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, October 25, 2009


Hi folks,

A few days ago my brother Bill, who lives in Sydenham with his wife Jane, passed on to me a newspaper cutting from London Life dated September 28th 2009 (see below) on the `Sydenham panther`, which reminded me that I had come across a mention of this creature a few years ago. So I have just done a fairly quick bit of research on the history of this mystery cat. It transpires that since at least 2005 there have been a series of sightings in various locations (perhaps of more than one animal?) around towns in southeast London with Sydenham and Crystal Palace (where one is known as the Palace Puma), where there is an open park space as the 'epicentre' as it were. There seems to be a gap in reports between March 2005 and September 2009, at least as far as the Internet is concerned.

On March 23rd 2005 The Guardian`s web site reported:`Fear stalks the streets of Sydenham after resident is attacked by a black cat the size of a labrador.` By Patrick Barkham.

'It has probably slunk off to a neighbouring suburb to become the Penge Panther, the Catford Cheetah or the Beast of Beckenham by now. But residents of the blossom filled streets of Sydenham were still shaking last as a father of three told how he had been mauled by a black cat the size of a labrador. Police armed with Taser stun guns sealed off roads in south-east London, school gates were locked and teachers warned pupils to keep away from wooded areas after Tony Holder escaped with a cuff around the face from the big cat...As Mr Holder was being treated for scratches by ambulance staff,he saw the beast saunter past again...The animal gave them the slip, but as tabloid reporters scoured the streets in safari gear brandishing butterfly nets, the Guardian picked up the scent of something big across the railway line by Catling Close. Billy Rich, 44, was looking out of his window at 5.30am when he saw a black creature leap across the road and bound south towards Mayow Park...Scotland Yard confirmed the beast of Sydenham was the second serious sighting of a large black cat in south-east London in the past three years. Officers responded to reports of a large black cat in Oxleas Wood in Shooters Hill, south London, in 2002 but failed to trace the animal' (1)

We now jump forward about 4 and a half years.

StreathamGuardian.co.uk reported on September 1st 2009

'It seemed like any other day for Helen Barrett when she took a woodland walk with her family earlier this month [presumably August 2009]. But that changed when she claimed the 5ft Palace Puma stalked out of the undergrowth and fearlessly approached her. Understandably the 41-year-old turned and fled, later describing her encounter in Crystal Palace as "alarming".' (2)

So we now have a black panther and a puma. This site also mentions sightings in Eltham, Sidcup, Dartford, Gravesend, Bexley and Thamesmead and mentions the CFZ`s Neil Arnold`s research.

The London Life report of September 28th 2009 was headlined `Sydenham Panther on the prowl` by Mark Blunden: 'A panther is feared to be prowling south-east London for new victims today after a pet cat was found mauled to death. The remains were discovered in the neighbourhood where the so-called "Sydenam Panther" is believed to have struck four years ago. The dead cat was discovered by Sara Hill, 32, as she walked her dogs with her son, Archie, eight months. She said the feline skeleton had been entirely stripped of flesh - yet whatever killed it had left the head untouched.' (3)

On September 30th 2009 a BarnacleBelle on the Sydenham Town Forum website (4) mentioned the lion of Lewisham and the Honor Oak Hyena, both of which I`d like to follow up but I haven`t got the time.

That was essentially the end of sensible debate on this forum until a contribution by coral on October 16th 2009: 'A month ago whilst walking home along Datchet Road, Catford between 22.00 and 22.30hrs I saw what appeared to be a big cat. It was strolling between cars and front pathways of houses. I had no idea of previously reported sightings of black panthers and such like until my daughter later informed me of such. It was not black but more a brownish colour.The height was about 2-3ft high,thin body frame and its fur was much shorter than a pet cat.The head was definetely that of the cat family. Make no mistake about it all you doubting Thomas`s out there, a big Cat is definetly at large in borders of Catford/Sydenham.' (5)

This sounds a bit like the Palace Puma.

1. Guardian website. http://www.guardian.co.uk/2005/mar/23/patrickbarkham
2. StreathamGuardian.co.uk website. http://www,streathamguardian.co.uk/news/4571308./
3. M. Blunden Sydenham Panther on the prowl.London Life September 28th 2009 p.23
4. Sydenham Town Forum website September 30th 2009 http://sydenham.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?=30490
5. Ibid. October 16th 2009

That`s all for today. Tomorrow I`ll be looking at the case study of an entombed toad.

Fishing children fish in the Imperial Waters
Nagasaki nightmare,Nagasaki nightmare
Sons and lovers,lovers and daughters
Nagasaki nightmare,Nagasaki nightmare
Cherry blossom hanging on the cherry blossom tree
Flash,blinding flash,then there`s nothing to see..(Crass,Nagasaki nightmare)


Neil A said...

Hi Richard,
There is no 'Palace puma', this was inaccuracy down to the press. There was no attack by a 'big cat' on a Mr Holder but a suspected hoax.

I devoted a whole chapter to the Sydenham turn-out and other London mystery cats in my new book 'MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: KENT' which will continue when I submit my London book.

There is no 'Lewisham lion' either. All 'lion' or 'lioness' reports from the capital are unfounded...i.e. 'Winchmore Hill lioness', and also the 'Edgware tiger'...

There is certainly at least one black leopard which prowls from Norwood, to the outskirts of Kent at Bexley, Bromley, but sightings have also taken place in nearby Surrey - Croydon for example.

For further info go to my: www.beastsoflondon.blogspot.com for full details.

Anonymous said...

From the Streatham Guardian article: “...and causing much alarm amongst local ramblers.”

What a fantastically British thing to say! I liked the accompanying video to, not quite what any of us were expecting perhaps...

The Guardian link should be http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/mar/23/patrickbarkham

And the forum post link should be http://sydenham.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3915

Regardless, very interesting and informative post. I look forward to more of Muirhead's Mysteries...