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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Friday, January 29, 2010


Today’s guest is Alan Friswell. Regular readers of the blog will of course be familiar with Alan and the many strange things he drags up from the vaults, but Alan is also a hugely talented model-maker. Those of you who were at the last Weird Weekend or Fortean Times Unconvention probably noticed a ‘feegee mermaid’ lurking in the vicinity; Alan made that! (Also, if you search through the YNT archives or my photos on Facebook you’ll be able to see a 3D photo of it too).

Alan Friswell, here are your five questions on… Cryptozoology:

1) How did you first become interested in cryptozoology?

When I was four years old I saw the original 1933 King Kong on TV one Christmas - Boxing Day, to be specific - and it basically changed my life. From that first viewing I developed three fascinations (or more likely obsessions): an intense interest in monsters in general, dinosaurs in particular; and special effects. As I tried to emulate the work of Willis O’Brien (who created the animation for Kong) and later Ray Harryhausen, my fascination for monsters led me to books that described supposedly ‘real’ mystery creatures such as the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman (as he used to be called), and the idea that fabulous beasts might actually exist in forgotten jungles and inaccessible mountain ranges became a source of great interest to me, and I have studied the subject ever since.

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

No, unfortunately I’ve never personally witnessed a mystery animal although I’ve seen highly convincing UFOs on four occasions. I did see a huge pike eat a large duck in a fishing lake close to where I live, back in 1995. The pike had to be about five feet long, but I’m not too sure that counts. My brother-in-law Alfie saw a sea serpent in the Red Sea many years ago, and the encounter is described in a blog on the CFZ site.

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

Probably animals that live in the oceans, for obvious reasons. To be honest, I don’t realistically see why most of the well-known cryptids can’t exist. Big cats are almost certainly living in Britain, although whether they are ‘real’, or zooform entities, is a matter for debate. I’m certain that there is ‘something’ in Loch Ness, but once again, exactly what it is, is the question. Bigfoot is probably real but might be a zooform creature rather than a Gigantopithicus trying to get his green card. Thanks to Richard Freeman and the Sumatra expedition, the Orang Pendek might be closer to zoological classification, but if any cryptids are nailed down in the future, I hope that it comes under the authority of a group like the CFZ, rather than some self-styled ‘expert’ blundering his way through the jungle, grabbing crocodiles by the tail.

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

I imagine the least likely would be very large animals that live on land and unfortunately, that means dinosaurs. I love the idea of a giganotosaurus up the Orinoco, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Even if such an animal were an ectotherm, it would still need to eat huge amounts of meat at some times of the year, and where would its next meal come from? But bipedal dinos were almost certainly endothermic, because the design of a two-legged animal dictates a higher activity rate, in that the anatomy points to higher agility and alertness. Even a small sauropod such as camarasaurus would surely draw attention to itself from the outside world. I don’t know what Ivan T. Sanderson saw when he described a gigantic animal crashing from a cave in a ravine in Africa so the jury is still out I suppose, and if anyone could find conclusive proof I would certainly be very grateful, as I would love a real dinosaur - or a reasonable facsimile - to come to light.

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

Well, of course there is a multitude of wonderful books out there, many written by CFZ members, but being a sentimental, nostalgic type, I would have to choose The Story Of The Loch Ness Monster by Tim Dinsdale. I first read it at the age of thirteen and I loved every word of it. Dinsdale’s enthusiasm for the subject was infectious and I went Loch Ness crazy for most of the school summer holidays. My other choice would be The Dragon And The Disc by F. W. Holiday. Holiday was one of the first - along with the writings of John Keel - to suggest that some lake monsters (and by association, other cryptids) might not be so ‘nuts-and-bolts’ as we would like to imagine, and that we may have to adopt a more abstract perspective in trying to rationalise the phenomena. As a third choice, perhaps Keel’s Strange Creatures From Time And Space.

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

Interesting thing about Sanderson's Mokele-mBembe sighting is that it was basically an everyday-ordinary-Lake Monster-HUMP sighting and no more determinative than that. Personally I think he saw a large sirenian but he was already hearing rumors of an uncaught "River whale" at the time. Sanderson SAID it was the top of something's head and larger than the whole body of a full-grown hippo. Frankly I have no idea why he even thought such a thing, but that could never be a Sauropod. A Pliosaur perhaps, but never a Sauropod. The more likely explanation would be that it was the back of a more normal aquatic animal: and the tracks-even the supposed bite marks on the Jungle Chocolate fruits-would have been due to something else unrelated to it.

The argument about dinosaurs needing large amounts of food definitely also relates to the Mokele-mBembe as well: if that is a standard herbivorous Sauropod and confined to small territories around certain ponds, then it would be eating enormous quantities of vegetation from around those ponds. It would look as if a plague of locusts had gone through there.