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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Saturday, January 01, 2011


Does anyone have some A4 magazine binders that they don't want? Chris Clark was kind enough to donate us about 200 copies of Nature and it would be nice to have them on shelves rather than in plastic boxes under the shelves....

CHRIS HEDGES: 2011 - A Brave New Dystopia

Lloyd Pye sent me this, and I decided to share it with you

December 27, 2010 "Truth Dig" -- The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.” “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” in his book “Democracy Incorporated” to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass.

The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.”

The result is a monochromatic system of information. Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left. Prescient social critics, from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky, are banished. Acceptable opinions have a range of A to B. The culture, under the tutelage of these corporate courtiers, becomes, as Huxley noted, a world of cheerful conformity, as well as an endless and finally fatal optimism. We busy ourselves buying products that promise to change our lives, make us more beautiful, confident or successful as we are steadily stripped of rights, money and influence. All messages we receive through these systems of communication, whether on the nightly news or talk shows like “Oprah,” promise a brighter, happier tomorrow. And this, as Wolin points out, is “the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.” We have been entranced, as Wolin writes, by “continuous technological advances” that “encourage elaborate fantasies of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, actions measured in nanoseconds: a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose denizens are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge.”

Our manufacturing base has been dismantled. Speculators and swindlers have looted the U.S. Treasury and stolen billions from small shareholders who had set aside money for retirement or college. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus and protection from warrantless wiretapping, have been taken away. Basic services, including public education and health care, have been handed over to the corporations to exploit for profit. The few who raise voices of dissent, who refuse to engage in the corporate happy talk, are derided by the corporate establishment as freaks.

Attitudes and temperament have been cleverly engineered by the corporate state, as with Huxley’s pliant characters in “Brave New World.” The book’s protagonist, Bernard Marx, turns in frustration to his girlfriend Lenina:

“Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?” he asks.

“I don’t know that you mean. I am free, free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”

He laughed, “Yes, ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We have been giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.

The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.

We increasingly live in Orwell’s Oceania, not Huxley’s The World State. Osama bin Laden plays the role assumed by Emmanuel Goldstein in “1984.” Goldstein, in the novel, is the public face of terror. His evil machinations and clandestine acts of violence dominate the nightly news. Goldstein’s image appears each day on Oceania’s television screens as part of the nation’s “Two Minutes of Hate” daily ritual. And without the intervention of the state, Goldstein, like bin Laden, will kill you. All excesses are justified in the titanic fight against evil personified.

The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.

“Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling,” Winston Smith’s torturer tells him in “1984.”

“Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.

Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.

“Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?” Orwell wrote. “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.”



I am re-reading the Blandings Castle novels by P.G.Wodehouse. They are excellent fun, even when one is flu-ridden, and Corinna is collecting them for me two or three each birthday or Christmas. However, last night I discovered something shocking. Clarence, the Earl of Emsworth is one of the most famous `old buffers` in English literature. His Wikipedia entry reads:

He is a long, thin, bald old man with a tendency towards scruffiness, generally found in a worn old tweed jacket and trousers that bag at the knees. He wears pince-nez on a string around his neck, which he nevertheless often loses. He resents being forced to dress up smartly, especially when he is also called on to address crowds, and most of all loathes having to visit London when the sun is shining.

I then find out that he is supposed to be 59; only a few years older than Graham and Corinna, and only eight years older than myself. Hmmmm.
Are we really all within spitting distance of becoming old buffers? Don't answer that one!


Hey Jon

If you think that it may be of interest to CFZ blog readers an interview I did with a local newspaper, Gazette & Herald, about Ryedale Aquarist Society can be viewed at:


Regards David


For those who may be interested, here's a new post from me on the English equivalent of Mothman - the Owlman. The post details a wealth of odd events that have all occurred in this month (December) and that seem to have a tie-in with the Owlman saga.

