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, January 23, 2011

News Release from Rupert Sheldrake Online

News Release from Rupert Sheldrake Online

Date: 20th January 2011

From Rupert Sheldrake, London January 20th 2011

My new telephone telepathy test has just been launched in the US, so If you live in the US, please try it! This is the first time that an automated test of this kind has been available in North America. You register online here
www.telepathyexperiment.com/ entering your own mobile telephone number, and the numbers of two friends or family members who have agreed to take part. The computer selects one of them at random, asks her to ring you through the computer system, and when she is on the line you guess who it is before you can actually speak to her. This process is repeated another 5 times. If your callers respond promptly, the whole test takes less than an hour, and you then get feedback at the end telling you your score.

This test has been developed by Gareth Edwards, to whom I am very grateful, and Simon Burton and Mark Early have kindly been testing it out. It may not be entirely glitch-free and if you have a technical problem please report it to Gareth through the contact window on the experiment web site. We do not know if it works in Canada, so if you live in Canada please have a go and let us know.

An older version of this test is available for use in the UK only on my web site at the online experiments portal.

On February 9, I am giving the Perrott-Warrick lecture at Trinity College, Cambridge on "The Evolution of Telepathy". at 17:30. It is free, and open to people who are not members of the University, but space is limited and there is no advance booking. The previous day I am giving a seminar in University College, London on "The Extended Mind" (Feb 8, 17:30, Room LG04, Bedford Way) which is also free and open to anyone interested.

In the summer I will again be on Cortes Island, BC, God willing, and am giving a joint workshop at Hollyhock from August 3-7 with Brother David Steindl-Rast, on "Nature, Science and Spirit". Brother David is a Benedictine monk, an old friend and a very inspiring man. He rarely leaves his hermitage, so this is a rare opportunity to spend some time with him, and I am greatly looking forward to it.

I recently wrote an article about the Crop Circle Making Competition that I helped to organize in 1992, which has just been published in a book called "Michellany", a tribute to my old friend John Michell, who died in 2009. You can find a link to the article on my home page,

This month's trialogue in on homing pigeons, and there is a link to it near the bottom of my home page.

Rupert Sheldrake

RAHEEL MUGHAL: The Frost Giants of Ancient Norse Mythology

The Frost Giants are a pivotal part of ancient Norse mythology; so much so that over the years they have entered American popular culture as the age-old adversaries of the Thor the Thunderer (the popular Marvel Comics Superhero).

But what exactly were they? Well, the frost giants were a subspecies of giant that inhabited the frozen land of Usgard, along with the fire giants and jotun trolls. Moreover, their strength and sheer power rivalled that of the Norse deities (such as Thor, Freiya, Loki and Balder, to name but a few). The most famous frost giant was Ymir, and his body consists of the foundation of the Norse deities' home, Asgard.

All giants in Norse mythology are associated with the elements and the Vikings believed that their land and the elements which made the land up - which included the mountains, glaciers, caverns, volcanoes and vegetation - constituted the bodies of sleeping giants; when the giants awoke (which the Vikings believed was when they were angry) they caused cataclysms such as avalanches, snow storms and volcano eruptions, causing bad harvests and death from above. This probably gave rise to the folklore of immensely powerful immortal giants that enjoyed toying with mortals.

JAN EDWARDS: Re. the Giant Fox story

Re. the giant fox story that you posted recently:

Its not a giant fox. In my humble opinion it’s a large adult dog fox pictured near a small vixen. The “giant” fox is also in front of the smaller one and the scary picture with the smiling child shows the fox with tail extended and the child standing a little behind the fox.

It's sensationalism at its finest. The fox was said to have killed the vet’s parent’s ancient cat. There is no actual proof that the fox killed the cat but the vet in question felt duty-bound to kill not just one fox, but two, just to make sure he got the right one (??)

I’m glad it's not MY vet! I’m also glad it’s not MY scary smiling child.

LARS THOMAS: The beetle that came back

For the last couple of years I have started taking an interest in insects - especially the photographing of said creatures. I especially like to root around in old decaying tree trunks 'cause you never know what you might bump into - and some of the creatures living in and off decaying wood are rather special. One day in late April last year I was doing exactly that when an old piece of beech revealed two small and rather colourful beetles. I had no idea what species they were but one of them was rather obliging and kept still long enough for me to take a few pictures of it.

Back home I tryed to identify it but without success. My insect literature was not up to the task so I posted it on a Danish website called Fugle og Natur (Bird and Nature) where all sorts of experts help people identify all sort of things. Within a couple of hours a Norwegian beetle expert came back with an answer. The species was Mycetophagus fulvicollis, and it was, as he said "quite rare". That was fun, I thought, and entered my observation into a Danish database, where all kinds of sightings are held for researchers, and environmental organisations and so forth can study them at their leasure.

Now quite rare is fine by me, but just how rare my beetles were I didn't realize until a few days ago when I suddenly received an email requesting more information about my observation. Apparently someone had stumbled upon my sighting and had done a double take, or perhaps had fallen over in a faint. It turns out that Mycetophagus fulvicollis was declared extinct in Denmark in 1997. Quite rare, indeed!


I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has been so kind and understanding during the recent attack of illness that has floored the CFZ. I am on Day 33 I think, and although I am much better than I was, I am still subject to bouts of coughing and breathlessness, and I still feel several sandwiches short of a full picnic most of the time.

Corinna is much the same, and although Graham is largely better, he is still very run down and has to sleep far more of the time than usual. Oll is also on the mend, but like us, `the mend` is a slow and painful process.

We are getting slowly back to normal but it is a slow process, and I would not be surprised if it is several more weeks before we are back to normal, and even longer before all the backlog is sorted.

DALE DRINNON: A novel solution to the mystery of the Welsh flying snakes?

From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings

[Welsh gwiber as illustrated on the cover of Karl Shuker's book, which alludes to the creature in its title]

Gwiber And Wyverns - The Flying Vipers

[Wyvern and Cockatrice from Church, Exeter]

Oll Lewis from the CFZ is a font of information on Welsh cryptozoology. He did an excellent blog post a
while back on one of the Welsh cryptids named the Gwiber, specifically a variety of flying snake or
dragonet of South Glamorgan. Gwibers are reported all over Wales in folklore but it was in Penllyn they
are reported more recently in Marie Trevelyn's Folklore and Folkstories of Wales from 1909:
'"The woods around Penllyne Castle, Glamorgan, had the reputation of being frequented by
winged serpents, and these were the terror of old and young alike. An aged inhabitant of Penllyne,
who died a few years ago, said that in his boyhood the winged serpents were described as
very beautiful. They were coiled when in repose, and "looked as though they were covered with
jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests sparkling with all the colours of the rainbow."
When disturbed, they glided swiftly, "sparkling all over," to their hiding places. When angry, they
"flew over people's heads, with outspread wings bright and sometimes with eyes, too, like the feathers
in a peacock's tail." He said it was "no old story," invented to "frighten children," but a real fact.
His father and uncles had killed some of them, for they were "as bad as foxes for poultry."
This old man attributed the extinction of winged serpents to the fact that they were
"terrors in the farmyards and coverts."'

Oll goes into some depth on the mystery in his post and he did attempt some interviews. His conclusion:
the creatures as reported are unlikely to exist. Some facts do stand out from the traditions; one is that a
feathered skin from one of these flying serpents was kept by one family for many years. Whatever else
might be said, a feathered skin is a real object and feathers necessarily mean the creature was a bird.
Another feature is that these creatures could sometimes be seen seeming "Coiled up". Several long-necked
birds sleep with the head and neck curled back towards the tail and some long-tailed birds also throw the
tail around the front. Furthermore, these flying serpents are often said to have clawed feet and the claws
are also said to be poisonous.

[Flying Serpent from Deviant Art]
'Gwiber' means 'viper' and is the same as the French 'voivre', from which we derive the term 'wvre' or
wyvern. A wyvern is a smallish two-legged and winged dragon, and wyverns are traditional over many
parts of Western Europe. They may have their exact counterparts in Eastern Europe in the aitavaras and
other creatures that are simultaneously 'dragons' and like barnyard fowl, sometimes described as having tails
of fire, some 'firedrakes' and perhaps the Russian firebirds. If this is so, then we seem to have two distinctive
populations where the gaudy males are divided by their colouration, a Western branch which is primarily green
and an Eastern branch where the males are primarily red. And the Welsh folklore, when speaking of the flying
serpents describes their feathers as peacock-like. That does also determine what kind of creature they really
are - they are pheasants (peacocks and domestic fowl are also related to pheasants).
Since I had already seen where the anhinga was described as a flying snake because of its long neck,
I assumed that the gwiber or wyvern was a sort of a large pheasant with a very long neck and a very long tail.
It might also be the same as the cockatrice, which Wikipedia describes as a sort of a fowl with a long lizard-like (snakelike or dragon-like) tail. It is said to be particularly vicious and is said to have a venomous breath (or a venomous bite,
or venomous claws, or a lethal gaze); any of those descriptions could be probably taken as awful warnings
that people should keep well away from them, but they need not be true: people are always saying any number
of perfectly harmless animals are venomous, especially when they are snakes. Believing that the long-necked and
long-tailed pheasant was a viper would just about be typical: the flying serpent reports that turned out to be
anhingas also insisted on their potent venom.
The Welsh flying snakes are said to be quite aggressive and to kill poultry when given a chance. They will also
attack travellers and they are said to be roused to fury at the sight of a red cloth. Reports in this general category
of flying snakes commonly put the length down as from six to nine feet long.
[Pheasants to scale from Wikipedia]
The largest kind of pheasant is the Reeve's pheasant, native to China. It has a very long tail and can regularly
grow to over six feet long, up to eight feet long. The size is in the right range, and adding a long snake-like neck
to such a bird would make it even longer. It is a hardy bird able to stand extremes of cold and heat, and the males are are said to be hostile to humans, dogs, and especially to males of other pheasant types. If they are being raised together,
Reeve's cocks must be kept separate from the males of other kinds because of this agressive nature.
[Cock and Hen Reeve's Pheasants]
The hen Reeve's pheasant is as large as the male of the common (ring-necked) pheasant and already has a
fairly long tail of its own. This could lead to the tale that cockatrices arise from eggs laid by roosters: peasants
unfamiliar with the bird might well mistake the hen for the rooster of another species.
[Reeve's Pheasant, tail curling up Snakelike]
[Reeve's Pheasant Original Range]
['Flying Viper' Pheasant Hypothetical Original range, Biome similar to Reeve's Pheasant in China.
Showing Eradication in Central area in early Historical period and Persisting in the Fringelands]

I hypothesize that at the beginning of the post-glacial (recent) period, the ancestral long-necked pheasants
spread throughout Europe, starting in the southeast but then following the advance of the forests northward
until they were spread over most of the area. They were rarer after the establishment of farming and retreated
to the wilderness areas. By the time of the Roman empire, they had been extirpated around the mediterranean
and the common (ring-necked) pheasants began to be imported from Russia (Scythia) to replace them
[indicated by green on the map]. By the Dark Ages they had disappeared in Central Europe and whereas
before there were several different colour schemes for the males, in the later Middle Ages and on there were
commonly only the green phase in Western Europe and the Red phase in Eastern Europe. They would have
died out much sooner except that they became associated with a superstitious dread that made people keep
away from them. Reports became more spotty in recent years but they were seen sporadically in the 1800s
and possibly early 1900s in England and Wales on the one hand, and in the Baltic countries on the other.
I have a contemporary report of "Venomous Flying Snakes" from Novgorod in Russia at the Yahoo group
Frontiers-of-Zoology, and I now believe that report to belong in this category. Recent reports also seem to
come from the Basque territories in Southern France and Northern Spain.

["Flying Serpent" Longnecked Pheasant Mockup for Possible Appearance in Life]

["Flying Serpent" Pheasant to Scale to Human, Size as Commonly Reported]

[Russian Legend of the Firebird, From Wikipedia]

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 41AD the Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated. Caligula was a bit of a rum cove to say the least.

And now, the news:

Rare species vulture rescued
Alberta researcher makes surprising discovery abou...
An unusual twist in war against invasive species
Mountain species at risk in climate change
'Newest' cat Sunda leopard has two distinct specie...

Simon's cat is creepily like Helios 7: