(Image by Chris Barker)
One year ago today, I was in Amboise, France, as part of the trip of a lifetime around Europe with my wife and children. Upon waking that rainy, gloomy winter's day, I absent-mindedly checked my Twitter timeline, and was snapped out of my daze when I read the shocking news that David Bowie had sadly passed away, after turning 69 just a couple of days previous.
It turned out to be a day filled with death. Our itinerary for the day began with a visit to Château du Clos Lucé, a small château that is famous for being the residence of Leonardo da Vinci in his final years - with one of the main 'attractions' being a viewing of the actual bed that the great Master was lying in when he took his final breath.
From Amboise we then drove to our next stay, an absolutely wonderful historical chateau not far from Rennes that we booked through AirBnB. On arrival, however, we were met not by the owner, but instead by their neighbour. As it turns out, the owner's husband had died that very day after suffering a heart attack, and yet she had amazingly taken the time and consideration to organise for her neighbour to come and greet us and make sure we settled into the place comfortably.
This 'day of death' finished with a bang as well - as we were eating dinner in the dining room of the old chateau that night, my wife suddenly swung her head around to look behind us. Nothing was there, despite, she recounted, the fact that she had seen someone walk behind us in the reflection from the window.
A year on, and it turns out not to have been so much a 'death day', but an entire year. From Bowie, to the massive loss of Prince in April, through to George Michael and Carrie Fisher at year's end - and a cavalcade of departed stars and personalities in between - 2016 as serial killer became a meme that many could relate to, along with the fervent hope that 2017 would be better.
The thing is though, I'm not sure that's going to be the case. In actual fact, I think 2016 might just be the herald for a new period that I (perhaps hyperbolically) refer to as the 'Great Dying'.
The 'Great Dying' arises from the confluence of three factors:
- In the 1950s and 60s the amount of 'famous people' increased dramatically with the advent of television, 'pop' music and mass-marketed professional sport. People who became stars at a yound age in those and following decades are now 60 to 90 years of age.
- Furthermore, the pressures of reaching and maintaining that celebrity status - especially in the last few decades, have pushed some performers and sportsmen to the limits physically and psychologically. Witness for instance the painkillers required by Michael Jackson and Prince, which ultimately resulted in their premature deaths. And both living with that celebrity status, and the emotional valley of slipping from that status, also have their deleterious effects on the human psyche and body. So there will always be a portion of stars who die at an earlier age than expected.
- Lastly, in the modern era of 24-hour news cycles and social media, we are hyper-aware of every celebrity's passing and 'grieve' as a community when that happens, sharing thoughts, quotes and tributes, and meditating on that person's passing more thoroughly than in the past.
Without wishing to start a dead pool, to illustrate point one consider the following list of movie stars who are house-hold names: Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery are 86; James Earl Jones and William Shatner are 85; Judi Dench and Brigitte Bardot are 82; Donald Sutherland is 81 and Robert Redford is 80; Morgan Freeman, Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson are 79. In music, the (surviving members of) The Beatles, Stones and Led Zep are in their 70s, while Tina Turner is 77 and Aretha Franklin is 74. For the SF&F geeks out there, Ursula Le Guin is 87; Tom Baker is 82; Ian McKellen is 77 and Patrick Stewart is 76; Ridley Scott is 79. Anthony Hopkins is 79; Al Pacino is 76; Harrison Ford is 74; De Niro is 73. David Attenborough is 90.
That's just a quick listing off the top of my head, so you can only imagine how many well-known people are in what would be expected to be the final decade or two of their lives. And that doesn't include all those who might pop off earlier than expected, from cancer, heart attack, accident, suicide or other assorted causes (I've personally almost checked out after being stung by a wasp, of all things). This is perhaps what made 2016 seem so shocking - losing the likes of David Bowie at 69, Carrie Fisher at 60, Prince at 57, George Michael at 53 and Phife Dawg at 45. But given the number of celebrities out there, is this the new normal?
The Great Dying has begun. So it might be about time we addressed our in-built aversion to dealing with death and loss head-on.
The guys running our Simulation appear to be re-using old code...
- The search for aliens has become a grassroots movement for billionaires.
- Chilean Navy UFO video stumps experts - but is it just a jet?
