Last Friday night I had the pleasure of engaging in an all-encompassing conversation with Seriah Azkath, the host of the awesome radio show Where Did the Road Go?; with us was my good friend Joshua Cutchin, musician and author of the widely acclaimed book A Trojan Feast.. Since this was my first appearance on the show, we were supposedly going to stick to one subject in particular --Artificial Intelligence-- but as it is often the case when you're engaging with intelligent people who share many of your ideas about Forteana, we ended up pretty much going all over the place (UFOs, Bigfoot, Extraterrestrial life and a hell of an etcetera).
In fact, after Seriah stopped the recording, we still kept chatting for FOUR MORE HOURS, until it was past 3 in the morning and I suddenly realized I hadn't parked my car inside the garage yet...
To say that I enjoyed this conversation is an understatement of Trump ego proportions. Like probably many of you, I've been a fan of Seriah for quite a long while, ever since I listened to him as a guest on Micah Hanks' Gralien Report. Not only is he the kind of host who comes fully prepared at the moment of asking the interviewee about their latest book or investigation, but in fact he's had *plenty* of personal experiences with the kind of high strangeness that makes one question your basic presumptions about reality, as well as eroding the faith in all those who claim to have simple explanations to what's going on with these phenomena --both from the skeptic AND the true believer camp...
Ditto with having my first chance to joining Joshua Cutchin on a radio interview --even though we were already good friends and have engaged in many a discussion over Skype privately. It's my opinion Joshua's doing a much-needed work in the Fortean field, by pointing out to the kind of cases and characteristics of witnesses' testimonies that used to be overlooked or discarded by previous investigators --like the kind of foodstuffs given to experiencers by non-human entities-- who didn't stop to consider THOSE little details might just the kind of thing which will cast a bit more light into these apparently unsolvable enigmas.
So, if you're the kind of person who doesn't mind dark and bumpy roads filled with lots of bifurcations and dangerous curves then strap in, because it's gonna be one hell of a ride!
Just in case you've been living under a megalith, the internet's abuzz over the discovery of a "circle" of stones on Mars.
Dubbed Marshenge, by commenter Jeff Taylor at Facebook's Journey to the Surface of the MARS, this formation's triggered a deluge of speculation. It was originally imaged by by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on September 24, 2012 at 3:29 p.m. local time in Nilosyrtis Mensae (28.064°N, 75.956°E).
The obvious Earthly parallel is England's Stonehenge. According to mainstream archaeologists this 5,000 year old stone circle is aligned with the summer solstice's sunrise and the winter solstice's sunset. Mavericks, like Graham Hancock, propose a connection between this and other megalithic sites across Earth, suggesting an ancient global civilization. This hypothesis isn't so outlandish with Bronze Age burials around Stonehenge hailing from the Mediterranean, Germany, and France.
Were Martians among those cosmopolitan visitors, returning home to erect their own tourist trap? Until we have boots on the ground to "science the shit out of this" we won't know for certain, but puny Earthlings can still make a pretty good guess.
The MRO's HiRISE camera resolution in the original image is 25 cm per pixel.
This formation is impressive with Marshenge's "hill" being approximately 359 pixels in diameter, and the stone "circle" is about 188 px, translating to 89.7 meters and 47 meters respectively. The four primary stones, which I shall provisionally dub Greg (3 o'clock), Patrick (6 o'clock), Andreas (9 o'clock), and Miguel (noon), cast shadows making it easy to calculate their height by plugging in the numbers from the NASA/University of Arizona's metadata into the following equation.
tan (Sun Elevation)=(Height of the Object) / (Length of the shadow)
"Greg" is close to 2.25 meters tall, and "Miguel" a little shorter at 1.8m. "Patrick" is closer to 1.62m, and "Andreas" measures up to a mere 81 cm. These are short compared with the 7-9 meter tall megaliths of Stonehenge, but formidable with their remarkable width. "Greg"'s 6.25 meters wide (measured at the diagonal, west to east), "Patrick" at 1.8m, "Miguel" 4m at the widest point, and "Andreas" measuring at 4.25m.
If their placement isn't natural, then Martians certainly have a different aesthetic than us. The stones don't appear to be aligned to cardinal directions nor the direction of Mars's solstice sunrises and sunsets. Any resemblance to Stonehenge could be chalked up to pareidolia. Yet if this is an artificial arrangement, maybe there's more to be found beneath the hill much like Göbekli Tepe appears to have been intentionally buried.
On the other hand, these stones might be ejecta from an ancient eruption. Another possible explanation, put forward by mainstream media, is 'sorted terrain', or 'patterned ground'. This phenomenon appears on Earth and Mars where sediment and small stones are arranged by permafrost's freeze-thaw cycles. Looking closely at the raw images, this may not be the case since the area doesn't resemble Earth's patterned ground below.
Until humans can examine them firsthand, we'll never know for certain. Until then, I'm fairly confident this is a natural phenomenon but hope to get proven wrong one day.
My gratitude to Andreas Müller at GreWi for his assistance in determining the correct pixel measurements, and utilizing HiRISE's JP2 archives, facilitating my revision of this article with the correct dimensions of Marshenge.
Note too that Jacques has been working hard on a very special collector's edition of his most recent book, Wonders in the Sky (co-authored with Chris Aubeck), and will soon be launching a crowd-funding campaign to finance the printing, which interested readers will be able to contribute to so they can get their hands on a copy - I'll update you when I find out more.
To celebrate Jacques' birthday, here's a few links to Vallee-related lectures and interviews we've posted over the years, full of great insights from his five decades of experience researching the UFO phenomenon:
- Jacques Vallee - A Man of Many Dimensions
- "UFOlogy Has No Ontology": Jacques Vallee at the CAIPAN Workshop 2014
- Jacques Vallee on UFOs, Remote Viewing and the COMETA Report
- Jacques Vallee - On Messengers of Deception
- Inhabited Sky: Researchers Discuss Historical Sightings of UFOs
- Jacques Vallee at TEDx
- Vallee: Author of the Impossible
But for the newbie, it's hard to go past Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers as an eye-opening introduction (yes we publish it, but it's always been my favourite) - Amazon links below:
Further proof 2015 has been a year that sucked donkey balls*, the organizers of Paradigm Symposium, the event which I've religiously attended to for the last 3 years, has been postponed and moved to either May or June of 2016. To say this is a personal disappointment for me is an understatement the size of the freaking Death Star...
2015 began with promise for the Paradigm Symposium; however, we have experienced numerous setbacks throughout the year, while still operating under full confidence that the Symposium would successfully come off as planned. It was only in the last week that we reached the final decision that moving the date and location had now become a necessity.
Over the last few months, we have experienced setbacks and budget cuts from nearly all of our sources sponsorship, along with having experienced issues coordinating our needs with the hotel venue. Again, it was while moving forward within these last weeks that it became clear that the Symposium would need to be rescheduled.
On Thursday of last week, that final decision to reorganize and move things to a future date became finalized. We felt it much more prudent and wise to make this necessary change.
Scotty Roberts and John Ward, the main organizer of Paradigm, assure attendees that all tickets purchased in 2015 will be honored for next year. That of course will be of little comfort for those who, like me, ended up with non-refundable plane tickets...
It's also still uncertain whether the current lineup of speakers will be maintained either --I was just listening to Richard Dolan's radio show on KGRA a few minutes ago, and currently he does not know whether his schedule will permit him to speak at the symposium as it was intended.
Will Paradigm be able to overcome this HUGE blow? I sure hope so. I cannot deny how incredibly rewarding and nourishing attending this eclectic event has been for me; it's not just a question of hanging out with my buds, but being around like-minded people in a rich environment where ideas can be explored, and personal high-strangeness experiences shared, without the usual fear of ridicule.
Regardless of the situations and/or decisions which led to this kerfuffle, Paradigm deserves to endure.
(*) Please God, *PLEASE* don't let 2015's bad juju jinx Episode VII, too!!
For four years the free, online journal Paranthropology has provided a wonderful clearing house of academic level thought on many aspects of the paranormal, and its effect on humans (regardless of its "reality", or otherwise). We've regularly linked to new releases here on TDG as they've become available, and it's worth noting that a new issue, Vol. 6 No. 2 is now available.
Also available right now as well is an anthology of Paranthropology articles that you can add to your bookshelf, titled Strange Dimensions, and which will help support the free journal into the future.
Here's a quick word from editor Jack Hunter:
[I am] very excited to announce the publication of Strange Dimensions: A Paranthropology Anthology, which celebrates 4 years of the Paranthropology Journal. It features 16 chapters (plus an introduction and a foreword by Joseph Laycock), covering everything from William Burroughs to Crop Circles to dowsing, via alien abductions, consciousness studies, mediumship and surfing.
If you have enjoyed the journal, or found it useful, over the last 5 years (that’s 20 issues!), please consider buying a copy of the anthology, as it is the very best way to support its continued existence. It is an excellent collection of some of the best articles from the last two years, over 400 pages of anomalous goodness!
The anthology has received warm praise from the likes of Jeffrey Kripal, who notes that the collection "takes us down the proverbial rabbit hole, here with the grace, nuance and sheer intelligence of a gifted team of essayists, each working in her or his own way toward new theories of history, consciousness, spirit, the imagination, the parapsychological, and the psychedelic." According to Kripal, Strange Dimensions is "another clear sign that there is high hope in high strangeness, and that we are entering a new era of thinking about religion, about mind, about us."
Here's an excellent summary of the contents of the book, taken directly from Jack's introduction:
In an effort to convey as broad a picture as possible of the remit of the Paranthropology journal, this anthology is split into four sections. Part 1 features a collection of ‘Ethnographies of the Anomalous,’ and the chapters within it see scholars going out into the field to investigate their subject matter as participant-observers. First, Darryl Caterine takes us on a tour of American paranormal gatherings to reveal striking, and quite unexpected, core themes connecting Spiritualists, UFO enthusiasts and dowsers. Next, Tanya Luhrmannn describes the sensation of hearing the voice of God during her fieldwork with contemporary Evangelicals in the U.S.A., followed by anthropologist John A. Napora’s vivid description of his own encounter with the deceased, and the ontological challenges such experiences present. Then, Emma Ford examines the experience of transcendence known as ‘stoke’ amongst Christian Surfers in Cornwall, England, before Loriliai Biernacki outlines some Indian perspectives on ‘the paranormal body.’
Part 2, ‘Making Sense of Spiritual Experience,’ looks at anomalous experiences from different theoretical perspectives. To begin, John W. Morehead and David J. Hufford discuss sleep paralysis and explore the notion of ‘core spiritual experiences,’ before Angela Voss takes an imaginal perspective on the paranormal, drawing on the writings of the Sufi mystic Muhyiddin Ibn’Arabi. Then, in their chapter ‘The Spectrum of Spectres,’ Michael Hirsch and colleagues present their sociological findings about the interpretation of ghostly experiences, followed by my own exploration of the ‘problem of spirits’ and some of the scholarly efforts to overcome it. Finally, Andrew Newberg outlines his perspective on the neurophysiological correlates of religious and spiritual experiences, and discusses the implications and future directions of this brand of neurotheological research.
Part 3 takes us a step further down the rabbit hole into realms of ‘High Strangeness,’ where James Riley introduces us to the writer William S. Burrough’s magical use of tape recorders and the cut-up technique in 1970s London. Then, William Rowlandson employs Carl Jung’s archetypal approach to the UFO phenomenon as a lens through which to interpret Crop Circles as a ‘psychoid manifestation.’ This is followed by Steven Mizrach’s summary of the field of alien abduction research as an introduction to John Keel’s ‘ultraterrestrial hypothesis,’ an alternative to UFOlogy’s dominant ‘nuts-and-bolts’ extraterrestrial model.
The final section explores ‘Consciousness, Psychedelics and Psi’ through Rafael Locke’s first-person science perspective on mediumship and psi, David Luke’s expansive review of the literature connecting ostensible psi phenomena with the psychedelic experience, and, finally, Bernardo Kastrup’s proposed model of the brain as a filter for non-local consciousness, in opposition to the standard materialist view of the brain as a generator of consciousness.
