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 31, 2009

CFZ 2010 Annual Report

Dear Friends,

I note with a shudder that this is the fifteenth time I have sat down to write a CFZ Annual Report and looking back I am amazed at quite how much the CFZ has changed since we started.

Ups and Downs

This has been a particularly difficult year for a number of reasons, most notably because of the downturn in the global economy, which has caused a particularly nasty recession. This has hit us particularly badly because book sales (our major source of income) have been badly affected, and we are on the whole about 30% down on sales of last year. That being said, however, this Christmas we sold more books than ever before in the United States, and although the UK sales are better than they have been all year, unless we have a major last-minute spurt of sales coming through on New Year’s Eve, we are still 23% down on last year. We were not expecting the sales slump to be quite this bad, but we have now adjusted to it.

However, things are not easy and we have had to tighten our belts considerably.

Many politicians tell us that the recession will be lifting during 2010 but our financial advisors intimate that whatever happens on paper, the effects may well deepen this year, and that it won’t be properly lifting until the second half of 2012.

We’ve also been advised by several people who claim to have their finger on the pulse of such things that 'kids', whoever this homogenous group of younger people may be, “will no longer buy books”, and that we should diversify into audio books and e-books. This is something we are most definitely not going to do – at least not at the moment. We are resolutely old-fashioned on this matter and believe that we should publish in a traditional manner. And until forced into abandoning publishing conventional books we will continue so to do.

Each year there are old familiar faces missing from the CFZ roll of honour – some of these have gone because of changes in their life, some of these have gone through ill health, some of these have gone because they are not interested any more and one or two – sadly – have been asked to leave because their behaviour and ethics are no longer compatible with what the CFZ does. Sadly, these include people who have promised us the earth and delivered nothing and even people who have defrauded us out of significant sums of money, equipment or intellectual property.

However, the distaff side of this is that each year there are new faces at the table; people whose contribution to the CFZ is immeasurable, and this year we would like to welcome and thank such people as Gavin Lloyd Wilson, Naomi and Richie West, Jan Edwards, Glen Vaudrey, Lanette Baker, Lizzy Clancy, and its hard to believe that even Max Blake has been with us for less than two years. I would also like to thank the people like Oll Lewis, Richard Muirhead and Dale Drinnon who make the commitment to a regular daily blog post. The CFZ truly is a family, and it is nice to welcome new members in. Sadly, as in even the best families there is the occasional divorce when someone wants out, or their behaviour becomes so extreme that they have to be expelled.

But that is life, and the CFZ is nothing if it isn’t a microcosm of everyday life.

Sponsors and Donors

Another encouraging sign is the amount of new sponsors that supported this year’s Weird Weekend. They included Voiceprint Records, Exmoor Breweries, Fortean Times, Paranormal Magazine, Hilltop Holidays, The Saskwatch Watch Company, the music department of Kingsley School in Bideford, Torridge Training, the Headstart Hairdressing Agency, and two well-known North Devon tourist attractions – The Big Sheep, and Dartington Crystal. I would also like to thank Andy Roberts, Jan Bondeson, Ronan Coghlan and Ross Braund-Phillips for their spectacular kindness.

Whilst on the subject of donations I would like to thank Karen Gensheimer, Steve Jones, Naomi and Richie West, Paul Haresnape, Derek Grebner, Magnus Jansson, Lindsay Selby, Andy Roberts, Andrew Saunders, Paul Cruikshanks, Jennifer Hynes, Mike Plant, Gary Taylor, Fleur Fulcher, Paul Vella, Miriam Hawkins, ‘Panther Cub Discs’, Richard Muirhead and various people at the Weird Weekend. If I have missed your name off this list please accept my eternal apologies.


In the summer of 2005 I started what was originally my personal blog where I wrote down my hopes and fears, and shared my life with whoever was interested. I also used it to write about CFZ activities, and for the next few years I wrote in it whenever I had anything of vague interest to say.

In early January we decided to do what we should have done a few years ago and we made it the hub of a network of CFZ blogs accessible through our website. From the second week in January there has been at least seven or eight news stories a day, sometimes more, and from an average of thirty hits a day we now achieve between 1,500 and 2,500 each day, and occasionally considerably more. If the current figures continue, we will hit the magic million mark sometime in mid-April. To put this in context, we have had a CFZ website with a hit counter since 1998 and only 365,260 hits as of 30th December on the main site. Our old friend Dr. Darren Naish recommended us to the Nature Blog network and we have been consistently in the top fifteen, more often than not in the top ten. The blog has become the voice of the cryptozoological community, and although it illustrates what a broad church the CFZ has become it is the only place either online or in the real world where all the major cryptozoological pundits in the English speaking world and a host of well-meaning amateurs, can meet up, engage in active debate and have frank – though civilised – exchanges of views.

It is almost like an online version of the Weird Weekend, and despite the fact that I didn’t mean it to be like this at all, like most of the good things that I have achieved in life it has taken on a life of its own and become an online daily magazine based around the CFZ and the wide pantheon of activities that we undertake within cryptozoology, animal welfare, green issues, conservation and small-politics. There is also a smattering of humour and music, and the aggregate readership figures improve month on month.

Change in Statement of Belief

We started 2009 with a major revamp of the CFZ website, and less than twelve months later we did exactly the same thing. Although some of the people - who with me were architects of the new CFZ - are missing from our happy band of brothers (and sisters), although we hope they will return at some point, I still stand by what we did at the end of last year. However, on a couple of major philosophical issues, with hindsight I find myself as guilty of thought-police brutality as any of the dull and hidebound members of the scientific establishment whose noses I have made it my business to tweak throughout my adult and professional life.

I have always prided myself on the fact that the upper echelons of the CFZ contain people of a healthily diverse range of religious and political persuasions. This exotic brew has always contained Catholics, Protestants, Pagans, Agnostics and Atheists, and Anarchists; Capitalists, Communists, Socialists, Neocons, and even people whose politics come from the far right of the political spectrum - all of this diverse range of humanity united by a generally healthy and green outlook, an enquiring mind, and a generally anarchic sense of humour.

At the last general election coming up for half a decade ago, Richard, Graham and I each voted for different political parties and made no secret of the fact, and I have always thought that this social diversity was one of the most important building blocks on which the CFZ was built.

Over Christmas last year, after being requested so to do for many years, I produced a document outlining the basic tenets of belief of the Centre for Fortean Zoology. In doing so I unfortunately allowed my own beliefs to prejudice what I wrote, and momentarily forgot the words of Charles Fort: “I conceive of nothing, in religion, science, or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while”.

I make no secret of the fact that I find the doctrines of Young Earth Creationism to be completely ludicrous and as a practising Christian myself, I find this unwholesome superstition to be totally against what I believe both as a scientist and as a Christian. I am also disturbed by the number of cryptozoologists, especially in the United States, who are Young Earth Creationists, and I am particularly disturbed by the way that these religious beliefs have tended to colour the findings of certain researchers; especially those who believe in the continual survival of non-avian dinosaurs.

However, as a cryptozoologist I have always found the ‘thought-police’ of mainstream science particularly abhorrent and as an anarchist I feel much the same about many of the belief systems, which bedevil our current western society. So I have removed the sections about creationism and new age spirituality from the CFZ tenets of belief, which now merely read:

'That although there are members of the CFZ from all religions and from all sections of the political spectrum, we carry out our researches with no religious or political bias or motivation', and 'That the CFZ should be an international brother/sisterhood of like minded people who work together, mindless of differences of creed and culture, to push back the boundaries of human knowledge, for no other reason than that it is a good thing to do; hence our motto Pro Bona Causa Facimus (we do it for a good reason).'

