WELCOME TO THE CFZ BLOG NETWORK: COME AND JOIN THE FUN

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, August 31, 2009

NEIL ARNOLD: The Furry Demon

I have known Neil for fifteen years now, since he was a mod schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippy who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years; we are just both a tad older....

In the annals of ‘big cat’ folklore in the UK, reports of attacks on humans are often dubious. However, consider the legend of Gypsy Wood, a dark stretch of woodland in Warrington. Here originated the tale of the Furry Demon, a ferocious cat-like entity still in existence up until the early 1980s.

Many at the time considered the legend to be a hazy campfire spook tale, but not the two lovers who stopped off in the shadows whilst travelling home from their date at Earlestown British Legion. Whilst having a kiss and a cuddle in the vehicle, they were both startled by a face at the window, of grotesque and hairy appearance. The creature had fangs and scurried off into the darkness. The frightened man assured his date that the creature had gone and went out to inspect the car where he found huge scratch marks on the paintwork.

This incident echoed a similar assault by the beast, this time from the 1940s, when a sergeant who’d taken his girlfriend to her home at Earlestown, decided to walk back via Gypsy Wood, in the vicinity of Winwick. The area had an eerie ambience to it for the place had been under the threat of an air raid and the sky had been illuminated by German parachute flairs, which were trying to trace the R.A.F. base at Burtonwood.

The sergeant was strolling along a tight lane when suddenly he was leapt on by a strange creature, which clung to his back. The beast clawed at his face savagely; his uniform had been torn and the teeth of the monster had sunk into his face. Bravely he tangled with the creature and managed to throw it to the ground. Luckily, a car came by and the driver stopped to aid the sergeant. However, as soon as the driver saw the bloody mess the ‘thing’ had made of the sergeant’s face, he cowardly drove off. The sergeant hobbled back to the barracks, always peering over his shoulder. But there was no further sign of the beast. With wounds tended to he told the tale of the demon cat; over four feet in length, with large fangs; how it had sprung onto his back in the still of night. But the medical officer believed that maybe the sergeant had had a violent row with his girlfriend.

Maybe the ‘Winwick demon’ still lurks around Warrington, waiting to sink its fangs into its next victim.

GOOD NEWS FOR THE CFZ NEIGHBOURS

There will not be a disco at next year's Weird Weekend cocktail party. It was too loud and encourages the rowdier element. It even encourages otherwise sober pillars of the community within the CFZ to behave noisily. I think that my singalongasteveignorant to White Punks on Hope by CRASS, especially the bit where Senor Ignorant is bemoaning the fact that boring politics will get us all shot, and that Anarchy and Freedom is all he wanted, was probably not the best move I could have made. Neither was playing We hate you Little Girls by Throbbing Gristle to clear the dance floor.

However, look who has expressed an interest in playing the Weird Weekend next year:





My neighbours will be impressed.

IDENTIFY THIS LIZARD

Dear Naomi and Richie have been carrying out some work for me in Texas in conjunction with the infamous blue dog of Elmendorf. They were visiting rancher Devin Macanally when he pointed out what he descibed as a `chameleon`.

Well, it ain't a chameleon because they are exclusively old world creatures (although they have apparently been introduced to California) but my knowledge of Texas herps is not good enough to say anything more than "ummmm it's a lizard".

So over to you. (I suspect that Scottie a.k.a retrieverman will be the first with a positive ID)

MR POSTMAN WAIT AND SEE....

My postbag - metaphorical, electronic and physical - continues to be full of nice things. In the past 24 hours I have received lots of interesting emails, including three book proposals (all three of which I shall probably accept), and a couple of attempts to flog me a mail order bride from Kazakhstan, which I probably won't. One wife is enough for me, thank you!

However, I have received a copy of the new Gong album, which I will be reviewing in the next few days once I can think of an excuse to do so, and a request for me to interview Gong head honcho Daevid Allen, who I used to know quite well at one time, and who I have not seen in donkey's years. Again, I shall certainly do so, once I have figured out a way to get him into a daily magazine that is supposed to be dealing with cryptozoology and allied disciplines. If anyone can think of any half decent excuse for me to do so, please let me know.

The nicest, and most unexpected thing to arrive in my e-mail inbox in the past 24 hours was a generous and very sweet donation from Lindsay Selby. Dear girl, you really shouldn't have. But thank you.

Guys, I am completely overwhelmed by all this kindness. I really do not know what we would do without you....

WEIRD WEEKEND: Julian Vayne

For the second year running, we will be broadcasting the Weird Weekend (almost) in its entirety here on CFZtv. There were a couple of glitches due to technical problems beyond our control, but on the whole everything went well, so 95% of the conference will be up in the next days....


WEIRD WEEKEND: Max Blake

For the second year running, we will be broadcasting the Weird Weekend (almost) in its entirety here on CFZtv. There were a couple of glitches due to technical problems beyond our control, but on the whole everything went well, so 95% of the conference will be up in the next days....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today




http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

It’s Movie Monday and I should probably post a link to a film trailer or something shouldn’t I? Let’s see; last week we had serial killers so in the interests of balance, that can only mean one thing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCUDS-Q67Mg

And now, the news:

How a search for the world's most endangered animals turned into an agonising ordeal for Stephen Fry

African Experts Study Escaped Hippos in Colombia

Wildlife springs to life

Stolen monkeys found in Durg

Zoological park receives star tortoises, white peacocks and parakeets

Zoology department to celebrate centenary

Did two species mix to make butterflies?

Did you hear about the larval butterfly that always helped the others on his nettle?

He was a cater-pillar of the community.

And with that stinker of a pun, I’m leaving YNT in the either the capable beak of Attila the Hen or possibly some other fine fellow for the next few days as I’m off to the bright lights of Plymouth once again. See you all in a few.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

ANOTHER BEAUROCRATIC THREAT TO COMMON SENSE


Hi Jon,

I thought you and the CFZ members would be interested in the following.

http://www.threeowls.co.uk/sosappeal.html


It appears that the local (Rochdale) council (in their total lunacy) are attempting to now classify this bird welfare sanctuary, which has been around for close on 50 years, as a zoo. If the damn fools on Rochdale council get away with this it could possibly have a knock-on effect on other wildlife sanctuaries and organisations such as Beth's rescue centre and even the CFZ itself.

Regards,
Syd Henley

BEAST OF OSSETT REDUX

Only days after our last coverage of the Beast of Ossett, Steve Jones writes: "Here is a a scan of the latest beast of Ossett sighting from this week's (28th August) edition of The Wakefield Express."

