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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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Monday, December 24, 2012

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS


Once upon a time I used to enjoy writing out and sending individual CFZ Christmas cards to everyone involved in the organisation. However, there are now so many people, and the costs have risen so dramatically that it is too expensive to even attempt to do this any more. So, please do not be offended that you have not received one from us, and enjoy Christmas greetings from Prudence and all the less important members of the CFZ team...

CFZ ANNUAL REPORT 2012


Dear Friends,

This is the 20th time I have sat down to write a CFZ Annual Report. It makes me feel old.

The CFZ is currently in the state of flux, but looking back over the past two decades it seems that we always were.  Ten years ago George Harrison, my favourite Beatle died of cancer. 

His posthumous album contains a song which includes the words: “if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there”, and if I hadn't already chosen a Latin tag Pro bona causa facimus (we do it for a good reason), which I pinched from a children’s book called The Case of the Silver Egg by the late Desmond Skirrow, then I would probably have adopted George Harrison’s words. It is interesting, by the way, that I have never managed to find any other reference to this Latin motto.  I had assumed that it was Scipio, Cicero or one of those dudes from ancient Rome that I learned about during my Latin classes in Bideford Grammar School all those years ago, but on the Internet the only reference I can find at all are in things written by me.

I only just realised, literally whilst typing these words that my choice of motto could well be seen as quite significant in that it tells the story of a group of children living in 1960s London who get involved in a major international espionage mystery, and come out on top.  The important thing about the story is that the Queen Street Gang do things in their own way, and usually without adult interference or supervision.  Substitute the Queen Street Gang for the CFZ, and substitute ‘adults’ for erm... the scientific establishment, the established media, and pretty well anybody else you can think of with whom we have come in contact over the past two decades, and you have fairly good encapsulation of the ethos of the CFZ.

When I look back over the last few years I see a CFZ that has changed rapidly in a very short length of time.  And it is changing now, very much so.  For example, when we first moved to North Devon, we expanded the CFZ animal collection greatly.  In fact, with hindsight, we expanded it too much.  Now we are downsizing, and we're doing so for a very important reason.  When we first came here we intended to build a museum at the top of the grounds.  We still have a small but interesting collection of objects from our various investigations, but now we have decided that it is far more important to have input into far more extensive exhibitions elsewhere.  For example, in October/November 2012 we had a very successful exhibition at Barnstaple museum, due to the kind offices of Julian Vayne.

As Corinna and I get older I realise that the way that we lived only a few years ago, sharing our living space with an ever-changing ménage of people is something which a couple well into their fifties really cannot do any more.  We still have visitors, and my old friend Richard Freeman, who like Graham Inglis who still lives with us is more like a brother than a friend, is still a frequent visitor.  However, rather than looking for people to come and live with us, we now look for volunteers who are happy to give up some of their time and expertise on a regular basis to help further the CFZ ideal.

I am particularly proud of our achievements in the world of publishing. During 2012 we published our first full-colour book, and also sponsored, financed and published The Journal of Cryptozoology, the first English Language peer-reviewed cryptozoological journal since the glory days of the ISC several decades ago. The editor, Dr Karl Shuker wrote:

Welcome to the Journal of Cryptozoology. Following the demise of Cryptozoology (published by the now-defunct International Society of Cryptozoology), there has been no peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to cryptozoology for quite some time. Consequently, the Journal of Cryptozoology has been launched to remedy this situation and fill a notable gap in the literature of cryptids and their investigation. For although some mainstream zoological journals are beginning to show slightly less reluctance than before to publish papers with a cryptozoological theme, it is still by no means an easy task for such papers to gain acceptance, and, as a result, potentially significant, serious contributions to the subject are not receiving the scientific attention that they deserve. Now, however, they have a journal of their own once again, and one that adheres to the same high standards for publication as mainstream zoological periodicals.

I think that when someone takes a look at our achievements, maybe in 20 years time when we will have been in operation for 40 years, and I - if I'm still alive - will be well into my dotage, they will find that our greatest achievement will have been in publishing a long list of books which needed to be published, but which nobody else would have touched with the proverbial bargepole.

