Collections of miscellaneous strange writings from around the web

19th Century Science Fiction Author Wrote a Book About a Boy Named Baron Trump Who Travels to Russia, Followed by a Novel Titled 'The Last President'

Baron Trump's Marvellous Underground Journey

Let's be honest: if you had access to a time machine, you'd be up for a bit of pranking. And the first person to build a time machine would no doubt have been a fan of science fiction books. So what better prank than going back in time and inserting some 'prank' sci-fi books into libraries just to mess with people's minds?

You probably think I'm talking about that 1949 sci-fi novel that names the leader of Martian civilisation as 'Elon'? But no, we have a new addition (or is that 'new edition'?): the 1893 sci-fi book Baron Trump's Marvellous Underground Journey, written by one Ingersoll Lockwood.

Barron (with a double 'r') Trump is of course President Donald Trump's son with wife Melania. And though the name is slightly different, according to The Huffington Post...

...in Baron Trump’s Marvellous Underground Journey, Baron is a wealthy young man living in a place called Castle Trump, but his real adventures begin when Don, the “Master of all Masters,” inspires him to travel to Russia, where he finds a portal that allows him to travel to other lands.

Damn, that Russia thing won't go away...even when it's 124 years in the past! But if that's not enough, HuffPo also notes that Lockwood wrote another book, two years later in 1896, titled The Last President...

...which does not feature the Baron Trump character but has some interesting parallels to modern times. It begins in New York City, which is up in arms over the election of an outsider candidate. The news causes those “in the upper portions” of the city to sit “as if paralyzed with a nameless dread... Mobs of vast size are organizing under the lead of anarchists and socialists, and threaten to plunder and despoil the houses of the rich who have wronged and oppressed them for so many years,” an early passage of the book reads.

Time travel, the imaginal world bleeding into reality, low-pay-grade simulation engineers, or coincidence - take your pick. Let's just hope War of the Worlds isn't the next sci-fi book to be based on a future reality...

Related stories:

Erik Davis: The Weirdness of Being

At the recent Breaking Convention 2017, counterculture author (e.g. (Techgnosis) and sometimes Darklore contributor Erik Davis gave a talk on 'the weird':

To understand psychoanalysis, you have to understand the uncanny. But to understand psychedelics, you have to understand the weird. The weird is more than the uncanny’s low-brow country cousin. Nor is it simply a domain or style of cultural production. The weird is a mode and category of being. We may enjoy weird tales, but the world is telling us one all the time–and we can respond in kind. There are many reasons to heed Alan Watts’ advice to “follow your own weird.”

In this talk we will try to add some ontological heft to this peculiar but persistent term, which is widely used in a casual way but rarely analysed, historicised, and granted its own singular if sometimes disturbing substance. Tracing the etymology and use of the world through literature, pop culture, anthropology, and physics, we will find that the weird forms a Möbius strip between the spookiness of fate and necessity, and the eccentric, aberrant twist of deviance.

Weirdness is the cause and costume of anomaly. It thus provides a naturalistic—if sometimes esoteric—way of understanding and talking about “supernatural” phenomena, as well as the fringes of our own experience.

The Mothman of Point Pleasant

What happened in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in 1966-67? That remains one of the great questions of Forteana, with reports of the legendary 'Mothman' and sightings of lights in the sky being, followed by the disaster of the Silver Bridge collapse, in which 46 residents died. The mystery was the subject of a best-selling book by John Keel, The Mothman Prophecies, which was later made into a film of the same name.

And now, a new documentary, The Mothman of Point Pleasant, takes another look at the mystery. The feature is part of an independent film series, Small Town Monsters, "that explores lost and bizarre history around the United States".

Learn the terrifying, true story about thirteen months that changed history! In November of 1966 a car full of kids encountered a creature unlike anything they'd ever seen before. In the weeks and months to follow, the monster (now known as The Mothman) was sighted again and again on country roads and around the state of West Virginia. As the sightings continued so did an increase in unusual activity.

At the center of this bizarre series of events was the town of Point Pleasant, WV. A small burb situated on the banks of the Ohio river with a lengthy history of what many might call bad luck. Over the next thirteen months Point Pleasant would undergo one of the strangest outbreaks of paranormal activity the world has ever seen. An outbreak that eventually ended in tragedy.

The Mothman of Point Pleasant is available to buy or rent via Amazon Video.

Portals of Strangeness

This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 8, which is now available for sale from Amazon US and Amazon UK. The Darklore anthology series features the best writing and research on paranormal, Fortean and hidden history topics, by the most respected names in the field: Alan Moore, Robert Schoch, Nick Redfern, Loren Coleman, Robert Bauval and Daniel Pinchbeck, to name just a few. Darklore's aim is to support quality researchers, so it makes sense to support Darklore. For more information on the series (including more free sample articles), visit the Darklore website.

Portals of Strangeness

Portals of Strangeness

Symbolism, Synchronicity, and Fortean Phenomena

Or, What Does It Mean When Weird Things Happen?


by Ray Grasse

I was just thirteen at the time, sitting with a friend on the front porch of his home, talking about the sort of things 13-year-olds normally talk about, when I noticed an odd light in the distance out of the corner of my eye. My friend noticed it, too, and we turned our heads to see a glowing disc-shaped object rising up over the trees, probably a half-mile away. It was shaped like the top half of a hamburger bun, I thought to myself, and was cream-colored, but with an iridescent green outline along its fringe. After rising up a short distance, the disc darted around in a strange way, unlike any airplane or advertising blimp I’d ever seen, before moving off and dropping out of view beneath the tree line. The entire experience lasted maybe 40 seconds in all.

We were stunned by what we’d seen, because it was so different from anything else we’d encountered before—outside of Hollywood movies, anyway. When we tried describing what we saw to our parents, our accounts were brushed off as the products of over-active youthful imaginations. I even tried calling up the nearby airport to report what we saw to find out if anyone else mentioned it. But they dismissed my story as simple misidentification.

“It was probably just a blimp with advertising lights on it, that’s all,” he assured me patronizingly.

I wasn’t sure myself what we’d seen—and to this day I'm still not. But it’s safe to say it wasn’t a blimp with advertising lights strung on it.

We’ve probably all had brushes at one point or another with something that mystifies or startles us, even if that was just an unlikely coincidence or a hunch that turned out to come true. But what about the truly odd event – like a peculiar craft darting around in the sky? Or seeing a creature that isn't even supposed to exist? Or a rainfall of frogs from the sky, as one friend’s grandmother told me she witnessed as a child back in Indiana?

The renegade researcher Charles Fort (1874-1932) spent the better part of his life collecting such stories and compiling them into books like Lo! and Book of the Damned, inspiring countless other researchers in the process, and even a magazine commemorating his legacy—Fortean Times. Presuming we don’t simply dismiss all these strange accounts as mere hallucinations, hoaxes, or misidentifications, what are we to make of such tales?

Having studied accounts like these for decades by now, I’ve come to believe these events are

Movie From a Parallel Universe: Found Footage of 'Non-Existent' Film "Shazaam" Puts the Mandela Effect Front and Center

Screenshot from Shazaam

Remember when Nelson Mandela died back in the 1980s? Or your favourite children's book was the Berenstein Bears, and you loved that 90s movie with the comedian Sinbad in it, titled Shazaam? If you do, you might be a victim of the 'Mandela Effect', the strange phenomenon where you clearly remember a certain thing, but it turns out you are incorrect. Because Nelson Mandela died just a few years back, in 2013; that book series was actually the Berenstain Bears, and Sinbad never was in a movie titled Shazaam.

Well, that's how it is in this version of the multiverse at least - because one suggested explanation for the Mandela Effect is that we are experiencing memories that have somehow crossed over from timelines in parallel universes.

So imagine everyone's surprise when just a few days ago, footage turned up on YouTube of a portion of Sinbad's supposedly non-existent movie Shazaam!

