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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Thursday, March 25, 2010


Genetic evidence taken from a 40,000-year-old finger bone in Siberia’s Altai Mountains is pointing to an unknown species of man-like creature that lived in the area along with modern man and Neanderthal man. The finger bone came from a layer radiocarbon-dated to between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. Evolutionary geneticists Svante Pääbo, Johannes Krause, and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, ground up a 30-milligram sample and extracted and sequenced all of the 16,569 base pairs of its mtDNA genome.

A team led by archaeologists Michael Shunkov and Anatoli Derevianko of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk found the finger bone in 2008 at Denisova Cave in Russia's Altai Mountains. The DNA suggests a new hominin lineage later than Homo erectus and earlier than Homo heidelbergensis.

The implications here are huge. In what is geologically an eye-blink into the past the biodiversity of the genus Homo was impressive. We had Homo sapiens (modern man), Homo floresiensis (the tiny hominin from the island of Flores in Indonesia) the famous Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man), and the new species dubbed Hominin X.

The Altai Mountains are supposedly inhabited by a hairy wildman. It is tall, agile, muscular and primitive. It has no fire and only basic tool use, wielding clubs or hurling rocks. It feeds on berries, roots, vegetation and a wide assortment of animals from rodents to cattle. Despite its titanic strength, the creature is said to be unaggressive unless provoked. The same creature is reported widely across the former USSR and surrounding countries.

It is know mainly as the almasty, but in other areas it is called almas, albasy, dev or gul. It is smaller and more human in its appearance than the yeti or sasquatch but larger and more muscular than a man. It is generally thought to be of the genus homo rather than a pongid. Records of it go back hundreds of years in Central Asia and it was included it catalogues of local wildlife.

Russian scientists took the almasty so seriously that in the 1950s a special committee of leading Soviet scientists was formed to study them. Their HQ was at the Darwin Museum in Moscow.

The highly respected Ukrainian biologist Grigory Panchenko has had several encounters with the creature, including one in a barn where, whilst he was hidden, he observed the creature from only ten feet away. It was detailed in Dimitry Baynov’s book In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman. Some years later I read about his long-term work in the Caucasus Mountains and the fact that there were many reports from the Kabardino-Balkaria part of the range. Panchenko believed that the population of almasty was increasing in the area.

We invited Grigory over to speak on the cryptozoology of the Caucasus at 2007’s Weird Weekend. Grigory had a vast amount of information, most of which had never been aired in the west. As well as hominids, giant black snakes up to ten metres long had for centuries been reported from the area. His talk proved to be one of the highlights of the conference. Between us we arranged an expedition for June/ July of 2008 - Grigory and his colleagues would be in the field for 2 weeks prior to the CFZ team arriving.

Myself, Dr Chris Clark, Adam Davies, Dave Archer and Keith Townley joined Grigory and two archaeologists, Alexey Ahokhov and Anatoly Sidorenko. We made our camp in a small valley in an area of the Caucasus Mountains known as White Rock. When the road was first cut into this area of the Caucasus in 2000, the workmen sliced through many ancient tombs on the way. Around 1000 tombs are scattered around the area and many, bisected by roads, now spill their contents to the ground. Dozens of human bones and skulls were just sticking out of banks all around us. The remains were of Sarmatian people who originated in north Iran. The nobles were buried in cliff faces and slaves in the lower areas, and the tombs dated from the 3rd to the 7th Centuries. White Rock itself rose, cloud-festooned and sheer above our camp. Behind it was a range of ragged mountains called ‘The Step-mother’s Teeth.’

Anatoly told us of his own encounter with an almasty in the 1980s. He was staking out an abandoned farmhouse near Neutrino. From a hiding place he saw a specimen pass by at only 4 metres away. It was under 2 metres tall but powerfully built. It had grey hair ‘the colour of a poplar tree’s bark.’ Its head was domed with a sagittal crest, and its nose was human-like but smaller. It had no chin, and a thick, short neck. It swung its long arms as it walked.

Grigory had extensive files on the almasty and he shared some of the more unusual stories with us. One story involved a farmer whose savage Caucasus shepherd dogs were going wild. On opening the door of his house he was alarmed to find a young almasty apparently trying to escape the dogs. It punched the man in the shoulder and knocked him down. The creature ran away, pursued by the dogs. The hounds later returned with blood on their fangs.

On another occasion an adult almasty approached a house and was attacked by a big dog, which was bludgeoned to death by a club used by the almasty, which then entered the house and stole a large Balkarian cheese.

The strength of the almasty far exceeds that of any modern human. On one occasion, one was observed fighting a bear - the almasty punched the bear, which tumbled over and then retreated. Grigory thinks it was a young bear, as an adult male would be more than a match even for an almasty. Indeed, almasty hair has been found in bear droppings in the Pamir Mountains. He has also been told of almasty remains from a specimen killed by wolves.
One man saw an almasty close to his house and as he was worried about it stealing food he threw a stone at it. The almasty retreated behind the house and soon after, a huge rock was hurled right over the house, narrowly missing the man. In the morning it took two large men to lift the rock.

Another man struck an almasty that had entered his house and the creature hit him back and knocked him fully 15 feet.

We explored the surrounding forests, caves and mountains, leaving out camera traps. Unfortunately all they captured was moving vegetation.

We moved on to the Elbrus area to investigate the story of a dead almasty preserved under a rockfall on Mount Kashkatash. After an extensive search during which I nearly fell to my death on three occasions, we uncovered nothing and it later became apparent the story was a red herring.

We spoke with a man of 85 in a local village whose father had seen an almasty in the 1890s. The old man recounted what his father had told him. It had been around noon and he had opened a door into a room in part of the house were the ceiling had collapsed. He saw a young almasty sitting in a chair. It seemed to be basking in the rays of the sun that fell through the roof. It was covered with hair. The hair on the face was reddish, and it had long, fine hair on its head. The eyes were red but the old man thought his father had meant red-veined rather than glowing red. The creature threw its head forward and the long hair fell in front of its face. The witness quickly shut the door and retreated.

Later we talked to a man of about 30 named Tahir, who was the vice president of Elbrus National Park and a doctor of Geographical Science. He told us that three years ago, whilst hunting for some lost sheep, he had encountered a big almasty. He had been walking through a sparsely wooded area at twilight when he saw what he thought was a cow lying down. Then the ‘cow’ stood up revealing itself to be a tall man-like figure. Thinking it was a human (the figure was in silhouette), he asked in Balkarian if he had seen any sheep pass by. When no answer was forthcoming he asked the same question in Russian. Still there was no answer. As he drew closer he saw that it possessed a high, dome-shaped skull. Then he realised that it was an almasty. He decided to fetch his uncle to show him the creature. Looking back, he saw the almasty walking off into the hills. By the time he returned with his uncle it had gone.

Our next port of call was the village of Neutrino. About three miles outside of the village was an abandoned farmhouse. It was the building were Anatoly had his almasty sighting back in the 1980s. In 2005 it was the scene of a very close almasty encounter. Three shepherds had been using it as a place in which to have a drink when the door to the verandah opened and a big male almasty walked in. It picked the nearest shepherd up and gently put him to one side before leaping off the verandah.

We examined some caves in the daytime and came across old bones but they seemed to be from modern humans.

The team staked out the farm for several nights. On the first night Anatoly said he had heard a male almasty vocalising to attract a mate. Adam had heard some weird crashing noises but no one had seen anything. The camera traps they had set up around the farm and its out-buildings revealed nothing but branches and grass moved by the wind.

We took a dangerous hike into the mountains the next day, up to the snow line but found no evidence. Chris and I were nearly washed away in rapids. We later met with several local farmers who said there were wolves, bears and almasty in the area.

On the second night Anatoly, Dave, Adam and I did a stakeout at the abandoned farm. The building consisted of three rooms, two of which were locked. Around this in an ‘L’ shape ran a veranda with a door at one end.

The main building was surrounded by other smaller out-buildings.

We set up camera traps in four different locations around the grounds of the farm. Anatoly brewed up red wine and honey on an old stove in the hope the smell would attract the creature. We also laid out bread and honey.

We all took up posts in various places on the veranda as night fell. The hours seemed to go quickly as I sat staring out into the darkness, listening for the slightest sound. Around 10.30 at night something made a bird-like twittering noise. Shortly afterwards one of the camera traps fired. The almasty is said to make a twittering sound - one of the specimens Grigory saw was making such a noise. Anatoly went out to investigate and did not return.

Dave fell asleep on one of the manky beds in the open room. Adam and I sat on the other one listening intently. A lull in activity was supposed to occur around midnight to 3 o’clock in the morning, hence Adam and I had entered the room to warm ourselves around an old stove. The 7-foot door of the room was open an inch or two and starlight from the clear night was pouring in. At around 2.30 in the morning Adam and I heard a deep, guttural vocalisation; the nearest phonetically that I can write this is ‘bub-ub-bub-bub.’

“Did you hear that?” I whispered.

Adam nodded solemnly.

Shortly after, something passed by the door, blocking out the light momentarily. Whatever it was, it stood on two legs and was large enough put the 7-foot door in the shade. It seemed to be walking along the veranda.

“Did you see that?” I asked

“Something is on the veranda,” said Adam.

Adam and I grabbed our digital cameras and rushed out to find only darkness and silence. We did a circuit of the building with our torches but found nothing. Did an almasty pass by us only 12 feet away on the veranda? I don’t know. If it did, it was as fast and silent as a cat. But something on two legs blocked out a slit of starlight 7 feet tall only seconds after the weird vocalisation.

At first light we looked for Anatoly. We were worried that he might have fallen in the dark and hurt himself, or even been attacked by a bear. We found him asleep in one of the out-buildings. We took the camera traps back to the flat and downloaded the images onto Alexey’s laptop. They showed sunrise, sunset and branches moved by wind.

Later we set off to explore a series of shallow caves in the high mountains. We found some hair and a lot of dung. Grigory also unearthed what may have been finger bones. We carefully bagged all the material

We visited Elbrus village again on the track of eyewitnesses. Grigory was hoping to track down the shepherd who had been lifted up by the almasty in the old farm in 2005. We found out that this man was away at a funeral and wake for several days, but we did find and interview some other witnesses.

One old man called Bahua Tilov had seen almastys on several occasions since the 1970s. The first time was whilst he was working in irrigation near Neutrino. He saw a large black almasty with two smaller grey-coloured ones sitting amongst the rocks. As he approached, the trio of beasts retreated. Another time he was with two German tourists when they saw a large male almasty walking into an abandoned house. It turned and scowled at them. The Germans were too afraid to take pictures or follow it into the house.

Rumagha Kulmesov and his wife were a delightful couple who invited us into their house and gave us tea, bread, cheese and delicious homemade yogurt. Rumagha had seen a juvenile almasty in his back yard only 2 years before. One night someone threw a pebble at his window. Thinking it was his son come to visit he called out telling him that the door was open. There was no answer but sometime later someone knocked at the window. On investigation he saw what he at first thought was a sack of wool in the corner of the yard. Then he realised it was a young almasty. He didn’t get a good look at the face but he said it was hair-covered with pale, human-like hands. It made gestures as if it wanted food. Rumagha brought it some bread, which it took. It then made gestures that Rumagha interpreted as meaning that it had a friend who also wanted food. He brought a second piece of bread and left it in the yard. He saw the shadow of the first almasty leaving then he went back inside. In the morning, the second piece of bread was gone.

Rumagha’s wife saw an almasty in 1955 at the age of 14. She and her family had been deported to Kazakhstan. She had been invited to a relative’s house. Upon arriving there, she found a number of children huddled in a corner crying. When she enquired what was the matter one of them told her to peek out of the wooden shutters that covered the glassless window.

In the yard was a weird creature slightly taller than herself. From her vantage point, peeking through a crack, she could not see its legs. The upper part was covered with hair. The hair hung down obscuring the face, chest and upper arms. The description put me in mind of ‘Cousin It’ from The Addams Family. It was slowly moving its arms up and down in a manner of a child imitating a bird, and it made a whistling noise like one too. From time to time it paused to pick up mud and sling it at the wall and shutters. It was still there when she left sometime later. She found it odd that such a ‘crazy topic’ could be of interest to us.

We had heard a recent story concerning a derelict restaurant. A scant few days before, a group of armed police were camping there, but when the night air was rent by inhuman screams they fled. We, armed only with cameras, decided to stay there for the night.

The restaurant had been built on the lines of a Balkarian castle. It had a 45-foot tower, battlements, circular gardens and many out-buildings. All were built from great blocks of stone. It fell into disuse in the 1980s, which was a shame because in its day it must have been spectacular. If someone had the time and money to do it up it could be a glorious attraction even today.

As it is, it is inhabited only by cows and bats. Most of the rooms were covered in cow dung and we had to search for a relatively clean area to sleep. As the sun set we set up cameras and a campfire. We put out bait and waited. It was a spooky venue worthy of Hammer Horror, Dr Who, or Scooby Doo.

We took turns on watch, waiting for something to come lumbering out of the woods behind the buildings or for a wild scream to pierce the darkness. Nothing came. The camera traps picked up only bats.

On the way back to the airport we passed from the Balkarian and into the Karbodinian region. We passed through an area called Bidick, rich in unexplored caves – it is this area that Anatoly and Grigory were thinking about for a future expedition.

So what is the almasty? I believe it exists; both Grigory and Anatoly have seen it. It seems smaller and more man-like than the classic yeti or sasquatch. Grigory thinks it may be a surviving strain of Homo erectus. As far as I know, however, no fossil skulls of this species show the distinctive ‘domed’ shape. The almasty could, of course, be a descendent of Homo erectus. This species begat many others such as Homo heidlebergensis, Homo floresensis, Neanderthals and modern man; why could it not have another descendent; big, powerful and adapted for forest- and mountain-dwelling?

The new ‘Hominin X’ may prove to be the almasty or its ancestor. Kabardino-Balkaria is a unique place. The almasty population is on the increase and it seems they are willing to approach human habitation on occasion. There seems a good chance of habituating one and getting conclusive evidence here more than anywhere else. If I can secure funding I want to return to this area and continue the research in the hope of one day coming face to face with mankind’s ‘older brother’.


Another one from the archives. This was written in 1998 for Devon Life magazine....

The most well known image of the Outlaw Biker is still that of Marlon Brando in "The Wild Ones" (1954) - a rugged individualist or a leather clad thug depending on your viewpoint. Whichever way you decide to picture them one does not usually associate bikers with screaming hysteria but when Oakhampton based rider Stephen Johnston phoned us he sounded almost incoherent with fear!

He had been travelling home from seeing a girlfriend on the night of Febuary 18, 1998. Riding along the along a lonely Dartmoor lane at approximately 1.45 a.m he noticed something on the road ahead.

“At first I thought it was a patch of fog but as I drew closer I saw a light shining out of what seemed to be a billowing cloud”...

Steve assumed that another bike was driving the opposite way down the tiny Devon road and was partially hidden from him by the mist. However, both the ruddy light, and its surrounding vapour apeared to be moving together. A sudden feeling of panic overwhelmed him and he swerved to avoid the oncoming “thing”...

“The light seemed more like an eye” he told us later, “and although I couldn’t see a body behind “it” as if “it” looked at me”. Steve found himself caught up in the miasma and likened the sensation to being draped in a cold damp blanket. “I found myself being weighed down like I was walking through syrup” he continued. “There was a high pitched whining sound like that made by an excited dog but far more shrill and accompanied by a clattering noise. Looking sideways I saw several objects extend rapidly from the opaque cloud and strike the road repeatedly. At first they looked like horses hooves but I soon realized that they were cloven hooves like those of a goat, only far larger....”

The terrified biker also noticed a stomach churning smell that he likened to “an open grave”.He told us that “it” left the immpression of being one large entity rather than a parade of things. Within seconds the “thing” had gone, seeming to disregard the shaking man. Looking back, he saw “it” moving quickly up the road extending tendrils of fog before it as if it was groping for something along the roadside. Driving home in shock, Steve found the cadaver like stench seemed to linger in his nostrils for several hours.

Unsuprisingly Steve Johnson no longer drives along this road after night fall.

It so happened that the night that Steve Johnson reported his experience to us, Richard was still at University in Leeds, Jon was visiting a girlfriend in London, and Graham was the only person on duty. This is HIS account of what happened next!

Steve is a pretty down-to-earth person, more interested in mechanics on his motor bike than in the supernatural or in ritualistic activity. When he phoned me in the early hours, sounding pretty shaken, and referring to ‘something bad having happened on his way home’ I thought he’d crashed his machine or perhaps hit a pedestrian. As he’s a decent sort of bloke, and obviously in some sort of trouble, I was prepared to listen. I settled more comfortably in my seat and calmly asked him what was up.

He laughed harshly and told me agitatedly that he had no idea. “Yeah, very helpful”, I reflected, while wondering how tactfully to ask if he was “on” something - ie under the influence of alchohol, or even something more exotic. I asked Steve where he had been, partly to try to get some tangible information and partly to give him a moment to calm down. It took me a couple of minutes to understand where he’d been, and where he was now - because his replies were rather confused. Gradually, however, he described some of what he had seen.

After I realised that I was basically hearing an account of an apparently-supernatural phenomenon, I felt I should adopt a more investigative role. After all, I wasn’t counselling a traffic accident victim, as I’d first imagined. During our conversation, however, the information was all jumbled up It - perhaps belatedly - occurred to me that, supernatural or not, the event had clearly shocked him, and that, since he was a friend, I should go easy. So we just chatted for a while, during which it emerged that he hadn’t taken any mind-altering substances - other than a couple of pints of beer, and that he’d rung me partly because I was a mate but mainly because, knowing I was ‘into’ that sort of weird stuff, he thought I might have an explanantion. (I didn’t.)

Steve did keep back-tracking to his ‘event’ however, as if he kept suddenly remembering particular impressions. The information, when organised chronologically, essentially matched the more lucid description he gave us two days later.

When we did meet, and he’d given his account of the encounter, I asked him if we could use the story in the future. He agreed, and I asked him if he wanted anonymity. He mused over this for a moment, and then shrugged. “It happened,” he said flatly. “And I’m not chairman of I.C.I., am I, so what the hell...?”


Kelly McGillis from Canada, a stalwart of the forteana email list and friend and supporter of both the CFZ and this blog, has died of cancer.

She was an internet friend of mine for the last 13 years, and kept me going on a number of occasions with sage advice. The Internet will not be the same without her.

Goodbye, my dear.

LINDSAY SELBY: Lake monsters in Charleston Provincial Park?

Charleston Lake is situated in Canada 30miles north of Kingston. It is approximately 9 miles long and about 4 miles wide with a depth of over 450 feet( 150 metres) in some places. There is said to be a strange creature living in the lake nicknamed Charlie by the residents. It has been recorded as being seen for over 100 years.

  • In 1897 Noah Shook claimed he was pursued by a large, hissing creature.
  • In 1947 three fisherman reported that they had seen a dinosaur type creature swimming in Tallow Bay Rock.
  • In 1994, Mr. H while visiting the place his father’s ashes were scattered on the lake , saw what he described as being a large rain slick in the water. "I had never seen any thing in the like that before" he said.
  • In 1997, a couple travelling at night claimed they saw waves that were 3 to 4 feet high, caused by something in the water. There wasn’t any wind and the water was calm and there were no boats in the area.
  • Charlie is not the only strange creature in the area:
  • There have also been reports of a snake like creature, living in Red Horse Lake located in nearby Lyndhurst. The creature is said to be greenish black, a head like a horse with small breathing tubes on its head and it about 60(20 metres) to 80 feet ( 26 metres) long.
  • Fisherman have reported seeing a long black body in the water

In the 1970s, an unnamed woman , said she was leaning over her small row boat in order to grab a bullfrog for her pond when a creature "just popped its head right out of the water and looked at me!" The woman screamed from fright and the creature dived beneath the water leaving foaming bubbles. The woman left immediately.

Both lakes are in The Charleston Provincial Park. The park also provides habitat for the rare black rat snake which is also the largest snake found in the area. The Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta) sometimes called a pilot black snake is a non-venomous species . It prefers wooded areas and is known for having the ability to climb the trunk of large mature trees . It is known to reach lengths of 8 feet( 2.6 metres) but one was found that was 9.1 (3metres) feet long.

Now what if it fell from a tree into a lake? That would explain the hissing creature that chased Mr Shook all those years ago. It may also account for some of the other sightings but not all of them. Just a thought for Friday..


Over on her blog, Kithra takes a look at the latest offering from our very own Nick Redfern, Pelsall's Mr Entertainment:

'After many problems with the US post office the copy of Nick Redfern’s book “Contactees: A History of Alien-Human Interaction,” that he so very kindly sent me, finally arrived; and I’ve just finished reading it. I have no expertise in doing a book review so these are just my thoughts; the things that occurred to me as I was reading. I began by sending Nick my thoughts and he suggested that I do a Blog Post, so here it is. Those familiar with the articles on my website will know that I like to take a rather unconventional angle on things.'

Read on...

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1997 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide when the Hale-Bopp comet was at its brightest, believing that by doing so they would be able to transcend this level of existence while the Earth was being ‘recycled.’ The group’s leader told the cult members that there was a UFO travelling behind the comet that would pick up their souls. Each member was found with $5 and three quarters in their pocket, which was thought to be their fare for the UFO. Quite how the members of the group were convinced that the aliens would be satisfied with a fare that works out cheaper than the Woolsery to Barnstaple return bus-fare in currency from a planet was supposedly about to be destroyed, is unknown.

And now, the news:

Gorillas Could Disappear in 15 Years, UN Agency Wa...
DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'
Fossil finger points to new human species
Meet Digit, the new type of human
Pig power and choosy chimps

What is a pig’s favourite band?