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 17, 2010

MAX BLAKE: Taxonomy Fail #3

This is probably my favourite of Max's series of badly labelled museum-related tomfoolery. Awww, don't we love it when those put in authority over us mess up!!!


I will be the first to admit that I was spectacularly stupid when I posted the last trenche of Jan's mystery footprints. They were of course feral cat prints, but the efficacy of the compy was not helped by the fact that the name of the *.jpg proclaimed as much.

Today I have been fiendishly clever and changed the name of the images....

LINDSAY SELBY: Lake Memphremagog Lake creature

Lake Memphremagog is a long finger-like freshwater glacial lake located between Newport, Vermont, United States and Magog, Quebec, Canada. The lake is 27 miles (43 km) long and its maximum recorded depth is 285 feet (87 m). Local legends talked of a sea serpent in its depths and the indigenous peoples told settlers not to swim in the lake. The creature was described by Norman Bingham in his novel, The Sea Serpent Legend, in 1926. In the book he revives old legends :

They saw a monster dark and grim
Coming with coiling surge and swim,
With lifted head and tusk and horn,
Fierce as the spirit of Hades born.

(Bullock, 1926 p. 71)

On January 21, 1847 The Stanstead Journal newspaper reported "I am not aware whether it is generally known that a strange animal something of a sea serpent....exists in lake Memphremagog." There have been over 215 documented sighting of the sea serpent called Memphre since 1816. Most of the witnesses describe the creature as a long, black or dark green serpent or reptile swimming near or on the surface of the water.

Here is a selection of sightings:

  • 1816 The oldest documented sighting of a "Sea Serpent" in the Lake. The document describing the apparitions of the creature is signed by Ralph Merry IV. He describes four experiences as lived by the citizens of Georgeville and which he finds to be totally credible. He, however, was not a witness to any of these phenomena but only reported the facts as he knew them. The descriptions usually coincide as to the length and appearance of the serpent-like creature. In his accounts Mr Merry does not refer to the sea serpent but rather to one of the sea serpents of MemphrĂ©magog.

  • In 1850 David Beebe, whilst fishing at Magoon Point, Canada, saw a sudden splash, a "head and body" six feet of a huge monster, erect and graceful and motionless.

  • In 1891 William Watt, caretaker at The Mountain House Resort, at Owl's Head Mountain in Canada saw a "monster" half way across the lake "its" head was elevated above the water.

  • In 1955 A 19-year-old Canadian boy was the first to swim the length of the lake from Newport to Magog in 18 hours and 50 minutes. The following encounter was documented in 1990. "In the rain I became lost from my guide boat - then I became conscious of a presence in the water ahead of me - about 30 feet below.
    "It gave off a sense of warmth and I went off my normal course - when suddenly the water burst open and a head emerged from the lake but it gave me the impression that this was a friendly entity."

  • In 1960 eyewitnesses reported seeing a "long slender body" like a "telephone pole" with a neck and head swimming and making waves near the Stake Lighthouse towards the west shore of the lake in Newport. In 1961 two fishermen heading for Newport observed for about forty seconds a black creature, about 20 feet long, swimming partially submerged. They said the creature was about 200 feet from their boat, had a round back and an indescribable head. This scene was accompanied by a strange sound.

  • In 1976 - Belle Island, USA, an eyewitness saw "four dark humps" moving through the lake from the east shore towards the border islands.

  • In 1983 In Fitch Bay Canada two couples saw a "head and neck" with "big brown eyes" appear between their boat and the water skier, when they were stopped in the middle of the lake. It disappeared, making a big splash.

  • In 1986 North of Horseneck Island June 15th 7:30 pm two eyewitnesses reported while fishing - heard a splashing noise - and saw a "animal sitting on top of the water - with a head and long neck - with two back paddles/legs splashing around!" Also the same year at Horseneck Island, USA a fisherman and son saw a "dark object" like a railroad tie floating in the lake when suddenly "it" disappeared under the water and left a "whirlpool" with a funnel in the centre.

  • In 1994 four people in two separate boats reported a 30-foot long, black, three-humped creature. The weather was overcast but the lake was calm not a wave, no wind, they observed for at least three minutes from each of their two boats and object 40 to 50 feet long a type of wave shaped like three humps and black in colour. The sighting ended when the creature swam under one of the boats and disappeared into the depths of the lake.

  • Two people from Montreal had a first sighting in May of 1995, and then saw the sea serpent again in August of the same year. They were able to obtain a film clip (see stills from same above).

  • In July 1996, four persons witnessed something which they after observed for more than a minute. According to them, the creature had several humps, was about 20 feet long and swam about 50 yards between their boat and the shore.

You will find a complete list of sightings from 1816 to 2003 on this site run by Barbara Malloy who has seen the creature : http://www.memphreusa.com/

Some of the sightings sound like a seal or manatee, others like a giant eel. Something has been seen by too many people to be ignored, that is certain.


Bullock, William Bryant (1985) Beautiful Waters: devoted to the Memphremagog Region in History, Legend, Anecdote, Folk, Poetry and Drama, composed and printed by William Bryant Bullock, Derby Line, Vermont, Ed. Pigwidgeon, 239 p.
Québec Insolite, internet site http://www.generation.net/

OLL LEWIS: 5 Questions on… Cryptozoology - NICK REDFERN

In the chair today is Nick Redfern. Nick originally hails from England but now lives in Texas with his wife Dana where he heads the CFZ’s American Office. Nick has written many books on cryptozoology, UFOs, aliens and other Fortean topics including Man Monkey, published by CFZ press, and Three Men Seeking Monsters.

So Nick, here are your 5 questions on… Cryptozoology.

1) How did you first become interested in cryptozoology?

When I was about 5, my parents took me to Scotland for a week-long holiday, and we spent one day at Loch Ness. Although I was only a nipper at the time, I still have a couple of memories of my dad telling me the legend of the monster, and him chatting with an old couple that had also driven to the loch for the day. I suppose at that age the idea of a strange creature - or creatures - living in the loch caught my imagination. Then when I was a bit older - 10 or 11, I think - I began reading books on the subject and it just went from there.

2) Have you ever personally seen a cryptid or secondary evidence of a cryptid, if so can you please describe your encounter?

I've had a few weird experiences - and one or two very weird experiences - when out in the woods over the years. But one of the most recent things I can comment on is that I actually now own a cryptid! Well, almost. A few months ago, I was given the skull of a so-called 'Texas Chupacabras.' Of course, the Texas beast is not a true cryptid but since it has been deeply linked with the subject of cryptozoology over the last few years, I figured it's worth noting that my wife Dana and I now share a house with a quasi-cryptid. So I see a cryptid every day, peering at me from a shelf on one of my bookcases!

3) Which cryptids do you think are the most likely to be scientifically discovered and described some day, and why?

I think the Orang-Pendek will be confirmed at some point in the not too distant future. I say that because I think there's little doubt at all about its existence. It's certainly not an elusive zooform of the Owlman or Mothman variety, and it is undoubtedly flesh-and-blood. Plus, as there are a number of good sighting-reports, I think it's just a matter of time. I'd also like to think someone might stumble across a still-living Megalania (the giant, and presumed-extinct Australian monitor lizard) one day.

4) Which cryptids do you think are the least likely to exist?

I have heard more than a few stories about people claiming to have seen surviving mammoths, including one from a very recent decade indeed. If the mammoth had survived somewhere, that would be truly monumental news. But as much as I would like to see it, I think that the Mammoth has run out of time. I do, however, think that it may well have survived far longer than science suggests. I'm very interested in werewolves, but as literal cryptid creatures, I don't think there's a chance they exist in literal terms. I'm convinced they are something more - or, maybe, less - than flesh and blood.

5) If you had to pick your favourite cryptozoological book (not including books you may have wrote yourself) what would you choose?

It's hard to pin it down to just one, so I would have to say John Keel's The Mothman Prophecies; Janet and Colin Bord's Alien Animals; Gray Barker's The Silver Bridge; Linda Godfrey's Hunting the American Werewolf; and Monster Hunter by Squire Downes himself.

DALE DRINNON: Origins of the Patagonian Plesiosaur

Lately at the yahoo group Frontiers-of-Zoology, I have been going over a site on Patagonian Monsters that I discovered recently, in which Austin Whittall is putting together a book to be published on the subject and under the same name. That site is here:


And it holds a wealth of information, most of which is very good and I find no fault in it. He has a lot of useful information on hominids including the Patagon giants (Some of which may have been Bigfoot in my interpretation, not his), and such creatures as Water Bulls that might have been Toxodons and the giant otter Iemisch. However, he completely discounts the creature known as the Patagonian Plesiosaur or Nahuelito. He repeatedly states that the reports of long-necked creatures must have been false, yet he is curiously silent when the same long-necked creatures are seen at sea. For the record and in case nobody was already aware of the fact, Long-necked Sea-serpents are probably the largest category still reported worldwide AND the most regularly represented types of freshwater monsters as well. There is little value in saying that there are no Long-necked Lake Monsters in Patagonia when they are reported in comparable other lakes world-wide.

