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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Sunday, February 07, 2010

MIKE HALLOWELL: The story of Mr Lumsden and the linnet's nest

Mr Lumsden had a very exciting job. He was a block maker, which, one presumes, involved the taking of things that were not blocks and fashioning them into things that were. How he contained his excitement is beyond me.

Now, Mr Lumsden operated from a yard in Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, which, I must state, is not exactly within the province of Geordieland. It's just outside of it, actually, by a distance of three miles or so. (The image on the left shows the present location of what was once Lumsden's yard).

But we will not quibble. The story I am about to relate is of too great importance to be vetoed by such a short distance. They yard used to stand on the site of what is now St. Peter's Basin on the north bank of the River Wear. If only people knew that what now houses a university campus should really be a holy place of pilgrimage for followers of Forteana.

Mr Lumsden went into his yard one morning - Wednesday May 5, 1852, to be precise, which was just two weeks before the Taiping Rebellion in China, although this is completely irrelevant - to make some blocks. He decided to fashion them from wood, possibly because previous attempts to make them from blancmange had been abysmal failures. He settled upon what Fordyce's Historical Register describes as, 'a solid log of English elm', and got to work with his saw.

It was at this juncture that A Very Strange Thing Happened. Lumsden had started sawing under the reasonable presumption that the log comprised of wood on the Top Bit, wood in the Middle Bit and wood on the Bottom Bit. Not so. The Top Bit and the Bottom Bit were perfectly wooden, but the Middle Bit had been entirely supplanted by something not normally found in tree trunks; to wit, 'a green linnet's nest.'

This puzzled old Lumsden somewhat as he was used to seeing nests resting upon trees, not inside them. The nest was, he later told the press, "in a good state of repair, containing moss, grass and other materials."

I can only think of two logical explanations for the presence of a green linnet's nest inside a log of elm. Firstly, it is possible that the linnets that built the nest decided to place it inside the trunk for a laugh. How they may have set about accomplishing this is anybody's business.

Secondly, it is possible that the elm tree had a sudden growth spurt overnight and grew around the nest before dawn. This begs a further question, of course: why weren't Mr Linnet, Mrs Linnet and all the little Linnets also inside the nest when Lumsden discovered it?

Blogophiles are aware that The Geordie Paranormalizer tends to make light of such things, I know; but the story is true. If anyone out there can offer a truly rational explanation for this enigma I'd love to hear it.


Kithra, as always in there with interesting crypto news, writes:

'It seems that everybody is blogging about the latest apparent Bigfoot sighting taken with a thermal video camera last year by Mike Green.'

Read On


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.


Along with building dinosaurs and monsters as a kid, I also had a fascination for animals and wildlife. In retrospect, I suppose that in many respects, the two were somewhat connected. I had a large, disused aquarium in my parent's garden, in which I kept various amphibians; and at one time, a grass snake. I had quite a collection of frogs and toads, and I remember one gigantic toad that I had to hold with both hands, because it was so enormous, and it was pretty grotesque watching it eat live insects-- although I have to confess that it was sort of interesting as well.

Regular blog readers might recall my post concerning the expedition that I read about in the Sunday papers in the 1970s, that had travelled to some unexplored jungle region--it might have been South America--and killed a monstrous spider. The explorers also experienced a huge frog that could roll down hill to escape predators. There's nothing about it in this article, but does anyone out there possess knowledge or information about such a creature?

LINDSAY SELBY: Florida River Monster

Florida is often said to be a place of high strangeness with sightings of the Skunk Ape etc. There is also a story a bout a river monster.

Between 1955 and 1961 there were reports in Florida newspapers of a creature in the St. Johns River. The reports came from a variety of people: from fishermen who made their living there and from visitors and new residents. They all reported seeing a large creature but some said it was like a dinosaur; some, like a giant manatee. Most sightings occurred between Astor Park and Lake Monroe, the majority at Blue Spring (this is important to note; you will see why at the end of the posting).

One Lake County man claimed to have seen the monster on land, grazing on plants. He reported that the monster left a beaten-down path through the bushes. The animal's skin was described as elephant-like and grey-coloured. Two bass fisherman claimed that the monster had almost tipped over their boat.

In 1975 five people in a fishing boat were frightened on the morning of May 10 on St. Johns River near Jacksonville. They claimed to have seen a dragon-like creature that reared its head from the river then disappeared into the deep water. It was described as having a head like a giant snail, with two horns. This is the testimony of two of them:

“We saw it had a neck about 3 feet long,” Mrs. Dorothy Abram reported. “It had two little horns on top of the head like a snail.” She described the head as about the size of a human head. Mrs. Brenda Langley had a better view of the creature than Mrs. Abram had. “It was about three or four feet out of the water and about the color - a pinkish color - like boiled shrimp,” she said. “It had a real ugly looking face on it. It had snail like horns, and it had this little jagged thing going down its back. ...The head turned on it. It just turned and looked around at us.”

It is not the first story about strange marine creatures in that area. In 1885 a ship's anchor brought up the carcass of a long-necked creature that resembled an extinct plesiosaur, from the New River Inlet. It may have been the corpse of a basking shark or it may have been an unknown creature. There was no DNA testing in those days. There is apparently an 1891 newspaper report of a sea serpent chasing bathers from the ocean on Jacksonville beach (I couldn’t trace it, unfortunately). The creature was reported to have had a dog-like head and a long thin neck. There is also another story, but it may be an urban myth, said to be reported by some scuba divers in 1962, off the Gulf coast near Pensacola. A monster apparently attacked the divers and overturned their boat, and supposedly killed all but one of the men. The surviving victim claimed that the creature had a long, ten-foot neck (3.3 metres) like a telephone pole. The head had small eyes, but a very wide mouth and whipped about like a large snake.

Before we get over-excited I should point out that the largest spring on the St. Johns River, Blue Spring, is a Manatee Refuge and the winter home to a population of West Indian Manatees. So some sightings could be manatees as often people don’t realise how big they can be or what they really look like. What is interesting is that the 1975 description said it had horns. There have been lots of other sightings, including in Loch Ness, where people mention horns or eyes on stalks. The colour is also intriguing - bright red/pink - and I am sure someone can come up with a list of marine creatures that colour that could be responsible for a misidentification. Something to spend your Sunday afternoon researching if you are bored!


New Horizons, the fourth volume of reprints of Animals & Men, the journal of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, is in production now. It will be published in the next few weeks.

Although the magazines are reproduced largely in fascimile, formatting errors inherent in the original productions (and which have been copied in all reprints to date) have been fixed, so for the first time you can read them the way that they were intended to be read.

The original versions of these five issues (Spring 1998 to summer 1999) were particularly badly formatted, mainly due to the boys of the CFZ not knowing how to use their new PC, and so it is good to have these errors fixed at last.

The volume also includes an essay by Richard Freeman about his early days at the CFZ, and explanatory notes for each volume by Jon Downes, placing them into historical perspective.

It will be £12.50 plus postage and packing. However, if you pre-order here and pay using paypal at the special low price of a tenner, you will receive it - post free - in early March.

Bloody Hell, Jon you must be bonkers to give us such an amazing bargain. Of course, I will take advantage of this fantastic offer. Wow!

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1692 William Griggs, a doctor in Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay colony in what would later become the United States of America, suggested that two girls may be suffering from bewitchment, leading to the Salem witch trials. Also on this day in 1855 ‘the devil’s footprints’ appeared in South Devon.
And now, the news:

Dead duck sprayed gold and impaled on post for macabre artwork
Was it a cougar? Sightings hard to confirm
HerpDigest.org Volume # 10 Issue # 6 - 2/5/10
Starlings swarm over Poole

Q: What’s a birds favourite part of the news?
A: The ‘feather’ forecast.


The three books that we are presently working on have reached somewhat of a state of impasse. The nearest to being completed is Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal, by Andy Roberts. Corinna is just going through the final proofs.

Carl Portman's delightful A Daintree Diary is now also at the final proof stage, but on this occasion it is Carl who is checking them, and we have just generated the first proof of Richard Freeman's The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia, which is being looked at by the man himslf.

We have a draft Weird Weekend programme that we shall be releasing in the next few days. However, there are still two or three big holes in it as we are awaiting confirmation from some of our most eagerly awaited guests.

So stuff is ongoing, and as always we will tell you what we are doing as and when we know ourselves. And in the meantime, in Woolsery at least, winter is nearly over....


RICHARD F. WRITES: Nicely animated, though I can't recall a castle in Mawnan Smith.