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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Saturday, June 12, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: The San Clemente Sea Creature sightings

San Clemente Island is in the Santa Barbara Channel, which separates the mainland of California from the northern Channel Islands. During the early 1900s there were rumours that a strange creature had been seen in the waters and lots of people had seen the monster, but were reluctant to talk about it. Then this story appeared in Esquire Magazine 1934.(this is an extract)

“It was in September, 1920. I was fishing for marlin swordfish at San Clemente with the late Smith Warren. We were staying at Mosquito Harbor where the fish camp used to be. It was early in the morning—about 8:00 o'clock. We had worked close in shore the three miles from the camp down to the East End. We had then turned back up the coast and worked along about a mile and a half to two miles off shore. The sea was glassy with just a little roll coming down the island.. Smithy was down in the cockpit doing something or another. I was perched on top of the cabin looking for fish. My bait trolled along astern, the rod tied to the fishing chair. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of something huge lifting up out of the sea. Turning swiftly I was face to face with something I had never seen before—will probably never see again! A great barrel shaped Thing, tapering toward the top and surmounted by a reptilian head strangely resembling those of the huge, prehistoric creatures whose reproductions stand in various museums. It lifted what must have been a good twenty feet. Widely spaced in the head were two eyes—eyes such as were never conceived of even in the wildest nightmare! Immense, at least a full foot in diameter, round, slightly bulging, and as dead looking as though they had seen all the death the world has suffered since its birth! No wonder those who had seen it close by could speak of little else but the eyes! This was the picture that came into the lenses of my seven power binoculars the moment I clapped them on to the Thing—knowing what I was looking at. At the same time I yelled to Smithy to head for it. Through the glasses the head, those awful eyes, that portion of the body showing—and it must have been at least six feet thick, perhaps more, appeared scarcely a hundred feet away. It was covered with what looked like stiff, coarse hair, almost bristles. Strangely enough, considering the light, I gained a distinct impression of a reddish tinge. Remember that. The bulk of the Thing simply cannot be told. To this day I don't believe that I saw anything but the head and a section of the neck—if it had a neck. What was below the surface only God knows. But listen to this. You will recollect that I mentioned a little roll coming down the island? The Thing did not rise and fall in that roll as even a whale would. The waves beat against it and broke. As we drew nearer, the great head which had been slowly turning, stopped. The huge, dead eyes fixed themselves upon us! Even today, after fourteen years, I can still see them—yes—feel them. For seconds—it seemed like hours—they stared at us incuriously, dull and lifeless. Then, without convulsion of any sort, it started to sink, slowly, majestically—and disappeared beneath the surface. There was no swirl, no whirlpool, no fuss, no nothing. The waters closed over it and it was gone. With its disappearance I think we breathed for the first time. I looked at Smithy—Smithy looked at me. "J——!" I croaked. Only a week later I was talking to N. B. Schofield, head of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries of the California Division of Fish and Game. Schofield is an ichthyologist of considerable reputation and a pupil of the late Dr. David Starr Jordan. He suggested that I was said to have seen a strange monster and asked me about it. After I had described the Thing he was silent for a minute or two then went on to say that fishermen out of Monterey, California, swore that they had been seeing a similar creature only recently. I was never closer to the Thing than three hundred yards—perhaps more. I know two men who have been closer than that but there is no material variance in their stories and mine other than one of them thinks he saw a mouth with teeth. I am quite sure that I did not. As to how large the Thing is—your guess is as good as mine. I have a feeling, probably a sort of sixth sense, which tells me that I saw only a small portion of the beast—that beneath the surface was a body greater than that of any known creature, a whale included. However, that is nothing more than an unprovable hunch. I do not know whether it was serpentine in form or not. I again have a feeling that it was not. If it was—then we had better revise our views on serpents. I have told all I know about the Thing. Now, I will lay all my cards face up upon the table. Smith Warren is dead; his lips are sealed. Neale is still living but was never as close to the creature as were we. True, there are a number from out of the ranks of those twenty-five or thirty who have seen the Thing who are still alive. Some of them might come forward in defense of my story—but I shall not ask them to.. From Esquire Magazine for Men, June 1934

Then this story was published in 1975 in the book "From The Ozarks To Aliso" by Karen Wilson Turnbull.( Bound as From the Ozarks to Aliso with George Wesley Wilson, O.H. 1430, Community History (Laguna Beach))

Grace Wilson aged 88 was interviewed for the oral history book and this is her story:

Grace: "...Howard and I were looking out the window at the same time and we saw this huge horses' head sticking up out of the water. It stuck out way up high, and it just sailed along. It was quite a ways out, but it was close enough that we could see it's head bend. It was just going along."

Karen: What did you think it was?

Grace: "A Horse!" (laughter)

Karen: Now they call it the Loch Ness Monster, don't they?

Grace: "Well, I don't know. You see these sea horses on television and they're little bitty things...nothing big...but this was a real big thing. I'll never forget how that thing looked. Howard and I both know what it looked like. Has he said anything about it?"

Karen: Yes, he drew a picture of it once.

Grace: "We just called it a "sea horse", because we couldn't think of nothing else."

Howard confirmed the above account, and also told me that they both decided that it was probably some kind of creature "that got lost...maybe it came down from Alaska". He told me of how he too would never forget how big it was. And how the colossal head looked left and right, how the neck would bend, and how the big eyes even blinked a few times. I asked if it could have been a tree trunk that might have washed out of one of the rivers to the north, but Howard said no. "It was much bigger then a tree. It would bend it's neck almost in two", as the gigantic head would occasionally dip down to the water, "then straighten back up. It turned it's head to look directly at the shore, and I saw the eyes blink." "No," he said, "It was alive. "It wasn't just drifting along with the current either. "You could see the white water splashing up the front of the neck, and the wake water trailing along behind as it swam south. It was moving along pretty fast. It must have been powerful" he said.

It was also observed in 1935 by J.A.Coxe and described in his book, "Men, Fish and Tackle" (1936).He described the creature as having very large eyes, a long neck, about 6 inches( 15cms) thick and a reptile like head, with red bristle like protrusions on it The eyes were expressionless and cold and when he approached , it slid beneath the water leaving no ripples on the surface. Which is very similar to the Esquire account.

Apparently the local private fishing club( Tuna club started in 1898) also holds several accounts of the creature been seen, but I have no access to them (If anyone does please post a comment). The story in esquire sounds like just, that a story, but the oral history project sighting sounds more real. So what did they see? It may have been a leopard seal or an elephant seal that had indeed come down the coast from Alaska or beyond , or a long necked pinniped ( you will have seen this discussed elsewhere , the possibility of their existence)after tuna perhaps. The problem is memory is fallible and things grow larger or smaller with retelling(usually larger) and we convince ourselves of things that may not be strictly true. When the stories are this old it is difficult to decide what is true and what is not. The only truth we can define is that about 30 people saw something strange and large in that stretch of water between the 1920s and 1930s.


This mermaid story, or new species-of-fish tale (not tail!) from Hong Kong is unique as far as I know; at least as far as research for The Mystery Animals of Hong Kong is concerned, in that it does not involve a dugong, the usual suspect in Hong Kong mermaid cases. This situation, described in the English language newspaper The China Mail from November 1925, describes something like a baby`s head or the head or a baby mermaid and an “evil star”. Here is the account:

Hong Kong Superstitions.

Having been in more ports of the world than he cares to remember and with about 20 years experience
Of the Hong Kong waterfront a European gentleman who was consulted yesterday in connection with the strange Yaumati fish whose capture was reported in yesterday`s China Mail pooh-poohed any suggestion that the catch was anything more than a natural object.

In his opinion the fish which was all “round” and was like a human baby`s head in most respects was a freak beche-de-mer, a specimen of sea slug indigenous to the South Seas. [which are nowhere near Hong Kong-R]. The Overgrowing “flesh” of this kind of shellfish is apt to discard its “home” on account of being cramped in,said the expert.

On the other hand, Chinese are not to be easily appeased. In flights of fancy the “mer-baby” caught by the Shantung policeman is connected with some phenomenon. Simultaeneously a strange star was noticed one evening during the weekend and star-gazers were busy after sunset yesterday trying to find out if there is any relation between the fish and the “new very bright star”.

Yesterday`s report was:-

Of the size and appearance of a baby`s head, a strange sea-animal was caught by a Shantung policeman at the ferry wharf, Yaumati,on Sunday [November 8th 1925-R]. The description is borne out by a European of about twenty years standing in the Colony. Those who “saw” the fish maintain that it must have been a fish as it came out of the water.

It is not correct to say that there was a body as it was all “head” not unlike the head of an infant. The fish had eyes (?), mouth,nose,ear holes and fins above the eyes. Another description is that the “fish had a round body, like a California orange.” A close inspection of the bowl in which the “fish” was kept revealed the fact that the specimen was very much alive. As it breathed and opened its mouth two tiny teeth could be seen.(1)

Unfortunately I do not have any of the books on Hong Kong fishes so I am unable to see if anything that fits this description is in there. Odd, wot,wot??

1. The China Mail November 11 1925.


Harmful elements in the air
Symbols clashing everywhere
Reaps the fields of rice and reeds
While the population feeds
Junk floats on polluted water
An old custom to sell your daughter
Would you like number 23?
Leave your yens on the counter please
Hong Kong Garden

Tourists swarm to see your face
Confucious has a puzzling grace
Disorientated you enter in
Unleashing scent of wild jasmine

Slanted eyes meet a new sunrise
A race of bodies small in size
Chicken chow mein and chop suey
Hong Kong garden takeaway
Hong Kong garden

New paper adds seven elasmobranch species

Over on the Frontiers of Zoology list, Matt writes:

This CSIRO paper describes seven new species of large fishes and resurrects two forgotten ones. If anyone tells you there's no possibility of large unknown marine animals, roll up this paper and smack them with it.

Right on Brother. Tell it how it is


Dear comrade Jon of the glorious peoples CFZski,
I need help! No, not the medical kind of help.

On my recent trip to Belarus I visited Zoosad, a zoo that houses animals native to Belarus. In three cages next to each other there was a wolf, a fox and a ???????? what is it? Can you identify it for me. Its some sort of white dog. I am sorry the picture is crap.

I Must say I was impressed with the Bison. I forgot just what big buggers they are. Belarus itself is like a giant nature reserve!

With a land mass a similar size to England but with a population of only 10 million people vast areas are heavily forested, punctuated with lakes and rivers, and because the land is so flat the roads are straight as an arrow and once I left Minsk airport and headed east it was like driving down a tree-lined avenue! Mile after mile of Birch forest still populated by moose and wild boar. A beautiful country.

Regards Davey Curtovski

Hail Comrade,

You are to be congratulated for your succesful mission, but not for your photography, which you so rightly say is `crap`. I would put forward the supposition that it is an Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus or Vulpes lagopus) although the species is not native to Belarus.

But according to Wikipedia, neither is the red fox. I suspect a capitalist plot.

All hail the glorious Fortean revolution.

Comrade Jonski
P.S. I bet you didn't remember to bring me any vodka

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1983 Pioneer 10 became the first man-made object to leave the solar system, when it passed the orbit of Neptune.

And now, the news:

School gets a web of its own
Fat kookaburra Mama Cass learns to fly again
Maltese mystery: Naturalist and government disagree
Pine martens make comeback in UK
Does the Hawkesbury have a Loch Ness-style monster
Dog killed by a coyote
Giant Bat Found In Collier Forest

‘Bats’ quite large.

CFZ AUSTRALIA: Thylacine pelts for sale

Bet that got your attention! OK, not genuine thylacine pelts but cleverly crafted 'pelts' by two Tasmanian artists.

Read more about the pelts here.

Posted By CFZ Australia to Centre for Fortean Zoology Australia at 6/12/2010 01:50:00 AM