The Centre for Fortean Zoology was founded in the UK in 1992 - nearly 20 years ago. Over the past two decades it has expanded to become a truly global organisation. We opened our American office in 2001, our Australian office in 2009, and now - in our 19th year - we are proud to welcome CFZ Canada to the CFZ global family.

Saturday 31 December 2011

The Sarich Skull

It seems odd to blog from Canada about a case in Wales!  That’s what this is, though—the saga of the Sarich Skill.

This partial skull was found on a beach in South Wales and sent to me for further study.  The fellow who found it simply was hoping for identification.  We were most grateful to receive this gift, as it gives an opportunity to investigate and to learn basic forensic identification methods.

The first thing we looked at was the general shape.  The skull has been photographed and measured from all angles.  At first glance, it appears to be a goat, but as it weighs 0.4kg (400 grams) and horn tip to horn tip is only 12.5 cm, that may not be the case.

If there was a jawbone and a few teeth, the positive identification would be much easier.  Additionally, since the skull probably spent a great deal of time in the water, its weight is likely affected by sediment and fossilization.  A normal goat skull weighs about 400 grams with organs and flesh intact and without horns.
Is it a goat?  The angle of the horns and the flat space between them counter indicates most breeds of goats. This small size makes us reluctant to label it bovine—a bovine species mature enough to have horns should be much larger.

A sheep perhaps? The eye sockets of a sheep face sideways and the orbital sockets on this specimen do not appear to.  Forward facing eyes are a characteristic of a predator; binocular vision helps focus on the prey.  Sheep horns do tend to be separated by a flat space as is present on this skull. 

Specialists from several Canadian Universities have examined the skull and to date it remains unidentified.  Mr. Sarich has donated the skull for further study and for use in educational events regarding cryptozoology. 

It might well be a goat or a sheep.  Right now, as an unknown animal, the Sarich Skull is our very own cryptid.

Thursday 29 December 2011


A couple of things got left out last time but going back again allows me to clarify a couple of points.

Back in 2007, Craig Woolheater wrote an article for the Cryptomundo site which touched upon the interrelatedness of some Native North American water-monsters and uncovered fossils which were supposed to have inspired them. The discussion at that point included some quotes from one Adrienne Mayor, author of a book on fossil discoveries and related mythology, and cited a recent find of a fossil fish-tailed crocodile in the state of Oregon.

"...Most intriguing, the initial restoration of the fossil croc bears a striking resemblance to a mythic animal of some Native American tribes, the Kiowa, Sioux, Pomo of northern California and others, says Adrienne Mayor, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, author of Fossil Legends of the First Americans. A University of Oregon artist’s depiction of the crocodile greatly resembles the Kiowa artist Silverhorn’s 1891-94 sketch of a water monster with scales, a long narrow head with needle teeth and a forked fish-tail drawn to illustrate water serpent legends, Mayor says. The Pomo Indians described a fish-tailed, needle-toothed water monster called Bagil, as well. [Similar water-monsters are described in several lakes along the California-Nevada border, including the "Serpent" of Walker lake. The long toothy jaws and flinty-hard scales, together with the "snaky" head and body with the forked fish-tail, all remind me irresistably of some sort of a garfish-DD] "...A very similar dragon-creature is described from northeastern California, Parkman adds. The Ajumawi people have a legend of a big serpent-like creature with fish tail and elk antlers, similar to Bagil...

"Antlers or horns are common in Native American depictions of sacred or mysterious creatures," Mayor notes.

Parkman also notes at Serpent Cave, in Baja California, "there are beautiful cave paintings of big serpent-like figures sporting deer antlers and fish tails. In British Columbia, in the Stein River Valley, there are rock paintings of alligator-like creatures sporting fish tails. Rock art depictions of alligator-like creatures also occur elsewhere in the U.S., including Utah, Arizona, and Ohio."[These are Mishipizhiws. The Ohio citation includes an "Alligator" mound which is actually a "Water-Panther" instead.]
original credit-Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

-I would like to go on record as stating that the fossil crocodile bears no resemblance whatsoever to any of the water-monsters under discussion. The water-monsters all have full racks of deer, moose or elk antlers and when they are spoken of as having feet at all, the feet have cloven hooves (for which se the 1909 Omaha water-monster drawing). Furthermore, the fishy monsters are all supposed to be heavily armoured with thich scales while the fossil crocodile is scaleless. And the fossils actually show no obvious indication that the animals were fish-tailed in life: the fin part did not fossilize since it was only composed of soft flesh originally.

