Jonathan Downes (born Portsmouth, England, in 1959) is a cryptozoologist, author, film-maker, journalist, composer and singer-songwriter, with a background in radical politics and mental health care. He is Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology. His father, the explorer and Colonial Service Officer J T Downes (1925-2006), authored several books on wide range of subjects, such as African history, theology and Devonshire dialect. His mother Mary Downes (nee Rawlins) (1922-2002) was a broadcaster and author who published several collections of Nigerian folklore under the pen-name `Yar Kunama`.12345
He is currently the editor of Animals & Men; the journal of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, the editor of The Amateur Naturalist (formerly `Exotic Pets`) - a magazine published by CFZ Press, the editor of the online magazine blog `Cryptozoology: Online`, and from January 2003 until August 2007 was the Deputy Editor of Tropical World magazine, a tropical fish magazine published in the UK. He has also edited and contributed to several other publications over the years.6789
According to his autobiography and other writings, as a child he lived in Nigeria, and then Hong Kong (then a British Crown Colony), and returned to the UK in 1971, when his father was 'invalided out' of the Hong Kong government. He was educated at Bideford Grammar School, (1971-6) and later West Buckland School (1976-7) from which he was expelled. He worked as a psychiatric nurse between 1981-90 and between 1990 and 1994 ran the fan club for Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.101112
He is active in community work, and is part of the team organising the monthly children's service in the village church at Woolfardisworthy, North Devon. Having suffered from manic-depression for years, Downes is an activist for mental health issues. On the July 21 2007 he married his second wife Corinna Newton Downes.
In 1992 Downes founded the Centre for Fortean Zoology, arguably the world's largest cryptozoological research organization. He is vocal in his opinion that cryptozoology should not be considered to be a branch of paranormal research. Although he has written a number of books on UFOs and other Fortean subjects (sometimes in collaboration with his friend and colleague Nick Redfern), he considers cryptozoology to be a branch of mainstream zoology, rather than anything more esoteric.13
He has written the following books:
- Take this Brother may it serve you well (1988)
- Riding the Waves (with Kim Andrews) (1990)
- El Grand Senor (with Kim Andrews) (1991)
- Road Dreams (1993)
- Smaller Mystery Carnivores of the Westcountry (1996)
- The Owlman and Others (ISBN 1-905723-02-4, 1997)
- The Rising of the Moon with Nigel Wright (ISBN 0-9544936-5-6, 1999)
- Weird Devon with Richard Freeman and Graham Inglis (ISBN 1-899383-38-7, 2000)
- UFOs over Devon (ISBN 1-899383-37-9, 2000)
- Weird War Tales with Nick Redfern (2000)
- Weird War Tales Volume 2 with Nick Redfern (2000)
- The Blackdown Mystery (ISBN 1-905723-00-8, 2000)
- Only Fools and Goatsuckers (ISBN 0-9512872-3-0, 2001)
- In the Beginning - Animals & Men Collected Editions Volume One (Ed) (2001)
- The Number of the Beast - Animals & Men Collected Editions Volume Two (Ed) (2001)
- The Monster of the Mere (ISBN 0-9512872-2-2, 2002)
- Monster Hunter (ISBN 0-9512872-7-3, 2004)
- Strength through Koi (ISBN 1-905723-04-0, 2006)
- The Call of the Wild - Animals & Men Collected Editions Volume Three (ISBN 978-1905723072, 2007)
- The Island of Paradise: Chupacabra, UFO Crash Retrievals, and Accelerated Evolution on the Island of Puerto Rico (ISBN 978-1905723324, 2008)
His best selling book is The Owlman and Others. In his 2004 autobiography Monster Hunter, he discusses his years of substance abuse, as well as his achievements as a cryptozoologist. Once described by Nick Redfern as "Cryptozoology's answer to Hunter Thompson", Downes has stated on a number of occasions that this aspect of his life is now firmly in the past. His latest book is a collection of short stories, some fictional, others not, about fish, In addition he has edited ten annual Yearbooks for the CFZ.
His new book `Island of Paradise` covers in great depth his two expeditions to Puerto Rico in search of the chupacabra and other animals of fortean interest.
Also Nick Redfern's 2004 book Three Men Seeking Monsters: Six Weeks in Pursuit of Werewolves, Lake Monsters, Giant Cats, Ghostly Devil Dogs and Ape-men is a chronicle of the adventures of Redfern, Downes and Richard Freeman.
In his autobiography and in other published writings, Downes admits that one of his earliest ambitions was to make films. He has made a few of them over the years, including:
- The "Case" for Crop Circles (1997)
- The Owlman and Others (2000)
- Eel or no Eel (2006)
- The Lair of the Red Worm (2007)
- The Dragons of Africa (2007)
- The Savage Land (2008)
- Mountains of Mystery (2009)
He freely admits that his first two films are "rubbish", the former of which is "a load of avant garde bullshit", and the second "a seedy art movie; a semi homage to John Walters, featuring gratuitous nudity, violence, and a pre-op transsexual Nazi." His more recent films, however, are part of the ongoing CFZtv project, and are rough-cut `Guerilla Journalism` projects available for free on the CFZtv website, together with some songs from his albums.
On the Track
In October 2007 Downes announced a new CFZtv project: a monthly webTV show giving all the latest news from the CFZ and cryptozoology news from around the world. It is called `On the Track` and can be found on its own dedicated blog at http://cfzmonthly.blogspot.com/. The 18th edition was released on February 2 2009.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Downes was active as a musician and performer, mostly with cult art-rock band The Amphibians from Outer Space with whom he sang, played guitar, bass and piano. He integrated elements of psychodrama and performance art into the performances. He has been described as being an ungodly cross between Warren Zevon and Steve Harley.
However, after his divorce which ended eleven years of marriage to first wife Alison in 1996, Downes all but dropped out of the music industry in favor of cryptozoology, and has since done only four records and a handful of live musical performances.
Records released by Downes include:
- The Mistake with The Amphibians from Outer Space (1982)
- You took me up (1984)
- Emotional Fascism (1984)
- Outside the Asylum with The Amphibians from Outer Space (1990)
- Breakfast with Brian Storer (1991)
- Pyramidiocy (1992)
- SexGodBaby with The Amphibians from Outer Space (1993)
- The Chicken Sleeps Tonight with The Amphibians from Outer Space (1993)
- The Case with The Amphibians from Outer Space (1995)
- Contractual Obligations with The Amphibians from Outer Space (1996)
- The Weird World with Father Lionel Fanthorpe and The Amphibians from Outer Space (2000)
- Hard Sports (2002)
- Lost Weekend (2003)
- Twilight over England (2007)
Downes describes himself as "basically an anarchist".14 As an artist, and indeed in many other ways he was primarily influenced by anarcho-punks Crass, "not really by the music, but by the D-I-Y attitude." He has always maintained the opinion that "in many ways it is more important to be heard than to get paid for it," and the CFZ, his music and films have always been disseminated along broadly anarchist/libertarian lines.