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.
What sort of crazy people still talk about 'the fairy faith' in this modern, rational world? We do! And also the people in this fascinating exploration of the persistent belief in the fée, Sidhe, Gentry, Good Folk, and so on (the folkloric kind of fairy, not the Disney kind...mostly).
Goes especially well with our new reprint of Jacques Vallee's classic Passport to Magonia: From folklore to flying saucers...
In case you haven't done so already, I encourage you to head over to Mysterious Universe and listen to their latest podcast, which features a fascinating conversation with Joshua Cutchin, a guy who's been researching an all too-neglected aspect in the annals of Forteana: The exchange of food stuffs with humanoid entities.
I first learned of Joshua through my Cosmic Compadre, Micah Hanks, who had him as a guest on The Gralien Report some time ago. Many of the things he said in that radio show resonated with my own views re. the UFO phenomenon, and from there we started to exchange e-mails and became fast friends. Joshua asked me for my opinion in his investigations on what he calls 'Entity food' and I was more than delighted to do so, mainly because I found in him a true Fortean in every sense of the word; like Micah and myself, he's not afraid of dipping his fingers into fields that are often considered to be as separate as oil and water. But as any decent chef would tell you, it is when you dare to mix the 'unmixable' that new flavors and textures are discovered --and if you doubt me, then I bet you'd never tasted a good mole.
From Joe Simonton's cardboard-tasting pancakes, to the Celtic taboos which admonished not to taste any food and drink in Fairyland, I'm sure that Grailers will find Joshua and his research a real treat.
(And in case you happen to have a good personal experience to share for his still-to-be-published book, you can contact him at email@example.com)
How's September working out for you? It's been a pretty good month for professional golfer Billy Horschel: at the start of the month, he finished second in the PGA Tour's Deutsche Bank Championship, followed it up a week later with a win in the BMW Championship, and the following week (this weekend just past), he won the Tour Championship, pocketing a bonus $10 million on top of his other multi-million dollar prize winnings. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, two days later he became a dad for the first time! Not a bad 16 day stretch by anyone's standards...
But why is this getting posted on the Grail, I hear you ask? Well, though I'm a keen golfer, the main reason is that, in perusing Billy's PGA Tour profile page, I was surprised to see that he lists being "a believer in Bigfoot and UFOs". We're a bit more partial here to an interested agnosticism rather than belief (and let's not mention the Twilight book series part of the profile), but I think we can safely claim PGA Tour champion Billy Horschel as a member of the tribe of the weird. Hell, the guy even has precognitive dreams:
When Billy Horschel was 10 years old he had a dream that he was going to get hit in the eye playing baseball. It came true. When he was in college, he dreamt that he would marry his then-girlfriend Brittany and later did. Sunday at East Lake, he lived out another premonition. After dreaming earlier this year that he would hoist the FedExCup trophy, Horschel shot a 2-under 68 to win the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola by three strokes over Rory McIlroy and Jim Furyk and claim the FedExCup and its $10 million bonus.
...“There's certain things throughout my life that have come true, and I've sort of seen it beforehand,” Horschel said. “I woke up and I wasn't sure if it was real or not because it was very faint, but I remember holding up the FedExCup trophy, and as the season went along, I never thought about it, but I just said, 'Well, maybe it was just a dream that wasn't real.'”
Billy, consider this an honorary Grail membership (because it felt like your month so far was lacking something, right?!).
The Origin of 'A Glitch in the Matrix': Philip K. Dick Discusses Déjà Vu and Living in a Simulation, in 1977Posted by Greg at 07:08, 03 Sep 2014
The 1999 blockbuster The Matrix has provided plenty of great lines to popular culture, from "buckle your seatbelt Dorothy" to "dodge this". But perhaps one of the most enduring has been "a glitch in the Matrix", referring to the scene in which Neo (Keanu Reeves) experiences déjà vu with a black cat. His companions, more experienced in the computer-simulated reality of the Matrix, are put on edge by this, explaining to him that "déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix, it happens when they change something".
The terms "a glitch in the Matrix" is now used often when people experience something distinctly weird - so much so, that it's even the official name of a subreddit devoted to Fortean weirdness.
The Matrix draws from a deep well of influences, starting with the 17th century philosopher René Descartes and ending with a melting pot of popular modern culture, including Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, William Gibson's Neuromancer, Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell and the collected works of Philip K. Dick. And it is the latter who seems to have been the origin of the idea that "déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix". At a 1977 appearance at the Metz Science Fiction Convention in France, Dick told of his own strange experiences, including recovered memories and déjà vu - and the personal revelation that these experiences were evidence of alternative universes:
We are living in a computer-programmed reality, and the only clue we have to it is when some variable is changed, and some alteration in our reality occurs. We would have the overwhelming impression that we were re-living the present - déjà vu - perhaps in precisely the same way: hearing the same words, saying the same words. I submit that these impressions are valid and significant, and I will even say this: such an impression is a clue, that in some past time-point, a variable was changed - re-programmed as it were - and that because of this, an alternative world branched off.
Were the Wachowski siblings, who wrote the movie, aware of Dick's comments? Or is the similarity between these ideas just one more example of a 'glitch in the Matrix'...?
A long-standing Fortean mystery has been the 'wandering stones' of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, California. It might be time to cross this one off the list though:
Ending a half-century of geological speculation, scientists have finally seen the process that causes rocks to move atop Racetrack Playa, a desert lake bed in the mountains above Death Valley, California. Researchers watched a pond freeze atop the playa, then break apart into sheets of ice that — blown by wind — shoved rocks across the lake bed.
...The researchers began studying the region in 2011, setting up a weather station and time-lapse cameras and dropping off rocks loaded with Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers. The rocks were designed to start recording their position and speed as soon as something made them move.
...When the researchers travelled to the playa in December 2013 to check instruments and change batteries, they found a huge ice-encrusted pond covering about one-third of the 4.5-kilometre-long playa. After several days of camping, they decided to sit above the southern end of the playa on the morning of 20 December. “It was a beautiful sunny day, and there began to be rippled melt pools in front of us,” Richard Norris says. “At 11:37 a.m., very abruptly, there was a pop-pop-crackle all over the place in front of us — and I said to my cousin, ‘This is it.’ ”
They watched as the ice began moving past the rocks, mostly breaking apart but also shoving them gently...when the ice melted away that afternoon, they saw freshly formed trails left behind by more than 60 moving rocks.
The following month, the research team even managed to capture video of the phenomenon occurring:
Whether this is the complete explanation of the wandering stones phenomenon is still unknown - there have been reports of the stones moving during summer months as well, when it's unlikely that ice could form on the playa, leading previous researchers to note that ice "is not a required component or precondition for sliding rock activity".
So while the mystery seems to have largely been solved, there's still a few loose ends that might need cleaning up.
Alien stalker, inter-dimensional cryptid, herald of Doom, Tibetan Garuda or just a big-ass owl. Everybody has their pet theory about the true nature of the Mothman; but the only thing that's certain, is that 46 years after the collapse of the Silver Bridge in December of 1967, the mystery immortalized by John Keel and Gray Barker remains as captivating as ever.
Our good friends at Who Forted?, Greg and Dana Newkirk, have just shared a video about their very own personal pilgrimage to the Mothman Mecca - made as part of their Planet Weird series - and it seems the trip had a long-lasting impression on the young Forteans:
In the late 60s, a mysterious creature known as Mothman terrorized Point Pleasant, WV. In this clip, shot exclusively to field test new video equipment used in Planet Weird, Greg and Dana take a midnight adventure to the secluded TNT bunkers where the monster is alleged to have made its home.
I tweeted the thrill-seeking couple, asking about their personal impressions of visiting the infamous TNT area, which for a while was ground zero of most of the Mothman sightings between 1966 and 1967. This was their response:
— Greg Newkirk (@nuekerk) August 4, 2014
— Dana Matthews (@Weird_Dana) August 4, 2014
— Greg Newkirk (@nuekerk) August 4, 2014
I found the acoustic quality of the former World War II munitions plant to be interesting, and perhaps in some way connected to the high strangeness experienced by the inhabitants of the small West Virginia town, which will no doubt continue to lure Fortean aficionados for many years to come... like moths to the flame.
Whatever you think of the crop circle phenomenon —alien symbols, messages from Gaia, vandalic graffiti or magick sigils— I think we all can agree at least on one thing: Many of them are gorgeous to look at. Which begs the question: Why hasn't there ever been a proper museum exhibit showcasing these fascinating works of art?
Fortunately, the fine folk working at the Witlshire museum have corrected this unforgivable omission. From June 21st to August 31st of 2014, the exhibit "Exploring the Mystery and Beauty of Crop Circles" will be showcased; the first ever exhibition of its kind, right at the heart of the crop circle capital of the world.
The exhibit is being curated by Dutch and German crop circle researchers Monique Klinkenbergh and Andreas Müller, and along with large-size prints of the most prominent crop circle photographs taken since the phenomenon started —or since the circles gathered public attention, whichever you prefer— it also seeks to offer some background information in the history of the phenomenon, and the research conducted so far in trying to explain it.
"The concept of our exhibition is based on the idea that there is a genuine, not man-made phenomenon", adds Monique Klinkenbergh. "For this view, we present evidence and background facts. Over the last three decades printed and aired media presented the phenomenon mostly as the result 'Dough and Dave', the two elderly tricksters who suddenly appeared on the scene in 1991, followed by students and hoaxers. With our exhibition in the Wiltshire Museum we also want to set some records straight from a research point of view.
But what of the possibility of visiting an actual circle, instead of just looking at an aerial photograph? The Wiltshire museum also hosts the Crop Circle Access Centre, which is a mobile app informing on the latest formations & which ones are open to the public; it also seeks to compensate farmers whose field has had the 'fortune' of being chosen by the crop circle makers, paying them a portion of the money raised through the passes —field owners in other countries would wish to be so lucky…
Over the years my personal opinion on the matter of crop circles has changed substantially. Back in the late 80's & early 90's I was convinced these 'agro-glyphs' represented tangible evidence of some sort of communication with a non-human intelligence; now I side with the notion that the great majority of the circles are created by clandestine artists, who prefer to remain anonymous as much to avoid legal repercussions, as to infuse their creations with the necessary amount of mystique.
And yet that doesn't make those circles 'hoaxes' in my mind, nor does it mean some subtle interaction with an external influence is not occurring; a lot of the makers admit to sometimes feel 'compelled' to choose a particular design or location for reasons beyond their understanding, or sometimes report odd happenings while they are flattening the wheat using the infamous 'planking method' popularized by (the equally infamous) 'Doug & Dave.'
Whichever the case, if you happen to have the chance to visit Wiltshire this summer, you might want to stop by at the museum, and perhaps write for us a review.
[Hat tip to Andreas Müller]