Feel free to link to it/quote from it, etc:


Nick Redfern

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

On this day in 1860 the French Académie des sciences in Paris announced the discovery of the planet Vulcan in an orbit between Mercury and the Sun, the presence of Vulcan explained some irregularities in Mercury’s orbit. Unfortunately, however, Vulcan never existed. It is one of a number of so-called phantom planets, which is actually a rather good song by Beat Crusaders too http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1uEUg05JWc
And now, the news:

Freshwater wildlife thrives in cleanest rivers sin...
Pit bull rescues blind cocker spaniel from freezin...
2010 set world records for weather extremes
China’s rarest bird discovered wintering in Indone...
Rare monk seal colony found in the Mediterranean

The nature of monk seal was irrepressable:



Beautifully illuminated Durham Cathedral rose out of the darkness like some fairytale citadel above a sea of mist. Below the colourful, if somewhat garish, Christmas illuminations twinkled and winked in streets and houses. The view from the railway carriage was quite breathtaking to most onlookers but to Russell Arkwright it just formed a knot in his stomach. He stepped down onto the platform clutching his small holdall, his breath forming a series of tiny ghosts that danced away into the sharp, cold night air. It had been a long trip up from London and during every moment of it, Russell had wondered if he was doing the right thing. Sixty-two years it had been since he set eyes on Durham and it still felt like too soon. He shuddered and hugged himself against the cold.

As he began to cross the platform something caught his eye. A discarded newspaper on a bench. It was a copy of the Durham Times, a photograph of a gap toothed urchin grinning out from the front cover. He bent to pick it up.

“ANOTHER CHILD LOST IN THE WEAR” the headline proclaimed. Russell scanned the story with mounting dread. Lines jumped out at him. ‘Alfie Randle, 10, missing, believed drowned in the River Wear at Durham.’ ‘Third child lost in the river this winter.’ ‘Police divers find no trace.’

He realised that he couldn’t stay and turned back, but the train was already pulling out of the station. Now he had no choice, this had been the last train. He looked down at the paper in his hands.

“It’s still happening,” he whispered.

Survivor’s guilt the psychologist had called it, whatever that meant. Why should he feel guilty about surviving? Lucky maybe, but not guilty. What had happened on Christmas morning 1948 had stayed with him all his life. Bad dreams that seemed to get worse with age. They had cost him his marriage and his health. He held off going to see a psychiatrist until last year. Perhaps it was his age. Most folk of Russell’s generation associated psychiatrists with the stigma of madness. In the 1940s and 50s the ‘mad’ were locked away in country institutions and quietly forgotten about. But he was 72 now and long retired. He felt he had little to worry about.

The doctor on Harley Street had suggested hypnotherapy, a regression to the events of that morning so long ago. Facing and conquering the fear that had tormented him for most of his life. The fear he had blotted from his memory. He had been told that it was nothing unusual. Thousands of people had experienced traumatic events that the conscious mind had blotted out. The suppressed memories resurfaced as bad dreams. It was a commonplace complaint and easily treatable. Nothing to be worried about, nothing at all.

He had recalled some of the events unaided. Meeting with his friends on that crisp, bright morning, they had all asked for the same thing - ice skates. The Wear froze deep in those days. Not like today when you hardly got a winter. Back in the 1940s he recalled snow drifts six feet deep. The thaw didn’t start till the end of March. Durham was a wonderland for kids then with hills to sledge down, snowmen to build, snowball fights to have. Best of all was the Wear - it froze so well that men rode horses and carts along it. One year they even built a big bonfire on it.

But the thought of whizzing over the frozen water was so exciting. He’d seen ice skaters at the pictures and a few of the better off folk in Durham actually had skates. Russell had looked on in envy at them as they sped by. Now he had a pair of skates of his own.

His mates met him by the river; Larry, Brian, Tim, Cyril, each proudly showing of a new pair of ice skates. There was a deep wooded gully ideal for practising. They had wasted no time in putting them on and unsteadily tottering out onto the frozen river. It was hard at first. Even standing was difficult. All five of them toppled down repeatedly bruising knees and elbows. Thankfully it was early on and no one was about to see them make fools of themselves. Like riding a bike it came in time. The boys helped each other and soon they were sailing across the ice grinning and rosy cheeked.