Notable investigations

The CFZ is fundamentally a research organisation. At any one time we are carrying out dozens of research projects across the world; some of them major, most of them minor. This year some of our most notable investigations included:

  • Beast of the Bay

In January we were approached by a local newspaper who told us that the carcass of the Beast of Exmoor had washed up on a North Devon beach. Of course it wasn’t anything of the sort, but a recently deceased grey seal. For a short and exciting few days, during which we were accused of having stolen the skull of the corpse by one of the tabloid newspapers and not for the last time this year, had our entire modus operandi criticised by internet pundits behind the safety of their computers, we thought it might have been that of a sea lion. If it had been, it would have been only the second sea lion to be recorded in British waters. However, the most important thing is that not only did we solve the mystery, but we have hard evidence in the form of photographs, films, the skull and a flipper in order to prove that any claims made in the future about the corpse of a drowned Beast of Exmoor can be consigned to the rubbish bin where they belong.

  • Devil’s Footprints

In March we were approached by an old lady in the village who had some singular footprints in the snow in her back garden. What is particularly interesting is that these footprints were reminiscent to those that appeared in Devonshire in the mid-19th Century – an occasion which has become known as the Great Devon Mystery. On that occasion the footprints were popularly supposed to have been made by the Lord of Darkness himself. On this occasion we were lucky enough to be on the scene within hours and able to take photographs and film, which were just not available to those hard-working researchers of the mid-19th Century. Our initial findings suggest that it is a rabbit or hare, but why they are so different from normal rabbit or hare footprints remains to be seen. We intend to carry on our experimentation with our own rabbits during the winter months when the CFZ grounds are under a blanket of snow.

  • Killarney Lakes

In September we were in County Kerry, deep in the Republic of Ireland. Together with Max Blake and my old friend Tony ‘Doc’ Shiels we took some photographs and film of anomalous objects – presumably of animals – on the lake. They may or may not have been of an unknown species or even, as has been suggested, paranormal in nature. Whatever else happened we saw a peculiar series of events that appear to have been triggered by my old friend. Much has been written about this elsewhere, including a major research paper in the 2010 Yearbook, but we were not prepared for the torrent of abuse that we received after broadcasting our film on CFZtv.

  • Sumatra #3

Also in September, three CFZ members joined Adam Davies on an expedition to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It was our third trip to the island. It was the most successful of our expeditions yet because we found footprints, hair samples, and one of our members (Dave Archer) together with Sahar Didmus, actually saw what they believe was an orang pendek. Once again, our findings were greeted with derision from people who it appears didn’t have the manners to behave any better.

Weird Weekend

Almost exactly ten years ago Nigel Wright and I attended the Lapis UFO conference in Lytham-St. Anne’s, Lancashire. We had so much fun (and yes, the scurrilous details written up by Andy Roberts in an edition of his scandal sheet The Armchair Ufologist are basically true), we decided we had to do one of our own. The first Weird Weekend, held in May 2000, was great fun. It was also the valedictory public appearance of my dear old dog Toby before he died on Ascension Day. Speakers included David Farrant, Mike Hallowell, Nick Redfern and Richard Freeman. Twelve people turned up and we lost the grand sum of seventy-five quid, which back then was a considerable slice of the CFZ budget. Although the 2001 and 2002 events (held in conjunction with the Exeter University Science Fiction Society) just about broke even, Richard and I had already decided never to hold another event until, much against our better judgement, we were talked into having a 2003 event by a couple of close friends. The 2003 Weird Weekend was fantastic and made a substantial profit. The future of the event was assured.

I have always enjoyed the Weird Weekend immensely and it had been my favourite weekend of the year for a long time. However, I have to admit that this year’s event was nowhere near as much fun for me, Corinna or David Braund-Phillips in particular, as we had come to expect. Behind the scenes there were human dramas of an unparalleled nature: we had illness, equipment failure, pregnancies, emotional dramas and acts of both considerable personal self-sacrifice and crass selfishness (the latter from people who really should have known better). As always I was staggered by the sheer kindness and generosity of some of the people with whom we deal and before I go any further I would like to thank Kaye Braund-Phillips, Ronan Coghlan and Sam Shearon for acts of spectacular generosity. Without you guys we really couldn’t have pulled it off.

This year’s event will not go down in my consciousness as the happiest experience of my life but it did have some spectacularly successful aspects to it. One particularly good experiment – which I am smug to say, was entirely my own idea – were guest appearances on Friday and Sunday by none other than Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932), without whom of course there would be no Centre for Fortean Zoology. In January I appeared as a guest at a peculiar evening of performance art at the Royal Academy. I did my usual schtick, enlivened by my impersonation of a vicar preaching on the subject of cryptozoology and taking my chosen text as that god-awful musical Mama Mia! Here I would like to say that I have never seen, and am never likely to see, the afore-mentioned film, and basically, what I know about it from a description given to me by one of my young relatives who it appears has not inherited his uncle’s good taste. Also on the bill was a very talented character actor called Silas Hawkins, and I prevailed upon him to invite Charles Fort to the 2009 Weird Weekend. Another notable attendee was Rat Scabies, one of the original British punk rockers and drummer with seminal new wave group The Damned. He lectured on his long-term quest for the Holy Grail and told the story of Fr. Berenger Sauniere and the peculiar events at Rennes-Le-Chateau, with great aplomb and flare.

Making his first appearance at a Weird Weekend was CFZ assistant zoological director Max Blake who, showing remarkable composure and stagecraft for an eighteen-year-old (as he was then), kept the audience enthralled with accounts of unknown animal species discovered in the pet trade. Also making their Weird Weekend debuts were two authors of books in our series Mystery Animals of the British Isles. Glen Vaudrey is a relative newcomer to the CFZ, whereas Neil Arnold has been a member since the beginning. Their talks on the mystery animals of the Western Isles and zooform phenomena respectively, were great successes. I was particularly pleased to be able to welcome Andy Roberts, who is not only an old friend of mine and author of the afore-mentioned scurrilous news sheet, he is an investigator I’ve been trying to lure to the Weird Weekend for many years. And it was very gratifying not only to have him deliver a smashing talk on the Big Grey Man phenomenon but to find that, as I had always suspected he would, he had a smashing time and has already asked to be on the bill for next year.

The Weird Weekend is changing. But it has always done so. Originally it was a massively eccentric and rather rowdy affair tailored largely for students. Over the years, whilst retaining its amiable eccentricity, it has become much more family-orientated; something that I at least think is a jolly good thing. It is heart-warming to see the number of families with remarkably small children who come along to the event year after year. In the light of events this year, whilst there will be a cocktail party the night before Weird Weekend 2010, there will be no disco, and it is hoped that the noise and rowdiness from this year will never be repeated. There will be other changes as well. We had a number of very generous sponsors this year and are hoping to expand this in 2010. It would be good if the operating cost of the Weird Weekend could be absorbed by sponsorship so that every penny raised at the event could go to the CFZ rather than the operating costs of the weekend itself.

I would like to thank Stuart Garner for generously stepping into the breach and running the children’s area for us on the Saturday afternoon. He did a brilliant job, ably assisted by Kara Wadham and Corinna. However, we are very pleased to be able to announce that Davey and Joanne Curtis will be back next year running the children’s craft area for the whole three days.

It is also good to be able to announce that Kara and Nick Wadham from Bugfest will be running an animal handling and exotic animal awareness workshop during at least part of the weekend. We have already confirmed a number of speakers for next year's event and I hope that it will be bigger and better than ever.

The Weird Weekend is a unique event. In many ways I think that it may eventually be seen as one of the greatest achievements of the CFZ because unlike all the other Fortean conferences around the world, it is aimed at the general public rather than preaching to the already converted. If we are to be seen as a serious scientific organisation rather than a bunch of cranky hobbyists, this is something that we cannot afford not to do.

This year’s speakers were:


Publishing schedule


This year, largely because of the increasing time constraints caused by the daily bloggo, we have not published as many books as we had planned with only seven titles.

Centre for Fortean Zoology Yearbook 2009
Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent by Neil Arnold
Giant Snakes - Unravelling the coils of mystery by Michael Newton
Mystery Animals of the British Isles: The Western Isles by Glen Vaudrey
CHINA: a Yellow Peril? by Richard Muirhead
Star Steeds and other Dreams by Karl Shuker
Predator Deathmatch by Nick Molloy

However, there is a string of other titles in production, at least three of which are almost ready for publication. These last three titles took up much of the last few months but will show up as 2010 publications, which probably isn’t entirely fair.

