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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Tuesday, February 09, 2010


I had a bit of a moral dilemma yesterday. I have been accused in recent months of 'censoring' comments on the blog. Well, of course I do. Mostly what I censor is the drivel sent out by spammers, and also the vicious and hurtful personal attacks that have come from certain quarters recently. But sometimes I have to make a judgement call.

Yesterday, someone called 'igm' commented on LINDSAY SELBY: Modern dragons . What he had to ask was fair enough:

"..who was not named for obvious reasons, the academic world being as it is"

Are we to assume that Shuker knows this person's name, or was his source anonymous to him as well? This sounds like cryptozoology's equivalent of the mysterious government insider of UFOlogy who weaves wild, anonymous tales without a shred of evidence.

If this person was a naturalist and saw an amazing creature unknown to science disappear into a cave, and was a person worried about their academic standing, wouldn't the logical thing to do be to go into those caves and get (evidence of) that creature him/herself? This is the orang pendek no photo controversy x 1000. It doesn't make a lick of sense and sounds like someone pulled Shuker's leg (assuming it was really a naturalist) to see if he'd buy the story."

However, in my opinion (and it has to be said that at the moment I am in one of my less pleasant bits of the bi-polar cycle, and therefore my judgement might well be wrong) the tone of igm's comment was more than a little brusque.

I have known Karl Shuker for the best part of twenty years, and he is a dear friend. Furthermore, he is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect, so rather than publish the comment as it was, I gave him the chance to reply to it, which he did:

Yes, I do know the person who saw this animal/entity - indeed, I know him very well and have done so for many years. He is not an academic, but is an extremely experienced field naturalist, writer and conservationist with a well-respected history in these areas, culminating a few years ago in his receiving an official honour in recognition of his work. In short, I have no reason whatsoever to believe that a hoax of any kind is involved here. The reason why I have not made public his name is that he asked me not to. Bearing in mind the nature of what he saw, he was naturally concerned how such a claim would be viewed, anticipating that there may be people out there who would adopt exactly the kind of attitude that has been adopted here. However, he categorically avows that he did indeed see what he claims to have seen - an airborne dragon-like entity.

I hope that everyone involved's honour is satisfied (including my own).


Tabitca said...

Unless you work in the academic world it is difficult to understand. Many academics including myself have been passed over for promotion or lost jobs because of their interest in fortean things.Roy Mackal I know suffered because of his interest in Loch Ness. When you have a family to provide for you have to protect your status and keep your job. It is only now after nearly 40 years That I have come out of the fortean closet as it were. I was a single parent and couldn't afford to lose my job nor as a woman in academia allow anyone not to take me seriously. You only have look at what happened after Jon posted his lakes video to know how the world views cryptozoology sometimes.

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Aye, this more or less sums up a lot of Academic work these days. The problem here is largely due to how a lot of research is funded: short term grants. A very great deal of research is now funded by three-year grants, meaning that researchers are under enormous pressure to produce papers inside these three years of work, and they are also under intolerable pressure to search for work after their current grant is up.

Lecturerships are few and far between, and jobs such as mine (systems administrator for a University department) are scarce and mean abandoning all pretence at academic research for a technical position, albeit it one one on permanent contract and with good pay and conditions. So, if you deviate from the norm, if you stand out in any way (take heed, Mr Woodley!) that isn't linked to academic brilliance and if you venture into the more unusual realms of research then you can expect career-related repercussions.

All this isn't a healthy way of working or of running research. A lot of our modern world is based upon "blue sky" research for the sake of research; monoclonal antibodies were one such line of enquiry and one which now underpins a huge range of modern bio-pharmaceuticals, and all because someone wanted to know how a mammalian directed immune system actually operates and wished to see if this mechanism could be harnessed in some way.

Similarly research into cryptids and into the various UFOs and similar things is not useless. Sociological tie-ins abound, and links are now being found where none were thought to exist before.

For instance, cryptids, ghosts and areas of high UFO activity all seem to be in the same general areas, leading to a suspicion that the same root cause might be triggering most of these phenomena. Then there is the oft-reported observation that all manner of electronics and mechanical devices seem to cease functioning in the presence of many UFOs and zooform phenomena or malfunction in a few specific manners (complete jams of cameras, electronic systems draining batteries at unusually high rates, cars ceasing to function as the phenomena occurs, then recovering as it fades out).

Clearly there is something going on here, and understanding what is happening might prove useful in all sorts of fields, including mechanical efficiency of things.

Tullimonstrum said...

I have never had a problem pursuing cz topics academically. There is no public funding for my research but that does not bother me as frankly there are more important topics that should be funded using public money.

Nor is it my experience that Forteana is frowned upon by academia. I know of several historians whose entire careers have been based around the study of "wonders"!

But there is a big difference between good quality academic work and a lot of stuff that happens in cz. There is what I can only really call "a sense of omniscience" amongst much of the cz community which I find incomprehensible. Even amongst its most scientific representatives. For example Heuvelmans thought spotting hoaxed sightings of sea serpents was "absurdly easy" as I recall. Grover Krantz expressed similar sentiments about bigfoot reports. I just wish I was as gifted.