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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Friday, May 08, 2009


Oll has been a busy little beaver and the latest set of scanned news clippings and other stuff from the Archiving Project is ready for you to download HERE should you want to..

The CFZ Archives yeild up a particularly odd collection of stuff this time. There are my working notes for the book which I still have not got around to finishing on the mystery animals of Devon and Cornwallo. I started this tome in 1990, and am still working intermittently on it now, although bits appeared in both The Owlman and Others and The smaller Mystery Carnivores of the Westcountry, as well as various articles. However they also contain some particularly off stories, such as the one about the Philippino girl who was murdered and fed to a pet cat.

The next trenche oif archives (Big Cats) will start appearing either next week or over the weekend...


Working on the new movie Emily and the Big Cats has opened up a whole string of fond memories. Back in the day (the summer of 1997 actually) Graham, Richard and I worked on a number of TV projects together whilst Richard was supposed to be studying and me and Graham were meant to be looking for work.

During one show that completely escapes me, we were filming at Dartmoor Wildlife Park (as it was then) and the then owner Ellis Dawe let us into the ramchackle puma cage in order to film a PTC.

This is one of the few stills that survices. The vaguely humanoid shape in the foreground is Graham, but there, half hidden in the undergrowth only a few feet away is an adult puma.

Those were the days. I bet the Health and Safety Nazis would never let three middle aged (OK, two middle ageed and one younger) nutcase into a cage full of pumas in these degenerate days.

Sad, but true.


I am really rather proud of the new movie that we are making. Although this will be my eighth film, it is only the second one that will I have directed from start to finish in the conventional manner, and the first of such to be feature length. The first film, The Case for Crop Circles (1997) was avant garde nonsense from start to finish, and the least said about the Owlman movie the better.

Most of the crypto films were shot on location by two or more camerapeople whilst I was back in England. I would then take the thirty or forty hours of rushes, and painstakingly cut and paste different bits together to make something that - hopefully - works as a cohesive whole.

The only exception to this was the 2006 film Eel or No Eel which was filmed mostly by me or Mark North under (mostly) my direction. However the new film is different, and I am actually enjoying doing it ore or less conventionally.

The top picture shows me, the leading-lady (the eponymous `Emily` of the title), and my dear, sweet and long suffering wife in the office looking at the day's rushes and trying a brief rough cut to make sure that the sound and lights are roughly in continuity. As you can see from the middle and lower pictures I am breaking every child labout law in the book (as well as all the film-making ones) by having an eleven year old lighting technician.

To be honest (and I usually try to be) this is not exactly the truth. Oll has been doing most of the lighting tech, and doing it very well indeed - some of the scenes we have filmed indoors look wonderful. However, for those not in the know, Oll (like me) is somewhat portly in figure, and is not physically able to kneel, crouch, and fit into small spaces like young Jessica here. Jessica is, by the way, the younger sister of Emily, and also has a series of cameo roles in what is rapidly turning into the CFZ's analogue of Mutiny on the Battleship Potempkin.

By the way: Thank you to everyone who responded to my call for animators the other day. I have received a number of calls, and am presently talking seriously to three animators..


OK, we can't afford them, but has anyone got any valid reason why we shouldn't buy a pair of these monumentally groovy birdies for the CFZ collection. If we buy them they will go in the main aviary as an illustration of what other creatures live alongside the yeti

Chessie - the monster of Chesapeake Bay

For hundreds of years there have been reports of a strange creature swimming in the waters of Chesapeake Bay on the coast of Maryland. It has been described as a long, dark, serpent-like creature, over 30 feet long, that swims along at almost 10 miles per hour. One of the early reports of Chessie was made in 1936 when a military helicopter flew over the Bush River. The crew reported seeing something reptilian and unknown in the water.

In May of 1982, the first hard evidence of Chessie's existence arrived. While at their Kent Island home, the Frew family, along with friends, believed they spotted Chessie and they made a videotape. Frew and his wife spotted the creature in shallow, clear water about 200 yards from the house. He video taped the creature as it swam toward a group of swimmers. It dove beneath the swimmers and reappeared on the other side of them. The creature they saw was about 30-25 feet long, 1 foot in diameter, dark brown with a humped back. In 1978, a retired CIA employee, Donald Kyker, also reported seeing Chessie and 3 others about 75 yards off shore. His neighbors, the Smoots', also witness the creatures. They gave descriptions of a 30 ft, sleek, dark gray creature swimming about 7-8 miles per hour.

In the summer of 1982, the Smithsonian had a minisymposium to determine if the videotape was indeed evidence of Chessie's existence. Along with the video, there was a photograph taken by a woman who was previously afraid to bring it to public attention. The officials concluded that the object was definitely alive, but they did not conclude what it was.

Although the animals have been reported in the bay for over 200 years it wasn't until the mid-1980s that reports really began to proliferate, and recently we have been given new evidence which it - although it does not explain the older reports of a snake-like creature in the dark waters, certainly sheds light on some of the more modern sightings. Exclusively We can reveal that nearly every summer since 1994 at least one manatee has strayed north from its home environment in the sub-tropical swamplands of Florida and arrived hundreds of miles north in Chesapeake Bay. One animal - nicknamed "Chessie" - even reached as far north as Rhode Island.

Whilst it is undeniable that global climate changes over the past few decades have caused a number of anomalies in animal migration, the available evidence suggests that there is nothing unusual about these straying sirenians, and it is tempting to hypothesise that Florida manatees have always strayed into these northern waters on occasion. We would like to suggest that it is not unlikely that generations of fishermen and seafarers who have reported seeing a giant serpent in Chesapeake Bay have actually been seen nothing of the sort. Manatees are extraordinary creatures. Even in their natural environment they are startling to look at. It does not take any great leap of imagination to suppose that a hapless eye-witness upon seeing a great roll of flesh undulating in and out of the water, as the massive sea mammal swam slowly along, would imagine that they were seeing that bete noire of the seafaring community - the great sea-serpent!

It is not impossible that - as a result of global climate change - these gentle giants may well expand their range northwards and become a familiar sight along the Atlantic seaboard. However, if they do, will the reports of snake-like creatures in the bay come to an end? Or are there in fact two entirely separate zoological mysterues to be solved off the Maryland coast?

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


As well as the latest cryptozoology news from the CFZ cryptozoology news blog and the daily bad pun (seriously, the news stories are only two subjects today, I can’t see it being anything other than exceptionally bad) the Friday blog is usually where I announce my tea of the week. This week’s tea is Ceylon, which is best taken, in my opinion, with a very small dash of skimmed milk for afternoon tea accompanied by a scone. If you happen to have a veranda handy this is the perfect time to use it. And now, the news:

Feet Offer Clues About Tiny Hominid
'Hobbit' was a dwarf with large feet
Spider invasion in Bowen

We’ll have to keep a close eye on how this story pans out on the ‘web’.

RICHARD FREEMAN: Yamamaya the great cat of Iriomote

In 1965 the Japanese naturalist Yukio Tagawa descovered a small unkown species of wildcat (below left) living on the remote island in the Yaeyama chain, the South West of Okinawa. The 289 km² island is home to a population of around one hundred specimens of Prionailurus iriomotensis or the Iriomote cat. It is about the size of a large domestic cat and is cionsidered to be the most primitive species of cat in the world, as well as one of the rarest. It has been delcared a National Japanese treasure.

But the small human population of Iriomote speak of a second much larger cat they call the Yamamaya or Yamapikarya. They say it is the size of a sheepdog, and has markings like a leopard. The coat is yellow or orange in colour with black spots. The cat’s tail is said to be long in proportion to it’s body. As most of Iriomote is still poorly explored the chances of the Yamamaya being a genuine species unknown to science are good.

There are some 47 eyewitness accounts on record but they have dropped off since the 1960s possibly because the creatures are moving inwards towards the uninhabited centre of the island.

Brent Swancer, an American living in Japan has collected eyewitness accounts of this and other strange creatures.

In the summer of 1978, a hunter reported seeing a large cat lounging in a tree. He described the it as having spots that were “oddly shaped,” although exactly how they were odd is not mentioned, and a long tail that hung down “like a vine.” He watched it for several minutes before the cat seemed to suddenly notice him, after which it bounded down the tree and into the forest with what he says was extraordinary speed and agility. The cat did not make any sounds.

In 2003, a Mr. Shimabukuro, who runs a fishing boat on the island, spotted a Yamamaya while he was in the mountains setting traps for wild pigs. Whilst in a clearing he saw a large, spotted cat, estimated at slightly over a metre long. It suddenly leapt down from the top of a large boulder, landing right in front of him before disappearing into the forest. As the cat retreated, the man noticed that it was spotted, and had a remarkably long tail.

In September of 2007, a large cat was seen by a Mr. Aiyoshi, a professor at Shimane University in Japan. He was sitting on a beach fishing for a research project when a dark shape appeared from the thick forest just 2.5 meters from where he sat. He described it as being a meter in length, with a very long tail and black spots, and looking similar to a leopard. The professor reported how the cat stared right at him before calmly slinking into the shadowy forest once more.

It is possible that the Yamamaya is an island sub-specesis of the clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa. A subspecies of this cat called Neofelis nebulosa brachyura once existed on Taiwan 200km to the west of Iriomote but there have been no confirmed sightings since the 1980s. A new species of clouded leopard, Neofelis diardi, was discovered on Borneo in 2007.Around 90% of the Iriomote is mountains steeped in subtropical forest, the perfect home for such a beast.

JAN EDWARDS: Another conundrum

I an really enjoying these animal rescue conundrums from Jan Edwards, and am going to have to put my thinking cap on to think of a snappy title for them. In the meantime here is the latest one. Jan Writes:

"This baby bird came in this evening having been found in the loft of a lady with bird-phobia. It is a fledgling, and is not very well, having been without food since this morning, handled by the man-of-the-house, and rattled about in a big box for a hour while they brought it to me.
It is mostly brown with a white wing bar. It is very small. Does anyone know what it is?"