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, May 11, 2010

RICHARD FREEMAN: Giant deep-sea jellyfish filmed

Karl Shuker related the story of a massive jellyfish that almost sank a ship. Giant jellyfish are among the least known of all sea monsters. Now a massive jellyfish (though not quite as big as Karl’s monster) has been filmed with a deep-sea camera. Read on


Today I am continuing my look at oddities from Cheshire`s folklore and natural history, starting with the lamprey:

Lampreys, still common in most of our rivers and streams, were once very popular as food and were fried in butter, just like eels. They are strange, over-simplified fish, with no ribs, scales or even proper fins. In place of jaws, they have powerful sucker mouths which are used to latch onto other fish or mossy stones. Our three species are known officially as the sea lamprey, the lampern and the brook lamprey, but I have come across a confusing variety of local names, such as lampon, ninny-nine holes, blood suckers, silver eels, and sand pride… (1)

Later, the author Roger Stephens, has a chapter called The Secret of Rostherne Mere in which he says:

Each of the Cheshire Mere`s, if we are to believe the old tales, has its own secret. At Combermere, they say, huge pike used to be caught at one particular corner of the lake. Nobody knew why until one day, a half-eaten human corpse was pulled out from that spot. A footman from the Abbey, suffering from unrequited love, had gone down to the mere and drowned himself. Other meres are cluttered with submerged churches and sunken bells, and populated with mermaids, water-fairies and magical fishes, none of which have ever been landed by anglers…However, Rostherne Mere does have (if, as I fervently hope, it still survives) a secret resident. It may not attract so many tourists as Nessie, but it does, at least, have the virtue of being a real creature. The earliest reports of its existence come from the mid-17th century, but it has probably been swimming around down there since the last glacial age retreated. There is just one problem: it has not been seen since 1922…Freshwater smelt are found in many Scandanavian lakesand rivers but, in Great Britain, Rostherne`s smelt are unique. The earliest written reference to them is in Ray`s De Historia Piscium (1686), in which he quotes information sent to him by a Knutsford man, Robert Thorley, who had eaten a few in his time: “Ten or even twenty fish are caught at one hand of the seine. At the same time as the catches in the lake, or a little earlier, these fish are caught in the salt water below the bridge at Warrington in the River Mersey, which is tidal, seven or eight miles below the lake. Although those who buy a license fish the lake whenever the weather is suitable, they never catch these sparlings except at this particular date.”…(2)

Stephens, speculating on how the smelt got into the mere, comments:

Looking at the map, there does seem to be a swimmable route from the Mersey; centuries before the flour mills and weirs were built, they may have followed the Bollin, the Birkin and entered the mere from Blackburn`s Brook. Another view is that the sea, which long ago lapped against the cliffs at Beeston and Peckforton, left the smelt as a parting gift before it retreated. Some of the locals still hold to a less scientific view: that an underground tunnel links the mere with the sea, which would provide a route in and out for the sparlings, not to mention the mermaid (3)

Now to mammals: 'There is an obscure 19th century reference to a wild cat trapped in Delamere Forest [Central Cheshire. I now have Stephens`s contact details and I will ask him about this-R] which may be genuine, since they survived in parts of Wales until 1864. On the other hand, there were lots of feral tabbies around. Harry Neilson, writing in 1935, recalled finding nests of kittens in the undergrowth on the Wirral heaths; they would spit and claw before their eyes were open, just like the pure bread wild ones. (4)

Passing on to newts: concerning a place called Asker Meadow: A meadow with a pit where newts (or yellow bellied askers) are found. In the days when Cheshire was still dotted with peat bogs and mosses (we had 28 square miles of them 200 years ago) the folk who dwelt on them were known as yellow bellies- not for their cowardice, but for their supposedly amphibious lifestyle. The word asker, incidentally, derives from the Old English aôexe. However, an old woman from Northwich had another theory. Newts used to daddle into her cottage and rear up on their hind legs as if asking us for food [was it a slug then? Except slugs don`t have legs-R] Perhaps, she reasoned, they are called askers because they ask us. But are they really begging for food? Topsell wrote, in 1608, that “being moved to anger, it standeth upon the hinder legs and looketh directly in the face of him that hath stirred it “ and that “there is nothing in nature that so much offendeth it as salt. “ A newt that that has been hibernating in some crevice in the salty earth of Northwich must, therefore, be in a pretty radgy mood, so don`t get too close-they can spit fire you know!”(5)

Finally, in the vicinity of Beeston Castle, around 1882, were said to dwell “...now and then a timid sheep rushes out from some shaddy nook and gazes wonderingly at us as we go by. The turf in places is short and slippery, for the rabbits keep it closely cropped...A pair of kangaroos are disporting themselves among the moss-grown fragments, and a few deer are quietly browsing upon the green turf; but there is…”

Hang on. What was that about kangaroos? Must go and do some more research! (6) {I would concur!_R]

1. R.Stephens The Boom of the Bitterbump(2003) pp 74-75
2. Ibid p.100-101
3. Ibid p. 102
4. Ibid p. 31
5. Ibid p.143
6. Ibid p.155

The Beatles Strawberry Fields Forever

Let me take you down `cause I`m going to
Strawberry Fields,
Nothing is real,
And nothing to get hung about,
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It`s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out,
It doesn`t matter much to me


The other night Graham and I sat up with Dave B-P using Spotify to play songs from our mis-spent youth. That is not actually that unusual occurence, but on this occasion there was actually a reason for it. David leaves college at the end of the current term, but is going back to his old school for one last public appearance - at the end of term concert, known as the Kingsley School Summer Cabaret. This year the theme is `Glam Rock` and (leaving aside for the moment the fact that this sounds so much more fun than the school concerts of my youth where well scrubbed boys and girls would warble about nymphs and shepherds) David wants some advice.

What song would it be appropriate for the future Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology sing at such an event? PS Gary Glitter jokes are not appropriate....

LINDSAY SELBY: The Jersey Devil

The Jersey Devil, sometimes called the Leeds Devil, is a creature said to live in the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey. The creature is often described as a flying biped with hooves. The story of its exist has been around for over 260 years. There are apparently over 2,000 eyewitnesses reports and its sighting has been responsible for the closing of schools and factories at times when it was at its peak.

The origin of the creature lies in a legend concerning a Mrs Jane Leeds who came from a poor family in the Pine Barrens of Jersey. In 1735 she was pregnant with her 13th child and she said to friends and relatives that the “Devil can take the next one”, and supposedly he did. When the baby was born it was said to be a deformed monster. It supposedly grew to more than 20 feet long, with a reptilian body, a horse’s head, bat wings and a long, forked tail. It then escaped up the chimney (or out of a window depending on the version of the tale) and began haunting the Pine Barrens. Some said Mrs Leeds was a witch and the father of the child was the devil. Another legend says a young girl fell in love with a British soldier during the Revolutionary War and the people of Leeds Point cursed the girl. When she gave birth to a child it looked like the devil. In 1740 a priest was brought in to exorcise the devil from the area and for years it was not seen.

Alfred Heston, the local historian for the area, believes that the Jersey Devil could have been born to either the Leeds or the Shrouds families. Mr Heston discovered that a Daniel Leeds had land in Great Egg Harbour in 1699 and the family home was in Leeds Point.

Sightings of the devil started again when it was seen in the 1800s.

Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Spain and brother of the famous Napoleon Bonaparte, reported seeing the Jersey Devil in Bordentown between 1816 and 1839 when out hunting.

In the 1840s a strange creature with a piercing scream and odd hoof-like footprints was reported to be killing livestock in the area around the Pine Barrens.

On January 16th 1909 it was seen by many people:

Thack Cozzens of Woodbury reported seeing a flying creature with glowing eyes. John Mcowen heard and saw the creature on the banks of a canal. Policeman James Sackville fired on a strange creature as it flew away. E. W. Minister, Postmaster for Bristol, also reported seeing a bird-like creature with a horse head and a piercing scream. Mr and Mrs Nelson Evans of Gloucester were awakened by a strange noise and on looking out of the window, Mr Nelson watched what he claimed was the Jersey Devil for 10 minutes.

On January 19th 1909 a Burlington police officer and the Reverend John Pursell of Pemberton reported seeing the Jersey Devil. Reverend John Pursell was quoted as saying “Never saw anything like it before.”

On January 20th 1909 it was seen by members of by the Black Hawk Social Club and also seen by a trolley full of people in Clementon. Mrs Sorbinski of Camden heard a commotion in her back yard. Upon inspection, she discovered the Jersey Devil with her dog in its grasp. Mrs Sorbinski beat the Jersey Devil with a broom until it dropped her dog and flew off into the night.

Then on January 21st 1909 Camden police officer Louis Strehr witnessed the Jersey Devil drinking from his horse’s trough.

The next documented sighting was in 1927 when a cab driver on his way to Salem got flat tyre and whilst he was fixing it, an upright-standing creature landed on the roof of his cab. The creature shook the cab violently and the cab driver ran away. When he returned it had gone.

In August 1930 berry pickers at Leeds Point and Mays Landing reported seeing the Devil in the fields eating blueberries and cranberries. It was reported again two weeks later in the north.

In November 1951 a group of children were allegedly cornered by the Devil at the Duport Clubhouse in Gibbstown. The creature left without causing any harm.

In 1960 a group of people near Mays Landing were scared by strange cries and screams. State officials tried to calm the nervous residents but no explanation could be found for the strange sounds. Harry Hunt, who owned the Hunt Brothers Circus, offered $100,000 for the capture of the creature.

In 1961 a couple were parked up along a road in the Pine Barrens when they heard a loud screeching noise outside. Suddenly the roof of their car smashed and the screeching sound was now right on top of them. The couple fled but later said when they returned they saw an unknown creature flying along the treeline making the same screeching noise.

In 1966 the Jersey Devil was blamed for the death of 31 ducks, 3 geese, 4 cats and two dogs at a local farm. One of the dogs was a large German shepherd found with its throat ripped out.

In 1987 in Vinland, another German shepherd was found torn apart and the body apparently gnawed upon. The body was located 25 feet from where the dog was chained up. Around the body were strange tracks.

In 1993 a forest ranger named John Irwin was driving along the Mullica River in southern New Jersey. He found the road ahead of him blocked by what looked like the Jersey Devil. He described it as being about six feet tall with horns and matted black fur. Irwin stated that he and the creature stared at one another for several minutes before the monster finally turned and ran into the forest.

More recently, in 2004 on a snowy winter night the Winkelmann children were playing outside when they were scared by a creature and headed indoors. Later that night Mrs Winkelmann and her 11-year-old son headed outside to unplug Christmas lights and they noticed a two-legged winged creature in the trees above. The woman and her child ran back to the house as the creature landed on their roof. For the rest of the night the entire family stayed safely locked inside the house. The next morning when they went outside they noticed footprints on the roof and took pictures as evidence to prove the story was real.

This site: http://www.njdevilhunters.com/ claims to be official jersey devil hunters site includes reports of sightings up to 2003.

So myth, reality or mistaken identity? It has certainly been around a long time.


Just a quick word to say that Richard's book is now available, although it isn't up on Amazon just yet. However, for those of you interested in such things, the fourth volume of Collected Editions of Animals & Men most certainly is


Once upon a time, grey whales lived in the Atlantic, but they became extinct (probably because of hunting) in the 18th Century. But it is certainly extinct in the Atlantic Ocean. So what on earth was a specimen doing in the Med, off the coast of Israel the other day.

Darren Naish goes into far more depth

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

Yesterday’s News Today

On this day in 1812 Edward Lear was born. Although best known for his nonsense poetry, Lear was also a superb artist employed by the Zoological Society of London for a time. His most well known poem is probably ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. Fortean Times’s cartoonist Hunt Emerson made his own illustrated version of the poem for the Beano comic that can be found here (and is incredibly useful if you ever wondered what a runcible spoon might look like):
And now, the news:

Daily echo
Nature faces "tipping point"

Exactly where the animal came from is a bit of a ‘grey’ area….