The diversity of subject matter and perspectives explored in this anthology do not present a coherent view of reality (or perhaps they do), and nor do they offer any definitive conclusions concerning the reality of the paranormal, one way or the other. What they do succeed in doing, however, is to conjure a spirit of open-minded critical thinking about a range of topics that have fascinated and perplexed countless generations of human beings since time immemorial. It is this open-minded approach that characterises Paranthropology and the kind of writing and thinking it seeks to promote and disseminate. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this collection, and that it encourages you to delve deeper into this intriguing area of research.
Only 24 days for the event I've been waiting for all freaking year: The Paradigm Symposium, the kind of eclectic event suited for open-minded-yet-grounded people like the members of the Grail, is bringing once again an impressive menagerie of thinkers and researchers to the Twin Cities from October 1st to the 4th.
Paradigm started in 2012 as the brainchild of Scotty Roberts and my Cosmic Compadre Micah Hanks, taking positive advantage of the 'esoteric' momentum of that year, and the renewed interest in ancient mysteries through shows like 'Ancient Aliens', in order to have --as Micah put it, very tongue-in-cheekly-- "the best 'end-of-the-world' party we could throw."
Obviously the world didn't end that year --or maybe it did, in ANOTHER dimension!-- and so Scotty and Micah, with the help of John Ward and others, decided to soldier on and make Paradigm an annual event with its own, distinctive flavor. The tone has shifted away from the initial 'ancient aliens' vibe --which IMO is for the best-- and although prehistoric mysteries and megalithic sites are still a central topic, they are counter-balanced with presentations about other subjects like UFOs or altered states of perception --although of course, we Grailers know these are not isolated phenomena anyway...
So please, check out the symposium's website if you're interested in having a phenomenal time with some of the best thinkers in the field, like Randall Carlson --who gained a lot of notoriety thanks to Joe Rogan's podcast, and will gain even more once Graham Hancock's Magicians of the Gods is released-- Nick Redfern, Peter Robbins, Rich Dolan, and many MANY others.
If you're still undecided, perhaps reading my 'Take me Down to Paradigm City' series, which I wrote for Mysterious Universe as a review of everything that transpired last year might finally convince you.
And if you do decide to come, please look for me and say hi --I'll be the tall guy wearing a red luchador mask ;)
UPDATE (14/09/2015): Unfortunately, the Paradigm symposium has been postponed. More later.
Over the past century a number of writers on Fortean topics have speculated that there are strange, unknown beings that live above us in the sky - atmospheric beasts that range from dragons to massive 'sky jellyfish'. Could it be possible that some sightings - in particular of the latter type of 'beast' - are caused by atmospheric phenomena that are only just now beginning to be understood?
A case in point would be so-called 'sprites' - "large-scale electrical discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, or cumulonimbus, giving rise to a quite varied range of visual shapes flickering in the night sky." The first report of a sprite sighting was in the late 19th century, but they weren't photographed until a century later.
Now, sprites are captured in photographs and on video quite often - and recently, some were even seen from above, by astronauts on the International Space Station (see image at the top of this post). On August 10th, the astronauts spotted red sprites above a cluster of storms over Mexico and El Salvador, and managed to snap some wonderful images.
Click through the link below for more imagery and information.
A few days ago I posted a link to a blog post from earlier this year about 'The Berenst#in Bears Problem':
Now, if you don’t know about The Berenstein Bears, they were a series of children’s books, and eventually a cartoon, created by Stan and Jan Berenstein. They focused on a family of bears, and did the usual educational children’s book/tv series thing. Simple enough. I remember them, vaguely, and I believe I owned a book or two when I was a kid. It’s been a while.
So what’s the problem?
They’re not The Berenstein Bears. They’ve never been The Berenstein Bears. Despite the fact that many others remember them as The Berenstein Bears, and I myself still pronounce their name as The Berenstein Bears, this is false. This is wrong.
They are The Berenstain Bears.
Now, from this seemingly minor oddity a number of rather major theories have developed across the intarwebs. Could it be that the discrepancy is evidence that at some point in the last two decades, we all "shifted into an almost indistinguishable parallel universe"? Or perhaps it's the effect of a time-traveler messing with the past and changing the future...our present? You know, those wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey issues that this guy was concerned about:
Okay, it's an odd little bit of Fortean fun, and your response to it all could lie anywhere on the spectrum from stoners mumbling "can't deal with this right now" to anal retentive skeptics making "harumph!" noises. But it's a great jumping off point for two of my favourite topics: firstly, the philosophical arguments over reality and perception (a la Philip K Dick storylines), and secondly, the modern-day creation of mythologies.
In the first instance, the arguments for 'alternative world/timeline' in this case are complicated by (a) in the former, the fact that there are many who *do* remember the books as 'Berenstain', and (b) in the latter, that any change to the timeline should also have changed everyone's memories as well. But it does raise an interesting question: how would anything of this sort be scientifically provable, if the only 'evidence' for such changes were memories retained in consciousness, rather than the physical world?
I could show you a Google NGram (which shows the frequency of usage of words and phrases in books over the last couple of centuries) with Berenstain as the most often used spelling, but what does it prove if the timeline did in fact change?
In the second instance - the modern creation of mythologies - at the moment we're watching one play out with the Berenst#in Bears Problem. People are spending serious hours hunting images down on the internet, looking through their wardrobes for old books, and asking their parents.
Some - most often those that grew up thinking of them as the Berenstein Bears, and cannot accept that it may have been Berenstain all this time - seriously feel that the alternative world/timeline theory is a possibility. Others (like myself) are enjoying the Fortean elements of this story, and are having some fun with it. And then some are taking that fun one step further, and creating fake 'evidence' to support the alternative world/timeline theories.
And now, as all that develops, the Berenst#in Bears Problem is starting to reach much larger audiences as it gets shared across social networks, and some individuals with larger follower counts become aware of it. Just yesterday musician El-P spent much of the day debating it with his 100,000+ followers on Twitter, taking many of them down the rabbit hole with him.
El-P also posted the following series of tweets, referring to the images at the top of this post:
ok. this is not a joke. the same page that had that pick of the simpons holding the "berenstain bears" 5 minutes ago. the one i posted...
— el-p (@therealelp) August 4, 2015
IT LITERALLY NOW SAYS BERENSTAIN IM NOT EVEN KIDDING GOD DAMNIT https://t.co/IXWFFcuIxt
— el-p (@therealelp) August 4, 2015
El-P's obviously joking. Or maybe someone played him real good. Or maybe some time traveler is hastily covering his tracks. It really doesn't matter anymore, this myth is alive now, and we can expect it to take its place in the modern mythology pantheon with Slenderman and John Titor before too long.
Speaking of John Titor, does anyone know if he was involved in children's book publishing at all...?
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If you'd like to spend a paranormal-flavored weekend at the Maritime provinces, then I suggest you head out to Liverpool, Novia Scotia, where the East Coast ParaCon will be celebrated next week from Friday 7th to Sunday 9th.
The event will feature presentations by cryptozoologist extraordinnaire Loren Coleman, Ufologist Stan "the Man" Friedman, and psychic medium Chip Coffey, who was recently interviewed in Binnall of America --Tim is also attending the conference BTW, and I hope he plans to bring his recorder with him.
Last but not least, Fortean raconteur Paul Kimball will also be one of the speakers. Paul has not given a public presentation about the paranormal since 2011, and I'm sure MANY attendees will want to know about his involvement with the Roswell Slides Research Group, which was responsible to debunking the rather embarrassing Slidegate kerfuffle, merely 48 after the hyperbolic BeWitness spectacle of May 5th at the National Auditorium in Mexico city.
All in all, the ParaCon has a five-star lineup of speakers --aside from the ones mentioned above-- and with their scheduled late-night ghost walk and ghost hunt investigation, I only wish I was able to attend myself, and enjoy the beauty of Novia Scotia in the summer --not to mention a few of the local breweries.
UPDATE: Paul has told me via Facebook his presentation will not involve the infamous Roswell slides, but shall rather be focused on his ideas about the Paranormal being interpreted as an Art project, which he started to explore on his (*highly* recommended) book The Other Side of Truth [Amazon US & UK] --see? I told you he was a raconteur!
Tim sez he's going to Nova Scotia only as a vacation (yeah, right!), "(e)xpect nothing from me except perhaps a "Don't Hassle Me I'm a Local" shirt."
Folks, this demands a 'Class A' hassle directed at señor Binnall. Be merciless, ParaCon attendees!!
It is said good things come for those who wait, and for me the wait was over last Tuesday night, when I finally got to have a long chat with paranormal podcaster extraordinaire: The one and only Tim Binnall, who invited me to his Binnall of America Live show.
For me it was something of a dream come true, because I've been a fan of Tim's for almost as long as I've been involved in the Fortean blogosphere. Back before I was only listening to a handful of podcasts --and when I actually had TIME to listen to podcasts! one of the few things I actually miss from my former job-- his was one of the few I'd re-listen more than once; among my favorite episodes in his vast catalog is his 2-part interview with Canadian UFOlogist Grant Cameron, his also 2-part conversation with Peter Robbins in which they discussed the Rendlesham forest incident in great detail, and many others. His recurring season-opener shows with Jim Marrs, the Christmas specials with Stanton Friedman, and the traditional 'Ruxgiving' episodes with Bruce Rux are also a delight, for both the old fans and the newcomers who are just starting to get their feet wet in the swampy waters of the Paranormal pond.
I think what I've always liked about Tim is that his passion for the Fortean stuff is both evident and contagious. It is this passion and the desire to learn more about these mysteries the very driving force behind his ten-year podcast, which makes him a true 'grey beard' in this field --even though he's about 10 years younger than me.
As Tim said during the interview, we both had a similar start by jumping from hardcore fans of the Fortean stuff, to becoming producers of content. As such, its inevitable how the long run of involvement in this community will bring about a certain amount of disenchantment --how could it not, when so many cases you once believed to be genuine turned out to be hoaxes, and we are still talking about f$%#ing Roswell in 2015??-- so as the years progressed Tim has grown a little older, a little wiser, and perhaps a little more cynical --especially with the so-called Disclosure movement.
This is not only understandable, but in fact maybe necessary in order to retain your critical thinking --and your SANITY-- in this arena. I myself acknowledge that I've become much more skeptical about many things I used to believe about UFOs, Cryptozoology and other islands in the Fortean continent. Like uncle Keel used to say: "Belief is the enemy" --alas, the kiddies never listened…
Still, Tim's heart remains in the right place after all these years, and that's why he keeps soldiering on. Because he knows it's not about the fame, and it's certainly not about the money --he'll be the first one to confirm that! Given how BoA is completely subscription-free and ad-free, and relies solely on listener donations to stay in the black. If BoA has stayed online for so long, when so many short-lived podcasts wither away, is because Tim knows making hard questions is always more fun than getting easy answers; perhaps that's the real purpose behind UFOs and all these enigmas.
Hope you enjoy the show as much as I did.
Oh, yeah! One more thing: On Tuesday, the day I was scheduled to have my chat with Tim, I received a very nice synchronistic message from the Universe, confirming beforehand it was going to be an epic broadcast.
That morning I grabbed my tablet to check on my e-mails and such as I always do, and what was my surprise when I found that the 'word of the day' in the Dictionary app I have installed was none other than "Foison."
Now, as with all synchronicities, this requires a bit of 'splaining: You see, my good friend and colleague Joshua Cutchin, the author of 'A Trojan Feast', wrote extensively about this archaic term in his research regarding the food exchanges with humanoid entities; one of the things Joshua found out, is that in European folklore it was believed the fey folk would take the 'foison' --also spelled 'foyson'-- or 'essence' of food stuffs, because that was what they would nourish on.
Joshua was one of the latest guests in Binnall of America prior to my appearance. In fact, his was the LAST live broadcast Tim had on Blogtalk Radio before my own, which was also live. I listened to that episode that night, and I vividly remember how Tim was particularly interested on the 'foison' term, and how the two of them devoted several minutes discussing it.
Now, that particular app is fond of picking all sorts of obscure terms as "word of the day." Still, what are the odds that, of all the words in the English dictionary, the word 'foison' --which I personally had never heard of, prior to reading Joshua's book-- was the one highlighted on the day I was going to appear on BoA??
Coincidence? Maybe. Me, I like to think of it as the Universe giving a preemptive two thumbs up to my debut at Binnall of America. Hopefully, I raised to such cosmic expectations ;)