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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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

MIKE HALLOWELL: The Shony revisited

It seems that I owe Mike Hallowell an apology. I have been sitting on this article for so long that I lost it and only found it by chance this morning...

Recently I penned a newspaper column regarding South Tyneside's very own sea monster, the Shony. I've accumulated a number of credible sightings of this beast stretching over a considerable period of time, and as most readers know, Jackie and I think we may very well have seen it ourselves during a visit to the coast.

Every now and then I receive information regarding a new sighting, or at least, new information regarding an old one.

The following account was written up in my book Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Northumberland & Tyneside (CFZ Press. 2008). The details of which were supplied to me by my friend Malcolm Urquhart. However, further information was given to me recently by my old friend, the author Alan Tedder, one of the north east's most knowledgeable researchers regarding myths and folklore.

On Friday, 17 August, 1906, a young man happened to be taking a morning dip at Seaburn when he had an alarming experience. The account found its way into The Sunderland Echo that very evening:

"Considerable sensation was created among some of the bathers at Seaburn this morning. A young gentleman who is a regular bather at the place and swims well returned from the water with a story that set all who heard it wondering".

In fact, the encounter caused a media sensation. By mid-afternoon thousands of locals had gathered along the shore to see if they could catch sight of the Shony. They were to be disappointed. What actually happened to precipitate such a reaction was this:

About thirty yards or so from the shore, the bather had decided he'd had enough for one day and planned to head for the beach. Ironically, if he'd made that decision just seconds earlier or later, he might have remained eternally oblivious to what was lurking in the water alongside him.

Suddenly the bather felt a heavy blow against his right arm. This wasn't a gentle tap; it actually paralysed his arm for several seconds, rendering it useless. Alarmed, and despite the fact that his arm was worse than useless due to the blow it was struck, he managed to strike out for the shore. Later he would tell reporters that his mind had conjured up, "visions of sharks and other ravenous denizens of the deep".

With some difficulty he eventually reached the beach. The chap later admitted that he was so "terrored" by the encounter that he found himself unable to look behind him to see what he had actually been attacked by. Several bystanders, seeing that the man was in some distress, went to his aid. He told them what had happened, and on examining his arm they found it to be badly bruised and bleeding from a laceration. As The Sunderland Echo reported, "it was quite apparent that his nerves had been severely shaken by his experience".

Suggestions were put forward later as to just what the bather might have encountered. Some suggested that he had merely collided with, "a piece of water-logged wood". It's not impossible, of course, but the man himself certainly didn't seem to think along those lines. He was convinced that he'd encountered a large, living creature.

When questioned later the bather claimed that whatever had hit him had been, "travelling very fast".

Seaburn is, of course, merely a hop, skip and jump away from Marsden Bay, the alleged home of the Shony. Did the bather have a close encounter with this legendary sea monster? He wouldn't be the first – or the last. Sightings of the Shony have been reported at Blackhall Rocks in Cleveland, Seaburn, Whitburn, Marsden Bay, Tynemouth and further up the coast in Northumberland.

I intend to do another blog very shortly on a few other snippets of information that have come my way regarding the Seaburn encounter which give us a little more insight into the affair. I'm also planning to compile a database of sightings, so I'd really appreciate it if readers could send me details of any sea monster-type encounters they know of that have occurred in the North Sea, particularly those near the north east of England or Scotland. Detailed accounts are particularly welcome, of course, but even small, anecdotal recollections and second-hand stories will be greeted with enthusiasm.

When a website devoted to the Shony is launched (I'm working on it feverishly) all correspondents will be added to a Wall of Fame (or whatever) for their contribution.


Hi Jon

You may have seen this already, but...

I have a good friend who lives in Illinois and she sent me this link:

She says the ads are on all the time over there. Most weird. I can't imagine what's going on in the minds of these marketing departments. It seems if you eat beef jerky you will want to go taunting cryptids.



He thinks it is rather special, and if you are into softshell turtles (as are we) then it is hard not to agree with him..

LARS THOMAS: A little something for the blog

A wee spot of natural history. Now is the time to go dragonfly/damselfly a-hunting and a-spotting. And gorgeous creatures they surely are.

Here is one, and seen from the perspective of a fly or something similar, surely a monster as dreadful and terrifying as the ones CFZ is hunting for.


Kara Wadham sent us this tribute written by one of her pupils to his pet cat that someone just shot. Would we print it, she asked. Of course we would! It is always a privelige to post tributes to the late pets of bereaved children; it may actually be one of the few things we do that actually does some good in the world.

I had a cat called Smeagle
He was the most friendly cat in the whole world
He liked playing games, chasing cats
But most of all loved his cuddles,
And when I was in the bath
He loved to pop bubbles with me
When he was a kitten he watched the football with me
We will all miss Smeagle
But he will always be in my heart

Jay Gaylard, Buckklers Mead Community School

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1952 ufologist and ghost investigator Dan Aykroyd was born. As well as being the official Hollywood consultant for MUFON and holding an interest in many other paranormal subjects Aykroyd is probably most famous for his ‘day job’ as an actor, author and comedian, having co-created, written and stared in films such as ‘The Blues Brothers’, ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Coneheads’.
And now, the news:

'Sea monster' whale fossil unearthed
Woman blames vampire for car crash
Lost tortoise returns
Snappy accident as fisherman bags croc
Students: can we have our bum slapping lucky cow
Spiders shown to girls with arachnophobia
Moushached fish
Calif. woman says Chihuahua died saving her kids
Dogs aren't always man's best friend.
Ray's mythical monsters find a home

Well that’s a ‘ray’ of hope in the preservation of important cultural artefacts from the 20th century.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

AUBREY MENEZES: Kestrel Rescue in Canada..

Hello Jon ,

I hope all is well with both you, your family and all other members of the CFZ. Today at work I found a baby American Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk that had fallen out of its nest.

These birds are rare to see, and indeed it and its other two siblings are the first ones I have ever seen. Again this poor little guy fell out of a pipe where the parents had built their nest and into a puddle of water below. I got there just in time as a couple of sea gulls had sights on him for their lunch. I was able to find two construction workers who were working near by and they gave the little guy a ride back up to his nest.

He, I am sure, is resting comfortably tonight.


I am enjoying my on-going mini project, of trying to photograph the animals I can see through my office window. Photographing moths is particularly challenging. The upper moth is one of the carpet moths (a Devon carpet I think) but I have not been able to identify the lower one. Anyone out there know?

OLL LEWIS: Open Season on Gardeners

Last weekend you may have noticed a few posts on the blog about something called ‘Open Gardens’, and if you don’t live in our little part of Devon you might be wondering what its all about. Well, make yourself a nice cup of tea, possibly augmented with a biscuit (I recommend the noble Hobnob for this purpose), and sit down for I am about to tell you.

Open Gardens is a fundraising event for the Woolsery Community Centre and Sports Hall, which is where we hold the Weird Weekend every year. The hall is, as attendees of the Weird Weekend will already know, a large state of the art building comparable in size to a modern leisure centre with tiered theatre seating in the main auditorium, several smaller rooms, a second large room (used for stalls and art exhibitions at WW) a kitchen and café area and a bar, all run on a mix of wind and solar power. The hall is a lot more important to the village than just being the venue of the Weird Weekend, it is used every day by at least one of the village clubs, be it for Tiny Tots (most attendees of which have in recent years been involved in the opening ceremony of the Weird Weekend and made some smashing UFOs to decorate the hall’s café at last year's event too), badminton, the Woolsery Society, dancing clubs or the occasional film nights. As you can imagine, in a large village far from the beaten track where bus services don’t run after 6pm, the hall, like the Farmer’s Arms pub, is very important.

Open Gardens itself is when a number of people from the village and around open up their gardens to the public for the weekend as part of a walking tour and people pay for a guidebook from the village hall. Each garden offers something different ranging from attractions you might expect like flowers, right through to the unusual like statues of meerkats engaging in cosplay, and endangered species.

When I’ve been touring people round the CFZ menagerie this year it’s been interesting to see which of our animals have been the most interesting to people, because where as Jon, Max and I might get wildly excited about some aquatic snail it doesn’t necessarily follow that anyone else would. The animal that generated the most interest was Vic, our Reeves pheasant, as he strutted around his large aviary showing off his yellow, black and white plumage. The interest in the Reeves pheasant was closely followed by the Triops cancriformis (it’s not every day you get to see three-eyed endangered species performing underwater acrobatics for you), the snapping turtle and our softshell turtle. Quite a few local people also showed an interest in the casts of large feline prints I had taken in January, with a few doubters walking away more convinced when I compared them to some casts of canine prints and to some casts of fake prints to show the differences.

On Monday it was the turn of people who had been showing people their gardens to see everyone else’s and I represented the CFZ in this. First in the tour was Town Farm where I peered into their stream, hoping to spot an invertebrate or two through the crystal clear water. After that it was on to the Snapes’ house where I met their son Kieran’s rabbit and saw some really well made Lego models that he had made, which made me nostalgic about my youth and the fact that, as I turn 30 in July, I will soon be officially an old gripper and able to use phrases like “The youth of today…”, “In my day…” and “Do you know how old I am, boy?!” without a hint of irony.

Next on the tour it was back to Myrtle Cottage where Hazel and a few other people from the village who have actually seen the big cat got to hold and examine the casts along with looking at the animals and the pheasant who was still busy showing off and seemed to be enjoying the attention.

One of the highlights of the rest of the tour was the garden of Robin and Gill Edmunds who, like us, are friends of Hartland Wildlife Trust. In the Edmundses’ garden there were lots of little animal statues including whimsical meerkats, dressed in various disguises, and a surprising ‘fossil.’ According to the attached sign it is a zenomorph (as seen in the Alien films). Now I’m not entirely convinced but it certainly made me smile as I walked around. Unfortunately I could not see every garden in the village as my back is a bit dodgy but those I did see were immaculately kept and every garden was different. If you are in North Devon when Open Gardens is on next then I really do recommend that you visit.

GLEN VAUDREY: Introducing the Kipumbubu

What a spread of darts I threw. The third one landed just in Tanzania; yet another African country, this time on the east of the continent. It seems my first three crypto darts were a little low; still, I did well to miss the oceans. So what mystery animal is to be found in Tanzania? Well, one contender has to be the Kipumbubu.

While hippopotamus may lay claim to be one of the most deadly creatures to occupy the waters of the African continent, the crocodile shouldn’t be forgotten. Each year around three hundred people are killed by the Nile crocodile,but there is a mystery crocodile that also has a taste for human flesh, and that is the Kipumbubu. Supposedly it manages to munch six unlucky people a year.

So what sets the Kipumbubu apart from the Nile crocodile? Well, its behaviour for a start. The Kipumbubu doesn’t just lurk in the water; it actively goes hunting at night for people on river boats. It’s said that it is fully capable of getting onto the rim of a boat and grabbing passengers in its mighty crushing jaws.

So could the Kipumbubu just be a Nile crocodile? Well, maybe, but it appears that the Kipumbubu has a special talent that the Nile beast lacks and that is the ability to jump out of the water and onto boats. Jumpin’ crocodiles, as they might have said in a 1960s episode of Batman.


Hey Jon

Hope you are keeping well. Will you please place the following piece onto the CFZ blogs for me?

Ryedale Aquarist Society

25th Anniversary Open Day - Sunday 11th July 2010

Old Malton Memorial Hall, Malton, North Yorkshire Y017 7HD

Doors open at 10.00a.m.


10.00a.m. to 11.10a.m. - Booking of auction lots.

11.15a.m. to 12.15p.m. - Talk by our special guest Dr. David Ford.
Dr. Ford will be talking about his life and work in fishkeeping with a talk entitled ‘It began with a goldfish’.

12.15p.m. to 12.45 p.m. - Booking of auction lots.
During this time we will be having a ‘tea and coffee happy half hour’ when such refreshments will be served free of charge.

12.50p.m. onwards - Auction of fish and aquatic items.

This is an open auction so TO PRE-BOOK AUCTION LOTS PHONE 01751 472715


Please note that Ryedale A.S. will take a 15% commission on all auction lots sold.

Please label lots to assist the auctioneer.

Please make sure that all electrical goods are clearly marked with the name and address of the seller.


ALL of the Classes, BCA Classes and Championship events listed are of an OPEN nature.

Y.A.A.S. ‘A’ Class Judge Mr. Steven Grant has accepted our invitation to be the Sitting Judge



This ‘Fish of Fishes’ is open to any type of egglaying or livebearing fish however; exhibits are limited to ONE EXHIBIT PER PERSON.
Exhibits are to be entered in the name of the person who owns the fish only.

Fish entered in the Championship do not need to have scored 85 points or more at an Open Show to be eligible.

Prizes for 1st to 6th place.

The Championship will be judged in 2 stages:
Stage 1. The Sitting Judge will reduce the exhibits to 6 fish that go forward to stage 2.
Stage 2. All ‘A’ Class Judges present (with the exception of our own David Marshall) will be invited to point the 6 remaining fish. Their points will then be averaged to decide the places. In the event of any tied places the points given by the Sitting Judge will be decisive.

Entry fee 50p per exhibit.



To take part in this ultimate fishkeeping contest requires one show tank split into 3 sections or 3 separate show tanks.

An egglaying or a livebearing fish can be chosen but all 3 sections/show tanks must contain the SAME SPECIE as follows:
Section/tank 1 - An adult fish of either sex.
Section/tank 2 - A matched pair.
Section/tank 3 - six fish, over four months old, bred by the exhibitor with the date of spawning/birth of the fry and breeding group clearly marked.

Each of the 3 sections will be judged up to 100 points and then the total scores averaged.

The Sitting Judge has sole responsibility for the judging of this contest.

Prizes and cards for 1st to 3rd places.

Entry fee 50p.



Entry fee 20p per exhibit. Prizes and cards for 1st to 3rd places.


Class 1 - Guppy.

Class 2 - AOV Livebearing fish.


Class 3 - Goldfish and AOV Coldwater.

Class 4 - AV Characin of the America’s

Class 5. - AV Fish of the America’s (excluding cichlids and characins).

Class 6 - AV Characin of Africa.

Class 7 - AV Fish of Africa (excluding cichlids and characins).

Class 8 - AV Fish of Asia.

Ladies Day

Class 9 - A Class for lady showers only. AV fish.

Not usually on the show bench

Class 10 - This is a ‘one off’ Class for those fish not usually seen on the showing bench such as Asian Parrot cichlids, Flowerhorns, other hybrid Cichlids, hybrid Synodontis, hybrid Botinae, Hooded Goldfish, Long-finned fish, Albino fish, Xanthic fish etc.
No pointing for this Class. Places to be awarded at the Judges discretion.

All of the Mini-Open Show Classes will be judged by the Sitting Judge. Y.A.A.S. rules and standards apply.

Your chance to show your artistic skills in the following Classes:


Produce a fish craft item. Entry fee 20p per exhibit. Prizes and cards for 1st to 3rd places. Judges to be announced on the day.


Framed or unframed prints up to 25cm by 20cm. Amateur and professional photographers are welcome to exhibit.

