Over the past century a number of writers on Fortean topics have speculated that there are strange, unknown beings that live above us in the sky - atmospheric beasts that range from dragons to massive 'sky jellyfish'. Could it be possible that some sightings - in particular of the latter type of 'beast' - are caused by atmospheric phenomena that are only just now beginning to be understood?
A case in point would be so-called 'sprites' - "large-scale electrical discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, or cumulonimbus, giving rise to a quite varied range of visual shapes flickering in the night sky." The first report of a sprite sighting was in the late 19th century, but they weren't photographed until a century later.
Now, sprites are captured in photographs and on video quite often - and recently, some were even seen from above, by astronauts on the International Space Station (see image at the top of this post). On August 10th, the astronauts spotted red sprites above a cluster of storms over Mexico and El Salvador, and managed to snap some wonderful images.
Click through the link below for more imagery and information.
A few days ago I posted a link to a blog post from earlier this year about 'The Berenst#in Bears Problem':
Now, if you don’t know about The Berenstein Bears, they were a series of children’s books, and eventually a cartoon, created by Stan and Jan Berenstein. They focused on a family of bears, and did the usual educational children’s book/tv series thing. Simple enough. I remember them, vaguely, and I believe I owned a book or two when I was a kid. It’s been a while.
So what’s the problem?
They’re not The Berenstein Bears. They’ve never been The Berenstein Bears. Despite the fact that many others remember them as The Berenstein Bears, and I myself still pronounce their name as The Berenstein Bears, this is false. This is wrong.
They are The Berenstain Bears.
Now, from this seemingly minor oddity a number of rather major theories have developed across the intarwebs. Could it be that the discrepancy is evidence that at some point in the last two decades, we all "shifted into an almost indistinguishable parallel universe"? Or perhaps it's the effect of a time-traveler messing with the past and changing the future...our present? You know, those wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey issues that this guy was concerned about:
Okay, it's an odd little bit of Fortean fun, and your response to it all could lie anywhere on the spectrum from stoners mumbling "can't deal with this right now" to anal retentive skeptics making "harumph!" noises. But it's a great jumping off point for two of my favourite topics: firstly, the philosophical arguments over reality and perception (a la Philip K Dick storylines), and secondly, the modern-day creation of mythologies.
In the first instance, the arguments for 'alternative world/timeline' in this case are complicated by (a) in the former, the fact that there are many who *do* remember the books as 'Berenstain', and (b) in the latter, that any change to the timeline should also have changed everyone's memories as well. But it does raise an interesting question: how would anything of this sort be scientifically provable, if the only 'evidence' for such changes were memories retained in consciousness, rather than the physical world?
I could show you a Google NGram (which shows the frequency of usage of words and phrases in books over the last couple of centuries) with Berenstain as the most often used spelling, but what does it prove if the timeline did in fact change?
In the second instance - the modern creation of mythologies - at the moment we're watching one play out with the Berenst#in Bears Problem. People are spending serious hours hunting images down on the internet, looking through their wardrobes for old books, and asking their parents.
Some - most often those that grew up thinking of them as the Berenstein Bears, and cannot accept that it may have been Berenstain all this time - seriously feel that the alternative world/timeline theory is a possibility. Others (like myself) are enjoying the Fortean elements of this story, and are having some fun with it. And then some are taking that fun one step further, and creating fake 'evidence' to support the alternative world/timeline theories.
And now, as all that develops, the Berenst#in Bears Problem is starting to reach much larger audiences as it gets shared across social networks, and some individuals with larger follower counts become aware of it. Just yesterday musician El-P spent much of the day debating it with his 100,000+ followers on Twitter, taking many of them down the rabbit hole with him.
El-P also posted the following series of tweets, referring to the images at the top of this post:
ok. this is not a joke. the same page that had that pick of the simpons holding the "berenstain bears" 5 minutes ago. the one i posted...
— el-p (@therealelp) August 4, 2015
IT LITERALLY NOW SAYS BERENSTAIN IM NOT EVEN KIDDING GOD DAMNIT https://t.co/IXWFFcuIxt
— el-p (@therealelp) August 4, 2015
El-P's obviously joking. Or maybe someone played him real good. Or maybe some time traveler is hastily covering his tracks. It really doesn't matter anymore, this myth is alive now, and we can expect it to take its place in the modern mythology pantheon with Slenderman and John Titor before too long.
Speaking of John Titor, does anyone know if he was involved in children's book publishing at all...?
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If you'd like to spend a paranormal-flavored weekend at the Maritime provinces, then I suggest you head out to Liverpool, Novia Scotia, where the East Coast ParaCon will be celebrated next week from Friday 7th to Sunday 9th.
The event will feature presentations by cryptozoologist extraordinnaire Loren Coleman, Ufologist Stan "the Man" Friedman, and psychic medium Chip Coffey, who was recently interviewed in Binnall of America --Tim is also attending the conference BTW, and I hope he plans to bring his recorder with him.
Last but not least, Fortean raconteur Paul Kimball will also be one of the speakers. Paul has not given a public presentation about the paranormal since 2011, and I'm sure MANY attendees will want to know about his involvement with the Roswell Slides Research Group, which was responsible to debunking the rather embarrassing Slidegate kerfuffle, merely 48 after the hyperbolic BeWitness spectacle of May 5th at the National Auditorium in Mexico city.
All in all, the ParaCon has a five-star lineup of speakers --aside from the ones mentioned above-- and with their scheduled late-night ghost walk and ghost hunt investigation, I only wish I was able to attend myself, and enjoy the beauty of Novia Scotia in the summer --not to mention a few of the local breweries.
UPDATE: Paul has told me via Facebook his presentation will not involve the infamous Roswell slides, but shall rather be focused on his ideas about the Paranormal being interpreted as an Art project, which he started to explore on his (*highly* recommended) book The Other Side of Truth [Amazon US & UK] --see? I told you he was a raconteur!
Tim sez he's going to Nova Scotia only as a vacation (yeah, right!), "(e)xpect nothing from me except perhaps a "Don't Hassle Me I'm a Local" shirt."
Folks, this demands a 'Class A' hassle directed at señor Binnall. Be merciless, ParaCon attendees!!
It is said good things come for those who wait, and for me the wait was over last Tuesday night, when I finally got to have a long chat with paranormal podcaster extraordinaire: The one and only Tim Binnall, who invited me to his Binnall of America Live show.
For me it was something of a dream come true, because I've been a fan of Tim's for almost as long as I've been involved in the Fortean blogosphere. Back before I was only listening to a handful of podcasts --and when I actually had TIME to listen to podcasts! one of the few things I actually miss from my former job-- his was one of the few I'd re-listen more than once; among my favorite episodes in his vast catalog is his 2-part interview with Canadian UFOlogist Grant Cameron, his also 2-part conversation with Peter Robbins in which they discussed the Rendlesham forest incident in great detail, and many others. His recurring season-opener shows with Jim Marrs, the Christmas specials with Stanton Friedman, and the traditional 'Ruxgiving' episodes with Bruce Rux are also a delight, for both the old fans and the newcomers who are just starting to get their feet wet in the swampy waters of the Paranormal pond.
I think what I've always liked about Tim is that his passion for the Fortean stuff is both evident and contagious. It is this passion and the desire to learn more about these mysteries the very driving force behind his ten-year podcast, which makes him a true 'grey beard' in this field --even though he's about 10 years younger than me.
As Tim said during the interview, we both had a similar start by jumping from hardcore fans of the Fortean stuff, to becoming producers of content. As such, its inevitable how the long run of involvement in this community will bring about a certain amount of disenchantment --how could it not, when so many cases you once believed to be genuine turned out to be hoaxes, and we are still talking about f$%#ing Roswell in 2015??-- so as the years progressed Tim has grown a little older, a little wiser, and perhaps a little more cynical --especially with the so-called Disclosure movement.
This is not only understandable, but in fact maybe necessary in order to retain your critical thinking --and your SANITY-- in this arena. I myself acknowledge that I've become much more skeptical about many things I used to believe about UFOs, Cryptozoology and other islands in the Fortean continent. Like uncle Keel used to say: "Belief is the enemy" --alas, the kiddies never listened…
Still, Tim's heart remains in the right place after all these years, and that's why he keeps soldiering on. Because he knows it's not about the fame, and it's certainly not about the money --he'll be the first one to confirm that! Given how BoA is completely subscription-free and ad-free, and relies solely on listener donations to stay in the black. If BoA has stayed online for so long, when so many short-lived podcasts wither away, is because Tim knows making hard questions is always more fun than getting easy answers; perhaps that's the real purpose behind UFOs and all these enigmas.
Hope you enjoy the show as much as I did.
Oh, yeah! One more thing: On Tuesday, the day I was scheduled to have my chat with Tim, I received a very nice synchronistic message from the Universe, confirming beforehand it was going to be an epic broadcast.
That morning I grabbed my tablet to check on my e-mails and such as I always do, and what was my surprise when I found that the 'word of the day' in the Dictionary app I have installed was none other than "Foison."
Now, as with all synchronicities, this requires a bit of 'splaining: You see, my good friend and colleague Joshua Cutchin, the author of 'A Trojan Feast', wrote extensively about this archaic term in his research regarding the food exchanges with humanoid entities; one of the things Joshua found out, is that in European folklore it was believed the fey folk would take the 'foison' --also spelled 'foyson'-- or 'essence' of food stuffs, because that was what they would nourish on.
Joshua was one of the latest guests in Binnall of America prior to my appearance. In fact, his was the LAST live broadcast Tim had on Blogtalk Radio before my own, which was also live. I listened to that episode that night, and I vividly remember how Tim was particularly interested on the 'foison' term, and how the two of them devoted several minutes discussing it.
Now, that particular app is fond of picking all sorts of obscure terms as "word of the day." Still, what are the odds that, of all the words in the English dictionary, the word 'foison' --which I personally had never heard of, prior to reading Joshua's book-- was the one highlighted on the day I was going to appear on BoA??
Coincidence? Maybe. Me, I like to think of it as the Universe giving a preemptive two thumbs up to my debut at Binnall of America. Hopefully, I raised to such cosmic expectations ;)
"Live people ignore the strange and unusual. I, myself, am strange and unusual". This quote, coming out of the lips of teenage Goth queen Winona Ryder, is probably one of the reasons why I developed a huge crush for her in the 1980's, which only got worse with Edward Scissorhands.
Which is why I'm tentatively psyched by the fact that Netflix is preparing to release a new series starring her in 2016. The reason for my trepidation, you may be wondering, is the fact that this series will (allegedly) be based on the infamous Montauk project mythos.
The untitled series begins with the disappearance of a 12-year-old boy in 1980 Montauk, Long Island. When his family, friends, and local police set out to find him, they get wrapped up in a larger plot involving “top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl.” Ryder will play the boy’s single mother, Joyce. Harbour plays the local chief of police.
The show is described as “a love letter to the ’80s classics that captivated a generation.” It may or may not be inspired by the Montauk Project, supposedly a secret government program exploring psychological warfare and time travel (among other exotic matters). However, the whole conspiracy theory seems to have started with Preston Nichols, who authored a series of first-person accounts that are really just science-fiction.
The Montauk project is without a doubt one of the most head-scratching stories in the Fortean underworld. It involves everything from the Philadelphia experiment, Tesla technology, time travel, aliens, soul migration, a chair which can literally manifest anything you can think of, and digital sexual stimulation as a deprogramming tool --and that's just the beginning!
(On second thought, perhaps this is a suitable step in the career of Timothy Leary's god-daughter after all)
Earlier this year my friends Ben and Aaron interviewed filmmaker Jim Garetano on the Mysterious Universe podcast. Garetano is the creator of Montauk Chronicles, a documentary aiming to take a close, unbiased look to this bizarre story and its main characters. Whereas I've not been able to watch this film yet, the impression Garetano gave me on that MU interview is that he believes something went on inside the Montauk Air Force station in Long Island, and that perhaps people who were subject to illegal experiments were 'programmed' with an outlandish story in order to discredit them to the public eye, and prevent serious scrutiny into this case.
And there's also Alexandra 'Chica' Bruce, a researcher who decided to look into the Montauk project, and found how past its veneer of obvious absurdity --and awkward homoeroticism-- there was something genuinely intriguing about it. She wrote the book The Philadephia Experiment Murder [Amazon US & UK] but later she claims she was harassed by shadowy sources, and literally scared away from anything to do about Montauk, and she hasn't looked back since. You can listen to an interview with her in Adam Gorightly's old Untamed Dimensions podcast by clicking here.
Will Nextflix's new Montauk-based series make Lost's plot look as simple and predictable as The O.C.? Stay tuned!
There once was a man named David, he loved his family so. They lived on a farm in Tennessee, in eighteen hundred eighty. One day while his daughters played nearby and his wife watched from her swing, David walked across the field and vanished without a word.
That’s the gist of the story, though I admit to having taken some artistic liberty with the wording (I’m no poet), but even my version offers pretty much the same amount of detail to the original. The man in question was David Lang, and he did indeed vanish, or so the story goes. It’s said that he took a stroll through the field next to his family home, while his wife and children watched from the yard, and after only a few steps he simply disappeared without a trace, right in front of their eyes. This, apparently, was also witnessed by two men who happened to be passing by the farm in a buggy at the time. The full version of the tale says that an exhaustive search was undertaken to find the poor vanished soul, but to no avail. David Lang was never heard from again.
If that sounds familiar to you, it might be because American journalist, satirist, and short story author Ambrose Bierce wrote an almost identical tale called ‘The Difficulty of Crossing a Field’. If you judge books by their cover, you may have overlooked that title. That’s a short story that first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888, and later appeared in some versions of Bierce’s ‘Can Such Things Be?’ collection, but it soon took on a life of its own.
Of course, with stories like this, of this age, it can be exceedingly difficult to track down who exactly said what and when. We know, because of his relative fame, that Bierce did write The Difficulty of Crossing a Field sometime in the late 19th century, which detailed the disappearance – in very much the same way – of a plantation owner named Williamson from Alabama, but was he the first to write it? Was he drawing on actual events as inspiration, changing names and locations to protect the innocent, as it were?
The tale of David Lang, which differs only in the minute details, was first published in an edition of Fate Magazine in 1953. That version was penned by novelist Stuart Palmer, who claimed that it was a true accounting, and was in fact the event on which Ambrose Bierce based his story. Palmer’s version has since been copied into several books relating to strange disappearances, such as Frank Edward’s Stranger than Science (1959). Since then, the two tales have been intertwined, confused, misattributed and just plain plagiarized many times over.
Why am I telling you all this? I’m getting to that.
Several researchers have gone to great lengths to confirm or disprove the story of David Lang, and it seems that no such man ever existed. There are no census records for a man of that name in Gallatin, Tennessee (where the story takes place) in that era, nor of his family. No newspaper articles have ever been found discussing or referring to the incident, and no correspondence of any kind has been seen. This doesn’t mean that David Lang didn’t exist, he very well could have. Records get lost all the time, even now. It also doesn’t mean the incident never happened. I just means that we can’t confirm it.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know what happened, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating based on the little we do know. And I’m about to do the same.
There’s something you should know about Ambrose Bierce; his name is inexorably connected to the concept of strange disappearances, for more than one reason. Aside from the fact that he wrote about people vanishing into thin air on more than a few occasions – An Unfinished Race comes to mind, which features the odd disappearance of James Worson, who, while running a foot race, simply blinked out of existence right before the eyes of several other men – Bierce himself disappeared without a trace while in Mexico in 1914, never to be heard from again.
It’s a strange business, all of it, but things do get stranger.
Did you know that The Difficulty of Crossing a Field has been adapted as an opera? It has! I’ve not had a chance to experience it, but I imagine it was quite the show. It played at the Roulette Intermedium theatre in New York in 2002 and several times since then. Here’s the strange bit though…the man who wrote the adaptation and produced the show is named David Lang.
According to his website, David Lang, the current, is a Pulitzer Prize winning composer and at one time held the Debs Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall. By all accounts he is a brilliant musician and were he named anything else, no one would ever question his involvement.
But since he is named David Lang, I can’t help but let my imagination run a little bit. What if…? And hear me out. What if, the original David Lang really did exist, and really did disappear as the story suggests? If it were true we’d have to consider where, exactly, Mr. Lang went when he disappeared.
Despite the relatively shallow depth of our knowledge in the realms of time travel and teleportation (yes, both are theoretically possible, given certain caveats), it could be said that it is conceivable that the man, David Lang, who disappeared from a field in Tennessee a hundred years ago, is also the man, David Lang, who now works to retell the story of his own mysterious demise through Ambrose Bierce’s tale The Difficulty of Crossing a Field.
OK, yes, I can already hear you pounding your keyboard, typing out a comment to tell me how deluded and credulous I am. The name David Lang is, arguably, a very common name, and yes, strange coincidences happen all the time, some stranger than this. But even if all I’ve done here is point out a strange coincidence that inspires some of you to add Ambrose Bierce to your reading list and David Lang to your playlist, then this was all worth it. For the record though, I think David Lang is actually a Time Lord.
Has your love for things that go bump in the night turned you into a lone wolf, like an old Skinwalker curse? Would you like to go UFO hunting by the pale moon light with a significant other? Is your camping tent roomy enough for a Squatching date?
If the answer to one of those questions is 'yes' then REJOICE! World renowned mentalist The amazing Kreskin has sought to remedy your perennial singlehood with the very first Supernatural Dating Society™; a place where people interested in paranormal phenomena can seek out their true soul mate, without the fear of ruining the very first date the moment you pull out your phone to show the latest stabilized version of the Patterson-Gimlin footage --yeah, like it's never happened to YOU!
From the dating society's site:
Can I really be suggesting a social dating society directed specifically to people interested in all of the forementioned areas?
Absolutely! Furthermore, these folks would like nothing more than to meet other people with whom they can discuss their thoughts, beliefs, and experiences without compromise...without fear of embarrassment. They want to speak openly to a special someone who will listen, understand their feelings, and react appropriately.
Kreskin recently gave an interview to Cosmopolitan to explain what motivated him to launch the site:
It's very, very interesting. Most people I talked to would like to meet people that they could join and visit places that seem like they're haunted. They don't want to do it by themselves. The other area, which is gigantic, is the UFO area. There are people who would like to go to sites — and listen, I don't happen to believe in alien landings, but some people do. As far as UFOs, I talk to too many pilots that have had planes tracked; they told me stories; they said, "Kreskin, if we went back and made this public, we'd probably lose our jobs because the company would say, 'You're acting crazy,'" or what have you. They want to go with someone they know feels the same way.
I myself am not a mentalist, so I don't know what Kreskin was thinking when he came up with this idea, but didn't he realize people in the paranormal scene are pathologically paranoid? I'm sure many would fear the site is just a CIA front in order to track them and/or feed them disinformation! What happens when you find someone interesting only to find out she's a woman in black??
But even if right now I'm showing MY own personal paranoia, the other problem with dating paranormal buffs is that most of us are strongly opinionated. Imagine spending the whole time during a 'romantic' dinner fighting with your date over why the CARET drones are obvious hoaxes, the ETH doesn't make any sense and Project Serpo is pure nonsense!
If you prefer not to join Kreskin's community but re still looking to find a love interest that shares your love for all things fringe, then I'd then suggest you attend events like the International UFO conference. Granted, the average age of attendees hovers around 60 years-old, but why should that be a problem? --after all, MILFs are still a thing, right?
- The Amazing Kreskin's Supernatural Dating Society
- UFO enthusiasts now have a place to date online
- Inside the Supernatural Dating Society, a Site for People Obsessed With Ghosts, Astrology, and Finding Love
[H/T to Rick MG, who I hear is looking for a Mothmamacita]
Forteans come and Forteans go, after they spent their entire lives trying to unravel the truth behind challenging mysteries. But with any luck their thoughts and wisdom can be preserved, benefitting future generations of consensus dissenters.
Such is the case of John Michell (1933-2009), a true counter-cultural iconoclast of the 1960's, who left behind a great deal of books and essays focusing on a wide range of 'heretical topics': From sacred geometry, earth mysteries, geomancy, gematria, archaeoastronomy, metrology, euphonics, simulacra, sacred sites, faeries, flying saucers and even the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Because the sign of a true Fortean is an eclectic curiosity, and always adopting a 'holistic' vision of the world's mysteries.
Our friends of Inner Traditions will soon release a compendium of Michell's works, curated by Joscelyn Godwin, who aside from his Fortean interests is also a composer and musicologist. Here's an excerpt from his introduction to The John Michell Reader:
It is not too much to say that John Michell was a prophet. Prophets do not foretell the future, so much as warn what may come to pass if events continue on their present course. Nowadays this is so blindingly obvious that we hardly need prophets to tell it to us. But there is a rarer prophetic gift, which is the seeing of forms in what Plato called "The World of Ideas" —not the imaginary ideas of men and women, but the divine or daemonic ideas after which the material world is formed. Exekiel saw the Chariot of the Most High; John the Divine saw the New Jerusalem; Mohammed in his night-journey passed through the planetary spheres and met the other prophets of his lineage. Such visions may be warnigs too, but they also inspire confidence in the meaning and goodness of the cosmos; they enable us to imagine Paradise here and now, and to adjust our lives in harmony with it.
Since the publication of the New Jerusalem canon in 1971, a prophetic vision of the latter kind was the foundation of all of John Michell's writing, and his efforts were bent on bringing about its new descent as a source of joy, sanity, and sacred order in the world. These little essays were like the foam thrown off by the great wave of creative energy set in motion by this discovery, which Michell characterised, in all humility, as a revelation.
A fascinating post over at The Chirurgeon's Apprentice on Adam Rainer, the only man in history to be classified as both a dwarf as well as a giant:
Adam Rainer was born in Graz, Austria to average-sized parents in 1899. When WW1 broke out, Rainer tried to enlist in the army, but at 4’6.3’’ inches tall, he was deemed too short and weak. A year later, Rainer tried again, and although he had grown a full 2 inches, the army rejected him once more on the basis of his height. Standing 4’8.3’’ inches tall at the age of 19, Rainer was considered a dwarf, being nearly 2 inches below the cut-off (4’10’’).
...At the age of 21, all this changed. Rainer suddenly began growing at an alarming pace. Over the next decade, he grew from just under 4’10’’ to a shocking 7’1". He died, aged 51, measuring 7’8" – though some newspapers reported his height as 7’10”.
Dragon fire, swamp gas, earth lights or human hoaxing? The Naga fireballs - mysterious lights that rise from the Mekong river in Thailand in late October each year - remain a hotly debated area of Forteana. Unfortunately, the actual history of the phenomenon remains shrouded in doubt, and the huge festival (and accompanying fireworks) that surrounds the yearly manifestation of the fireballs makes it difficult to study it in any great detail.
Australian ufologist Bill Chalker attended the Naga Fireball festival in 2006, and on his blog he's recently posted some of his thoughts as well as some videos he took during his visit:
I went to Nong Khai and Phon Phisai where the spectacular Naga light fireball festival was in full swing on the Mekong river looking towards Laos. I was in Phon Phisai on Saturday night October 7 for the anticipated fireball display. The human part of the light show - fireworks, rockets, large fire balloons, fireboats etc - was in great evidence, but when the Naga fireballs started emerging, they were strikingly different to the easily discernible human displays - very straight vertical flights out of river to a great height and then disappearing after a few seconds. Each appearance was greeted with a huge roar from the thousands of people lining the river at every vantage point along the Mekong.
This phenomenon has a tremendous social and human dimension and while it is tempting to try to explain the lights, however correctly or incorrectly- planted "rockets", "submarine" firings, Naga Dragon speaking - they all seem to fall short of entirely convincing explanations. The UFO researcher in me calls for an explanation, and I have to wonder about the presence of the manned fireboats plying the river prior to the appearance of the Naga lights, but from my observations it seems difficult to see how they do it and what kind of item is utilised, given nothing seemed to be at the localities around the various exit points in the river for some time either side of each Naga light appearance. The emotional response to these lights on site is to inevitably get caught up in the chaotic flow of the evening events. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and loose objectivity. Perhaps thats why they write books like "Mad about the Mekong". It is a great area full of extraordinary sights and experience, not the least of them being the Naga Light show during the full moon glow over the river.
I saw the lights about 8 times coming out of the river. It was a great day and night.
Visit Bill's blog The Oz Files to view all of the videos and his thoughts on the phenomenon.