As part of our ongoing commitment to quality we have changed our pre-publication process instituting a new role of technical editor for each book. The technical editor checks all scientific facts, names and places whereas the sub-editor and editor check for spelling, grammatical consistency and flagrant abuse of the Queen’s English. This means that each book is proofread a minimum of three times, by three different people, before publication.

Some of the books we have planned for 2010 are by relatively well-known authors, and so we hope that our sales figures will be up in twelve months time.


As far as our magazines are concerned, this has not been a good year. We lost our office laser printer in February because the people who leased it to us had a different interpretation of the term “non-profit making organisation” than we did. This gave us a big, and fundamental problem. For the first time since 1987 when my first wife and I started publishing fanzines, we were not in a position to be able to control our own means of production. We therefore took a difficult decision which I hope in the long term will prove to be the right one, although in the short term it has faced us with a whole barrage of problems.

We decided that from now on our magazines – like our books – would be published perfect bound by Lightning Source. However, this decision and the decision to rebrand Exotic Pets magazine as the Amateur Naturalist as we felt that this more accurately reflected what was actually in there, coincided with the first big crunch of the recession. Re-subscriptions were down, and none of the advertisers paid their bills. As a result, because it takes something in the region of £500 to issue and distribute each magazine, we have only produced one issue of each publication, with a second edition of Animals & Men ready to go at the beginning of January. We hope that we shall be back on track by the end of 2010, and would like to assure all subscribers that they will get what they paid for.


This year we have, once again, produced twelve half-hour episodes of On the Track which earlier in the year was rebranded as Cryptozoology Online: On the Track (of Unknown Animals). We are very pleased with both the production quality and the content of this show, which – we believe – has improved greatly on both counts during the last twelve months.

We also released our second full-length feature film The Mountains of Mystery in March. This chronicled the 2008 expedition to Russia in search of the almasty or Russian wildman. What was particularly gratifying with this was that the fact that the cult rock band Gogol Bordello kindly allowed us to use their music alongside my own in the soundtrack. They worked on two films last year, one with Madonna and one with us. OK the truth of the situation isn’t quite as exciting as that, but it still makes me feel good to say it.

In April we started work on our third feature length film – a new departure for us. Called Emily and the Big Cats, for the first time we are presenting a narrative told in a fictionalised manner. About an hour has been completed with less than half of that left to go. We are confident in predicting that young Emily Taylor (16 next month) will be turning the heads of a lot of the younger members of the Fortean community over the next few years. The film will be released in the first half of 2010.

As part of the deal that we have reached with Minnow Films to produce a major TV documentary we are being given our first professional quality camera, which hopefully means that our films will be broadcast more on conventional channels. This year we also acquired a second unit JVC Everio HD camera which supercedes the last of our old domestic quality machines. I wish that we had had it back in February when, due to the good offices of Andy Roberts, we were given the unprecedented chance of filming legendary psychedelic folk band Dr Strangely Strange (whose music we have been pilfering for years) when they performed one of their first London shows for four decades.


At the end of last year we announced our new outreach projects, and since then most of the work we have been doing with our live animal collection has been geared towards the needs of the outreach project which will be properly up and running in 2011. Most of the new species we have acquired have been fish, and I am very pleased with our breeding successes both with yellow bellied girardinus (an obscure live bearer from Cuba) and three spot gourami, which although not rare in any sense of the word are not at all easy to breed. We have also bred Heterandria formosa, the seventh smallest fish in the world, and several less exciting species. We have two species of cichlid, which are so obscure that they do not even have scientific names that are coming into breeding conditions, and we hope that our breeding success will continue into 2010.

We also have bred large numbers of Arabian spiny mice, the sale of which is a small but significant source of income to help pay for our other breeding projects. Sadly, however, the cold spell in February killed off our (until then) successful colony of African striped mice. This year other deaths included Cuthbert – the unknown species of emydid turtle -after six years with the CFZ, Rufus – the Chinese crested mynah - a crow and a jackdaw both called Ichabod and Shosh’s pet rabbit Phoebe.

We also took the difficult decision to concentrate on temperate reptiles rather than tropical ones, as a reaction to the horrific price tags in heating oil and electricity. So Myrtle the Chinese box turtle who had lived with us since 2001, and the two Mississippi map turtles went to the loving home provided by Helen Taylor (Emily’s mum).

Our animal rescue activities have also been relatively successful, although Jerry the jackdaw whom we had rescued as a fledgling decided that he preferred the fleshpots of the CFZ to the rigours of the natural world and refused to go when we released him in June.


Work on the museum has been slow this year but in the summer we received an incredibly generous bequest from our old friend Lionel Beer. He gave us several interesting specimens from the estate of his late father. We hope that work on the museum will pick up during 2010, and that the online library catalogue will also finally be published.

Those we have lost

This year the Fortean world lost several luminaries including John Keel, without whom many of us, including me, would have taken completely different life paths, and John Michell – a personal friend of mine – and doyen of British Forteana as well as spiritual father of the hippy movement on this side of the Atlantic. Without him there would be no modern earth mysteries movement, and it is certain that modern Forteana would be a completely different thing. He was always kind and encouraging to me and other members of the CFZ and I shall miss him dearly.

Another death this year was our next-door neighbour Stuart Rickard who was always kind and supportive and didn’t balk at having noisy strange neighbours with a bevy of peculiar animals in tow. He was greatly active in village community projects and will be sadly missed.

However, for me at least, the most significant death of this difficult year was Marjorie Braund; the lady who since 1971 had often been just like my second mother. It was one of the greatest joys for me on moving back to Woolsery after a gap of 25 years to have her living next door to me again, and I value the relationship we had in the last four years very greatly.

Corinna and I went to visit her nearly every day during her final illness, and her passing has left an enormous hole in my heart, which I don’t think anything will completely fill.

Look to the future

So, there you have it: another year in the life of the Centre for Fortean Zoology. It has had highs and lows, joys and despairs. And I would like to thank everybody who has helped and supported us over the last twelve months and hope that you will continue to do so during 2010. This isn’t about the money. Indeed, it has never been about the money. But keeping this show on the road, and more specifically digging ourselves out of the trough which a global recession and the perfidy of one time friends has left us is both a very expensive and onerous task. So, if you feel yourself able to help with donations of time, money, effort, equipment, specimens, or indeed anything else, please do so. We are always looking for new blood to enrich the CFZ family and to help us build upon all the things we have achieved in the past eighteen years.

Onwards and upwards,

Jonathan Downes, Director

Centre for Fortean Zoology
Myrtle Cottage,
North Devon EX39 5QR

Telephone +44 (0)1237 431413
+44 (0)7006-074-925

eMail jon@eclipse.co.uk


DAVEY CURTIS: When is a monster not a monster

Dear Jon,

I was looking in the art & crafts department at our local supermarket for ideas to keep the kids entertained at the Weird Weekend and found this.

I may not be an expert on marsupials but surly this is a Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) mask and hardly a monster!

Regards Dave

JD: I don't think either are monsters, but the family resemblance is remarkable...

DALE DRINNON: Santa Clara Sea Serpent 1947

JAN EDWARDS: A Year in the life of Farplace Animal Sanctuary

I thought you might be interested in some of our 2009 figures.

Animals in 01/01/09 to 30/12/09 total 761 animals
This includes 222 chickens, 192 pigeons, 139 cats, 97 rabbits 11 hedgehogs, 17 guinea pigs and 3 dogs.
Rehomed 261 animals, including 63 cats, 126 chickens, 4 dogs, 9 guinea pigs and 45 rabbits.
Vaccinated 199 animals - 99 cats, 8 dogs, 92 rabbits.
Neutered 86 animals – 15 male cats, 19 female cats, 18 male rabbits, 34 female rabbits
Microchipped 138 animals – mainly cats.
Currently here: 65 cats, 21 rabbits, 3 guinea pigs, plus mice, pigeons, chickens, peacock, sheep, goat etc. Total in on 30/12/09 – 280

This is more than double on last year’s figures, and we anticipate even more in 2010.
Our average vet bill by the way is around £3,000 per month! Does anyone want to swap vet bills??

Jan Edwards, Head of Animal Care
Farplace Animal Rescue - the no-kill animal sanctuary
Farplace, Sidehead, Westgate, County Durham, DL13 1LE

tel: 01388 517397 mobile 07860 523434
Registered Charity number 1126812
Registered Company number 4397258



The CFZ Press Releases blog has been restored to its pristine condition. It was particularly galling when this one was taken down, as it had only been there for 24 hours. Whether or not the cessation of service by Google was as the result of malicious complaints, or whether it was the work of over-zealous spiderbots (whatever they are) I don't know, but it does prove that common sense has prevailed.

Thank You Guys

Hopefully this is a good omen for the speedy return of our newsblog. As I wrote yesterday, it must be particularly galling for dear Gavin, who has worked so hard on the newsblog over the last year, to have had all his hard work (over 2,000 postings) arbitrarily removed. BTW - mainly because it amuses me - if anyone can find me a *.jpg of the famous Windmill Theatre `We Never Close` poster, then please email it to me. It would amuse me greatly to post it on the temporary news blog!


I always insist that the CFZ bods take a digital camera with them wherever they go, but now I have been hoist by my own petard, because a couple of days before Christmas, as Corinna and I finished our Christmas shopping, I singularly failed to do what I have been preaching for so long. I reached for my camera, and it was not there. So we had to rely on Corinna's mobile phone which was OK, but not really up to the job.

Pied wagtails are delightful little creatures, and found all across much of Britain and Ireland. They are one of my favourite British birds, but although you never see more than one or two together during the daytime, it has been written of them that they roost together in huge numbers, but until now I had never been priveliged to see one of these mass roosts.

Until now that is. The shades of night were drawing fast, so it was about tea time inthe car park of Tesco in Barnstaple when we saw a mass roost on three trees in the car park. There must have been three hundred of the little birds there.

The thing that I found so peculiar was that the trees were not even slightly sheltered, and I am sure that with even a little exploration they could have found somewhere much more cosy.

But they didn't.

It was a horrible night with snow and hail, and as I was tucked up in bed with Corinna and Biggles, I found myself worrying about the myriad of wagtails, and hoping that they made it through the night OK. But I suppose they know better than me what they were doing...

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


As the slightly patronising poster says “Keep Calm And Carry On” normal service will be resumed with the daily news blog soon enough, but, as Jon said yesterday we are using a temporary news blog for the time being.

Yesterday 1924 Edwin Hubble demonstrated the existence of galaxies other than the Milky Way and on this day in 1879 Thomas Edison demonstrated the incandescent light bulb for the first time.

And now for the news:

The Puerto Rico Primate breeding project controversy continues
MOOSE ATTACK (well sort of)
'World's best job' man stung by tiny, lethal jellyfish
Leopard cat found for 1st time in decades on Tsushima's lower island
World's oldest duck died

You can’t duck fate forever…

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I have recently come across a highly interesting and useful web-based archive of American newspapers http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/newspapers/ which has enabled me, in the last few days to find a number of 'new' cryptozoological reports, namely on flying snakes in N. America, which I have passed onto Nick Sucik, probably the world`s leading authority on flying snakes. I also found today`s report on some kind of sea monster, which attacked rorqual whales near Admiraly (i.e. Admiralty) Island near Alaska in the summer of 1903.

I spoke to Dr Darren Naish on the evening of December 28th and he couldn`t identify the creature. He suggested I look at There are Giants in The Sea by Michael Bright but it wasn`t mentioned in that book either. Whatever it was, it used a huge 'club' to attack the rorquals. Darren suggested it could be mating activity, the club being the male`s penis or a giant squid. I used the phrase 'strange creature' when I used the search facility.


Strange Creatures Said to Exist in Alascan [sic] Waters

While operating a fishery on Admiraly [sic] Island, Alaska, last summer, says a writer, my attention and the attention of my fishing crew was almost daily attracted to a large marine creature that would appear in the main channel of Seymour canal and our immediate vicinity. There are large numbers of whales of the species rorqual there, and the monster seemed to be their natural enemy. The whales generally travel in schools, and while at the surface to blow on would be singled out and attacked by the fish, and a battle was soon in order.

It is the nature of the rorqual to make three blows at intervals of from two to three minutes each, and then sound deep and stay beneath the surface for 30 to 40 minutes. As a whale would come to the surface, there would appear always at the whale’s right side and just above where his head would connect with the body, a great, long tail or fin, “judged by five fishermen and a number of Indians after seeing about 15 times at various distances,” to be about 24 feet long, 2½ feet wide at the end, and tapering down to the water, when it seemed to be about 18 inches in diameter, looking very much like the blade of the fan of an old-fashioned Dutch windmill.

The great club was used on the back of the unfortunate whale in such a manner that it was a wonder to me that every whale attacked was not instantly killed. Its operator seemed to have perfect control of its movements, and would bend it back till the end would touch the water forming a horseshoe loop, then with a sweep it would be straightened and brought over and down on the back of the whale with a whack that could be heard for several miles. If the whale was fortunate enough to submerge his body before the blows came, the spray would fly to a distance of 100 feet from the effect of the strike, making a report as loud as a yacht’s signal gun.

What seemed most remarkable to me was that no matter which way the attacked whale went, or how fast (the usual speed is about 14 knots) that great club would follow right along by its side and deliver these tremendous blows at intervals of about four or five seconds. It would always get in from three to five blown at each of the three times the whale would come to the surface to blow. The whale would generally rid itself of the enemy when it took its deep sound, especially if the water was 40 fathoms or more deep. During the day the attack was always off shore, but at night the whales would be attacked in the bay and within 400 yards of the fishery.

“I do not know of any whales being killed, but there were several that had great holes and sores on their backs. Questioning the Indians about it, I was told that there was only one, that it had been there for many years, and that it once attacked an Indian canoe and with one stroke of the great club smashed the canoe into splinters, killing and drowning several of its occupants."

I found this story in the Leavenworth Echo, Leavenworth, Washington, January 30th 1914: Petrified Animal in Mine. A petrified body,apparently that of a seal, was found at a depth of 176 feet in a mine at Carthage, Mo. The head resembles that of a calf, but the body is shaped like a seal. The strange creature is now on exhibition in Carthage. (2)

It would be interesting to see if the age of the 'seal' and the age of the mine strata coincided.

(1) The Falls City Tribune. January 22nd 1904.(Falls City,Nebraska)
(2) Leavenworth Echo January 30th 1914.

Talking Heads-Life During Wartime.

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons
Packed up and ready to go
Heard of some gravesites,out by the highway,
A place where nobody knows
The sound of gunfire,off in the distance,
I`m getting used to it now
Lived in a brownstone,lived in a ghetto,
I`ve lived all over this town,…

GLEN VAUDREY: U109 monster

While trawling through Bernard Heuvelmans's In the wake of the Sea-Serpent I came across the story of a sea serpent spotted by a German submarine during the First World War. The report first surfaces in the German newspaper Bremer Nachrichten in 1933 when a former U boat commander, Werner Löwisch, announced that he and his crew of the submarine U109 had seen a marine saurian in the North Sea. He described how, on the evening of 28 July 1918, he and another member of the crew had seen an animal around a 100ft in length which had ‘a long head, jaws like a crocodile’s and legs with very definite feet’.

I have to admit I have seen this sighting used as proof of dinosaur survival, but something troubled me about the description: just how do you get to see the feet of a sea creature if it’s swimming by, unless it was resting on its back, feet in the air. Still, that was only a minor quibble and I thought it was worth looking into the tale a little more. Perhaps I would be able to identify where the sighting had taken place. I figured out that these days it's no doubt possible to track down records of the voyages of U109 so I reckoned it wouldn’t take long to have a rough location.

Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered the location of U109 that July evening; it was sunk with all hands at the bottom of the English Channel having run foul of a minefield. There is some confusion of the date of the vessel’s actual sinking, either on 26 January 1918 or 4 July 1918; whichever date it was it would make spotting that North Sea creature a little hard to believe. Perhaps it’s the wrong boat, the wrong year or maybe it's been just made up. I will let you decide; personally I know which answer I would choose.

OLL LEWIS: ‘Portent’-ially Deadly

I’d like to tell you all, if I may, about something that has fascinated me since I was a young boy: a loose grouping of phenomena known as ‘Death Portents’. Basically, a death portent is, as the name suggests, some sort of phenomenon by which a person can apparently predict the death of themselves or others.

There has been a large range of different methods recorded in folklore, superstitions and witness accounts whereby someone has apparently predicted their own death, covering vast swathes of the Fortean spectrum. For example, there are tales of ghosts involving a close relative seeing a ‘crisis apparition’ of a dying loved one miles away from where the loved one is currently dying, or a dying person seeing an angel or the ghost of a long-dead friend standing at the foot of their bed not long before they draw their last breath. There are also tales of time-slips. For example, Abraham Lincoln allegedly woke up in the middle of the night and saw himself lying in state. Alternatively, doppelgangers - Abraham Lincoln saw his face reflected twice in a mirror on the first night of his first term in office and noted that one of the faces had a deathly pallor to it. Such instances could be explained as dreams (which are also often cited when talking about death portents) or looking into a thick grubby mirror from the wrong angle when a bit over tired, but either way, like most death portents, they were of little use if they were intended as genuine warnings to President Lincoln.

With such a wide variety of death portents reported you would expect there to be a few Fortean zoology-related ones around too, and you’d be right. In South Wales it was once a widely held belief that to see a white or grey fox heralded a death in the family and in Gower and Swansea a black fox would also be a sign of impending doom. Even common red foxes were seen as death portents in South Wales at times; there was a legend that foxes would howl and make ‘uncommon’ noises in the village of St Donats whenever the death of the castle’s incumbent was near.

As well as foxes, birds were often cast as being able to predict death and sometimes even the manner in which it would occur. For example, in various parts of Britain there was a widely held belief that if a single crow circled above somebody’s head then that person would die from decapitation. The most famous example of birds as death portents is that of corpse birds. Miners were a superstitious bunch, as you might expect if you are spending your entire working day hundreds of feet below ground, chiselling away at things that might be holding up the ceiling, and held a healthy belief in the power of portents. The corpse bird was one of these portents and often took the form of a dove hovering near the entrance of the colliery and it was said to predict mining disasters. Birds were seen behaving in this manner in coalmines in Llanbradach, Morfa and Senghenydd before explosions caused the deaths of many miners in the pits. A bird might not seem that terrifying or ominous but if events from Glyncorrwg in the Cwmavon valley recounted in the South Wales Echo on 15th of July are to be believed then it sounds like something out of a Stephen King story:

“A Batch of Evil Omens”
“The men have been whispering their fears to each other for some time past, but the drastic action of Monday was probably the outcome of so-called evil omens which are said to have been heard in the mine. About two months ago the night-men began to tell `creepy' tales of the strange and supernatural happenings which took place in the colliery every night. Now and then a piercing cry for help would startle the men, and during the night shift horrid shrieks rang through the black darkness of the headings, and frightened the men nearly out of their wits. There is, of course, the usual tale of the dove hovering over the mouth of the level.”

These incidents (and to be honest probably the newspaper’s over-sensationalised reporting of them) resulted in around 300 men refusing to work at the mine so whether a ‘corpse bird’ can accurately predict a mining disaster or not, the miners certainly thought it was not worth taking that chance.

So, next time you see a bird or a fox, pay attention. Who knows; it might be trying to tell you something.


This article was sent to me by Allen Salzberg from Herpdigest and is, as he says a `must read` for anyone even slightly interested in wildlife...

'On September 14, 1998, a thin, bespectacled Malaysian named Wong Keng Liang walked off Japan Airlines Flight 12 at Mexico City International Airport. He was dressed in faded blue jeans, a light-blue jacket, and a T-shirt emblazoned with a white iguana head. George Morrison, lead agent for Special Operations, the elite, five-person undercover unit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was there to greet him. Within seconds of his arrest, Anson (the name by which Wong is known to wildlife traffickers and wildlife law enforcement officers around the world) was whisked downstairs in handcuffs by Mexican federales, to be held in the country's largest prison, the infamous Reclusorio Norte.'

Read on...


As you may know I’m currently working on a book about the Canadian/American Indian monster known as the wendigo. I'm very interested in finding modern accounts (20th Century/21st Century) of the creature.

I recall reading an account in one of Elliott O'Donnell's ghost books of an encounter with a creature that sounds very like a wendigo, though it is not referred to in the text. The story is set in one of the northern states, but I can't recall which one. The witness saw the creature one night near an abandoned mine that had a reputation for being haunted. The thing had grey skin and was about ten feet tall. It had an emaciated, skull-like face. This sounds very like some of the descriptions of the wendigo.

Does anyone know where I can find this account? I can't recall which of O'Donnell's many books it is in. Someone on the Fortean Times message board said it was in A Casebook of Ghosts but a look through that book revealed nothing.

Anyone familiar with this?

JON DOWNES: Yesterday's News Today..


I don't know why I didn't think of this yesterday. As regular readers will know, on the 29th December 2009 our news blog with over 2000 entries was taken down by blogger on suspicion of it being a `spamblog`. Whether this was as a result of malicious intent by persons unknown (well, we know perfectly well who they are, but you know what I mean), or as a result of over zealous spambots, we don't know. However, at the CFZ we like to take inspiration from the best, and so - like London's Windmill Theatre, who presented nude tableaus vivant throughout WW2 - We Never Close!

Here with the temporary News Blog. (With news stories attached)

(I have just emailed Gavin the newseditordude with the URL)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Despite the bad blog-related news that awaited me upon my arrival in the office this morning, there is some good news. Or at least I think it is good news.

The bright red CFZ website of the last year has done its purpose. It ushered in a new and vibrant era for the CFZ online, and furthermore, one which has been almost entirely a success. However, it has served its purpose and its day has gone.

As of late last night there is a new CFZ website. The latest expedition reports (Ireland and Sumatra) have not been added, and there are some changes to make to the personnel pages, but basically it is fixed. You need to have javascript and flash enabled, but I personally think that these are small prices to pay for such a swish new site.

I managed to delete a couple of things of mild importance. For the past six years there has been a downloads section on the site. If anyone has either of the two mp3s or the bigfoot press cuttings, please email me. In the meantime if you guys can check all the links I would be grateful....


Hello. Today I feature a brief correspondence that appeared on the Fortean Times cryptozoology forum between myself and some others in June and July 2008 on the topic of giant dragonflies. In those days I called myself Dickydoubt_7. I now am known as Dickydevo. I have left the spelling as in the original.

Posted June 25th 2008: 'Hello! I wonder if anyone can help? I have obtained 2 reports of giant dragonflies from the United Kingdom, [one of these was from Oll Lewis; I believe Oll said it was in Wales, if my memory serves me correctly. See post by LividBullseye, below] from friends who I consider to be trustworthy. If anyone has any reports from their localities, please can they let me know on this Forum? Thank you. If I receive enough reports I will write a piece for Fortean Times.' [I never did]

gncxx: How big is giant? Like prehistoric, two-foot wingspan giant?
LividBullseye: Ask Oll Lewis he`s seen one. Find him here or on the CFZ.
nyarlathotepsub 2: I`ve seen these http://glzmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/wowwee-dragonfly-on-sale-now-for-49-235178.php

disgruntledgoth: about the biggest I have seen had a 6 inch wing span
Dickydoubt_7: I should have said that the dragonfly seen in Oxford measured 12 inches from the tip of one wing to the other.
Peripart: I`m genuinely not being facetious or otherwise dismissive, but it wasn`t one of those radiocontrolled toy dragonflies, was it?Some of them are very lifelike (apart from their huge size) Waylander28 12 inches, that is big..

I had a dried carcass of a dragonfly, found on the sands of the lakes Blessington, (Pulaphuca Lakes to be exact) in Wicklow in Ireland. It was larger than my hand at the time, if I can remember it must have been at least 4 and a half to 5 inches long, with a similar wingspan.

I came across it just lying on the sand behind a rock, myself and my friend would not go near it until we were sure it was dead, (we threw a few stones gently around it) it was perfectly poised, full stretch, and wings splayed out to the sides. Long since been reduced to dust now! Shame it was a Rare perfect find.

R2800 In the UK? I doubt they could really get that Big honestly. What insects need to become monsters is mostly swamplike humid environments with lots of vegitation and shelter. That way there is no winter to kill them off or hinder their growth,plus the air in swamps seem to have higher Carbon content in the air itself...which seems to produce some pretty big bugs.

300 million years ago there we`re 6 foot wingspan Dragon flies and 6 foot centipedes. And if the world was still as warm as it was back then, they`d still be around.

R2800 wrote: In the UK? I doubt they could really get that Big honestly.

Waylander 28: No it was not in the UK, it was in Ireland. Regardless, they were that big, so much so that from a distance and watching them flying over head, we had mistaken them for sparrows. The body of the Dragonfly that I found was at least half 15mm at its thickest. (1)

1. Fortean Times website discussion.Giant dragonflies.June 25th 2008 to July 29th 2008.

The Cure Lullaby

I spy something beginning with s....

On candystripe legs the spiderman comes
softly through the shadow of the evening sun
stealing past the windows of the blissfully dead
looking for the victim shivering in bed
searching out fear in the gathering gloom and
a movement in the corner of the room!
and there is nothing I can do
when I realize with fright
that the spiderman is having me for dinner tonight!

DALE DRINNON: Comparisons between fossil hominids and yowies

Because of the vagiaries of the Internet, some of the pictures that should have accompanied Dale's last post didn't make it through. So when Dale re-sent them, I suggested that he write captions for them all, and we post them as a new stand-alone bloggo entry...

1)Yowie and Homo erectus

The most widely-circulated depiction of an Australian Yowie compared to a more standard reconstruction of Homo erectus from the Time-Life books Early Man foldout. The depiction of the Yowie is exaggerated as a sort of cartoon version of the other, yet the salient features are still identifiable. In particular, the shape of the head and the planes of the face and the relative smallness of the cranium, are all like the known fossil form.

2) Yowie compared to Fossil Hominids, Ape and Modern Man
The shape of the Yowie's head is much like Homo erectus, reference skulls are Java (Trinil) man to the left and Pekin (Beijing) man to the right. Most notably the top of the head has a sagittal keeling causing the peaked appearance of the midline, low cranial profile, the erectus or Solo type of browridges, and the shape of the lower face is comparable. The Yowie is drawn with much exaggerated fanged canines: That is a severe exaggeration but as a matter of fact Javan H. erectus had outsized canines that projected into the lower row and created a gap (diastema) which in that sense made their dentition more primitive than the earlier Australopithecines.

3) Homo erectus comparisons
Left: reconstruction of original Homo erectus finds by Dubois, under the name of Pithecanthropus erectus. This reconstruction statue was redrawn for Heuvelmans's book On the Track of Unknown Animals. On the right is the most complete find of erectus or a closely related species, the Turkana boy. The arms are actually long in comparison to modern man, but not excessively so. This was an individual that had not yet reached full adult growth and would have been over six feet tall as an adult.

4) Face reconstruction of Homo erectus (Pithecanthropus), for comparison to the Yowie's face.

5) Solo skullcap from Java
For comparison to Rex Gilroy's purported piece of fossil Yowie skullcap

6) Purported scrap of Yowie skull
From Rex Gilroy's collection, a fossil assumed to have been a very large form of Homo erectus (or 'Meganthropus') It does in fact resemble that part of the erectus skull and there is no known native Australian animal with that sort of a forehead.

7) Purported Yowie Fossil footprint
From the blue mountains, another of Rex Gilroy's finds. I am not certain if he has the big toe correctly outlined on this one. The actual footprint would be smaller than the outlined space but still it is about eight inches wide and sixteen inches long by the ruler.

8) Purported Yowie fossil molar tooth

Another find from Rex Gilroy's collection of possible Yowie evidence, a fossil tooth that has been completely mineralised and has become impregnated by iron ore. It does look to be exactly what Gilroy says it is but of course, I have not seen the original.


Well, I was feeling quite pleased with myself this morning when I came downstairs. But not for long. There was an email from Gavin Lloyd Wilson over on the newsblog to tell me that the blog had been deleted. I checked with blogger.com and apparently our new Press Releases blog has gone the same way.

I received notification from blogger on both accounts reading:

'Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What is a spam blog?) Since you are an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy and we sincerely apologise for this false positive.

'We received your unlock request on 29 December 2009. On behalf of the robots, we apologise for locking your non-spam blog. Please be patient while we take a look at your blog and verify that it is not spam.

Find out more about how Blogger is fighting spam blogs.'

Spam is certainly a problem, and as events stand at the moment, one cannot take issue with blogger for having done what they have done. That is ASSUMING that normal service is indeed resumed as soon as someone realises that a collection of over 2,000 press stories, and another collection of 38 press releases are hardly spam in any sense of the word.

However, there is another more disturbing possibilty. Gavin asked me:

"Do you think someone may have maliciously 'reported' the blog?"

And I am afraid to say that I think that it is very likely. For various reasons (some of which I know, and others of which I can only guess at) we have fallen foul of various movers and shakers within the crypto-community. These people have, for the last year or so, done their best to cause us (and me in particular) as much trouble and distress as possible. Presumably this is working on the principle that they believe that if they carry on tormenting a manic depressive like me, then eventually I shall crack and close the CFZ, whereby more people will buy their books, and attend their conferences rather than ours.

That is what it all boils down to... money.

But it is not going to work. I am tougher than they think (I shudder as I write this, knowing that it will only heap more coals of opprobrium upon my head) and I have a bloody good team behind me. So bring on your worst. The CFZ is here to stay.

NB: Oh, how I hope that I am being paranoid, however, and that this latest problem is merely the result of an over zealous anti-spambot.

Watch this space.

DAVE FRANCAZIO: Demystifying the minhocao

The minhocao, like many purported cryptids, appears to be a mix of different species combined under one name. Heuvelmans postulates in On the Track of Unknown Animals that the name is applied to large water snakes (anacondas), an undiscovered primitive cetacean, as well as some relic species of amphibious glyptodont.

The identity of the minhocao as a glyptodont stems from observations of the creature being covered in scales with apparent burrowing habits. Lebino José de Santos was one of the first eyewitnesses of the animal and stated that its skin was thicker than pine bark and possessed scales similar to that of an armadillo. It is also described as an enormous worm-like animal. All observations describe the creature as a large serpentine beast covered in scales. It is important to note that these scales are similar to that of an armadillo rather than a snake, suggesting a mammalian identity for the animal. Heuvelmans suggests that the creature is some sort of glyptodont or armadillo but these animals are not serpentine, and are rather much more roundish in shape. In fact, the shape of a glyptodonts is more aptly compared to that of a tank than to the form of a snake. It appears more likely that the minhocao is a recently extinct of species of New World pangolin.

Although there are no extant pangolins in the New World, there is a fossil record describing such creatures. Record of these two families, Epoicotheriidae and Metacheiromyidae, has been found in the Midwestern United States where many fossils are discovered well preserved. These species are believed to be scansorial; adapted for an arboreal environment. However, not all pangolins are arboreous, as the extant giant pangolin (Manis gigantea) and the cape pangolin (M. temmencki) frequent the ground.

M. gigantea is a prolific digger and has been observed to burrow up to 5 metres deep and 40 metres long. The giant pangolin lives in rainforests similar to the minhocao so it is certainly possible that convergent evolution selected for the two species to be physically similar. Also, pangolins are well-adapted swimmers as the three-cusped pangolin (M. tricuspis) is known to fill its stomach up with air before swimming to improve buoyancy. Thus pangolins are both
powerful burrowers and adept swimmers as the minhocao allegedly is. However, the minhocao is noted for having prominent external ears or horns whereas the African species possess no external ear and in the Asiatic species only a small ridge is visible. An internet search of Metacheiromyidae revealed a sketch of a creature with prominent ears, whether this is pure conjecture or based on the fact that some fossilised ear-print was found is unknown. In the sketch the creature does not possess any type of scales, which seems odd as it belongs to the family Pholidota, meaning 'scaled animals.'

It is most likely that the scales were not preserved in the fossil record and thus not included in the sketch. Ultimately, it is certainly possible that the minhocao is indeed a recently extinct species of New World pangolin as the description fits with many details known about extant pangolins. Unfortunately, there is so little information and an abundance of conflicting reports surrounding the minhocao that a precise identification is impossible.


P., Walker, Ernest. Walker's Mammals of the world. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1983.
Heuvelmans, Bernard. On the Track of Unknown Animals. New York: Hill and Wang, 1959.
The Paleobiology Database: http://paleobackup.nceas.ucsb.edu

OLL LEWIS: 5 Questions on… Cryptozoology - Dr MIKE DASH

Our guest today is Dr Mike Dash. Mike earns his crust as a historian, author and editor and is the director of Deeper Media editing and publishing consultancy. He is best known to Forteans for his work with Fortean Times and his research into Spring-heeled Jack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ter_XFaSWO4) as well as the search for Loch Ness’s Dr MacRae (http://www.youtube.com/user/cfztv#p/u/85/5IAKpNKhiRo). More information on Mike, his books and where to buy them (including his Spring-heeled Jack book, which will be published in 2010) can be found on his website: http://www.mikedash.com/.

So, Mike Dash, here are your 5 questions on… Cryptozoology:

1) How did you first become interested in cryptozoology?

Like many boys, I was completely obsessed with dinosaurs - I even built up a complete set of PG Tips dino cards. Then, aged 11, I stumbled across a copy of Tim Dinsdale's The Story of the Loch Ness Monster in a newsagent's shop in Bridgend. According to Dinsdale, the monster was a living dinosaur, so....

2) Have you ever personally seen a cryptid or secondary evidence of a cryptid, if so can you please describe your encounter?

The LNM is the only cryptid I have ever actively looked for (Loch Ness & Morar Project, 1983-87), and it was the negative evidence we turned up at Loch Ness (for instance anomalous sonar records progressively eliminated as we eliminated variables and introduced ever stricter controls) that set me on the path to my present scepticism. Well, that and the list of lakes with monster traditions in the Bords' Alien Animals.

Even when I was young and credulous it was hard to believe 260+ lakes could all be home to monsters, yet there was no obvious difference between the 'creatures' reported in the most and least likely locations. The results of Operation Deepscan in 1987 sealed it for me - you still read even now that the sweeps we did produced positive evidence, but the truth is that on the last day we sailed 25 boats all the way from Fort Augustus to Lochend and covered well over 60% of the loch's volume without recording a single trace.

3) Which cryptids do you think are the most likely to be scientifically discovered and described some day, and why?

I'm afraid very few of them. Perhaps the thylacine, which is only recently extinct - there have been quite convincing reports from Tasmania.

4) Which cryptids do you think are the least likely to exist?

I'm sorry to say that all the more exotic cryptids - Bigfoot, lake monsters, living dinosaurs and sea serpents – are highly unlikely to exist as physically real animals. Not that the numerous reports of them can't tell us a great deal. One can learn a lot about witness perception and psychology from them.

5) If you had to pick your favourite cryptozoological book (not including books you may have written yourself) what would you choose?

I have always loved Rupert Gould's The Case for the Sea Serpent, as much for its style as for its content. My favourite as a kid was Montgomery-Campbell and Solomon's The Search For Morag - even then I was drawn to the dustier recesses of the subject. And - though I don't now agree with a word of it – Holiday's The Dragon and the Disc was always a scary, thrilling read.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


On this day in 1170 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was martyred by four knights in Canterbury Cathedral under the somewhat rash orders of King Henry II.

Britain's biggest bullock weighs 3,682lbs
Safari Visitors Enjoy A Really Wild Night
Lotto vultures resort to bird-brained scheme

A vulture walks onto an aeroplane. The stewardess says, "Would you like me to put your suitcase in the luggage compartment for you, sir?" The vulture says, "No thanks. It's carrion."

PS: As will be explained elsewhere in today's posts, the News Blog is (temporarily, we hope) unavailable. Let's hope that normal service really is returned as soon as possible.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I tried for at least ten minutes to take the iconic picture of James Dean in Giant with the rifle across his shoulders, and photoshop Graham's face onto him, but failed dismally.


Because Graham, the great white hunter of the CFZ, captured his most fearsome and difficult prey yet. Yes, Maureen the rabbit is back in her hutch after seven days out on the lam!

Graham utilised the most hi-tech modern technnology in the CFZ arsenal, and after days of R+D finally managed to fashion a trap carefully tailored to the needs of the situation.

It is the technical knowledge like this that has always put us at the forefront of the hunt for mystery animals across the world.

Carefully, he put the hi-tech `capture device` into place, and waited with baited breath for nearly half an hour before the reclusive Maureen ambled into view.

I am glad that he had the presence of mind to video the capture process, because we are only too aware of what usually happens when the CFZ announce an event of this magnitude.

The canaille of "teh internnetz" refuse to believe that we could possibly have achieved what we claim, and spend the next few months rubbishing us online. No doubt the same thing will happen this time.

They will claim that Graham doesn't really exist (that he is really Max wearing some kind of Trout Mask Replica), and that we spent the last three months faking up this footage frame by frame on Adobe Photoshop.
But no.

We not only have the photographs and the film but we have the rabbit too. Proof that the CFZ always tell the truth about their creature-hunting exploits.

Now for the next move. Graham is trying to work out how he can utilise this technology in hunting the sasquatch....

Watch this space

NB: Graham has also (we sincerely hope) done enough first aid to the hutch in order to make it escape-proof.

I would prattle on about wild animal containment facilities, and capture holding areas but I really cannot be bothered.


The CFZ have often followed the courageous endeavours of the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling group, and in particular the ship named after the legendary Australian conservationist and crocodile expert Steve Irwin.

In December 2009 the Steve Irwin was ten days at sea after departing Fremantle, Australia, and has had a Japanese ship trailing them for days. The Shonan Maru No. 2 security ship is reporting the Steve Irwin’s location, preventing them from closing in on the whaling fleet.

Sea Shepherd entered French Antarctic territorial waters after receiving permission from the French Base at Dumont D’Urville in an attempt to lose the tail ship. The Shonan Maru No. 2 followed in pursuit into French waters without permission. The French base confirms that the Japanese ship neither requested nor received permission to enter French waters.

The Steve Irwin sent a helicopter back to film the Shonan Maru No. 2 in its illegal pursuit. In response, it is believed that the crew of the Japanese ship activated their Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) at the Sea Shepherd helicopter. LRAD is a military class weapon.

“This was an extremely irresponsible thing to do,” said helicopter pilot Chris Aultman. “That device can cause nausea and disorientation and the use of it against an aircraft is both extremely dangerous and grossly irresponsible.”

The helicopter returned to the Steve Irwin for safety from the LRAD, at which point the Shonan Maru No. 2 increased speed and aimed their water cannons in an apparent attempt to destroy the helicopter on the landing pad. This occurred while the crew was attempting to secure the helicopter. This could have easily caused the helicopter to crash causing the deaths of those inside it or around it.

Captain Watson responded by deploying a 150-metre line aft of the vessel to force the Shonan Maru No. 2 to maintain a safe distance. The Sea Shepherd ship is undamaged and the crew safe.
Sea Shepherd has reported the incident to the French authorities. The pursuit continues.

“The situation is now very dangerous,” said Captain Paul Watson. “We have deliberately led the Japanese ship into thick ice in order to lose them in the ice. The icebergs could easily damage either vessel.”

The CFZ applaud the crew of the Steve Irwin and are disgusted at the continued, cowardly activities of the Japanese whalers.

LINDSAY SELBY : Lone hunters of the last living dinosaur

Most people have read or heard of Roy Mackal's book on the hunt for Mokele-Mbembe, the so-called living dinosaur in the Congo, or seen articles about Bill Gibbons and John Kirk's expeditions.

But there have been others who have ventured alone to the area to seek out Lac(lake) Tele and look for the creature. Rory Nugent went in 1986 (book Drums Along the Congo 1993 ed. Houghton Mufflin Co) and Redmond O'Hanlon ( book Congo Journey 1996 Penguin books).

Rory Nugent's book is the more upbeat of the two as O'Hanlon's has a more negative view of the indigenous people of the area.

Both are amusing in parts, especially about meetings with witch doctors.

Nugent took a photo of something but as you will see from the text he was unable to get close enough to investigate.

He ends his journey to Lac Tele by asking this: (p.379)

"So Doubla". I asked softly" Why did Marcellin swear he saw the dinosaur?" "Don't you know?" said Doubla, giving me his first real smile. "It's to bring idiots like you here. And make a lot of money"

So is it just a con? The races of the Congo refer to Mokele-Mbembe as the spirit of the forest and say it takes several forms. Some indigenous people, when questioned, point to pictures of a Rhinoceros as the dinosaur and it is claimed that it is a race memory from when the jungle was once plains and the rhino roamed there. More than one investigator has pointed out that the lake is quite shallow and it would have to be a small dinosaur to hide there. The water levels may rise in the rainy season, of course. It is said that if there is any place that a dinosaur could still exist it would be in the Congo jungles but the jungles weren't always there and it would have been grassland plains thousands of years ago. There are still patches of this in the jungle: clearings where the animals gather (See the Channel 4 programme Congo, which is still sometimes transmitted) so sadly it seems there may not be a living dinosaur unless it is some sort of evolved creature from the era of the dinosaurs. It would be unlikely to look like something from Jurassic Park, though; probably much smaller and a changed appearance in order to adapt to the changing world around it.

COLIN HIGGINS: The Edghill Ghost Horse

Hi Jon,

About fifteen years ago the BBC ran a Christmas Eve radio programme, Ghosts from the Archives, a collection of recordings from the 1930s to 1960s.

There were some fascinating period accounts if you ignored the cheesy Radio 2 segues and I recorded the programme on tape. Here's one concerning a horse. You'll have to imagine the soft West Midlands vowels of the gent talking, before Metropolitan boroughs annexed the speech patterns of this island. The stories weren't dated but I'd estimate this recording to be pre-war and the incident some time earlier.

"I was travelling home from a country round in the village of [indistinct - Tystow?] in Warwickshire through these fields where the battle of Edgehill took place in an old type of two-wheeled cart with a strong mare, property of Mr Harrison of North End.

"We had passed through gated fields and arrived at the last gate but one to Radway village, about a mile from Radway. On arriving at the last gate before the main road I had to get down and open the gate for the horse to go through, which I did, and just as I was going to close the gate I saw coming in the distance what appeared like a grey horse which wished to go through the gate and I hesitated for a few moments and in that moment of hesitation instead of closing the gate it seemed to pass through round the gate post and gallop towards the Edgehills across the field.

"I let the gate go and walked to the cart expecting to mount it. In the meantime I'd heard my mare snorting and began to trot away. I found it had gone, hence I had to walk to the last gate about half a mile. When I arrived in Radway village I found a villager holding the mare and Mr Harrison still sat with the reins. I began to give him a lecture. I said, "What's this? I've walked a good part of three-quarters of a mile, what's the reason?" He said, " Well don't you know? It's that plagued ghost horse frightened the mare." It then dawned on me I'd let the ghost horse through the gate."

For more Edgehill strangeness, see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/coventry/content/articles/2006/05/24/weird_edgehill_ghosts_feature.shtml

Happy New Year,

Colin Higgins

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: Mastodon and Mammoth survival

Goody goody gumdrops,

Muirhead`s Mysteries is back, up to and including December 30th, then a gap of a few days until January 3rd, then onwards and upwards! Today`s blog is based upon an e-mail from Andrew Ste Marie, an American cryptozoologist, dated September 23rd 2009, concerning living mammoth and mastodon sightings and hoaxes. I am quoting from as much of his e-mail that is relevant and that I have the mental energy for. I also include website links that are relevant.

'You asked for information on mammoth survival and it is my pleasure to send you this list of material I have gathered. Wooly Mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) are generally believed to have gone extinct c. 11,000 years ago in North America,10,000 years ago in Siberia, and 4,000 years ago on Wrangel Island. American Mastodons (Mammut americanum) are supposed to have gone extinct c. 10,000 years ago. Here are some of my references from my paper on the recent survival of mammoths and mastodons. Many of the references were to miscellaneous facts about mammoths or the Siberian climate, so I omitted those in this list...Most of these sources are available on-line.' (1)

Living Mammoth sightings & hoaxes

  • Silverberg, Robert, 1970. Mammoths Mastodons and Man, McGraw Hill Book Company (this is the best one I`ve come across so far for sightings of living mammoths. It is something of a children`s book but it has serious information, seriously written. Unfortunately, it spends a great deal of time mocking those who believe the Bible. I think he got his information from Heuvelmans's On The Track of Unknown Animals. Includes information on the Henry Tukeman living mammoth hoax.
  • Lister, Adrian and Paul Bahn, 1994. Mammoths, Macmillan Publishing Company (I would rate this one as second-best to Silverberg`s for cryptozoological information)
  • Krystek, Lee 1996. Of Mastodons,Mammoths and Other Giants of the Pleistocene, www.unmuseum.mus.pa.us/mastodon.htm(Accessed June 29,2009)(and this one would be third-best,but it also mentions a sighting of a possible living glyptodont
  • Anonymous,September 1993 “Are mammoths still alive ?”, http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v15/i4/mammoths.asp (Accessed May 26,2009) (discusses the mammoths of Wrangel Island and a very seldom-reported mammoth sighting – this is the only place I`ve found anything about this particular encounter. Highly recommended article.)
  • Anonymous,1893. “Mastodons Still Living,” Winnipeg Daily Free Press, March 28,1893. www.cryptomundo.com/crypto-news/mastodons-alive/ (Accessed June 19,2009) (really interesting mastodon sighting)
  • Anonymous,1897. “Do Mastodons Exist? – Good evidence that at least one specimen still lives,” Decatur Daily Republican, March 29 1897, http://www.cryptomundo.com/crypto-news/mastodon-surv/(Accessed June 19,2009)….

Also, I have heard that there was a Soviet Air Force sighting of a living mammoth in the 1940s, but I have found no reputable source of information on this sighting. Perhaps Heuvelmans`s book discusses it….

Recent Artefacts Showing Mammoths

1. E-mail from Andrew Ste Marie to Richard Muirhead (1)
2. Ibid.

Buggles-Video Killed The Radio Star

I heard you on the wireless back in Fifty Two
Lying awake intently tuning in on you
If I was young it didn`t stop you coming through


They took the credit for your second symphony
Rewritten by machine and new technology,
And now I understand the problems you can see


OLL LEWIS:Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1895 the Lumière brothers first showed one of their films to a paying audience, effectively creating cinema.

Safari Park Seeks New Homes For Hippos

Obese skunk diets after getting fat on bacon sandwiches
Snake Handler Often Bitten, Never Shy
Reptile breeders say python ban will hurt business
Reindeer poo jewellery raises £13,000 for zoo

That's a bit of a pooey present.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

JON JOINS THE RAG TRADE (amongst other things)

For years we had an online store at cafepress.com, but as the recession hit, sales dwindled and it soon ran out of money. It cost about four quid a month to maintain, and when the `cafecash` (monies paid for merchandise) ran out, the store was closed. It had other disadvantages as well. It would only pay out in dollars, for example, and the products were, to my mind, overly expensive.

I have been vaguely looking for a UK based substitute for some months and last night, being unable to sleep for some reason, I stayed up all night working. With my fingers firmly crossed I opened an account with Zazzle; a company of which I had heard good reports, and which seemed to offer the best (and most economic) service; and I transferred some of the artwork across.

Here it is:


What do you think? I have kept the prices as low as I can. What else would you like to see there? (Sensible answers only s'il vouz plait - the Richard Freeman knickers are unlikely to be re-issued...)