A long-standing Fortean mystery has been the 'wandering stones' of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, California. It might be time to cross this one off the list though:
Ending a half-century of geological speculation, scientists have finally seen the process that causes rocks to move atop Racetrack Playa, a desert lake bed in the mountains above Death Valley, California. Researchers watched a pond freeze atop the playa, then break apart into sheets of ice that — blown by wind — shoved rocks across the lake bed.
...The researchers began studying the region in 2011, setting up a weather station and time-lapse cameras and dropping off rocks loaded with Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers. The rocks were designed to start recording their position and speed as soon as something made them move.
...When the researchers travelled to the playa in December 2013 to check instruments and change batteries, they found a huge ice-encrusted pond covering about one-third of the 4.5-kilometre-long playa. After several days of camping, they decided to sit above the southern end of the playa on the morning of 20 December. “It was a beautiful sunny day, and there began to be rippled melt pools in front of us,” Richard Norris says. “At 11:37 a.m., very abruptly, there was a pop-pop-crackle all over the place in front of us — and I said to my cousin, ‘This is it.’ ”
They watched as the ice began moving past the rocks, mostly breaking apart but also shoving them gently...when the ice melted away that afternoon, they saw freshly formed trails left behind by more than 60 moving rocks.
The following month, the research team even managed to capture video of the phenomenon occurring:
Whether this is the complete explanation of the wandering stones phenomenon is still unknown - there have been reports of the stones moving during summer months as well, when it's unlikely that ice could form on the playa, leading previous researchers to note that ice "is not a required component or precondition for sliding rock activity".
So while the mystery seems to have largely been solved, there's still a few loose ends that might need cleaning up.
Alien stalker, inter-dimensional cryptid, herald of Doom, Tibetan Garuda or just a big-ass owl. Everybody has their pet theory about the true nature of the Mothman; but the only thing that's certain, is that 46 years after the collapse of the Silver Bridge in December of 1967, the mystery immortalized by John Keel and Gray Barker remains as captivating as ever.
Our good friends at Who Forted?, Greg and Dana Newkirk, have just shared a video about their very own personal pilgrimage to the Mothman Mecca - made as part of their Planet Weird series - and it seems the trip had a long-lasting impression on the young Forteans:
In the late 60s, a mysterious creature known as Mothman terrorized Point Pleasant, WV. In this clip, shot exclusively to field test new video equipment used in Planet Weird, Greg and Dana take a midnight adventure to the secluded TNT bunkers where the monster is alleged to have made its home.
I tweeted the thrill-seeking couple, asking about their personal impressions of visiting the infamous TNT area, which for a while was ground zero of most of the Mothman sightings between 1966 and 1967. This was their response:
— Greg Newkirk (@nuekerk) August 4, 2014
— Dana Matthews (@Weird_Dana) August 4, 2014
— Greg Newkirk (@nuekerk) August 4, 2014
I found the acoustic quality of the former World War II munitions plant to be interesting, and perhaps in some way connected to the high strangeness experienced by the inhabitants of the small West Virginia town, which will no doubt continue to lure Fortean aficionados for many years to come... like moths to the flame.
Whatever you think of the crop circle phenomenon —alien symbols, messages from Gaia, vandalic graffiti or magick sigils— I think we all can agree at least on one thing: Many of them are gorgeous to look at. Which begs the question: Why hasn't there ever been a proper museum exhibit showcasing these fascinating works of art?
Fortunately, the fine folk working at the Witlshire museum have corrected this unforgivable omission. From June 21st to August 31st of 2014, the exhibit "Exploring the Mystery and Beauty of Crop Circles" will be showcased; the first ever exhibition of its kind, right at the heart of the crop circle capital of the world.
The exhibit is being curated by Dutch and German crop circle researchers Monique Klinkenbergh and Andreas Müller, and along with large-size prints of the most prominent crop circle photographs taken since the phenomenon started —or since the circles gathered public attention, whichever you prefer— it also seeks to offer some background information in the history of the phenomenon, and the research conducted so far in trying to explain it.
"The concept of our exhibition is based on the idea that there is a genuine, not man-made phenomenon", adds Monique Klinkenbergh. "For this view, we present evidence and background facts. Over the last three decades printed and aired media presented the phenomenon mostly as the result 'Dough and Dave', the two elderly tricksters who suddenly appeared on the scene in 1991, followed by students and hoaxers. With our exhibition in the Wiltshire Museum we also want to set some records straight from a research point of view.
But what of the possibility of visiting an actual circle, instead of just looking at an aerial photograph? The Wiltshire museum also hosts the Crop Circle Access Centre, which is a mobile app informing on the latest formations & which ones are open to the public; it also seeks to compensate farmers whose field has had the 'fortune' of being chosen by the crop circle makers, paying them a portion of the money raised through the passes —field owners in other countries would wish to be so lucky…
Over the years my personal opinion on the matter of crop circles has changed substantially. Back in the late 80's & early 90's I was convinced these 'agro-glyphs' represented tangible evidence of some sort of communication with a non-human intelligence; now I side with the notion that the great majority of the circles are created by clandestine artists, who prefer to remain anonymous as much to avoid legal repercussions, as to infuse their creations with the necessary amount of mystique.
And yet that doesn't make those circles 'hoaxes' in my mind, nor does it mean some subtle interaction with an external influence is not occurring; a lot of the makers admit to sometimes feel 'compelled' to choose a particular design or location for reasons beyond their understanding, or sometimes report odd happenings while they are flattening the wheat using the infamous 'planking method' popularized by (the equally infamous) 'Doug & Dave.'
Whichever the case, if you happen to have the chance to visit Wiltshire this summer, you might want to stop by at the museum, and perhaps write for us a review.
[Hat tip to Andreas Müller]
When we hear the word 'mummy' we immediately think of Egypt, pyramids & ancient pharaohs seeking to preserve their mortal remains for all eternity. But the truth of the matter is that, either by pure chance or on purpose, corpses showing an incredible state of preservation can be found all around the world.
Such is the case of the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily, where Rosalía Lombardo, a little girl who died of pneumonia in 1920, was interred for her final rest after being embalmed at the request of her heart-stricken father. When researchers found the little body, they were so amazed by the incredibly life-like appearance of the mummy that Rosalía received the name of 'Sleeping Beauty.'
According to the Peruvian journal El Comercio, scientists interested in learning more about the embalming techniques employed in Rosalía's body put a camera inside her sarcophagus, capable of taking pictures every 60 seconds.
But the researchers were not prepared for what happened next: The images taken by the camera seemed to show the little mummy's eyes opening and closing. A phenomenon that repeats itself several times a day.
A trick of the light? A miracle perhaps? Subsequent studies have come to the conclusion that Rosalia's 'blinking', is due to the natural humidity in the crypt where she's kept - that, or perhaps the little sleeping girl is just waiting for her dad to tell her a a good-night story...
Original Link: Rosalía, la niña momificada que parece abrir los ojos
Read more: Lost "Sleeping Beauty" Mummy Formula Found
There tends to be a fair amount of overlap between those who love science fiction and those of a Fortean leaning - for example, William Gibson, author of the proto-Matrix novel Neuromancer, is known to be a subscriber to Fortean Times. But it seems the legendary science fiction author H.G. Wells can't be counted among that group. When the influential American novelist Theodore Dreiser sent Wells copies of Charles Fort's seminal publications The Book of the Damned and Lo! (Dreiser was one of Fort's biggest fans and supporters - he originally got his publisher to release The Book of the Damned in 1919 by threatening to take his own books elsewhere), Wells responded with a letter that left little doubt about his thoughts on Fort's writing style, topic of choice, and both Dreiser and Fort's penchant for attacking "orthodox science".
I'm having Fort's Book of the Damned sent back to you. Fort seems to be one of the most damnable bores who ever cut scraps from out of the way newspapers. I thought they were facts. And he writes like a drunkard.
Lo! has been sent to me but has gone into my wastepaper basket. And what do you mean by forcing "orthodox science" to do this or that? Science is a continuing exploration and how in the devil can it have an orthodoxy? The next you'll be writing is the "dogmas of science" like some blasted Roman Catholic priest on the defensive. When you tell a Christian you don't believe some yarn he can't prove, he always call you "dogmatic". Scientific workers are first rate stuff and very ill paid and it isn't for the likes of you and me to heave Forts at them.
God dissolve (and forgive) your Fortean Society. Yours,
Dreiser responded to Wells with a defence of his friend Fort, expressing his surprise that "You, the author of The War of the Worlds" could be "so sniffish and snotty over The Book of the Damned!", and pointed out to the great science fiction writer that Fort's strange anecdotes were not just cut from newspapers, but that also "a respectable body of his data seems to come from scientific papers, reports and letters written to the Royal Society in England and the American Academy of Science here".
For more fascinating facts about the early years of Fortean studies, see Jim Steinmeyer's biography of the "mad genius of the Bronx", Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural (Amazon US and UK).
My brain hurt like a warehouse it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I'd need so many people...
-David Bowie, Five Years
If you had asked me as recently as two weeks ago if I thought the fifth anniversary of Slenderman's birth - today - was worth noting, I would have probably have said, "not so much". Other than the news that a feature length adaptation of the first (and still best) Slenderman video blog Marble Hornets had been announced, there was a feeling that the world's first open-source monster was fading into the background.
Sites were shutting, Tumblr blogs such as Ask Slenderman were posting less and less often and shedding staff. And, though I still find the mythos that has appeared around him fascinating, I would have thought few others would still be interested.
That was before last week. Before Wisconsin.
The tragic events in the town of Waukesha, Wisconsin - in which two 12 year old girls attacked a third as an alleged sacrifice to Slenderman - horrified the world. Suddenly, every news agency was asking "what is Slenderman?" - the monster, it seemed, had finally found its wider audience. The suggestion of a possible second incident in Hamilton County, Ohio, and the fact that recent Las Vegas cop-killer Jerad Miller cosplayed as Slenderman (and The Joker) only emphasises this.
As readers of Darklore will know, I’ve been watching the Slenderman phenomenon for over half of his lifespan (looking both at Slenderman’s origins and the possibility of killing at least local manifestations of it). One of the most significant aspects of the entire Slenderman mythos has been the way that Slenderman has slipped across the permeable membrane between fiction and reality - occupying a very old definition of the concept of myth, while simultaneously being a child of the most modern aspects of communication.
Right from the very start, Slenderman crossed that line again and again - within the mythos, he has always been shown as a creature capable of crossing supposedly rigid boundaries of space and time effortlessly, and it is apt that this nature is reflected in the wider expression of the myth. In the videos purporting to be found footage of those unfortunates to have crossed his path, for the participants in the many Alternate Reality Games that appeared to further tell his tale, or simply those who, for a second, when playing the Slender game felt his faceless gaze upon them and shivered in terror... his presence is becoming more and more palpable.
Whether you call it by the anthropological term ostension, see it as a manifestation of the hyper-real nature of how we perceive and are altered by symbols in times saturated them, or even believe that Slenderman is truly a new form of deity... there is no question that those entities whose birthplaces were in known fictional works are becoming more and more influential.
Slenderman may simply be the first. Learning what to to do about that may become an important question for our times. It may even offer the possibility of understanding how all our beliefs sway us, can drive us to both atrocity and gnosis.
However it plays out, the next five years of Slenderman will certainly be worth watching closely.
You no longer have to go into the woods to have a terrifying encounter with some strange Fortean being...you can now do it in the comfort of your lounge via the Internet. As part of the marketing for the indie movie Lord of Tears (created on the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign), the 'Owlman' from the story made some surprise appearances on unsuspecting users of Chat Roulette (an online chat system which pairs random people from across the globe in webcam-based conversations). The results are at times hilarious, but also give some fun insights into the different ways people react when seeing something from beyond the outer limits.
(Warning: some strong language)
Okay, who cut a square chunk out of our sun? This recent footage from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) feels like something out of an episode of Doctor Who, given the 'artificial' feel of a rectangular coronal hole and the strange visual of seeing the Sun in the ultraviolet range:
A coronal hole is an area where high-speed solar wind streams into space. It appears dark in extreme ultraviolet light as there is less material to emit in these wavelengths. Inside the coronal hole you can see bright loops where the hot plasma outlines little pieces of the solar magnetic field sticking above the surface. Because it is positioned so far south on the Sun, there is less chance that the solar wind stream will impact us here on Earth.
British media are carrying a wonderfully Fortean news story about a school-girl sighting (and videoing) a 'UFO' composed simply of a large black ring (see image above).
A schoolgirl was stunned when when she looked into the sky to see an enormous unexplained black ring. Georgina Heap, 16, was playing tennis with mum Jo when she was stopped in her tracks by the fascinating sight.
Gazing into the sky, the pair saw a clearly defined black circle which looked like a giant smoke ring. The UFO remained there for around three minutes before it disappeared completely.
Georgina, who is studying for her GCSEs, said: "I looked up at it and thought, 'what the hell?', it was amazing. It was just floating there like a cloud and then it disappeared. It wasn't birds either. There were about ten of us who stopped what we were doing and watched. It is the weirdest thing I have ever seen."
The spectacle, which appeared near Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, on Friday evening, has stumped officials.
The 'UFO' has a wonderfully spooky look to it, but what is it? British UFO commentator Nick Pope is quoted in the Huffington Post as saying it might be a swarm of insects - and is definitely not smoke - although I'm not sure what evidence he's basing his conclusions on.
Over at Who Forted, Chris Savia points out that 'black ring' sightings such as this are actually not so rare, and has posted a similar image sighted in the skies above Texas in 2013 shortly after a transformer caught fire, an eye-witness account from 2003 that suggests a black ring formed after a lightning strike, and the video below from Chicago in 2012:
Skeptical news site Doubtful News offers a more detailed explanation: these 'black ring UFOs' are actually well-documented IFOs, being properly known as 'vortex rings', which "are often remnants of explosions":
In most instances, the rings are formed by air mixed with smoke or steam that is forced out of a (relatively) small circular or cylindrical opening (this can be a chimney, the barrel of a canon, or a vent in a volcano crater). Because of the drag of the surface of the opening, the air expelled from the centre will move faster than the air exiting the opening near the edge. The air from the sides is sucked in, and a circular motion is created. In this way, a doughnut-shaped vortex is formed, just like a smoke ring that is blown from a smoker’s lips. The ring-shape is maintained due to the rotational motion of the air flowing in the vortex ring.
In short: it's a smoke ring, like some cigarette smokers blow occasionally, just on a larger scale.
Update: A likely source of the smoke ring has been identified. Via the BBC:
A Warwick Castle spokesman said they had been testing "fire effects" to go with the daily firing of the Trebuchet Fireball - a giant catapult. "We've seen a number of different effects, including the vortex images that have been reported," the spokesman said. "As yet we don't know what causes the phenomenon but it's certainly a spooky spectacle."
News Link: Schoolgirl takes picture of 'black ring' UFO
Take tumbleweeds, a twister, and a small grass fire. Mix. Et voila, a scene like something out of an X-Men movie...
TUMBLEWEED FIRE TWISTER!