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.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Just Stop--a rant

Veterinarian Melba Ketchum
With all due respect to Dr. Melba Ketchum, DVM, there is not yet proof of bigfoot existence nor is there proof of any genome sequencing.

North American is all aflutter with speculation, and many people are treating her press release as a scientific announcement.  It is not.  Until the actual paper with the recorded methodology and results is peer reviewed and published in a scientific journal, it's all just hype.  I would dearly love for this news to be factual and prove definitively that our hairy friend not only exists but is tied closely to human dna.  I'm not dancing in the streets just yet.

The statement that something cryptid had sex and reproduced with a human female is the stuff of fantasy fiction.  I suppose it COULD happen, but often enough to breed a population?  Are we talking Sasquatch and Eve here?  The probability of contamination by a human is high.  The chain of custody and collection methods have not been released.  Dr. Ketchum's study is going to have to pass this crucial litmus test.

Additionally, virtually no "real" scientists release a teaser about what is to come.  They peer review, and they publish, or at the very least have a contract to publish, all findings. My fervent hope is simply that Dr. Ketchum is naive and inexperienced.  My fear is that she's media hungry.

Then there is the problem of the Better Business Bureau's rating of Dr. Ketchum's lab.  To be fair, most of the 16 complaints in the past 6 years have been about not providing the services promised.  There doesn't seem to be allegations of fraud.  However, this sort of baggage on the lab purporting to make historically significant announcements is problematic at best.  Combine that with Dr. Ketchum's purchase of the Erickson Project and the red flags pop up like pennants at a hockey game.

I want this to be true. I also want everyone to stop acting like it is already proven.

(and that is my rant for today)

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Bigfoot Doesn't Live Next Door

Not next door to Ontario anyway.

The state of New York has officially stated that Bigfoot does not exist.
“The mythical animal does not exist in nature or otherwise. I understand, however, that some well-organized hoaxes or pranks have occurred, leading some people to believe that such an animal does live. However, the simple truth of the matter is that there is no such animal anywhere in the world. I am sorry to disappoint you. However, no program or action in relation to mythical animals is warranted.

This quote is from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation agency’s chief wildlife biologist Gordon Batcheller  in response to the request by Peter Wiemer, of upstate Maywood, NY.

Last July, Peter Weimer, creator of the Chautauqua Lake Bigfoot Expo, officially requested protections for the creature.  His goal was to protect the creature from being hunted and killed.  On October 26th, 2012 wrote a second letter requesting explicit language to protect Bigfoots from being harmed.  He became alarmed when Spike TV offered a $10 million bounty for Sasquatches at the height of big game season.

The New York State DEC official response made by Mark Kandel on the Commissioner’s behalf, stated, “the DEC does not recognize the occurrence of Big Foot in the state, therefore it is not addressed directly in our hunting regulations. Because it is not addressed there is no open season on Big Foot and they may not be taken."

We assume this means Champ is also somewhat protected.  The same goes for other species like Panthers, Mountain Lions and more, which are also not listed. Interestingly, the NY State DEC does describe a race of Bigfoot-like creatures known as "The Hairy Women of Klipnocky" in Klipnocky State Forrest in nearby Allegany County.  The agency’s Hudson River Almanac January 15 - January 24, 2005 also mentions bigfoot in reference to an Aldo Leopold essay when speaking of Croton Point.

The 2nd annual Chautauqua Lake Bigfoot Weekend & Expo is planned for April 26th, 27th & 28th, 2013.  We're still waiting for the RSVPs from the DEC and the big hairy guy himself.

 (image credit only)

Monday 12 November 2012

What’s in Your Kit: In the Field

It’s again the slow time of year for Fortean animal reports in the Great White North, so it’s time to look at some basic stuff.  First in line is what should be in your kit for a one day on site investigation.  This is not the kind of investigation where you are camping out, trying to lure a cryptid, or sitting around observing.  This is the sort of trip where you have a reported event and you go see what evidence you can collect.

So what do you take with you?  The first is an open mind.  A good investigator has no preconceived notions of what the event entails.  By witness testimony, you can rule out some things, though.  Obviously if it is a suspected Sasquatch sighting you would not need tools for an Ogopogo investigation.  If your site is woodsy rather than sandy, you can choose specific tools for that environment.  Generally, though, you should not go to the site assuming that what the witness experienced is a cold, hard fact.

Most sightings of cryptids in Canada are related to Bigfoot.  Because of Canada’s wide range of terrain, your kit has to be varied.  Always bring a camera and an L shaped ruler.  Always bring pen and paper for your notes and observations.  If you have a sound recorder that would be helpful as well, as you never know when you will catch some unusual sounds.

In a forested area, bring a small saw.  If you have evidence of twisting in branches, a standard “sign” of Bigfoot activity, remove the whole section of the branch and bring it back for analysis (after taking photos of course!). This will allow you to further study it as new questions come up.  You should also have a good tape measure so you can measure how tall the evidence is off the ground.  Be sure you have all the appropriate permissions to not only be on the land, but to remove sections for evidence.