A commonly repeated description of Nahuelito, the Patagonian Plesiosaur is as follows:

'it is curious that the great majority of tales coincide with the description of an animal of about 10-15 meters long, with two hunches or humps, leathery skin and, occasionally, a swan-like neck. It is striking that this characterization is so similar to the descriptions made by the Mapuches two hundred years before.'

That happens to coincide exactly with my own statistical composite, the composite Tim Dinsdale made of the Loch Ness Monster, and other similar composite drawn from such reports worldwide. I have done statistical analyses of most Long-necked Lake monsters worldwide and they are generally very close together in averages. (Ogopogo and other Canadian Lake monsters do ot turn out to be Long-necked creatures in most cases. Champ is one at times, though)

Whitall objects to this and says that the corresponding Mapuche water-monster is the Cuero (hide, or cowhide) which is not described as being like that at all. From that point he goes on to say that the reported creatures were not originally long-necked and that the Cuero tradition cannot be applied to a Plesiosaur-shaped creature.

The Cuero is supposed to be a flat creature like a spread-out spotted goatskin or cowhide with no discernable head but bugged-out eyes and a sucking mouth underneath. Under the name Trelquelhuecuve it is said to have many poisonous spines or claws but under a different name it is just said to have the one claw or stinger in its tail. Its general shape and especially the placement of the mouth, but most of all the sting in its tail, mark it as a kind of stingray. Oddly, Whittall is somewhat indifferent to this explanation and says there are no freshwater stingrays in Patagonia: on the contrary, Eberhart indicates an unidentified stingray is reported in the Rio Negro (Black River) which is near to lake Nahuel Hapi where Nahuelito is supposed to live.

The problem is - and this almost took my breath away when I realised it - every single writer on the subject before has been misled by the same mistake. They were identifying Nahuelito with the wrong tradition. Nahuelito was not what was called Cuero but was instead something else called (in Spanish) Culebron. Culebron means 'Big Snake' and it is used to cover several different traditions. It is the local-usage equivalent of 'Dragon.'

I found illustrations meaning to show Cuero and Culebron from Spanish-language sites off the internet and I have mutilated them in the name of scientific research. The Spanish-language information on this Culebron says that it is a plumed serpent equivalent to Quetzalcoatl and it is being shown with plumed wings to swim through the water with (as a water monster Culebron) I cut the wings short so that it could be shown that actually the creature they are talking about is built like a plesiosaur, in this case one third of the length apiece is head and neck, body, and tail. The same creature is also described with humps on the back, four limbs, and sometimes a mane.

So THAT is what the native-tradition Patagonian Plesiosaur actually IS, and the tradition does go all the way back to the original discovery of the country in Conquistador days.

Another thing that bothers Whittall is a supposed carved likeness of Nahuelito printed in Suckling and Eggleston's book The Book of Sea Monsters. Whittall rightly says the art style is nothing like the indigenous art of the area, and he is right: the illustration is made up. However, I did discover from the Spanish-language sources that Culebron is depicted in rock art of the area, but it would not look anything like that. If anything, the 'Plumed Serpents' alluded to would look like the objects in the hands of the central god figure in the Sun Gate at Tiahuanaco, for the culture cited in the Spanish sources was using that style.

DAVID MARSHALL: The Aquatic attractions of Great Yarmouth (Photographs by Sue and David Marshall)

The Norfolk seaside town of Great Yarmouth is famous for its golden sands, amusement arcades and vast choice of fast foods. However, for Aquarists, it holds the magic of having three places of aquatic interest, all within a few minutes’ walk of each other, situated on the main promenade.

1. The Great Yarmouth Sea-Life Centre

Sue and I had heard so many excellent comments, through both ‘word of mouth’ and on the Internet, about this attraction that we walked through the entrance door with high expectations. We would not be disappointed as the displays here are excellent and cover a vast array of aquatic life.

The first section is home to several large and themed aquaria, which display a diversity of native marine fish. Among the fish to be seen are Conger Eel, various Wrasse, Nursehound and Gilthead.

Conger Eel

The second section features Compass, Upside-down and Moon Jellyfish. Please note that anyone with an aversion to strobe lighting should not linger very long in this section.

Now we move on to the glory of ‘Shark Bay’. Ten aquaria, of various sizes, are home to a wonderful array of creatures both native to the North Sea and those which have been brought to the Centre after been carried to Norfolk on the Gulf Stream. The mischievous activities of the Tompot Blenny were a joy to behold whilst the beauty of Blue Triggerfish (left) hundreds of miles from home was here for all to see. This area ends with a touch pool and the Warden was truly enjoying himself as he explained the fascination of Starfish and various Crabs to entranced visitors.

The Warden explains the wonders of Starfish

In the ‘Harbour’ Pollack and Cuckoo Wrasse are beautifully displayed.

Now we enter the ‘Tropical Zone’. Here you are best to forget the fact that fish from different corners of the World are mixed together and just sit back and enjoy the excellent displays.

Three tropical freshwater aquaria begin the ‘Zone’. The first of these is a well planned ‘fish senses’ display that mixes Blind Cave Characins and Black Ghost Knifefish in order to show the use of electrical navigation in certain fish. To display livebearers the next aquaria mixes Platys, Guppies and Swordtails whilst, for some reason, throwing a few small egglaying Characins into the mix. The final aquaria of the three, houses Amazonian Stingrays, Congo Tetras and one of the largest Clown Loach I have seen in many a year. A wonderful Chinese River Turtle and Axolotls complete the freshwater displays.

Chinese River Turtle

What follows are several spectacular tropical marine displays. All of the aquaria here are beautifully decorated and complemented with fish of high quality. Various Tangs and Porcupinefish were the highlight for me. The tunnel that ends this ‘Zone’ would, I am sure, be the favourite attraction for many visitors, due to its various Sharks and shoal of Fingerfish; however, I actually preferred the smaller displays.

Tropical Eels

‘Pirates Cove’ continues the tropical marine theme. Young visitors were eager to see the ‘Nemo’ exhibit as here are all their favourite film characters ‘in the flesh’. Sue was taken with the many Seahorse exhibits which end the visit.

‘Nemo’ and friends

By the time you read this report a newly constructed Penguin exhibit will add even more to the attraction.

What you need at the Yarmouth Sea-Life Centre is plenty of time. My condensed report does not give the Centre the full credit it deserves. The ‘must visit’ Great Yarmouth attraction.

2. Amazonia World of Reptiles

In contrast to the Sea-Life Centre this attraction is not, as yet, fully established. Here you find yourself in a large display area similar to that of a Zoological Garden Tropical House. Three centre-piece displays are surrounded by a large number of variously sized glass enclosures, vivariums and ‘bug display’ areas. Well arranged tropical plant displays and authentic jungle sounds complete the picture.

Authentic jungle surround

The collection of amphibians and reptiles is excellent and includes Garter Snake, Asian Box Turtle, Horsefield Tortoise, Green Iguana and Speckled Caiman. What all of the creatures displayed had in common was that they looked in good health and had plenty of space in which to move around.

One of many well cared for snakes

What about the fish interest? Built around two of the centre-piece display areas, for a large American Alligator and various Turtles respectively, are ponds containing assorted strains of Goldfish. You could tell that these fish were in good health by both their size and deep body colour.

Goldfish and Terrapins

We enjoyed this attraction and recommend that you pay a visit.

3. Merrivale Miniature Village
For sheer family escapism they have thought of everything here. Beautifully landscaped gardens are contrasted with model displays that not only depict scenes from both modern day life and long gone days but also include a terrific model railway layout.

Plenty of seating allows the chance to relax and, literally, return to childhood days as you revel in the model castle (complete with damsel in distress), 60’s Zoo (the model animals here are fantastic although you would have needed to visit China to have seen so many Giant Panda) and 60’s Funfair among many others.

And yes, there are fish here also! In the main lake we counted 3 large Koi but there could have been more as a roped -off section was full, at the time of our visit, with hundreds of fry. As this was mid-May a number of channels running into the lake were home to growing Frog tadpoles.

As your Merrivale visit ends forget the fast food establishments and spend time relaxing in the excellent cafeteria here with its large selection of snacks and cooked meals.

For us the Merrivale experience was an unexpected delight.

So Aquarists here is your chance to suggest to the family that a visit to Great Yarmouth may be a good idea. I suppose you could conveniently forget, until you are walking down the promenade, that you had a fishkeeping motive behind such a suggestion!

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Terence Hanbury White AKA T.H. White died on this day in 1964. He is best known as the author of his re-visioning of the Arthurian legends, ‘The Once And Future King’. The first volume of which ‘The Sword in the Stone’ formed the basis of Disney’s foray into Arthurian legend, despite being part of Disney’s ‘rubbish period’ the film actually stands up quite well, largely thanks to the bits they didn’t change too much from the novel ***. White was a major influence on many authors Including J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman and Michael Moorcock.
And now for the news:

Dog needed English lessons to be re-homed
New Zealand police investigate surfboard-stealing dolphin
Duck hunters force lockdown at nuclear arms plant
New Spider Species Is Largest of Its Type in Middle East
DNA of Pest-Killing Wasps Could Unlock Other Secrets
Oldest dog dies

Dog-gone it :(

*** I would disagree with you there JD