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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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Sunday, January 31, 2010

NEIL ARNOLD: Spring-Heeled Jack – Bear or big cat !?

When Spring-Heeled Jack fever hit the foggy streets of London in 1838, The Times reported that on the 14th April the same year, another Spring-Heeled Jack was on the rampage, but in Sussex. Peculiarly, in this instance ‘he’ was described as a bear. Strangely, in several discussions held at Mansion House in the capital, the spring-heeled marauder, was said to have many guises, and was described as a ‘ghost’, ‘bear’ and a ‘devil’.

The Times wrote: ‘Spring-Heeled Jack has, it seems, found his way to the Sussex coast. On Friday evening, between nine and ten o’clock, he appeared, as we are informed, to a gardener near Rose Hill, “..in the shape of a bear or some other fur-footed animal”, and having first attracted attention by a growl, then mounted the garden wall, and ran along it upon all fours, to the great terror and consternation of the gardener, who began to think it time to escape.
He was accordingly about to leave the garden, when Spring-Heeled Jack leapt from the wall, and chased him for some time; the dog was called, but slunk away, apparently as much terrified as his master. Having amused himself for some time with the trembling gardener, Spring-Heeled Jack scaled the wall and made his exit. The fellow may probably amuse himself in this way one to often.’

FRISWELL'S FREAKY FEATURES: Lucky beggar

Some months ago Alan Friswell, the bloke who made the CFZ Feegee Mermaid and also the guy responsible for some of the most elegantly macabre bloggo postings, wrote me an email. He had an idea for a new series for the bloggo. Quite simply, he has an enormous collection of macabre, fortean, odd and disturbing magazine and newspaper articles, and he proposed to post them up on the bloggo.

X-RAY WRANGLE REMOVES RELIGIOUS RELIC !


To be honest, there's not a whole lot that I can say about this one, except: "Lucky *********."

DALE DRINNON: Meeting Old Nic

Some years ago I came across a photo of a bull shark that had been caught in Lake Nicaragua and used as a plate in the book A Natural History of Sharks. The shark had teeth marks on its tail and the more I looked at the photo, the more I realized that the pattern of the teeth in the bite mark were unusual. They were set wrongly to be either a caiman or a crocodile on the one hand, or another shark on the other. I went back to get a copy of the photo later but later editions cropped off the unsightly bite mark from the photo. A native is holding up th shark in the photo which gives an exact scale.

The bull shark is known to be a man-eater, and in this case some unknown animal was chasing it and nipping at its tail while it ran away. It seems that the creature, whatever it was, did not get a good enough grip on the shark's tail so the shark got away, only to be caught later by the fisherman.

I did find reference for a porosus croc fighting with a bull shark but this is the wrong hemisphere for those crocs and the toothrow is different, being wider and more divergent in the back and with a peculiar notch in the front, and some of the marks seem to indicate a double toothrow.

Now alligator gars have been found occasionally in the Gulf of Mexico and in Lake Nicaragua, according to the Wikipedia entry, and it seems that although they are usually freshwater fishes they can also tolerate brackish or salt waters. The alligator gar is the second-largest fish known to live in North America, and ten-foot-long specimens are on record, while rumor has it that they can reach 18 or 20 feet long. They have vicious mouths with a double row of sharp teeth and at times they can be damn near unkillable (they are ganoid fishes and their scales are much tougher than ordinary fish scales, and it is said that sometimes bullets and axheads aimed at them only glance away making sparks)

And so I propose that Old Nic, the monster of Lake Nicaragua, is a large and surly type of alligator gar instead of being a plesiosaur or anything else. The encounter inspired me to make the mockup of the incident which I include above.

RICHARD FREEMAN: RESEARCH INTO ALIEN ANIMALS

A new publication coordinated by the Global Invasive Species Programe has found that New Zealand is the country most under threat from invasive foreign species with no less than 222. The least effected country was Equatorial Guinea with 9. They looked at 57 countries and found that, on average, there are 50 non-indigenous species per country which have a negative impact on biodiversity. 542 species were documented as invasive. But Professor Melodie McGeoch, lead author on the publication and member of the Centre for Invasion Biology this there are actually far more.

"We showed that regions with low development status and little investment in research have lower than expected numbers of invasive aliens." She said. The rise in international trade has helped species to colonize countries that they could never have reached naturally.

The pathogenic chytrid fungus, which was unknown until 1998, is thought to be the cause of the decline and extinction of many amphibian populations around the globe. The disease, caused by the fungus, can be spread by humans and a host of other species, ranging from exotic fish to African Clawed Frogs.

The yellowhead, a bird endemic to New Zealand, has suffered considerably in recent years due to a surge in the number of rats. Two populations of the Yellowhead are now extinct and three more are significantly falling in number.

But the impact of invasive alien species can be successfully controlled. The black-vented Shearwater, a seabird native to Natividad Island off the Pacific coast of Mexico, was under threat from cats, goats and sheep. But since they've been eradicated, the status of the bird has been reduced from Vulnerable to Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Similarly, the control of the Red Fox in south-western Australia in the last decade allowed the population of the endemic Western Brush Wallaby to recover sufficiently for it to be downlisted on the IUCN Red List to Least Concern.

LINDSAY SELBY: Canvey Island beasts

In November 1954, The Canvey Island Monster was the name given to creature whose carcass washed up Canvey Island, Essex ,UK A second, more intact, carcass was found in 1955. It recalls the Montauk monster in modern times.

(seen here for more info: http://www.montauk-monster.com/)

The 1954 creature was described as being 2.feet 3 inches (68 cms) long with reddish brown skin and bulging eyes and gills. It appeared to have hind legs with five-toed horseshoe-shaped feet but no forelimbs. Its remains were cremated after an inspection by zoologists who said that it posed no danger to the public. Nearly 3 months later Reverend Joseph Overs found another carcass of the creatures about 2 miles from the first creature's discovery This creature was larger and the carcass in better condition. Described as about 4 feet ( 120cms) long and an estimated weight of 25 pounds. It had the same large eyes, nostrils, sharp teeth, and gills with the same legs and feet as the first creature.

In 1999 journalist Nicholas Warren looked into the 1954-55 findings. He was unable to locate any official records at the Plymouth Marine Biology Association Laboratory or the National Rivers Authority about the creature being identified or listed as unknown. . He found that there were accounts from some locals who believed the creature was an anglerfish. Later he received a letter from Alwyne Wheeler, formerly an ichthyologist at the Department of Zoology at the Natural History Museum, informing him that in his opinion the specimens were anglerfish, and that their fleshy pectoral fins are often mistaken by lay observers for short legs with feet. There was a 68lb specimen caught on the shore of Canvey Island in 1967 .However, others have speculated that the creature may have been an Ogcocephalidae or Batfish .This species of fish already possess leg-like fins and also have reddish coloured skin.

If this was a mis-identification then what does that say about the modern day Montauk monster?

UNSOLICITED TESTIMONIAL FROM ROBERT SCHNECK

Hi Jon,

I just finished the book [In the Wake of Bernard Heuvelmans by Michael Woodley] and it's a gem. It was the first crypto book that I've read in a very long time that taught me a lot about biology and zoology.

Thank goodness for the CFZ Press; I can't imagine anyone else would've published it.

Now to look at the catalogue in the back...

Robert

RICHARD FREEMAN: SEA EAGLES IN SUFFOLK? YES PLEASE!

With its 8 foot wingspan the sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is one of Eurasia’s most spectacular birds. It was once resonably common in the UK numbering over 400 individuals in the 1700s. But, as with most big, spectacular animals it proved to be an inconvinience to humans and was hence wiped out in the UK by 1916.

In 1975 they were re-introduced into western Scotland, by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), in association with the RSPB. Despite deliberate persecution they have thrived, rearing 42 chicks in 2007. They have been a boon for the tourist industry in places such as Mull. They have now been re-introduced into Eastern Scotland as well

Plans are afoot to continue the project in Suffolk thanks to Natural England and the RSPB. As with every possible re-introduction just about every animal hating, ill-informed, non-scientist windbag has come out of the woodwork with pathetic bleatings against the wonderful project.

Chief amoung these kneejerk naysayers is Suffolk broadcaster Libby Purves. In an on line article so pompous it could have only been written for The Times Purves lets fly with a stream of vitriol.

“They want to spend more than £600,000 to introduce the birds to Suffolk (Norfolk saw off the scheme a year ago). They claim “vast” popular support — though you could doubt the validity of a sample of 500 people asked some saccharine question about whether they fancy seeing one. Enthusiasts insist that it is a “reintroduction”, on the ground that sea eagles once lived here.

Mark Avery, of the RSPB, says with that familiar tone of scorn for his own species: “Man is the reason they are missing, and it is for us to put that right.” Nobody has actually proved that Suffolk is their ancestral homeland — there are some uncertain 18th-century bones — and Andy Evans, of the RSPB, indeed, was last quoted saying feebly that “sea eagles must have been here in Roman times”.


Well the fact is Ms Purves, that man is the reason why many species are missing from the UK. The brown bear, the wolf, the wolverine, the lynx and Europen bison and the moose to name but a few. Five extirpated creatures the eagle owl, the capercaillie, the large blue, the beaver and the wild boar are back and I think we should al welcome the sea eagle as the next on the list to return. We destroyed these creatures in Britain and it falls to us to bring them back. Personally I would wecome all of the above in wild places like the Highlands of Scotland. Of cours bears and wolves could not be brought back to Suffolk but the sea eagle could.

JAN'S LATEST CONUNDRUM REVEALED

We posted these the other day, and Paddy was correct in his assumption, but so was Dale D who wrote to me yesterday:

Unfortunately there is no way in the world I can get a photo to you at this time.

Our garbage can is on the landing at the end of the steps out the back door, and the squirrels (plus the raccoon) have basically turned the lid into a hoop by tearing out the top with their raids on it. This morning I saw that a squirrel had made four leaps from the garbage can to the neighbor's fence, leaving tracks in the snow. The house next door is situated such that the shadow of the house falls halfway along the space between the garbage can and the fence.

I just went and looked and the two near jumps in the sunlight have partially melted into the shape of
Devil's hoofprints while the two jumps in the shadow are plainly squirrel tracks, in shape much like the hare tracks posted on the CFZ blog recently, but smaller.

So there is a clear demonstration of how the squirrel tracks can assume that outline, along with definitive proof of the identity of the track-maker.


Well done guys.

LINDSAY SELBY: Thoughts on the Madidi Monster

In 1883, William A. E. Axon, made some amazing claims:

“Sir,—The ‘Anglo-Brazilian Times,’ March 24th, 1883, says that the Brazilian Minister at La Paz, Bolivia, has remitted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Rio photographs of drawings of an extraordinary Saurian killed on the Beni after receiving thirty-six balls. By order of the President of Bolivia the dried body, which had been preserved at Asuncion, was sent to La Paz. It is 12 metres long(39 feet) from snout to point of the tail, which latter is flattened. Besides the anterior head, it has, 4 metres(13 feet) behind, two small but completely formed heads rising from the back. All three have much resemblance to the head of a dog. The legs are short, and end in formidable claws. The legs, belly, and lower part of the throat appear defended by a kind of scale armour, and all the back is protected by a still thicker and double cuirass, starting from behind the ears of the anterior head, and continuing to the tail. The neck is long, and the belly large and almost dragging on the ground. Professor Gilveti, who examined the beast, thinks it is not a monster, but a member of a rare or almost lost species, as the Indians in some parts of Bolivia use small earthen vases of identical shape, and probably copied from Nature.”

( "A Bolivian Saurian," Scientific American, 49:3, 1883.)

The corpse of the so called Madidi Monster was allegedly moved to La Paz at the President’s request and subsequently disappeared.

Now this was regarded as a hoax especially in view of the “photographs of drawings” (made me think of the Goon Show “here is a photograph of a cheque” lol) . If they had photographs why weren’t they of the original corpse not of the drawings? Then I came across this fossil find:

Scientists have found what is thought to be the first example of a two-headed reptile in the fossil record. The abnormal animal, belonging to a group of aquatic reptiles, was unearthed in north-eastern China and dates to the time of the dinosaurs. The specimen reveals that it must have been very young when it died and became fossilised, says lead researcher Eric Buffetaut. "Living animals like this are known. But if you compare the number of reptiles born with two heads with the total number of reptiles born, it is very small. "So the chances of finding a fossil like this are extremely low." The abnormality is known to occur with some frequency in modern reptiles; about 400 cases of two-headed snakes have been recorded in historic times.

Full article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6195345.stm

IT could be that the monster was a deformed crocodile or reptile of some sort that had survived for a few years until adulthood. It certainly makes more sense than a hydra dinosaur. As it is a rare event for an animal to be born like this , it is unlikely that local people had seen anything like it before .

The story of the Madidi Monster is here:

http://americanmonsters.com/site/2010/01/madidi-monster-south-america/


UNKNOWN PHENOMENA INVEASTIGATION ASSOCIATION (UPIA): Buckshaw Beast Investigation report

Chorley Guardian were contacted by Kirst D’Raven regarding the mutilation of a deer in the Chorley area and subsequent reports of alleged Crypto activity in area, including the alleged sightings and photograph of a ‘beast’, said to be attacking animals.

First contact to Karl Holbrook, reporter, who explained he didn’t really have any more information on the attacks, but would email previously unpublished photograph of the mutilated deer for an opinion on what may have caused the injuries.

The picture was quickly emailed to me. Unfortunately, due to poor quality of the picture it is impossible to determine a cause for the injuries to the animal, but it is noted that there is a distinct lack of blood at the scene, suggesting that the animal may have been moved, or that the mutilation could very possibly have occurred post mortem. The picture was taken from a dorsal aspect depicting what appears to be a young Roe deer – this assumption made on the basis that the animal’s legs and ears appear to be too large for it. There is no exif information with the picture, which prevents confirmation of the photographer’s identity unless the original file can be obtained.

The animal appears to have been partially dismembered and then reassembled for the photograph. The hide appears to be missing from below the cervical area, through the thoracic and lumber regions terminating slightly before the animal’s quarters. The Ribcage and spinal cord, which has been severed, has been positioned folded back along the carcass. Internal organs are not visible, suggesting that some of the larger organs including the stomach and intestines may be missing, although the lungs appear to be in situ. A lack of exposed body fat and muscular tissue suggests that the animal has been stripped, and staining on the throat of the animal may indicate that the animal has been bled.

At this point, it is impossible to determine what animal, if any, caused the injuries, and human causes cannot be ruled out.

Picture of ‘Beast’ (article-1244693-07EF8864000005DC-402_634x423)
Again, due to very poor picture quality it is impossible to draw any significant conclusion as to what species appears in the picture. The accompanying article describes eye witness reports of something that resembles a boar, a wolf and a spotted hyena that moves like a cat. The picture shows an animal figure against a rural background. Again, no exif file prevents confirmation of dates, camera, modification etc. The back legs of the animal are definitely canine, which rules out cat or boar, but lack of detail prevents further speculation.

Further telephone conversation made to Karl regarding findings so far and to arrange meeting for Monday 24th January, at the Bobbin Mill public house in Buckshaw at 12pm.

Further Findings:

Research by Steve Mera uncovered the following information relevant to this case:

  • Article on Unexplained.net, speculating on the species of animal, and including an interview with Chris Bailey (an expert from Chipping Wild Boar Park). Although Mr. Bailey dismisses the wild boar theory, the presence of the park in the local area may explain why the animal’s description is cropping up in reports. This site also includes an artists rendering of the ‘Beast’.

  • Manchester Evening News, (19/9/08) Article featuring the sighting and photos of a rare black fox in locality.

  • Lancashire Telegraph (12/11/08) Article describing the discovery of several domestic animals, found tortured and burnt and dumped in Buckshaw village.

  • The Citizen (20/01/10) article regarding dog attacks on sheep in local area.

  • Hull and East Riding.Co.Uk (22/09/08) article regarding illegal deer hunting in locality, including report on the discovery of a deer left hung in tree for bleeding.

Several other links to forums, national, local and international news sites featuring the ‘Beast of Buckshaw’ story, a list of links appears below:

http://www.unexplainable.net/artman/publish/article_15097.shtml


http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fchorley%2Fbuckshaw%2F3839603.Remains_of_tortured_animals_dumped_in_Buckshaw_Village%2F&h=805b16f1886a2afb21139647df0c0a63

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1067501_rare_fox_found_in_chorley

http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread536819/pg1

http://www.chorleycitizen.co.uk/news/4861078.Sheep_killed_in_vicious_dog_attacks_at_Rivington/

http://forteanzoology.blogspot.com/2010/01/beast-of-buckshaw-hmmmmmmm.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1244693/Pictured-The-mystery-Buckshaw-Beast-savaging-animals-terrorising-villagers.html

http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/environment/Deer-shot-head-illegal-hunters/article-343072-detail/article.html


Research:

After further research into its origins, the ‘Beast’ photograph (article-1244693-07EF8864000005DC-402_634x423) was claimed to have been taken by John Russell in the last few days. However, a Google search revealed that the ‘Beast of Buckshaw’ in this photographic incarnation actually started out its existence as the ‘Beast of Dartmoor’ in the Fortean Times magazine in July 2007. This picture, along with a few others were submitted to the magazine and was seen by Martin Whitley, a professional falconer from Devon On 9 June, he contacted the national research network Big Cats In Britain regarding the sighting. I have contacted Mark Fraser to locate the original file. However, the press was contacted by the owner of a Newfoundland dog called as she was sure that the 'Beast of Dartmoor' pictures actually show Troy going for a stroll. The family live very close to the spot where the photos were taken and the dog often walked around there of its own accord.

Further research into origins of the deer photo revealed its earliest source on a facebook group, where it was posted on the 16/01/10 by John Russell with the message :

‘I only took this photo a few days ago when we had the snow. I’m afraid the beast is still at large.

I spoke to PC Clemence before Christmas, and the jumped up little ***** claimed the police had shot and killed the beast in early December, well I'm afraid to say. The beast is out there. If anyone knows anyone at the guardian, I think it’s time to get the press involved before this thing gets the taste for human blood’

The Facebook Group:

The Buckshaw Village Facebook group has been a source of very interesting information. The first mention of the Beast is dated 24/10/09, with a report of it been seen rifling through litter bins. This is quickly followed by more speculation, with the Dartmoor Beast photo posted on 24/10/09, again by John Russell who declared

‘this is crazy, i took a photo of something a few days ago, I cant work out what it is, i saw it in a field by dawson lane.’

When the above was challenged by another group member Steven Tyson, (who posted a link to the Fortean Times article, he counters..

‘Stephen Tyson, obviously works for the government and is trying to make out my photo to be fake, anyone can knock up a html document and post it. We all know why there is a government cover up going on. The military chemicals buried under buckshaw village are obviously what's causing genetically warped beasts to roam our village. I challenge Stephen Tyson to spend one night in the countryside around buckshaw and then tell us there is no beast.’

Links:

http://www.forteantimes.com/strangedays/cryptozoology/546/dartmoor_mystery_beast.html

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&gid=2862482364#/group.php?v=wall&gid=2862482364

Pre Conclusion:

At this point, the main priority seems to be to defuse the mass hysteria which is being propagated by certain individuals on forums etc.

Later posts on the facebook group reports groups of people drinking in the local pub, then going ‘Monster hunting’ while under the influence of alcohol, and bearing firearms. Therefore I intend to inform the local police of my findings in the hope that this aspect may be monitored and brought under control immediately.

The recent reports of sheep attacks may possibly be related, so contact with the farmer to obtain details of the animals’ injuries may also be of benefit. A scan of the area’s waterways and the locations of sightings and incidents will be carried out during our visit, as will possible liaison with locals.

At this point, due to the lack of reliable witnesses there is little more we can do to proceed with this case other than to monitor the situation.

MAX BLAKE: Taxonomy Fail is back

Oh, happy day. Young Maximilian has found some more examples of the lamentable lack of knowledge that the great unwashed have of the natural world. Now we can sneer at them some more....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

On this day in 1961 NASA sent a chimpanzee named Ham into space to see the effects of spaceflight on the ability to perform basic tasks. Ham had been trained to pull a leaver whenever a blue light came on and after splashdown it was found out that space travel and weightlessness had only had a negligible effect on his reaction times. The chimp survived the flight and lived until 1983.

And now, the news:

World's ugliest dog
Will 'Bownessie' be found in Windermere?
Seals killed and beheaded in Northeast England

Sounds like the work of a ‘seal’-rial killer to me.