Instead all of these Water-Monsters belong to the same category of Eurasian creatures that started out as the horse-headed, multi-humped "Sea Serpents" of Scandinavia since the 1600s-1700s and which were seen somewhat later on off the coast of New England and then eventually off the coast of British Columbia as "Caddies" or "Cadborosaurus." They were also reported regularly in Quebec since the or early 1800s according to George Eberhart, who calls them "Horse's Heads" in this instance. In both British Columbia and in the area around the Great Lakes, they were definitely identified as the traditional Horned (Antlered) Water Serpents, and the descriptions continued across Canada from sea to sea. In Ontario, the term On Niont was on record for this sort of creature sighting in 1647-48.

These sightings I would say were one and all based on imperfect sightings of swimming moose. And although it would seem that only the white men would be foolish enough to be fooled by such a sight, many of the early sightings up to the 1930s were made by Indians. It may be that these were mostly older men, women or children who were not accustomed to seeing moose or elk swimming.

The giveaway is when the heads are seen to bear full racks of horns (antlers). These are shown on some of the  traditional representations including the Kiowa example from the 1890s and on the Navajo pot labelled LB03. Without the horns being apparent we can still recognise swimming mooses becaus of their "Bent" camel-noses, big droopy ears, fully-haired back, and sometimes even the beard or "bell" on the throat (See the "Cadborosaurus" representations in the photos) Moose are indeed sometimes swimming out of sight of land at sea off both British Columbia and Scandinavia. And although the fact might not have been recalled in connection to these traditions, The Kiowa, Apache and Navajo are actually Canadian peoples who migrated Southwards in the period just before the White men came. That is why their Horned Serpents sport full racks of antlers whereas the water-minsters of the Sioux and their neigbours only have simple one-tine horns. The Sioux water-monsters are the ones based on actual fossil creatures, and they astutely gathered that the pterosaurs were flying creatures, Plesiosaurs and Mosasaurs were Sea-Monsters, and that two of the most obvious and characteristic types of dinosaurs were the big Sauropods(which are often found with the relatively small and fragile heads missing) and the big-headed Ceratopsians (of which the sturdy skull is the most likely to be preserved) and so my idea is that they put those two together and made a symbol that said "Dinosaur" (or Unktehila, which was the generic name they used for the same thing) Incidentally, it has been known that the Indians knew about dinosaur fossils since the White Men began hunting for them: they did not try to hide the fact that this was their idea from the start. Therefore this is not a new discovery. Some of the dinosaur books I had as a child mentioned the situation.

For a full explanation of the Water-Horse theory, please see my CFZ blog at the link below: and if you still think the "Train-of-Humps" represent the back of a multi-humped monster, please pay especial attention to the photos at the end of the posting.

Best Wishes, Dale D.

Monday 26 December 2011

My name is Matthew, and I blame Minden, Ontario for my fear of Sasquatch.

by Guest Blogger Matthew J. Didier, PSICAN

I'm more known as a "ghost" person from my workand study, but I've often said that (thanks to popular culture,) my first'paranormal' love was Ufology. I was, after all, a child of "Chariots ofthe Gods", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", and of course,"Star Trek" on television mixed with a whopping dollop of "StarWars" in the theatres. As I related this story recently, I realised thatthis may be, indeed, a wee bit of a fib... because in reality, I was enamouredwith Cryptozoology long before I was wrapped comfortably in life beyond ourplanet... and far beyond my late nights in haunted spots!

...and potentially, Minden and vicinity are to blame.

Oh, I'd love to tell you I had some sort of encounter orepiphany at a very young age (the time frame I'm looking at is sometime between1968... when I was one year old up to or around

1976,) or that I was drawn to the rather"kooky" sign for the still present Ogopogo resort that we'd passon Highway 35 en route to my family's cottage on Beech Lake near to Minden(yes, it was named after the lake creature far away from Ontario in BritishColumbia,) but again, this wouldn't be true...

Minden, ON, photo by Brain St Dennis

I became fascinated with Sasquatch because he smelledbad... and I have always had an odd fear of extremely bad smells... but thatfear is something I haven't worried about or bothered to come to terms with asthe fear really didn't last (more than any normal person's worries aboutstinks, I'd say,) passed my tween years.

This said, I would not have thought about, considered, oreven known about Sasquatch's odour had it not been for a particularly bad(? -well, overly dramatic...) documentary that was once shown at the old BeaverTheatre (now a "centre for the performing arts", but back then,strictly a movie house,) all those years ago. If memory serves, it was either the same day (double-bill) as"Chariots of the Gods" or at least that same Summer... and I wish forthe life of me, I could remember the name of the documentary or even thesituation it was viewed in, but a few decades have obscured that memory.

You see, my parents would often travel to the littleisland we owned on Beech Lake for entire Summers... often leading to extremelybored kids, and a movie "in the big town" was often a cure for whatis most properly called "cabin fever" in these cases. I saw most of my first James Bond films atboth The Beaver in Minden and the Molou in Haliburton Village... but whenremembering, despite Mr. von Däniken's compelling evidence to show my youngeyes that we've been visited by spacemen, it was Bigfoot's stink that held me.

As I said, I had a weird phobia (a tiny bit more thanmost, I think,) of really bad smells... and throughout the documentary, theykept harkening back to the dreadful stench given off by a Sasquatch... and howit was nauseating... and often preceded a sighting. It didn't help that therewas at least one "terrorising" Bigfoot attack dramatised in themovie, complete with the reminder of the wretch-inducing smell.

Now, imagine seeing that... being somewhere between 5 or8 years old... and then going to, at the time, a fairly secluded cottage on anisland in what seemed to my young, city-bred eyes, the back country of themiddle of nowhere... and trying to sleep.

Every tree groan, twig snap, small gust of wind broughtwhat I was certain would be an attack by a foul smelling creature that was sureto be most unpleasant.

I remember bothering my mother and father consistently (Iwould never have trusted information from my horrible and cruel sisters onthese matters,) about sightings and evidence of Sasquatch in and around theMinden - Carnarvon - Haliburton corridor... although their re-assurance waslittle help for my insomnia. My onlyrelief that summer came from the ride back into the Sasquatch-Free land of thebig city, with it's constant noise and lights.

Statue in Minden, ON

It is with some relief, as stated, that this fear lastedall of one Summer... and the family cottage and it's surrounding area became ahaven of swimming, playing, and boating shortly thereafter.

What's odd, however, is that despite Ufology and ghoststaking most of my study-time up, I never lost my interest in the sightings ofSasquatch and the many genus/variations therefound... and I still get a tingleof excitement when I hear of a sighting or potential evidence to say that thosefears... the fear of the "attack" of the "stinky" creature... might have been at least somewhat founded...well, founded in a more "conventional" zoological (or other) sense.

The thing of it is, although from the usual suspects, I'msure this will simply add to the "woo" rating I have for"believing in that stuff", I do believe that people do experienceSasquatch, Bigfoot, Yellow Top, The Yowi, The Yeti, and all of those things...and I do believe the experience is "external" (for those that assume,incorrectly, that I believe it's all hallucinatory in nature,) and that at somepoint, that very young man back on Beech Lake in another time had not so muchsomething to worry about...but was correct in thinking "it could happen tome"... and, apparently, if it does now, I am glad I'm over my fear of thesmell of this creature.

I honestly don't know why I feel that this entry is"worthy" of posting... perhaps to say that there's a myriad of waysand times in one's life that an interest in the paranormal comes to them... andthat not all of us "outgrow" it because we "know better".

Some of us, truly, believe that we don't knoweverything... and may never know it all... and as long as people stillexperience these things, it's worth the look.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Introduction-Canadian Water Monsters

CFZ Canada welcomes guest blogger Dale Drinnon.  I'm sure you will enjoy his offerings!  Thanks so much, Dale, for your support.  ~Robin

CFZ Canada had put up an article earlier this year in which it was stated that Plesiosaur fossils had been found in the deposits left behind by Glacial Lake Agassiz. This would be unusual for several reasons, not the least of which would be that the lake would be pretty much perpetual icewater. I had also discovered something about Lake Monsters in North America during my studies of the reports, most of which I shall explain later in this article. But for this matter I should say that Lake Agassiz was an extremely transitory body in Geologic time: it was not in any one place for long and it did not last a for a long time all told. Its position was continually shifting northward with the retreat of the continental ice sheet, and the total thickness of accumulated deposit was not much. Therefore it is quite possible to have aquatic deposits laid down in the same geographic area (or part of it) but at a different (probably older) time. And so this is what I expect was the case of the Plesiosaur fossils in this area, probably coming from an older time and a much warmer climate (I would be quite happy to admit the opposite to be true should any good evidence show up to confirm the idea that the Plesiosaur fossils were actually contemporary with Lake Agassiz and Final-Pleistocene in date.)

Now the other matter was something which does not become apparent in reading the usual accounts of Water Monsters in North America, but the fact is that The Longnecked animals are almost always reported at the far East and West of the continent and almost always not very far inland from the sea. And this also seems true of the genuinely large eel-like animals. Long-necked or Periscope reports are almost never from the deep interior of the continent and they are therefore suspicious when they DO appear there.

I include two pieces of Native art to demonstrate the idea: one is a Longnecked Seaserpent "Totempole" from the far South of Alaska (and hence in the same cultural area as the adjoining part of British Columbia, including prime "Cadborosaurus" viewing area) and the other a Mikmac Petroglyph from the East Coast area of a maned longnecked animal with its neck down in usual swimming conformation. That petroglyph looks pretty authentic to me and it compares well with White witnesses' sketches for similar types of Seaserpent sightinngs. So personally I think that is probably a "Sketch from life" by an actual witness, or not done long after an actual sighting in any event. It is also c;lose to other petroglyphs on the West coast. The "Totem Pole" is comparable in size and shape to a Viking ship's figurehead, but I suspect that the head is made larger than the actual animls' would be in real life. However it is entirely possible it is intended to show the "Periscope" at life size.

Now the conception of a Water Monster that held over the interior of most of North America for most of the time was that of a creature called "The Great Horned Serpent". This category probably included more than one original species but often the "Serpent" would be shown with four short legs and the usual representation woul;d be then a "Water Panther", Piasa or "Mishipizhiw" (Piasa turns out to be only an alternative form for Mishipizhiw= Water Panther) And I recently discovered that such "Fearsome Critters" as the Wisconsin Hodag are actually little more than the White Man's borrowing of the same creature. As far as living creatures (Cryptids) go, there are some large Lizard-shaped animals that are identified as "Water Panthers" but the original category was an amalgam to start with. For that reason it is not too unusual if the identity had been tgged on to giant Otters in the north and also Giant spinybacked Iguana lizards in the warmer climes. However, it seems that there is another reason why the special features of such representations are insisted upon.

The Sioux Water Monster Unktehila as depicted by Jonathan Carver in 1766-7 seems plausibly drawn from the fossil remains of a Diplodocus topped off by the hurned round head of a Triceratops. And perhaps it actually is meant to be a sort of Paleontological reconstruction. The composite image seems to have been strong enough to capture the imagination of the Native Continent: "THIS is what a Water Monster looks like"

To quote some similar words from a recent (Dec 2005) National Geographic site:

Unktehila, Monsters in Native America
In a small auditorium at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Kevin Locke, a Lakota Sioux storyteller from Standing Rock Reservation, gently strokes a braided strand of sweetgrass. Its power will help him bring forth good thoughts and feelings. Then he grips his ceremonial rattle, closes his eyes, and, as an attentive audience of Lakota Sioux children and visiting Boy Scouts listens, he sings a Lakota prayer used at the springtime Thunder Feast.

“Leciya tuwa makipanpelo. Wiyohpeyata Wakinyan Oyate kola makipanpelo.”

The words rise and fall to the sound of Locke’s rattle, and he gives it an extra flourish at the end, signaling the close.

“We sing this to welcome the Thunder Nation,” Locke explains, referring to thunderstorms. “Maybe some of you have heard the word Wakinyan before and know its meaning?”

One slender Lakota boy raises his hand. “It’s the name of our cat—he’s orange like a Thunder Being.”

Locke smiles broadly. “Good, good. That’s right, Wakinyan are the Thunder Beings, forces with power, like the Thunder Birds. They come with the big cumulus clouds in the spring to the prairies. The Wakinyan bring the rain, hail, thunder, and lightning—all the things that renew life after the winter. But in the long ago days, before humans, the Wakinyan also used these things in a big battle. And that battle was with the evil water monsters, the Unktehila.”

There were many different kinds of Unktehila, Locke continues, but most were like huge reptiles with scaly skin and horns; some were like giant lizards, and others were like serpents; some slithered on their bellies, and some had feet. “They ate each other and every other living thing, and so the Thunder Beings were given a divine mission to kill the Unktehila. That’s when the Thunder Birds came with their thunder and lightning. They struck the water monsters with lightning bolts and boiled their lakes and streams until they dried up. After that most of the Unktehila died or were very diminished in size, so that all we have left today are some small snakes and lizards. But we know the giant Unktehila lived because our people found their bones in the Badlands and along the Missouri River.”

Indeed, long before paleontologists arrived to excavate the fossils of marine reptiles, Native American peoples were carrying away enormous bones that lay exposed on the surface. For the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Kiowa (as well as many other tribes), the bones held special powers and could be used for healing or other rituals. And, as Locke explained, the bones were also “the physical manifestation of the evil forces the Unktehila represented.”

Although Locke had learned about the Unktehila from his elders and had sung the prayers of the Thunder Feast many times, he’d never seen the kinds of fossils that likely inspired the stories. So we went to the Museum of Geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, where skeletons of a plesiosaur and mosasaur are on display. These and other marine reptiles had lived in the ocean that covered much of North America about 75 million years ago.

“Wow,” he said, nodding appreciatively at the long-necked, fat-bodied plesiosaur. But it was the massive-jawed mosasaur that held his attention. “Now this one,” he said, pausing to size up the 29-foot-long snaky animal, with its fierce array of teeth and double-hinged lower jaw joint that allowed it to swallow large kinds of prey (including other mosasaurs). “This one is an eating machine. If our people found one of these, I’m sure they would call it Unktehila.”

And, Locke added, mosasaur-like creatures with toothy jaws and horns were often painted on the tepee covers of the Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Blackfeet. Some Native Americans had carved images of such creatures into the rocks above the Missouri River, and others had made one out of stones along the river’s banks. “Everyone who sees these knows they’re Unktehila.”

Paleontologists often find bones of pterosaurs, flying reptiles, along with the mosasaurs. Adrienne Mayor, a folklorist, suggests that pterosaur and mosasaur remains may indeed have triggered the stories of the Thunder Birds and their battle with the water monsters.

Do the Lakota, like the people who wait for Nessie to surface, regard the Unktehila as still existing? Locke hesitated. “Well, the old Unktehila were killed by the Thunder Birds. That’s what our stories say. Some people still fear large bodies of water, and they’ll say prayers to protect themselves from Unktehila when crossing the Missouri River.”

But, he went on, the power of the Unktehila lies more in what they symbolize than in any hard reality. “They were a negative force and had to be destroyed. That’s what the Thunder Birds did for the world. And that’s why it’s important for us to keep these stories alive. Because there are still negative forces—many that are even more powerful than water monsters—in the world today. We have to fight against things like alcohol and depression and materialism. These are the new Unktehila. We can fight them with our songs and music.”

And that’s why Kevin Locke sings about sea monsters for the children: To remind them of their heritage and to tell them about the ancient battle fought to bring goodness into the world.

In a way they are right because we do actually still have reports of Sea Monsters that are described like Plesiosaurs or Mosasaurs. But the Water Monsters described as having full sets of antlers like deer and moose are much more likely to be inspired by sightings of swimming deer and moose, with their long wakes giving the illusion of an elongated body swimming in the water with a "Serpentine" motion. On the other hand I have some different concept art for Unktehila and it seems to be drawn from motre recent reports. It is a large fish=shaped creature with a series of knobs on the backbone and those knobs give it away: the head os roughly correct but the mouth and jaws are wong, and the vertically-flattened swimming tail is also about correct but lacks the "Forked" effect of having two lobes. In other words, the clearly seen parts of the fish are obviously representing some kind of a large sturgeon, while the filled-in underwater features are less identifiable because they are less accurate representations. 

