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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Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Mystery of cat sightings deepens

The other day Max sent us the least convincing set of big cat photographs that I have ever seen.

As he so-correctly said when interviewed for the Somerset newspaper, they are most definitely of a domestic moggy.

However, the good boy is getting his and the CFZ's name out and about, and unlike so many other researchers, is continuing the CFZ tradition of not making stupid claims about big cats in Britain.


This photograph has been proliferated across the Internet for the last week or so. It supposedly shows a sasquatch photographed in Canada recently.


However, I do not want to be accused of being a raving sceptic as I was when someone tried to pass off a rubber werewolf toy as a goblin photographed in the Middle East last year, (and I urged caution) but I am about as impressed by it as I was by Oll's attempt to build a hang-glider out of chewing gum.

What do you think?

GLEN VAUDREY: Quaggas in `The Savage Land`

Having spent the last two visits to the pages of The Savage World looking at birds that tripped off this mortal coil, it is time to turn our attention to subspecies of the Plains zebra, the Quagga.

'The Quagga (Equus quagga, or Asinus quagga) is said to have derived its name from its peculiar cry. The ground – colour is black-brown above and white fore belly, hindquarters and legs, the Quagga wears lateral stripes from its head well back upon its body. It is about four and a half feet high and its head well back upon it body. It is about four and a half feet high, and about five and a half feet in length. The head and ears are horse like and white, long flowing tail is white. It lives in herds and is found most frequently in company with the ostrich and the gnu. It is peaceful in its habit, but when hunted is quite fearless in its charging. It has been domesticated, but for the most part is hunted for sport or killed for its flesh. Its habitat is southern Africa, and most African travelers speak of having enjoyed the sport of shooting the quagga.’

Sadly it appears that one too many travellers to Africa enjoyed hunting the Quagga and once again it appears that the author missed the fact that the animal was extinct long before publication. The last wild Quagga was shot in the late 1870s while the last captive animal died on 12 August 1883 in Artis Magistra Zoo in Amsterdam.
Since 1992 The Quagga Project in South Africa has been trying to recreate the breed by selective breeding of zebra. Whether, if successful in their aims, the animal will be a Quagga or just a funny-marked zebra is still open to question.


I’m grateful to Oll for pointing out the anniversary of Stan Laurel’s death the other day. I’m a great admirer of many comedians; from the Carry-ons, to the Pythons, The Goodies, John Cleese, Dave Allen, The Two Ronnies, The League of Gentlemen and many others. But the absolute masters, in my opinion anyway, were Laurel and Hardy.

I’m sure you all know that Stan was born in England--Ulverston, Lancashire to be specific; but Ollie also claimed English ancestry, and believed that he was descended from the famous Hardy, from whom Lord Nelson requested a kiss.

The magic of their films is that, unlike many of their peers who we mostly appreciate in a ‘nostalgic’ way, Laurel and Hardy’s comedy is still fresh and contemporary, and just as relevant today as it was back in the 1930s. As Oll says, many of their films contained Fortean themes and material, and a surprising amount of horror and creepiness.

The Laurel and Hardy Murder Case (1930), in which Stan, believing that he is the beneficiary to a late relative’s will, turns up with Ollie at a ghoulish house, only to discover that someone is methodically killing off all the other contenders for the fortune. The episode is fully as frightening and grim in its darker moments as any of the Universal horror films that were being made at the time.

The Live Ghost (1934), which features the boys on board a ‘haunted’ ship, carries a real sense of mystery and ghostliness, while in Oliver The Eighth (1934), Ollie--unbelievably in a comedy--almost becomes the victim of a female serial killer who, after being jilted by an Oliver on her wedding day, has sworn to take revenge on any Oliver that crosses her path. It might be the first time that a female serial killer had ever been put into a film, and the scenes where the madwoman--played brilliantly by Mae Busch--prepares to cut Ollie’s throat with a huge butcher knife takes the film completely into the realm of horror.

Stan and Ollie’s films were innovative in other ways too. In Dirty Work (1933) they play chimney sweeps and turn up at the house of a mad scientist who has developed a technique for rejuvenating living things. In a mix of science fiction and Darwinism, Ollie falls into a vat of the rejuvenating liquid and reverts to a monkey while still wearing his hat.

In Brats (1930) Stan and Ollie play not only themselves but their small children and in some amazingly realistic scenes utilising split- screens, perspective photography and huge prop furniture, predate more famous films that used the same FX tricks, such as The Devil Doll and Dr Cyclops, by six and ten years respectively.

There are even certain crypto-zoo elements that appear in some of their films. In both The Chimp (1932) and Swiss Miss (1938) the boys encounter apes with almost human intelligence, and on both occasions the monkey suit was worn by Charles Gemora, Hollywood’s premier ape-man who for years had reputedly used a gorilla suit to create the original King Kong before the film’s stop-motion techniques were made public. Gemora died in 1961 and so could not have possibly been involved in the Patterson/Gimlin film but it has been suggested that his methods for building ape-suits, which included using condoms filled with water to simulate the inertia and displacement of muscle-mass, had been passeddown to latter-day make-up FX artists, who might have implemented them in the faking of the 1967 Bigfoot film (always assuming that it is fake, of course; the jury‘s still out, as far as I‘m concerned).

There is a creepily intelligent horse in The Music Box (1932),which, while pulling a cart upon which is loaded a heavy piano, waits for Ollie to get his back underneath it, before deliberately pulling it away, landing the piano directly onto Ollie.

And perhaps weirdest of all, in Flying Elephants (1927), a kind of precursor to One Million Years BC, Stan and Ollie, both caveman, comment on the elephants migrating for the winter, and we see a shot of a flock of (cartoon-animated) elephants with wings heading south.

The capacity for humour and the ability to laugh is surely one of the greatest gifts that nature, God, or whoever’s running the store has bestowed upon us. Those blessed with the genius to create laughter must be counted among our most precious people, and Stan and Ollie were arguably the best of all time.

Long live them both.

LINDSAY SELBY: Mysterious Lewis

The Isle of Lewis is a place of several reports of lake and sea monsters.

The first was in 1856 and there was report in the newspapers.

1856 The Times March 6th (attached)

Norman Morrison, a zoologist, told Cyril Dieckhoff in 1941 about Searrach Uisge, a monster that was said to inhabit Loch Suainbhal. Supposedly resembling a capsized boat, this creature has been reported since 1856 (and was probably the one reported in The Times). Locals say lambs were once offered annually to the creature. Another description described it as forty feet (13 metres) long and eel-like.

A sighting was reported in 1882 by a German ship off the Butt of Lewis. The ship, just off the coast, reported sighting a sea serpent around 120 feet (40 metres) long. It was described as having several bumps protruding from the water, along its back. In 1895 a similar creature was seen off Bernera. This creature was supposedly 120' long (40 metres) as well.

Loch Urabhal is a body of water 2 miles north of Achmore where on 27 July 1961 a lake monster was claimed to have been seen. Ian McArthur and Roderick Maciver, two local teachers, were fishing in the shallow end of the loch. The story goes that Maciver jumped to his feet and shouted there was something in the loch. There was a creature about 135 feet (42 metres) away. It surfaced 3 times. They described it as having a hump with a small head or possibly a fin about 6 feet (2 metres) from the hump. It swam like a dolphin but was much bigger and undulated. It was a bright day and the loch was calm. McArthur grabbed a camera but was too late as it disappeared. The lake is freshwater so it is unlikely to be a sea animal. They said it did not swim like an otter so they knew that it wasn’t a misidentification.

The mysterious Isle of Lewis has many such legends and even the mysterious disappearance of 3 lighthouse keepers. The folklore of the island is well worth reading about if you get the chance.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information on the area and its monsters check out The Mystery Animals of the Western Isles by our very own Glen Vaudrey....

RICHARD BRADBURY: Hello, Were you there?

The First Bugfest 2010 was on Saturday 20th February. If you enjoy spending time with interesting arthropods and were not there, then you missed out.

Last time I drove and spent most of the day in a monster traffic jam stuck behind an accident on a dual carriageway. This time getting there was a doddle. As previously, it was held in Buckler's Mead Sports Centre, which is on the opposite side of Yeovil from Yeovil Junction railway station. (Bus every 15 minutes and change at the town centre bus station.) What surprised us was how accessible BUGFEST was, as it was only an hour and a half by train from Basingstoke and the fare with family railcard was less than the fuel cost of petrol in the car. (Next time we will remember to add the small exra cost of 'Plus-Bus' to our rail tickets and save even more
money because the bus travel is then free!)

Travelling home on the train was good too, talking about the day over the picnic, including choc chip muffins with gooey chocolate filling. Outside was a beautiful sunset with clouds and countryside lit up in pink and orange. Then David curled up and went to sleep.

If you are wondering what this has got to do with stick insects, then when you read about the summer Bugfest, grab your diary and book yourself a properly enjoyable day out. You might be able to use some of the above information; remember the picnic and flask of tea!

What was BUGFEST like? We were delayed setting off so it was underway when we arrived. Stepping through the doorway, the first impression was like walking through a wall of sound of a happy hubbub from lots of voices. It was the sound of a lot of people enjoying themselves. It was brilliant; there were children everywhere! The first smaller hall was full of children doing craft activities and a refreshments area.

Then we went through into the main hall, past the climbing wall. It was thronged with families and stalls. There were stalls all round the walls and a big oval island of stalls in the middle. There were four stalls with Phasmid Study Group members, but unfortunately there were not enough PSG members able to volunteer to man a separate PSG display stall. There was every sort of pet arthropod you could keep in culture and some beautiful phasmids David and I had never seen before. Spread round the hall was an 'Ideal Home For Arthropods' display of everything you could need for your pets.

We had a Traders Table at the far end of the hall between a stall of spiders and stall with a big docile Boa Constrictor that liked to be held. When David held the snake it was neck-to-knee length both sides! We had travelled with a large cardboard box strapped to a sack-trolley. David had brought some animals he had raised that needed new homes. A few were from non-PSG stock for sale and a lot were PSG stock for display and passing on free to PSG members. We also had some useful things for sale. Pride of place was 'Lucky the Ramulus' in her travel case with a companion Ramulus from culture. Side by side, the wild born Lucky the Ramulus looked only three quarters the size of her cultured companion.

For those who have not met Lucky the Ramulus, Ramulus sp.(?artemis?), when she came to the January PSG meeting at the NHM, then here is her known biography. After several weeks of cold and snowfall, in January 2010 she was found by David on his way home from school. She was apparently overcome by cold when she got stuck on trampled snow while crossing a snow covered footpath between two hedgerows in Reading, Berkshire. The snow had turned the hedgerows into snow-tunnels like linear igloos. The condition of the bramble leaves in the smaller hedgerow was poor and dry but the leaves protected in the larger hedgerow were still succulent and may have been the reason for her being found in the open.

Within minutes of setting up a grown-up had come over to look at the animals and after several minutes of conversation had then purchased two boxes of Parapachymopha spinosa. (I would particularly thank adults who give this sort of material encouragement to youngsters.)

David is good at handling stick insects and is easily approachable. So he was soon engaged in conversation with lots of children and their parents meeting and handling various stick insects. Those who wished to join the PSG we pointed towards Mark and Sarah's stall and I understand they arranged that once the families have joined then they contact Mark and Sarah who will supply them with stick insects and advice.

At the end of the day the only stick insects David had left to pack was the travel case containing Lucky the Ramulus, her companion animal and the three nymphs (who had entertained lots of small children trying to count how many animals were hidden in the case.)

David just told me he would not have wanted to miss the show.

Regards to all,
From Richard and David Bradbury

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 2005 Steve Fossett completed the first ever solo flight around the world in the same aeroplane without re-fuelling. Fossett died in 2007 when a plane he was flying crashed, sparking a year-long search, but broke many exploration-related records before his death and achieved several world firsts including the first solo hot air balloon circumnavigation of the world in 2002.

Because I can’t list all the records he set here or do Fossett justice, I recommend you look at his wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Fossett

And now, the news:

Canadian Researcher Snaps Sasquatch in Vancouver
Dwarf dinosaurs on ancient Mesozoic island
Wildwood Education team invites teachers to see what they do
Herpdigest - More articles on Pythons in Florida
We've been battered by raining fish

Fish rains are pretty ‘dace’ in my opinion.


I would like to say a big thank you to Liz R (Kithra) for her kind donation to CFZ fighting funds. It is most appreciated....