exist'. All cryptids 'exist' in the sense that they correspond to a particular memetically transmittable ethnozoological representation; the issue is whether those ethnozoological representations correspond to anything physical or not. In the past some ethnozoological representations of cryptids have provided a useful basis for elucidating the identities of real unknown animals (e.g. the Okapi, Gorilla etc); however, some are clearly not so useful, such as in the case of ancient mythological 'cryptids' (e.g. unicorns, the Gorgon Medusa etc) and contemporary urban myths (such as the squrat or mothman). An interesting commonality between these and other zooforms is their chimeric qualities; they often represent impossible fusions of animals and are imbued with supernatural qualities, which makes their actual existence improbable to the point of absurdity. This is not to say that zooforms aren't an interesting phenomena in their own right, and the psychosocial dynamics of the propagation of these memeplexes could lead to some very interesting new perspectives in cross-cultural psychology.

5) If you had to pick your favourite cryptozoological book (not including books you may have written yourself) what would you choose?

Babies first pop-up book of the Loch-Ness monster; all eight pages had me completely riveted - no just kidding; it would have to be Heuvelmans's In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, as this was the book that got me into the scientific aspect of cryptozoological research.

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