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 the last three episodes:


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Bittern monitoring in the UK: summary of the 2010 breeding season


• a further increase in the number of booming male Bitterns to 87, up from 82 in 2009;
• an increase in the number of active nests, with 41 confirmed;
• an increase in the number of sites occupied by booming male Bitterns, with 47 sites being used;
• substantial increases in booming males and nesting females on the Somerset Levels;
• just 11 Confirmed nests on the Suffolk coast, the lowest in more than a decade;
• nesting occurred in southeast England for the first time since the monitoring project began, at Dungeness.

Read on



Jacquie Hallowell took this pic of Mike (right), Steve Jones and some fat bloke at the Unconvention on saturday morning....


Back in the halcyon days of approximately 1996-1999 - when UFOs were all-dominating on the British newsstands, and when Mulder and Scully were the Posh 'n' Becks of the day - much page space was devoted to a strange, previously all-but-forgotten, and genuinely intriguing event that had occurred on a Welsh mountain one dark, winter night in January 1974.


A few weeks ago I asked whether anyone had a pdf of the WW review in Paranormal magazine. A jolly nice chap called Clive Barker sent these over the weekend. Thanks mate!


Marcus H has a wild talent: like a hound after truffles, he unearths long lost images of globsters. He recently unearthed trunko. Now he does it again. He writes:

The Tasmanian Globster was a large unidentified mass that washed ashore in Tasmania in August 1960. In 1962 a team of scientists visited the area and got tissue out of it for an analysis. The carcass was later identified as a whale by L.E. Wall what was confirmed through a following electron microscopy analysis of the collagen fibres.

Nice piece of history for those not old enough to see it 1962 on TV (like
myself): http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=83024


Yesterday's News Today

This is my last sit down in the hot seat for a while, as Oll will be back tomorrow evening. For now, here is today’s look at Yesterday’s News Today:

Elephant ecological engineering 'benefits amphibians'
Bear attacks surge in Japan, environmental change blamed
Illegal trade of butterflies
Female Cantabrian bears and their young do not hibernate
Scientists discover new species 7 kilometres down in one of the world’s deepest ocean trenches
More than 200 new snails of the same genus described in a single study
The Emperor is Dead

See you all another time.


The eagle-eyed amongst you will realise that today's blog was posted some ten hours earlier than usual. This is because Corinna and I returned from the Unconvention so wired, it will be easier to get to sleep later and not have to wake up in the morning.

We had a lovely time and over the next few days will be posting videos of some of the talks on CFZtv, as well as more images. In the meantime I would just like to thank Liz and Graham for holding the bloggy fort in our absence, and to the stalwart CFZ crew, especially Max, David, Jess, and Lisa for doing their bit in manning the CFZ stall whilst I was on walkabout.

And as always I would like to thank Corinna my dear wife for being my helpmeet, co-conspiritor and friend as well as superspouse...

Goodnight guys.

(L-R: Max Corinna, me, Tania Poole, Lisa, Richard, Rebecca Lang)

OLL LEWIS: Crypto-Cons - Anything But The Tooth

Some cryptids attract hoaxes much more than others, the two greatest examples of these being Bigfoot in America and the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. These hoaxes are not, in my opinion, humbug and jolity like the hoaxes of Barnum and his peers, for they serve to constantly chip away at any credibility these cryptids may have. The crypids are contently targeted purely by the virtue that they are well known and the huge amount of hoaxes leads people to believe that because there are so many hoaxes then there is probably no truth behind any of the reports. When a person does see something that they think may be Nessie they now will automatically assume that it was a floating log or a wave and not report it. It may well have been a floating log, but what if it really was a sighting of an unknown animal? The evidence would be lost forever.

Particularly irksome is when hoaxes like this are preformed as publicity stunts to market some tawdrey wares. Sometimes they even try to use hoaxes like this to attempt to promote something that may have been of interest to real cryptozoologists, scoring a spectacular own goal in the process. One such incident occurred during the publicity campaign for Steve Alten's book The Loch.

In March 2005 the story broke that 2 American tourists had found a strange and quite large tooth on the banks of Loch Ness. They took photographs of the tooth but as they were doing so a shady water bailiff came up to them and confiscated the tooth, which was never seen again!

This might perhaps sound just within the realms of possibility to some but the story lost any credibility it may have had when you saw the photos of this alleged tooth. It was not even a tooth, rather the tip of a stag's antler. Pretty soon the hoax was admitted to as part of the book's publicity campaign. Perhaps the people responsible were expecting this to get people talking about Loch Ness and the book and for sales to go through the roof.

Well, they were part right: people did talk but mostly about what an idiotic thing to do this was and vowing never to buy the book. Obviously with the publicity generated the book's sales would have improved over what the sales would have been but had they not annoyed a large part of their target audience and thought of a better way of getting publicity the sales could have been higher.

MIKE HALLOWELL: The Bishop Auckland boars

Cryptozoology is a funny old business, involving as it does the passionate study of something that almost all experts agree we know precious little about. Sensible people study animals that are known to science and easily accessible. We cryptozoologists detest conventionality, far preferring to take the difficult route by studying animals that few people have ever seen and just about nobody has ever studied. Insane? Probably, but its far less painful than haemorrhoids and (usually) unlikely to get you arrested.

Cryptozoology is difficult enough, then, but it gets even tougher when experts in the field can’t even agree about what monster it is that they’re trying to catch. The Bishop Auckland Boars are a wonderfully typically example of this dilemma.

Essentially there are two “monster” legends attached to the Pollard’s Dene area of Bishop Auckland. Superficially they seem to be the same, the only important detail that changes being, to quote a phrase, the nature of the beast. In one version of the story the creature is a large, aggressive dragon or “wyrm”. In the second version the beast is a large, aggressive boar, or “brawn”. Both are said to be the meanest critter ever to have walked God’s earth. If they ever met, it would be a great match; a classic case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

The boar was an animal indigenous to Britain. The wild boar (Sus scrofa) was populous throughout much of central Europe, and was hunted in Britain by the Romans who loved to dine upon its succulent flesh. Over-hunting eventually led to its decline, and by the 13th century it was rarely seen. Some scholars have suggested that it was actually extinct by then, but this is unlikely. Sightings were reported in the north of England as late as the 17th century. However, not long after that it really did become extinct, although it has now been reintroduced and at least two breeding populations are known to exist in the wild.

This gives us a clue as to when the legend of the Bishop Auckland boars originated. Until the 13th century, the presence of a boar in the countryside would not have caused much of a stir. After the animal’s decline, however, it would have caused a degree of alarm in exactly the same way as the Bishop Auckland boar was said to have done. Its very scarcity would have made it a beast easy to be both feared and misunderstood. This suggests that the Bishop Auckland Boar story probably found its way into the currency of folklore between the 13th and 17th centuries, the 14th century being the one I would plump for if I was forced to choose. Here’s why:

In St Andrew’s South Church at Bishop Auckland there is an effigy of a knight carved from oak. His identity is unknown but under his feet there is a subdued boar. Few doubt that the effigy may well be connected to the Bishop Auckland boar legend and experts have dated it to circa the year 1340. I think it is highly likely, then, that the effigy was commissioned during the 14th century after the decline of wild boar had already begun and the legend had already become established.

How the wyrm and boar stories became confused is not hard to work out. The boar was sometimes referred to as the gewurm, a Teutonic word meaning “dangerous animal.” Almost inevitably, then, gewurm and wyrm would become confused. Truth to tell, though, it is not so much the taxonomy of the Bishop Auckland boar that gains it an entry into this book, but rather its terrible nature and unusual size. These two features alone catapult it firmly into the environs of cryptozoology, and for that we should be truly thankful.

Our story begins when hunters around Bishop Auckland – and particularly the area of Pollard’s Dene – began to report encounters with a boar of truly terrible disposition. Initially it was said to be around eight feet in length, which is certainly not outside the bounds of possibility. However, although boars are by instinct bad-tempered creatures, particularly when disturbed, this particular beast was truly ferocious. Several hunters reported that it would charge their horses and knock them (and their riders) to the ground.

A number of attempts were made to catch the creature but were wholly unsuccessful. On one occasion a tragedy occurred and this seems to have made the local populace more determined than ever to catch the beast. The tale is historically dubious but basically tells of a certain knight, resplendent in a heavy suit of armour, who went into the woods one evening at dusk. Some versions say he was hunting for the boar itself, others that he was there for other reasons; it matters not. The important feature of the tale is what transpired when the noble warrior and the boar met.

Seemingly, on entering a clearing the knight was confronted by the beast, which immediately charged him. The horse was badly injured and the knight was unable to get up from the ground and defend himself due to the incredible weight of his armour. The creature rammed him repeatedly with its tusked head until he was dead. Enough was enough, and it was decided that something needed to be done, and quickly.

At this juncture the story becomes a little confused. Some versions ascribe the killing of the creature to Richard Pollard, a brave but penniless knight from nearby Bishop Middleham. Others claim the beast was slain merely by “a brave young hunter.” The effigy in the church indicates that the man was certainly of noble bearing but my own feeling is that Richard Pollard was actually responsible for the demise of the Pollard wyrm, and not the boar, although it is just conceivable that he killed both. Whoever was responsible, the legend states that the hunter confronted the creature at a hollow near a place called Byers Green and slew it by repeatedly hacking at its neck with his sword. The rest, as they say, is history.

Inevitably, stories relating to the size of the boar became exaggerated with the passing of time. If the creature was, as some reports state, over twenty feet in length from tail to snout, then we simply cannot be dealing with a regular boar, but surely one of unknown taxonomic provenance. It is also interesting to note that in some accounts the Boar is said to possess huge, glowing eyes.

Alas, as the whereabouts of the remains of the creature are unknown (if indeed they still exist) we simply cannot be sure what type of animal we are dealing with. All we know for sure is that it terrified the life out of the good folk of Bishop Auckland. In one version of the story, the boar that killed the knight was accompanied by a youngster who also joined in the attack. This suggests that there may have been a breeding population ensconced in the vicinity. If this was the case, then the herd undoubtedly died out before too long, as reports of boars in that area petered out soon after.

Now that Sus scrofa has been reintroduced to the British Isles, the day may not be long in coming when the Bishop Auckland boar may once again live through its historical (if not biological) descendants. It would be nice to think so.



LIZ CLANCY: Farewell, bloggo...well, till I come up with another post idea

It has to be said that although I love working on the blog, I am going to be so relieved to pass the reigns back when Jon, Corinna and Oll get home! I have flu, which is rather unfair since I've been partaking (as posted here the other day) of conservation-funding vitamin C lately.

Anyhow, enough of my whinging. This made me laugh my socks off!

UNCONVENTION 2010: What a long, strange Trip it Was

Unconvention was lovely - I think it was the one I enjoyed most since 2003. I would just like to thank David Sutton and all the FT crew for being so kind and generous again. It really is appreciated....

CORINNA DOWNES: Yesterday's News Today

After a whirlwind trip to Londinium and an enjoyable time at Uncon, it is now once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Oll will not be back until Tuesday, but in the meantime here is today’s offering of Yesterday’s News Today:

Wild dolphins in Australia are naturally learning to "walk" on water.
FALLBROOK: Yard sale find may be rare, valuable pelt from extinct animal
Neighbors Wake to Headless Animals

And so to bed.