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, 31 July 2011

Not Your Typical Canadian Cryptid

By Guest Blogger Sue St. Clair

I first wrote about the "Toronto Tunnel Monster" in 1999. At that time the case was two decades old, and I can say that in the ensuing years we are no closer to answering what exactly was witnessed that fateful summer day in Toronto in 1978.

Back in 1999 I was mostly interested in UFOlogy and in particular witnesses various descriptions of aliens. In my opinion the weirder the better! Larry Fenwick a founder and director of CUFORN, which was a grass roots UFO investigative group that operated here in Canada mostly throughout the 1970s and 80's kindly allowed me access to many of their case reports and collected newspaper accounts. That is how I first encountered the original newspaper article on the "monster" and of course being from my hometown it captured my interest. The following is taken from my original write-up:

Ernest (he would only allow his first name to be used within the newspaper account) was described as a soft-spoken 51 year old at the time of his harrowing experience. He and his wife of 19 years had been raising a litter of kittens. One of the kittens apparently disappeared and Ernest decided to search for it in the vicinity of their Parliament St. apartment. Close by he stumbled upon the opening to a dark “cave” and crawled approx.10ft inwards. This is where he said, “I saw a living nightmare that I'll never forget.”

Armed only with a flashlight Ernest encountered a creature of unknown origin. He described the monster as “long and thin, almost like a monkey, three ft long, large teeth, weighing maybe 30lbs with slate-grey fur.” However it was the eyes that truly stood out, “orange and red, slanted.”

Ernest spoke reluctantly with reporters as to what occurred next. The creature spoke to him. “I'll never forget it,” he said. “It said, ‘Go away, go away,’ in a hissing voice. Then it took off down a long tunnel off to the side. I got out of there as fast as I could. I was shaking with fear.”

Ernest never approached the media with his story. He was afraid that people would think that he was “drunk” or worse “crazy” and felt that no one would ever believe him. “The (Toronto area newspaper) Sun found him after hearing about his experience from a contact who had worked with a relative of Ernest’s, one of the handful of people to whom he had confided his experience. He would agree to talk to a reporter only if his last name was not revealed.”

“I believe Ernie saw exactly what he says he did”, said Barbara (Ernest’s wife). “He was terrified when he came back to the apartment and he doesn't scare easily. Look, he’s been known to have a drink in the past - like most people, and to occasionally tie one on, but he’s not a drunk and he wasn't drinking at all that day.”

The Toronto Sun did question some of Ernest’s relatives and neighbourhood acquaintances. They found that all agreed with and supported Barbara’s evaluation of her husband.

Ernest accompanied by Sun staff returned to the location of his strange sighting in March of 1979. The cave’s entrance was located at the bottom of a narrow passageway between the building where he lived and the one next door. Together they found the corpse of a cat, which was “half-buried in the tunnel.” The sad discovery reminded Ernest of ‘strange noises, like animals in pain,” that he had heard emanating from the tunnel prior to his frightening encounter.

Ernest showed the Sun reporter exactly where he saw the strange being. He stated, “ The last I saw the creature it was heading off into the dark.” The passage seemed to drop down very quickly and go a long way back.

It was speculated that the tunnel in fact led to the sewer system and that the entranceway beside Ernest’s apartment was “an access point used by the creature to the surface.” Safety concerns promoted Toronto’s Sewer Department to thoroughly inspect the tunnel as it was feared that area children may in fact try to enter it.

Ernest’s story was very strange, however sewage employees did not ridicule or scoff at it according to the report made by The Toronto Sun at that time. One worker who was quoted in the paper stated, “People who work on the surface just don't know what it’s like down there. It’s a whole different world. Who would have thought a few years ago that people would live in sewers, and yet that’s what they found in New York a few years back. Another was quoted as saying, “I don't know what he (Ernest) saw down there.” He also stated, “I'll tell you one thing. If we could get in there, I sure as hell wouldn't want to go down alone.”

Over the years I have tried to find the exact tunnel where Ernest encountered the monster, with no luck. The city has changed a fair bit in the last 30+ years so it's not too surprising that the entrance to the tunnel is long gone. I have been unable to located any other potential witnesses, but over the years several parapsychologist, crypto enthusiasts, and one very prominent UFO abductee have contacted me in regards to interest in the story.

I have no idea if the Toronto Tunnel Monster is truly a cryptid ......but it may be ....and it certainly is a Canadian mystery.....and for that alone I do believe it is a story worth retelling.....


