In many ways we are very lucky. We get to travel around the world looking for mystery animals, and then write books about our adventures. Of course it isn’t quite as simple as that, because there is a whole slew of mundane administration and stuff, but on the whole doing what we do is a heck of a lot better than having a proper job. We live in Woolsery and we run The Centre for Fortean Zoology – the world’s largest mystery animal research group, and once a year we invite devotees of the weird and wonderful here for the internationally famous Weird Weekend.

We also write a monthly column for The Bideford Post and we decided that it was about time that we introduced Weird Torridgeside to the blogosphere..

Friday, 9 January 2009

Bloody hell, The Sun says we have stolen the skull....

For immediate release
9th January 2009
It was us! We did it....

The saga of the mysterious cadaver of Croyde Beach in sunny North Devon trundles on., According to today's papers, "Last night, in a further twist, police reported the beast’s skull STOLEN." Well it hasn't been... we've got it! Because of the possibility that this corpse might conceivably be the body of only the second sealion ever to turn up on British waters, we were concerned that a specimen of potential scientific importance would be removed by the environmental health department, or chewed up by a badger, fox, or dog, and unilaterally decided that we should try our best to preserve it for posterity.

The beach is actually owned by a holiday camp, which in turn is owned by a firm based in Newcastle. We were unable to get all of anybody at the holiday camp, because it's the middle of the winter, and nobody in their right minds would be on holiday in North Devon at this time of year. So, determined - as always - to be good law-abiding citizens, we telephoned the parent company. Nobody in the management department was available to speak to us, but we spoke to a delightful young lady called Gemma who told us that she was sure that nobody from a major holiday network would actually want the suppurating carcass remains of an unfortunately deceased pinniped, but nevertheless agreed to log my call and be witness to the fact that neither I, or anyone else at the CFZ has any intention of permanently depriving Parkdean holidays of part of a dead seal, and that if they want the shull and/or rear flipper back they only have to ask. Gemma thought that this was all terribly exciting, and rather amusing. She wished us luck, and our call ended.

After reading today's papers, CFZ Director Jon Downes (49) telephoned Braunton Police Station, and spoke to the Duty Officer, telling him the state of affairs, and explaining that the missing skull and flipper are at present in a bucket of formalin at the offices of the CFZ (the world's largest mystery animal research group). Disappointingly for his street cred, he was told that an immediate arrest was highly unlikely, and that the Police were merely happy that the cadaver was "in the hands of the professionals". On hearing this, Corinna Downes (52), Jon's wife, and administrator of the CFZ stopped making the placards reading "Free the CFZ Three" and went back to her normal activities.

There are still two mysteries to be solved.

Today's newspapers said that "Some locals suggested it could be a seal, but The Marine Conservation Society and the National Seal Sanctuary both stated it was not." We telephoned both organisations, who stated categorically that not only was the corpse that of a seal, but that they had always said as much to each reporter who had interviewed them. Someone has got the wrong end of the stick at some point during this mildly amusing saga.

The second mystery of course, as we said in an earlier press release, is to establish the precise identity of the creature. Whilst it is almost certain that is a grey seal, there is the outside possibility that it could be something more exciting. One of the experts who first viewed of the photographs suggested that it looked like the skull of a sealion. There are seven species in the world, but with the exception of one species found on the coast of Argentina, all sealions are restricted to the Pacific Ocean. However, in the 1980s a Steller's sealion turned up on the Brisons - two tiny islets, a mile out to sea from the west coast of Cornwall. No one knew how it got there, and - as far as we know - it may still be there today. So, the mysterious cadaver of Croyde might just be only the second sealion ever to grace these shores.

Totally coincidentally, this weekend sees the CFZ annual general meeting, and experts from across the country will be coming to Jon and Corinna's house to discuss the next years activities. Tomorrow afternoon, experts will be examining the skull and other samples, and we will hopefully have a conclusive answer. So, although it certainly isn't anything to do with the beast of Exmoor, it might just be only the second sealion ever to grace these shores.

Jon Downes will be appearing at London's Royal Academy on Saturday the 17th of January, and he will make a public announcement to finally wrap the affair up, once and for all.



* The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is the world’s largest mystery animal research organisation. It was founded in 1992 by British author Jonathan Downes (4 and is a non-profit making (not for profit) organisation registered with H.M. Stamp Office.
* Life-president of the CFZ is Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE, best known for his groundbreaking youth work organising the ‘Operation Drake’ and ‘Operation Raleigh’ expeditions in the 1970s and 1980s.
* CFZ Director Jonathan Downes is the author and/or editor of over 20 books. Island of Paradise, his first hand account of two expeditions to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in search of the grotesque vampiric chupacabra, will be published in the next few weeks.
* The CFZ have carried out expeditions across the world including Russia, Sumatra, Mongolia, Guyana, Gambia, Texas, Mexico, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Illinois, Loch Ness, and Loch Morar.
* CFZ Press are the world’s largest publishers of books on mystery animals. They also publish Animals & Men, the world’s only cryptozoology magazine, and Exotic Pets, Britain’s only dedicated magazine on the subject.
* The CFZ produce their own full-length documentaries through their media division called CFZtv One of their films `Lair of the Red Worm` which was released in early 2007 and documents their 2005 Mongolia expedition has now been seen by nearly 50,000 people.
* The CFZ is based in Jon Downes’ old family home in rural North Devon which he shares with his wife Corinna (52). It is also home to various members of the CFZ’s permanent directorate and a collection of exotic animals.
* Jonathan Downes presents a monthly web TV show called On the Track ( which covers cryptozoology and work of the CFZ.
* The CFZ are opening a Visitor Centre and Museum in Woolsery, North Devon.
* Following their successful partnership with Capcom on the 2007 Guyana expedition, the CFZ are looking for more commercial sponsors.

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