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
The Voynich Manuscript may have a challenger for the most mysterious document: at Imgur.com, user TramStopDan2 posted this amazing gallery of images (update: and also a second gallery) showing the fantastical ufological/Fortean/religious texts and illustrations found within a mysterious box:
So a friend of mine found this box by the trash, it is full of wonderful, crazy illustrations. Clearly something happened to this guy that was very memorable. It measures roughly 29" by 38" and almost all the drawings are very large.
Drawings like this, combining both religious iconography with technical drawing:
The cache of documents - which seem to date from the 1930s through to the 1990s - contains texts on UFO research, maps of the world, religious-themed illustration and much more.
What do you think? Viral marketing? Genuine ramblings of a fellow explorer of the strange? Or perhaps, the answer to everything...
You've got to give Jesus and Mary credit...they manage to manifest in everything from bird poo to condoms. But they also manage to keep up with the times, as evidenced by their recent (joint) appearance in Google Earth:
An amazing image, which looks like a shrouded Jesus Christ shadowed by a prayerful Mother Mary, has been found on Google Earth.
The startling image, found at the coordinates listed below, was snapped by Google as its imaging vehicle drove along the A5 highway near Walensee, Switzerland.
The dramatic, mountainous landscape is enhanced by a steel-grey, storm cloud laden sky. Looming from the cloudscape appear two images, one black, the other a mix of white and pink, which bear an uncanny similarity to figures depicted in religious paintings for centuries.
It's all nonsense of course. These are more likely easter eggs hidden by the designers of our simulation as an in-joke as to the particular religious slant of this level of the game.
To celebrate Halloween the fine folk over at Mysterious Universe have teamed up with artist Drew Shields to offer a bunch of monster-themed wallpapers for your mobile device. If you're looking for a fresh Fortean feel for your phone, go check 'em out!
A few months ago I posted a Fortean video travelogue by Bill and Kyle of Mandate33 that explored Point Pleasant and the Mothman mythos. Well, the pair have continued their travels into the strange-lands and have now posted a new video about New Hampshire, which touches on everything from Crowley and Lovecraft to Betty and Barney Hill and a strange megalithic site:
The Hills were abducted on September 19th, 1961 after viewing a UFO near Mount Cannon off route 3 (currently exit 33 off interstate 93) - only miles from the site of a magickal retreat by Aleister Crowley in the summer of 1916, which culminated in his 1918 summoning of LAM, the archetypal 'grey'- and north of a strange megalithic site, also on interstate 93, called Mystery Hill, very possibly the site of a millenia-old colony of Carthaginian apostates.
That brings us to Mount Shaw in Ossippee - also a few miles off the infamous exit 33 - reportedly connected to Mystery Hill, and a summit that Crowley is rumored to have been interested in...specifically its mysterious, and lost, sacrificial table. Completing the circuit: HP Lovecraft may have made a visit to this site in the summer of 1928, before writing his seminal stories The Dunwich Horror and Whisperer in Darkness.
We interview Christopher Ernst regarding the popular fascination with UFO abductions, what that means, and how that relates to megalithic sites, before investigating ourselves - arriving at the now infamous HP Lovecraft convention in Providence this past August.
When some people go on holiday, they forget to turn off the gas. When Alan Moore goes on holiday, it seems he sometimes forgets to turn off the Ideaspace conduit: on Friday the 13th, while the legendary comic writer was off on vacation with family, a mysterious clown started randomly appearing on the streets of Northampton, England, in full costume and make-up - including near the house of the Greatest Living Englishman...
A clown - with red wig and full make-up and sometimes holding balloons - is freaking out residents of one English town, the local paper reports...
The Northampton Clown - which has exploded on social media in the UK - has even sparked a police warning. Police said they were looking to track two teenagers who were caught dressed as clowns, and had been caught acting in a peculiar fashion.
As reported in the Northampton Herald and Post: "He doesn't juggle. He doesn't twist balloons into animal shapes. He just stares.'' A woman alleged that the clown had knocked on her door in full clown attire before then offering to paint her window sills.
Social media is abuzz with the mystery, with various images of the clown cropping up on Twitter as days go by. Currently it's that perfect Fortean blend of sightings and rumour, when in reality it's probably just somebody (or a few somebodies) having a bit of fun. The Northampton News and Post has pointed out that a short mockumentary posted to YouTube in May this year, about a clown in Northampton, may hold at least part of the answer:
The writer and director of the film, Alex Powell, has stated beneath the video that he is not the Northampton Clown. But there seems to be some link, as the clown costume looks to be the same in both instances - and more provocatively, from 12:05 to 12:10 in the video the same garage door is shown as in the background of some of the recent photos of the clown (see the image at the top of this post, for example).
A clear difference between the two clowns though brings a more sinister edge to the fun - the Northampton Clown, in the recent images posted to social media, appears to be made up very similarly to Pennywise the evil clown/entity, as represented in the film version of Stephen King's It. He even seems to have adopted the same pose...
Sleep tight, people of Northampton!
Update: Ah it gets even better! The evil clown/entity Pennywise reappeared cyclically every 27 years. Stephen King's It was published on September 15, 1986. You do the maths... (h/t to this commenter at the Dangerous Minds blog).
Some mainstream exposure for the mysterious Dyatlov Pass Incident this week with the release of a film based on the strange events that occurred in the Ural Mountains in 1959. Directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger), the film - Devil's Pass (trailer above) - has a Blair Witch feel and follows a group of modern-day students who set out to investigate the unexplained, bizarre deaths of nine Russian skiers.
As part of the publicity for the film, a number of mainstream news outlets have covered the mystery, such as this piece from Britain's Daily Mail:
The first bodies — frostbitten and frozen stiff — were discovered lying in the snow on flat land near a river, a mile from the tent, next to the remains of a long burnt-out fire.
Around 350 yards away lay the corpse of Igor Dyatlov, the 23-year-old engineering student from Ural Polyetchnic who had put the expedition together and was its leader. (His name would later be given to the area where the tragedy took place.)
Nearby, a search dog sniffed out the remains of Zina Kolmogorova, 22, under four inches of snow, and then that of Rustem Slobodin. The bodies were in a line 200 yards apart, as if they had been trying to crawl behind each other back up to the shelter of the tent, but never made it.
Another two months went by before the rest of the group were found, under 15ft of snow in a den they had desperately hollowed out for themselves before succumbing to the cold.
Some of this group had broken bones and terrible internal injuries but, strangely, no external wounds, not even scratches on the skin.
Stranger still, odd bits of their clothing contained higher than normal levels of radiation.
Indeed, post-mortem examinations of all nine bodies threw up a string of bewildering anomalies. Why were some fully clothed, but others nearly naked? Most disconcerting of all was Lyudmilla Dubinina’s body, which was missing her tongue and eyes.
Bill and Kyle are two ordinary guys interested in the extraordinary. As 'Mandate33', they have set off in search of unusual places (inspired by Jim Brandon's seminal book Weird America) and documented them in short YouTube videos.
Above you'll find Bill and Kyle introducing themselves, as well as a couple of locations that they visited, while in the clip below they travel to Point Pleasant, home of the Mothman, on the 45th anniversary of the infamous Silver Bridge collapse. While there they interview Rush Finley, owner and proprietor of the historic Lowe Hotel, who was witness to the events of the infamous UFO flap and Mothman sightings in 1966/7...and also discover an unusual synchronicity regarding John Keel and the Silver Bridge tragedy.
Oh, and they also get far too up close and personal to the Mothman for my liking. Let's just say the famous cryptid has a butt that just won't quit...
A security camera inside a British shop seems to have recorded some fascinating poltergeist activity: behind an unaware customer, a tea box levitates for a few seconds, while another box comes crashing down the floor. Does the craving for a nice cup of tea persists in the afterlife?
Owner Michelle Newbold told Kent Online she came across the footage while doing her weekly review of the tapes.
"I was perplexed I suppose. I just couldn't believe it. I have no idea about how it has happened," she said.
The clip, uploaded last Friday, has already been seen more than 55,000 times.
Many viewers believe it is a marketing hoax for the store. But Newbold insists it is the real deal.
"I'd be interested to find out more if anyone knows anything because I have no clue. I have never seen anything like this since I have been in the shop," she added.
Clever hoax, or genuine evidence of paranormal activi-tea?
H/T Susan & Holly
On February 28th, a man was found unconscious in a motel in Palm Springs. His photo identification showed him to be Michael Thomas Boatwright, a veteran who had served from 1971 to 1973 in the U.S. Navy as an aviation mechanic. But when he woke up in the emergency room of the local hospital, he claimed to be someone else:
When Michael Boatwright woke up in the emergency room at Desert Regional Medical Center, the nurses began asking him questions for which it became clear he had no answers. The gray-haired, soft-spoken man looked at his identity card and didn’t recognize his own face. He answered only to Johan Ek.
He walked up to the sink, stared at the reflection of the 61-year-old man facing him in the mirror and said he was going to throw up.
Though his driver’s license said he was born in Florida, he spoke only in Swedish and said he remembered nothing about his life before.
“The guy Michael — it wasn’t me. I’m still Johan,” he said through a translator in a recent hospital interview, twisting his water bottle around in his hands.
Fugue state? Split-personality? Intelligence operator suffering from amnesia? Manchurian candidate? Remembered past life? You decide!