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, May 18, 2009

THE BIG THREE: Alan Friswell


Alan first came to my notice when he turned up at our stall at last November's Unconvention. He was clutching a box that had once held a plastic Christmas Tree. He thrust it at me, and said "Here's your mermaid".

I vaguely remembered Richard F having said that one of his mates had offered to make us a feegee mermaid, but I had forgotten all about it. Sad to say, so many people offer to do stuff for us, and then fail to deliver, that I had got into the habit of treating all such offers cum grano salis, but the advent of Alan shows that I should not be such a cynical old sod. Now he has become a guest blogger, and furthermore a guest blogger who's output is often so elegantly macabre that I have started hassling him to write us a book..


Or to be specific, the surgeon’s photo. Yes, we all know that it’s a fake, but nevertheless, it can probably claim to have had more influence--and, it must be said, in a positive way--on Loch Ness research in the last 50-plus years, than any other piece of evidence, eye-witness statement or even sonar reading.

The surgeon’s photo inspired the legendary Tim Dinsdale to set up shop at the loch, and was therefore responsible, in a kind of serendipitous way, for the famous film that Dinsdale shot in 1960; this film of course, precipitating the majority of the investigative work that followed; everything from Robert Rines to Adrian Shine, and yes, even to Freeman and Downes.

I remember at the age of thirteen, discovering Dinsdale’s book The Story Of The Loch Ness Monster in W.H. Smiths. It was the start of the school summer holidays, and I read and re-read it during the first week. I already knew quite a bit about Loch Ness, of course, but Dinsdale’s book inspired me to trawl through libraries and bookshops, and do my own ‘research’ into the mystery, and I remember studying the plesiosaurs with great interest on one of the frequent trips with my mum and dad to the Natural History Museum, which became practically my second home from the ages of seven to eighteen.

I have enormous affection for those times, setting-up my own 'Loch Ness Investigation Centre' in Dagenham, and getting various friends involved; but none of this would have happened, if not for the surgeon’s photo which inspired Dinsdale to set up his studies, and write his books. It certainly proves to me, at any rate, that fake evidence, however ultimately undesirable, can, in rare situations, result in positive, as opposed to negative effects on the investigative community.

I’m sure that there is something in Loch Ness. Numerous sonar readings of large animate objects confirm that. Whether it is a sturgeon, a huge eel, some form of zooform phenomena, or even--and why not for old times sake--a plesiosaur that, while for reasons that we all know could not be resident in the loch, might perhaps be an ocean-dwelling species that may be able to negotiate the River Ness and find it’s way into the loch on occasion for reasons that we are as yet unaware.

So well done to those old surgeon’s photo fakers. From a purists point of view, I cannot condone their handiwork, but considering their contribution to the Loch Ness legend, and my own happy memories of reading Dinsdale’s book, and all that resulted from it, I cannot find it in my heart to condemn them too harshly either.


I’ve chosen big cats as my second cryptid, because of all the creatures in the pantheon of zoological anomalies, I consider these animals to be the most likely to be actually ‘discovered’ at some time in the--hopefully near--future. I’m not a zoologist, and I’m certainly not an expert on big cats, but there are some aspects to the mystery that invite comment, even from the layman.

I know that I’m going to be disagreed with here by quite a few CFZ bods who believe that mystery cats are a combination of escaped exotic species and possibly some cross-breed between feral cats and some new strain of large wild cat, but while this may well account for some of the sightings, I don’t see how an animal the size of a black panther can escape detection for the forty-plus years that they have supposedly been extant in the countryside.

We see numerous wildlife documentaries in which jaguars are routinely photographed in the depths of the South American rain forest, and snow leopards tracked down in the foothills of the Himalayas. Now Exmoor is a big place, I’ll grant you, but only relatively speaking. Compared to the Amazon jungle or the foothills of the Himalayas, Exmoor is about the comparative size of a postage stamp, and yet these giant cats seem to evade detection, capture, gunfire, even a truly conclusive photo with ease. How on earth do they manage it?

As I said, Exmoor is a big area, but one with, nevertheless, a finite number of topographical places of interest in which a big cat could hide out or nurture young. And if these creatures are really flesh-and-blood, then they would surely use the same shelters year in year out. The same goes for all the other locations in which big cats apparently thrive through generation after generation, while remaining untouchable by human intervention or interference.

I think that the only way that these creatures could successfully inhabit such comparatively small areas of territorial predation while remaining, to all intents and purposes invisible, would be if, at least some of the time, they are exactly that.

If these animals are real, surely there would have long since been a wildlife documentary on them, with the same kind of photography that we see in programmes about jaguars and snow leopards, maybe even one of them stuffed in the Natural History Museum--although I’d rather they remain a mystery, than to see one come to such a sorry end--or in the London Zoo.

I consider big cats to probably be some kind of zooform phenomena, but surely a conclusive search of Bodmin or Exmoor, with a careful mapping-out of the territory will result in a final answer. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong, and parts of Britain really are inhabited by huge cats that can move amongst us with ninja-like stealth, but until that time, I think that we might be facing something a lot stranger…


Yes, I think dragons are great. I’m certain that Richard F could tell you a lot more about their history--both natural and unnatural--than I could, but dragons are the kind of creature that should exist, and actually might.

According to accepted zoological principle, a vertebrate animal cannot have more than four limbs, seemingly ruling-out the classic image of the dragon with four legs and wings, but evolution moves in mysterious ways, and while the fossil record has yet to throw up such a creature, that doesn’t mean that it never will.

Besides, it may well be that dragons exist in a different ‘reality’ to our own, more akin to zooform phenomena than permanently solid beasts, and like the tulpa manifestations of our subconscious, may inhabit our dreams from which they might derive their solidity and substance.

Most cinematic depictions of dragons are somewhat different from the classic model; in the film Dragonslayer, for example, the creature Verimthrax Pejorative was actually based on a small Jurassic pterosaur called rhamphorhynchus, while Ray Harryhausen’s dragon in The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad was pretty close to the ideal, but minus the wings.

Is it possible, that some of the supposed pterosaur sightings reported by witnesses could actually be of dragon-type creatures? The ropen, for example, might be related to life-forms that can move in and out of our reality at will. Contemporary people with minds more geared to science than mythology expect to see pterodactyls rather than medieval monsters, so our skies are full of pteranodons, rather than giant airborne beasts with spines and claws, and mouths full of hellfire. Perhaps the dragon is an adaptable monster, appearing in the form that we wish. Although if they really are dependant upon us for their ‘reality’, perhaps we should think twice, or at least stand well back, before wishing one into existence….

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