A blog for the United States branch of the global Centre for Fortean Zoology
At the beginning of the 21st Century monsters still roam the remote, and sometimes not so remote, corners of our planet. It is our job to search for them. The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is - we believe - the largest professional, scientific and full-time organisation in the world dedicated to cryptozoology - the study of unknown animals. Since 1992 the CFZ has carried out an unparalleled programme of research and investigation all over the world. Since 2009 we have been running the increasingly popular CFZ Blog Network, and although there has been an American branch of the CFZ for over ten years now, it is only now that it has a dedicated blog.
1921: The five-masted commercial schooner Carroll A.
Deering, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Norfolk, Virginia with a load of
coal, runs aground at Diamond Shoals, near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Searchers find no trace of Captain W. B. Wormell or his 10-man Scandinavian
Lawrence Anthony in South Africa rescued a herd of elephants. He rehabilitated them and set them loose on a game reserve. They wandered off into the inviting terrain. On the day Lawrence died, from wherever in the park they were, the elephants assembled and stood outside his house as a mark of respect.
However surprising that may be, on the anniversary of his death every year, the elephants turned up again and stood before the house in salutation to the man who had saved them.
This incident allegedly occurred in Virginia about 1739. The source is a letter in the Virginia Gazette.
Two gravediggers were at work in a cemetery when they dug up a (human) skull. They carefully put it to one side on the grass. Then, suddenly, the skull began to move across the verdure.
The two men paled beneath their pallor, as well they might. They took off at a run for the church, where the Minister was at work, and told him the story.
The Minister imbibed the story and suspected the men had been imbibing something stronger. He went, however, to have a look. On arrival at the graveside he saw, to his astonishment, that the skull was indeed on the move.
The Minister's jaw dropped (I suspect). Picking up the skull, he ran pell mell to the church and caused the bell to be rung to summon his parishioners.
They came and gazed at the skull. The Minister proclaimed it a miracle. One can imagine the congregation seated in open-mouthed wonder.
Then a mole crawled out of one of the eye sockets. The assembled onlookers disperswed.
The Northern White Rhinoceros will shortly become extinct. There are only five specimens alive, all past breeding age. However, scientists plan to harvest sperm and eggs from them in the hope that, at some future date, it may be possible to regenerate them. The remaining population is still in Kenya.
The reason poachers pursue this animal is that it is believed in certain parts of the world that the horn is an aphrodisiac. It isn't.
2000: During an Oklahoma snowstorm, a trucker hears two game
wardens conversing over CB radios, from the Honobia Wildlife Management Area in
Le Flore County. One agent tells the other "to be on the lookout for large
manlike hairy creatures." They "seemed very serious," referring
to the region's long history of Bigfoot sightings.
It's impossible to describe the Proctor Valley Monster as there are differing accounts of its structure. It is sometimes said to be like a cow with its parts in the wrong places. Have a look at this article which will tell you more. now read on.....
1963: A resident of Cold Springs, California, calls the
sheriff's office to report a Bigfoot sighting. The sheriff and a deputy respond
and find nothing, but hear "horrible screams" in the nearby forest.
Tonight is Burns Night, celebrated in Scotland in honor of Robbie Burns (1759-96), the well-known Caledonian poet.
At Burns Suppers they eat the haggis (pictured above), a sheep's stomach containing sheep's heart, liver and lungs with other ingredients. I have never sampled haggis, but expect it is an acquired taste. People humorously say the haggis is a Scottish animal and a picture of this mythical beast is shown below.
That's a goldfish up there. There is a common belief that goldfish have hardly any memories. You'll be told that they cannot remember for sixty seconds. This is utter baloney. In fact, a goldfish can remember for up to three months. They know when it's their feeding time. They can even be taught tricks, so don't think they're unintelligent. The time has come for an end to misapprehensions about this piscid.
Charlotte Sophia Burne, in a work published in 1883, mentions a wooden carving of a knight with a dead lion at his feet in Berrington Church (Shrewsbury). A legend concerning this armoured worthy was his name was Owd Scriven o' Brampton had he had been attacked by the lion, which he killed, as he meandered through the English countryside. Whether the legend has any foundation I cannot tell. One wonders how a lion might have arrived in Britain in the Middle Ages, though it is not impossible it escaped from the collection of some nobleman. On the other hand, the knight's attacker may have been a somewhat more modest beast, like a wildcat or a lynx, which became exaggerated in the telling.
1948: The Brazilian newspaper Pernambuco Diario
publishes a photo submitted by a local bank manager, one Senhor de Oliveria,
apparently depicting a giant snake killed by tribesmen near Manaus. According
to the caption, the serpent measured 114 feet long and weighed more than eight
If studying Fortean matters over the years has stimulated your taste for Fortean matters generally, what you need is a book of Fortean stories to curl up with on these cold winter nights. (If you live in Australia and New Zealand, it's just the thing to while away a hot sleepless summer night). What better then than to purchase this collection of short stories by CFZ's own Andrew May, who, as a qualified physicist, knows just where to draw the line in Fortean fiction to make it both plausible and fascinating? The sort of subjects covered are a woman who sees creatures invisible to all others, a scientist who uses discovers anti-gravity, a UFO investigation by mainstream academics - just the sort of things for the reader with expanded horizons. This work contains 240pp. Price at Amazon: US $14.99 paperback; $5.90 Kindle UK £9.99 paperback; £3.85 Kindle. Copies may also be obtained directly from the CFZ.
1980: The Weekly World News, best known for
fabricated stories illustrated with hoaxed photographs, reports farmer Larry
Wilson's sighting of a Sasquatch near Adel, Iowa. Police allegedly find 12-inch
footprints pressed into grass at the scene.
That's Pope Leo X up there, as painted by Raphael. He was Pope from 1475-1521. On the day of his inauguration, he sat by a Vatican window watching a procession, of which an elephant formed part. The great beast knelt three times, then stuck his trunk into a tub of water, then squirting the onlooking crowd, not excepting the Pontiff.
Do you see that curled up fish that a passing fish is trying to eat? That is an early cryptid called the Swamfiscke, which the naturalist Olaus Magnus (1490-1557) wrote about. Everything he ate became absorbed by his body, as he had no proper stomach. He had no neck, but the food he consumed went straight into his body. If attacked, he would roll into a ball, a position he could maintain for some time, for to eat he would devour his own flesh internally, feeling it better to be eaten in part by himself than whole by some other creature. I have not the slightest clue what lay behind the legend of this fish. Does anyone out there have any ideas?
Let’s talk about hoaxing. A hoax can and has been defined by many different means, but there are two very simple yet very powerful ways I’ve seen given as the description of a hoax, one being that a hoax is an act intended to deceive or trick, the second is, something that has been accepted or established by fraudulent means. Both are very accurate means of describing a hoax, and both will come into play as we further discuss our topic today, but in slightly different ways.
As people working in, researching, or those of us with just a love of Cryptozoology and the unexplained, we face more hoaxes, frauds, and attempted deceptions than pretty much any other branch of scientific endeavor. Whole books can be written on the history of fabricated sightings, doctored photos, and artificial footprints. To name just a few; we have the Jackaolpe, a rabbit with deer antlers, the infamous Cardiff Giant, a fake giant human skeleton from Cardiff, New York, and dozens of fabricated Bigfoot photos, videos, and foot prints. The reasons why people do these kinds of things varies depending on the person. They range from; monetary gain, practical jokes, boredom, and even malicious intents. Today we’ll look at one such case, discuss how and why we know the story was fake, and what the ramifications mean for those in Cryptozoology.
In 1998, American Cryptozoology researcher, Ron Schaffner, the editor of Creature Chronicles, began to hear about sightings and talk of a ‘new’ cryptid creature, the Ozark Howler. Doing some digging he found, that not only were sightings popping up, but there was now a website dedicated to reporting and studying such incidents, the Howler Research Group (this website is no longer online). At the time, the website featured a few ‘historical’ eyewitness reports and even some alleged photographs. As the site has long been off line, and an internet search on various search engines have turned up none of these alleged photos, I’m unable to comment on them any further, as I don’t want to give analysis on something I was never able to at least see with my own eyes. Come to think of it, I can’t find any description of what the photos even looked like from any other researcher.
But then, Ron was contacted by a man who claimed to have seen the mysterious howler and could offer up a detailed description. The man’s name was Fred Sprout and he described his encounter as follows; one evening in mid-April 1998, around dusk he spied the beast in an unspecified location south of Branson in the Ozark Mountains. The beast he described was about ten to twelve feet in length, about four feet at the shoulder, with a powerful and robust body build, and most striking of all, two large horn-like structures on its head. Needless to say, this is quite unlike anything known to live in North America or anywhere for that matter.
A few more sightings came in, all featuring an almost identical look, but interestingly enough, no further specific people, i.e. names, could be attached to any of these new sightings. Many, and at this point that was not a lot, who had heard these stories laughed them off as nonsense. And yet, people still kept on either reporting these rumors or emailed Cryptozoologists with inquires about them. People like Chad Arment, author of several books and articles on Cryptozoology, and various others were for a time, being plagued by these stories. The vast majority of these researcher where unconvinced about the authenticity of these reports, and yet one question still remained. Why are so many inquires being made about a creature that, to most in the Cryptozoological world, seemed absurd?
Well the answer is a telling one. Determined to get to the bottom of this, world renowned Cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman began to attempt to track down the original reports and try and talk to the runners of the Ozark Howler Research Group. Eventually, he tracked the IP address to a university student, who had been responsible for inventing this whole saga. It turns out, that he didn’t believe in any kind of Cryptid, and thus made a bet with a group of like mined ‘skeptics’. The bet was he could create a Cryptid and then have the ‘gullible’ Cryptozoologist write about it in books, articles, and talk about it on TV shows.
Thus he subscribed to the first of the two ways we’ve chosen to define a hoax, an act which is intended to deceive. And for some, it did. Thankfully, most researchers, legit researchers who actually put time and effort into doing real investigative work, were able to expose the fraud for what it was. While this episode does clearly show that there are those with nothing better to do than create fake reports, it is a success for critical thinking and investigation on the part of Cryptozoologists. However, the saga doesn’t quite end here. For you see, there are those who still are talking about the Ozark Howler, now at times called the Black Howler or Devil Cat.
The Wikipedia page for the beast, does mention the facts about the fraudulent accounts, yet seems to actually be dismissive of the dismissal. Not only that, but reports still seem to trickle in. This may not be too surprising when we do a little further digging and understanding. One such report from between 2005 and 2010 reports about a family reportedly capturing a strange creature on a trail camera in Van Buren in the Boston Mountains of Crawford County, Arkansas. The picture shows a large cat-like black beast, that bares a resemblance to the (in) famous Black Cats reported throughout the US. Howl-like screams has also been reported all across the Ozark Mountains. In 2012, a film crew for the show Haunted Highway did a spotlight investigation of these kind of sightings in Jasper, Arkansas. They claimed to have found paw prints resembling a large cat’s.
So, what appears to be happening here is, that the term Ozark Howler, is now no longer associated with its fraudulent origins, but has been adopted as an umbrella term for the various sightings of large cat-like beasts from this part of the South. Reports of out-of-place cougars and possible large black felines are now synonymous with this name. And thus, we have an example of our second example of a hoax, something becoming accepted or established by fraudulent means. There was never an Ozark Howler, at least not like the one being spread in 1998. Yet, the name now is being used to describe the possible sightings of these large unexplained cat sightings.
So, now that is all out on the table, I have this question to ask you the reader; does it matter? Seriously, does it matter that a fabricated Cryptid is being used to categorize what might be a legit Cryptozoological case? Well, one the one hand, such things as turning terms of disrespect around into terms of indecent is not unheard of. Take for example the now popular Christian symbol of the Jesus Fish. Once a symbol used by Romans to mark and ostracize the followers of Christ in the Roman World, is now a popular image proudly displayed on car bumpers and in Christian iconography. If one group can take something with such an origin, couldn’t Cryptozoologist do the same?
I myself, have urge against the use of the term Ozark Howler as a valid term for describing the Southern Big Cat phenomena. The reason being, I don’t believe, we as a group of researchers, should endorse a name with such blatant hoaxing origins, especially one whose sole purpose was to undermine and discredit Cryptozoology. Loren Coleman, the Cryptozoologist responsible for outing the Ozark howler, has in recent years urged for a purging of non-factual and fraudulent data from Cryptozoology. Namely, the removal of fake Bigfoot tracks from the data base in order to get a better scientific interpretation of the data collected. I completely agree, you can’t base a scientific conclusion or argument based on false data. And while the Ozark Howler name may not be quiet the same as trying to form scientific data flow based on physical evidence it does remind us of an incident in which the whole community was being taken for a ride.
Don’t get me wrong, we should never forget about the lessons to be learned from this episode in Cryptid History, but we need to recognize it for what it is. A good case of solid research, leading to the exposure of a major Cryptozoological fraud. As for the mysterious big cats of the Deep South, they might well be out there, but a huge part bear, part cat, part deer, is certainly best left to the realm of fantasy art.