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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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Monday, January 18, 2010

FLORIDA MONSTER UNMONSTERED

I don't usually print straightforward news stories on this blog, leaving them to the remit of Gavin over on the Newsblog, but when I read the story that Lindsay S. sent me this morning, I couldn't resist.

According to WPTV in Florida: 'Fish and Wildlife biologists believe that the cold weather has helped to uncover a local mystery; the identity of the mysterious sea monster featured on the TV show MonsterQuest which airs on the History Channel.'

Oh, yes. Pray, tell us more.

'As hundreds of manatees huddled to stay warm inside the channel of the Florida Power and Light Riviera Beach Power Plant, one of the gentle sea cows stood out due to a distinct feature of its anatomy. Thought to have been injured by a boat propeller at some point in its life, the manatee's tail grew back into three separate prongs. Due to the unusual shape, the manatee leaves three separate wakes on the water's surface while swimming just below.

'The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission believes that this is the source of the sea creature shown during a segment last year on Monsterquest.'


I wonder whether this could have any bearing on our sighting of 'three separate wakes' on the Irish lake last year; not for one moment that I am suggesting that a mutilated sirenian somehow turned up in Killarney, but you know what I mean.

Actually, it's too bloody early in the morning for me. I'm up a couple of hours before usual because we have appointments in Bideford and I wanted to do the bloggo before we went. The story caught my fancy, but I will leave you guys to do the thinking for me. Do YOU think it has any relevance at all, or am I just blearily clutching at straws?

YOU decide.

JOHN TRIPLOW: In Search of the Lynemouth Panther

A few years back now, I was told about a big black cat sighted on an open playing field - right on my doorstep in Lynemouth, Northumberland. Alas, this was before I had acquainted myself with preternatural research so inevitably, I missed the chance to investigate the subject at that time. Since then I had thought very little about the sighting – until now.

On Tuesday, January 5, my partner Kelly returned home from visiting a friend who lives on the “other side of the line” (a local derogatory phrase used to describe the opposing side of the village, which was divided by a railway line until the 1980s - it worked both ways of course!) Anyway, Kelly went on to tell me that around the same time the cat was sighted her friend had encountered the creature in roughly the same spot. She claimed the “panther” was stooped low to the ground, with its tail “pricked up - as if it was hunting for prey”.

Therefore, the following Saturday – January 9, to be precise – I decided to take advantage of the recent snowfall, which had plagued the country for the preceding week: if the beast was still lurking in these parts, I might stand a good chance of tracking some footprints or better still, capturing a snapshot of the animal against the snowy backdrop – or so I thought.

Well, this is were it gets weird. Armed with a digital camera and notepad, Kelly and I headed out towards our back gate where we were met by one of our neighbours, Anne. Anne happened to mention that she too was heading out with her camera as a local man by the name of Colin Cooper had apparently been out walking in a field and found some curious-looking footprints, which he had subsequently photographed.

By this juncture, I was positively bemused by the situation that had arisen: what were the chances of bumping into someone looking for the same thing at exactly the same time, on the exact same day? It wasn't like we were going blackberry picking, was it?

I asked Anne if she would be so kind as to take me to meet the gentleman who had taken the photographs; she gladly obliged.

When I arrived at the man's house, I introduced myself to Colin and explained the situation, whereupon, he invited me into his home to view the pictures. In honesty, due to the small image display on the camera, I was reluctant to express an opinion of what I thought the footprints were, although I did request he e-mail the pictures to my account for closer review.

As we headed over to where Colin had taken the photos, it was becoming increasingly difficult to manoeuvre through the winter wonderland bestowed on our journey. So much so that I ended up stumbling onto a concealed pond, which decided to give way as I ventured over its icy depths. Luckily for me, it was only knee-deep and I squelched home (miserably) in boots filled with freezing-cold, stinking pond water. On a brighter note, it could have been a lot worse!

Unfortunately, I failed to locate any evidence that suggests an ABC is actively inhabiting the rural borders of our village, although I will certainly be keeping my ear to the ground in the future.

I have still yet to receive the desired pictures from Colin, although I will be sure to keep you all informed of any developments with this case.

If anyone knows of any ABC sightings in and around Lynemouth, Northumberland, please feel free to contact me via my e-mail below.

