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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Wednesday, February 16, 2011






40 Years ago in 1971 (I remember it well) Paul McCartney released his second post-Beatles LP, featuring a picture of him with a ram. His erstwhile songwriting partner mocked him with a postcard given away free with his Imagine LP the same year. Now Max Blake indicates that he may have a dazzling musical career ahead of him....

TERATOLOGY: On the road to Mandalay


YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - From almost the moment Le Yati Min was born, her mother knew the girl had a little something extra. "I asked the nurses whether my kid was born complete with hands and legs," says her mother. "They replied that the baby even has more than she needs."

Born with 12 fingers and 14 toes, Le may be the most "digitally enhanced" person in the world. Now, the 16-month-old girl's family in impoverished Myanmar is seeking a Guinness World Record to prove it. A neighbor is helping her mother apply to claim the record hearing that a boy from India currently hold bragging rights for the most digits, with 12 fingers and 13 toes. Polydactylism - being born with an extra finger or toe - is fairly unusual, but it is even more rare for someone to have spare functional digits on both hands and feet, as Le does.

Le lives with her family in a small wooden house on the outskirts of the Southeast Asian country's former capital of Yangon, where she runs around with seven toes on each foot. Proud mom Phyo Min Min Soe, 26, said Tuesday that she'd be happen to see Le gain a world record, but even without that, her daughter already has a happy life, and even some natural advantages.

"She seems to have a stronger grip on things - so she doesn't drop things much," she says, as Le plays nearby with a mobile phone.

According to the Guinness World Records website, the record for most fingers and toes for a living person is currently held by two people in India, who have 12 fingers and 13 toes each.

OLL LEWIS: The Office of the Chief Mouser

One of the things that makes life in Britain bearable is our whimsical sense of humour. This often extends to the most sensible and important organizations in the country such as the upper echelons of our government. There can be few other countries that employ an animal as a senior civil servant in the 21st century, for example.

The animal in question is a cat given the grandiose title of 'The Chief Mouser of the Cabinet Office' and their job is to ensure that the treasury or, in later years, 10 and 11 Downing Street, are kept free from rodents. The first of government cats was employed during the reign of Henry VIII but few records about the chief mouser's office - not even the names of the appointees - survive until 1924 when A.E. Banham authorised the use of 1d a day for the maintenance of an efficient cat leading to an official position being created in the civil service, which would later become known by its current title.

The first cat was the humorously named 'Treasury Bill' (because his position was created by a treasury bill... (do you see what they did there?) who served in the government of Ramsey McDonald and chancellor Philip Snowdon. Unfortunately for Bill he was a pretty poor excuse for a rat-catcher and was spotted by one minister wandering around the halls of Downing Street looking emaciated and begging for food. The minister reported this to Snowdon, who was in charge of the nation's purse strings, but Snowdon did nothing, perhaps believing that if left hungry Bill would buck up his ideas and become a better mouser. Then one day Bill gained entry to Snowdon's office and proceeded to mew at him and rub himself against the chancellor's ankles. This melted the notoriously tight chancellor's heart and within days he had secured a pay-rise for Bill.

As Bill was not the best of mousers by 1929 he was joined by Peter, who became a legend in the civil service. Peter held the position until his death in 1946, although by the mid- to late-30s he was effectively retired but still living in Downing Street and helping out his younger colleges with rat-catching duties whenever he saw fit. The first of Peter's younger colleagues to arrive was Munich Mouser who only served for a few years before his death in 1943. Also present was Winston Churchill's cat, Nelson. Nelson assumed full duties as the mouser, despite being a personal pet rather than officially on the civil-service payroll, until he left Downing street with Churchill. The next incumbent was named Peter II after the recently deceased Peter, but was in the post for less than a year before he died while on duty in 1946 after being hit by a car.

Peter II was replaced with Peter III who, like Peter, had a long and successful appointment to the post, serving from 1946 through to 1964 without major incident. In a great leap forward for sexual equality the next Chief Mouser was Peta, the first female appointee to the post. Peta served until 1976 but took semi-retirement in 1970 when she entered into a job-share with the new appointee, Wilberforce.

Wilberforce was the first of several mousers the media took a great interest in and many stories were told about him. One oft told by the nefarious Margaret Thatcher is that she herself had brought Wilberforce to Downing Street after “rescuing” him from a life under the yoke of communism having tempted him off the streets in Moscow using some sardines from a local supermarket. This, like a lot of things she said, is almost certainly a lie as she was the 4th prime minister Wilberforce served under.

The next cat, Humphrey, who would become the most famous of all the mousers, was appointed to the position in 1989. Humprey's tale is one of rags to riches: he started off as a stray cat who frequented the area and would often be observed catching mice in around the grounds of Downing Street and St James' Park. In 1989 he was adopted by the cabinet office and took to his new pampered life well. Humphrey took a wage of £100 a year, which was contributed towards his food, and was much better value to the tax payer than the £4000 paid annually to human pest controllers who reportedly failed to catch any rodents one year as Humphrey was doing such a good job. It seemed tragedy had struck in June 1995 as Humphrey went missing and in September the government announced his apparent death to a tearful nation. Thankfully it turned out that that he had just been adopted by the nearby Royal Army Medical College, who had taken him in thinking he was a stray and named him Patrol Cat. Upon his return to Downing Street “he” issued a statement: “I have had a wonderful holiday at the Royal Army Medical College, but it is nice to be back and I am looking forward to the new parliamentary session.”

Humphrey was not without his detractors, however: he was blamed for savaging a duck in St James' park and for the death of some robins in a window box while he served under John Major, but he met his nemesis in 1997: Cherie Blair. After her husband, Tony, was elected and the Blairs moved in to number 11 Downing Street (because number 10 was simply too small), she took an instant dislike to the smelly scruffy cat. Cherie wanted the cat out, but this presented a PR problem for Tony and his fearsome spin-doctor, the ex-pornography writer Alistair Campbell, when rumours started to circulate of her wanting to get rid of the cat. In order to deflect this Campbell organised a photo-shoot with Cherie and Humphrey to show the assembled press that they were best of friends. In the photos Cherie's smile looks incredibly false and the poor cat has a look of absolute terror on its face. The photo-shoot is even more farcical when you know that just before it Alistair Campbell actually sedated the poor cat. Soon afterwards Humphrey was spirited away from Downing Street in the dead of the night, which lead to press speculation that Cherie had had him put down. She hadn't, but she had got her way and Humphrey had been re-homed with an elderly couple. Journalists were taken to see Humphrey where he was photographed with that day's newspapers, in the manner of a kidnap victim. Humphrey had been given a pension of £100 a year and lived until March 2006 and he was not replaced as the Chief Mouser of the Cabinet Office, a title given to the job by Tony Blair himself, until the Blairs left Downing Street and the new chancellor Alistair Darling brought his cat, Sybil, to Downing Street in 2007. Gordon Brown announced that the position of Chief Mouser would once more be filled at a press conference and within a few days Sybil started her new job. She never took to London, though, and moved back to Darling’s home in Scotland in 2009. Sadly Sybil was not replaced. That is until recently...

In January, during a live broadcast from Number 10 a rat was seen scurrying past the door. A hilarious visual metaphor but a potential problem for the P.M.'s P.R. department. After first trying to pour cold water on reports that there would soon be a new Chief Mouser, a van from the Battersea Dog and Cats' home arrived outside the Cabinet Office. The van, of course, contained the new appointee to the post: a formerly stray tabby cat called Larry. The Cabinet Office has yet to confirm whether, like previous appointees, Larry will be part funded by tax payers.


As you know, five years ago this week my father died. Graham and I had been at a meeting with the nurse in charge of his case at Barnstaple hospital, and because she said that Dad was stable we came home so I could get a rest, but I was only home long enough to have a cup of tea and a cigarette (I still smoked back in those halcyon days) when the hospital telephoned told us to get back to Barnstaple immediately.

The garden was grey and dead.

The next morning was Valentine's Day, and when we returned home following my Father's death, I was amazed to see that the flowers had all come out.

Ever since then I have noted that the week of Valentine's Day is the week that all the flowers start to emerge, and as I have written elsewhere, it got me thinking.

Could Valentine's Day, like so many other Christian festivals, merely have co-opted an earlier Pagan fertility festival, marking the day that all the flowers began to come out, and winter began to end?

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1981 Joseph Gordon-Levitt was born. You know: him out of American alien comedy 3rd Rock From The Sun and hit sci-fi movie Inception.
And now the news:

Australians hit by Cyclone Yasi warned to stay awa...
Catbeast Spotted Again
Mosquito-eating spider likes smelly socks
Camera captures rhino that is near extinction

Baby animal videos always go down well so here's one of a baby rhino: