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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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Some Sad News…

It is with great sadness now that I release this statement on behalf of the CFZ management.

I sincerely apologise to all the people who I’m sure this announcement will upset but I feel that the CFZ will grow stronger as a result. The truth is that Jonathan Downes does not exist. All these years we have been hiring a character actor named Mimsy Barrowclough to play the role for public appearances but sadly, due to family commitments, Barrowclough has had to resign from the role. He has released a statement via his solicitor for all his fans:

“It is with great regret that I, Mimsy Barrowclough, must resign from my role as Jonathan Downes. I have been forced to do so after my family started to complain that I hadn’t seen them for almost 20 years. I wish my successor in the role every success and will be on hand to offer them advice on how to play the role.”

Deputy director Graham Inglis said:

“When I conceived the CFZ as a small conceptual art project in the early 1990s I had no idea it would become so popular and that we would be in the position to recast the role of Jonathan Downes. Although I’m sure many people will miss the original JD and Mimsy’s fantastic portrayal, I hope that CFZ members are as excited as I am about the prospect of what a new actor will bring to the role.”

Although Brian Blessed, who filled in for Mimsy for three days during the recent Texas Expedition, has been linked to the now vacant role in press speculation, Blessed has poured cold water on the rumours.


There has also been speculation that, as nobody could top Mimsy’s iconic performance as the Director, we will be casting a younger actor or even a woman in the role; other names that have been linked to the part include Paul O’Grady, Joe Pasquale, Peter Andre, Kerry Katona and Wee Jimmy Krankie. I couldn’t possibly ruin the surprise of who the next person to play the role of Jonathan Downes will be, but the Director’s regeneration will be shown in the April 2010 episode of On the Track.

Corinna is distraught


This has to be the stupidest story that I have read in a long time, and bearing in mind the date today I would not be at all surprised if you thought that this was some April Fool's jest: a product of mine or Oll's feverishly stupid imagination. But it's not. I promise. Over on the Birdchick blog Sharon Birdchick herself reports:

And no, they are not for the endangered species themselves, they’re for one of the most over-populated species out there. Susan Gets Native posted a link on Facebook about the Center for Biological Diversity is “distributing 100,000 free Endangered Species Condoms in all 50 states to highlight how unsustainable human population growth is driving species extinct at a cataclysmic rate.”

According to the press release, “the goal is to help people understand the impact of overpopulation on other species, and to give them a chance to take action in their own lives, the Center is distributing free packets of Endangered Species Condoms depicting six separate species: the polar bear, snail darter, spotted owl, American burying beetle, jaguar, and coquí guajón rock frog.”

Read on...

DALE DRINNON: Amendment to Arthur Grant's original Nessie Sketch as reproduced in Costello's book `In Search of Lake Monsters`

Peter Costello's book has been widely used as a source for material on lake monsters. He is the first to publish the original version of Arthur Grant's sketch for his sighting of the Loch Ness monster ashore at night in January 1934, Costello's Figure 10 on page 46. The figure differs from other, later drawings done by Grant and significantly because the rear end ends at one edge of the paper and does not appear to show a tail.

But in fact the tail is clearly shown on the drawing. Because Grant ran out of paper on the one end, he drew in the tail starting at the other side again, as a sort of wraparound image. The tail is clearly drawn underneath the front end of the monster.

I have attempted to correct the image somewhat in my version. Grant did seem to draw the blunt end of the tail turning up, which I have omitted; and in fact Grant's version makes the tail much larger and thicker than I have drawn. I am not so certain he meant it as being in exact scale to the rest of the drawing, however.

(Source: Peter Costello, In Search of Lake Monsters, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, NYC 1974)

MAX BLAKE: The return (again) of Taxonomy Fail

He's back (and this time its ludicrous)

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1957 the BBC’s Panorama news programme broadcast its report on the Swiss spaghetti harvest, because at the time spaghetti was considered an exotic delicacy in Britain the hoax was widely believed by viewers, several of whom actually phoned the BBC switchboard to ask where you could buy spaghetti trees.


And now, the news:

Smarter (or luckier) than the average bear
Hyenas' laughter signals deciphered
Loyal stork returns to his injured partner
Hedgehogs, heroes of the garden
Toads with a super sensitive side hopped it before L'Aquila quake

Q: Why are frogs anarchists?
A: They’ve never ‘toad’ the line.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


As Max wrote: 'If this young octopus really did manage to take down this fish, imagine what the rumoured 12m+ giant Pacifics could eat!'


Being employed to catch snakes in New Zealand, one of the few countries in the world with no snakes, may seem to have limited potential as a career option. Indeed, we don't have full-time snake catchers, but a small group of handlers is trained to deal with venomous snakes should one ever breach our biosecurity defences.

Snakes are excluded by law from entering New Zealand. There are no exceptions, which is why they are not found in zoos, research establishments or accompanying visiting entertainers. Read On...

LINDSAY SELBY: Sea creature off Hull

Harold T. Wilkins has written a lot of Fortean books and in one called Monster and Mysteries (James Pike 1972) he told a story of a sea monster seen off Hull UK.

Unfortunately it had no date. : (My paraphrasing here as I no longer have a copy of the book)

A seaman on board a ship heading for Hull saw something strange in the water. He described it as 30 feet (10 metres) by 4 feet (1.1 metres), slimy black in colour with a big eel-like head. It was lying on top of the water. The seaman was an old sea dog of 40 years and said it wasn’t a whale or a shark and were he to see it again he would retire from the sea and remain on land.

In 1927 a steamship travelling from Hamburg to Hull ran into fog as it sailed along the East Yorkshire coast. As the fog started to lift the person in the wheelhouse (presumably the captain) saw in front of the ship what looked like a 10-12 feet ( 3.1- 4 metres) mast sticking out of the water. He rushed to alert the engine room to move astern and as he did so he looked back and the mast moved and went around to the port side. The object then reappeared with what looked like a second mast curved around like an elephants trunk of huge girth. The passengers on board saw what appeared to be a black body as it rose higher and then submerged.

I have been unable to find out anymore about these sightings but there is a Maritime Museum in Hull so I have contacted them to see if they have any information. The curator said he would get back to me if he could find anything out. If anyone else knows anything please post a comment

Hull is up or down the coast depending on which direction you come from; from Skegness where strange sea creature sightings were reported .see blog:



Max turned up on Monday afternoon with some more fish for us. These are black-chinned Giradinus - the wild colour form of the yellow-bellied Giradinus that we have been keeping and breeding for the last year or so....

MIKE HALLOWELL: More Cleadon Conundra

In some parts of our globe there is a mooted connection between certain cryptids and the UFO phenomenon. Sightings of Bigfoot, for example, are occasionally accompanied by reports of weird lights in the sky and the odd silvery-coloured disc or two. Likewise, in Puerto Rico those who espy the Chupacabras may also be privileged to spot glowing orbs or metallic-looking spheres hovering above in the ether.

In my last blog I announced that Darren W. Ritson and I have been planning a trip to Cleadon Hills in South Tyneside, which is now famous (or perhaps infamous) for two cryptids; a strange felid known as the Cleadon Big Cat and an even stranger hairy hominid called the Beast. Cleadon Hills has also had its fair share of UFO sightings, although what connection they have, if any, to the afore-mentioned cryptids is difficult to determine. "The Hills", as they are known locally, were even the location of a mysterious "Black Helicopter" incident some years ago, which I had the privilege of covering in a newspaper column.

Back in the 1990s I scripted a documentary called Anatomy of a Haunting, which was produced by filmmaker Gary Wilkinson and his company Northeastern Films. Jon and Richard kindly travelled to the Frozen North to take part, and provided an excellent (if somewhat eerie) introduction to the Fortean phenomena at Marsden Bay. Marsden Bay, for the uninitiated, is only a hop, skip and jump away from Cleadon. During the intro, Mssrs. Downes and Freeman spoke about the existence of "window areas", in which all sorts of diverse phenomena can, and usually do, occur. The thought struck me that Cleadon Hills may be just such a window area. Perhaps, then, UFO sightings in the area might be connected in some way to the appearance of the afore-mentioned cryptids or at least, their existence in the same spot may not be entirely coincidental. It was a long shot, but who knows?

In preparation for our trip Darren and I reviewed some of the photographs we'd taken on previous visits. One caught my attention in particular, not because of the scene, but simply because I'd forgotten to re-size the image previously. I decided on a whim to re-size it there and then and make it "book ready" should I want to use it in the future.

The picture was of the ruins of the old mill house at Cleadon – allegedly the home of the ghost of a young woman in a red dress who had killed herself when her father insisted she terminate her relationship with a young local lad. I'd taken the picture on Sunday 26 March, 2000, which I noticed, oddly, was almost ten years to the day before Darren and I's next trip.

I double-clicked on the image and re-sized it. I then tweaked around with the lighting and contrast. It was then that I noticed what looked like a small blemish in the top right-hand (facing) corner. As I zoomed in on the anomaly I was struck quite forcibly by its odd appearance. It certainly wasn't a bird or a plane, and looked for all the world like an elongated dumbbell hovering vertically in the sky. Curious, I decided to hunt out the original picture and take a look. Sod's Law, I didn't have it, having destroyed the original pic after copying it electronically. However, on another picture taken at the same time the strange object can still be seen, although it is much further away and barely visible.

To be honest, I haven't a clue what it is, but I do know that I'm not the first person to capture airborne anomalies with their camera upon Cleadon Hills. I checked to see whether there had been any UFO sightings over the area the last time either the Beast or the Cleadon Big Cat was seen, and was gratified to find that a number of strange lights had been observed in the sky over adjacent Sunderland.

Personally, I reckon that the Beast of Cleadon Hills was taking his Big Cat for a walk before settling down in front of the telly, and that the lights were the souls of his ancestors, who according to my spirit guide include Elvis and Doris Stokes.

Unless any CFZ acolytes have a better theory, of course, which you'd better not have coz I know where you live….


I first read about the Kasai Rex ‘incident’ when I was about nineteen, and as Richard has quite correctly described me as 'a true dino-movie freak', I can do no less than try to figure out exactly what that picture shows.
Richard lists several stop-motion films as being potential likely suspects, and as well as those he names, there is of course the Rex from the original King Kong (1933), as well as O’Brien’s earlier dinos from Along the Moonbeam Trail (1920), which featured an allosaurus.

After Kong, we come to O’Brien’s abortive War Eagles and Gwangi, for which projects O’Brien’s chief model maker Marcel Delgado had constructed carnivorous dinosaurs, and in the 1950s, we have the tyrannosaur from The Beast of Hollow Mountain, and the Rex, allosaurus and ceratosaurus in Harryhausen’s The Animal World.

The problem is, none of the dinos in the above movies look particularly like the Kasai Rex, and I thought that maybe the animal in the picture might have been a custom-made model, constructed especially for the photo.

The latest news is that it seems to appear that the individual describing him/herself as ‘The Highland Tiger’, has correctly identified the image as a composite photograph made up of a dead (or sleeping) rhino, combined with a model allosaurus built by model maker ‘Yarriwarrior’ (yep--apparently, that’s his real name), based on a Charles Knight painting, which in turn, was inspired by the skeleton of an allosaurus--or specifically--allosaurus AMNH 5753, which was initially discovered by Edward Drinker Cope’s assistant and associate ‘digger’, H.F. Hubbell, who found the remains in the Como Bluff region of Wyoming in 1879, the skeleton not actually being put on display until 1908.

Charles Knight had painted the allosaur from its skeletal pose, feasting on the remains of an Apatosaurus. Even in these days of supposedly ‘new thinking’ as regards dinosaur posture, lifestyle and their place in the Mesozoic eco-system, many of Knight’s paintings are still relevant and surprisingly accurate, and all are fantastically beautiful.

The composite Kasai image was assembled by ‘Finbar’ (yep--apparently that’s his real name too), and a pretty fair job he’s made of it. Apparently, Finbar gets up to this sort of thing quite a bit, but always admits his fakery, so that’s all right, I suppose.

I’ve had a go at making my own Kasai Rex. Yeah, it’s crap, and I know it’s crap, but I only took twenty minutes over it--including the time finding the images on the net. If you had a day or so to mess around with it, you might get reasonable results. It’s just a picture of some African grassland, a rhino stuck onto that, and a picture of Gwangi stuck onto that. A bit of greyscale, some newsprint overlay, and Bob’s your uncle. Well--kind of….

So there you have it. The question is, of course, is the ‘real’ Kasai Rex picture out there somewhere? And will we see Finbar coming the next time?

Keep ‘em peeled….

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1994 the first complete skull of Australopithecus afarensis was found in Ethiopia.
And now, the news:

Lovelock: 'We can't save the planet'
Butterflies offer climate warning
Flamingo's health check at zoo
Fine-tuned bats and 4-wheel drive elephants
Bipedalism takes a big step backward
'Drunk' man tried to revive roadkill
Hungry cats dupe owners with acoustic trick
Rosslyn Chapel was haven for bees

Rosslyn Chapel is well known for ‘bee’-ing quite an odd building.

Monday, March 29, 2010


In this month's issue of Messrs Mera and Sadler's online magazine there are a lot of things of interest to readers of this bloggo. These include big cat research reports, the latest on Lloyd Pye's ongoing starchild project and some stuff about mermaids. For details, email sadler_dave@yahoo.co.uk

RICHARD FREEMAN: The Monsters of Prague Part 9

Drinker Up Bloody Knee
The vampires of Prague seem like a half-arsed bunch. One fellow, who became a vampire was a shabby little man who frequented second-rate ale houses. When he didn't have enough money to buy his own beer he finished the dregs left by others. No one even knew his name. One night a fight broke out between two men and he was unlucky enough to be standing close by. The little man was accidentally stabbed and died.

He was taken to a crematorium to be burned but he had become a vampire and escaped. He survived by sleeping in other people's coffins in the graveyards of Olsany. Too timid to kill, he fed by lickng up the blood of people who got into fights and the knees of chldren who had fallen over, hence his name Drinker Up Bloody Knee. It is said that if you want to see this pathetic little vampire you must give yourself a nosebleed. He will appear to lick up the drops of blood.

OLL LEWIS: CRYPTO CONS - The Native of Formosa

In the first few years of the 18th century London’s high society was gripped by the ‘Formosa craze.’ People would become highly interested in tales of the exotic-sounding island of Formosa (modern-day Taiwan) and eagerly gobbled up the descriptions of it from the first Formosan native to come to Europe. This reverse Marco Polo had supposedly been tricked into leaving his native land by Jesuit missionaries who brought him to the strange land of Europe and he had ended up in the Netherlands where he survived as a missionary. He still followed the religion of his homeland in worshiping the moon and sun and despite speaking perfect Latin and several other European Languages, was given to babbling to himself in Formosan. It was here that he met Scottish army chaplain William Innes who ‘converted’ the Formosan to Anglican Christianity and gave him a name, something he had never had before - George Psalmanazar - before they headed to London.

When in London Psalmanazar began to entertain people with tales of his exotic land, of most interest to London’s educated classes were the stories of Formosa’s religious practices, which included stories of annual mass child sacrifices, and he peppered these anthropological observances with details of the wildlife of Formosa. According to Psalmanazar, despite Formosa being off the coast of Eastern China, the countryside was filled with animals you would expect to see on the African savannah, like elephants, giraffes and rhinos.

As time went on Psalmanazar's stories became wilder and when word of them reached a Jesuit who had just returned from Formosa, the Jesuit decided to set the record straight and label Psalmanazar as an impostor. Psalmanazar publicly denounced his critic as a jealous peddler of lies and society sided with Psalmanazar, believing his exotic tales over the boring and sober ones of his critic. The critic had been right, though; Psalmanazar was an impostor who had been born in France and had never even travelled as far east as Rome. There had been clues to this staring people in the face from the beginning other than the wild tales and their associated out-of-place animals, not least that Psalmanazar had fair white skin and a mane of blonde hair. When questioned about his appearance and why he did not have darker skin like other people from Asia he explained this by saying that the upper-class people of Formosa spend nearly all their time indoors away from the sun while the lower-classes toil outside getting tanned.

After about four years he admitted his deception publicly, but by this time the low attention span of London’s elite had moved on to other flavours of the month and didn’t care all that much that they had been duped. Psalmanazar went on to write about the real geography, culture and ecology of Formosa and was highly critical of the way people had fallen for his hoax so easily. He lived out his days on a pension of £30; a not unsubstantial sum at the time given; to him by admirers.

RUBY LANG: Bell frog bounces back

In the world of amphibians, it is the equivalent of finding the Tasmanian tiger. A species of frog presumed extinct for nearly 30 years has turned up in the Southern Tablelands.

The yellow-spotted bell frog was once ubiquitous in the northern and southern tablelands of NSW, but was almost wiped out after the chytrid fungus arrived from Africa in the early 1970s.

It was found alive and well in 2008 by government researcher Luke Pearce, who was searching for a native fish, the southern pygmy perch. Instead, he spotted the bell frog, which has distinctive markings on its groin and thighs.

Read more here:



Recently I came across this ballad on the discovery in around the mid-17th century of a 'big fish' in the river Dee, which runs out of Wales, through Cheshire and into the Wirral. It is in The Cheshire Sheaf, volume 25, October 1928:

'A Big Fish in the Dee

The recent capture of a “big fish” in the Dee has attracted so much attention that it is well to say that there is “nothing new under the son,” as will be seen by the title of the following ballad, which is in the Pepysian Collection of Cambridge (1). I performed most of the ballad at a recent meeting of the Pepys Club, but can only give a few lines here. The Broadside begins as follows: “A description of a strange (and miraculous) fish, cast upon the sands in the meads in the Hundred of Worwell in the County Palatine of Chester (or Chesshiere). The certainty whereof is here related concerning the said most monstrous fish.”

'To the tune of Bragandary

Verse 3

It is almost five yards in height,
Which is a wondrous;
O mark what marvels to our sight
Our potent Lord doth bring.

These secrets Neptune closely keeps
Within the bosom of the deeps.
O rare
Beyond compare.
In England nere the like.

Verse 13

Already sixteene tuns of Oyle
Is from this fish extracted,
And yet continually they boyle,
No season is protracted.

It cannot be imagin`d how much
`Twill yeeld,the vastness of it is such.
O rare
Beyond compare.
In England nere the like

Verse 15 (and last)

The Mariners of Chester say
A Herring-hog `tis nam`d
Whatere it be, for certaine they
That are for knowledge fam`d

Affirme,the like in ages past
Upon our coast was never cast.
O rare
beyond compare.
In England nere the like.

The Printer adds “There is a book to satisfy such as desire a larger description thereof.” I should much like to see a copy. The early spelling of Worwell for Wirral is worth noting.

In conclusion, I should add that the whole ballad is printed in Professor Rollins` valuable collection of Broadside Ballads, entitled, “A Pepysian Garland,” Cambridge Press. J.C.Bridge. (2)

1. This collection still exists,at least it did about 6-7 years ago.
2. J.C.Bridge A Big Fish in the River Dee. The Cheshire Sheaf vol.25 October 1928 p.75

Bob Dylan Desolation Row

They`re selling post cards of the hanging
They`re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlourI is full of sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They`ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the type rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad is restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 240BC Halley’s comet was recorded for the first time.
And now, the news:

Hybrid pet wolves escape and roam parts of Ohio
Coyote caught in New York
Alligator rumors gaining traction
Stares and Stripes
Don't fear the bald squirrels
Neanderthal may not be the oldest Dutchman
Mongolia winter kills herds, devastating the poorest
Hope for Scotland's red squirrels
Well, they’d have to be ‘nuts’ not to at least try vaccination.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

NAOMI WEST: Monsters - a softer side

For the past five years I have taught The Odyssey to my high school students. And each year I am intrigued by our textbook’s reprint of a painting depicting the Cyclops Polyphemus as a furry, long-necked creature with the soft, one-eyed gaze of a gentle pet.

This Cyclops strikes me as vulnerable, not the sort of creature that would snatch up men to eat them alive and drool pieces of them afterward in drunken hiccups.

Yesterday as my students were reading the gruesome scene with Polyphemus, I read the caption of the painting, which explained that its French artist, Odilon Redon, had wanted to portray a sympathetic cyclops.

This concept isn’t a complete fabrication: one of the most striking elements of the scene with Polyphemus is the gentleness he displays toward his sheep even as he gorges himself on men.

When the young Dawn with fingertips of rose
lit up the world, the Cyclops built a fire
and milked his handsome ewes, all in due order,
putting the sucklings to the mothers. Then,
his chores being all dispatched, he caught
another brace of men to make his breakfast,
and whisked away his great door slab
to let his sheep go through…

Upon each reading, I find myself oddly moved by the gentle shepherding of Polyphemus. The juxtaposition of his care for his sheep with his brutality toward Odysseus’s men leaves me feeling ambivalent and examining my own nature. While I am certainly not a cannibal or even a murderer, I understand feeling occasional hostility toward my fellow humans while caring deeply for animals. Most animal-lovers can attest to the same.

Beyond this common disillusionment with people, however, I find that I am slower than some to label any strange creature a 'monster.' What constitutes a monster? Something that kills and eats its food? That’s most of us but only people make a sport of it. Something that looks unfamiliar, like the Texas Blue Dog? In report after report, I hear the Blue Dogs described as 'ugly.' A man in Tennessee even stated, “It looks something out of ‘you know where’.” Assuming he meant hell, I observed a picture of the dog he had killed and tried to see what he was seeing. It was probably the fangs, the dark skin, the eyes shut tight against any possible expression of emotion. Still, I can’t see anything sinister in photographs or videos of live ones.

Then there were the paintings and drawings in Nick Redfern’s study, most of them of the Owlman/Mothman. Many of these in particular looked like something out of ‘you know where’ as well, but I found myself staring with a slight, unexpected affinity at one. It certainly wasn’t because of its demonically glowing red eyes; maybe it was the furriness of its form. There is something about fur that softens people toward a creature – and something about the lack thereof that does the opposite, as many dead Blue Dogs could attest to.

So, while I still can’t quite define what constitutes a monster, what makes one person shoot a Blue Dog while another feeds it food scraps, or what makes a part of me like the vicious Polyphemus, I finally came to terms with my feelings for the cyclops and purchased a reprint of the painting yesterday. He will soon be hanging in my study, which may be well on its way to bearing its own wall of 'monsters.'


Many condolences to regular bloggo reader and old pal of the CFZ Dave McMann on the death of his father. There is absolutely nothing I can say that will mke you feel any better, but having buried both my parents and my adopted mother in the last ten years I know how it feels mate, and the thoughts and prayers of us all are with you at this horribly difficult time.

It goes without saying that if there is anything we can do....

FRISWELLS FREAKY FEATURES: I don't wanna be buried in a Pet Semetary

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.


We all feel a great sense of loss when a beloved pet dies--it really is like losing a member of the family. And in that spirit, these tiny coffins for birds might not--to some people anyway--come across as being inappropriate, or in bad taste. It’s matter for the individual, one might say.

Stephen King related a true story in his book Danse Macabre, originally told by crooner Bing Crosby. One of Bing’s sons owned a pet turtle, and one morning the creature was found dead in its box. The boy was inconsolable, and in an attempt to distract his son, Bing suggested that the family hold a proper funeral for the deceased pet, with all the trimmings.

Bing found a cigar box, lined it with a piece of silk and laid the turtle inside with due reverence. The family dressed in black and after placing the tiny coffin into an open grave in the garden, Bing sung a heartfelt hymn.

His son was overjoyed at this event and his eyes were bright with wonder. As Bing was about to fill in the miniature grave, the ‘coffin’ began to move. Bing opened the box to find the turtle alive and well. His son took one look at the ‘resurrected’ turtle, and said: "Let’s kill it!”


Lindsay S sent me this at the beginning of the week. Most strange. Comments please....

PAUL CROPPER: Fish fall source material

Our old friend Paul Cropper has kindly collected a number of press reports (11 A4 pages of them) of the recent Northern Territory case plus some other recent fall stories. You can download them from the CFZ archives http://www.cfz.org.uk/Archiving/FishFall.pdf

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1948 Harry Price died. Price is best known in the Fortean/paranormal world for his investigations in the fields of ghosts and psychic phenomena, especially for his reopening, reform and presidency of the Ghost Club and his book The Most Haunted House in England about Borley Rectory, which remains to this day one of the most written about ghost sightings in the world, perhaps only surpassed by the Enfield poltergeist and the post-mortem adventures of pilots Repo and Loft.

For more info on Harry Price why not check out his wikipedia page:

And now, the news:

Nessie in Italian attic mystery
Theme park offers snake massages
Zookeeper injured in head-butt with giraffe
Pit bull rips bumper off US police car
Help, my chair is eating my spaniel


Saturday, March 27, 2010


There seems to be something wrong with the server at our ISP because all the CFZ websites (and various other websites that we administer, such as my sister's holiday farm site) are down. No doubt they will be back up again soon, but in the meantime, I apologise for the disruption to service.


I suppose this should really go up on the Texas blog but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the expedition. As you probably all know, Corinna does the regular o-o-p birds round-up for both A&M and OTT, and she was thrilled to meet some of my favourite species, such as the boat-tailed grackle, in the flesh for the first time. However, in the trees next to the world-famous river walk in San Antonio I met up with an old friend for the first time in years - a night heron.

When I was a boy there was a family of these delightful fellows roosting in the big tree across the road from our flat in Hong Kong. I wonder whether they (or their descendants) are still there. The block of flats (Peak Mansions) is long gone, having been replaced (appropriately enough) by a Ripleys Believe it or Not `Odditorium`...

MIKE HALLOWELL: Going to Cleadon are you? (I thought you might)

As most Geordies (but hardly anyone else) know, South Tyneside is the smallest Metropolitan /borough in the United Kingdom. It never fails to amaze me (but hardly anyone else) that this proverbial spot on the landscape is the repository of literally hundreds of myths, legends and folklore tales regarding ghosts, UFOs, cryptids and other forms of wackiness.

Over the years I've written over one thousand newspaper and magazine articles (1,158 to be exact) and ten books, the majority of which have been devoted to the strange goings-on within this teeny-weeny place. One would imagine that a borough that contains just three small towns and a handful of villages would be relatively short on mystery animals, but the truth is just the opposite. South Tyneside plays host to a sea monster (the Shony), at least one mystery big cat, a giant lobster known as the Terror of Trow Rocks, a terrifying Brag, a weird humanoid called Old Blue Eyes and a big, hairy hominid known as the Beast of Cleadon Hills. You just couldn't make it up.

Cleadon Village, which is the posh end of our borough, is well blessed when it comes to cryptids. Cleadon Hills were formerly only famous for two ghost stories: the Red Woman of Cleadon Mill and the Water Tower Ghost. Now, however, visitors to this idyllic spot may also want to watch out for the Cleadon Big Cat and the afore-mentioned Beast. Cleadon Hills, it seems, has become a one-stop shop for all things Fortean.

My colleague Darren W. Ritson and I have both written up Cleadon-related weirdness, and decided that an expedition was in order to see if we could spot anything for ourselves. The expedition – which admittedly does not quite compare in grandiosity with CFZ trips of a similar nature – is scheduled for Sunday, 28 March.

Firstly, we plan to visit the Water Tower to see if there really is a shrieking, banshee-type spectre in residence there.

Secondly, we'll visit the old WW2 gun emplacements where, some years ago, I took some very strange pictures.

After the gun emplacements we'll move on to the old mill house – allegedly home to the Woman in Red – and then finally have a scout about the hills themselves to see if we can spot the Beast or the Big Cat.

The results of our foray will, of course, be posted here for all to see.

Cleadon Hills are beautiful, but also somewhat eerie. Although they aren't far from civilisation they are wrapped in a mantle of seclusion, which insulates them from the workaday world next door. When ambling across Cleadon Hills it really isn't hard to imagine that there may be a critter or two of uncertain provenance lurking behind the trees.

Watch this space….

RUBY LANG: Movie makers behind fake sightings

An interesting little anecdote has come to light in recent weeks about a filmmaker who created his own Tasmanian tiger in the 1970s.

Phillipe Mora, in recounting the making of his movie Mad Dog Morgan (which, due to a mistake with the date, allowed the movie to slide into the public domain!) with lead Dennis Hopper, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"Collaterally, a dog I had dyed to look like a Tasmanian tiger escaped my motel and for years afterwards sightings were reported of the extinct animal."

Most of the film was shot around places Mad Dog Morgan frequented in his lifetime across Victoria and NSW.

Read more:

Posted By CFZ Australia to Centre for Fortean Zoology Australia at 3/27/2010 12:18:00 AM

LINDSAY SELBY: Bulgarian Lake Monster

Lindsay kindly sent us the following story about 'the Water Bull of the Rabisha Lake' in Bulgaria:

"The world famous monster Nessie from the Loch Ness in Scotland is about to get a rather tough competitor – the Water Bull from the Rabisha Lake in Northwestern Bulgaria. Even though the Water Bull and Nessie seem to be of very different species, the Water Bull of the Rabisha Lake is set to conquer the world going in the footsteps of the Loch Ness Monster, Emil Tsankov, Mayor of the town of Belogradchik has told Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency).

Belogradchik is a small, though, rather famous and picturesque town in the Bulgarian Northwest. First and foremost, it is known for the Belogradchik Rocks – absolutely miraculous rock formations stretching for some 30 km in the western part of the Balkan Moutain (Stara Planina). "

Read On

Thank you, Lindsay!


Gavin emailed me yesterday to tell us how his laptop is `fried` and his other computer is less than communicative. As a result of that it appears that he may be out of action (partially, at least) for the next few days. Together with Corinna, I shall be wading into the breach, and would just ask for any news stories that you may feel to be of interest to be sent to jon@eclipse.co.uk

That being said, Gavin has posted a couple today already, and so somehow normal service will be maintained....

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 2004 Peter Ustinov died. Ustinov is best remembered, by me at least, for his role in the steampunk classic One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing. He also played Hercule Poirot in six films and played pivotal roles in Quo Vadis, Logan’s Run, One of Our Aircraft is Missing, Tokapi and Spartacus, winning Oscars for best supporting actor for the latter two films.
And now, the news:

Open for Monkey Business
Dino Rod
'Miscommunication' led to giraffe remains in trash
Calne teacher tells of battle with crocodile in Malawi
Lucky he made the ‘snap’ judgement to kick the croc.


This week also saw the birthdays of two of my nephews: David (18) and Ross (15). Both are familiar to regular habituees of the Weird Weekends since 2006, and David in particular is familiar as he is the poor sap who is the chosen heir to the Downes empire (such as it is).

Happy birthday, my dears....

P.S. David is on the right wearing the cowboy hat we bought for him in San Antonio

Friday, March 26, 2010

RICHARD FREEMAN: The Second Kasai Rex Photo!

Most cryptozoologists are aware of the highly dubious story of a living dinosaur that appeared in the Rhodesia Herald in 1932. Swedish plantation owner JC Johnson claimed to have encountered a 43-foot Tyrannosaurus rex devouring a rhino in the swamps of the Kasai valley in the Congo. The story was accompanied by an unconvincing photo of what looked like a lizard, badly super-imposed onto a dead rhino.

Whilst pootling about on the internet the other day I came across this interesting website: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=214751458&blogId=438717522

It showed a second purported Kasai photograph and this one showed not a lizard but a Tyrannosaurus rex. I know nothing about where the picture came from or how old it is but my guess is a modern fake in the style of the petranodon ‘thunderbird’ photo hoax of a few years back. The Tyrannosaur looks like it’s from some stop motion film. It could be Willis O’Brien’s 1918 movie The Ghost of Slumber Mountain in which a Tyrannosaurus kills and eats a Triceratops, or his 1925 offering The Lost World, which has both Allosaurus and a sequence with a Tyrannosaurs killing a triceratops and a Pteranodon. For my money, though, the creature in the photo looks most like the Tyrannosaur in Irving Yeaworth’s 1960 film Dinosaurus! where a living T-rex terrorises a Caribbean island.

If anyone can identify where the monster in the photo comes from it will be me old mate Alan Frizwell, a true dino-movie freak. Over to you, Alan.

LINDSAY SELBY: Biodiversity Work

Some of you know my daughter is studying in Wales on a project looking at biofuels. They are using Elephant grass (Miscanthus), which can be grown on waste ground so won't take up valuable crop space. The plants are about 8 feet (2.6 metres ) high when fully grown. There has been a lot of talk about how it can affect biodiversity. The plants attract lots of spiders who spin their webs across the top. On one of the examinations of the plants, Michal, a Polish member of the team, found a chrysalis and in case the spiders ate it, rescued it and brought it back to the lab. It hatched out to the beautiful creature in the photos. It has been getting fed and hand-reared but is now, I believe, released back into the fields. So I think that answers the biodiversity question; the local insect life love the plants.

JON: It is a hawkmoth, but which species? I think large elephant, but I will be the first to admit that I have never been good at identifying them.


We have an awful lot more material to release, and we have to admit that the only reason that it has not been released so far is that we have spent much of the last five days asleep. However, we shall be releasing more video and photographs over the next few weeks.

We are also being contacted by other people who have tales to tell, so for the moment the Texas Expedition Blog is becoming the Blue Dog research blog. Check this out:


ROBIN STOWELL: Puma encounter

Fifteeen years ago I lived in Buckinghamshire and was a member of BBONT (Berkshire Buckingshire & Oxford Nature Trust). One hot sunny Sunday afternoon I was photographing butterflies on one of their reserves and had just taken a photograph of a five-spotted burnet; I congratulated myself because it was the first one I had seen. Having walked on a few yards I came round a vertically hanging branch of a small oak tree when I came across a beautifully marked full grown puma. It had been basking in the hot sunshine and I was no more than ten feet fom it. Fortunately it was more frightened of me than I was of it and it jumped up and dived through a hole in the hedge. It was a beautiful golden colour with white underneath and up its chest. I tried looking through the hedge to see if I could get a shot of it but with the macro lens that I was using it was impossible.

Later I only told a few trusted friends because someone in the area was hunting with a crossbow and had, to my knowledge, shot a fox through a foreleg, which became gangrenous. There were plenty of deer in the area to provide a source of food and I had not heard of any sheep being killed at the time. However, don't let anyone doubt the veracity of my account I and am willing to swear to the truth of it in any court in the world, or in the next, if I get the chance.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


A bit of a plane flavour to today because on this day in 1970 Concorde made its first supersonic flight and also on this day in 1994, the worlds most advanced combat aircraft, the Eurofighter took its first flight in Germany.
And now, the news:

Bark at the moon with Werewolf lager
Hunt for Bownessie
‘Ness’ is more with the news today, but as the Bownessie article is quite a long one it more than ‘Lakes’ up for it….

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Genetic evidence taken from a 40,000-year-old finger bone in Siberia’s Altai Mountains is pointing to an unknown species of man-like creature that lived in the area along with modern man and Neanderthal man. The finger bone came from a layer radiocarbon-dated to between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. Evolutionary geneticists Svante Pääbo, Johannes Krause, and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, ground up a 30-milligram sample and extracted and sequenced all of the 16,569 base pairs of its mtDNA genome.

A team led by archaeologists Michael Shunkov and Anatoli Derevianko of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk found the finger bone in 2008 at Denisova Cave in Russia's Altai Mountains. The DNA suggests a new hominin lineage later than Homo erectus and earlier than Homo heidelbergensis.

The implications here are huge. In what is geologically an eye-blink into the past the biodiversity of the genus Homo was impressive. We had Homo sapiens (modern man), Homo floresiensis (the tiny hominin from the island of Flores in Indonesia) the famous Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man), and the new species dubbed Hominin X.

The Altai Mountains are supposedly inhabited by a hairy wildman. It is tall, agile, muscular and primitive. It has no fire and only basic tool use, wielding clubs or hurling rocks. It feeds on berries, roots, vegetation and a wide assortment of animals from rodents to cattle. Despite its titanic strength, the creature is said to be unaggressive unless provoked. The same creature is reported widely across the former USSR and surrounding countries.

It is know mainly as the almasty, but in other areas it is called almas, albasy, dev or gul. It is smaller and more human in its appearance than the yeti or sasquatch but larger and more muscular than a man. It is generally thought to be of the genus homo rather than a pongid. Records of it go back hundreds of years in Central Asia and it was included it catalogues of local wildlife.

Russian scientists took the almasty so seriously that in the 1950s a special committee of leading Soviet scientists was formed to study them. Their HQ was at the Darwin Museum in Moscow.

The highly respected Ukrainian biologist Grigory Panchenko has had several encounters with the creature, including one in a barn where, whilst he was hidden, he observed the creature from only ten feet away. It was detailed in Dimitry Baynov’s book In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman. Some years later I read about his long-term work in the Caucasus Mountains and the fact that there were many reports from the Kabardino-Balkaria part of the range. Panchenko believed that the population of almasty was increasing in the area.

We invited Grigory over to speak on the cryptozoology of the Caucasus at 2007’s Weird Weekend. Grigory had a vast amount of information, most of which had never been aired in the west. As well as hominids, giant black snakes up to ten metres long had for centuries been reported from the area. His talk proved to be one of the highlights of the conference. Between us we arranged an expedition for June/ July of 2008 - Grigory and his colleagues would be in the field for 2 weeks prior to the CFZ team arriving.

Myself, Dr Chris Clark, Adam Davies, Dave Archer and Keith Townley joined Grigory and two archaeologists, Alexey Ahokhov and Anatoly Sidorenko. We made our camp in a small valley in an area of the Caucasus Mountains known as White Rock. When the road was first cut into this area of the Caucasus in 2000, the workmen sliced through many ancient tombs on the way. Around 1000 tombs are scattered around the area and many, bisected by roads, now spill their contents to the ground. Dozens of human bones and skulls were just sticking out of banks all around us. The remains were of Sarmatian people who originated in north Iran. The nobles were buried in cliff faces and slaves in the lower areas, and the tombs dated from the 3rd to the 7th Centuries. White Rock itself rose, cloud-festooned and sheer above our camp. Behind it was a range of ragged mountains called ‘The Step-mother’s Teeth.’

Anatoly told us of his own encounter with an almasty in the 1980s. He was staking out an abandoned farmhouse near Neutrino. From a hiding place he saw a specimen pass by at only 4 metres away. It was under 2 metres tall but powerfully built. It had grey hair ‘the colour of a poplar tree’s bark.’ Its head was domed with a sagittal crest, and its nose was human-like but smaller. It had no chin, and a thick, short neck. It swung its long arms as it walked.

Grigory had extensive files on the almasty and he shared some of the more unusual stories with us. One story involved a farmer whose savage Caucasus shepherd dogs were going wild. On opening the door of his house he was alarmed to find a young almasty apparently trying to escape the dogs. It punched the man in the shoulder and knocked him down. The creature ran away, pursued by the dogs. The hounds later returned with blood on their fangs.

On another occasion an adult almasty approached a house and was attacked by a big dog, which was bludgeoned to death by a club used by the almasty, which then entered the house and stole a large Balkarian cheese.

The strength of the almasty far exceeds that of any modern human. On one occasion, one was observed fighting a bear - the almasty punched the bear, which tumbled over and then retreated. Grigory thinks it was a young bear, as an adult male would be more than a match even for an almasty. Indeed, almasty hair has been found in bear droppings in the Pamir Mountains. He has also been told of almasty remains from a specimen killed by wolves.
One man saw an almasty close to his house and as he was worried about it stealing food he threw a stone at it. The almasty retreated behind the house and soon after, a huge rock was hurled right over the house, narrowly missing the man. In the morning it took two large men to lift the rock.

Another man struck an almasty that had entered his house and the creature hit him back and knocked him fully 15 feet.

We explored the surrounding forests, caves and mountains, leaving out camera traps. Unfortunately all they captured was moving vegetation.

We moved on to the Elbrus area to investigate the story of a dead almasty preserved under a rockfall on Mount Kashkatash. After an extensive search during which I nearly fell to my death on three occasions, we uncovered nothing and it later became apparent the story was a red herring.

We spoke with a man of 85 in a local village whose father had seen an almasty in the 1890s. The old man recounted what his father had told him. It had been around noon and he had opened a door into a room in part of the house were the ceiling had collapsed. He saw a young almasty sitting in a chair. It seemed to be basking in the rays of the sun that fell through the roof. It was covered with hair. The hair on the face was reddish, and it had long, fine hair on its head. The eyes were red but the old man thought his father had meant red-veined rather than glowing red. The creature threw its head forward and the long hair fell in front of its face. The witness quickly shut the door and retreated.

Later we talked to a man of about 30 named Tahir, who was the vice president of Elbrus National Park and a doctor of Geographical Science. He told us that three years ago, whilst hunting for some lost sheep, he had encountered a big almasty. He had been walking through a sparsely wooded area at twilight when he saw what he thought was a cow lying down. Then the ‘cow’ stood up revealing itself to be a tall man-like figure. Thinking it was a human (the figure was in silhouette), he asked in Balkarian if he had seen any sheep pass by. When no answer was forthcoming he asked the same question in Russian. Still there was no answer. As he drew closer he saw that it possessed a high, dome-shaped skull. Then he realised that it was an almasty. He decided to fetch his uncle to show him the creature. Looking back, he saw the almasty walking off into the hills. By the time he returned with his uncle it had gone.

Our next port of call was the village of Neutrino. About three miles outside of the village was an abandoned farmhouse. It was the building were Anatoly had his almasty sighting back in the 1980s. In 2005 it was the scene of a very close almasty encounter. Three shepherds had been using it as a place in which to have a drink when the door to the verandah opened and a big male almasty walked in. It picked the nearest shepherd up and gently put him to one side before leaping off the verandah.

We examined some caves in the daytime and came across old bones but they seemed to be from modern humans.

The team staked out the farm for several nights. On the first night Anatoly said he had heard a male almasty vocalising to attract a mate. Adam had heard some weird crashing noises but no one had seen anything. The camera traps they had set up around the farm and its out-buildings revealed nothing but branches and grass moved by the wind.

We took a dangerous hike into the mountains the next day, up to the snow line but found no evidence. Chris and I were nearly washed away in rapids. We later met with several local farmers who said there were wolves, bears and almasty in the area.

On the second night Anatoly, Dave, Adam and I did a stakeout at the abandoned farm. The building consisted of three rooms, two of which were locked. Around this in an ‘L’ shape ran a veranda with a door at one end.

The main building was surrounded by other smaller out-buildings.

We set up camera traps in four different locations around the grounds of the farm. Anatoly brewed up red wine and honey on an old stove in the hope the smell would attract the creature. We also laid out bread and honey.

We all took up posts in various places on the veranda as night fell. The hours seemed to go quickly as I sat staring out into the darkness, listening for the slightest sound. Around 10.30 at night something made a bird-like twittering noise. Shortly afterwards one of the camera traps fired. The almasty is said to make a twittering sound - one of the specimens Grigory saw was making such a noise. Anatoly went out to investigate and did not return.

Dave fell asleep on one of the manky beds in the open room. Adam and I sat on the other one listening intently. A lull in activity was supposed to occur around midnight to 3 o’clock in the morning, hence Adam and I had entered the room to warm ourselves around an old stove. The 7-foot door of the room was open an inch or two and starlight from the clear night was pouring in. At around 2.30 in the morning Adam and I heard a deep, guttural vocalisation; the nearest phonetically that I can write this is ‘bub-ub-bub-bub.’

“Did you hear that?” I whispered.

Adam nodded solemnly.

Shortly after, something passed by the door, blocking out the light momentarily. Whatever it was, it stood on two legs and was large enough put the 7-foot door in the shade. It seemed to be walking along the veranda.

“Did you see that?” I asked

“Something is on the veranda,” said Adam.

Adam and I grabbed our digital cameras and rushed out to find only darkness and silence. We did a circuit of the building with our torches but found nothing. Did an almasty pass by us only 12 feet away on the veranda? I don’t know. If it did, it was as fast and silent as a cat. But something on two legs blocked out a slit of starlight 7 feet tall only seconds after the weird vocalisation.

At first light we looked for Anatoly. We were worried that he might have fallen in the dark and hurt himself, or even been attacked by a bear. We found him asleep in one of the out-buildings. We took the camera traps back to the flat and downloaded the images onto Alexey’s laptop. They showed sunrise, sunset and branches moved by wind.

Later we set off to explore a series of shallow caves in the high mountains. We found some hair and a lot of dung. Grigory also unearthed what may have been finger bones. We carefully bagged all the material

We visited Elbrus village again on the track of eyewitnesses. Grigory was hoping to track down the shepherd who had been lifted up by the almasty in the old farm in 2005. We found out that this man was away at a funeral and wake for several days, but we did find and interview some other witnesses.

One old man called Bahua Tilov had seen almastys on several occasions since the 1970s. The first time was whilst he was working in irrigation near Neutrino. He saw a large black almasty with two smaller grey-coloured ones sitting amongst the rocks. As he approached, the trio of beasts retreated. Another time he was with two German tourists when they saw a large male almasty walking into an abandoned house. It turned and scowled at them. The Germans were too afraid to take pictures or follow it into the house.

Rumagha Kulmesov and his wife were a delightful couple who invited us into their house and gave us tea, bread, cheese and delicious homemade yogurt. Rumagha had seen a juvenile almasty in his back yard only 2 years before. One night someone threw a pebble at his window. Thinking it was his son come to visit he called out telling him that the door was open. There was no answer but sometime later someone knocked at the window. On investigation he saw what he at first thought was a sack of wool in the corner of the yard. Then he realised it was a young almasty. He didn’t get a good look at the face but he said it was hair-covered with pale, human-like hands. It made gestures as if it wanted food. Rumagha brought it some bread, which it took. It then made gestures that Rumagha interpreted as meaning that it had a friend who also wanted food. He brought a second piece of bread and left it in the yard. He saw the shadow of the first almasty leaving then he went back inside. In the morning, the second piece of bread was gone.

Rumagha’s wife saw an almasty in 1955 at the age of 14. She and her family had been deported to Kazakhstan. She had been invited to a relative’s house. Upon arriving there, she found a number of children huddled in a corner crying. When she enquired what was the matter one of them told her to peek out of the wooden shutters that covered the glassless window.

In the yard was a weird creature slightly taller than herself. From her vantage point, peeking through a crack, she could not see its legs. The upper part was covered with hair. The hair hung down obscuring the face, chest and upper arms. The description put me in mind of ‘Cousin It’ from The Addams Family. It was slowly moving its arms up and down in a manner of a child imitating a bird, and it made a whistling noise like one too. From time to time it paused to pick up mud and sling it at the wall and shutters. It was still there when she left sometime later. She found it odd that such a ‘crazy topic’ could be of interest to us.

We had heard a recent story concerning a derelict restaurant. A scant few days before, a group of armed police were camping there, but when the night air was rent by inhuman screams they fled. We, armed only with cameras, decided to stay there for the night.

The restaurant had been built on the lines of a Balkarian castle. It had a 45-foot tower, battlements, circular gardens and many out-buildings. All were built from great blocks of stone. It fell into disuse in the 1980s, which was a shame because in its day it must have been spectacular. If someone had the time and money to do it up it could be a glorious attraction even today.

As it is, it is inhabited only by cows and bats. Most of the rooms were covered in cow dung and we had to search for a relatively clean area to sleep. As the sun set we set up cameras and a campfire. We put out bait and waited. It was a spooky venue worthy of Hammer Horror, Dr Who, or Scooby Doo.

We took turns on watch, waiting for something to come lumbering out of the woods behind the buildings or for a wild scream to pierce the darkness. Nothing came. The camera traps picked up only bats.

On the way back to the airport we passed from the Balkarian and into the Karbodinian region. We passed through an area called Bidick, rich in unexplored caves – it is this area that Anatoly and Grigory were thinking about for a future expedition.

So what is the almasty? I believe it exists; both Grigory and Anatoly have seen it. It seems smaller and more man-like than the classic yeti or sasquatch. Grigory thinks it may be a surviving strain of Homo erectus. As far as I know, however, no fossil skulls of this species show the distinctive ‘domed’ shape. The almasty could, of course, be a descendent of Homo erectus. This species begat many others such as Homo heidlebergensis, Homo floresensis, Neanderthals and modern man; why could it not have another descendent; big, powerful and adapted for forest- and mountain-dwelling?

The new ‘Hominin X’ may prove to be the almasty or its ancestor. Kabardino-Balkaria is a unique place. The almasty population is on the increase and it seems they are willing to approach human habitation on occasion. There seems a good chance of habituating one and getting conclusive evidence here more than anywhere else. If I can secure funding I want to return to this area and continue the research in the hope of one day coming face to face with mankind’s ‘older brother’.


Another one from the archives. This was written in 1998 for Devon Life magazine....

The most well known image of the Outlaw Biker is still that of Marlon Brando in "The Wild Ones" (1954) - a rugged individualist or a leather clad thug depending on your viewpoint. Whichever way you decide to picture them one does not usually associate bikers with screaming hysteria but when Oakhampton based rider Stephen Johnston phoned us he sounded almost incoherent with fear!

He had been travelling home from seeing a girlfriend on the night of Febuary 18, 1998. Riding along the along a lonely Dartmoor lane at approximately 1.45 a.m he noticed something on the road ahead.

“At first I thought it was a patch of fog but as I drew closer I saw a light shining out of what seemed to be a billowing cloud”...

Steve assumed that another bike was driving the opposite way down the tiny Devon road and was partially hidden from him by the mist. However, both the ruddy light, and its surrounding vapour apeared to be moving together. A sudden feeling of panic overwhelmed him and he swerved to avoid the oncoming “thing”...

“The light seemed more like an eye” he told us later, “and although I couldn’t see a body behind “it” as if “it” looked at me”. Steve found himself caught up in the miasma and likened the sensation to being draped in a cold damp blanket. “I found myself being weighed down like I was walking through syrup” he continued. “There was a high pitched whining sound like that made by an excited dog but far more shrill and accompanied by a clattering noise. Looking sideways I saw several objects extend rapidly from the opaque cloud and strike the road repeatedly. At first they looked like horses hooves but I soon realized that they were cloven hooves like those of a goat, only far larger....”

The terrified biker also noticed a stomach churning smell that he likened to “an open grave”.He told us that “it” left the immpression of being one large entity rather than a parade of things. Within seconds the “thing” had gone, seeming to disregard the shaking man. Looking back, he saw “it” moving quickly up the road extending tendrils of fog before it as if it was groping for something along the roadside. Driving home in shock, Steve found the cadaver like stench seemed to linger in his nostrils for several hours.

Unsuprisingly Steve Johnson no longer drives along this road after night fall.

It so happened that the night that Steve Johnson reported his experience to us, Richard was still at University in Leeds, Jon was visiting a girlfriend in London, and Graham was the only person on duty. This is HIS account of what happened next!

Steve is a pretty down-to-earth person, more interested in mechanics on his motor bike than in the supernatural or in ritualistic activity. When he phoned me in the early hours, sounding pretty shaken, and referring to ‘something bad having happened on his way home’ I thought he’d crashed his machine or perhaps hit a pedestrian. As he’s a decent sort of bloke, and obviously in some sort of trouble, I was prepared to listen. I settled more comfortably in my seat and calmly asked him what was up.

He laughed harshly and told me agitatedly that he had no idea. “Yeah, very helpful”, I reflected, while wondering how tactfully to ask if he was “on” something - ie under the influence of alchohol, or even something more exotic. I asked Steve where he had been, partly to try to get some tangible information and partly to give him a moment to calm down. It took me a couple of minutes to understand where he’d been, and where he was now - because his replies were rather confused. Gradually, however, he described some of what he had seen.

After I realised that I was basically hearing an account of an apparently-supernatural phenomenon, I felt I should adopt a more investigative role. After all, I wasn’t counselling a traffic accident victim, as I’d first imagined. During our conversation, however, the information was all jumbled up It - perhaps belatedly - occurred to me that, supernatural or not, the event had clearly shocked him, and that, since he was a friend, I should go easy. So we just chatted for a while, during which it emerged that he hadn’t taken any mind-altering substances - other than a couple of pints of beer, and that he’d rung me partly because I was a mate but mainly because, knowing I was ‘into’ that sort of weird stuff, he thought I might have an explanantion. (I didn’t.)

Steve did keep back-tracking to his ‘event’ however, as if he kept suddenly remembering particular impressions. The information, when organised chronologically, essentially matched the more lucid description he gave us two days later.

When we did meet, and he’d given his account of the encounter, I asked him if we could use the story in the future. He agreed, and I asked him if he wanted anonymity. He mused over this for a moment, and then shrugged. “It happened,” he said flatly. “And I’m not chairman of I.C.I., am I, so what the hell...?”


Kelly McGillis from Canada, a stalwart of the forteana email list and friend and supporter of both the CFZ and this blog, has died of cancer.

She was an internet friend of mine for the last 13 years, and kept me going on a number of occasions with sage advice. The Internet will not be the same without her.

Goodbye, my dear.

LINDSAY SELBY: Lake monsters in Charleston Provincial Park?

Charleston Lake is situated in Canada 30miles north of Kingston. It is approximately 9 miles long and about 4 miles wide with a depth of over 450 feet( 150 metres) in some places. There is said to be a strange creature living in the lake nicknamed Charlie by the residents. It has been recorded as being seen for over 100 years.

  • In 1897 Noah Shook claimed he was pursued by a large, hissing creature.
  • In 1947 three fisherman reported that they had seen a dinosaur type creature swimming in Tallow Bay Rock.
  • In 1994, Mr. H while visiting the place his father’s ashes were scattered on the lake , saw what he described as being a large rain slick in the water. "I had never seen any thing in the like that before" he said.
  • In 1997, a couple travelling at night claimed they saw waves that were 3 to 4 feet high, caused by something in the water. There wasn’t any wind and the water was calm and there were no boats in the area.
  • Charlie is not the only strange creature in the area:
  • There have also been reports of a snake like creature, living in Red Horse Lake located in nearby Lyndhurst. The creature is said to be greenish black, a head like a horse with small breathing tubes on its head and it about 60(20 metres) to 80 feet ( 26 metres) long.
  • Fisherman have reported seeing a long black body in the water

In the 1970s, an unnamed woman , said she was leaning over her small row boat in order to grab a bullfrog for her pond when a creature "just popped its head right out of the water and looked at me!" The woman screamed from fright and the creature dived beneath the water leaving foaming bubbles. The woman left immediately.

Both lakes are in The Charleston Provincial Park. The park also provides habitat for the rare black rat snake which is also the largest snake found in the area. The Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta) sometimes called a pilot black snake is a non-venomous species . It prefers wooded areas and is known for having the ability to climb the trunk of large mature trees . It is known to reach lengths of 8 feet( 2.6 metres) but one was found that was 9.1 (3metres) feet long.

Now what if it fell from a tree into a lake? That would explain the hissing creature that chased Mr Shook all those years ago. It may also account for some of the other sightings but not all of them. Just a thought for Friday..


Over on her blog, Kithra takes a look at the latest offering from our very own Nick Redfern, Pelsall's Mr Entertainment:

'After many problems with the US post office the copy of Nick Redfern’s book “Contactees: A History of Alien-Human Interaction,” that he so very kindly sent me, finally arrived; and I’ve just finished reading it. I have no expertise in doing a book review so these are just my thoughts; the things that occurred to me as I was reading. I began by sending Nick my thoughts and he suggested that I do a Blog Post, so here it is. Those familiar with the articles on my website will know that I like to take a rather unconventional angle on things.'

Read on...

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1997 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed mass suicide when the Hale-Bopp comet was at its brightest, believing that by doing so they would be able to transcend this level of existence while the Earth was being ‘recycled.’ The group’s leader told the cult members that there was a UFO travelling behind the comet that would pick up their souls. Each member was found with $5 and three quarters in their pocket, which was thought to be their fare for the UFO. Quite how the members of the group were convinced that the aliens would be satisfied with a fare that works out cheaper than the Woolsery to Barnstaple return bus-fare in currency from a planet was supposedly about to be destroyed, is unknown.

And now, the news:

Gorillas Could Disappear in 15 Years, UN Agency Wa...
DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'
Fossil finger points to new human species
Meet Digit, the new type of human
Pig power and choosy chimps

What is a pig’s favourite band?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Today I am continuing my look through Ash and Lake`s Bizarre Books to see what they have included. My last blog ended with New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers. Today, the first entry is:

Ants and Some Other Insects: an Enquiry into the Psychic Power of These Animals (1904) by Auguste Henri Forel (trans. William Morton Wheeler) (1)

Fish who Answer the Telephone (1937) by Yuri Petrovich Frolov (So that was the strange noise on the phone the other day, Graham!)

“A technological breakthrough that was never fully expoited….” (2)

Did a Hen or an Egg Exist First? Or, My Talks with a Sceptic (1892) by Jacob Horner (3) This book is available on abebooks.co.uk for £8.45 not including postage

Favourite Flies and Their Histories (1955) by Mary Orvis Marbury.(4)

Ho, ho, how very droll! I presume this refers to fishermens flies? This is also available on abebooks.co.uk for £17.25 but a 1988 reprint

Carrots Love Tomatoes (1981) by Louise Riotte (5) £1.34 abebooks

The Longevity of Starved Cockroaches (1982) by Edwin R Willis and Norma Lewis (6)

Here ends Richard`s list of bizarre books on beasts. The book these three blogs has been based upon has been superseded by Fish Who Answer The Telephone and Other Bizarre Books by the same authors (2006)

1.R. Ash and B.Lake Bizarre Books (1987) p.71
2. Ibid p.72
3. Ibid. p.73
4. ibid. p.73
5. Ibid p.74
6.Ibid p.76

And in honour of Jon`s return...


Big a little a bouncing b
The system might have got you but it won`t get me

1 2 3 4

External control are you going to let them get you?
Do you wanna be a prisoner in the boundaries they set you?
You say you want to be yourself By…do you think they`ll let you?...

RICHARD FREEMAN: Tajikstan expedition

Our old friend Dr Chris Clark is planning an expedition into a very remote part of Tajikistan in early July of this year in search of the almasty, the central Asian wildman.

He plans to travel by helicopter to the area in question. This, however, will cost around $6000! He is looking for people interested in joining him on the expedition, in order to share the cost of the helicopter. If anyone is interested in joining Chris, please contact him on this e-mail:



I am very pleased to announce that Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal, the long awaited anthology of writings by one of my favourite Fortean writers, Andy Roberts, is finally available.

It contains a wide cross-section of his writings on subjects as diverse as UFOs, cover-ups, politics, rock music, and my own personal favourite, hidden archaeology, not to mention the terrifying Am Fear Liath Mor: the big grey man of Ben McDhui.

It is a bloody good book and I am very proud that we are publishing it.


We have been back for nearly 48 hours now, and it really doesn't seem like it. Somehow the events of the last few weeks seem almost dream-like, and we are back in England; land of rain, mist and New Labour. However, despite the raft of shite that was awaiting us upon our return, it is good to be home.

I am back doing the blogs again each day, and I would like to thank Graham, Lizwiz and everyone else who has filled in so stalwartly while we were away. However, my body and psyche are still hopping the time zones, so I will be leaving the posting each morning to Graham, and will not be taking up full reins until next week, and even then I shall be joined by Max Blake, the young tyro who even the detractors of the CFZ seem to admire.


I subscribe to a Usenet newsgroup called `Old Hongkong` which once in a blue moon distributes pictures of the erstwhile Crown Colony between the wars. I am collecting these for a project that Richard Muirhead and I have been working on since about 1992.

Whilst on the subject, if you have any old (pre-1970) pictures of Hong Kong, especially of the Mount Austen area, the gardens at the top of Victoria Peak, Peak Mansions (the large white apartment block with the green domes on the roof next to the old Peak Tram upper terminus) or Pokfulam Road, please can you get in touch? with me.

It was the peculiar fauna of Hong Kong which first got both Richard and me interested in things cryptozoological as children (remember, we have known each other about 40 years) and we have been working on a book about the cryptozoological aspects of the area, mixed with a memoir of our shared childhoods, for nearly half that time.

But back to the story.

Usually, however, the afore-mentioned newsgroup sends out nothing but soft porn with amusingly illiterate captions, and adverts for foreign currency exchange. However, occasionally it sends out something massively peculiar - like this.

I have seen photographs of people in cages swimming with sharks before but never of anyone swimming with crocodiles. I reprint them for no other reason than that they are peculiar.

The caption, by the way, reads:

Swimming With Crocodiles - South Africa

Kerry who is also a South African media executive said, "I was a little nervous but very excited to get into the water," "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a chance I didn't want to miss out on", admitting that she checked the cage door was locked before going into the pool. So, who's next?? "

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

On this day in 1920 Patrick Troughton was born. Troughton was best known for his role as the second incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who. When deciding how to play the role, one of suggestions was that he could play the Doctor as a piratical sea captain in blackface wearing a turban. Because that would have been truly cringe-worthy to watch, and rather offensive if the shows were to be repeated in the modern day, we are very lucky that the idea of playing the role as a ‘cosmic hobo’ was suggested instead, which made Troughton’s Doctor one of the most memorable incarnations.

And now, the news:

Tyrannosaurus Rex takes a power shower
Dinosaur Buried Alive 185 Million Years Ago Uncovered in Utah
Beetle 'world's strongest insect'
New Bird Species Picked Out by its Eyes
Mystery Monkey Takes a Dip in Florida
Cro Magnon skull shows that our brains have shrunk

At first glance that’s nothing to ‘cro’ about but I think it provides good evidence that humans have evolved more efficient brains that can work better for the things we need them for and take up less demand on resources.