Before anyone starts worrying about whether reality is beginning to collapse and parallel universes are becoming confused with ours, I should point out that "a few days ago" was of course April 1st, and the clip of Shazaam (featuring a distinctly older Sinbad) was posted by College Humor...

There's a lot to love about the spoofed clip though, as the creators put some real effort into paying homage to the Mandela Effect. From the dialogue ("We have our memories, they're real, no-one can take that from us"), to the various props (including a newspaper report on Nelson Mandela dying, and a Berenstein Bears book), there's a bunch of easter eggs in there for those Mandela Effect aficionados who want to have some fun hunting all the references down (I haven't mentioned all of them). Feel free to post what you find in the comments!

Related stories:

Beware the Slenderman - HBO Documentary on a Modern Monster Myth

The Slenderman

We've been covering the modern monster mythos of 'Slenderman' here on the Grail since back in 2011, when Cat Vincent contributed an article about 'Slendy' to Darklore Volume 6. From small memes, however, big things grow - and in May this year it was announced that Slenderman would get his own movie.

And now, to add to that, HBO will be airing the documentary Beware the Slenderman in January. Here's the trailer, which focuses on the (real-life) attempted murder (by stabbing) in 2014 of a 12-year-old girl by two friends who claimed to be doing it on behalf of Slenderman:

For more background reading on the Slenderman phenomenon, be sure to check out Cat Vincent's articles "The Slenderman" (PDF), "Killing Slenderman", and "Slenderman: Five Years".

Fantastic Beasts and Imaginary Cities: Lessons on the Dangers, and Benefits, of Anomaly Hunting

Microbe ruins

When snorkelers off the Greek island of Zakynthos came across what appeared to be the flooded ruins of an ancient city (such as the 'columns' above), archaeologists were left to ponder their origin. Which civilisation built them, and how had they ended up underwater? But, when they went to investigate further...

...archaeologists found nothing else — no shards of pottery or other flotsam and jetsam of everyday existence — that would suggest that people had once lived there (and perhaps had been forced to flee by rising sea levels).

Scientists have now discovered the reason there were no signs of human habitation at the site. The columns and other objects, they say, are not stonework at all, but a natural byproduct of the breakdown of methane gas. And they were made by an ancient civilization of microbes, not people.

The search for 'lost civilisations' is a fascinating one, and our good friend Graham Hancock wrote an intriguing book about the search for ruins of civilisations that could feasibly have been lost beneath rising seas after the end of the last Ice Age (Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization). But the recent news story above should also be a warning to us that things aren't always what they seem.

There have been numerous discoveries in recent decades of what, at first glance, appear to be man-made, ancient structures, ranging from the Japanese underwater site of Yonaguni to the so-called 'Bosnian pyramid'. But simply 'looking artificial' is not enough to draw a conclusion - for example, visitors to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland will know that nature does produce artificial-looking geometric structures (see this recent video we posted for more discussion on this topic).

Wishful thinking isn't enough - there has to be more evidence than simply 'this looks like the real deal' to label something as such. In the absence of evidence, it's still fine to speculate...just as long as you make clear that is what you are doing.

On the flipside, however, sometimes - often times - when anomalies do turn up, they are immediately discounted as being imaginary, misinterpretations of normal things, or outright hoaxes. Another story of the past week illustrates this: more than 200 years ago, the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt reported witnessing electric eels leaping out of the water to attack possible threats.

Humboldt published his account of leaping electric eels in 1807, but for two centuries it has been regarded as a fantasy. Why?

No one had seen such behaviour in the 200 years since Humboldt’s account. In 1881, another German scientist said that the story was “poetically transfigured.” In 1947, The Atlantic called it “tommyrot.”

But now, researchers have caught this behaviour on video:

It turns out that Humboldt was telling the story exactly as he had witnessed it - and yet it took more than 200 years for any scientist to investigate it seriously.

I discuss a similar topic in my article in the upcoming release of Darklore (Volume 9): meteors. Scientists dropped the ball on meteors for many years, writing off witness reports as fantastical and untrustworthy. And even after finally seeing the light, they repeated the exact same mistake for many more decades when it came to witness reports of electrophonic sounds being emitted from bright fireballs - because those reports didn't seem to agree with the science of the time.

Each of these stories provides a lesson to us, as we try to gain fresh insights and discover new things. When we come across an anomaly, we must be skeptical, in the sense of examining it with critical thinking, and progressing cautiously. But we should also guard against being overly-skeptical, and dismissing things that don't fit within our current frame of knowledge. Feel free to speculate, make leaps of logic where needed - but always note carefully that is what you are doing.

Anomaly hunting is fun. But let's do it right.

Fortean Approaches to Religion

Frog rain

The following essay is a modified version of the introductory chapter to the book Damned Facts: Fortean Essays on Religion, Folklore and the Paranormal (available now from Amazon US and Amazon UK).

Intermediatism and the Study of Religion

by Jack Hunter

Over the course of four groundbreaking books published between 1919-1932,1 Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932) meticulously presented thousands of accounts of anomalous events that he found documented in scientific journals, newspapers and books at the New York Public Library and the British Museum. In conducting his wide-ranging textual excavations, Fort uncovered impossible numbers of extraordinary reports of fish and frogs falling from the sky, poltergeists wreaking havoc on unexpecting families, spontaneous human combustion, unidentified flying objects, levitations of people and things, mysterious disappearances, apparitions, and so on.2

All of these strange events, according to Fort, had been brushed under the carpet by mainstream science,3 indeed his books were deliberately intended as an out-and-out affront to the scientific establishment, and in particular to the idea that science has essentially ‘sorted it all out’ already. Fort was not at all convinced by this, and his collections of ‘Damned Facts,’ as he called them, served as evidence in support of his suspicions and speculations. Fort obsessively catalogued these ‘Damned Facts’ on small pieces of card, which he stored in hundreds of shoe boxes in his New York apartment, ready to be unleashed in the wild processions of his books.4

Fort’s books would go on to become classics of ‘paranormal’ literature, and inspired others to employ a similarly ‘Fortean’ approach in their own work, notably including writers such as John A. Keel (1930-2009), Colin Wilson (1931-2013), Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007), and Jacques Vallée, amongst others (some of whose work is discussed in later chapters ofDamned Facts). Fort’s books and approach were also the inspiration behind the founding of the famous magazine Fortean Times, which, since it was first published in 1973, has helped to keep Fort’s eclectic legacy alive.5

The original goal of Damned Facts was to explore what a Fortean approach to the study of religion might look like, with all of its associated anomalous events and enigmatic experiences. The book, however, became something much more diverse. The contributors to Damned Facts each offer their own unique perspectives and insights, and take us to places that we might not immediately associate with ‘religion.’ With this eclecticism in mind, then, what I would like to do in this introduction is to give a basic overview of some of Fort’s philosophical speculations on the nature of science, religion and reality more generally, and then to outline some of my own ideas concerning what a Fortean approach to religion might entail.

Intermediatism

Throughout all of his published works on the anomalous, Fort employed a philosophy that he called ‘Intermediatism,’ the basic tenet of which suggests ‘that nothing is real, but that nothing is unreal,’ and ‘that all phenomena are approximations in one way between realness and unrealness,’6 a kind of ontological indeterminacy. He writes:

...in general metaphysical terms, our expression is that, like a purgatory, all that is commonly called ‘existence,’ which we call Intermediateness, is quasi-existence, neither real nor unreal, but the expression of attempt to become real...7

Through the lens of this ontologically agnostic perspective, in which all phenomena take place somewhere along a spectrum between the real and the unreal, Fort was able to explore some exceedingly strange territory, unearthing phenomena that mainstream science had either refused to comment on or had rejected outright. Charles FortIn the process, Fort (often half-jokingly) postulated some intriguing hypotheses to account for his damned data, including, for example, the frightening idea that human beings are, in some undefined way, ‘property,’ and the equally bizarre notion of a ‘Super-Sargasso Sea,’ a mysterious place to which objects are teleported.8 Fort, however, often immediately contradicted and discredited his own theories, and is famous for announcing that: ‘I believe nothing of my own that I have ever written. I cannot accept that the products of minds are subject-matter for beliefs.’9 His agnosticism extended even to his own theories and ideas.

By approaching all phenomena as equally real/unreal, from the common-place and everyday to the most exceptional and far-out, Fort was essentially proposing a Monistic metaphysics, according to which all events, in all their varied manifestations, are, in some sense, fundamentally connected to one another. All are part of the same process of ‘becoming real,’ of moving toward ‘positiveness,’ and all give equal insight into the ‘underlying oneness.’10 Fort suggests that this oneness might best be thought of as a living system, perhaps as a cosmic ‘organism,’ maybe even possessing some form of purposive intelligence and agency.11 This idea was later taken up by John Keel, who suggests the possibility that ‘the earth is really a living ... Read More »

Damned Facts: Fortean Essays on Religion, Folklore and the Paranormal

Damned Facts Book Cover

Forteans, take note: a new book, edited by our good friend Jack Hunter (Paranthropology, Talking With the Spirits), provides a fascinating anthology of essays that are sure to be of interest to you. Damned Facts: Fortean Essays on Religion, Folklore and the Paranormal (Amazon US/Amazon UK) features contributions from the likes of Jeff Kripal, David Clarke, David V. Barrett and others, covering topics ranging from William James to John Keel's Mothman.

Here's Gary Lachman's summary of the book:

Jack Hunter's Damned Facts, a collection of well-researched and closely argued essays into all things anomalous, presents some delightful, fascinating, and eye-brow raising evidence that there are more things in heaven and earth-and anywhere in between-than are dreamed of in practically anyone's philosophy. Taking their cue from the original anomalist, Charles Fort, who argued that mystery begins everywhere, Hunter and his contributors plunge headfirst into some deep waters and drag up to the surface enough oddities to satisfy even the most discerning taste in the unusual. It's my bet that Fort himself would have been damned proud.

Links: Purchase Damned Facts: Fortean Essays on Religion, Folklore and the Paranormal at Amazon US or Amazon UK.

The Mystery at Angikuni Lake

The accompanying image from the actual story out of the Danville Bee

Canadian culture is defined along the terms of our modern society, but there’s much more to our identity than our oft-mocked accent, our maple syrup, and our penchant for plaid flannel shirts.  Much of our history is rooted in the traditions of our native, or First Nations population.  A large part of that population is Inuit; a people whose culture has strong oral traditions and a kinship with the land.

Nunavut, Canada’s largest, northernmost and newest territory (distinct from a province only in the way it derives legal authority), is currently home to some 30,000 Inuit.  In the 1930’s however, and thanks to the Angikuni Mystery, that number was at least 30 people off.

The story, first published in The Danville Bee, a newspaper of the north, and written by reporter Emmett E. Kelleher, broke on November 27, 1930.[1][2]  Is seems the day before, Kelleher was regaled by the story of a northern trapper named Joe Labelle, who told of an entire village of Inuit that had gone missing.

As Labelle tells it, he attended the village on the shores of Lake Angikuni, a village he frequented in his travels. H e was expecting a warm welcome, but as he approached the group of elk skin tents he had an odd feeling.  The air of the place just gave him “the creeps”.  Upon entering the small shanty town, Labelle was greeted by two starving and emaciated Husky’s, and venturing further, he found a full team of seven dogs that had apparently starved to death.

His calls into the village went unanswered as he began to search for inhabitants.  Entering one hut, he noticed cooking utensils and pots, apparently with food still in them.  Under a large fur he found a rusty rifle, giving him pause, because, according to Kelleher, the Inuit of the time valued their rifles over nearly everything, and leaving such a tool behind would be unheard of.

Examining another tent that had been virtually destroyed by wind, he found the skins of several foxes, ruined by rain and mud, accompanied by another rifle.  Rust on the rifles gave him the impression that the village had been deserted some 12 months prior, and judging by the size of the camp, it appeared there had been at least 25 people living there.

His mind reeled trying to understand the mystery. Where had they gone?  Had they simply moved on?  Unlikely, with all of the items left behind.  Did they all drown in the nearby lake?  Also unlikely, as there would undoubtedly be bodies to be found.  His next discovery sent chills down his spine.

His thoughts turned to foul play as he stumbled across an Eskimo grave with a cairn built of stones.  One side of the grave had been removed, stone-by-stone and the body was missing.  Labelle couldn’t imagine a reason for desecrating the grave of a loved one, and he was reminded of an old Inuit superstition.

Eskimo of the time, and some still today, believe there is an evil spirit that haunts their villages.  Tornrark, who has an “ugly man face with two long tusks sticking up from each side of the nose”, is feared by many Inuit, who wear special charms in the hopes of warding him off.[3]

Labelle stayed in the camp for that afternoon, trying to figure out the mystery.

“There were no signs of any struggle.  Everything looked peaceful.  But the air seemed deadly.”

Following Kelleher’s story in the Bee, the authorities were notified and the RCMP initiated an investigation and search.  No one was ever found, nor were any clues as to the reason for their disappearance.

This story caused quite a stir in the area, but soon succumbed to fleeting attentions and was lost to further curiosity.  Until it was published in Frank Edward’s 1966 book, Stranger Than Science.[4]  Edwards telling of the story, taken directly from the original article in the Bee, rejuvenated the mystery and sparked some amateur investigation into the details.

Modern inquiries with the RCMP failed to come up with any evidence of the initial search, and the RCMP officially deny that there was one, and even that there ever was a village of that size in the remote area of Angikuni.  Very few records exist regarding Inuit populations in the territories from that period, so it’s nearly impossible to empirically prove that the camp existed, let alone that its inhabitants disappeared.

Suspicions of a supernatural influence at work were put forward not only by Labelle, but also by Whitely Strieber in his 1989 novel Majestic, and by Dean Koontz’s 1983 horror novel Phantoms.  More recently Nigel Blundell and Roger Boar wrote a detailed accounting of the Angikuni Mystery in their 2010 book The World’s Greatest UFO Mysteries, where they add to the growing lore associated with the event.

Many modern tellings of the story have embellished the facts, claiming reports of strange lights in the sky, mass grave robbing, and over 1000 people having vanished.  But the original mystery holds a hauntingly simple narrative. And though Labelle and Kelleher refrained from speculating on the fate of the Eskimos at Angikuni, one’s mind does tend to conjure ideas of alien abduction or supernatural mayhem.

As it stands we have only Labelle’s first hand accounting of the mystery.  Having been a trapper for over 40 years, Labelle was of a type of man not known for telling yarns.  Many trappers of the time lived solitary lives, seldom coming into contact with other people outside of these small Inuit villages, and beyond an actual member of the village, Labelle was uniquely qualified to understand the nuances of Inuit life and traditions.

The lack of official records on the search and the village does little to sway the belief of those who identify with the mystery.  Considering the time frame, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know the truth of it, but the notion that an entire village of people could disappear, almost overnight, is a disturbing one to be sure.  But the few confirmed facts we do have say nothing of aliens, or monsters, or of any other nefarious end those poor souls may have met.  We know only that something happened at Angikuni Lake.


[1] Kelleher, Emmett E. (1930-11-30). "Vanished Eskimo Tribe Gives North Mystery Stranger Than Fiction". The Bee.

[2] Newspaperarchive.com, The Danville Bee – November 27, 1930: http://newspaperarchive.com/danville-bee/1930-11-27/page-7

[3] Colombo, John Robert. Ghost Stories of Canada. Dundum (2000)

[4] Edwards, Frank. Stranger Than Science (5th printing ed.). Bantam Books Paperback (1968). pp. 18–19