Over at JohnKeel.com - a tribute site to the legendary Fortean investigator who died in 2009 - John's friend Doug Skinner has posted scans of John Keel's notebook from his investigation into the infamous 'Mothman' sightings near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Above is just one page, giving a wonderful insight both into the investigation, and the man caught in the middle of some very high strangeness.
April 3, 1967
1:35 A.M. Observed descent of red and green object into ravine a few yards north of position. Object was clearly defined saucer shape glowing red with greenish upper surface. Unable to determine size but it appeared small. At first thought it descended over hill in background but inspection of terrain with searchlight indicates it landed directly behind trees only a short distance away. Awaiting developments (1:45). Scared - damn it.
2:00 A.M. Drove to turn-around point, turned and returned to original parking position - unable to see anything in ravine - no lights or sign of activity. Still scared - not anxious to get out of car. Feel object is in ravine.
2:25 A.M. Observed orange UFO manuever (sic) and descend in northwest in distance. Suddenly disappeared. No sight of Moon which was supposed to rise at 1:59 A.M.
2:35 - Aware of what seemed to be a flash of pale pink light behind me. Similar flash seemed to occur a few minutes ago but I decided it was my imagination. No sounds or movements outside. Still trying to muster courage to leave car and look around. I feel "They" are very nearby.
See the full post for the complete set of scans - and other fascinating insights into the life of John Keel - at JohnKeel.com.
Well this I did not know. Fortean raconteur John Keel - author of the seminal book The Mothman Prophecies - was once interviewed by David Letterman himself. Letterman talks to Keel about the history of Fortean research, anomalous rains of various objects, skyquakes, UFOs, cattle mutilations and cryptozoology. The video quality isn't great, and Letterman voices his skepticism on a number of occasions, but it's fascinating to see the notoriously misanthropic and grouchy Keel affably (and somewhat enthusiastically) discussing these topics with the future king of late night TV.
For those interested in Keel's work, make sure you check out The Mothman Prophecies and Operation Trojan Horse, both hugely influential books in the Fortean and paranormal fields - although keep your skepticism on hand as it sometimes gets wild an wooly. Also, interesting content from Keel's life is still regularly being posted by his friends at the tribute site set up in his honour, JohnKeel.com.
"Oh my, that's a lovely aerial picture of your wedding dear. And did you...wait, who are all those creepy hooded people standing on the balcony of the building directly behind the ceremony?!"
Yes, it's a little known fact that every wedding is secretly blessed by the Brotherhood of the Shadowy Cloak, who attend in person. Finally, an overhead shot has revealed this secret to the general public.
Actually, the explanation is a little more prosaic. It's part of an art installation:
The Goddess Fortuna and Her Subjects in an Effort to Make Sense of it All is Dawn’s over-the-top multi-media installation inspired by author John Kennedy Toole, who never lived to see his extraordinary novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, published and then win the Pulitzer Prize in 1981
...this installation, hosted by The Historic New Orleans Collection, contains 66 life-size robed figures, each with a dunce hat upon its head. There’s a “symbolic” recreation of Ignatius’s bedroom over the fountain in the courtyard; an audio piece of Ignatius’s favorite medieval philosopher Boethius’s text in Latin wafting from the staircase; and a special-effects video that appears as a mirage of the Goddess Fortuna herself.
If you're fans of Mysterious Universe, or the Gralien Report podcast, then you're probably aware by now of the conference that my friend Micah Hanks and Intrepid magazine's Scotty Roberts are preparing in Minneapolis this coming October.
The Paradigm Symposium will feature special guests such as Erich Von Däniken, Giorgio Tsoukalos —of "I don't know, therefore aliens" fame— and many others, including TDG's friends Nick Redfern and Philip Coppens. And if you were thinking of attending, but were holding back due to a lack of funds, then I've got good news for you:
Today Wednesday 22nd, The Paradigm Symposium will be offering a special 2x1 deal for their Big tickets (US $249), which grant you access to all the lectures, including the opening and closing ceremonies. This offering will be available for 24 hours beginning at 12 o'clock PM (CST), so you'd better not waste anytime and reserve your tickets now.
I'll be looking forward to greeting all the attending Grailers at Minneapolis —you won't miss me: I'll be the big guy wearing a red luchador mask ;)
A fun and fascinating Reddit thread: people sharing their personal "glitch in the Matrix" stories:
Reddit, tell me your "glitch in the Matrix" stories.
I'm talking weird occurrences, coincidences you haven't been able to easily explain. I'll start.
We have a breakfast laid on at work every morning, just a simple buffet of eggs, bacon what have you. Nothing huge and it's really only to feed about a dozen people or so. I am usually one of the first guys from my team to get to work and the kitchen was deserted as usual. I walked into the little kitchen, there was a ceramic egg tray thing with 12 eggs in it, like the bottom half of an egg carton with a socket for each egg. All spaces are filled with warm freshly boiled eggs.
I take one, walk over to the garbage bin, shuck the shell then I walk back over to the food and stop dead. There are 12 eggs in the tray again. No one entered the room while I was peeling the thing. I touched the mystery egg it was the same temp as the other eggs around it.
Not a big thing, nothing major, but something very strange. Given one does not get presented with strange eggs from a parallel universe every day I peeled and ate that one too.
TL:DR - Found strange quantum egg at breakfast. Ate it. Did not gain super powers.
Do you have your own story to tell?
I was browsing through the line-ups of some upcoming skeptical conferences today, and noticed how they regularly get a few 'notables' at their meetings who support the cause (for example, magicians Penn & Teller and their support of the James Randi Educational Foundation). Which got me thinking: who are the well-known people out there with a predilection for the weird stuff? Who do you think would enjoy reading The Daily Grail? Let's crowd-source this and see who we can come up with - add anybody you can think of in the comments, and if a worthy contender I'll add them to the list below (generally have to show prolonged interest in a topic, rather than just mentioning it off-hand). I'll start with a few and y'all can bombard me with new additions:
- Dan Aykroyd (Actor/Comedian) - UFOs, The Paranormal
- Arj Barker (Comedian) - UFOs
- Danny Carey (Musician) - Esoterica
- John Cleese (Actor) - Noetic Science, Afterlife
- Storm Constantine (Author) - Esoterica
- Rhys Darby (Actor/Comedian) - Cryptozoology
- William Gibson (Author) - Forteana
- Michio Kaku (Scientist) - UFOs
- Sammy Hagar (Musician) - Alien Abductions
- David Lynch (Director) - Esoterica
- Shirley MacClaine (Actor) - The Paranormal
- Edgar Mitchell (Apollo Astronaut) - UFOs, Noetic Science
- Alan Moore (Author) - Esoterica
- Grant Morrison (Author) - Esoterica
- Kary Mullis (Scientist) - Alien Abductions
- Jimmy Page (Musician) - Esoterica
- Katy Perry (Musician) - UFOs, Hidden History
- Clifford Pickover (Scientist) - Shamanism
- Josh Radnor (Actor) - Shamanism
- Joe Rogan (Comedian) - Hidden History, Shamanism
- Rudy Rucker (Author) - UFOs
- Ridley Scott (Director) - Aliens, Hidden History
- Steven Spielberg (Director) - UFOs
- Guillermo del Toro (Director) - The Paranormal
- Robbie Williams (Musician) - UFOs, The Paranormal
Who else you got?
Updated (21/5/2012): Added crowd suggestions, and re-organised into alphabetical order by surname.
From Andrew May:
I mentioned Joseph Glanvill’s book Saducismus Triumphatus in my post about The Daemon of Tedworth a year ago. Since then, I’ve managed to find an online copy of the whole book, and it’s really very interesting. The Fortean world centres around the conflict between “skeptics” and “believers”, with Forteans sitting on the sidelines looking on in amusement. Glanvill’s book may be the first work ever written that specifically addresses this conflict.
In an earlier post I wrote about David Hume: a skeptic in the 18th century, and another one described William Hogarth’s satire on Paranormal investigation, 18th century style. But Glanvill lived in the 17th century -- Saducismus Triumphatus was published in 1681, the year after his death. The title is Latin for “Triumph over the Sadducees” -- “Sadducees” being Glanvill’s word for scientific skeptics and rationalists. Glanvill himself was an avid believer in the supernatural, largely because he considered that there was ample scriptural authority for its existence (in his day job, he was a Puritan clergyman).
The most interesting section of the book is called “Proof of Apparitions, Spirits and Witches, from a choice Collection of Modern Relations”. This is effectively a compendium of Case Studies collected by Glanvill over a period of many years. In this sense, Glanvill can be considered the world’s first paranormal investigator. And his mindset was exactly the same as that of a modern paranormal investigator. Just as David Hume, the world’s first militant skeptic, made the standard mistake of all skeptics (“If an event doesn’t fit in with my preconceived notions of what is possible, then it couldn’t have happened”) so Glanvill makes the standard mistake of all believers: “If a reputable witness says an event happened, then it must have happened exactly as they described it.”
More at Andrew's excellent Forteana blog
I'm Cat Vincent, your new Daily Grail contributing editor. Some of you may know me from my Slenderman piece in the new volume of Darklore.
Greg kindly invited me to join the team here, and I thought it would be a good idea to start out by talking a little about my perspective on matters Fortean. If there is one tendency I have noticed in my life as a Fortean and occultist, it's that certainty is... problematic, at best - and that the very best Fortean thinkers are those who are least certain of their personal theories.
Sadly, this is the exception in the field, rather than the rule. Gods know there are plenty of folk in various streams of Fortean thought who are utterly certain of their theories, that their model of whatever odd experiences they have had is both accurate and complete. And, amusingly, those among the skeptical 'elite' feel pretty much the same way about their model of the Universe. This is why conversations about what I've tended to generally call Weird Shit between opposing zealots of whatever flavour rarely end well.
My own experience (starting out around age 7 with some scary strangeness, teaching myself magic & meditation & reading the heaviest Forteans I could find before reaching double figures, all as a survival mechanism) tends me to be far less certain about any version of The Truth I am offered. This perspective (some might call it Model Agnosticism after Robert Anton Wilson, others might compare it to Marcello Truzzi's Zeteticism) allows, I think, the possibility of honest doubt, for one's own theories as well as those of others.
Without this Place of Maybe, this position of indeterminacy, absolute certainty can slip in and ruin perfectly good theories. The end result ranges from those endless pop-science articles which declare "Physics Professor Shows Universe Runs On Physics", "Maths Guru: World Is All Math" etc etc, to outright persecution of those whose views are classed as 'lesser' by their adherents.
Perhaps such oppositional tactics are inevitable. Human minds do crave certainty, and our egos rarely let us admit we are wrong (especially if we don't feel like we are... the most common reaction to hard evidence disproving our beliefs). Maybe we will eventually use this tiresome dialectic to find a true middle ground. But for me, I find it better to start in the middle ground in the first place.
The other thing that's influenced my views on the Weird is the immense importance of story, myth and outright fiction to how we deal with such. There's no denying the printed word, the recorded sounds and images of TV and film, carry immense weight in all our minds. Often, such tales are the best tools we have to interpret the strange and unusual. I've talked and written a lot about this over the years - most notably in my Mason Lang Film Club (on treating certain films as having coded information for the mystically inclined), my posts at the Modern Mythology group-blog (such as this piece on classic Star Trek) and my attempts to explain my occult praxis in the Guttershaman series.
All of these - and whatever I write here - should be taken with as much salt as you need. I believe what I say, as far as I can... but I'm not certain what I say is the whole truth.
And my best advice is - don't trust anybody who says they are. Including yourself.
"Which path do you intend to take, Nell?" said the Constable, sounding very interested. "Conformity or rebellion?"
"Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded – they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity."
Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age.
This is quite lovely: over at Boing Boing, Mark Fraunfelder has announced this week will be a celebration of the life and work of Robert Anton Wilson. There's already a number of posts, including this spot-on assessment of RAW's influence by Gareth Branwyn, which I'm sure many Grailers will relate to:
There is so much to Illuminatus!, an almost fractal density, that you have to unhinge your mind (like a serpent would its jaw) to fit it all in... There are few works of art or pieces of media that have altered my nervous system to the extent that Illuminatus! has.
In 1976, I was this awkward, alienated Wiccan teen, a restless seeker. But I was also a science and space nerd. I could never reconcile these two and constantly switched between them, rejecting one for the other, at least for a time. But here was a world where these points of view were not mutually exclusive, a playfully plastic world where open curiosity, creativity, absurdity, and skepticism leavened all explorations, whether religious/mystical/artistic or scientific. It was Robert Anton Wilson who turned me onto the concept of “hilaritas” (what he described as being “profoundly good natured”). These books (and all of RAW's oeuvre) are steeped in that spirit.
...I've gone through many intense changes since that 18 year old kid scammed free reading material, and my belief systems (or “BS” as RAW called them) have oscillated wildly, but most of my takeaways from Wilson have remained. His basic approach of being “open to anything, skeptical of everything” is how I've tried to live my life. This allowed me to finally embrace both parts of myself, the part that wanted to be open to magick and spirit and the part of me that needs extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims.
...At one point in Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything, the interviewer asks Bob why he's so into conspiracy theories. He'd spent the better part of his life studying them, writing about them, but he doesn't seem to actually believe any of them. So, why the intense interest? Bob thinks about it for a moment and replies: “It keeps the mind supple.”
Thank you, Mr. Wilson, for pulling an uptight, overthinking teen out of his constrictive reality tunnels and for a lifetime of “keeping the mind supple.”
If you want to keep up with the RAW posts throughout the week, keep checking in at the dedicated page over at Boing Boing.
Speakers at the Fortean Times Uncon know well that there's nothing that titillates a fan of the Fortean more than a choice new morsel of unlikely freakishness, and they seldom disappoint.
Jon Ronson was on excellent form introducing the topic of his latest book 'The Psychopath Test' (Amazon US/UK), exposing insanity at the heart of psychiatry, from the dangers of faking madness too well, to the natural affinity between corporate capitalism and psychopathy, via 24-hour naked 'crotch eyeballing' sessions for psychopaths on acid.
Brian Regal, warming up to his main theme, 'Science and the Sasquatch', a review of the career of physical anthropologist Grover Krantz, mentioned in passing the dog-headed origins of St Christopher and Linnaeus' category for cryptic species called the 'Paradoxa' and treated the audience to a medieval depiction of various monsters in speedos. While Krantz never achieved his goal of proving the existence of the Sasquatch, there's no shame in the trying.
Next up, David Clarke reported on his investigation into a Sheffield woman's death caused by her sighting of a ghostly apparition in an early example of spiritualism in 1855, a year which also featured many Fortean phenomena including Devil's hoof-marks in snow.
When speaking on his chosen topic of talking dogs and canine intellectuals on German TV, Jan Bondeson (Amazon US/UK) drew complaints from viewers about his lack of respect for Hitler! Jan, with his delightfully dry wit, served up various canine personalities including a reincarnation of Pythagoras, a dog taught to say 'How do you do Grandmama' by Alexander Graham Bell and a talking dog named Don, who won over a hostile priest by offering up the word 'Hallelujah'.
Struggling with his technophobia, the CFZ's Richard Freeman gave an update on their latest expedition gathering data from local inhabitants in search of the yeti (stumbling upon stories of giant snakes along the way) and the orang pendek. While it must require extraordinary tenaciousness to maintain the slow but steady progress of cryptozoological research, it's also a challenge to fill an hour's talk with your latest findings. Who knew that false vampire bats taste like rabbit?
Day one's talks concluded with Sarah Angliss building on the apparent theme of the weekend - talking animals and voices of the dead - treating us to a spooky 1890 recording of Florence Nightingale (although Otto von Bismarck singing a cowboy song might have been more fun), the New Jersey accent of Hoover the talking seal, and giving an audience member the chance of vocal immortality via the wax cylinder of an Edison phonograph. For her finale, Sarah treated us to the music of the aether, a performance on Theremin accompanied by a ventriloquist doll/automaton, inspired by John Logie Baird's doll Stooky Bill, who featured in his early televisual experiments.
Day 2 kicked off with Christopher Josiffe's account of a mysterious phenomenon which gripped the Isle of Man in the 1930s - Gef the talking mongoose - who took up residence in a remote farmhouse, but in his own words "knew a hell of a lot", including all the gossip from the bus garage in Peel. Josiffe's impersonations of various choice quotes from the creature were a highlight!
An allegedly cursed (but recently-carved) stone head joined David Clarke and Andy Roberts on stage as they entertained with examples of ancient and more modern rock-based lore, from Tigh na Cailleach, believed to be the oldest known pagan shrine in continual use, home to a stone family who watch over livestock during upland summer grazing, to the Hexham heads of evil repute, eventually discovered to have been cast in concrete as a father's demonstration of his occupation to his daughter.
This was followed by best-selling authors Picknett and Prince. Lynn put a Hermetic spin on the origins of science, explaining that its pioneers (Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, Bacon, Kepler, Tycho Brahe) were all inspired by the occult. Clive followed up with the provocative conclusion that modern physics supports the idea of 'intelligent design'. Their book, The Forbidden Universe is available from Amazon US/UK).
In Ted Harrison's history of apocalypse-prediction, he shared just some of the stories behind the apparently 250 predicted apocalypse dates which have already passed, from one found on an Assyrian clay tablet from 2800BC, to Harold Camping's more recent attempt (which thankfully didn't dissuade Ted from preparing for his talk). Those seeking further information on the coming apocalypse might wish to refer to the Rapture Index.
Gail-Nina Anderson gave an amusing account of the mummy in popular culture, charting its appropriation and distortion by horror flick and comic book to the point where it has become a comical (and easily-dodged!) monster figure.
As a finale, we were treated to a screening of comedienne and ventriloquist Nina Conti's film tribute to her irrepressibly eccentric mentor Ken Campbell, who left his vent dolls to Nina in his will. The film follows Nina as she travels to a ventriloquist's convention, and to Vent Haven in the US (a museum-cum-rest home for bereaved vent dolls). Movingly funny and disturbingly odd.
I must try to make it to the evening event next year. Highly entertaining by all accounts!
Previously on TDG: