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, November 13, 2009

Update about Noela

Corinna here. Paramedics have just been to see Noela and have advised she go to hospital for an X-ray on her hip. Jon and Graham are now on their way with her to Barnstaple. I will update this blog as and when I receive any further information from them.


I have to admit that I am not a big fan of Friday 13th (the date, I mean, because I have never actually seen the movies - not really my sort of thing). It is already looking like it is confirming my view of it, because I have just had a telephone call from the warden's office at the sheltered housing complex where our old friend Noela McKenzie lives. She is 87 and the oldest member of the CFZ. Last night she had a fall and did something to her hip. Graham and I are going into Bideford now to try and sort it out, so basically we shall both be out of action all day.

However, there is something that someone out in bloggoland may be able to do for us. The other night there were Windows Automatic Updates, and for some reason we can no longer make pdfs from our (legit) copy of Microsoft Publisher 2003. We get the following error message:

error: invalidfileaccess; offendingcommand: image

I have looked this up online but the technical jargon I have found is beyond me to interpret. Can anyone help?

By the way, I am feeling frazzled as hell, so messages telling me that I should buy an Apple Mac, use linux instead, or that I should really use a completely different DTP package will probably result in a torrent of abuse and a brandy bottle flung at the head of the perpetrator. For better or for worse we have been producing our books with this package for years now, and everyone involved (and there are quite a few of us now) knows how to use it. But if you can help, please gimme a shout.

On a related subject. If someone can make me a copy of Adobe Acrobat 6 or higher I would be very grateful. I have mislaid my copy somewhere in the office and I need it urgently.

Now, I am off to see Noela. Keep her in your prayers.

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Interesting Inverts part 5

Hi again, folks,

Today is the last day I will be using my collection of newspaper and magazine cuttings for a Fortean look at insect and spider invertebrates. Tomorrow I will conclude with Part Six: Charles Fort and invertebrate anomalies. Then on Sunday I will make a divergence to Wild Men in Madagascar.

You may be pleased to know that I am not starting off with spiders today, though they will feature in the blog. Instead: earwigs!

From Science Gossip September 1st 1865: 'WHITE EARWIG - The other day, I found among some gooseberries, a perfectly white earwig, the eyes being black. I have preserved it in spirits; thinking it very rare. I thought I should like to know whether it is so or not, and whether any of the readers of GOSSIP have met with anything of the kind. – R.F.M. [They are occasionally met with.-ED.SC.G] (1)

A year or two ago the CFZ Yearbook published Part 1 of a collection of Forteana from Science Gossip I put together.

Now making a large jump to 1995 and our favourite The Daily Telegraph for January 20th 1995: a story relating to my home county of Cheshire. `Entomologist finds Britain`s 640th spider`: A spider unknown in Britain has been discovered by scientists in a carpet of quivering moss on a Cheshire bog, Liverpool Museum reported yesterday, writes Roger Highfield, Science Editor. The eight-millimetre black spider lives at Wybunbury Moss, a 15ft-thick layer of vegetation that supports trees,bushes and unique wildlife above a 40ft-deep pool of water. Gnaphosa nigerrima was identified by entomologist Mr Chris Felton. The Natural History Museum`s spider specialist, Mr Paul Hillyard said it was “ a unique find”. There are now 640 species of British spiders. (2)

According to The New Scientist for April 29th 1995: `Spiders on speed get weaving`. (This reported on the interesting observations by scientists at NASA`s Marshall Space Center in Alabama who doped spiders with marijuana, benzedrine, caffeine and chloral hydrate to see how it would affect the construction and appearance of a spider`s web.) 'Spiders on marijuana are so laid back, they weave just so much of their webs and then...well, it just doesn`t seem to matter any more. On the soporific drug chloral hydrate, they drop off before they even get started…The more toxic the chemical, the more deformed the web. NASA researchers think that with help from a computer program they can quantify this effect to produce an accurate test for toxicity.' (3)

In August 1997 I had a strange correspondence with Terry Hooper on an unidentified insect in Ipswich, Suffolk:

'Re. insects. A friend in Ipswich has been talking to a bus driver he`s known for some time. This driver was digging his garden last year [1996] when he hit something “very hard” with his spade. He dug it up to find that it was a “beetle” with an undamaged carapace; it was the size of a man`s fist and he found others. This year [1997] he found more but “ a little smaller”. I personally, can`t think of any native beetle the size of a man`s fist that can be hit very hard with a spade and go undamaged. The chap is being asked to draw a sketch, get a photo or an actual specimen. Any ideas? [Methinks, now, nodules of iron ore? - R] (4)

About a week later I got another letter from Mr Hooper, which said: 'I will, however, pass on any details [of the insects - R] I get to you so don`t worry you won`t miss out! I guess with the SE having a drier climate these days (“dust bowl of England” and all that!) exotics are bound to creep in more. The fact that the beetles of `96 were the size of a man`s clenched fist but this year there are smaller (but still large) one`s indicates a breeding population of something!' [Mr Hooper, if you are reading this, I am not trying to be nasty; I just have a strange sense of humour - a breeding population of iron nodules?! Mind you, I had a neighbour in Wiltshire who believed stones grew. R] (5)

Lastly, in my penultimate blog on this subject, a visit to Hong Kong: on the CFZ website, Mystery Insects by Jon Downes, which I featured several days ago, mention is made of the “blood sucker”:

'...I have another mystery, which perhaps some reader of this article could help me solve. I was a child in Hong Kong during the nineteen sixties and I collected and kept a lot of local invertebrate wildlife. There was a small arthropod, ( I think it was an insect, but after thirty years I cannot be sure), which the local children called the “blood sucker”. [including myself - R]

'It was about an inch and a half in length and appeared like a very thick set ant with `knobbly` legs and a fairly heavy chitinous covering. I suspect that it may have been the immature form of one of the small ground mantids [this is the conclusion I reached – R] but I am not sure. If anyone reading this either lived, or lives in Hong Kong, and could help me solve a problem which has been `bugging me` (if you`ll excuse the dreadful pun) for many years I would be extremely grateful.' (6)

1.R. F. M. White Earwig. Science Gossip September 1st 1865
2.R. Highfield. Entomologist finds Britain`s 640th spider January 20th 1995
3. Anon. Spiders on speed get weaving. New Scientist April 29th 1995
4-5. Letters from Terry Hooper to Richard Muirhead August 6th and 12th 1997
6. Jonathan Downes. Mystery Insects. CFZ Website Accessed April 15th 1998. Since updated.

Peter Gabriel – Biko. September `77

Port Elizabeth,weather fine
It was business as usual
In Police Room 619
Oh Biko,Biko,because Biko
Yihla Moja, Yihla Moja
The man is dead, the man is dead

COLIN HIGGINS: John Sidley - an unsung hero

Having been provoked by Jon’s recent depiction of me as a kind of keyboard Miss Haversham, or perhaps a laptop-wielding stylite, committing marvellous thoughts to the page from lofty isolation and questionable personal hygiene, I’ve been stung into blogging, which was no doubt his intention.

There has been some talk of eels lately so I thought it was reasonable to talk about a hero, from someone who has very few, fishy or otherwise. For a little background on the person in question, and indeed eels, I can do no better than point the reader to Keith Elliott’s old Independent article.

My first knowledge of John Sidley came from picking up a book in the remaindered section of a local shop. It was an unprepossessing item on first appearance, the kind of slim generic volume angling literature in the 80s was full of. Called simply Eels and part of Beekay’s Successful Angling Series, it had a hard cover, which persuaded me to part with £3.50 but little else to recommend it, except the large Anguilla being held by someone best described as having a feral appearance.

While the layout artist may have been untroubled by the problems of aesthetics, the contents were sheer joy. This was an author who knew, loved and had an almost uncanny instinct for catching eels - and lots of them. British coarse anglers - or bottom fishers, to use a derelict term - fall into few easy categories. There are specimen hunters, men who sit behind a pod of high-tech rods and reels for long hours in a bivvy tent waiting for a run to develop on their electronic alarms, and there are old-school types, the sort who’ll pay four figures for a silk-whipped piece of built cane and a bespoke English centrepin reel.

John Sidley was neither. He was utterly dedicated but had a pragmatic approach to his tackle, which I instantly identified with. That’s not to say his eel rigs weren’t ingenious or original; they were both and have been adopted widely, but in a specialism where the terminal end can resemble Asian bridal head attire in its complexity, Sidley was a 'less is more' kind of bloke. Instead of sophisticated bite alarms JS favoured a carefully balanced coin falling into an old hubcap - no doubt the Brummie in him. He swore by his old glass rods and they didn't let him down because his tally of large eels is formidable.

The photographs in the book show an unkempt chap with a baggy jumper, a wooly hat and a prodigious array of home-made tattoos and it’s not too fanciful to draw a comparison with the eels he pursued; over-looked, inhabiting the less frequented places and probably misunderstood. Whatever the homespun nature of his appearance and gear, Sidley single-handedly put respect for eels on the agenda. Until his ‘Put Eels back Alive’ campaign with advice on their capture and humane treatment they were seen as nuisance fish and were frequently mistreated and often killed.

Chapters contain the fruits of thousands of hours of research and practical fieldwork and rarely fall into the didacticism of other writers, even when apparently counter-intuitive, such as his acknowledgement of two distinct types of eel within the species and the fact eels only ever run along one river bank (borne out by Dutch research)

I don’t remember exactly what year I bought Eels but it would be around the time John died in the early 90s, although I didn’t learn that till years later. I haven’t been able to find much out about his demise except he wasn’t very old and I believe it was on the bankside, ‘overdoing things’ as someone noted.

You may ask what this has to do with cryptozoology and it’s a good question. According to the environment agency eels have suffered a 95% decline in the last 25 years and nobody knows quite why. Some blame new weirs and dams stopping small ‘glass’ eels moving upstream, others commercial over-fishing or parasites; a number feel it’s the Gulf Stream moving, which has changed breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea. The bottom line is eels may well become the next thylacine, a familiar creature that will disappear from under our noses without our noticing.

Sidley did his bit to bring these fascinating, enigmatic creatures to our attention. ‘Bostin work’ JS, absolutely bostin.


I am not sure who watches Destination Truth but in the episode named the 'Bhutan Yeti' they were able to gather evidence of a hair sample that is NOT in any data base. This sample was tested in a reputable lab who actually thought it was yet another sample that would not pan out. The hair sample was primate, not human, since it was courser than a horse's tail. This is yet a great example and specimen towards proof.

I bought the episode from iTunes, as I did the whole series *grin*, but the one episode can be bought for $1.99.

Just something I wanted to share.


FRISWELL'S FREAKY FEATURES: The House that Death Built

Some months ago Alan Friswell, the bloke who made the CFZ Feegee Mermaid and also the guy responsible for some of the most elegantly macabre bloggo postings, wrote me an email.

He had an idea for a new series for the bloggo. Quite simply he has an enormous collection of macabre, fortean, odd and disturbing magazine and newspaper articles, and he proposed to post them up on the bloggo.


I love a good ghost story. Although I was very young at the time, I was an avid fan of the Ghost Stories for Christmas that were shown on the BBC in the 70s, based on tales by M. R. James. James's only reference to thirteen in his stories was in the stort story Number 13 that was
adapted for TV a couple of years ago; but not, I think, with the same style as the seventies versions, that were usually brought to the screen by writer/director Lawrence Gordon Clark, who seemed to understand the delicacy and balance of James's writing.

Here's a tale of a real house in which the number thirteen had, it appeared, some significance, and would surely make a bloody good horror story.

ALAN FRISWELL: Frightening Facts about Friday the Thirteenth

Superstition is a part of our psychological and imaginative heritage. In a primitive age, before science had begun to unravel the mysteries of the universe, our ignorance caused us to interpret, and subsequently invent patterns in the natural world that were seemingly able to create cause and effect in our day-to-day lives. If, for example, prehistoric hunters killed a rare or unusual type of bird, after which, by pure coincidence, the hunter himself died through some accident or illness, it might give birth to a supernatural fear that killing that species of bird may invite death or disease. All of our superstitions have originated through much the same process of attributing significance to completely chance events, and so it might be reasonably assumed that in the putatively more enlightened 21st century, we have forsaken such irrational beliefs, and consigned them to the medieval past where they belong. But as we all know, that is far from the case.

A recent survey has established that at least fifty percent of the population of Britain, America and Europe will still admit to some superstitious belief or behaviour. This includes the refusal to walk under ladders, stepping over cracks in the pavement, avoiding or welcoming black cats (depending on which country you’re in), the fear of breaking mirrors, the faith in lucky rabbit’s feet and other good-luck charms, and the preserving of four-leafed clovers. The list is endless. We’ve all seen ordinary, perfectly level-headed people who will suddenly act in the most peculiar way when confronted by a single magpie in their garden, or if they happen to spill salt.

But of all superstitious folklore, the number 13, especially when combined with the equally threatening day of Friday, will cause more nervous reaction from the general population than any other mythical harbinger of bad luck.

The fear of Friday 13th is known as paraskavedekatriaphobia, from the Greek translation of 'Friday-thirteen-phobia.' An American survey showed that over 21 million people in the United States are affected by this date to such a degree that some refuse to attend their workplaces and spend the day in bed, afraid to venture outside their homes. Some will not fly or use their car, or eat in public places, and it is estimated that businesses lose millions of dollars on that day due to absenteeism and loss of earnings. Many American cities do not have a thirteenth street or avenue, and a large number of buildings and hotels have no 13th floor or room. The belief that 13 is unlucky has been established as the most common superstition in the western world.

One theory as to why 13 is considered to be an unlucky number is because of its supposed ‘oddness.’ In numerology twelve is a ‘complete’ number. There are twelve months in a year, twelve signs of the Zodiac, twelve tribes of Israel, and so on. Thirteen is ostensibly ‘upsetting’ to the regularity of even numbers, and discordant to a balanced pattern.

The original fear of Friday, and the number 13, first became established in early Christian belief, the main example being The Last Supper. Jesus and his apostles made twelve, until Judas’s arrival at the table made thirteen. Jesus of course, was crucified on Friday, and the Great Flood is said to have occurred on the same day. Friday is also supposed to be the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden apple, and so were banished from the Garden of Eden.

Conversely, Friday was seen as a good omen in Norse mythology, being named after Frigg (or Frigga), the goddess of marriage, later to be associated with Freya, goddess of love. Both became representative of Friday, which was the luckiest day of the week to get married. But later, when Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, the goddesses were described as witches, and Friday was seen as an evil day.

In pagan and wiccan magic 13 is sacred because it was symbolic of the amount of lunar months in a year, as well as thirteen full moons. And in a wiccan coven, six men and six women would bring a balanced level of earth energy, the priest or priestess making thirteen. In black magic and Satanism, this was changed to twelve worshippers, who would, if their rituals were successful, be joined by the thirteenth: the Devil himself.

There are many superstitious beliefs associated with Fridays. For example, if you change your bed on a Friday, it will bring bad dreams; a trip started on Friday may cause danger or unhappiness; cutting your nails on Friday will create sorrow; ships that sail on Friday will have
bad luck; and perhaps most gruesome of all, if thirteen people sit down to dinner, they will all die within the year.

Historically, many sailors have refused to sail on a Friday, and in the 18th century the British Navy commissioned a ship they named HMS Friday in an attempt to put the superstition to rest. The crew was selected on a Friday, the captain was called James Friday, and the ship set off on a Friday morning. Unfortunately, the ship then disappeared without trace, never to be seen again. This incident is most likely apocryphal, and has actually been attributed to a joke told by comedian Dave Allen on his BBC2 programme back in 1975. But nevertheless, it is a fact that to this day, the US Navy will not launch a ship on Friday 13th.

One strange case, is that of Apollo 13, later made into a film with Tom Hanks. Apollo 13 was NASA’s thirteenth mission, which was launched from pad 39 (3+13=39), on April 11, 1970 (4+11+70=8+5=13). An explosion occurred on board at 1:13 (13;13 military time), on April 13th.
Fortunately, as we all know, everyone was eventually rescued.

Sometimes, however, disasters that either happen on this date or are associated with the number 13 do not always have a happy ending. On Friday, October 13th 1972, a plane carrying students and a rugby team crashed in the Andes mountains. During 72 days without food, and with no prospect of rescue, the survivors, facing the grim reality of slow starvation, kept themselves alive by cannibalising the corpses of their fellow passengers. In the crash that killed Princess Diana, her car hit the 13th pillar in the Alma tunnel in Paris. Research by Norwich Union over a five-year period established that the number of accidents that occurred on Friday 13th was up by--you’ve guessed it--13%! Although it has to be admitted that a probable cause might be that the nervousness induced by driving on the 13th could create an over-cautious state of mind, and consequently a situation in which accidents could easily happen.

One particular occasion on which we would certainly hope that this date is, after all, only a superstitious myth, will be April, Friday 13th, 2029. On that day the asteroid 99942 Apophis will, according to NASA’s calculations, come within 18,600 miles of the earth, which in astronomical terms, is very close indeed. We are reliably told that earth’s gravitational field will not pull the asteroid into our atmosphere, which is good news, as its 320-metre mass could easily obliterate an area the size of the British Isles, or generate tidal waves over 400 metres high.

Friday 13th certainly hasn’t meant bad luck for Paramount Pictures.

Their highly successful series of Friday The Thirteenth films, featuring the inhuman psycho killer Jason Voorhees who in the course of eleven films has murdered seemingly countless victims and has even on one occasion had a punch-up with Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame, has generated profits of over 523 million dollars.

The Romans executed their prisoners on Friday, the most famous of these being Jesus, and by coincidence or not, Friday was also executioner’s day in Britain. Legend tell us that there were thirteen knots in the hangman’s noose, and thirteen steps up to the gallows. If you were foolish enough to walk under these steps, the fates might decide that you will be the next to be hanged, and it is from this that we developed the superstition of walking under ladders. The guillotine
blade in France was said to fall 13 feet before slicing off the heads of the condemned, and hangmen and executioners were paid thirteen pence halfpenny.

One sinister piece of research that has recently come to light is the fact that many mass murderers seem to have thirteen letters in their name. Frederick (Fred) West, Harold Shipman, Saddam Hussein, Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore (Ted) Bundy and Albert De Salvo, among others, all have this unusual similarity. So, perhaps worryingly, does the title Prime Minister.

In the final analysis, the question of whether superstitions contain any real degree of truth, is largely dependant upon the amount of objectivity with which we view them. Millions of people born on Friday 13th live long and happy lives. Accidents and misfortune occur every day of the year, not just on Friday the 13th, and Robert Redford and Pierce Brosnan, among millions of others, also have thirteen letters in their names. Many paranormal phenomena are difficult to disprove, even in an age of scientific enlightenment, but superstitions seem to exist in our
world as a direct result of the credibility and ‘life’ that we, with our sometimes irrational way of interpreting the natural universe, inadvertently afford them.

That said, however, I don’t think that I’ll be walking under too many ladders today, just in case….


Giant Snake 55ft long killed in China! Goodness Me!

This picture has been doing the rounds for the last few days. Some incredible claims have been made for it. However, young Max Blake, the frighteningly intelligent young man who is spearing the next generation of the CFZ, takes a look at it and finds that all is not as it seems.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Did you know that on this day in 1841 James Braid witnessed his first demonstration of animal magnetism, which he later developed into hypnotism?

And now the news:

Device enables world's first voluntary gorilla blood pressure reading

Dimbleby knocked out - by a bullock

Raccoons hold up bus

Koalas 'face extinction in 30 years'

Polar bear photographed blowing bubble

Chimp Chatter

Confused birds mistake road for water

Chimp Attack Victim Unveils Horrific Injuries

Sabi the Australian sniffer dog found after 14 months lost in Afghanistan

Bet he was dog tired after all that.