Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dark Roasted Weirdsville (flashback): I Don't Feel So Good ....


It's a nice enough place, this barren dome of rock between Gairloch and Ullapool. Conveniently close to the mainland, like most of Scotland it's not without a certain bleak charm. Just the place for a Heathcliff to do some Wuthering Heights or some Shakespearian witches to stir up a bubbling pot of trouble.

But if you'd landed on its shores just 17 years ago, you would have probably had a very different opinion, one formulated just before you began to suffer something kind of like a cold (high fever, aches, trouble breathing, etc.) and then ... well, how to put it?

You'd die.

For most of the world post-9/11, the word has an immediate stomach punch of frightening recognition. But well before some of it was sent out in envelopes piggybacking the terror of Al-Qaeda, anthrax has been tossed around as a weapon of last resort. There's only one problem when you toss anything around: you just might drop it.

Gruinard Island wasn't an accident, but it could be argued that the testing that took place there in 1942 exceeded the British Government's wildest expectations to a frightening degree. The special breed of anthrax, Vollum 14578l, that was released there via special bombs killed the flock of test sheep within only a few days but had the side effect of leaving that Scottish hunk of rock completely uninhabitable for close to fifty years. In 1990 the island was decontaminated and today it's considered safe for man and beast, though I doubt Gruinard will become a common tourist spot.

Once again, Gruinard can't really be considered an "ooops" if the island was intentionally turned into a terrifyingly lethal spot, though that doesn't really make it any easier to think about.

But then there's the town of Sverdlovsk, as it was called back in the days of the USSR (it's now called Ekaterinburg). Lovely little spot, I'm sure, full of all kinds of restfully quiet quaintness and charm, or maybe just the heavy grayness of a typical Soviet town. On a bad day back in 1979, though, Sverdlovsk got even quieter. It was close to a biowarfare lab; one that had an accident.

What happened to Sverdlovsk wasn't known until 1992 when the KGB finally released its death grip on the info. What came to light was this: because of Soviet slippery fingers, some people died from anthrax exposure.

Sixty-eight of them to be precise.

Another scary Russian spot is Vozrozhdeniya Island in the Aral Sea. Ironically meaning "Rebirth," Vozrozhdeniya was used for extensive biowarfare testing. That is until the Soviet Union fell and researchers stationed there decided to walk off the job in 1991, leaving behind anthrax and bubonic plague containers. Bad enough, but what's chilling is that the containers weren't treated with the respect they deserved and many began to [shudder] leak. Vozrozhdeniya was cleaned up in 2002 but between 1991 and 2000, the island was simply
posted as a no-go zone. Vozrozhdeniya and Sverdlovsk are scary enough, without getting into the fact that anthrax and bubonic plague can survive for decades even i some very harsh environments, but consider this: we know about Sverdlovsk and Vozrozhdeniya. What about other places we don't know about?

The Japanese against the Chinese in World War II, Iraq versus Iran, Irag against the Kurds, the Holocaust, Germany against the allies in World War I, the Aum Shinrikyo cult against Japan, Russian troops against Chechen terrorists: all kinds of countries and groups have used chemical weapons in battle, or as an attempt at genocide, and what hasn't been used has been developed and stored as forms of chemical and biological Mutual Assured Destruction. In addition to the Russians and the British, we've also conducted more than our fair share of experiments with nasty bugs and chemicals. And although the U.S. hasn't had any accidents -- that we know of -- we've not been particularly careful with these nasties, either.

While anthrax is frightening because of its longevity and biological spread, for really scary stuff, dig into such delights as Novichok, the v-series, the g-series, and VX. Death in the animal kingdom is one thing, but if you really want to kill, leave it up to our own inventiveness: choking, nausea, salivating, urinating, defecating, gastrointestinal pain, vomiting, then comes the twitching and finally coma. Nerve gas exposure is not a fun way to go.

If reading about Vozrozhdeniya and Sverdlovsk leaves a bad taste in the mouth about the way Russia's handled its biological weapons, how about the way the U.S. has handled what could be potentially worse: until 1972 the military basically had carte blanche to dispose of nerve gas agents by dumping them into the ocean. Let's let that sink in for a moment. Nerve gas -- 32,000 tons of it. In the ocean. Not just any ocean, mind you, but in 26 dump sites off the coast of 11 states.

Bad? Hell yes, but it gets worse. "How can it get worse?" you ask. Well, how about this: we know where about about half those sites are.

But the rest, because of poor record keeping, are a mystery. Those drums are out there, right now, rusting and no doubt leaking, spilling nasty death into the sea, doing who knows what to crabs and lobsters, fish and ocean flora, and thanks to the food chain, probably even us.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dark Roasted Weirdsville (flashback): Are You ... You?

So far you lucky readers -- if that’s really what you are -- have been treated to lost nuclear hardware, misplaced biological weapons, an18th century spiritualist and his clockwork ‘God,’ and recently, creatures great and small (mostly small) that can kill you faster than you can read this sentence -- even if you’re a slow reader.

But there’s an even more terrifying, creepy, freaky, disturbing subject we haven’t talked about yet: one that can make even the heartiest, stone-stomached of you clutch your tail-wagging doggies and purring kitties while rocking back and forth mumbling “nature is good, nature is good, nature is good …”

As you’ll soon read, however, even your loving pets can save you from the nightmare that is, more than likely, with you already.

Or, to be precise, living inside you already: parasites.

YouTube has far too many clips of botflies, tapeworms, or pinworms in all their disgusting glory: squirming and writhing from puss-glistening holes in their victims, squirming in the bellies of those unfortunate enough to have become part of their life cycle. But that’s not the worst.

We like to think we’re the masters of our destiny, that “I think I shall do (fill in the blank)” comes only from our minds and wills. But in some cases that’s just not true -- or, perhaps, that’s what the creature living inside me is telling me to say.

Welcome to the wonderful world of not just parasites, but parasites that directly influence or flat-out control their hosts.

(By the way, despite some clear similarities, this article is not connected to the conspiracy regarding the recently released novel, Me2, authored by an impostor claiming to be me. Only a desperate hack would tangentially promote his work in such a manner.)

Beginning big or at least not microscopic, the emerald cockroach wasp has a very unique, and rather frightening, method of supplying its pupal young with a meal. Like some other insects, the wasp feeds its young living prey: paralyzing the snack and then laying an egg on its still-living body. But the emerald isn’t a very big bug, unlike the monstrous tarantula wasp, so it can’t drag its prey back to its burrow. Instead, the emerald performs a type of on-the-go brain surgery, carefully stinging a roach in a few selected parts of its brain, disabling its escape reflex. The wasp then chews off the roach’s antenna, effectively blinding it. Hijacking the roach’s remaining stub of an antenna, it then leads the still-living and -- if roaches have a form of consciousness -- aware bug back to its burrow where it will be a still-living dinner for its offspring.

Yes, you may shudder. But it gets worse.

You’re just lucky you’re not a snail, especially one that happens to become part of a leucochloridium paradoxum ’s elaborate lifecycle. Beginning as eggs in bird droppings, leucochloridium enters the snail’s body and then proceeds into its digestive tract. After a bit of time there, it develops into a larva – and then things get interesting.

How, you might ask, does leucochloridium go from snails to birds? Well, we know how -- but you might not want to know the answer.

What leucochloridium does is make its way from the snail’s gut to one of its eyestalks. There it causes the stalk to become red and inflamed. But that’s not all. The parasite also distorts the snail’s light perception so that it doesn’t hide from light anymore. So, out in the broad daylight, one eyestalk brightly colored, it becomes a something very much like a grub or caterpillar -- which birds love to eat. So the whole cycle begins again.

Then there’s sacculina, a type of barnacle. It loves crabs, but not in a healthy kind of way. What sacculina does, while in the barnacle’s larval phase, is find a nice, juicy crab and land on it. Then it walks around the unlucky crustacean until it finds an unarmored joint, and injects itself into the crab’s tasty meat. But sacculina doesn’t eat the crab. Oh, no – it’s not as simple as that. After a time in the crab’s body, the barnacle reproduces and reproduces and reproduces some more until it emerges as something a lot like a female’s egg sac.

That’s important, because it’s not just the female crab this happens to. If you should happen to be a male crab then transvestitism is in your future. Sacculina messes with the hormones in the male crab, making it basically a female -- especially appealing to other male crabs. It even goes as far as adjust the male’s behavior so it actually begins to act like a female crab, all to attract a male crab that may or may not have other sacculina parasites to fertilize and keep the cycle going. Once sacculina has you, if you’re a crab that is, then you belong to it. Sterilized, you become nothing but a mother to its eggs. Until you die.

We’re not finished yet -- far from it. Just be lucky you’re not a grasshopper or a cricket. Spinochordodes tellinii (the hairworm) larva finds its way into an unlucky hoppity by being eaten. Once in the bug it grows -- but don’t think the worm just gets bigger. It gets so big that when the adult worm comes out of the cricket it can be four times longer than the bug. It’s how it comes out that’s going to give you the shivers. When it simply has had enough of the bug, having pretty much eaten all of it from the inside, the worm takes possession of the insect’s brain, causing it to single-mindedly hunt out water. When it does, the bug jumps in -- and that’s when the worm erupts out of the host and swims away.

Okay, so it’s not fun to be a snail, or a crab, or a cricket. But what about poor homo sapiens? Please don’t tell me you think we don’t have our own, completely unwelcome passengers. I’ve already mentioned botflies, pinworms and tapeworms. But they are just freeloaders. They aren’t driving the bus that is us like these other manipulative parasites do.

Hold that puppy close, cuddle that kitten -- but maybe not that close. Ever heard of toxoplasma gondii? No? Well you might have but it’s certainly heard of you. In fact I’ll bet dollars to donuts that it’s paying a lot of attention to these words right now. Feel like doing something else? Anything else but reading this?

Maybe that isn’t you. Maybe it’s toxoplasma gondii.

I love kitties. But after reading about toxoplasma gondii I think I’m going to become a dog person. Primarily a cat parasite, gondii’s a protozoa that enters the feline system when the animal eats an infected animal. Once in the system, the protozoa can then reproduce asexually, making life pretty damned easy for itself.

But not for its hosts. Although the protozoa is mostly a cat fancier, it also can infect rats and mice. When it does, it does something rather creepy: it directly screws with the infected animal’s brain, taking out Mickey’s fear of cats. Think about that for a second: not open spaces, not water, not something big and general. Gondii only takes out a mouse’s fear of cats -- making sure it’ll get eaten by one, its host of preference.

Like I said, I really like kitties. But is that really ‘me’ who likes cats? Rats and mice and other warm-blooded creatures can carry gondii. You and I and every other homo sapien are also warm-blooded. I think you see where this is going.

Here’s a number for you: 25%. That’s a rather benign amount until you think of 25% of humans. Especially when I add that it’s been theorized that 25% of human beings may be infected by gondii – a parasite that affects the behavior of its hosts.

Some researchers have suggested that men who have gondii in their systems have lower IQs, are more prone to ‘novelty seek,’ and more masculine. Weirdly, infected women come out with higher IQs.

Then there’s reproduction. Not only do some think gondii changes what we are personality-wise, but its also been suggested that women who are infected have a tendency to give birth to more sons -- and males are more likely to spread the infection.

We’ve lost nuclear weapons, contaminated whole islands with biological devices, created mechanical Gods, and have been killed by very small critters with very nasty venoms. But when you think about parasites, especially certain kinds of parasites, the question then becomes:

Who are ‘we’? And who are you?

Friday, June 26, 2009

If Found, Return To ....


Angikuni Lake or Lake Anjikuni is one of several lakes located along the Kazan River in northern Canada’s Nunavut territory. Ennadai Lake is to the south and Yathkyed Lake is to the north. The lake’s shore is notable for rocky outcroppings of the Precambrian Shield, being part of the Hearne Domain, Western Churchill province of the Churchill craton.

Barren-ground caribou migrate through the area. The lake contains Lake trout, Northern Pike and Arctic grayling ....

In 1930, a newsman in The Pas, Manitoba reported on a small Inuit village right off of Lake Angikuni. The village always welcomed fur trappers that passed through now and then. But during the year 1930, a man that was well-known in the village, Joe Labelle, found that everyone in the village was gone. He saw that the villagers left immediately because he found unfinished shirts that still had needles in them, and food hanging over fire pits. And even more disturbing was that he found seven sled dogs that were dead from starvation, and that a grave had been dug up. The fur trapper knew that an animal could not have done any of this because the stones that surrounded the grave in a circle had not been disturbed in any way. The fur trapper reported this to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who conducted a search for the missing people. No one was ever found. This is the story as it appears in Frank Edwards' 1966 book, Stranger than Science; other versions appear in Whitley Strieber's science fiction novel, Majestic (fiction) and Dean Koontz's horror yarn "Phantoms"; The Worlds Greatest UFO Mysteries (presented as fact) has an even more embellished version, as do other websites and books, complete with mysterious lights in the sky, empty graveyards, and over one thousand people missing.

The earliest version that was found is in the November 29, 1930 Halifax Herald, written by a journalist of questionable repute, Emmett E Kelleher. The article contained a "photo" later found to be from 1909 that had nothing at all to do with the story. The story appears to have been forgotten until referenced by Edwards' 1966 book.

The event is still considered "unsolved", though some believe the story to be a hoax because of inconsistencies.(Latta, 1991, pg.255)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out ... and Turn Off

Turn-On is an American television series from 1969. Only one episode was shown and it is considered one of the most infamous flops in TV history.

Turn-On's sole episode was shown on Wednesday, February 5, 1969, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern and 7:30 p.m. in other markets. Among the cast were Teresa Graves (who would later join the Laugh-In cast that autumn) and Chuck McCann (longtime kiddie show host, character actor, and voice artist). The writing staff included a young Albert Brooks. The guest host for the episode was Tim Conway, best known for his long run on The Carol Burnett Show.

The show was created by Ed Friendly and George Schlatter, the producers of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and picked up by ABC after NBC and CBS rejected it; a CBS official confessed, "It was so fast with the cuts and chops that some of our people actually got physically disturbed by it." Production executive Digby Wolfe described it as a "visual, comedic, sensory assault involving animation, videotape, stop-action film, electronic distortion, computer graphics—even people." The Bristol-Myers company bought advertising for a projected 13-week run.

The show's premise was that it was produced by a computer, though this was not the case. Distinguishing characteristics of the show were its synthesized music and lack of sets, except for a white backdrop. The show consisted of various rapid-fire jokes and risqué skits but no laugh track. The program was also filmed instead of presented live or on videotape. The production credits of the episode appeared after each commercial break, instead of conventionally at the beginning or end (Monty Python's Flying Circus similarly played around with presenting the credits).

  • Two policemen say, "Let us spray," before spraying cans of mace at the camera.
  • A firing squad prepares to shoot an attractive woman when the squad leader says, "Excuse me, miss, but in this case we are the ones with one final request." (As perhaps a sign of changing times, this skit was recycled in Schlatter's revival of Laugh-In in 1978, without complaints.)
  • 'The Body Politic', shown three times during the episode, featured a buxom, reclining blonde saying things like "Mr. Nixon as President now becomes the titular head of the Republican Party."
  • Conway wonders if a blonde is a "pot-smoking, jaded, wild-eyed, radical dropout." When she says she is, he replies, "I love you!"
  • A sleazy TV pitchman promotes a breakfast cereal "soaked in mescaline." The same pitchman appears in a second spoof commercial selling women's shoes, though he is gradually revealed to be a foot fetishist.
  • A diagram of a swastika is displayed as a narrator says, "You are now looking at the table at the Paris peace accords agreed to by General Ky."
  • Several gay-themed messages scrolling across the screen, including "God Save the Queens", "Free Oscar Wilde" and "The Amsterdam Levee is a dike.".
  • A pregnant woman singing "I Got Rhythm" (alluding to the rhythm method of birth control).
  • A vending machine dispensing the birth control pill, with an anxious young woman putting coins into it and then feverishly shaking the broken machine.
  • A figure of a draft-dodger holding a sign reading Sweden.
  • Conway, dressed in a samurai outfit and speaking mock Japanese, is revealed to be university president/politician S.I. Hayakawa.
  • A black man, face-to-face with a white man, says, "Mom always did like you best!" (an allusion to a popular catchphrase of The Smothers Brothers)
  • One cop asks a second, "You want to take some of this pornographic literature home with you tonight?" The colleague replies, "I don't even have a pornograph!" The first cop then rips up a skin magazine and begins to chew the pieces.
  • A commercial spoof shows Conway touting a masculine deodorant while lifting weights and working out. "When I'm all through, I smell like a lady," he concludes and is shown in drag.
  • In another commercial parody, Conway is shown wearing a tuxedo, and massive eye mascara.
  • A sequence (the show's longest) with the word sex flashing on and off in pulsating colors while Conway and actress Bonnie Boland leer at each other. Various stock photographs are displayed during the sequence, including one of Pope Paul VI.
  • Conway as spokesman for "Citizens Action Committee of America," a group with the acronym CACA.
  • The black programmer shown programming the computer supposedly generating the show says he dreamed he was a duck in Lester Maddox's bathtub. "I migrated," he says.
  • A young woman in cap and gown is shown lobbing a hand grenade.
  • Two men are standing at a globe. "Tell me," one says to the other, "where is the capital of South Vietnam?" The second man spins the globe and points, "Mostly over here, in Swiss bank accounts."
  • A Catholic nun asks a priest, "Father, can I have the car tonight?" The priest replies, "Just as long as you don't get in the habit."
  • Conway tells Graves, "I was so damned angry when I found out my kids were popping pills, I went out and got drunk."
  • One message scrolled across the screen: ISRAEL UBER ALLES.
  • A recurring series of skits with Conway as a marriage counselor in session with an African American husband and an Asian wife. The last state laws against interracial marriages were struck down only two years earlier. (In 1968, NBC debated whether to cut out of a Petula Clark variety special a shot of Clark merely touching guest Harry Belafonte on the arm.)
  • Two men in Stetson hats defend the principle of Southern womanhood. One then says to the other, "Come on, big beauty," and they hold hands and walk out effeminately.
  • A white Southern hotel guest phones the main desk about the Gideon Bible which states "'Moses married an Ethopian woman' ... in the Atlanta Hilton!?!"
  • A puppet snake says, "Remember, folks, I could have given Eve the apple and the Pill!"

Conway has stated that Turn-On was canceled midway through its lone episode, so that the party the cast and crew held for its premiere as the show aired across the United States also marked its cancelation. The show was not officially dropped by ABC for several days, but two affiliates of the network, Denver's KBTV and Cleveland's WEWS, failed to return to the program after the first commercial break. The general manager of WEWS sent ABC network management an angry telegram: "If you naughty little boys have to write dirty words on the walls, please don't use our walls." Other stations in time zones behind Eastern and Central which had some forewarning, such as KATU in Portland, Oregon, never showed the program at all, while many others made the decision not to show it again as soon as the episode was over.

Many viewers and critics considered Turn-On too extreme for America's tastes at the time. The show featured rapid-fire gags with sexual innuendos, pastiche film clip sequences in questionable taste and bizarre non sequiturs that baffled viewers. Many assumed the show's title was itself an implicit reference to Timothy Leary's pro-drug maxim, "Turn on, tune in, drop out". In fact, rumors spread among people who never actually saw the show that it contained full frontal nudity, something that no over-the-air commercial TV network in the United States has ever done.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"When In Uqbar Be Sure And Visit - "


Uqbar is best-known as a fictional place in Jorge Luis Borges's famous 1940 short story "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius". Uqbar in the story is doubly fictional: even within the world of the story it turns out to be a fictional place. The story turns on the narrator's discovery of a Nihilartikel about Uqbar: that is, a false article in an otherwise legitimate reference work. Also, despite its overall fictional nature, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" is loaded with references to real people and places and it playfully combines reality and fiction.

Consequently, on the one hand hoaxes about Uqbar abound, and on the other, many writers have claimed that Borges's Uqbar is entirely fictional. Nonetheless, there is at least one real place with the name Uqbar, in Algeria, as well as a town called Ukbara in Iraq, each of which seems to have at least some aspects in common with Borges's fictional Uqbar. These places may plausibly have inspired the name and some other aspects of the Borges's Uqbar, although Borges's description of its culture is of course fictional.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Books You Haven't Read But Should: Jack Finney's The Night People

A story of 4 people that a bored with the mundaneness of their lives. They have tried rock climbing, gone sailing and other "extreme" activities but they soon grow weary of them. They discover the eerie emptiness of the suburbs late at night. Together they find themselves going for 3 am walks on weeknights through deserted streets and plazas. The plot thickens from here on in as they get themselves into trouble.
Michael Masters has a nice synopsis of this great book here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mrs Hitler?

Unity Valkyrie Mitford (8 August 1914 – 28 May 1948), was one of the noted Mitford sisters. She was a prominent supporter of fascism and friend of Adolf Hitler ....

... on 17 December 2007 Bright published an article in The New Statesman stating that following his previous article he had received a phone call from a member of the public with an extraordinary new angle on the story. He claims to have been initially sceptical when the caller, Val Hann, claimed that during the war her aunt, Betty Norton, had run a private maternity hospital called Hill View Cottage in Oxford where Mitford had been a client. According to Hann's family legend, passed from Betty to Val's mother and then on to Val herself, Mitford had checked into the hospital after her return to England where she had given birth to Hitler's love child which had subsequently been given up for adoption.

Bright travelled to Wigginton where the current owner of Hill View confirmed that Norton had indeed run the cottage as a maternity hospital during the war. Furthermore he met with elderly village resident Audrey Smith, whose sister had worked at Hill View, who confirmed seeing "Unity wrapped in a blanket and looking very ill" but insists that she was there to recover from a nervous breakdown and not to give birth. Bright also contacted Unity's sister Deborah who denounced the villager's gossip and claimed she could produce her mother's diaries to prove it. Bright returned to the National Archives where he found a file on Unity sealed under the 100-year rule. He received special permission to open it and discovered that in October 1941, while living at the family home in Swinbrook, she had been consorting with a married RAF test pilot — throwing doubt on her reported invalidity.

Bright then abandoned the investigation until he mentioned the story to an executive from Channel 4 who thought it was a good subject for a documentary film. Further investigation was then undertaken as part of the filming for Hitler's British Girl including a visit to an Oxfordshire registry office where an abnormally large number of birth registrations at Hill View at that time apparently confirmed its use as a Maternity hospital but none were for Mitford, although as the records officer admits many births were never registered at this time. The publication of the article and the broadcast of the film the following week stimulated a media frenzy of speculation that Hitler's offspring could be living in the United Kingdom.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

UFOs ... Before There Were UFOs ...


The Mystery Airships were a class of unidentified flying objects, the best-known series of which were reported in newspapers in western states of the U.S., starting in 1896 and continuing into 1897.

The reported ships were usually said to be a type of dirigible, and were usually differentiated from gliders or hot air balloons. The best-known wave of airship tales was largely confined to North America, but according to Jerome Clark, similar reports were made worldwide, early as the 1880s, and late as the 1990s. Of the 1896-1897 series of airship sightings, historian Mike Dash wrote,

Not only were [the Mystery Airships] bigger, faster and more robust than anything then produced by the aviators of the world; they seemed to be able to fly enormous distances, and some were equipped with giant wings ... The 1896-1897 airship wave is probably the best investigated of all historical anomalies. The files of almost 1500 newspapers from across the United States have been combed for reports, an astonishing feat of research. The general conclusion of investigators was that a considerable number of the simpler sightings were misidentification of planets and stars, and a large number of the more complex the result of hoaxes and practical jokes. A small residuum remains perplexing.

The best-known of the Mystery Airship waves began in California in 1896. Afterwards, reports and accounts of similar airships came from others areas, generally moving east.

Some accounts during this wave of airship reports claim that occupants were visible on some airships, and encounters with the pilots were reported as well. These occupants were said to be human, though their behaviour, mannerisms and clothing were sometimes reported to be unusual. One witness from Arkansas-- allegedly a former state senator Harris -- was supposedly told by an airship pilot (during the tensions leading up the Spanish American War) that the craft was bound for Cuba, to use its "Hotchkiss gun" to "kill Spaniards". (Jacobs, 10)

In one account from Texas, three men reported an encounter with an airship and with "five peculiarly dressed men" who reported that they were descendant from the lost tribes of Israel; they had learned English from the 1553 north pole expedition led by Hugh Willoughby.

At least two airship tales were taken as at least possibly genuine by generations of later ufologists:

  • An account by Alexander Hamilton of Leroy, Kansas supposedly occurred about April 19, 1897, and was published in the Yates Center Farmer’s Advocate of April 23. Hamilton, his son, and a tenant witnessed an airship hovering over his cattle pen. Upon closer examination, the witnesses realized that a red “cable” from the airship had lassoed a heifer, but had also become entangled in the pen’s fence. After trying unsuccessfully to free the heifer, Hamilton cut loose a portion of the fence, then "stood in amazement to see the ship, cow and all rise slowly and sail off." (Jacobs, 15) Some have suggested this was the earliest report of cattle mutilation (In 1982, however, UFO researcher Jerome Clark debunked this story, and confirmed via interviews and Hamilton's own affidavit that the story was a successful attempt to win a Liar's Club competition to create the most outlandish tall tale).
  • An account from Aurora, Texas (as related in the Dallas Morning News) reported that an airship had smashed into a windmill-- later determined to be a sump pump -- belonging to a Judge Proctor, then crashed. The occupant was dead and mangled, but the story reported that presumed pilot was clearly "not an inhabitant of this world." (Jacobs, 17) Strange "hieroglyphic" figures were seen on the wreckage, which resembled "a mixture of aluminum and silver ... it must have weighed several tons.”"(ibid.) (In the 20th Century, unusual metallic material recovered from the presumed crash site was shown to contain a percentage of aluminum and iron admixed.) The story ended by noting that the pilot was given a "Christian burial" in the town cemetery. In 1973, MUFON investigators discovered the alleged stone marker used in this burial. Their metal detectors indicated a quantity of foreign material might remain buried there. However, they were not permitted to exhume, and when they returned several years later, the headstone -- and whatever metallic material had lay beneath it -- was gone ....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Chicken-like Creature With Antlers ...?

The Elwetritsch (also spelled Elwedritsch) is a cryptid or mythical creature that supposedly inhabits the Palatinate of Germany. It is described as being achicken-like creature with antlers.

Like the jackalope, the Elwetritsch is thought to have been inspired by sightings of wild rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus, which causes the growth of antler-like tumors in various places, including on the head.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Cities of Hugh Ferriss

Hugh Ferriss (1889 – 1962) was an American delineator (one who creates perspective drawings of buildings) and architect. According to Daniel Okrent, Ferriss never designed a single noteworthy building, but after his death a colleague said he 'influenced my generation of architects' more than any other man. Ferriss also influenced popular culture, for example Gotham City (the setting for Batman) and Kerry Conran's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Ferriss was trained as an architect at Washington University in his native St. Louis, Missouri, but, early in his career, began to specialize in creating architectural renderings for other architects' work rather than designing buildings himself. As a delineator, his task was to create a perspective drawing of a building or project. This was done either as part of the sales process for a project, or, more commonly, to advertise or promote the project to a wider audience. Thus, his drawings frequently were destined for annual shows or advertisements. As a result of this his works were often published (rather than just given to the architect’s client) and Ferriss acquired a reputation. After he had set up as a free-lance artist he found himself much sought after.

In 1912, Ferriss arrived in New York City and was soon employed as a delineator for Cass Gilbert. Some of his earliest drawings are of Gilbert’s Woolworth Building; they reveal that Ferriss’s illustrations had not yet developed his signature dark, moody appearance. In 1915, with Gilbert’s blessing, he left the firm and set up shop as an independent architectural delineator. In 1914, Ferriss married Dorothy Laphan, an editor and artist for Vanity Fair.

By 1920, Ferriss had begun to develop his own style, frequently presenting the building at night, lit up by spotlights, or in a fog, as if photographed with a soft focus. The shadows cast by and on the building became almost as important as the revealed surfaces. He had somehow managed to develop a style that would elicit emotional responses from the viewer. His drawings were being regularly featured by such diverse publications as Century, the Christian Science Monitor, Harper's Magazine and Vanity Fair. His writings began to also appear in various publications. He executed the 1922 drawing for the Chicago Tribune Competition that won the event for Howells and Hood.

In 1916, New York City had passed landmark zoning laws that regulated and limited the mass of buildings according to a formula. The reason was to counteract the tendency for buildings to occupy the whole of their lot and go straight up as far as was possible. Since many architects were not sure exactly what these laws meant for their designs, in 1922 the skyscraper architect Harvey Wiley Corbett commissioned Ferriss to draw a series of four step-by-step perspectives demonstrating the architectural consequences of the zoning law. These four drawings would later be used in his 1929 book "The Metropolis of Tomorrow".

Hugh Ferriss' archive, including drawings and papers, is held by the Drawings & Archives Department of the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Every year the American Society of Architectural Illustrators gives out the Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize for architectural rendering excellence. The medal features Ferriss’s original "Fourth Stage" drawing, executed in bronze.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Hole Boring Story

The "Well to Hell" is a borehole located in the Murmansk Oblast, Russia which was purportedly drilled so deep that it broke through to hell. This urban legend has been circulating on the Internet since at least 1997. It is first attested in English as a 1989 broadcast by Trinity Broadcasting Network, which had picked up the story from Finnish newspaper reports.

The legend holds that the Siberians had drilled a hole that was nine miles (14.5 km) deep before breaking through to a cavity. Intrigued by this unexpected discovery, they lowered an extremely heat tolerant microphone, along with other sensory equipment, into the well. The temperature deep within was a 2,000 °F (1,100 °C) — heat from a chamber of fire from which sounds of screaming human voices could be heard.

Some people had, in fact, drilled a hole almost eight miles deep in Kola (the Kola Superdeep Borehole), and found some interesting geological anomalies, although they reported no supernatural encounters. Temperatures reached 180 °C (360 °F), making deeper drilling prohibitively expensive.

United States tabloids soon ran the story, and sound files – recordings of those alleged supplications from the damned – began appearing on various sites across the Internet. The story eventually made its way to TBN, which broadcasted it on the network, claiming it to be "proof" of the literal existence of Hell as taught in some denominations of Christianity.

Åge Rendalen, a Norwegian teacher, disgusted with what he perceived to be mass gullibility, decided to augment the tale at TBN's expense. Having heard the original story on TBN during a visit to the US, he wrote to the network, originally claiming that he disbelieved the tale but, upon his return to Norway, supposedly read a "factual account" of the story. According to Rendalen, the "story" claimed not only that the cursed well was real, but that a bat-like apparition had risen out of it before blazing a trail across the Russian sky.

Rendalen deliberately mistranslated a Norwegian article – an insignificant piece about a local building inspector – and submitted both the original story and the "translation" to TBN, along with a letter which included his real name, phone number, and address, as well as those of a pastor friend who knew about the hoax and had agreed to expose it to anyone who called seeking verification.

However, TBN did not verify Rendalen's claims and aired the story as "proof" of the validity of the original story.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Or Maybe That's What They WANT You To Think


The Montauk Project was alleged to be a series of secret United States government projects conducted at Camp Hero or Montauk Air Force Station on Montauk, Long Island for the purpose of developing psychological warfare techniques and exotic research including time travel.

Due to scant verifiable evidence to support its existence, critics argue the Montauk Experiment is an unverified conspiracy theory, urban legend or possibly a hoax.

No longer used as a military facility, the Montauk Air Force Station has been open to the public for several years, although public access to the old military building is prohibited.

The earliest citation of the Montauk Project is uncertain, but elements of the story have circulated since at least the early 1980s. According to astrophysicist and UFO researcher Jacques Vallee, the Montauk Experiment stories seem to have originated with the account of Preston Nichols, who claimed to have recovered repressed memories of involvement.

There is no definitive version of the Montauk Project narrative, but some accounts describe it as an extension or continuation of the Philadelphia Experiment.

In 1943, the Philadelphia Experiment supposedly aimed to render the USS Eldridge optically invisible, with disastrous results. Though the story has circulated since the 1950s, skeptics note that Philadelphia Experiment accounts are unverified, and that the story was initially based largely on testimony of the supposedly mentally unstable Carl Allen.

According to proponents of the Montauk Project, surviving researchers from the Philadelphia Experiment met in 1952-1953. The researchers aimed to continue their earlier work on manipulating the "electromagnetic shielding" that had been used to make the USS Eldridge invisible, and investigating possible military applications magnetic field manipulation as a psychological warfare device.

Researchers purportedly created a report about their proposals, which was presented to the United States Congress and rejected as far too dangerous. By resubmitting their project directly to the United States Department of Defense and bypassing congressional approval, the researchers promised a powerful new weapon that could induce the symptoms of psychotic disorders and schizophrenia at the touch of a button. The Department of Defense approved. Funding supposedly came from a cache of US$10 billion in Nazi gold recovered from a train found by U.S. Army soldiers in a train tunnel in France, near the Swiss border. The train was blown up and all the soldiers involved were killed. When those funds ran out, additional funding was secured from ITT Corporation and Krupp AG in Germany.

Work began at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) on Long Island, New York under the name of the "Phoenix Project", but it was soon realized that the "project" required a large and advanced radar dish, and installing one at Brookhaven National Laboratory would compromise the security of the project. Luckily, the United States Air Force had a decommissioned base at Montauk, New York, not far from BNL, which had a complete SAGE radar installation. The site was large and remote and Montauk Point was not yet a tourist attraction. Water access would allow equipment to be moved in and out undetected. More importantly, the SAGE radar worked on a frequency of 400 MHz - 425 MHz, right in the range of 410 MHz - 420 MHz signal that was said to influence the human mind.

Equipment was moved to Camp Hero at Montauk AFS in 1967-1968, and installed in a "Deep Underground Military Base" that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) were redeveloping and expanding beneath Montauk AFS on the surface at Montauk Point. According to conspiracy theorists, to mask the nature of the project the site was closed in 1969 and donated as a wildlife refuge/park, with the provision that everything underground within the "D1 Base" would remain the property of the United States Air Force, although technically, in reality, Montauk AFS remained in operation until 1987. The park has never been opened to the public, under the excuse of "environmental contamination".

Various conspiracy theorists claim that experiments began in earnest from 1982 through to 1987-1988. They claim that during this time one, some or all of the following occurred at the site. The following claims are entirely unverified:

  • Experiments were conducted in teleportation, parallel dimensions and time travel.
  • On or about August 12, 1983 the time travel project at Camp Hero interlocked in hyperspace with the original Project Rainbow back in 1943. The USS Eldridge was drawn into hyperspace and trapped there. Two men, Al Bielek and Duncan Cameron both claim to have leaped from the deck of the USS Eldridge while it was in hyperspace and ended up after a period of severe disorientation at Camp Hero in the year 1983 at Montauk Point. Here they claim to have met John von Neumann, a famous physicist and mathematician, even though he died in 1957. Von Neumann had supposedly worked on the original Philadelphia Experiment, but the United States Navy denies this.
  • A "porthole (portal) in time" was created which allowed researchers to travel anywhere in time or space. This was developed into a stable "Time Tunnel." Underground tunnels with abandoned cultural archives were explored on Mars using this technique where apparently some kind of "Martians" had once lived many thousands of years earlier.
  • Contact was made with alien extraterrestrials through the Time Tunnel and advanced kinds of "etheric technology" was exchanged with them which enhanced the Montauk Project. This allowed broader access to hyperspace. Stewart Swerdlow also developed the "language of hyperspace", utilizing archetypes and glyphs as well as color and tone, in other words, a "non-linguistic language", the language of the Creator, that is God itself. However many researchers have questioned the validity of Swerdlow and what he actually did within the Montauk Project.
  • Enrico Chekov, a Spanish-Russian dissident, reported in 1988, after defecting to America, that satellite surveillance captured during the 1970s showed the formation of a large bubble of space-time centered on the site, lending further support to the D1 Base Time Tunnel research. After Chekov shared photographs with a reporter from the The New York Times, his apartment in Manhattan was burgled and the photos were all that was taken.
  • People had their psychic abilities enhanced to the point where they could materialize objects out of thin air. Stewart Swerdlow claims to have been involved in the Montauk Project, and as a result, he says, his "psionic" faculties were boosted, but at the cost of emotional and psychological instability, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other issues, including being programmed with microchips, and also through the use of "psychotronic mind control". An alien supposedly designed a chair, which an individual could sit in to boost his mental and precipatory powers. A prototype duplicate was given to Britain and put in a facility on the River Thames.
  • The facility was expanded to as many as twelve levels and several hundred workers. Some reports have the facility extending under the town of Montauk itself and interconnected with vast maglev train tunnel networks to other "Deep Underground Military Bases", also known as "D1 Bases".
  • Nikola Tesla, whose death was faked in a conspiracy, was the chief director of operations at the base (which, if they started in the 1980s would make him over 120 years old).
  • Mass psychological experiments, such as the use of enormous subliminal messages projects and the creation of a "Men in Black" corps to confuse and frighten the public, were invented there.

The site was opened to the public on September 18, 2002 as Camp Hero State Park. The radar tower has been placed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. There are plans for a museum and interpretive center, focusing on World War II and Cold War-era history.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

One of Our Favorite Mental Organisms Designed Only for Killing: MODOK

MODOK is a fictional comic book supervillain in the Marvel Comics universe. His name is an acronym for Mobile/Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. MODOK first appeared in Tales of Suspense #94 (October 1967), which was written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby. In 2009, MODOK was ranked as IGN's 100th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time

George Tarleton was born in Bangor, Maine. As an adult, he became a technician and agent of Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM). Scientists at AIM created a powerful being to analyze and probe the Cosmic Cube and to improve the organization's productivity in its scientific endeavors, while still being subservient to the higher echelons of the organization. To that end they mutagenically altered Tarleton, one of their technicians of average intelligence, into the super intelligent being MODOC (Mobile/Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing). These scientists unwisely did not take into consideration the theory that superior ability naturally leads to superior ambition.

It did not take long for MODOC to turn on his former masters and overthrow AIM. He adopted the new acronym for his title: MODOK (Mobile/Mental Organism Designed Only for (or perhaps Devoted Only to) Killing) at this time as he was more of a ruthless killer than a bean counter in his own estimation. MODOK battled Captain America in his first appearance.Later, he battled Doctor Doom and was defeated by Namor. MODOK and AIM frequently came into conflict with the Avengers and many other superheroes.

AIM was not happy with MODOK's megalomaniacal and short-sighted leadership and he was frequently ousted only to return to power again. MODOK was so focused on his personal grudge with various superheroes that he ignored the scientific aspect of the organization and allowed it to become stagnant. The other AIM leaders eventually hired assassins to eliminate him. The George Tarleton variant of MODOK was hunted down by the Serpent Society and killed by Death Adder at the Newburg Mall in Newburg, New Jersey, during the Serpent Society's first mission. The Serpent Society later returned MODOK's body to AIM, who used it as originally intended in the function of a supercomputer. However, rogue AIM agent Yorgon Tykkio remotely operated MODOK's body in a fight with Iron Man that led to its destruction.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What's On Tonight, Dear? (Pt 2)


The Prisoner's Cinema is a phenomenon reported by prisoners confined to dark cells and others kept in darkness, voluntarily or not, for long periods of time. It has also been reported by truck drivers, pilots, and practitioners of intense meditation.

The "Cinema" consists of a "light show" of various colors that appear out of the darkness. The light has a form but those that have seen it find it difficult to describe. Sometimes, the Cinema lights resolve into human or other figures.

Scientists believe that the Cinema is a result of phosphenes combined with the psychological effects of prolonged exposure to darkness. Oster (1970) hypothesized that some reports of ghosts can be attributed to this phenomenon. Others have noted a connection between the form the lights take on and neolithic cave paintings.