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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Tuesday, December 22, 2009



A few days ago I received the current issue of Folklore Frontiers, number 62. There are a few interesting Fortean zoological gleanings in it, which I thought worth recording here in this, my final Muirhead`s Mysteries before Yuletide. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.The M-Files (stuff the X-Files, what about the M-Files!?) will resume on December 28th for a few days, then properly in the New Year on January 3rd 2010.

SHELL SHOCK: 'A contestant in World Egg Throwing championship, held in Swaton, Lincs., was banned for using a bazooka.' (Daily Star,25/6/09) (1)

BEES: David Hambling, discussing colony collapse disorder, mentions that the disappearance of bees was a running theme during the 2008 season of Dr. Who, where they were an alien species (Fortean Times, No 255, 2009). It reminded me of a claim about 35 years ago in The Atlantean, which stated that bees came from Mars and this accounted for their aerodynamic characteristics being impossible for Earth scientists to explain. Hambling also touched upon the controversial (and unauthenticated) quote attributed to Albert Einstein that if bees died out mankind would survive no more than four years (or was it also a shorter timespan?) (2)

GREYFRIARS BOBBY: (Screeton-Mars Bars and Mushy peas p.113) James Cormack, 78, a chauffeur from Edinburgh recalled how he squired the former filmstar turned animal activist Brigitte Bardot when she visited Scotland ten years ago to help save Woofie, the collier-boxer mongrel ordered by a court to be destroyed after it chased and intimidated a postman. “I took the opportunity to tell her the story of Greyfriars Bobby, which she hadn`t heard before. Even though she was hearing it through an interpreter she was in tears,” said Mr Cormack. “If the decision had gone against the dog Miss Bardot had a scheme to get it out of the country, flying Woofie to St. Tropez in her private plane.”' (The Sunday Post 10/8/09) (3)

PARAKEETS (FF 44:12,passim). 'It is now 40 years since ring-necked parakeets began breeding in Britain and speculation as to their origin continues. Nature columnist Derwent May trotted out this hoary chestnut: `One legend is that the first of them got away from Shepperton Studios when The African Queen, with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, was being filmed` (The Times Weekend 11/4/09) (4)

This final entry has nothing to do with Fortean Zoology but I thought I`d add it anyway:

MARS BARS AND MUSHY PEAS JOKE: 'A spaceship landed in my garden last night and a small creature emerged covered from head to toe in chocolate. I said: “Are you from Mars?”' (5)

1 Folklore Frontiers no.62. p.4
2 Ibid p.5
3 Ibid. p.11
4 Ibid. p.12
5 Ibid. p.11

Happy Christmas to all readers!!

SteeleSpan – Gaudate

Gudate,gaudate Christos est natus
Ex Maria virginae,gaudate
Tempus ad est gratiae hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus
Gaudate,gaudate Christos est natus


The CFZ 's own Richard Freeman has a story published in an anthology of time-travelling Science Fiction tales.

Bernice Summerfield Secret Histories is a collection of short stories about a galactic archaeologist and former companion of none other than ‘The Doctor.’

In his story Richard has Bernice journey to Tasmania circa 1817 to research the now extinct Tasmanian Aborigines, but her trip also brings her face o face with thylacines and the monsters of the Aboriginal Dreamtime, which prove to be very real and very dangerous.


Paul Haresnape: The Black Dog of Black Dog

The small village of Black Dog is on one of the highest ridges of land between Dartmoor and Exmoor, in the county of Devon, England. At 695 ft. above sea level it enjoys superb views of both moors, especially Dartmoor to the south. The pace of change in these rural parts has been slow and many of the small hill farms that surround Black Dog have been occupied by the same families for generations.

The village and its 18th Century Inn bore the name of ‘Black Boy’ until the emancipation of the slave trade in 1807/8 when it became ‘Black Dog’. [1] The former name is perhaps evidence of Plymouth’s involvement in the slave trade extending into rural Devon; but what of the latter name, by which both the village and Inn are still known today?

Theo Brown, in her book Devon Ghosts points the way:

'In the parish of Washford Pyne there are two hamlets, Upper and Lower Black Dog. These take their name from the Inn of that name which stands on a cross roads which was once a wild open heath. Though now a few houses have clustered around it, beside the crossroads is an old well. The local tradition is that there used to be a tunnel leading from the cross roads to the earthworks (Berry Castle) nearly a mile to the south. The mythical tunnel leads from the old well, and at the time of the Civil War, the entrance was guarded by the ghostly BLACK DOG. I heard this from a resident of the hamlet.' [2]

Perhaps this is the same Black Dog that - a few miles to the East - is reputed to haunt the road between the villages of Morchard Bishop and Copplestone? Intriguingly, this spectral hound appears to have put in a relatively recent appearance, being witnessed in 1993 by local resident Robin Brooks. The following graphic account, with a distinctly Fortean twist, was told to his daughter, artist Kirsty Bonning, who owns the Black Dog Studios:

"One late summer evening, I had gone for a walk up to Berry Castle (a mile to the south-east of Black Dog). It was a beautiful evening, calm, still and warm. [I] sat down against the bank of the hedge, how long for, I don't know. I must have fallen asleep. When I woke, I felt a slight chill. I remember looking at my watch, but I don't remember the time. I noticed that the cattle, who [sic] had been at the far end of the field, grazing, had now moved much closer and now I could see that there were about 30 of them, some with claves. They were mostly laid down and chewing the cud. I could hear the soft sounds coming from their contentment. Quite why I did not get straight up, I do not know. I wanted to, but I did not. "

"As I lay there, I became aware of what I can only describe as a presence. The sun had set and all was quiet, except for the soft sound of the cattle and in the distance 3 crows, making their way to roost, silhouetted against the sky. Now I became aware of a large black dog. Why I had not noticed him before, I did not know.

“I remember thinking, "Oh damn, someone is about," and I began to feel anxious and annoyed with myself for not being alert enough."

"I lay there still. I wanted to get to my feet, but somehow I could not. The dog was about 40 feet away. He did not move, or at least hardly so and stood tall and strong. His noble head held high as he sniffed the air, in that way that dogs do when they seem so aware of something that we humans, with our limited senses of hearing and smell do not know. Whose dog?! Where was the owner? A slight disturbed feeling was still in my mind, not given by the dog, but by the thought of the owner, who must be close, but who I could not see."

"I knew of people in the village who owned a large black Labrador dog, but this dog, in build and stature, was not really like that. How many moments had passed from my waking, I do not know, maybe it was only seconds. As I watched, the dog now stepped from the shadow of the bank and still looking in the direction of the village, without paying the least attention to me, he trotted directly towards the cattle. "

"And now, the strangest thing. No-one called or whistled him, but stranger yet, the dog walked right through where the cattle lay. He appeared to go with purpose and made no sound and the cattle, even though some were with calves, seemed completely unconcerned and did not even seem to see him. They were not disturbed in any way and it was a totally unreal experience. The dog disappeared into the darkness of the hedge. This whole thing must have taken only moments. "

"I got up, still wondering at what I had just seen and still expectant of seeing the dog's owner. I made my way back to the lane and then home. All this time, I saw no-one. I have never seen this dog since and as far as I can tell, no-one in the area has seen a dog as I have described. I do not know what I saw. I only know that it was as I have described it. "

"Did I see the ghostly Black Dog of legend?” [3]

I am attending a family lunch this weekend just a mile or so from Black Dog and am looking forward to a stroll to where this sighting occurred; so fingers crossed that the ghostly Black Dog of Black Dog may - just may - put in a rare appearance….

[1] http://www.kirstybonning.co.uk/black_dog_story/legend_of_the_black_dog.shtml
[2] Extract from DEVON GHOSTS by Theo Brown,Published by Jarrold Publishing 1982 ISBN 0-8530-6961-1
[3] http://www.kirstybonning.co.uk/black_dog_story/legend_of_the_black_dog.shtml


One of the inconveniences of our past explorations in the jungles of Sumatra have been leeches. One evening in 2004, whilst on our way to the lost valley, we picked 100 of the little suckers off our legs as we sat around the campfire. I still bear the marks of leech bites from the Sumatran expeditions of 2003-2004 and got some fresh ones this year when I returned.

Jon Hare was particularly repulsed by the creatures and one even found its way into Chris Clark’s mouth! Imagine the horror of a giant leech then. The crawlers in Sumatra were only a couple of inches long but the South American giant leech is 18 inches long!

Haementeria ghilianii inserts a 6 inch proboscis into its mammalian prey in order to drink their blood. This mega leech can live as long as 20 years and was first discovered in 1849. The monster was thought to be extinct since none had been collected since 1893. However, Dr Roy Sawyer discovered a pair in a pond in French Guyana in the mid 1970s, one of these named ‘Grandma Moses’. This individual founded a leech breeding colony at the University of California-Berkeley and produced more than 750 offspring.

More than 46 medical, neurological and natural history research publications were based on data from specimens reared at the breeding colony. Some important discoveries from these offspring include the characterisation and purification of several proteins with an anticoagulant and antimetastatic effect, including hementin, which destroys human fibrin blood clots; charting connection of nerve cells; and functional morphology of salivary and nerve cells. Following its death, ‘Grandma Moses’ was deposited in the collections of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.

Film of one of these impressive monsters can be seen here
The related Americobdella valdiviana from Chile can exceed 12 inches in length.

Campsite stories are told of a blood-sucking monster near the town of Sharon in Vermont, USA, deep in the Downer State Forest in an 800 acre woodland camp know as Camp Downer. At Camp Downer there is a canoe pond constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and close to an island in the pond a giant leech is said to lurk; a leech weighing over 300lbs!

A story told to scare children at the camp? Who knows? It might be interesting to investigate though.


Driving to Barnstaple yesterday, I was struck by the stark beauty of the snow on the hills of Exmoor in the middle distance.

As I get older little things like this get more important. Somehow the snowy hills in the background and the nasty, noisy, modern A39 in the foreground struck a compelling picture.

Thank the Lord for small digital cameras I say....


Well, the anarchist social workers are back in business. Noela Mackenzie, the oldest member of the CFZ, has been in hospital for a month after falling and breaking her hip in mid-November.

It wasn't a very big break, and all seems fine now. Indeed, she is tootling along on her zimmer frame at a rate of knots, far more confidently than even before she broke her hip, so that is one good thing.

However, after a week or so of negotiations, she was discharged from hospital yesterday. But does an 87-year-old lady with an impressive battery of health problems - both mental and physical - warrant one of the worthies from the Hospital Car Service to take her home?

Apparently not. We crammed the dear old thing into the back of the CFZmobile where she sat next to the Lady of the Manor with a catering-size box of sweet chilli crisps on her knee.

Noela took it all in her stride and seemed to enjoy herself mightily, and was soon back at her flat with her beloved pussy-cat, Misty.

I, however, gave fuel for future generations of stand-up comedians who might look at this blog in search of material.

What do you call a man with a zimmer frame on his head?

We had done the last of the Christmas shopping that morning, and we only have a very small car, and the only place we could put the zimmer frame was on top of me.

Never mind.

Anarchy, Peace and Goodwill to all men....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


On this day in 1967 Richey Edwards, of the Manic Street Preachers, was born. Edwards went missing around Valentine's Day 1995 and no trace has been found of him since. Despite this, many people claim to have seen him since in Goa and the Canary Islands. His family agreed to declare him legally dead on the 23rd of November 2008.
Now for the news:

Turtle dove numbers dwindle in the UK
Apes at risk of 'primate change'
India's 'last' dancing bear freed

The cruelty hardly ‘bear’s thinking about.