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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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

THE CATS OF UPPER MINSTER: Episode 4 - Chickens coming home

The other week, as an amusing one-off Tim Matthews, wrote a silly short story spoofing some of the more ridiculous exploits of various self-styled big cat researchers over the years.
It was so popular that he wrote another one, and now - by public demand - it has become a serial. Every other day will see an episode of Timmo's new Fortean soap opera The Cats of Upper Minster. And having read the first few episodes I can confirm that it is bloody smashing and highly amusing. "I'll carry on until it stops being funny" says Tim, and you can't say fairer than that!

“Foxes!” bawled Tony East. “You must be joking.” The glass collector cum occasional barman had come outside to see what all the fuss was about. Once news of the Channel X TV truck’s arrival started to spread a crowd of fascinated onlookers gathered outside The Minster public house. “What’s going on,” they wanted to know. “Has there been a murder!”

“Not quite,” fumed farmer Adam Barton, “although somebody might be killing the truth pretty soon. From what I can see poor old Marj’s dog saw something, barked at it, slipped its lead and now we have every nutter within 100 miles descending on our village. Utterly ridiculous. I mean what next? Crop circles, UFOs, the Devil Rides Out? Give me strength!”

Just as Adam was launching into a tirade about “damned outsiders” the biggest outsider of the lot pushed his way through the crowd, past the TV truck and towards the pub. Big, brash, boresome and with an overinflated sense of his own importance, The General, with briefcase in hand, waved a sheaf of papers in the general direction of a reporter who was chatting with his roving cameraman.
He loved it, and he loved himself.
“Laydees and Genelmun,” he bawled his East London accent. “I have here definitive proof that something major has gone on here. There is certainly something here for science. I can show a link between major paranormal events and local sightings of mystery animals. What we have here is a window area of great significance to the world as a whole!”

“Window area my arse,” said Richard Barton, Adam’s son and not a young man with any time for stories of the weird and not so wonderful. All he, and most villagers cared about, was the Good Life, and ill-educated morons spouting X Files theories was not his thing.

“Excuse me,” said The General. “As a local farmer you will be able to attest to several animal mutilations of your sheep by predators unknown. This has been happening for at least 40 years and the farming community has been covering it up, or is involved!”

Despite the obvious illogic of The General’s claim, Richard Barton noted that the only Predators around here were newshounds and foxes, and that he was off to do some farming and forget about the “nonsense” that being spouted outside the village hostelry. The General, brushing down his camo jacket for an upcoming live link with Channel X’s 3 O’Clock News, assembled a small group of supporters to give the impression that he did indeed head up an organisation and that people did indeed take him seriously. He even put on a pair of sunglasses and despite the fact that these made him look like a part-time doorman for a social club he was loving it. Far too much.
Just then Billy The Burger Man emerged. Driving an old Ford Transit van with camouflaged paint and a hatch in the side (for serving his customers in a layby off the A30 near Okehampton) Billy was the wheels of the ABC Team operation and had seen a big cat on Dartmoor as a child. He owned walkie talkies and a CB radio. Real and unfortunate name Billy Poison, his wife PAM (so written as she was loud, obnoxious and had been having an ongoing affair with The General for several years) and he were Big Cats Research stalwarts. They had been there, at the beginning, when a dozen members of the Fortean Research Centre split when its Chairman, Don Brown, told them they were a bunch of useless wasters and would never amount to anything.

Billy, Pam and The General were self-styled Real Militants of Big Cat Research. Yes, their annual report contained numerous spelling errors and rarely incorporated paragraphs but they had better night vision cameras, better camo gear and better pictures of big cats in the wild, or so they claimed. They also had a good website and forum, too, as The General could design websites and made a bit of money doing it from the attic from his old mum’s house in West Ham.

“Billy, me old mate", shouted the General, smiling. “I knew you wouldn’t let us down. Now then mate, get the van ova 'ere and we can stand in front of it for the interview. We’re live in five, buddy.” One of The General’s bad habits was, when excited, to start talking in a pseudo-American accent, something he’d perhaps learned from Billy, whose main claim to fame was reaching a man in Detroit on an illegal Single Side Band radio once in 1996. Nothing to do with big cats but he liked the idea of tracking things down. That’s what real men do. And he truly believed in Rambo and Professional Wrestling.

“We don’t have bigfoot,” he’d tell people at the Big Cats Research annual conference held at an old pub near the layby he worked at off the A30, “but we do have Big Cats and we’re the hunters, they’re the prey.”

“We’re on in five, four, three, two, one,” said the reporter, Ron Jeremy. The General scraped his hair back off his forehead and waited for his next moment of vain glory...

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