- Despite a breakthrough discovery, the decade-long puzzle of elusive “fast radio bursts” is far from being solved.
- Distinguished astronomer suggests mysterious fast radio bursts could be aliens powering their intergalactic starships.
- What is this mysterious oval structure in Antarctica?
- The first sailors: did the mysterious first Americans arrive in watercraft?
- Man who used life savings to buy a field defies skeptics and discovers ruins of an entire lost city under the ground.
- Egypt struggling to preserve pyramids due to huge drop in tourist numbers in recent years.
- Mysterious tiny mummy stuns experts.
- Survey of 2000 people offers sobering information about bad shroom trips.
- Researchers have created antibiotic spider silk that heals wounds.
- The terrifying power of mega-tsunamis.
- Scientists are re-examining a scary climate question: Will a crucial ocean current shut down?
- The mighty hummingbird can perceive motion from every angle.
- A medical explanation for sightings of fairy armies?
- After 23 years in exile, the
KLFJustified Ancients of Mu Mu are back.
- Brazilian grandmother has been mistakenly praying to Elrond from Lord of the Rings for years.
- Image of the Day: The machine and the mountain.
Quote of the Day:
Heathenism is a state of mind. You can take it that I'm referring to one who does not see his world. He has no mental light. He destroys almost unwittingly. He cannot feel any Gods presence in his life. He is the 21st century man.
We've waited a long while for a high profile UFO case, but on the weekend a new story broke and has since received plenty of coverage across the intarwebs. Unveiled by journalist Leslie Kean - author of the bestselling UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record - this latest UFO (or as they're now known, UAP...'Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon') report originated from two experienced officers in the Chilean Navy - and it was caught on video, notably infrared (see video above, object is first seen around 40 seconds in).
The sighting was made in November 2014, when the two naval officers were carrying out a routine daytime patrol aboard an Airbus Cougar AS-532 helicopter:
On board were the pilot, a Navy Captain with many years of flying experience, and a Navy technician who was testing a WESCAM’s MX-15 HD Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) camera... The aircraft was flying at an altitude of approximately 4,500 feet on a clear afternoon with unlimited horizontal visibility...
...At 1:52 pm, while filming the terrain, the technician observed a strange object flying to the left over the ocean. Soon both men observed it with the naked eye. They noticed that the velocity and the altitude of the object appeared to be about the same as the helicopter, and estimated that the object was approximately 35 to 40 miles (55-65 km) away. It was traveling W/NW, according to the Captain. The technician aimed the camera at the object immediately and zoomed in with the infra red (IR) for better clarity.
Shortly thereafter, the pilot contacted two radar stations - one close by on the coast, and the other the main DGAC Control system (Ground Primary Radar) in Santiago - to report the unknown traffic. Neither station could detect it on radar, although both easily picked up the helicopter. (The object was well within the range of radar detection.) Air traffic controllers confirmed that no traffic, either civilian or military, had been reported in the area, and that no aircraft had been authorized to fly in the controlled air space where the object was located. The on-board radar was also unable to detect the object and the camera’s radar could not lock onto it.
The pilot tried several times to communicate with the UAP, using the multi-national, civilian bandwidth designed for this purpose. He received no reply.
The unidentified object was filmed for almost 10 minutes by the crew, and upon returning to base and reporting the encounter the Navy immediately turned over the footage to the CEFAA - the Chilean government agency consisting of military and technical experts that investigates UAP sightings. According to Kean "none of them have been able to explain the strange flying object", ruling out bird, flying insect, drone, parachute or hang glider as possible explanations.
One facet of the video that has received plenty of attention is that “in two instances [the UAP] discharged some type of gas or liquid with a high thermal track or signal”, according to the infrared camera technician. You can see this occurring around 8 minutes into the video above.
According to French experts who examined the case, however, the object may have a simple explanation: the peanut-shaped infrared signature is an aircraft with twin-jet engines (as the shape was “consistent with the standard distance between the two jet engines of a medium-haul aircraft”), and the odd trails probably result "from dumping some cabin waste water, forming a plume oriented along the local wind blowing from the west.”
Kean says, however, that Chilean experts ruled this idea out for a number of reasons:
This plane would have been seen on primary radar; it would have had to be cleared for landing in Santiago or at another airport; it would likely have responded to radio communications. Airplanes do not throw out water when landing...[and] if - hypothetically - water was expelled, it would have immediately plummeted to the ground given the warm air temperature.
Reddit-detectives however seem to side with the French analysts, although a number suggest the jet may have been a military-grade aircraft, actually a fair distance from the helicopter and moving away from it on a slight angle, while the plumes are the thermal signature of the jet putting on its afterburners.
I'm a pilot. I've seen a few weird things in the air myself from time to time but the most interesting thing for me in this video is the plume it leaves behind at the end of the video.
What do I think it is? I think it's a fast jet of some kind running hot that's quite far away. The exhaust heat from it's engines is balling up behind it and the IR bloom from that heat is making it appear like a round ball in the sky and masking its shape.
The material it squirts out? It's basically igniting its afterburners and the hot exhaust heat is blooming from behind it in the line you see. If you look at a jet aircraft with afterburner like the F18 or something like that through FLIR, you will see the exact same thing.
...The object in question looks more like two orbs or circles pushed together which would what you would expect to see from a military twin engine jet aircraft like an F18 or similar style. Also as soon as the plume appears that thing speeds up really fast which is what you would expect from a jet that's just entered reheat.
Again though, the questions remain about the lack of radar ID from the ground (unless the jet was a looong way from the helicopter), and the lack of reply when asked to identify itself.
For these reasons, Chilean officials are sticking with the 'unidentified' designation. General Ricardo Bermúdez, director of the CEFAA during the investigation, told Kean...
The CEFAA is well regarded partly because there is full participation from the scientists of the academic world, the armed forces through their representatives, and the aeronautic personnel from the DGAC, including its Director. I am extremely pleased as well with the conclusion reached which is logical and unpretentious... [T]he great majority of committee members agreed to call the subject in question a UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) due to the number of highly researched reasons that it was unanimously agreed could not explain it.
A summary of all the stories and news briefs posted on The Daily Grail over the past week. Feel free to share anything interesting!
- News Briefs 02-01-2017 (Monday)
- Watch Acquired Savant Stephen Wiltshire Use Google's Tilt Brush to Draw a Car in Virtual Reality
- News Briefs 03-01-20176 (Tuesday)
- News Briefs 04-01-2017 (Wednesday)
- Spirits of Place
- The Acquired Savant Who Sees Maths in Everything
- News Briefs 05-01-2017 (Thursday)
- New Research Suggests Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts Could Be a Sign of Alien Civilisations
- News Briefs 06-01-2017 (Friday)
Have a good weekend!
“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”
- More on the Fast Radio Bursts.
- Are quantum computers ready for their close-up?
- Exotic light detected.
- Tracking Voyager’s trek.
- The DNA is in the dirt.
- The space junk conundrum.
- Steel 2.0.
- Rise of the right-handed tarantulas.
- Lightning vs. synesthesia.
- Provingmagnetism works.
- Let’s rub noses like martian eskimoses.
- “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
- Slow motion.
- This week’s evidence of the looming robot uprising… Pepper & Lynx.
Quote of the Day:
“Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.”
The origin of so-called 'Fast Radio Bursts' has remained a cosmic mystery since the first 'FRB' was detected in 2007. But while explanations have included phenomena such as colliding black holes and dark matter-induced collapse of pulsars, a new theory suggests that FRBs could, perhaps, be a sign of intelligent alien life.
In the newly posted arXiv.org paper "Fast Radio Bursts from Extragalactic Light Sails", distinguished physicist and cosmologist Abraham (Avi) Loeb and co-author Manasvi Lingam put forward the suggestion that FRBs could be "artificial beams which have been set up as beacons, or for driving light sails".
Currently, only 17 FRBs have been recorded... Despite the diversity of explanations advanced for FRBs, the possibility that they may be of artificial origin has not been investigated, except for a brief consideration in Luan & Goldreich (2014).
...[The idea that extraterrestrial civilizations may be using radio beams is certainly not a new one, as it dates back to the pioneering paper by Cocconi & Morrison (1959). This idea was quickly picked up and extended by researchers engaged in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
...[S]ome of the major observables for FRBs are consistent with the idea that they may be manifestations of extragalactic beams. However, this still fails to answer the important question of why they exist in the first place.
The authors firstly consider the idea that FRBs might serve as ‘beacons’, meant to broadcast the presence of alien civilizations. However, given the massive power expenditure involved in creating the beam, they then suggest that perhaps it is more likely such high-powered beams might instead be employed to propel spacecraft to "mildly relativistic speeds" using light sails.
Entertaining this idea and working through the relevant equations, the researchers were surprised to find that the beam frequency that would be optimal to power a light sail falls within the range of FRB frequencies. Thus, they note, "it seems quite reasonable to hypothesize that the beams are being used to power light sails".
(Another conclusion was that the likely size of a light sail using Fast Radio Bursts for propulsion would have a mass of approximately 1 million tons - a value "extremely high by human standards" - suggesting that the spaceship involved would likely be an “interstellar ark” or “world ship” of sorts.)
If the theory sounds familiar, it might be because we humans are currently working on a similar idea (though on a much smaller scale). The Breakthrough Starshot project, funded by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner's $100 million investment in 2015, aims to send tiny space probes to our nearest star system at a fifth the speed of light, using light sails propelled by Earth-based lasers.
So it's perhaps worth noting that the research on this new FRB paper was "supported in part by a grant from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation for the Starshot Initiative", and also that Abraham Loeb is the Chair of the Advisory Committee for Breakthrough-Starshot.
- Now, in the year of our Trump 2017, is the BEST time for you to take the red pill!
- Meet the Zhivagetsons! How Russians envisioned 2017 in 1960.
- 2017 will be the year we decide to finally tweet them aliens.
- Open Minds gives its 2016 UFO Year in Review.
- Mothman sighting on Phoenix, or mistaken palm tree?
- Royal palace haunted by 'friendly ghosts', Swedish queen says.
- The Voices in Our Head: Or why not only 'crazy' people talk to themselves.
- Why sugar is the ultimate toxin of our modern era.
- Meet the Tiger Beetle: The stuff of (insect) nightmares.
- What's something Canadians and Russians share in common (aside from horrible winters)? A: An underwater river of molten iron!
- The exquisite fine-tuning of the Universe prompts some fascinating --and uncomfortable-- questions.
- Astronomers discover a one-of-a-kind galaxy in the entire universe.
- Scientists pinpoint origin to fast radio burst, and it is surprising (spoiler: not aliens).
- The sophisticated, hidden ways in which trees cooperate with each other.
- Who are the readers that are making Mein Kampf a #1 best-seller?
- Red Pill of the Day: John Carpenter gets pissed with Internet Nazis mistaking They Live for anti semitic propaganda --c'mon, we ALL know it's about the Reptilian conspiracy!
Quote of the Day:
"I think of my body as a side effect of my mind."
Not long after posting Tuesday's story on savant Stephen Wiltshire, I coincidentally came across another short film on an acquired savant, Jason Padgett, who after being beaten outside a nightclub and suffering brain trauma, woke to a new world, full of 'maths':
In 2002, Jason Padgett was the victim of a vicious beating outside a karaoke bar in Tacoma, Washington. Upon regaining consciousness, Padgett’s sight was forever altered by a condition called acquired savant syndrome. The brain trauma opened his eyes to an entirely new world—one filled with patterns and strobes, like a stop-motion film. This is a fascinating story into the hidden power of the mind and one man’s inspiring tale of courage and personal triumph.
Below you'll find John Reppion's "Editor's Introduction" to the new anthology Spirits of Place, which features the likes of Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Gazelle Amber Valentine, Iain Sinclair and many others taking us on a tour of places where they themselves have encountered, and consulted with, 'spirits of place' - " the echoes of people, of events, of ideas which have become imprinted upon a location, for better or for worse."
More information, and links for ordering Kindle, paperback and hardcover editions, can be found at the Spirits of Place website.
Spirits of Place: Editor’s Introduction
by John Reppion
When I was a child I had a vision of fourth dimensional time; of paths trod by my own ghosts, past and future. My parents and my grandparents lived six houses apart on the same suburban South Liverpool street. In front of my parents' house (where they still reside) is a square of turf for kids to play on which we call “the grass patch”. A journey from one house to the other could be made one of three ways: diagonally across the grass patch; via the strip of pavement which runs round its front closest to the road; or on the pavement round its back, past the front fences of numbers 50, 48, 46, and 44, and then at a right-angle up the far side, past the garage at number 42. I was on my way home from Gran's at the age of perhaps seven or eight when I was suddenly struck by the thought that I must already have made the journey a hundred times, and that I would make it thousands more. I crossed over on to the opposite side of the road so I could get a better look at that strip of land where, I realised with a weird dizzy feeling, I had already spent a good chunk of my young life. I saw – imagined, I suppose, but with absolute clarity – at first just a handful, but gradually a crowd. The diagonal route across the grass was the most heavily populated, in spite of all those warnings about muddy shoes. There I was at the age of three, four, five, and as I stared longer, there I was at ten, at seventeen, at twenty, at thirty; infant, child, adolescent, and adult overlaid in a blur of bodies, limbs and faces. An entire lifetime of journeys between those two fixed points in a single image – an image I can still recall perfectly to this day. My younger selves dominate the picture, not because of nostalgia, but because I would walk the walk five or six or more times a day when I was a child, the frequency growing less and less beyond the age of ten. Gran died in 2010, Grandad followed her the next year, and their house – the house my mum was born in – was sold soon after. I couldn't have known that then, yet still there were (and are) very few, if any, versions of myself in that strange multi-exposure vision much past the age of thirty. For a long, long time after that mid-80s day, every time I made the journey I knew I was walking among, and with, and through all those other versions of myself. Versions which remain frozen there to this day – not just in my head, but in some very real sense. I've never discussed any of this with anyone – never even thought about it in any terms other than those which my younger self knew to be true – and in fact, I had all but forgotten about it up until just a few days ago.
How can I best define the concept of “Spirits of Place”? It sounds good, but what do I even mean by the phrase? These are some of the questions I was asking myself last week. You might well think I should already have answered them quite a while ago; before commissioning the twelve pieces for this book, or indeed organising the conference/ritual mash-up thing which led to its creation. But no. At least, not exactly. It's easy enough to give people a rough idea of what you mean about something, especially if you're trying to give them just enough to spin their own ideas out of it. So, let's backtrack a little here. Not as far back as the 1980s, but to the first quarter of this year.
Spirits of Place was the name I chose for a one day event I organised and put on here in Liverpool in April, 2016. The idea came about when I saw that there was a conference space available for hire in the former Manor House in Calderstones Park; a park which I've been visiting on a regular basis for most of my life. There you'll find a playground, the duck and goose crowded mini-lake, a café, an ice-cream parlour, ornamental gardens, a miniature railway, and the remains of a Neolithic chambered tomb.
The tomb stood just outside the boundaries of the park between 3000 BCE (give or take a few centuries) and 1804 CE, when it was pulled apart to make way for a house being built. All that survived of the tomb were six stones, each covered with curious spirals, circles, and other ancient engravings. These Calderstones – the origin of the name long lost now – were re-arranged into a rough stone circle under orders of lead shot manufacturer Joseph Need Walker in 1845. Standing at the South East entrance to Walker's estate – mere metres from the tomb's original position – the stones soon drew the interest of several 19th century antiquarians believing it to be their original “Druidic” location and configuration. There they remained until 1954 when they were removed under orders of Liverpool Corporation. Covered with more than a century's worth of moss and soot, the stones were cleaned and latex impressions taken, revealing details of carving which had previously been all but invisible to the naked eye. The first thorough survey of the stones was made based on these (now lost) moulds by J. L. Forde-Johnson and the results were published in his 1957 paper “Megalithic Art in the North West of Britain, The Calderstones, Liverpool”. In 1964 the stones were relocated inside the park which by now bore their name. There in a hexagonal glass house (known as “the vestibule”) which served as an entranceway to the Greenhill Greenhouses where a huge botanical collection was kept, the ancient, fragile Calderstones were set into grey slabs of quick drying concrete. The Greenhill Greenhouses were bulldozed in the 1980s following a strike by Liverpool council parks and gardens workers. The vestibule survived, standing alone; the Calderstones visible only to those who knew where to look, peering through the ivy and graffiti covered glass to see the sextet of standing stones holding their silent communion.
The first time I ever got to see the Calderstones up close was in 2007 on a Halloween tour of the park. The vestibule was warm and damp – electric heaters working against the foggy October air in an effort to shield the megaliths from winter’s chill. Fine spider’s webs, spun across the pitted surfaces of the menhirs, were frosted with moisture, glistening in the glow of the heater elements. The engravings shimmered fierily as if each stone had a core of liquid magma beneath its brittle sandy surface. Our guide hurried through a truncated history of the stones and, for a precious few moments, the assembled crowd stared at them in absolute wonder. But, all too soon, the spell was broken. The park ranger had no eerie tale directly connected to the stones to tell. By the time we left the vestibule, his latest off the peg ghost story had all but erased the circle of crumbling stones' brief, vague history from most people’s minds. With each step away from the dilapidated greenhouse, the illusionary fire within the ancient sigils seemed to dim. My own interest did not, however.
I became more fascinated than ever with the Calderstones and their history. How these man-made objects had been a permanent feature of the local landscape since mammoths walked the earth. Key elements of a tomb built before the Egyptian pyramids, marked with symbols which pre-date written language in this part of the world; their original meanings and purpose lost in the mists of time. In December 2014 I had one of these magical marks – a thumbprint-like spiral pattern from the Calderstone that Forde-Johnson designated as Stone E – tattooed in black ink on my right forearm. Although I have no way of knowing what it meant when it was carved, I know what it represents now. It is a connection between myself and the landscape; between the people who lived and died and left the mark here five millennia ago, and the life myself and my family live here now. A five-thousand year 4D snapshot of that crucial not-quite-a-mile of South Liverpool parkland would show the Calderstones as the only constant feature – the spiral patterns graven upon their surfaces an almost perfect map of their glacial, stop-motion meanderings around its narrow environs. The Calderstones physically anchor Calderstones Park to England's ancient past. They are the proverbial heavy ball-bearing on the rubber-sheet of Time; creating a pocket of deep history into which stories, and spirits, are drawn in ever-decreasing orbits. And that is why I decided that putting on an event in the park would be a good idea. An attempt at harnessing that energy, and raising those spirits; the Spirits of Place.
The core concept of the symposium became that of this book: stories are embedded in the world around us – in metal, in brick, in concrete, and in wood. In the very earth beneath our feet. Our history surrounds us and the tales we tell, true or otherwise, are always rooted in what has gone before. The event was structured like a spiral: the Calderstones as its centre, with nine incredible speakers spinning their talks out of that single point in ever broadening arcs. I wanted to make it almost like a kind of happening, or a ritual, crossed with a regular conference; a magical experience in a very real sense. And, it worked. Perhaps too well.
My own opening talk that day was entitled “Invoking the Spirits of Place” and served not just as a preamble, but as an explicit calling. My closing paragraph read as follows:
Today we call upon the spirits of this place; the spirits of those pre-English ancestors who moved and marked stones and mounded earth with their bare hands, not just to honour their dead, but so that we might know something of what they believed and knew. Upon the hidden race of fairies and elves which they later became in popular folklore and imagination. Vertumnos – god of growth and fruit and seasons, Ceres – goddess of agriculture, grain, fertility and motherhood, Hercules – strong and powerful man-god protector of this parkland's gateway. The kodarna, the canoti, the wood sprites, boggarts, goblins, and pooka. We call upon the Lady of the Forest, upon the spirit of the ancient Allerton Oak. All of these spirits we invoke, and we ask them to show us, to teach us. To share with us their knowledge of this place – this small suburban green-space which is all green-space, which is everything. A slice of the natural world which we kid ourselves we have altered and mastered and tamed but which, in reality, is merely a fraction, a sliver of the true order of things. A tiny piece of the ancient green-land which waits impatiently for the moment when it might reclaim what is rightfully its. All across South Liverpool centuries-old roots ripple through tarmac, absorb railings and bow walls. Stop-motion brambles wind cunningly around fallen sandstone slabs, spider-walk through skull-socket knotholes, cascade over weather-worn fence-panel and post in a prickled, black-fruit foamed spray. The thin veneer of civilisation can be seen, almost heard, crumbling one driveway-fracturing dandelion at a time. This place does not belong to us alone, here our ancestors, our history, our folklore are all alive and waiting to be rediscovered. To reclaim and re-enchant this earthly realm.
So, I bid you welcome. Welcome to South Liverpool, to Calderstones Park, and to Spirits of Place.
On that day, standing there in Joseph Need Walker's Manor House in the heart of the park, speaking those words felt truly powerful, truly magical. A spell was cast, and though I had intended as much, I hadn't anticipated it to work in such a literal sense. If I had expected it, I would surely have thought to lay the ghosts – to release the spirits – at the end of the day. But I didn't. There was no dismissal, no formal farewell to the host of ancestors, thought-forms, and deities myself, guests, and attendees had spent six or so hours talking and thinking, remembering and imagining into life.
I'd made an attempt at recording the day's talks and that evening managed a very quick listen through to check the quality. It wasn't great, which I had pretty much expected. I only had two mics set up and most people were moving around a lot giving their talks. It was no big thing; it would have been nice if it worked out but didn't really matter that it hadn't. The only part that sounded okay was the last talk of the day which had been a sit down interview with Ramsey Campbell about his use of Merseyside, Liverpool, and even Calderstones Park itself in his fiction. I cringed, as many people do, at the sound of my own voice asking the questions, but otherwise it was fine. Exhausted then, I passed up the kind offer of speakers Cat Vincent, David Southwell, and Gary Budden to join them for a pint or three, and instead opted for a rare early night.
In my dream that night I was wearing my headphones, listening to my own voice on the recorder. It wasn't the interview with Ramsey this time though, it was my own opening invocation. The quality was better than I'd thought. Only, now I didn't recognise the words. I couldn't remember saying any of this. And then, as one does in dreams, I knew that it wasn't me I could hear; it was something else using my recorded voice to speak. I asked out loud who it was, and my voice answered with an electric hiss “the spirits in the wires”. It was the kind of nightmare that doesn't really make sense if you try to explain it, but those whispered words had me wide awake, heart pounding, drenched in sweat that night.
Night terrors notwithstanding, Spirits of Place was a success. Out of that success came the entirely unexpected offer from Daily Grail Publishing to put together a book based on the same idea. Almost immediately though, I realised a book would need to be handled very differently. The event was about being in that specific physical place on that specific day – about shared experience rooted, one way or another, in that landscape. The book needed to tap into more universal themes and ideas about the relationships between landscape, history, story, art, magic, and humanity. Once I realised this, I knew I had to look further afield than the U.K., and beyond those who might be thought of as “the usual suspects” when it came to this kind of writing. Well okay, maybe some of those usual suspects are here, but you may note that London and Northampton are barely mentioned, let alone visited, within these pages.
While its geographic spectrum may be broader than other books dealing with the topic of place, there is a huge amount of commonality between the essays within Spirits of Place. The way our identities and beliefs are embedded in our surroundings; the places we grow up, or live, or come from. Equally, how we interpret and re-interpret ourselves in certain places. How language can sometimes fail us when we try to express the dichotomy of personal experience and shared reality; of things we know to be true and things which we can prove, or explain to others. Things embedded in our culture, often at a hyperlocal level. This island, this town, this village, this dirt track, this house, this room; every one has its spirits. A blur of people, of experiences, of lives lived, dreams dreamed, of gods birthed, of loves lost, of deaths died, of journeys across the grass patch.
Stick the push-pins in the map, connect the dots with winding twine like every good movie detective knows you should. A pattern emerges. It is not a pentagram, not a star-sign or constellation, not an arrow or X marking the spot. It is a spiral.
Just another day here in Australia...
- So about that physics-defying NASA thruster that supposedly works.
- Titanic sank due to an enormous uncontrollable fire, not iceberg, claim experts.
- Are aliens hidden in ancient religious artwork? Bizarre theory claims that signs of early visits from ET can be found in old paintings.
- Why Newton believed a comet caused Noah's flood.
- Anti-surveillance clothing aims to hide wearers from facial recognition.
- An ancient lost city emerges in a remote rain forest in Central America.
- Scans unveil secrets of the world's oldest mummies.
- The caves that prove Neanderthals were cannibals.
- '3000-year-old' standing stones turn out to have likely been erected just 700 years ago.
- The mysterious physics of rainbows.
- LSD makes adult brains child-like.
- A brand new human organ has been identified.
- From a pyramid in the Antarctic to Donald Trump's face on Mars: the weirdest conspiracy theories of 2016 revealed.
Quote of the Day:
The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.