Weird Weekend 2003 - A review by Mark Martin

A boyhood event, the influence of which has echoed down the years, was the reading of a certain book, entitled, “Mysteries”. One chapter centred on search for a mythical creature: The Loch Ness Monster. It described the hunt for the great Cryptid and was written by the famous explorer Colonel John Blasford –Snell. I was completely enthralled by the exploits of this awesome man. Perhaps then, you can imagine my excitement, when at Weird Weekend 2003, I had the honour and privilege to meet the Colonel. What is more, I was able to discuss my Loch Ness research with him; and he was interested. “Blashers”, a living legend, was interested in something I had done. To say I was as happy as a pig in- you- know- what would be an extreme understatement.

There is one piece of evidence, in the field of Cryptozoology that is particularly well known. A movie clip of an animal (or man?) that mainstream Science says does not exist. The footage has stood the test of time, never being proved a hoax. It is the famous Patterson / Gimlin film of a Bigfoot, taken at Bluff Creek, Northern California in 1967. On the first night of Weird Weekend (Friday) I met a massively knowledgeable Bigfoot researcher who had been at Bluff Creek, only two weeks before. This gentleman was Mr Paul Vela. Saturday kicked off with Paul’s display of Bigfoot artefacts, including several of the famous footprint casts, which I have longed to examine for years. He also had a newly enhanced copy of the aforementioned film. It is tremendously convincing. Paul must surely be the top UK based Bigfoot researcher—and a “boy of the CFZ” to boot.

I arrived in Exeter on Thursday night after a gruelling five and a half hour crawl, down from England’s finest county. I threaded my car through road works, along contra flows and a past a disturbingly lethal looking accident. On arrival in Exeter I was immediately invited to CFZ HQ, and there several members of the crew welcomed me like my Mum does when I haven’t seen her for a while. The CFZ HQ is, provisionally a house on the banks of the river Exe. However, a better description would be a Fortean Library, with a little concessionary space for people and animals. I thought my collection of two hundred or so books was substantial. Most walls at the CFZ are stacked from floor to ceiling. There are six thousand Fortean and Cryptozoological tomes.

Meeting with Colonel John Blashford-Snell and Paul Vela were two of many highpoints at Weird Weekend. We had an eye opening lecture by the country’s only Pagan Magistrate, Steve Jones, on “Magic without frills”. Rachael Carthy indicated a possible explanation for the mysteries of physical medium ship, via a talk on fourth dimensional geometry. Adam Davies was fresh (if fresh is the correct word) from the expanses of Mongolia. The audience were riveted by his account of the quest for the Mongolian Death Worm (that is such a cool name for a Cryptid). Tim Matthews described how alternative historians have spent decades battling against conventional authorities, to find the truth behind the King Arthur legend. Nigel Wright, the leading Ufologist, explained why Americans accept the possibility of Alien visitation more easily than the British. There were of course many other lectures; it can be summed up by using the old adage “something for every one”. Numerous aspects of the Fortean Kaleidoscope were peered into.

The venue for the meeting was superb. I’m a fan of both old buildings and good pubs, thus The Cowick Barton was a delight. A beautiful, rambling 14th century structure. The food and drink was high quality and fairly priced. The only slight problem; the “Monk’s Room” where the talks were held, was not quite big enough for the thronging masses. The talks were so popular it was standing room only during several.

Besides the speakers, it was a great pleasure to meet other Forteans from around the country. Dave Baker (president of the Yorkshire UFO Society and editor of the outstanding Project Red Book), Lester Wainright and I chatted late into the night with the aforementioned Sasquatch expert Paul Vela. I was stunned to hear of an encounter with a paranormal entity in Bolam Forrest. This account, from members of the wonderfully named Avalon Skies group, who had trekked down from Northumbria. Astronomer Richard Ingram educated me on Near Earth Objects and the Drake Equation. I compared notes with Artist Mark North from our visits to Loch Ness.

Overall, Weird Weekend 2003 was absolutely tremendous. I only wish there had been more time to meet and talk with the cool people who attended.

Congratulations, and thanks, to Jonathan Downes and the Centre for Fortean Zoology. I look forward to next year.

Cheers Mark