A Saucerful of Strange Secrets: Pink Floyd and the Sorcerer Supreme

Dr Strange, in Strange Tales #158

It seems that these days every superhero is getting a movie, so it was no surprise to find out that one of my all-time favourite Marvel characters, Dr Strange, will be coming to the big screen in 2016.

Marvel's master magician has been around for over 50 years now, and during that time he's influenced plenty of people (including myself) - even though most of the general public might not recognise him as easily as the likes of Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk. But, rather fittingly, many people have probably looked at an image of the Sorcerer Supreme on multiple occasions without actually seeing him. In particular, Pink Floyd fans.

Hidden on the cover of Pink Floyd's second album, A Saucerful of Secrets (1968), is an image of Dr Strange taken from Marvel's Strange Tales #158, published the year before the album was released, in 1967. Created by the late Storm Thorgerson, legendary designer of many of Pink Floyd's album images, the cover includes a barely visible Dr Strange, as well as the character Living Tribunal, who are facing off over the future of the Earth.

Dr Strange on the cover of A Saucerful of Secrets

Not content with this sly album cover inclusion, a year later the Floyd made another reference to Dr Stephen Strange in their song 'Cymbaline', on the soundtrack to the movie More, with the lyrics "and Doctor Strange is always changing size". Here they are playing it live in 1971 (listen closely and you'll hear a tip of the hat to another famous Doctor near the end):

There was almost yet another reference to the Marvel Universe in Pink Floyd's work just a few years later. Thorgerson confirmed a few years before his passing that a photo version of the Silver Surfer was one of the images he once considered for the cover of Dark Side of the Moon (happily, he settled on the now famous light prism image, one of the most famous album covers in modern music).

Or maybe Thorgerson should have just gone with something like this instead...

News Briefs 30-03-2015

Picture this if you will...

Quote of the Day:

Belief is the enemy

John Keel

Ambrose Bierce and the Disappearance of David Lang

ambrose bierce

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 calledThe 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.

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.

Love at First Fort? Kreskin's Supernatural Dating Service


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:

Question!

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?

LINKS:

[H/T to Rick MG, who I hear is looking for a Mothmamacita]

News Briefs 27-03-2015

“I did not think; I investigated.”

Quote of the Day:

“We shall see what we shall see. We have the start now; the developments will follow in time.”

Wilhelm Röntgen

News Briefs 26-03-2015

My reaction when my Buddhist cousin showed me the new tattoo he got made to symbolize 'Impermanence'...

Thanks to the a-hole who scraped my car last night, for teaching me the concept of car paint impermanence.

Quote of the Day:

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore

News Briefs 25-03-2015

Will the elves save us from the robots?

Quote of the day:

Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.

Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

Child Medium? 4-Year-Old Girl Brings Message From Dead Great-Grandmother

The video below seems like the usual playful moment between a loving mother and her 4-year-old daughter; making funny faces at the camera, sharing hugs and kisses, and talking about the woman's grandmother, who "went to heaven" last November at the age of 93.

Then, right at the end, the girl delivers quite the bombshell:

From Jaime Primak Sullivan's Facebook page:

I am freaking out - I can't even find words. I don't know what to think or say or do- there is no way Charlie could know this. My grandmother called me this name growing up- there is NO WAY Charlie could know. I am shaking.

Of course, skeptics would say the whole thing was staged, and it's true there's no way we can verify whether little Charlie didn't know her great-granny called her mom by the name 'Jamila' --or if the girl was queued as it's the opinion of some members in the comments below. But if true, then this little incident might be another confirmation that little children, still untouched by the 'social conditioning' we all grow up with, are more sensitive and still in touch with "the other side."

Now, whether this 'other side' is another dimension of existence in which our dearly departed still live in some immaterial form, or is rather a state of consciousness in which the Time is non-existent and all things and beings remain in a state of interconnectedness, that's something for which we don't really have any answers... yet.

Have your children shown similar 'mediumnistic' abilities? Share your stories on the comments below

[H/T Above Top Secret]

News Briefs 24-03-2015

The end is n.........ot nigh.

Quote of the Day:

Knowing that you are going to die is, I suspect, the beginning of wisdom.

Terry Pratchett

TechGnosis: Erik Davis talks with Jason Silva

We've featured a number of Jason Silva's wonderful monologues here on the Grail over the past few years, and counterculture writer Erik Davis is one of our long time favourites (he's also a Darklore contributor). So I'm sure many readers will enjoy this long-form, sit-down chat between them both on 'Techgnosis: Technology and human imagination'.

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