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, July 25, 2010


* There will be an exhibition of the yokai art from Richard's new book

* Matt Sayce will be introducing a new short film about the Owlman of Mawnan

* Silas Hawkins will be back

* The musical introduction will once again follow the theme of small children and progressive rock music, and will be better (and more surreal) than ever

* There is a very special guest on saturday

With less than three weeks to go, now might be a good time to buy your tickets to the best crypto-fortean event of the year....

Buy Your Tickets here

DALE DRINNON: Bears, Bearmen and Bearmonkeys

Recently I entered this news item at the yahoo group Frontiers-of Zoology:


Chinese Sasquatch suspected

BEIJING, July 19 (Xinhuanet) -- Bears or Bigfoot? That's what villagers in Shennongjia, Hubei Province are wonder-ing ever since one man named Ding Fei, 33, found mysterious thick curly hairs with transparent roots on July 9 at a location called Swallow Hole on a local mountain. After Ding reported his discovery to the neighborhood committee, some professional researchers found additional hairs and a 30-centimeter-long footprint at the same place on July 11.

According to their research, the hair isn't human or livestock, but the possibility of bears could not be ruled out. (Source: Global Times)

--Thirty centimeters is one foot long, there is no need to go about yelling "Sasquatch!" just yet. That would not even be a very impressive bear. However the Yeren reports seem to refer to not only an orangutan-like ape (According to Krantz and Poirier)but also a Neanderthal type (According to Heuvelmans), and other things besides. Unfortunately for the most part the hairs that are being found and reported as belonging to Chinese Wildmen are mostly turning out to be dyed hairs and synthetic fibers pulled out of wigs and toupees (Seriously!).

The following article gives an excellent overview of the history of the yeren in China:

Sightings of the Yeren, or Chinese Wildman, date back more than 2,000 years and are still reported today. Described as being a red haired bipedal animal, rising over six feet tall with a particuliarly fat belly and pronounced buttocks, the Yeren bears a resemblance to many unidentified humanoids reported in other countries including the United States. But as in reports from those other countries, more than one kind of creature seems to be reported under that general cryptid category name.

Most of the sightings are in the counties of Badong, Xingshan and Fangxian, and over much of the rest of China. But the Yeren are thought by most investigators to originate from Shennongjia Nature Reserve in Yichang, and that is where the search for them has been concentrated.

Even with all of the reports (some claim over 400 reports in the last 20 years), scientists haven’t definitively proven what the creature is, or even the concrete existence of the Yeren. When theorizing about what the Yeren could be, many zoologists believe the creature is a surviving Gigantopithecus, a giant bipedal primate believed to have gone extinct roughly 300,000 years ago, and today would share the same habitat. Another popular theory is that the Yeren are in fact a type of evolved orangutans.

The Wildman has been a part of the folklore of southern and central China for centuries, sighted primarily in the heavily forested areas of these regions. Frequently referred to as the Yeren (Wildman), the creature has been described as about six and a half feet tall with a thick coat of brown or red hair. It is said to walk upright, and footprints reportedly belonging to the Wildman have measured sixteen inches.

Although widely considered a superstitious myth in contemporary Chinese society, the Yeren boasts a history of sightings by scientists and dignitaries, rather than just common folk. In 1940, biologist Wang Tselin claimed to examine the corpse of a Wildman that had been killed in the Gansu region. He said it was a female specimen over six feet tall, with striking features that appeared to be a cross between ape and human. Geologist Fan Jingquan in 1950 reported seeing Wildmen live and in the flesh, a pair that he construed as mother and son, in the forests of the Shanxi province.

In 1961, a team of road builders allegedly killed a female Yeren in the forests of Xishuang Banna. By the time officials from the Chinese Academy of Sciences made it to the scene, the body had disappeared. The scientists' investigation concluded that the creature, which was described as only four feet tall, had been an ordinary gibbon. But twenty years later, a journalist who had been involved in the investigation came forward to claim that the creature killed was no gibbon, but an unknown animal of human shape.

In 1976, a car carrying six local government bureaucrats came across an unidentified creature on a rural highway in the Hubei province. The purported Wildman attempted to flee by climbing up an embankment, but slipped and fell onto the road in front of the car, crouching on all fours in the glare of the headlights. One of the frightened passengers threw a rock at the beast and caused it to run away. This incident sparked another intensive Wildman investigation by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, but it turned up no conclusive results. The closest thing to concrete prof of the Yeren's existence surfaced in 1980 in the form of the preserved hands and feet of an unknown hominid creature. Supposedly, villagers had killed a Wildman in the Zhejiang province in 1957, and a biology teacher had removed and preserved all four of its extremities Upon examining the hands and feet, researcher Zhou

Guoxing at first announced that they belonged to an unknown species of monkey, but later decided they had come from a large macaque monkey. But Zhou made clear that this discovery did not mean that all Wildmen are macaques.

Tibetan Macacques

Another monkey spcies that has been suggested as a candidate for Wildman sightings is the rare and endangered golden monkey, whose unusual appearance could seem like a man-monster to some observers. Other researchers propose the more unlikely hypothesis that the Yeren is a surviving Gigantopithecus, a giant extinct primate believed to have lived in China three hundred thousand years ago.
© The Missing Link, Parascope.com

Artists Concept of a Yeren

In 1979 Zhou Guoxing wrote an article for China Reconstructs #28 which was later reprinted in Pursuit the following year:

"A formal investigation by the Chinese Academy of Sciences aftyer the 1976 event sent 110 investigators into the forests of Fang county and the Shennongjia area. No sightings were reported but local witnesses were interviewed and alleged Yeren footprints, hair, and feces were collected"

Zhou Guoxing, one of the expedition leaders, believed there seemed to be two types of Yeren: “a larger one of about two meters in height, and a smaller one, about one meter in height.” He also reported two types of footprints: “One is large, 30-50 cm [12 to 18 inches], remarkably similar to that of man, with the four small toes held together and the largest one pointing slightly outwards. The other type is smaller, about 20 cm [8 inches], and more similar to the footprint of an ape or monkey, with the largest toe evidently pointing outwards.”
Zhou, believes that both living and dead specimens of the smaller Yeren are already in scientists’ hands.

“One was killed on May 23, 1957, near the village of Zhuanxian in Zhejiang province. A biology teacher had the presence of mind to preserve the hands and feet." When Zhou learned of this in 1981, he went to the site and collected the specimens. After some considerable study he concluded that they “belonged to a kind of large stump-tailed monkey unknown to science.” Subsequently he identified the animal as an unusually large stumptailed macaque. Not long afterwards just such an animal was captured in the Huang Mountain region and taken to the Hefei Zoo. Zhou wrote that this species is mainly ground-dwelling…. "The body is large, about 70-90 cm in standing height. A tall individual could reach one meter. Its extremities are strongly built. It weighs more than 20 kilograms. A large male could weigh over 33 kilograms, while females would be smaller. The back hair is brown in color. The adult male has whiskers, and has a reddish color on the face.”

This is evidently intended to be the description of a Stump-tailed macaque or bear-monkey, common throughout Southeast Asia, although larger than the usual records. There is more than one canditate macaque in the area: the stumptailed macaques are in the southern parts of the range but the Tibetan macaque is found in Central China and is even larger.

The Wikipedia information on the stump-tailed macaque is as follows:

The Stump-tailed Macaque has long, thick, dark brown fur covering its body, but its face and its short tail, which measures between 32 and 69mm, are hairless. Infants are born white and darken as they mature. As they age, their bright pink or red faces darken to brown or nearly black and lose a lot of their hair. Males are much larger than females, measuring between 51.7-65cm long and weighing between 9.7-10.2kg, while females measure between 48.5-58.5cm and weigh between 7.5-9.1kg Male Stump-tailed Macaques' canine teeth, which are important for establishing dominance within social groups, are more elongated than those of the females. Like all macaques, this species has cheek pouches to store food for short periods of time.

Cawthon Lang KA (2005-10-04). "Primate Factsheets: Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology


--As far as the large Stump-tailed monkeys go, they have a direct bearing on something Ivan Sanderson had said in Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (1961). He had said that certain reports from South and Central China, Tibet and Northern Indochina, represent a large macaque monkey, referring to it under the nonstandard genus name of Lyssodes. He does discuss how he thinks there is a kind of giant macaque in that area related to the Tibetan and Stump-tailed macaques, partially going on information of native animal collectors that told him a really big male of the species could stand up and look Sanderson in the eye at six feet tall. [p.274] Sanderson then takes pains to say "I do not for one monemt suggest that ABSMs [the Abominable Snowmen of the reports] are Giant Rhesus monkeys" and then "What I am trying to say is that, in addition to the two very distinct forms of ABSMs in this, the Himalayan South Tibet province...there could be...areally giant form of Lyssodes or Stump-tailed Macaque which might be the origin of some of the Tibetan (and notably the Tibetan) reports. The really giant Dzu-Teh, Tok, or Gin-Sung...[Sanderson does not think occurs in the area of Mount Everest]"

Sanderson is specifically meaning the reports of tailed hairy men of Tibet, the ones that had to make a hole in the ground to sit down according to the early legends. Eberhart in Mysterious Creatures refers to the creature under the name of 'Qa" and says that records referring to it go back to the ninth century. Eberhart also refers to the smaller "Yeren" of Zhou Guoxing under the entry of 'Ren-Xiong' and equates it to the Gin-Sung of Sanderson: on the other hand, he indicates that the Yeren has been confused with other creatures such as the Mao-Ren or standard Wildman (Almas) further to the West, the Xing-Xing (possibly an orangutan) and with the Giant mountain creature called the Shan-Gui (or just Shan). The last would be the larger Yeren or the Gin-Sung of Sanderson.

The situation in China is actually only a continuation of the situation represented in Tibet, and the same "Yeti" types continue Eastward and down to the lower elevations. And after reaching this point, I shall have to break the blog here and go on to the next part, Krantz's orangutan-like Yeren, the Xing-Xing, and Sanderson's Kra-Dhan and Mahalangur (Big Monkey). The giant forms are going to come in another blog following after that.

Of the illustrations, I consider the one shown in the Cryptids colouring book to be a fairly decent representation of the orangutan-like one and it is also a fair match for the Japanese netsuke that I take to be a Hibagon.




Hi Jon,

While doing some research on Lemurians, I came across several newspaper clippings about "singing mice". I never heard of singing mice, but they seem to have captured the public's attention in a small way from the mid-1930s to around 1940.


I have never seen these cuttings in the flesh as it were. I have been interested in singing mice for about 18 years now, and wrote a paper on the subject for the 1997 Fortean Studies and paraphrased it in my autobiography Monster Hunter (2004):

An item in the 43rd report of the Scientific Memoranda section of the Transactions of the Devonshire Association caught my eye. The headline read "Singing Mouse", and it quoted an item from the Western Morning News of 2 February 1937, which referred to:

“Mickey, the singing mouse caught by Mrs A. Eddey of Trafalgar-place, Stoke, Devonport.

Prof. Crews, of Edinburgh, wishes to investigate the vocal mouse in the interests of science, but Mrs Eddey's primary wish is that it should broadcast. . . ”

This was an opening paragraph worthy of anyone's attention. A singing mouse whose owner had showbusiness aspirations was a beast out of the pages of one of the Dr. Dolittle books. Mrs Eddey herself seemed almost prosaically matter-of-fact about the whole affair:

"It is true I have a lovely little singing mouse which I caught on the morning of January 10th. It sings like a canary. It is an ordinary house mouse, very small, and its little body seems to vibrate with music. It first came to my bedroom at 12. 2 [sic] A.M. on New Year's morning and it has sometimes sung the whole night. Even when trapped it did not stop chirping to me. I am sorry I can tell you nothing more, only that it is quite tame. . . "

The headline in the Western Morning News read "Mouse that has won fame", which seems eminently appropriate for such a peculiar story. George Doe, the Recorder of Scientific Memoranda for the Devonshire Association, reported that 'Mickey' was again in the news, when the Western Morning News of 12 March 1937 reported that Mrs Eddey's ambitions for her pet had been fulfilled:

“Apparently pleased with the success of his broadcast audition on Wednesday, Mickey, the Devonport singing mouse, kept his owner awake all night with his celebration tunes.

If all goes well, Mickey will soon be issuing a tuneful challenge across the ether to Minnie, his American rival. On Wednesday, Miss Mildred Bontwood, of the National Broadcasting Company, of America, travelled to Plymouth especially to see Mickey, having previously wired his owner Mrs A. Eddey, of Trafalgar-place, that she was bent on seeing him.

Mickey was put into his cage and taken around to the Plymouth Station of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and as a result of the audition Mrs Eddey has a contract to take the mouse to London and it is expected that Mickey will broadcast from there to the United States. ”

By the time I had finished reading this extraordinary series of articles I was almost in tears of laughter and was in imminent danger of being asked to leave the library. It all seemed too surreal, even for inclusion in a universe which experience has taught me and my colleagues is often totally absurd. The fact that the whole report had been compiled 54 years before by someone whose surname is commonly used by American policeman as a designation for unidentified corpses made the whole affair seem even more bizarre.

I decided that before proceeding with the affair the sources should be checked. I had the easy job. I checked the relevant issues of the Western Morning News and found that Mr Doe had indeed quoted the original press reports correctly. The BBC still had a copy of the recording, but unfortunately the documentation that went with it had gone astray. Alison, however, had the unenviable job of trying to find out something about Mrs Eddey.

Even if she had been a relatively young woman at the time, by 1991 Mrs Eddey would have been in her seventies. The odds were that she was dead. Trafalgar-place in Stoke didn't exist any more, and even if she were still alive, tracking her down seemed as if it was going to be an impossible task.

We were right. It was!

In 1991 there were 26 telephone numbers under the name of 'Eddey' in the Plymouth telephone book with Devonport addresses. Alison telephoned them all. Unfortunately none of them had heard of either Mrs Eddey or her talented rodent. Some people were helpful and polite, others abusive; none had any information that was actually any use in our quest.

There were several hundred people with the same surname living in other parts of Devon so we did what any sensible Fortean researchers would have done under the same circumstances. We gave up!

Instead of continuing the search for Mrs Eddey or one of her close relatives, we went back to searching the newspapers for more stories about this remarkable rodent, and we were not disappointed.

Back in 1937 the plot had thickened, as by April 'Mickey' had another British rival.

The headline in The Times on 22 April 1937 was:

“BBC Tests the Singing Mouse - (like a nightingale)”

The story read:

“Another singing mouse has been found - this time in Wales. It will be brought to the microphone on May 8th for a national broadcast, which will be relayed to the United States. The mouse, 'Chrissie', owned by Mr Gale of West Cross, Mumbles, Swansea, was given a test at the Swansea studio of the BBC and an official told a press representative that she sang 'like a nightingale'. For the test the mouse was held up to the microphone in a bottle.

The National Broadcasting Corporation of America has challenged any country to produce a singing mouse to beat the singing mice of Illinois. Mr Gale discovered the singing ability of his mouse last Christmas. Soon afterwards 'Chrissie' was missing. She was found hiding inside the piano. Before this it was claimed that the only singing mouse in Britain was that owned by a Devonport woman which has also been tested for broad-casting. ”

The Illinois mice had made their media debut the year before on a Detroit radio station when on 15th December they broadcast a recording of “Minnie the Singing Mouse” to mixed responses from the audience. “Some people thought that she sang like a robin, others compared her to a tone-deaf canary. The trouble with Minnie was getting her started, but once she opened her mouth she wouldn't stop.”

Three days later, according to Young, another Illinois mouse, named 'Mickey' and billed as her 'co-star', made his debut with a less than impressive performance. He, apparently got his feet wet while drinking water from a fruit jar, and refused to sing. After half a minute's silence an announcer told listeners that Mickey usually began a recital with a soft whirring trill rising into a crescendo, followed by a two note jump, tapering to a diminuendo. No-one believed him.

Writing in a book called Secrets of the Natural World, my friend and colleague, the British cryptozoologist Dr Karl P. N. Shuker, also described 'Minnie' and her career, and told how “…. in May 1937, a transatlantic radio contest for singing mice was staged, featuring rodent songsters from as far apart as London, Illinois and Toronto. ” .

The first English entry was a duet between Mickey from Devonport and Chrissie, a Welsh mouse. They piped quite brightly, but no-one could tell them apart. America's Minnie (from Illinois) ran round and round and refused to open her mouth. Mickey (also from Illinois) performed like a trouper, his top notes were described as being comparable with the greatest Italian tenors of the day.

Next came Johnny of Toronto, billed as the Toronto Tomado. He never had a chance; tens of thousands of radio listeners heard cries of 'Miaow! Miaow!', followed by a solemn announcement that the Tornado's career had ended.

It was back to London for another 'Mickey', but listeners mistook him for a leaky tap in the radio studio. At the end of the contest the sponsors (Canadian, American and British Broadcasting Corporations) announced the winners would take part in an international mouse opera broadcast live. Over half a century later we are still waiting for the grand results of the competition. Both NBC and the BBC have ignored my requests for the winners' names to be publicised, and to our knowledge the mouse 'grand opera' so eagerly awaited by Dr Dolittle and his friends has never been staged.
Young treated the whole affair in such a light-hearted matter, that, although there is enough corroboration to confirm that the event actually took place, the true details are obscure. We have succeeded in part of our original aim, however. 'Mickey' the singing mouse of Devonport definitely existed. He was not an unlikely hoax dreamed up by George M. Doe. There is even a picture of him, but there do not seem to be any records of his life after May 1937. Like so many semi-legendary historical characters, little is known of him apart from his brief flirtation with fame for five months in 1937. Mice don't as a rule live very long, and so we can reasonably suppose that he has passed over to pastures new.

The same can be said about the other mice in the story. Essentially the main part of our research was over. We were, however, still intrigued. Why had so many singing mice turned up between December 1936 and May 1937? What made them sing? Was there a historical precedent? Were there singing mice around today? If so, where could we get one?

I have to admit that my motivation at this point was not merely the furthering of the sum total of human knowledge. I have always had a strong and irrational dislike of Walt Disney. In the early 1980s there was an inept American punk rock ensemble called Bomb Disneyland and although the music was terrible I bought all their records because, unusually amongst the practitioners of American punk rock here was a sentiment with which I could sympathise. I was particularly incensed at what Disney Studios had done to great classics of English literature like The Jungle Book and Peter Pan and it would have amused me greatly to have proved that the whole Disney Empire had been based on an idea stolen from as peculiar rodent living in a suburb of Plymouth.

So, fuelled by a heady mix of righteous indignation and a surreal sense of humour, and ignoring the protestations of my wife I continued my researches. I discovered a number of letters to The Times discussing singing mice which were published during the 1930s and over a few months I amassed what I believe to be the largest archive of material on the subject to exist in the world.

It seemed that the phenomenon of 'singing' mice is quite a well-known one. As with so many things the phenomenon captured the interest of a number of Victorian writers and naturalists who discussed the matter at length. It seems that, despite our initial surprise in the Westcountry Studies Library, singing mice were a well-known phenomenon amongst out forefathers, and that it is only the effete researchers of Forteana and zoology at the end of the 20th century who had not heard of them. It was a little comforting to find out that with three exceptions, Dr Karl Shuker and my friends Clinton Keeling, the veteran British Zoologist and maverick zoological researcher Richard Muirhead (and they know all sorts of ridiculous things), no-one we would talk to during the rest of our investigations had heard of them either!

The 'craze' for singing during 1936 and 1937 led to much information becoming available. In The Times of April 22nd it was stated that a singing mouse had been found in Wales and that it was to broadcast on May 8th. A letter in the same issue informed the British populace that according to Red Indian mythology, 'Mish-a-boh-quas' the singing mouse always comes to tell of war. It may sing at other times but not to the same extent. The author of this letter cited “Ernest Thompson Seton's wonderful book 'Rolf in the Woods'.

This was just too much for me to deal with. What had originally been a mildly amusing piece of research into an obscure item of Devonshire Zoology now seemed to have analogues all over the world. A good friend and colleague of mine is a bloke called Tom Anderson. He lives in Scotland and it is a mark of the peculiar nature of the technological society in which we live that we have become firm friends by letter, e-mail and telephone conversation without ever having actually met face to face.

Besides being a highly amusing raconteur of tall tales and a collector of strange Scottish stories, Tom is an expert on matters appertaining to the Native American peoples, did some research for us but was unable to unearth any solid facts. He wrote to me:

“Despite strenuous efforts and consulting about thirty books on folk customs, anthropology and totemic realisation and ceremonial, I can find no reference to singing mice Their name sounds Algonquian, which limits them geographically but it doesn't appear anywhere, even as a sub-clan of a linguistic family such as kiowan, Siouan, Athabascan, etc.

Mice are an unusual tribal choice, either as totems, guardians or emblems. Not having the power of the Thunderbird to control the elements for the northern tribes, or the storytelling significance of the Coyote or Grandmother Spider further south, it's difficult to imagine its purpose. The nomadic tribes used medicine bundles for personal protection and luck, as you probably know. Feathers, lucky stones, weasel skins, claws, etc. , symbolic of speed, running and other desirable traits.
Custer's nemesis, the Oglala, Crazy Horse (Masunka Witco), whose war paint consisted of painting his face blue with white spots, symbolising hail, and wearing a sacred stone behind one ear and a hawk's body in his hair, was the rare combination of a mystic and a war leader”

Tom continued describing Crazy Horse for some paragraphs before returning to the main subject:

“…. mice are representative of nothing I'm aware of in Indian culture. Nor can I find evidence of them as design subjects for the Pueblo cultures on pottery, etc. Deer, yes. Mice, no!

He concluded:

I suspect it could be a 'retro myth'. A possibility, maybe even likely, but basically unfounded. It wouldn't be the first as Amerindians are 'hip' right now because of their 'green' lifestyle. I won't bore you with the shortcomings of this theory. ”

To confuse things further, Arkady Fielder wrote a book called The River of Singing Fish, referring to a type of sheat fish in the Ucauali River which apparently produces a noise like bells clanging. But no mice. Richard Muirhead, a bloke I had actually been at school with back in Hong Kong nearly three decades before eventually managed to track down the passage in the aforementioned book by Seton:

“A few nights later. as they sat by their fire in the cabin, a curious squeaking was heard behind the logs. They had often heard it before, but never as much now. Skookum turned his head on one side, set his ears at forward cock”

At this point, we feel, the reader should be reassured that 'Skookum' is the name of the dog owned by the eponymous hero, Rolf, during his sojourn in the woods. The narrative continues:

“Presently, from a hole 'twixt logs and chimney, there appeared a small, white-breasted mouse. Its nose and ears shivered a little, its black eyes danced in the firelight. It climbed to a higher log, scratched its ribs, then rising on its hind legs, uttered one or two squeaks like they had heard so often, but soon they became louder and continuous:

'Peo, peo, peo, peo, peo, peo, peo, oo,
Tree, tree, tree, tree, trrr,
Turr, turr, turr, tur, tur,
Wee, wee, wee, we'

The little creature was sitting up high on its hind legs, its belly muscles were working, its mouth was gaping as it poured out its music. For fully half a minute this went on, when Skookum made a dash; but the mouse was quick, and it flashed into the safety of its cranny.

RoIf gazed at Quonab inquiringly.

'That is Mish-a-boh-quas, the singing mouse. He always comes to tell of war. In a little while there will be fighting. '”

There are times when I look at my life as if from an outsider`s point of view that I think that everyone I know is either massively eccentric or barking mad, Some are both. For Richard was so excited by his discovery of the original 1915 reference to the Native American singing mice as a portent of war that he decided that merely posting me a photocopy of his discovery, or even telephoning me would be a wholly inadequate way to communicate this momentous discovery to me.

Nothing so tame! Despite the fact that the weather was appalling and it was a Bank Holiday weekend he decided to trace (I believe by a mixture of hitch-hiking and railway train) all the way from where he lived at the time in Salisbury to my home in Exeter in order to tell me of his fantastic find in person. Unfortunately he forgot to warn me of the fact. Alison and I were upstairs watching television when he arrived and didn`t hear his repeated knockings. Apparently he was standing on my doorstep for several hours singing the Red Indian mouse song a-la Ernest Thompson Seton before giving up and hitch-hiking back to Salisbury, still without having given me the original documents!

Rolf in the Woods is a dreadful book. From the photocopied excerpts eventually sent to us by Richard Muirhead we are exceedingly glad that we didn't have to read more of it than was absolutely necessary. It is also a work of fiction, although the author claimed to have based it on his own experiences. It also appears, although we cannot confirm this, to be the original source for both The Times, and the Young references.

We have not been able to find any other pre-1937 references to this legend. In the absence of any further supportive evidence we are forced to conclude that Tom Anderson may well be right and that the story of Mish-aboh-quas may well be nothing more than a relatively modern 'refto' myth based on an incident in a (not very good) novel.

Whether or not the Native Americans did have this legend, we can establish that native North American mice do sometimes exhibit this 'musical' ability.
So far all the mice which we have discussed which exhibited this 'musical' ability appear to be common house mice (Mus musculus), originally a Middle Eastern species which, commensal with man, has spread to every corner of the globe [161. Writing in 1871, however, William Hiskey noted:

“The cage had a revolving cylinder or wheel, such as tame squirrels have. In this it would run for many minutes at a time, singing with its utmost strength. This revolving cage, although ample as regards room, was not over three and a half inches long, and two and a half inches wide. ”

It could be argued, perhaps, that the sound of a mouse 'singing with its utmost strength', was in fact the sound of a desperately unwell animal wheezing and gasping for breath whilst rushing around in its wheel. I feel, however, that this hypothesis is unlikely, if only because of the unlikeliness of an animal suffering from such a severe and debilitating condition voluntarily taking exercise to this extent. And any way, Lockwood was a fine naturalist, and it would seem eminently unlikely that a man of his observational powers would have been unable to recognise diseased squeakings when he heard them. As we explored the surprisingly large body of source material about singing mice, it became more and more apparent that whilst it seems entirely likely, nay probable, that many of these 'singing' mice were, indeed, suffering from a debilitating respiratory tract infection, others, probably including 'Hespie', were exhibiting behaviour symptomatic of something else entirely. When an animal is ill, it is usually self-evident, especially to a competent naturalist, and Lockwood, in particular, spent some considerable time testing the 'respiratory infection' hypothesis, before rejecting it out of hand.

The final irony is that if indeed 'singing mice' are suffering from various respiratory tract infections, then the ancient Wiltshire folk legends of the advent of a singing mouse foretelling sickness could be nothing more than literal truth. The story of the 'Black Death', a global pandemic spread by lice living on the (then) ubiquitous black rat, is well known. If there is/was a disease of the respiratory tract which affected both mice and humans (and we should here remember that one of the best rationalisations for vivisection experiments on mice is that they are biologically relatively similar to our own species), then the advent of a diseased mouse could well have been the forerunner of an outbreak of disease amongst the human beings of the neighbourhood.

Unfortunately, it turned out that my main objective in this quest was fruitless and it was not possible to prove that Walt Disney made his fortune from an 'empire' based around the bastardised images of two rodents with debilitating upper respiratory tract infections, but the sheer peculiarity of our quest fascinated me and inspired me to go on stranger and more peculiar investigations into the soft white underbelly of the natural sciences.


The saga of the Lincoln Imp continues as Corinna gets in on the act


Apologies to the last few people who bought Richard's Yokai book some months back. I know we are rubbish at being any semblance of a commercial enterprise, but this takes the biscuit. It is probably a good idea that we don't even pretend to be a commercial enterprise. However, despite the cock up being entirely my fault, it is now rectified and Richard - being here when the last box of books, which I had completely screwed up ordering - arrived, signed them for you.

Why he looks so sullen, (or should that read mean, moody and magnificent?) in the picture, I have no idea.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1984 Ed Gein died. Gein was perhaps the dictionary definition of criminally insane (amongst other things) and provided inspiration for murderers in many fictional works such as ‘Psycho’, ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. Not somebody you’d want to bump into in a dark alley and DEFINATELY NOT someone you would want attending your funeral.
And now, the news:

Satellite spies vast algal bloom in Baltic Sea
Joyriding bear leaves teen grizzly

After the travesty of the Frog Song yesterday you’ll be wondering if there are such things as decent novelty songs… Well surprisingly there are! The following tune is an example. It was written and sang by the Big Bopper and nobody knew how to craft novelty rock and roll songs better than he did. Sadly the Big Bopper is better known these days for having been one of the guys that died in the same plane crash as Buddy Holly but he was a famous singer and DJ in his own right well before his tragic death. As well as being the singer and writer of the smash hit ‘Chantilly Lace’ he broke the world record for a continuous radio broadcast by one man without sleeping (five days, two hours and eight minutes, playing 1,821 records) and coined the term ‘music video’. In 2007, 48 years after his death the Big Bopper’s body was exhumed and was found to be in perfect condition apart from the injuries sustained in the crash. Anyway, here’s a Big Bopper song that is vaguely on topic: