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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In between each episode of OTT, we now present OTTXtra. Here are the last three episodes:


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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Water-Beasts of the Midlands - A New Theory

As someone who grew up in the West Midlands and Staffordshire areas of England, I take keen note of sightings of strange creatures seen in the vicinity. And, one particular interest of mine is the issue of water-based beasts reported in these parts.

Back in the late 1980s, when I was working as both a fork-lift driver and van-driver, I heard a number of noteworthy stories pertaining to sightings of monstrously large, and decidedly violent, eels that allegedly roamed the winding canals of both the city of Birmingham and certain areas of the nearby county of Staffordshire.

Read on...

NEIL ARNOLD: The Case Of The Sinister Skull

Although the practice of ‘witchcraft’ has often been inaccurately portrayed in the media, some cases of alleged ‘black magic’ have hinted at dark dabbling. In many cases where diabolical summoning has reputedly taken place, animal skulls have been discovered, as if such forms have been used for sacrifice or eerie decoration.

During the 1970s in my home town of Chatham (long before chavs were born!) in Kent, a stir was caused by a peculiarly morbid discovery in an old chimney at a house in Luton Road. The story made the local Evening Post who reported ‘Sinister skull is a mystery’ stating, ‘The sinister looking blackened skull, with two brass cups, came to light as Mr Cornacchia was fitting a new fire place at his home…it must have been in the chimney for at least twenty years.’

The biggest mystery however was not the fact that such an oddment had been found, but as to what animal it had belonged to. The skull (see image) was of some size. The newspaper stated, ‘There is difference of opinion about the mystery skull. Mr Cornacchia’s thirteen-year old son, Enzo, took it to school where a teacher identified it as belonging to a wild boar. But another expert at his sister’s school thought it was a tiger. And at Rochester Museum they say firmly: “It is a bear, you can tell by the teeth”.

So, dear readers, as this case is over thirty years old, and the photo rather hazy, I hope you can solve the mystery as to what exactly had a skull this size. The teeth do not appear to suggest a wild boar.

The newspaper concluded, ‘Animal skulls are popular accessories among witchcraft devotees. Rams are most widely used, but there would appear to be nothing in the rules against bear skulls. Mr Cornacchia has no immediate plans for the skull. At the moment he is keeping it in the garden.

“It is not very pretty” he said.’


ROBERT SCHNECK WRITES: I'm glad Biggles is feeling better. I once got my Cairn terrier's stomach pumped after she ate mothballs that someone left outside to drive away skunks (at least I assume that's why they were out there).

After the doctor gave her back to us, he presented us with a Bart Simpson puppet that she had swallowed at some earlier time.



We always do our best to be honest with you here at the CFZ, and when a long standing experiment that has taken five months to do goes spectacularly belly up, we share our disappointment with you...


MATT OSBORNE WRITES: Dear Jon, please can you let the select few know that Emma and I have a room we will let for WW10 for £20 a night ( to include a raid on a cereal and toast each morning!) Telephone 01237 870550


Donning the guise of the hardbitten newshound so familiar from a dozen 1950s movies (we are even looking into getting her a trilby hat with a card saying "Press") she will boldly go where no other girl reporters dare tread....

The first time I walked into the Natural History Museum (this was with my class on a residential trip to London) I was expecting it to be like those `Night at the Museum` films. I then corrected myself when I remembered they were set in America.

The great big dinosaur skeleton loomed above my head as I walked in. I wonder if you knew that he’s called Dippy? Or that the very end of his tail is the width of a grown man’s little finger?

Probably. Probably not. Here there’s a picture of a pliosaur skeleton just for an example of how enormous the prehistoric reptiles were. Compare it with the boy on the left called Henry who (unfortunately) is my brother. Once you think about it, it’s enormous!

Or how about the colossal bugs there were due to the uneven oxygen levels! This is a model, not a fossil.

Of course, that’s not the main subject of my report. Cryptozoological items are! When we were looking in the room with all the crystals and precious metals in, Mum saw this block of amber with an animal trapped inside it. Aside from the amber itself, the animal is at the very least a million years old. Most likely it ended up getting stuck in an open wound in the tree which over time enveloped it.

I will give you this though: I wasn’t too comfortable with the Human Biology bit so I made a quick escape by looking at my feet and keeping my hands either side of my eyes. Peripheral vision, curse you. However, there was something else there that sincerely cheesed me off. BAD GRAMMAR!!! (trust me to point that one out.) On one of the notices it read fishes. FISH, not fishes! Also the people who make the information notices seem to think hippopotamuses is a word. HIPPOPOTAMI.
I have also recently discovered that echidnas look a bit silly (in my opinion).

But the duck-billed platypus is a really clever part of evolution. I mean, who thought up a semi aquatic mammal that lays eggs? I have a picture of each of them here which you may or may not laugh out loud at. I don’t mind which because I can’t hear you.

In the Creepy Crawlies section I saw (and loved) some iridescent bugs.

What makes them shine so much is the ultra-violet light from the sun reflecting off of the wings or shell of the bug, consequently activating chemicals that make the bug shine.

Moreover, I met the most complete primate fossil ever! She’s called Ida but unfortunately I can’t seem to recall the age.

In one of the adjoining corridors at the Natural History Museum there is a giant ground sloth skeleton. They lived in the scrub and grasslands of South America until 10,000 years ago- the extinction was supposedly down to the arrival of humans. Compare it to me- it’s really big! I wouldn’t have liked to be stepped on by that.

Sabre-toothed cats are also a favourite of mine. Their habitat was North America until their extinction 15,000 years ago. They had the same dimensions as a modern-day lion. They ambushed their prey and ate it by digging their long fangs into the flesh; but they also scavenged on the dead and dying animals.

And now, just because it has the name of my favourite Marvel character, the Wolverine (yay!).

Its Latin name is Gulo gulo and in winter it feeds off of reindeer. Rudolph is spared.

Come summertime it will hunt a wider variety of food like birds and smaller mammals; if it comes across the remains of animals killed earlier then it will feed off of that. The young are born in a den in early spring with a litter of up to four babies.

This is the Wolverine and although it may not look menacing, it is ferocious. To its prey, anyway.

SEA COWS!! They have baffled humans for centuries (until modern times); giving sailors the delusions that there were pulchritudinous sirens among the waves, wailing their songs of seduction.

Of course, the likely explanation is that they saw a sea cow’s tail and mistook it for a mermaid’s. About the singing... well, either the sailor was drunk or they heard the wind, because grunts, clicks and whistles don’t really sound like Santa Lucia to me.

Here is a picture of what the sailors used to call the ‘siren of the seas’. The black block is covering something that I’m not too comfortable with (although it’s only a picture, I’m still unhappy about it).

And last but not least, the Narwhal. These are the only whales to have tusks. The male narwhals fight with them to take possesion of a female during the mating season and the thick layers of blubber help to keep the narwhal warm in the cold seas. Their natural predators are the killer whales and polar bears. This is a picture of a narwhal skull; this narwhal has two tusks so if it were a male it would have an advantage in a fight. If it were still alive; anyhow.

So that was my first report for the CFZ. I say report, not blog. Anyway, another few things I was thinking as I walked through the doors of the museum for the second time were ‘What’s going to be in this report of mine? How am I going to start and end it? What type of humour am I going to put in it? Most importantly, will my readers love it and how are they going to respond?’ (OK, maybe that wasn’t word for word). Well, you’ve just read the answers to the first three questions, but it’s up to you to decide the answer to the last. Credits to my sister Lily for taking the wonderful pictures for the report so that the readers could see what I was babbling on about!

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1692 five women were executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. The executions were part of the Salem witch trials and given that part of the evidence against the witches was that they had winced when they saw a dog eating a cake that was made of urine and rye wheat (honestly, I kid you not: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_Witch_Trials#The_witch_cake ) it is a safe bet that there may have been a miscarriage of justice somewhere along the line.
And now, the news:

Man grows freaky conjoined watermelon
Indiana: Residents believe exotic cat roaming neighbourhood
Glimpses of Macarthur's mystery creature

Speaking of witchcraft, cakes and of MacArthur, do want to hear Dumbledore from Harry Potter singing about soggy cake? Of course you do…


(Go on admit it, you’re impressed that I linked all those things together, aren’t you?)