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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

THE MISTY PHANTOM OF DARTMOOR

Another one from the archives. This was written in 1998 for Devon Life magazine....



The most well known image of the Outlaw Biker is still that of Marlon Brando in "The Wild Ones" (1954) - a rugged individualist or a leather clad thug depending on your viewpoint. Whichever way you decide to picture them one does not usually associate bikers with screaming hysteria but when Oakhampton based rider Stephen Johnston phoned us he sounded almost incoherent with fear!

He had been travelling home from seeing a girlfriend on the night of Febuary 18, 1998. Riding along the along a lonely Dartmoor lane at approximately 1.45 a.m he noticed something on the road ahead.

“At first I thought it was a patch of fog but as I drew closer I saw a light shining out of what seemed to be a billowing cloud”...

Steve assumed that another bike was driving the opposite way down the tiny Devon road and was partially hidden from him by the mist. However, both the ruddy light, and its surrounding vapour apeared to be moving together. A sudden feeling of panic overwhelmed him and he swerved to avoid the oncoming “thing”...

“The light seemed more like an eye” he told us later, “and although I couldn’t see a body behind “it” as if “it” looked at me”. Steve found himself caught up in the miasma and likened the sensation to being draped in a cold damp blanket. “I found myself being weighed down like I was walking through syrup” he continued. “There was a high pitched whining sound like that made by an excited dog but far more shrill and accompanied by a clattering noise. Looking sideways I saw several objects extend rapidly from the opaque cloud and strike the road repeatedly. At first they looked like horses hooves but I soon realized that they were cloven hooves like those of a goat, only far larger....”

The terrified biker also noticed a stomach churning smell that he likened to “an open grave”.He told us that “it” left the immpression of being one large entity rather than a parade of things. Within seconds the “thing” had gone, seeming to disregard the shaking man. Looking back, he saw “it” moving quickly up the road extending tendrils of fog before it as if it was groping for something along the roadside. Driving home in shock, Steve found the cadaver like stench seemed to linger in his nostrils for several hours.

Unsuprisingly Steve Johnson no longer drives along this road after night fall.

It so happened that the night that Steve Johnson reported his experience to us, Richard was still at University in Leeds, Jon was visiting a girlfriend in London, and Graham was the only person on duty. This is HIS account of what happened next!

Steve is a pretty down-to-earth person, more interested in mechanics on his motor bike than in the supernatural or in ritualistic activity. When he phoned me in the early hours, sounding pretty shaken, and referring to ‘something bad having happened on his way home’ I thought he’d crashed his machine or perhaps hit a pedestrian. As he’s a decent sort of bloke, and obviously in some sort of trouble, I was prepared to listen. I settled more comfortably in my seat and calmly asked him what was up.

He laughed harshly and told me agitatedly that he had no idea. “Yeah, very helpful”, I reflected, while wondering how tactfully to ask if he was “on” something - ie under the influence of alchohol, or even something more exotic. I asked Steve where he had been, partly to try to get some tangible information and partly to give him a moment to calm down. It took me a couple of minutes to understand where he’d been, and where he was now - because his replies were rather confused. Gradually, however, he described some of what he had seen.

After I realised that I was basically hearing an account of an apparently-supernatural phenomenon, I felt I should adopt a more investigative role. After all, I wasn’t counselling a traffic accident victim, as I’d first imagined. During our conversation, however, the information was all jumbled up It - perhaps belatedly - occurred to me that, supernatural or not, the event had clearly shocked him, and that, since he was a friend, I should go easy. So we just chatted for a while, during which it emerged that he hadn’t taken any mind-altering substances - other than a couple of pints of beer, and that he’d rung me partly because I was a mate but mainly because, knowing I was ‘into’ that sort of weird stuff, he thought I might have an explanantion. (I didn’t.)

Steve did keep back-tracking to his ‘event’ however, as if he kept suddenly remembering particular impressions. The information, when organised chronologically, essentially matched the more lucid description he gave us two days later.


When we did meet, and he’d given his account of the encounter, I asked him if we could use the story in the future. He agreed, and I asked him if he wanted anonymity. He mused over this for a moment, and then shrugged. “It happened,” he said flatly. “And I’m not chairman of I.C.I., am I, so what the hell...?”

1 comment:

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

One thing which intrigues me about encounters like this is the ubiquitous description of a deep red glowing light. To me this sounds very like the near-infrared light used by most of the older generation of night vision devices and CCTV cameras. This colour of light is right at the edge of human perception, but is extremely bright when seen through an IR-sensitive device, such as an image intensifier or one of the more modern digital night vision devices (as an aside, a quantity of these were sold by Lidl for the bargain price of £99 around Christmas of this year, and some stores might still have some kicking about).

The thing described here appears mechanical rather than animate; an intense IR lamp to illuminate its way, fog to shroud the thing from view (the high-pitched whine might well have been noise from an ultrasonic fogger, used to generate the clammy cloud of vapour the thing was shrouded in).

All in all, this apparition sounds extremely earthly in origin; this is not a manifestation of otherworldly evil or alien super-technology but 1980s-era human tech!