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


For immediate release
9th January 2009

Mystery skull on North Devon beach

Well it's a beast. It was found fairly near Exmoor. But is it the beast of Exmoor? Of course not. It has flippers for one thing.

Two nights ago a carcass was washed up on Croyde Beach in North Devon. The Centre for Fortean Zoology, [CFZ], were informed, and they sent a three-man team of investigators - Graham Inglis (52), deputy director, Oll Lewis (28), ecologist, and Matthew Osborne (28), one time Bideford town councillor, trainee Methodist lay preacher, and all round good egg - to find out what the fuss was about. The CFZ are the world's largest mystery animal research organisation, and they happen to be based less than 30 miles from where the mysterious carcass was washed up.

Various newspapers and media pundits have claimed that what was washed up was the cadaver of the beast of Exmoor - the notorious big black cat which for decades has been selling newspapers and killing sheep with equal abandon. From the photographs we had been e-mailed, it was pretty obvious that this was nonsense, that the CFZ would not be doing their job properly if they just took a cursory look at the photograph on their computers, before dismissing the matter from their minds.

The body was about 5 ft long, and - according to the team - reeked to high heaven. It was obviously a member of the seal family, and is almost certainly the remains of an unfortunate grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), which is a fairly common resident of the wilder parts of the Bristol Channel. However, there is an 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.

Experts will be examining the skull and other samples over the next few days, and 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.

Watch this space.


* 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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