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, May 24, 2009

THE BIG THREE: Neil Arnold


I have known Neil for fifteen years now since he was a mod schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippie who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years. We are just both a tad older...

I was going to begin with a predictable choice, that being Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest, as it had such an impact on my childhood after reading the 1974 book Monsters & Mysterious Beasts by Carey Miller. But I’m not one for predictability, and so I present to you my first favourite mystery animal. Mystery giant wolves.

The Amarok belongs to Inuit mythology, a solitary hunter of muscular form, which feeds on human flesh if there is no other prey around. From the wastes of the Arctic to the snowy rocky outcrops Canada there is every possibility that some kind of unknown species of larger, more fearsome wolf roams. The Adlet is certainly the most known legend of northern Canada and Alaska in regards to monster wolves, and although its origins are the stuff of folklore (It is said that the first wolf was a docile creature which mated with a woman and took her for his wife. Ten pups were produced, five being red-furred wolves the others being terrifying animals which were to become outcasts of the family, and so ate their mother and roam the wilds up to this day) could there be some truth to the beliefs of giant wolves ? The Witchie Wolf is feared in Chipewa lore also. Across the world legends persist, in Bandirpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, several huge wolf-like creatures have been blamed for the disappearance of more than thirty children. Many of the incidents took place in 1996. But the most feared canid is without doubt the Salaawa, or ‘female ghoul’ said to haunt parts of Egypt. The beast has become a folkloric marauder, connected with Anubis, the jackal-headed goddess of the afterlife. Yet this monster, which attacked many people around Cairo in 1996, resembles a giant hyena or mutant wolf/dog, often black in colouration, having two powerful hind legs, and two shorter front limbs and prominent fangs. Packs have allegedly been tracked and shot dead by the police, but sceptics argue such creatures are simply wild dogs, but, wild dogs would not have provoked residents to create anti-Salaawa defences, and the installation of phone lines across Egypt has reached a record volume. Unfortunately, being labelled the ‘Egyptian goatsucker’ hasn’t helped its credibility, but the Salaawa remains potent across the sands.

Secondly, the Amazonian Mother Snake. This was the monstrous reptile which explorer Benedict Allen went in search of during the early 1990s. His expedition was filmed for BBC2 and entitled Raiders Of The Lost Lake. Allen is one of my favourite adventurers, and in his quest he voyages into the heart of the Amazon to search for a mythical lake, greatly feared by local tribes who, whilst trudging through the forest, abandon him for the last part of his journey for fear of demons and phantoms guarding the waterhole. Amazingly, Allen finds the lake, a murky, still and eerie place surrounded by impenetrable foliage, and it’s here he claims that the mother of all snakes lives, possibly a giant anaconda. Of course, those who have allegedly found the lake, have never returned, possibly eaten by the slithering beast, or consumed by dread and the power of nature. But, if the giant anaconda, or any water monster exists, then it’s likely to lurk in this special lake.

Lastly, giant owls. Big Hoot and Big Owl maybe names not registered in cryptozoology circles, but for many years across the United States there have been sighting of huge, clawed birds often connected to Indian mythology just like the Thunderbirds. However, Big Hoot and Big Owl, could well be flesh and blood flappers. These birds stand four-feet in height and were considered by the Wyandot Indians to be far more aggressive during thunderstorms. If bad weather came with, before or after sightings of these huge owls, then it’s only natural such birds would be perceived as bad omens. In 1982 at Rocky Fork Lake, Ohio, a female witness saw an owl-like creature with a wingspan greater than most small airplanes. The Cree Indian’s spoke of Big Owl as a sign of famine. The owl was so terrifying that its presence was felt in the forests and most game animals would flee the area, causing the tribes to starve. Then, any hunter brave enough to scour the woods in search of prey, would be plucked from the ground by the swooping menace, and eaten. Strangely, giant owls of some considerable size were also mentioned in the wave of Mothman sightings in West Virginia during the 1960s, and also the Owlman case in Cornwall, although I doubt flesh and blood birds were to blame.

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