And the drawing of the "Cadborosaurus" from The Paranormal Haze article Monsters of Canada-
Is a much better representation for the "Ogopogo" sightings that are more sturgeon-like. I have consequently renamed that illustration as "Ogopogo"

It seems that the dominant type of large water Cryptid from the midsection of the continent-From "Ogopogo" territory up to including the Great Lakes, at least, and at least as far as Hudson's Bay to the North, seems to be a large sturgeon of some sort, and in those areas "Periscopes" are rarely reported. When they ARE reported, they are usually in the range of 3-5 feet long/high and are most often reports of swimming moose. Toward the East and West coasts themselves, there are reports of the Plesiosaur and Giant Eel types. In such places as Lake Champlain and other lakes in that area, the usual visual impression of the monster is something like a Plesiosaurus of a "Brontosaurus" and that has stood up as being true for the largest part of the 20th century. On the other hand, there is also much overlap so that dominantly in older days, and continuing on into the present, you are still ALSO getting reports of swimming moose or deer, and then a minority of reports of seals and other mistakes.

Dale Drinnon joined the SITU back in the days when Ivan Sanderson was still alive, and they exchanged some letters: at the time of Sanderson's death he was allowed to go through Ivan Sanderson's files pretty extensively. Dale has run exhaustive statistical analyses on Water Monster reports back in the 1970s, including this data, as well as some referesher studies of the data more recently. Unfortunately the bulk of Dale's material remains unpublished and remains controversial in that it strongly bucks the trend set by other Cryptozoologists and proposes new models for Freshwater types when traditionally the Monsters have been treated as if they were all the same sort of thing (For examples see Peter Costello, In Search of Lake Monsters, on up to George Eberhart, Mysterious Creatrures, 2002)

Saturday 17 December 2011


More rapidthan eagles his coursers they came,

And hewhistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:

"Now,Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen!

"On,Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixem!

The poem by Clement C. Moore "A Visit from St.Nicholas" (also known as "The Night Before Christmas" or "T’wasthe Night Before Christmas") is usually credited for the Christmas lore that includes the eight flying reindeer. Whether Santa Claus is real is a matter of a belief system, but thereare reindeer—they’re not mysterious or cryptozoological. Unless they really do fly. If they do that puts them in my world and this week before Christmas I get to work on reindeer!

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), are also known as caribou inNorth America. They are deer from theArctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. They aren’t rare or endangered but some ofthe subspecies are—in fact one or two may actually be extinct. Reindeer are also plentiful in Europe, whichis where the idea of flying ones was born.

Unlike “regular” deer, both male and female reindeer growantlers. Male antlers are typicallylarger and there are the occasional exceptions to the females having them atall. Wild reindeer are hunted for meat,antlers, hide, milk and, yes, transportation. In Lapland, reindeer pull pulks—sort of a low slide often used by skiers.

In Canada, reindeer share the Boreal Forrest, home to manyother sorts of cryptids.

Reindeer fur comes in many colors—it varies not only fromdeer to deer but also can change on the same deer depending on the season. If mythology is to be believed, the Christmasreindeer were brown and large—large enough to carry a sleigh with a fat fellowand thousands of toys. Because thenorthernmost reindeer are usually fairly small and white, we must assume the NorthPole inported Woodland Caribou from more southern areas. It is an excellent specimen for nighttimewinter travel as it is muscular and has two layers of coat; one of which is adense woolly undercoat. We must alsosurmise that Santa chose the herd from southern Canada, as the Scandinaviandeer are not only less hardy; their antlers fall off in December.

(just as an aside—has anyone ever found a random deer antlerin the forest?)

Reindeer have specialized noses but none are known to glowor even be red as with the 1939 Clause acquisition of Rudolph. Reindeer noses have bones that dramaticallyincrease the surface area within the nostrils and the incoming cold air iswarmed by body heat before entering the lungs, then water is condensed from theexpired air and captured before the deer's breath is exhaled. This is used to moisten dry incoming air andpossibly prevent their tender noses frombecoming red. They can, however, seeultraviolet light and are probably the only mammals that can. With such exceptional visit, it isn’t likelyRudolph’s services were at all needed. Perhaps this is why he was never permitted to play in reindeer games.

Reindeer Games was released in 2000

Mating occurs from late September to early November, so anyfemales in the Clause herd would probably not be chosen to pull thesleigh. The most dominant males willmate with as many as 20 females and stops eating during this time. He loses much of his body reserve so would likely be too weak to pull the sleigh. More likely adolescent males were used.

Reindeer can run up to 87 km per hour and have an averagebody weight of 86 kg. With this mass andspeed it is possible for a deer to attain liftoff prior to a flight. A deer, however, is not dynamically designedto sustain flight. It has no wings. Relativelyfew vertebrates evolved the necessary features for true flight. Only three biological classifications-pterosaurs, bats and birds - ever evolved the ability for powered flight.

Perhaps what the folks in Scandinavia were seeing pullingSanta’s Sleigh were actually pterosaurs because reindeer cannot fly.

The Canadian 25-cent quarter features a caribou on one face.The caribou is the official provincial animal of Newfoundland and Labrador,Canada, and appears on the coat of arms of Nunavut. Certainly around this time of year, thequarters fly out of my bank account. Maybe that is the connection.

Happy Holidays from CFZ-Canada!

Sunday 11 December 2011

Canadian Black Cats

Across the globe, sightings persist of “black panthers” .  There are black (melanistic) felines;  melanistic leopards are sometimes found in zoos and occasionally in the wild.  Melanistic jaguars (the furry kind, not the cars!) are also sometimes seen both in captivity and in the wild.  Panthers, or mountain lions, pumas, and cougars, are typically tawny and no black specimen has been documented.

On July 30, 2010 a “black panther-like cat” was seen in the Lac George Road area  of Alfred-Plantagenet, Ontario.  It was lunchtime and a gentleman phoned the police to report the cat.  Others had spoken of seeing them, but this was the first police report for this area.  Offers were dispatched, then the Ministry of Natural Resources, but no evidence of a big cat was found.  Although officers suggested it would most likely be a black cougar, the Ministry maintains that it is highly unlikely that cougars are present in this area of Ontario.  Cougars were mostly wiped out in the late 1800’s, but it is possible that they are again building in number.  Over 3000 sightings of cougars in Ontario have been reported.  Officially, cougars are listed as endangered in Ontario. Additional sightings of black panthers/cougars have sprung up in all of Canada’s provinces-even in Port au choix, Newfoundland.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has conducted a rather thorough investigation of the possibility of cougars repopulating in Ontario.  Since 2006 they have been collecting samples of scat, DNA, and photos of tracks.  Wildlife cameras have been placed, but so far no definitive photos of a cougar have been captured.  One OPP officer stated that Eastern Cougars do exist and the DNR agrees. Since 1890 (through August 2011) twenty two people in the US and Canada have been killed by cougars.  None have been in Ontario.

Are there black ones?  This is the real question.  Thousands of reports have come from all over the western hemisphere since at least the early 1800’s.  Several years ago, a fantastic photo of what seemed to be a black panther on a patio circulated on the internet.  Many versions of the location were reported, one being Avonmore, Ontario. Interestingly, Avonmore is a mere 65km south of Alfred-Plantagenet.  This photo is a legitimate one, taken in 2001 by Dr. Dave Rogers in Lander, Wyoming.  Cougars are not rare in that area, and accompanying photos show that this one is not actually black but the typical tawny color.  Since melanistic animals do naturally occur, it may be only a matter of time before a legitimate black cougar is photographed.
Google Books has a great offering called The Eastern Cougar: historic accounts, scientific investigations, and new ... By Chris Bolgiano, Jerry Roberts  (link below).  One of the important items that these authors discuss is the existence of the jaguarondi, a small cat native to extreme southern US and points south.  This cat goes through a phase of its life as black, but it is considerably smaller than a cougar.

One interesting side note—sometimes reports come in that a woman is screaming.  This is often the mistaken interpretation of a cougar.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Charles Fort and the Dundas Minnows

The Toronto Daily Star of February 27, 1926 reported:

Fish Dropped From Sky?

Dundas Seeks Explanation of Alleged Phenomenon -- Small Boy Prank?
Dundas, Feb. 26 -- In common with many other centres rain fell here yesterday afternoon, and several hours later residents were astonished to observe small fish, about the size of baiting minnows, near the vicinity of Victoria and Market streets. The small fish, it is said, did not come from the sewers, nor were they washed from the creek, which passed through the town.
James W. Dickson, a resident of the town, believes that the fish fell with the rain from the sky. He procured specimens and intends to seek scientific opinion for the phenomenon.
Professor B. A. Bensley of the University of Toronto, declares that it is unlikely that the fish fell from the sky. "My opinion is that some small boy got hold of these fish in some way and dumped them on the street," he said.

Problem solved, right?  Only maybe, said Charles Fort.  He wrote to the Star and influenced and editor enough to print more information the following March.  International news services carried the story of the remarkable fish fall and Fort felt he should address the phenomenon.  He was unaware that a local fisherman, one Robert Manning of Dundas (Ontario) had a bait pail full of minnows in preparation to go ice fishing the next day.  Because of the rainstorm, Mr Manning cancelled his trip and dumped the bucket of minnows.  As they washed down the street in the rain, the theory is that they collected in a shallow spot, giving rise to the “puddle of dead minnows” on the street. 

Fort wrote to the newspaper that he had documented over 200 cases of living things falling from the sky.  He further stated that some of these living things were species that were at the time unknown to science.  He also wrote:

"It may be that all bodies of water in Canada on Feb. 27th were not all frozen solid, but certainly supplies of minnows were not very available. This is the point on which I am seeking information.... It seems incredible that the minnows of Dundas had origin anywhere in Canada, or could have been carried from some far southern point, without scattering. To most minds it will seem incredible that the creatures dropped to the earth from a body of water somewhere in space beyond this earth, because interplanetary space is supposed to be intensely, if not absolutely, cold. I have many data that indicated otherwise."

The story took on a life of its own and soon there were reports of dead minnows on third story window ledges. Various versions of the story appear on internet websites—without the perfectly reasonable explanation. Likely old Dundas, Ontario residents still tell their grandchildren yarns about the day it rained minnows.

Additional “raining” phenomena is addressed by Russian ethnologist Waldemar Jochelson (1855-1937) in a letter to Science Magazine in 1923.  He tells of Russian lore regarding fish appearing as if gifts from God in lakes-which he explained to the Siberians were actually migrating fish as the lakes were connected subteranneally.  Fish found in dry spots could be explained by them simply getting caught when the water dried or drained suddenly.  Frozen tundra lakes may freeze fish which then appear to have been dead then come alive again, a process called anabiosis.  Jochelson suggested that these were the reasons the numbers of fish would occasionally suddenly significantly increase.  He also tells of awakening in the Aleutians and finding a two foot layer of stunned fish, urchins, and shellfish along the shore outside his cabin.  This was, he said, likely caused by volcanic earthquakes.  Birds of prey picked up the fish and carried them away.  Locals and even some scientists of the time claimed that because there are shells in the hills they are therefore former sea beds when a more logical answer might be that the shells and bones found were left over from the carrion of these shocks.

Contemporary author Michael  Swanwick has a fish tale of his own.  He writes of a flower pot imbedded in his garden that was home to goldfish and water lettuce.  The number of living (and dead) fish changes without any apparent spawning.  In the comments his readers give their ideas on how this happens—all sound, logical possibilities—but the basic myth survives.  The inference is that some “outside force” beyond our understanding has influenced the fishes.

Sadly, this sort of thinking and lack of reasoning is rampant in what passes for the Fortean world currently.  Too many people, influenced by what they see on television or on the internet, accept the initial, albeit illogical, explanation.  Too many don’t bother to think for themselves, opting to instead let their minds be entertained by the fantastic rather than the true.  It’s vastly more fun to believe that there are hundreds of chupacabras feasting on farm animals across the US (and, alas, even in Canada) than to educate ourselves.  It’s better TV to promote that Mothman shoots radiation from his eyes (an edit was done on a tv show to make it appear I suggested such a thing) than to allow ourselves to be simply astounded by the mere idea of Mothman.

Sadly, serious researchers must spend way too much time chasing fish tales when they could be breaking ground in real ways.