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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Thursday, December 24, 2015


Dear Friends,

I can hardly believe that this is the 21st time that I have sat down, a few days before Christmas, and written an account of the previous year’s activities for the CFZ members, friends, and supporters.

This is always a bittersweet time for me, because – especially as I grew older – each year brings with it a list of friends, colleagues, and collaborators who have passed on to the Elysian Fields. This year the list is headed by my old friend Daevid Allen who died of cancer in Australia in March at the age of 77. As well as being an important influence on me, musically and culturally, it was through him that I met my long term friend, boss, and CFZ benefactor Rob Ayling.

Long term CFZ cohort Richard Ingram died in the early summer at the age of 68. I had known him for the best part of thirty years, and it is a shock to know that he will never again be a lecturer at the Weird Weekend. Our thoughts are with his son Michael who is left fatherless at an upsettingly young age.

Two important faces from the Bigfoot community died this year. Rob Riggs and Ray Crowe were both affiliated to the CFZ, the former via Nick Redfern, and although I never met either man in the flesh, I carried out a lively correspondence with both for more then a decade. They will be sadly missed.

This has been a complicated, confusing, but ultimately quite a rewarding year. It started with disappointment for Richard Freeman who was struck down by gout the day that he was meant to be flying to Australia for the second CFZ Australia Tasmania expedition the report in Animals & Men, and indeed the expedition report at the 2015 Weird Weekend was given by our old friend Lars Thomas.

The expedition gathered more data to support the idea that the CFZ’s totem animal, the thylacine or Tasmanian wolf survived its supposed extinction in 1936, and remains a living creature today it has, after all, been described as ‘The liveliest extinct animal alive’.

Arguably more important was the work that Lars Thomas did with the microfauna of the region, obtaining several interesting specimens, some of which appear to be entirely new species to science.

In last years annual report, I pledged that for the first time since 2003 the CFZ flagship journal Animals & Men would meet its stated publication schedule of four issues a year. In order to do this we underwent the biggest shake up of our publication schedule, and – indeed our membership structure for the past twenty-one years. For the first time ever, we removed the subscription model, and Animals & Men began to be published in three different formats.

  1. An online flipmag embedded on the CFZ publications website and reachable through links on the blogs and main site.  This is, and will remain free.
  2. A hard copy, traditional magazine available at low cost from amazon and all associated outlets.
  3. A Kindle edition formatted to be read on electronic book readers.

In January, we were approached by out old friend and colleague Dr Andrew May who offered to sort out the increasingly outdated CFZ publications website. This turned out to be a massive undertaking, and by the time he and I had finished, the main CFZ website had been given a stringent, and the brand new CFZ publications website and CFZ shop had been built from scratch.

For some years we have been trying to arrange publication of our books and magazines in eBook format. For a number of reasons this never happened, causing a great deal of conflict within the CFZ community. Andrew May sorted it out once and for all, and now, something in the region of a third of our publications are available in eBook format. As anybody who has ever dipped their toe into the increasingly murky waters of internet publishing will know, there are quite a few different formats that eBooks can be published in, most of them are incompatible with each other.

We decided to publish in the Kindle format because there are three apps available in most other formats which mean that Kindle books can be read on Android, iOS, and PC formats (amongst others).

We would like to publicly thank Andrew May for all of his hard work this year and for very patiently explaining the intricacies of internet publishing to an old duffer like me. I truly do not know what we would have done without him.

Another important change took place this summer. Because of an increasing work load, and – I have to admit – my failing health I have been getting further and further behind with the things that I have to do. Regular CFZ watchers will know my adopted niece Jessica Taylor, she has been doing voluntary work with us on an ad hoc bases since she was about 12 and hanging out in my office playing Zoo Tycoon for some years before that. When I decided that I had to bite the bullet and engage a proper assistant for 20hours a week, Jessica, Fresh from studying Business Studies at the local college was the only realistic candidate. She started working for us in July and has been bullying me (although she insists that it is for my own good) ever since.

Joking aside she is a lovely girl and I always look forward to the days that she is in the office.

The previous CFZ interns Saskia England and Sheri Myler have both left. Sheri has now graduated and is working in a national park in the North of England, and Saskia is studying Marine biology in Plymouth University. Therefore two large intern-shaped holes in the CFZ infrastructure. We are very happy to say that Charlotte Phillipson and Nadine Rider have joined the team as interns. I am giving both of them lessons in natural history, officially to Nadine because she is home schooled. I am very much an old school naturalist and am appalled in the way that the modern education system seems to roundly ignore most of the things I consider to be important., so in my owl little way I am trying to redress the balance.

This year we also took on another one of my adopted nephews, Danny Owens to replace Mark Raines as gardener and groundsman after Mark left the village. Seldom have we had anyone as hard working and diligent as Danny, and I only wish we could afford to take him on full time.

The Weird Weekend was held on the third weekend of August, once again at The Small School. This year’s speakers were:

  • Nick Wadham: Wild and Deadly Animal Show
  • Lee Walker: Urban Legends of Liverpool
  • Lars Thomas: Microcyrptozoology
  • Judge Smith: Ouija Boards
  • Shoshanna Hughes: Feral Cats
  • Rob Cornes: The Seal Serpent:
  • Ronan Coghlan: Irish Cryptozoology
  • Rosie Curtis: Scary Internet Memes
  • Steve Rider: Tales from the Infinet
  • Jaki Windmill: Astroshemanics
  • Richard Freeman: Dragons
  • Adam Davis: Manbeasts and Me
  • Lars Thomas: Tasmania expedition report
  • Richard Muirhead: Mystery animals of Hong Kong

One of the highlights of the weekend came when Carl Marshall, Lars Thomas and I presented the latest evidence in our long standing investigation into the possibility of a hither to unrecorded mammal species for the UK, the beech marten. Much to my surprise and pleasure, Carl presented me with a taxiderm specimen of one of these creatures believe to have been taken in Dorset during the 19th Century; seldom have I had a better birthday present. We continued with our programme of publishing this year, with the following titles:

  • More Stars Steeds and Other Dreams: The Collected Poems. By Dr Karl P N Shuker
  • Sasquatch Down. By Michael Newton
  • The Song of Panne (Being Mainly about Elephants). By Jonathan Downes
  • Weird Wessex: A Tourist Guide to 100 Strange and Unusual Sights. By Andrew May and Paul Jackson
  • Glimpses in the Twilight. By Lee Walker
  • Brundannon’s Daughter; Through the Realms of the Woodwose. By Corinna Downes
  • Going Mad to Stay Sane. By Andy White
  • In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman. By Dmitri Bayanov
  • The Scribbling Sea Serpent. By Kate Kelly
  • Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology – Volume 2. By George Eberhart
  • Strange Skies, Strange Eyes. By Brian Allan

We have also published Volume Three of the Journal of Cryptozoology, edited by my old friend Dr Karl Shuker and we look forward to publishing Volume four in 2016.

The 2016 publishing schedule includes major new books by: Dr Karl Shuker, Richard Muirhead, S .D. Tucker, Rob Cornes, Brian Allan, Matt Salusbury, Richard Freeman, and more.

As mentioned earlier, this year saw a major reorganisation of the CFZ membership package. As a result of this, in the Autumn we instituted a new CFZ monthly members newsletter. The third issue of which will be emailed out on the 1st of January. Reaction to this has been extremely favourable so far, and we look forward to it becoming a much loved and welcome edition to the CFZ publication schedule.

2016 will see the return of the CFZ Yearbook, and – after all of the upheavals of recent years, we hope that it will be back as a regular event in the CFZ publishing schedule. Something else that has been missing in recent years has been out monthly web TV show and we are pleased to announced that plans are underway to bring it back in earlier 2016, co-presented by Charlotte Phillipson.

We have this year had funding difficulties, entirely related to the loss of income from my house in Exeter and the length of time it had taken to effect the repairs necessary. This has severely affected our cash flow, and is purely the result of us trusting the wrong people. And to ensure you that things will return to normal soon. It only remains for me to wish you all a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2016.

Jon Downes

(Director CFZ)

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