Collections of miscellaneous strange writings from around the web

Spacing the Paradigm Out

For those of you who were unable to attend to last week's Paradigm Symposium in Minneapolis, Maureen Elsberry and Jason McClellan of Open Minds have included a really nice review of the event in the latest edition of Spacing Out (the segment starts at 12:28)

Maureen & Jason also got to interview Scotty Roberts & Micah Hanks, along with our favorite Ramones fan --the incomparable Nick Redfern.

PS: Let's see if you can spot me for a very brief instant in the background --no, I'm not wearing the mask ;)

Fish Mandala - Intricate Underwater Sand Circle Mystery Solved

Intricate Underwater Sand Circle

Not content to flatten farmers' fields, those dastardly mystery crop circle makers seem to have gone aquatic, judging by the image above. Photographer Yoji Ookata discovered the mysterious, beautiful underwater mandalas off the southern coast of Japan, some 80 feet below ocean surface.

But upon further investigation, Ookatat discovered the humble artists who created the "mystery circle":

Using underwater cameras the team discovered the artist is a small puffer fish only a few inches in length that swims tirelessly through the day and night to create these vast organic sculptures using the gesture of a single fin. Through careful observation the team found the circles serve a variety of crucial ecological functions, the most important of which is to attract mates. Apparently the female fish are attracted to the hills and valleys within the sand and traverse them carefully to discover the male fish where the pair eventually lay eggs at the circle’s center, the grooves later acting as a natural buffer to ocean currents that protect the delicate offspring. Scientists also learned that the more ridges contained within the sculpture resulted in a much greater likelihood of the fish pairing.

More details and photos at Colossal.

(via @GrailSeeker)

From John Keel's Mothman Diary: "Scared - Damn it."

Page from John Keel's notebook

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.

John Keel Was Once Interviewed by David Letterman

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.

(via DisInfo.com)

Spooky Wedding Picture Is a Piece of Art

Spooky Wedding Picture

"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?!"

Spooky Wedding Picture Zoom

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.

(via imgur.com)

Paradigm Symposium: Special Deal (1 Day Only!)

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 ;)

Glitch in the Matrix Stories

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?

(h/t @GrailSeeker)

Who's Weird?

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.

Joseph Glanvill - the first Fortean?

 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

The Place of Maybe - an introduction

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.