Collections of miscellaneous strange writings from around the web

A Square Hole in a Round Sun

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.

Black Ring 'UFO' Seen Over England - What Was It?

Black Ring in the skies of England

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

Link: Who Forted: Big Black Ring Spotted Over Britain

Link: Doubtful News: What is the Black Ring of Leamington Spa? A vortex ring


Take tumbleweeds, a twister, and a small grass fire. Mix. Et voila, a scene like something out of an X-Men movie...


Once You See the Face, You Might Just Shirt Yourself


Customers looking for shirts in this section might have quickly hurried on to shop in the brown underpants department soon after...

(via @SickTiming)

Amazeballs: Iceballs!

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

(via Sploid)

To the Mountain of Madness: A Fortean Road-Trip in Search of Lovecraft, Crowley, and an Alien Abduction

Mandate Interstate 93

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!

Weird London, Mapped!

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)

Invitations from the Outsider - On the Passing of Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson

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, Colin Wilsonone 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

This is the Box. The Box of Crazy

The Box of Crazy

The Voynich Manuscript may have a challenger for the most mysterious document: at, 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 Box of Crazy - the Beast in the Machine

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...


Jesus and Mary on a Cloud in Google Earth

Jesus and Mary on a Cloud in Google Earth

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.