PUBLISHING
We published 24 titles this year in six different imprints. They were:

CFZ PRESS
Centre for Fortean Zoology Yearbook 2012 edited by Downes, Jonathan    
The Mystery Animals of Pennsylvania by Gable, Andrew       
SEA SERPENT CARCASSES: Scotland - from The Stronsa Monster to Loch Ness  by Vaudrey, Glen
Wildman! by Redfern, Nick       
Globsters by  Newton, Michael    
Cats of Magic, Mythology and Mystery  Shuker, by Karl P. N  
Those Amazing Newfoundland Dogs by Bondeson, Jan         
CFZ - 1992-2012: The Thoughts of Chairman Jon by Downes, Jonathan   

FORTEAN WORDS
The Grail by Coghlan, Ronan  
HAUNTED SKIES Volume Four by Hanson, John and Holloway, Dawn 
Quest for the Hexham Heads by Screeton, Paul        
UFO WARMINSTER: Cradle of Contact by Goodman, Kevin    
HAUNTED SKIES Volume Five by Hanson, John and Holloway, Dawn    
HAUNTED SKIES Volume Six by Hanson, John and Holloway, Dawn 

FORTEAN FICTION
Left Behind by Wadham, Harriet     
Snap Bredice, by Steven  
Green Unpleasant Land by Freeman, Richard  
Dark Ness by Tabitca Cope
Death on Dartmoor by Francis, Di     
Hyakumonogatari Book One by Freeman, Richard     
Dark Wear by Tabitca Cope

CFZ CLASSICS
Head Hunters of the Amazon (Annotated edition) by Up De Graff, Fritz W        

JOURNAL OF CRYPTOZOOLOGY
THE JOURNAL OF CRYPTOZOOLOGY: Volume One edited by Shuker, Karl P.N    

Cfz communications
LANDMARK NORTHAM - Bone Hill: Northam's Best Kept Secret by Jackson, Jim       

We have had a few problems this year with ex-clients. From the beginning I have always tried to run the publishing much after the manner of the late Tony Wilson and Factory Records. It has worked fine as long as everyone involved behaves like a gentleman. Unfortunately, this year, not everyone has. We will be rejigging the contracts to cover us from these unfortunate occurrences every happening again. We also now have the facility to print books in colour and to produce ebooks, so the new contracts will also reflect these new opportunities for us all.

WEIRD WEEKEND 2012
 This year’s event was once again held on the third weekend of August. The Programme was as follows:

FRIDAY
Richard Freeman: 20 Cryptids you have never heard of
Paul Screeton: The Hexham Heads
BOOK LAUNCH: Quest for the Hexham Heads
Richard Thorns: The search for the Pink Headed Duck
Bedtime Story with Silas Hawkins
SATURDAY
Intro to Cryptozoology
Nick Wadham: The Bugfest Deadly Animal Show
Max Blake: An analysis of the Borley Bug
Harriet Wadham: Book Signing
Jonathan McGowan: Large cats in Britain - The Dorset enigma
Glen Vaudrey: Scottish sea monster carcasses
BOOK LAUNCH: Scottish sea monster carcasses
Jan Bondeson: Greyfriars Bobby
CFZ Awards
Film Premiere: Heads (Dir. Graham Williamson )
The Hexham Heads - Q&A with Graham Williamson and Paul Screeton
Bedtime Story with Silas Hawkins
SUNDAY
Richard Muirhead: The Flying Snake of Namibia
Lars Thomas: Danish Cryptozoology
Richard Freeman et al: Sumatra 2011
Lars and Jon: Wild Woolsery - the results of the Nature Walk
Ronan Coghlan: Sinbad the Sailor
Jon Downes: Keynote Speech

Speaker's Dinner at the Community Centre
Film: Occasional Monsters
Silas Hawkins: Final Bedtime Story

The 2013 event will take place on the third weekend of August once again. Confirmed speakers so far include:

Oll Lewis: The Murder of the Elephant Man
Lars Thomas: The Natural History of Trolls
Intro to Cryptozoology
Nick Wadham: TBA
Quiz
Glen Vaudrey - Mystery animals of Cheshire
Richard Thorns: Expedition report
CFZ Awards
Richard Freeman: Sumatra 2013
Sarah Boit: Orbs from a photographer's perspective
London Cryptozoology club
Shaun Histead-Todd: Pre Columbian civilisations in america TBC
Ronan Coghlan: The Sirius Mystery
Jon Downes: Keynote Speech

I would like to say a big thank you to Matthew and Emma Osborne for their hard work both for the Weird Weekend and for other projects during the year. We really couldn’t manage without you. I would like to thank everyone at the Community Centre especially Simon and Sharon Bennett for everything they did for us. Your kindness humbles me.

