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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In between each episode of OTT, we now present OTTXtra. Here are three episodes pretty much at random:


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Friday, September 17, 2010


I won't witter on any further on the subject. Over to Max, on his blog....


The Feejee Mermaid Part One

The Feejee mermaid is probably the most famous cryptozoology-related humbug ever created and although we have mentioned it a few times on the blog, including Alan Friswell's marvellous creation for the CFZ that featured in the first ever published guide to Feejee-mermaid-fabrication in Fortean Times, we have never actually had an in-depth look at the story behind this staple of the sideshow.

The original Feejee mermaid arrived in New York in the company of Dr J. Griffin of the British Lyceum of Natural History in mid July of 1842. For some time previously the local papers of New York had been receiving gushing letters brimming with excitement over a strange creature that had been caught in the 'Feejee islands' (an alternative spelling of the Fiji islands) that was part human and part fish. Indeed, according to the letters, this was no less than a real mermaid, an animal which according to scientists was a creature of myth created by the minds of randy sailors. The papers were certainly interested in seeing and reporting upon this marvel when Dr Griffin came to town, and they practically besieged his hotel in the hope of seeing the mermaid and gaining an exclusive report.

Someone other than the press was also very interested in the mermaid and this being nineteeth-century New York, it really doesn't take a genius to guess who...the world's greatest showman ever Phineas T. Barnum.

Barnum gave several newspapers what they thought was an exclusive when he approached each in turn offering to donate a woodcut that he no longer needed that they could use to illustrate their stories. Barnum said that he had been trying to buy the mermaid off Dr Griffin and had prepared the woodcut beforehand for use in producing promotional materials; however, Barnum told the newspapers, this was not to be as Dr Griffin had turned him down. The newspaper was happy to take the woodcut off Barnum's hands as this meant that they could get their copy out faster and with an illustration, something their rivals would surely not have! The fact that they could also tie this story in with a local celebrity also helped push up the article's importance and chances of hitting the front page.

On the day the stories were published - the 17th of July - Barnum revealed his true hand and distributed thousands of copies of his own leaflets about the mermaid throughout New York. The woodcuts and the leaflets both depicted mermaids as nubile , plump-bosomed, young ladies without a scallop shell bikini in sight.

This borderline pornography certainly got locals even more interested in seeing the mermaid, who was sure to be a rare beauty if these pictures were to be believed. The reaction of these New Yorkers to seeing the wizened and emaciated half-fish and half-monkey mummy that was the real Feejee mermaid must have been priceless. Unsurprisingly, after the departure of Dr Griffin the mermaid was housed in Barnum's New York museum where it continued to draw huge crowds. The mermaid went on a tour soon after, even reaching England in 1859, and was destroyed in a fire at Moses Kimball's Boston museum, where it was residing, sometime in the 1880s.


GRAEME STROUD WRITES: Does anyone know what type of fly this is? I don’t remember seeing one before, certainly not all this year, but at lunchtime today I saw two. They are elongated, about 15mm long, with a metallic gold thorax. They can hover like a hoverfly, and the abdomen shows metallic purplish-blue, although that is not noticeable when at rest.


Readers - I, Harriet Wadham, roving reporter for the Weird Weekend, interviewed Lars Thomas the hair analysist (and more besides that), to bring you vital pieces of information…
Name: Lars Thomas
Connection with the Weird Weekend: He met Jon in London 15 years ago. They were good friends and as a result, around 6 or 7 years ago he got a letter asking if he would talk at the third Weird Weekend.
Why he began doing things for the CFZ: Lars is a zoologist and Jon wanted him to identify the hair samples. Lars also has fun around CFZ personnel.
Favourite cryptozoological author: Karl Shuker as he finds new stories all the time and travels to find subjects and sightings.
When his interest began: Lars was given money to buy some books at the book stall and a book about the Loch Ness Monster particularly caught his eye. After reading this he began to buy more cryptozoological books.
Most fascinating place his interest has taken him: Belize- scattered with Mayan ruins and spread with rainforests. Folklore was also based around the jungle.

That was your vital information. What?? It’s not disappointing! ...is it?

RICHARD FREEMAN: The Monstroid Mystery

I’m a massive fan of B-movies, from the creaky old 1950s classics like The Giant Claw (monster chicken from outer space builds a nest on top of the Empire State Building) to the ‘video nasties’ that caused such outrage amoung the tabloids and dim wits during the late 70s and early 80s.

Recently I stumbled across one on Youtube that I had almost forgotten. Monstroid (AKA Monster) is a 1979 flick writtern and directed by Kenneth Hartford and starring John Carradine and James Mitchum. I think the budget was blown on getting hold of John Carradine as the film looks ultra-cheap. Herbert L. Strock began shooting the film in 1971 but never finished it and the project was later handed over to Hartford.

If you can ignore the sub-Rentaghost acting and abysmal special effects then it’s not a bad story. It is set in a small lakeside town in Colombia. The town’s main employer is a large US cement company whose works have been polluting the lake for years killing off all the fish much to the anger of local fishermen. An activist, incensed by the pollution, is spreading anti-US sentiment in the area and a reporter from America is covering the pollution story, showing the company up in a bad light. One woman claims that her husband was devoured by a monster from the lake several years ago, but no body was ever found and she is looked on locally as a witch. Carradine, the town priest, thinks the monster is of a diabolical nature.

The cement company send down one of their executives to investigate the goings-on. Shortly after he arrives there is a spate of killings in and around the lake, where victims are attacked and eaten by some kind of animal. The children of an American secretary photograph the monster and the company executive, the reporter and the town mayor have to join forces to come up with a plan to stop the beast.

The creature itself looks like Kermit the frog if he lived in Sellafield. Imagine a grey/green, scaly, long necked walrus, sans the tusks but with crocodile teeth, feet and tail, a catfish's barbles and a cat's eyes, then you will have a good idea of what the creature looks like. It is realised by a shockingly unrealistic hand puppet and a full sized head and neck and whole head, neck and body models operated in the water from beneath.

What has this got to do with cryptozoology? I hear you say. Well, at the start of the film we are told that the movie is based on real events that took place in a lake in Colombia in June 1971! I have never heard of a killer lake monster in Colombia in June 1971 or at any other time for that matter.

The town in the film is referred to as Chimayo and the movie was apparently filmed on location there. However, there is no Chimayo in Colombia. There is a Chimayo in New Mexico that has a small lake several miles to the west of it. Monstroid was partially shot here.

According to local folklore an important Christian pilgrimage site in New Mexico is the Sanctuario at Chimayo, which is visited today by thousands of pilgrims, especially during Holy Week. According to local tradition, the site was an ancient, pre-Christian shrine associated with twin war gods who killed a child-devouring monster on that spot. As a result of the death of the monster, a pool of healing mud was created. But this hardly seems like the 1971 events we are told of at the start of the film.

Acorrding to the credits it was also partially filmed in Ambalema, Colombia. This is a town in the Tolima department of central Colombia. There seems to be no large lake in the area but the Rio Magdalena runs right next to the town.


Dagnamit, the crypto-booze fest editorials will have to end. The editorials won't, I hasten to add, but the alcoholic theme, sadly, is no more. Apparently I've run out of cryptozoological varieties of ale to sample in the Edwin Waugh so it's coffee all round. Having said that, I dare say I can obtain a bottle of Green Goblin Cider from Morrisons when I'm done here, from the supernaturally Fortean brewery of Wychwood, which I think is based in Oxfordshire.

Anyhow, you will all soon be reunited with the blog you know and love as (unless I've misread the email he sent me t'other day) the CFZ's very own Godfather, Downes Corleoni will be back in residence on the morrow, so there will be no more need for me to bore anyone with my impending search for the orang pendek's favourite brand of vodka....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

Yesterday’s News Today


On this day in 1949 Frank Morgan died. Morgan is best known for his role as the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Fans of the TV series Life on Mars will also recognise the name, as Sam's doctor was named after him in one of the series' numerous references to the Wizard of Oz.

And now, the news:

7ft snake found in New Forest

Weymouth nature centre is staging a kingfisher que...

Birds don’t need a leader to fly

Witch attempts to wake Loch Ness monster

Sorry, can't resist the urge to post a Monty Python clip: