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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Friday, June 18, 2010


Coming Soon: At a bookshop near you...

OLL LEWIS: Morgwr, The Ride.

England’s most famous sea monster has recently joined an exclusive group of cryptids, by having a rollercoaster named in its honour. The ride is at Cornwall’s Crealy Great Adventure Park (do you see what they did there?) near Padstow.

It’s rather refreshing to see rides getting named after local cryptids rather than something generic like ‘the dragon’.

I hope to get a chance to ride Morgwr later in the summer, in my official capacity as the head of the CFZ aquatic monsters study group, and I’ll be sure to present the full report of my expedition on this very blog.



Whilst David and I were gallivanting across the countryside, his younger brother Ross was letting his Harris Hawk, Mars, fly free for the first time..


We are back home after two jolly enjoyable days on the road. Dave B-P and I went off for a couple of days of Uncle/Nephew interaction in Staffordshire.

The actual reason for our trip was a two day science conference for primary school kids being held by Staffordshire Education Authority. I was to be the keynote speaker.

For some reason this made Emily T (who visited the CFZ in my absence yesterday) laugh massively, as if there was some reason that I shouldn't be a role model for young minds. Hmph.

I was very pleasantly surprised by my reception from the kids. There were about sixty of them, and they were all neat, tidy and very well behaved. They asked intelligent questions and seemed to get quite a lot from what I had to say.

If this is a representativce slice of the new generation, then most of the doom and gloom spouted by people of my generation is nothing but scaremongering rubbish.

Well done to everyone involved

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1937 J.M. Barrie died. The author is best known for Peter Pan, a stage play and subsequent novel about a boy who never ages and lives in a world surrounded by ultra-terrestrials (fairies) and cryptids (mermaids) as well as pirates (who may or may not have singed the King of Spain’s beard).
And now, the news:

Urban bats: Berlin's other nightlife
Farmers amazed by sheep 'slippers'
Dog blown away by huge storm
Monkey Phobia Woman Savaged By Macaques
The owl and the pussycat

Ow(l) that’s cute… lets hope the lion doesn’t decide it’s food though.

Heuvelmans Vindicated

With a headline like that, one could be forgiven for thinking that there had been a great cryptozoological breakthrough of some sort. However, not on this occasion. Amongst other things Heuvelmans was the scientific advisor to Georges "Herge" Remi, author of the Tintin books, and when Tintin landed on the moon seventeen years before Apollo 11. Herge took Heuvelkmans' advice and made a big plot feature about the moon having water.

In the intervening years it has been thought that this was a bad guess, but recently Heuvelmans has been vindicated..

The Moon might be much wetter than previously thought, say scientists. A US-led team analysed the mineral apatite in lunar rocks picked up by the Apollo space missions and in a lunar meteorite found in North Africa. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/science_and_environment/10313173.stm

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

On this day in 1858 Darwin received a paper from Wallace that came to the same conclusions Darwin would later publish as his theory of natural selection. There is still some controversy over how much of the theory that Darwin is always credited for was actually thought up by Darwin himself, although it could be argued that all science is a collaborative effort no matter who the media and chattering classes of the time decide to credit discoveries to.

And now, the news:

Seal rescued by RSPCA after swimming into Wylfa power station

Abergele dead swan mystery baffles RSPCA

Another big cat is spotted in the area

Big cat visits Weston backyard

New fears over Sussex big cat killings

9-year-old girl who wrestles alligators

Turtle films itself with lost camera

RSPCA announces decision to suspend use of bolt guns

US Man Bitten To Death By His Pet Dogs

World Cup parrot turns air blue

Hopefully it’ll not make the complaints department ‘as sick as a parrot’.


With so many species vanishing and others yet undiscovered I just watched a marvelous French movie about an elderly butterfly collector and a neglected eight-year-old girl who stows away in his car when he goes into the mountains to seek a rare and possibly extinct species of butterfly.

The movie is out on DVD but the SBS (Oz) version I saw had far better subtitling. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Butterfly_(2002_film

The Butterfly (2002) Le Papillon {France} [Galmuchet].torrent

The movie has its precious moments. Collector Julien and little Elsa watch a deer and her fawn with wonder only
to see the mother gunned down by poachers. Soon after Elsa catches a butterfly for Julien. He puts it in a
jar to die on cyanide and Elsa snarls at him: "Poacher!" Startled at first, the old man has to agree. At one stage the little girl asks: "How did Captain Hook die?" and her answer: "He scratched his balls!" My 6 y.o. grand-daughter thought that was hilarious.

At one level the story shows us details of what butterfly collection is all about- and the pressures that are
causing widespread species extinction. At another it is about human relations - a young mother who has failed to relate to her daughter, an old man who deeply misses his dead son, an unhappy girl who is striving to grow up as fast as she can.

At yet another level the story takes a swipe at those in our society who see sleaze behind every child-adult
relationship. The old man does not have the heart to leave the child in the care of the gendarmerie, and when they are in the wilderness the girl changes the PIN on his mobile and then "loses" the sim chip.

The wilderness scenery is beautiful - alpine meadows with a grey haze of modern pollution in the background.
At the end we watch a butterfly emerging. There are softly erotic glimpses of what the child is growing into and at the end we see all too well that this is also about the transformation of a "feral" urban child into womanhood. Especially touching is the song that old Julien and young Elsa sing together at the end:


Here is my own translation of that song and the included conversation:

E Why do chickens lay eggs?
Because eggs become chickens

E Who do people embrace?
To make the pigeons go "Coo! coo!"

E Who do the flowers fade?
It is the way things are

E Why is there a Devil and a God?
To keep the gossips talking.

E Why does wood burn?
It keeps us warm

E Why does the tide go out?
So we can enjoy the beach

E Why is the weeping willow gone?
To make room for another tree

E Why does the sun go away?
So we can enjoy the sunset

E Why is there a Devil and a God?
To keep the gossips talking.

E Why does the wolf eat the lamb?
Because he has to eat

E What about the hare and the tortoise?
The fastest does not always win

E Why do angels have wings?
It helps us believe in Santa

E Why is there a Devil and a God?
To keep the gossips talking.

Did you like our little journey?

E Yes, very much!

We've seen nice things, ay.

E I would like to have seen grasshoppers...

Grasshoppers!? Why grasshoppers?!

E And! Dragonflies too!

Ok, next time!

E Good! - can I ask you something?

What now?

E Another verse but this time YOU sing.

No way!

E Please!

No! No! No!

E Come on, it's the last verse!

It's a bit much!

E (Chuckle)

Why do our hearts go pitter-patter?
E Because the rain drip drops

Why does time pass so fast?
E Because the wind blows it away!

Why do you hold my hand?
E Because I am happy with you

Why is there a Devil and a God?
E To keep the gossips talking.

GLEN VAUDREY: Introducing the Tsy-Aomby-Aomby

There is, I am told, a way that some people find a location for a holiday by randomly sticking a pin in a map and heading off in that direction. Personally I find it hard to see how that is really random choice. However I have adopted a similar process for cryptids to read about, the main difference is that mine involves a world map, the back of a door and a pack of darts. Much to my surprise the first location to be hit was the isle of Madagascar.

Madagascar is a large island off the east coast of southern Africa famed for lemurs and deforestation. It is also rumored to be the home of some interesting cryptids, the Tsy-Aomby-Aomby being one of them

The Tsy-Aomby-Aomby is a mystery animal that is described as amphibious and has been likened to a water buffalo with the hump or to a hippopotamus. Covered in dark skin the Tsy-Aomby-Aomby is similar in size to a cow but without the horns or hooves. More often it has been heard rather than seen, its terrifying cry ringing out across the night. For those privileged to have encountered one the Tsy-Aomby-Aomby is said to stun people by spraying its urine on them. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s some kind of paralyzing liquid, after all if some strange animal was to do that to most of us I guess we would be both stunned and speechless (and a bit wet).

As sightings go there don’t seem to have been that many recently. In 1876 Jose-Peter Audebert claimed to have seen the hide of a Tsy-Aomby-Aomby; he would describe it as belonging to an antelope-like animal. While in 1976 a man named Constant, along with his wife and son, was awakened by the supposed grunting of a Tsy-Aomby-Aomby.

What could the animal be then? Well one candidate would be a surviving Malagasy pygmy hippo, with the suggested extinction of the type being within the last thousand years it would be a bit of a long shot, but you never know. Perhaps it is one charming trait of the hippopotamus that draws comparison and that is the hippo’s tendency to spray urine at opponents. But does that really explain the Tsy-Aomby-Aomby?

OLL LEWIS: Afancs for the Memories

Anyone who regularly follows my writings on cryptozoology will be aware that there are some subjects quite close to my heart, indeed some subjects that I can be positively obsessive about.

The aquatic monsters of Wales is one of those subjects: were I ever a contestant on Mastermind it would definitely be one of my specialist subjects.

Although I have never actually sat down to do the maths I can quite confidently say that there are more aquatic monsters per square kilometre in Wales than in almost any other country. There are hundreds of tales of odd creatures lurking in lakes, rivers and around the coast found in modern eyewitness sightings and in folklore (some of which may well have a grain of truth behind it). Why this is so when the neighbouring country of England has comparatively few tales of strange underwater beasts can only be guessed at. Those of a romantic bent may wax lyrical about Wales’ mystical past or this being a relic of ancient Pagan water cults or cynics may suggest there are just more rivers in Wales and that with the capacity of Iolo Morganwg, the Prichards, their friends and countless others to manufacture phoney folklore for an eager Victorian audience it can be hard to separate genuine folktales with a decent pedigree from what are just interesting tall tales.

One Lake monster that is mentioned in both folklore and modern accounts is the Afanc (pronounced ‘ee-fank’) of Llangorse Lake or Syfaddon mere as the lake was once known. The Afanc was well known enough by the 15th century for the bard Lewys Glyn Cothi to feature it in a poem, an English translation of which follows:

The afanc am I, who, sought for, bides
In hiding on the edge of the lake;
Out of the waters of Syfaddon Mere
Was be not drawn, once he got there.
So with me: nor wain nor oxen wont to toil
Me to-day will draw from here forth.

The Afanc - or rather an Afanc, as it would have to be very old if it were the same one - is still occasionally encountered on the lake in modern times and is often described as a gigantic pike. When I went on an investigation to the lake I obtained a photograph of a huge pike skull along with several accounts from people claiming to have seen the animal. Should you wish to know about my findings there in greater detail then you can watch the short youtube documentary Jon and I made upon my return: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lvm5lh6_qc8&feature=player_embedded.

One thing mentioned in the investigation that I couldn’t go into much detail about at the time was the mysterious ‘textile’ found on the crannog of Llagorse Lake in 1993. During my recent trip to Cardiff I was able to investigate a piece of the textile and question members of its conservation team at the National Museum of Wales. The textile dates from before 916 AD when the crannog’s palace was burned down by Saxons. The textile is one of the most important pieces housed in a British museum as it is thought to be the earliest surviving examples of soumak weave in the world and of a style and complexity that would reach the Near East centuries later. The charred fabric was found with hinges from a portable reliquary dating to about the 8th century so it is possible that the ornate cloth was so important it was wrapped around the relics themselves. Other suggestions are that it was the cloak of one of the Kings of Brycheiniog or a member of his family and was used to wrap the reliquary while it was hidden from the Saxons, only to be lost in the subsequent fire.

There is no doubt that the textile is a most interesting item with an interesting history but as a cryptozoologist there is something I find even more interesting about it. When researchers scanned the textile in order to be able to glimpse its pattern through the charring they found the patterns were composed from animals found in and around Llangorse Lake from dogs to water birds like heron. However, some of the animals on the textile are unlike any seen in artwork elsewhere and do not conform with any known animal. One theory is that these were depictions of the Afanc. If, and that is a big if because of the lack of further supporting evidence, it is then that would make the Afanc of Llangorse lake one of the oldest cryptids in Europe for which there is supporting evidence.