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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Saturday, August 20, 2011


It's Official: over one hundred thousand visitors to the Frontiers of Zoology blog in the first six months:


RICHARD FREEMAN: Swallowed by the wilderness (Part Two)

Perhaps the strangest case involved an explorer almost forgotten in the modern age, and an equally obscure monster: Peter Grayson was an Oxford-educated businessman who set sail from England in 1917 with six companions. Their destination was the Richtersveld, a mountainous desert in South Africa’s Cape Province.

Stories told of a cave in the mountains known as the Wonder Hole or Bottomless Pit and filled with diamonds. A monster known as the grootslang supposedly guarded it. The grootslang was said to be a huge snake 40-50 feet long, and was said to have eyes like gems.

Some explorers claim to have seen the grootslang. One man told a South African newspaper that he seen such a creature, describing it as a monstrous snake more than 50 feet long. Another said that he saw two such creatures, but that he killed one with his high-powered rifle.

Other witnesses confirm the beast's length as 40 to 50 feet long and tell of 3-foot-wide tracks along the Orange River. Prospectors once followed the track for miles before it disappeared into the river.

Only one man (a prospector called Travis) has supposedly visited the Wonder Hole and lived to tell the tale. According to one account, he dropped his torch into the pit while descending and had to crawl his way back out through pitch darkness. One version tells that he was attacked by the grootslang, but survived by playing dead.

Grayson had consulted old maps and accounts from prospectors before his expedition left. On their first night in the bush, the party was attacked by a lion that killed one man and badly mauled another. A few days later, a third man was bitten by a snake and died. Yet another became seriously ill and begged to be taken back to civilization.

Two of the others took the sick man to the nearest village for medical attention. Grayson pushed on alone and a week later a rescue party found his empty camp. Peter Grayson was never seen again, and local stories had it that the grootslang had eaten him.

The big mistake all of these men made was going it alone. One man against the wilderness might look good on TV survival shows, but in reality it is very poor odds. On any expedition, you should have knowledgeable local guides and travel in a group. A man I know once tried to search for the orang-pendek in the jungles of western Sumatra. I’ve been there three times and can vouch for their deepness and tracklessness. His team consisted of him, his girlfriend and one guide. The guide was not an official park guide and knew very little about the area. The three of them became lost in the jungle for weeks. The man fell down a crevasse and broke several ribs. The ‘guide’ became so scared that he began to cry with fear, sobbing that he would never see his wife and children again. It was only by pure, blind luck that they stumbled into a logging camp and were taken back to civilization.

Remember if you try to do this sort of thing alone, the wilderness is waiting, and it is hungry.

WEIRD WEEKEND 2011: Oll Lewis


Saturday is always a hard slog if you’re working behind the scenes at the Weird Weekend and this year was no exception. Today there were 10 different speakers (not counting the other members of the forthcoming Sumatra expedition who joined Richard on stage after his talk to tell us briefly about their plans, and the CFZ Awards honourees and quiz teams) with talks lasting from midday until 11pm, although we do often over-run a tad. As far as I’m aware NO OTHER cryptozoological conference offers their ticket-holders such good value for money.

As ever I was responsible for filming every talk, which although might sound like easy work, is most certainly not as I have to be on the ball hunched over a camera sitting in an uncomfortable chair following the speakers round the stage, anticipating good moments for close-ups and slide changes, which is easier said than done especially if you get tired or leg cramps. Thankfully I had my secret weapons of cheap knock-off Red Bull and cramp-zapping tonic water to fall back on so things turned out ok. The advantage of being the camera man, though, is that I get to watch all the talks and every single one of them today was a corker. Although every one of the talks were brilliant my favourite tonight was Lee ‘Dead of Night’ Walker’s two stories.

Oh and for those wondering who the special guest I mentioned yesterday was, it was P.T. Barnum himself. I suggested to Jon that we summon the great showman in the CFZ time machine (which bears an uncanny resemblance to Silas Hawkins’s car) about 6 months ago and my talk this year was on Barnum and his friend Grizzly Adams, but this year he has by pure chance been mentioned in a few of the other lectures too, notably Peter Christies’s talk about Fortean North Devon where it was mentioned that Barnum’s friend and employee, the famed dwarf Tom Thumb’s ornate tiny carriage is actually on display in a local National Trust property. I shall have to see if I can convince Mrs Downes, who is an N.T. member, that a trip there would make a good CFZ outing… OLL LEWIS


With the transportation of model monsters and setting up of stalls, the Weird Weekend banner finally rose scant seconds before the public began to arrive. The opening ceremony involved small children and a home-made orgone accumulator.

Barry Tadcaster and Ken Jevons, an orang-pendek from Catford, were the comperes. Ken is now employed by Catford Town Council as the ‘Avatar of Woe.’

Three speakers did turns: Oll Lewis on the man who fooled PT Barnum, Professor Bryan Sykes on genetics and genetic testing on possible yeti hair, and Dr Darren Naish on sea serpents and why it is unlikely they are survivors from prehistoric times.

Once again it was great to catch up with old friends like Bob and Sid of Apra Books and Adam Davies. RICHARD FREEMAN

HAUNTED SKIES: Irish Daily Star 1988


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1993 NASA lost contact with the Mars Observer spacecraft.
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P.T. Barnum had a whale, you know; learn more about it here (it will also enrich your life):

CFZ NEW ZEALAND: Is this a UFO? An Unidentified Feline Object?

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WEIRD WEEKEND SCRAPBOOK: Corinna on Friday night


WEIRD WEEKEND SCRAPBOOK: Pictures from Thursday night