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.

Sunday 29 July 2012

News on Jeanett Thomas

I hate these sorts of posts.  My heart is heavy and my eyes are filled.

Noted Cryptozoologist/Zoologist Lars Thomas has informed us that his wife, Jeanett, has been found.  Sadly, she is not found alive.

About six months ago, Jeanett left for a bookstore in Copenhagen (their home) and disappeared.  Her husband and teenage sons have been buried in grief and worry ever since.  Several of my colleagues had hoped she had some sort of medical or psychological event and was simply "lost".  As horrible as that sounds, it would have been better than this.

Occasionally, sightings of Jeanett would pop up.  The homicide bureau was called in.  They investigated whether she had been angry or despondent before her disappearance.  Cell phones, computers, and store surveillance were all checked thoroughly and the case went cold.

Lars now has a sort of closure, because Jeanett's body has been recovered in Poland.  Authorities believe that she fell into  Copenhagen Harbour and drowned the night in February where she disappeared.  Because of the winter cold, it was likely a quick death but that is little consolation for such a wonderful family.

Her body drifted across the Baltic and came ashore in northern Poland in early April.  It was only recently that she was identified.  Lars is in the process of having her body sent back home, a process that could take weeks.

Lars is a zoologist with credentials from the University of Copenhagen and has written over 50 books.  He is Denmark's only Cryptozoologist.   This video is about his Australian Big Cat sighting.

Click the last link for words from Lars about the shock and loss.  There are no words I can add and even worse, no words anyone can utter that will take this away.  Godspeed and God Bless you, Jeanett.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Serpentius Niveus, Native to Manitoba

Serpentius Niveus (Snow Snake) has been reported in North America since before European settlers arrived.    It is described as a white snake that loves the cold and has eyes that look like ice.  When aggravated, the eyes are burning red. The size varies considerably, generally from 3 to 6 feet.  It is said to be covered in a shiny fur of white or pale yellow.

For evidence of snow snakes, look near the trails for a round or near-round hole in the deep snow, surrounded by a yellowish border.  You may detect a faint sulphur odor.   This tunnel is reported to be a trail thru the snow as it hunts for food, or the entrance to his under-snow lair.  Few actual sightings of live snow snakes have been reported.

Photo by Marilyn Whiteley, Guelph, ON
More recently, the snowsnakes are known to be the nemisis of skiers and snowboarders. Snowsnakes tend to like to warm them shelves on steep snow-covered slopes. Their white color makes them impossible to see while skiing or boarding. They are often the cause for unxplained wipe outs.  

Canada is home to 25 species of snakes.  None of them are white.  Snakes are unable to regulate their body temperature by generating heat internally.  In the cold Canadian climate, snakes hibernate.  If you are reading this article with an eye toward proving the existence of snow snakes, you are not only gullible, but very misguided.  If a 6 foot long slender white thing slithers through the snow in Canada, it is definitely not a snake.

Potawatomi, Haudenosaune,  Dene, Iroquois, and other native North American tribes have heard of snow snakes though. The Snowsnake game was used as a tool for killing caribou during the times when there were no guns.  Often in the early morning caribou would be found lying on the snow covered lakes and it was during this time that the hunters would slip out onto the lakes and throw a spear-like tool through the snow, into the caribou’s stomach. Native hunters would practice their throwing techniques with the spear, or as it is now called, the Snowsnake.

The snow snake is actually a piece of wood. There are two kinds, a long snake which is 6 feet in length and a short snake which is only 3. Each is hand carved out of hickory or ash. The snakes are only 3/4 of an inch in diameter.

Initially to keep their skills sharp, native hunters would practice throwing their “snakes”.  Over time, this became a game and then a competition event.  Snow Snake is played on a track; snow is piled up at a beginning of the track to a height of about 4 feet, then the track gradually slopes downward.  Sometimes a log is dragged on top of the snow pile to make the track. Contestants throw their snowsnakes like javelins, and the winners are those whose snakes go the furthest.

The community who has the best throws, wins.  Often the best individual throwers win prizes.  Perhaps more importantly, the team wins bragging rights until the next event. These were (and in some places still are) huge games. Village played village. People shouted for their team. It was an exciting game of skill, and often a team sport.

Perhaps the reason for so many “sightings” and skier wipeouts is the cocktail known as the “Snowsnake”.  Ingredients are 1 oz coffee liqueur (tia maria,kahlua),  1 oz whisky (whiskey,bourbon), 1 oz tequila,  4 oz half-and-half, and  ice.  It is typically served in a highball glass with no garnish.  Heaven only knows what you will see after a few of those.;wap

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Thetis Lake Theories

BC has it’s own version of the Creature from the black lagoon—or does it?  Back in August of 1972, the Victoria Daily Times reported that two local teens claimed to have been chased from the beach at Thetis lake near Victoria, British Columbia.  The attacker?  A 5 foot tall, 120 pound silver scaled humanoid with sharp fins on his head.

On August 19, 1972, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) launched an investigation after teenage boys, 16-year old Robin Flewellyn and 17-year old Gordon Pike, claimed to have been attacked by the creature.  The boys reported that they were standing on the beach near the recreational center when they both saw a sudden swelling of water just offshore.  The creature’s head and silver-scaled torso rose from the lake came toward the two terrified teens.  They ran to their car with the monster on their heels.  Reportedly, the thing attacked and injured one of the boys, leaving a laceration across his hand. The boys drove immediately to the RCMP and reported the incident.  According to one of the investigating officers, “The boys seem sincere, and until we determine otherwise we have no alternative but to continue our investigation.”

Four days later, August 23 at approximately 3:30 pm the creature was spotted by 12-year old Mike Gold and 14-year old Russell Van Nice, who were fishing on the opposite side of the lake.  The description was very similar to the original report.  According to one of the boys:
 “It came out of the water and looked around. Then it went back into the water. Then we ran! Its body was silver and shaped like an ordinary body, like a human being body, but it had a monster face, and it was all scaly with a point sticking out of its head and great big ears and horrifying eyes.”
 The RCMP re-launched the investigation but hard evidence was not found.  Soon the story made headlines in the Victoria Daily Times.  The Times commissioned an artist to create a picture of the beast.  A few days later, a newspaper called The Province received a call from a man who had lost his pet tegu near the lake the year before.  This prompted many to believe that this was what the witnesses actually saw.
Tegus (Tupinambis merianae) are lizards which can grow up to 5-feet in length thrive in the warm climates of Latin America. They rarely weigh more than 30 pounds.  This video shows average pet tegu behavior:

Others have suggested that a tegu could not survive the BC climate, but this speculation neglects to take into account that tegus hibernate in the winter—Argentina, where most pet tegus come from-does have a cold winter and the local lizards sleep through it.  They can easily withstand nighttime lows in the 70s but need a nice hot sunny spot to bask in the daytime.  They are not, however, aquatic.  It would not be likely to see a tegu offshore in any lake, whether North or South America.

Junior Skeptic magazine’s Daniel Loxton tracked down a 49-year old Russell Van Nice (one of the young boys involved in the second sighting) who then claimed, “It was just a big lie… [Mike Gold was] trying to get attention.”

Local Natives, especially the Kwakiutl Indians, have many legends of creatures in northern and coastal BC.  Loren Coleman lists the Pugwis (also spelled Bukwus Bakwas, Bookwus, Bukwis, Buk'wus, , Pu Gwis, Pu'gwis, and other ways) as a possible explanation for this sighting.  The Pugwis, however, is described as “a skeletal, long-haired wild man who is a ghost associated with drowning victims.  He tries to tempt humans into eating ghost food and therefore becoming pugwis/bukwus themselves.  This is the only relevance to water—that this ghost is associated with drowning victims.  The Pugwi is not an aquatic creature.

Haida tribes have stories of creatures who were once men.  Of these stories the “devilfish” might be a close cousin, but given that this creature is described more like an octopus, it would not be our Thetis Lake monster.  References to a nonclassified "water-beast" occur in many groups in and around the British Columbia coast  and appear on clan crests.  One aquatic beast is called the “sea wolf” but it is much larger and covered in fur rather than scales.  In a classic tale of the son with the nagging mother-in-law, the badgered son kills a lake monster, the Wasgo, and impersonates it. The  Wasgo is aquatic, extremely powerful, carnivorous, toothed, tailed, and finned. Another legendary creature is described as a long, with huge mouth and teeth and in every other respect like a serpent. Called Haietlik, it is said the natives offered twenty sea-otter skins for a specimen as a piece of this magic animal insures success at all times.  Up the coast into Alaska, the Eskimos speak of a carnivorous sea-serpent "Tirichik" or "Mauraa", or the "nikaseenithulooyee," which is something like an alligator.

Ancient petroglyphs in the region have been specifically labeled as referring to Sisiutls, Wasgos, or Haietliks by tribal descendants.  The petroglyphs seem to refer to an elongated, aquatic animal with some projection on the head, and a swimming tail.

None of the Amerindian legends seem to describe exactly the Thetis Lake Monster.  There is, however, enough evidence of oddities in the area to prohibit researchers from completely dismissing the sightings.  Loren Coleman reports that sightings continue, including one by Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. instructor Jesse Martin from 2006 (again in August).  Martin saw the creature on land only, coming at him from nearby bushes.  He reported that his car had scratch marks and fish scales where the beast tried to attack him.  Coleman verified the story with Martin in March of this year and the witness stands by his report.

 Coleman also provides this list of similar sightings:
  • Moss Street, in Fairfield, on a porch eating cat food,
  • At the Esquimalt Lagoon, in an old building, at Royal Road,
  • At Lost Lake in Blenkinsopp Valley,
  • In the Nanaimo River, caught on fishing line, and
  • In the lakes at Beacon Hill Park.

Thetis Lake was established in1958 and was the first regional conservation area in Canada. The lake is about 20 minutes from Victoria, located next to the Old Island Highway.  It encompasses approximately 831 hectares of protected forest and parkland and is a popular spot for fishing and boating, as well as hiking.
Local historian Ross Crockford cautions that the advice given in Haden Blackman's 1998 Field Guide to North American Monsters to carry a flaming torch to defend oneself from the monster is probably more dangerous than a monster, given the tinder-dry nature of the park.

Certainly not a tegu, can we consider the Thetis Lake Monster real?  There does seem to be physical evidence that something odd is in the neighborhood.  Something injured a teen in 1972 and marked a car in 2006.  As August 2012 approaches, perhaps another report will be filed. 

Tuesday 10 July 2012


A new iPhone app has been released to help your hunt for Bigfoot. Legend Tracker, a new app available at iTunes, is an interactive geocaching game designed to bring visitors to Mission, BC businesses by assisting them  as they search for local "legends." collecting gold coins and tools to help them along the way.  The app is a combination of GPS, video game, and social media.

Play Mobility inventors Tammy Meyers and Miles Marziani say Legend Tracker has legends like the Sasquatch for the Fraser Valley and Ogopogo for the Okanagan, with businesses already signed up to be a part of the gaming experience.  There are over 1,200 registered "legends" worldwide.  Businesses sign up to be part of the game, increasing traffic to the stores and giving users virtual treasure to find at each business.  It also has "enemy eagles" that can grab the gold that has been collected, thereby setting the gamer back significantly and prolonging the search.

The legends, sadly, are not "real" in the sense that they will bring in more grainy photographs of Sasquatch and the like.  The inventors have put in virtual legends--a virtual Sasquatch for example--that can be "found" for prizes.  The virtual Sasquatch is, of course, constantly moving.

Included in the app is a large number of features.  In addition to themed treasure maps and geolocation services, there are a number of other "helpers" for the quest.  It is cross-platform and supports internet, microphone, camera and telephone in addition to accelerometer (a device that measures proper acceleration, also called the four-acceleration. This proper acceleration is associated with the weight of a test mass), magnetometer, compass and "augmented reality".

Legend Tracker is available free on iTunes for iPhone and Android.

Friday 6 July 2012

Mermaids in the Media

“Breaking News:  Mermaids are not real, U.S. government declares”

This was an LA Times headline on July 5, 2012.  If we can get past the fact that this is neither “breaking” nor “news”, what is left is a headline that is misleading.  The  article cited for the Times story is actually a blog entry for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)which states "No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found."  That is not the same as “they don’t exist.”
NOAA dates back to 1807.   The first scientific agency for the US, the Survey of the Coast, was the precursor to this group and now the NOAA maintains a presence in every state and is an international leader on scientific and environmental matters. 
NOAA's Mission:
Science, Service, and Stewardship.
To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts,
To share that knowledge and information with others, and
To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

The NOAA is a division of the Department of Commerce and its Under Secretary is appointed by the President of the US (with approval from Congress).  Serious scientists with government funding claiming that merpeople did not exist would be something to sit up and take notice of. They did not, however, say they didn’t exist.  They said there was no evidence they existed.

There might be a different opinion here in Canada.  While no biological evidence has surfaced to support mermaids here, there are several interesting other pieces to consider. 

Mermaids (called yawkyawks in Australia) first appeared in stories in Assyria, about  1000 BC. Atargatis was a goddess who loved a mortal shepherd and in the process killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish.  , but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid - human above the waist, fish below.  The Greek philosopher Anaximander proposed that mankind had sprung from an aquatic species of animal. This idea reappeared as the Aquatic ape hypothesis in the twentieth century.  A popular Greek legend has Alexander the Great's sister, Thessalonike, turn into a mermaid after she died and when sailors would encounter her, she would ask them only one question: "Is Alexander the king alive?", to which the correct answer would be "He lives and still rules".   Any other answer enraged her and she transformed into a Gorgon and doomed for the ships and every sailor onboard.   The Arabian Nights (One Thousand and One Nights) includes several tales featuring "Sea People",  anatomically identical to land-bound humans, differing only in their ability to breathe and live underwater.

Other Arabian Nights tales deal with lost ancient technologies, advanced ancient civilizations that went astray, and catastrophes which overwhelmed them, very much like Atlantis stories.  In some of these stories,  following the mermaids' beautiful voices leads to confusion and often death.

Mermaids were noted in British folklore as well.  They were thought to fortell (and often provoke) disaster.  The ballad of Sir Patrick Spens depicts a mermaid speaking to doomed ships;  in some versions, she tells them they will never see land again, and in others, she claims they are near shore.  They can also be a sign of rough weather. Mermen were also noted as wilder and uglier than mermaids, but they were described as having little interest in humans.

Some mermaids were described as up to 2000 feet long/tall.  They could also swim up rivers to freshwater lakes. One story is that Laird of Lorntie saw  a woman drowning, and went to aid her but a servant of his pulled him back, warning that it was a mermaid.  The mermaid screamed after that she would have killed him if it were not for his servant. On other occasions, mermaids could be more beneficent, giving humans means of cure.

In some ancient Chinese fairytales the mermaid is a special species can knit beautiful translucent material and whose tears can turn into priceless pearls.  Fishermen longed to catch them, but a mermaids' singing can drag them to coma. Fishermen who want to catch mermaids are a symbol of negative character.

Examples from other cultures are the Mami Wata of West and Central Africa, the Jengu of Cameroon, the Merrow of Ireland and Scotland, the Rusalkas of Russia and Ukraine, the Iara from Brazil and the Greek Oceanids, Nereids, and Naiads.  The mermaid, or syrenka, has been the symbol of Warsaw in Poland since the middle of the 14th century. Several legends associate Triton of mythology with the city, which may have been where the association with mermaids originated.   Among the Neo-Ta’no nations of the Caribbean the mermaid is called Aycayia. A freshwater mermaid-like creature from Europe is Melusine, who is sometimes depicted with two fish tails, or the lower body of a serpent. Mermaids and mermen are also characters of Philippine folklore, locally known as sirena and siyokoy.  The Javanese believe that the southern beach in Java is a home of Javanese mermaid queen Nyi Roro Kidul.

There are two Canadian reports from the area of Vancouver and Victoria, one from sometime between 1870 and 1890, the other from 1967.  A late 19th Century newspaper described how three local men in the Point Gray, BC area (where the University of BC is now) went out fishing with an native guide.  They reportedly saw a mermaid with yellow hair and brown skin rise her upper body above the surface of the water, very close to their boat,  and stare at them. The guide was quite upset by the sighting and told the men that it was a bad omen.   In 1967, BC Ferry passengers saw what they claimed to be a mermaid sitting on rocks at the entrance to Active Pass, Victoria, BC. Reports indicated that the mermaid had long blonde hair, the lower body of a porpoise and was sitting on the rocks eating a salmon. Photos taken by a man in an aircraft support the ferry passengers' description. The Victoria Times-Colonist reported the sighting and printed the photo.   I have not been able to locate this photo.

Although many places and businesses use the word “mermaid” in their titles, the only other Canadian mermaid legend that is well known comes from New Brunswick.  A native tribe called Pestomuhkati inhabited the area of the St Croix River and the Bay of Fundy.  The current Pestomukkati/Passamaquoddy live in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, and maintain active land claims but have no legal status in Canada as a First Nation. Some Passamaquoddy continue to seek the return of territory now comprised in St. Andrews, New Brunswick which they claim as Qonasqamkuk, a Passamaquoddy ancestral capital and burial ground.  Their history is primarily oral and the mermaid legend is as follows:

A long time ago there was an Indian, with his wife and two daughters. They lived by a great lake, or the sea, and the mother told her girls never to go into the water there, for that, if they did, something would happen to them.

They, however, deceived her repeatedly. When swimming is prohibited it becomes delightful. The shore of this lake sands away out or slopes to an island. One day they went to it, leaving their clothes on the beach. The parents missed them.

The father went to seek them. He saw them swimming far out, and called to them. The girls swam up to the sand, but could get no further. Their father asked them why they could not. They cried that they had grown to be so heavy that it was impossible. They were all slimy; they grew to be snakes from below the waist. After sinking a few times in this strange slime they became very handsome, with long black hair and large, bright black eyes, with silver bands on their neck and arms.

When their father went to get their clothes, they began to sing in the most exquisite tones:-

Leave them there!
Do not touch them!
Leave them there!

Hearing this, their mother began to weep, but the girls kept on:-

It is all our own fault,
But do not blame us;
It will be none the worse for you.
When you go in your canoe,
Then you need not paddle;
We shall carry it along!

And so it was: when their parents went in the canoe, the girls carried it safely on everywhere.

One day some Indians saw the girls' clothes on the beach, and so looked out for the wearers. They found them in the water, and pursued them, and tried to capture them, but they were so slimy that it was impossible to take them, till one, catching hold of a mermaid by her long black hair, cut it off.

Then the girl began to rock the canoe, and threatened to upset it unless her hair was given to her again. The fellow who had played the trick at first refused, but as the mermaids, or snake-maids, promised that they should all be drowned unless this was done, the locks were restored. And the next day they were heard singing and were seen, and on her who had lost her hair it was all growing as long as ever.

On January 9, 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed near the Dominican Republic and saw three "mermaids"--in reality manatees--and described them as "not half as beautiful as they are painted."  Certainly many mermaid sightings may be attributed to these sea cows, but as they are primarily warm water animals it is unlikely that European and Canadian sightings can be explained in this way.