The Toronto Tunnel Monster, The Toronto Sunday Sun - March 25th, 1979
Personal correspondence

Photo Credit: PSICAN (Toronto at Union Station)

Sue St. Clair is a psychical researcher living in Toronto, Ontario Canada. She is a co-founder of Paranormal Studies Investigations and Canada and enjoys reading about and researching stories and reports of fantastical creatures.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Giant Shark Sightings in the Bay of Fundy

By: Stephen Turnbull

There are reports of giant shark sightings from around the world. Some of the largest creatures in the ocean are sharks, the basking shark and the whale shark, are greater than 12 and 15 metres respectively. Many of the witnesses that report seeing a large unidentifiable shark have ultimately been found to have seen one or the other. However some, adamantly state, what they saw is not either one of these giant sharks. Nor do they claim it is a great white shark as the size of the animal, even accounting for over exaggeration, is much larger than the great white shark.

Some say it may be C. megalodon, or most commonly referred to as Megalodon! This giant shark, perhaps reaching lengths of 16 metres or more, had six inch teeth. Megalodon is thought to have gone extinct over 1 million years ago as the climate cooled and their main prey, whales, moved northward where the sharks could not follow. Some even say that the animal may have gone extinct only 10,000 years ago. This is based on the examination of a tooth in 1959 that was found by British explorers aboard the Challenger in 1875. The tooth has since been reexamined and may actually be much older than 10,000 years. Others still believe it is possible that the animal has survived in the depths of the ocean!

In October, 1999, witnesses interviewed by Loren Coleman, described seeing a giant shark in the Bay of Fundy, Canada. Bill Curtsinger wasa retired navy seaman, experienced diver, and photographer. He and his dive companion were diving near the southern tip of Deer Island, New Brunswick, a common dive destination. They heard a big splash (like a whale breaching they said), then another “thrash and splash” noise as described to Coleman.

Curtsinger and his companion commented that the colour and the shape of the tail reminded them of a caudal fin of a thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus). The tail was scythe-like and they estimated the shark to be about 10 metres in length, and had a large appendage that was to be 2-3 metres high. Curtsinger stated he had never seen anything like it in his 30 years on and under the ocean. They also described the tail as thrashing from side to side, like that of a shark, and unlike the up and down motion of a whale’s tail.

Coleman noted in his book that thresher sharks are usually foundfarther out to sea but this is not really true in the Bay of Fundy, as thresher sharks are relatively common within the Bay during the spring to fall, and are often seen breaching. However, this shark does not have a huge dorsal fin (or any other fin) as that described by Curtsinger.

Shown here is a photo of a thresher shark caught in the Bay and you can see the long, thin upper lobe of the tail, and smaller, almost nonexistent, lower lobe. Notice the dorsal fin and other fins are very small.

Other shark species do exist in the Bay of Fundy, but only one has an appendage as large as that described by Curtsinger and his companion, the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus).

You can see the size of the dorsal fin here in this attached image. The fins are not as thin as described but are definitely long, including the lunate tail which is often exposed when the animal is swimming at the surface. Basking sharks are common in this area during the late spring and into late fall and do breach. There has even been a sighting of a whale shark (1997) within the Bay of Fundy also, but not that close to shore and they have very clear, distinctive markings.

The question remains, what did they see? Most sightings of a giant shark turn out to be a known species but some still remain a mystery. More details are needed to either confirm or to eliminate them as possible sources of the sighting.


Coleman, L. and P. Huyghe. 2003. Lake Monster, Sea Serpents, and other mystery denizens of the Deep.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ken Chaplin’s Ogopogo: Twenty-two Years Later

by Robin Bellamy

On July 18, 1989, a 42 year old car salesman from Kelowna, BC captured something on tape. Ken was a Okanagan Valley native, having lived near the lake all his life. He had been driven to take a camera to the lake because his father, 79 year old Clem Chaplin, believed he had seen Ogopogo that day.
Image source:

Ken and Clem described something hairless, green in color, with spots. They believed what they saw was about 15 feet long, which is rather small by Ogopogo standards. The video (you can see in here –Ken’s bit starts about 6 minutes and 40 seconds in) is of course pretty grainy and pretty generic. There is something in the water of course, but is it a cryptid? They captured it again a few days later as well. Ken, his daughter, and his dad, all believe this to be Ogopogo. So did a lot of other people. Time Magazine ran the story, as did other news outlets and the footage was examined. The tape was proved to not be a hoax, but was it a monster? Some believe it was an otter or a beaver.

Clem Chaplin was born in Kelowna, and his father pioneered the area several years before Clem’s birth. When Ken was 13, his father Clem shared the story of his own father’s sighting many years before. Initially Mr. Chaplin the elder thought he had seen a log, but upon closer inspection discovered the creature was living and it suddenly dove deeper into the lake. Clem had fished the lake all his life and had his own sightings to pass on. Now Ken was the third generation, and Ken’s daughter the fourth, of the Chaplin family to see this thing. Surely, they, along with other Valley natives, couldn’t be mistaken.

Lake Okanagan is located in the south central BC interior. The lake is long, and sightings have occurred throughout, although most occur in the Rattlesnake Island/Peachland area. The Natives had a long oral history about the demon in the lake, calling it N'ha-a-itk. Natives claimed the demon's lair was a cave under Squally Point near Rattlesnake Island, located offshore near Peachland. According to legend, no man or woman would paddle a canoe near this area without an offering to the creature lest a storm spring up and claim their life. When white settlers arrived in the mid 1800s, they claimed to not be superstitious and ventured into the lake, only to begin seeing the monster for themselves. An incident in 1860 involved what appeared to be two horses swimming behind a boat that was suddenly pulled beneath the waves. The owner saved himself by cutting the rope attached to his horses.

The first documented sighting of the cryptid called Ogopogo was in 1872 (some sources cite this as 1852 but this seems unlikely as the first settlement was in 1859 and wasn’t even part of Canada until 1871) by a Mrs. John Allison. In 1926 thirty carloads of people sighted what they believed to be Ogopogo near Mission Beach. Year after year, sightings—often with photographs or video—are reported. BC has embraced their monster as a tourist draw with many boats, teams, landmarks, and memorabilia using the Ogopogo moniker. Canada even issued a stamp commemorating the cryptid in 1990.

Are we any closer to solving the mystery of Ogopogo? Since the lake is similar in size and depth to Loch Ness in Scotland, and lies along nearly the same latitude, speculation is that Nessie and Ogopogo are of the same species. Reports are similar in the appearance and behaviour. Yet that only shows a similarity to another unproven cryptid. The Chaplin family is well respected so their credibility is not in doubt, but sadly “science” doesn’t put much stock in witness testimony. Even when the witnesses number in the thousands.

Sadly, we are no closer to proving Ogopogo than the natives were three hundred years ago. In 1989 Chapman used the best technology available—a video camera—to show what he saw. We can only hope that as technology improves, so will the evidence of this cryptid’s existence.

Further Reading:

Monday, 11 July 2011

Poo Poo-ing Unknown Animals

by Robin Bellamy

This isn’t a rant about unbelievers. This is information, quite literally, about poo. Dung. Scat. Best not to be reading this with your meal.

Every living thing has excrement. Even plants emit gasses they don’t use. All biological animals excrete scat, and generally this scat is composed of about three-quarters water and one quarter waste. Of that solid quarter, about a third is dead bacteria, a third is fibre, and the rest is a mix of fat, cholesterol, live bacteria, proteins and salts, and occasionally, undigested food or other ingested matter. This is a wealth of information about the source of the sample.

Cryptozoologists have for too long ignored the value of droppings. In an exhaustive search for photos and footprints, we have literally ignored what might be stuck to our shoes. Does Bigfoot build a nest? Does Nessie eat fish? Is Mothman a bird? All of these questions, in addition to whether or not these creatures even exist, can be answered via meadow muffins. Finding Bigfoot may be much more simple than getting that great video or finding a corpse—we simply assume that, if he exists, then he must poo. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. If we collect it and analyse it, we have irrefutable proof. It’s really quite easy to identify poo, and relatively inexpensive to have it further analysed in a lab if necessary.

When in the field, watch where you step and take photos of what you are avoiding stepping in. Many animal types can be easily identified by their droppings. There are several books and websites with good graphics to help educate you on what to look for. Here’s an example: If you are in the forest and assuming that Bigfoot is mostly human, you would look for droppings that look like what comes out of humans. This would immediately rule out deer, coyote, etc. as their dung is different in shape and consistency. If you assume he is mostly bear, his excrement should look tubular and probably larger than human. If Old Yellow Top is more of a monkey, you would expect the feces to be lumpier rather than tubular.

Once properly collected, the analysis is even more telling. What the animal has eaten will be evident, as will the holy grail of cryptid-seeking; DNA. In 2008, a 14,000 year old sample of dry feces was collected in the western United States and tested and through the presence of DNA, the source was identified. Further testing of mitochondrial DNA (DNA that is passed from the mother) revealed the pooper had a lineage tracing back to Asia. That doggy-doodoo you are too lazy to pick up can be tested and tracked to your pooch. Identifying Nessie as a Cadborosaurus may be as simple as analysis of the fecal strands floating in the lake or among the silt on the seabed.

Imagine what collecting a sample from an unknown creature will do to the world of science. The tests on guano can be done from $50 to $5000 depending on the depth of study you require. Certainly the first steps are to determine the kind of animal who shed the sample. This will rule out 99% of your samples. Only that one remaining sample would need further testing, once it has failed identification in the more general species tests. If that one sample tests as something that is viable but as yet undetermined, the poo-tential is staggering.

Further reading: