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, April 10, 2011


Oreo Cows

My husband and I always look forward to seeing this herd of cows with white stripes in the middle of their bodies. We've been told the local folks call them 'Oreo' cows. Location: Rocky Hill, Tx - Between Stonewall and Fredericksburg, Tx.

--Merri Lu Park

(This story appears courtesy of Rick from ParanormalBuffalo)


Is it a road ghost? Or is it a bug on the lens?

OLL LEWIS: Crypto Cons - More Rabbit Than Sainsbury’s - Part 2

You would think that being moved to London at the request and expense of the King of England would have made Mary Toft and her collaborators think twice about organizing more human-rabbit births. It was probably organized and agreed to in the first place as an exercise to call her bluff; surely, if this was all a hoax and they had any common sense, she, her husband Joshua and midwife John Howard would see sense and abandon the charade before they got in any deeper. Unfortunately though they were not really that intelligent and like most stupid people who get into similar circumstances they were probably busy congratulating themselves on how they had been clever enough to fool all these big city types with their fancy qualifications and thought themselves to be invincible. The trouble was that the Tofts and Howard were not fooling everyone, in fact it was probably only the first surgeon who had seen them, Nathanial St Andre, and the secretary to the Prince of Wales, Samuel Molyneux, who had wholly convinced by the validity of Mary Toft’s rabbit births. St Andre, the King’s surgeon, had foolishly staked his reputation on Mary’s unusual births and issued challenges that anyone who did not believe him could visit Mary and witness a birth in person.

St Andre’s challenge was one thing when Mary was living out in the sticks in Surry, only one surgeon, Cyriacus Ahlers, who had like St Andre also been sent by the King, bothered making the trip. Ahlers found evidence of the rabbits and other animal parts Mary had been giving birth to having been cut by knives and found straw in their droppings so was less than impressed by the evidence. However, when Mary was moved to the bustling metropolis of London, right slap bang in the middle of the enlightenment it put her within easy reach of most of England’s reputable surgeons and gentlemen scientists so visits and investigations became more frequent. Naturally Mary obliged her visitors by conveniently plopping out bits of meat in their presence every time, despite usually not appearing to be pregnant.

One such visitor was Richard Manningham, who had gone to collect Mary Toft from Surry with St Andre. Manningham was completely unconvinced by Mary and identified one of the bits she had plopped out for him as a fully grown pigs bladder that still contained urine. St Andre was able to convince some of the London set with Mary’s displays though, John Maubray, one of the leaders of the male midwife movement, gladly jumped on the bunny birth bandwagon as this vindicated his theory of “sooterkin”. According to Maubray, and several others at the time, Mary’s strange rabbit births were small creatures named sooterkin, formed in the womb as a result of over familiarity with household pets. A more respected midwife than Maubray and expert in female anatomy. James Douglas, was often invited to view a birth by St Andre but felt sure that the births were a hoax.

While in London it was decided to put Mary Toft under constant supervision and during this time, whenever she had a visitor that wanted to see her giving birth to a rabbit she would go into labour but produce nothing.

The endgame for Mary and her collaborators began when Thomas Onslow started to investigate the affair. Onslow had Mary’s husband Joshua, who had been more or less ignored by most people investigating the case, followed. Joshua was caught red handed buying rabbits for use in the hoax. Upon hearing the news that Joshua had been caught buying rabbits one of the porters that was charged with looking after Mary also confessed that he had been bribed by Mary’s sister in law to smuggle rabbits and other animal parts into a hiding place in Mary’s room. Still refusing to believe she had been rumbled, Mary continued to deny it had been a hoax when interrogated by Richard Manningham and James Douglas. During these interrogations Manningham examined her and found that she still had something in her uterus, eventually, after Manningham threatened to cut her open painfully to find out what it was, Mary confessed.

It turned out that it was the rest of the cat, of which parts had been delivered by Jhon Howard in one of the first fake births. Immediately following her initial miscarriage Mary Toft had inserted animal parts into her uterus after being told how to do this, she claimed, by a gypsy who said that if she were to do that she would become famous and want for nothing. After her uterus had contracted she had started pushing meat and body parts into her vagina and birthing them by opening her legs, after a bit of theatrical moaning.

As all this was happening St Andre was busy publishing a 40 page book on Mary’s strange sooterkin, which was published on the 3rd of December 1726, leading to a humiliating climb down by him on the 9th of December when the hoax finally came to light. St Andre lost his position as the Kings surgeon as a result of the affair. Two years later in the houses of parliament he was to encounter Samuel Molyneux once more, and received widespread condemnation when Molyneux died in his arms after suffering an apparent fit in the chamber and it was alleged that St Andre had poisoned him and used his position as a surgeon to prevent him from getting help before he died. St Andre then eloped with Molyneux’s rich widow, so there may well have been something in those accusations. Indeed, the whole Toft affair could well have been used by St Andre as cover for an affair with Molyneux’s wife.

Mary Toft and John Howard appeared in court the following January. Howard was fined £800 for his part in the scam and Mary was briefly incarcerated. Ill health was to secure her release and she went back to her husband in Godalming where she later had a normal, healthy and human daughter.


Fortean 5s: Neil Arnold In Forean 5s the great and the good of Forteana pick out 5 interesting events from the history of Forteana. If you want to submit your own Fortean 5 email it to Oll Lewis at fortean5s@gmail.com . Today’s Fortean 5 are picked out by one of Britain’s best fortean researchers and writers, Neil Arnold… Take it Away Neil:

1) The Zodiac Killer. It’s probably slightly unhinged and inappropriate to name a serial killer as one of my favourite mystery stories, but there’s no denying the public fascination with such individuals. For me, the Zodiac Killer case is the weirdest and most mystifying unsolved spate of murders in history, even putting the foggy lore of jack The Ripper in the shade. What makes the San Francisco slayings of the 1960s, and possibly beyond, even more bizarre was the fact that the killer wrote to the police regularly, in the form of mocking letters and cryptic codes. This went on for several years. No-one knows exactly how many people the Zodiac killed or who he was but it remains the most complex, sinister and baffling unsolved mystery. For more info go to www.zodiackiller.com

2) The ‘ghost’ of Blue Bell Hill. This ghost story comes from my neck of the woods in Kent and despite almost everything written on the internet and in books concerning the story is inaccurate, it’s the one ghost story that changed my life. This spectre is often called the ‘queen of the road ghosts’, and is said to loiter on what is probably Britain’s weirdest hill – Blue Bell Hill, between Maidstone and Rochester. It is a complex ghost story which I won’t go in to here, but more can be found out about it on http://www.roadghosts.com/ and my upcoming Haunted Maidstone book. All I’ll say is this – phantom hitchhikers are often nothing more than powerful legend, but this with this wraith there is far more than meets the eye.

3) Satanic panics. I’m often of the opinion that if one believes in something enough the more it starts to happen – see the next entry as a prime example. Over the last few decades, and similar to Oll Lewis’ ‘Pokemon panic’ mention, there are events which run out of control due to mass hysteria. From the threat of anthrax in the mail to alien abduction, Satanic panics sit nicely alongside such bizarre tales which through a snowball effect take on a life of their own, even though they are based around one or two alleged cases. A few years ago, and every few years, there are mass panics concerning the fear that Satanists are loitering in our towns – especially across the USA – abducting children and sacrificing them in their secret covens. Are these cases true or simply the overactive imaginations of church goers?

4) The Highgate ‘vampire’ – one of forteana’s strangest yet hyped mysteries. Rarely investigated adequately since the ‘60s when it allegedly happened, the ‘vampire’ of Highgate (a Gothic cemetery in London) was said to be a tall, dark malevolent apparition said to lurk behind the North gate of the Western cemetery. It was responsible for attacking people not only on a mental level but also physically – if you believe some reports. At the time the local press covered the story regularly, people were arrested for trespassing, allegedly desecrating graves, allegedly conducting dark rituals blah, blah, blah. Some say the ‘vampire’ was tracked down to an old building and staked/exorcised, others believe the ghoul still inhabits the ivy-strewn pathways. It’s a great story and my upcoming Mystery Animals Of…London book delves deeper…

5) Phantom assailants – these stories are great panics. Whether it’s Spring Heeled Jack, the Halifax Slasher, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, Jack The Snipper, the Phantom Wall Smasher, the London Monster, Whipping Tom, the Monte Maiz Phantom, the Platform Maniac, etc, etc. These elusive, and often non-existent bogeymen prowl every dark alleyway of folklore and are keen to vandalise, abuse, snip, rip, jab, stab, slash, hack, whip and gas their way into the minds of those who fear them most. Forteana is riddled with such spooks, most of which have been created by mass hysteria and local press and yet the more we believe in such ghouls, the more we fear them.


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1979 Idi Amin was deposed from power in Uganda. As well as being a mass murderer and one of the most evil men in history Amin was completely hat-stand, which is a dangerous combination to say the least. There are claims that he deliberately cultivated a reputation as a buffoon in the international media, but to be honest a man who calls himself 'His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular' is probably not just putting it on for the cameras. Amin's most famous self bestowed title was' The Uncrowned King of Scotland' and he would often dress in the stereotypical garb of a Scotsman, the end result looking like a very bad joke by the 'Highlander' casting team (well they did cast a Frenchman as a Scotsman and a Scotsman as a Spanish-Egyptian, so it was probably only Amin's controversial reputation that stopped him from appearing in that film).

And now the news:

2011 Big Cat Quest: Winning team catches 42-pound ...

Dinosaurs a new addition at Bridport museum
Ohio man charged for barking at police dog

A bit of politics from about 10 years ago from George Michael (apologies if you actually liked George W. Bush or Tony Bliar):

BLOGGO: Ch ch ch changes (and Jon on the road)

We would like to welcome Andrew May to the Bloggo. He is a jolly clever fellow with several blogs to his name including this fortean blog and this blog devoted to Lyme Regis museum. He is also responsible for a number of websites including this one on post fortean meta complexity.


As of today he joins the bloggo team with a regular (sometime between daily and bi-weekly) series noting what appears on the Australian and American blogs on the CFZ Bloggo Network.

Whilst on the subject of new recruits, it is nice to be able to announce that we are welcoming Lee Canty back into the fold, (after a year of being computerless) as our indexer on the Bloggodex.

And finally, if you live in Berkshire, Jon will be appearing at Reading Central Library on Wednesday 13th April 2011, from 6pm. Tickets : £3 (£2 library members)

And the following night he will be at Wokingham Library from 6.30.

Lizzy Clancy is moving house and starting a new job all at once, so we shall be leaving the bloggo in the more than capable hands of Graham, Oliver and Prudence..

CORINNA: The Games Dogs Play