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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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Saturday, June 12, 2010

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: CRYPTIDS AND PORTENTS - AN ODD MERMAID STORY FROM HONG KONG IN 1925

This mermaid story, or new species-of-fish tale (not tail!) from Hong Kong is unique as far as I know; at least as far as research for The Mystery Animals of Hong Kong is concerned, in that it does not involve a dugong, the usual suspect in Hong Kong mermaid cases. This situation, described in the English language newspaper The China Mail from November 1925, describes something like a baby`s head or the head or a baby mermaid and an “evil star”. Here is the account:

PHENOMENA MERMAID CHILD AND EVIL STAR?
Hong Kong Superstitions.


Having been in more ports of the world than he cares to remember and with about 20 years experience
Of the Hong Kong waterfront a European gentleman who was consulted yesterday in connection with the strange Yaumati fish whose capture was reported in yesterday`s China Mail pooh-poohed any suggestion that the catch was anything more than a natural object.

In his opinion the fish which was all “round” and was like a human baby`s head in most respects was a freak beche-de-mer, a specimen of sea slug indigenous to the South Seas. [which are nowhere near Hong Kong-R]. The Overgrowing “flesh” of this kind of shellfish is apt to discard its “home” on account of being cramped in,said the expert.

On the other hand, Chinese are not to be easily appeased. In flights of fancy the “mer-baby” caught by the Shantung policeman is connected with some phenomenon. Simultaeneously a strange star was noticed one evening during the weekend and star-gazers were busy after sunset yesterday trying to find out if there is any relation between the fish and the “new very bright star”.

Yesterday`s report was:-

Of the size and appearance of a baby`s head, a strange sea-animal was caught by a Shantung policeman at the ferry wharf, Yaumati,on Sunday [November 8th 1925-R]. The description is borne out by a European of about twenty years standing in the Colony. Those who “saw” the fish maintain that it must have been a fish as it came out of the water.


It is not correct to say that there was a body as it was all “head” not unlike the head of an infant. The fish had eyes (?), mouth,nose,ear holes and fins above the eyes. Another description is that the “fish had a round body, like a California orange.” A close inspection of the bowl in which the “fish” was kept revealed the fact that the specimen was very much alive. As it breathed and opened its mouth two tiny teeth could be seen.(1)

Unfortunately I do not have any of the books on Hong Kong fishes so I am unable to see if anything that fits this description is in there. Odd, wot,wot??

1. The China Mail November 11 1925.

SIOUXIE AND THE BANSHEES HONG KONG GARDEN


Harmful elements in the air
Symbols clashing everywhere
Reaps the fields of rice and reeds
While the population feeds
Junk floats on polluted water
An old custom to sell your daughter
Would you like number 23?
Leave your yens on the counter please
Hong Kong Garden

Tourists swarm to see your face
Confucious has a puzzling grace
Disorientated you enter in
Unleashing scent of wild jasmine

Slanted eyes meet a new sunrise
A race of bodies small in size
Chicken chow mein and chop suey
Hong Kong garden takeaway
Hong Kong garden

3 comments:

Dale Drinnon said...

Bece-de-mer or sea cucumbers are found over a wide area and not only the South Seas. Also whatever this is, it was not a sea cucmber. Sea cucumbers are echinoderms in the same group as starfish.

This was an actual fish. It had eyes and a mouth with teeth, and the mouth would open and close as it tried to breathe. It sounds about like what a smooth stonefish might look like. My guess is that it was some sort of puffer or blowfish, at inflation. But if it was of solid flesh and not simply pumped up with water, it would have to be something else.

shiva said...

Sounds a bit like some of the deep-sea "blobfish" - although i don't know if one of those could survive being brought to surface-level pressures.

Perhaps some sort of anglerfish?

Paddy said...

Sounds extremely like a puffer fish to me, especially given the description of the teeth and the fins above the eyes - do a quick Google image search to see what I mean.
I have no idea if they are found in the waters around Hong Kong though...