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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Unlike some of our competitors we are not going to try and blackmail you into donating by saying that we won't continue if you don't. That would just be vulgar, but our lives, and those of the animals which we look after, would be a damn sight easier if we receive more donations to our fighting fund. Donate via Paypal today...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CARL PORTMAN: Wot's that bird?


Okay – third attempt and you’ll get it this time. Isn’t it lovely?

Carl x


It certainly seems so. "Why do you refer to Dr Shuker and Mr Muirhead as `The Boy Shuker` and `The Boy Muirhead`?" writes a blog-reader whose name I will not mention because I wish to spare her blushes. "Surely it is denegrating to them to refer to them as `boys`".

Well, my dear, unlike Richard Freeman, the boy Redfern and me, you obviously are not a devotee of the long-running comic strip Billy the Fish from the pages of Viz, or its ongoing satire of English football in the 1970s and 1980s.

OLL LEWIS: Crypto Cons

The Mutant Moggy

Now as you're reading this on the internet, I think it's a safe bet that you have at some point seen a picture of 'Snowball the monster cat'. Around the beginning of this decade emails started to circulate the globe containing the story of what was reputed to be the worlds biggest cat and an accompanying photo of a jolly bearded man lifting this huge cat aloft.

The story most frequently attached to the photo was that Snowball, as the giant cat was called, had been given birth to by a cat that had spent it's time hanging around a nuclear research facility in Canada. Because of this the cat's offspring supposedly grew to superhuman proportions. These proportions being 69 inches in length from the nose to the tip of the tail and 87lbs in weight, which is around 1.75m and 39.5kg in metric.

Now, what I like to call the 'Stan Lee cryptid explanation', after the legendary superhero creator who usually has genetic mutation and radioactive things in his characters origin stories, is perhaps one of the main reasons cryptozoology doesn't get taken seriously by a lot of main-stream scientists. All too often you'll see this fanciful reason trotted out by the media or a witness and the subject tends to loose all credibility, it's all well and good to use it as an explanation as to why the the population of New York are being attacked by a giant axolotl dressed in a top hat in some b-movie but real life doesn't work that way. So that alone should start the 'this is not entirely serious' alarm ringing. Couple that with the pictorial evidence and you get an even clearer picture of what is really going on. The jolly fellow in the photograph is lifting a weight of almost 40kg in front of him pretty easily isn't he? The cat looks less sharp compared to the rest of the photo and the Jolly Fellow seems to have rather large fingers too. It is pretty obvious that the photograph has been made with photoshop or another similar program and that the accompanying text is just a bit of puff.

So, what is the real story behind the photo? The jolly fellow in the photo is Cordell Hauglie of Edmonds, Washington and Snowball's real name is Jumper. The photo was made as a joke to send to his daughter who had asked for a photo of Jumper to show a friend, Hauglies son held up the cat in the first shot he took (those are his fingers supporting the cat, hence why they look large too) and then Jumper was cut out from the picture and placed over a picture with similar lighting of Hauglie standing further back, creating the illusion that he was holding a much larger cat. Hauglie never set out to trick anyone just to create a funny visual joke for those that knew jumper. The text was added to the photo by persons unknown who received the photograph in their inbox.

Guinness world records do not hold a record for heaviest cat any more because of possible health concerns that people may attempt to overfeed their animals just to get into the record books but according to snopes.com who consulted an old copy of the record book when this record was still extant the heaviest cat was 47lbs, around 21kg, which is almost half the weight claimed for 'Snowball' in the text. Jumper is in reality about the same size as most other domestic cats but slightly portly.

Often with a number of photos of supposedly strange or unusually sized animals that make it on to the internet or into the press perspective tricks are employed to make the animal seem larger or more dramatic and that is something any cryptozoologist should always be on their guard for.


Over on her website Kithra has delivered her ,long-awaited article about the folklore and mythology of the crow family.

Nice one, Liz.



We have not been able to say anything in public because the case has been sub judice, but one of the reasons for the current CFZ financial condition is that we were fleeced of a large sum of money and the promise of much more from the late Simon Wolstencroft (editor of Tropical World) and his wife. It now turns out that Deborah Wolstencroft was very dodgy indeed. According to The Daily Mail:

A book-keeper who stole nearly £900,000 from her bosses to fund an extravagant lifestyle has been jailed for four years. Deborah Wolstencroft enjoyed the high life with the cash she stole over eight years from the small privately owned company. Read on baby...

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1586 John Ballard was executed for his part in the Babington Plot. This was a conspiracy to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I, which when foiled, led to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.
And now, the news:

The ballad of Old Tom (via CFZ Australia)
Australia's Lost Giants (via CFZ Australia)
Massive fish kill reported in Louisiana - Unbeliev...
Urgent call on EU to stop billion-euro 'alien inva...
'Mythical' extinct fly rediscovered after 160 year...
ABC News On Fresno Bigfoot
Did The Hound of the Baskervilles take its inspira...
Devils set for extinction?
Police seize parrot trained as drug gang look-out
Freak lobster with two cutting claws has new frien...

This'll make no sense to you unless you watch Futurama, but it made me smirk a bit:


As the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed, we have been away for the last few days attending the wedding of my lovely stepdaughter Shoshannah. I came back to 1495 emails, which included numerous invitations to me suggesting that I purchase viagra, several emails from a young lady in Russia telling me how virile I was, and an offer to send $300 to someone who would draw up a personalised astrology chart for Biggles the border collie.

There were also a lot of important and/or interesting e-mails for me to answer, but I will ask you all for your forbearance if I wait until tomorrow afternoon before I start answering them. Both Corinna and I are in desperate need of sleep....


We left Woolsery on Wednesday lunchtime and only returned late on Saturday evening. In our absence the blog was published by a dream team of Liz Clancy, Graham Inglis and Oll Lewis, who - at the risk of sounding like young Mr Grace - have all done very well, despite being in three completely different locations: Rochdale (Liz), The Isle of Man (Graham) and CFZ HQ (Oll).

It was oddly liberating to be computerless for four whole days and I look forward to doing it again soon. I am sure that when I do my Dream Team (of whom I am very proud) will do it all for me again.

Thank you Guys. I appreciate it....


It goes without saying, I hope, to say that I am the proudest stepfather in the history of stepfatherdom, and that I am delighted to have a new stepson-in-law who knows who Ned's Atomic Dustbin are/were. And doesn't she look beautiful? And before anyone asks, yes, I did cry my eyes out throughout the ceremony like the soppy old git that I am...

And over on her blog the Mother of the Bride writes...


Monster in Loch Ness
What could you possibly be?
Will we ever know?

Crashing through the woods,
Bigfoot in America
leaving giant prints

Tentacled beast
Rises from the depths
A colossal squid


The Feejee Mermaid Part Two.

As is often the case when Barnum was involved in something, the public story of the mermaid was entertaining but ultimately completely false. What really happened was perhaps just as interesting as the one that Barnum had created.

The mermaid was probably created by Japanese fishermen around 1810 and sold to Dutch traders who sold it to an American sea captain called Samuel Barrett Eades in 1822. This was perhaps the first time the mermaid was used in a money-making scam because the Dutch were somehow able to get Eades to pay $6000 for the mermaid; the fact that he sold one of his ships, which he didn't even fully own, to help raise what at the time was a huge price, suggests that the Dutch really must have been claiming that the creature was a real mermaid and that Eades had fallen for the scam hook, line and sinker. Eades was never able to recoup his investment and died in debt whereupon his son sold the mermaid to Moses Kimball for a fraction of the price his father had paid.

Kimball knew a crowd-pleaser when he saw it, and knew exactly where Eades had gone wrong and not drawn the crowds he could have. Eades had not gone to Barnum. Kimball had worked with Barnum on a number of projects and knew that Barnum could come up with schemes to draw crowds like no other. So Kimball and Barnum entered into an agreement where Barnum would lease the mermaid off him for display in Barnum's museum and Barnum could pocket any ticket sales he made from exhibiting the mermaid. Kimball knew that Barnum would hatch a plan to drive his ticket sales through the roof and he would also benefit from this when he displayed the mermaid in his own museum. The money from the lease would also quickly pay off Kimball's investment and then some, without him having to raise a finger.

The plan Barnum came up with was a risky as it was genius but worked perfectly. He started by writing several letters to the newspapers in New York about the mermaid's discovery and arranging to have them sent to the papers from various locations in other states to create the impression that this was a huge news story and generating a real buzz. After the newspapers had fallen for that and began printing the letters, he paid a man named Levi Lyman to pretend to be a naturalist called Dr Griffin from the fictitious British Lyceum of Natural History to turn up in New York with the specimen. Lyman proved to be a good actor and convinced the assembled press that 'his' mermaid was genuine by using the scientific-sounding explanation that every animal on land has a counterpart somewhere in the seas, using sea horses and sea lions as his examples. When Barnum exhibited the mermaid at his museum ticket sales increased threefold and the Feejee mermaid became one of his most famous exhibits.

Since the fire that destroyed the mermaid there have been several occasions where people have claimed to possess the original Feejee mermaid. These claims are all false, however, and bear little resemblance to the original mermaid. The original was fairly small with outstretched arms and a look on its face as if it had endured great pain at the moment of death and there are also accurate illustrations available of the mermaid from its time in Barnum's museum. These illustrations look very little like what we and all the subsequent claimants to ownership of the original commonly expect the mermaid to look like. Somewhere along the line the public image of the mermaid came to be what looks like the mummy of a small child with a fish's lower body and resting fairly peacefully upon its elbows with only a sneer like a haughty heiress in recognition of the pained look the original had.


From the China Mail, December 11th, 1917

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1961 Betty and Barney Hill claimed to have had an encounter with a mysterious UFO, which led up to the first documented claims of alien abduction in America.
More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_and_Barney_Hill_abduction
And now, the news:

Pigeon beats internet
Tuna Imperiled by Overfishing, Oil Spill Clears Fi...
1,000 moth species living in England’s protected w...
Toothy bird had a record-breaking 17ft wingspan

And that's the 'tooth'.