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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Sunday, January 10, 2010


Yesterday I told you about Powler's Piece - the strange and rather creepy forest a couple of miles south of the village in which we live.

Yesterday afternoon, while I was working on the new book by Carl Portman (more of which soon), Corinna, Shosh and Gavin took Biggles for an afternoon stroll.

They were in another part of the woods to that where they found the snow dryad on Friday, and they had been looking for footprints.

Amongst the myriad of deer, dogs and smaller creatures was this.

WTF? (as I am sure my younger stepdaughter, and probably Max would say)

I know that it looks like the single print of a cassowary, or maybe a small dinosaur, but it obviously isn't. But what is it?

It is the fact that it is a single imprint in the snow that intrigues me. It probably isn't even a footprint. My best guess is that it is what happens when a bird of prey momentarily lands to capture some poor hapless rodent, but that is only a guess.

It is over to you guys and I, for one, am hoping that it is a giant, one-legged snow cassowary. If it is, then I propose the name Casuarius corinna-and-bigglesi. C'mon boys and girls, don't let a fat cryptozoologist's dreams fail to come true (again).


Dear folks

Muirhead`s Mysteries continues today with the tale of the Hodag and a turtle (or should that be tortoise?) turning up somewhere in the Nevada desert. The text of the nespaper report on the turtle actually used that word, but this was no sea creature as far as I know.

However, the hodag was almost certainly mythical if the author of the Wikipedia entry is to believed, though the newspaper item on this has a more literal stance.

In chronological order, the first item is from The St. Paul Globe April 20th 1903. I do not quote in full; just the most interesting parts:

'MR OPSHAL SEES QUEER ANIMAL. It haunts the woods about his country place at the lake.

What is a hodag A. H Opshal asserts excitedly that it is a surviving representative of a supposedly extinct sarian that looks like a cross between an iguana and a rocking horse, and offers to produce witnesses to the strange nocturnal proclivities of the uncanny brute that haunts the woods about his country place, Ruritania, Lake Minnetonka...A lot of lumbermen over in Michigan faked up a hideous looking reptile and had a picture taken of him, which the Northwestern Lumberman printed, but somebody blew the game and the hodag, hideous as an inhabitant of Dante`s dread picture, proved to be a stuffed nothing in particular.'

The article then goes on to insist that the hodag is a real animal: 'Opshl himself emptied a double head of B. B shot at the beast or reptile, the range being 30 yards in the moonlight. The shot was heard to rattle like hail on the scaly coat of the creature which promptly emitted a sound which resembled, roughly speaking,a cross between the laugh of a hyena and the bawl of an indignant cow.

"I don`t know what breed this creature belongs to" said Mr Opshal yesterday "but what I do know is that there is nothing in the books describing him. He is scally all over like a big fish...He is not in the least injured by being shot at by any sort of small arm...When he runs his tail is held high above his back and it has spines sticking out all along its length like an iguana...The prevailing opinion is that the creature which has created so much discussion at the Point is an escaped specimen from some circus or sideshow. No report of such an escape is remembered, but the people who witnessed the latest "hodag" refuse to be laughed out of countenance. Mr Opshal takes a walk around his place every night in an effort to get another shot at the animal. He has provided himself with a 45-90 Winchester and hopes to report results within a few days'

Wikipedia has the following about the Hodag: 'In 1893 newspapers reported the discovery of Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It had "the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end. "The reports were instigated by well-known Wisconsin timber cruiser and prankster Eugene Shephard, who rounded up a group of local people to capture the animal....' (2)

The next item is about a turtle (sic) found in the Nevada desert, later going missing in California.
I think there is a possible link between this Nevada tortoise and some large tortoises reported in California in the 1930s.

Read on!

The San Francisco Call December 1st 1904: 'TURTLE TAKES ITS DEPARTURE. Strange creature missing from home of its owner in the University town.

"Japhet in Search of a Father" has a rival in Berkeley in the frantic search which Arthur I Street is making for his giant turtle, a creature which scientists at the State University have declared is 200 years old and entitled to a place in museum annals as a valuable curio. The animal has disappeared and cannot be found.

The turtle was captured in the midst of the Nevada desert several months ago by Street while he (Street) was making the journey overland between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City...He was brought to Berkeley and given quarters at the residence of Mr Street`s father, 1517 Shattuck Ave. Proffesor W. E. Ritter of the department of zoology examined the strange find made by Street and pronounced it to be more than 200 years old an a rare specimen of an almost extinct species of animal life. The professor could give no explanation of how the turtle came to be living in the midst of desolation on a great desert, but it is supposed the palm roots or some other hidden vegetation contributed to its support.

Mr Street made a pet of his find, quartering it at his father`s home on Shattuck avenue. Last night the turtle disappeared and to-day Street has searched Berkeley through trying to get a trace of the vagrant creature, but without success.'

1. The St.Paul Globe.April 20th 1903.
2. Anon.Wikipedia.Hodag.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hodag. (Accessed Jan.8th 2010)
3. The San Francisco Call.December 1st 1904

Sorry about the lack of lyrics today. I`ll try and remember them on Tuesday.

NEIL ARNOLD: Crazy like a fox

Uxbridge is a large suburban town in northwest London. In 2009 it happened to be the prowling ground of a very unusual creature...or possibly something very normal. Like most beastly headlines, the Uxbridge Gazette's (28th May) eye-catching 'Mystery monster spotted in Ruislip' certainly seemed dramatic, but was this just another case of too many eyewitnesses seeing something that wasn't there?

Step forward Maggie Daly, who claimed that on May 17th she'd seen something similar to an African Hunting Dog in the vicinity of Chichester Avenue. Karen Lewis then contacted the paper to say that in 2008 her son had seen a similar beast on the Hayes bypass. It was huge, skinny and mangy.

Read on

LINDSAY SELBY: Loch Sraheen Dinosaur

Achill is a large bleak but beautiful island off the West coast of Ireland, and connected to the County Mayo mainland by a narrow bridge. It has an area of some 50 sq. miles (129.5 sq. km), measures 14 miles (22.4km) east to west and 12 miles (19.2km) north to south, with some 80 miles (128km) of coastline (Achill Island Map and Guide, Bob Kingston 1988). The Lough on the island made front pages news in the Evening Herald of June 4th 1968 due to alleged lake monster sightings there. Sraheens Lough is less than 100m (330ft) wide.

The front page of the June 4, 1968 issue of the Evening Herald: 'Camera shot of lake monster?'

Caption under photograph reads: 'A Dundalk businessman, on holidays in the Achill area at the weekend, took this picture. Did he catch the monster with his camera? He used a Polaroid camera and this is an untouched reproduction of the picture.'

Article continues:

The man who took the picture said that yesterday he saw the huge 40 ft. long monster on the side of the lake about 100 yards away and snapped it with his camera. He later showed the picture of the weird animal - said to resemble a dinosaur - to local people who had never before had any real proof of the existence of the monster.


The visitor who wished to remain anonymous, was driving on the main road past the lake. Near Mulrany, 10 miles away he had given a lift to two girls from Mullingar. As they were passing the lake one of the girls drew the drivers' attention to the huge animal on the side of the lake about 100 yards away.

"Despite advice by the girls I immediately stopped the car and took a picture of the animal, and drove off again in a hurry," he said. "The animal seemed to be about 40 feet long with a head like a greyhound and a long tail," he added "When I mentioned the strange animal at my hotel the developed photograph became the centre of attraction and I discovered that I had stumbled on something important and proof of something Achill people had been looking for."


Two months ago a local part-time decorator, Mr. John Cooney (40), of Achill Sound, was passing in a car on the main road near the lake at twilight when a large animal, similar to the one described by the Dundalk visitor, crossed the road in front of him-going towards the lake. He drew the attention of another man in the car to the animal but they were too scared to pull up. Mr. Cooney related: "I found it hard to convince people in Achill that I had seen this strange animal which had looked like a type of dinosaur. Now I am glad that the visitor has seen the animal, and can produce proof of it.

So was it a dinosaur? Probably not but it could have been a giant otter, or a giant eel or something completely new. There doesn’t seem to have been many reported sightings since, apart from an angler said to have walked into the local newsagents after being scared away from the lake, and a vague report in the 1970s of two girls seeing something. Maybe the new decade will herald some new sightings and a clearer photograph. Let's hope so; until then it will probably be written off as a hoax or misidentification.


Curious bat-like creatures feature in cryptozoological lore. Here are some tales about a known species, the flying fox.

Over the past 40 years I have witnessed a serious decline in their numbers, and have even participated in field studies where groups of people have surrounded where they live just before dark, and then proceeded to try to count them. It is not easy because they have a habit of coming and going a number of times, probably because they do not know what the people on the ground are up to.

The pressure on flying foxes is because of the stupidity of Queensland Government bureaucrats and politicians. In trying to protect commercial crops of bananas they have a 'biosecurity' policy that calls for the destruction of all 'wild' stands of bananas, mainly the 'lady finger' variety. 30 years ago Queenslanders and flying foxes enjoyed an abundance of bananas that looked after themselves and produced a continual supply of free food. Then the government started destroying them so there would be no hosts for any pests or diseases that might compromise
their commercial crops.

I tried to change that policy but got short shrift from the Labour Party, which ought to know better. They just countered that the banana industry employs 20 000 people and could not be put at risk. The fact that bananas previously provided free food for more than a million Queenslanders and untold numbers of flying foxes and other native animals meant nothing to these idiots. And of course there was a secondary motive - to force people to pay for bananas dipped in poison instead of getting free wholesome bananas straight off a tree in the back yard.

They also told me the lady finger banana was not a native plant. True enough. Before Captain Cook there were native varieties of Musa spp. and there were also vast stands of mature native trees that bore incredible crops of food - nearly all gone now because of clear-felling and rapacious timber harvesting practices. The lady finger bananas filled the gap but now they have also been all but wiped out by ignorance and greed. Tough on the flying foxes, who then 'attack' commercial stands of bananas and get electrified, poisoned, shot, etc. And many more die caught on power lines and on barbed wire fences. One big improvement was to move the power lines apart so that flying foxes could not get zapped by reaching from one line to the next.

Farmers need to learn more respect for the flying fox. They serve as important pollinators and they control insect pests that would otherwise destroy their crops.

The individual flying fox is certainly capable of complex behaviour. One aboriginal informant insists he once saw a flying fox drop the carcass of some sort of small animal on the ground, having apparently sucked out the contents. Most experts would say no way; flying foxes
are strictly vegetarian. Well, they are habitual rapists as well, so I would not put anything past them.

My sons and I used to live in an old picture theatre. At one side was a peach tree that had its roots in the septic system so its fruit was juicy and succulent. Flying foxes came from far and wide to get the fruit and squabble and swear at one another. The bandicoots also fed on that tree.
One in particular lived on the other side of the theatre and used to run along the footpath, collect a peach, and then run back with his treasure. One night we went down into the foyer and opened the front door. Our little part chihuahua dog ran outside. Immediately there was a great deal of snarling and the dog came rushing back inside. I went outside and saw on the ground what looked like a half-unfurled umbrella trying to sort itself out.

A moment later it got on its feet and flew away. I don't know what the kerfuffle was all about. I believe the flying fox thought the little dog was that pesky bandicoot and it had attacked her either to keep her away or perhaps to make her drop the peach it thought she would be
carrying. Anyway, it got a big surprise that night.

Flying foxes are now known to be hosts of the lyssavirus, which can be fatal. This has been tough on them. They cop enough persecution already because they are seen as despoilers of crops and makers of unpleasant noises and odours. And on top of that our culture portrays them as being somewhat demonic. Certainly, if you have them in a fruit tree near your bedroom window quarreling all night with possums, or come out in the morning and your mangoes are all over the ground each with one bite mark in it, you cannot help but feel there is some truth in this.

In Captain Cook's diaries he records that one crew member came back to the ship very shaken up. He had come upon a flying fox in the undergrowth and it had scared the living daylights out of him. He actually thought it was a demon. (Of course real demons are long gone, the last
reliable picture I have seen of one is from a Celtic image made in the time of the Roman empire. I doubt if they were any more wicked than flying foxes; just different and therefore targets for persecution.)

Truth to tell, only two people have died from lyssavirus since 1996. Compare and contrast that with the millions of bats that die at human hands. But it is a new pretext for people to persecute them and although protected there are people that routinely kill them. What good is a government that protects an animal but follows a policy that leads to them being starved to death?

On top of that, habitat destruction has led to them setting up their communal nurseries alongside open pastures. Shellback ticks then get on them and cause them to die a horrid death from paralysis. Many people struggle to gather and nurse orphan bats, which then recover only to be killed by people with a redneck mentality.

I have known many people who have cared for flying foxes. My big sister told me she grew very attached to hers, and said they were very affectionate and endlessly entertaining.

There are parallels with the fate of the aborigines, who were harassed by the squatters despite the laws, and who found respite only by leaving their own land and taking up residence near townships where they lived in poverty but at least were relatively safe.

For the same reason flying foxes often start nurseries where they can be safe. The pictures show a flying fox nursery right in the centre of Cairns. Notices under the trees ask people to alert the staff in the council building if they see any baby flying foxes on the ground or clinging to the undergrowth. They are safe to handle only if you have been vaccinated for lyssavirus.

They did me a favour the other day. I wanted to find a place to park my truck in the shade for the sake of my dog. Not so amazingly I found 4 empty bays, all under one of the giant trees where the flying foxes live during the day. People did not want bat poo all over their shiny little cars. My truck has endured worse insults than that so I parked in the shade and was away for an hour.

When I got back I could not believe it. There were droppings everywhere but not one had hit the truck. Talk about serendipity. I got into the truck and then as I opened the driver window I got spattered! It must have come down vertically to hit my sleeve while I was inside the truck.
The picture shows that it is dark and smooth and gooey. I assume it is baby flying fox poo. It looks like human baby poo, only it is darker. No surprise there since they are mammals and feed on milk.
My hope is that one day lady finger bananas will be permitted to grow wild again to nourish flying foxes and people alike. And that flying foxes can come and go without being attacked by ignorant people.

Amazingly, flying foxes have a nursery in the centre of the city of Cairns - look in the centre of the photo for the big square roof with giant trees along two sides.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


On this day in 1917 William F. Cody aka Buffalo Bill died. Buffalo Bill was most famous for his touring Wild West show and was an early advocate of the rights of Native Americans and supporter of Bison conservation. During the investigation of the Whitechapel murders a number of people connected with Cody’s show were questioned by Scotland Yard following up on the theory that Jack the Ripper was a Native American. The police soon abandoned this line of enquiry.

And now, here’s the news:

Footprints fuel rumours of the beast of Workington's Borough Park
Neanderthal 'make-up' discovered

Bet they were made up when they discovered that.