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.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Danger in the Field

Those of us who do field work are often subjected to interesting situations; sometimes even dangerous ones.  Too often, the dangers are not anticipated.  In fact, sometimes the dangers don't even make sense.  This is the case with the recent death of Jeff Rice and injury to Catherine Fuller.  While not "cryptozoologists", these two certainly qualify as field researchers.

You may have heard of Jeff and Catherine because of their ties to "Destination Truth", a popular SyFy Channel/SPACE Canada series hosted by Josh Gates.  Josh and crew take on lots of things paranormal and exciting, often exploring cyrptozoological topics.Jeff and Catherine were "facilitators".  These are the people who make the onsite stuff possible.  They coordinate local sites, talent, permissions, equipment, and all manor of tidbits that allow shows like this to be filmed on location.  Last week the pair were in Uganda and were apparently attacked in their hotel room and poisoned with ingested cocaine.  Details are still coming in. This highlights, though, a certain need for caution when working in the field--in any capacity, but certainly in the jungles and woods of foreign lands.

Generally, cryptids do not make themselves available in the researcher's home town.  Investigating them may mean travel and finding accommodations. Often the travel is to countries that have a level of unrest that would make it dangerous to go there.  The Canadian government (and most other governments) publish a list of countries they feel might be dangerous.  Some top crypto destinations are on Canada's list.  Burma (Myanmar) has a recent primate sighting that may be new and the Canadian government rates travel there as a high risk because of civil unrest.  China, Indonesia, Kenya, Russia, and Thailand all have warnings on Canadian travel.  Non-essential travel to Burundi, home of the giant man-eating crocodile, is highly discouraged.

There are, however, more mundane dangers in the field.  None of us should go "in search of" without a few basics.  Here's a short list, and if you have additional safety items to suggest please list them in the comments.

Elastic Bandages-sprains happen
Snake bite kit-unless of course you are going to Ireland or Hawaii
Afterbite-because cryptomosquitos can be nasty
Antihistamines-it's hard to focus when your eyes are watery
Various size wound dressings-for ouchies
Antibiotic Ointment
Nutrition bars
Cold packs
needle and thread--because in an emergency, more than your pants might need a stitch

You should already be carrying these items in your investigative kit, but here are some first aid uses:
non-latex gloves-in addition to helping keep things clean, these can be tied together for a tourniquet
long nosed tweezers-for stingers and splinters
tongue depressors-for splints
Short wave or CB radio or cell phone (if there is service!)

Granted these things probably won't help you in a war zone.  Heed the travel cautions.  Arm yourself with extensive knowledge about where you are going. Get permission from the land owner or government before you set foot on someone's property or camp in a park.

Common sense may not have saved Jeff Rice's life, but it just might save yours or the life of a member of your team.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Caddy Debunked?

Most Canadians (and Cryptogeeks worldwide) are familiar with Vancouver’s Cadborosaurus.  It was named after Cadboro Bay on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.  A classic sea serpent, Caddy is said to have a horse-like head, a flowing mane on a long curved neck, and a long thing snake-ish body that reveals several loops above the surf.

The website claims that it first surfaced in 1933, “the same year the Loch Ness monster became world famous.”  The website credits editor Archie Wills, of the Victoria Daily times, as the person who invented Caddy.  According to skeptics, he was looking to distract readers from tense subjects like the depression and Hitler.  Archie was the City Editor at that time (1928-1936).  This claim is uncited, and I have been unable to find a reputable source for this item.

Ed Bousfield and Paul LeBlond have researched Caddy for over 20 years.   They have recommended that Caddy animals be classified as Caborosaurus willsi in accordance with the rules of International Code of Zoological Nomenclature in honor of Wills.  They state that he “devoted many column inches to the creature and vigorously amassed a myriad sighting reports of the creature's activities”.

Who to believe?  Respected scientists Bousefield and LeBlond or noted skepdebunkers from seem to have different opinions.  The answer is simple.  To debunk the claim that Archie Wills invented the Cadborosaurus we simply need to show a sighting report prior to 1933.  He may indeed have invented the NAME “Cadborosaurus” but did he invent the creature as the skeptics suggest?

It seems unlikely that Archie in fact “invented” the monster.  On his way to Greenland in July 6 of the year 1734, Norwegian missionary Hans Egede reported that he saw "a very terrible sea-animal which raised itself above the water." This sighting is often considered one of the first “Caddy sightings” but in fact this one occurred off the shore of Greenland, nowhere near Vancouver Island.  In an article in Raincoast Chronicles , journalist Howard Wright recounts Hubert Evans’ 1932 sighting.  More compelling, however, are petroglyphs from the area depicting what appear to be sea monsters.  Natives refer to this creature as a “sea wolf” or Haida.  The descriptions are very similar.  Mr. Wills did not invent those.

As for the skeptic reference to the “Loch Ness Monster”, they again skew the facts, presumably to support their agenda of nonbelief.  The first documented sighting at Loch Ness was in 565 AD.  What occurred in 1933 was the first modern sighting, attributed to a Mr. and Mrs. Spicer, who wrote of the thing in a letter.  The first photograph of Nessie did not happen until 1934.  Sightings increased after 1933 not because Nessie first appeared, but rather because that is when the first road was built and more people came to the area. While the skeptics may be technically correct that Nessie became known worldwide sometime in the August 1933-November 1934 range, it was well known among the locals for centuries prior.

Regardless of when the term was coined or the first sightings took place, Caddy continues to be spotted in BC waters.  In fact, there have been more than 300 sightings in the last 200 years.  We are currently in “Caddy Watching Season (October to April) so perhaps someone will send us a current report.

Sunday 12 February 2012

On Being a "Cryptozoologist"

It's not rocket science, that's for sure.  It isn't pseudoscience either, at least as far as I'm concerned.  Lately though, I've been asking myself "What exactly is a Cryptozoologist and why do people think I am one?"

Lately this blog has been getting comments from notables like Loren Coleman, Dale Drinnon, and Dr. Karl Shuker.  This is very humbling and not a little distressing.  I never intended to be a Cryptozoologist, nor do I consider myself any sort of authority on mystery animals.  What I am is a student.  I take the study very seriously, and although I may not always get everything "right", I do a LOT of research and try to present interesting topics in a fair and balanced way.  As a Southern Girl, this isn't always easy, as, and my colleagues will definitely agree, I am an extremely opinionated person!  I have strong beliefs about what some of these creatures are.  I am, however, smart enough to know I'm not the final answer to what's out there.  I study Cryptids.  I learn every day.

That, in a nutshell, is what makes me a Cryptozoologist.  By its simple etymology, the word "cryptozoology" is the study of unknown animals; and those who participate in cryptozoology are, by definition, cryptozoologists.  We are also biologists, theorists, historians, archaeologists, zoologists, and so much more.  We are these things because we study, not because we make discoveries or prove theories.  Sometimes those things do happen, but cryptozoology is simply a study.  I am sort of a fifth grade student.  I have been diligently studying unknown animals for about five years.  I also happen to have seen what I believe to be "mothman" and have done fieldwork in West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, and Ontario.  I did/do this not as a PhD or scholar.  I do consider myself a scientist.

The title "scientist" is another controversial one in the studies of things paranormal.  In The Journal of Theoretics, science is defined as the "the field of study which attempts to describe and understand the nature of the universe in whole or part."  The definition does not suggest one must be learned, or respected, or lettered.  Science only requires study.  Anyone can be a scientist.  Most of us are, every day, in some form. Most people are not scientists with an agenda of being "noted" or "famous".  Most are just curious individuals who like to research and learn.  I am one of those people.

How can Cryptozoology, then, be a "pseudoscience"?  This would imply that those of us who study cryptids aren't really studying, but pretending to study.  None of  my colleagues in this field sit in laboratories, forests, or libraries listening to iPods with a comic tucked into a textbook.  We are really looking, really learning, and really trying to understand and document all of the oddities around us.  I would also assert that pseudo-skeptics are also cryptozoologists when they try to disprove the existence of such oddities.  After all, something must be studied to be debunked.  This is where the "pseudoscience" label fails.

We must be papered, lettered, and recognized before our study and research has any value,  just like some of the most revered scientists of the past, right?  Wrong.  Aristotle was a philosopher yet he set the stage for what would eventually develop into the scientific method centuries later. Charles Darwin failed miserably in learning medicine (at age 16, no less) and attended Cambridge at a time when there was no degree in the natural sciences.  Thomas Alva Edison quit school in 1859, at the age of 12, yet is considered one of the foremost scientists of modern time.  Sir Isaac Newton, the epitome of a scientist, made many of his discoveries well before earning his Bachelors Degree in 1665.  In fact, in his own lifetime, Newton wrote more on religion than he did on natural science.  He also devoted a great deal of time to alchemy.

I don't aspire to be in the same realm as the geniuses above, including our modern Cryptozoologists.  I have enjoyed a modicum of notoriety in the field and am publishing not only here on the blog and other online outlets, but also in print books (most of which are still in process). I am regularly asked to be interviewed on various cryptid topics as well as haunting phenomena.  These are honors I am always surprised to receive as I truly consider myself simply a student.  One of the things I  have learned is that I do in fact "deserve" to wear the title "Cryptozoologist"--as do you, if you are a student of mystery animals.  I wear it proudly, but not arrogantly.  I'll leave arrogance to those who decry why I devote myself  to as "pseudoscience" and declare that we, as a group, are not "credible".

This from Loren Coleman says it all, "Being a cryptozoologist is to be a modern adventurer..."

Sunday 5 February 2012

Underwater Mystery Cat

Native North Americans have a long tradition of stories regarding the Mishibizhiw, an underwater panther.  Some tribes, particularly Anishinaabe, Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi, of the Great Lakes region of Canada consider this being as the most powerful underworld being.  The Ojibwe held them to be the master of all water creatures.  Some myths include this water lynx in their creation legends.

 In the Ojibwe language, this creature is called "Mishibizhiw", "Mishipizhiw", "Mishipizheu", "Mishupishu", "Mishepishu", "Michipeshu", or "Mishibijiw", which translates as "Great Lynx," or Gichi-anami'e-bizhiw ("Gitche-anahmi-bezheu"), which translates as "the fabulous night panther."  Often, it is referred to as the "Great underground wildcat" or "Great under-water wildcat."  In Lake Superior Provincial Park on Ontario, there are pictographs of a mishibizhiw and two giant serpents.  These creatures were described as water monsters that live in opposition to the Thunderbirds which are masters of the powers of the air.

With the body of a cat, usually like a lynx and the horns of a deer, it also sports scales on it’s back and sometimes even bird feathers.  They typically are sporting long tails.  Like many other creatures in native lore, it is said to be a shape shifter.  It is said they roar or hiss like the sound of rushing water. Mishipizheu were said to live in the deepest lakes and rivers and can cause storms.  Other traditions claim they can sometimes be helpful and protective, but generally they are viewed as bringing death or other misfortune.  Traditionally, offerings are made to help with safe passage across the water.
"While skirting some rocks, which by their height and length inspire awe, we saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. They are as large as a calf: they have horns on their heads like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish's tail."
—French missionary Jacques Marquette, 1637
It was a widely held belief that copper came from the creature and charms were made to bring luck to hunters.  After the hunt, these charms would be destroyed.  Native Canadian preferred guns with brass plates depicting European dragons; they likely were interpreted to be images of Mishepishu. An Anishnaabe Ojibwa club from around 1800 has a Mishepishu figure on the end closest to the blade. In 2011, one of the Canadian Mint Mythical Creatures coins depicted a Mishepishu.  The Canadian Museum of Civilization includes an underwater panther in its coat of arms.  While often depicted in both ancient and modern art, modern sightings are virtually nonexistant.