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FT331 SEPTEMBER 2015 £4.25 

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Indonesia’s oddest house of prayer 


A life portrait of the elusive bard - or not? 

Is Britain ready for an alien visitation? 




Fortean Times 331 

strange days 

Satanic statue unveiled in Detroit, more kamikaze canines, 
perverts on parade, glass delusion, gull attacks, dwarfs and 
duendes, Indonesia’s Chicken Church, London’s sewer hogs, 
Madrid’s UFO conference - and much more. 
















The People’s Republic of China is firmly under the control of 
one of the world’s most secretive regimes. But, says CHRIS 
SAUNDERS, if the recent catalogue of strange events in the 
nation’s media is anything to go by, some world-changing 
news could be about to emerge from the Far East... 


A recent anime film tells the story of Kaguya, a princess 
from the Moon, exiled to Earth and raised by a peasant 
family. BOB RICKARD explores the background to this 
ancient Japanese tale of extraterrestrial visitation. 


David Simpson created UFOs from ordinary bits of plastic 
and metal in his workshop. Some people believed they 
came from other worlds. DAVID CLARKE reveals the story of 
the hoaxer who fooled the Warminster skywatchers. 



No 2. Forteana on the instalment plan 


No 5. A pawn in the game 


No 102. Tuscany’s UFO Museum 


No 41. Paul Tetzel, the champion butcher 


55 The misguided monster hunters by Brian Regal 

56 Portraits of an invisible man by Jerry Glover 















FT331 1 

Fortean Times 





BOB RICKARD (bobrickard@mail.eom) 








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© Fortean Times: AUGUST 2015 

2 FT331 



It’s 50 years since the peaceful Wiltshire town of 
Warminster became a major focus of the British 
UFO scene. From early accounts of weird aerial 
noises and scattered UFO sightings, reports 
from the area grew steadily in volume, until 
mass skywatches on Cradle Hill and coverage in 
the national media became the norm. 

Given the level of attention, and, indeed, 
excitement, that this apparent hotspot of UFO 
activity was generating in the mid to late Sixties, 
it’s no surprise that hoaxing 
came to play a part - though 
as David Clarke reveals 
(see pp40-47), some of 
the hoaxers had more in 
mind than just pranking. 

David Simpson and his 
SIUFOP (Society for the 
Investigation of UFO 
Phenomena) shared the 
excitement of their fellow 
skywatchers, but quickly 
realised that the desire to 
see UFOs was also a “desire 
to believe in something” 

- and that this desire to 
believe had a profound 
effect on what people saw. . . 
or thought they saw. With 
this in mind, David and his 
friends set out to create their own UFOs and 
see what happened. The story of how events 
unfolded is a fascinating, and often forgotten, bit 
of British ufological history. 

Of course, David Simpson’s story is only one 
thread in the rich tapestry of the Warminster 
phenomenon, and if you’d like to learn more 
and celebrate the anniversary, then it might 
be worth making a trip to Wiltshire for the 
‘Warminster 2015’ conference organised by 
Kevin Goodman and taking place on Saturday 29 
August. Local veterans and assorted ufologists 
will be speaking, and, following the day’s talks, 
a special 50th anniversary skywatch will be held 
on Cradle Hill. For full details and to buy tickets, 
go to: 

There’s plenty more of ufological interest in 
this issue, as Chris Saunders asks why China 
has seen such an upsurge in UFO interest in 
recent years. Bob Rickard goes in search of the 
historical roots of Japan’s Moon Princess, Luis 
R Gonzalez discovers an incredible collection 
of UFO materials in Tuscany, Theo Paijmans 
reports from a conference in Madrid that points 
to new directions in research and Jenny Randles 
dusts off her 1960s UFO detector. 

conversation” about these winged terrorists. 

As a result of all this fuss, as is usual when 
we’re confronted by our non-human neighbours 
doing what they do, gulls have been accused of 
unbridled aggression and malice aforethought; 
there have been angry letters in the newspapers, 
calls for armies of young boys armed with air 
rifles and what would appear to be cases of 
deliberate and illegal poisoning. 

Most reports of gull attacks seem to 

originate in Cornwall, 
for whatever reason. One 
obvious explanation for 
this outbreak of ASBO- 
worthy avian delinquency 
- aside from the huge 
food resource provided by 
human populations and 
their wasteful habits year 
round - is that the breeding 
season always leads to 
extremely protective 
behaviour on the part of 
vigilant parents. We can 
only add that at FT’s coastal 
outpost on the other side of 
the country, the gulls have 
been behaving impeccably; 
one pair successfully raised 
a chick on the chimney and 
only resorted to warning swoops when passers- 
by came too close for comfort. For a full round- 
up of gulls behaving badly, turn to pl8. 


FT328:5 Noel Rooney made a slip-up in his 
Conspirasphere column, as pointed out by 
readers Martin Stubbs of London and Bill 
Polaski of Mineola, New York. Noel wrote 
that the “space shuttle Challenger . . . exploded 
on re-entry in 1986,” but Challenger was in 
fact destroyed shortly after take-off, just 
73 seconds into its flight; it was Columbia 
that disintegrated on re-entry years later 
in 2003. Bob also suggested that that “the 
article’s use of ‘explosion’ to describe 
the event is somewhat inaccurate, as 
both Challenger and Columbia disintegrated due 
to structural failure and aerodynamic forces, 
rather than being blown apart from within.” 




Last issue it was foxes, this time it’s gulls 
creating a full-on media panic: herring gulls, 
to be precise, terrorising residents and tourists 
of seaside towns, taking out a concert pianist, 
disembowelling a small dog, fatally injuring 
a pet tortoise and leading the prime minister 
(who must surely have more pressing issues on 
his mind) to declare that we need to have “a big 


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The Devil came to Detroit 

The Satanic Temple unveils its Baphomet statue at “night of debauchery” 

Just before midnight on Saturday, 
25 July 2015, in an industrial 
building in Detroit, Michigan, 
a 9ft (27m)-tall bronze statue 
of a winged Baphomet with a 
human body and a goat’s head 
was unveiled by two men who 
then kissed passionately in front 
of it as about 700 supporters 
cheered “Hail Satan!” Statues 
of a boy and a girl stood in poses 
of adoration on either side. The 
name Baphomet was originally 
conferred on an idol that the 
Knights Templar were accused 
of worshipping. Since 1856, the 
name has been associated with a 
“Sabbatic Goat” image drawn by 
Eliphas Levi. 

To throw off any infiltrators, 
the Satanic Temple had to change 
the location of the unveiling of 
their one-ton monument and 
set up a fake event. Protesters 
arrived at the decoy location and 
spent the night there in the rain 
while the actual event carried 
on, unmolested, miles away. At 
the last moment, the organisers 
emailed the actual venue 
information to ticket holders, who 
had been invited to join them 
for “a night of chaos, noise, and 
debauchery at The Unveiling, 
a hedonistic celebration 
introducing the controversial 
Baphomet monument 
accompanied by provocative 
performances and installations”. 
They said the statue was “not only 
an unparalleled artistic triumph, 
but stands as a testament to 
plurality and the power of 
collective action. Come dance 
with the Devil and experience 
history in the making.” Ticket- 
holders were required to sign a 
contract transferring ownership 
of their souls to Satan. This 
was intended to filter out the 
“extreme superstitious radicals”. 

Jex Blackmore, director of 

“The last thing 
we need in 
Detroit is a 
weicome home 
party for evii” 

the Satanic Temple Detroit 
chapter, said Temple members 
planned to transport the 
sculpture to Arkansas, where 
earlier this year the governor 
signed a bill authorising a Ten 
Commandments monument 
on the State Capitol’s grounds. 
The Temple had unsuccessfully 
applied to have their statue - the 
work of an unnamed sculptor 
in New York - placed near 

another Ten Commandments 
monument installed in 2012 on 
the Oklahoma State Capitol 
grounds. The Oklahoma Supreme 
Court recently ruled that the 
monument violates a section of 
the state constitution that bans 
the use of state property for the 
benefit of a religion. Lawmakers 
responded with threats to seek 
the impeachment of the court’s 
justices and pledged to push 
for changes to the constitution. 
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, 
a Republican, said she would 
keep the monument in place as 
the state appeals the decision. 

The presentation of Baphomet 
in Detroit drew protest from local 
Christians. “It is every Christian’s 
duty to destroy this if you see 
it destroy this statue destroy 
this statue destroy this statue,” 
according to one Facebook 
post. About 50 people prayed 
for the city and denounced the 
monument outside a business 
where the Satanic Temple 
previously tried to display the 
statue before fears of a backlash 
scuttled the plan. “The last thing 
we need in Detroit is having a 
welcome home party for evil,” 
said Reverend Dave Bullock, a 
pastor at Greater St Matthew 
Baptist Church in Highland Park, 
Michigan. “This is not even a real 
religion in my estimation.” 

According to its website, 
the Satanic Temple “holds to 
the basic premise that undue 
suffering is bad, and that which 
reduces suffering is good” and 
doesn’t “believe in symbolic evil”. 
It says: “We embrace blasphemy 
as a legitimate expression of 
personal independence from 
counter-productive traditional 
norms. It is the position of The 
Satanic Temple that religion 
can, and should, be divorced 
from superstition. As such, we 
do not promote a belief in a 
personal Satan. To embrace 
the name Satan is to embrace 
rational inquiry removed from 
supernaturalism and archaic 
tradition-based superstitions.” 

[R] BBC News, Vice News, 2 7 July 

4 FT331 



eroticism, tree- 
humping, puppy 
love and more... 



Sightings of 
elves, dwarfs and 
duendes around 
the world 

PAGE 18 


A conference 
with a difference 
puts UFOs in a 
fresh context 

PAGE 20 


The Conspirasphere 

Is conspiracy just a niche in a wider online market of alternative information? 
And are the Flat Earthers making a comeback? NOEL ROONEY investigates. 










Duncan Roads, the editor of Nexus 
magazine, has set up a news website, 
the Alternative News Project (http:/, to gather 
and report on a whole range of topics 
across the alternative spectrum. It’s not an 
original idea, though Roads’s version of it 
is comprehensive and attractive enough, 
but it led me to thinking about conspiracy 
theory as part of a bigger cultural project. 

Nexus, like its uncannily similar 
competitor New Dawn, regularly carries 
articles by conspiracy theorists (both 
the hermeneutic sort and the automatic 
dissidents, if you were paying attention 
last time: see FT330:4), and so does 
the new website. What struck me as I 
browsed the site was that 
conspiracies were not 
especially privileged on the 
site but are a sub-section 
of the geopolitics category; 
moreover, they looked 
comfortable in their niche. 

This strikes me as 
a contrast with the 
treatment of conspiracy 
theory by academics and 
sceptics: those writers see 
conspiracy as the umbrella 
term under which a clutch 
of alternative viewpoints 
and theories shelter. I 
suspect the alternative 

The mechanics of this unravelling 
process are curious. Take an area of 
interest such as ancient mysteries: on 
the face of it, this is primarily a signal 
of an open attitude to non-mainstream 
explanations for aspects of ancient 
history. But conspiracy thinking operates 
on it to produce a bigger narrative. First, 
it observes the reaction of the orthodox 
academic community (mostly benign 
scepticism, but occasionally sown with 
real contempt) and characterises it as a 
conspiracy - of silence in the face of new 
and better ideas, of active repression 
and hiding of evidence and knowledge - 
and thus evokes Them, making the field 
of study one of confrontation too. This 
is the fragmenting and 
complicating process at 

Secondly, it places 
ancient mysteries 
in a constellation of 
interlinked theories and 
confrontations, the grand 
alternative narrative, 
where They are a constant 
presence (what one might 
term a conspiracy of clues). 
It attempts to integrate 
the various strands of New 
Age interest, while focusing 
them through the correcting 
lens of conspiratorial 


conspiracy is just one niche in a wider 
market for information and theory that goes 

that conspiracies do not take centre stage 
on alternative cultural products; perhaps 

against the orthodox grain. 

It’s tempting to see conspiracy as 
the dark underbelly of the New Age; the 
flipside to Blavatsky’s ‘ascended masters’ 

(12 bearded men under a hill directing 
humanity towards a better brighter future) 
is ‘Them’ (12 bearded men under a hill 
plotting the downfall of humanity). But the 
relationship is a little more complex and 
subtle. Conspiracy thinking does something 
to alternative ideas; it both fragments and 

it’s because there are other integrating 
mechanisms (New Age spirituality, for 
instance) that perform a similar function, 
albeit from a different point of view. 

Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by the recent 
flurry of activity on Flat Earth websites; 
traffic to these sites has (it is claimed by 
some of the sites themselves) increased 
by 600 per cent in recent weeks. Are we 
about to see a revival of a very bloody odd 

complicates them, while at the same time 
placing them in a broader, grand narrative 

See for 
an example of modern Flat Earth thinking. 




'Useless’ pelvis 
whale penis 

Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Sept 2014. 

Flying cows, spiralling 
elves and a singing monkey 
visit Galway festival 

Irish Times, 9 Sept 2014. 

Frustrated baker in court 
for headbutting faulty 
sausage roll machine 

Northern Echo, 15 Sept 2014. 

Mole wants extended 
winning run 

Halesowen News, 25 Sept 2014. 


Hull Daily Mail, 18 Sept 2014. 

Giant Grandmother 
set to captivate 
Limerick audiences 

Irish Times, 26 Aug 2014. 

Drunk man with 
dead rabbit fotmd 
in maternity ward 

Irish Independent, 13 Sept 2014. 

FT331 5 

On 28 June, an estimated 3,000 people turned out to 
the company funeral of Tama the cat in the Japanese city 
of Kinokawa, Wakayama prefecture. The famous feline 
had acted as the stationmaster of Kishi station, on the 
Kishigawa line, since 2006, and was credited with saving 
the struggling railway from financial ruin. Here, Tama is 
pictured wearing a station master’s cap of the Wakayama 
Electric Railway, and manning a ticket gate at the station. 
She died from cardiac arrest on 22 June, aged 16. 
Guardian, 29 June 2015. 


Tara, a seven-year-old female cat, looks out at the media after being 
presented with the 33rd Annual National Hero Dog Award by the 
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Los Angeles (SPCALA) 
on 19 June. In May 2014, Tara became a YouTube sensation with a 
video in which she fought off a neighbour’s dog that attacked her six- 
year-old owner in the driveway of their Bakersfield, California, home. 
The SPCALA broke with tradition by presenting the award to a cat 
rather than a dog for the first time. [AP], 19 Jun 2015. 


Eight-month-old Hei Hudie (meaning “Black Butterfly”) has been fitted 
with a set of wheels in a pet hospital in Chongqing, southwest China, 
after being thrown from the 10th floor of a building, fracturing her spine 
and losing the use of her hind legs. The plucky survivor underwent four 
operations within five months and can now walk again with the aid of her 
special wheelchair. D.Moil, 17 Mor 2015. 



The Chicken Church 


Some time between 4 and 
12 July, the skull of Friedrich 
Wilhelm Murnau, director of 
the silent 1922 expressionist 
vampire classic Nosferatu 
[FT326:30-36], was taken 
from his grave in the Stahn- 
sdorf cemetery outside Berlin. 
Wax residue was found nearby, 
suggesting that candles had 
been lit and a possible occult 
motive for the theft. Murnau 
died in a car accident in Cali- 
fornia in 1931 while fellating 
his houseboy [FT329:68]. BBC 
News, 15 July; Independent, 


Hindus flocked to Jharkhand’s 
Giridih district in India to wor- 
ship an eight-limbed baby as a 
reincarnation of Ganesh, the 
elephant-headed deity seen 
as a “remover of obstacles”. 
The boy, born on 18 April, was 
a conjoined twin with sepa- 
rate hips and legs, a fused 
chest and a single head. 
D.Telegraph, 25 April 2015. 


Austin Hatfield, 18, captured 
a 4ft (1.2m) cottonmouth 
snake while swimming near 
Wimauma, Florida, in mid-April. 
Cottonmouth snakes, some- 
times called water moccasins, 
are extremely dangerous; but 
the dim-witted teenager tried 
to kiss it, whereupon it bit him 
on the lip. He was taken to the 
hospital in critical condition 
but was expected to make a 
full recovery., 
22 April 2015. 

Indonesian prayer house built to instructions from God 

Deep in the Indonesian 
jungle lies an enchanted 
‘church’ that looks like a 
giant chicken with its beak 
open mid-squawk. The long- 
abandoned structure known 
locally as Gere j a Ayam 
(“Chicken Church”) attracts 
curious travellers and many 
Christians, Muslims and 
Buddhists to the hills of 
Magelang, Central Java. 

It has also become a safe 
haven for couples from the 
nearby villages of Flower 
Limus and Krangrejo to 
commit ‘immoral acts’ away 
from prying eyes. 

Daniel Alamsjah, 67, was 
working in Jakarta, 550km 
(340 miles) away, when he 
got a message from God 
to build a ‘prayer house’ 
in the form of a dove on 
top of a hill. In 1989, he 
was walking through the 
Magelang, where his wife’s 
family live, when he caught 
sight of the exact landscape 
he had seen in his dreams. 
“I prayed all night there 
and I got a revelation that 
I must build the prayer 
house in that spot,” he 
said. A year later, local 

landowners offered him 
the 3,000m2 (32,300ft2) of 
land on Rhema Hill for 
just two million rupees 
(£110) - which he paid 
off over four years. He 
constructed the bizarre 
building with the help 
of 30 locals, “Perhaps 
because of my Christian 
faith, people thought I 
was building a church,” 
he said. “But it’s not a 
church. I was building a 
prayer house... a place 
for people who believe 
in God.” 

The building - which 
has 15 basement rooms 
- was also used as a 
rehabilitation centre for 
“disabled children, drug 
addicts, crazy people 
and disturbed youth 
who wanted to fight.” 

It shut its doors in 2000 
because the construction 
costs were too high, 
but many continue to 
visit, though five of the 
eight pillars holding 
the building up are now 
crumbling, dailymail.,, 
13 July 2015. 

8 FT331 


The glass delusion 

Might a vanished psychiatric disorder make a comeback? 

The glass delusion is a 
psychiatric disorder that 
appeared in Europe, mainly 
between 1400 and 1700. Victims 
believed themselves to be made 
of glass and thus liable to shatter. 
One notable sufferer was King 
Charles VI of France, known 
as “Charles the Mad” (reigned 
1380 to 1422; pictured, right, 
taking to his bed), who refused 
to allow people to touch him, and 
was reported to have wrapped 
himself in blankets to prevent his 
buttocks from breaking. People 
wrote satirical poems and stories 
about the delusion, and instances 
appear in many early medical 
encyclopedias. Robert Burton 
in The Anatomy of Melancholy 
(1621) and Rene Descartes in 
Meditations on First Philosophy 
(1641), both touch on the subject, 
and in Cervantes’s short story 
The Glass Graduate (1613), hero 
Thomas Rodaja is poisoned by a 
quince intended as an aphrodisiac 
but which instead triggers a glass 

Cases tailed off dramatically 
in the 1830s, but Andy Lameijn, 
a psychiatrist from Leiden in 
the Netherlands, has uncovered 
subsequent examples. A lecture 
of 1883 from the archives in 
an Edinburgh mental hospital 
cited the symptoms of a female 
patient who thought her legs 
were made of glass. Another 
case from the 1880s turned up 
in the footnotes to an edition of 
The Glass Graduate, referring to 
a contemporaneous case having 
occurred in a Paris asylum. Radio 
producer Lance Sieveking recalls 
that two familiar figures on the 
seafront at St Leonards, East 
Sussex, in the years just before 
World War I “included two ladies 
who thought they couldn’t bend 
because they were made of 
glass”. Lameijn was approached 
by a fellow psychiatrist who 
had found a case in the archives 
of his own Dutch hospital that 
dated back to the 1930s. The 
woman had been admitted to a 
psychiatric hospital believing that 

her legs and back were made of 
glass. She apparently recovered 
after treatment. Another doctor 
brought Lameijn a case from a 
different hospital, from 1964. 

Then a young man turned up at 
the University Clinic in Leiden, 
claiming to be made of glass, and 
Lameijn had the opportunity to 
speak to the only contemporary 
person to present with the 
delusion for decades. Lameijn 
asked what this feeling meant to 
him, not wanting to distort the 
conversation by suggesting ideas 
of fragility or transparency, and 
after initial reticence, the man 
began to open up. He pointed to 
the window in the consulting room 
and asked Lameijn what he could 
see. Lameijn replied that he could 
see a street, some cars, people 
walking past, and waited. The 
patient said: “Ah! You’ve missed 
the glass in the window. You didn’t 
see it. But it is there.” He leaned 
forward, and said: “That’s me. I’m 
there, and I’m not there. Like the 
glass in the window.” 

The patient claimed that he was 
able to turn this feeling of being 
“there” and “not there” on and 
off at will, like a switch in his own 
mind - he could “disappear” and 
“reappear”. He had recently had 
an accident, and Lameijn began 
to formulate a theory as to why a 
modern person might present with 
glass delusion. He concluded that 
the man was using the delusion 
as a sort of distance-regulator; 

following the accident, his family 
had become over-protective, and 
the delusion was an attempt to 
regain privacy and hide from 
overbearing family members. 

The probable reason why 
someone with mental illness in 
the 15th to 17th centuries might 
manifest the glass delusion is that 
clear glass was a new material, 
seen as magical or alchemical. 
Throughout history, according to 
Prof Edward Shorter, a historian 
of psychiatry from the University 
of Toronto, the unconscious has 
pegged its delusions to new 
materials and technological 
advances. In the 19th century, 
cement delusions appeared at 
a time when cement emerged 
as a new building material, just 
as delusions of recent decades 
include the belief that the security 
services can download thoughts 
through micro-transmitters and 
“read your mind”. 

Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips 
argues that the glass delusion 
has powerful contemporary 
resonance in a society in 
which anxieties about fragility, 
transparency and personal space 
are pertinent to many people’s 
experience. The feeling of being 
made of glass could be a useful 
way of understanding how 
we negotiate a society that is 
increasingly crowded, in which 
modern technological advances 
isolate us and offer apparently 
boundary-less communication. 
Novelist Ali Shaw, author of The 
Girl with Glass Feet, suggests that 
the glass delusion might simply 
be at the extreme end of a scale 
of social anxiety that many of 
us experience to a lesser extent: 
the fear of tripping and breaking 
is an exaggerated fear of social 
humiliation. A programme 
called ‘The Glass Delusion’ was 
broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 8 
May 2015. See Gill Speak (1990): 
“An odd kind of melancholy: 
reflections on the glass delusion 
in Europe (1440-1680)” (History 
of Psychiatry 2 (2): 191-206); BBC 
News Magazine, 8 May 2015. 



Nikolay Grazev, mayor of 
Nova Zagora in south-eastern 
Bulgaria, ordered the sprinkling 
of llOlb (50kg) of sugar on all 
major roads in the city to ward 
off “evil omens” and counter a 
recent increase in crashes. The 
initiative is based on an ancient 
legend,” according to a state- 
ment issued from the mayor’s 
office. Sunday Age (Melbourne), 
31 May 2015. 


Ted Wiseman, 79, from 
Halesowen, West Midlands, 
believes he is being hen-pecked 
by his late wife. Yvonne, 64, 
who died from a stroke in May 

2014, now moves things when 
Ted puts them in the wrong 
place, and told him through a 
medium to stop wearing her 
slippers. She recently woke him 
in bed, bellowing: “Stop bloody 
sniffing!” Ted commented: 
“That’s exactly what she used 
to say. She was the gaffer.” 
Sunday Mercury, 29 Mar; Sun, 
30 Mar 2015. 


The cause of strange signals 
that baffled astrophysicists 
for 17 years has been traced 
to a microwave oven in an 
observatory’s kitchen. The 
signals (called perytons) were 
first detected at the Parkes 
telescope in New South Wales 
in 1998. Their frequency and 
duration suggested fast radio 
bursts from another galaxy, 
but they only occurred during 
business hours. An interfer- 
ence monitor revealed their true 
source: opening the oven door 
before the timer had pinged. 
BBC News, 5 May; </> 6 May 




The manager of a Nando’s 
restaurant in Bristol has 
overcome his addiction to fresh 
underpants after realising it 
was leading him to penury. 

Curt Almond, 26, “didn’t feel 
comfortable” unless he was 
wearing brand new boxers, at a 
cost of £40 a week, while cop- 
ing with a painful break-up. He 
amassed 365 pairs in a year. 
Sun, Metro, 22 April 2015. 


A kangaroo called Anton es- 
caped from his owner in Austria 
and disappeared into forests 
every time someone tried to 
catch him. He had been living 
rough for several weeks at the 
time of the report, contradict- 
ing the famous slogan on 
T-shirts and souvenirs: “No 
kangaroos in Austria”. </> 29 
Jan;, 31 Jon 


The wreckage of a plane that 
crashed in the Andes 54 
years ago, killing 24 people, 
including eight members of the 
top-division Chilean football 
team Green Cross, has been 
discovered at an altitude of 
10,500ft (3,200m) about 
215 miles (360km) south of 
Santiago. The disappearance 
of the Douglas DC-3 on 3 April 
1961 was one of Chile’s great 
unsolved mysteries. Rescue 
teams had spent weeks 
searching for the plane, and 
symbolic funerals were held for 
the missing players. [AP] 9 Feb 


A conservative American 
politician was voted against a 
gay rights bill has been ‘outed’ 
for posting pictures of himself 
naked on Grindr, the gay dating 
app. Randy Boehning [sic], 52, 
a Republican from Fargo, North 
Dakota, helped defeat legisla- 
tion that would have barred 
landlords and employers in 
the state from discriminat- 
ing on the grounds of sexual 
orientation. He is not married. 
D. Telegraph, 29 April; Metro, 1 
May 2015. 



• Last October, Edward Smith, 

63, from Washington in the US, 
revealed on the television show 
This Morning how as a young teen 
he was “tempted one night to 
step outside” to make love to the 
neighbour’s Volkswagen Beetle, 
having first become attracted 

to cars in 1965. “I’m not really 
attracted to any sort of, may I say, 
penetration,” he explained. “It is 
hugging and holding the shape of 
the car close to me and actually 
talking to it a little bit. And then 
of course, the rest is just physical 
satisfaction - masturbation is, I 
guess, the word.” He explained 
that he kept his clothes on during 
his passionate sessions, but 
“basically just unzipped”. He 
has been with the love of his life. 
Vanilla, since 1982; despite having 
another, simultaneous relationship 
with a Ford Ranger called Ginger, 
he said there was no resentment 
on Vanilla’s part. Besides having 
sex with over 700 cars, he has 
also had a relationship with a 
helicopter and planes, claiming 
they are all better than women. 

D. Mirror, 14 Oct 2014. 

• For CCTV footage of a man 
sexually assaulting a Porsche 
in Thailand last May, see http:// 
bangkok . coconuts . co/201 5/05/1 1/ 

cars and planes 
are all better 
than women” 

• Kenneth Douglas, 60, worked 
as a morgue attendant in Ohio 
from 1976 to 1992. Last August, he 
admitted to sexually abusing the 
cadavers of three women between 
1991 and 1992, and disclosed 

in a deposition that he had had 
sex with up to 100 corpses over a 
period of 16 years, while he was 
drunk or high on crack. “I would 
just get on top of them and pull 
my pants down,” he told a court. 
Douglas wasn’t rumbled until 2008 
when his semen was found on a 
murder victim, 19-year-old Karen 
Range, who was killed by a door- 
to-door salesman. Independent, 18 
Aug 2014. 

• Jimmy Savile may have had 
sex with corpses for more than 50 
years. A former nurse said she was 
warned about the activities of a 
person she thought was Savile at 
Leeds General Infirmary in 1954. 
She was heading to the hospital’s 
mortuary when the ward sister 
told her “to be careful and come 

back if the pink-haired man is 
there”. She added: “He was there, 
so I turned around and went 
back to the ward.” Savile is also 
believed to have stolen glass eyes 
from the dead and made them into 
medallions and rings. Metro, 27 
Feb 2015. 

• Jared Kreft, 30, from Wausau, 
Wisconsin, was arrested on 17 
December 2014. He was suspected 
of performing oral sex on a horse 
after viewing ‘horse pornography’. 
Responding to a call about strange 
goings-on in a barn, police found 
Kreft near a horse, wearing a 
facemask, black jacket and blue 
jogging pants with holes cut in 
the crotch and bum. He also had a 
dope pipe and a jar of petroleum 
jelly. Huffington Post, 23 Dec 2014. 

• On 2 June 2015, a Texan was 
arrested for having sex with 

a horse for the third time. A 
woman contacted Hidalgo County 
Sheriff’s office on 17 February 
to report an injured man in her 
barn. When officers arrived, she 
identified the injured man as 
Cirilo Castillo Jr, 45, and said 
he had been previously arrested 
for having sex with her horses. 
Castillo maintained that he 
had been struck by a car and 
crawled to the barn for shelter; 
but investigators believe he was 

10 FT331 


ABOVE: In custody (L-R): serial pony-pesterer Cirilo Castillo, dog ‘lover’ Ashley Miler, and tree-shagging flakka freak Kenneth Crowder. 

trespassing in the barn in an 
attempt to have sex with a horse, 
but his leg was broken when the 
horse kicked him. In September 
2013, Castillo received five years 
probation after he was caught 
horsing around in the same barn. 
He had tied a horse to her corral 
and performed oral and vaginal 
sex on her. First arrested for horse 
sex in 2012, he was sentenced to 
270 days’ jail for public lewdness. 
Huffington Post, Metro, 1 1 June 201 5. 

• Jonathan Ford, 32, who ran the 
‘I Love Lucy Pet Rescue’ shelter 
in Hattieville, Arkansas, was 
arrested in mid- June on suspicion 
of bestiality. The animals with 
which he was allegedly intimate 
were transferred to a different dog 
shelter. Metro, 16 June 2015. 

• Ashley Miller, 18, was arrested 
in Bradenton, Florida, after police 
found 17 mobile phone photos in a 
folder called ‘2-face fun’, appearing 
to show her receiving oral sex from 
a pit bull called ‘2-face’. “Miller 
explained that she would call 
2-face into her room, take her pants 
off, open her legs and 2-face would 
lick her vagina,” stated the police 
report. “Miller believes 2-face has 
licked her vagina approximately 
30 to 40 times.” Miller admitted 
that she kept the dog at her 
grandmother’s house and would 

go there when she wanted oral sex. 
She added that her previous dog, 
a Rottweiler-pit bull cross named 
Scarface, did the same thing to her 
and that “she did not have to push 
her [the dog] to do it.” Metro, 17 
June 2015. 

• Wallace Berg, 81, a retired 
embalmer from Stratford, 
Connecticut, was arrested on 
29 July for public indecency. 

A neighbour called police 
complaining that Berg was 
walking around his backyard with 
no clothes on. He videoed Berg 
‘humping’ a bush and confronted 
Berg, who covered himself with a 
grill cover, apologised and went 
into the house. He was released 
after posting a $10,000 bond. [AP] 
Connecticut Post, 28 July 2015. 

• On 26 June, police in Millersville, 
Pennsylvania, caught Larry Henry, 
64, on a neighbour’s farm in the 
nude, drinking beer among pigs. 

He told them: “I just like pigs”. 
Banned from the farm after being 
caught trespassing four years 
earlier, he was now charged with 
trespassing, public drunkenness 
and indecent exposure. He 
admitted drinking a six-pack of 
beer while hanging with the hogs. 
The brand of beer was in keeping: 
he was drinking Hamm’s. [AP] 15 
July 2015. 

• Akin Zulhayir, 31, of Enfield, 
north London, was charged with 
attempted abduction of three girls 
aged 11, 12, and 13. The married 
man admitted in court that he 
got sexual kicks from feeling 

and sniffing “black, leather, 
flat-soled pumps”, adding: “It’s 
embarrassing. I’ve asked adults 
about shoes but mostly schoolgirls. 
Those are the type of people who 
wear those types of shoes.” He was 
found not guilty, but given a sexual 
risk order. Sun, 17 July 2015. 


Tests have shown that, 28 
years after the Chernobyl nu- 
clear disaster, one in three wild 
boar roaming Saxony - 700 
miles (1,130km) away - are 
too radioactive to eat. They are 
particularly affected because 
they feed on mushrooms and 
truffles that store radiation. 
Meanwhile in central Norway, 
a dramatic rise in radioactiv- 
ity in the reindeer population 
might have been caused by a 
bumper growth of the gypsy 
mushroom {Cortinarius copero- 
tus). D.Telegraph, 2 Sept; [R] 6 
Oct 2014. 

• Luke Rudge, 33, from 
Leamington Spa, was jailed for 14 
months after he lay on the floor in 
a library, grabbed a woman’s ankle 
and kissed it as she read a book. He 
also sniffed her boots, which she 
had taken off, and told the 57-year- 
old that she had “beautiful legs”. 
Warwick Crown Court heard that 
he had been jailed for four years 
in 2011 for indecently assaulting a 
girl of 14. Sun, 11 Dec 2014. 

• Kenneth Crowder, 41, was 
arrested in April after running 
naked through a park in 
Melbourne, Florida, and having 
sex with a tree while under the 
influence of a cheap synthetic 
drug from China called Alpha-PVP 
(aka ‘flakka’ or ‘gravel’), which 
allegedly first appeared in Florida 
last year. It was designed to mimic 
cathinone, a natural stimulant 
found in the leaves of the khat 
plant, chewed in the Middle East. 
Crowder was tasered twice before 
telling police he was ‘Thor’ and 
trying to stab an officer with his 
own police badge. A witness said 
the naked man appeared to have 
“superhuman strength”. James 
Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova 
Southeastern University, said some 
27 people had died from flakka- 
related overdoses in the last eight 
months in Broward County alone. 
“It’s the most intense, rapidly 
emerging drug problem since the 
1980s with the emergence of crack 
cocaine,” he said. The term ‘flakka’ 
apparently comes from ‘la flaca’, 
Spanish slang for a slender and 
attractive woman. Sun, 1 7 April; [R] 
10 June 2015. 


An AA mechanic has received 
an award for the most original 
car repair after fixing a 1960s 
Land Rover on a Hertfordshire 
farm with a potato. Mario 
Papademetriou, 59, mended 
the ignition system by strap- 
ping a spud to the engine with 
cable ties. With the addition 
of two screws, it worked as a 
condenser. The driver said the 
vehicle had never driven so 
well. D. Telegraph, D.Mail, 20 
Feb 2015. 


A girls “sweet 16” party in 
Levittown, Pennsylvania, 
was ruined when a torrent of 
human faeces from a passing 
plane splattered all over the 
tables, chairs and decorations, 
and into the pool where people 
were swimming. About 40 peo- 
ple were affected. Courier-Mail 
(Queensland), 24 May 2015. 

FT331 u 


Monk mummy revealed 

Scan shows Buddhist master sitting inside ancient statue 

ABOVE: The Buddha statue and the CAT scan revealing the perfectly preserved body of Master Liu Quan inside it. 


Around 25 tons of pigeon 
droppings, 3ft (90cnn) deep, 
were cleared from the 14th 
century Landgate Arch in Rye, 
East Sussex, to save it from 
becoming a ruin. “We have 
never seen such a monumen- 
tal mass of festering faeces,” 
said Mike Walker, boss of 
County Clean Environmental 
Services. Sunday Sun, 1 Mar 


A fortune in gold, silver and 
platinum can be extracted 
from human faeces, an eight- 
year study has found. Levels 
of precious metals were 
comparable with those found 
in some commercial mines. In 
Britain, extracting them could 
be worth £510 million a year. 
Traces are found in cosmet- 
ics, shampoos, clothes, 
run-off from metal industries 
and some foods. Particles can 
be dislodged from cutlery and 
from gold and silver medical 
diagnostic tools. D. Telegraph, 
24 Mar 2015. 


Sarah Schrock, 56, of 
Mechanicsville, Maryland, 
who allegedly shaved skin 
off her feet and put it in her 
roommates’ milk on 4 May, 
has been charged with felony 
poisoning and assault. When 
one roommate coughed up 
what appeared to be human 
skin, the milk was strained 
and found to contain bits of 
shaved skin similar to the kind 
Schrock kept in trays in her 
bedroom. [R] 13 May 2015. 


A partridge set up home in 
a north London dry cleaners 
sometime in May. Hassan 
Volkan, the owner of Sun Dry 
Cleaners in Fortess Road, 
Tufnell Park, was looking to 
find it a mate to keep it com- 
pany. The bird had apparently 
been wandering NWS and 
N19 for weeks; it was spotted 
in Highgate Library on 19 
March. The RSPB said it was 
“virtually unheard of” to find a 
partridge walking city streets. 
Camden New Journal, 7 May 

In what is almost certainly the 
only example in the world, an 
ancient Buddhist statue contains 
the perfectly preserved mummy 
of a 11th or 12th century monk, 
aged between 30 and 50. He is 
thought to have starved himself to 
death in an act of extreme spiritual 
devotion and his remains displayed 
in his monastery somewhere 
in China. Some 200 years later, 
perhaps after his remains started 
to deteriorate, his mummified 
remains were placed inside the 
lacquered statue of the Buddha. 

The statue was bought several 
decades ago by a Dutch collector, 
who had no idea it contained a 
mummified monk. The unusual 
contents were discovered in the 
1990s when it was being restored, 
but the mummy could not be 
removed because of the risk of 
disintegration; now, however, an 
international team led by German 
paleontologist Wilfrid Rosendahl 
has conducted a CAT scan and 
endoscopy at the Drents Museum 

in the Netherlands, revealing 
the monk’s skeleton in perfect 
detail. Experts took samples 
from the thoracic and abdominal 
cavities and discovered that the 
monk’s organs had been removed 
and replaced with ancient wads 
of paper printed with Chinese 
characters. He was identified as 
Master Liu Quan of the Chinese 
Meditation School. Samples of 
bone were also taken for DNA 
testing. Until last May, the 
statue was at the Natural History 
Museum in Budapest, after which 
it was planned to display it around 

Liu Quan might have been a 
Sokushinbutsu - a monk who 
performed self-mummification. 
Eor 1,000 days the monk would 
eat a special diet consisting only 
of nuts and seeds, while taking 
part in a regimen of rigorous 
physical activity that stripped 
him of his body fat. He then ate 
only bark and roots for another 
1,000 days and began drinking 

a poisonous tea made from the 
sap of the Urushi tree, normally 
used to lacquer bowls. This caused 
vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily 
fluids, and made the body too 
poisonous to be eaten by maggots. 
Einally, he would lock himself in a 
stone tomb barely larger than his 
body, where he would not move 
from the lotus position. His only 
connection to the outside world 
would be an air tube and a bell. 
Each day he rang the bell to let 
those outside know that he was 
still alive. When the bell stopped 
ringing, the tube was removed and 
the tomb sealed. The other monks 
in the temple would then wait 
another 1,000 days, and open the 
tomb to see if the mummification 
was successful, deathandtaxesmag. 
com, 23 Feb; http://3.bp.blogspot. 
com, 24 Feb; D. Telegraph, 25 Feb 
2015. In January, mummified 
remains of a man apparently 
meditating in the lotus position 
were unearthed in Mongolia 

12 FT331 


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Has the pace of new discoveries about the Universe reached the point where we can no 
longer keep up? DAVID HAMBLING looks at the evidence for “attention decay in science” 

A s the body of scientific 
knowledge grows ever 
larger, is it becoming so 
obese it might collapse 
under its own weight? A new 
paper on “Attention decay in 
science” suggests that it is 
increasingly difficult for scientists 
to stay up to speed in their 
own discipline. This raises the 
possibility that rather than being 
able to explain everything, future 
scientists will not be able to 
explain anything. 

It’s not really a new problem. 
Back in the 17th century, the 
well-rounded scholar could 
stay abreast of the latest 
developments in all the sciences 
and have time for art and 
literature too. New discoveries 
appeared at a leisurely pace from 
a handful of research institutions. 
It was not until the mid-18th 
century that the pace quickened 
and French philosopher Pierre 
Levy identifies “the end of an era 
in which a single human being 
was able to comprehend the 
totality of knowledge”. 

Various individuals have 
been described as “the last 
person to know everything”, 
including polymath Athanasius 
Kircher (below) who worked on 
everything from hieroglyphics 
to electromagnetism, the 
mathematician Gottfried Leibniz 
and the philosopher Immanuel 
Kant. Individuals like Isaac 
Newton, who was, by modern 
standards, remarkable for 
his breadth of study - optics, 
gravitation and integral calculus, 
as well as alchemy and 
biblical study - were narrow by 

Not that Kircher or Leibniz 
would have aced it in their local 
tavern quiz. They did not have a 
photographic recall of the dates 
of the Popes, or details of the 
Peloponnesian Wars. Instead, 
they had a broad comprehension 
of all knowledge and how it 
fitted together, a comprehension 
impossible to later scholars 
because human knowledge had 
grown so vast. 

In 1751 a French group known 
as the Encyclopaedists set 
out to remedy the situation by 
condensing all human learning 

14 FT331 



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sonnets and 
the laws of 
had become 
mutually exclusive. 

The fracturing 
with cracks 
becoming visible 
between social 
sciences studying 
humankind and 
the hard sciences 
dealing with the 
physical world. 

In the 1960s 
and 1970s, 
structuralism, post- 
structuralism and 
traditional ways 
of thinking in the 
social sciences, 
particularly in 
Europe. The result 
is that different 


into a single convenient book. 
Known as “Encyclopaedia or a 
Systematic Dictionary of the 
Sciences, Arts, and Crafts”, 
it drew together experts from 
all different fields, with more 
than 100 contributors. In 
its democratic and idealistic 
approach it was the exact 
counterpart of the present-day 

One of the curiosities of the 
original Encyclopedie to modern 
eyes is in combining arts and 
sciences. Back then, there was 
no strong division, but by the 
20th century the faultlines were 
showing. CP Snow’s 1959 lecture 
on “The Two Cultures and 
the Scientific Revolution,” 
later a bestselling book, 
highlighted how many 
apparently educated 
people were not just 
ignorant of science but 
actively hostile to knowing 
about it. Knowledge of 

groups of scientists now speak 
completely different languages 
and view each other with distrust. 
A similar situation applies on a 
smaller scale across different 
disciplines. Experimental 
physicists may not see eye- 
to-eye with theoreticians or 
computational physicists, even 
when they are working on the 
same problem, because they are 
coming at it from different angles. 

There is a tendency then for 
knowledge to be divided up into 
a set of territories, each jealously 
guarded against heresy intruding 
from other disciplines. While 
it may be an obstacle to the 
bigger picture, science can still 
progress so long as each field is 
well understood by the scientists 
working in it. The risk is that they 
will drown in the deluge of new 
papers flooding in from an ever- 
increasing number of institutions. 

“Attention decay in science”, 
authored by six researchers 
from California and 
Finland and 
published on 
Arxiv, looks at the 
amount of attention 
received by scientific 
papers from the last 
40 years. They use the 

number of citations as a yardstick 
for how much a paper is noticed. 
The study encompasses millions 
of papers in clinical medicine, 
molecular biology, chemistry and 

According to the Daily Moil, 
the paper shows that “Science 
is ‘in decay’.” Others had fun 
with headlines like “Study reveals 
there are too many studies.” The 
findings are actually rather more 
subtle than that. Perhaps the 
negative media response mainly 
illustrates how CP Snow’s two 
cultures are still locked in conflict. 

‘Attention decay’ is a measure 
of how something attracts most 
interest when it is new and is 
then gradually ignored. A paper 
will initially be cited by other 
papers in the same field, but as 
it is superseded by later studies, 
the number of citations falls off. 
Researchers will cite a recent, 
up-to-date paper rather than one 
decades old, even if the content 
is the same. What “Attention 
decay in science” found was that 
as the number of publications 
has increased over the last few 
decades, the time taken for a 
paper to reach its peak attention 
became shorter, and interest tails 
off more rapidly. 

“The decay is getting faster and 
faster, indicating that scholars 
‘forget’ more easily papers 
now than in the past,” say the 
authors. However, they note that 
there is another way of measuring 
attention decay. What causes a 
paper to become less interesting 
is not the passage of months or 
years, but the publication of new 
papers that make it obsolete. 
Measuring time in this way gave a 
different picture. 

“If time is renormalised in 
terms of the number of papers 
published in the corresponding 
period (e.g., in each given year), 
we find that the rescaled curves 
die out at comparable rates 
across the decades.” 

In other words, scientific papers 
are being read, assimilated and 
cited just as before. The only 
difference is that as papers are 
now appearing more rapidly, the 
whole process has accelerated. 

Science itself is not, after all, 
in decay. Researchers have to 
move faster to stay up to date 
than previously, but that is simply 
another way of saying that there 
are more exciting developments 
than ever before. It seems that, 
scientifically speaking, we are 
living in interesting times. 





ALAN MURDIE looks into tales of diminutive entity encounters from around the world 


Two interesting stories from Latin America 
featuring ghostly children and haunted young 
people have emerged in the last year, with 
many interpretations being possible for the 
claimed phenomena. 

In September 2014 reports came of 
sightings of humanoid figures resembling 
small children or dwarfs at the Tenorio Volcano 
National Park in northern Costa Rica, visited by 
thousands of tourists each year. A local forest 
guide and several tourists gave accounts of 
seeing what they initially took to be a group of 
children walking hand in hand along a forest 
trail in the park. The area is renowned for its 
outstanding natural beauty and particularly 
famous for the Rio Celeste or Light Blue 
River flowing through it, the waters of which 
are literally stained blue due to an influx of 
sulphur, calcium carbonate and other minerals 
from the volcano. The park is peppered with 
thermal springs and geysers, with lagoons and 
waterfalls set amongst the thick rainforest. 
According to the eyewitnesses, the children 
appeared to be no more than five years old, 
each clad in green clothing, long-sleeved 
shirts, long trousers and beret-like headgear. 

Homer Davila, a member of the team of 
professional guides who conduct tours around 
the park, described his sighting during a 
rain storm on the afternoon 14 September 
2C14: “When we came back after visiting the 
Tehideros [the final point on the main trail] it 
started to rain; so we took a short cut passing 
the entrance to the waterfall; in a sector 
where there is a small plain and the forest 
gives way to a kind of bush. As I managed to 
overtake a couple of tourists at that point, 
the rain became very intense leaving us 
completely soaked. 

“A few metres into this area lies a gully with 
a lot of mud, in which we saw three children 
holding hands, scurrying along the path, at a 
distance of about 30 metres [100ft] ahead of 
us. The children seemed dwarf-like, in a hurry. 
Suddenly [they] went into the bush and did not 
go further. I remember them wearing green 

Interestingly, Homer stated that he had 
an unaccountable sensation of fear whilst 
seeing the figures. He was not alone in 
witnessing these elf-like beings; a couple 
five metres [16ft] behind him also saw them. 
One witness was tourist Jennifer Zuniga who 
was reported as saying: “Mommy and I were 
waiting for the guide to indicate we could go 
down to the waterfall. I do not quite know how 
it happened... I saw a group of three children 
leaping and laughing and jumping, like normal 
children usually do when they are in a group 
and become happy. I found it strange that they 
were so small and unaccompanied with no 
one to watch over them. I called attention to 
Mom but in an instant they were gone. . . 

“I remember they were walking along 
wearing dark green hats and green and beige 

coloured clothes. Honestly, I thought they 
were dwarfs, because their faces did not 
resemble those of children.” 

There was something about the figures that 
also unnerved Ms Zuniga, who stated: “The 
truth is that a chill ran through my body. After 
that, we did not see anything else. We went 
down to the waterfall and things continued 

These have been classed as duende 
sightings in Costa Rica. A duende is an elf or 
‘fantastic spirit’, said to dwell in some houses 
and frolic, causing disorder and banging 
sounds in many respects identical to the 
poltergeist. In rural areas the duendes appear 
as elves or gnome-like figures. 

This is the first known reported sighting 
of such apparitions in the Tenorio Volcano 
National Park, but according to officials at the 
site, there are stories from the neighbouring 
Bijagua de Upala sector of a child in red robes, 
sitting on a stone near the volcano. 

In another context these accounts might 
be interpreted as shamanic figures. Mircea 
Eliade in his classic Shamanism: Archaic 
States of Ecstasy {196A) noted how spirit 
helpers across the Americas appeared as 
short figures dressed in green. The colour 
green appears in many folk stories of strange 
children or child-sized entities, from the 
mediaeval Green Children of Woolpit in the 
famous story to traditions of the fairy folk in 
Great Britain and Ireland. (‘Reportan aparicion 
de “duendes” en Rio Celeste’ Geografica 
Costa Rica, 6 Oct 2014; http://geograpacr 
com/index, php/tribu/1 43-reportan-aparicion- 
de-duendes-en-rio-ceieste; Costa Rica Times, 
19 Oct 2014; 

Meanwhile accounts of hauntings, sightings 
of a phantom child and claims of the duendes 
have been collected concerning the Castle of 
La Glorieta, a military academy established 

at Sucre, Bolivia. This institution, one of the 
most prestigious training centres for the 
armed forces in the country, was founded in 
October 1965, taking in generations of young 
men from all nine provinces of the country 
with the goal of “instilling in them civil, moral 
and spiritual values”. However, the strict and 
disciplined environment has not been enough 
to quell persistent stories of hauntings on 
the site. After many years, stories of ghostly 
encounters reported by all ranks and grades 
of young men at the college are starting to be 
made public. 

Activity is focused in the oldest parts of 
the castle, including two buildings occupied 
by service families where residents suffer 
object movements, whispering and strange 
touches. Cadets have also reported a 
heavy and intense atmosphere - as well as 
apparitions and noises - in various locations 
around the site: at a memorial flagpole, within 
an auditorium and a laundry, and along the 
Quirpinchaca riverbank. 

There are competing explanations for 
these hauntings; some blame ghosts of 
the dead, “comrades who have not entered 
heaven”, while others propose an infestation 
by ios duendes or emanations of “hellish 
presences”. Amid manifestations there is 
even a report of clanking chains - a traditional 
motif in ghost-lore dating back to antiquity but 
markedly absent from reports in Britain for 
many decades. 

The chains were heard by Eufronio 
Cespedes, a cadet at the college in the early 
1990s, and his comrade and best friend, 
Jhonny Cayoja, now in the military with the 
rank of captain. 

“When I was in my third year, in 1991, 1 had 
to stand guard at a booth and checkpoint with 
a fellow cadet between 2:00 to 6:00. 1 was 
with my comrade Jhonny, relieving two other 
comrades. Approximately half an hour later 

IG FT331 


we were there in total silence, when we heard 
a noise that seemed as if people were digging 
near the river, and cracks like rifle shots. 

“Having listened for about three minutes 
but what seemed an eternity, and in total 
darkness, we did not dare go down to see who 
it was or what might be happening. Suddenly 
the sound of picks stopped and was followed 
by the noise of chains being dragged along the 
ground: they seemed large and heavy, needing 
great effort to pull. “Neither myself nor my 
comrade could react. We were perplexed and 
the only thing left to do was hide under our 

Both young men listened intently and heard 
the sounds approach ever closer to their 
position. “We felt something soft and very 
light pass over our bodies and the chains 
stopped rattling. At that moment I think we lost 
consciousness or sank into a deep sleep until 
our comrades were sent to ask why we had not 
appeared on parade.” 

Walter Reyes Serrano, an officer cadet who 
graduated in 1974, recalls witnessing several 
unexplained episodes. He often sensed 
figures dressed in strange clothes and saw 
weird shadows inside the wine cellar and the 
towers where unruly cadets were punished 
or stood guard. Objects sometimes seemed 
to appear from nowhere or be transported 
from other parts of the college. One night 
during a thunderstorm, a dark room was 
lit up by flashes of lightning, during which 
he momentarily glimpsed the unexplained 
form of a small boy (ghosts manifesting in 
thunderstorms are also remarkably rare 
despite their featuring in many popular 
traditions and in horror fiction). 

Adding to the fears of cadets, a woman in 
white has also been seen around La Glorieta. 

At one point, fear of ghosts became so 
prevalent that guard duty by cadets had to 
be conducted in pairs. Stories are told of one 
cadet who was paralysed with fright, aghast 
at seeing a woman in a white dress floating in 
the air - curiously reminiscent of a phantom 
seen at the England’s Aldershot barracks in 

Manifestations at La Glorieta seem to have 
intensified in the last few years. In 2013, 
a 13-year-old student recently admitted to 
the college with a companion heard strange 
noises, described as a “commotion” amongst 
boxes stored in part of a former hospital 
wing, and witnessed a door opening and 
closing violently. Sounds of a woman crying or 
screaming were heard and another student 
named Ortiz saw the apparition of a child with a 
knife in its hands in the auditorium. The vision 
so affected the teenager that he suffered 
seizures, was heard speaking “in an unknown 
language” and was hospitalised. Some 
believed he was possessed. Finally a colonel 
arranged for a priest to carry out blessings and 
rosaries were distributed among cadets. 

Some of the current intake of students 
complain of stones thrown on the roofs and 
of hearing footsteps, blaming the pranks 
on duendes. Attempts are being made to 
collect and record the stories and some new 
cadets are trying to gain proof. To obtain some 
evidence, they have adopted the old technique 
of sprinkling talcum powder on floors, with 
results being claimed of “small footprints 
similar to those of a human”. 

Recorded accounts suggest paranormal 
activity increases between midnight and four 
in the morning. This is consistent with the time 
of day for phenomena apparently associated 
with many psychic experiences and alleged 
entity encounters. (Actividad paranormal en 
La Glorieta y el Liceo Militar?’ Correo del Sur, 8 
Mar 2015’ www.correodelsur.eom/20150308/ 

Accounts of ghostly experiences passed 
on in oral traditions among the enclosed 
populations of large institutions such as 
schools, colleges and hospitals, which operate 
strict discipline, have been noted by folklorists 
in many countries. Unlike urban legends, they 
are contained within one community and are 
passed on to successive intakes of recruits 
or students. Young children and adolescents 
who are beginning to think about life and death 
can be particularly affected. English private 

ABOVE: La Glorieta military academy has seen reports of duendes. RIGHT: A gremlin mascot from WWII. 

schools are notorious. As M R James put it in 
A School Story: “You never can tell with little 
boys. They have a mythology of their own. 
There’s a subject for you, by the way - ‘The 
Folklore of Private Schools’... if you were to 
investigate the cycle of ghost stories, for 
instance, which the boys at private schools tell 
each other, they would all turn out to be highly 
compressed versions of stories out of books”. 
Curiously, save for the case of Matthew 
Manning in Cambridgeshire in 1971 (see 
Matthew Manning in The Link, 1977) there 
are few accounts of poltergeists at boarding 
schools. Poet Robert Graves thought that 
the isolation and misery which afflicted many 
pupils incarcerated in such institutions during 
the Victorian and Edwardian eras generated 
emotions that lingered as hauntings, though 
as James observed such stories are often 
highly dubious. 

Often tales are told purely to inflame and 
excite the nerves of new students and raw 
recruits. With older children and adults they 
may be symptoms reflecting the mental 
pressures imposed upon sensitive individuals 
by restrictive and hierarchical institutions 
such as military academies and old style 
educational colleges. (Notably Oxford and 
Cambridge colleges have seen a decline in 
ghost reports in the last 70 years with the 
relaxation of once rigid and restrictive codes 
of discipline imposed upon undergraduates 
and fellows). The control of individual feelings 
and emotions, particularly fear and anxiety, 
are an essential prerequisite for efficient 
military training; perhaps such repressed 
feelings emerge as neurotic experiences of the 
uncanny, encouraged by continual reminders 
of the past deeds and glories of deceased 
warriors of old. 

The pressures and stresses that operate 
upon service personnel are particularly acute 
at times of heightened fear and danger 
when military losses mount. In this regard, 
it is interesting to notes the emergence of 
“gremlin” folklore - an Anglo-Saxon equivalent 
of the duendes among allied aircrew during 
World War II. One contemporary writer, WE 
Woosnam-Jones, in an article that appeared in 
the Spectator on 1 January 1943, traced such 
stories back to the Royal Naval Air Service in 
the 1917 and the formation of the Royal Air 
Force in 1918. He stated: “It is naturally very 
difficult for a pilot to get a really good look at 
a Gremlin. For Gremlins are very elusive, and 
usually hide themselves in the most remote 
and inaccessible corners of an aircraft. It 
is, however, now well established 
that they stand about a foot 
high when in a fully materialised 
condition, and are usually clad in j 
green breeches and red jackets, 
ornamented with neat ruffles.” 

In this regard, the parallel with the 
descriptions of the shamanic figures of 
indigenous cultures is striking, perhaps 
pointing to such figures being an 
archetypal component in the ( ’ 
human unconscious. 




Swooping, screaming, chip-guzzling birds 
continue their seaside reign of terror 

• Gordon Mackie, who 
owns businesses in St 
Ives in Cornwall, said 
dive-bombing gulls were 
attacking anyone holding 
food. “Seagulls are 
undoubtedly getting worse,” 
he said. The message is the 
same from seaside resorts 
round the country: gulls are 
bigger, bolder and meaner 
than ever. Residents of 
Brighton are familiar with 
their pack mentality. “It’s 
definitely been the worst 
period ever,” said ice cream 
seller Mary Reynolds, 
whose shop is located on 
the front near Brighton pier. 
“They’re chunkier, more 
angry and are just swooping 
on people far more.” On 17 
July, Prime Minister David 
Cameron said he wanted to 
initiate a “big conversation” 
about the spate of gull attacks, 
hinting that their protected status 
could be removed to allow culling. 
On 20 July, Irish senator Denis 
O’Donovan said Ireland should 
also consider a gull-cull, adding: 
“Seagulls have killed lambs and 
rabbits and we are reaching the 
stage where they are endangering 
society.” D. Telegraph, 18 July; 
thejournalie, 20 July 2015. 

• In 2002, a former ambulance 
driver died of a heart attack after 
gulls attacked him at his home. 
Wilfred Robey, 80, disturbed a 
nest of chicks as he tried to clean 
bird droppings from the roof of his 
garage in Anglesey, North Wales. 
The parent birds, with other gulls, 
swooped on him, knocking him off 
the wall where he was standing. 
They continued to peck him as 

he lay unconscious. D. Telegraph, 7 
May 2015. 

• In the first week of May 2015, a 
flock of gulls attacked and killed 
a chihuahua puppy in Honiton, 
Devon. Five-month-old Bella had 
been kept inside after being 
targeted by the birds on previous 
occasions, but the tiny pet got out 
after the back door was left ajar 
and was savaged as she tried to 
scramble back to safety. Owner 

Nikki Wayne, 57, mother-of-five, 
was having a shower at the time. 
She said the gulls gather on her 
roof and hover nearby at least 
twice a day looking for food. 

D. Telegraph, D.Mail, 7 May 2015. 

• One of Britain’s leading 
classical pianists was forced to 
cancel two Liverpool concerts 
after an altercation with a gull. 
Paul Lewis, 43, renowned for his 
interpretations of Beethoven, 
was due to play Schumann and 
Mozart at two concerts with the 
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic 
Orchestra. As he was leaving a 
rehearsal on 15 June he fell and 
sprained a Anger while trying to 
avoid a nesting gull that swooped 
at him. “More a squawk than a 
tweet,” Lewis commented on 
Twitter, “nursing sprained Anger 
after fall thanks to rogue seagull 
attack!” Liverpool Echo, 17 June; D. 
Mail, 19 June 2015. 

• In mid- July, two herring gulls 
swooped from their nest to attack 
and kill an eight-year-old, 21b 
(1kg) Yorkshire terrier called Roo 
in St Columb Minor, Cornwall. 

“It was like a murder scene,” said 
Emily Vincent, 36. “[Roo] was on 
his side in a pool of blood. He had 
crawled back into the house and 
collapsed.” She said the attack 

“It was like a 
bloody scene 
from a horror 

was witnessed by her three-year- 
old son Jace and she now feared 
the birds, which had nested on 
her roof, might attack one of her 
children. A vet determined Roo 
had suffered brain damage and 
had to be put down. Ms Vincent 
said the gulls often came down 
and stole Roo’s food. She had 
contacted Cornwall Council 
asking what could be done, but 
was told the birds are protected. 
There has been a 50 per cent 
decline in herring gull numbers 
over the past 30 years and they 
were added to the Red List of 
Birds of Conservation Concern 
in 2009, giving them the highest 
conservation priority, with urgent 
action deemed necessary. Under 
the Wildlife and Countryside 
Act of 1981, all gull species are 
protected and may not be killed, 
injured, or prevented from nesting 
wherever the hell they like. 

Tony Whitehead of the RSPB 
said parent gulls had a “real issue 

with personal space” when 
nesting and when young 
birds learnt to fly. “This is 
when they swing into full 
protective mode,” he said. 
“If you have an anxious 
gull parent to contend 
with, the best advice is 
to walk with an umbrella 
up.” BBC News, 1 5 July; 

D. Telegraph, D.Mail, 16 July 

• In late June, gulls killed 
Stig, a pet tortoise, in 
the back garden of Jan 
Byrne’s house in Liskeard, 
Cornwall. Stig’s brother 
George avoided the attack 
and a pet rabbit. Petal, 
was protected by being 
in her run. “It was like a 
bloody scene from a horror 
movie,” said Mrs Byrne, 

43. “I found Stig upside 
down with blood pouring from his 
wounds. We had Stig for 15 years 
and he was more than 20 years 
old.” The tortoise died from an 
infected wound two days later. 
BBCNews, 16 July 2015. 

• On 24 July came news that 
John McCrohan, a part-time 
mountain sheep farmer and rural 
development officer, witnessed 
the deaths of two mature sheep, 
attacked by a number of gulls 
between Camp and Annascaul 
in County Kerry, Ireland, despite 
McCrohan fighting them off with 
a stick. The sheep had not been 
shorn, but the birds managed 
to kill them despite their thick 
wool, using their beaks and claws. 
Previously, the birds would only 
be found inland during stormy 
conditions, he said, but now their 
presence is commonplace. Bridget 
O’Connor, a sheep farmer from 
near Camp, said that last March 
two of her lambs were attacked by 
gulls and left with their entrails 
ripped out. The young animals had 
been gored to death. 

In another incident in Kerry, 
on the road between Waterville 
and Cahersiveen, motorcyclist 
Vincent Appleby was travelling 
at 25mph (40km/h) when a 
seagull knocked him off his bike. 

18 FT331 

“He nearly knocked my head 
off ” said Mr Appleby. “It was 
like a Second World War Stuka 
coming in. He knew what he 
was doing. He turned at the last 
minute, so his wings wouldn’t 
hit.” Vanessa Keegan from Dublin 
had her mobile phone stolen 
by a gull in the city’s National 
Botanic Gardens. Along with two 
gardeners, she chased the pesky 
critter, but it veered over a pond 
and dropped the phone into the 
water,, 24 July 

• On 23 July, a gull flew at Sue 
Atkinson, 66, as she walked her 
dog in Helston, Cornwall, pecking 
her repeatedly until blood was 
pouring down her face and into 
her eyes. She was taken to hospital 
with a large gash on the top of her 
head that had to be glued shut. 
James Bryce, four, also needed 
medical treatment that day after 
he was bitten on the hand by a 
gull as he ate a sausage roll in St 
Ives, Cornwall. The bird swooped 
down to grab the food from his 
hand but missed and instead bit 
his Anger. James’s father said the 
boy was now “petrified” of gulls. 

D. Telegraph, 24 July 2015. 

• A vomiting gull in a “near-death 
state” was found in the yard of 
Bridport police station in Dorset 
on 19 July. It was examined by 
the RSPCA, who concluded it 
had been poisoned. Someone was 
fighting back. Sunday Telegraph, 19 
July’ D. Telegraph, 20 July 2015. 

• The small port in West Bay, 
Dorset, backdrop for the ITV 
drama Broadchurch, is considering 
hiring peregrine falcons to scare 
away the gulls following a spate of 
attacks on tourists. “Gull running” 
is the latest seaside fad: children 
run along promenades holding 
food in the air to see how far they 
can get without being attacked by 
the birds. This has been observed 
in Whitby, Brighton, Newquay and 
Blackpool. D. Telegraph, 29 July 

• FT readers might recall the 
murderous lesser black-backed 
gull that, for the last five years, 
has been drowning pigeons in the 
Serpentine in London and feasting 
on their innards [FT325:12]. 


KARL SHUKER presents 
his regular round-up 
from the crypto- 
zoological garden 


In late June 2015, news media carried stories 
concerning a so-called ‘mutant fish’ lately caught 
in Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region. 
Described in local reports as sporting the head of 
a tortoise, a sucker mouth, and a body covered 
in ‘fossilised’ or ‘petrified’ scales, this aquatic 
wonder had been netted by some fishermen in the 
Northern Dvina River, close to a ferry terminal at 
Bereznik-Osinovo. A diverse range of identities was 
offered for it, including an angler fish, a sturgeon, 
and a rabbit fish - but when I saw a photograph 
of the complete creature I could see that it was 
an armoured catfish, specifically a loricariid 
(characterised by their sucker mouths). 

However, the mystery is still far from over, for 
the simple reason that loricariids, like all armoured 
catfishes, are endemic to freshwater habitats in 
Central and South America - and nowhere else. 

So how can the presence in a Russian river of this 
specimen, which seems quite sizeable judging from 
the photo, be explained? Loricariids are popularly 
kept as freshwater aquarium fishes, so the most 
reasonable solution is that this specimen originated 
in an aquarium but was subsequently released into 
the Northern Dvina River, possibly because it had 
grown too large to be readily manageable any longer. 

This intriguing incident has an equally interesting 
precedent. In 2014, a large pacu, related to 
piranhas, was caught in the Arkhangelsk region, 
and, just like loricariids, pacus are exclusively 
Neotropical but are a popular freshwater aquarium 
species and can grow very large - thereby 
suggesting that this too may have been deliberately 
released into the river, 
mutont-psh-onomoly-russio/ 26 June 2015. 


In Her Majesty the Queen’s New Year’s Honours 
List announced at the end of 2014, British 
conservationist Debbie Martyr (right) was awarded 
an MBE (Member of the Order of the British 
Empire), formally bestowed upon her at 
Buckingham Palace in June 2015. This greatly 
deserved accolade is in recognition of her 
sterling, longstanding work with Flora and 
Fauna International’s Kerinci Tiger Project 
to protect the critically endangered 
Sumatran tiger in its native Indonesian 
homeland. However, to FT readers 
and the cryptozoological community, 

Debbie is additionally celebrated for 

her extensive quest for an even 
more elusive Sumatran entity 
-this island’s alleged mini 
man-beast, the orang pendek 
or ‘short man’, which she has 
even been fortunate enough to 
glimpse occasionally, albeit only 
very briefly. Perhaps one day 
Debbie will succeed in adding 
the orang pendek’s official 
scientific discovery to her list of 
zoological accomplishments on 
Sumatra and receive a further 
gong in recognition. Meanwhile, 
on behalf of everyone at FT, 
many congratulations indeed, 
Debbie, on receiving your MBE. 

WWW. fauna-flora, org/news/sumatran-tiger-champion- 
honoured-with-an-mbe/ 31 Dec 2014; various posts 
on Debbie’s Face book page in June 2015. 


One of the most interesting if unexpected zoological 
discoveries made in England during recent years 
was a small colony of European beavers living in 
Devon’s River Otter during late 2013 [FT318:10]. 
Formerly native to Great Britain, the beaver was 
hunted into extinction here around 800 years ago, 
since when the only wild-living specimens have 
been those that were first re-introduced officially 
into Scotland in 2009 via the Scottish Beaver Trial 
(a partnership project between the Royal Zoological 
Society of Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and 
host Forestry Commission Scotland). 

So where have the Devon beavers (one of which 
is shown above) come from? As no one seems to 
know, in March 2015 the adults and a juvenile were 
captured by Defra and tested for any diseases that 
they might be carrying. When all tests came back 
negative, it was decided that they posed no threat 
to the environment in which they’d been living, so 
they were re-released into the River Otter, where 
they continue to thrive, monitored by Devon 
Wildlife Trust under a five-year license granted 
in January by Natural England. Indeed, in 
June 2015 some baby beavers (kits) were 
observed and filmed in the colony by Tom 
Buckley of Ottery St Mary as verification of 
their existence. Mark Elliott from Devon 
Wildlife Trust believes that there may 
now be as many as 15 beavers in 
the colony - a magical if mystifying 
addition to West Country wildlife. 
D.Moil, 25 Mar + 24 June 2015. 

FT331 13 




THEO PAIJMANS attends a UFO conference with a difference 
in Madrid, and asks whether this is the future of ufology... 

F or thousands of years 
man has wondered if 
we are alone in the 
Universe. Have we 
been visited by beings 
from other galaxies? The impact 
of these questions on human 
culture has been undeniable, and 
a conference entitled El Cielo 
Habitado, held on 27 and 28 of 
May this year in Madrid focused 
on just how we have come to 
appraise the UFO phenomenon: 
what it is held to be; what it 
definitely is not; and what it 
might be. 

It was presented, more or less, 
as a normal UFO conference; 
which it perhaps was in the eyes 
of the many who came, but it 
was also definitely more than 
that. The event, coordinated and 
presented by Chris Aubeck, was 
held in the Casa Encendida, a 
beautiful modern arts centre 
in the heart of Madrid, just a 
stone’s throw from the Reina 
Sofia National Art museum 
where Picasso’s overwhelming 
Guernica is on permanent display, 
and the Prado, with its stunning 
art collection boasting works by 
Diirer, El Greco, Velazquez and 
Hieronymus Bosch. 

The conference was part of 
an art show too - Arstronomy: 
Incursiones en el Cosmos, with a 
rich tapestry of modern artists 
such as Paul van Hoeydonck, 

Yves Klein, Sigmar Polke, 
Panamarenko, Thomas Ruff, 

Keith Haring and Mike Kelley 
featured in the exhibition. 

In these pleasantly cultured 
surroundings, so different from 
the usual UEO conference 
venues, an equally interesting 
cadre of speakers gave a series 
of lectures over two evenings. 
Ufologists Nigel Watson, Jacques 
Vallee, Chris Aubeck and 
folklorist Jesus Callejo, historian 
Juan Jose Sanchez-Oro and 
myself, presented a multifaceted 
picture of current ufology, away 
from the shrill, popularised 
version usually found in the mass 
media. It reminded us that the 
study of UEOs can be as diverse 
as the elusive phenomenon 
itself. And where Americanised 

ufology has dominated the field 
for decades, largely because of 
its media-friendly format, this 
European variant - more sober, 
philosophical and speculative 
- painted a very different 
picture of a phenomenon that, 
whatever one’s viewpoint, remains 

No Roswell, no aliens, no 
sensational cover-ups revealed, 
no lurid conspiracy tales reeking 
of paranoia; instead, a refreshing 
series of lectures that centred 
not only on how the phenomenon 
might be studied and has always 
been misunderstood, but also 
on how the interaction between 
it and us has yielded some 
surprising cultural results. The 
difference between American and 
European ufology could not have 
emerged more clearly, and the 
contrast is instructive. America 
gave the world Roswell, grey 
aliens and human abductions, 
the Men In Black, Area 51 and 
a host of other pop-cultural 
icons. Out of Europe, mainly 
Erance, came the psychosocial 
hypothesis that argued that the 
phenomenon stems as much from 
within the confines of our cultural 
expectations as from any external 

No Roswell, 
no aliens, no 

force or stimulus interacting with 
us in unexplained ways and for 
unfathomable reasons. 

Nigel Watson, for instance, 
in his lecture on the phantom 
airships and aeroplanes that 
plagued Britain and other 
countries between 1909 and 1914, 
and well into WWI, found as much 
in contemporary expectations 
and anxieties (several of the 
waves occurred just before or 
in the early days of the four- 
year conflict) to suggest an 
origin for such scares not in the 
skies over Europe but in the 
anxieties typical of the period: 
instead of aliens and government 
conspiracies, there was talk of 
secret inventors and German 

After all, the one part of the 
UEO mystery we can truly study 
is the human condition - our 

LEFT: Works on display in the 
‘Arstronomy’ exhibition. 

response to whatever lies ‘out 
there’ and falls outside the scope 
of everyday, ordinary existence. 
This thread ran through most of 
the lectures. Eor example, Chris 
Aubeck, co-author with Jacques 
Vallee of the book Wonders In 
The Sky, argued that in order for 
ufology to move forward it must 
discard its absurd mythology, by 
which he meant that mixed bag 
of Reptilians, Roswell, Pyramids, 
Eaces on Mars, Adamski and the 
Bermuda Triangle. Aubeck, co- 
founder of the Internet research 
group MagoniaX, a worldwide 
cadre of dedicated historians 
and chroniclers of forteana and 
ufology, detailed some of his 
own fascinating work. One part 
of it has been his research into 
the theme of meteorites covered 
in alien hieroglyphics, stories 
profusely published in the 19* 
century; one can see where the 
hieroglyphics on the Roswell 
wreckage might originate, as they 
are just the latest iteration in a 
much longer tradition of tales of 
interstellar objects covered with 
extraterrestrial doodles crashing 
to Earth. 

The theme of traditions, hidden 
and known, featured largely 
during the conference. Juan 
Jose Sanchez-Oro explained the 
evolution and place of non-human 
entities in folklore and religious 
custom, and Jesus Callejo spoke 
of mankind’s long-frustrated 
and Anally realised dream of 
flight. Callejo illustrated this 
fascinating path in human 
evolution with reference to a host 
of lesser-known early pioneers 
and their sometimes silly, often 
dangerous, contraptions. Either 
their inventors died during 
failed test attempts or they had 
to flee for their lives when their 
work was seen as that of the 
Devil. My own lecture focused 
on the interaction between the 
UEO phenomenon and human 
perception and imagination, 
as found in the Action of the 
19* and early 20* century 
and the many illustrations of 

20 FTSSl 

aliens produced during that 
timeframe. I introduced a little 
term I have coined to describe 
how, as Western civilisation 
grew more and more technical 
and industrial, our perception 
of wonders seen in the skies 
changed as well. Angels gave 
way to airships in what I call 
the ‘industrial imagination’. 

After all, one theory in ufology 
is that UFOs always seem to 
present themselves in a form 
one step ahead of our technical 
capabilities in any given period 

- but might the reason for that 
not simply reside in our heads, 
instead of in some weird bit of 
alien subterfuge that serves no 
purpose and makes no sense? 

Of course, everybody was 
secretly looking forward to one 
of ufology’s most respected 
and insightful and, dare I say 
it, poetical influences: Jacques 
Vallee. To many, me included, 
Vallee is a key figure in ufology, 
one who drove it in exciting new 
directions, just when the field was 
turning stale, with his seminal 
Passport To Magonia in 1968. 1 had 
my first edition with me, which 
he signed; I noted that quite 
a few Spaniards had brought 
their Spanish first editions with 
them for the same reason. Vallee 
had already assembled UFO 
databases in the year I was born 

- yet here he was, still searching 
diligently for answers. 

While Vallee stressed the 
importance of proper scientific 
research by listing the sighting 
reports by a number of 19* and 
early 20* century scientists, what 
made me sit up was his brief 
excursion into the idea of the 
‘control system’. Much maligned 
by some ufologists who don’t 
understand how Vallee arrived 
at this concept, the riddle was 
solved when he explained it as 
follows. When he looked at the 
patterns of UFO waves, he noted 
that they were not symmetrical 

- meaning they revealed no 
regular, discernible cycle. 

When he showed this strange 
asymmetrical wave distribution 
to experts in other fields, they 
pointed out to him that the 
uneven distribution of the UFO 
waves resembled a system of 
enforced learning, whereby 
symmetry is also avoided. Vallee, 

after all these years, still states 
that he doesn’t have a personal 
theory of UFOs, but that there 
does seem to be a non-human 
consciousness that is among us 
and that this is an enigma that 
science needs to study. 

I can’t emphasise enough 
the difference between this 
thoughtful conference held in 
the rich cultural surroundings 
of Madrid and the garish events, 
often held in concrete buildings 
devoid of dream or fantasy, 
that make up the usual UFO 
circus. And while Spanish media 
turned up in droves, from what 
I witnessed, interviews were 
conducted in a spirited, lively 
and intellectually satisfying 
manner. The contrast between 
this conference and the one 
held in Mexico the same month 
(5 May) in a huge 10,000-seat 
auditorium and focusing entirely 
on the two photos that were 
presented as Roswell ‘evidence’ 
but turned out to be of a human 
mummy (see FT329:26-27), could 

not be greater. The two events 
represent the two extremes in 
the world of ufology: on the 
one hand, serious, level-headed 
debate, on the other, carnival 
showmanship and extravagant 
claims that evaporate as soon as 
the question of evidence arises. 

El Cielo Habitado was unique in 
that instead of offering a plate 
piled high with the usual UFO- 
hysteria, it presented a well 
thought-out menu of perspectives 
on the history of UFO beliefs and 
the way in which our own human 
cultures have contributed in 
no small part to what we see or 
claim to see. 

Currently, on a number of 
blogs, the decline of the UFO 
phenomenon is being lamented, 
and with it the demise of ufology 
is once again being proclaimed. 
Astute observers have seen this 
all before, and know that as times 
change, so does our perception 
and so will our ufology. The 
subject will live on, but it will 
change; excesses like the Roswell 

ABOVE: The pleasant surroundings of 
the Casa Encendida, Madrid. 

LEFT: (L-R) Theo Paijmans, Jacques 
Vallee, Jesus Callejo and Nigel Watson. 

slides do not even belong to 
ufology proper - no more than 
the Jersey Devil hoax, consisting 
of a kangaroo with fake wings, 
has any place in serious 

If there’s hope for a more 
mature form of ufology, now that 
the field is almost a century old 
(I count from Fort’s Book Of The 
Damned, published in 1919), it 
was found here, in Madrid, and 
not only in the carefully arranged 
roster by presenter Chris Aubeck, 
but also in its attentive audience 
that came in numbers sufficient 
to All the hall on two consecutive 
nights. Moreover, holding a UFO 
conference (but was it only that?) 
in a venue surrounded by art 
and culture was also, perhaps, 
a significant shift. Placing the 
subject of UFOs - which relate 
to our culture and its perception 
of what lies beyond our field 
of understanding - within the 
context of art, a medium that 
challenges understanding and 
perception while seeking new 
boundaries and crossing old 
borders, was a stroke of genius. 

If there’s a lesson to be drawn 
from El Cielo Habitado, it’s that 
the new ufology should make use 
of similar inspiring environments 
and contexts in the future. 

The lectures were all recorded 
and can be found online at 
youTube, Vimeo and so on. 

FT331 21 

Scottish bridge lures more unlucky dogs, ‘spy 
pigeon’ busted, stolen Welsh Grail recovered 


HOTSPOT [FT196:4] 

A decade ago, we 
reported that, in 
the previous six 
months, five dogs 
had jumped to 
their deaths from 
a bridge over a 
stream at Overtoun House, a 19th 
century Gothic pile near Glasgow 
in Scotland. The bridge is known 
to locals as ‘Rover’s Leap’. Now 
we are told that 600 (!) dogs have 
jumped from the bridge since the 
1950s, leaving at least 50 dead. 
The doomed pets - almost all 
breeds with long snouts - mostly 
jumped from the same side, 
on dry sunny days, perishing 
40ft/12m (or 58ft/18m) below. 
Fiona Craig’s black Labrador 
Prince jumped and died in 1992, 
as did Donna Cooper’s collie Ben 
three years later. Some blame 
the spirit of the ‘White Lady 
of Overtoun’, which has been 
sighted in and around the house. 
This is claimed to be the wraith 
of the widow of Baron Overtoun, 
who owned the house and built 
the bridge. After his death in 
1908, she roamed the grounds 
night and day, often wandering 
grief-stricken across the bridge, 
looking for him in vain. She died 
in 1931. However, the White Lady 
has been seen “for more than 100 
years”, which rather puts a logical 
spanner in the works. 

“I was standing [on the bridge] 
one summer’s day two years ago 
when I felt a firm, hard prod that 
felt like a finger, twice in my 
back,” said Paul Owens, 51, author 
of Overtoun Bridge, a new book on 
the mystery. “It was the sensation 
you get when you fear someone 
might push you over the edge 
of a train platform. Something 
or someone was trying to push 
me over the bridge too, just 
like the dogs. It’s a very strange 
place. It can seem very peaceful 
and tranquil, but it can turn at 
a moment’s notice.” In October 
1994 a deranged Kevin Moy threw 
his baby son to his death and 
later tried to kill himself at the 
same spot. 

Three-year-old Cassie is one 
of the lucky dogs to survive the 
fall. The springer spaniel was 
being walked by her owner Alice 
Trevorrow and her son Thomas 
last year when she suddenly leapt 
from the bridge for no apparent 
reason. “We had just got out the 
car and Cassie immediately made 
her way to the bridge,” said Ms 
Trevorrow. “She turned her head, 
looked up and did this massive 
leap. I will never forget the awful 
whine she made as she leaped. 
She managed to get herself up 
and met my son, collapsing when 
she saw him. How she survived 
that. I’ll never know. There is 
something going on here. It was so 
out of character for her.” Despite 
horrific injuries, Cassie made a 
full recovery. When Thomas, 25, 
returned to the bridge to try and 
understand what had happened, 
“he glanced up at the house and 
saw the outline of a white figure 
of a lady looking down from a 
window,” said his mother. “His 
friend saw it too. They ran to the 
car terrified.” 

Animal psychologists are 
baffled. One hypothesis is that 
minks are attracting dogs with 
their powerful musk scent. In a 
Channel 5 documentary in 2006, 
canine psychologist Dr David 
Sands found a heavy presence of 
mink in the undergrowth below 
the bridge. The 1950s was when 
mink, introduced into Scotland 
30 years earlier, started breeding 

in large numbers. “When you 
get down to a dog’s level, the 
solid granite of the bridge’s 18in 
[46cm] thick walls obscures their 
vision and blocks out all sound,” 
said Dr Sands. “As a result, the 
one sense not obscured, that of 
smell, goes into overdrive.” Well... 
it’s a theory,, Sun, 24 
June; [AOL] via, D.Mail, 

D. Express, 25 June 2015. 

For a dangerous drop in 
Vancouver puzzlingly irresistible 
to dogs, see FT326:20. 


A pigeon has 
been arrested by 
police in India 
on suspicion of 
being a spy from 
Pakistan - after 
being found a mere 
two and a half miles (4km) from 
the heavily militarised border. 

The bird was discovered by a 
14-year-old boy in the village of 
Manwal, in the northern state 
of Punjab, on 22 May. When he 
spotted a stamp under its feathers 
that bore Urdu script and the 
name of a Pakistani district, 
he took it to the nearest police 
station where it was X-rayed 
to see whether it was carrying 
any spy camera, transmitter or 
hidden chip. “Till now there is no 
evidence to suggest it is a spy bird 
but so long as we are not able to 
decipher what is written in Urdu, 

we cannot be absolutely sure,” 
said senior police superintendent 
Rakesh Kaushal. “We have caught 
a few spies here. The area is 
sensitive, given its proximity to 
Jammu, where infiltration is quite 
common.” It is not the first time 
birds have become embroiled 
in the rivalry between the two 
nuclear-armed neighbours. In 
2013, Indian security forces 
found a dead falcon fitted with 
a small camera, and in 2010 
another pigeon was detained over 
espionage fears. [AFP] 29 May 


A defective 
Are alarm at 
a Southland 
(Cambodia) Co. 

Ltd - a factory in 
Sangkat Chaom 
Chao, Cambodia, 
making baseball caps - led to 19 
employees passing out, starting 
at 7:30am on 19 June 2015. Some 
of the victims were carted away 
in tuk-tuks before the summoned 
ambulances arrived at 8.50am. 
The other employees refused to 
continue working and went home 
for the day. “The factory [was 
having] a Are alarm repaired 
when it [started] ringing,” said 
the factory manager. “Until 
workers all calmed down, some 
workers were very afraid.” One 
witness, a 20-year-old woman, 
said that some people fainted 
soon after hearing the alarm. 
Their unconsciousness created 
a bigger panic and stampede 
towards the doors, during which 
more and more people started 
to faint. According to her, 

“there is no problem relating 
to an unfavourable working 
environment”; however, another 
employee said that factory 
conditions were a “bit too 
cramped.” A Mr Oun, secretary 
of the factory’s labour union, 
claimed that someone had 
deliberately triggered the alarm 
to provoke chaos in the factory. 
Mass fainting has been a growing 
problem in Cambodia’s garment 

22 FT331 

sector in recent years. According 
to the report from Cambodian 
Labour Confederation (CLC), 1,800 
workers fainted in 2014, up 1,000 
from the previous year. Khmer 
Times (Cambodia), 26 June 2015. 


The Nanteos Cup, 
one of more than 200 
objects claimed to 
be the Holy Grail, 
has been recovered. 
The fragmentary 
wooden mazer bowl 
or chalice had been on loan to a 
seriously ill woman because of its 
alleged healing powers when, early 
in July 2014, it was stolen from her 
home in Weston Under Penyard, 
Herefordshire, after she went 
into hospital. The cup, made of 
olive wood or wych elm, originally 
measured 12xl2cm (4.7x4.7in), 
but now measures 10cm (4in) by 
8.5cm (3.3in). It is held together 
by wire staples and kept in a blue 
velvet bag. West Mercia Police said 
the bowl was recovered after an 
appeal on BBC’s Crimewatch and 
“several significant lines of inquiry 
from anonymous sources”. It was 
handed to police in a pre-arranged 
meeting on “neutral ground” on 
19 June 2015. Detective Inspector 
Martyn Barnes, the investigating 
officer, said: “No arrests have 
been made, and inquiries into the 
theft continue.” Sky News, 26 June; 
Western Mail, D. Telegraph, 27 June 


Police have accused 
Stephen Jackson, 49, 
of being the “Carlisle 
Between 25 October 
2014 and 17 March 
2015, the assailant 
assaulted shoppers in Carlisle, 
Cumbria - 11 women, one man and 
a child - after they sneezed or blew 
their nose. Seven of the assaults 
were said to have taken place in 
March and four in February. Most 
involved elderly people being 
slapped on the head. Jackson 
denied all charges, claiming it was 
a case of mistaken identity. The 
case was adjourned,, 
2 June;,, 
30 June 2015. 



One of the most celebrated urban legends, 
along with the vanishing hitchhiker, is the 
sewer alligator. The story is so well known 
as to barely need repeating: baby gators are 
flushed down the toilet and 
these then congregate into a 
mighty colony in the shitty 
tunnels below. The tale is 
almost always set in New York: 
the first reference to New York 
alligators apparently came in 
the late 1930s. 

But there is a case to be 
made for London as the cradle 
of the sewer gator legend: 

London was, to the best of 
my knowledge, the first place 
to have its own sewer mythology, perhaps 
because it was the first modern city with 
sewers big enough to impress the population 
above. Henry Mayhew noted in 1851 that 
there were fabul^ about sewer hogs (I know, I 
know...): “The story runs, that a sow in young, 
by some accident got down the sewer through 
an opening, and, wandering away from the 
spot, littered and reared her offspring in 
the drain: feeding on the offal and garbage 
washed into it continually.” 

Folklorists have long been aware of 
Mayhew, but they seem to have missed a later 
but, in some respects, more exciting source. 

In 1892, a medical genius had the idea of 
introducing crocodiles - wait for it - into the 
Thames. These crocs were to be brought to 
London, stamped with the city seal (so they 

couldn’t be stolen, duh) and then allowed to 
feast on “all the unpleasant stuff that the 
once-lauded silver stream contains”. Did this 
include the many men, women and children 
who lived off the refuse of the river? And 
what about the boat race? 

The Medical Press and Circular seems to 

have been the first publication 
to run with this particular 
story, though I came across 
it ‘downstream’, so to speak, 
in the Gloucester Citizen of 
13 April 1892. Was it even, 
originally, an April Fool’s joke? 
And what does this have to 
do with sewers, anyway? Well, 
when the Thames was clean 
(the Victorians were always 
such optimists) the crocs would 
be turned into the London 
sewers to sort them out; presumably starting 
with the hogs. 

The earliest news story yet found about a 
gator in a sewer comes from Atlanta in 1873, 
but these early stories are of strays, with no 
suggestion of underground saurian colonies. 
Perhaps a Cockney who had taken up 
residence in Manhattan or an Anglophile NY 
newspaper reader combined the well-known 
sewer pigs and 1892’s most crackpot science 
suggestion and unintentionally created that 
tale? It was certainly much written about at 
the time. For example, when later in April 
1892, some baby crocs were found in a parcel 
by a postman, the British papers joked that 
these must be the sewer crocodiles... 

Simon Young writes on folklore and history 
and runs 


FT331 23 



Celia Boggis came into the life of 
Fortean Times in the autumn of 
1982, when we were compiling 
issue 36. The previous three 
issues had been largely typeset 
by Paula Graham, but she wanted 
to concentrate on her work for 
International Times (IT). At that 
time IT, like FT, used the services 
of graphic designer Richard 
Adams, who helped so many small 
presses and radical publishers at 
that time. 

Richard’s studio, just off the 
Portobello Road, was also a 
nexus for the late John Michell, 
playwrights Heathcote Williams 
and Ken Campbell, and the 
historian and polemicist John 
Nicholson (who founded the 
UK’s Small Press Group). As a 
replacement for Paula, Richard 
recommended John Nicholson’s 
partner, Celia, who worked closely 
with the writer-editor Anthony 
(Tony) Roberts’s wife Jan. 

Celia had recently acquired 
a state-of-the-art IBM Selectric 
‘golf ball’ typesetter and warmed 
to our unorthodox content with 
enthusiasm. It’s fair to say that 
her accuracy, intelligence, wit 
and prompt returns of galleys 
and corrections were a major 
contribution to the look and feel 
of FT as it transformed from 
my erratic old typed format to 
something more professional. 

Jan Roberts sent me a memoir 
of those times. “Celia and I 
had much in common: John 
(Nicholson), Tony, typing, and 
singing songs that reflected the 
conversation going on around us. 
We shared typewriters, techniques 
in printing - Banda and Gestetner 
printing machines back in the 
1970s - and working out how to 
justify margins by hand (very time- 
consuming). Then the electric and 
golfball typewriters came, which 
allowed us to take typing speeds 
to a new height. Celia kept at it 
and went on to produce books, 
leaflets and flyers.” 

Jan and Tony Roberts first 
encountered Celia and John 
through Derek (Bram) Stokes 
whose fantasy and SF bookshop 

24 FT331 

We bid a fond farewell to the woman who typeset many of the UK’s alternative and small 
press publications (including FT) and wave goodbye the dark wizard of extreme sports 

‘Dark They Were and Golden 
Eyed’ - in its first incarnation in 
Bedford bury, near Covent Garden 
- was one of the first importers 
of alternative press publications. 

It was Bram who alerted them to 
“a couple of weirdoes who had a 
bookshop in Cambridge” - called 
‘Land of Cockayne’ - “and bought 
stocks from him”. At Bram’s 
suggestion, Jan recalls, they 
went up to visit Celia and John 
“and never looked back”. Later, in 
1978, we were to use ‘Dark They 
Were’ as FT’s mailing address. 

Every autumn, through the 
early 1980s, this group of friends 
would somehow get to the huge 
Frankfurt Book Fair {Frankfurter 
Buchmesse), infiltrating it with 
hi-jinks on behalf of the UK’s small 
and underground presses. Richard 
Adams remembers vividly how this 
came about. 

“When I first met Celia and 
John, it was some time in 1977, 
at Miles Building, in Bath, when we 
descended on John Michell for a 
weekend. At the time, Celia and 

John were living in a Winnebago 
and driving between England 
and the US Air Force bases in 
Frankfurt, where Celia was selling 
door to door, copper-bottomed 
saucepans to servicemen’s wives. 
You can imagine how good she 
was at it - a silver tongue if ever 
someone had one.” 

“The truck had everything: on 
board loo, cooking facilities, a 
big double bed for sleeping and 
sprawling; and above all that 
was a bunk bed-like arrangement 
where John worked, had his library 
and read when he wasn’t up front 
navigating as Celia drove along 
the autobahns. Together they 
kept up a steady flow of ‘Bozo 
Publications’ - including ‘Internal 
Exile’, the fourth issue of Fanatic 
- from wherever they happened to 
be at the time.” 

Tim Mars told us: “I once 
hitched a lift from London to 
Cambridge in their Winnebago - 
drinking Special Brew with John 
in the upstairs ‘living room’ while 
Celia drove.” He recalls “sleeping 

LEFT: Celia in Clerkenwell, April 2001. 

‘downstairs’ in the lea of the 
gasworks beside the River Cam 
while they slept ‘upstairs’ over 
the cab”. Tim confirmed Celia’s 
cookware-selling exploits as they 
toured Europe in the late 1970s. 
When they were asked for their 
pass at the gate of an American 
base, “Celia would confidently 
proffer her Cambridge library card. 
Up went the barrier and they were 
waved through.” 

Richard continues: “The 
weekend we met coincided with 
John Michell having taken delivery 
of the hardback edition of his Life 
of Blight, beautifully self-published 
in a limited edition of 296 copies. 
Our job was to tip in the erratum, 
pass it to John M for signing and 
numbering, ready for posting to 
each subscriber. I don’t think 
we stopped laughing the entire 

“From then on, we became tight 
friends... and so, in 1980 and for 
a couple of years after that, we 
invaded the Frankfurt Book Fair 
with our respective wares; me with 
‘Open Head Press’ publications, 
and them, ‘Bozo Press’... all 
stuffed into the boot and half 
the back seat of her car, a bright 
red Citroen. We had no problem 
making waves, squatting empty 
stands or, one year, scavenging 
the overflowing skips for materials 
and constructing our own 
makeshift stand in the concrete- 
covered approach to the Fair, 
selling stuff to inquisitive passers- 
by. Then we’d cross the river and 
set up at the Anarchist Book Fair 
which ran concurrently with the 
Book Fair proper.” 

“In those far-out days, the 
Buchmesse was a party magnet 
for the so-called counter-cultural 
Euro-set - Dan Topolski, Bill 
Levy, Jim Haynes, a rather more 
legit John Calder, artist Gilbert 
Shelton and Lora Fountain, his 
wife, Tony and Carol Bennett 
of Knockabout Comics, Werner 
Pieper, Jay Landesman, Bill Daley, 
all manner of ne’er-do-wells - a 
multitude of writers, contributors 
and publishers of what had once 
been a flourishing European and 

American underground 

“When there wasn’t 
a party, we’d gather at 
Mallerpartus, their favourite 
restaurant specialising 
in all things carnivorous. 

An abattoir was situated 
immediately next door. Calf 
or pig heads on platters 
heaving with sauerkraut 
would be ceremoniously 
delivered to tables by 
hulking great German 
waiters and waitresses; 
the restaurant looked 
like something depicted 
by George Gross or Otto 
Dix. These were hilarious 
occasions and Celia’s 
laughter the loudest. I can’t 
imagine her ever having 
stopped laughing except, 
perhaps, in the final furlong! I can 
hear her now.” 

Celia, one of four sisters, was 
born in Saffron Walden, Essex. 

Their parents were Jack and Lotte 
(Charlotte) Boggis. Jack was a 
Communist who became a left-wing 
clergyman; when Celia was growing 
up he was rector of St George in 
the East, Hawkesmoor’s beautiful 
church in Stepney, east London. 

It was badly bomb-damaged and 
Jack conducted services in the 
crypt, the only habitable area. 

He was very active in Christian 
Socialist circles and CND, and 
many interesting people visited the 
rectory, such as Prince Monolulu, 
the celebrated racetrack character 
[FT316:34]. Celia recalled that “it 
wasn’t unusual to share breakfast 
with Bertrand Russell, Trevor 
Huddleston, Tom Driberg and the 
like”. She first met John Nicholson 
in 1969, when she was 19. Both 
were involved in separate drama 
groups in Cambridge until mutual 
friends encouraged them to meet. 
Their enduring partnership was 
finally solemnised on 30 May 
1994, when they married in Las 

Shortly after they met, John was 
producing Cambridge Voice - an 
independent alternative paper that 
he published from his Chesterton 
Road home. He also ran the 
King Street Market bookshop for 
several years (with his wonderfully 
eccentric mother, Nella) before 
moving to larger premises nearby, 
on New Square, where John 


fnt flints 



I refums ‘ 

ABOVE: Birthday drawing for Celia, 
attired as the Private Eye knight, by 
Mikki Rain, 1986. 

and Celia established the ‘Land 
of Cockayne’ bookshop. Paul 
Sieveking, FT’s founding co-editor, 
recalls: “When I was up at Jesus 
College, reading anthropology, 
from 1969 to 1971, I frequented 
the King Street bookshop nearby 
and got to know John and Celia 
well. I also wrote stuff for John’s 
magazine Arcana." 

Tim Mars first met John in 
1971/1972 at the King Street 
shop and Celia, later, at the ‘Land 
of Cockayne’. In this latter, many 
rooms (a shop, two-storey house 
and two garages) were given over 
to publishing enterprises of one 
sort or another - including Arcana 
and Henry Bosanquet’s Braingrader 
(later edited by Tim Mars) - and 
Celia, in her own office, was 
typesetting most of them. She was 
also taking temporary replacement 
contracts and setting work for 
business and other publications, 
which led, in time, to her 
association with Fortean Times and 
Private Eye. 

By the mid-1980s, Celia was 
installed as a regular typesetter at 
Private Eye, and - with her great 
charm and ready wit - was selling 
more classified small ads than 
anyone else there. She once told 
Tim Mars that the ‘higher-ups’ 
used to refer to the setting and 
small-ads team as “box wallahs”, 
and thought her surname, Boggis, 
was funny and “frequently used 

it in picture captions”. Her 
often-outrageous exploits 
at the Eye were celebrated 
by Heathcote Williams in 
a dedicated poem. The 
Stationery Cot (sadly, 
now long lost). Somehow, 
she also found time to 
be the mainstay of the 
Small Press Group and, 
more recently, the John 
Michell Supper Club. She 
was an active member of 
Women in Publishing, and 
in 1989 joined with Val 
Stevenson and Christine 
Rhone to found Pythia 
Press, which published 
long-lost tracts of historical 
feminism. For FT, Celia wrote 
“Fatal Attractions”, about 
Hollywood’s Grave Line Tour 

Adam Mars recalled that Celia 
was much loved as an eccentric 
aunt by her nieces and nephews. 
He summarised the eulogy given 
by a niece at her funeral, who 
“described Celia’s full-blooded 
participation in rites of passage, 
particularly the start of the teen 
years. For her 13th she was 
treated to her first Big Mac, though 
Celia also made a baked Alaska 
with Mars bar sauce. Her brother 
was taught how to light his farts 
safely. Later she was taken to 
a Madness gig and was given a 

Since 1994, Celia endured a 
heart condition and recurring bouts 
of cancer, which finally overcame 
her. She died in a Bedford nursing 
home, in the room she shared 
with John, who has serious 
health problems of his own. As 
Ed Baxter of Resonance FM radio 
station put it, Celia was “a person 
of enormous energy, unstinting 
generosity and superabundant 
good humour [and] will be very 
sorely missed.” 

Ceciiia Eiizobeth Nichoison, 
nee Boggis, typesetter to radicai 
pubiishers, born Saffron Waiden, 
Essex, 9 Nov 1949; died Bedford, 
26 May 2015, aged 65. 



Dean Potter, the son of an 
American army officer, was an 
extreme sports athlete who 
specialised in rock climbing, base- 
jumping and slacklining (a form of 

tightrope walking). When he was 
still a child his family spent three 
years in Bethany, Israel, where, 
aged five, he fell while climbing 
his house, striking his head on 
the patio below. He claimed that 
his fear of heights was banished 
forever after Bedouin women 
chanted mystical songs and threw 
salt on the blood to drive away evil 
spirits. His own mystical persona 
- he reported having visions - 
earned him the nickname ‘dark 
wizard’. In 2003, when he was 
severely injured in a base-jumping 
accident, he claimed to have taken 
on the spirit of a swift, also injured, 
which died before his eyes. “When 
I’m on the highline, it feels like 
I’m hovering in space,” he said. “I 
know it’s insane to think I could fly, 
but to make it possible you truly 
have to believe in it - to go to a 
place that’s not accepted.” 

From the late 1990s his 6ft Sin 
(195cm) frame became a familiar 
sight in climbing magazines as he 
scaled the towering granite walls 
of Yosemite, or balanced on ropes 
slung between mountain peaks. 

He pioneered a style of ‘free-solo’ 
climbing, deploying a rope only for 
the hardest sections. With other 
climbers he set speed records, 
and was the first to ‘free climb’ 
both El Capitan and Half Dome 
in 24 hours - without recourse 
to stirrups or other artificial aids. 
Many of his hardest climbs were 
done without shoes on one or 
both feet. To toughen up his soles, 
he would scrub them with a stiff- 
bristled nylon brush. In recent 
years, wingsuit flying developed 
into proximity flying, taking athletes 
close to rock faces and ridges 
with minimal clearance. Potter was 
killed in attempting one such flight 
in Yosemite. 

Dean Potter, extreme sports 
athiete, born Fort Leavenworth, 
Kansas 14 Aprii 1972; died 
Yosemite 16 May 2015, aged 43. 

FT331 25 


the UFO files 

FORTEAN TIMES presents our monthly section featuring regular sighting 
reports, reviews of classic cases, entries on major ufological topics and 
hands-on advice for UFO investigators. The UFO Files will benefit from your 
input, so don’t hesitate to submit your suggestions and questions. 

To contact The UFO Files, ennail: 




If aliens were to land on Earth, what would 
happen? And what plans do governments 
and other agencies have in place to deal 
with such an epoch-changing event? The 
surprising answer is none, according to a 
group of space experts who appear in the 
experimental documentary The Visit: An Aiien 
Encounter, shown at Sheffield’s DocFest in 
June. Danish director Michael Madsen’s film 
interviews Lord Boyce, Admiral of the Fleet 
and formerly Britain’s Chief of Defence Staff. 
He confirms that “there is no contingency 
plan” at the Ministry of Defence to deal with 
alien visitations. But he says that in the event 
of an alien spacecraft landing on Earth he 
would advise the Prime Minister to work with 
other members of the UN Security Council. 

But with no established rules or procedures 
and no obvious spokesman for humanity, they 
might be forced to ask a trusted broadcaster 
like Sir David Attenborough to break the 
story to the public because, according to 
government spin-doctor Vickie Sheriff, “he 
knows all about wildlife”. Alarmingly, Admiral 
Boyce says that despite the UN’s leading role, 
the default position of some countries might 
be to launch a pre-emptive attack. “When 
confronted with the unknown we want to bring 
it into the known and conquer it. My view is 
this would constitute a threat to world stability 
and peace”. Madsen interviews a range of 
experts from the European Space Agency 

Some countries 
might launch 
a pre-emptive 
attack on aliens 

NASA as the target for 
conspiracy theorists who 
are convinced the Rosetta 
Mission was really a secret 
military project to meet 
aliens hiding on comet 67P. 
The rumour mill began rolling 
in August last year when Joe 
White of ArtAlienTV received 
an email allegedly sent 
by a secret whistleblower 
within the ESA. It claimed 
67P “is NOT a comet” and 
had “signs on its outside 
of machine-like parts and 
unnatural terrain”. According 
to the anonymous story- 
teller, NASA first picked up radio bursts from 
the object two decades ago, and he or she 
has attached images that revealed the “true 
inner workings of Comet 67P”. The email 
continued: “Do not think for ONE MOMENT 
that a space agency would suddenly decide to 
spend billions of dollars to build and send a 
spacecraft on a 12-year journey to simply take 
some close-up images of a randomly picked 
out comet floating in space”. Ever-vigilant 
UFO watchers quickly found confirmatory 
evidence of alien activity from hi-res images 
sent back to Earth by the Rosetta spacecraft 
and Philae lander that touched down on 67P 
in November. Despite the cover-up, these 
images were missed by ESA’s censors and 
included a UFO “the size of a family car” 
hovering close to the comet’s nucleus 
and what White believes are artificial 
structures that resemble a lighthouse and a 
monastery. “This mission was never about 
just landing on a comet 350 million 
miles away,” he told Channel 5’s 
Consp/racy series shown in July. 

“I think that ESA know exactly 
what that is and that’s why we 
went there in the first place”. 
UFO sightings daily: www. 
coming-from.html; ArtAlienTV: 
watch ?v=Ss3gVba4Fxw 

TOP: Is Comet 67P an alien 
hideout? LEFT: New film The 
Visit features an interview with 
Lord Boyce, who reveals there 
is “no contingency plan” for 
dealing with an ET invasion. 

(ESA) and the UN Office for Outer Space 
Affairs but avoids talking to ufologists. For this 
reason The Visit is a refreshing change from 
the tired approach adopted by documentary 
makers who insist on force-fitting the issue 
into a debate about the truth or 
falsity of UFO and alien abduction 
stories. From the outset Madsen 
states that, as far as we know, 
aliens have never landed on Earth. 

But the film subverts the 
rules by turning the 
spotlight back onto 
humanity, asking the 
viewer to consider not 
whether or not aliens 
exist, but “who are 
we, as an Other 
might see us?” and 
to ask “if you are 
truly alien, will we 
ever understand 
you?” https:/ 


The European Space 
Agency has joined 







Many moons ago, when I first got interested in 
UFOs, I saved up money from my newspaper 
delivery round to further my knowledge. This 
was the Space Age of the 1960s, and UFO 
excitement was at its peak. I bought the 
latest books by John Keel and Jacques Vallee, 
became a junior member of BUFORA and 
subscribed to the quaintly named Flying 
Saucer Review, or FSR. FSR was a revelation 
to me because, despite its name - archaic 
even then and widely abbreviated to those 
three letters - it carried articles by scientists 
who were keen to use their skills and try 
to make the amateur field of ufology a little 
more professional. It was in its pages that 
I first came across a ‘UFO detector’. This 
device featured in an advert urging you to 
buy a hand-sized gizmo that was sensitive 
to the local magnetic field and, the blurb 
seemingly suggested, would make a buzzing 
noise to alert you whenever the 4.45 from 
Alpha Centauri was passing overhead. Living 
in south Manchester, I was used to planes 
operating to a timetable, so, as a naive teen, 
thought UFOs might be equally obliging. Daft 
as it seems now, that detector appeared 
well worth the investment of several weeks 

So did it work? Well, yes and no. 

It never helped me to see a flying saucer 
but the damn thing certainly liked to buzz 
- going off when helicopters landed in the 
nearby park, passing thunderstorms arrived, 
or, more fru strati ngly, when the road outside 
was filled with badly shielded car engines. This 
was a common occurrence for me because 
we lived next door to a major football stadium 
and when crowds of 60,000 turned up every 
other week our street was jam-packed with old 
bangers bumper to bumper. Eventually, I was 
forced to disconnect the detector’s battery 
and leave the device in my bedroom, from 
where it disappeared mysteriously one day, 
perhaps teleported by the Greys as part of 
their systematic programme to enforce global 
secrecy, or possibly just binned by my mum. 

That was then, and this is now. A 
researcher, whom I’ll call ‘Preston’, contacted 
me recently. He reminded me that we met at 
a mutual friend’s house a decade after my 
tribulations with the FSR detector. Since then, 
Preston has spent a career working as an 
engineer, making technical measurements on 
a wide frequency range at high profile receiver 
sites and designing antennae for various 
sites. Like me, he had come across the FSR 
detector in his youth and tinkered with its 
possibilities. We both found that it had either 
been too sensitive or not sensitive enough. 

In fact, I concluded back then that the 1960s 
version would trigger at pretty much anything 
emitting any change in the local magnetic 
field; if more finely tuned, any UFO would have 
needed to land on your roof before you picked 
it up - which probably rendered the need for a 
detector to tell you this rather unnecessary. 

I can barely wire a plug properly, so what 
to do about these problems was lost on me. 
But not on Preston, who has had the time and 

It never helped 
me see a flying 
saucer, but it 
did like to buzz 

expertise to give the matter some thought 
and has begun to hatch a plan. Last year, he 
designed a detector using a 1490 Hall effect 
magnetic compass sensor that rectifies some 
of the problems found with the old 1968 FSR 
device. He tried it out, and it triggered three 
times in October 2014 (nothing sinister - 
he thinks these were probably reactions to 
magnetic storms). 

By now Preston was pondering bigger 
questions: like why nobody in UFO circles 
has successfully set up a system of UFO 
detectors to forewarn others of potential local 
sightings and to use that early warning as an 
opportunity to gather meaningful scientific 
data. There have been some attempts in the 
past - notably Ray Stanford’s Project Starlight 
International in the USA - but most schemes 
using easy-to-set-up magnetic UFO detectors 
in a coordinated fashion came before the 
technology and instant communications of the 
modern world - and the advantages they offer 
- were available. 

For example, the very day I am writing this 
column (23 June 2015) some activity on the 
surface of the Sun has led to bright auroras 
becoming visible in skies over large parts 
of the southern UK where this is otherwise 
uncommon. The ability to transmit that 
unpredictable news immediately via the 
Internet and social media sites meant that 
people were alerted to go out in the early 
hours, look into the skies and photograph the 
resultant glows that would otherwise have 
vanished by the time most people knew they 
were even there. 

So could this approach be used in the 

LEFT: A 1968 model ‘UFO detector’. 

development of a network of modern UFO 
detectors coordinated via social media to alert 
others about localised UFO activity that might 
still be occurring when they go and look? 

This is the concept that Preston is seeking 
to develop. Exactly how we move forward 
is an open question and I would very much 
like to hear your thoughts on whether this 
experiment might be worth attempting, how 
we might fund it or if there are any would-be 
UFO detectorists with suggested methods 
of coordination and application. Do we, for 
instance, market a product and spread the 
net broadly in the hope that these widespread 
devices (purchased by willing participants at 
cost) will capture something, somewhere? Or 
do we endeavour to blitz a localised window 
area with a smaller number of detectors, 
focusing on a zone where UFO activity has 
long been frequent, such as the Pennine hills? 

Potentially this is a very interesting 
new approach to UFO research that takes 
advantage of recent science and the power 
of mass communications. It has the potential 
to get the right people with the most valuable 
equipment into the correct locations as and 
when UFO activity is still taking place. It could 
create a new occupation of ‘UFO chasing’, 
rather as tornado chasers use live radar to be 
in the right place at the right time to catch up 
with storms. 

Of course, nobody knows whether there 
is something out there to be detected that 
would be sensitive to the changes in local 
magnetic fields. There are bound to be many 
false alarms, as other natural phenomena 
can trigger similar effects difficult to eliminate 
entirely from the purview of these detectors. 
However, there is good evidence that EM fields 
are associated with some UFO phenomena. 
From car stop/vehicle interference reports to 
witness descriptions of physiological reactions 
in close proximity to sightings that seem to 
infer that they are standing amidst a charged 
electrical field. Or, indeed, the noted distortion 
on radio equipment in use during close 
encounters that also implies these might be 
inadvertently picking up what detectors could 
deliberately detect. 

I should add that Preston has an open 
mind as to what might lie behind any genuine 
UFO phenomena, but thinks that this project 
is well worth a shot, as its potential success 
is really independent of any explanation for 
the phenomenon. Of course, as he told me, 
this “assumes that UFOs generate their own, 
or significantly disturb the Earth’s, magnetic 
field”. Indeed - but that suggestion is 
supported by plenty of evidence consistent 
with a range of possible UFO explanations; 
and many of those possibilities are sufficiently 
within the realms of accepted knowledge so 
as not to frighten off the scientific community. 

So for once we have a research project to 
propose that all FT readers could join and that 
requires you not to have any theory about the 
nature or origin of UFOs. I believe that this has 
real possibilities. 

So let us know what you think. 

FT331 27 



The People's Republic of China is renowned for being firmly under the control of one of the 
world's most guarded and secretive regimes. But, says CHRIS SAUNDERS, if the recent 
catalogue of strange events reported in the nation's media is anything to go by, some 
world-changing news could be about to emerge from the Far East... 

O n 15 May 2014, the 
Chinese authorities 
confirmed that three 
Unidentified Flying 
Objects had fallen 
from the sky to land 
in or near Qiqihar, 

a city in Heilongjiang province with a 
population of 5.4 million. Witnesses first 
heard a piercing sound and then saw a huge 
fireball crossing the sky. When they went 
to investigate, they found a round metal 
object with jagged edges being feverishly 
examined by “relevant personnel”. That 
didn’t stop the witnesses taking photographs 
(such as the one at right) and posting 
them online, ^ which generated a heated 
discussion about the nature of these ‘UFOs’. 

The crashes occurred shortly after a 
Russian Proton-M rocket carrying a satellite 
suffered a devastating failure nine minutes 
after its launch from Kazakhstan. A Russian 
investigation committee later concluded 
that the most likely cause of the failure was 
a ruptured propellant line, which triggered 
an automatic shutdown and sent the 
remains of the rocket crashing to Earth. That 
seemed to explain the ‘downed UFOs’, and 
the theory was confirmed a few days later 
by China’s National Space Administration.^ 
Disappointing for ufologists, then - or 
perhaps not. Footage of the incident appears 
to show the $225-million rocket being struck 
by an object, which some have speculated 
was a guided missile. . . or even a UFO. ^ 

What brought down the Russian rocket is 
still up for debate - a debate made all the 


more interesting by the fact that this isn’t 
the first time Heilongjiang province, in 
the desolate northern reaches historically 
known as Manchuria, has been implicated in 
UFO lore. It was also the location of a case 
that has won notoriety across the world. 


On the face of it, the story itself isn’t 
so remarkable. Accounts differ in the 
details, possibly as a result of various 
interpretations and translations, but most 
are in agreement on the basic story. In early 
June 1994, a 29-year-old tree farmer by the 
name of Meng Zhaoguo was working at Red 
Flag forest near Harbin, northeast China, 
when he saw a strange light in the sky. 
Thinking it was either a downed satellite 
or helicopter, he set out in an attempt to 
salvage the wreckage when at some point 
he was hit in the forehead by a shining light 
and knocked unconscious. He woke up at 
home some time later, with no recollection 
of how he got there. ^ 

A few nights later, he was asleep in 
his bed when he awoke to find he was in 
the presence of what he described as a 
“10ft [3m] female alien with six fingers 
and braided leg fur.” Meng Zhao Guo and 
his visitor then proceeded to copulate 
for around 40 minutes before the alien 
disappeared, leaving a two-inch (5cm) scar 
on the man’s thigh as the only physical trace 
of their encounter. He further claimed that, 
at some later date, he levitated through a 
wall and met with a group of three-eyed 
aliens on their ship. Apparently fancying 

28 FT331 

ABOVE LEFT: Meng Zhaoguo, a rural worker from northeast China, taking a lie detector test in Beijing. Meng said he was 29 years old when he broke his marital vows for the 
first and only time - with a lOft-tall female extraterrestrial. ABOVE RIGHT: Zhang Jingping, a leading member of the International Chinese UFO Association. 


a bit more cross-species rumpy-pumpy, he 
asked to see his lady friend again, only to 
be rebuffed. He was told that: “On a distant 
planet the son of a Chinese peasant will be 
born in 60 years” - that being the length of 
time needed for the amorous alien to conceive 
and give birth. ® 

To most people, it sounds like a tall tale. 

The UFO Club at Wuhan University, who 
examined the case in 1997, certainly thought 
so. However, the state-sponsored UFO 
Research Society concluded that the story 
was true, citing the case as: “The strongest 
possible example of direct contact with an 
extraterrestrial”. The UFO Research Society 
is a powerful organisation boasting some 3,000 
official members, and since its creation in 
1980 it has collected more than 5,000 accounts 
of close encounters throughout China. ® 

Something else that may be worth 
considering is the fact that Meng Zhaoguo 
was only barely literate and, until his 
experience, claimed never to have heard of 
alien abductions. In September 2003, he was 
belatedly given a medical exam, underwent 
a lie detector test, and was placed under 
hypnosis in an attempt to prove or disprove 
his outlandish claims. The results indicated 
that he was telling the truth. Furthermore, a 
doctor who examined the scar on Meng’s leg 
concluded that it “could not possibly have 
been caused by common injuries or surgery”. 

An often overlooked yet fascinating aspect 
of the whole incident is the fact that the 
Ruling Party keeps such a tight grip on the 
national and provincial media that, even in 
the age of citizen journalism, nothing slips 
through the net without good reason. The 
newsstands and airwaves are awash with 
shameless propaganda, most of it having a 
clear message promoting and reinforcing 
the state’s political ideology and Chinese 
patriotism. There is a standing joke that says 
if you type ‘Tiananmen Square Massacre’ into 
a search engine in China, the result will come 
back: “What massacre?” 

Given their stranglehold on the media, one 
has to ask why the Chinese authorities are 
apparently so willing to allow their citizens 
to ponder the existence of extraterrestrial 
life. Under normal circumstances, the 

Ruling Party frowns on its citizens displaying 
profound belief in anything that doesn’t 
conform to its strict core philosophy or 
threatens the status quo - let alone anything 
remotely esoteric. This is a country that 
banned the second Pirates of the Caribbean 
movie because of perceived “supernatural 
content”, ^ where Christianity is effectively 
outlawed, Falun Gong is seen as a threat 
(see FT125:6, 126:07, 128:42-45, 131:13), and 
even Buddhism is only tolerated, rather than 
encouraged, due to its cultural significance. 


Unlike in many other nations, there is very 
little stigma surrounding UFO research 
in China, where it is an accepted and 
recognised science taken very seriously by 
academics. The government allows a print 
UFO journal to be published regularly; it has 
an estimated circulation of around 400,000 
and many ex-government personnel are 
said to be vociferous believers. Sun Shili, 
a once-prominent foreign ministry official, 
now retired, is president of the Beijing UFO 
Research Society. He has gone on record 
numerous times to speak about his personal 
experiences and his belief that wai xing 
ren (extraterrestrials) are living among 
us. ® A large percentage of China’s UFO 
enthusiasts are respected scientists and 
engineers, rather than the anoraks, SF buffs 
or apocalyptic stargazers that inform the 
Western stereotype, and most of the country’s 
UFO research groups require a degree to 
attain membership. Jin Fan, an engineer who 
heads the Dalian UFO Research Society in 
the northeast of the country, says: “The study 
of UFOs is fundamentally different from 
other things like Falun Gong. This is a purely 
scientific field, whereas Falun Gong deals 
with cults and superstition”. ® 

There is a growing belief in China that the 
government has known of the existence of 
aliens for some time and is moving steadily 
toward ‘full disclosure’. The increased 
presence of extraterrestrials in the media, 
according to this theory, is just part of a long- 
term project to prepare the population for 
the big unveiling. More standard X-Files-era. 
fare, you might think. But the reasons usually 
given for other countries concealing the 
existence of aliens - that it would challenge 
accepted religion and in turn our world- 
view - don’t apply in atheist China, changing 
the whole dynamic. Generally speaking, 
the Chinese would be more psychologically 
open to any such revelations, as they tend 
to be both more pragmatic and more easily 
manipulated than the average Westerner. 
They are taught not to ask too many questions 
and expect, even welcome, a certain degree 
of outside influence on their lives. It is 
common knowledge, even within the Chinese 

30 FT331 



ABOVE: Retired foreign ministry official and now president of the Beijing UFO Research Society Sun Shili shows off drawings of UFOs from his numerous sightings. 

population, that the government uses the 
media as a propaganda tool. There have long 
been whispers of a disclosure race between 
the US and China, with each country anxious 
to be the first to reveal irrefutable proof of 
extraterrestrial life. This theory appeared 
to be given credence in January 2011 when 
Xinhua, the official government TV news 
channel, spontaneously reported that Barack 
Obama was preparing to announce the 
existence of aliens to the American people. “ 


Recent media coverage would seem to add 
weight to the ‘Chinese disclosure’ theory. In 
October 2010, bizarre reports began emerging 
that an entire village had disappeared from 
the Qinling mountains, Shaanxi province, 
after numerous witnesses contacted local 
news agencies to report seeing UFOs in 
the area.^ For a time, the Chinese Internet 
was abuzz with testimonies and real-time 
updates, mainly focused on the inexplicable 
presence of military personnel who cordoned 
off the area without explanation. A video 
was circulated widely online, which appears 
to show bright blue lights in the sky over the 
stricken village. 

So far, so mysterious. But any hope of a 
conclusion to these extraordinary claims led 
to nothing. In fact, subsequent reports in 
China denied there was any kind of military 
presence in the vicinity, and put the whole 
episode down to “rumours”. What actually 
happened in Shaanxi province that night, if 
anything, is a moot point; the mere fact that 

the story of the disappearing village was 
allowed into the public domain in the first 
place could be telling enough. Conversely, 
Shaanxi province, largely comprising an 
expansive ‘forbidden zone’, is home to up 
to 100 structures collectively known as the 
‘Pyramids of China,’ including the famed 
White Pyramid of Xi’an (see FT164:28-32), 
situated around 40 miles (65km) south west 
of the ancient capital. “ The official line from 
the Chinese government has always been that 
the structures are simply burial mounds, but 

this has long been disputed. The authorities 
rebuff any and all requests to examine 
the site, which prompts many to speculate 
about what they could possibly have to hide. 
Connections with the alignment of the stars, 
ancient Egypt, and extraterrestrial visitations 
have all been put forward. 

The disappearing village story surfaced 
just months after another case had garnered 
widespread media attention. On 7 July 
2010, witnesses reported a comet-like UFO 
streaking through the sky near Xiaoshan 

ABOVE: A UFO streaks through the sky near Xiaoshan airport in Hangzhou in 2010. The comet-like object was 
photographed by many people, while the airport was closed temporarily. 

FT331 31 

airport in Hangzhou. As a precaution, the 
airport temporarily ceased operations. 
Chinese netizens were divided as to the 
possible origin of the fireball-like object, with 
just as many apparently fearing a sudden air 
strike by America as a UFO. There were also 
mass sightings that year in Xinjiang, Hunan, 
Shandong and Jiangsu provinces. 


Yet another flap occurred in 2012, during 
which there were at least 100 sightings along 
the border separating China and India. 

Troops from the Indian Army’s 14 Corps sent 
reports to their superiors describing “yellow 
spheres” that appeared to take off from the 
Chinese side of the border and traverse the 
sky for several hours before disappearing. “ 

A ground-based radar system was moved in 
but was unable to identify the objects, which 
officials insisted were not Chinese drones or 
satellites. Interestingly enough, earlier that 
year India Daily had published an article 
stating that China and India both know of 
the existence of an underground UFO base 
deep in the tectonic plates in the disputed 
Himalayan border area of Ladakh, the site of 
the Sino-Indian war of 1962. According to 
witnesses from both sides, triangular UFOs 
come out of the ground and climb vertically 
into the sky. In January 2005, there was also 
talk of a UFO crash in the region with sources 
suggesting the crash site was close to Mount 
Everest and therefore inaccessible, though 
both China and India were actively engaged 
in attempts to recover the craft. 

There have been at least two other 
suspected UFO crashes in China. One is 
said to have occurred in the Gobi Desert, 
Outer Mongolia, in 1982, and another in 
an unspecified location around a decade 
earlier. Both craft are said to be stored in an 
underground research facility beneath the 
Taihang Mountains straddling Shanxi, Henan 
and Hebei provinces - the Chinese answer to 
Area 51. 

If the Chinese military are indeed in 
possession of a downed 
spacecraft, the argument 
goes, it would perhaps go 
some way to explaining 
the unprecedented 
technological advances 
the country has benefited 
from in recent decades, 
in the same way that the 
West developed such 
things as microchips 
and fibre optics in the 
wake of Roswell. Wang 
Chang Ting of the UFO 
Research Society is on 
record as saying: “We 
study the application of 
UFO phenomena to the 
national economy, such 
as new materials and new 

Although marketed 
as the first Chinese 
abduction case, the Meng 
Zhaoguo Incident is not 
without precedent. On 

7 March 1987 in Pingwu county, Sichuan 
province, a family of three was awakened by 
a loud, high-pitched hum. They went outside 
to investigate and were blinded by a beam 
of yellow light coming from a huge reddish 
object shaped like a “straw hat” hovering 
above them. When the beam of light hit 
them they passed out, only to awake later to 
And themselves strapped to steel tables in a 
circular room occupied by three-foot (90cm) 
tall humanoid creatures with three eyes. The 
aliens then proceeded to take blood samples 
from the abductees and probe them with 
needles, also making an incision on the child’s 
thigh. The next thing the family knew, they 
were walking down a road seven miles (11km) 
from their home. “ 

The parallels between this account and the 
Meng Zhaoguo Incident are extraordinary; 
within the overall abduction scenario, both 
cases feature beams of light that render the 
victims unconscious, three-eyed aliens, and 
a wound to the thigh. It’s possible, of course, 
that Meng Zhao Guo had read of the older 
case somewhere and simply constructed his 
story around it, whether knowingly or not. But 
he has been described as a virtual illiterate 
who passed a lie detector test with flying 


Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Chinese 
UFO-related events have occurred post-Mao 
and coincided with the growth of modern 
technology. But there are some historical 
precedents. In 2011, a forum on the Above 
Top Secret website published a translation 
of what the poster claimed to be a section of 
text some 500 years old. It reads, in part, 

“In [the] year 1528, a strange star 
appeared, flew from south-east towards 
north-west, bright as a giant wheel The 
next night it reappeared and descended 
near a village. A stonesmith saw the light 
and went to investigate [finding] an object 
shaped like a grinding wheel as big as a 

house covered in brilliant colours. Two 
beings inside [which] looked human but 
not human. [The] stonesmith was taken in 
and his heart was taken out and examined. 
However, it did not [hurt] and did not 
bleed. There was a voice [which] sounded 
human but could not be comprehended. 

The account goes on to describe the 
unfortunate stonesmith being taken to a 
place where there were a sun, moon and stars, 
but the surrounding landscape was “mostly 
red-hued and cold.” There were no buildings, 
and the beings were (again) described as 
having three eyes. After losing consciousness 
the victim woke up in the same place he was 
abducted, only to And that an entire year had 
passed. It’s all a little vague when it comes to 
names and places; not so this account from 
Jiangsu province. 

In 1523, a teacher named Lu Yu who lived 
in Yugiu village was standing outside his 
home when he noticed two ships “sailing 
on the tops of the clouds”. On the ships, the 
teacher could see several tall men wearing 
hats and multi-coloured clothing and holding 
poles. Lu Yu quickly alerted “ten well-read 
men,” just as the ships were descending, 
and the entire group were taken aboard. 

One of the visitors passed a hand over the 
men’s mouths, and they found they could no 
longer speak. A short time afterwards they 
disembarked from the ships and their voices 
returned, though Lu Yu died of unknown 
causes five days later. 

Interactions with UFOs in China could 
go back a lot further than we think. In fact, 
the phenomenon could be ingrained deep in 
Chinese culture. The notion of Are-breathing 
dragons coming down from the sky and 
‘Gods’ coming out of their mouths or bellies 
is a recurring theme in Chinese mythology. 
Depending on which source you use, the 
‘Yellow Emperor’ Huang Di (traditionally 
reigned 2697-2597 BC), was either a real 
person, a mythical creation, a deity, or some 
combination of the above, and is believed by 
some to have been at least part 
extraterrestrial. According to 
legend, he came down ‘from 
the heavens’ to offer comfort 
and leadership to humanity, 
and soon become known as the 
‘Eather of Chinese Culture’. 
Huang Di is credited with 
inventing everything from 
acupuncture to the written 
language, and is also said 
to be responsible for such 
technological advances as 
bronze coins and the bow and 
arrow. He lived for 100 years in 
the Kunlun mountains, Tibet, 
before returning to the skies 
in a ‘metal dragon’ when his 
work on Earth was considered 
complete. Proponents of the 
‘ancient astronaut’ theory 
speculate that here, as in other 
examples from prehistory, 

LEFT: One of the strikingly stylised 
‘alien’ masks unearthed in 1986 at 

32 FT331 


witnesses were only 
able to describe what 
they saw using the 
limited vocabulary and 
concepts available to 
them at the time. Thus 
the ‘metal dragon’ 
noted in ancient 
texts would today 
be interpreted as a 
spaceship of some kind. 

On 1 November 
2007, China Daily 
newspaper ran an 
article entitled “Aliens 
or Ancestors? The 
Mysteries of Ancient 
Sichuan”, in reference 
to the discovery of the 
Sanxingdui (“Three 
Stars Mound”) 
archeological site near 
Guanghan city.^^ In 
1986, construction workers unearthed two 
sacrificial pits containing bronze and gold 
masks, jade and marble figurines, pottery, 
and objects made from ivory, all said to be 
relics of a long lost civilisation. This followed 
the original discovery of the site by a farmer 
in 1929. Chinese historians consider the find 
one of the most important of the 20* century, 
and date the site to 1000-4000 BC, well 
before the start of recorded Chinese history. 
This conflicts with the original hypothesis 
that the Chinese civilisation arose from the 
Yellow River basin; and though the Chinese 
were meticulous recorders of history, no 
mention is made in any known text of the 
Sanxingdui people. Even stranger - though 
only around a quarter of the 12 km^ (4.6 
square miles) has so far been excavated 
- is the fact that to date no human remains 
have been found. Instead it has given up 
something in the region of 10,000 artefacts, 
many of which display otherworldly 
characteristics such as oversized ears and 
protruding eyes. It has been suggested 
that the masks and figurines don’t depict 
people at all, but extraterrestrial visitors. 
Interestingly, many locals continue to report 
seeing UFOs in the area. 


China’s booming economy has led to untold 
billions being ploughed into the education, 
defence and space exploration sectors. 
Conceivably, these could be three different 
branches of the same massive long-term 
project, with the ultimate aim of making 
China a major player on the world stage, 
where the Ruling Party has always believed 
it belongs. 

Perhaps part of that aim is indeed to make 
history by winning the ‘disclosure’ race and, 
if so, the Chinese certainly appear to be 
stepping up their efforts. Last year a ‘source’ 
leaked footage allegedly showing alien 
bases on the Moon, with the accompanying 
report implying that the Chinese are already 
in contact with the resident aliens! This 
would seem to tally nicely with the current 
state of the Chinese space programme. The 
seeds were first sown in the late 1950s, but 
back then the country lacked the necessary 
financial resources and didn’t succeed in 
becoming the third Earth nation to send a 
manned mission into space until Yang Liwei’s 
flight aboard Shenzhou 5 in 2003. Explicit 
details of the space programme are shrouded 
in secrecy, but since Shenzhou 5 the missions 

LEFT: “UFO” buildings 
at the Golden Beach 
in Rizhao, Shandong 

have become 
ambitious and 
it is believed 
that plans are in 
place to have an 
operational space 
station by the 
year 2020. 

To wrap things 
up, earlier this 
year, video and 
stills of a group 
of 37 manmade 
emerged from 
Rizhao, Shandong 
province. The strange collection of buildings 
appears to have been erected simply to 
attract tourists to the area, and is indicative 
of how deeply the UFO phenomenon has 
infiltrated the public consciousness. ^^This 
comes five years after the grand unveiling 
of the 18,000-seater Shanghai World Expo 
Cultural Center (now the Mercedes-Benz 
Arena) which resembles, of course, a giant 
flying saucer. 

Thanks to Yang Zi Zhu for additional 



previously written for FT 
on Welsh portents, the 
Boston bombing conspiracy, 
anthropodermic bibliopegy 
and the 27 Club. He spent 
six years teaching English 
in China before moving 
to London to work on a sports and lifestyle 
magazine. He writes fiction under the name 
CM Saunders, and you can tweet him at 


1 www.ufosightingsdaily. 

CO nn/20 14/05/th ree-ufos-fa I l-i n-ch i na- 


3 http:/ 
th ree-ufos-fa I l-i n-ch i na-videos-a nd- 

AAavkfs?ocid=MS N_U K_N L_M035 

5 http:/ 

pa ra n orm a 1/20 14/07/on e-of-th e- 



7 www.theguardian. com/film/2006/ 

8 http:/ 
extraterrestria Is-I ivi ng-ch i na-a nd-u s 

9 WWW. nytimes. com/2000/0 1/11/ 


U www.agoracosmopolitan. 



12 httpi/hispanoticias.blogspot. 

wh ite-pyra m id-xia n-002470 

14 http:/ 

15 http:/timesofindia.indiatimes. 

16 Similar reports have been 
circulating for some years on the 
Internet. See for instance: ): http:/ 

17 http:/ 

18 www.phantomsandmonsters. 




culture/230480, htm 

23 http:/ 

24 http:/en. people. 

FT331 33 

A recent anime film by the famous Studio Ghibli tells the story of Kaguya, a princess of the 
Moonfolk, exiled to Earth and raised by a peasant family. Although well known in Japan, few in 
the West might be aware that it is based upon historical documents. BOB RICKARD explores 
the background to this ancient Japanese tale of extraterrestrial visitation. 

I he tragic story of Princess Kaguya 
1 (Kaguya-hime) is one of the 
best-known folktales of Japan. It 
was already old when it was first 
written down around AD 900, 
becoming the earliest known relic 

of Japanese literature and, to 

historians of imaginative literature, one of 
the earliest examples of the ‘alien visitation’ 
theme. Kaguya’s plight - called, in the 11* 
century Tale of Genji, “the ancestor of all 
romances” ^ - has since inspired five movies, 
the recent award-winning animation,^ two 
TV series, countless anime characters, and 
the name of Japan’s 2007 lunar orbiter. 

In its original form,^ it centres on the 
terrestrial life of a mysterious girl brought 
up by a poor bamboo-cutter and his wife. 
They were childless until, one day, the old 
man - given the honorific name of Taketori- 
no-Okina (‘Old Man who harvests bamboo’) 

- saw a light shining within a bamboo grove.^ 
Following his curiosity, he found the light 
coming from a young bamboo stalk, inside 
which was a tiny baby no bigger than his 
thumb. He took the infant home and his 
wife agreed they should raise her as their 
own, naming her Nayotake-no-Kaguya-hime. ® 
Each time he returned to the grove, Taketori 
would find, inside a cut stalk, a small lump 
of gold. By the time Kaguya had grown into 
a normal-sized and remarkably beautiful 
teenager of marriageable age, the family 
had become very rich and moved to a city. 

News of Kaguya’s beauty and her parents’ 
wealth soon attracted a stream of suitors. 
Most were rejected, until five nobles 
remained in the running; unable to decide 
which one to accept, Kaguya set them each 


an impossible task, which they all failed. The 
final suitor was the Emperor, the Mikado, 
who came to see her famous beauty for 
himself and also fell in love with Kaguya. 

She rejected his proposal too. 

By now, a change had come over the 
girl; she wandered at night, staring for 
long periods at the Moon and weeping 
inconsolably. Eor eight months her worrying 
parents begged her to tell them what was 
upsetting her and, eventually she blurted 
out: “No maid of this mortal land am I, but 
the Capital of Moonland [Tsuki-no-Miyako] 
is my birth-place. Long ago it was decreed 
that I should descend upon this Earth and 
bide there somewhile; but now is the time 
at hand when I must go back. . . for when 
yonder orb shall be at its fullest, a company 
of Moonfolk will come down from the sky to 
bear me away.” The gold that Taketori found, 
she explained, had been a stipend sent by 
her family towards her upkeep. She does not 
want to part from her loving Earth family 
but cannot now avoid this fate, nor complete 
her daughterly obligations to marry or 
look after her parents in their old age. Her 
misery is compounded by her awareness that 
snubbing the Emperor and her imminent 
disappearance will put her family’s loyalty 
and standing in jeopardy of political and 
social reprisals. 

Taketori, seeking to protect his daughter 
from the prophesied abduction, begged 
the emperor for warriors to guard their 

LEFT: A poster for the Studio Ghibli animated film 
telling the story of Princess Kaguya. RIGHT: The 
baby Kaguya as seen in as depicted in a 17th 
century scroll in the library of Japan’s National Diet. 

34 FT331 

= -.■<^1 ^ 

\ ^ 

^ . ' VufffX 

ABOVE LEFT: ‘Baby’ Kaguya inside the egg or pod, as seen is Kon Ichikawa’s 1987 film Princess from the Moon. 

ABOVE RIGHT: The ascent of Kaguya, also from Ichikawa’s film, a Spielbergian version complete with Kaguya floating up in a beam of light like a modern abductee. 

home. The emperor readily agrees and sends 
a contingent of several thousand men to be 
stationed all over the family compound and 
on the rooftops. Kaguya, herself is locked 
inside the family strong room. On the fateful 
night of the next full Moon, the Moonfolk 
arrived riding on clouds in a splendid show of 
otherworldly power. 

“At the hour of the Rat ® behold! A glory 
fell about the dwelling. . . 10 times as bright 
as the brightness of the full Moon. . . In the 
midst thereof came down through the air a 
company of Angels ^ riding on a coil of cloud 
that descended until it hovered some cubits’ 
height above the ground. And there the 
angels stood ranked in due order...” Those 
troops not stunned by the sight fired arrows, 
but none reached their target and so they 
could only stand by in readiness. 

“In shining garments were the Angels clad, 
that had not their like under heaven, and 
in the midst of them. . . was seen a canopied 
car ® where sat One who seemed to be their 
Lord”. In a voice that could be heard clearly 
by everybody, the Archangel spoke directly 
to Taketori. The girl was sent to live with him, 
boomed the voice, “because of some small 
virtue didst thou display in thy life,” and Lady 
Kayuga was “doomed to bide a little while 
in thy wretched home. . . to expiate a fault 
she had committed. . . Now we are to bear her 
away from thine Earth.” 

When this declaration ends, the ‘car’ 
was “borne upwards on the cloud” to hover 
directly over the house. Then, the thunderous 
voice called for Kaguya to come away. The 
doors to the storehouse where her parents 
had concealed her flew open, leaving her 
nowhere to hide. Several envoys approached 
her, bearing “a Celestial Feather Robe and 
some Elixir of Immortality” - the elixir to 
“purify her spirit soiled with the grossness of 
this filthy world” and the robe enchanted with 
forgetfulness. She tried in vain to console her 
distraught stepparents. 

Finally, Kaguya said, poignantly: “I must 
mount to yonder sky, whence I fain would 
fall meteor-wise to Earth.” As she drank 
the potion, the robe was draped over her 
shoulders “and in a trice all memory of her 

foster-father’s woe vanished”. Then, before all 
assembled there “the Lady entered the car 
surrounded by the company of Angels, and 
mounted skywards” while all below “stood 
stunned with grief”. 


The sad fate of the conflicted Kaguya 
resonates strongly with Japanese sensibilities, 
such that it is still relevant to their culture 
after 11 centuries. Among its many modern 
iterations, the celebrated Japanese 
director Kon Ichikawa’s 1987 movie version 
overlays the ancient myth with a ‘modern’ 
mythology while retaining its cultural 
continuity. Well known for acknowledging 
his Western influences - particularly Walt 
Disney and Jean Renoir - his Princess from 
the Moon (Taketori monogatari, starring 
Toshiro Mifune as the bamboo-cutter) gives 
more than a nod in the direction of Stephen 
Spielberg, being directly inspired by Close 
Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). 

As his story starts, Ichikawa suggests rather 
than shows the manner of Lady Kaguya’s 
arrival on Earth, limiting his special effects 
to an ‘off-stage’ meteorite impact. Taketori 
and his wife are in their hovel at night when 
they hear the whoosh of something passing 
low overhead. Shifting beams of intense light 
blaze through gaps in the walls of their hut 
as their point of origin outside moves across 
the sky, evoking the scene in Close Encounters 
when the child becomes aware of the aliens 
outside his home. The hut is shaken by a loud 
explosion nearby, and rushing outside the old 
couple see a fiery glow from behind a nearby 

In the morning light, Taketori sets out 
to investigate the unnatural disturbance. 
Pausing on a hilltop, he looks out over the 
bamboo grove. Something big has come down, 
but you don’t get to see it; no meteoric or 
spaceship impact crater, only smoke from still 
burning fires drifting across the field of view. 

Entering the grove, Taketori passes the 
grave of their daughter ® and notices a 
sizeable egg-shaped object nearby. A light 
from it startles him and - watching from cover 
- he sees a limb of the luminous cloud extend 

through the air and enter the small grave. 
After a short while, the light retracts and the 
pod cracks open to reveal the tiny, shining girl 

Later, the meteoric overtones are 
abandoned as it is revealed that the pod is, 
in fact, a lifeboat from a crashed spaceship 
carrying the Princess. As a light-entity, 
she has absorbed and incarnated the dead 
girl’s form. In Ichikawa’s version, whenever 
Taketori finds riches in the grove, it is not 
as a nugget inside a bamboo stem but as 
fragments of the crashed craft made of gold. 

At the climax, when the Moonfolk frustrate 
Taketori’s attempt to hide the Princess in 
the family compound’s strongroom, the 
doors, windows and shutters fly open, but 
not exactly as in the original story. In both 
Ichikawa’s movie and Takahata’s anime, this 
demonstration of the Moonfolk’s power is 
performed by tiny beings of light flitting 
through the compound - in the former looking 
like small versions of classic Greys, and in the 
latter like luminous winged fairies. 

Finally, when Ichikawa shows the Princess’s 
ascension, she floats up - like many an 
abductee - inside a light beam, accompanied 
by the aforementioned tiny radiant aliens, 
into a full-on Spielbergian spacecraft. 

The most recent retelling of Kaguya’s 
story is The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, a 
feature-length animation by Isao Takahata 
(a fellow director of Ghibli Studios with 
Hayao Miyazaki). His style here is quite 
unlike Miyazaki’s - simple, lyrical, and hand- 
drawn with brush and crayon - apparently, 
influenced by the art and fashions of the 
Heian period (AD 794 to 1185). Takahata 
concentrates on the emotional story, creating 
a moving celebration of humanity in the 
face of the dilemmas of duty. The Buddhist 
subtext begins as soon as Kaguya’s bamboo 
shoot opens out like Buddha’s lotus throne to 
reveal the tiny child inside, as radiant as any 
Buddhist saint. 

His Moonfolk are clearly modelled upon 
classic Buddhist iconography, more Indian 
than Japanese; indeed, Kaguya’s Moon father 
appears like a Buddha statue, unspeaking and 
unmoving; he is accompanied by an entourage 

3G FT331 

of Chinese-style fairy maidens, and 
the angelic warriors are replaced by 
musicians of a celestial orchestra, all 
seated on a vast platform of luminous 

Kaguya is urged to leave behind 
the sorrow and filth of this world 
for the “purity of the Moon”. 

Moments before she dons the Cape 
of Forgetfullness, Kaguya hears 
children singing the song that threads 
through the whole movie. It is a 
joyful, energetic noise, celebrating 
the diversity and chaos of life and 
it contrasts the happy children with 
the apparently cold, emotionless 

“It’s not unclean,” they sing, “there’s 
joy and grief, 

All who live here feel them in all their 
different shades 

Birds, bugs, beasts. Grass, trees, 

... and feelings.” 

So, Kaguya’s last thought, before 
she loses all attachment, is that this 
troubled Earth with its imperfect 
beings and messy life, nevertheless, 
contains beauty and kindness. 

Takahata’s version, then, is a Zen- 
like revolt against the superhuman 
tyranny of an undifferentiated 


There are a number of historical versions 
of the Taketori no Okina no Monogatari, 
each distinguished by the commentary, 
interpolations, errors and preferences of its 
copyist or editor. 

Although there had been prior translations 
into Italian, German and French, FV Dickins, 
a British surgeon (1838-1915) writing in 1887, 
claims that his is the first direct translation of 
Kaguya’s story into English. Dickins’s primary 
source is the six- volume 1829 edition by 
Tanaka Daishu. Seventy years after Dickins, 
we have the fresh translation by Donald 
Keene (b.l922), the American-born scholar 
of Japanese literature, whose primary source 
is contained in the 1819 collection of old 
Japanese books known as Gunsho Ruij . 

Dickins acknowledges that that there 
are noticeable influences of Chinese, or 
Indian-via-Chinese sources in the tale, but, 
nevertheless, its style is distinctively antique 
“in ways which make it stand out as quite 
different from other narratives [monogatori] 
from that period”. He adds: “The art and 
grace of the story of the Lady Kaguya are 
native, its unstrained pathos, its natural 
sweetness, are its own, and in simple charm 


and purity of thought and language it has no 
rival in [Oriental] Action.” Professor Keene 
thought Dickins’s translation was marred by 
“dullness and inaccuracies” and sought to 
restore “some of the charm and humour which 
make this one of the most famous of Japanese 
tales”. It is certainly the more readable 

Dickins did, however, identify some of 
those elements of the tale that pre-existed in 
Japanese and Buddhist literature: for instance, 
a character called Taketori no Okina is 
mentioned in the oldest anthology of Japanese 
poetry, known as Man’y sh (Collection of Ten 
Thousand Leaves) compiled sometime after 
AD 759. Also, there is a mention of a Princess 
Kaguya with five lovers (one of whom has 

LEFT: ‘Kaguya Received back into Moon 
Palace’, 1888, print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 
from the Tsuki hyakushi (One Hundred 
Aspects of the Moon). 

the same name as one mentioned in 
the Taketori story) in the history of the 
Emperor Suinin (c. 69BC-AD70). “ 

Dickins is of the opinion that the 
oversized central section - which deals 
in great detail with the quests given 
to Kaguya’s five suitors - is a later 
interpolation, built upon by successive 
editors. The five primary suitors are, in 
different versions, said to be princes, 
nobles or state officials; at any rate high- 
born, reflecting both Kaguya’s fame and 
the new-found status of her parents. Each 
is set an “impossible” quest to test their 
resolve - a theme common in European 
folklore. The objects of these quests 
include the Buddha’s stone begging bowl 
from India; a robe made from the fur of 
the Chinese Fire Rat; a branch from the 
jewelled trees on the fairy island of Horai 
in the Eastern Ocean; ^ a jewel from the 
neck of a sea-dragon; and a magic cowrie 
shell said to be used by swallows for a 
painless birthing. ^ 

It’s worth mentioning in passing that 
while the other quests are dealt with 
as offscreen narratives, Ichikawa’s film 
actually does show the boat’s disastrous 
encounter with the sea-dragon, looking very 
much like a giant sea-serpent familiar from 


Whatever native elements the original Kaguya 
story may have had in the distant mists of 
Shinto animism, the story was overlaid with 
Buddhist imagery by the time it was first 
set down in print. There were three or four 
centuries between the establishment of 
Buddhism in Japan around the middle of the 
sixth century and the earliest printed edition; 
enough time for the Buddhist interpolations to 
become an accepted part of the telling. 

In the section on the suitors’ quests, for 
example, we have mention of the Buddha’s 
stone begging bowl; the moral being that no 
divine relic would ever be allowed to be used in 
such a trivial way. 

More importantly, in Dickins’s version, 
the Moonfolk Archangel tells Taketori that 
Kaguya had been sent to live with them partly 
as a reward for “some small virtue didst 
thou display in thy life”, and partly because 
Kayuga was “doomed to bide a little while in 
thy wretched home. . . to expiate a fault she 
had committed.” Here we see the intrusion 
of the Buddhist notion of karma - that we are 

ABOVE: Taketori discovers Kaguya in the bamboo thicket. This is from Isao Takahati’s 2013 anime version, elevating Kaguya-hime to the level of a Buddhist deity. 

FT331 37 



There is a possibility that the Toketori 
no Okina no Monogotori might well have 
influenced another story of interest, the 
Utsurobune-no-bonjo (trans: Female Alien in a 
Hollow Vessel) incident. ^ 

This concerned the discovery in February 
1803 of a strangely attired female of 
“incomparable beauty” found in a “hollow 
boat” on a beach in Hitachi Province, eastern 
Japan, sometimes claimed to be a UFO- 
related incident. The unidentified young 
woman has been depicted standing beside 
a curious ship or craft that was covered in 
hieroglyphs no one could recognise. She was 
dressed in a ‘foreign’ fashion in unknown 
fabrics, had no understanding of Japanese 
and was clutching an ornate box also 
marked with the unknown script. Sadly, for 
enthusiasts of alien encounters, this seems 
to be the Tokugawa period equivalent of a tall 
story. ^ A study by Tanaka Kazuo of several 
historical accounts of this incident suggests 

doomed to reincarnate until we can transcend 
the consequences of our actions, good or bad. 
Precisely what her ‘fault’ was we never learn in 
any version. “ 

There is another theme of interest here, 
revealed during the climax. The Archangel 
states that Kaguya’s 16 years on Earth were 
but a brief space of time for the Moonfolk. 

This recalls another Japanese story in which 
UrashimaTaro, a fisherman, spends three 

they are folkloric confabulations “mixing 
both imaginary and real names of persons 
and places”. He found no records of such 
an incident in the capital, regional and clan 
archives, and says it is “unrealistic to believe 
that such an interesting incident” would not 
have been recorded in any official document 
of the Tokugawa period if it had been an 
actual event. 

What is of interest to the present 
discussion is that the mysterious female was 
described - as many native readers might 
have automatically expected - as marebito] 
specifically, the commentaries speculated 
that she might be “a princess of a foreign 
realm” marooned or exiled. 

1 We dealt with this case in 1987; see Masaru 
Mori, ‘Female Alien in a Hollow Vessel’, FT48:48-50. 

2 See Tanaka Kazuo, ‘Did a Close Encounter of the 
Third Kind occur on a Japanese Beach in 1803?’, 
Skeptical Inquirer (July/Aug 2000) vol 24, no 4. 

days in the palace of the Dragon King beneath 
the sea, only to find on returning home that 
300 years have passed. If this motif was not 
ultimately derived from India, then it was 
certainly influenced by those Daoist tales from 
China in which it features. Kaguya had also 
experienced accelerated time from the moment 
she was found by Taketori to the time she was 
“of marriageable age” - the main versions 
agree this took just three months. 


Dickins declares the motif of a birth from 
bamboo to be “manifestly Indian”, citing 
a Buddhist legend from the Japanese 
compendium Naigeden about three sages 
who manifested as bamboos “with leaves of 
gold and roots of precious jade”, which split 
open to reveal in each “a beauteous boy”. “ 
Other folklorists have pointed out the near- 
universal motif of thumb-sized folk-heroes 
with miraculous births. 

The Kaguya saga also touches upon the 
origin of the name of Mt Fuji (Fujiyama). 

As the cape of forgetting is about to be 
draped over her shoulders, Kaguya pleads 
for a moment to say goodbye to a special 
person, before she forgets all her Earthly 
obligations. Despite her refusal of the 
Emperor’s suit, these two lonely people 
exchanged encouraging letters and poems. As 
she penned her last letter to him, apologising 
for being the cause of so much trouble, she 
hid within its folds a small portion of the 
Elixir of Immortality as compensation. After 
her Ascension, the Emperor has no wish to 
prolong his mortal existence without her and 
orders the Elixir, and her letter, to be taken to 
the nearest mountain that touched Heaven. 
The noble entrusted with this task journeys 
to Mt Fuji in the ancient province of Suruga 
and, at its summit, burns them as instructed. 
The smoke that still rises on occasion from 
this symmetrical volcanic mountain is said to 
come from that immortal pyre. Both Dickins 
and Keene point out that the folk etymology 
of Fuji means “not-die”, and alludes to the 
immortality that proximity to the mountain is 
said to grant. 


In her Catalpa Bow (1975), a study of Japanese 
shamanism. Carmen Blacker cites the opinion 
of the pioneering Japanese ethnologist 
Origuchi Shinobu that, in “the oldest 
cosmology known to the Japanese. . . far across 
the sea lay a miraculous land known as Tokoyo, 
from which at regular seasons supernatural 
guests called marebito would arrive on the 
shores of our world in boats.” 

In Japanese lore, the term marebito means, 
typically, ‘strangers from a faraway land’ - 
and, traditionally, they are responsible for 
‘supernatural abduction’ (kamikakushi). 
According to Noriko Reider, marebito can 
be wandering oni (primordial demons) or 
kami (Shinto deities) who would turn up 
in villages unexpectedly. These visitors 
were often welcomed because, if treated 
respectfully or given hospitality, they could 
bring good fortune and rewards - a function 
also attributed to fairies in Western lore. 

But essentially, she says, they were “foreign 
travellers” from “the other world” (i.e. a 
supernatural plane or realm analogous to 
the Western Otherworld or Underworld).^® 

In modern lore - see Miyazaki’s 2001 
anime Spirited Away - these abductors can 
include shamans and witches as well as gods 
or demons. 

Interestingly, in his 1906 translation 
of the Taketori Monogatari, Dickins notes 
that the Old Bamboo-cutter is described as 

38 FT331 

yamabito, which he translates as “woodsman” 
- presumably referring to his rustic lifestyle 
and remote habitat. 

However, later scholars have defined 
yamabito as “a supernatural being, genius, 
fairy, esp. used for the Daoist sage, but also for 
a mortal ‘genius’”. Although the stories treat 
Taketori as a humble old man, there is a strong 
Chinese tradition of depicting Daoist sages 
as indistinguishable from such mountain- 
dwelling peasants. It would be perfectly 
fitting for such an enlightened being, ascetic, 
hermit or shaman to have a magical child as 
a familiar from the other world. Just to spice 
this further, we are reminded of that other 
class of mountain-dwelling psychopomps - the 
humanoid hawk spirits called Tengu - who are 
implicated in a number of the supernatural 
kidnapping stories, given by Blacker, and 
which she associates with the yamabushi, 
mountain-dwelling ascetics. But no one, yet, 
has suggested that the tale of Taketori might 
have had its origins in Daoism or shamanism. 


The pioneer of Japanese folklore studies, 
Kunio Yanagata, built an influential theory 
on the translation of yamabito as “mountain 
men”. After years of collecting stories and 
beliefs in remote areas of Japan, his book Tono 

Monogatari - Legends of the Tono Prefecture, 
1910 - he conceptualised them as a poor 
underclass of “wandering people who do not 
possess land and are powerless”, ekeing out 
a living in the mountains. “ Furthermore, 
Yanagata believed that these ‘Yamabito’ 
people were “descendants of a real, separate 
aboriginal race of people who were long ago 
forced into the mountains by the Japanese 
who then populated the plains” during 
the Jomon era (roughly 11,000-300 BC). ^ 

Yanagata was inevitably ridiculed 
for these ideas, but rural belief in the 
supernatural inhabitants of remote mountains 
continues today. That said, there is a big 
difference between the tales of supernatural 
kamikakushi and the abductions by yamabito. 
Generally, the marebito abduction involves a 
shamanic style journey through and sojourn 
in the Otherworld; generally, the yamabito 
tales do not. 

Here is a translation of one of Yanagata’s 
stories: “A young girl is at play under the pear 
tree in her yard one evening toward dusk, 
and in the next instant she is gone, vanished. 
Thirty years later, the occupants of her old 
family home are surprised by a visitor whom 
they recognise at once as this child, now grown 
to womanhood. She looks haggard and old. 

She is silent, except for the half-apologetic 
remark that she ‘just wanted to see everyone 

once more’, and then she departs as silently 
and mysteriously as she came. Evidently no 
one attempts to follow her, and no one asks 
her to stay. Her story remains untold. No one 
wants to hear it. They know what it is. She 
is kamikakushi... literally, she has been hidden 
by the kami, by the spirits. She has been 
enslaved by some supernatural being.” 

The reader will notice that in nearly every 
respect this account is the antithesis of 
Kaguya’s story. Among the number of ways the 
ancient story of Kaguya-hime is unique, is that 
it is a reversal of the kamikakushi. In her case, 
the visitor from another world is not here 
to kidnap but to be taken in by terrestrial 
peasants rather like a fairy changeling; and 
far from kidnapping her, the supernatural 
marebito from the faraway land in the Moon 
come to take her back. SI 


BOB RICKARD started 
Fortean Times way 
back in 1973 and was 
its esteemed co-editor 
for 30 years. He is the 
author of numerous 
books on fortean 
subjects and a founder of 
the Charles Fort Institute. 


1 ch.l7, The Tale ofGenji (Genji 
monogatari). Itself a classic of 
Japanese literature, Genji was written 
by a noblewoman, Murasaki Shikibu, 
in the peak of the Heian period (AD 

3 The Tale of Princess Kaguyo 
(Kaguyahime no monogatari), directed 
by Isao Takahata, Ghibli Studios, 
released in Japan in 2013, and 
in the West in 2015, gaining 30 
award nominations and 11 wins for 

3 I’m using what is probably the first 
English translation, in the Journal 

of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol.l9, 
1887, ppl-58: The Story of the Old 
Bomboo-Hewer {Taketori no Okino no 
Monogotori). /\ Japanese Romance 
of the Tenth Century, translated with 
notes by F Victor Dickins. Dickins 
expanded the paper for a booklet 
the following year, and again in 
a two-volume set called Primitive 
& Mediaeval Japanese Texts for 
Clarendon Press in 1906. In this later 
work he gives the date of his source, 
the text of ‘Tanaka Daishiu’, as 
“about 1838”. Afresh translation was 
made nearly 70 years later by Donald 
Keene - The Tole of the Bamboo 
Cutter, in Monumenta Nipponica, 

Vol. 11, No. 4 (Jan., 1956), pp329- 
355. Keene’s translation was retold 
in book form in 1980 by Sally Fisher 
as The Tole of the Shining Princess, 
with illustrations from an 18th century 
edition of the tale. 

4 His name is given as Sonugi 
(sometimes Sonuki) no Miyokko, 
or “miya-tsu-ko” which Dickins 

translates as meaning “a servant 
of the August Home in Sanugi” (a 
province of Shikoku, Japan’s fourth 
largest island). It seems to be a title 
like Governor or Baron, but perhaps, 
noted Dickins, “like many other titles 
it degenerated into a mere name”. 
Later in Dickins’s version, the name 
is given as “Miyokko Maru", and it is 
this name that is used by the leader 
of the Moonfolk to address Taketori. 
Keene gives this as Miyokkomoro. 

5 Dickins: ‘Princess of flexible 
bamboos scattering light’; Keene: 
‘Shining Princess of the Young 
Bamboo’. A British collection. Myths 

6 Legends of Japan by F Hadland 
Davis (1912, gives: ‘Precious Slender 
Bamboo of the Field of Autumn’. 
Takahata’s 2013 anime has: ‘ Shining 
Princess of the Supple Bamboo’... 
and so on. 

6 Midnight until two in the morning. 

7 Dickins portrays the Moonfolk as 
the ethereal supernatural beings 
called ‘fairies’ in Chinese and 
Japanese literature, but in retelling 
the story for Western readers of 
more than a century ago calls them 

8 Keene calls the Moonfolk’s vehicle 
a “chariot”. Both he and Dickins are 
following the internal logic of the 
story, referencing the usual way that 
the nobility or officials travelled in a 
palanquin or litter. Takahata’s anime 
version makes the huge plate of 
clouds the main vehicle. 

9 In Ichikawa’s version, Taketori 
and his wife lost their own daughter, 
around five years old, and buried her 
among the bamboos. 

10 Although reckoned to be 
legendary, Suinin can be found in the 
Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters), the 
early eighth century chronicle of the 
origins of the Yamato dynasty. 

U Horoi is the Japanese variant of 
the Chinese mythical island Peng Lai, 
likewise the home of the fairies and 
immortal sages. 

12 While it was almost certainly 
common knowledge that swallows 
laid eggs, and easily verifiable, for 
some unexplained reason this story 
has them giving live births. 

13 In Takahata’s anime version, at 
her ascension Kaguya remembers 
that when she formerly lived on the 
Moon she had been fascinated to 
hear the tale of another woman 
who had stayed on Earth and who 
lamented her return to the Moon. 
Kaguya thought that this curiosity 
about life on Earth might have been 
her crime. 

14 What folklorists call ‘the 
supernatural passage of time’ - as 
frequently met with in ufology as 

in fairylore - is nicely portrayed by 
Randal Kleiser in the context of a 
vanished child in his 1986 film Flight 
of the Navigator. See also Edwin S. 
Hartland, ‘The Supernatural Lapse of 
Time in Fairyland’ ie. chapters 7-9 of 
his The Science of Fairy Tales (1891). 

15 A Daoist version was noted by 
Robert Ford Campany in Strange 
Writing (1996), his compendious 
study of Chinese writings about 
anomalies. According to the Yiyuon (‘A 
Garden of Marvels’), compiled by Liu 
Jingshu sometime in the 5th century, 
under a heading of plants that 
resemble humans, an entry records 

“the discovery of a miniature being 
inside a bamboo stalk.” This certainly 
predates the first printed Taketori no 
Monogotori. Elsewhere, the online 
Mythencyclopedio records (but 
doesn’t reference) that “the creation 
story of the Andaman Islanders of 
the Indian Ocean, the first man is 
born inside a large stalk of bamboo” 

16 Noriko T Reider, Japanese Demon 
Lore (2010). 

17 Albert Koop & Hogitaro Inada, 
Japanese Names and How to Read 
Them (1922). 

18 See Hideyo Konagaya ‘Yamabito: 
from Ethnology to Japanese Folklore 
Studies’ in The Folklore Historian, 
vol 20. 

19 Gerald A Figal, Civilizotion and 
Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in 
Meiji Japan (1999). This recalls 
the theory promoted by GL Gomme 
that our inherited lore about fairies 
is a survival from a time victorious 
invaders of Britain conquered the 
Pictish aboriginals. On this topic, I 
thank Simon Young for reminding me 
of David MacRitchie, who came to 
believe that British and Continental 
fairies were the rump of an almost 
vanished sub-Arctic people. Curiously, 
“he believed that the only living 
‘fairies’ and the last survivors of 
this race were the Ainu of northern 
Japan”. (Personal communication). 

20 AW Sadler, ‘The Spirit- 
Captives of Japan’s North Country: 
Nineteenth Century Narratives of 
the Kamikakushi’ in Asian Folklore 
Studies (1987) vol. 46, pp217-226. 

FT331 39 


David Simpson was a young man when he became a flying sorcerer. A sorcerer is 
someone who has magic powers and David created UFOs from ordinary bits of plastic 
and metal. Some people believed they came from other worlds. In reality they came 
from his workshop in Surrey. DAVID CLARKE tells the full story. 

I t was the 1960s and the skies were 
alive with signs and wonders. 

Flying saucers were part of a great 
explosion of interest in occult 
phenomena that emerged from 
the counter-culture in Britain 
and America. Across the Western world, 
thousands of young people sought to alter 
their consciousness, whether through 
mystical Eastern beliefs, psychedelic music, 
mind-altering drugs or the occult and 
ufology. One of the influential books of this 
era was John MichelFs The Flying Saucer 
Vision written by hippie spokesman John 
Michell and published in 1967. It made 
a connection between flying saucers and 
the ancient myths and legends of Britain. 
Michell popularised an existing idea that 
UFO pilots used ley lines’ - invisible 
currents of earth energy - to navigate when 
they arrived here. 

The Wiltshire countryside, with its stone 
circles and ancient monuments, became a 
natural Mecca for people seeking UFOs and, 
in due course, crop circles. Glastonbury Tor 
in Somerset and other such mystical places 
became cosmic ‘windows’ that attracted 
saucer watchers like moths to a flame. But 
while the hippies were looking up to the sky, 
David Simpson and his friends looked at the 
people who said they saw UFOs. They dared 
to ask: Were they really seeing spaceships 
from other worlds? Or was there another 
explanation for what was going on in the 
fields and hills of southern England? 


When I met David Simpson he turned out 
to be a reserved, quietly-spoken man in his 
mid-sixties. In 2001 he retired as head of 
Pressure and Vacuum Standards at the UK’s 
National Physical Laboratory, where he had 
spent much of his working life developing 
cutting edge measuring instruments in 






a lab that had produced atomic clocks, 
radar and the first computers. The UFO 
phenomenon had piqued his younger self’s 
instinctive curiosity. Being a scientist he 
naturally wanted to And hard, measureable 
evidence that could be tested. If UFOs were 

solid, structured craft from elsewhere, he 
reasoned it must be possible to capture 
them on film or record them on scientific 
instruments. From 1965 onwards Britain 
experienced a prolonged UFO flap with 
sightings regularly reported on national 
television, radio and in the newspapers. This 
presented a unique opportunity to And that 
elusive evidence. With public interest at 
its height, Simpson and his friends decided 
to set up their own UFO group based in 
the southeast of England. They called it 
SIUFOP, the Society for the Investigation of 
UFO Phenomena. SIUFOP started out with 
about 10 members with an average age of 
around 20. Some were at college studying 
to become scientists and had the technical 
skills required to investigate unknown 
phenomena. Sceptical they may have been 
but even SIUFOP’s members could not 
escape the Zeitgeist that gripped the nation 
and the world. 

“We did nothing but talk about flying 
saucers and it was great fun,” Simpson said. 
“The newspapers were full of UFO stories 
and like everyone else at that time we 
tended to believe what we read in the news 
or saw on TV. The general feeling was that 
something strange was going on. The UFO 
mystery was deepening and nobody could 
quite explain what was behind it.” 

SIUFOP were different because they 
shunned the publicity and attention sought 
by other UFO groups. As budding scientists, 
their efforts were concentrated on obtaining 
hard evidence. “We had camera gear, tripods 
and even a rudimentary spectrometer at the 
ready,” Simpson explained. “And we knew 
how to take night-time photographs of the 

So appealing was the idea that UFOs 
existed that Simpson’s friends decided to do 
what most UFO groups did in those days: go 
skywatching. The local landmark of Chantry 

40 FT331 

ABOVE: A convincing photo of the Warminster Thing; in fact, a hoaxed UFO created by the SlUFOP team. BELOW: David Simpson appears on British television in 1982. 

Hill provided an excellent vantage point, 
but the first night proved disappointing. A 
tripod-mounted camera was poised for action, 
but they saw nothing apart from satellites. 

On the second night four of the group 
braved freezing temperatures and returned. 
Bleary-eyed through lack of sleep, the shared 
excitement of the moment overcame their 

“Almost as soon as the group reached 
the top of the hill someone shouted: ‘What’s 
that strange light in the sky?’ Soon the 
cameras were out and we were busily taking 
photographs,” Simpson recalled. “We could 
all see a light moving a few degrees above the 
horizon. It moved around, up and down and 
horizontally. Then it was joined by two more. 
At times up to six variously coloured lights 
were seen dancing around. We had never 
seen anything like it before. The display went 
on for an hour or so. It seemed to us that we 
might just have some valuable knowledge of 
the nature of UFOs within our grasp. We took 
so many time-exposure photographs that we 
ran out of film.” 

Believing they had captured images of 
world changing importance, the friends 

rushed home to develop the film. But 
when the images materialised in the dark 
room their mood turned from elation to 
disappointment. They expected the lights to 
have left long traces on the negatives, but 
all the images showed the same fuzzy blob 
of light with a short curled tail. Worse, it 
appeared to be much lower in the sky than 
they recalled. 

A day or so later the group returned to 
Chantry Hill in daylight. They checked 

the direction the lights had taken against 
landscape features marked on an Ordnance 
Survey map. They were shocked and 
embarrassed to find they had been looking 
directly towards a small road on a distant 
hillside. Returning at night, they found their 
UFOs were nothing more otherworldly than 
distant car headlights. 

“This experience was very instructive,” 
Simpson said. “We realised that when you are 
excited and tired you are much more likely 
to misinterpret things. We also learned from 
talking to other people who gave unusual 
and mysterious accounts of UFO sightings 
that the more they repeated their stories 
the more they tended to exaggerate. When 
people discussed their ‘sightings’ they often 
incorporated details heard from someone 
else or from the media or the UFO literature 
into their stories. For instance, they would 
often say they ‘there must be intelligent life 
elsewhere in the Universe’, implying that 
this could explain their UFO. All these things 
made us much more careful and sceptical.” 

Despite the lessons learned on the Sussex 
Downs, Simpson and his SlUFOP pals 
continued their investigations. By 1967 the 

FT331 41 

ABOVE: Cradle Hill, Warminster, became a Mecca for people in search of UFOs and one of the most popular spots for skywatchers. 

BELOW: The earliest news report concerning strange goings-on in Warminster concerned a mysterious noise and appeared in the Warminster Journal in December 1964. 

word on the street was that if you really 
wanted to see a flying saucer, the best place 
to go was a sleepy town in Wiltshire. 


Situated about 15 miles (24km) west of 
Stonehenge, from the mid-1960s Warminster 
had become a virtual Mecca for ufologists. 
Every weekend and bank holiday the 11,000 
population of the town was swelled by 
hundreds of UFO enthusiasts. Pilgrims were 
forced to camp in fields, as there were not 
enough hotels. As night fell the hills around 
Warminster were thronged with expectant 
skywatchers all hoping for a personal 
sighting of ‘The Warminster Thing’. They were 
undaunted by the fact that one of the key 
skywatch locations. Cradle Hill, sat alongside 
the largest military training zone in the UK. 

The Warminster phenomena began late 
in December 1964 when a curious news 
item appeared in the weekly Warminster 
Journal. A woman on her way to church 
early on Christmas morning was startled by 
an unearthly sound, like “branches being 
pulled over gravel”. This was followed by an 
eerie droning. One week later, the town’s 
postmaster came forward to say he had 
heard a similar bone-chilling aerial noise. 

This prompted a self-described ‘amateur 
scientist’, David Holton, to send a long letter 
to the paper. Holton claimed the mysterious 
noise had been heard for years and had once 
“disturbed a flock of pigeons from their 
roost”. The birds scattered in terror, many 
dropping dead to the ground. Quizzed about 
this sensational story on a local television 
news bulletin, Holton said he believed 
‘The Thing’ that haunted the skies above 
Warminster came from outer space. It was 
only a matter of time before the source of the 
noise revealed itself. 

By the spring of 1965 stories about 
unexplained sounds had been replaced by 
sightings of “bright, cigar-shaped objects” in 
the sky. A moving light, dubbed the “amber 


OETTING oil for Church at 6.30 
^ on Christmas morning, a Brad- 
ley Road, Warminster, housewife 
heard a crackling noise from the 
direction of Bell Hill. At first she 
thought it was a lorry spreading 
grit on the hill. But the noise grew 
louder, came over her head and 
passed on across Ludlow Close. 

She will not let me use her name 
because she is afraid of being 
laughed at. The noise sounded like 
branches being pulled over gravel 
and there was a faint hum. it was 
quite loud but not above talking 
level. The sky was dark but bril- 
liantly st arlit a nd she could sec 
nothing aBDve-her. 

gambler”, roamed the hills above the town. 

As rumours spread, Elwyn Rees, chairman of 
the town council, called a public meeting “to 
allay fears that the happenings were a danger 
to the Earth”. On Friday 27 August 1965, 
just before the Bank Holiday, 200 residents 
squeezed into the Town Hall Assembly 
Room. Hundreds more gathered outside. 
Inside, John Cleary-Baker, the Chairman 
of the British UFO Research Association 
(BUFORA), the UK’s premier UFO society, 
reassured townsfolk they had nothing to fear 
from their visitors. They should “welcome 
their arrival in the sky”. He went on to link 
UFOs with fashionable New Age ideas about 
‘ley lines’ and suggested aliens could be using 
an ancient earthwork nearby as a “homing 

The debate almost descended into farce 
when Rees was handed an urgent telegram. 
He opened it and found a message that read: 
“Investigations completed. Invasion fears 
are unfounded. [Signed] Doctor Who.” The 
meeting failed to untangle fact from Action 

but attracted television cameras and the 
national press to the town. Local businesses 
were overjoyed. Hotelier Hugh McLaren told 
reporters: “This could do us as much good as 
the Loch Ness Monster did for Scotland”. 

The Warminster Thing might have been 
quickly forgotten after the summer silly 
season was over. The man who ensured it 
continued to run was Arthur Shuttlewood, 
who at the time was chief reporter for the 
town’s newspaper. He kept the rumours 
alive in a stream of articles published by the 
Journal. By the summer of 1966 Warminster 
was firmly planted on the map as the place 
to see UFOs. “As a local journalist I have 
to report every item of news as it comes in 
and this was such extraordinary news,” he 
told a BBC film crew. “Reputable people 
were coming forward: the head postmaster 
of the town, a vicar and his three children, 
a hospital matron, an Army major who said 
his car was virtually stopped in its tracks 
at 40mph. These sorts of people have to be 
trusted for their integrity”. 

Shuttlewood depicted himself as a hard- 
bitten, cynical journalist. But his cynicism 
and objectivity seemed to evaporate when 
he went looking for UFOs. He attributed this 
conversion to personal experiences with ‘The 
Warminster Thing’. Shuttlewood had lost the 
sight in one eye following a wartime accident. 
But despite this disability he saw UFOs on 
average twice every week and went on to 
rack up a total of 800 experiences. He told 
the BBC: “When one sees for oneself that’s 
it. Nothing will deter you from your absolute 
belief from that moment onwards”. In 1968 
he published a book. The Warminster Mystery. 
This was the first in a series that combined 
colourful accounts of his and others’ sightings 
with New Age mysticism. Shuttlewood was 
a deeply religious man who believed UFOs 
were a sign of the approaching apocalypse. 

He had a way with words and quickly became 
a media celebrity. Visitors to Warminster 
regarded him as a kind of saucer guru and 

42 FT331 

sought him out to experience for themselves 
what he called “UFO magic in motion”. Night 
after night he could be found on the hills 
above the town, skywatching with groups of 
visitors from across Britain and the world. 

One of his promises was that “if you stand on 
Cradle Hill from around 9.30 at night you’ll 
see something unusual by midnight”. 


Warminster’s reputation as the UK’s UFO 
spotting capital was now at its height. In 
February 1968 David Simpson, along with 
other members of SIUFOP, followed the 
weekend pilgrimage along the A303. “We 
were told it all happened in Warminster and 
if we went there we would see something,” 
Simpson said. “There were so many sightings 
that even if some of them were exaggerated 
and others were made up, we felt not all of 
them could be. 

“The hype and excitement were infectious. 
I have never forgotten it to this day. People 
went up there expecting to see something. 

We used to genuinely believe we were on the 
brink of some huge discovery. But when we 
got there we found that most people did not 
even have a camera, never mind being able 
to take photographs with a tripod - necessary 
when trying to capture the movement of small 
lights in the night sky.” 

Inevitably, after many visits to skywatching 
locations around Warminster, SIUFOP met 
Shuttlewood. “The language he used to 
describe these objects was just mesmerising,” 
Simpson recalled. “He was a great orator 
and could really hold a crowd.” But despite 
Shuttlewood’s charisma and his story-telling 
skills, Simpson’s group were left disappointed 
by the photographs his sidekick Bob Strong 
produced as evidence. These depicted blobs 
of light against a dark sky. SIUFOP found 
similar images could easily be produced 
by waving a small lamp in front of an open- 
shuttered camera. Others resembled street 
lamps or car headlights. 

Soon the group realised that one of the 




astounding UFO sightings 

lights they were seeing were car headlights, 
similar to the ones they had photographed on 
the Sussex Downs. “You could occasionally 
see the lights caused by someone driving 
along a track about five miles away,” David 
explained. “It was very bright when seen 
from Cradle Hill and it genuinely looked as 
if the car lights were up in the sky. In those 
days there was very little light pollution in 
Warminster. There were just a few lights in 
the valley below. On a dark night you could 
not see the horizon. So any light that was 
on one of the hills appeared to be up in the 
sky. That was responsible for many of the 

David pointed out that most of the 
skywatchers they met were not used to 
standing out on a dark night looking at the 
sky. “They were seeing the heavens and the 
Milky Way for the first time and they were 
not used to what can happen when you 

ABOVE AND LEFT: If one man put Warminster on the 
UFO map it was local journalist Arthur Shuttlewood, 
who wrote a series of books on the ‘Warminster 
Mystery’ between 1968 and 1979. 

stare at a pinpoint of light,” he said. David 
explained how, when someone tries to focus 
their attention upon a bright star or planet, 
against a dark, featureless sky, “eye-muscle 
fatigue can cause small eye movements that 
are perceived as the star dancing around. This 
is autokinesis but on Cradle Hill it was proof 
of a UFO.” 

Autokinesis is a perceptual phenomenon 
that has been responsible for thousands of 
UFO sightings. The dark skies that framed the 
Warminster landscape provided just the right 
condition for this type of optical illusion. In 
1968 a psychologist. Dr Stephen Black, and 
BBC producer Philip Daly experienced a vivid 
example. They had arranged to meet Arthur 
Shuttlewood as part of their research for a 
documentary on the people who saw flying 
saucers. In a letter I found in the BBC file on 
this programme, Daly describes how the pair 
arrived in the town at 10.30 one night after a 
long drive from London along a mist-shrouded 
road. When they reached Cradle Hill they 
found Shuttlewood with three UFO watchers. 

“There was still some haze about when we 
got up on the hill,” Daly wrote. “But slowly it 
began to lift and suddenly Mr Shuttlewood 
excitedly drew our attention to a UFO. The 
extraordinary thing was that both Dr Black 
and I saw this ‘object’ moving about. When 
the mist lifted 45 minutes later and the whole 
sky became clear, the light we had been 
watching was quite clearly the planet Jupiter, 
though we could not prevent Mr Shuttlewood 
from claiming another UFO. But the sensation 
of autokinesis was very real!” 

David Simpson explained to me that when 
it is very dark and your eyes have adapted 
to the conditions, an air of expectation can 
produce an enhanced sense of awareness in 
both hearing and vision. “At one time the 
sighting of a red glowing UFO was caused just 
by someone puffing on a cigarette further 
down the track!” he said. “We realised that 
some people were personally chuffed when 
they had a UFO sighting and regarded it as 
a badge of honour. It was akin to a religious 
experience, like someone seeing the Virgin 

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ABOVE: By the autumn of 1965, Warminster was preparing itself for an invasion of saucer seekers. 

FT331 43 

ABOVE LEFT: Warminster skywatchers seen on the BBC’s Nationwide broadcast. 

Mary for themselves. I asked one such person, 
who described what sounded to me like a 
common misinterpretation of a distant car 
headlamp, ‘Why couldn’t it have been a car 
headlamp?’ and they replied: ‘Look, you can’t 
take this sighting away from me’. Now they are 
not the words of somebody who is interested in 
finding out exactly what it was they had seen.” 

Simpson found a lot of anti-scientific feeling 
on Cradle Hill, where many of the ufologists 
gathered to watch the sky. “Sometimes we 
felt that sighting details were manipulated, 
subconsciously or otherwise, to prevent 
prosaic explanations fitting the facts,” David 
said. “They didn’t really want to hear about 
plausible explanations. They talked about 
scientists being closed-minded. But for them, 
being open-minded meant being prepared 
to accept anything as evidence. Even if 
it was inconsistent, self-contradictory or 
demonstrably wrong. They were not willing 
to attempt rational analysis, or prepared to 
discard discredited theories.” 

By this stage SIUFOP had come to suspect 
the mystery surrounding the subject of 
UFOs was sustained by poor, uncritical 
investigation of inaccurate UFO reports, but 
this view was firmly rejected by most of their 
fellow skywatchers. “Those who disagreed 
with us tended to be those who preferred 
the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis,” Simpson 
said. “They said there was plenty of good 
evidence to support this hypothesis if only 
scientific investigators would snap out of their 
preconceived beliefs and take it seriously”. 


SIUFOP decided to put the observational and 
investigative abilities of the UFO watchers 
to the test. In other words, it was time for a 
carefully constructed hoax. So when, in June 
of 1969, BUFORA announced that one of 
their National Sky watch days would be held 
at Warminster, a cunning plan began to take 
form. As night fell, a helium-filled plastic bag 
carrying six brightly-lit torch bulbs rose from 
Sack Hill to the east of Cradle Hill. 


“It went up on an ideal night, very clear 
and with a gentle wind blowing,” Simpson 
recalled. “And it looked stunning from Cradle 
Hill. The three-volt bulbs were mounted close 
together and each was powered by a 4.5-volt 
battery, making them burn with a very bright 
white light. But even so, we did not expect it 
to look as spectacular as it did, far out-shining 
anything else in the sky.” The balloon drifted 
just above treetop height away from the 
skywatchers and over the Army range. 

“We had members planted in the crowd 
listening out for the reactions. And it was 
obvious many of the people were not just 
impressed. They were stunned by it and some 
got quite emotional”. 

A short while later a second balloon, this 
time with just four lights hanging below, was 
launched to the west of Cradle Hill and it 
drifted much closer to the skywatchers. This 
time the excitement was palpable. “Telepathic 
communication was established with the 
torch bulbs that were said to be as bright as 
a searchlight and metallic with portholes,” 
Simpson recalled. “We were all surprised 
and almost shocked by the reaction to this 
sighting. . . It was hailed as one of the best ever 
made there. We pondered that if simple little 
torch bulbs provoked such a reaction what did 
this suggest about the credibility of the other 
sightings made in one of the world’s most 
famous UFO hotspots?” 

But there was a fly in the ointment. One of 
the party had revealed that he knew the UFO 

was just a balloon and he publicly named the 
hoaxers. Simpson’s group now expected they 
would be exposed before their experiment 
was complete. Yet it seemed nobody wanted to 
believe it was a hoax. 

“We decided that if someone came up and 
asked us ‘Were you responsible for that?’ 
we would own up to it,” he explained. “But 
nobody did. Nobody asked. Not a soul came 
forward... Even more amazing, some people 
came forward to say they saw the same object 
in the sky the next night, when we had gone 
home. That made us realise we needed to 
design a more elaborate hoax, one that could 
not be so easily denied.” 


One night in March 1970, a mysterious purple 
light was spotted by a group of skywatchers 
on Cradle Hill. It appeared to come from the 
direction of Sack Hill, about a mile to the 
east. Its source was a 144-watt lamp, fitted 
with a purple Alter, held aloft by a member of 
Simpson’s group. Suddenly, on Cradle Hill, a 
loud buzzer began to sound in a UFO detector 
operated by one of three SIUFOP members 
secreted among the crowd. It had been 
carefully synchronised to sound 15 seconds 
after the purple light was seen. Then, one of 
the team pretended to take photographs of 
the purple light but did not actually press the 
shutter of his tripod-mounted camera. After 
the light had been switched off he took two 
reference pictures of the familiar streetlamp- 
studded scene. He then casually offered to 
give the Aim to anyone who could have it 

Fortunately for the team, the offer was 
taken up by a man with links to Flying Saucer 
Review, the world’s leading UFO magazine 
at the time. When the photographs were 
developed the purple light had been replaced 
by a more spectacular UFO some distance 
away from where the lamp had been held. One 
picture showed a clear, bright elliptical object 
- a flying saucer - with a spherical appendage 
both above and below it. The second showed 
the object further along the invisible horizon 
and slightly lower. So the Aim contained four 
images. Two SIUFOP fakes showing a UFO 
superimposed above the wrong part of the 
streetlamp pattern visible from Cradle Hill, 
and two genuine images of the scene with no 
UFOs visible - the reference pictures taken on 
the night. 

Simpson explained that “the important 
point about the photographs was that 
a number of deliberate inconsistencies 
had been built into them so that anybody 
exercising even moderately critical analysis 
would have been able to show, quite readily, 
that they were at least not quite what they 
appeared to be. Firstly there was no purple 
light visible in the photo. We had faked the 
photos by taking a background picture some 
months before. Then we superimposed the 
saucer shape onto them. The superimposed 
UFO images did not resemble the purple light 
at all; they were the wrong shape and had 
three separate parts, not just one as seen. Also, 
they were positioned above the wrong part of 
the distinctive streetlamp pattern.” 

44 FT331 

The purple light had been stationary but 
the UFO in the images appeared to have 
moved a considerable distance between the 
first and second photos. The UFO images 
were much poorer in quality than those 
showing the two ‘genuine’ images and had 
been magnified because of the crude method 
that was used to create them. 

“Finally, the streetlamp patterns in 
the UFO and non-UFO photographs were 
not quite the same - those with UFOs 
were prepared using a photograph of the 
streetlamp scene taken months earlier, 
when some streetlamps were not visible,” 
David explained. “In the non-UFO pictures, 
supposedly taken minutes later, they were 

Any one of these clues would have aroused 
suspicion in the mind of a competent 
investigator. But, other than the object’s 
change of shape, none of the inbuilt flaws 
were spotted by Flying Saucer Review's team 
of allegedly highly qualified consultants. The 
magazine published the images in August 
1970, causing a sensation. FSR's photographic 
expert, Percy Hennell, wrote: “Let me say 
at the outset that there is nothing about 
these photographs which suggests to me 
that they have been faked in any away”. In 
his editorial, FSR's editor, Charles Bowen, 
pondered why the purple light visible to the 
observers was so different from the images 
on the photographs. Bowen accounted for 
this inconsistency by referring to a new 
theory developed by John Keel, who was 
a frequent contributor to the magazine. 

Keel claimed UFOs were not spacecraft 
from our dimension or Universe but 
rather ‘soft objects’ created by mysterious 
ultra-terrestrials who inhabited a parallel 

At the time Keel’s ideas were growing in 
popularity with European ufologists who had 
begun to doubt the popular Extraterrestrial 
Hypothesis. They also influenced an eminent 
Erench astronomer. Dr Pierre Guerin, who 
joined the scramble to authenticate the 
images. Guerin was Director of Research 
at the Astrophysical Institute of the Erench 
National Centre for Space Research and 
had recently discovered a new ring around 
the planet Saturn. Despite his scientific 
credentials, Guerin was completely fooled 
by the fake UEO photographs. Like Bowen, 
he preferred to believe the purple light was 
“a solid object not visible to the eye but 
emitting ultra-violet light”. He concluded 
that Keel was probably correct: “UEOs 
can appear, or disappear, on the spot, 
when leaving or entering our usual four- 
dimensional space-time.” 

The hoaxers wanted to give the UEO 
community further opportunities to unmask 
their fake photographs. Simpson raised 
the inconsistencies at a BUEORA meeting 
where he suggested the Warminster images 
were full of anomalies that pointed to a 
hoax. But the chairman, John Cleary-Baker, 
disagreed. If they really were fake, he 
argued, the hoaxer would not have made 
such obvious mistakes. “I was stunned by this 
statement,” Simpson said. “He was saying 

the very presence of inconsistencies made 
the photographs more, not less, likely to be 

On the one hand, Simpson’s group 
were quietly pleased with the results of 
their experiment. They had confirmed 
their suspicions about ‘The Warminster 
Thing’. But they also felt disillusioned and 
disappointed. They had demonstrated how 
poor the investigations carried out by the 
UEO community actually were. So-called 
‘experts’ had failed to spot inbuilt flaws 
that should have been easily detectable. 
Their need to believe in UEOs from other 
worlds had overcome their critical faculties. 
It was a classic example of what sociologists 
call confirmation bias - the urge to select 
only the information that confirms your 
preconceived ideas or beliefs and to ignore 
anything that contradicts them. 

SIUEOP allowed their hoax to run for just 
over two years before word got out - through 
a leak rather than investigation. When FSR 
discovered the truth they accused the group 
of deceit and ‘confidence trickery’. But they 
failed to explain how they had missed the 

piJi h whil thv Hw. 

A umcfi -ww" dlfTenenllv. 


warnings so carefully planted by SIUEOP. 
Even so, David Simpson knew that for their 
results to have more scientific credibility 
they had to be repeatable. So there was to 
be one final hoax that would test the will to 
believe of both the UEO watchers and the 
national media. 


Despite the revelation that pranksters were 
active at Warminster, groups of people 
continued to join the weekend pilgrimage 
to Wiltshire. During the summer of 1972 
a rumour spread that a UEO landing was 
imminent. The BBC’s popular evening news 
magazine Nationwide sent reporter Brian 
Ash to interview one of Warminster’s regular 
UEO watchers. Rex Dutta was confident the 
space people would show themselves for the 
cameras. He was a follower of Theosophy 
and a contactee who believed the occupants 
of flying saucers were spiritual beings from 

Sensing an opportunity too good to miss, 
Simpson and SIUEOP member Ken Raine 
sent up polythene balloons from the side of 
nearby Sack Hill, situated midway between 
Cradle and Star Hills. The two men had 
learned from past experience that a mere 
torch bulb could look spectacular provided it 
was very bright and was seen against a dark 
sky. The bulb was partly covered with opaque 
paint so that when dangled from the balloon 
on the end of a piece of cotton it would 
turn in the wind, making it appear to wink 
irregularly. Two photographic flashbulbs 
were also added to the payload. These were 
timed to ignite two minutes after launching. 

In complete darkness, two balloons 
were released just as the BBC crew joined 
Dutta and the crowd of people gathered 
at Star Hill. The sky was clear with a faint 
wind, making conditions perfect for their 
experiment. The balloons with their winking 
lights passed directly overhead and floated 
towards Salisbury Plain. Erom their hiding 
place on Sack Hill, Simpson said they could 
see flashes of light from nearby Cradle Hill. 

TOP: The famous issue of Flying Saucer Review that hailed the SlUFOP photographs as genuine. 

ABOVE: David Simpson demonstrates the purple light mounted on a car that was used to produce the photos. 

FT331 45 

ABOVE: The balloon hoax revealed on the second Nationwide broadcast. BELOW LEFT: Rex Dutta disagrees with 
Nationwide presenter Brian Ash. BELOW RIGHT: David Simpson and Ken Raine, the self-confessed hoaxers. 

These came from groups of skywatchers who 
were using their torches to send signals to 
the UFOs. Suddenly the little winking points 
of white light hanging below the invisible 
balloons appeared to explode as the first 
flashbulb was triggered. Believing this to 
be a direct response to their signalling, 
the skywatchers flashed back even more 
enthusiastically. They were rewarded when 
the second flashbulb went off. Meanwhile, on 
Star Hill, the BBC team struggled to capture 
the lights on camera. Brian Ash turned to the 
Nationwide camera: “We have definitely just 
seen something and I have no explanation 
for what was seen. It was quite high up in the 
sky and what it consisted of were two lights 
that seemed to be bending over at an angle, 
flashing on and off and going on for about 15 
seconds”. Ash then described the moment 
the first flashbulb ignited: “Suddenly one of 
them [the UFOs] just exploded into a ball of 
Are, a blinding light before they went out of 
sight. . . Now I have no idea what that could 
have been”. 

Rex Dutta was ecstatic. Not only had 
UFOs shown themselves as he had predicted 
but this time they had done so in full view 


of the BBC cameras. He told Ash this was 
clear evidence the UFO occupants were 
“appealing mind to mind to intelligent 
people... the intense brightness which 
came and the alternation was random yet 

Immediately after the BBC film was shown 
on Nationwide, SIUFOP decided it was time 
to own up. Simpson and Raine were invited 
to the studio to confront Dutta. Prompted by 
presenter Bernie Falk, Simpson confessed 
his role to the crestfallen BBC team. He said 
their UFO was actually “a polythene bag 
suspending three small batteries, a torch 

blub and a small electric circuit attached to 
a flashbulb.” Ash took it well, asking Falk not 
to mock him: “I was going to be the man who 
was to present a real life spaceman on British 
TV but now it seems Fm the victim of a cruel 

Dutta was having none of it, though: 

“Now just a second, that’s not proven!” 

He dismissed SIUFOP’s story as “the 
type of rubbish that is often offered to 
debunk genuine UFO sightings.” He 
claimed experienced ufologists “know the 
difference between a balloon and something 
intelligently operated,” asking the hoaxers: 
“You mean to say they can’t recognise a 
balloon? There were cameramen present who 
said how distinct and intense the flare was.” 

Falk turned to Simpson and Raine and 
asked: “Could you answer this, that you are 
in fact hoaxing us now?” Simpson replied: 

“I can do no more than invite Mr Dutta 
to watch us do it again.” So it was agreed 
the group would return to Warminster the 
following weekend and create more UFOs. 

On this occasion the BBC cameras Aimed the 
balloon’s blinking lights as they drifted over 
Star Hill, but poor weather made this display 
less impressive. Rex Dutta was unconvinced. 
“They were flashing, they were pulsating 
last time,” he protested. “We have all seen a 
flashbulb and we know what they look like. 
The BBC reporter said it was ‘an explosion 
of light’ and. . . that’s got to be reproduced 
before I will believe it.” 

Brian Ash disagreed. “What we saw is 
not identical to what we saw last weekend,” 
he told viewers. “But it has to be said first 
that the atmospheric conditions are very 
different. Tonight the sky was overcast and 
there was a very strong wind blowing.” 

With the cameras still rolling, Simpson 
and Raine turned up in their Morris 1000 
to join the debate. A furious argument 
ensued. Confronted by his tormentors, Dutta 
continued to insist the intensity of the light 
was “not the same”. Then a sympathetic sky 
watcher announced he too was unconvinced. 
Rounding upon a bemused David Simpson, 
he said in a loud voice: “You have not proved 
tonight that UFOs do not exist. All you have 
proved is that hoaxes do exist”. 

I wanted to know if Simpson thought he 
was right. “Of course it’s impossible to prove 
that UFOs don’t exist. But what we did prove 
was that people tend to see what they want, 
or expect, to see depending upon their own 

46 FT331 

prior expectations and beliefs ” he said. 

“At Warminster the UFOs we created were 
described as having all sorts of shapes, sizes, 
colours and motions that were not there. 
Some believed the objects were watching 
them, following them or communicating 
with them, either telepathically or simply by 
flashing in response to signals from torches 
on the ground. But memories of a UFO 
experience seem to accrete details, so when 
you offer the explanation witnesses And it 

Simpson’s experiments made it apparent 
to me how such stories grow and become 
embellished by the language people use to 
describe what they have seen. That language 
is drawn not just from the UFO literature 
but also from images in popular culture, 
from Aims, television programmes and 
newspaper stories. When enhanced by the 
skills of a charismatic storyteller like Arthur 
Shuttlewood, what often began life as a 
simple light in the darkness was transformed 
into something extraordinary. At Warminster, 
torch bulbs and flashbulbs attached to kites 
and balloons were described as blinding balls 
of Are that out-manoeuvred aircraft, were 
brighter than searchlights and were capable 
of appearing and disappearing at will. 


David Simpson learned much about the 
magic and mystery of UFOs from his 
experiences. Almost half a century after he 
completed his experiments, I wanted to know 
if he thought it was ethical to perpetrate 
hoaxes on unsuspecting people. 

“I don’t think there was any ethical 
problem there at all,” he said. “We didn’t 
put anyone in danger. Most of the people up 
there were claiming to be UFO investigators 
and there were others who published 
information in magazines that claimed to 

have scientific credibility. They expected 
the public to take these claims seriously. So 
there was a public interest in testing how 
capable they were of investigating these 
stories in an objective fashion. They were 
also insisting that the scientific community 
and ‘the authorities’ should take UFO 
reports seriously. But in science it is always 
important to first understand the accuracy 
of information before using it to reach a 
conclusion. Our hoaxes provided calibration 
data clearly showing that UFO sighting 
reports, even when filed by UFO experts, can 
be inaccurate to the point of invalidating 
their ‘mysterious’ label.” 

Simpson retired from ufology after 
SIUFOP’s Anal experiment at Warminster 
in 1972. “Looking back I can see now it was 
definitely a thing of its time,” he said. “There 
is only so long something like that can last 
before the novelty wears off. In the end it was 
the sheer lack of good evidence that caused 
it to fizzle out. But it could definitely happen 
again somewhere else.” 

If Simpson’s group had not published 
the results of their experiments, both the 
Warminster sightings and the photographs 
would have become part of the cumulative 
‘UFO evidence’. Indeed, some people who 
deliberately create photographs of UFOs 
for less obvious reasons never confess. Their 
handiwork continues to circulate within the 
UFO community, in the media and on the 
Internet. In consequence, ufology is riddled 
with hoaxes, both confirmed and suspected. 
And every type of UFO evidence, from 
complex photographs to alien abductions, 
secret government documents and stories 
told by high-ranking military officials about 
extraterrestrial cadavers hidden in air force 
hangars, has at some point been unveiled as 
being invented. 

Some hoaxes begin life as simple pranks 

ABOVE: Cradle Hill, Warminster, as it appears today; the skywatchers and reporters are long gone. 

but others are far more complicated. They 
can involve sophisticated photography 
and multiple witness testimony. Those who 
believe in UFOs dismiss the number of 
hoaxes as being small and insignificant. But 
this ignores the fact that any complex hoaxes 
that remain undetected will inevitably 
form part of the five per cent residue of 
unexplained incidents that, for ufologists, 
constitute the best UFO evidence. 

What David Simpson found at Warminster 
in the 1960s is actually a microcosm of 
the larger UFO phenomenon. Warminster 
could be substituted for any other media- 
driven UFO cause celebre centred upon a 
locality, be that Roswell or Rendlesham. 

Just occasionally we get to peer behind the 
magician’s curtain and touch the heart of the 
mystery. One of these occasions occurred in 
2005 when a key player in the original events 
at Warminster decided it was time to confess. 
In a letter published in the Warminster 
Journal, David Holton revealed he was the 
person who set the hare running 40 years 
earlier. It was, he said, “a psychological 
experiment that succeeded beyond even the 
wildest flight of my imagination.” 

Holton said his experiment was inspired 
by the paper’s account of the strange aerial 
noises reported during the winter of 1964- 
65. “It had long seemed to me that the 
public mood of that time was yearning for 
some demonstration of the unseen realm’s 
presence. . . I invented a story about a flock of 
pigeons being killed by sound waves and one 
or two fictitious incidents and simply sent 
them to the Journal to see what happened.” 
The result was explosive: “Reports from 
witnesses poured in from the surrounding 
district and continued to do so for the next 10 
years at least.” 

Every time a hoax is revealed, or a UFO 
identified, the mystery is solved. But even 
when lights in the sky are revealed as 
flocks of pigeons or balloons sent up to test 
ufologists, we forget - or choose to ignore 
- the lessons we have learned. The will to 
believe remains so strong that we keep going 
back for more. m 

Extracted and adapted 
from How UFO’s Conquered 
the World: The History of 
a Modern Myth by David 
Clarke, published by Aurum 
Press (www.aurumpress., 2015, RRP £18.99. 


DAVID CLARKE is a senior 
lecturer in journalism at 
Sheffield Hallam University 
and has been a regular 
contributor to FT for many 
years. Since 2008, he has 
worked as a consultant for 
The National Archives on the 
release of the Ministry of 
Defence’s UFO files. 

FT331 47 





We observed in our introduction that compendia, or encyclopaedias, of 
fortean phenomena are a good way to start worming one’s way toward an 
understanding of the breadth of the field but, equally, make excellent 
reference resources for later, when one thinks one has some command of 
the subject. This time we are commending a voluminous work in whose 
creation one of FT’s more provocative contributors had something of a hand. 
You win a small packet of mystical New Age healing unguent (not entirely 
unlike beef dripping) if you failed to guess that we are referring to The 
Unexplained partwork magazine (13 vols, Orbis 1980-3). Subtitled ‘Mysteries 
of Mind, Space and Time’, it covered everything from acupuncture and 
the anthropocentric principle to quantum mechanics and UFO propulsion 
systems. You can still get complete bound sets on eBay, and probably at car 
boot sales too, sometimes at really bargain prices (£6.50 anyone? Not bad for 
more than 3,000 pages). Many of the thematic spin-off volumes can be had of 
Amazon, Alibris and the like. 

T here are things that should be 

explained about The Unexplained. 
To begin with, it was a shamelessly 
(but in a good way) commercial 
project: as such, it was, as Bob Rickard 
remarked in these pages once, “far better 
than its publisher had any right to expect.” 
It was extremely successful, selling over 
800,000 copies of its first issue. But it 
was in the nature of partwork publishing 
that editors were (with a few specialist 
exceptions) essentially paratroopers, 
expected to be able to pile in almost 
anywhere and do a professional job, 
whatever the subject. Peter Brookesmith 
(for it was he), who masterminded the 
project, tells us that he was under- 
employed, overseeing the last rites of a 
failed encyclopedia of railways, would you 
believe, when Brian Innes - Orbis’s creative 
director, founder of the Temperance 
Seven, and a former staffer on the earlier 
partwork Man, Myth & Magic, as it happens 
- dumped a pile of books and magazines of 
a vaguely occult and paranormal nature on 
his desk and said: “See if you can make a 
partwork out of that.” 

The rest is history; but you should be 
warned, says Brookesmith, that the first 
dozen or so issues were put together by a 
team flying mostly by the seat of its pants. 
He continues: “At least we had time to 
contact (alias take long leisurely lunches on 
expenses with) the likes of Charles Bowen, 
Hilary Evans, Roy Stemman, Bob Rickard, 
Adrian Shine, Janet and Colin Bord, and 

our consultants Arthur Ellison, J Allen 
Hynek, Brian Inglis, and Colin Wilson, to 
get us up the learning curve as fast as an 
E15 Strike Eagle sitting on its afterburning 
tail. Pre-publication research had shown 
that potential readers wanted something 
a bit meatier than a credulous Gee-whizz! 
approach, so we had a licence, as it were, to 
inject sceptical qualifications into the copy 
from the word go. We were always open 
to alternative interpretations. However, 
you’ll notice as you wend your way through 
all those pages that the treatments tend 
to become ever less credulous and ever 
more questioning. This was partly because 
after about a year of dealing with this stuff 
full time, one finds oneself waking with 
Occam’s razor in one hand and a bullshit 
detector in the other; and partly because 
some brilliant sceptical researchers such 
as the late greats Melvin Harris and 
Piet Hoebens started writing in to offer 
correctives, which we felt duty-bound to 

commission as articles or series; and some 
(Melvin in particular) became regular 
contributors.” It seems that cynical humour 
around the office grew in proportion to 
this gradual shift, though it rarely seeped 
onto the printed page. All this is by way of 
warning: that you do need to have read the 
whole partwork to appreciate its overall 
balance. “Not that we got everything 
right: and certainly not first time,” says 
Brookesmith. “I fondly remember a choleric 
missive from Paul Devereux denouncing 
our initial treatment of leys (‘the trouble 
with you media people’ - never been called 
that before; or since - and so on), to which 
the only proper response was to invite him 
to write for us. And he most graciously did, 
more than once. We never got it right about 
spontaneous human combustion, since you 

An innovation in partwork publishing 
was The Unexplained's invention of the 
several-part series. This was a wheeze 
designed to retain readers - all partworks, 
everywhere, always, lose readers over 
the course of their lives: as witness The 
Unexplained's final sales after 152 issues 
standing at 30,000 a week, or just under 4 
per cent of its initial sale - which was still 
vastly better than the average partwork’s 
fall-off, so perhaps the wheeze worked. 
However, the result, when reading the 
collected work as printed, can be mildly 
irritating, as one has to scrabble through 
to the next issue (and sometimes the one 
after that) to follow the whole story about 
timeslips, or morphogenetic fields, or Irish 
lake monsters, or whatever, to its end. The 
spin-off volumes on the other hand gather 
the series together, although they didn’t 
include all the articles from the partwork. 

Thirty five-odd years on, some things 
have become dated, inevitably. This is 
perhaps most noticeable in the ufology 
strand, as the magazine ceased publication 
a year or four before the abduction myth 
went viral (as we’d now say) and well 
before the Roswell saga and all its never- 
ending excitements exploded. Both get 
fairly and thoroughly treated within the 
limits of the then available information, 
and indeed series like Alvin Lawson’s on 
his ‘false abduction’ research and birth- 
trauma hypothesis were cutting-edge at 
the time. Likewise, The Unexplained gave 

48 FT331 


the full treatment to Bill Spaulding’s 
‘federal hypothesis’, fashionable as it 
was (and recently revived, oddly with no 
mention of Spaulding or his Ground Saucer 
Watch organisation, by Mark Pilkington 
in Mirage Men). And there is a lengthy 
treatment of the Cash/Landrum encounter, 
by John Scheussler - probably its first 
proper introduction to a UK audience, 
by its lead investigator. (“These days,” 
says Brookesmith, “we would have let 
Curt Collins loose on it.”) Even an early 
version of the Rendlesham Forest Incident 
appeared, courtesy of Jenny Randles; no 
one could have predicted how that was 
to turn out. These were early and more 
innocent days for crop circles too, and the 
partwork’s one excursion in that direction 
sided with the idea that they were probably 
meteorological in origin. These treatments 
(and others like them) may seem outdated, 
but they’re not obsolete: one thing they 
demonstrate is how fashions change in 
forteana - sometimes going full circle - and 
as such are part of the wider history of such 

From time to time, the magazine 
published the results of original research. 
Recalls Brookesmith: “Hilary Evans 
trotted off to Pembrokeshire to dig into the 
‘Dyfed Triangle’ stories, and came back 
with something rather less exotic than the 
standard version. A nice old gent, whose 
name I forget, gave us a lengthy account of 
how his grandfather had devised a means 
to predict earthquakes. We published that 
as a back-cover story, and it piqued the 
interest of Archie Roy (also a contributor), 
who had one of his graduate students 
test the method. Disappointingly, but 
unsurprisingly, it failed; but it was an 
experiment worth doing. Frank Smyth gave 
us the previously unpublished lowdown 
on his Vicar of Wapping scam. We scooped 
everyone with Joe Cooper’s revelation 
that the authors of the Cottingley fairy 
photographs had finally confessed to a 

Something Brookesmith and his deputy 
Lynn Picknett (also occasionally of this 
parish) wanted to set up was a thorough 
test of the SORRAT mini-lab, then being 
championed in the UK by Dr Julian Isaacs. 
What had been filmed happening in the 
mini-lab, invented by WE Cox but housed 
by the SORRAT group at the home of 
Dr John Thomas Richards in Rolla, 
Missouri, was the subject of 
some controversy - to put it 
mildly - but it was spectacular 
if it wasn’t fake. Essentially the 
device was a sealed aquarium 
tank, into which various 
things were placed, and 
SORRAT members 
would request 
phenomena. Pens 
untouched by 
human hand 
stood on end 
and scribbled 
notes, wooden 

scoop The Unexplained never did get. 

On the other hand, you do get a pretty 
comprehensive account of how SORRAT 
began and what it had (allegedly) achieved 
by the early 1980s. And in other articles 
and series you get a pretty comprehensive 
overview of most aspects of the psychical 
research that was under way at the time. 
Recent excursions into that field suggest 
to the HA’s curmudgeonly self that things 
haven’t changed that much since, actually. 

One of the simpler pleasures, or 
even perks, for staff on The Unexplained 
was going through the readers’ letters. 
“Some would arrive in many, sometimes 
fluorescent, colours of ink, and some 
were in rhyme, from such places as St 
Luke’s [mental] Hospital, London NW,” 
says Brookesmith. “None, as I recall, was 
in green ink; but then, in my innocence, 
in those days I used to write articles on a 
green-ribboned typewriter, so what would 
I know? Others were of the ‘It happened to 
me!’ variety; these were often fascinating, 
and most of them we published. Some were 
sober discussions of theory. Perhaps the 
most outstanding was a very long epistle 
from no less a Person than God, who - with 
Mrs God, no less - resided in New Zealand, 
and was highly informative about many 
things one hadn’t previously considered - 
for instance, ‘There are no pets in Heaven’ 
- sorry, moggin - and no bonking either. 

So why bother, you might ask yourself. 

Most of this amazing document, which 
I’m sure wasn’t a piss-take, got into print. 
Unfortunately the whole original seems to 
have disappeared.” If you seriously want 
to buy a collection of The Unexplained, try 
to get one with the covers still on - this 
is where letters, as well as some of the 
wackier or more adversarial stuff, were 

Brookesmith sums it up thus: “I won’t 
say The Unexplained is unsurpassed, but 
it has few equals, and jaundiced as I am 
these days I’m still proud to have worked 
on it. The Unexplained remains a mostly 
reliable, detailed examination of people’s 
experiences of the paranormal, the occult, 
the anomalous, and the absurd - leavened 
with a fair slice of the theories and 
hypotheses that those have generated. 
Most of the good and the great - in the 
UK at least - who were on the front line 
in such things contributed to it. I had a 
brilliant staff - bright, witty, anarchic, 
and completely professional. And the 
illustrations were inspired.” 

So there you have it, from the horse’s 
mouth. We don’t disagree, and thank Peter 
Brookesmith for telling us more than was 
printable. m 

Partwork (published in UK, 13 volumes) 
The Unexplained: Mysteries of Mind, 
Space & Time, Orbis 1980-3 

Continuity set 

(published in USA, 26 volumes) 

Mysteries of Mind, Space & Time, 

HS Stuttman 1992 

rings linked, objects escaped the tank 
apparently straight through the glass (and 
without breaking it) - and so on. Dr Isaacs 
had been improving the design of the 
mini-lab and wanted to do a thorough test 
of some of his tame metal-benders-and- 
shakers with it. “We got approval for quite a 
fat budget to fund the experiments, most of 
which was to be spent on video cameras left 
right and centre, and sundry other security 
protocols. But Dr Isaacs seemed to dither 
and vacillate, and never quite got around to 
^ presenting his proposals in any detail, 
despite months of persistent nagging 
and other blandishments. We were 
left wondering whether this was 
I because publishing expects to 
operate a just tad faster than 
academia, or if he or his subjects 
feared the consequences of our 
belt-and-braces approach to 
guarding against fraud.” 

So now it can be told - the 

LEFT: Peter 
evil editorial 
mastermind of 
The Unexplained. 

FT331 43 



Taking his cue fronn fornner Kalmykian president Kirsan llyumzhinov, SD TUCKER explores 
strange claims that aliens brought both chess and sweetcorn to our grateful planet. 

I f you’ve ever despaired of mastering 
the higher levels of chess strategy 
(or, like me, struggle even to 
remember how all the pieces move 
across the board), then there may 
be a perfectly logical reason behind 
such ineptitude - chess, you see, was not 
really designed for puny human minds at 
all. In fact, its rules were laid down ^ons 
ago by a race from beyond the stars who 
introduced mankind to the game at the dawn 
of time itself. And whose unlikely opinion is 
this? That of Erich von Daniken, perhaps? 
Brinsley le Poer Trench? David Icke, maybe? 
(If you leave the Kings and Queens alone on 
the board for too long, will they shape-shift 
into giant pedophile lizards and start eating 
all the pawns?) Sadly not. Instead, this is 
actually the view held by the (extremely) 
eccentric former President (1993-2010) of 
the semi-autonomous Russian Republic of 
Kalmykia, Kirsan llyumzhinov. 

llyumzhinov and his ideas have appeared 
briefly in FTs pages before, but he has since 


made the headlines again due to controversy 
relating to his presidency not of Kalmykia, 
but of FIDE, chess’s governing body. An 
ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, 
llyumzhinov was disappointed late in 2013 
to hear that the outspoken former Soviet 
Grandmaster Garry Kasparov was planning 
to stand against him for FIDE’s leadership. 
Kasparov was not only claiming that he could 
run world chess better than llyumzhinov, 
he was also making complex allegations of 
financial impropriety against him. Evidently 

LEFT: The former president of Kalmykia, chess-mad 
alien abductee Kirsan llyumzhinov. 

the chess world disagreed with Kasparov, 
however, as when FIDE’s leadership election 
Anally came around during the biennial 
Chess Olympiad, held in the Norwegian city 
of Troms0 in August 2014, llyumzhinov beat 
Kasparov by some 110 votes to 61. 

Newspapers like to write about 
llyumzhinov, as he has had connections to 
various crooked characters throughout his 
career, from Saddam Hussein to Colonel 
Gaddafi, whom he flew out to visit during the 
2011 Libyan uprising, showing his support 
for the so-called ‘Mad Dog of the Middle 
East’ by playing a televised game of chess 
with him in the besieged capital of Tripoli. 
Details about Putin allegedly sending secret 
policemen to pay a ‘friendly visit’ to FIDE in 
2010 to persuade their hierarchy to continue 
backing llyumzhinov were also resurfacing, 
meanwhile, further guaranteeing media 
coverage of 2014’s election. Given that 
Kasparov has been a vocal critic of Putin’s 
rule, newspapers felt free to repackage the 
whole affair as some kind of latter-day Cold 
War espionage thriller, with silly headlines 
like ‘King eats king as bid to sex up chess 
gets dirty’ appearing in such normally staid 
organs as the Sunday Times. ^ 

Inevitably in such stories, mention was 
also made of Ilyumzhinov’s views about 
alien life. These mostly constituted brief 
retellings of the now famous tale of how he 
claimed to have been abducted by ETs one 
night during 1997. The noted chess historian 
Edward Winter, ^ evidently sick of the same 
few quotes being recycled endlessly in these 
articles, set out to discover just exactly what 
it was that llyumzhinov had actually said 
about his aliens. He appealed for further info, 
and his readers kindly provided him with 
it. The relevant page on Winter’s website ^ 
now provides comprehensive transcripts of 
Ilyumzhinov’s numerous media interviews 
about the topic, in both English and Russian. 
Before we explore these in greater detail. 

50 FT331 

though, perhaps we should first take a closer 
look at Ilyumzhinov and his nation. 

Born in 1962, Ilyumzhinov was interested 
in chess from a young age, and became the 
Kalmykian national champion aged just 14. 
As he grew older, however, his interest in 
the ‘Royal Pastime’ was paralleled by the 
increasingly regal nature of his life itself. 
Making millions in business deals after 
the collapse of the USSR, in 1993, aged 
30, he was elected as Kalmykia’s first-ever 
President, supposedly campaigning under 
the Borat-like slogans “A mobile phone for 
every shepherd!” and “A wealthy President 
is a safeguard against corruption”. Once 
in power, though, Ilyumzhinov soon began 
devoting much of his time not to his people, 
but to his first love - chess. He made the 
game a compulsory subject in Kalmykia’s 
primary schools, and in 1995 became 
President of FIDE. More controversially, 
he also ordered the construction of a 
‘Chess City’ near Kalmykia’s capital, Elista. 
Completed in 1998, it is essentially a small 
Olympic-type village, centred round a so- 
called ‘Chess City Hall’. Seemingly inspired 
by the ideas of a fictional con-man from 
Russian literature named Ostap Bender 
(who also called for the creation of a 
‘capital city’ for chess, and proposed that 
humans should play special intergalactic 
tournaments there during one of his scams, 
as detailed in the celebrated 1928 satire The 
Twelve Chairs),^ the place cost a fortune. 

Eor the entertainment of chess-loving 
visitors, Ilyumzhinov also planned to build a 
skiing centre, opera house and safari park, 
but right now the only non-chess-related 
facilities on offer are a swimming pool and a 
Buddhist art centre. Even more ambitiously, 
Ilyumzhinov at one point also announced 
plans for a grandiose ‘International Chess 

City’ to be built in the new bad-taste capital 
of the world, Dubai, where billions would 
be squandered upon constructing 32 towers 
shaped like giant chess pieces - plans which 
ultimately came to naught. ® 

As for Kalmykia itself - well, it is the 
proverbial ‘faraway country of which we 
know nothing’. Indeed, it’s not really a 
proper country at all, merely a so-called 

TOP: A statue of fictional con-man Ostap Bender in Kalmykia’s capital, Elista. ABOVE: Unsurprisingly, chess in big in 
Elista, where the former president ordered the construction of the ‘Chess City’ complex outside Elista. 

‘semi-autonomous region’ within the Russian 
Eederation - i.e. Putin actually runs the 
place, but it’s distant enough from Moscow 
for him to have to appoint a puppet. A 
place of only 300,000 souls, most of whom 
are poor and live off the land (even though 
Soviet-era agriculture policies transformed 
much of the region’s fertile soil to desert), 
the majority religion is Buddhism. In 2004, 
the Dalai Lama came to visit, and a 1997 
report in The Economist claimed that the 
Kalmykian people seemed to treat their 
President “as though he were a reincarnated 
[Buddhist] saint himself”. ® Ilyumzhinov 
perhaps encouraged this perception, telling 
a journalist from Izvestia in 1995 that he was 
able to communicate with his voters and 
other Russians “on a subconscious level”, 
by which he seemed to mean ‘psychically’. 

He then added that he was “creating around 
the Republic a kind of extra-sensory field” 
for its own protection - something Petro 
Poroshenko should perhaps try doing in the 
Ukraine some day. ^ 

If reports are to be believed, most of 
Kalmykia’s people actually liked their leader, 
however, and found the way he put the 
country on the map through his eccentricities 
rather admirable. Indeed, many Kalmyks 
seem predisposed towards believing in the 
supernatural themselves - in 2010, hundreds 
of locals claimed to have seen UEOs hovering 
over Elista (they turned out to be spotlights 
from a shopping centre) and in 2009, (see 
FT264:28), the BBC reported that the entire 
country was “in the grip of an epidemic of 
UEOs, angelic visions and other strange 
phenomena.” ® 


What, exactly, constituted Kirsan 
Ilyumzhinov’s paranormal experiences, 
though? Well, thanks to Edward Winter’s 
website, we now know. According to 
Ilyumzhinov himself, he was asleep one night 
when the doors to his balcony opened and 
he heard his name being called. Going out 
to investigate, Ilyumzhinov found himself 
being sucked up through a transparent tube 
to a waiting spaceship which, he said, was 
“absolutely enormous”, with rooms the size 
of football pitches. Inside were humanoid 
aliens dressed in yellow spacesuits with dials 
on their chests that could be used to regulate 
an internal oxygen supply. They gave 
Ilyumzhinov his own suit and then seemed 
to ignore him, flying to an unidentified 
planet to retrieve some equipment. As to why 
exactly they had abducted him, Ilyumzhinov 
said he did not know. He really should have 
thought to ask them, he admitted. One 
Russian MP, Andre Lebedev, suggested the 
ETs might have been pumping Ilyumzhinov 
for State secrets, and demanded an official 
investigation. ® 

The aliens then took him to “some star” 
he said, sounding like an unimpressed 
teenager. He was annoyed because he 

FT331 51 



ABOVE: llyumzhinov enjoys a friendly televised game with Col ‘Mad Dog’ Gaddafi in a besieged Tripoli in 2011. 

had a pressing engagement at a Youth 
Government Week and made repeated 
requests to be returned home. Being shot 
back down into his bedroom, llyumzhinov, 
showing admirable regard for punctuality, 
rushed into his kitchen and shouted “Please 
make me some eggs! We must hurry to the 
airport!” at his startled aides who, he said, 
had been searching his apartment and 
trying to find him for the past hour or so, 
thus demonstrating the physical truth of the 
whole episode. (Though in other interviews 
he implied he may have been undergoing 
some kind of visionary shamanic-type 
experience in his bed instead; “people fly 
while they are dreaming”, he noted). 

Because of his abduction experience, 
llyumzhinov soon began to theorise that 
there was “some kind of [alien] code” 
contained within chess - a code that was 
apparently linked to human DNA, which 
contains 64 codons within each molecule, just 
as chessboards contain 64 squares. Perhaps 
the game contained the secret of human 
life itself? There was certainly something 
funny about it. As he put it during a 2010 
interview, the “cosmic game” of chess has 
been played amongst many different cultures 
for centuries now, and always with the same 
rules; but “there was no Internet before”. 

llyumzhinov explained, demonstrating his 
deep grasp of history, so how did all these 
different people from around the world 
know what the rules were? “Pm not ill. 

Pm psychologically normal,” he told his 
interviewer, before going on to claim that 
aliens had introduced sweetcorn to earth as 
well, for some reason. 

The best explanation of llyumzhinov’s 
philosophy on record was given by him to 
Paul Hoffman, author of the book King’s 
Gambit, during a discussion held in Colonel 
Gaddafi’s Tripoli in 2004: “1 do not think 
of chess as a game,” he said. “Nor is it a 
sport. It is an activity that is inherent in 
our civilisation. It is civilisation. Chess is 
science and philosophy. Archeologists have 
found chess pieces in India, South America 
and Japan. There were chess pieces before 
there were aircraft, ships and Communism. 
How could they exist at all these different 
places on Earth? No human could have 
distributed them. Maybe the pieces came 
from... outer space. Maybe chess is a gift from 
other planets. Or else chess sprang from the 
bones of mankind, from our very nature. It is 
somehow programmed into our genetic code. 
Tennis and golf are not played everywhere 
on Earth. But chess is. 1 am its guardian, its 
keeper. Eor me, chess is religion. Join me 

please in spreading the faith.” 

If chess is a religion for llyumzhinov, 
though, then evidently it is a highly syncretic 
one, because he seems to be adding to it 
all the time from whatever source comes to 
hand. In a 2010 Time magazine interview, 
for instance, after explaining that in his 
view Jesus Christ was actually an alien, 
he showed that he had apparently been 
reading the doom-mongering works of people 
like Zechariah Sitchin and the American 
contactee Nancy Lieder. We can tell this, as 
he took the opportunity to warn humanity 
through Time that Earth was soon destined 
to collide with our old favourite the Planet 
Nibiru, (see FT324:5) a cataclysm that could 
not possibly be avoided unless mankind 
“cleanse[d] its aura” by - yes, you guessed it 
- “playing more chess.” 

Things get stranger still. In 2006, 
llyumzhinov pointed out that the final game 
of a chess tournament then being played 
would occur on Priday 13*, 13 years after 
the tournament’s 13* champion, his enemy 
Garry Kasparov, had temporarily left FIDE 
following an internal dispute. This, he said, 
was a sign that either God or “beings flying 
a UFO” had drawn up chess’s rules. Another 
time, he claimed to have spoken to the 
former Russian Grandmaster Vassily Smyslov, 
who told him that aliens had rearranged his 
chessboard and then broadcast voices into 
his head one night in 1974, telling him which 
moves to make in order to win a particularly 
difficult match. He also told the New Yorker 
in 2006 that the world would soon end as 
intergalactic travellers, observing all the 
planet’s wars, would swoop down one day, ask 
mankind “Why are you eating each other?” 
and then “just put us in their ships and take 
us away.” “ Something tells me that Mr 
llyumzhinov should have been ‘taken away’ 
himself quite some time ago... 


SD TUCKER is a Merseyside- 
based writer whose books 
are Paranormal Merseyside, 
Terror of the Tokoloshe and 
1 (forthcoming) The Hidden Folk. 

= y Currently at work on two books, 
he is a regular contributor to FT. 


1 Sunday Times, 26 Jan; 
Times, 1 Aug+12 Aug 2014; 
WWW. n e wyo r ke r. co m/n e ws/ 

2 A man who, according to 
certain chess conspiracy 
theorists, (yes, really) 
doesn’t even exist - see 
vie w/ge n era l/ed wa rd-wi nte r- 
does-not-exist for a slightly 
paranoid discussion based 
largely upon the supposedly 
‘suspicious’ facts that he 
avoids publicity, lives in 

Switzerland and apparently 
doesn’t much like having his 
photo taken. 

wi nter/extra/i lyu mzh i nov. htm I 

4 A statue of Ostap Bender 
holding up a chess piece now 
stands in llyumzhinov’s Chess 
City; an extraordinary fact, 
given that Bender’s name 

is today used colloquially 
by Russians to mean 
‘confidence trickster’, and 
that his attempts to rebrand 
a small village named Vasiuki 
as a venue for space-chess is 
perhaps his most notorious 

scam. The rough equivalent 
in England might be a London 
Council accused of financial 
impropriety erecting a statue 
of Arthur Daley brandishing 
a suitcase full of used notes 
outside their offices. 

5 llyumzhinov can be found 
outlining his Xanadu-like 
plans at great length at 

6 Maybe llyumzhinov thought 
himself a saint, too; he called 
his 1998 autobiography The 
President's Crown of Thorns. 
(Although the book apparently 

included such un-Christ-like 
chapter titles as ‘Without Me 
the People Are Incomplete’ 
and ‘It Only Takes Two Weeks 
to Have a Man Killed’) 


8 www.ghosttheory. 

9 http:/ 
world/europe/8662822. stm 

10 All llyumzhinov’s quotes 
- including the Hoffman 
interview - are taken from 
wi nte r/extra/i ly u mzh i n ov. htm I , 
where original sources are 
provided. (I have conflated 
several different interviews 
in this account). The Times 
(7 Aug 2014) also said that 
llyumzhinov “believes that 
chess is a direct link to either 
God or the cosmos, that may 
enable humans to recover 
lost powers of flight and 
telepathy”, though I haven’t 
been able to track down 
the direct quotes for this 

52 FT331 

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The misguided monster hunters 

BRIAN REGAL assesses the current state of cryptozoology and asks whether it’s time for a new direction 

BRIAN REGAL teaches the history 
of science, technology and 
medicine at Kean University, 
and is the author of Searching 
for Sasquotch: Crackpots, 
Eggheads, and Cryptozoology. 

W hat should we do with 

cryptozoology today? What 
sort of shape is this much- 
maligned enterprise in? 

The unfortunate reality is that, in 2015, 
it’s not in very good shape at all. It has 
declined since its peak in the late 20* 
century, and its current practitioners are 
due for some deep thinking about their 
discipline: where they have been and 
where they think they are going. 

Scholars began looking for and trying 
to explain monstrous creatures in 
antiquity. Discussions in Pliny’s Natural 
History, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and 
Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things, to 
name a few, helped establish the pursuit 
of monsters as a legitimate exercise. 
Investigators and philosophers sought 
to use monsters as vehicles to study 
various intellectual topics. By the 1500s, 
for example, early modern authors in 
pursuit of werewolves began to argue 
that Lycanthropy was a mental disorder, 
not shapeshifting. Ulisse Aldrovandi, 
Fortunio Liceti and even Carl Linn^us 
used the study of monstrous creatures 
to uncover the diversity of life on 
Earth. In 1699, Edward Tyson showed 
that primates were not monsters at all, 
as once thought, but genuine species 
closely associated with humans - though 
not human offshoots as Rousseau 
believed. By extension, Tyson also 
helped demolish the long-held myth of 
the Cynocephali or dog-headed men 
(see FT286:32-37). 

In the 19* century, Richard Owen 
argued that sea-monster reports 
came from observers misconstruing 
marine life they little understood. His 
work showed that what was thought 
to be sightings of mythical creatures 
was actually evidence of how whales 
copulated (see FT32-38). When Charles 
Darwin articulated the idea of Natural 
Selection he used monstrosity to 
learn about the process of heredity. 

The pursuit of monsters through the 
19* century helped prove the spurious 
nature of many of them, and also helped 
explain questions of generation, the 
spread of disease, and evolution. 

Modern cryptozoologists have been 
active since the 1930s, when reports 
of a large creature cruising Loch Ness, 
and a hairy giant bumbling around 
Central Asia caused a stir. Then, in 1950s 
North America, tales of large ape-men 
and equally big footprints captured 
headlines. In time, these were joined by 
tales of living dinosaurs in the Congo. 
Expeditions from Russia to Nepal to 
California, Washington, Canada, and 
Africa, in groups small and large, 
supported by private financiers and 
newspapers, fanned out, determined to 
find these anomalous beasts. In the early 
21®^ century, we have searches supported 
by television money backed up with the 
latest gadgetry. 

Eor all this effort, for all the infra- 
red cameras, night vision goggles, DNA 
testing, and other hijinks, along with 
breathless exclamations of “what the 
hell was that?” at every twig snap, 
nothing has been found. All we have are 
hoaxes involving rubber suits, grainy 
photos, and jiggly video: all third-rate 

Those who pursued monsters from 
the classical age to the middle of the 
19* century helped invent biology, 
ornithology, zoology and a host of other 
modern sciences. Today, historians, 
who hunt monsters in libraries, rare 
books and manuscripts, have developed 
enormous insight into the way science 
and culture work. They have studied how 
the image of the monstrous has shaped 
our world in ways both obvious and 
subtle across disciplines from sociology 
to literature to psychology. 

What have modern cryptozoologists 
contributed to science? What will future 
historians say about their efforts? They 
will not be able to say - at least as of the 
time of writing - that cryptozoologists 
didn’t find monsters, but they did help 
us understand this or that about nature, 
or animal behaviour, or the ecology of 
the environments the creatures they 
searched for inhabited. Without any 

formal scientific or historical training, 
the vast majority of monster hunters 
today have no way of recording or 
even seeing the value of anything they 
find that isn’t, in their minds, directly 
monster-related. As a result, future 
commentators may very well remember 
this period as a colossal waste of time. 

Once inhabited by practising, 
mainstream scientists along with 
the amateurs, some of whom were 
quite sophisticated in their work, 
cryptozoology has changed. While a few 
brave scientists and serious amateurs 
engage with it today, cryptozoology is 
populated more often than not by frauds, 
hucksters, television celebrities of 
dubious provenance, and the earnestly 

All the traditional monster hunter 
paradigms have failed. No Bigfoot, 
no Sasquatch, no Yeti, no Loch Ness 
Monster, and no Jersey Devil have been 
found by lying in wait among the pines 
with fruit, pheromones, and cameras. 
Cryptozoology needs a new direction, 
a new focus. An honest appraisal of the 
field draws one to the conclusion that 
after the better part of a century trying 
to capture a cryptid - or just getting a 
good photo of one - cryptozoology has 
not advanced a bit since the heady days 
of Heuvelmans, Sanderson, Dahinden, 
and Krantz. 

Oh, and don’t hold up the coelacanth 
as a cryptozoological triumph. It was not 
discovered by cryptozoologists; it was 
not being looked for, nor did it have a 
mythical history prior to it being found 
accidentally and therefore it cannot be 
considered a genuine cryptid. 

Are we chasing our anomalous tails? It 
seems that while ostensibly looking for 
monsters, cryptozoologists are looking 
for themselves, so it’s not all a waste 
of time, at least not for the individuals 
involved. In the larger sense, however, 
cryptozoology has not lived up to its 
potential and should be called into 
question as to its efficacy. If not, it will 
continue to devolve into the circus it 
has become, until diehard supporters as 
well as scientists walk away from it with 
broken hearts. 

Of course, there’s always tomorrow. m 

FT331 55 




Portraits of an invisible man 

The furore surrounding the discovery of a new ‘life portrait’ of the world’s most celebrated writer leads JERRY 
GLOVER to wonder whether a dramatic conceit caused Shakespeare to erase himself from history? 

JERRY GLOVER is an independent 
researcher of historical enigmata, 
and has been a regular (albeit 
intermittent) contributor to 
Fortean Times since 2001. 

T here is an “astonishing new 
image of Shakespeare” 
according to Country Life 
magazine: an engraving 
in which the 33-year-old 
writer appears, in the company of 
three other fellows, as the thrillingly 
mysterious “Fourth Man”: a bearded, 
laurel-wreathed and toga-wearing 
gentleman holding an ear of sweetcorn 
and a Tiffany-lamp flower. Touted 
as a near-epochal discovery, this 
likeness from John Gerard’s Herball 
of 1597 is being claimed as “the only 
demonstrably authentic portrait” of 
what Shakespeare looked like, “drawn 
from life and in the prime of life”. ^ The 
Shakespeareosphere has set upon the 
discovery of botanical historian Mark 
Griffiths with a zeal exceeding even 
the anointing of the Cobbe portrait 
as Shakespeare by Stanley Wells and 
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust 
in 2009 (see “Bard Wars” by Jerry 
Glover, FT280:32-37). Even after four 
centuries the only generally accepted 
true likenesses of the writer remain the 
much-criticised engraving by Martin 
Droeshout in the First Folio of 1623, and 
the gormless funerary bust at Stratford- 
on-Avon. As both of those are possibly 
posthumous (perhaps derived from 
the National Gallery’s dusky Chandos 
portrait) the finding of a likeness made 
when Shakespeare was still alive is huge 
news. Has Mark Griffiths stumbled upon 
“the greatest discovery in 400 years”, 
or is Country Life experiencing a Hitler 
Diaries moment? 

When published in 1597 John Gerard’s 
Herball or Generali Historie of Plants, was 
the ultimate book of its kind, a botanical 
Paradise in over a thousand pages. 
Gerard (1542-1612) had a passion for 
plants that brought him into the orbit 
of Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the 
Lord Treasurer. Burghley is Griffiths’s 
‘Third Man’ on the title page engraving, 
the other two having been identified 
as different versions of Gerard himself. 
Griffiths’s case for the identity of the 

5G FT331 

He appears 
as a bearded, 


Botanist and 
historian Mark 
Griffiths believes 
he has found 
the only portrait 
of Shakespeare 
drawn from life 
on the title page 
of Gerard’s 1597 

monogram or 
mark that Griffiths 
argues is a 
cipher declaring 
status as a 

‘Fourth Man’ as the Man rests on 
references to fauna placed near the 
figure that also occur in Shakespearean 
texts such as Venus and Adonis (written 
to persuade Burghley’s son to marry) 
and various plays. Intrepreting this 
garden of symbolism through his 
botanical expertise, Griffiths has 
Shakespeare being brought into the 
Cecil household; here, the Bard would 
act as a propagandist to stem a decline 
in Burghley’s fortunes, while Gerard 
supplied the knowledge about plants 
and horticulture that would later 
suffuse the plays. In similar title-page 
illustrations, the Roman figure was 
traditionally the first-century physician 
Dioscorides, but Apollo’s laurel wreath 
and the faux Classical garb in Gerard’s 
book signify a noted writer and stage 
player. These clues were changed for 
the second edition by an editor (who 
apparently hated Gerard) “suppressing” 
the poetic collaboration of Gerard and 
Shakespeare and doing “everything in 
his power to distance his 1633 edition” 
from the original. ^ 

A monogram on a shield underneath 
the Shakespeare figure is where the 
matter takes a cryptographic turn. 

This rune-like device, says Griffiths, is 
a cipher assembled from the numeral 
4, the Latin form of which combines 
with the upper right E to make ‘shake’, 
and a pictographic ‘spear’ completing 
his name. It declares Shakespeare’s 
gentleman status. The ‘OR’ letters in 
the middle of the rebus additionally 
signify the “heraldic term for gold”, 
referencing the colour of the coat of 
arms granted to his father two years 
previously, while the ‘W’ at the base 
stands for - what else? - William. But 
how can this be the case when Joseph 
Ames, in his Typographical Antiquities 
(1749), described it as the joint cypher 
mark of TheHerbalVs publishers, 

William and John Norton? It clearly 
includes the letters N, 0, R, and W, 
in which Barry Clarke, a puzzler for 
the Daily Telegraph, also sees a pair 
of Roman tens, hence “NORTENS”.^ 
Griffiths says Ames was wrong: he 
could have misconstrued the Royal 
Arms on the title page, and his error 
was removed for the second edition of 
his book. Moreover, William Norton 
had been dead for four years when The 



Herball was published, so it made no 
sense to identify him as having anything 
to do with it. 

As online debate spun off into 
conjectures about the true meaning of 
this mark, and the Nortons’ possible 
status as the Queen’s printers. I 
expected someone to cut through the 
sub-Du Vinci Code games by citing 
FA Girling’s papers on 15th and 16th 
century merchant’s marks, which shows 
that, far from having anything to do 
with the numeral, Griffiths’s ‘shake’ 
cipher, the purported ‘Sign of Four’, was 
being used in marks long before the 
figure ‘4’ was even used in the West. The 
sign was common in English and French 
printer’s marks in the 16th century, and 
even caps the mark of the East India 
Company. The runic appearance of this 
sign and these marks in general is not 
certain, yet they probably were indeed 
originally runes, emerging from Nordic 
and Baltic trading contacts, and their 
printed orientation was irrelevant since 
there was no “right way up” for such 
marks.^ The M and W ‘letters’ appear 
on many marks with no relevance 
to the owners’ names, and were also 
commonly scratched on building stones 
and timbers as ritual marks to protect 
against evil by invoking Mary as Virgin 
of Virgins - Virgo Virginum. ^ 

Stanley Wells quickly endorsed 
the three other men of Griffiths’s 
identification, guessing that the 
Fourth Man was actually Sir Walter 
Raleigh, since the sweetcorn in his 
hand is an American crop, as was the 
tobacco and sweet potato that Raleigh 
introduced to England. Griffiths didn’t 
use his botanical expertise to show how 
conflating two different plants for both 
being American made no sense, instead 
pointing out that the other Fourth Man 
plants have no connection to Raleigh, 
and that the sweetcorn was already well 
established by 1597 and was not even 
introduced by Raleigh. And so the game 
of Elizabethan Code Detectives went 
on, escalating at every turn. Was Wells 
actually satirising Griffiths’s approach, 
his taste for over-ingenuity? Possibly 
not, since when the Cobbe portrait 
was unveiled as a ‘new’ Shakespeare 
portrait it was, in Wells’s words, “what 
Shakespeare ought to have looked like” 
(my italics); i.e., a wealthy gentleman. ® 
Griffiths has his gardener Shakespeare, 
Wells his gentlemen: to each his own. 

To Griffiths’s credit, he did not set out 
looking for Shakespeare - the Bard 
found him. 

The latest portrait is at the crest 
of a modern wave of Shakespeare 
portraiture. In 2002, the Sanders 
portrait of a young man that turned 

up in Canada, which includes an 
ancient inscription on the back 
naming Shakespeare, passed forensic 
tests.^ The Shakespeare ‘death mask’ 
at Darmstadt Castle in Germany 
provided the basis for Dr Caroline 
Wilson’s 3D digital image in 2010. 

The hyper-detailed recreation has 
consistencies with other portraits 
(including the Cobbe portrait), which 
in turn purportedly support the death 
mask’s provenance.* The mask figures 
in Simon Andrew Stirling’s theory 
that Shakespeare was murdered for 
his Catholic beliefs - a theory turning 
on the very skull of Shakespeare, 
which, we learn, rests in a private 
crypt under the church in the village 
of Beoley in northeast Worcestershire. 
Discovered by a Victorian clergyman 
who wrote about how the skull was 
stolen from Stratford by Horace 
Walpole, it has forehead indentations 
that match swellings around the left 
eye, as also seen on the Darmstadt 
mask, the Cobbe and Chandos 
portraits, and the Janssen funerary 
bust. * 

We forteans welcome all such 
discoveries, since they enrich the 
wider mystery of Shakespeare’s life 
and career. Perhaps the lack of a 
definitive life portrait of Shakespeare 
connects with the near-total absence 

ABOVE: The title 
page of Gerard’s 
Herbal I, showing 
four figures, with 
‘Shakespeare’ at 
bottom right. 

of direct evidence for him writing 
his attributed works. Consider for 
a few moments a scenario in which 
Shakespeare, potentially with the help 
of his collaborators, destroyed all their 
handwritten works, bar Shakespeare’s 
legal documents, which survive 
because they were beyond their reach. 
Why do that? The ultimate character 
a dramatist could conceive, he and his 
contemporaries might muse, would be 
a fictitious person stepping onto the 
stage of real life. For dramatists utterly 
committed to exploring the artistry 
of illusion and theatrics, the power 
of myth and mystery, such a creation 
would be their greatest achievement. 
And so, most taken with the idea, 
they or Shakespeare alone set about 
achieving it - as have other writers 
by degrees since. Thomas Pynchon 
has managed it with his image. Philip 
Larkin had all his diaries burned. 

JG Ballard and Roald Dahl claimed to 
destroy all their manuscripts, revealed 
upon their deaths as wishful thinking. 
Perhaps Shakespeare and his friends 
were committed enough to see it 
through, extending even to the writer’s 
visage in his lifetime. Such motives may 
explain why the only ‘offlcial’ portrait 
from the First Folio is unique for such 
a work, a “masterpiece of duplicity”, 
the sleeves of the “impossible doublet” 
mismatched and reversed, giving (along 
with the disproportionate head) “a 
harlequin appearance to the figure”.^® 
What game is afoot here; is this really 
the portrait of an actual person? In 
this sense, Shakespeare’s greatest feat 
is his own concealment of his art, and 
his non-identity. These absences only 
inflame our searches and elevate his 
life and work into a mythical realm 
- which perhaps was his intention all 
along, the cunning fellow. Q] 


1 Country Life, 20 May 2015. 


3 Ibid. 

4 FA Girling, “Merchant’s Marks in Suffolk”, 
Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, Vol. XXIX part 
1, 1961. 

5 T Easton, “The Use of Conjoined Vs to 
Protecta Dwelling”, appendix to CJ Binding 
and U Wilson, “Ritual Protection Marks in 
Goatchurch Cavern, Burrington Combe, North 
Somerset”, Proceedings of University of Bristol 
Spelaeologicol Society 23 (2), 2004, ppll9-133. 


7 Stephanie Nolen, Shakespeare's Face, Free 
Press, 2004. 


9 Simon Andrew Stirling, Who Killed WiHiom 
Shakespeare?, The History Press, 2013. 

10 John Rollett, William Stanley os 
Shakespeare, McFarland, 2015, pplO-13. 

FT331 57 


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The archaeology of madness 

This hugely entertaining celebration of what Michelet called the “galvanic dance of 
the archives” may broaden your perspective on anomalies more generally 

The Man Who 
Thought He Was 

Toward a Political History of 

Laure Murat 

Chicago University Press 2014 

Hb, 288pp, illus, notes, bib, ind, £31.50, ISBN9780226025735 


In 1959, at Michigan’s 
Ypsilanti State Hospital, Dr 
Miton Rokeach, a Freudian 
psychologist, conducted an 
unusual experiment. He brought 
together, daily, three patients 
who each thought they were the 
Christ; hoping this challenge to 
their identity - over two years - 
would force them to change their 
behaviour. He was inspired by an 
incident related by Voltaire about 
a man who was burned at the 
stake in 1663 for claiming he was 
Christ. Before his execution, the 
deluded man was incarcerated in 
a mental hospital with someone 
else who thought he was Christ. 
However, recognising the other 
man’s plight cured him of his 
own delusions but, sadly, only 

When Rokeach saw that his 
three ‘messiahs’ actually began to 
accommodate each other - each 
retaining their own delusion 
but regarding the other two as 
delusional - with understanding 
and not the expected hostility, 
Rokeach began manipulating 
them, but when they also adapted 
to these ploys, he terminated the 

experiment. Curiously, we learn 
from Professor Murat that the day 
after Napoleon’s remains were 
returned to Paris for burial, a 
hospital for the insane in the city 
admitted 14 men each claiming to 
be Napoleon. 

In a later edition of his book 
The Three Christs of Ypsilanti 
(1964), Dr Rokeach admitted that 
his actions, in retrospect, were 
morally and ethically wrong. 

There were not three gods in 
that hospital, he confessed, but 
four: “I had no right to play 
God.” Since then, psychiatrists 
are careful to state that their 
practice has come a long way and 
nothing like this could get past 
an ethics committee today. This 
conflict between pioneering and 
experimental treatments on the 
one hand and the political and 
social conscience of the medical 
profession on the other is the 
main theme in Murat’s wonderful 
study, seamlessly translated by 
Deke Dusinberre. 

Murat’s intention is to show 
precisely how the history of 
psychiatry in France has been 
closely associated with the 
politics and crises of the day; 
a claim originally made by the 
pioneering psychologist Jean- 
Etienne-Dominique Esquirol 
(1772-1840). She begins with 
an interesting analysis of the 
public execution of Louis XVI 
on 21 January 1793, whose 
ancestor Louis XIV famously 
ejaculated “L’etat, c’est 
moi!” His decapitation on the 
recently improved guillotine, 
simultaneously and symbolically, 
says Murat, separated the state 
and its head from him and 
hereditary kingship. 

As the ancien regime tumbled 
into the bloodsoaked basket 
alongside so many heads - close 

“Each ‘messiah’ 
retained his own 
delusion, but 
regarded the other 
two as delusional” 

to 3,000 were guillotined in 
Paris alone during the Terror 
between March 1793 and August 
1794 - it is not surprising that 
the guillotine itself became the 
symbol of the political and social 
rupture sought by the Revolution. 
What is a surprise, is that so many 
of the people associated with the 
implementation of the device 
were doctors; and many of them, 
as Murat shows, went on to play 
significant roles in the foundation 
of Trench psychiatry. 

The device itself had 
forerunners in Germany, Scotland 
and England, but the Trench 
perfected it. Its true improver 
was Dr Antoine Louis - one of 
Trance’s senior surgeons - and 
so it was nicknamed ‘Petit 
Louison’ and ‘Louisette’ before Dr 
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed 
this mode of beheading to the 
Constituent Assembly. Again, in a 
single stroke - “derived from the 
laws of geometry and gravity” and 
so cleanly and infallibly providing 
an “egalitarian and democratic” 
death - the machine did away 
with the archaic hierarchy of 
absolute punishments: burning 
at the stake for witches and 
arsonists, torturing for regicides, 
hanging for thieves and ordinary 
criminals. Decapitation by the 
sword was reserved for nobility. 

The contract to build the 
guillotine in its improved form 
went to a Prussian piano maker. 

but his claim to the patent was 
denied because it was regarded 
as “a machine of government” for 
carrying out legal sentences. The 
trials - on live sheep and human 
corpses - were attended by more 
doctors, Esquirol included. Their 
public and private discussions 
led to vigorous debates on a 
variety of otherwise morbid 
topics: including why a quick 
decapitation was superior to 
hanging; what constitutes torture; 
what do murderers deserve; and 
should death be painless. Such 
debates fanned out across the 
whole of Trench society and 
always, Murat observes, doctors 
were not only involved but seen 
as the arbiters of matters of life 
and death. 

One of the most intense 
debates was on whether 
consciousness extended beyond 
death. Even here the guillotine 
made its gory contribution. 
Stories spread that severed heads 
grimaced and lips moved as 
though trying to say something. 
The fastest ‘trending’ rumour 
concerned the head of Charlotte 
Corday (a sympathiser of the 
Girondin faction), who stabbed 
to death Jean-Paul Marat (leader 
of the Jacobin faction) in his 
bath. After the execution of this 
much-hated ‘Angel of Murder’, 
a revolutionary was said to have 
pulled her head from the basket 
and slapped her, causing her 
cheeks to blush in indignation. 

An influential group of doctors - 
which included Guillotin himself 
and George Cabanis, who had 
attended the guillotine trials - 
published a refutation arguing 
that movement and feeling can 
be dissociated from vitality, and 
likening such post-decapitation 

Continued on page 60 

FT331 59 



“Given that he crowned himself emperor, we shouldn’t be 
surprised so many wanted to be him or be like him” 

Continued from page 59 

reflexes to the antics of a 
headless chicken and Galvani’s 
dancing frog legs. 

Dr Cabanis went on to write 
an influential book on the 
relationship between mental and 
physical abilities. And so, muses 
Murat, a machine that divided 
bodies gave rise to a debate 
about the “divided self”. It was, 
she writes, the very origin of the 
medical debate about madness 
and the invention of psychiatry. 
There is “a literal and figurative 
connection between ‘losing your 
head’ and ‘losing your mind’.” 

Another significant legacy of 
the Revolution was the abolition 
of arbitrary imprisonment by 
ending so-called lettres de cachet, 
by which so many were unjustly 
locked away. In its place, the 
“medicalisation of mental illness 
[..] enjoyed a golden age”, 
bringing with it a host of new 
asylums and a mandate for the 
new psychiatrists to try anything 
that promised a therapy or cure. 
In a world without penicillin - 
“which would have emptied the 
asylums of the many stuck in the 
final stages of venereal disease” 

- without psychoanalysis, 

ECGs and MRIs, they resorted 
to a cornucopia of quackery: 
magnetism. Mesmerism, spinning, 
hosing with cold water, poisoning, 
bleeding and so on. They soon 
discovered that very little worked. 

Laure Murat - professor of 
French studies at UCLA - spent 
three years bringing back to 
life the accounts of long-dead 
doctors and patients, politicians, 
ideologues and pioneers, and how 
marvellously they are animated, 
detailed, illuminated here. 

She spent many hundreds of 
hours burrowing through the 
medical records of the four main 
mental asylums of Greater Paris 

- some 163 volumes - precisely 
spanning the time between “the 
Revolution of 1789 to the Paris 
Commune of 1871”. These were 
cross-checked against other 
official records and guided by 
the philosophical and social 
commentaries provided by the 

60 FT331 

pioneers of clinical psychiatry 

- Philippe Pinel (who also 
attended the guillotine trials) 
and his student Etienne Esquinol 

- the contemporary historian 
Jules Michelet and the modern 
philosopher Michel Foucault, 
who so influentially analysed the 
collusion of power, punishment 
and psychiatry. 

Decorating every strand of 
her writing are the tokens of 
her love affair with archives, the 
details, the asides and her joy 
at an unexpected discovery. She 
describes the stamina needed 
to study an archive - handling 
heavy ledgers and “gigantic 
folio volumes that can only be 
read standing up”; the constant 
vigilance for the nuggets of 
information; the persistence 
in deciphering the hesitant 
and eccentric handwriting; 
the determination to resist the 
all-pervading dust that threatens 
to mutate her into parchment; 
the patience need to resist the 
constant temptation to jump to a 
conclusion; and yet more stamina 
to keep track of the complete 
lack of any sort of consistency in 
spelling or regularity of format 
or style. These are things which 
anyone who has laboured in ill-lit, 
cramped and all-but forgotten 
corners of libraries will recognise 
and wear as a badge of honour. It 
may be a plodding sort of heroism, 
but its spirit sets this fortean’s 
heart and mind thrumming. 

In case you think all this 
has little to do with forteana, 

I would argue that we are also 
students of the erratic and 
anomalous behaviour of both 
individuals and large social 
groups. I cannot here give this 
book, fully, the appreciation it 
deserves as I have barely touched 
upon the breadth and depth of 
its contents. The psychological 
consequences on those who 
lived through the Revolutionary 
Terror - with the common despair 
of famines, disease and poverty; 
unpredictable crowds and terrible 
sights; as well as everyday chaos 
and uncertainty, and the fear 
of being denounced - Alls one 
chapter. Another dissects the 

theory and practice behind 
asylums and prisons, and the 
choice they offered. Another 
examines the “neurovegitative 
manifestations of war trauma” as 
Paris cycled through invasions, 
uprisings, sieges, arson and 
sabotage; significantly, some folk 
believed themselves personally 
targeted, while others had 
grandiose or bizarre plans to 
fight the enemies. Another, 
even sadder, chapter details the 
revolutionaries who succumbed 
to dementia from alcoholism, 
syphilis or what we’d call today 
post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Against this chaotic backdrop, 
and in its own fascinating 
chapter, Murat asks why so many 
identified with Napoleon so easily 
- and here she wryly regrets 
that there were so few women 
among them. That Boney was a 
hero, the ‘superman’ of that time, 
as evidenced in ubiquitous art 
and statuary, seems obvious; but 
Murat points out that, beneath 
that public adoration was, quite 
literally, a self-made man. The 
Little Corporal had climbed to 
the top of both army and state by 
himself. Given the famous scene, 
in 1804, in the cathedral of Notre 
Dame, in which he snatched the 
crown from the hands of Pope 
Pius VII and crowned himself 
emperor, perhaps we shouldn’t be 
surprised so many wanted to be 
him or be like him. It was every 
monomaniac’s wet dream. 

Murat’s study is a celebration 
of what Michelet called the 
“galvanic dance of archives”, 
something which Foucault 
recognised in dusty stacks, 
awarding them the status of a true 
branch of literature and drama. 

This book is, to paraphrase 
Derrida, not so much a history 
of psychiatry but an archeology 
of madness . . . and I urge every 
serious fortean to read it. It is 
hugely entertaining and may 
enlarge your perspective on 
anomalies generally. 

Bob Rickard 

Fortean Times Verdict 


William Stanley as 

Evidence of Authorship by the 
Sixth Earl of Derby 

John Rollett 
McFarland & Co Inc 2014 

Pb, 277pp, bib, ind, $45.00, ISBN 9780786496600 


The English really 
do treasure their 
eccentrics, for how 
else to explain the 
extraordinary popular 
delusion that the 
greatest canon in our literature 
was authored by a man who left 
no writings or books, and could 
barely even sign his own name? 

After an opening chapter in 
which strange inconsistencies in 
the depiction of Shakespeare’s 
doublet in the Drousehout 
engraving from the First Folio 
are deduced to mean that the 
Straftford man was wearing a 
jester’s outfit, thus signifying he 
was a stand-in for the real author, 
this book starts to And its feet in 
terms of specific evidence for the 
6th Earl of Derby (1561-1642). 

The peculiarities Rollett uncovers 
from word games, allusions, 
acrostics and ciphers build the 
identity of “gentle” William 
Stanley, whose surname is 
acrostically written from the 
letters of actor’s names in the 
First Folio, for example. Another 
uncovered identity is the name 
of the Sonnets’ dedicatee “Mr 
W.H.” within the dedication, and 
while ‘hidden codes’ are generally 
suspect, you can never be sure 
with the Elizabethans, as other 
known examples show, making 
one consider at what point does 
intention meet coincidence? This 
is where scholars ordinarily baulk, 
but they shouldn’t. This area is 
rich in research possibility. 

Thousands of improvements 
made to the Second Folio of 1632 
indicate the author was still 
alive then, and the better quality 
publication suggests he was 
wealthy, as was Stanley on both 
counts. Stanley’s writing style is 
juxtaposed with Shakespeare’s, 
finding many parallels in 
idiosyncrasies of spellings. 
Moreover, Stanley’s travels put 
him in the right places at the right 
times too, in both France and Italy. 

There is much more, well- 
illustrated, and presented 



concisely and with the dispassion 
that befits Rollett’s scientific 

Those who proselytise for the 
Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare, 
their loud and tortuous 
contortions doing so much to 
damage the reputation of the 
perfectly legitimate Authorship 
Question, should take note of how 
to make a strong case, sticking to 
what is verifiable and not seizing 
on all shades of ambiguity to 
press their candidate, a tendency 
that Rollett resists to his theory’s 

Jerry Glover 

Fortean Times Verdict 


Return of the 
Golden Age 

Ancient History and the Key to 
Our Coiiective Future 

Edward FMalkowski 
Inner Traditions 2014 

Pb, 303pp, notes, bib, index, $19.95. ISBN 9781620551974 


BTy|d|| There has been 
a trend for books 
mashing together the 
myths and spiritual 
Qf older 

cultures to claim insights into 
the ills of modern civilisation. 
Malkowski believes that ancient 
mankind was traumatised by 
the destruction of its Golden 
Age, that we are yearning to 
re-invest it but can’t until we 
can understand its symbols and 
spiritual technology. He goes 
further back than the earliest 
recorded human histories (apx. 
5000 years ago); to a cataclysm 
12,000 years ago that destroyed 
the human Golden Age, which 
he calls ‘Civilization X’. The 
greater part of the book is a 
historical survey of psychological 
and spiritual events - from 
mystical visions (including the 
drug ‘assisted’) to the reports of 
the allegedly spiritually gifted 
‘Indigo children’. Malkowski 
writes clearly and without verbal 
hysteria, delivering a positive 
message for these chaotic times. 
Otto Minyak 

Fortean Times Verdict 


Written in the margin 

The Middle East’s liminal and threatened religions deserve to 
be recognised in this Arabist dipiomat’s superb study 

Heirs to Forgotten 

Journeys into the Disappearing 
Religions of the Middle East 

Gerard Russell 

Simon and Schuster 2014 

Hb, 367pp, bib, ind, £16.10, ISBN 9781471114694 


I’ve been waiting for a book like 
this. The Middle East is a treasure 
trove of small, obscure and strange 
religions and religious sects, but 
little in the way of information 
about them is published in the 
West, if anywhere. Gerard Russell, 
a career diplomat with long 
experience of the region, and 
fluent in Arabic and Earsi, has 
produced what I believe is a first: 
an attempt at a comprehensive - 
and sympathetic - description of 
the many marginal religions that 
populate the birthplace of the 
three major religious traditions of 
the West. 

Russell’s well-written and 
researched book has chapters 
devoted to the Mandaeans, the 
Yazidis, the Zoroastrians, the 
Druze, the Samaritans, the Copts 
and the Kalasha. Prior to reading 
the book, I had heard of most 
of these groups (though not all; 
the Kalasha were a complete 
and rather wonderful surprise), 
but knew little or nothing of 
their beliefs and practices. Heirs 
to Forgotten Kingdoms has gone 
some way towards remedying that 
ignorance, and I am grateful for it. 

Some of the traditions covered 
here will be familiar to readers of 
alternative history and religion 
books: the Mandaeans are 
mentioned in various popular 
books about the early history of 
Christianity, and their reverence 

for John the Baptist is a key piece 
of evidence for some writers 
claiming that the true origins of 
Christianity have been suppressed 
by the established churches. 
Zoroastrianism is relatively well 
known in the West too; but I doubt 
that many people could tell you 
much about their beliefs. 

This book is not an exhaustive 
treatise on the theology of the 
groups it investigates, and the 
reason becomes clear as one reads 
it. Eaced with persecution in 
many cases, and various forms of 
discrimination in almost all, the 
adherents of these religions have 
become secretive and reclusive. 
They rarely let outsiders into their 
holy places, or talk about their 
beliefs, so the fact that Russell 
has managed to glean some 
knowledge of all these groups, 
even if it’s not the full story, is 
something of an achievement. 

There are all sorts of little 
gems in here. One of my 
favourites is Dinanukht, a demon 
of Mandaean mythology: he is 
half-man, half-book, and he ‘sits 
by the waters between the worlds, 
reading himself’. And there’s 
the Skanduleh, a Mandaean 
apotropaic, a disc on which a lion, 
a snake, a scorpion and a wasp 
are portrayed; this iconography 
struck me as redolent of much 
earlier beliefs, and Russell 
confirms this by suggesting that 
many of the beliefs and objects 
on display here hark back to 
ancient practices, perhaps as far 
as ancient Sumer. 

Not all of the religions Russell 
describes are right on the brink 
of oblivion; a surprising number 

of sects and groups manage 
to survive and even thrive in 
the wider Muslim world of the 
Middle East; and there are 
instances throughout of Muslims 
from surrounding communities 
coming to religious festivals, and 
apparently feeling quite at ease 
with their unorthodox neighbours. 

But the sad fact is that many, 
if not most, of these peoples are 
under threat of extinction, if 
not immediately, then in the not 
too distant future. Their young 
people are emigrating, sometimes 
founding branches of the 
ancestral religion where they end 
up, but very often forgetting their 
religious roots. Many members of 
minority religions And it easier to 
survive if they convert to Islam. 
Ultimately, suggests Russell, the 
Middle East will become a much 
more homogeneous place, in 
religious terms, and that will be a 
loss to us all. 

One can only hope that, faced 
with the disappearance of their 
traditions, some members of the 
threatened sects will see the value 
in recording their beliefs and 
practices so that we will at least 
have a record of the extraordinary 
range of religions that have 
inhabited this most contested 
of regions. And that, if such a 
thing happens, someone like 
Gerard Russell will be on hand 
to give witness to the exotic and 
endangered religious species that 
he has chronicled here. 

Noel Rooney 

Fortean Times Verdict 


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FT331 61 

The body electric... 

An investigation of our reiationship with eiectricity navigates 
some weird territory with unparticies, siiders and pseudopoits 




Louis Proud 

New Page Books 2015 

Pb, 285pp, notes, bib, ind, $16.99, ISBN 9781601633279 


Electricity is all around us and 
we take it for granted; few of us 
give second thoughts to quite 
what a weird phenomenon it is. It 
has been harnessed, channelled 
and put to work. Our world would 
be unrecognisable without it. 

Now, more than ever, with wifi, 
mobile phones, broadcasting and 
as the by-products of other uses, 
electromagnetic fields pervade 
our entire environment and our 
bodies are constantly bathed in 
their presence. 

Conventional research tells us 
that this happens at an energy 
level far below that which can 
harm or even influence our cells, 
but nonetheless, its relationship 
with our biology is curious, 
especially when the human body 
encounters electricity in its less 
domesticated forms, such as being 
struck by lightning. Louis Proud 
explores the strange fringes of 
our relationship with electricity 
and turns up suggestions that, 
for some people, something very 
peculiar is going on. 

In animals such as turtles and 
pigeons, an electromagnetic 
sense based on tiny magnetic 
crystals has been discovered, 
allowing them to navigate using 
the Earth’s magnetic field. 

There are indications that other 
animals, such as cattle and deer 
- and even possibly dogs - may 
also possess this sense. (Since 
this book went to press, a paper 

has been published suggesting 
dogs align themselves with the 
magnetic field when defecating.) 
Proud puts forward evidence that 
we, too, have this sense, although 
we perhaps do not use it in the 
same way as dogs. Epidemics and 
mass social unrest can be tied to 
fluctuations in solar magnetism, 
he suggests, and suicides peak 
during geomagnetic storms. He 
ties this in with the controversial 
issue of people who claim to have 
electromagnetic hypersensitivity 
(EMH) and cannot live where 
there are electromagnetic fields 
or even electric appliances. His 
interpretation of the evidence 
is skewed in favour of the 
condition’s reality, despite 
considerable research suggesting 
it’s a psychogenic condition. 
Rather stronger is his chapter 
on lightning strikes and the odd 
effects they have been known to 
have on people (see FT330:30 for 
an edited version), which gathers 
some truly extraordinary stories, 
including that of the splendidly 
lexilinked Betty Galvano. If you 
want to know what the lightning 
desperation position is, he’ll tell 

As the book progresses, it 
heads into steadily weirder 
territory with his chapter on 
electric people and poltergeist 
agents. I had not come across 
Wimshurst disorder, a side-effect 
of botulism that causes sufferers 
to become highly charged with 
static electricity. It affected 34 
prisoners in the US during a 
single botulism outbreak in the 
1920s, and presumably derives 
its name from the Wimshurst 
machine, which produces static 
using rotating wheels. 

He goes on to explore cases 
of High Voltage Syndrome 
(HVS), which he positions as the 
opposite of EMH. Experiencers 
And themselves abnormally 
charged with electricity all 
the time, and have continual 
detrimental influences on 
electrical appliances around them 

(e.g. SLIders who create street 
lamp interference). Proud comes 
up with some striking incidences 
that have strong resemblances 
to polts, and compares classics 
like the Rosenheim Poltergeist to 
an electromagnetically induced 
pseudo-polt, drawing some 
illuminating parallels. 

Rather than leave the book as 
a catalogue of weird phenomena 
at the human/electricity interface 
though. Proud attempts to draw 
the various strands together 
and link these electromagnetic 
anomalies with psi and orgone, 
and to have a stab at explaining 
them as the result of a currently 
unknown ‘fifth force’ proposed by 
Harvard physicist Howard Georgi 
in 2007, involving something 
known as an Unparticle, which 
could theoretically produce 
a version of magnetism that 
does not weaken with distance. 
Unparticles remain purely 
theoretical entities, however, 
and rather fringe ones in the 
world of physics at that, with no 
research therefore to confirm 
how they behave, or even their 
existence, so Proud is making 
a massive speculative leap in 
invoking them to explain these 
electromagnetic anomalies. Still, 
it is a commendable attempt to 
make some sort of rational sense 
out of all the strangeness; too few 
books of this kind make a proper 
stab at that, too often failing 
to suggest any mechanism, or 
copping out and invoking lame 
New Age waffle instead. 

In Strange Electromagnetic 
Dimensions, Proud has written 
a solid and engaging book that 
makes a positive contribution 
to the field, and is a worthy 
successor to the work of people 
like Albert Budden. 

One for the Hierophant’s 
Apprentice’s Eortean Library? 

Ian Simmons 

Fortean Times Verdict 


G2 FT331 

Memento Mori 

The Dead Among Us 

Paul Koudounaris 

Thames & Hudson 2015 

Hb, 206pp, illus, ind, £36.00, ISBN 9780500517789 


Paul Koudounaris, 
whose photos and 
writing may be 
familiar to FT readers, 
has a doctorate in 
art history, an eye 
for a fine image and a taste for 
grand guignol. His Heavenly Bodies 
brought to life jewelled skeletons 
from Roman catacombs, and The 
Empire of Death was an equally 
stunning history of charnel 
houses and ossuaries. 

Where Memento Mori differs 
from Koudounaris’s previous 
books is in its breadth and the 
image/text balance being firmly 
in favour of photos. Rather than 
confining himself to European 
death rituals, he also covers Asia 
and Latin America. 

The chapter on Asian burial 
caves shows the wooden tau tau 
effigies found in the Torajan 
culture of Indonesia; they were 
a reminder that the spirits 
still lived. The examples of 
Sokushinbutse, the Buddhist 
method of preservation which 
started - with 1,000 days of 
dieting and a further 1,000 days 
of drinking poisoned tea - while 
the future icon was still alive, are 
fabulously gilded... and look as if 
they have just dozed off. 

Bolivia goes for more mundane 
treatment of skulls for its hanitas 
(“little pug-nosed ones”), which 
are decorated with baseball caps, 
sunglasses, beanies and cigarettes. 
Their spirits reveal themselves to 
their owner in dreams, and as it’s 
impossible to lie in their presence, 
detectives use them to help solve 
cases. Bangkok’s gilded skulls 
with gold lame in the eye sockets 
fulfil an equally useful purpose: 
they ensure that no harm befalls 
the recently dead. And the flerce- 
looking kapala of Nepal and Tibet 
transfer the dead’s knowledge, 
and make a useful drinking vessel. 

In the midst of life, you need a 
good book about death. This is it. 
William Darragh 

Fortean Times Verdict 


Sci-fi and fantasy round-up 

David V Barrett on post-apocalyptic Africa, a musical dictatorship, a cyberpunk 
murder investigation, elven warfare, a Jazz Age pastiche and an Elizabehan romp 

The Book of Phoenix 

Nnedi Okorafor 

Hodder & Stoughton 2015 

Hb, 272pp, £18.99, ISBN 9781473617940 


The Chimes 

Anna Smaill 
Sceptre 2015 

Hb, 294pp, £14.99, ISBN 9781444794526 


Crashing Heaven 

Al Robertson 

Hb, 368pp, £20, ISBN 9781473203396; Pb, 368pp, £14.99, 
ISBN 9781473203402 



JRR Tolkien 
HarperCollins 2015 

Pb, 425pp, £10.99, ISBN 9780008116583 


The Faii of Arthur 

JRR Tolkien 
HarperCollins 2015 

Pb, 233pp, £8.99, ISBN 9780007557301 


Hy Brazii 

Gerald Killingworth 

Matador 2014 

Pb, 262pp, £9.99, ISBN 9781784620066 


The Eider Ice 

David Hambling 

(amazon) 2014 

Pb, 117pp, £7.50, ISBN 9781291969863 


The Magonia Stone 

Markus Wolfson 

theEXAGGERATEDpress 2015 

Pb, 261pp, £7.99, ISBN 9781326310967 


Is The Book of Phoenix 
science fiction or 
fantasy? Both; neither; 
it doesn’t matter. It’s 
the remarkable telling 
of the birth of a myth, of the 
‘real’ story behind the writing 
of The Great Book, the scripture 
of a post-apocalyptic society in 

West Africa. Phoenix is a young 
woman, though only two years 
old, genetically engineered by a 
corrupt research company in New 
York. She breaks free with two 
others, grows wings, and gradually 
discovers she has remarkable 
powers, which become stronger 
and more morally ambiguous as 
the story progresses. A beautiful 
and powerful prequel to Nnedi 
Okorafor’s World Fantasy Award- 
winning Who Fears Death, this 
is both a very dark and a very 
spiritual novel, exploring both the 
worst and the best of humanity. 

In The Chimes, music 
has become the primary 
form of communication 
and of passing on 
knowledge - a hummed 
tune can tell someone a route 
to follow and what to look out 
for. But everyone’s memory is 
almost completely lost each 
day, wiped out by a ruling elite 
of musicians in the Citadel in 
Oxford. A youth, Simon, comes to 
London and joins a small group 
on the fringes of society - and 
gradually finds himself central 
to a plot to infiltrate the Citadel 
and destroy the Carillon, the vast 
musical instrument that controls 
their lives. Anna Smaill’s debut 
novel plays with language in a way 
reminiscent of but different from 
Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, 
using musical terms as everyday 
adjectives: “I wake subito... 

We pass tacet under the huge 
shadows of the cranes... Lucien’s 
voice is piano...” The unexpected 
language and the daily loss of 
Simon’s and the other characters’ 
memory mean that the reader 
has to work hard in the opening 
chapters, but it’s worth the effort. 

Al Robertson’s Crashing 
Heaven shows just how 
far cyberpunk has 
developed. Jack Forster 
has returned from an 
off-planet war to Station, an 
industrialised asteroid where it 

seems humanity has moved from 
a despoiled Earth. Implanted in 
him is Hugo Fist, a stroppy combat 
Al who, for some contractual 
reason, is going to take over 
Jack’s body in a few weeks’ time, 
effectively killing him. Much of 
the fun of the novel is watching 
the two constantly sniping at each 
other in internal conversations. 
Weaveware allows people to 
overlay a virtual environment 
- what they can see, hear, smell 
and taste - onto the fairly grubby 
reality of Station, and to project 
avatars of themselves; Hugo can 
manifest to anyone who is on the 
weave as an Archie Andrews-type 
puppet, separate from Jack. On 
one level this is a crime novel; 

Jack is determined to finish a 
murder investigation he was 
involved in before being sent off 
to war, including both physical 
and cyber realities, with Hugo’s 
initially reluctant assistance. Add 
to this the involvement of a bunch 
of all-powerful squabbling Al gods 
who make the Greek and Norse 
pantheons look cuddly... 

Two treats for Tolkien 
fans. For the first time 
his early translation of 
Beowulf is available, 
with extensive 
commentaries edited from his 
lectures by his son Christopher; 
the volume also includes ‘Sellic 
Spell’, an “attempt to reconstruct 
the Anglo-Saxon tale that lies 
behind the folk-tale element in 
Beowolf, with a translation into 
Old English. And Tolkien’s only 
foray into the Arthurian mythos, 
first published two years ago, 
is now in paperback: The Fall of 
Arthur. The story only takes up 41 
pages in the book; the remainder, 
again, is notes, commentaries and 
essays on the Poem in Arthurian 
Tradition and the story’s links to 
The Silmarillion. All fascinating 
stuff - but one does wonder how 
many more books Christopher 
Tolkien can compile out of the 
scraps found down the back of his 

father’s filing cabinets. 

In Hy Brazil, the first 
of a trilogy by Gerald 
Killingworth, the 
young Edward Harry 
sets off to Ireland as 
secretary to the poet Edmund 
Spenser in 1591 - and quickly 
becomes trapped in the elven 
realm where he is embroiled in 
a vicious war between opposing 
sides. Although it has some 
typical first-novel problems (the 
story is far too episodic, and 
simply stops abruptly instead 
of coming to a satisfactory 
conclusion), and Edward is 
an arrogant and somewhat 
unlikeable lead character, very 
difficult to sympathise with, this 
is an unusual and generally well 
written exploration of the dark 
side of faery. 

ilr- ■- 


A couple of excellent 
small press books with 
fortean connections 
to finish with. Eirst, 
the novella The Elder 
Ice by FT writer David Hambling 
is a beautifully written 1920s 
pastiche: a mystery drawing on 
the Lovecraftian mythos, involving 
an ex-boxer working for a lawyer 
trying to track down the priceless 
treasure which the explorer 
Ernest Shackleton may (or may 
not) have found buried beneath 
the Antarctic, and discovering 
more than he bargained for. 

My friend Mark 
McCann held the 
launch party for his 
first novel. The Magonia 
Stone as by Markus 
Wolfson, in a hospice a few days 
before he died. It’s a delightful 
Elizabethan romp, with magic, 
witches and assorted gods, star- 
crossed lovers, plots and purple- 
prosed pamphlets, an investigator 
called Shylock Blooms and, for 
those who remember the very 
fortean Magonia magazine, a 
character called John Rimmer... 

FT331 63 





The Wolfpack 

Dir Crystal Moselle, US 2015 
On UK release from 21 August 

It was purely by chance that film- 
maker Crystal Moselle came across 
the six Angulo brothers who fea- 
ture in The Wolfpack. She saw them 
running through the streets of New 
York, followed them and asked who 
they were. Their story turned out to 
be a startling one, to say the least, 
and the intriguing film she’s made 
about them rewarded her with a 
Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best 
Documentary in 2015. 

The story of the boys’ lives is 
told by way of interviews filmed 
over five years, with them, their 
mother Susanne and father Oscar. 
The shocking fact the boys gradu- 
ally revealed to her was that their 
father had kept the family indoors 
for years on a housing estate in 
New York, supposedly for their own 
safety, only letting them out on a 
very occasional basis - sometimes 
nine times a year, sometimes once, 
according to the third-youngest, 
Mukunda. Home-schooled by their 
mother Susanne, whose own move- 
ments were restricted, the boys and 
their sister (who wasn’t interviewed 
as she’s mentally ill) developed a 
highly creative world of their own 
to get them by in these confines. 
Drawings from their childhood 
line the walls of their too-small 
apartment, and props for their bril- 
liant film re-enactments cover the 
whole place. Homemade cardboard 
guns and outfits cobbled together 
from discarded items and clothing 
brought home by dad help them 
stage living room versions of Reser- 
voir Dogs and Batman. Hallowe’en 
provides the inspiration for all sorts 

G4 FT331 

of creative costume-making. 

The film isn’t as depressing as 
you might think. There are hints 
that abuse has taken place (defi- 
nitely in Susanne’s case) in addition 
to the obvious psychological harm 
done by locking a growing family 
indoors for years, but the father 
appears to be losing his strangle- 
hold over them. The first brother 
to leave the apartment (Mukunda 
again) does so in a Michael Myers 
mask and gets himself into trouble 
with the police; but this starts the 
process of the boys’ entry into the 
world. Even their mother is taking 
steps to get back her life by the end 
of the film. 

As well as encouraging their 
independence through the act of 
filming them, Moselle has also 
helped the boys find jobs that 
enable them to make use of their 
creative talents and love of film. In 
fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised 
if these movie buffs turn out to be 
responsible for at least one great 
film themselves over the coming 
years. Watch this space... 

Julie McNamee 

Fortean Times Verdict 


Fantastic Four 

Dir Josh Trank, US 2015 
On UK release from 6 August 

The first 100 or so issues of The 
Fantastic Four hy Stan Lee and 
Jack Kirby remain one of the great- 
est achievements - possibly the 
greatest - in all of comics history, a 
magnificent run that changed the 
medium forever. They had every- 
thing: cracking high-concept, SF- 

inflected adventures, likeable core 
characters, an ever-growing sense 
of discovery and cosmic wonder 
experienced through the life of 
an all-too-human family and an 
unequalled rogues’ gallery of bad- 
dies from Dr Doom to Galactus. It 
was all wrapped up in Kirby’s aston- 
ishing, visionary artwork and kept 
grounded by Lee’s dynamic scripts. 

Perhaps it just doesn’t translate 
to the very different medium of 
film - after all. Fox have had three 
previous stabs (the unreleased 
1994 Gorman cheapie and the 
pair of poorly received Tim Story 
films from 2005 and 2007) without 
notable success. Nevertheless, Josh 
Trank’s latest “contemporary re- 
imagining” plumbs new and ridicu- 
lous depths of ineptitude, arguably 
beating off all other contenders 
for the title of Worst Comic Book 
Movie Ever. 

It starts promisingly, with a 
school age Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) 
befriending nerdy classmate Reed 
Richards (Miles Teller) and helping 
him out with the interdimensional 
teleporter he’s building in his step- 
dad’s garage. These early scenes are 
lifted wholesale from a pre-existent 
“re-imagining” - the Ultimate Fan- 
tastic Four series created by Mark 
Millar and Brian Bendis a decade 
ago - and once they are out of the 
way, the film falls apart. The story 
- the kids get their powers in an 
accident when exploring another 
dimension and are co-opted by the 
military - is shapeless and poorly 
structured, the characters lack 
development, the dialogue is wit- 
less and risibly exposition-heavy, 
special effects look as though 
they’ve time-travelled from the 
late 1990s, and the leads have zero 

chemistry. It’s as dull visually as it is 
dramatically, taking place in a dark 
research facility that effectively 
shuts out any sense of a wider world 
and relies on a palette of greys 
and browns. After a long, laborious 
central section in which nothing 
happens very slowly, the film sud- 
denly speeds up for a rushed, off- 
world pay-off that doesn’t deliver; 
it’s topped by an excruciating (and 
probably hastily reshot) final scene 
shamelessly pinched from of 
Ultron. And what of Dr Doom? I 
hear you ask: suffice to say that 
this greatest of all comic villains 
appears to be made of cheap plastic 
and has been compared on Twitter 
to the infamous Monkey Jesus. 

The performances are flat and 
charmless - Kate Mara lives up to 
her Invisible Woman moniker, while 
Reg E Cathy’s Dr Franklin Storm, 
with his single facial expression 
and gravelly monotone, sucks any 
residual life out of every scene he 
shows up in. Meanwhile, you may 
want to reassess your uncharitable 
memories of Michael Chiklis in an 
orange rubber suit once you’ve seen 
Toby Bell’s Thing, who looks like a 
fiendishly painful bowel movement 
with googly eyes stuck on it. 

Like its 1994 predeccessor, this 
FF was likely motivated by Fox’s 
desire to hang onto the film rights; 
sadly, though, this cynical effort has 
probably poisoned the well for any 
future adaptations of the original, 
and wonderful, source material. 
David Sutton 

Fortean Times Verdict 


Hemlock Grove Season 2 

Prod Eli Roth, US 2015 

Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, £19.99 (DVD) 

The second season of Hemlock 
Grove starts straight in with no 
hint of “Previously on...”. Peter 
Rumancek (Landon Liboiron), the 
young gypsy werewolf, heads back 
to the small Pennsylvanian town 
of Hemlock Grove, which he left at 
the end of season one, to try to help 
his mother who has been arrested. 
He gets a frosty response from his 
former friend Roman Godfrey (Bill 
Skarsgard), the young, arrogant 
vampire who has inherited his 
mother’s company, the Godfrey 
Institute for Biomedical Technolo- 
gies. Roman seems to hate every- 



one - certainly his cold, emotionless 
mum Olivia (Famke Janssen) and Dr 
Johann Pryce (Joel de la Puente), the 
secretive and ruthless oriental head 
of research at the company. Yes, cli- 
ches abound in Hemlock Grove. 

There’s a new central character, 
Miranda (Madeline Brewer), a young 
woman clearly on the run from some- 
thing, who knocks on Roman’s door 
after her car is deliberately smashed 
into - and then coincidentally meets 
Peter who has taken a job as a tow- 
truck driver. Within a couple of epi- 
sodes she’s slept with both of them. 
Then there’s Peter’s cousin Destiny 
(Tiio Horn), a gypsy con-artist but a 
genuine psychic who sees all sorts 
of nastiness ahead; and Dr Norman 
Godfrey (Dougray Scott), the psychia- 
trist brother of Olivia’s late husband, 
and her lover, who is suing the Insti- 
tute for the death of his daughter in 
season one. 

There’s lots of gore and lots of 
unpleasantness. Roman sometimes 
takes his snacks directly from some- 
one’s throat, but he also pays a man to 
cover his chest and back with leeches, 
which he peels off and swallows 
when they’re engorged. Destiny swal- 
lows some of Peter’s spit to analyse 
his troubling dreams, hallucinates 
snakes climbing up her body, then 
vomits up copious amounts of a black, 
tar-like liquid. Hemlock Grove majors 
in disgust. 

It takes a while for season two to 
get going, but from around halfway, 
the story becomes coherent and 
powerful, and all the characters move 
to centre stage. Miranda forges an 
unlikely link with Roman’s hidden- 
away baby daughter. Roman, dis- 
gusted with his lust for blood, deter- 
mines to become human, while his 
centuries-old mother Olivia, recover- 
ing from an injury in the first season, 
now becomes terminally ill - though 
no less power-driven. Roman’s dis- 
figured sister Shelley returns to her 
family and a major change in her life. 
Peter’s wolf nature comes through 
more strongly and dangerously, for 
him as well as for others. 

It’s worth persevering through the 
scrappy first few episodes for the 
more solid story of the remainder - 
and for the amazing and completely 
unexpected last few seconds, which 
guarantee that anyone who has made 
it this far will watch the final season. 
David V Barrett 

Fortean Times Verdict 



Dir Gerard Johnstone, New Zealand 2014 
Metrodome, £8.99 DVD 

Housebound is a genuine rarity: a 
properly funny, properly scary horror 
comedy. The film follows disaffected 
twenty-something Kylie (Morgana 
O’Reilly), who is sentenced to eight 
months house arrest after an ATM 
heist goes hilariously wrong. That 
means spending all her time in her 
ramshackle childhood home out in 
the boondocks of New Zealand with 
her irritating mother Miriam (Rima 
Te Wiata) and taciturn stepfather 
Graeme (Ross Harper). An electronic 
tag ensures she can’t leave the house 
and regular sessions with her psy- 
chologist are intended to straighten 
her out. 

Into this set-up comes a possible 
haunting. Miriam believes the prop- 
erty has at least one ghost, a notion 
that sceptical Kylie merely snorts 
at, saying if she ever meets a ghost 
she’ll punch it in the face. When 
things take a turn for the genuinely 
spooky, she gets her chance. Luckily 
Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), the secu- 
rity officer who monitors her tag, 
is something of a ghost hunter on 
the side and can help the family out 
when things turn spooky. 

As Kylie and Amos team up to 
explore the history of the house (it 
may not have been the old B&B that 
her mother told her it was), the film 
shifts up a gear. The humour is still 
central, but the scares are taken seri- 
ously. In fact, the characters in House- 
bound all react to what they interpret 
as supernatural activity as any ‘real’ 
person probably would. As the film 
develops, it echoes a couple of Wes 
Craven’s better films, like The People 
Under the Stairs and the original A 
Nightmare on Elm Street 

Writer-director Gerard Johnstone 
has delivered a confident debut, 
making brilliant use of (primarily) 
one location and a limited cast. The 
performances are great, especially 
Rima Te Wiata, who makes the 
mother more endearing than irri- 
tating, and Glen-Paul Waru as the 
go-to-ghostbuster. The mystery is 
nicely built and satisfyingly paid off, 
while the film maintains a consistent 
tone while being both laugh-out-loud 
funny and jump-out-of-your-seat 

Brian J Robb 

Fortean Times Verdict 




Second Sight, £9.99 (DVD) 

One person’s soft porn is another’s art film, and you’ll 

have to be the judge of where this one lies because 
it revels in a bit of both. Udo Kier bathes in chemicals 
that turn him into a psychopathic sadist with a terrify- 
ing sexual appetite - cue uncomfortable scenes that 
in any other basic B-movie would be decried as brutal 
exploitation. Yet acclaimed Polish director Walerian 
Borowczyk throws in plenty of deep discussion on transcendental- 
ism too. In some ways, this is a natural progression of Stevenson’s 
original story: showing the two consequences of complete moral 
liberation -ecstasy for the Doctor and agony for his victims. In short: 
thoughtfully repellent! Rev PL 6/10 


Metrodome, £7.99 (DVD) 

Sarah (Julia Stiles) moves her young family to Colom- 
bia to take up a senior position in her father’s (a 
wasted Stephen Rea) paper mill, not suspecting their 
plantation-style mansion might be haunted. There’s 
an interesting subtext here about colonialism and 
environmental issues that echoes the 1972 Doom- 
watch movie, but it’s lost among the oven/vhelmingly 
familiar and boringly generic ghost stuff. Influenced by Spanish 
works like The Devil's Backbone and The Orphanage, Out of the Dork 
fails to offer anything new or engaging. It’s all by-th e-numbers, with 
every jump moment utterly predictable. With a little more imagina- 
tion, something could have been made of that subtext, instead of 
focusing on the seen-it-all-before spook stuff. BJR 4/10 


Warner Home Video, £9.99 (DVD), £12.99 (Blu-ray) 

Slammed by the critics because it wasn’t B/i/e 
Jasmine, Magic in the Moonlight sees Woody Allen 
returning to his obsession with magic and illusion, 
pitting Colin Firth’s Houdini-like, debunking stage 
conjuror against Emma Stone’s spirit medium. Con- 
taining elements of classic romantic and screwball 
comedy played out against lovely 1920s Riviera 
settings, this may be pretty undemanding fare but it’s full of warmth, 
good humour and fortean themes; call me old-fashioned, but I found 
thisto be a thoroughly enjoyable bit of Allen. DS 8/10 


Bulldog Film Distribution, £7.99 (DVD) 

It’s the end of the world d lofrangaise, as a comet 
passes over Earth and the inhabitants of Paris start 
behaving very oddly indeed. You can guess the rest. 
This ambitious French horror marks the feature debut 
of director David Cholewa, who brings an impressive 
visual sense to this othenvise muddled and deriva- 
tive take on the gory 1980s B-movie that throws 
everything from Romero (zombies), Cronenberg (sexual horror) and 
Carpenter (tentacles) at the wall (not to mention Night of the Comet, 
of course) in the hope that something will stick. DS 5/10 

FT331 65 

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Fortean Noticeboard 

Life after death 


B ased on the erosion process "solid 
rock to boulders to pebbles to 
sand" our great scholars collec- 
tively agreed that to form all the sand in 
the world would take a thousand million 
years, an aeon, and confirmed ""This 
Planet Must Be Old"' 

Dictionary - Sand - Created over the past 
half billion years. 

Fronn this point onwards everything known 
to the history of Mankind was constructed. 
Deeptime was born; sedimentation rates, 
dinosaurs, fossil record, evolution, plate 
tectonics, are all dated from this old planet 
perspective. Combined facts that give 
radioactivity there atomic readings. 

However'an aeon to form the entire 
world's sand is totally wrong because 
beach pebbles are formed by the process 
of tidemark, they get bigger not smaller. 
Every dirty tide leaves a mark, a dirty stain 
over the previous hardened and scuffed 
stain, broken layers clearly seen if one 

wishes to see them. A sea-basin is just 
like a dirty washbasin and the mechanics 
are fully explained in this powerful and 
detailed book. 

Consequently the foundation for an old 
planet and therefore radiometric dating is 
wrong. Sand has come from our missing 
landscapes, from places like the Grand 
Canyon and the Great Butts of Arizona, 
removed when the forming limestone was 
still soft and mud-like. 

The steep sides of these canyons and 
gorges tell us how the pyramids were built 
and knowing how the pyramids were built 
tells yet another story, a story quite op- 
posed to evolution. It seems circumstances 
prevailed that took mankind on a course 
down to animal rather than the other way 

But is RT right? Only a closer inspection 
of the humble beach pebble will call for a 
geological recount. 

ISBN - 978-0-9564761-0-4 

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based on common ownership and democratic 
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It opposes all leadership, all war. 

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Standard write to: 

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52 Clapham High Street. London SW4 7UN 

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Dear FT... 


Ancient treachery 

The repellent and cruel child 
rearing practices of the Classical 
civilisations [Classical Corner 181: 
Savile Row, FT320:17] explains 
a lot about their history. This is 
because abused children often 
become abusive adults: cold, cal- 
lous, highly sexualised, impulsive, 
violent, mistrustful and untrust- 
worthy. In short, exactly like the 
Classical elite. 

Reading histories of the times, 
the most striking feature is how 
the Roman generals, consuls, etc. 
would swear loyalty to the Repub- 
lic or the Emperor, then betray 
their oath at the first opportunity. 
This also applies to many post Ro- 
man, medieval and early modern 
societies - the elites seemed 
incapable of pledging their word 
and keeping it. 

Ray Vickers 
Birkby, West Yorkshire 

On the other hand... 

The ETH (Extraterrestrial Hy- 
pothesis) came in for a hammering 
in the last issue, both in The UFO 
Files [FT329:26-27] and David V 
Barrett’s review of David Clarke’s 
latest UFO book [FT329:57]. As 
usual, people like myself, who are 
open to the possibility that some 
UFOs could be alien spacecraft, 
were characterised as credulous, 
wedded to discredited ideas and 
conspiracy theorists of the worst 
type. The charge was also made 
that inconvenient evidence is 
either ignored or used selectively 
by the ETH lobby. But this surely 
cuts both ways. In Dr Clarke’s 
writings, I note that he usually 
accepts the Government’s word on 
UFO-related issues, for instance 
that the recent release of the MOD 
UFO files has been comprehensive 
and that Rudloe Manor has never 
been involved in top secret UFO 
work. But then elsewhere, he has 
revealed that the Government has 
in fact been dishonest about UFO 
matters, such as the formation in 
the 1950s of a UFO working party, 
which was officially denied at the 
time. Surely, this is an example of 
accepting the word of people with 

One gloomy morning on his local beach at East Cowes, Isle of Wight, 
James Nye was cheered up by finding this smiling stone. 

We are always glad to receive pictures of spontaneous forms and figures, 
or any curious images. Send them to the PO box above (with a stamped 
addressed envelope or international reply coupon) or to sieveking@forteon- - and please tell us your postal address. 

a dodgy track record when it helps 
your case to do so. 

Mr Barrett, for the purposes 
of balance, might have made 
mention of the tactic, often used 
by sceptics, when all else fails, 
of discrediting witnesses. Jesse 
Marcel (the Roswell intelligence 
officer) was subjected to this 
and described as a fantasist on 
the basis of nothing more than 
CV embellishment. Then, there 
are the sneering tones adopted 
by Roberts and Clarke when 
referring to those, like Nick Pope 
or Stanton Friedman, with whom 
they don’t happen to agree. Am 
I the only reader who finds this 
rather silly? 

I appreciate that Dr Clarke 
wants to wrap up the UFO enigma 
as nothing more than a social or 
cultural phenomenon but that 
would involve ignoring a great 
deal of “inconvenient evidence”, 
such as UFO reports emanating 
from the former Soviet Union, 
South America, China and else- 
where. The global dimension to 
UFO sightings must ultimately 

undermine any attempt to explain 
them away in purely societal and 
cultural terms. 

And finally, many of the UFO 
reports that have been meticu- 
lously gathered by investigators 
over the past 70 years have been 
submitted by pilots, both military 
and civilian. I appreciate that Dr 
Clarke does not have a great deal 
of confidence in their reliability 
as witnesses but, if their faculties 
are really as substandard as he 
seems to think 
then I, for one, 
shall never set foot 
on an aeroplane 

Geoff Clifton 

Solihull, West 


Regarding David 
Burn’s photograph 
of a white light 
behind a tree 
he has captured 

the moment of release of spores 
from a species of fungus located 
on the far side of the tree from his 
viewpoint. Both the forest setting 
and the time of year seem indica- 
tive. As to the species, there are 
several candidates but the com- 
mon puffball Lycoperdon perlatum 
would be a strong contender. 

Andy Pearson 
By email 

Another Cock-Up 

Re “Up on Tickle Creek” 
[FT329:11]: I used to teach in a 
school on the edge of Beddington 
Park, south London. One morning, 
the police attended after two boys 
reported a man exposing himself 
to them in the park. The names 
of the two witnesses: Christopher 
Dick and Miles Willey. 

Rob Scales 

Bronze Age Stars 

I’m puzzled why the obvious 
links between Otzi the Iceman 
[FT60:14, 62:12, 66:18, etc] and the 
Amesbury Archer have become 
“damned data” - for one thing, 
they came from the same small Al- 
pine region, within five miles or so 
of each other. Orthodox archeolo- 
gists never link them - a case of 
never the twain shall meet. Is it 
because they would have to admit 
that their theories about travel 
patterns, sociology, culture, etc in 
ancient Europe were mistaken? 
Bobby Zodiac 

Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire 

FT331 G0 

The Martian Sphinx 


I read with great interest the fas- 
cinating letter by Clive Davenhall 
[FT328:71] concerning examples 
of pyramids associated with Mars 
before the 1975 Dr Who story The 
Pyramids of Mars. He lists a fas- 
cinating example published in the 
New York Herald on 30 November 
1906, which he found in a book, 
but which can also be found 
online in a readable format. ^ 
Dennis Lien [FT320:69] men- 
tioned an even earlier example 
connecting Mars, the Martians 
and ancient Egyptian culture, 
found in an instalment of the pro- 
to-science fiction novel Edison’s 
Conquest of Mors, by Garrett P 
Serviss (shown at right). The se- 
ries was published in instalments 
in the New York Evening Journal 
from 12 January to 10 February 
1898, and they are currently 
found online. ^ Its instalment of 3 
February was accompanied by an 
illustration with the caption The 
Martians Built The Sphinx’. We 
read that The Martians were the 
builders of the Great Sphinx and 
the Pyramids’. Why? After a merci- 
less invasion thousands of years 
ago, the Martians “had been as- 
tonished at the sight of the great 
mountains which surrounded our 
valley, for on Mars there are no 
mountains, and after they came 
into the Land of Sand they built 
there with huge blocks of stone 
mountains in imitation of what 
they had seen, and used them for 
purposes that our people did not 

Hidden poetry 

There’s a lovely short poem hid- 
den in the last issue [FT329:11]: 

Of all the stars in the whole sky 
Visible to the naked eye 
Only one is green 
And nobody knows why. 

Janet Wilson 

By email 

Spacecraft rumour 

A follow-up to my letter on The 
Doors [FT325:70] with a fortean 
anecdote derived from some more 
random rock-related reading. The 
autobiography of 1970s iiber-pro- 
ducer Tony Visconti, Bowie, Bolan 

70 FT331 

and the Brooklyn Boy (Harper Col- 
lins 2007) contains the following 
passage in relation to the record- 
ing of David Bowie’s seminal Low 
album in France in 1976: 

“The album was made in a 
relaxed atmosphere and the 
company made for interesting 
and stimulating conversation 
over meals, especially long 
dinners. Dennis Davis [Bowie’s 
house drummer from 1975-1980] 
amazed us with a story about 
when he was in the US Air Force. 
He accidentally walked through 
a restricted hangar and saw a 
crashed-up alien spacecraft. He 
was ordered to leave immediately 
and not to say a word about it. He 

hadn’t told anybody but us, and 
who would believe a bunch of 
musos? (p237)” 

I looked online to see if I could 
find any corroboration for this 
yarn, and found a slightly differ- 
ent recounting in an interview 
about Low that Visconti did with 
Uncut magazine in 1999: 

“UNCUT: There’s a story about 
Dennis Davis recounting a tale 
(during Low sessions) of being 
thrown out of the army after 
seeing a UFO crash. What do you 
remember of this, if at all? 

TV: Dennis was the life of the 
party. He could do a mime act on 
the closed-circuit-TV camera and 
have us in stitches. He claimed 

understand. Then, too, it is said 
they left there at the foot of these 
mountains that they had made a 
gigantic image of the great chief 
who led them in their conquest of 

our world.” 

Then it dawns upon the 
professor (there’s almost always 
a professor in these old science 
fiction stories) and he exclaims: 


Mprtfini tho Suirdeni of iho 

Sphfrtie and th* Pyramid i. 

T ftqll forjfet ana whia, 

IrlULg Afit an ih# j^round. and eqatloaij; 
TTamilna anr wny iraynd on ltd a to- 

to o^nfrrt 

with (jiir Vl«n T 

•ail pi! t (hP Tftiit f:uFFiln“of ifflolcr; q tloliin, 
tirnan« object; wfbtch I loitantiy. out 
peotod to bt m ilribip.’ 

I Mr. lUtntlaa it. 

ind JT* botb tc iirpd ttiit \i wii, ondanb^ 
one ni cha JrifiTjnir-'mniai-nMtHF 
-prot}aijJx&a:Llic_l(H).tautJof ^ ^ 

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, he cried, 
is it that you do not understand? 
This Land of Sand and of a 
wonderful fertilizing river - what 
can it be? Gentlemen, it is Egypt! 
These mountains of rock that the 
Martians have erected, what are 
they? Gentlemen, they are the 
great mystery of the land of the 
Nile, the Pyramids. The gigantic 
statue of their leader that they at 
the foot of their artificial moun- 
tains have set up - gentlemen, 
what is that? It is the Sphinx!” 

Edison’s Conquest Of Mors 
was written as a sequel to the 
unauthorised serial publication of 
HG Wells story War Of The Worlds. 
Serviss’s novel features an extinct 
race of giants on the Moon, a sole 
human descendant from a group 
of humans abducted by Martians 
some 9,000 years ago, and 
famous inventor Edison who not 
only invents an antigravity space- 
ship, but also a disintegration ray 
to destroy the last Martians who 
are planning yet another attack. 

Garrett Putnam Serviss 
(1851-1929) was an American 

he took a short cut through a 
highly classified hangar and saw 
a crashed UFO from the catwalk 
he was on. He stared at it for ages 
until a guard told him to leave 
because he wasn’t classified to be 
there. He was warned not to ever 
mention what he saw. I don’t know 
if this is true, but it was highly en- 
tertaining. French TV sucks, Den- 
nis is the best we had.” (archived 
at http://www.bowiegoldenyears. 

Given Bowie’s contemporary 
performance as The Man Who Fell 
To Earth, Davis’s revelation was 
aptly timed. It’s also a notewor- 
thy addition to the ufological 
canon of ‘soldiers who see crashed 

Ttois Ctitigt W£B cmjitMd of raUliom of irliltfl-bleacliBd bones and tknlls 

astronomer and early science 
fiction writer. His fame spread 
across the ocean; a German book 
that speculates on the future has 
an entry by his hand concerning 
the end of the world. ^ Serviss 
published more science fiction, 
such as A Columbus Of Space, a 
tale of travel by atomic-powered 
spaceship to Venus that is in- 
habited by people and monsters. 
Serialised in All-Story Magazine in 
1909, it was published as a book 
two years later. 

But there’s also a pyramid on 
the Moon, as found in George 
Griffith’s ‘Stories of Other Worlds’, 
serialised in Pearson’s Magazine 
from January to June 1900. In 
the first instalment, ‘A Visit To 
The Moon’, the interplanetary 
explorers find a pyramid in the 
City of Tycho: “From the centre of 
this square rose a huge pyramid 
nearly a thousand feet in height, 
the sole building in the great, 
silent city which appeared to have 
been raised as a monument, or, 
possibly, a temple by the hands 
of its vanished inhabitants...” ^ 
Around the towering object are 
strewn the bones of a race of gi- 
ants who built the pyramid, having 
become extinct when the Moon 
lost its atmosphere. Our heroes 
wonder: “Inside the great Pyramid 
of the City of Tycho they might, 
perhaps, have found something - 
some stone or tablet which bore 
the mark of the artist’s hand; 
elsewhere, perhaps, they might 
have found cities reared by older 
races, which might have rivalled 

UFOs in hangars’ stories - or, as 
more sceptical ufologists such as 
Jacques Vallee, Peter Brookesmith 
and the authors of Mirage Men 
might suggest, ‘soldiers who are 
allowed to see fake crashed UFOs 
in hangars as part of Cold War 
military intelligence psy ops’. 
Dean Ballinger 
Hamilton, New Zealand 

Cloyed with lobster 

Re: Mythchaser [FT324:43] regard- 
ing prisoners and indentured 
servants objecting to being fed 
too much lobster: although this 
does not involve the objections of 
prisoners or servants, one of the 

the creations of Egypt and Baby- 
lon, but they had neither time nor 
inclination to look for these...” ® 
Returning to Mars, famous 

earliest writings from colonial 
America regarding the low esteem 
of lobster due to its overabundance 
is the report of renegade New 
England colonist Thomas Morton 

In the 1620s, Morton founded 
at what is now Quincy, Mas- 
sachusetts, a colony of rebelled 
indentured servants whose activi- 
ties, including trading firearms to 
the Massachusett, fell afoul of the 
Plymouth Pilgrims. Myles Standish 
of Plymouth Colony arrested 
Morton once, and John Endecott 
of Massachusetts Bay Colony 
arrested him twice; on all these 
occasions he was exiled from the 
Puritan-dominated Massachusetts 

comic artist Jack Kirby drew a 
fascinating, sphinx-like face on 
Mars in his 1958 comic The Face 
On Mars, years before ‘the face 

Bay region, the first two occasions 
back to England, the final time to 
Maine. In 1837, Nathaniel Haw- 
thorne famously published a short 
story, “The May-Pole of Merry 
Mount”, fictionalising the 1627 
May Day revels to which Morton 
invited nearby Native Americans, 
and of which William Bradford 
wrote with such bitter invective in 
Of Plymouth Plantation. 

During a prolonged exile back 
to England, Morton wrote New 
English Canaan (1637). In this 
work, he wrote of the natural 
bounty of his part of New England, 
of the customs of the Natives he 
dealt with, and of the folly of the 

on Mars’ discussion. ® In Kirby’s 
short story, the face is a remnant 
of a once highly civilised giant race 
that became extinct following an 
interplanetary war. 

There are more examples to 
be found, of Moon pyramids and 
also a sphinx on Mars in the 1979 
Russian science fiction story by 
Mikhail Puhov, ‘Okno vfuturozoi’ 
(Window to the futurozoi), which 
was published in the magazine 
TehnikaMolodezhi, 1979, #11. 

The story featured a description 
of a Sphinx on Mars. Inside the 
Sphinx was a chamber with a ‘win- 
dow’, where one could see the 
future. Futurozoi - a word invented 
by the author - means something 
like ‘era of the future’. ^ 


1 New York Herald, 30 Nov 1909, 
htt p : /f u Ito n h i sto ry. CO m . 

2 http:/ 

3 Die Welt In HundertJahren, 
1910, https:/ 

4 George Locke ed.. Worlds 
Apart, An Anthology of Interplan- 
etary Fiction, Cornmarket reprints, 
1972, pile. 

5 Ibid. pl22. 

6 Kirby’s comic http:/podcast. 
Ki rby-Face-on-Ma rs-1958 . pdf 

7 Correspondence with Mikhail 
Gershtein, 17 June 2015. 

Theo Paijmans 

The Hague, Netherlands 

In Book II, Chapter VII: ‘Of the 
Eishes, and What Commodity They 
Prove’, Morton writes: 

“Lobsters are there infinite in 
store in all the parts of the land, 
and very excellent. The most use 
that I made of them in 5 years after 
I came there was but to bait my 
hook for to catch Bass, I have been 
so cloyed with them the first day 
I went ashore. This being known, 
they shall pass for a commodity to 
the inhabitants; for the Salvages 
[sic] will meet 500 or 1000 at a 
place where Lobsters come in 
with the tide, to eat and save dried 
for store, abiding in that place 
feasting and sporting a month or 6 
weeks together.” 

FT331 71 

New light on 
Greyfriars Bobby 

I recently had occasion to purchase 
a cabinet card photograph depict- 
ing, according to a pencil inscription 
on the back, “Greyfriars Bobby 
above his master’s grave”. There 
is reason to believe that this card 
is genuine, and thus a previously 
unpublished portrait of Edinburgh’s 
most famous dog [see FT297:44- 
51, 298:42-48]. Some table-stones 
can be seen in the background, 
behind the elderly, gloomy looking 
terrier mongrel. The card is pub- 
lished by Walter Greenock Patter- 
son, Bobby’s official photographer, 
who was responsible for several 
other cabinet cards featuring the 
celebrated cemetery dog, either 
alone or with members of the Traill 
family, keepers of the restaurant 
where Bobby was regularly fed. The 
back of one card gives Patterson’s 
address as 4 North College Street, 
where the photographer resided 
until 1867, suggesting that he pho- 
tographed the dog in that year. 

It is not possible that the long- 
bodied, shaggy old dog in the 
Patterson cabinet cards is the 
same animal as the dapper-looking 
Skye terrier on the Greyfriars Bobby 
monument in Candlemaker Row. 
Two paintings of Bobby, by Robert 
Sanderson and John MacLeod, 
agree well with the dog statue, 
however, and since Sanderson’s 

work is dated 1867, it appears likely 
that a substitution of dogs was car- 
ried out in that year, quite possibly 
after the death of Bobby I. Bobby II 
the Skye terrier lived on until 1872, 
impersonating the original cemetery 
dog with complete success. As any 
visitor to Edinburgh will be aware, the 
cult of Saint Bobby has flourished into 
the present day: for every visitor to 
Greyfriars and its historic churchyard, 
there are 10 who have come merely 
to see Bobby’s grave and to worship 
in front of the iconic dog monument, 
ignorant that it does not really portray 
the original canine saint from 1867, 
but a false prophet usurping his fame. 
Dr Jan Bondeson, 

Newport, Wales 

Additionally, in Chapter V: Of 
the Beasts of the Forest, Morton 
notes that “[t]he Bear is a tyrant 
at a Lobster, and at low water will 
down to the rocks and grope after 
them with great diligence.” 

EJ Barnes 

Wrong Compound 

The reference to poisoning by 
ergot fungi [FT329:18] makes a 
common error. Ergot poisoning 
is due to the alkaloid ergotamine 
(with lower concentrations of 
other ergot alkaloids), not lysergic 
acid, which is rarely found in 
nature, and not particularly toxic; 
Hoffman did not synthesise lyser- 
gic acid - he got that by hydrolysis 
of ergotamine - the compound 

the author means is lysergic acid 
diethylamide (LSD). This may 
seem trivial, but the error is widely 
reported in the tabloid press, 
where it is often stated that ergot 
poisoning from mouldy bread was 
due to LSD. 

Andrew Munro 
Co Cork 

He Swallowed It 

While reading Eric Chaline’s 
History’s Greatest Deceptions and 
the People Who Planned Them we 
learn of a cryptozoological wonder 
discovered in the Burnett River 
of northern Queensland in 1872 
that had the body of a lungfish 
(Neoceratodus) and the duck- 
shaped bill of a platypus. The type 
specimen was cooked and served 

to Carl Staiger, former director of 
the British Museum, for dinner. 
Before Staiger ate it, he drew the 
fish (shown above) and sent the 
drawing to the Linn^an Society 
in Sydney who gave it the name 
Ompax spatuloides. Three decades 
later naturalists re-examined 
Staiger’s drawing and realised the 

type specimen had been assem- 
bled from parts of other animals - 
the head of a lungfish, the body of 
a mullet, the tail of an eel and the 
bill of a platypus. Staiger had not 
only been taken in by the hoax but 
swallowed it! 

Greg May 
Orlando, Florida 

72 FT331 

Have you had strange experiences that you cannot explain? 

We are always interested in reading of odd events and occurrences. 
Or post your message on the http:/ 

First-hand accocmts from Fortean Times readers and posters at 

Rune-casting magpie 

On Midsummer’s Eve I felt like getting down 
with the faery folk and made my bed at the bot- 
tom of the garden. I had been reading /Wyt/?o/o- 
gies by Levi-Strauss and Frazier’s The Golden 
Bough, which had inebriated me a little. I hung 
a magpie feather and a leaf, which fell on my 
chest the day before, from a branch above my 
sleeping bag. Some silver half-crowns were left 
for the pixies and I laid out some runes on a 
brick (right). 

The night passed uneventfully; I awoke at 
dawn with around 25 slugs for company. My 
shock came when I inspected the runes. They 
had been recast! The wind hadn’t moved them 
-there was only a light breeze. A fox? No, not 
dextrous enough. Then I remembered the cack- 
ling noise just before waking... a magpie. The 
reading he left me was remarkably accurate. 

Do any readers have tales of bird divination, 
tarot-reading tortoises or rune-casting rodents? 
Paul Tierney 
Marsh, West Yorkshire 

Kitchen crow 

Regarding corvid gifts [FT329:22-23]: I took a day 
off work on 29 June to do some serious gardening 
and took a break at 11am for a flapjack and a cup 
of coffee. During this time I noticed an unusually 
large crow sitting on top of the tall fir tree half 
way down the garden. I began a calling conversa- 
tion with the crow for about five minutes, he/she 
replied, and I thought nothing of it. 

I went out at lunchtime, and when I returned sit- 
ting in the middle of the patio was a perfectly intact 

chunk of flapjack and a bone (shown below). 

I had swept the patio so it was completely 
clear of debris. Both neighbours were out and 
I soon realised that if the flapjack had been 
thrown any distance it would have shattered. 

I have not been feeding the crows, but often 
try and engage them in conversation. I have 
no idea how the flapjack or bone arrived on 
the patio other than being brought in by air. It 
is curious that I had eaten the same type of 
cake earlier that morning. 

Andrew Spencer 
Erdington, Birmingham 

Deep freeze mystery 

Back in 1980 or 1981 1 had a girlfriend who 
lived in a cottage in the woods outside Oslo. 

This cottage was infested with ants, but she 
was reluctant to do anything to get rid of them. 
One morning after spending the night together, 
we found ants swarming around my discarded 
rubbers on the floor. The ants were behaving in 
a bizarre fashion, standing absolutely still and 
waving their heads about in a random way. On 
closer inspection, we found that they had chewed 
the condoms to tatters. There was obviously 
some kind of intoxicating agent in the lubricant 
or the material itself. We researched the matter 
further, catching sober ants and putting them in 
jars together with condoms. The ants would invari- 
ably make a beeline for the rubbers, and chew 
on them until they fell into a head-waving stupor. 
The high would last for some time (I forget how 
long), until the effect wore off and they resumed 
normal behaviour. As far as I remember, they 
never had more than one go at it. Probably they 
got a hangover and swore off rubbers for the rest 
of their lives. 

Nils Erik Grande 
Oslo, Norway 

Extra flapjack 

I went from London as a 12-year-old to live 
in Cornwall. The winters had some very cold 
spells. One very cold morning, in the winter of 
either 1953, 1954 or 1955, 1 walked to a pool 
to inspect the ice, which was about a quarter 
to half an inch [6-12mm] thick. To my great 
surprise, I saw dozens of coots and moor- 
hens frozen into the ice, in the random posi- 
tions you would have expected on open water. 
They seemed to have been instantly frozen in 
the postures they assumed going about their 
normal business. I have mentioned this to 
several people whom I thought could give me 
an explanation, but no one could. I don’t think 
many of them believed me, and I don’t blame 
them. The sight of those birds frozen into the 
ice is as clear in my mind today as it was all 
those years ago. The magazine Birds could find no 
record of such a phenomenon, although it did know 
of rare reports of single swans frozen into ice. 
Malcolm Christophers 
East Yorkshire 

A taste for rLibber 

When I was digging the garden I noticed a crow 
watching me. I threw him a worm and he caught 
it and immediately dropped it, pulled himself 
up to his full height and flapped his wings 
and crowed, then picked up the worm again 
and ate it. This same procedure happened 
every time I threw him a worm. I later walked to 
our local shops and noticed the crow following me 
along the rooftops of the houses. He followed me 
to the shops and back again. Every day the crow 
was there sitting on my doorstep and every time I 
gave him something to eat he dropped it, did the 
flapping routine then picked it up and ate it. 

He then began coming in through the kitchen 
door and sitting on the back of a chair. He would 
sleep in the kitchen every night and then follow me 
wherever I went. One day he brought me a bottle 
top, then another and another until I had a whole 
collection. He continued to sleep in our kitchen 
until one day when I was working in the garden I 
heard a shriek - a cat had grabbed him. I was so 
upset. He managed to fly away but he never came 
back. So for about three months I had a pet crow, 
but I think he must have felt betrayed because I 
didn’t protect him. 

Sandra Johnson 

Mouldsworth, Chester 

FT331 73 




102. Tuscany’s UFO Museum 

LUIS R GONZALEZ finds the Italian region of Tuscia is home to a many fortean 
attractions - most notably an impressive collection of UFO-related material. 

T O the northwest of Rome, 
about an hour’s drive along 
bumpy roads, is Tuscia, 
the Italian region that 
comprises the territories 
under Etruscan influence before the 
Roman conquest. Its most famous 
fortean feature is the Parco dei 
Mostri (Monster Park), located in a 
wood in a valley beneath the castle 
of Orsini, at Bomarzo, and a major 
tourist attraction since its restoration 
in the 1970s. Its many monstrous 
statues, larger-than-life, appear to be 
unconnected to any rational plan - 
as one inscription suggests: “Sol per 
sfogare il Core” (“Just to set the heart 

But the Monster Park is not the 
area’s only fortean attraction. My 
search for a ufological treasure 
had brought me to Bagnoregio, a 
little town surrounded by many 
archeological sites, mostly Etruscan 
chamber tombs dug in the cliffs. 
Today, it is a lively centre for 
agriculture, commerce and light 
industry with a population of about 
4,000. Its name is derived from the 
sulphurous and ferruginous hot 
springs created by the continual 
volcanic activity in the area. 

My guide was Giancarlo 
D’Alessandro, a retired Air Eorce 
medical colonel, who first took me to 
the nearby town of Monteflascone. 
Eamous as a Papal possession for 
centuries, the Pope’s old summer 
residence at the top of the hill 
provides a wonderful view of the 
surroundings, especially Lake 
Bolsena, Italy’s largest volcanic crater 
lake. According to a local contactee 
group, there is a ‘star gate’ located on 
Bisentina, one of the lake’s islands. 
Although the view during my visit 
was suggestive - a thunderous cloud 
mantle full of lightning hovered over 
the lake - 1 cannot vouch for the 
existence of this mysterious ‘artefact’. 

74 FT331 

He began to 
UFOs in the 
iate 1970s 

At Bagnoregio, I was surprised 
to And a small black pyramid, 
about 35ft (11m) tall, in the 
middle of a square, surrounded by 
clipped gardens. No extraterrestrial 
connection this time, it was merely 
an ossuary erected to honour 
Garibaldi’s followers, decimated in 

ABOVE: Parco 
dei Mostri, 


flying saucer 
money bank, 
US 1950s. 

a local battle in the 19^^ 

The region’s volcanic 
origins create an eerie 
landscape. The beautiful 
valley of the calanchi (eroded 
clay cliffs) is really worth a visit 
for its spectacular formations, but 
just beside Bagnoregio, although 
separated from it by a large, 
surrounding chasm, is the village 
of Civita. Local legends blame 
the chasm on a major earthquake 
during the early Middle Ages, but 
historians have documented a more 
gradual process between the 14^^ and 
15^^ centuries when an increasing 
frequency of landslides, floods and 
collapses gradually eroded the 
village. Civita is almost inaccessible 
to modern means of transportation; 
you have to cross, slowly, along a 
steep and narrow bridge 900ft (274m) 
long, which seems endless. On some 
misty mornings, the little group of 
surviving houses atop Civita seems to 
float, surreally, in the fog. One has the 
impression that it is truly a gateway 
into a supernatural world. At night, 
the silence is palpable. 

Bagnoregio is the birthplace of 
several saints - prominently the 
Eranciscan St Bonaventure (1221- 
1274) - and houses two museums. 

One, named after a famous Italian 
driver of the 1930s, Piero Taruffi, 
is devoted to antique cars and 
‘microcars’ since WWII. A visit here 
could be useful to ground yourself in 
the feel of the times, and as a prelude 
to the main fortean attraction: 
Giancarlo D’ Alessandro’s own ‘UEO 
Museum’ (visits, by appointment only: 
email at 

D’Alessandro was, as he told me, 
inspired by the Nobel Prize-winning 
Turkish author Orhan Pamuk 
when he recreated the ‘Museum of 
Innocence’ from Pamuk’s novel of the 
same title. Where Pamuk displays a 
collection that evokes the everyday 
life and culture of Istanbul during 
the period in which the novel is set, 
D’Alessandro wanted to preserve 
the culture of ufology. Since the late 
1970s, when he began to investigate 
UEOs, Giancarlo has collected 
anything UEO-related that he’s 
come across. You name it, he has it 
- enough to All a museum. 

The objects on show bear witness 
to the degree of penetration achieved 
by the alien meme in many different 
(and sometimes unexpected) 

spheres. However, this 
■‘UEO Museum’ is 
completely different 
from others of its kind 
around the world. You 
won’t see all those faked 
photographs, models or dioramas 
customary elsewhere. Instead, 
hundreds of big and small items 
overflow the cabinets of the main 
hall; from china designs to inflatable 



ABOVE LEFT: Books and objects on display in the museum. ABOVE RIGHT: The first time the term “dischi volanti” (flying saucers) figured on the cover 
of an Italian comic was in June 1950, when Onofrio Bramante created Quol’e il mistero dei dischi voianti? (What is the mystery of flying saucers?). The 
plot includes an alien corpse retrieved from a crashed UFO in Mexico and sent to the USA for autopsy (below). There is also the abduction of a pilot 
and a visit to a ‘mother-ship’. BOTTOM: An Italian Tombola game from the 1950s. 

sex dolls, every imaginable gadget 
has its alien version. From the late 
1990s onwards, alien merchandising 
has become universal, especially the 
iconic ‘Grey’ face. But the museum also 
showcases plenty of earlier material, 
some from the very beginning of the 
modern ‘flying saucer’ craze in 1947. In 
those days, another icon was Adamski’s 
saucer with its three hemispheres 
underneath. Foodstuffs, sweets, games, 
toys, radios and clocks, perfumes and 
cosmetics, designer objects and fashion 
accessories, even car deodorants: there 
is no commercial area that has not 
exploited the notion of the UFO. 

A side room preserves printed and 
audio material. Here, you can And 
every Italian UFO book ever published 
(including translations), plus a 
substantial collection of magazines and 
comics. There are also many singles 
and LPs with UFO songs, which one 
day will be available for listening. 

There is also a place for posters 
from ufo-themed movies, and in 
one corner is a small collection of 
Mexican UFO ex-votos and other 
examples of contactee art. 

On the first floor, Giancarlo 
keeps the more authentic 
ufological material: his own 
archives of investigations, UFO 
bulletins, newsclippings and 
magazine articles, as well as a 
good collection of SF novels and 
comics. Due to lack of space, one 
of his main attractions is kept at 
his home: what is probably the 
world’s best collection of UFO- 
themed stamps, fully catalogued 
on his own web page (www. He is now working to 
translate it into English. Besides 
any stamp even only slightly 
related to UFOs, the collection 
also includes coins, postcards, 
phonecards, and so on. Never 

satisfied, Giancarlo is presently 
cataloguing all kinds of UFO 
group logos and stationery. 

Adjacent to the exhibit hall, is 
a fully-equipped apartment for 
visitors... but beware! On one of 
the nights I spent there, I awoke 
with a sudden, sharp pain in 
my left calf. No probe mark was 
visible but I walked awkwardly 
for a couple of days afterwards. 

I don’t recall anything, but 
continue to refuse any hypnosis, 
just in case. 

Satisfied that my pilgrimage 
was complete, I thanked 
D’Alessandro and his wife for 
their kind hospitality. Then, a 
final revelation opened a new 
challenge. Giancarlo confessed 
that his was not the best 
collection of UFO-related cultural 
material in private hands. To visit this, 
I should have to travel further north, 
to Torino... but that’s another story. 

To close this fortean circle, I should 
mention that in 2000 D’Alessandro 
produced Enthusiasmds, a 28-minute 
film directed by his wife Carla Vittoria 
Rossi and based on the idea that 
Dante’s ‘Inferno’, in his 14th century 
Divine Comedy, might be the map of 
a real place... the Bomarzo gardens 
I mentioned at the beginning of this 

Yes, they were allegedly created 
much later, during the 16“ century... 
but who knows? 


^ veteran Spanish ufologist 
j who enjoys collecting 
^1 stamps on fortean themes 
" ! and cataloguing obscure 

comics pertinent to UFOmania. 

FT331 75 


DM BONDESON presents more stories from the "worst newspaper in England" - the Illustrated Folice News. 



The earliest butchery competition considered 
newsworthy by the national press was held 
at the Standard Theatre, Gateshead, in April 
1898. The London champion butcher Edward 
Harper had been challenged by the Gateshead 
butcher Matthew Ramsey, known as the 
winner of a local beef-dressing competition 
the previous year. Each man had to skin and 
dress two large, fat bullocks, watched by a 
referee and a time-keeper. A special train had 
been run from London, full of cattle dealers, 
drovers and butchers keen to have a few pints 
of strong Northern bitter and a bet on London 
champion Harper. 

The four bullocks were duly slaughtered, 
and the two butchers went to work, cheered on 
by a large and uproarious audience. Harper 
was a fine figure of a man, 25 years old and 
very strong and sturdy; Matthew Ramsey was 
smaller and also incapacitated 
by blood poisoning to one hand. 

The London butcher was by 
far the superior performer: 
he finished his two bullocks in 
21 minutes and ten seconds, 
whereas the Gateshead man took 
26 minutes and seven seconds. 

There was much cheering as the 
result was announced, and the 
jolly London butchers went for 
another extended pub crawl, 
before boarding another special 
train that was to return them to 
the Metropolis. 

In June 1898, Harper was 
challenged by the champion 
butcher of America, Paul Tetzel, 
a native of Chicago. Another 
butchery competition was 
arranged at the Wood Green 
Athletic Grounds, for £200 a 
side. The stipulations were the 
same as those for the Gateshead 
match, and thousands of 
pounds were bet on the result. 

The attendance exceeded all 
precedents, and several men 
were doing a good trade selling 
silk handkerchief trophies of the 
event. The Old Butchers’ Band of 
the Metropolitan Cattle Market 
were in attendance, playing 
marrow-bones and cleavers to 
great acclaim. When the four fat 
bullocks were slaughtered, there 
was a roar of anticipation as the 
two rival butchers went to work. 

Edward Harper looked like a 
proper butcher, large and stout, 
and with a red, perspiring face. 

In contrast, Paul Tetzel was a thin, dapper- 
looking cove, whose waist-belt would not have 
reached round half of his opponent’s well- 
nourished bulk. But still, Tetzel had the head 
off his first bullock well before his opponent, 
and he proceeded to skin both beasts with 
extreme rapidity. In the end, Tetzel had his two 
carcases ready for the market in 18 minutes 
and 32 seconds, whereas Harper took just 
over 20 minutes. Paul Tetzel was the new 
undisputed champion butcher of the world. 

The working men’s newspapers of the 
time reported on the Wood Green butchery 
competition with the utmost enthusiasm. 
‘International Beef-Dressing Competition for 
£200 a Side and the Championship!’ exclaimed 
the IPN. At least 4,000 people had watched this 
bloodbath, which had “aroused a tremendous 
amount of excitement throughout the butchery 
trade in England.” Trade newspapers like 
the Butcher’s Advocate were also enthusiastic 
about the Wood Green encounter, and the 
prospect of future butchery competitions. But 
squeamish, middle-class people objected to 

such a sanguinary display being enacted in 
front of a large, paying audience. When there 
was a question in Parliament as to whether 
it was really appropriate for butchery to be 
performed in a place of public amusement, the 
Home Secretary, Sir Matthew White Ridley, 
gave a rather vague answer. Although the 
Wood Green track had given an assurance that 
butchery contests would not be allowed there 
in the future, the butchery trade might well 
find alternate venues for their ‘beef-dressing 

Paul Tetzel enjoyed his newfound fame 
among the London butchers. Showing no 
urgency to return to his native land, he settled 
down at a butcher’s shop in Greenwich. The 
1901 Census finds him and his family - his wife 
Amelia, son George and daughter Caroline 
- in a three-story Victorian terraced house 
at No 59 Endwell Road. He had been born in 
Germany in 1867, but his parents had brought 
him to New York in 1881. Tetzel called himself 
the Champion Butcher of the World, and was 
always ready to defend his title. In 1901, he 
was challenged by J Marsh, the 
Champion Sheep-dresser of 
Manchester, to a contest at the 
Salford Eootball Club for a stake 
of £50 a side, the bet was that 
Tetzel could not dress a bullock 
in less time than his local rival 
would dress a sheep. Again, 
several thousand spectators were 
present, many of them butchers 
from Manchester or the Midlands. 
Councillor Hornby of Manchester 
acted as judge, and Mr Mills of 
Birkenhead as time-keeper. Once 
more, Tetzel was the winner, 
taking just three minutes and 16 
seconds to get his bullock ready 
for market, whereas Marsh took 
more than half a minute longer to 
dress his sheep. 

In 1903, Tetzel outclassed all 
local competitors at a butchery 
contest in Glasgow. A few years 
later, the Champion Butcher 
performed at Gilbert’s Circus in 
Sherwood Street, Nottingham, 
to general acclaim. The 1910 US 
Census finds Paul Tetzel at 19 
Manhattan Ward, New York, with 
his wife and three children. 

According to an Internet 
source, Tetzel remained active 
much longer than that, showing 
off his skills at fairs and markets 
on both sides of the Atlantic. His 
year of death is not known, but 
since his son George was listed 
in the 1940 US Census, with four 
children alive, the Champion 
Butcher may well have living 
descendants today. 

Flash Foto Ltd T/A Arrowfile, 147 Churchill House, Stirling Way, WD6 2HP Reg No. 1561035 


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Born of Dutch stock in Albany, 
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the New York Public Library and 
the British Museum Library. He 
marshalled his evidence and set 
forth his philosophy in The Book of 
the Damned (1919), New Lands 
(1923), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents 

He was sceptical of scientific 
explanations, observing how 
scientists argued according to their 
own beliefs rather than the rules 
of evidence and that inconvenient 
data were ignored, suppressed, 
discredited or explained away. 

He criticised modern science for 
its reductionism, its attempts to 
define, divide and separate. Fort’s 
dictum “One measures a circle 
beginning anywhere” expresses 
instead his philosophy of Continuity 
in which everything is in an 
intermediate and transient state 
between extremes. 

He had ideas of the Universe-as- 
organism and the transient nature 

of all apparent phenomena, coined 
the term 'teleportation’, and was 
perhaps the first to speculate that 
mysterious lights seen in the sky 
might be craft from outer space. 
However, he cut at the very roots of 
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is more than the proper thing to 
wear, for a while.” 

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keeps alive this ancient task of 
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exploring the wild frontiers between 
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FT toes no party line. 

Special Correspondents 

AUSTRALIA Graham Cordon (SA), Tony Mealy (ACT), John Palazzi (NSW), Len Watson (Qld). 
CANADA Brian Chapman (BC), Graham Conway (BC), CYBERSPACE Richard Alexander, John 
F Callahan, Hugh Henry, Steve Scanlon, Janet Wilson. ENGLAND Gail-Nina Anderson, Louise 
Bath, James Beckett, Claire Blarney, Peter Christie, Mat Coward, Kate Eccles, Paul Farthing, 
George Featherston, Paul Gallagher, Alan Gardiner, Keith George, Anne Hardwick, Richard 
Lowke, Alexis Lykiard, Diana Lyons, Dave Malin, Nick Maloret, Valerie Martin, Tom Ruffles, 

Meryl Santis, Paul Screeton, Gary Stocker, Roman Suchyj, Frank Thomas, Paul Thomas, Nick 
Warren, Owen Whiteoak, Bobby Zodiac. FRANCE Michel Meurger. GERMANY Ulrich Magin. 
HOLLAND Robin Pascoe. IRELAND Andy Conlon, Pat Corcoran, Andrew Munro. ISRAEL 
Zvi Ron. NEW ZEALAND Peter Hassall. ROMANIA Iosif Boczor. SCOTLAND Roger Musson. 
SWEDEN Sven Rosen. THAILAND Chris Williams. USA Loren Coleman (ME), Jim Conlan 
(CT), Myron Hoyt (ME), Greg May (FL), Dolores Phelps (TX), Jim Riecken (NY), Joseph Trainor 
(MA), Jeffrey Vallance (CA), Gary Yates (UT). WALES Janet & Colin Bord. 

Fort Sortors (who classify clippings placed in the Archives for Fortean Research) 

Phil Baker, Rachel Carthy, Chris Josiffe, Mark Pilkington, Bob Rickard, Paul Sieveking, Ian 

Clipping Credits for FT331 

Richard Alexander, C Allsop, Gail-Nina Anderson, Gerard Apps, Louise Bath, James 
Beckett, Terry Colvin, Andy Conlon, Pat Corcoran, Graham Cordon, Brian Duffy, JD Evans, 
Rob Gandy, Alan Gardiner, Keith George, Alan Gibb, Tony Mealy, Hugh Henry, Colin Ings, 
Ernest Jackson, Tim Greening-Jackson, Richard Lowke, Diana Lyons, Dave Malin, Bert & 
Betty Gray-Malkin, Nick Maloret, Valerie Martin, Greg May, John Palazzi, Jim Price, Tom 
Ruffles, Steve Scanlon, Paul Screeton, Jonathan Sibley, Frank Thomas, Paul Thomas, 
Nicholas Warren, Len Watson, Owen Whiteoak, Janet Wilson, Gary Yates, Bobby Zodiac. 

78 FT331 


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On 28-29 June, Daesh (aka ISIS) 
decapitated two women in eastern 
Syria, the first time the Wahhabi 
death cult has beheaded female 
civilians. One was murdered with 
her husband in the city of Deir Ezzor; 
the other, also with her husband, in 
al-Mayadin to the southeast. All four 
were accused of “sorcery”, or using “magic 
for medicine”. In their enthusiasm to emulate 
mediaeval barbarity, we expect Daesh’s vile 
faux-pious bandits to start sticking their 
victims’ heads on spikes atop city walls - with 
photos online. 

Daesh has previously released images 
of several executions in Syria and Iraq of 
street performers and others found guilty of 
performing “black magic”. Optical illusions and 
other basic magic tricks are considered a form 
of sorcery, an art condemned as questioning 
the existence of Allah. In May, Daesh’s Libyan 
franchise released images of a “sorcerer”, 
wearing a Guantanamo-style orange boiler suit, 
being beheaded in the province of Barqa. One 
of the images released as evidence of his guilt 
included a manuscript, covered in handwritten 
Arabic, alleged to be some sort of spell. 

Daesh also released photos of a magician 
being decapitated in the Iraqi province of 
Salahuddin. A close-up image of the man’s 
body shows a broken bag full of prayer beads 
beside him. Daesh claim the beads are 
trinkets and charms, a form of forbidden black 
magic. Al Jazeera,, 30 June; [R] 
1 July 2015. 

Stephen Whinfrey, 50, was suffocated to 
death after getting stuck headfirst in a rabbit 
hole at a beauty spot on New Year’s Day. A 
walker discovered him at 4pm on 2 January 
with just his legs and torso sticking out of the 
ground at Squirrel Wood Scout Camp, near 
Burghwalis, Doncaster. One hand was also 
visible, wedged firmly between his thighs. He 
was at a 45-degree angle, curved around the 
deep hole. There were scratch marks on the 
ground. The unemployed father-of-two, a former 
miner, had been a ‘rabbiting’ enthusiast most 
of his life. He had taken off his Wellington boots 
and jacket, which were found next to the hole 
along with two bags, one containing ferrets, a 
spade, knives and a net. A dead rabbit and a 
fresh mound of soil was next to the hole while 
his dog was tied to a nearby tree. D. Express, 3 
June 2015. 

Following mysterious deaths in a family in 
Muzarabani, Zimbabwe, five kinsmen asked 
their priest, Zvidzai Muchengeti, for help to 
cleanse their home of evil spirits. Self-styled 
prophet Shamiso Kanyama was invited to 
conduct the cleansing ceremony. He told the 
family he had to be buried alive to summon 
more healing powers. He helped dig the 
pit and then prayed before jumping inside. 
While lying face down, he ordered the family 
members to cover him with soil. As they did 
so, Joseph Taderera asked them to stop, but 
Kanyama urged them to continue, saying that 
he would later come out alive. When he failed 
to do so, the soil was removed and he was 



found to be dead. Five members of the 
family were arrested and charged with 
murder. InformationNG, 15 June 2015. 

On 28 August 2014, Nathan Greenway, 
a 33-year-old gardener, was found by 
his wife collapsed on their living room 
floor in Aldershot, Hampshire. He was 
drenched in sweat, scratching the lacerations 
on his hands, and vomiting. He told her he 
felt “as weak as a kitten”. He was rushed to 
hospital but died of multiple organ failure on 
7 September. He had been working in the 
grounds of Millcourt House near Alton, and 
it is thought that he brushed past a patch of 
Aconitum napellus - known variously as devil’s 
helmet, wolfsbane or monkshood - without 
wearing gloves. The plant’s toxicity is well 
known but its roots are its most poisonous 
part and can kill if ingested. Though the 
ornamental plant is quite common in gardens, 
doctors said Greenway’s death was “extremely 
rare” and they could not be completely certain 
what caused it. The coroner recorded an open 
verdict. BBC News, 7 Nov 2014; D.Mail, 25 
June 2015. 

Julie McCabe, 39, an estate agent from 
Cowling, North Yorkshire, died in October 
2011 after suffering a severe allergic reaction 
caused by L’Oreal hair dye. She was rinsing it 
out when she “screamed loudly” and gasped 
at her husband: “I’m struggling to breathe, 

I think I’m going to die.” The anaphylactic 
reaction caused her to fall into a coma and 
she died 13 months later in hospital without 
regaining consciousness. The coroner at 
the inquest in Skipton, North Yorkshire, in 
February 2015 said he believed it was only 
the second death in the UK resulting from hair 
colourant. The cause of death was given as 
cardiorespiratory arrest as a result of severe 
brain damage. D.Mail, 18 Feb 2015. 

Jayin (or Jaylon) Rippy, a five-year-old Florida 
girl riding in her family’s boat on 2 July, died 
after a sturgeon leaped from the Suwannee 
River near Fanning Springs and struck her. Her 
mother Tanya, 31, and nine-year-old brother 
Trevor suffered serious injuries and were taken 
to a Gainesville hospital. Low water levels in 
the river meant sturgeon were jumping more 
frequently than in recent years. Four people 
have been injured by jumping sturgeon in 
2015, and this is the first fatality from a 
sturgeon strike on the Suwannee River. The 
fish are known for leaping more than 7ft (2m) 
above the water. They can grow up to 8ft 
(2.4m) long and weigh up to 2001b (90kg). 

[AP] 4 July;, 5 July; lONews 
(Tompo Boy, FL), 6 July 2015. 


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I wanted to explore avenues for my writing and develop 
and strengthen my personal style. I had no idea that it 
would lead to me being a published writer of novels and 
short stories. I still pinch myself when I receive emails and 
messages from readers who've enjoyed my work or 
when I give talks to book clubs and visit bookstores to do signings. 

These are magical moments that have changed my life - 
my dream has come true.” 


YES! Please send me free details on how to become a successful, freelance 

The college also provides a whole support system to 
novice writers that includes their tutors, their advisors, free 
resources and chance to converse with other writing 
students on their website. 

The Writers Bureau is so confident in the training and 
support it provides that it gives an amazing money back 
guarantee - if a student doesn’t earn their fees back 
through published writing by the end of their course the 
college will refund them in full. Plus, the course comes on 
15 -day trial so you can see for yourself the quality of the 
training on offer. 

To find out more about how The Writers Bureau can help 
you become a successful, published writer contact them 
for a free prospectus: 

0800 856 2008 Please quote ref: AT20815 

Why Not Be A Writer? 

First-class home-study course gets you a flying start. Earn while 
you learn. Expert tutors, personal guidance, help to sell your writing 
and mueh more! It’s ideal for beginners. Details free. No eost. 
No obligation. Send the eoupon, call or click NOW! 





The Writers Bureau 

Dept AT20815 
Manchester, M3 ILE 

Freephone 0800 856 2008 




Years of 


email: Please include your name and address 

Members of BILD 
and ABCC 

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