Portrait or Landscape e.g. Fish only or Aquarium set up. Exhibitor to choose the classification. Entry fee 20p per exhibit. Prizes and cards for 1st to 3rd places. Judges to be announced on the day.


4 Classes as follows:

1. AV Cichlid of the America’s.

2. AV Cichlid of the African Continent.

3. Cichlid - Matched Pair.

4. Cichlid - Breeders. Six fish, over four months old, bred by the exhibitor with the date of spawning group clearly marked.

Y.A.A.S. Rules and standards apply. Prizes and cards for 1st to 3rd places. Entry fee 20p per exhibit.

FNAS ‘A’ Class Judge Mr. John Cowan will judge these Classes.

Several Specialist Groups have accepted our invitation to present small information table.


Tea, coffee, soft drinks and a variety of food items will be on sale throughout the day.


There will be a special 25th Anniversary raffle.



Regards David


Dan Holdsworth solves the mystery

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1908 the Tunguska event happened. Something, thought by most people to be a comet, exploded above the ground near the Tunguska river in Russia. The Tunguska event has so many connotations and different theories associated with it that I couldn’t possibly do it justice in a small blog post like this, so when you’ve read today’s news hop along to the wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunguska_event
And now, the news:

Meet the 'radical rodent' surfing mice
VIP treatment for jet-setting sharks
Nessie centres in £1.3m legal row

Sounds like a bit of a ‘ness’ to me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

JON DOWNES: Happy Birthday Ray

Fame is a strange thing. These days it seems that people can be famous just for being famous,and half the people who have their Warholian fifteen minutes seem to have no talent or skill whatsoever, and certainly have done not one iota to change the world in any shape or form.

However, there are other people who are truly famous. People of skill, power and talent; people who have changed the world to a greater or lesser extent, and people who have changed our culture to the extent that life would not have been the same without them.

I haven't a clue who won the last series of Britain's got Talent, nor do I care, but in a journalistic career stretching back just over 30 years I have met a few of these cultural luminaries who, by their actions, their art or their craft, have changed the world to what we know today.

I have met two of Led Zeppelin. I have met Dave Brubeck. I met Bernard Heuvelmans. I have had a Christmas Card from Yoko Ono. But one wet February night in Exeter I met Ray Harryhausen. There is no big story attached. He was giving a lecture in an Exeter cinema one night and Richard and I went to see him. Afterwards I shook his hand and we went home again. We exchanged perhaps four words, and I am absolutely certain that he will not remember the fat hippy with a walking stick whom he briefly met that night six years ago. But I knew that I was in the presence of greatness. I was in the presence of the man who created Talos, Medusa and the fighting skeletons that sprung from the Hydra's teeth. He was the man who unlocked parts of my imagination that no-one else had ever reached, and - without knowing it - first set me on the path to look for monsters. From reading the tributes I have here today I find that he did the same for many other people.

Ray Harryhausen is 90 years old today and I have taken the unprecedented step of turning today's CFZ bloggo into a tribute to a man who unwittingly probably did more for the cause of cryptozoology than anyone else has ever realised.

Happy Birthday, Ray!

CORINNA DOWNES: Turn to stone

I am not too sure how old I was when I first saw Jason and the Argonauts but as I was around 7 when it came out, I probably saw it on TV some years later. I do vaguely remember going to see Clash of the Titans at the cinema though. Of course, I have seen both – and other movies that Ray Harryhausen has provided the creatures for – many times, but it is these two films that linger in my memory the most due to the following models that captivated me then, and still do so whenever I see the films.

Firstly, the children of the hydra’s teeth - skeletal warriors rising from the dusty earth armed with shields and weapons - in Jason and the Argonauts. A mesmerising sequence of artistry that had me spellbound the first time I saw it - their wicked grins beaming as they parried blows and attacked with such fluid dexterity in their bony frames. I can remember wanting to go outside and plant some myself! In fact I probably still would given half the chance – and some hydra’s teeth of course, which may well prove a problem.

And in Clash of the Titans, there is dear old Medusa with the writhing mass of unkempt and unruly ‘hair’ stalking Perseus amongst the columns with her bow and arrow. Such a miserable looking old crone, but then again who wouldn’t be if every day was a bad hair day; after all it must have been quite uncomfortable sporting such a topknot. But she was magnificent nevertheless and it is no wonder that a lot of women name Medusa as the female who most epitomises what women’s rage looks like! And by the look on Harry Hamlin’s face I think he would probably have agreed.

Happy birthday, Mr Harryhausen. Thanks for the memories of all your monsters and these in particular.

ALAN FRISWELL: Happy Birthday Ray

In attempting to write a birthday greeting to Ray, I have to admit that it’s very difficult to know where to start. I could try to put into words what Ray and his films have meant to me, and the magic spell that he has cast over my life, but then I would have enough words to fill a whole book, and I don’t have that much space.

So perhaps the following story will be enough to illustrate why Ray means as much to me as he does.

I discovered stop-motion at the age of four, when my parents sat me in front of a Christmas screening of King Kong (1933). At that tender age, I had no idea of how the movie was made, but I knew that I had discovered something magical and fantastic, and while some might say that I was perhaps a little young to realise one’s great interest and fascination in life, I don’t believe that you are ever too young or too old to experience an epiphany, because believe me, that’s what it was.

Directly because of Kong, I became deeply interested--and that’s a euphemism--obsession is probably a more accurate word--in ‘effects films’, as my dad called them, monsters in general, and dinosaurs in particular. I would sit for hours making plasticine models of Kong and various dinosaurs, placing them onto a wooden base that my dad made for me, and built up quite a collection of both dinosaur books and ‘monster magazines’, principally the wonderful Famous Monsters of Filmland.

At the age of six, my parents took me to see a re-issue of One Million Years BC, and although my mum and dad told me: “It’s a dinosaur film, you’ll like it.”, I had no idea of what I was about to encounter.

I was in shock for about three days. To see animals that looked exactly like those that I had seen in my dinosaur books, and in living colour, was an awesome, haunting experience. To see them moving around with such realism and dynamic power, was almost beyond belief.

I had never heard of Ray Harryhausen before then, but I regularly noticed his name in the monster magazines, and started to study what he was up to very closely. As I began to catch up with Ray’s films both in the cinema and on TV, I realised what I wanted to do with my life. When I announced to my parents that I was going to be the next Ray Harryhausen, they didn’t--bless ‘em--tell me to get a grip and be sensible. They encouraged my interests, by taking me on trips to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs, re-screenings of One
Million Years BC
and Gwangi, and buying me supplies of plasticine, plaster of Paris and--when I was old enough not to spill it all over the floor--latex rubber. When I was eleven, my dad bought me a back-issue of a British fantasy/horror magazine called Supernatural. In the back pages, was a large interview with Ray, in which he discussed Gwangi, Sinbad, and described some of his technical processes. I decided to contact the editor, in the hope that he would send me Ray’s address so I could write him a fan letter. The editor replied--quite
correctly--that he could not reveal Ray’s address, but if I sent my letter care of the National Film Theatre, it would probably be passed on to him. So with some help from my dad, I scribbled it out, saying the usual stuff; that I was a great fan, and that I wanted to be an animator etc, etc, enclosing two drawings of an allosaurus and
megalosaur. My parents warned me that Ray was obviously a very busy man, who receives fan mail all the time, and that he might not have time to answer. But I lived in hope, even including my phone number in the letter, and posted it off.

Two weeks later, I received a phone call from Ray’s wife Diana. I nearly passed out. She told me that Ray had loved my letter and drawings, and that although he was currently in America, he would be home the next week, and I would be welcome to ring him for a chat.

The next week came, and to put it delicately, I was passing bricks. At that age, I had no idea whatsoever of what to say to someone who had completely coloured and inspired my childhood. In fact, I might have lost my bottle entirely, had it not been for my mum, who effectively ‘dared’ me to call him. So I stormed out into the passage, and dialled the number almost without thinking. It was Ray who answered.

I think Ray knew instinctively that I was terrified, because he put me at ease immediately. I told him about my ambitions and dreams, and through it all, I felt like I was talking to an old friend. I didn’t realise at the time, but Ray was up to his ears in work, on Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, I think, but he spoke to me for nearly three quarters of an hour, patiently listening to an eleven-year-old banging on about building plasticine dinosaurs, and his hopes of being Dagenham’s premier stop-motion animator.

Through all this, Ray was incredibly encouraging, stressing the need to experiment and endlessly practice any and all aspects of special effects techniques, and I told him how difficult it was to get some things right. Ray answered with this, and I’ve never forgotten it. He said:

“Always be ready to make mistakes, always be ready to get it wrong. In fact, always be ready to fail, because that’s the nature of the process. But the one thing you should never be ready to do is give up, because that’s not what your life is about. Your life is about making your dreams come true, and absolutely refusing to let mistakes and problems stand between you and what you want. The more you practice and experiment, the better you’ll get, and the key to it, is to never lose your dreams, and never lose your imagination.”

I think if an adult had heard those words, it would have been pretty amazing, but I was eleven when Ray Harryhausen said that to me, and I felt like Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.

I took what Ray said, and my subsequent ambitions, very seriously. I did manage to achieve my dream and work in stop-motion, and--CGI notwithstanding--I hope that I will continue to do so.

You can’t possibly repay a whole childhood, and many adult years filled with wonder, magic and inspiration, but I can certainly thank Ray for being one of the most important people in my life, and one of the main reasons why my life has been happy.

And so, from your eleven-year-old ‘pupil’ who never lost the faith, and the Alan that he became, have a very happy birthday, and thank you Ray, thank you for everything.

MIKE HALLOWELL: The Empire Cinema Club, Jarrow

When I was a kid, there were two cinemas in my hometown of Jarrow. The most popular was the Empire. In fact, I was a proud member of the Empire Club, which cost one shilling to join. Proof of membership was a small, circular, yellow plastic badge with the words "The Empire Club" engraved upon it in red. As a member of the Empire Club I was allowed to attend matinees on a Saturday morning. It cost sixpence to get in, and all badge-holders got a free bag of sweets with their ticket.

The Empire Club matinee was two and one-half hours of great fun. The compere was a rather rotund chap called Uncle Tom, who wore a bowler hat and a tweed jacket. His niece, I think – her name escapes me – was his co-presenter and at some point in the proceedings would sing stuff from The Sound of Music. She had the voice of an angel.

The highlight of the Empire Club whilst it lasted was the showing of a black-and-white series called Danny the Dragon, which starred Sally Thomsett and the late, great, Jack Wild. God knows who played the dragon, which was some dude in a rubber suit. Richard Freeman would have loved it. I was sure that the series also starred Pauline Quirke (later of Birds of a Feather fame), but I can't find her credited anywhere. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me.

At various intervals during the show, competitions would be held and loads of prizes distributed. No one could have tempted me away from the Empire Club on a Saturday morning. No one, that is, except Raymond Frederick Harryhausen.

The other cinema in Jarrow at the time was the Regal in Grange Road. The Regal – unjustifiably nicknamed "the Flea Pit" by some – was where the Big Kids went. The Big Kids were youthful Jarrovians who had graduated from Danny the Dragon and its ilk, and were now exposing themselves to much scarier productions. To Empire Club members the Regal was a dark, brooding edifice. Not only was it the meeting place of Big Kids, it was also – quelle horreur – a place which attracted Rough Kids. Our parents didn't mind us going to the Empire, but the Regal was out of bounds.

One morning in 1966, when I was ten years old, two friends of mine came up with a daring plan. We would tell our parents that we were off to the Empire as usual, but in reality we'd sneak off to the Regal. My stomach turned at the suggestion. What if the Big Kids got us? Or worse, the Rough Kids that our parents repeatedly warned us about? John, who was twelve, explained to us that we simply had to take the chance, for the Regal was showing "the monster film".

Kerry and I stood in stunned silence. We'd heard of "the monster film", but never for one moment contemplated that we'd ever get to see it. There were rumours that it was a colour film, too; which we found hard to believe, after watching Danny the Dragon in glorious monochrome. In a fit of daring I decided to take the chance.

At 9.45 the three of us were proceeding down Grange Road – in an orderly manner, your Worships – and eventually the display board of the Regal hove into view. The words Jason and the Argonauts loomed large, as large, looming things are wont to do. Kerry, who was thirteen but looked older, purchased three tickets. Two were for "her friends" who'd be coming later, she fibbed. The woman in the ticket booth obviously thought her friends would of an age which permitted them entrance, and not two urchins barely out of nappies. John and I crouched in a recess and waited until the woman in the booth was distracted. Then we ran inside, and Kerry gave us our tickets. Somehow we circumnavigated the guy who tore your ticket in half at the top of the stairs, and suddenly found ourselves in the belly of the beast. This was it, then; there was no going back. It was dark, save for the light emanating from the screen. A swirling miasma of colours assaulted our eyes as the universally familiar, nah-nah-nah-nah nahnah of the Pearl and Dean commercials rattled around the building. We took our seats, and waited for Jason and the Argonauts to begin.

And so, dear reader, this was how my relationship with Raymond Frederick Harryhausen began. For ninety minutes or so – save an ice-cream and toilet break at the interval – I watched, enthralled, as all sorts of deities and demons went about their business.

The greatest surprise of all, though, was the blind prophet Phineas. There was something about him that I found deeply familiar, and after a few minutes it struck me. Flaming heck, I thought, its him! Phineas was actually Doctor Who! Readers should bear in mind that my childhood was, like most others, wrapped in a mantle of innocence which is largely non-existent now. It was perfectly respectable for ten year-olds to believe that Doctor Who was a real person who put himself about the universe a bit in a very real Tardis. Imagine my surprise, then, when I realised that the good Doctor was masquerading as this blind geezer Phineas. What was going on? Wasn't it only a week ago that he'd been on Skaro mixing it with the Daleks? Later, I found out that Phineas and the Doctor were both Patrick Troughton, and that although Patrick Troughton was real Phineas and the Doctor were not. To this very day I should still be having counselling for the trauma this revelation foisted upon me.

Seriously though, I was never the same after watching Jason and the Argonauts. It made me grow up.

People laud Ray Harryhausen as the grandfather of an entire generation of stop-animation movies, but personally I don't think they do him justice. Ray Harryhausen didn't just patron a genre – he IS the genre. To this day, no one has successfully captured or created monsters with stop-frame animation in the same way that Ray can. As the Harpies descended upon poor Phineas, and Jason and his shipmates bravely fought them off, a cacophony of oohs and aahs reverberated around the Flea Pit. Even the Big Kids and the Rough Kids were enchanted by this cinematic magic.

The thing I like about the classic Harryhausen monsters is the way they jerk almost imperceptibly when they are in motion. As a child, I never once thought that this was due to the technical limitations Ray had to work with. Monsters jerked as they moved because that's what real monsters did, I presumed.

To this day I still can't resist watching Jason and the Argonauts, the 7th Voyage of Sinbad et al without being mentally catapulted back to my youth. Ray's films rarely had megastars in the cast, but neither did they employ third-rate wannabe actors. They never achieved the status of Ben Hur, but they did possess all the allure of later CGI blockbusters like Alien and Terminator.

As a young 'un I never once questioned why the women on far-flung ancient isles wore lipstick and spoke with either a New York brogue or, sometimes, Thames Estuary English. In the fantasy world of Raymond Frederick Harryhausen there were no anomalies, no inconsistencies. Anything went, and everything fitted nicely.

Ray Harryhausen is a legend himself. I hope he has a very happy birthday. The Empire and the Regal have long gone, but Raymond Frederick Harryhausen is still with us. Long may he prosper, and may whatever deities he worships protect him from the Harpies.


I first came across Ray Harryhausen’s work many years ago when “Earth vs. The Flying Saucers” was broadcast on television. At that time I was still young and impressionable, but Harryhausen’s animation struck me as stunning. Though clearly, thought I, an old film (being in monochrome, as it is), the animation seemed vastly younger than the rest of the film. The scene where the flying saucer flies over the car along the great flat roads of the American deserts was burnt into my mind for years afterward as I tried to find out the name of the film (being broadcast on BBC they did not play short intros to the film after advert breaks because there were none), as was the classic scene depicting the aliens frying a group of soldiers with a heat ray.

Though the flying saucers were easier to animate than puppets and dolls used in his other films, Harryhausen also animated the falling masonry seen repeatedly when the saucers attack buildings or crash into them. This gave the explosions an extra degree of realism above the usual noise, flash of light and cloud of smoke which had been employed before.

Much will have been said on this blog about his pioneering work, and loath though I am to repeat what will have already been said, Harryhausen was a man ahead of his time, a legend in cinematic history and a man without whom the science behind special effects would have meandered slowly along without the leaps and bounds that it did thanks to Harryhausen. Below are two of my favourite YouTube clips, the original trailer for “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” and that fight scene from “Jason and the Argonauts”. And, purely because I mentioned Argonauts, there is an extra special video of them pootling around collecting air.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Ray, a true legend.

LIZ CLANCY: Happy Birthday Mr H

Ray Harryhausen is one of those names you can't help but remember and I have certainly been aware since childhood of this gentleman's great contribution to the world of cinema.

Since I was tiny I had a fascination for the fantastic so films such as It Came From Beneath The Sea, Earth V. The Flying Saucers and the Sinbad films were always on my daily schedule when they appeared on TV.

I'll never forget watching Jason and the Argonauts for the first time with my family and how my eyes grew wider every second as the mythical and outrageous appeared in front of me and the creatures in Clash of The Titans were so compelling my siblings and I just had to watch that film over and over again.

I recently discovered The Valley of Gwangi, when one of the digital channels showed it, and I fell in love with the miniature horse immediately.

So, Mr Harryhausen, I hope your birthday is a wonderful one, and I thank you for all the enjoyment your work has given me and my family over the years.

RICHARD FREEMAN: Ray Harryhausen - a tribute

As a boy it seemed to me that that the summer holidays were endless. The way we perceive time changes with age. I love those long summer months with out the distractions of school or the spiteful bane of winter. The summer holidays mean so many things to me, a fortnight in Paington, days of adventure in the country side with friend, staying up late with the summer sun, and then there were the films.

They were general shown in the mornings with an eye to kids on summer holidays, something most TV channels have eschewed in favour of soul destroying daytime TV consisting of cookery shows and programmes on how to buy and sell houses. There were Children’s Film Foundation movies, tired, sad old Disney reruns but there were also the Ray Harryhausen films. What marked these out as something truly special were the well thought out and exciting plots and the amazing stop motion animation monsters.

Ray’s films transported the viewer to ancient Persia or Greece to come face to face with dragons, Cyclops, hydra, gorgons, harpies and a pantheon of fantastic creature that fed the imagination of viewing children.
Who can forget the giant bronze statue Talos creaking into life in Jason and the Argonauts, the dragon killing the Cyclops in the climatic battle in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, the mechanical minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, the Cthulhu-like giant octopus wrecking the Golden Gate Bridge in It Came from Beneath the Sea or the slithering Medusa (who was actually more creepy than the original legendary description) in Clash of the Titans. Often the scripts deviated wildly from the myths they were based on but who cared when the monsters looked so great.

When he wasn’t taking you back to the ancient world Ray was spinning Science Fiction yarns such as Earth Vs The Flying Saucers that taped in to the paranoia of the 50s America or First Men in The Moon based on H G Wells' classic story.

Ray’s monsters seemed so much more compelling and ‘real’ than today’s CGI creations. His beasts had true personalities. They would often have grand first appearances were in they would loom up like some Victorian stage actor. Similarly there deaths scenes were often dramatic and prolong with the monster once again seeming like an over dramatic human actor. Ray’s monsters also had pathos. More often than not I sided with the monster. In 20 Million Miles to Earth the alien beast the Ymir only become aggressive when humans attack it, which they repeatedly do throughout the film. In Valley of Gwangi, Gwangi himself is captured and put on display in a circus.

Now compare modern day move monster, sure the dinosaurs might be more accurately portrayed in their form but they are somehow less alive. A recent remake of Clash of the Titans seemed flat, dull, charmless and pointless. In the age of CGI we are unlikely to see the like of Ray Harryhausen on the big screen again. Yet he has a legion of followers, our very own Alan Frizwell included. A quick look on YouTube will show dozens of people creating their own stop motion animation including the H P Lovecraft Historic Societies’ amazing amateur film The Call of Cuthlhu wherein the cosmic horror himself is realized in stop motion animation.

Today Ray Harryhausen turns 90. I would like to take this opportunity of whishing the grand old man of monsters a happy birthday and a big thank you for all those summer holiday thrills.

GLEN VAUDREY: The Golden Voyage of Harryhausen

There are plenty of films with a connection to Ray Harryhausen so you are quite spoilt for choice in finding one to pick. However there could only be one film for me to choose and that would have to be The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. The film is the second of three Sinbad films that Harryhausen was involved in, and in my opinion the best. And why, you might ask. Was it because of the effects? Being honest, no that isn’t the answer, it’s because it featured Dr Who.

Okay not exactly Dr Who but rather a pre-Dr Who Tom Baker, he plays the part of the evil magician Koura, no scarf and jelly babies for this incarnation just menacing black and lots of dark trickery and foul deeds. It is by using the dark arts that he is able to call forth the assistance of a centaur, not any old centaur mind you but a cyclopean centaur, why have two classical beasts when you can merge them into one.

Now you might wonder how I am going to connect this to anything cryptozoological, after all a centaur is hardly going to be sighted skipping through the countryside (of course not, the big cats have eaten them all). No, instead I am using the centaur as a tenuous link to a very strange encounter that was had by John Farrell and Margaret Johnson in 1966 in the Republic of Ireland. The sighting took place in County Louth as they were driving past Lord Dillon’s estate, and what an odd sight they saw.

The following account given by Margaret Johnson is taken from Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland by Graham J. Mc Ewen.

‘A huge horse with a man’s face and horrible bulging eyes. I could see by John’s face he saw it too. I think I screamed, but both of us were so frightened that we were paralyzed. The thing had a horse’s body. But it was the face, leering and hairy and huge which shocked.’

Alright then it wasn’t a true centaur nor was it cyclopean but you have to admit the human-faced horse of County Louth does sound good, almost the counter to the horse-headed man who has been so prominent in the news recently.

OLL LEWIS: Release the Kraken

Kraken have been popular foils for heroes in literature and folklore for many, many years and in these tales have had quite a number of different forms as kraken became a catch all term for any large sea monster that was not serpentine. So when it comes to imagining and designing what a Kraken should look like film makers have a huge selection of forms to choose from including great island beasts, enormous crabs, gigantic barnacles, oversized octopodes, whales, colossal squid, terrifying turtles or even something of the film makers own imagining. It is a great shame then that in resent years film makers have settled on giant cephalopods as the acceptable face of the Kraken because this limits the publics perception of what a kraken could be and when you mention Kraken to the man on the street he naturally assumes you are just talking about giant squid rather than any one of the full gambit of monsters the word Kraken was liked to in history.

Not so, Ray Harryhausen’s Kraken in Clash of the Titans, which took the form of a gigantic four armed merman like creature. The size ferocity of the monster could easily to the earliest greek myths about the creature which described it as the ‘asp turtle’. These tales recorded in a poetic form in the Physiologus as follows:

“This time I will with poetic art rehearse,
by means of words and wit,
a poem about a kind of fish,
the great sea-monster which is often unwillingly met,
terrible and cruel-hearted to seafarers, yea, to every man;
this swimmer of the ocean-streams is known as the asp-turtle.

“His appearance is like that of a rough boulder, as if there were tossing by the shore a great ocean-reedbank begirt with sand-dunes,
so that seamen imagine they are gazing upon an island,
and moor their high-prowed ships with cables to that false land,
make fast the ocean-coursers at the sea's end,
and, bold of heart, climb up on that island;
the vessels stand by the beach, enringed by the flood.

“The weary-hearted sailors then encamp, dreaming not of peril.

“On the island they start a fire, kindle a mounting flame.

“The dispirited heroes, eager for repose, are flushed with joy.

“Now when the cunning plotter feels that the seamen are firmly established upon him,
and have settled down to enjoy the weather,
the guest of ocean sinks without warning into the salt wave with his prey, and makes for the bottom,
thus whelming ships and men in that abode of death.”

When reading that you can certainly imagine a creature like Harryhausen’s cinematic version of the Kraken being more than capable of such ship bothering deeds but not a giant squid. For starters, how exactly could you walk about on a giant squid mantle or light a fire on it, it’s the tentacles of the squid which form the bulk of the length and the mantles are not much longer than the average adult man. In reality many tales like this of Kraken were likely based on tidal islands but when it comes to imagining what a mythical and fictional beast capable of this scale of devastation could look like Harryhausen’s Kraken fits the bill better than any squid.

RONAN COGHLAN: My Harryhausen experience

When a mere youthful cinemagoer I used to make a special beeline for the films of Harryhausen. The stop/go motion of his figures fascinated me. When hideous monsters threatened Jason and the Argonauts, Sindbad the Sailor and other such luminaries I was always thrilled; but what added to the thrills was the slightly jerky movement of the monsters. The mighty Talos did not shimmy forth, but walked witha slightly awkward tread, as though locomotion was something he had to think about. Likewise the Minator and that hominid with a single horn which seemed to turn up in many of the films. You see, the fact that the movement was not a hundred per cent natural gave these creatures a ghastly otherworld dimension, endowing them with a sense of menace they would otherwise have lacked - a sense of menace not to be found in the suave computerised monsters of the modern screen.

One day, on quitting the cinema, I decided I was going to be a stop/go monster making my way down the main street of Dublin. I moved, but injected a jerkiness into my tread, which I hoped duplicated the slightly artificial movements of Harryhausen's monsters. I thought my gait might even slightly intimidate the passers-by.

A middle-aged lady approached me.

"Oh, you poor little boy," she exclaimed. "Have you wet yourself? You must go home quickly and get some dry underwear. You are walking in what looks a very uncomfortable way."

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1920 Ray Harryhausen was born.

And now, the news:

Bee sting venom could provide treatment for arthritis
Gorilla psychologists: Weird stuff in plain sight
Raccoon blamed for 5-hour downtown Memphis outage
Terrier bikes around Europe with owner
World's Ugliest Dog title goes to Princess Abby
Lion decides to play through at Mont. golf course
Cat lover forced to give up 200 pets
Plants Demonstrate Complex Ability to Integrate Information
Strange creature on the prowl in East Texas
Experts rediscover plant presumed extinct for 60 years
Jail Snake

Well, with the weather this warm, snakes are obviously going to be more active so it ‘adder’ happen sooner or later.



Sunday, June 27, 2010


So, what on earth is Dr N on about?


When I started the Centre for Fortean Zoology in 1992 it was mostly to give validation to my own personal researches into the mystery animals of the West Country, but it was also because I felt that the nature of cryptozoology as a whole needed to be redefined.

I have recently come across the term ‘ethnoknown’, first in a post on Cryptomundo and secondly in Chad Arment’s smashing new book on the mystery carnivores of North America. I am surprised I have not come across the term before, and I suspect it is a word of recent origin, or even a neologism like my very own `zooform`. But it is a remarkably apposite term for cryptozoologists, for cryptozoology does indeed concern animals that are less well known; i.e. animals that are known to the inhabitants of an area (even if this knowledge is only in folkloric or zoomythological terms). This is, after all, the very essence of cryptozoology.

The CFZ recently came under criticism from a person who hides behind the pseudonym ‘Highland Tiger.’ He claims that although the CFZ have carried out over 20 expeditions they have come back with no evidence for the existence of any of cryptids for which they have searched. If you are examining these expeditions in cryptozoological terms (and we are of course cryptozoologists) this is simply not true. Each expedition has come back with anecdotal evidence from the people ‘on the ground’, which bolsters what we know of these cryptids as ethnoknown, (but still cryptic as far as the scientific community on the whole is concerned), animals.

One of the things that I have always thought massively important as far as cryptozoology is concerned, and one in which has therefore become one of the watchwords of the Centre for Fortean Zoology as a whole, is that cryptozoology is not the study of monsters.

Whereas the study of ethnoknown creatures can be used to extrapolate the existence of various lake monsters, man-beasts, and other fearsome denizens of far-flung places, it can also be used far closer to home to extrapolate the existence of far less exciting but equally significant animals.

For example, in the first few issues of Animals & Men (now collected together as Animals & Men Issues 1 – 5 In the Beginning (CFZ Press, 2001) and my own Smaller Mystery Animals of the West Country (CFZ Press 1996) I presented evidence for the existence of three ethnoknown mystery animals in the southwest of England.

They were:
  • A British population of the green lizard (Lacerta viridis) in southern Dorset and southern Devon. I hypothesised that they could have become naturalised in the area after having been inadvertently introduced through the south coast seaports into which they had been imported in shipments of fruit and flowers from the Channel Islands where this species has long been resident.

  • Surviving populations of the pine marten (Martes martes). This charming little carnivore was, according to Langley and Yalden writing in 1977, extirpated from its entire English range by the end of the 19th Century. In The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of the West Country I presented evidence that in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire, and possibly Surrey, this was just not so and that (in some areas bolstered up by artificial and unofficial introduction programmes) this was just not true.

  • Working on evidence from 15th, 16th and 17th Century parish records I concluded that Edward Alston’s 1872 paper on the ‘Specific Identity of the British Marten’ was quite simply wrong. In almost all of its range, M. martes co-exists with another – and closely related – species: Martes foina. The beech or stone marten - or marten cat as it is commonly known - was thought to live in various parts of the UK and Ireland until – with a stroke of the pen – Alston disenfranchised it. Such things happen all the time in zoology. For example, in Hong Kong the one cervid was thought to be the Chinese barking deer, Reeve’s muntjak (Muntiacus reevesi), and was included in all the reference books as such together with photographs undoubtedly of this animal. Halfway through the last decade there was a paradigm shift and suddenly the word from on high was that the only deer living in the former British colony was the Indian or red muntjak (Muntiacus muntjak). I believe that both species, and quite probably hybrids of the two in various degrees of introgressiveness exist there. But this is, of course, another story.

Over the 16 years since I first published these theories, I have to a certain extent been vindicated on two of them.

  • Firstly, the green lizards: sometime during the 1990s Lacerta viridis was split into several species and the ones found in western Europe are now called Lacerta bilineata. The great surprise in the world of herpetology but not to those of us who follow Heuvelmans’s suggestive methodology vis-a-vis ethnoknown animals, populations of Lacerta bilineata were discovered near Bournemouth – a sea port with a regular congress to and from the Channel Islands. The latest accepted thinking is that these animals are of relatively recent introduction, however whether they were introduced deliberately or by accident using a model similar to the one suggested by me back in the halcyon days of 1994 remain – for the moment – obscure. However, I think that I have been fully vindicated and strongly expect similar colonies to be found in the hills above Seaton and Lyme Regis in the next few years. Possibly I wasn’t just justified in the ungentlemanly headline “Told u so!” that I used both in Animals & Men and the late-lamented Pet Reptile magazine, but “I was so much older then, and younger than that now”.

  • The most recent vindication of my personal use of the study of ethnoknown creatures in the UK came in the Guardian on 4th June 2010 when a report by the quango Natural England was discussed. It turns out that far from being extinct, small pockets of survivors have hung on quite successfully in various parts of England and Wales, as well as the areas in Scotland and Ireland where it has always been known to be living. Unfortunately for those who would like to see me hailed as some sort of zoological hero, the furthest south that the Natural England report said that pine martens had been seen was Northamptonshire, but I never particularly wanted to be a hero anyway. Again, I think that it almost certain that I should be proved 100% correct in the next few years. But when this happens, it will be a victory for cryptozoology, not a victory for the CFZ, and that it how it should be.

So what about my third prediction of 1994? Will beech martens be found to be UK residents?

I still think, almost certainly, yes. In the last 15 years the pool frog (Rana ( Pelophylax) lessonae), and at least two species of bat - Alcathoe's bat (Myotis alcathoe), and Nathusius' Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) – have been proven to be British residents. The latter bat, by the way, was one that I had hypothesised was a British resident back in 1992.

I think that whilst the question of the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and the yeti, and even the existence of big cats in Britain may still be questionable a decade from now, the three claims that I made in issue 1 of Animals & Men have certainly been vindicated and will be proof that cryptozoology, as laid down by Heuvelmans himself, is – indeed - a valid discipline because all three of my predictions were based on eyewitness testimony. All three creatures were ethnoknown as British residents.

This, I think, gives all of us who are interested in such things, great hope for the future.

DALE DRINNON: Modifications to the Aquatic Cryptids classifications as proposed by Heuvelmans

This is a general outline of my modifications to Heuvelmans, basically what I was distilling down at the opening of my article in the CFZ yearbook. The other work on the categories follows from this, and the range maps go with this.
Heuvelmans lists three opening categories:

1X) Vague or indeterminate reports, Mistaken observations and False reports or Hoaxes.

While I change the percentages of all the categories I allow those to stand, but I also add to the invalid reports the majority of the following categories:


2X) Super Otter 13 definite and 15 possible sightings. It has the overall shape like an otter, a serpentine body which undulates vertically, and a short or medium-length neck. The Super Otter may be about 65-100 feet long, sometimes reported up to several hundred or over a thousand (!) feet long. The creature seen by Hans Egede was probably a Super Otter, and it is perhaps a primitive archaeocete with four legs. As of 1965, the last definite Super Otter was in 1848, so it might be extinct by now.

The Report credited to Hans Egede (actually made by his son Povel) was most likely a misunderstood view of a whale now thought to be extinct in the area, and the Sundsland Fisherman report a more normal viewof another creature of the same type. The majority of the rest of the reports are mistaking waves in the water for living animals. As to the statement that the last one was seen in 1846, reports of the same type continue to the present day and it is permissible that NONE of these reports accurately describes any living creature. NONE of them would therefore be "definite" reports of a "Super-otter" or anything else.

3X) Many Humped 33 definite and 26 possible sightings. As the name suggests, this has several humps on it's back. It has a small head, short or medium-length neck, and (sometimes)a fin on its back as well as a pair of flippers. It seems to be about 60-100 feet long, and may be threatened or endangered, as there are very few recent sightings. It is probably an archaeocete.

The Super-Otter and Many-humped categories are hard to distinguish from one another. Most of the reports in this category are also mistaken impressions of waves in the water, even if a Plesiosaur-shaped creature is making the wave. The distinctively black-backed, white-bellied reports with a back fin come from mistaken views of killer whales.

4X) Many Finned 20 definite and 6 possible sightings. This has a round head with whiskers, short neck, and many fins along the sides. It is probably about 60-70 feet long. The many finned seems to have some kind of armored protection, and seems to be another kind of primitive archaeocete.

Many-finned reports are most often mistaken views of several small cetaceans in a line. Some of the reports included are even Plesiosaur-shaped creatures or large whales. The Along Bay Dragons and Tompandrano do NOT conform to Heuvelmans' description.


1) Longneck 48 definite and 34 possible reports. The Longneck has a long neck, a humped back, and little or no tail. Some Longnecks have two horns, and the creature has a fast speed. The Longneck has flippers (similar to those of a seal) and is probably about 15-60 feet long. The Longneck is probably a kind of pinniped (seals, sea lions, etc) and the first known sighting was in 1846 (Although Heuvelmans states it was known to the ancients as "Physeter" and the first Sea-serpent listed on his table in the back is possibly a ?LN)

1A, Male of 1) Merhorse 37 definite and 34 probable sightings. The Merhorse has a head similar to a horse, a long neck, and a mane. It has big eyes and a snake-like tail. Sightings suggest that ther Merhorse ranges in size from 30-100 feet. The Merhorse's big eyes suggest that it may normally live in the deeper parts of the ocean.

Sightings of Megalotaria - the hypothetical long-necked pinniped

Most other reporters regard Longnecked and Merhorse to be male and female of the same species. The sizes indicated are a clue to this, with the males much larger in size. The larger size estimates should probably be cut in half.

It turns out the Merhorse's eyes are not proportionately longer, they are marked with circles around them in contrasting clour to the rest of the head and back, and this has been plainly stated since the 1700s. Included separately in each category are separate series of reports of large pinnepeds: a kind of sea lion in the first instance and a large seal-elephant seal-in the second series. including these reports in with the others has corrupted the composites created for both of them. The standard Longneck also has a snakelike tail and is otherwise identical in shape to the Merhorse. The Merhorse in turn is also brighter-coloured as well as having a mane, ordinarily a reddish or mohagany brown but sometimes with a greenish colour variation instead. reports of distinctively reflective, silvery or greyish bodies, and distinctively long reddish manes, are due to mistaken observations of Oarfish.

Consequently the total numbers of reports in each category comes down somewhat owing to the mistaken reports being culled out. Both categories are still by far the majority of "Unidentified" Sea-serpent sightings, counted either together or separately.


Map - Megaconger sightings Picture - reconstructions of megaconger and titanoconger

5) Super Eel 12 definite and 11 possible sightings, equally well 12 larger and 11 smaller category sightings. The Super Eel may actually include different species. Most of them look like eels (the only sea serpents that actually are serpentine) though the description of their heads and coloration differ. Super Eels have large eyes and are said to be 20-100 feet long, in two bunches, one averaging about 30 feet and the other nearly 100 feet. Super eels are sometimes dying when at the surface, and are probably fish.

Sea serpemt depictions corresponding to megaconger (right)

titanoconger (left)

The larger and smaller size categories I name Titanoconger and Megaconger, and they differ in ways other than size. The Titanoconger is a really big deepsea, free-swimming fish marked with a distinctively darker back and lighter belly. I doubt if it is actually abyssal. The Megaconger is a smaller fish, although at an average of 20-30 feet long it is still larger than any known eel. It has a more even colouration and seems to favor shallower waters near to the coast and on continental shelves. Two subcategories in the Mediterranean and around Fiji might be more like large moray eels instead, without pectoral fins and otherwise similar to larger editions of the more common local morays.
Heuvelmans also includes a category of reports he calls ?LN?SE because he considers them difficult to categorize as either Longnecks or Super-eels. It would seem to me that about two-thirds of these are Longnecks and possibly a third (or less) are Super-eels: some of them are also reports of whales or other mistaken observations.

Map - sightings of `titanoconger`


6. Marine Saurian When Heuvelmans designed his classifications, the Marine Saurian was known from only 4 definite, 5 possible sightings. It is described as looking like a gigantic crocodile (50-60 feet), and may be some kind of ancient marine reptile.I have subsequently broken this down into a larger-sized category including 6 of the original 9, The actual Marine Saurian although it grows much larger than Heuvelmans states, and a small-sized category including 2 of the 9 and which are similar to the African carcass known as Gambo. One of the reports is different, it is more definitely a crocodile like C. porosis but larger. I have subsequently added more reports to the Marine Saurians, and more recently especially to the largest-sized category. Curiously enough, some of the sightings now added to it were formerly called "Merhorse" and "Longnecked" reports.The Marine Saurians in Heuvelmans' collection reported to the furthest North of their range were always the largest, up to 100 feet long, and with the largest heads, reported as 10-15 feet long and with a neck commonly estimated at 6 feet thick. The dimensions match the creature said to have been killed by the Monogahela. The larger ones seem to prey on large sharks and small whales, and the reports seem to indicate that it follows whale migrations and breeds in warmer waters. A large one and a small one were seen together off South Carolina, and that is also the location of the smallest length otherwise reported (35 feet) It would seem that the larger adults are able to tolerate cold waters (down to freezing) the best. Total lengths for many of the most famous reports are not even estimated.


7x) Father-of- all-Turtles also known from only 4 possible sightings, is is described as a giant marine turtle. It may have some relation to the ancient giant turtle, Archelon. Heuvelmans considered the existence of the Father-of-all- Turtles to doubtful and the reports to be probably misidentifications.

There are independant reports of an outsized leatherback turtle of Archelon-size as printed by Ulrich Magin an an article to PURSUIT. This may or may not be the outsized giants of the known Leatherback species but in any event has nothing to do with Heuvelmans' category otherwise. Some may still wish to place the Soay beast here.


8) Yellow Belly Known from only 3 definite, 3 possible sightings (as of 1965), this has a yellow color and is tadpole shaped. Its size is estimated at around 60-100 feet. Heuvelmans suggested that it might a shark or other fish, or even an amphibian[this last was the suggestion of the witness. I count it as a shark, much like a whale shark but with a longer tail and the markings run together to form stripes].Mackal subsequently tried to write off this category as sightings of marine invertebrates, but his arguments were flawed and he contradicted his own theory with other information elsewhere. In specific, he admitted that Salp chains were not known to come in that characteristic colouration.

Since I consider the basic creature described to be a kind of elongated shark, I also classify it loosely with the elongated basking sharks and even Eel-shaped sharks derived from reports of Seamonster corpses cast ashore periodically.



Recently on an internet archive of newspaper reports from Utah I came across some interesting stories, including a crocodile head of unknown origin in Belgium and an American satyr-like creature along with a strange dog-like animal, also in N. America.

Unfortunately I forgot to note down the name and dates of the Utah newspapers (not the crocodile one) but I`m pretty sure they are 19th century. If anyone would like more information they can contact me.

I open with the brief crocodile story from the Daily News of September 23rd 1879. This story is remarkably similar to the accounts of crocodiles displayed in important buildings such as churches around Europe up to at least the 19th century (see my article in the CFZ Yearbook 2009 on The Tarasque).



Brief Bits

`There is not a town in Belgium but is worth a visit; and this not only on account of the beauty of streets, churches and town halls, but because every city and borough has preserved some local curious local customs, which are annually paraded at those communal fêtes called “kermesse” is compounded of two Flemish nouns, signifying an assembly parishes, and kermesse in fact means a holiday in which several parishes take part, as distinguished from those fêtes, generally religious, which are got up single parishes. The most remarkeable kermesses in Belgium are those held at Mons, Ath, Louvain, Furnes and Ardennes, for in all of these there are historical cavalcades which are got up with much taste, and are actively supported by the leading townsfolks, who join in them personally. At Mons the kermesse begins with a procession of the relics (divers bones and jewels) of St. Waltrude, the patroness of the city, and is followed by a mimic fight on the Grand Place between a horseman who impersonates a nigt called Gilles de Chellos and a dragon. It seems that some centuries ago one Gilles de Chellos went forth and slew a dangerous beast who had frightened off all the rural population of Hainaut, and whose head, stuffed and cased under glass, is now to be seen in the public library of the city. It is simply a crocodile- though how a beast of this description can have rambled so far as north as Belgium is a mystery….(1)

Now an American satyr-like animal. The Petersburg, Virginia Index Appeal tells of a strange animal – half man and half sheep in appearance – and which walks as well on its hinds legs as on all fours, that is frightening the natives in the country adjacent to Petersburg. (2)

Sanpete Valley

Last Wednesday, while the children of Andrew Anderson were herding their cows by the river, about one and a half miles southwest from Gunnison, they were surprised to see a strange animal fighting with their dog. They were afraid to take part in the combat, but Mr Peterson who was near, took a rack stake from his wagon and succeeded in killing the brute. The animal was the size of a sheep dog, and was covered with long grey hair with small spots of black. Its head was shaped somewhat like that of a dog. Its tail resembled a cat`s, and was white, with black rings. Its feet were like those of a bear; while it fought it stood on its hind legs, fighting with the others. It paid no attention to Mr. Peterson or the children, but seemed to have eyes only for the dog, following him around and in its wrath biting the grass. The animal after being killed was taken near the field schoolhouse, and was an object of interest to many who came to see it. There has been a great many opinions as to the name of the animal, but all admitted they had never seen or heard of its like before. (3)

A racoon?

1 Daily News September 23rd 1879
2 Unknown Utah newspaper
3 Unknown Utah newspaper.

Bob Dylan Ballad of a Thin Man

`You walk into the room
With a pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say “ Who is that man?”
You try so hard
But you don`t understand
Just what you`ll say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you don`t know what it is
Do you, Mr Jones?...........`


Well, Open Gardens is over for another two years. All in all, Oll showed 170 people round the CFZ menagerie, whilst on the Sunday I did my best to be a competent host to all the visitors whilst Graham was watching England v Germany on the big screen TV up at the pub. I think that everyone enjoyed themselves - a couple of people said that they wanted to come to the Weird Weekend, and no-one fell down, got bitten or anything else untoward. All in all, a very satisfactory weekend.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, which gave European countries the excuse they’d been waiting for to start the First World War. There are stories told that a few weeks before his death Ferdinand met his exact physical doppelganger in Italy and after talking with each other they became friends. Some claim that meeting your doppelganger is a warning of impending death and if this story is true then it certainly didn’t turn out well for the Archduke, what happened to the other man, however, I don’t know. If anyone is familiar with this tale and does know more please use the comments section here to share your knowledge as death portents is a subject that has always fascinated me.
And now, the news:

Plants Demonstrate Complex Ability to Integrate Infomation
Strange creature on the prowl in East Texas
Experts rediscover plant presumed extinct for 60 years
Jail Snake

Well, with the weather this warm, snakes are obviously going to be more active so it ‘adder’ happen sooner or later.