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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Sunday, August 29, 2010

MARK NORTH: To a new world of gods and monsters

I have attached a text file for your blog, which I mentioned, with regards to my visit to Bournemouth, called ''To a new world of gods and monsters'' (a reference from the Universal Bride of Frankenstein film). I suggest you publish it on the 30th August to tie in with Mary's birthday.On another note you may be interested that our council may be naming a roundabout for our new relief road after Veasta - The Chesil Beach Monster :) http://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/8346919.Help_name_Weymouth_Relief_Road_roundabouts/

Few seaside towns can claim so many literary associations as Bournemouth: Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, Thomas Hardy and Robert Louis Stevenson. But perhaps the most famous of all literary shrines I was fortunate enough to visit earlier this year was in the cemetery of St Peters in the centre of Bournemouth, where Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of one of the most famous of all Gothic horror novels, Frankenstein, is buried.

Mary Shelley was born on this day in 30th August 1797 in Somers Town, London. She was the second daughter of feminist and writer Mary Wollstonecraft and political journalist William Godwin (who are aso interred in her grave). Her mother died shortly after Mary's birth from a haemorrhage sustained either during delivery or by the actions of the midwife. Unusual for girls at the time, Mary received an excellent education. She published her first poem at the age of ten.

Percy Bysshe Shelley and his first wife Harriet often visited Godwin's home and bookshop in London. At the age of 16 Mary eloped to France and then Switzerland with Shelley. During May of 1816, the couple travelled to Lake Geneva. Apparently inspired by a ghost tale contest among her friends Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont, Mary had what she called a waking dream that became the manuscript for her most famous work Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.

It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who tries to create a living being for the good of humanity but instead produces a monster. Frankenstein creates his monster by assembling parts of dead bodies and activating the creature with electricity. The monster, which has no name in the book, is actually a gentle, intelligent creature. However, everyone fears and mistreats him because of his hideous appearance. Frankenstein rejects the monster and refuses to create a mate for him. The monster's terrible loneliness drives him to seek revenge by murdering Frankenstein's wife, brother, and best friend. Frankenstein dies while trying to track down and kill the monster, who disappears into the Arctic at the end of the novel.

Many films have been based on the character of Frankenstein's monster. Most are simply tales of horror and have little to do with the serious themes of Shelley's novel. These themes include the possible dangers involved in scientific experimentation with life and the suffering caused by judging people by their appearance.

Mary and Shelley married in 1816 after Shelley's first wife committed suicide by drowning. In 1818 the Shelleys left England for Italy. The Italian adventure was, however, blighted for Mary by the death of both her children - Clara, in Venice and their son Will died from malaria in Rome. Mary suffered a nervous breakdown after the deaths and almost died of a later miscarriage. It was followed by the birth of her only surviving child, Percy Florence Shelley. In July 1822, Percy Bysshe Shelley sailed up the Italian coast and was caught in a storm on his return. He drowned on July 8 along with his friend Edward Williams and a young boat attendant.

To support herself and her child, Mary wrote novels including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), and the autobiographical Lodore (1835). She spent much of her life in promoting her late husband's work, including editing and annotating unpublished material. She returned to England, never to re-marry.

She died on 1st February 1851 in Chester Square, London, of what some suspect to be a brain tumour, before her to move to live with her son Percy Florence Shelley at Boscombe Manor. Her last book, sometimes considered her best work, was Maria, which was published posthumously. Her son brought his mothers remains to be interred in St Peter's churchyard in Bournemouth, along with Percy's heart, which was not originally buried with his body. It was retrieved from his funeral pyre by his friend Trelawny and kept by Shelley's wife Mary, pressed flat, in a copy of the poet's "Adonais" and was interred for the first time in Mary's tomb.

Across the road from St Peter's Church is the pub aptly called 'The Mary Shelley.' Apart the obvious references to Frankenstein and Universal Horror Films such as The Wolfman, Dracula and the Mummy, they also featured literary associations with the town during the late nineteenth century and earlier years of the twentieth century. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and most of his novel Kidnapped from his house "Skerryvore" on the west cliff. Also J.R.R. Tolkien spent thirty years taking holidays in Bournemouth, staying in the same room at the Hotel Miramar, with a second room to write in. He eventually retired to the area in the 1960s with his wife Edith. Tolkien died in September 1973 at his home in Bournemouth and was buried in Oxfordshire.

What particularly caught my eye was a reference to someone I have admired since childhood: British Naturalist, Gerald Durrell, who I expect most readers of this blog will know from his work in wildlife preservation and his books describing his experiences with animals in his light-hearted stories.

After the Second World War Gerald Durrell was keeping his growing collection of animals, acquired during foreign expeditions, in his sister's garden in Bournemouth. He had been here as a young boy with his family in the early 1930s, after leaving India, where he was born in 1925. He spent most of his youth in Corfu where his love of animals became all-consuming. During 1948 he was staying in his sister Margo's boarding house in Bournemouth with his animal collection in the garden, and trying to establish his own zoo. It would be, he argued, an attraction for holiday-makers and residents alike: but the council disagreed, and turned down his application.

An alternative suggestion was to house his animals in one of Bournemouth Stores. Christmas was coming and an in-store zoo would draw shoppers. J. J.Allens, the furnishing showroom, which stood on the site which is now the pub 'Mary Shelley', took up the idea of housing his menagerie. Durrell's animals came in from the cold and spent Christmas in the basement here. Durrell was eventually able to set up his zoo on Jersey by renting and later buying a private estate on the island, where he had no need to obtain permission from bureaucrats.


Here are photos of a black domestic cat that was mistaken for a black panther in New York:

A column on a vaguely described sea serpent from the 1800s:

WEIRD WEEKEND 2010: Dr Mike Dash

WW2010: Lars Thomas


Dear Mr Downes,

My name is Camden Xiang, and I've followed the work of CFZ from time to time. I thought I'd draw your attention to the appended document, which contains a transcription of posts on the Swedish Internet forum Flashback, concerning sightings of trolls. I've myself translated the posts from the Swedish, trying not to "improve" on the quality. I've added comments where necessary in brackets. Some people's stories are developed in several different posts, so I've pieced them together. I've italicised English phrases occurring in the Swedish original.



Spjuit: [Note: the author lives in Ångermanland, in Northern Sweden]

I’ve said several times that I’ve seen a strange being running around in the woods. The first feeling I get when I see these is fear. You just want to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Explaining what they look like is very hard. So I’ve made a Godawful silhouette in Paint instead. I’ve never seen them in broad daylight so therefore the picture is black.

I’ve sketched completely from memory as best I could.


I see them in the winters after sunset. The last time I saw one was in the middle of November. Then the bus driver almost hit it.

The first time I saw one was when I was very small. It was then lurking just by the edge of the forest at our farm one summer watching the pigs we had then. I’d forgotten about it but suddenly remembered it this winter.

They’re most often roughly 150 [cm] tall, but I’ve seen one the same size as a full-grown man. It looks like they haven’t got a neck and are regarded as “knobby” by me. Also they run really fast even though they have legs that are half as long as ours. My best friend who used to be my neighbour saw them “first”. In fact I was the one [who saw them] but I’d forgotten about it, so. I got frightened to say the least and she didn’t dare to go out and bring in the horse on her own. The horse was staring in towards the forest and when she looked that way she saw 2 of these beings running back and forth on an old forest path. It was moonlight so she too also saw just black silhouettes.

Me, I thought she was kidding me. Until she refused to go to the stables alone. You could tell a long way off that she was genuinely frightened. I’ve never seen these together with someone unless you count the bus driver who veered away from one. The bus driver didn’t say anything. And there were only 2 of us on the bus. The other girl didn’t notice anything even though he veered sharply. I asked her later. The bus driver I haven’t even seen since so I’ve not been able to bring it up.

It doesn’t leave any footprints. I’ve written this before but one winter I met a big one on the road when I was going to see a friend. We walked on each side. At first I thought it was an old man but then I started to think and realised that no old person goes out late at night. Then I thought it was an illusion, nope, the snow creaked with each step it took. And then I thought that it had to be my friend who was kidding me and walked funnily to frighten me. So I called her name, then it went down into the ditch [by the side of the road] (and when I saw its profile I understood what it was) and laid down. It never went up again and the snow was like untouched.

I don’t know if it lied down or whether it dug itself under the snow. It probably became afraid when I started to shout and quite simply hid.

Skellefteewa: [Note: The author lives in Skellefteå, in Västerbotten, which is also in northern Sweden]

Kommer ihåg i min barndom då jag besökte en gammal man i ett hus långt inne i skogen. Han påstod att han sett troll på berget i skogen flera gånger. Han berättade att en del var rätt så små, men större än vättar och en del var riktigt stora. De var knotiga för att kunna gömma sig i skogen.

Remember in my childhood when I visited an old man in a house deep into the forest. He claimed that he had seen trolls on the hillside in the forest several times. He told me that some of them were quite small, but larger than goblins [Sw. “vättar”] and some were really big. They were knobby in order to hide in the forest.

Krafse: YES GODDAMMIT!! I’ve seen one! Or at least something similar. “Mine” had considerably longer legs though, I believe the legs were marginally longer than the “body ball” itself which looked very funny. This was a very long time ago, 2003 to 2004 I think, a summer night with a full moon so it was an exceptionally bright night. I remember that it looked like a ball with two legs. I don’t remember if I saw arms, though, don’t think so.

Anyway, I was out driving my moped in the middle of the night. (No, I wasn’t tired, I’d just turned my day around so I was full of energy!) and then it stood by the side of the road. I didn’t understand what it was at first, thought it was an elk’s ass or something, but the legs were too thick. It was really nothing that looked like an elk, but it was the only thing I could relate to that was not too “far fetched” so to say. Anyhow, it just kept standing there and I’d been waiting for maybe 10 sec for it to move, but it didn’t seem to hear me at all, so I turned on the gas a bit and then it reacted. What I then got to see was very strange, it ran on TWO legs roughly like a human, straight into the woods. Imagine that you take an elk (Or some similar animal.) and cut off the entire back section and make it black and add more fluffy, long-haired fur, then you let this back section run around. That’s sort of the way it looked like.

I drove past and tried to see it again but it had either run too far into the woods or else it was hiding. I didn’t have time to look and at the time I was so chocked that I didn’t even understand how wierd it was. Was only a quarter of an hour later that you really started to think about it and realise what the hell you’d looked upon. I’ve never seen it again after that by the way..

Respons: Haha this is a bit fun actually. I just came home from a vacation trip in Västervik [in Småland, southeastern Sweden] and saw this topic. We were staying just next to the woods so me and my boyfriend decided at night to go up onto a hill just next to us and have a beer. After a while I saw something that looked just like what you describe between the trees. “It” seemed to run on two legs at an enormous speed and was grey/brownish. I was also able to distinguish a forward-leaning build possibly like a hump. Was shocked out of my mind, my boyfriend claimed it was a bear which is totally incomprehensible :S

I’m still stunned since I can’t think of any animal looking like this “being”. I’ve never seen or heard about anything similar. I would rather say that it was a fat old man but the being ran much too fast for that.

Eldaron: I’ve seen something similar too! When I was young I walked a lot in the hills in central Hälsingland [northern Sweden] with my grandmother, and when we were heading to a mountain whose name I can’t remember, we went there in the evening to watch the sunset when I looked out into the woods as we were driving along the old gravel road when I saw something that fits your description precisely. perhaps 10 meters into the woods. I related what I saw to my grandmother who looked serious when I told her. Then she turned her car homewards and started to tell, that she lived here when she was a child and then she stopped and pointed into the forest where you could see an old almost collapsed house from the 19th century. There I lived she said and we moved because of the one you saw. And then she said that she had been playing with her sisters when she had seen it running quickly past her and then she started to scream. Then her dad had come and fetched her and he looked frightened. Later at night her grandfather sat down with her and said that she had seen the trolls.

Since then grandmother has never talked about the place or anything, when I’ve asked about it she’s just said ”I don’t dare, they mustn’t come here”. That frighetened you a bit, but now I’m sure I’ll never get any more info about if, grandma died half a year ago and she was the last person alive in that family. Wonder what the heck those “trolls” really did to make them so afraid.

Imbalidn: I’ve seen something similar. it was dark so I can’t say I’m convinced that I saw what I saw. But.. Anyway.

Last summer me and my girlfriend were out in the woods barbecuing some hot dogs and relaxing (Västergötland, btw) [Western Sweden]. I guess it must have been early September, so night fell a bit earlier. Around dusk the fire went out so we were going to leave. My girlfriend pointed towards some trees where she said she heard something. I looked towards it (she didn’t see a lot since she didn’t wear her glasses) and saw something looking like what everyone’s been describing. A silhouette of a fuzzy ball with two legs, looked insanely weird. I kept looking for a few more seconds until the thing took a step forward. I panicked like hell, asked my girlfriend to run and took her by the hand and tried to lead her out. As I said, she didn’t have any glasses so it was a bit of a panic there with the trees and the rocks. All the way out of the forest it sounded like fast, I mean FAST steps which like... Circulated around us. Having come out, it went quiet like hell. We went in and went to bed and didn’t talk more about it.

I don’t really know if this might be it. I hope we were just being paranoid and seeing illusions. I’ve been in the woods a lot as a small child and certainly you’ve fantasised a lot there but large balls with legs (the best description I’ve got) I don’t think I’ve ever seen as a child.

Well well, that’s that.

Plaguetongue: jag har faktiskt sett nåt liknande för ett par år sen, när jag var och jagade. jag bor i norra dalarna det var en september morgon strax innan solen gick upp på morgonen som jag såg en konstig varelse gå över vägen framför bilen. den var inte riktigt lika fet som på din bild, och såg inte ut att ha nån päls alls är inte säker då det fortfarande var mörkt ute, den kan ha varit mörk grön till svart i nyansen. vi var 3 st i bilen jag, farsan och en till i jaktlaget och alla såg den. som jägare kan jag säga direkt att det inte var vildsvin älg eller björn, den hade bred nacke eller ingen nacke alls, som en huvudfoting med ben. gissningsvis 1 meter-1,20 meter hög. ingen kunde förklara vad det var för något. har aldrig förut sett nåt liknande. ser jag en igen ska jag jävlar imej skjuta en fåse vad det är.

jag såg den i ljuset från bilen ca. 30-40 meter framför mej. om du lyckas få en bild på den så skicka bilden får jag se hur den ser ut.

pratade men "lagäldsten" han som är äldst i laget, han berättade om något liknande som han sett för länge sen då han gick som skogvaktare i trakten.

I’ve actually seen something similar a couple of years ago, when I was out hunting. I live in northern Dalarna [west-central Sweden] it was a September morning just before sun rose in the morning when I saw a strange being walking across the road in front of my car. it wasn’t quite as fat as on your picture, and didn’t looke like having any fur at all I’m not sure since it was still dark outside, it might have been dark green to black in its colour. we were 3 of us in the car me, my dad and another one in the hunting party and all of us saw it. as a hunter I can say directly that it was not a wild boar elk or bear, it had a broad neck or no neck at all, like a “head-and-foot creature” with legs. I guess it was 1 meter-1.20 meters tall. no one could explain what it was. I’ve never seen anything like it before. if I see one again I’ll shoot one I’ll be damned let’s see what it is.

I saw it in the light from the car ca. 30-40 meters ahead of me. if you manage to get a picture of it send it and I can see what it looks like.

I talked to the guy who is the “team elder”, the oldest in the team, he told me about something similar he’d seen a long time ago when he walked the woods in the area as a forester.

he told me a story about an experience from some time in the past, when he had been a forester. he had seen something that he didn’t know what it was, was some time in late autumn an early morning as light started to dawn, which looked like a small human without a neck. he came out onto a mire and it stood on the other side looking at him for a few seconds before it disappeared out into the woods. I don’t quite remember what he said then but I think he’d seen it more than once. I’ll have to ask him when I see him the next time, should be at the hunt in September.

Iregom: This is sick. I’ve also seen something like this like twice in my life. It was winter and dark, walking on a road with forest on both sides. See osmething black and around 50 cm tall running straight across the road at a hell of a speed and disappear.

The other time I can’t remember because I thought it was just an illusion but then it happened again so it’s something funny moving out there!

Fattygoblin: I had an acquaintance who saw something incomprehensible a winter night. Him and his friends had been out skiing slalom on a suspended slope [ie. a slope where skiing is not permitted] – in the middle of nowhere. After a run or two, when they were at the bottom of the slope, they glance up towards the top...then they see a colossally huge person walking right across the slope. Not a giant, like twenty meters tall. But according to him the figure was at least four meters. The proportions didn’t quite agree with what looks human. It was a starry night outside, so he saw the silhouette clearly. His friends too. It bears mentioning that people in all times have said that the mountain where the slope was is haunted. And that that giant man has been seen. I think it’s somewhere in Dalarna.

Know that I questioned this a bit, but he was dead serious. And that was a guy who didn’t believe in spirites and ghosts and stuff...

WarPig: My mother recently told me that she’d seen what she thought was a running troll on the forests of Jämtland [northwestern Sweden], late at night outside her campervan window. She brought her camera outside and started to snap blindly in the dark. When she then comes home and puts the images on her computer she sees on one of the images (which was just black on the camera) a what she thinks is troll face of “smoke/mist” big all over the picture.

Rodolfus: ’om jag inte missminner mig (det kan vara något annat landskap i närheten).

I can tell you that I have at least two female relatives, one younger and one older, who’ve told me that they’ve experienced something similar to [Spjuit]’s story. The “thing” is said to have run in front of the car when the younger of them was out driving one night and is also said to have been observed sneaking around the house and the barn on the farm. The older one claims to have seen one of them peeking in through the window and to have seen the “thing” running on a meadow. It/they are said to have been seen both at night and day a number of times at least.

This is said to have taken place at a farm in Dalarna if I’m not mistaken (it might be some other province nearby).


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1797 Mary Shelley, best known as the author of ‘Frankenstein’ and wife and editor of the poet Percy Shelley, was born.
And now, the news:

'Sea serpent' captured, never identified (via Dal...
Coati missing from Belfast Zoo thought still alive...
Tiger cub found in bag at airport

Here’s some great footage of tigers caught by a WWF camera trap in Sumatra: