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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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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: A MAN-KILLING CENTIPEDE DOWN OLD MEXICO WAY (NOT FOR THE SQUEEMISH!)


This is a very sad story about an unfortunate French musician in Mexico killed by the grip or bite of a centipede. What the French army was doing in Mexico in 1867 I don`t know. (Anyone?) . This story was in the Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser ( Grafton, New South Wales) 23rd April 1867;


“ A musician belonging to one of the French regiments has just met with an extraordinary death at Vera Cruz. He was engaged to play at the ball, and being very thirsty went out into the garden, and finding a water-bottle on the terrace, took it up and drank freely. Suddenly he raised cries of agony, and upon assistance arriving it was found that an enormous centipede had fixed its mandibles in his throat. The animal had taken up its abode in the neck of the bottle, and  was washed into his mouth in the act of drinking. A surgeon who was called was obliged to cut it to pieces , but the poison from the bite caused death in a few hours.” (1)


Now I ain`t no expert on arthropods, but Wikipedia suggests that although poisonous, centipede poison is not thought to be potent enough to kill a human (“except those who are allergic to the toxins.” 2)  However, Dale Drinnon tells me that indeed,  giant centipedes could definetely kill a man and that Eberhart said that there were reports of giant centipedes in the S. U.S.A. What strikes me about this case is did the musician die of shock or did the poison kill him? Or both?. Or if there is something more than the usual giant centipede here was it that his windpipe was pierced?

Apparently in the Solomon Islands there is a species of centipede so deadly that victims have been known to plunge their hands into boiling water in order to aleviate the pain, the intended cure being worse than the bite!(3) Wood says (see ref 3 below) that bites are NOT inflicted by the jaws but by the curved horny claws of the front pairs of legs which serve as fangs.

In my magazine Flying Snake no. 1  I examined, with Mike Hardcastle,  giant centipedes in Hong Kong which can grow up to 60cm long according to anecdotal reports(4) Christopher Columbus`s gold assayer, the Spaniard Ulloa, saw centipedes 91.4 cm long apparently.(5)



  1. Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser April 23rd 1867.
  2. Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scolopendra_gigantea#Venom
  3. Wood`s Guiness Book of Animal Facts and Feats 3rd ed 1982 p. 134
  4. R.Muirhead and M.Hardcastle The Giant Centipedes of Hong Kong . Flying Snake 1 April 2011 pp 24-30
  5. Wood op cit p. 133

1 comment:

Chris Clark said...

The French army was maintaining a Habsburg Archduke on the throne of Mexico for some reason.