Free Sample Articles from Darklore Volume 8

Firstly, just a quick heads-up that the Grail is understaffed for the next few days, so updates to the site may be a little sporadic until the weekend. If that leaves you a bit short on reading material, don't fret: I've made three full sample articles from the newly released Volume 8 of our anthology series Darklore available to download (as PDFs) from the Darklore website, absolutely free. Those three join 21 other sample articles available - so if you're new to the Darklore series, you've got plenty of fascinating material to read through!

The three sample articles are:

  • Martin Shough's fantastic article on the ball lightning enigma, with a discussion of the way science has approached the mystery, as compared to the UFO phenomenon
  • Cat Vincent's intelligent examination of the rise of pop culture-based, hyper-real religions.
  • My piece on the phenomenon of the 'dying light' witnessed by some people at the time of a loved one's passing.

Of course, if the articles whet your appetite, it helps us out a whole lot more if you purchase a copy of Darklore, allowing us to continue making new volumes. It's available from any number of online book retailers, but for simplicity's sake, here's the links to Amazon:

Darklore Volume 8

We appreciate your support of the Darklore series - it helps to fund this website, and also provides financial support for contributors so that they can continue researching and writing about the stranger side of life.

Link: Darklore sample articles

Link: Darklore Volume 8 at Amazon US

News Briefs 30-09-2014

A few of the Grail crew are on the road and off the web in the latter half of this week folks, so advance apologies for a downturn in the number of updates over the next few days!

Quote of the Day:

One should be ever booted, spurred and ready to depart.

Michel de Montaigne

The 'Nazca Lines' of Asia - Archaeologists Discover Massive Geoglyphs in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan Geoglyphs

Wow, this looks interesting: archaeologists say they have discovered more than 50 geoglyphs of various shapes and sizes across northern Kazakhstan in Central Asia - a landscape reminiscent of the famous Nazca Lines in Peru:

Discovered using Google Earth, the geoglyphs are designed in a variety of geometric shapes, including squares, rings, crosses and swastikas (the swastika is a design that was used in ancient times). Ranging from 90 to 400 meters (295 to 1,312 feet) in diameter, some of them are longer than a modern-day aircraft carrier.

Over the past year, an archaeological expedition from Kazakhstan's Kostanay University, working in collaboration with Vilnius University in Lithuania, has been examining the geoglyphs. The team, which is conducting archaeological excavations, ground-penetrating radar surveys, aerial photography and dating, recently presented its initial results at the European Association of Archaeologists' annual meeting in Istanbul.

Many of the geoglyphs were made of earthen mounds, although one example, a swastika, was made using timber.

Archaeological excavations uncovered the remains of structures and hearths at the geoglyphs, suggesting that rituals took place there.

Link: Nazca Lines of Kazakhstan: More Than 50 Geoglyphs Discovered

News Briefs 29-09-2014

Got your copy of Darklore Volume 8 yet? Lots of great feedback so far - you can grab a copy from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Thanks Rick and Baldrick.

Quote of the Day:

Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead only try to realise the truth…there is no spoon.

The Matrix

Did Marco Polo 'Discover' America in the 13th Century?

Early Map of the Americas?

Do a set of parchments show that the 13th century Italian explorer Marco Polo mapped the coast of Alaska, some two hundred years before Christopher Columbus 'discovered' the New World?

For a guy who claimed to spend 17 years in China as a confidant of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo left a surprisingly skimpy paper trail. No Asian sources mention the footloose Italian. The only record of his 13th-century odyssey through the Far East is the hot air of his own Travels, which was actually an “as told to” penned by a writer of romances. But a set of 14 parchments, now collected and exhaustively studied for the first time, give us a raft of new stories about Polo’s journeys and something notably missing from his own account: maps.

If genuine, the maps would show that Polo recorded the shape of the Alaskan coast—and the strait separating it from Asia—four centuries before Vitus Bering, the Danish explorer long considered the first European to do so. Perhaps more important, they suggest Polo was aware of the New World two centuries before Columbus.

“It would mean that an Italian got knowledge of the west coast of North America or he heard about it from Arabs or Chinese,” says Benjamin B. Olshin, a historian of cartography whose book, The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps, is out in November from the University of Chicago Press. “There’s nothing else that matches that, if that’s true.”

Link: Did Marco Polo "Discover" America?

Kickstarter: Magical Egypt Series 2

Magical Egypt 2 Kickstarter

Many readers will be familiar with the Magical Egypt series, a high-production-quality DVD set from the early 2000s that explored the esoteric symbolism, philosophy and history of ancient Egypt, via 'alternative Egyptologist' John Anthony West. For those that enjoyed the series - and those that just love discussion of ancient Egypt in general - you'll be pleased to learn that a second instalment of the series is now being planned. In 2014 though, the producers are seeking to gauge interest and raise funds via a Kickstarter campaign:

Magical Egypt series 2 pushes the entire investigation to the next phase. If, as modern science seems to be showing, there actually was a scientific culture that in many respects, was MORE advanced than we are today, or if it was advanced along technological paths different than western science has taken, can we find "recoverable technology" in the considerable relics and ruins left behind by the ancient world?

Magical Egypt is excited to include the unique voices of some of the worlds leading thinkers in "the new counterculture", such as Graham Hancock, Neil Kramer, Lon Milo DuQuette, Robert Bauval, Laird Scranton, Max Igan and the host of the original series John Anthony West.

The campaign has already passed its initial $5000 funding goal, with more than 3 weeks still left to go - but the total they are looking to raise to fund the series is in the region of $50,000 - so take a look at the pledge rewards on offer, and chip in if there's anything that grabs you.

Link: Kickstarter: Magical Egypt Returns

News Briefs 26-09-2014

“In nature there is nothing melancholy.”

Quote of the Day:

“And the devil did grin, for his darling sin, 
Is pride that apes humility.”

Samuel T. Coleridge

Great Balls of Mars! Curiosity Finds a Strange Sphere on the Red Planet

Ballin' on Mars

Let it be said: for a supposedly 'dead' planet, Mars keeps throwing out cool anomalies for us. From odd 'lights' to a buried robot, there's hardly a dull day when it comes to looking for the strange. And here's the Red Planet's anomaly du jour: a perfect little sphere, quietly sitting atop another, separate, piece of flat rock.

Relax folks, it's totally explainable:

According to MSL scientists based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., the ball isn’t as big as it looks — it’s approximately one centimeter wide. Their explanation is that it is most likely something known as a “concretion.” Other examples of concretions have been found on the Martian surface before — take, for example, the tiny haematite concretions, or “blueberries”, observed by Mars rover Opportunity in 2004 — and they were created during sedimentary rock formation when Mars was abundant in liquid water many millions of years ago.

Or, maybe it's just the ripe fruit that seems to have fallen from the Martian ball tree at the left of this image...

Martian Ball Tree

(Thanks to Alienated for the heads-up)

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Has Skeptic Michael Shermer Seen the Light?

Michael Shermer

I've long been a critic of the writings and methods of high-profile 'skeptic' Michael Shermer (I explained why way back in 2004). A long-time columnist for Scientific American, Shermer has regularly pointed out the many ways that anomalistic events are in reality caused by faulty thinking - sometimes employing pseudoscientific techniques, and perhaps even outright deception - to make his point.

Which makes his most recent column for Sci-Am, "Anomalous Events That Can Shake One’s Skepticism to the Core " quite a weird one. Because in it, he admits that a recent experience (which occurred on his wedding day) rattled him. Check out the column for the full anecdote, but here's his conclusion:

Had it happened to someone else I might suggest a chance electrical anomaly and the law of large numbers as an explanation—with billions of people having billions of experiences every day, there's bound to be a handful of extremely unlikely events that stand out in their timing and meaning. In any case, such anecdotes do not constitute scientific evidence that the dead survive or that they can communicate with us via electronic equipment.

Jennifer is as skeptical as I am when it comes to paranormal and supernatural phenomena. Yet the eerie conjunction of these deeply evocative events gave her the distinct feeling that her grandfather was there and that the music was his gift of approval. I have to admit, it rocked me back on my heels and shook my skepticism to its core as well. I savored the experience more than the explanation.

The emotional interpretations of such anomalous events grant them significance regardless of their causal account. And if we are to take seriously the scientific credo to keep an open mind and remain agnostic when the evidence is indecisive or the riddle unsolved, we should not shut the doors of perception when they may be opened to us to marvel in the mysterious.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy that Michael Shermer has finally seen (at least some of) the light when it comes to the personal impact of anomalistic experiences, and how pat explanations offered by others sometimes just don't cut it. I'm just a bit...skeptical...that a guy who has for years talked down on and attempted to debunk these type of events suddenly flips in his view. Perhaps the event really did rock him to his core; or perhaps he thought his old-school debunking attitude wasn't playing as well in 2014, or perhaps he just needed a bit of a controversy to drum up some page hits, or even distract people from other events (Shermer has recently been at the centre of somewhat of a controversy regarding his interactions with women in the skeptical movement).

Let's just say I'm cautiously optimistic that one of the leaders of the 'skeptical' movement has had a genuine insight to 'the other side'...

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