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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Monday, September 20, 2010

LIZ CLANCY: Editorials from the pub

Just in case anyone is interested, I have posted a little history on my own blog about the man who actually did much more with his life than give his name to the Wetherspoons in Heywood where I composed my editorials in Jon and Corinna's absence....





This is about as Fortean as the dear boy gets.

DALE DRINNON: The Almas: No Different Flesh

(LEFT) Rakshasa (RIGHT) Skin of Marsyas

Reports of the Almas are concentrated in an area extending from Mongolia in the north, south through the Pamirs, and then westward into the Caucasus region. Similar reports come from Siberia and the far north-east parts of the Russian republic. The Almas or Wildman type in general seems to be of a more nearly human size and with more human-like features than the Sasquatch or the even more ape-like Yetis, Sisimites and Mapinguaris.

Early in the fifteenth century, Hans Schiltenberger was captured by the Turks and sent to the court of Tamerlane, who placed him in the retinue of a Mongol prince named Egidi. After returning to Europe in 1427, Schiltenberger wrote about his experiences. In his book he described some mountains, apparently the Tien Shan range in Mongolia: "The inhabitants say that beyond the mountains is the beginning of a wasteland which lies at the edge of the earth. No one can survive there because the desert is populated by so many snakes and tigers. In the mountains themselves live wild people, who have nothing in common with other human beings. A pelt covers the entire body of these creatures. Only the hands and face are free of hair. They run around in the hills like animals and eat foliage and grass and whatever else they can find. The lord of the territory made Egidi a present of a couple of forest people, a man and a woman. They had been caught in the wilderness, together with three untamed horses the size of asses and all sorts of other animals which are not found in German lands and which I cannot therefore put a name to" (Shackley 1983, p. 93).

Myra Shackley (1983, pp. 93-94) found Schiltenberger's account especially credible for two reasons: "First, Schiltenberger reports that he saw the creatures with his own eyes. Secondly, he refers to Przewalski horses, which were only rediscovered by Nicholai Przewalski in 1881....Przewalski himself saw 'wildmen' in Mongolia in 1871."

Drawing of a Mongolian Almas from a 19th-century Tibetan book (Shackley 1983, p. 97)

A drawing of an Almas is found in a nineteenth-century Mongol printing of The Mirror of Medicine, a compendium of medicines derived from various plants and animals. The text next to the picture reads: "The wildman lives in the mountains, his origins close to that of the bear, his body resembles that of man, and he has enormous strength. His meat may be eaten to treat mental diseases and his gall cures jaundice" (Shackley 1983, p. 98).

Shackley (1983, p. 98) noted: "The book contains thousands of illustrations of various classes of animals (reptiles, mammals and amphibia), but not one single mythological animal such as are known from similar medieval European books. All the creatures are living and observable today. There seems no reason at all to suggest that the Almas did not exist also and illustrations seem to suggest that it was found among rocky habitats, in the mountains."

In 1937, Dordji Meiren, a member of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, saw the skin of an Almas in a monastery in the Gobi desert. The lamas were using it as a prayer rug in some of their rituals. Shackley (1983, pp. 103-104) stated: "The hairs on the skin were reddish and curly....The features [of the face] were hairless, the face had eyebrows, and the head still had long disordered hair. Fingers and toes were in a good state of preservation and the nails were similar to human nails."

A report of a more recent sighting of live wildmen was related to Myra Shackley by Dmitri Bayanov of the Darwin Museum in Moscow. In 1963 Ivan Ivlov, a Russian pediatrician, was travelling through the Altai mountains in the southern part of Mongolia. Ivlov saw several human-like creatures standing on a mountain slope. They appeared to be a family group, composed of a male, female and child. Ivlov observed the creatures through his binoculars from a distance of half a mile until they moved out of his field of vision. His Mongolian driver also saw them and said they were common in that area. Shackley (1983, p. 91) stated: "So we are not dealing with folktales or local legends, but with an event that was recorded by a trained scientist and transmitted to the proper authorities. There is no reason to doubt Ivlov's word, partly because of his impeccable scientific reputation and partly because, although he had heard local stories about these creatures he had remained sceptical about their existence."

After his encounter with the Almas family Ivlov interviewed many Mongolian children, believing they would be more candid than adults. The children provided many additional reports about the Almas. For example, one child told Ivlov that while he and some other children were swimming in a stream, he saw a male Almas carry a child Almas across it (Shackley 1983, pp. 91-92).

In 1980 a worker at an experimental agricultural station operated by the Mongolian Academy of Sciences at Bulgan encountered the dead body of a wildman: "I approached and saw a hairy corpse of a robust humanlike creature dried and half-buried by sand. I had never seen such a humanlike being before covered by camel-colour brownish-yellow short hairs and I recoiled, although in my native land in Sinkiang I had seen many dead men killed in battle. ... The dead thing was not a bear or ape and at the same time it was not a man like Mongol or Kazakh or Chinese and Russian. The hairs of its head were longer than on its body" (Shackley 1983, p. 107).

(RIGHT)Almas=Yeti=Raksi-Bompo (LEFT) Almas=Yetis,Wild Woman Above and Old Man Below

The Pamir mountains, lying in a remote region where the borders of Tadzhikistan, China, Kashmir, and Afghanistan meet, have been the scene of many Almas sightings. In 1925 Mikhail Stephanovitch Topilski, a major general in the Soviet army, led his unit in an assault on an anti-Soviet guerilla force hiding in a cave in the Pamirs. One of the surviving guerillas said that while in the cave he and his comrades were attacked by several ape-like creatures. Topilski ordered the rubble of the cave searched and the body of one such creature was found. Topilski reported (Shackley 1983, pp. 118-119): "At first glance I thought the body was that of an ape. It was covered with hair all over. But I knew there were no apes in the Pamirs. Also, the body itself looked very much like that of a man. We tried pulling the hair, to see if it was just a hide used for disguise, but found that it was the creature's own natural hair. We turned the body over several times on its back and its front, and measured it. Our doctor made a long and thorough inspection of the body, and it was clear that it was not a human being."

(LEFT) Wildman Names (examples) (RIGHT) Jinniushan skull (front).

"The body," continued Topilski, "belonged to a male creature 165-170cm [about 5 1/2 feet] tall, elderly or even old,judging by the greyish colour of the hair in several places. The chest was covered with brownish hair and the belly with greyish hair. The hair was longer but sparser on the chest and close-cropped and thick on the belly. In general the hair was very thick, without any underfur. There was least hair on the buttocks, from which fact our doctor deduced that the creature sat like a human being. There was most hair on the hips. The knees were completely bare of hair and had callous growths on them. The whole foot including the sole was quite hairless and was covered by hard brown skin. The hair got thinner near the hand, and the palms had none at all but only callous skin."

Topilski added: "The colour of the face was dark, and the creature had neither beard nor moustache. The temples were bald and the back of the head was covered by thick, matted hair. The dead creature lay with its eyes open and its teeth bared. The eyes were dark and the teeth were large and even and shaped like human teeth. The forehead was slanting and the eyebrows were very powerful. The protruding jawbones made the face resemble the Mongol type of face. The nose was flat, with a deeply sunk bridge. The ears were hairless and looked a little more pointed than a human being's with a longer lobe. The lower jaw was very massive. The creature had a very powerful chest and well developed muscles.... The arms were of normal length, the hands were slightly wider and the feet much wider and shorter than man's."

In 1957 Alexander Georgievitch Pronin, a hydrologist at the Geographical Research Institute of Leningrad University, participated in an expedition to the Pamirs for the purpose of mapping glaciers. On August 2, 1957, while his team was investigating the Fedchenko glacier, Pronin hiked into the valley of the Balyandkiik River. Shackley (1983, p. 120) stated: "at noon he noticed a figure standing on a rocky cliff about 500 yards above him and the same distance away. His first reaction was surprise, since this area was known to be uninhabited, and his second was that the creature was not human. It resembled a man but was very stooped. He watched the stocky figure move across the snow, keeping its feet wide apart, and he noted that its forearms were longer than a human's and it was covered with reddish grey hair." Pronin saw the creature again three days later, walking upright. Since this incident there have been numerous wildman sightings in the Pamirs and members of various expeditions have photographed and taken casts of footprints (Shackley 1983, pp. 122-126).

The Ordos map and another depiction of Neanderthals

We shall now consider reports about the Almas from the Caucasus region. According to testimony from villagers of Tkhina, on the Mokvi River, a female Almas was captured there during the nineteenth century, in the forests of Mt. Zaadan. For three years she was kept imprisoned, but then became domesticated and was allowed to live in a house. She was called Zana. Shackley (1983, p. 112) stated: "Her skin was a greyish-black colour, covered with reddish hair, longer on her head than elsewhere. She was capable of inarticulate cries but never developed a language. She had a large face with big cheek bones, muzzle-like prognathous jaw and large eyebrows, big white teeth and a fierce expression." Eventually Zana, through sexual relations with a villager, had children. Some of Zana's grandchildren were seen by Boris Porshnev in 1964. In her account of Porshnev's investigations, Shackley (1983, p. 113) noted: '"The grandchildren, Chalikoua and Taia, had darkish skin of rather negroid appearance, with very prominent chewing muscles and extra strongjaws." Porshnev also interviewed villagers who as children had been present at Zana's funeral in the 1880s.

In the Caucasus region the Almas is sometimes called Biaban-guli. In 1899 K. A. Satunin, a Russian zoologist, spotted a female Biaban-guli in the Talysh hills of the southern Caucasus. He stated that the creature had "fully human movements" (Shackley 1983, p. 109). The fact that Satunin was a well-known zoologist makes his report particularly significant.

In 1941 V. S. Karapetyan, a lieutenant colonel of the medical service of the Soviet army, performed a direct physical examination of a living wildman captured in the Dagestan autonomous republic, just north of the Caucasus mountains. Karapetyan said: "I entered a shed with two members of the local authorities. When I asked why I had to examine the man in a cold shed and not in a warm room, I was told that the prisoner could not be kept in a warm room. He had sweated in the house so profusely that they had had to keep him in the shed. I can still see the creature as it stood before me, a male, naked and barefooted. And it was doubtlessly a man, because its entire shape was human. The chest, back, and shoulders, however, were covered with shaggy hair of a dark brown colour. This fur of his was much like that of a bear, and 2 to 3 centimeters [1 inch] long. The fur was thinner and softer below the chest. His wrists were crude and sparsely covered with hair. The palms of his hands and soles of his feet were free of hair. But the hair on his head reached to his shoulders partly covering his forehead. The hair on his head, moreover, felt very rough to the hand. He had no beard or moustache, though his face was completely covered with a light growth of hair. The hair around his mouth was also short and sparse. The man stood absolutely straight with his arms hanging, and his height was above the average — about 180 cm [almost 5 feet 11 inches]. He stood before me like a giant, his mighty chest thrust forward. His fingers were thick, strong and exceptionally large. On the whole, he was considerably bigger than any of the local inhabitants. His eyes told me nothing. They were dull and empty — the eyes of an animal. And he seemed to me like an animal and nothing more" (Sanderson 1961, pp. 295-296). Significantly, the creature had lice of a kind different from those that infect humans. It is reports like this that have led scientists such as British anthropologist Myra Shackley and Soviet anatomist Dr Zh. I. Kofman to conclude that the Almas may represent a relict population of Neanderthals or perhaps even Homo erectus (Shackley 1983, p. 114). What happened to the wildman of Dagestan? According to published accounts, he was shot by his Soviet military captors as they retreated before the advancing German army.

In the 1950s Yu. I. Merezhinski, senior lecturer in the department of ethnography and anthropology at Kiev University, was doing research in Azerbaijan, in the northern part of the Caucasus region. From local people Merezhinski heard reports of an Almas-like wildman called the Kaptar. Khadzi Magoma, an expert hunter, told Merezhinski that he would take him to a stream where the Kaptar sometimes bathed at night. In exchange the hunter asked Merezhinski to take a flash photo of the creature for him. Merezhinski agreed and they went to the stream, near which a few albino Kaptars were said to live. Shackley (1983, p. 110) stated: "sure enough Merezhinski saw one from a distance of only a few yards, clearly discernible on the river bank through the bushes. It was damp, lean and covered from head to foot with white hair. Unfortunately the reality of the creature was too much for Merezhinski, who instead of photographing it shot at it with his revolver but missed in his excitement. The old hunter, furious at the deception, refused to repeat the experiment."

Here once more we have a report by a professional scientist who directly observed a wildman. As an anthropologist, Merezhinski was particularly well qualified to evaluate what he saw. It is reports like this that tend to dispel the charge that the Almas is a creature that exists only in folklore.

And as far as folklore is concerned, accounts of the Almas and other wildmen are not necessarily a sign that the Almas is imaginary. Dmitri Bayanov, of the Darwin Museum in Moscow, asked (1982, p. 47): "Is the abundant folklore, say, about the wolf or the bear not a consequence of the existence of these animals and man's knowledge of them?" Bayanov (1982, p. 47) added: "Therefore we say that, if relic hominoids were not reflected in folklore and mythology, then their reality can be called into question."

Excerpts distilled from Sanderson and other sources by way of Forbidden Archaeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race, Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson (Bhaktivedanta Book Publishing, 1996).

Main earlier sources include Still Living :Yeti,sasquatch and The Neanderthal Enigma by Myra Shackley, (Thames and Hudson, 1983) and Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life by Ivan Sanderson, (Chilton, 1961)

In this case the interesting passage I wanted to cite was the part which reads:

'In 1937, Dordji Meiren, a member of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, saw the skin of an Almas in a monastery in the Gobi desert. The lamas were using it as a carpet in some of their rituals. Shackley stated: "The hairs on the skin were reddish and curly....The features [of the face] were hairless, the face had eyebrows, and the head still had long disordered hair. Fingers and toes were in a good state of preservation and the nails were similar to human nails."

This has been written off as a bear's skin but the details sound nothing like the features of a bear. And among other things that seem to be true about Almases is that their hands, heads, and skins were supposedly kept as religious relics. This along with the statement that their flesh was considered aceptable as food and even with magical curative powers.

Myra Shakley hints that some of the Neanderthal-type tools found in Mongolia near where Almas are reported are more recent than the Neanderthals were supposed to be and in fact the tools were made by Almases, which were surviving Neanderthals. From various sources are rumors that Neanderthal-like fossil teeth have been uncovered that are possibly recent and possibly point to the Almases being Neanderthals. The only really substantial evidence of thgis that I have found is that the teeth of so-called Ordos man were discovered by Telliard Du Chardin and they werre said by some authorities to resemble a Neanderthal stage but still having affinities to the earlier Homo erectus of China on the one hand and the more modern Chinese on the other. Carleton Coon was of this opinion. However, my college text on fossil humans, Paleo-Anthropology

by Milford Wolpoff (Knopf, 1980) states that the circumstances of the Ordos Man's deposition suggests that the finds were very recent and definitely post-Ice Age in origin.(p 320) Since both the affinity and the dating are arguable this is not a strong argument but I mention it because the possibiltity does remain.

In doing my research on the Ordos region and Inner Mongolia, I came across this terracotta depiction of a "Demon" from Anyang, and this resembles a flensed skin off of a humanoid body rather than an actual body. The skin is shown as rather saggy and baggy and the limbs arranged in a pose which would be awkward for a liniving body. But for the fact thay one finger is lost off each hand and one toe off each foot, the depiction of the hands and feet match descriptions of the Almas. The sole of the foot is very Neanderthaloid. The thumb is not shown, and that too could be related to traditions of the almas which maintain the thumb is more like the other fingers than like a human thumb: and it is possible this means the thumb and other fingers are more equal in length than in modern man, a trait ascribed to some Neanderthals.

(LEFT) Neanderthal depiction (RIGHT) "Dragon teeth"

The body seems to have most or all of its hair rubbed off and indeed the Almas skin reported as a prayer rug shares this trait: most of the hair had been rubbed off by use but remaining hairs indicated that it once had red curly hair covering its body, pointed out in the Shackley excerpt above. This even goes to argue against one of Shackley's arguments that the classical satyrs could not be Wildmen because their bodies are not usually shown as hairy. They are shown as hairy sometimes and in fact we do have at least one Classical myth where one of the Satyrs was gruesomely skinned alive by the Greek god of "Beauty and Light" in the myth of Marsyas and Apollo. Satyrs could also have had their hairy hides used for ritual purposes and eventually had the hairs rubbed off.

The head of the Anyang Terracotta resembles the stylization of an Indian Rakshasa demon, but in this case there are curious differences as well. The eyes are shown as distinctly round and bulging, reminiscent of the Arimaspai, and the face generally a sort of Neanderthal caricature. In this case the large broad nose is once again of the Iceman type, turned up with large nostrils facing foreward. The Rakshasa demons of India are probably based on something similar and in fact one type of Tibetan Yeti serves to bridge between the two, the Rakshi-Bompo (=Hindu Rakshasa + Tibetan Bom-Po, Powerful Man, according to Gordon Creighton)

It seems that the Tibetan region holds an ordinary Wildman type which is spoken of but not well known, and also the "Bearmonkeys" which are seen and described more often (The Chinese sources will frequently translate their name as meaning "baboons" in English, which is probably a fair enough description)

(LEFT) Marsyas-statue of a skinned Wildman

(RIGHT) Marsyas-Expression on bust depicting his agony at being skinned alive..

(LEFT) Apollo flaying Marsyas (RIGHT) Anyang Male Figure, Inner Mongolia

Returning to the myth of Apollo and Marsyas, it is probably a most fitting reminder of what human beings will think is good, beautiful and admirable: in this case the savage torture and killing of a creature that is literally human underneath the skin. It recalls the closing words of Bernard Heuvelmans in the original edition of On The Track Of Unknown Animals, where he says:

"Tomorrow we may know of our other relatives: the Abominable Snowman, for instance...or perhaps an even more humanlike primate like the tiny Agogwe or the elusive Orang Pendek. I hope with all my heart that when he is captured there will be no needless murder.

Have pity on them all, for it is we who are the real monsters"

Now it is not necessary to capture, kill or skin a Wildman to know what they are like: they are like us. Their internal anatomy should be pretty much exactly the same as ours. They have more hair growing on their skin and a more robust muscular-skeletal anatomy coupled with a more robust physiology with much higher strength and endurance than the more civilized forms of humans. And that is basically all they are, Hairy Humans. And basically, all they want is to be left alone. I see no reason why we should try to force anything else upon them other than that.

[The original to this article, under the same title, was submitted to PURSUIT in the early 1980s and never published. My earlier blogs touching on the Iceman and on the range of diversity among the various "ABSMs" covered most of the remaining material from that article, and only a little more covering Folklore and the possiblility-indeed probability-of their crossbreeding with humans is left yet to come. Best Wishes, Dale D.]


The other day, regular readers will have read (or I hope you will have read) my article on the subject of Hong Kong dragonfly swarms. In it I explained how a spectacularly tawdry internet newsgroup that usually sends out nothing but soft pornography and invitations to join the foreign exchange market, occasionally sends out something worthwhile.

This is another one from their series [old_hongkong] When Insect Attack what Happen and I am posting it because for the life of me I cannot identify the creatures pictured.

Any ideas?


Dear colleagues,

We have just completed a new page with recordings and pictures of frogs from the new Sound Guide of the frogs and toads of southern Brazil and Uruguay (scientific editors: Axel Kwet and Rafael Marquez). A 2 CD-audio including recordings of 109 species of frogs and toads from Southern Brazil and Uruguay including chorus and soundscapes. With a 56 page book in English, Portuguese and Spanish with pictures and distribution maps of the recorded species.

If you want to check it out, follow the link in the front page of:


Any report of glitches, comments, and/or suggestions for improvement are welcome.

Warm regards from Axel Kwet and Rafael Marquez

Dr. Rafael Marquez
Fonoteca Zoológica
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC)
José Gutierrez Abascal 2
28006 Madrid

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1866 H.G. Wells was born. If you have never read any of Wells's stories you are now hereby ordered to rectify this; once you've done so I'm sure you'll agree with me that he is the best sci-fi author to ever put pen to paper.

FACINATING FACT: Wells is the only science-fiction author to have had a city and cathedral named after him, the city of Wells in Somerset was previously named Fontanetum before it changed its name in honour of the author (this is completely true and you can look it up on Wikipedia if you do not believe me).

And now, the news:

'Hannibal' swan kills 15 birds
Sad demise of Cedric the Tasmanian devil sets back...
Lost tiger population discovered in Bhutan mountai...
Pelican sighting on Læsø
Big cat on prowl in Forest
Storm Water Is a Silent Marine Species Killer
New frog species discovered in Arnhem Land

Okay, this is stretching the link a bit and perhaps a little racist of me to link something to do with frogs to something to do with the French, but I'd not be doing my job right if I didn't post something from 'Allo, 'Allo here would I?