Russell recalled a noise that he thought was a gunshot. He imagined someone out shooting pheasants or woodcock. Then the noise came again followed by an awful rending sound like nails on a blackboard magnified a thousand times. Looking back he saw huge cracks forming in the ice. How could ice so thick, as strong as steel crack like that? The surface of the Wear lurched crazily tipping him to one side. All around him his mates were tumbling and sliding as the ice was torn apart. A thick fog was billowing in. Moments before the air was crystal clear. The fog smelt strange. It was acrid and burnt his nose and throat as he breathed it in. It made him feel sick and dizzy.

He heard Cyril screaming and a splashing sound. Trying to peer through the thick fog he thought he saw Larry tumble into the freezing water. Russell staggered to his feet and made for the bank in a series of crazy floundering hops. The skates, so prized earlier were a hindrance and he frantically fumbled with the laces to get them off then leapt from chunk to chunk of sundered ice. Behind him there was more splashing and a screaming that was cut short. He couldn’t tell if it was Tim or Brian calling out. All he recalled was somehow scrambling up the bank and collapsing. A couple walking their dogs had found him. He woke up in hospital suffering from hypothermia.

The family had moved away from Durham after that. His Dad was lucky, he had an elder brother who worked on the parks department in Crawly and he got him a job. Ruth, his sister was born five years later.

Moving down south had not meant Russell could escape the memories of that morning. The dreams started not long after. They were always the same, a re-playing of that fateful day but in greater clarity. He saw the faces of his friends pleading for help as they went under. He tried to grasp their hands with frozen fingers as they vanished into the dark, icy water. He could not save a single one, despite their pleas, despite how hard he pulled at the floundering arms.

He was surprised at how young the hypnotherapist was. He had expected some shock haired, bow tied stereotype but Dr Mullard was young enough to be his son, no more than 35. He’d seen a hypnotist at Butlins Holiday camp as a boy. The man had made audience members do and say ridiculous things. He was still nervous.
But there were no swinging fob watches or commanding stares. He and Dr Mullard had just talked for a while pleasantries at first and then the specifics of his problem. Lying back on the couch he found it easier to relax than he had for a while though. Dr Mullard’s voice seemed to put him at ease as he tried to mentally travel back to that day so long ago. It was easier than he had thought, letting down his defences, breeching his cerebral barricade. Perhaps it wasn’t the soft, reassuring voice of Dr Mullard; perhaps he had just grown tired of fighting it.

Soon he was back there, on the ice the wind in his hair and face as he sped faster and faster across the gleaming surface. Around him his friends spun and twirled, abandoning themselves to the joy of the moment. It was strange to be out on the Wear after fearing water for so long. He had avoided lakes and rivers after what had happened. Even crossing a river on a train or in a car or bus had him shudder. The sea had horrified him and he had never been abroad. Holidays were spent in the countryside not at the seaside. But now he was elated and excited once more, panting with boyish exertion as the white landscape blurred.

Then the revelry was split by that noise, that booming retort of the ice sheet shattering. The world pitched crazily as he fell. Looking back he saw his friends tumbling in all directions. He also saw something he hadn’t recalled consciously before. He saw the fog but it wasn’t rolling in like fog was supposed to. It seemed to be rising up directly from the split in the ice, rising up from the river itself. Was it gas from the decaying matter on the river bed? It seemed to be under pressure as it came whooshing and hissing up in a great plume almost like films he had seen of geezers. It smelt odd, sickly sweet and stung his eyes. Soon it was rolling across the ice obscuring his view. The screams began.

In his mid Russell re-lived scrambling across the splitting ice. Cyril was already in the water and reaching out for help. Following the cries Russell found him and grabbed his hands. Maybe if he could save just one of his friends this time around the dreams would end. He began to haul the sodden, shivering boy out of the water. He was wet and heavy. The slippery surface made it all the more difficult but he heaved again and Cyril began to rise from the water. Then he was jerked violently back, torn from Russell’s grip by something of phenomenal strength pulling against him. Was it the undercurrent of the Wear? In a second Cyril was wrenched underwater and vanished.
Russell looked round desperately for the others. He saw Tim thrashing weakly twenty feet away and stumbled over to him on the moving ice. Once more he grasped his friend’s arms; once more he was yanked away before he could even scream.

A yell from behind him made him turn in time to see Larry scrambling up onto a raft of ice through the strange, stinging fog. Suddenly it pitched to once side as it had been struck from beneath tossing the blue, trembling boy into the dark waters of the Wear. He did not rise again.

Brian was actually in the river, in one of the widening channels that opened up as the separate pieces of ice drifted away. There was something else in the water with him. He remembered for the first time in sixty-two years. There were lights under the water, two of them. They looked like the headlamps on the old fashioned cars you got back then but they were under the water, near the bottom of the wear. They rose up and the boy seemed to be sucked down into the depths.

The sickening fog was making his head swim. He pulled desperately at the laces on his skates, cursing their length and his proficiency at tying knots. Through the fog he saw the twin light beneath the surface. They seemed to turn his way and approach the chunk of ice on which he was lying. Abandoning his skates, he ran blindly into the fog, leaping from chunk to wobbling chunk of ice. Fear gave him strength and speed. Soon he was shambling through the shallows near the bank. He felt the bow wave of something huge behind him as he clawed at frozen grass and rushes. He glanced back once.

He awoke on the couch in screaming hysteria his mind recoiling and blanking out the last image.
He did not return for a second session.

The dreams got worse after that. Those weird lights, whatever they had been, now seemed to dominate his nightmares. Finally, he had made his mind up to exorcise his daemons by returning to Durham to the River Wear.
Ruth had lived all her adult life here, having married a local man she met on holiday. They were not a close family. Russell had Ruth had exchanged cards at Christmas and birthdays. She occasionally came down to London. Her husband, over a decade her senior, had died that summer. They had no children and he thought she could do with the comfort. He was the only family she had now. He could kill two birds with one stone.
He climbed down the steps, slick with frost, and made his way to the taxi rank.
Ruth was waiting at the door of the little house. They hugged awkwardly.

“Good journey?” She enquired.

“Nine hours on a train is never good.”
“Never mind, there some tea on and something a bit stronger for you when you’ve unpacked.”

The decorations at Ruth’s house were minimal. Russell was thankful for that small mercy. He hated decorations. Loud, crass and tacky. A physical personification of a time of year he loathed. A large photo of Harry stood upon the television. Russell had only met him a few times but he had been a good man and treated his sister well.
Ruth was a good cook and he ate well at supper. Lamb and blackberry pie, an old recipe he had not tasted in years. Mulled wine followed with sticky toffee pudding.

Russell and Ruth exchanged gifts shortly after the old grandfather clock, that was once their father’s, had struck twelve. He had told her that he would be up at the crack of dawn for a walk. He gave her a porcelain Labrador. She gave him a tie and gloves. Brother and sister hardly knew one another.

Strangely he slept very well that night. For once no nightmares. Maybe this was the best course of action. Facing ones fears and exorcising them once and for all. When he awoke it was with a feeling of finality.

He left the house quietly so as not to awaken Ruth. The sun was just crawling over the horizon spreading its ruddy light across the bleak landscape. It was frosty but there was no snow, not like there had been back then. No one had risen yet, no excited children scrambling around the streets. Russell wondered if kids still had snowball fights or built snowmen (on the rare occasions that there was snow). They were probably too busy with their video games, growing fat and pasty in front of a flickering screen.

Soon he was wandering through the naked trees, the frozen grass crunching underfoot. Then the Wear came into view, silvery white and frozen. The ice didn’t look as thick or as strong as it had when he was a boy. He felt himself shaking as the slowly approached the bank.

“Come on, you’ve got this far. No point in turning back now,” he told himself

The silence was deafening. Russell though he could have been in the wilds of eastern Siberia rather than in the boundaries of a small city. There was no one here, nothing stirred. It was just him and the silver Wear, like the trail of some gargantuan snail.

His throat was dry as stood on the bank and looked at the frozen water. He knew that the ice was not thick enough to support him these days. It was thin enough in places for him to see the dark waters moving silently below it. He recalled the newspaper, the lost boy. He had not been the first.

After the hypnotherapy failed he had done some searching on line. Computers were more or less a mystery to him but the lady in the library had been so helpful. It seemed that every year people vanished in the Wear. Not just children, adults as well. Not just in winter either, all year round. Some were drownings, accidents that happen in all bodies of water. But there seemed to be a significant amount of cases were no body was ever found. The Wear was not like other rivers. There was something wrong with the Wear.

Swallowing and trembling he forced himself to wander along the bank as the sun slowly pulled itself higher in the sky. The silence was broken by rooks calling in the distance. Turning he saw them rise up from the rookery in an untidy black cloud.

As he looked back at the Wear his eyes were drawn to a section where the thinning ice became transparent. The endless cold, ceaseless flow seemed to have a pull. His eyes and brain began to form shapes below, underwater simulacra constructed of shadow, weed and mud. It seemed something huge was moving sluggishly through the river. It looked like the trunk of some ancient oak, thick and gnarled. But no tree could be so long. The shape’s length seemed unending and horridly flexible. Even as he watched it seemed to be turning back on itself. An illusion of moving water and bad memories, nothing more. Yet then he saw the lights. Two shining orbs like car headlights moving under the Wear. The same lights Dr Mullard’s session had drawn out of his memories. They seemed to pause every so often and swing from side to side like twin, underwater search lights.

Horrified and fascinated Russell watched from the bank. The lights seemed to be associated with the long, thick shape he had taken to be a trick of the eye. They seemed to be attached to one end of it. A rivulet of liquid fear oozed slowly down his back as he realised that what he was looking at were eyes.

What in the name of god had eyes that big? Then again he realised it was nothing in the name of god. The body was like some mammoth snake. No snake could possibly be so huge. A coil arched and the fragile ice fell apart in shards. The 'fog' spewed upwards in twin jets and burned his throat as he breathed it in.

The thing heaved itself up, black slime from the Wear’s muddy bed sloughing away to show horny green scales. Only tiny a portion of a body that extended beyond view had breached. The mind recoiled at the thought of the sheer size of whatever was slithering through the waters of the River Wear.

Then, with an awful sucking sound, a massive, wedge shaped head reared up. It was the size of a car, with eyes glowing like some deep-sea fish that never saw the light of day. The jaws swung open showing row after row of murderous teeth. Between them a red, forked tongue as long as a couch flickered tasting the air. The thing’s nostrils shot forth billowing clouds of acrid vapour.

Another lost memory rose. A rhyme chanted by children in his playground so very long ago.

“But the worm got fat an' grewed an' grewed,
An' grewed an aaful size;
He'd greet big teeth, a greet big gob,
An greet big goggly eyes.”

The Lambton Worm, the creature about which mothers still told their children - the great reptile that terrorised the area in the 1400s until slain by Sir John Lambton wearing a suit of spiked armour. Russell realised then that the stories were lies. No one and nothing could slay the worm. It was the spirit of the Wear itself made flesh and fang and scale. Genius loci in the form of a serpent dragon, now risen hungry from its sleep.

Fold after fold of its coils humped up from the river as the jaws rose before the transfixed man. The worm's breath wreathed him in a bitter blanket. The great glowing eyes transfixed him like a rabbit before a stoat. For a moment the worm paused. Did he see a look of recognition before the final snap?