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...

Search This Blog



Click on this logo to find out more about helping CFZtv and getting some smashing rewards...


Saturday, February 27, 2010

GLEN VAUDREY: Great auks in the Savage World

I am lucky enough to own a first edition 1889 copy of The Savage World: a complete natural history of the world’s creatures. This is a mighty tome. For those who have never seen a copy, I can give you very good clue to what it resembles, and that is a breeze block; it is that big and heavy. Of course it does have better pictures than a lump of building material.

Aside from its potential use as a hefty doorstop, it does give a glimpse into the natural world of the late Victorians. As you may imagine, some animals known today do not feature in it; the Okapi was still to be found, as was the mountain gorilla. But it isn’t what’s missing that I find interesting; rather it is the animals that were still current at the time the book was written, and what if anything we can learn from them.

The first animal to look at is one of my favourites, the great auk; the following is what The Savage World has to say about that bird.

‘The spectacled auk or great auk (Alca impennis) belongs to northern-most Europe. When it is the water it is almost impossible to pursue it quickly enough to get within shooting range, but like the albatross it can be caught with a hook. It is rapidly becoming extinct and, in spite of the extreme high price which either the bird or its eggs command, the museums of the world contain but 34 birds and but 42 eggs. Collections of the bird’s eggs are quite important to naturalists, but the objects sought by THE LIVING WORLD forbid any discussion of so large a theme. The spectacled auk is black above and white below; around and below the eyes are white markings (which give the auk its popular name) and the small wings or flippers are bordered with white on the upper arm’

Bizarrely, despite the fact that this book is from 1889, it appears that the author was unaware that the last known great auk went to meet its maker in 1844, and by the time of the book’s publication the type had long been extinct. That said, there were a few supposed sightings off Lofoten isles in the 1930s but these are widely suspected to be sightings of king penguins that had been released in the area at around the same time.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


On this day in 1939 the word ‘Dord’ was discovered in the Webster’s new international dictionary. The word apparently meant ‘density’, according to it’s definition, but alarm bells were rung after an editor noticed there was no etymological information on the entry, and investigated. It turned out ‘Dord’ had been in the dictionary for 8 years and wasn’t a word at all; just the result of a note sent by the dictionaries chemistry editor. The 'D or d' is an abbreviation of density that was misinterpreted as 'Dord.'

If you find this sort of thing fascinating (and who doesn’t?) this wikipedia page has a few more examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictitious_entry

And now, the news:

Cat's matted fur 'horrified' shelter staff
Dinosaur fossil found in pensioner's garden rockery
Africa: warthog befriends hornbill for grooming favour
Shark aquarium in Dubai Mall starts leaking

“This shark, swallow your mall”


Oliver and Julia went out on the streets yesterday soliciting local sponsors for the forthcoming Weird Weekend. They had a fair amount of luck as well. Things are certainly looking up, and we will have a considerably longer sponsor list than last year.

The CFZ Dream Team (despite looking frighteningly like fundamentalist canvassers on the knock) will be reconvening in a few weeks. Shopkeepers in Barnstaple, Torrington and Bude watch out.

RICHARD FREEMAN WRITES: Sea Shepherd Captain to go on trial in Japan

Sea Shepherd Captain to go on trial in Japan

Captain Peter Bethune, whose $3 million ship the Ady Gil was rammed, sunk and destroyed by the captain of the whaling vessel Shonan Maru #2, has been arrested and is to stand trial in Japan. After the incident Bethune later bravely sneaked onto the Shonan Maru #2 in an attempt to make a citizen’s arrest of its captain for endangering the lives of the 6 crew of the Ady Gil.

His colleague Captain Paul Watson said..."If the Japanese put Peter Bethune on trial in Japan, it will be a case that will draw the attention of the world. What is the Japanese government thinking? The persecution of Captain Peter Bethune will be a rallying point for an international campaign to free Captain Bethune and to end the brutal illegal slaughter of the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.”


"Patterson's sasquatch spotted in Calgary Alberta, Canada...apparently caught up in the winter Olympics". (Thanks to G. A. Christian Bilou) It is interesting how cryptids are becoming more and more a big part of popular culture.


Today I am taking a gander at my Strange Nature scrapbook to present a few unusual stories from the world of vegetation, trees and moulds.

The Salisbury Journal, July 1839: A thistle near Shrewton. Stalk measuring 7 ¼ inches in circumference and a head 10 inches in diameter (1)

Beijing Review, April 30th 1984 Queer Date Tree (let`s not get homobotanicophobic now, friends!)

From “Gongren Ribao” (Workers` Daily)

Cylinders, eggs, cubes, spindles, balls, gourds, oblateness, kidneys and the like – one date tree, planted in Xiajin County, Shandong Province, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), bears fruit which differs in all these shapes but not in kind. Once in a while it bears different differently shaped dates on one branch. An average harvest is 500-600 kilogrammes of dates a year. The largest crop was 850 kilogrammes. (2)

Now one of my favourites:

The Guardian August 11th 1986 Infant Dr Noi`s `magic` tree bark draws crowds in Thailand. Bangkok: Thai police used roadblocks, health warnings and arrest threats at the weekend to stop a three-year-old faith healer using “magic” tree bark to draw thousands of peasants to his village.

Prasit Cherdchu, the child known across Thailand as “Doctor Noi”, was resting yesterday after turning rain into “holy water” at his final healing session, on Saturday near Korat in north-east Thailand, police said…His parents, interviewed in the Ban Muang daily, said the boy could heal people because a divine doctor had possessed him. Belief in spirits is widespread in Thailand.

Police became suspicious as his family began raking in money daily. Food vendors arrived with the crowds and sharp landowners reaped fees from fields turned into car parks.

A senior ministry official warned the public their illnesses might worsenif they chose superstition over proper treatment.

A doctor at a hospital near Wang Rongoi announced that a villager who had drunk tea made from Doctor Noi`s bark had died anyway of a long-standing kidney ailment
. (3)

The Guardian, October 14th 1992 Epic blob delights world.

It`s slimy, it`s mysterious, it`s Richard Muirhead, oops! It`s slimy, it`s mysterious, it moves towards food and consumes it, fruits and moves on. It`s not exactly an animal and it`s not exactly a plant and normally it weighs a few grams. It sounds like a science fiction monster and it has been puzzling scientists for decades. It`s a slime mould.

Yesterday the Chinese official news agency announced the discovery of a 35 kilogram slime mould. The almost epic blob was spotted in a river in Shaanxi province in August. It put on 10kg in three days

'Specialists at the biology department of Northwest University in Xian have determined that it is related to fungus and is still alive,” the agency said…Professor John Bonner, of Princeton University, confirmed yesterday that there were slime moulds that lived in water. A 35kg mould would be the size of a small donkey or a large dog, trailing spaghetti-like tendrils. “ I can`t imagine a slime mould the size of a big dog,he added.”

Slime moulds surge backwards and forwards like waves at the shoreline. In laboratory tests, they surge towards food.” They are the physiological equivalent of a wolf pack.” Said Professor Bonner.'

1 The Salisbury Journal July 1839
2 Beijing Review April 30th 1984
3 The Guardian August 11th 1986
4 The Guardian October 14th 1992

Talking Heads - Paper

Hold the paper up to the light
(some rays pass right through)
Expose yourself out there for a minute
(some rays pass right through)
Take a little rest when the rays pass through
Take a little time off when the rays pass through
Go ahead and mis it up..Go ahead and tie it up
In a long distance telephone call..

LINDSAY SELBY: A lake creature in Michigan

Lake Leelanau consists of two conjoining lakes north and south, and runs through the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan. The south lake has a maximum depth of 62 feet (19 m) and the north lake has a maximum depth of 121 feet (37 m). It is the reported home of a strange creature described as having a long neck and tail, and two large eyes.

The creature first appeared after the Lake Leelanau Dam was built in the late 1800s. When the dam was finished the lake’s water levels rose 10 to 12 feet ( 3-4 metres), flooding parts of the land and creating a marsh-like environment around the lake. It also shut off the lake’s outlet and some say, sealed the creature in.

In the summer of 1910 teenager William Gauthier was fishing on the lake. He rowed out to a new fishing spot near the town of Lake Leelanau looking for perch and paddled up close to a tree that he estimated to stand about five feet tall above the water, with a six-inch trunk. He cast a line and began tying the boat to the tree. The young William suddenly noticed the tree had eyes. They were staring him dead in the face at about four feet above water level. The two starred at each other for a few moments before the animal dove into the water and went under the boat. Gauthier said later that the creature's head passed one end of the boat while the tail was still at the other end, though it was undulating very quickly through the water. Gauthier admitted to having been frightened by his encounter, and that he stayed off that lake for many years. His great grandchild stated in an interview years later that his great-grandfather came from a prominent family in the area and was very well-educated, so not easily fooled. William had also told his family that he knew of others who would admit privately but not publicly that they too had seen the creature.

Several other encounters with the creature were apparently reported around the turn of the century but were not formally recorded for fear of ridicule.

I could not find any modern-day reports and the theory is that whatever was trapped by the dam was alone and has since died.


My life gets weirder. Yesterday evening we were sitting down, having a civilised glass of wine with our friends Jules and Dougie the Cornish ghost hunters when there was a knock on the back door.

It was Mrs Ashby, our one-time housekeeper, and her daughter. They were clutching a big tupperware box containing two bananas.

One one of the bananas was this. "What is it?" they asked. Well, to my eyes it seems like a cocoon of come sort, containing a chestnut brown chrysalis.

However, what or whom will hatch from said chrysalis, I have no ideas. Over to you folks....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1971 the ‘mentalist’ Derren Brown was born.
And now, the news:

Ancient Human Ancestors Faced Fearsome Horned Crocodile
Brainy Crows Finally Stumped by Intelligence Test

Well, that’s nothing to crow about….