Another type of evidence that frequently presents itself is biological in nature.  Bits of hair or fur, and often feces, can be collected for analysis.  It is important to document the location photographically, as well as any smells.  Take wide shots as well as close ups of all specimens.  To retrieve them for further study, you will need several “tools”.  First, a pair of poly gloves—disposables are best, as you will not need to clean them thoroughly before each investigation.  Nothing should be touched by hands that are not covered.  This is not because the samples will harm you, but rather because you do not want any human cells to be integrated with the samples.  When collecting hair samples, get all of the samples you can with either a gloved hand or with tweezers.  If you use tweezers be certain to wash them thoroughly before collecting the next sample to avoid cross contamination.  You should also have appropriate containers for specimen collection.  Ultimately, you would want small glass jars with a cork or metal lid.  These can be hard to find, and often expensive, so if you will be returning to the lab/your home within 24 hours, placing specimens in plastic bags with zipper closure is fine.  Do not leave your samples in these bags, however, as the plastic will leave chemicals in your specimen when exposed for a long time.  When you get back to your home, put your sample in a glass jar (mason jar, etc) for long term storage.
When collecting scat, it is best to collect a very small sample of “pure” scat (without large pieces of food, etc) for dna analysis.  Again, small jars or plastic bags can be used.  Gather enough so that you have some to transfer to a microscope slide.  This is best done with a tongue depressor or Popsicle stick; one that has not been used for anything else and is not dyed or painted.  A good second choice is a standard butter knife, but be sure to clean it thoroughly when you are done and don’t integrate it back into your regular dinner set!  When doing scat collection it is also a good idea to put a silica pack into the bag or jar to help dry the sample.  These can be bought cheaply in bulk, or simply saved out of purses and wallets, as they are often inside when purchased new.  One packet should be plenty for a small sample.  Larger samples would require more packets.  Leave the silica inside the packet.

Also in scat, it is possible you may find bits of undigested food.  This is important, as it gives good clues about the diet of the animal.  If you find grass, for instance, it is a good probability the sample will turn out to be bovine, or feline, or any of several other types of grass eating animals.  If you find evidence of feathers or bones, you are likely looking at an omnivore or carnivore.  Try to retrieve these bits (separately) as well so you can get an idea of where the animal feeds based on what he eats and where that can be found.
Identifying biologicals can be tricky.  Most hair samples will have to be compared under microscope to see if they are structurally the same as humans or wilder animals.  This doesn't require a powerful microscope.  It should be easy to see differences in shaft construction.  The DNA found in scat can be tested to see if it is human or non-human in a simple home test.  If it tests non-human, compare the sample to known animals to see if it matches something common to the area.  If it tests human, it’s best to forward the sample to a professional lab for a better DNA breakdown.

Casting equipment for making impressions is a must have.  I pre-measure my plaster of Paris into Ziploc bags in amounts that can be easily mixed in a water bottle.  Generally a large water bottle can be half emptied and the powder mixed into the bottle, given a good shake, and poured out onto the print.  Remember to also bring something to “frame” the print to keep the plaster from running over the flat land.  I use gardening edge, cut to a reasonable length, and push it down into the ground at least three inches from the print.  This allows me to make a sturdy cast.  You can also use the sides of a cardboard box or anything with a side that will stand up to the wet plaster.  Be sure to leave plenty of room between the print and the frame.  If you are casting in snow, it may be helpful to bring “snow impression wax”.  This is an aerosol that you spray the print with (several times, with a minute or so between sprays) and costs about $15 a can.  If you don’t do this, the gypsum in your plaster will speed the melting of the print and drastically alter the outcome.  As gypsum hardens, it emits a small bit of heat.

If you are investigation a water based cryptid, be sure to bring jars to collect water samples.  You likely will not get biological evidence from the cryptid, but from what is in the water you may get an idea of what sort of beings can survive.  If possible, collect a soil sample from under water at least four feet from shore to get an idea of what the base of the system is made of.

Additional items in your kit would be generally for protection and comfort.  A basic first aid kit should be carried by at least one person on your team.  This should include items for everything from insect and snake bites to broken bones, a good length of rope, as well as salves and wound cleaning items.  Some teams bring a bottle of rubbing alcohol both for the first aid kit and for sterilizing evidence collection tools.  A rain poncho (even if rain is not expected) takes up very little space and can be used not only for protection from rain, but also to sit on or make shelter from.  Hiking poles or walking sticks may be helpful if you are going deep into the woods.  Insect repellent is a must, no matter the season.  Seasonal protection, like layered clothing, winter boots, large brimmed hats, and appropriate jackets should be considered.  Sunscreen is a must in all daylight outdoor investigations, no matter the season.  A good quality “Swiss Army Knife” is a must, as it has many of the needed tools included as well as a knife, which may come in handy.   A GPS or at least a compass is helpful.  In Canada it is also a good idea to carry bear spray.  Consider bringing binoculars and ALWAYS have a waterproof flashlight and communication equipment.  For communication, check to make sure there is cell service for the area (there likely will not be) and make alternate arrangements to reach emergency help if you cannot call out.

Last, but certainly not least, bring food and water.  It doesn't have to be a lot, just enough for emergency rations.  If your team should get lost, you will need to stay hydrated until help arrives.  Granola or “power” bars are great for field work as they give energy as well as basic nutrition.

Fieldwork can be great fun and an excellent adventure.  Never go alone.  Never go without telling someone outside the team where you will be and when you expect to return.  Be prepared, though, and be safe.  

Sunday 28 October 2012

Scientific Cryptozoology

Founded in 1989 by writer James A. Clark, scientist Dr. Paul LeBlond and journalist John Kirk, the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club (B.C.S.C.C.) is a scientific body which follows the accepted principles of orthodox zoology in regard to establishing the existence of new species of animals. Their mandate is to ascertain where these animals fit into the greater picture in the realm of natural history. They are adamantly against any “ludicrous paranormal, occult or supernatural viewpoints”.  The BCSCC claims to be rigidly scientific and does not entertain speculative “pseudo-scientific notions” or “quasi-scientific nonsense.”

This begs the question, “what exactly are the “accepted principles of orthodox zoology”?  A good place to start is the book Principles of Zoology by by Louis Agassiz and Augustus A. Gould. This book lists many functions and organs of animal life, including the nervous system, the senses (including any “special senses”) elements of voice, intelligence, instinct, motion, nutrition and digestion, circulation and respiration, as well as reproduction and various secretions.  The phrase “orthodox zoology” can be defined only by defining the two words.  Orthodox means conforming to what is accepted as right or true or something not independent-minded and unoriginal.  Zoology is defined as the science or branch of biology dealing with animals.  We can infer then that Orthodox Zoology would be the generally accepted study of animals.  'Scientific principles' would be those that explain the 'why' and 'how' of various phenomena using scientific method.

Ah, the “scientific method”;  so often we are, as researchers, accused of not applying this to our studies.  The Oxford English Dictionary says that the scientific method is: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”  This sounds reasonable.  Systematic observation, measurement, experiment, formulation, and testing are certainly elements of Crytpzozoology as well. 

The classical model of scientific method derives originally from Aristotle, who distinguished the forms of approximate and exact reasoning, and defined a threefold scheme of abductive, deductive, and inductive inference, as well as considering the compound forms such as reasoning by analogy.  In deductive reasoning, if the original assertions are true, then the conclusion must also be true.  Abductive reasoning  typically begins with an incomplete set of observations and proceeds to the likeliest possible explanation for the set.   Most scientific researchers avoid abductive reasoning because it is quite subjective.  Hard core scientists, like the BCSCC, use mostly deductive reasoning—they base their facts and logic on what is known, comparing a proposed cryptid to those animals that are known to currently exist or have previously existed.

 Conversely, many Cryptozoologists use the inductive method.  In fact, much mainstream scientific research is carried out by the inductive method: gathering evidence, seeking patterns, and forming a hypothesis or theory to explain what is seen.  Conclusions reached by the inductive method are not logical necessities; no amount of inductive evidence guarantees the conclusion.  It is this sort of ambiguity that sets traditional/deductive scientists on edge.

In 1877, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) characterized inquiry in general not as the pursuit of truth per se but as the struggle to move from irritating, inhibitory doubts born of surprises, disagreements, and the like, and to reach a secure belief on which one is prepared to act. He outlined four methods of settling opinion, ordered from least to most successful:

1.    1.   The method of tenacity (policy of sticking to initial belief) — which brings comfort and decisiveness but leads to trying to ignore contrary information..
2.     2.  The method of authority (using the claims of “experts”)  can be majestic and long-lived, but it cannot operate thoroughly enough to suppress doubts indefinitely, especially in the face of adamant witness testimony.
3.     3. The method of congruity (what is agreeable to reason)"promotes conformity but depends on taste and fashion in paradigms and can go in circles over time. It is more intellectual and respectable but, like the first two methods, sustains accidental and capricious beliefs, destining some minds to doubts.
4.     4. The scientific method — the method wherein inquiry regards itself as fallible and purposely tests itself and criticizes, corrects, and improves itself.

This seems much more appropriate in the study of cryptids.  Certainly there are those who are tenacious, authoritative, and congruous in the field.  It could be said that some even have those traits when it comes to defining “Scientific Method”.  But Pierce reminds us that science, and its methods, are fallible and constantly corrects itself.

I propose the answer to the “justifiability” of cryptid research as something other than a “pseudo-science” is a combination of methodology, anthropological, historic and other established science in congress with peer review.  If we base our research only on what has already been established and is generally accepted (inductive and deductive classical methods or tenacity, authority and congruity in the practical methods), nothing can really be gained except to liken what is unknown to what is known. This, in and of itself, is directly contrary to the idea of studying “unknown” animals.  If they are unknown, they have nothing to compare evidence to.  It would seem then, groups who limit themselves by never using abductive reasoning, are not seeking to discover new animals but rather to debunk cryptids by making them to conform to “known” science.  By including those who propose that cryptids do have some paranormal, occult or supernatural viewpoints, real “scientific method”, as Pierce describes it, can be achieved.

I am in no way discarding the fundamentals of science.  Certainly forensic evidence plays a huge role, as does zoology and many other “ology” studies.  To discard those who “think outside the box” as pseudo-science or “ludicrous nonsense”, limits the scope of the research to only that which is provable and “generally accepted”.

What good is that?  We already know what those animals are…

Thursday 11 October 2012

Bless the Beasts and the Children

“When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.” ― Bertrand Russell

At a recent conference, I spoke about Cryptozoology in general and the local sightings in southern Ontario.  In the audience was a brilliant 8 year old boy named Billy.  Billy had done a book report on a book I wrote several years ago, and has a budding interest in Fortean Zoology.  Billy’s eagerness to learn is inspiring.  Sadly, very little is available for his age group by way of factual information on animals unknown.

I fired up Google and searched everything from “cryptozoology kids” to “teaching kids about bigfoot” and came up with not only few websites, but really, really bad ones.  Most academic websites tell children that Bigfoot and Nessie and Ogopogo are myths.  This is disrespectful to witnesses and certainly not truthful information to teach children.

Among the better websites is,  a site from Australia that simply gives facts.  On the opposite end of the spectrum is a Saturday show on The Comedy Network called “Secret Saturdays” on whose website you can create your own cryptid.  Here is mine.

My son is 11 and in grade 6.  Often I have had to battle with teachers who claim that certain things are “not real”.  I don’t know about other school districts, but here in Toronto, they aren’t too keen on teaching “pseudoscience”. I’m always more than willing to teach a classroom of kids—at any age—about the wonders of investigating unknown animals.  To date, none of the schools have expressed an interest, and one has gone so far as to suggest that talking about such things might be harmful to a child.  Apparently teaching children to question, and wonder, and explore is passé.

There is a promising website called Crypto Camp authored by Jon Duff.  Far from complete, he seems to be on the right track as far as providing reasonable content for children who are interested in Cryptozoology.  Mr. Duff has a good understanding of how media influences children and seeks to give accurate information, although he is not actually a student of the subject.  His background is in fine arts and web design.  Certainly there will be criticisms forthcoming, but so far he’s doing well in his attempt.

How can we satisfy the curiosity in children like Billy?  Who is best qualified to put together an age appropriate presentation?  How do we get schools to invite this “out of the box” thinking? Personally I think the answer is that ALL of us, no matter what our level of understanding or interest, need to get actively involved in spreading the word to children.  Too many kids fear Bigfoot or figures like Nessie because of the title “Monster”.  Too many kids don’t understand that many of these formerly unknown creatures are now documented and “known” because someone never gave up on proving their existence.  It’s time to breed the next generation of Fortean Zoologists; and to do so with logic, science, dedication, and perseverance.

Thursday 4 October 2012

29 September Quebec Bigfoot Sighting

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is reporting that Maggie Cruikshank Qingalik, who is from Akulivik, Que., said her friend saw some kind of creature out in the wilderness.  It was a REALLY BIG something.

The two ladies were out berry picking and saw what they thought was someone else doing the same.  Then they realized the other “person” was about ten feet tall and covered in dark hair.  A Facebook photograph puts the footprint at about 40 centimeters.

Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman was contacted and said the Sasquatch “may sustain themselves on a diet similar to caribou” bit that they are  omnivores  and “are opportunistic and could eat a range of food including salmon or road kill.”  He is hoping, as are we, that someone took some decent photos and measurements and perhaps could return (quickly!) to the site to make plaster casts of the footprint.

Nunavik is the northern third of the province of Quebec, north of the 55th parallel. Ninety percent of the 11,000 inhabitants are Inuit and live in one of only fourteen villages or reserves.   Nunavik means "place to live" in Inuktitut and the Inuit inhabitants of the region call themselves Nunavimmiut.  Until 1912, the region was part of the Northwest Territories.

Animals of the area are abundant.  Marine mammals include beluga whales, seals, and walruses.  Polar bears and caribou are common.  Musk-ox was introduced to the area in 1967 and continue to have a growing population.  Water fowl begin returning to the area in late March, with most present by June.  The nocturnal Snowy Owl is a year round resident.  It should also be noted that the food source of ringed seal liver and beluga contain high levels of mercury.  Local children show a higher incidence of ADHD believed to be linked to the higher mercury levels.  It would be interesting to see how other consumers of such animals, like hawks and falcons, also show biological issues with increased mercury.  This would imply that Sasquatch would also be affected.

CBC will air an interview with the witness on October 9 at 7am (Eastern Time) which can be accessed here.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Spooky Sasquatch

While I do love researching things "unknown zoological", this time of year most of my work involves ghost things.  Every conference at which I present requires something ghost based, and as an additional requirement they have to "allow" me to do a small presentation about Cryptozoology as well.  This year, during a visit with an attendee, I was asked if bigfoot could be the ghost of a neanderthal.


What an interesting question!  This would certainly explain why we aren't finding hair, bone, teeth, or scat samples.  Ghosts don't leave them.  Additionally, bigfoot sightings tend to be most concentrated in those areas where "humans" originated and initially migrated--Africa, Asia, and along the North American Pacific coast, right?

Nope.  Neanderthal fossils were first found in Germany.  The fossils believed to be of the most recent Neanderthals  are from Gibralter, very near where Cro-Magnon skeletal remains were found.  Many people have yet to understand that Neanderthal DNA in humans is most likely from interbreeding rather than evolution  and science now holds Neanderthals as a different human species than we modern humans.  Additionally, Neanderthal evidence has not been found in North America or east of the  Altai Mountains in Asia.  In Africa, "modern" humans are evidenced at least 160,000 years before the present which predates the Neanderthals.

Neanderthal cranial capacity is thought to have been as large or larger than ours, indicating that their brain size may have been comparable, or larger, as well. Neanderthal and modern human brains were the same size at birth, but by adulthood, the Neanderthal brain was larger than theour brain. Like we suspect of bigfoot, Neanderthals were much stronger than modern humans, and fit the general size as reported by witnesses of bigfoot--Males stood 164–168 cm (65–66 in) and females about 152–156 cm (60–61 in) tall. These early species used tools and often made homes with bones.  Nothing even remotely similar to this has been reported with the classic North American bigfoot.

One theory that was discussed at this conference was the idea that humans have "spirits" and animals do not.  I'm not sure how I personally feel about this but I do know if you try to tell a cat owner his pet has no personality or spirit, you're asking for trouble.  Additionally, there have been many reports of animal hauntings.  Add to that, the idea that Bigfoot is more human than animal and that theory pretty much gets put to rest.

The sheer lack of logic in the idea of one unknown (ghosts) explaining another unknown (bigfoot) is enough to prohibit me from studying them as a possible same entity.  Like Jane Goodall though, "I'm sure they exist."  And for me, that means BOTH Bigfoot and Ghosts.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

It's a Bird, It's a Plane...

This weekend (September 14, 2012) is the 10th anniversary of the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.  I am pleased to be part of the speaker lineup again this year, and if you are able I highly recommend attending this free fest.  Mothman’s fame may be in West Virginia, but Canada certainly is part of this creature’s world itinerary.  Sightings occur worldwide, and have for a very long time.

If you are not familiar with this cryptid, here are some basics.  First and foremost, know that not everyone considers Mothman a cryptid.  Some believe he is thoroughly paranormal, some believe he is alien, and skeptics have both pooh-poohed the sightings and attributed them to barn owls or sand hill cranes.  Most witness descriptions place him at 4 to 6 feet and human shaped, having a shiny dark grey or black skin, batlike wings, and large glowing red eyes.  He is able to fly without flapping his wings, take off and land vertically, and has sharp fingernails.

In 2002, the motion picture “The Mothman Prophecies” starring Richard Gere was released by Lakeshore Entertainment and Director Mark Pellington.  Most people have, unfortunately, gotten their information from this film.  Based on the book by John Keel, the movie describes some of the event of the mid 1960’s in Point Pleasant and the Mothman involvement.  While an entertaining film, it is so factually incorrect and veers so far from the original book, that witnesses and locals in the Point Pleasant area tend to avoid any association with it.

Any serious researcher should purchase and study the books by Jeff Wamsley on the subject.  While not a witness himself, he has collected newspaper accounts and police reports and real evidence from the period. Additionally, Wamsley runs the local “Mothman Museum” and is instrumental in the planning and execution of the yearly festival.  His books are called Mothman: Behind the Red Eyes, and Mothman: The Facts Behind the Legend (written with Donnie Sergent, Jr.) and are available at Amazon.

Mothman reports have come in from many countries.  Viet Nam, Mexico, and The Ukraine have notable sighting reports.  Native American cave art depicts drawings of creatures quite similar to Mothman as well.  He  has also been sighted just before other major world disasters including  explosion, the Tsunamis in India and Japan, Afghanistan and Iraq, and in New York on September the 11th.

In Canada, there are but a few sightings thought to be attributable to Mothman.  One witness reports that in August of 2007 in Ontario, Canada, heard a loud rustling sound in some tall grass. When the creature emerged it is described as having large, bright red eyes. The creature was about seven feet tall, black shiny skin that looked like a bat's, long arms that reached almost to the ground, and a wingspan of about eight feet wide. It let out a loud blood-curdling screech and the witnesses ran.  A police report was filed but never taken seriously. Later the same night the witness heard a scratching sound on the window and went to see what it was and it was the tall, dark creature peering in the living room window. Two weeks after the occurrence, the house had burned down.

Similar stories trickle in from across Canada.  Sightings have occurred from Dawson City, Yukon, to CFB Gagetown near Frederickton, New Brunswick.  As a West Virginia native and Mothman witness myself, I ask that if you (yourself, not via heresay) have seen this creature, please contact me.  I have research ongoing.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Here We Go Loup Garou

There once was a man in Quebec named Jean Dubroise.  A roaring sound came from his property late at night when good people should be sleeping. His neighbors avoided him and his home.  One night a neighbor named Alphonse decided that he would dare the strange noises and take a short-cut across Dubroise's land to get home. He heard a loud roaring noise from overhead and threw himself flat on the ground when he saw a huge canoe flying over him. The canoe landed next to Dubroise house and the Devil jumped out with a whip in his hand.

Alphonse hid and watched as the Devil shouted, "Come out of the canoe!" and snapped the whip at the occupants. Twenty creatures with the shaggy coats of wolves but the upright walk of men leapt from the canoe.

The werewolves went to work doing Dubroise’s farm chores while Dubroise came out to talk and drink with the Devil. Alphonse knew then that Dubroise had sold his lazy soul to the Devil in exchange for the werewolves' work on his farm.  At last, the Devil and the loup garou jumped back into the flying canoe and flew away.

As soon as it was safe, Alphonse hurried to the local priest to report what he had seen.  The priest advised the men to sprinkle the holy water over Dubroise's house, his outbuildings, and all of his land. Then the men hid themselves in the bushes to keep watch. That night when the Devil leapt out of the canoe, as soon as his foot touched the holy water sprinkled onto the ground, the Devil started leaping about and shrieking in pain and rage. The werewolves were frightened and fled from the canoe and the men of the parish collected the werewolves and brought them to the priest. The priest pricked each one with a knife to turn a loup garou back into a man. Jean Dubroise was never seen again.

This old Quebec folk tale is often used  in relation to UFO stories, sometimes religion, and for today’s purpose, the Quebec werewolves, known as “Loup Garou”.  The French name for a werewolf,  loup-garou (pronounced /lugaˈru/), is from the Latin noun lupus meaning wolf and Old French garoul meaning "werewolf". A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope, is folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or lycanthropic affliction via a bite or scratch from a werewolf. This transformation is often associated with the appearance of the full moon. In addition to the natural characteristics inherent to both wolves and humans, werewolves are often attributed strength and speed far beyond those of wolves or men. The werewolf is generally held as a European character, although its lore spread through the world in later times. Shape-shifters, similar to werewolves, are common in tales from all over the world, most notably amongst the Native Americans, though most of them involve animal forms other than wolves.

There is also a mental illness called lycanthropy in which a patient believes he or she is, or has transformed into, an animal and behaves accordingly. This is sometimes referred to as clinical lycanthropy to distinguish it from its use in legends. Despite its origin as a term for man-wolf transformations only, lycanthropy is used in this sense for animals of any type. This broader meaning is often used in modern fictional references, such as in roleplaying game culture.

Werewolves were said in European folklore to bear discerning physical traits even in their human form. These included the meeting of both eyebrows at the bridge of the nose, curved fingernails, low-set ears and a swinging stride. It was once thought that to identify a werewolf in its human form, cut the flesh of the accused and fur would be seen within the wound. A Russian superstition recalls a werewolf can be recognised by bristles under the tongue. The appearance of a werewolf in its animal form varies from culture to culture, though it is most commonly portrayed as being indistinguishable from ordinary wolves save for the fact that it has no tail, is often larger, walks upright, and retains human eyes and voice. According to some Swedish accounts, the werewolf could be distinguished from a regular wolf by the fact that it would run on three legs, stretching the fourth one backwards to look like a tail.  After returning to their human forms, werewolves are usually documented as becoming weak and psychologically depressed.

In medieval Europe it was generally believed the werewolf would devour recently buried corpses, a trait that is documented in the Annales Medico-psychologiques in the 19th century. In Scandinavia,  werewolves were usually old women who possessed poison-coated claws and had the ability to paralyse cattle and children with their gaze.  Serbian vulkodlaks traditionally congregated annually in the winter and strip off their wolf skins and hang them from trees. 

Some French werewolf lore is associated with documented events. The Beast of Gévaudan terrorized south-central France. From the years 1764 to 1767, an unknown entity killed upwards of 80 men, women, and children. The creature was described as a giant wolf by the sole survivor of the attacks, which ceased after several wolves were killed in the area.  In Mexico, there is a belief in a creature called the nahual, which traditionally limits itself to stealing cheese and raping women rather than murder. In Haiti, werewolf spirits known locally as Jé-rouge (red eyes) can possess the bodies of unwitting persons and nightly transform them into cannibalistic lupine creatures or try to trick mothers into giving away their children voluntarily by waking them at night and asking their permission to take their child, to which the disoriented mother would often agree.

When the European colonization of the Americas occurred, the pioneers brought their own werewolf folklore with them and these eventually mixed with the lore of their neighbouring colonies and those of the Natives. Belief in the loup-garou present in Canada, the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan and upstate New York, originates from French folklore influenced by Native American stories on the Wendigo. Some believe that the Norse colonization of the Americas manifested their werewolf lore into the folklore of some Native American tribes.

The Naskapis believed that the caribou afterlife is guarded by giant wolves which kill careless hunters venturing too near. The Navajo people feared witches in wolf's clothing called "Mai-cob".   Many Native cultures feature skin-walkers or a similar concept, wherein a shaman or warrior may, according to cultural tradition, take on an animal form. Animal forms vary accordingly with cultures and local species (including bears and wolves), for example, a coyote is more likely to be found as a skinwalker's alternate form in the Great Plains region.

In modern folklore and fiction the Wendigo found in the stories of many Algonquian peoples is sometimes considered to be similar to lycanthropes, in that humans could transform into them. The original legends varied significantly.  As with legends passed by oral tradition, stories often contradict one another.  In one example,   if a person saw a Loup Garou, that person would be transformed into one. Thereafter, the unfortunate victim would be doomed to wander in the form of this monster. In this way, the Loup Garou story bears resemblance to a Native American version of the wendigo legend.

Stories of humans descending from animals are common explanations for tribal and clan origins. North American indigenous traditions particularly mingle the idea of bear ancestors and ursine shapeshifters, with bears being able to shed their skins to assume human form and marrying human women. The offspring may be monsters with combined anatomy, they might be very beautiful children with uncanny strength, or they could be shapeshifters themselves.

The stories of werewolves may be inspired by encounters with actual animals. This is supported by subfossil remains discovered in Madagascar of giant lemurs of suborder Strepsirrhini which became extinct some time after the Malayo-Polynesian settlement of the island. These sailors and earlier explorers of the area such as those sponsored by Necho II were in direct or indirect contact with trading centers in Egypt and elsewhere which would certainly facilitate the spread of the stories of these real werewolf-like creatures.

A French-Canadian woman, born in the late 1880s, told that when she was a young girl, she heard that "years ago" there was a village in Québec which experienced a rash of sheep killings. The sheep were being killed at night, throats torn and partially eaten. The townsfolk suspected a rather suspicious fellow among their neighbours. During a search of his property they discovered a wolfskin belt.   The fellow explained that when he put the belt on he became a wolf and that it was he who had been killing the sheep. The townsfolk burned the belt and that supposedly brought an end to the killings.

Often the story-telling was used simply to inspire fear. Stories were told by elders to persuade children to behave. Another example relates that the wolf-like beast will hunt down and kill Catholics who do not follow the rules of Lent. This coincides with the French Catholic loup garou stories, where the method for turning into a werewolf was to break Lent seven years in a row.  Other stories mention people who sold their soul to the devil or leading a "bad life", that is to say, with off-the precepts of the Church.

From The Quebec Gazette, July 14, 1766 and December 10, 1767.
One learns of Saint-Roch, near Cape Mouraska (Kamouraska) there is a werewolf running coasts as a beggar, who, with the talent to persuade it ignores and promising what he can not keep, was the one to get what he wants. It is said that this animal, with the help of his two hind feet, arrived at Quebec on the 17th and last he returned the next 18, intending to follow his mission till Montreal. This beast is said to be in its kind as dangerous as the one that appeared last year in the Gévauclan *, which is why we urge the public to be wary as a ravening wolf.
Kamouraska, December 2, we learn that a werewolf , traveling the province for several years, and did a lot of damage in the district of Quebec, received considerable number of attacks last October by various animals that had been armed and unleashed against the monster, and in particular the three following November, he received a furious blow with a small lean animal, which is believed to be fully delivered from this fatal animal, as he remained some time retired to his den, to the great satisfaction of the public.

Some modern researchers have tried to explain the reports of werewolf behaviour with recognised medical conditions.  Downs Syndrome, hypertrichosis (a hereditary condition manifesting itself in excessive hair growth), and congenital porphyria have been suggested as possible explanations, at least for early reports before these conditions became well known.  . In a 1963 paper by Dr Lee Illis of Guy's Hospital in London entitled On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werewolves,  argues that porphyria victims’ sensitivity to sunlight, and the possibility that receding gums can give the appearance of fangs are reasons to suspect this.  He also suggested that garlic makes the condition worse, and at one time victims may have attempted self-treatment by drinking blood.  Scientifically though, this explanation doesn’t hold much water.

Most modern day Canadian Loup Garou sightings seem to be reported as the “Michigan Dogman”.  First reported in the late 1800’s, the reports began in northwestern Michigan and have since re-emerged in southern Ontario.  It is also possible that this is the same creature as Wisconsin’s Beast of Bray Road.  In fact, even some Sasquatch sightings could be Loup Garou, especially those from significant distance.

Medicine Hat, Alberta has a self proclaimed Loup Garou in convicted killer Jeremy Steinke, now legally known as Jackson May,

Thursday 9 August 2012


Americans love to talk about “their” version of the LochNess Monster. “Champ”, however, holds dual citizenship; Lake Champlain is a 125-mile (201 km)-long lake that is shared by New York, Vermont and Quebec,Canada.

There have been at least 300 reported unexplained sightings of Champ in modern history. Many sources report an account of a creature in Lake Champlain given in 1609 by Frenchexplorer Samuel de Champlain, the lake's namesake, who is supposed to have spotted the creature as he was fighting the Iroquois on the bank of the lake. This claim has been traced by historians to actually have occurred in the St.Lawrence estuary however.

Lake Champlain began roughly 10,000 years ago when an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, the Champlain Sea, was transformed by receding glaciers into an inland, fresh-water body. The Lake is 120 miles long, 400 feet deep in places and home to a diverse population of birds and aquatic life which wouldbe more than enough to sustain the belly of a large beast. However, the maximum for all of Missiquoi Bayand for the eastern edge of Maquam Bay, where many of the sightings take place,is only fourteen feet. There are 6rivers which flow into Lake Champlain and it was once a part of the Great Lakes, bringing the number of Great Lakes up to 6. The Great Lake status was removed 3 weeks later due to funding disagreements.

Experts say it would take at least 50 mature Champs to havea breeding population in the Lake, and 500 to keep the species alive in thelong term. While the numbers are daunting, Lake Champlain does provide an idealhabitat for such a creature.

Native Americans, who inhabited the region long before theEuropeans arrived, had tales of a ‘horned serpent’ that lived in LakeChamplain’s waters. There were at least three tribes in the region: Abnaki,Algonquin, and Iroquois. The Abnaki’s name for Lake Champlain’s serpent wasTatoskok, and it was described as having horn-like protuberances from its head.“The History of Eastern Vermont”, written in 1858, includes an illustration byBenjamin H. Hall titled “Indian Rock.” His writings include the followingdescription, “…in the town of Brattleboro is situated the Indian Rock. It’slocation is about one hundred rods west of the point of junction of theWantastiquet and Connecticut rivers ….Of the ten figures here presented, sixare supposed to designate birds, two bear a resemblance to snakes, one is notunlike a dog or a wolf and one conveys no idea either of bird, beast, orreptile.” The creature, which Mr. Hallcould not name, is now thought to represent Champ or Tatoskok.

A report in the Plattsburgh Republican dated July 24, 1819,titled "Cape Ann Serpent on Lake Champlain", gives the account of a"Capt. Crum" sighting an enormous serpentine monster. Also in 1819, in Port Henry, NY, a railroadcrew reported to have spotted a “head of an enormous serpent sticking out ofthe water and approaching them from the opposite shore.” Near the time of this sighting, farmers nearbyclaimed to have missing livestock, with drag marks leading to the shore. Around 1880, hunters claimed they had killedChamp with a rifle, stating that blood spurted from the monster’s head and thatthe beast sank and never resurfaced. In 1873 and 1887, showman P. T. Barnumoffered huge rewards for the monster—dead or alive-- so that he could includeit in his World’s Fair Show. The first officialreported sighting came in 1883 when Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney claimed that hehad seen a “…gigantic water serpent about 50 yards away” from shore. He reported“round white spots inside its mouth” and that “the creature appeared to beabout 25 to 30 feet in length”. After Mooneywent public with his sighting, many eyewitnesses came forward with their ownaccounts. This report predates thepublic Loch Ness controversy by 50 years.

In 1977, amateur photographer Sandra Mansi released aphotograph that appeared to show a plesiosaur-like body and neck sticking outof the lake. The offshore depth atMansi’s estimated sighting distance of 150 feet is twelve feet or less. Thisphotograph garnered much attention from the media, appearing in the New YorkTimes and Time magazine in June and July, 1981. Mansi showed the photo toJoseph W. Zarzynski who is the founder of Lake Champlain Phenomena Investigationand has stated that there is enough "impressive data" on Champ tosupport belief in its existence. Zarzynski and Jim Kennard of RochesterEngineering Laboratories have used high-tech sonar to search for Champ, and onJune 3, 1979, they took readings indicating the presence of a 10 to 15 footlong moving object in the waters beneath them.

A recording of echolocation from within the lake by theFauna Communications Research Institute in 2003, working as part of a DiscoveryChannel program, concluded that the sounds they recorded are similar to that ofa Beluga Whale or perhaps an Orca, but not of a known animal, and no dolphin orwhale species have been previously known to live in the lake.

Champ reportedly can be seen in a video taken by fishermenDick Affolter and his stepson Pete Bodette in the summer of 2005. The images may be interpreted either as a headand neck of a plesiosaur-like animal and even an open mouth in one frame and aclosed mouth in another; or as a fish or eel. Two retired FBI forensic imageanalysts reviewed the tape and said it appears authentic and unmanipulated. I was unable to locate the actual footage, but this photo is taken from the film.

Debunkers of the Champ monster cite several reasonableoptions for what witnesses report. Theysuggest several Champ sightings could possibly be explained as deliberate hoaxes, presumably for money, or fame. Usually,they say, it involves misidentifications of common animals. Otters, beavers,diving birds, and large fish (such as Eels and Lake Sturgeon) live in the lake. There are sturgeon (currently endangered) in Lake Champlain that can grow to great lengths. They are a very old, almost prehistoric fish with a scale-less body that is supported by a partially cartilaginous skeleton along with rows of scutes, bony external plates or scales like on the shell of a turtle or the skin of a crocodile. The single dorsal fin, running along itsspine, would match many descriptions of Champ, although its sharp, shark-like tail would not. One Tom Forrest witnessed a friend hook a Longnose Gar that—Forrest insists—was "monster” sized. It measured approximately 6 feet 4 inches long and weighed some 40-50 pounds. Forrest has dubbed it, appropriately,“Gar-gantua”.

Two or more large gar, sturgeon, or other fish could easilyappear as a single multi-humped monster. Ronald Binns tells of a young man who spied a 50-foot sea serpent offEngland’s Brighton beach in 1857. Theman later became a marine biologist and changed his opinion, believing he hadactually seen several dolphins “swimming in line.” Multiple fish can appear as a single monster.Walter and Sandi Tappan videotaped a “series of small humps” they believe was alarge creature. The video was included on a September 23, 1992, episode ofNBC’s Unsolved Mysteries. CryptozoologistJohn Kirk believes the video shows “fish feeding near the surface.”

Longnose gar
© Doug Perrine

Witness descriptions of Champ with horns, “moose-likeantlers,” or a head “like a horse” are dismissed as other wildlifepossibilities. Allowing for overestimation of length—which is especially easyto do if there is a wake—swimming deer could be the explanation. Additionally, otters are abundant in theregion and enjoy “chasing each other” and “following the leader” and areespecially prone to creating the many hump illusion. Otters have been mistaken for monsterselsewhere, including Loch Arkaig and Loch Ness. The Northern River Otter (Lutra canadensis) measures up to 52 incheslong, and is dark brown with a lighter, grayish throat and belly. Whiletreading water with its hind paws, it can extend its head and long neck out ofthe water, much resembling a plesiosaur.

Others believe that Champ sightings could easily beexplained by nonliving phenomena, such as logs, waves, or rotting vegetation. According to Joe Nickell, there are fewexplanations for how a giant creature could swim, let alone hide, in suchshallow water. It has been suggested that the object in the Mansi photographcould be a rising tree; rotting trees often gather gas in the process of decay,and sometimes rise to the water's surface very quickly. An effect called aseiche—may help to produce just such sightings. A seiche is a great underwaterwave that sloshes back and forth, even though the lake’s surface appearssmooth. The sloshing may dislodge debris from the bottom that rise to thesurface. Still other possibilities forChamp (and many purported lake monsters elsewhere) include wind slicks and boatwakes. A deckhand on the Valcour ferry (out of Burlington, Vermont) claims thatChamp reports had declined in the last fifteen years or so with the cessationof large traffic on the lake. A barge’s wake often traveled across the lake, hesaid, mystifying anyone who might encounter it without seeing its cause.

Button Bay State Park Naturalist Laura Hollowell believes“People have seen otters and mink swimming in the lake and think they've seenChamp.” She said she is “surprised at what unreliable reporters people can bein terms of wildlife sightings,” adding, “I don't believe that there are anylarge, unidentified animals in Lake Champlain.”

Believers in Champ often cite various examples of large andexotic creatures as possible be candidates for Champ. Many people theorize that Champ is asurviving Plesiosaur, an extinct Sauropterygian reptile that lived during theMesozoic Era and died out around 65.5 million years ago. Many believe thatplesiosaurs might have been cold-blooded, so it would be extremely difficultfor them to survive in the waters of Lake Champlain. Additionally, new studies have shown that theneck anatomy of plesiosaurs probably prevented them from raising their headsand necks up out of the water. British cryptozoologist Dr. Karl P.N. Shuker,defends this theory by hypothesizing that a surviving plesiosaur might possiblyhave evolved an ability to tolerate colder temperatures, as well as a differentneck structure.

Cryptozoologist Roy P. Mackal is of the opinion that most lake monstersightings around the world can be explained as sightings of survivingZeuglodons or Basilosaurs. These werelarge, serpentine whales that lived during the Eocene Epoch. The shape of theirbodies appears to fit most descriptions of Champ. Fossils of zeuglodons havebeen found a few miles from Lake Champlain in Charlotte, VT.

Several researchers, including Bernard Heuvelmans and DarrenNaish, have theorized that an unknown species of giant pelagic, long-neckedPinnipeds might be responsible for sightings of sea monsters in the world'soceans, and some researchers have also extended this hypothesis to includereports of lake monster sightings as well. Pinnipeds tend to be very noisy and socialanimals, however, making it hard to believe that they could remain hidden inthe lake for so long. This problem could potentially be solved via evolution,since this hypothetical pinniped could behave differently from actual, knownspecies of pinnipeds.

The theory of Tanystropheus was proposed by Champ researcherDennis Hall, who claims to have seen Champ 20 times. In 1976, his father caught a strange-lookingreptile, on the shore of Lake Champlain and took it to scientists. They concluded it was unlike any knownspecies of living reptile. Unfortunately, however, this specimen was laterlost. Hall then saw a picture of a Tanystropheus, and concluded that it was themost likely candidate, for Champ. Because Tanystropheus was a very specializedspecies of aquatic reptile from the Triassic Period, it very unlikely that itcould have survived and still inhabit Lake Champlain.

An internet forum user named “Robert” submitted this:

“I was looking at the lake using Google Earth and noticed afunny shape in the water. It is about 1.58 miles SW of Mud Island Lat: 44°7’3.59″N, Long: 73°23’40.83″W. “

A second user of the same forum named Paul Cape used the measuring tool provided with the map and found the thing to be 200ft long or about 66.5 yards. This is considerably bigger than most of the reports but some said it could have been this big. This could be due to something Rupert T.Gould, in his The Loch Ness Monster and Others (1976), called “expectant attention.” This is the tendency of people who are expecting to see something and are misled by anything having some resemblance to it.

“Few cryptozoologists deny the possibility of Champ’sexistence,” states W. Haden Blackman in his The Field Guide to North AmericanMonsters (1998), “and many openly accept the creature.” Champ seeker JosephZarzynski has even given it a name: Beluaaquatica champlainiensis ("hugewater creature of Lake Champlain”) (Owen 1982). If the perfect storm of technology, interest, and funding come togetherwe may someday have real answers about what is lurking below.,r:1,s:0,i:146&tx=60&ty=80