Peace

John Triplow

th3sign@yahoo.co.uk

NEIL ARNOLD: The Monster of Runcorn

When I compiled my Monster! The A-Z Of Zooform Phenomena, little did I realise just what an exhaustive task it would be. By the time it had gone to press in 2007 I’d received and unearthed hundreds, if not thousands more cases of ethereal monsters, paranormal manimals and winged humanoids. One of my latest favourites is the pig-slaughtering entity that prowled Runcorn in Cheshire in 1953.

The festive season was disturbed by a black, seven-foot tall apparition that killed fifty-three pigs at a farm owned by a Harold Crowther. The Sunday Graphic of 27th December reported that the fifteenth-century farmhouse had been plagued by unusual events since the 10th August, when a ghostly figure, resembling the deceased father of Mr Crowther’s wife appeared. But it was clear that the monster that killed the pigs was an altogether more malevolent spectre.

Mr Crowther reported that, “Two days after the loss of the last pig, I saw a large black cloud about seven feet in height, shapeless except for two prongs sticking out at the back moving about in the yard. The shapeless mass approached me, stopping about four or five-feet away. Then it turned in the direction of the pig sties, passed into an outhouse and disappeared.”

Meanwhile, the entity Mrs Crowther observed was smaller and sprawled out but moved like black smoke.

The vampyric predator stalked the farm until its grisly work had been done. Its grim activities bringing to mind the Highgate ‘vampire’ seen two decades later in London, and a similar figure in Argentinean folklore known as El Petizo; a tall, black apparition that attacked a young boy in 2002 as he was cycling nine miles east of Rosario de la Frontera. The spectre appeared in broad daylight, accosted the boy and attempted to drag him by his hair to the edge of the lane.

In 1935 a vampire-like spectre haunted a village near Gnjilane, southern Serbia. The monster was said to be immune to gunfire, prowled an area inhabited by peasants and spooked the cattle. The Serbian vampire was said to have been cornered by several bold peasants one afternoon (this particular vampire was not affected by the light) but as they fired at the monster, it vanished through a door, filling the air with three loud knocks.

DALE DRINNON: Great Lakes Whales

There is a long-standing internet hoax site about whale watching on the great lakes:
http://www.lakemichiganwhales.com/ which is marked as 'For entertainment purposes only' at the bottom, but many people have taken it seriously. For one example, there was an article at Michigan Studies Weekly, which was duped by the site:
http://library.oakland.edu/tutorials/evalweb/whale.htm

And they were later forced to print a retraction. Whale remains ARE known from Michigan at the end of the Ice Age: http://www.sentex.net/~tcc/michwls.html which is not 'millions of years ago' as stated in the retraction.

HOWEVER, in this particular instance, I was more interested in some of the statements from people that did indeed take the matter seriously. One off the commentators on the Lake Michigan Whale-watching hoax site added the perfectly legitimate information that seals had been seen regularly in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan:

May 1, 2008: Thank you so much for bringing this site to the world and shedding some light on the much neglected study of freshwater marine mammals. Up here in the Northern Lake Michigan we have also sighted harbor seals on the pack ice this winter. There are unconfirmed sightings of gray seals in the upper lake also. I have spoken to the Peterson Brothers here who run a commercial fishery in the summer. They have agreed to run a spotting expedition as soon as the ice frees their vessels. With GLSU and Upper Michigan University research ships standing ready in our harbor, formal research is inevitable. We will keep you posted.
I have blind cc this to the Marine Mammal Research Institute in Bar Harbor for their reference. I do not know what difficulties you are having with your planes but I am sure J. Buffett woulld be interested in helping your venture with his Hemisphere Dancer.

Keep up the groundbreaking work.

Michelle George, PhD, LLD, BFD

The information remains true even if the site or even this particular letter are bogus. I have taken to calling these seals Seal#1 and Seal #2, and Seal #2 is approximately twice the size of Seal #1. Seal #1 is 5 or 6 feet long and Seal #2 is reported as being 10 to 12. The letter gives a tentative identification of Seal #2 as a grey seal, but it is also possible that it is a bearded seal.
Back in high school I saw letters to one of the educational magazines mentioning sightings of a 'Brontosaurus' on land in Michigan, off the Lake and on the way to Detroit. I had also heard reports of 'Plesiosaurs' seen by divers in Lake Michigan. I am prepared to call both of these bearded seals now because the bearded seals are enormously fat and consequently seem to have an absurdly small head. They would be examples for Seal #2, which is also reported at Lake Nipigeon and Lake Simcoe. It is compared to a 'Tuskless walrus' sometimes.

At the same time, there ARE legitimate sightings of something in the Great Lakes that resembles a porpoise or whale, reportedly anywhere from 10 to 100 feet long but more usually 15 to 45 feet. Some of the reports also say that this is a sturgeon, but many do directly call it a whale. I do not have enough information to be able to tell, but both identities are possible. As I mentioned before, sharks are sometimes also alleged in the area. That may sound unlikely, but as a matter of fact both porpoises and sharks could have been stranded in the lakes since the end of the Ice Age (so could the seals be for that matter).

The problem is getting legitimate information and not obvious jokes in reply when you ask about such things. There would not be anything too ridiculous in having remnant belugas, possibly even beaked whales, or bull sharks stuck in the Great Lakes. The evidence for them is extremely tenuous, though.

I have added some of the reference for the seals to the Elephant seals and bunyips photo album and I shall probably be adding more later. I can now conveniently call the elephant seal reports Seal #3. The reports do NOT include the great lakes area.

There is also a stray report of a seal in a lake North of Okanagan. It may have been dumped or it might have been a misidentification.

LIZ CLANCY: Aristotle's Lagoon

Aristotle’s Lagoon was a one-off documentary shown last night on BBC4 at nine o’clock. To be quite honest, for the first few minutes I thought it was going to be somewhat dull so decided to divide my attention between it and the washing up. A few more minutes into the programme, though, and I dropped my sponge in surprise.

I dare say most biologists, ecologists and naturalists already know much of this gumph but I was riveted at the unbelievable wealth of knowledge Aristotle gained from his two years studying the wildlife of the lagoon on the Greek island of Lesvos.

For instance, the philosopher described, in his Historia Animalium, the biology of the cuttlefish, including the appearance of its eggs. Our presenter (a biologist with a vaguely foreign accent – I forget his name) was as flabberghasted as I imagine all us viewers were by the sight of a transparent marble-sized cuttlefish egg in which we could clearly see the living embryo moving around inside, as the rather less stunned fisherman looked on. We also learnt that the cuttlefish, like Doctor Who, has three hearts and most certainly not like the good Doctor, poos onto its own head!

That Aristotle was every bit the typical ‘man ahead of his time’ was made all too clear throughout much of the programme. The philosopher who later tutored Alexander the Great invented ideas very similar to current scientific truths: his eidos, which was very succinctly explained by Prof. R. A. H. King of the University of Glasgow, was remarkably similar to how DNA and genetics have been proven to actually work, and though not an evolutionist (Aristotle believed that the world had always existed and barely changed) he did predate Darwin in seeing that the creatures in nature are well fitted to their environment. He also noted that although they lived in the water and looked like fish, dolphins breathe air.

The presenter of the programme was quite clearly a big fan of Aristotle’s, frequently insisting the ancient boffin was ‘the father of biology’ but he did not hold back from pointing out just why Aristotle is rarely credited as such by other scientists. Apparently, as staggering as his achievements were, his failures were ‘catastrophic’ because he didn’t test his theories. As a result, those who accepted them without question were extraordinarily correct on many aspects of biology, but spectacularly wrong for centuries on others.

One of the best hours I ever spent. If you missed it, catch it on BBCiplayer.

(I’ve still got the bloody washing up to do….)

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1884 Doctor William Pryce preformed the first cremation of modern times in Britain on his deceased son Jesus Christ Pryce. Pryce, a self proclaimed Archdruid, believed that to bury someone in the ground was a sin and he announced his plan to burn his son on a pyre of coal on a Llantrisant hillside despite cremation being thought to be illegal. Pryce conducted the druidic ceremony in front of a large and openly hostile crowd and the second he lit the pyre the body of Jesus Christ Pryce was snatched from it and William Pryce was arrested. Pryce successfully defended himself in court (while dressed in full druidic robes and a fox-skin cap) by arguing that the laws against improper disposal of a body did not specifically mention cremation and the judge found in his favour, effectively legalising cremation in the UK.
And now, the news:

Are we tracking a big cat or a bunny?
Alligators' bird breath may explain dinosaurs' triumph
Snakes in a box: Animal expert plans 10-day stay with cobras, pythons, rattlers on Vegas strip
Day later, mystery behind death of 58 crows unsolved

Experts are still unsure as to what caused the birds to ‘crow’-k.