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!
Customers looking for shirts in this section might have quickly hurried on to shop in the brown underpants department soon after...
Ice boulders have returned to Lake Michigan in Glen Arbor. The giant ice balls form in just-below-freezing water and start as small chunks of ice. The boulders grow layer-by-layer, getting shaped by the waves before washing up on Lake Michigan shore
To the Mountain of Madness: A Fortean Road-Trip in Search of Lovecraft, Crowley, and an Alien AbductionPosted by Greg at 03:43, 09 Jan 2014
What happens when a couple of guys grab their video camera and set out to explore the weirder side of New Hampshire? You get a fantastic 'trilogy' of mini-documentaries following the region's historical links with the likes of horror legend H.P. Lovecraft, master occultist Aleister Crowley, the famous 'alien abduction' of Betty and Barney Hill, and strange sites including Mystery Hill and Crowley's magickal retreat (in which he claimed to have witnessed manifestations of ball lightning), before ending at the highest point in New Hampshire's own so-called Bermuda Triangle - the Ossipee Triangle - host to numerous UFO sightings and brutal unsolved murders, and a stone table reputed to have bee used for human sacrifice.
The entire documentary is one big, awesome Fortean road trip - enthusiasts having fun investigating strange history and locations, speculating, making connections, discovering new things - but all the while not taking things too seriously - accompanied by good music, and fair helpings of weird vibes.
For those trapped behind their desks, or any other fairly mundane environment, it's definitely worth grabbing a brew and watching through all three videos below. Good fun and a great atmosphere!
There are few cities in the world whose history is as well-documented as London, but for those seeking the stranger side of that history you might have some fun with the Google Map above. James Clark, author of Haunted London and other books on the myths, legends and paranormal stories concerning the great city, put together the map with clickable pins that fill you in on the fascinating tales associated with each particular location - from White Ladies to Spring-Heeled Jack:
By no means an exhaustive list of London's countless strange stories, this is simply a guide to those tales I have personally written about.
I hope this map will help you find locations that interest you, and - I'll be honest - hope the summaries here tempt you to buy my books! (Go on, you know you want to…)
At the moment, I’m gradually adding stories from my 2013 book – Haunted Lambeth – which looks at the London Borough of Lambeth. Don't forget to check back later to see what’s new.
You can find out more at James Clark's website.
(h/t Theo Paijmans)
It's always a strange feeling when delays keep an article from being written for years, more so when those years stretch past the material life of the subject of the article itself. When Colin Wilson's book Supernatural was republished by Watkins Publishing in 2011 I received a review copy, and intended to use the book as a center point in writing a piece that focused on the possibilities of a wider vision for studying anomalous experiences. Now, the same article becomes something more like a memorandum, as Colin Wilson passed away on December 5th, 2013 after a long struggle with illness.
Wilson's work has in some way, as you will see repeated in so many memorials for him, inspired nearly every popular writer on the subject of anomalous experience that has grown up since the 1960's. His books The Outsider (1956) and The Occult: A History are two works which, when encountered by the young and curious, provide an initial spark of recognition that those subtle intimations of something more aren't just dreamy indulgence, but the seeds for a vast and expansive quest. More than anything, Wilson's work has been a potent and approachable catalyst to spur seekers of the Mysteries into a deeper engagement with the wide unknown.
In my own life it was The Outsider that catalyzed years of being absorbed in historical esoterica and contemplative works into something contemporary and real. It broke down any naive, youthful barriers between the "mysticism" of the past and what was possible in the seemingly "material" present. Later, when I discovered his book The Occult: A History in a small used book store in Chicago, it had the effect of grounding me again, and showing me the human side of the mytho-poeticially inhuman Magi and Adepti that I'd grown so fond of. At the time I was very interested in the work of Austin Osman Spare, and Wilson's recounting of an anecdote regarding Spare's attempt to conjure roses, only to be covered in sewage, was a teaching story I'll never forget.
When I received Supernatural to review, I was once again given an impetus to reevaluate my understanding of certain assumptions I'd developed in my research. Immersed in the science of psychical research, especially in the contemporary milieu where researchers have had to be so deadly careful in what they say due to the frothing rhetoric of the curmudgeonly skeptical sub-culture, one can get the false sense that small statistical anomalies are the only evidence we have that there is more to existence than a crippling lattice work of rough materia. For Wilson, there were no barriers between the realms of "the outsider," "the occult," and "the supernatural." All of these areas touch on what has come to be called "phenomenological existentialism," and represent areas of liminality where the seething, unseen forces of existence breach the mundane facade of the supposed materiality of the world, giving brief glimpses of the deeper Mystery.
Supernatural contains chapters on time travel, witchcraft, Spiritualism, ritual magic, vampires, werewolves, psychical research and innumerable other areas that usually remain cordoned off by the tightly guarded borders of sub-cultural specialties, or are dismissed outright without any further consideration. Yet, in Wilson's hands subjects which seem so easy to dismiss become questions that are not easily answered, and with a storyteller's firm grasp of anecdotal evidence we are invited to re-weave the threads of wonder which have been cut too quickly by the myopic vision of material progress.
With all of this, and with a bibliography of books that goes well beyond 40 individual works, one might think that it is his prolific output that makes him worthy of remembrance. However, I have found that more than anything he wrote, it was the ambient presence of the man himself that provides the true core of inspiration. For those who knew him, his generosity, curiosity and openness remains the subject that spurs the most reflection, and it is this quality of the man himself, reflected in his works, that truly catalyzes those who encounter them to go further in their own individual quests.
This is the invitation from the outsider, and this is what should be remembered and embraced by those of us still walking this waking world in his absence more than anything that he wrote. Research and writing are born to be put to the flames, and only the presence of a truly open heart remains when all is said and done, and an open heart is all that really matters in the end for any of us looking into the Mystery. This is something that the skeptical sub-culture so often misses when it stares at the chewing gum traces left on the bottom of the seats in this phenomenological theatre we call reality. They want to know what flavor is left in the soda soaked popcorn on the floor, rather than holding the hand of the Other, the Lover, and smiling at the fact that we are all invoking the Mystery of life together whatever the reality is behind anomalous experience.
Since this piece was originally posted on Reality Sandwich, I've been in contact with a number of people who were inspired by Wilson. When one inspiration passes on, they are not replaced with another, but are rather reflected in a myriad of inspired individuals who carry their own unique vision forward into the future.
Gary Lachman, whose recent book Caretakers of the Cosmos: Living Responsibly in an Unfinished World captures the deeper sense of humane engagement found in the esoteric quest, was a good friend of Wilson's, and in sharing the memorial piece with him I was reminded that Lachman's own work has also opened the doors of inspiration for so many others. In a post on Facebook remembering Wilson, Lachman points out that:
"He wanted us to see through what he called "the fallacy of insignificance," the belief that we are pointless, unimportant accidents in a purposeless universe, as most of the intellectuals who dismissed his work humbly accepted. He knew better and so did everyone who read his books. He lamented the loss of the hero but he was a hero to us all. I know he certainly was one to me. If anything I've written has any value at all, it is because it is informed with the brilliant ideas that came from his encyclopedic mind. To get an education you needn't go to Oxford, Cambridge or an Ivy League school. You only have to read The Outsider, or The Occult, or Mysteries, or any of the many remarkable books on philosophy, literature, psychology, criminology, the occult, parapsychology and the rest and follow his leads. If you do I assure you you will get an education you can't obtain at any of those schools or elsewhere. I know, because I have."
Martin 'Youth' Glover, the bassist for Killing Joke and an accomplished producer and artist, is another creative who has been inspired by Wilson's writing, and in his own way carries his fearless sense of exploration through musical, mystical and artistic explorations of the outer reaches of human experience. Having interviewed and spent time with Glover, I know that he has followed Wilson's philosophy of the 'fallacy of insignificance' and seeks to inspire the same sense of engagement with the full spectrum of human potential through his work and living example.
Ronnie Pontiac, a one time protege of Manly P. Hall and active participant in the Riot Grrrl scene, shared with me that he too was inspired by Wilson's writing during his youth. Pontiac's current work with Newtopia Magazine has been exploring the vast realm of American Metaphysical Religion, and again we see another luminary sparked by Wilson who is introducing others to areas of exploration that can inspire and open the deepest levels of human experience.
Frank DeMarco, founder of Hologram Books, has posted the final chapter of a work in progress from Colin Wilson's son Damon. The chapter looks at the nearly unfathomable fact of life itself and ends with this remarkable, and rare, statement:
Whoever you are. Whatever you’ve done. Whatever you may become.
I, and my Dad, love you.
- Damon Wilson. November 2013
DeMarco has a long relationship with the Monroe Institute, whose founder Robert Monroe was integral in bringing public awareness to the out of body experience. It was also DeMarco, working as an editor for Hampton Roads Publishers, that helped Russel Targ present his Studies in Consciousness series, which collected some of the best psychical research, both past and present, into a cohesive collection.
I'm sorry that in writing this, Wilson will never have the opportunity to read and reflect on how many diverse individuals have been touched by the deeper resonance of his work, and how it continues to spread his sense of unwavering curiosity and insight through so many unique avenues. Yet I am hopeful that now, in writing this, someone out there might gain some access to this deeper resonance and honor him by accepting the invitation from the outsider, and begin growing within it to become another light guiding us towards our enlightened potential. We live in darkness, and the more lights that are lit, the sooner we can return to that secret garden which awaits us at the end of the quest.
In Memorandum - Colin Wilson - 26 June 1931 – 5 December 2013