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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Thursday, June 24, 2010

MIKE HALLOWELL: The Great Bee Event of '33

Bees are little creatures with a furry body. They can fly and specialise in making an edible substance called honey, which is completely unsuitable for diabetics like myself. The bastards. They also possess a sharp, needle-like appendage that is technically known as 'a pointy thing.' This is used to attack children, gardeners, women hanging out their washing and drunken persons who mistake beehives for footballs, which is Not A Very Clever Thing To Do.

Every year, a swarm of honeybees nests in a wall cavity at the rear of Casa Hallowell. One can see them entering and exiting through a small hole in between two wall-bricks. What they do inside I do not know, and to date neither Mrs. H nor I have been invited in to watch. It's all very mysterious.

But not as mysterious as something which happened on June 15, 1833, at the village of Todstead, near Rothbury.
Mrs. Gibb – for it was she – was going about her daily business that morning when a bee landed upon her head. Being a seasoned country lass and well accustomed to such creatures, this did not discomfit her too much. However, the several thousand other bees which followed it did. Within seconds her entire head was covered in the things.

Initially her husband assumed that his missus was simply suffering from a bad case of cystic acne, but when he noticed that the pustules were actually moving around and making strange buzzing noises he realised that it was not acne at all, but something quite different; a surfeit of bees.

"Here, mate", he said to a passer-by, "would you look at that! My wife's head is covered in bees!"

"Bloody hell, you're right! Are they stinging her?"

"Well, she isn't screaming or anything. She better get the situation sorted out sharpish, though, because she needs to get those potatoes on to boil for lunch. We're having hotpot".

Always one to make a full-blown drama out of a crisis, Mrs. Gibb started waving her arms around theatrically and bumping into things.

"This is getting embarrassing", said Mr. Gibb. "People are looking".

The passer-by – for it was he – came up with a plan.

"Here, there's supposed to be a special bee in those swarms you know. It’s a female, called the Dolly Bird Bee, or something".

"You mean the Queen Bee?"

"Aye, something like that".


"Well, Farmer Brown told me that all the bloke bees have the hots for her".

"And this is pertinent to my wife's current predicament how, exactly?"

"Its obvious, innit? Watch…."

The passer-by walked over to the now extremely distressed Mrs. Gibb and stared intently at her face, or more accurately the swarm of bees clinging to it.

"I can see her".

"Well I can't. Her face is covered in bloody bees".

"Not your wife, you nackerheed*, the Queen Bee".

"How do you know it’s the Queen Bee?"

"She's wearing a thong and false eyelashes".


Now at this juncture, the passer-by, whose name has unfortunately been left unrecorded in the tomes of Geordie history, did a very brave thing. He reached out with his hand – yes, his hand – and plucked the Queen Bee from the chez lounge upon which she reclined.

"Jeez", said Mr. Gibb, "What are you going to do with her?"

"I've got an empty hive in my garden. I'm going to put her in there".

"Why have you got a hive in your garden?"

"I saw how to make on Blue Peter years ago".


Now the passer-by waltzed off with the Queen Bee in his hand towards his garden. The other bees in the swarm – particularly the horny bloke ones – were really pissed off at this. They all wanted to sit and ogle the Queen Bee and harbour naughty thoughts about her. Now their plans had been ruined. It was the bee equivalent of having your stash of porn videos stolen.

Within an instant, the entire swarm vacated the visage of Mrs. Gibb and followed the passer-by to his garden. As soon as he got there he whipped off the lid of the hive and put the Queen Bee inside. The other bees followed, and then he stuck the lid back on.

"Hah!" he said triumphantly.

Meanwhile, back at the village green, Mr. Gibb eyed up his missus intently.

"There's still a dozen-or-so of the critters on your face, petal", he mumbled, "but they aren't moving. I think they're dead".

"Thems not bees. Thems my acne", his good lady replied.

"Good; now get your arse home and get those taties on for the hotpot".

Mrs. Gibb, according to Fordyce's Historical Register of Remarkable Events, did not suffer a single sting during her entire experience.

Mr. Gibb was served his hotpot at lunch, and got to the pub well in time to listen the match on the widescreen radio.

The passer-by advertised the swarm of bees on Bee-Bay as a, "living, ugly-wife mask" and sold it for an absolute fortune.

In Geordieland, cystic acne later became known as Gibb's Syndrome or Buzzings Disease.

Every year on June 15, locals celebrate "the Great Bee Event of '33", as it is the only interesting thing that ever happened there. Apart from the time when that other bloke did that thing in the woods with the milk churn, which was also a bit interesting. And that other time, when Mrs. Rafferty's dog did one in the bar of Ye Olde Knuckleduster. And that other bloke stood in it. They were interesting. But not as much as the Great Bee Event of '33…
*Nackerheed: A Geordie colloquialism, which literally translates as, "a man with a head that looks suspiciously like his own scrotum"; essentially, an idiot.

OFFICE WINDOW WILDLIFE: A buff ermine moth

I am posting this mostly because I am rather proud of the photograph. The buff ermine moth (Spilarctia luteum) is another species that was very common in Woolsery when I was a boy, but now is far less so.

Each year during the summer term I would look for moths on the whitewashed wall of the village shop, where they would be attracted by the street lamps over the night, and rest, ready for the keen young entomologist, when the dawn came.

Sadly, although the village shop and the street lights are still there, the moths no longer cling to the plaster walls....

DALE DRINNON: Irish Sea Serpents

A while back there was some discussion of the Cork Constitution sea serpent rash of reports in 1850 on the CFZ blog. Heuvelmans lists the entire series as an elaborate hoax, but he says very little about the individual reports. It is as if he had a run of Loch Ness Monster reports from one year with a few hoaxes included and then says that all the sightings that year comprised one hoax. James Sweeny's Pictoral History of Sea Monsters and Other Dangerous Marine Life, which does have some unexpected additional information in it as well as some misinformation that a little research would have corrected, speaks of a few of the reports on pages 87-89. The first one from R. W. Travers seems to be derived from Dinsdale's retelling from The Loch Ness Monster and includes a statement that the creature was shedding its skin rubbing against some rocks. That may or may not be true, but the other reports repeat his description and the dimensions of the sea monsters described in this series match are the same as the big creature reported at San Clemente, head and neck 20-30 feet long and 6 feet thick, total length 100-120 feet with large eyes (this version gives the more reduced measurement of nine inches in diameter which might be closer to the truth than saying a foot) The Cork Constitution reports of September 1850 (recounted in the text) might well be legitimate reports and the plate on page 89 might be a legitimate representation of it, I think that is an interesting illustration because it is shown as undulating laterally and it has the large vaguely crocodile-shaped head that goes with the type: it also seems to have foreflippers, more obvious in other different but similar illustrations at the time. This may be the closest thing we have to a witness' impression of one of the really big ones, unless the drawing for the U28 case is authentic and it represents the same type.

So the question is, can some blog reader get a copy of that illustration? I cannot, I do not currently have a scanner. But it does seem that there are more and more reports in this category turning up but not recognised as belonging together because Heuvelmans (for example) will call one a Merhorse, another one a Super-eel and yet again other reports as hoaxes. Actually once you have the distinctive proportions down the reports are obvious: the head and neck average 25 feet, neck diameter average 6 or 7 feet, and a very great length of a hundred feet long or more on the average but sometimes reported as 250 and even 500 feet- one reason several of the reports are taken to be hoaxes, but the real length probably is close to the most common estimate at 100 feet long. It is also very elongated and the rear part of the body and tail is described as looking like an eel, but it has four flippers: something like a fin or mane is sometimes reported along the spine. The tail is like an eel's tail and it swims by horizontal undulations BUT if the body is submerged the wake can still leave the appearance of "Vertical undulations" because of the waves in the wake.

On the occasion of the Cork Constitution cases, the sighting off Kinsdale specify that large numbers of fishes werre around at the time: but the Sea-serpent in this case would not be chasing the little ones. It would be hunting bigger prey-probably the sharks or dolphins that had also come into the area to eat the smaller fishes.

LINDSAY SELBY: The Cold Lake Mystery

Cold lake is northeast of Edmonton Alberta. There is a town there which was set up in the 1950s and the rest of the local area is mainly farm land. There is the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, located to the north of the city and there is a thriving tourist industry based around the lake .The lake is around 400 square kilometres and is said to be up to 310 feet (100 metres deep) in places. It was originally named Big Fish Lake by Chipewyan people who hunted in the area. Early fur traders and the Cree people called it Coldwater Lake, because the water remains cool all year.(Sounds like many other lakes that have monster stories)There is an abundant supply of fish such as rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye, lake whitefish and northern pike. In all it is thought 23 species of fish that inhabit the lake. The lake is said to be the home of a large fish type creature .

A Cree legend tells the story of a young man who disappeared on the lake one night.:

Many years ago, before the first white settlers invaded the wildernesss around Cold Lake, when only mossy footpaths marked the passage of humans and rings of blackened stones protecting cold ashes told of recent teepee camps , a young brave lived and hunted in the area. One night, as he had often done before, he set out to cross the lake to visit his betrothed, paddling his canoe swiftly and strongly. Near the mouth of what is now French Bay , a huge fish rose from the water took the canoe into its cavernous mouth, and snapped it in two. The young maiden never saw her brave warrior again, but the pieces of canoe were found floating in the lake the following day.For many years after, no Cree dared to cross the lake.

It is claimed that the huge fish, named the kinosoo, made a habit of attacking canoes. A great story you might think and one that has little place in the modern world. However the local fishermen think differently:

"I would never believed it unless I saw it for myself. There I was, minding my own business, fishing for Lake Trout actually, when a huge wave crashed violently into the side of my boat. It was a calm day, I couldn't figure out where the wave came from or why it was so big.. Then I remembered Kinosoo. Since that day I have always been a little bit nervous when I go fishing in Cold Lake", said a local fisherman.

There are some big fish caught in the lake and who knows there may be a descendant of a very big fish down in the depths.


Coming very soon at a bookshop near you!

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1903 Eric Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was born.
And now, the news:

The separation between Neanderthal and Homo sapiens
Is it legal to eat lions? (Via D R Shoop)
Mystery surrounds 'horse-boy' on Google Street View
I’m sure he’d say who he is if he wasn’t a little horse…


This is the best story for weeks, although, strangely, I am the only person in the CFZ office who thinks so. Corinna and Oll just smiled indulgently and changed the subject. According to this story on the BBC news site,

"Mystery surrounds a man wearing a horse's head who has been captured on Google's Street View in Aberdeen. The man - who has become known as 'horse-boy' - can be seen in the Hardgate area of the city. The sighting has become a popular attraction on Google's service, which offers a photographic map of streets. The man is wearing dark trousers, a purple shirt - and a brown and white horse's head." What is there not to like?