ONCE AGAIN COELACANTH IS RED HERRING (Sorry to steal your headline concept Darren)

http://austriantimes.at/news/Around_the_World/2009-08%2027/15970/Prehistoric_monster_terrorises_kids_in_the_Ganges


What an exciting week it has been! The latest story to shatter cryptozoological headlines is this one: that a coelacanth has been found in the Ganges, of all places. Loren has cast doubt upon the story over on cryptomundo but we decided to pass the story over to Max B, the CFZ king of all things piscatorial and tarkus-related.



Kudos must go to Loren Coleman for his correct diagnosis. The creature in these photographs is NOT a Coelacanth. It is a grouper but of what species, I am uncertain. The dead fish differs from a Coelacanth in the following ways:

1. Coelacanths have very obviously 2 completely separate dorsal fins. The dead fish does not have this feature.

2. Coelacanths have “Bony fins”, such that the true fin appears to come out of a little leggy stump. The dead fish has no suggestion of this at all, and its fins are typical of normal ray finned fish.

3. This fish is a Perciform fish. This large group of ray finned fish has a spiny dorsal fin, which is a very good diagnostic characteristic. The dead fish has this feature, Coelacanths don’t.

4. The caudal (tail) fin is so completely different in both fish that it is not worth much consideration.

5. Coelacanths are typified by having large scales. The dead fish clearly has very fine scales.

I could go on, but I won’t. If I knew much about groupers (I don’t) I would try and identify it to species. However, because of the large size of the fish I would say it has to be from either Mycteroperca or Epinephelus. More than that, I could not say with certainty but I would back Loren’s postulation that it is an orange spot, Epinephelus coioides.

Unfortunately, this intriguing headline is backed up by absolutely nothing; a shame.

CFZ PEOPLE: Steve Jones

Steve Jones is an old friend, and a great supporter of the CFZ. In recent weeks he has also become a significant benefactor. Following on from a generous donation a few weeks ago, he has sent me a "belated birthday present" in the form of a terabyte of hard drive on which my back-ups of our remaining video drives can be put.

Steve, old friend, that is incredibly generous of you; thank you very much.

I am overwhelmed at the generosity of you all this week. In the last seven days alone we have had $150 and £50 as well as Steve's hard drive. Thank you all very much.

However, there is more stuff needed. I am looking for a serviceable computer for Doc Shiels, and more hard drives, as well as fish tank filters and pumps, and lighting units. We also want a pond filter, so if you have stuff kicking around your attic....


JON ON THE RADIO LAST NIGHT

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

Hello there! It’s Stereoscopic Sunday again! This week’s 3D photo is of a giant ant I found crawling over the fish tanks in the conservatory. Why not pop some red and cyan 3D specs on the nearest random child and use this to scare them half to death and give them nightmares about giant ants for weeks.


Think how useful it’ll be: “Daddy, I don’t want to eat my sprouts; they taste of wee.”

“That’s okay, Tarquin; just remember that giant ants come after little boys that don’t eat all their veg.”

And now, the news:

Tortoise saved by B&Q drill

Deer 'fakes death' to escape cheetah and a hyena: video

Humanists accuse West Country zoo of pushing creationist agenda

Gorilla Pop-Tart break-in

Devon river team's piranha shock

That’s a story with real bite.

(yes, I stooped low enough to use a piranha/bite pun).


Saturday, August 29, 2009

HERE WE GO AGAIN



http://www.themorningstarr.co.uk/2009...

A holiday maker in Poland has filmed what could be the Polish Yeti.

27 year old Piotr Kowalski from Warsaw was on a walking holiday in the Polish Tatra mountains when he saw a large ape-like creature standing in the rocks ahead of him.

"I saw this huge ape-like form hiding behind the rocks. When I saw it it was like being struck by a thunderbolt," he told the Superexpress.

"Coming from Warsaw, I never really believed the local stories of a wild mountain ape-man roaming the slopes. But, now I do."

The video has been handed over to the Nautilus Foundation, a Polish organisation which specialises in the paranormal and cryptozoolgy.

"The film clearly shows 'something' that moves on two legs and is bigger than a normal man," says Robert Bernatowicz, president of the Nautilus Foundation.

"But because the camera shakes so much it is difficult to say what it is exactly. We need to go to the site and see what traces, if any, were left."

DARREN ON FACEBOOK

http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2009/08/infected_by_facebook_virus.php

I've always been an admirer of the writings of Darren Naish. Tetrapod Zoology is one of my favourite blogs; it both informs, educates and amuses. Indeed, at times Darren's sense of humour is almost as silly as my own. I have known the dear boy a long time (all his adult life) and am pleased to announce that he has joined the rest of the multiverse on Facebook. To find out more (including piccies of Lizwiz and Gladys), and to find out who he blames for this surprising move, read on dudes....

NORTH DEVON IS GETTING WEIRDER

I was talking to the good Doctor S. yesterday teatime (Shiels not Shuker, though I had an equally enlightening conversation with Karl later on, but that is a story for another day) and we were talking about how weird Woolsery seems to be, and he was good-naturedly ribbing me on the subject. I assured him that although I had, indeed, authored a piece for FT about the pub poltergeist, the more recent article about the village strangeness was nothing to do with me.

There are actually several other weird stories that did not appear in either article, but I shall also leave them for another day.

But as we were talking, I pressed `send and receive` on my email server in a desultory manner, and then burst out laughing. Why? Because the first email that came up had the title 'Piranha in the Torridge':

The 35cm (14in) fish was spotted by Bob Collett, Dave Hoskin and Eddie Stevens during a sampling trip on the river.

Among the species the team would have expected to find in the river were salmon, brown trout, bullheads, stone loach and minnow.

"What we actually discovered was something we would not expect to find in our wildest dreams - we could hardly believe our eyes," Mr Stevens said.

"After completing 20m of the survey, a large tail emerged from the undercut bank on the far side of the river.

"Our first thought was that a sea trout had become lodged in amongst the rocks and debris collected under the bank, but when it was removed from the river we were speechless to find it was a piranha."

Groovy synchronicity strikes again.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/8226854.stm

DALE DRINNON: Folklore/Fakelore

Just a couple of pieces of Folklore/Fakelore;

The first photo is of a head mounted in the front window of a Tennessee store, as explained in the blog when you follow the link:

http://brentkmoore.blogspot.com/2007/07/creature-of-sugar-flat-rd.html

And the second is a museum mount representing a fictional creature known as a Snouter. Some people have taken Snouters seriously because they had not known that the book is a work of fiction. Just to go on record; the book The Snouters (1967) is a work of fiction.

For the record, I have not heard the word `Fakelore` before, and think it is a jolly good term....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

It's Soundtrack Saturday and this week’s song was suggested by the greatest living fortean zoology newshound Mr Wilson (not to be confused with the other Mr Wilson). The song is Yankie Wheels by Jane Aire and the Belvederes, and it's rather good: http://www.last.fm/music/+noredirect/Jane+Aire/_/Yankee+Wheels?autostart

And now the news:

Is the Loch Ness monster on Google Earth just a boat?

Monster found on Google

Animals doing weird things: Pelicans play catch

Vic town fights cockatoo invasion

Shark born on land

Gorillas get sneak preview of new mate

I say, I say, I say, why do male apes not like speed dating?

Because when they see a girl they like they don’t get long enough to ‘gorilla’ on her likes and dislikes.

*badum-tsh*

Thank you, I’m here all week, try the fish.

Friday, August 28, 2009

WE ARE RETURNING TO NORMAL

...whatever passes for normality in the circus that is the CFZ. At the moment Graham is away at Hawkfest for three days of bodily abuse and Hawkwind. He will be back on Sunday and will be back on the chain gang (allegedly) on Monday. However, after three days of drinking and loud swooshing noises, I doubt whether he will be firing on all cylinders.

The computer stuff is continuing apace. We are very much in need of some 500gb hard drives if anyone feels like donating some. They would be very gratefully received. Max is coming down next week, and Lizwiz will be wending her way down later in September, probably after we (Maxy, Corinna and yours truly) return from our trip down the Yellow Brick Road to Killarney. Richard is in Staffordshire, but will be back soon.

The biggest news, however, is the final episode of `Diary of a mad Cryptozoologist` for yesterday (following on from these three episodes)

http://forteanzoology.blogspot.com/2009/08/diary-of-mad-cryptozoologist-part-one.html
http://forteanzoology.blogspot.com/2009/08/diary-of-mad-cryptozoologist-part-two.html
http://forteanzoology.blogspot.com/2009/08/diary-of-mad-cryptozoologist-part-three.html

I had finally managed to get to sleep, and was dreaming the dreams of my innocent youth when I was awakened by a knock on my bedroom door. Not a-bloody-gain, I thought. But it was my beloved nephew, and heir to the CFZ Empire. For the first time he had travelled here under his own steam.

He had passed his driving test (first time) and his first solo journey was to visit his old uncle. Sometimes, my dears, it is indeed good to be alive.

Slainte

P.S. Don't be surprised if service is a little erratic over the weekend as we finish back-ups and sorting out the new computer etc. But we should be back to normal (serotonin levels permitting) next week.

ARCHIVING PROJECT: BHM Part 2


As you know, Oll has been working on the archiving project since early February, and he is now working on the BHM section. This 1st trenche is mostly bigfoot stories from the United States in the mid 1990s, which were - by the way - originally from the collection of Craig from the long defunct Crypto Chronicle

HERE


RICHARD HOLLAND: A teeny-tiny tusker


Once again we hand you over to guest blogger Richard Holland, editor of Paranormal Magazine and all round good bloke. He is a regular visitor to these pages and I am sure that you will all agree with me that this is jolly good news for all of us....


I had hoped to contribute more frequently than this but I guess that since I am not a cryptozoologist as such, I must content myself with shoving stuff on here as and when I stumble upon something I hope will be of interest. The following is just such an item. I found it in the ‘Curiosities’ section of the December 1915 edition of The Strand Magazine.

Recently an article appeared in the Fortean Times regarding pygmy elephants. If the following snippet is to be believed (which I guess it ain’t), elephants once lived in Myanmar which made the teeniest pygmy elephant look as big as a … well, as an elephant.

A Mr Frank Molyneux Wagstaff, of Leighton Lodge, Prome Road, Insein, Rangoon, Burma, sent a photo of perhaps the most preposterous creature ever to be submitted to a popular journal: an aquatic heffalump three inches tall. This is what Mr Wagstaff has to say about his photo:

‘The accompanying photograph shows a species of water elephant standing against a foot rule, which measures not more than three inches in height. These queer creatures are found in the Salween River, near Moulmein, and are said to be very rare. It is believed by the Burmans that the ordinary elephant will not enter a river if there is a water elephant about, as they drive their little tusks into the big elephants and poison them.

‘This one, which I photographed in Moulmein, was found hanging on an elephant’s leg one evening on his return from his bath in the river. It was killed and cured but since the photograph was taken it has been stolen from a chemist’s stores, as it is said that they are very valuable. The specimen is a full-grown one and is said to be between forty and fifty years old.’

Hmmm….

I’d love to know whether any of you crypto-types have heard of these diminutive water elephants before and whether this is the only mention of them. Incidentally, according to t’internet, Moulmein is now Mawlamyaing, Myanmar’s third largest city and is on the Salween river delta.

Richard Holland:




NEIL ARNOLD: Toad Man

I have known Neil for fifteen years now, since he was a mod schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippy who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years; we are just both a tad older....


There are many zooform tales to chill hearts around a campfire, and the legend of the Warrington Toad Man is one of those. Despite its absurd title, the Toad Man is a nefarious bogeyman, also known as the Toad Goblin, or Monster of Morley Common. It is a tale passed through several generations, and originates from the 1800s. The local public house, known at The Shipp Inn, situated at Walton, had several ‘Alice In Wonderland’ pictures on the wall, which were eventually taken down. All that remained on the wall was a strange picture of a dwarf-like entity known as the Toad Goblin.


One day the picture was said to have disappeared from the wall and the locals were very upset, believing a thief to be responsible. The picture never returned but the landlord spoke of how this was the local bogeyman. The Cartwright family spoke about the local bogeyman also, saying he dated back to the 1870s. This surreal creature was said to have bandy legs, and a bowler hat perched on a grotesquely bulbous head which had red whiskers. This creature terrified children for decades for it was said that the monster used to hide behind trees and spring out on unsuspecting victims. It’s possible the legend originated from a local recluse who lived on Morley Common. But one day several children walking through the area were said to have found the battered body of the hermit, but when the children ran home to tell their parents of the macabre find, upon returning there was no sign of the body.


Some believed the recluse was killed by another recluse, but since that time the Toad Man was said to haunt the local woods of the Common and children would not venture there after dusk.

DIARY OF A MAD CRYPTOZOOLOGIST - Part Three: Baby Fish

Follows on from Part Two

So I went back to bed and my long delayed peruse of The Word. And a mighty fine read it was too. After about ten minutes I felt myself slipping back into the arms of Morpheus. Would I get to sleep again this time?

Would I heck!

The telephone rang again. It was Allan from the pub. "Errm we've got a second and maybe a third spawning of the gouramis, and three babies I can't identify in the other tank".

So for the third time that afternoon I got dressed, and for the first time I ventured outside as my darling Corinna and I bumbled oop t'pub. The babies were platies, which was nice but not unforseen, but we had a nice cup of tea with Allan and Jennie, and then decided to go to Asda to get some meat for the dog.

Whilst in Asda I bumped into a vague fishkeeping acquaintance who told me that he had just bred `white firemouth cichlids`. He said they were not albinos but were a predominantly white colour morph of Thorichthys meeki. Well, I've never heard of that, and neither (so it transpired) had Max. We are particularly interested in the genus Thoricthys at the moment because of our metzico blue spp up at the Farmers Arms so Max was pleased as punch that I managed to arrange a swap of some fry for some of our burgeoning army of gourami fry..

So all's well that ends well, and I eventually got back to bed

DIARY OF A MAD CRYPTOZOOLOGIST - Part Two: The Alien Baby

Following on from Part One

So I was back in bed having a lovely dream about chickens when the telephone rang. It was The Daily Sport. Now, I am not gonna be arsey about the tabloid newspapers. I have appeared in them on a number of occasions, and have even been paid for this dubious privilege. They have always been nice to me, and have often treated me with a damn sight more respect than their colleagues in the more well respected journals.

What did I know about the alien baby in Mexico? The journalist (a charming young lady called Clare) asked me. The truth was that I didn't know anything about it and asked her to email me a picture and phone back in half an hour.

This she promptly did.

http://www.bild.de/BILD/news/bild-english/world-news/2009/08/25/alien-baby-or-hoax/bizarre-creature-found-in-mexico-stumps-experts.html

Hmmm, I thought. And when she telephoned back, "Hmmmm" I said. I met Jaime Maussan years ago in Mexico, and he was a nice bloke, but I really would not like to commit myself on the basis of one story in a German tabloid newspaper. Could I have copies of the autopsy and analysis reports?

She said that she would see what she could do, and rang off. I went back to sleep. (BTW there is a youtube video about the case below)




DIARY OF A MAD CRYPTOZOOLOGIST - Part One: Oh My God they've Googled Nessie

Years ago, when I was in Mexico with Graham, I remember him spending a productive afternoon drinking beer in his hotel room and watching a Spanish language version of a film called Diary of a Mad Housewife, which incidentally starred Neil Young's ex wife.

I don't know why that totally pointless vignette popped into my mind, but it does seem mildly reminiscent of what happened yesterday afternoon. I felt dreadful, so after the blog was done and the bare minimum of what I needed to do in the office had been accomplished, I went to bed with the latest edition of The Word, a cup of tea, and some raisin scones. I had been in bed ten minutes when there was a telephone call telling me that I really needed to get downstairs and check my emails.

Various people including Andreas Trottmann and Paul Vella had sent me a story about a mysterious image that had turned up on Google Earth:

The images, available by entering the coordinates ‘Latitude 57°12'52.13"N, Longitude 4°34'14.16"W’ in Google Earth, reveal a white object against the green background of the Loch, which may or may not be the famed monster of Loch Ness.

http://www.netguide.co.nz/200908271137/google-earth-reveals-strange-image-from-loch-ness.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2009/aug/27/loch-ness-monster-google-earth

I think it is certainly not the monster, and agree with Henry "The Enigma of Loch Ness" Bauer who wrote to me "Clearly a boat and wake, unfortunately. I want to see a big wake with no shape of anything at the front"

But interesting, and just about worth getting me up for, so I smiled sweetly at Oll who was setting up new nursery tanks for the baby gourami, and went back to bed. I soon fell asleep.

Yesterday’s News Today




http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

Friday, more often than not, means it’s time for the Friday fact. This week I found this gem tucked away among the dusty esoteric tomes of the CFZ library’s restricted section:

Before he became a historian Simon Schama was actually part of a gang of youths that roamed castley-fields up and down the length of Britain looking for discarded brass bedsteds and tickling the chins of stoats all for the amusement of the gang’s Fagin-like and pogostick-fanatic leader Charles Hawtrey. When a policeman caught Schama in the ruins of Kenilworth castle lugging around a bedsted that clearly didn’t belong to him he was asked to explain himself. Schama trotted out the cover story that he was a historian and wandering around castley-fields and using props to illustrate the points he was making was his job. The policeman denounced this story as “Poppycock” and frogmarched the young lad to Cambridge university where he was forced to enrol in a history degree as a punishment for telling lies. Years later Schama had the last laugh as he made three series of a documentary featuring him wandering round castley-fields using props to illustrate the points he was making for the BBC.

And now the news:

RSPCA: Hedgehog numbers may be at risk from rat poison

A Rhinostone Cowboy

Unusually large St Bernard litter

Extinct Seabird Rediscovered In Laboratory

Koniks horses set to help another nature reserve

Police hunt wolf after sighting in Lothians

Not my own pun today but rather a joke I found online that amused me and is vaguely related to wolves:

Three Indian squaws are about to give birth and consult the Medicine Man for advice. The Medicine Man tells them to give birth on the hide of an animal whose characteristics they want to see in their offspring.

The first squaw gave birth on the hide of a lion to give her son the bravery of a lion. She had a brave son.

The second squaw gave birth on the wolf's hide to give her son the wisdom of a wolf. She had a wise son.

The third squaw gave birth of the hide of a hippopotamus and had twin sons that were both brave and wise.

This is yet another proof of the Pythagorean theorem where the squaw of the hippopotamus equals the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

AT LAST - THE WEIRD WEEKEND VERSION OF `SONIC ATTACK`



`Sonic Attack` by Hawkwind re-imagined by the children of Woolsery for the opening ceremony for this year's Weird Weekend. Be warned, we have got hooked on the idea of mixing small children and hippy prog songs, and next year we are doing `Out Demons Out` by the immortal and invisible Edgar Broughton.

Starring: Chloe Lott and Melinda Harding

DESTABILISING THE ANABANTOIDIDAE

WHO'SE AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD......

Thanks to Lindsay and to Paul W. for letting me know of BBC reports of a wolf in Scotland. The BBC are carrying reports that Mr McDowell, 38, – who is a manager at the government’s Housing Access department – reported “I was just having a walk alongside the park when I saw a bit of commotion with the younger calves in the field just across from me. I saw something circling the cattle – but at first I thought it was only the farmer's dog or perhaps a fox. But then the larger cattle began charging right down the field after this animal. I think it had been after the calves. It came right through the fence onto the road – the cattle were stamping their feet and roaring around behind the gate. A small blue car came down the road and slowed down – if it hadn’t slowed down it would have hit the animal.

I was about 30 yards away when I realised it wasn’t a fox – and it was way too big for a dog. It was only when I saw the size of it I knew it was a wolf. It was silver with a sort of black dark streak along the back and it had quite a bushy tail".

I will be interested to see how the story develops, but before anyone gets excited I would ask them to remember what transpired earlier this year when people claimed to have seen a bear in Suffolk's notorious Rendlesham Forest. Caveat Lector, dudes.

http://deadlinescotland.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/8892-1689/

RYEDALE A.S. AUCTION

The Ryedale Aquarist Society are holding an aquarium items and fish auction on Sunday 4th October.
Venue will be the Kirkbymoorside Mermorial Hall, Market Place, Kirkbymoorside, Pickering, N. Yorks. YO62 6AD
Booking of auction lots between 10.30a.m. and 11.30a.m. Auction to start at 11.45a.m. 15% commission will be taken on all items sold.
To go with the auction a 7 Class mini-Open Show will also take place. Benching of entries 10.30a.m. to 12.00p.m. Entries 20p per exhibit. Classes:
1. Guppy.
2. A.O.V. Livebearer.
3. A.V. Egglayer of Asia.
4. A.V. Egglayer of Africa.
5. A.V. Egglayer of the America's
6. Class for ladies only - A.V. fish.
7. Class for ladies only - Craft on a fish theme.
For further details e-mail aquariumgazette@yahoo.com or phone 01751 472715.

NEWS FROM THE HANCOCK WILDLIFE FOUNDATION

The Hancock Wildlife Foundation is about to clean the last year's eagle CAMS -- guess of what? -- and install two new sets of cams at eagle nests. Then, the big news -- we are inserting 7 new cams to tell the Story of a River.

Here the river is one of North America's most productive: the Chehalis -- Harrison River complex, which flows into the Fraser River 4 miles south.

Here we will be installing two underwater cams -- to view salmon & sturgeon. Then we are installing a tower on which 2 pan-tilt-zoom cams will cover the alluvial flats where last fall we had over 2500 bald eagle and over a 1000 ducks, geese and swans -- all above the 5 species of dying salmon, steelhead and trout. This is certainly one of North America's most productive wildlife areas and undoubtedly holds more raptors in a square miles than any other place on earth.

If you have been a Live Bald Eagle Cam supporter we again appreciate your contributions to keep the existing cams cleaned and updated, and your support for this new exciting project:

To make support even easier our volunteers have prepared two fine mementos of the Sidney 2009 season:

a) Lori's Memory Stick 2gb with over 6 hours of videos + (After you
download the images you have a new 2gb Stick!)

b) Wendy's Print of the Sidney Trio and Adults.

c) We also have imported a beautiful 2010 Alaska Bald Eagle Calendar
- that is a fine money raiser.

To make a purchase of any of these items or give a donation please go
to: http://www.hancockhouse.com/li/lt.php?id=bR8AAwdWAR9TBB5TVwJXDw%3D%3D
<www.hancockhouse.com/products/HWF_index.htm>

With much appreciation,

David Hancock

Director HWF

BIG DAY AT THE BRAUND-PHILLIPS HOUSEHOLD

On the 1st July 1971, a family of four moved into the tiny North Devon village of Woolsery. Having worked overseas in Nigeria and then Hong Kong for many years the family were unprepared for the England of the early 1970s, a land where the old boss was the same as the new boss, and the beards had all grown longer overnight.

However, living next door was a family of five, and the younger generations of both families soon became intertwined to the extent that they were like one large family, and nearly 40 years later we still are.

I still introduce Kaye Braund-Phillips to everyone as my sister, and her husband Roy is effectively my brother-in-law.

Her three boys are my nephews, and I couldn't love them any more if they were my own flesh and blood.

So I feel totally involved in their lives; their ups and downs, and their joys and disasters.

Today is a special day at the Braund-Phillips household. Not only is Marjorie, who has been a second mother to me for 38 years, coming home from the hospice in Barnstaple, but David, my eldest nephew, and the nearest thing to a son I have ever or will ever have, is taking his driving test.

Good vibes please from everyone....

MR POSTMAN, WAIT AND SEE WOAH OH

It seems that my postbag is going to be under scrutiny all week. I have received so many sweet messages of support from you all that I am overwhelmed.

Manic depression is not a barrel of laughs, but it is predictable, and for some reason it always kicks in during the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The worst instance of this was on September 11th 2002, when I had a peculiar episode on stage during a BBC TV show that is best forgotton, and the next day - at the bar on Paddington Station - I collapsed, and Richard F, together with my mate Craig Glenday, editor of the Guinness Book of Records had to half carry me onto the train. When Richard got me back to Exeter, he and Graham put me to bed, and I didn't get up until the end of the year.

I'm nowhere near as bad as that this year, but I do feel pretty bloody awful, and will not be doing much today.

However the messages of support from Lindsay, David Marshall, Lizzy, Karen G, and others help me through an otherwise very difficult time.

On a different tack, I want to thank Karen G, who not only gave us a very generous donation yesterday but has offered to help with the indexing, and Andy Roberts who really does not seem to understand the Author/Publisher relationship! It is meant to be us giving you money, dude! Seriously, Andy has given us a very generous donation for which I am very grateful.

The kindness of everyone completely humbles me, and I want you all to know how grateful I am....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

Yet another round-up of news coming up:

Kent Wildlife Trust Battles Flames to Rescue Wildwood Animals

Canadian scientist aims to turn chickens into dinosaurs

The coupan returns

I reckon that the reason they have come to this area now is that they were just feeling ‘coup’ed up where they were before.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NEW COMPUTER

The New Computer is here and working. However, there are some pretty major teething problems, so service from the CFZ may be limited over the next few days...

However, if nothing else, I would like to thank Andy Roberts for his extremely generous donation.

NORMAL SERVICE WILL BE BLAH BLAH BLAH

First of all I would like to apologise to everyone who has been trying to talk to me over the last few days, especially dear Naomi. I am feeling pretty horrible at the moment, and find it hard to talk lucidly to anyone, either in the flesh or online. Life is not particularly easy at the moment, and it is made worse by the abscence of most of the CFZ crew about their own affairs. Richard is in Staffordshire, Graham in London, and this is a particularly bad time for my serotonin levels to crash and burn. Please forgive me guys....

There is good news and there is bad news.

We are beginning to dig ourselves out of the hole in which we found ourselves earlier this summer. However, the additional curve-ball caused by the crash of our hard drive a few weeks ago has presented us with a whole slew of new problems (as if we didn't have enough on our plates).

Therefore, it is - I believe - cards on the table time.


  • My old office computer, which we have had for the past three years, is on its last legs, and I do not want to trust it any more. I am in the process of backing up everything that I can, (quite a lot was already backed up), but it is a long, slow process
  • The new computer (which cost most of our reserves) will be arriving today. Oll, Dave B-P and I will be setting it up later on
  • Once the new computer (which is much more powerful with 9.2 GHz of processor) is up and running I shall be able to resume video editing etc, and the WW videos will be up on CFZtv. It is a great disappointment that we were not able to get them up as quickly as last year, but such is life
  • I lost a hell of a lot of data when the hard drive went. I have learned my lesson from this, but it is too late to cry over spilt milk. Some of this stuff is retrievable, other stuff is lost forever, and other stuff will have to be reconstituted from scratch. This is a long and slow process, and will involve a great deal of work.
  • Amongst the data lost are the latest editions of Animals & Men and The Amateur Naturalist and the pdf templates for both. We shall, therefore, have to start from scratch in redesigning both publications. This means that the publication schedule for both magazines is now all to cock. There will be a new edition of A&M before the end of the year, but I make no promises about TAN. This does not mean that TAN is going out of publication, but it does mean that it is on hiatus until we manage to get things back on track.
  • The CFZ Yearbook will appear as planned, and we are now actively soliciting articles for it. We do, however, not make any poromises as to whether it will arrive in time for Christmas
  • I am presently working on reconstituting Andy Roberts's anthology. This is now about a fortnight behind schedule. Lizzy has just finished proofing Nick Molloy's Predator Deathmatch and will be starting on Carl Portman's new book in the next day or two. Naomi has just finished first proofing Richard Freeman's book, and I am working on Karl Shuker's book of poetry.

Basically, guys, life is pretty difficult at the moment, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it doesn't seem to be an oncoming train. We are still up the creek, but now we have several paddles....

MONSTER MOVIE

Following Richard's posting on monster movies yesterday I was sorely tempted to post a track from the album Monster Movie by Can. And I usually end up succumbing to temptation.


DID ANYTHING EVER COME OF THIS?

This ABC sighting was all over the news a few months ago. Did anything ever come of it?


WO-WO-WO-WO MR POSTMAN

The mystery is solved. It was Andy Roberts that dunnit. As he wrote, I should have given the parcel a detailed look, and I would have realised that it included letters addressed to him.

In my defence, I am feeling rather icky at the moment, and have every intention of going back to bed once I have finished the bloggo. I always get ill after the WW; it is probably my bipolarity crashing and burning, and this year I thought that I had managed to escape, but apparently not.

Whilst on the subject of nice post, I would like to thank Karen Gensheimer for her kind donation. It is only the kindness of you guys, who are so generous with both your time and your money, that keeps this circus on the road. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Neil Arnold’s Weird Tales: The Vampire Dwarf Of Essex

I have known Neil for fifteen years now, since he was a mod schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippy who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years; we are just both a tad older....


I have several contacts within the paranormal world and one of these is the lurvly Sally McConnell. She told me recently about her encounter with the ‘vampire dwarf’ when she was 15 years old; a truly chilling critter if ever there was one:

“It was a November evening (4:30) in 1982. I was alone in the house (at Rainham, in Essex) and I went up to the loft extension at the top of the house to my brother's bedroom. I was looking for a record and had my back to the bannisters when I heard a rustle movement at the bannisters ( you could see the back bedroom as the stairs turned the corner). I looked around; had a feeling something was watching me!

The small creature was hooked by his claws (peering over the bannister), looking at me; the mouth was very threatening and he was hissing at me but the eyes were distant and had no feeling to them; they were black as black! I could see the skull through the thin transparent skin; his cheeks were sunken and he had no visible hair. I froze, my heart tightened and I turned away. I felt so sick and with that ran like hell down the stairs. I had to pass where he was but didn’t look to see if he was still there.

I put every light on in the house until all the family came home from work, which was about 6:00 pm. I had the music on really loud so if he was there I couldn’t hear him scurrying about! Two days later my brother, who had originally laughed at me with the rest of the family, wanted me to tell him the story again. It was just us alone in the house, it was a Saturday and as I was telling him we jumped like mad when a brass plate that was positioned on a ledge up the stairs was thrown (or fell?) down into the hall. We searched the house (reluctantly) but found nothing; phew!! Nothing has been seen since in that house and my parents still live there.”

Sally kindly sketched me the creature. It’s appearance resembled the head vampire in the movie Salems Lot and also
Nosferatu.

RICHARD FREEMAN: The Croc report with a beat

A 16-foot Indo-Pacific crocodile called Eric attacked Australian Miss Universe Rachael Finch at Crocodylus Park in Darwin. She had to run for her life after she got too close to him during feeding time. Eric apparently fancied a bite of Miss Finch rather than chicken. Looking at her I can't say I blame him!
http://www.news.com.au/travel/story/0,28318,25860991-5014090,00.html


Staying with crocodiles, we reported on the blog some time ago that a girl in the Philippines had been killed by a 30 foot Indo-Pacific crocodile. In a surprising move that restores your tarnished faith in humanity, authorities have forbade anyone to hunt the creature. They want to capture the animal alive and are recieving help from five crocodile farms.Some people had already attempted to kill the giant reptile with shot guns but the bullets glanced of the thick scales.

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=448583&publicationSubCategoryId=67

JOEL LA ROCQUE: Following on from yesterday's post

I am printing this letter exactly as it arrived, because in my opinon Joel is a remarkable person.

I was sleeping quite peacefully at 8am today when the phone rang and I discovered you had posted the letter I sent to you. I was making comment on your article written about the friendly 'gator (Croc) and did not think you would post it but that's fine. I would like to clarify one or two things I said and used the wrong terms.

Number one was the use of the word 'tame' I should have said 'docile'; my fault. Also I simply do not stroll into the woods and pick up the first snake I find; quite the opposite. The four pictures took about six hours to get. I find a snake; I then become acquainted with it. I always carry a frozen thawed mouse in a cooler. Snakes found around a rodent or rabbit trail are hunting for food. I give them the food and after it is consumed I become familiar with them. I have spent over seven hours on one sunny day attempting to become friends (so to speak) with an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Finally I was able to handle it and get the information that I was looking for. There are no tricks and I do not have any special gifts. I am not nervous; I
don't expect to be bitten so I am calm.

In 40 years I have taken 57 tags and that is enough as far as I am concerned. Had I started
earlier with the method I now use I would be willing to bet I would have had less then five tags.

A few people are going to be upset with you for showing the pictures. It is their beliefs that the pictures will encourage young kids to copy my methods and I hope this does not happen. I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry for any flack you might take because of my letter to you.

Joel La Rocque

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

Yesterday’s News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

Another round-up of news coming up:

Researchers seek to learn more about Mink

Ouch!

Dog who believes he is a cat

Scientists discover new species of crustacean on Lanzarote

Artificial life will be created 'within months' as genome experts claim vital breakthrough

Search for 47 species of ‘extinct’ birds is launch...

‘Creatures’ Continue Reign of Terror - by Helvy Tueumuna

New Worm Species Discovered - 'Green Bomber'

Great white pops up for a bite

Hoofed and dangerous: Britain's killer cows

If you see a cow running towards you make sure to ‘moo’ve out of the way really quickly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

PER-LEASE MR POSTMAN

My postbag is always a peculiar one, and contains a gloriously diverse mixture of things.

Sadly, it also sometimes contains missives of the Dear Sir, unless you pay us the outstanding sum by the following date, threat, threat threat, blah blah blah variety, and the Dear idiot, how can you possibly claim that bigfoot did not arrive on this planet via UFO. You are obviously an agent of the secret government, sent by your paymasters to destabilise esoteric teachings, blah blah blah, waffle waffle waffle variety.


But today's post is an absolute joy. It contained my belated birthday presents from Oliver (a pair of `Beware of the Chickens` signs), a belated birthday card from Lin Harding and family, a generous donation from Miriam Hawkins, and a scrapbook full of big cat cuttings with a post-it note on the front saying `Donation to the CFZ`. However, it came in a plastic bag (reproduced with scant rgard to the copyright of the Royal Mail) on the left.

The scrapbook and cuttings are unharmed, but the covering letter is missing, so I have no idea who sent it to us. Can you help?

RICHARD FREEMAN: Monster Movies

Time for Richard Freeman again. It almost seems silly introducing Richard to you all once again when he makes an appearance as guest blogger several times a week. However, our viewing audience/ readers (whatever you like to call yourselves) is growing so fast that it is certain that some of you missed the last time I introduced him.


Fear is he most basic, primal emotion known to man. It was the emotion that helped us survive on the plains of East Africa 3 million years ago. It can come as no surprise then that horror is one of the post popular genres in film.

Some of the earliest films are of a fantastical horrific nature. Le Manoir du diable directed by film pioneer Georges Mėliės in 1896 is generally thought of as the first horror film. The two-minute short features a giant bat, the devil and skeletons.

The following year he released La Caverne maudite wherein a young woman is surrounded by ghosts of the dead in an underground cavern.

Surprisingly the Japanese were early innovators in horror. The first two films made in Japan Bake Jizo (Jizo the Ghost) and Shinin no Sosei, (Resurrection of a Corpse), both filmed in 1898, were horror films.

Most of these early films were really showcases for trying out new special effects and had little plot. But as time went horror films became longer and more sophisticated.

Robert Wiene’s 1920 offering The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is a complex story of madness, dreams, sleepwalking and murder. 89 years on it is still an impressive and atmospheric piece of cinema.

In the same year John S. Robertson directed the first film version of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Interestingly the lead actor John Barrymore achieved the change from Jekyll to Hyde with facial expression rather than make-up.

Two years later F. W. Murnau directed Nosferatu, based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stoker’s widow would not allow them to use the book's name, hence the title. Ironically Count Orlock, ably played by Max Shreck, is still the closest thing cinema has produced to Stoker’s actual description of Dracula. Nosferatu remains the best vampire movie to date.

The unquestioned king of the silent horror was Lon Chaney, ‘Man of a Thousand Faces’. His defining role was as Erik in Rupert Julian’s 1925 version of Phantom of The Opera. Chaney, always willing to suffer for his art, wore a brace of animal teeth to add to the Phantom’s cadaverous look. Like so many of the silent movies this remains he best screen treatment of the story. Chaney’s phantom has a demented, elemental power but a deep pathos. In the most memorable scene he tells the heroine Christine Daae that his earliest memory is that of his mother putting a mask on him in his cradle because she could not bear to look at him.

The advent of the talky gave rise to the Universal Monster Movies that many still deem the best of their kind but I find generally over-rated. Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula is a good case in point. Though charismatic, and a fine actor, Bela Lugosi bore scant resemblance to Stokers description of the count. In fact Lugosi’s image owes more to the silent screen lover Rudolph Valentino. This film also saw the beginning of the idea of a vampire as a sexual predator, something to be desired rather than feared. In the actual legends from Eastern Europe vampires are gangrenous, vile, foul-smelling and disease-spreading; a thousand miles from their film counterparts.

Far more satisfying was Brownings’s 1932 film Freaks in which a lovely trapeze artiste marries the leader of a group of deformed circus entertainers for his money. When his friends discover her plan, they deal out their own justice. Browning used real deformed people in the film rather than actors in make-up.

Just as Lugosi’s slick haired, black-cloaked Dracula became fixed in the public’s perception of the character so did Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the monster in James Whale’s 1931 film Frankenstein, which is now synonymous with the character. The flat-headed, clunky-booted monster with electrodes in his neck springs to mind whenever he name of his creator is mentioned. In fact there is little description of the nameless monster in Mary Shelley’s novel, aside from his pearly white teeth and fine black hair being in contrast to his sickly yellow skin.
The differences don’t end here. In the book Frankenstein is not a Doctor or a Baron but a medical student. He carries out his experiments in his student digs, not in a creepy old castle and there are none of the angry, torch-bearing villagers seen in just about every Frankenstein film to date.

Universal trotted out several other monsters including Lon Chaney Jr as The Wolfman in 1941. Looking more like a Yorkshire terrier than a wolf and set in a Scotland portrayed a hundred years behind its actual date, this movie has not aged well.

In the following year Universal brought these three characters back again and again in increasingly poor films. The only new character of note was the ‘Gillman’ an amphibious humanoid in the 1954 movie ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’. The costume was so scary it is alleged that some make up artists refused to be left alone with it. The Gillman was Universal’s only truly original monster and by far its best.

Overseas far more interesting things were occurring than in Hollywood. Toho studio’s Gojira (Godzilla) surfaced in 1954. Directed and written by Ishirô Honda the film took the ancient dragon legends of Japan and gave them a post Hiroshima twist. Nuclear explosions awaken a legendary giant reptile that then devastates Tokyo. The original film is a dark and brooding piece with the memories of atomic destruction still raw in the minds of the Japanese. The film was so successful that it kick-started a franchise that is still running today.

In England Hammer Studios embarked upon a series of films that were a breath of fresh air after the stuffy and un-scary Universal efforts. Filmed on a shoestring budget Hammer Horror were the first films to really use gore. Christopher Lee in Terence Fisher’s 1958 Dracula is a red-eyed, red-fanged predator in a way Lugosi never was. Hammer did not balk at showing the Count sink his teeth into a victim or indeed to show him impaled in a bloody manner upon a stake. In The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, Terrance Fisher) we see a deliberate break from the flat-headed monster of Karloff to a more realistic thing looking like it was indeed made from parts of dismembered corpses. Hammer showed Frankenstein actually grave-robbing and sewing the bits together. The Hammer version of The Mummy (1959, Terrence Fisher) is the best to date with Christopher Lee lurching menacingly through the swamps, swathed in bandages.

Back in the U.S. the 1950s was the age of the B-movie; the legendary monsters of the 30s and 40s largely being replaced by the twin bugbears of atomic weapons and ‘reds under the bed’. Countless films involved alien invaders that were thinly veiled metaphors for communism. Some were done quiet thoughtfully such as Jack Arnolds’s 1953 film It Came From Out of Space where the grotesque aliens are portrayed as sympathetic and peaceful. The message was ‘different is not necessarily bad’. But in the age of the McCarthy witch hunts most aliens were shown as a threat.

In films like Them! (1954) and Tarantula (1955) were two of the best examples of monsters unleashed by atomic energy. Hordes of giant arthropods threatened the U.S.A. during the 1950s.

Over in Japan a whole new breed of monster movies began in the late fifties and continues to the present day. Ask the man in the street to name ten Japanese things and the odds are that Godzilla (or Gojira to give him his Japanese name) will be amongst them. For many people their first exposure to Japan is through the wildly entreating genre of giant monster movies, wherein antediluvian or extraterrestrial beasts smash through Tokyo. Godzilla, Rodan, Gamara and their colleagues even have a collective name in Japan. Known as Kaiju they have become an institution.

The 1960s and 70s saw a boom in the imagination of filmmakers. The pendulum swung away from traditional monsters to man-made threats and creatures from beyond or ken. One of the most original was Eugeino Martin’s 1973 offering Horror Express. Set on the Trans-Siberian railway it involved an alien energy that inhabits a 3 million year old apeman deforested from a block of ice. The monster breaks loose on the train and devours the minds of its victims by psychically sucking their brains out!

Island of Terror (Terrence Fisher 1966) involves a group of slug-like creatures called ‘silicates’ who were genetically engineered to suck out cancer cells in bone marrow cancer sufferers. Braking free of their island laboratory they multiply and suck the bones from their human victims like calcium vampires.

In a more traditional vein Vincent Price starred in some wonderfully OTT parts in the 70s.

In Theatre of Blood (1973, Douglas Hickox) he plays Edward Lionheart, a Shakespearian actor spurned by critics. Faking his own death he returns later to kill the critics in murders copied from the Bard’s own plays. These include a man force fed his own poodles. They don’t make them like that any more.

In The Abominable Dr Phibes (Robert Fuest, 1971) and its sequel Dr Phibes Rises Again (Robert Fuest 1972) he plays the monstrously deformed and totally insane Dr Anton Phibes, a mad organist who kills the doctors who failed to save his wife’s life, in ways based on biblical plagues.

As special effects became better in the 80s and 90s you would have expected horror films to have broadened their spectrum, but in fact this was not the case. The same dull old chestnuts such as vampires and werewolves were rolled out again and again. The advent of the home video started an influx of new films most of them made for video release and most of poor quality. Slasher films where a human psychopath takes the place of the monster were popular as well. Most of this fall into such a grey mush of blandness that the plot of one is hard to tell apart from the plot of another.

A few films stand out as truly original. Written and directed by Larry Cohen in 1982 Q The Winged Serpent involves a small-time crook who stumbles on a cult that worship the ancient Aztec dragon god Quetzecoatl, and have literally prayed the god back into existence. The monster builds a nest on top of the Chrysler Building and swoops down to devour high-rise window cleaners and people swimming in penthouse pools. In a scene far better than the climax of King Kong the NYPD battle the monster atop the skyscraper where it has its lair.

Lair of the White Worm (Ken Russell, 1988) is based on the little known Bram Stoker novel of the same name. It involved the reincarnation of the Roman High Priestess of a snake worship cult who sacrifices victims to an immortal serpent god who has its lair in some caves in Derbyshire.

What does the future hold for the monster flick? On the cards are remakes of some of the Universal monster films and some of he 1950s B-movies. These include new versions of The Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Them! There have been persistent rumours that the long-defunct Hammer Studios are being resurrected. None of these have borne fruit as yet but we can but hope. In a genre now over-run by repetitive plots and un-scary monsters such as pretty-boy vampires, a great company like Hammer could, if you will excuse the pun, make a killing!

JOEL LA ROCQUE: Pet Reptiles

Here is the first of two bloggo postings that we received, unsolicited, from Joel La Rocque, who is - I have to admit - someone I had not heard of before....

I have been working with venomous species of snakes for 40 years now and I often receive stories about unusual reptile events such as the one I just read about the tame crocodile that was ill and nursed back to health by a young boy, and they are now friends. I fail to see why it is shocking that a reptile can take up with a human.

As I sit here, I am accompanied by two copperheads sitting on my desk. They are not confined in any sense.

About six years ago I made a discovery that changed my life. I now have a number of venomous snakes, all fully functional and they are as tame as grass snakes. People come over to watch the "show" as they call it. It is no show, just one human and a whole lot of limbless friends doing what they do best; being kind to one and other.

It is written nowhere that snakes have to bite; I don't know who came up with this ridiculous theory. Felix, my northern copperhead had a section of old shed stuck over his right eye and nostril. He was fit to be tied and in distress. I had no way of helping him other than just picking him up and wetting down the dry skin and removing it with tweezers. This did cause some pain as he would jerk when I hit an area that was really stuck. We worked for the better part of two hours to get him free and he never once struck at me. I realised this and went to the other tanks. One by one I became familiar with the snakes and all have accepted me as a non-violent animal and allow me to handle them when ever I wish. That was the day I threw down my hooks and tongs for good.

I am enclosing three or four photos of snakes in the wild being examined by me. These pictures are less than twenty days old. What really gets me upset is that I wasted 34 years of my life listening to theories that came over here with Columbus; what a fool I was.

God created snakes, then man. Both have a task to accomplish while on this earth. If our paths should cross as we travel this glorious land, let us both look and wonder, then part in peace. For God has placed us here, to live in harmony and we are subject to His / Her law. So let us continue to learn and pass these truths along to the next generation. An open mind has the capacity to hold the wisdom of all the ages past; whereas a closed mind is void an empty, unable to understand or grow.

Joel La Rocque
1995