ANIMALS
The most important news this year concerns our Rio Cauca caecilians (Typlonectes natans). We were prod to breed them in 2011, and devastated when all four babies died in the winter. However, we bred them for the second year running this year. They are in a new tank at a slightly higher temperature and with a wide range of diet. If they survive the winter, two of the babies will be going to London Zoo in the spring.

We have also acquired a pair of Chinese black spined toads and a single chubby frog, and hope to be building up colonies of both these species. The village pub has changed hands and no longer wants to be involved with our outreach programme so we have removed our fish from there.

FUTURE
Now, what does the future hold for us?  Of course, I cannot answer that question with any degree of certainty, and bearing in mind quite how many of what Graham calls curveballs have come our way over the past two decades, I would be even more foolish than normal if I tried to foresee the future.  However, what I can do is to tell you what I would like to see happen.

I created the CFZ in my own image (and by this, I mean that I created it according to an image in my mind rather than having created it to look like an ageing fat hippy) and to a greater or less extent have been steering it in my desired direction ever since.  It is interesting that when, like I have over the last few days, you look back of the history of the organisation you can see that it has had several distinct phases.

Phase one: the infancy, during which it was run purely by me and my first wife Alison.  (1992 to 1993)
Phase two: our first phase of expansion during which Alison and I were joined by the late Jan Williams, and we started publishing.  (1994 to 1996)
Phase three: in the immediate aftermath of Alison’s and my divorce, I was joined first by Graham, and then by Richard, and the three of us managed the running of the organisation quite happily, although at this stage we were still basically a theoretical and publishing organisation.  (1996 to 2002)
Phase four: as my mental and physical health improved, and - in the wake of my mother's death - my income also improved, we began to do more and more fieldwork, and to publish more books (2002 to 2005).
Phase five: after the move to North Devon and then in the wake of my father's death when I was able to divert considerably more funds into an ambitious campaign of publications.  Things became even more coalesced in 2007 when I married someone who took it upon herself to make the administration of the organisation work properly for the first-time.

Now we are approaching phase six.

My family arrived in the little village of Woolsery in July 1971 and I soon became friends with the three children who lived next door. David was about the same age as me, and to my great joy I found out that we were soul-mates. Like me he had a voracious appetite for knowledge about the natural world and its denizens, like me he read everything that he could get hold of, and like me he had a surreal and slightly peculiar sense of humour. We soon became very close friends indeed, and were inseparable during our schooldays. He was sceptical - though interested - in my newfound passion for cryptozoology, and together we roamed the fields and woods, and investigated the local streams and ponds in search of the wildlife to be found therein.
   
His two sisters were younger than me: Lorraine by about two years, and Kaye by about four. David and I used to tease them unmercifully. Whilst they, too, were fond of animals, they found the wriggly things that their brother and I used to keep in jam jars in the garden shed to be uniformly icky. David and I realised this and used to torment the poor girls with biscuit tins full of spiders, and jam jars containing large and ugly horseleeches. It is - I believe - a testament to their good nature that we are still friends more than 30 years later. But in a situation analogous to that I described earlier regarding Richard Freeman and Graham Inglis, Lorraine and Kaye have always been more like sisters to me than friends, and especially since David died tragically young in 1987.  Kaye has always referred me as her adopted brother and I have been Uncle Jon to her three children from the age when they first were self-aware enough to realise that the fat hippy in the corner was really quite nice.

A few months after I brought the CFZ to North Devon to help me look after my dying father, I telephoned Kaye.  I was just being a nice Uncle, but I wondered whether her eldest son David (then aged 13) would like to come up and work for us on Saturday afternoons for a few quid here and there.  He soon became invaluable, and after the second Weird Weekend he did with us I realised that we really would not be able to function without him.  I don't think I treated him like a child after the age of 14, and at the time of writing he is approaching his 21st birthday, and I have only just realised that he is the same age as the CFZ - he has shouldered the responsibility of being my chosen heir with equanimity.

In 2001 I codified the structure of the CFZ formerly for the first time.  At the top is our titular Life President John Blashford-Snell who took over the position when the previous incumbent Professor Bernard Heuvelmans - usually known as the ‘Father of Cryptozoology’ - died.

Below him was a three-person committee consisting of myself, Graham, and Richard.  Being three of us it means that we never have a hung vote.  However, I would like to say that in the ten years that we have been operating in this manner we have never had a serious disagreement.

Below us there is what I dubbed The Permanent Directorate, and another group called the Advisory Board. The Permanent Directorate included people from the various study groups, the various international offices and those who have particular skills to offer. The Advisory Board are exactly what they sound like - a group of people who have particular expertise for knowledge in one specific area.

Now, ten years after setting this hierarchical management structure into place I am making the first major change. The three-man management committee has been - as of the 2011/2 management meeting - replaced by a five-person committee.  Until now the only people eligible to vote have been me, Graham and Richard.  Now, because of their invaluable contributions, I have expanded the committee to include my wife Corinna, and my nephew David Braund-Phillips. The Permanent Directorate, and the Advisory Board will still be there to advise and assist, but will not be able to make decisions.

I intend to continue our programme of publications, and in 2012 I have instituted a new series imprint called CFZ Classics.  These will not just bring books that have been long out of print, and which are really only available to the cognoscenti, into the wider public consciousness, but will serve another, and equally important, function.  There are people within the cryptozoological research community who have little or no income beyond state benefits. The last few governments have progressively demonised benefit claimants until it looks quite possible that we will see the end of state benefits as we know them in the UK within the next few years.

We have the technology and infrastructure available to publish as many books as we want, and the Internet is an invaluable marketing tool.  Each of the books in the series will have extra essays, footnotes and as much additional material as we can provide.  As each of the books in question is well out of copyright, the author’s royalties will be paid to the person who put the package together.  We will provide an unprecedented level of help to put currently impecunious researchers into the position where they can earn themselves a monthly income through their own efforts, and thus be able to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.

As I have written elsewhere, I had an unhappy childhood, and though I was a mildly gifted child, my family and teachers did their best to stifle my creativity and aspirations.  Despite them I achieved most of what I wanted to, and am now in the position to help another generation of writers, artists, and dreamers.  I won't embarrass them by naming names, but there are various people now in the scientific and cryptozoological establishment who have become what they are today, at least in part because I and the CFZ encouraged them when it mattered most.  Ever since we moved to North Devon we have had more and more children becoming involved in what we do, and I think that this is massively important.  We intend to do all we can to encourage literacy, and a love of nature, as well as encouraging the innate curiosity of succeeding generations of young people for as long as we can.

I have always believed that we are a family, in a very real sense, and now we are rapidly becoming a truly global family.  And like a real family in the last year we have had several deaths, at least one birth, and human tragedy and triumph of various scales. Last year we raised money for the family of one of our longest serving Sumatran guides, Sahar Dimus who died suddenly, and we have done similar things as well. I hope that this is only the beginning, and that we can eventually run programmes all over the world to help the members of the CFZ family who are less fortunate than ourselves.

This year we had two young ladies spend work placements with us; Saskia England (aged 14) in the spring and Sheri Myler (aged 20) in the autumn. I hope that both of them enjoyed their placements with us and took away something of value from their time with us. We certainly learned a lot from both of them and hope to have many more trainees in the future.

Over the years I have made some bad decisions, and I have made some wrong decisions.  My decisions to run a little museum and zoo in my back garden ultimately proved to be unwise, for example.  However, over the past two decades the CFZ has done pretty well under my stewardship, and I am proud of what we have achieved together.  I hope that whatever happens, we continue to be essentially a caring organisation, one that puts people before money, and common sense before ideology.  I hope that the CFZ never loses its sense of humour, its sense of idealism, and never loses touch with its core concept, that half a century or more after Bernard Heuvelmans first brokered the ideal: the great days of zoology are not done.

Jon Downes,
CFZ, North Devon, 23rd December 2012

TODAY'S BIG CAT ROUND-UP

The hunt for British Big Cats attracts far more newspaper-column inches than any other cryptozoological subject. There are so many of them now that we feel that they should be archived by us in some way, so we should have a go at publishing a regular round-up of the stories as they come in. In September 2012 Emma Osborne decided that the Mystery Cat Study Group really deserved a blog of its own within the CFZ Blog Network.




  • NEWSLINK: Rajasthan: Big cats fight, tigress found...
  • AUSTRALIAN SIGHTINGS: Big cat recorded on video
  • FORTEAN BIRD NEWS FROM THE WATCHER OF THE SKIES (CFZ)

    In an article for the first edition of Cryptozoology Bernard Heuvelmans wrote that cryptozoology is the study of 'unexpected animals' and following on from that perfectly reasonable assertion, it seems to us that - whereas the study of out of place birds may not have the glamour of the hunt for bigfoot, or lake monsters - it is still a perfectly valid area for the Fortean Zoologist to be interested in. So, after about six months of regular postings on the main bloggo, Corinna has taken the plunge and started a 'Watcher of the Skies' blog of her own as part of the CFZ Bloggo Network.


    DALE DRINNON: Atlantis

    Two interesting Christmas letters on Atlantis came through to me and so I posted them at Frontiers of Anthropology:
     
     
    Thanks also go out to Hugo Kennes in Brussels for his Christmas letter also. While your information was useful, we both understand it is highly controversial, and if perhaps you might rewrite it into an actual article, I might publish it later. (Hugo also sent his Christmas Card with family photos attached)
     
    Best Wishes, Dale D.

    I'M YER GONZO BLOG DOO-DAH MAN

    T'was the Day before Christmas on the Gonzo Blog
    I sat in my study with my silly fat dog,
    and sat down at my keyboard and started to write
    avoiding all swearwordsand being polite
    its been a great year for music at Gonzo so far
    with albums by Auburn and Michael Des Barres
    and Jefferson Starship and lots and lots more
    but I won't list them all, cos that would be a bore
    When I started in March I thought it'd be funny,
    to write about music (and I needed the money)
    but I soon realised how important it is
    when you're faced with the death of the old music biz
    to keep the old rock and roll spirit alive,
    to keep fanning the flames so something will survive
    so I look back upon the ten months that I've done,
    I've written a lot, and I've had so much fun
    I've discovered new music and made some new friends
    (and on 21st December the world didn't end)
    and so before I go I have one final thought
    I couldn't have done it without your support
    and so thank you to Rob, Billy and Anne-Marie
    and all of the artists who've spoken to me
    and to all my new friends who I'm speaking to here
    we're gonna do even better next year.
     
    Happy Christmas
     
    In which I get manouvred into plauing my not-very-festive Christmas song
    http://gonzo-multimedia.blogspot.com/2012/12/jon-downes-mildly-embarrassing-blast.html
     
     
     
     
    Thom the World Poet features on today's Countdown to Christmas
    http://gonzo-multimedia.blogspot.com/2012/12/countdown-to-christmas-thom-world-poet.html
     
    We are just about to re-release Michael Des Barres' first solo album
    http://gonzo-multimedia.blogspot.com/2012/12/michael-des-barres-is-only-human.html
     
    *  The Gonzo Daily is a two way process. If you have any news or want to write for us, please contact me at jon@eclipse.co.uk. If you are an artist and want to showcase your work, or even just say hello please write to me at gonzo@cfz.org.uk. Please copy, paste and spread the word about this magazine as widely as possible. We need people to read us in order to grow, and as soon as it is viable we shall be invading more traditional magaziney areas. Join in the fun, spread the word, and maybe if we all chant loud enough we CAN stop it raining. See you tomorrow...

    *  The Gonzo Daily is - as the name implies - a daily online magazine (mostly) about artists connected to the Gonzo Multimedia group of companies. But it also has other stuff as and when the editor feels like it. The same team also do a weekly newsletter called - imaginatively - The Gonzo Weekly. Find out about it at this link: http://gonzo-multimedia.blogspot.com/2012/11/all-gonzo-news-wots-fit-to-print.html
     
    *  Jon Downes, the Editor of all these ventures is an old hippy of 53 who - together with his orange cat - puts it all together from a converted potato shed in a tumbledown cottage deep in rural Devon. He is ably assisted by his lovely wife Corinna, his bulldog/boxer Prudence, his mother-in-law, and a motley collection of social malcontents. Plus.. did we mention the orange cat?

    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    Yesterday’s News Today

    On this day in 1777 Christmas Island was discovered by James Cook.
    And now the news:
  • New Dinosaur: First Freshwater Mosasaur Discovered...
  • From Farm to Table, Mealworms May Be the Next Best...
  • Italian Wolves Prefer Pork to Venison
  • Discovery of Africa Moth Species Important for Agr...
  • Butler’s garter snake snarling spit lands developm...
  • Frog-In-Bucket-Of-Milk Folklore Leads to Potential...
  • Two mammals and a bird declared extinct in Austral...
  • Thirty-Three New Trapdoor Spider Species Discovere...

  • The eagle eyed of you will have noticed that since the 6th of December I've been able to link a Christmas song to the “on this day” event. Today and tomorrow's should make for quite an easy finish:

    ANDREW MAY: Words from the Wild Frontier

    News and stories from the remoter fringes of the CFZ blogosphere...

    From CFZ Australia: