Meeting Their Makers: The Strange Phenomenon of Fictional Characters Turning Up in Real Life

John Constantine

Yesterday iconic science fiction author William Gibson (perhaps best known for the acclaimed Neuromancer) tweeted a strange 'sighting': the character Milgrim from his recent books Spook Country and Zero History:

While Gibson was referring to the character 'turning up unannounced' in his imagination, it's interesting the way in which the character seems to have moved forward with his life regardless of the author's own thinking - as if created characters live on independently in that otherworld referred to by Alan Moore as 'ideaspace'.

And strangely, authors have reported seeing their fictional creations act in this independent manner not only in their minds, but also 'in real life' - especially in the worlds of science fiction and comic books. Alan Moore himself has mentioned in an interview that he once saw one of his creations, the mage John Constantine (from the Hellblazer series), in a sandwich bar in London. "All of a sudden, up the stairs came John Constantine," Moore revealed. "He looked exactly like John Constantine. He looked at me, stared me straight in the eyes, smiled, nodded almost conspiratorially, and then just walked off around the corner to the other part of the snack bar."

Moore contemplated whether he should go around the corner and double-check if it really was his own character that had walked into the bar, or whether he should just finish his sandwich and leave. "I opted for the latter; I thought it was the safest. I'm not making any claims to anything. I'm just saying that it happened. Strange little story."

Another person intimately involved with the Hellblazer series, artist Dave McKean, has also recounted a 'meeting' with a comic book character: Neil Gaiman's 'Death', from the Sandman series (which McKean created covers for). During the process of travelling to San Diego, someone died on the plane, and as he was waiting to board the plane again McKean says a girl dressed as Death walked off the plane and past him. Though if was travelling to comic-con, this may not be as big a coincidence as it seems...

Influential comics writer, Doug Moench, was shaken by an experience in the 1970s when his writing seemed to jump off the page and invade his life...and his home. Jeffrey Kripal describes what happened in his wonderful book Mutants and Mystics: Science fiction, superhero comics, and the paranormal:

Moench had just finished writing a scene for a Planet of the Apes comic book about a black-hooded gorilla named Brutus. The scene involved Brutus invading a human hero's home, where he grabbed the man's mate by the neck and held a gun to her head in order to manipulate the hero. Just as Doug finished this scene, he heard his wife call for him in an odd sort of way from the living room across the house. He got up, walked the length of the house, and entered the living room only to encounter a man in a black hood with one arm around his wife's neck and the other holding a gun to her head.

"It was exactly what I had was so, so immediate in relation to the writing and such an exact duplicate of what I had written, that it became an instant altered state. The air in the room congealed, became almost like fog, and yet, paradoxically, I could see with greater clarity. I could see the individual threads of his black hood".

Doug's emotional response to this series of events was a very understandable and natural one. He became obsessed with the black-hooded intruder for monther, then years. More immediately, he found it very difficult to write, so terrified was he of that eerie connection between what he might write and what might happen: "It really does make you wonder. Are you seeing the future? Are you creating a reality? Should you give up writing forever after something like that happens? I don't know."

Interestingly, Gibson has on occasion made reference (both in his books, and on Twitter) to 'tulpas' - a concept said to originate in Tibetan mysticism that refers to magical objects or beings that are brought into existence 'ex nihilo', purely by concentration of thought. The terms was made popular in the West through the work of anthropologist Alexandra David-Neel, who wrote in her 1929 book Magic and Mystery in Tibet that she had not only seen them, but had created one herself. "Besides having had few opportunities of seeing [tulpas], my habitual incredulity led me to make experiments for myself," David-Neel wrote. "My efforts were attended with some success."

Writers certainly concentrate upon their characters for hours at length. Is it possible that they can will them into existence in some sense? If so, this may not always be a benign event - as with the modern mythos of Slenderman apparently manifesting in not so great ways in real life.

Or is it more likely that once the character is within an author's head, it is all too easy for them to 'find' doppelgangers in the real world that match their description?

Whichever it is, they still make for great stories. Daily Grail contributing editor Cat Vincent is right across this topic, so if you're interested in learning more, click through some of the links below.


News Briefs 07-04-2015

An action figure for Grailers!

Quote of the Day:

It's important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world.

Robert Anton Wilson

Want to See a UFO? This Handy Map Will Show You Where to Go

Map of UFO sightings by county in the U.S.

Always wanted to have a UFO sighting? To improve your odds, why not consult this new 'UFO map', showing the number of UFO sightings per county in the U.S. (both in total, and per capita). The interactive map, embedded below, allows you to mouse over the United States to find the numbers associated with each county.

Created by California-based technology company FindtheBest, the map's data was culled from over 61,000 reports in the sightings database of the National UFO Reporting Centre (NUFORC). According to Lane Allison, product manager of FindTheBest:

We downloaded UFO sightings from the National UFO Reporting Center and took all of the locations and tried to standardize them. After we got latitude and longitude pairs, we could determine the number of UFO sightings that have been reported in counties. Then, we cross-referenced that with the American Community Survey population estimates of those counties, resulting in UFO reports per capita number.

One fact that is illustrated clearly by the map is the larger number of sightings towards the West Coast of America. Extraterrestrial tourist hotspot, darker skies, more potent swamp gas, greater number of military bases, or better weed? Let us know your theory for the lop-sided UFO sighting distribution in the comments below!

(via Lee Spiegel at The Huffington Post)

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News Briefs 06-04-2015

How image of Carel Struycken popped into my head twice during these news briefs. First person to tell me which two news briefs wins a prize...

Thanks @anomalistnews and @weirdaustralia.

Quote of the Day:

Intelligence is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster. Wisdom is knowing Frankenstein IS the monster.

Chimpanzee Expert Jane Goodall Tells Why She Believes in Bigfoot

Celebrated primatologist Jane Goodall turned 81 yesterday. Back in 2002, Goodall controversially stated in an interview on NPR - prompted by a question from a caller - that she believed that a Bigfoot-type species did indeed exist, citing reports from Native Americans she has spoken to, as well as a news story at the time about a possible Yeti hair having been discovered.

Edited audio from the original interview can be listened to in the animated clip above - the transcript of the relevant section is below:

Caller: I wanted to know if you believe there are any undiscovered large ape species.

Jane Goodall: You're talking about Yeti, or Bigfoot, or Sasquatch?

Ira Flatow: Is that what he's talking about?

Jane Goodall: Yes, yes he is.

Caller: Ah, pretty much.

Ira Flatow: *laughing* I'm out of the loop.

Jane Goodall: Well now, you'll be amazed, when I tell you that I'm *sure* that they exist. I've talked to so many Native Americans, who've all described the same sounds, two who've seen them. And there was a little tiny snippet in the newspaper just last week, which is that British scientists have found what they believe to be a Yeti hair, and that the scientists in the Natural History Museum of London couldn't identify it as any known animal.

Ira Flatow: Did you always have this belief, that they existed?

Jane Goodall: Well I'm a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist...



News Briefs 02-04-2015

That a Mexican plays the part of Jesus so that he can be crucified seems like overkill by now…

Thanks to the J-Man for granting us a 4-day long weekend. Hang in there, bro!

Quote of the Day:

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary investigations."

~Tim Binnall, host of Binnall of America

Sundays: Waking Up From Reality

Morpheus: "Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?"

The characters inhabiting the world created by Mischa Rozema and PostPanic Pictures for their proof-of-concept short film Sundays, are faced with the same philosophical quandary Morpheus posed to Neo in The Matrix. Sundays is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign which crowdfunded the US$50,000 needed to turn Mexico city into a distorted dystopia which would have made Philip K. Dick proud of --although as a prisoner citizen of Mexico myself, it didn't require that much of an effort...

The end of the world seems like a nightmare to Ben. A memory of a past life that doesn’t belong to him. When Ben starts to remember Isabelle, the only love he’s ever known, he realises she’s missing in his life. An existential descent into confusion and the desperate need to find out the truth begins. This reality depicts a stunning, surprising and dark world. A world that is clearly not his.

As a matter of fact, this is not the first time Mexico city is featured as a Dicktopia. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first to realize the city's Sci-Fi potential for his 1990 movie Total Recall.

Not only did the Empire never end, Spanglish is the official language! Here's hoping PostPanic lets us explore it further.

[H/T io9]

News Briefs 01-04-2015

Scarfolk to host British Science Festival in 2016!

Quote of the Day:

We all have a right to know, and if the government has been suppressing information about other life forms, that's the cruelest hoax of all.

Dwight Schultz

Child Medium? (Part Deux)

Last week I linked to a video uploaded by Jaime Primak Sullivan on her Youtube channel and Facebook account, which apparently showed her little 4-year-old daughter Charlie 'delivering' a message from Jaime's grandmother, who died last November.

A number of members --the big bossman himself included-- expressed an understandable amount of skepticism toward the video, mentioning how it could have been easily scripted; I myself conceded from the beginning how there was really no way of knowing whether little Charlie had already heard the nickname used by her dead great-granny --whom she only met a couple of times-- to call her mom Jamie. I was content to leave it at that, but yesterday my cosmic compadre Micah Hanks on his radio show The Gralien Report mentioned my previous article, and he also pointed out this other video, which is a commentary about a previous one with Charlie recorded right after a family trip to Disneyland; the important part starts at 3:25:

So here again we seem to have a little girl, using a rather peculiar phrase which was deeply characteristic of Jaime's dead grandmother --"the walls (of my house) are crying"-- as a way to express homesickness. Once more, we can't vouch for the veracity of this account --the fact that the video embedded above and the previous one I linked to last week were posted on Youtube with only a day's difference is a bit fishy, although if these are attempts to attain notoriety on the social networks, so far it hasn't succeeded.

But if what Jaime is saying is true, then it would seem to suggest her child is able to 'channel' somehow the 'spirit' of someone who was very important to her mother at the time she was the same age as she is now. Whether that 'spirit' is more metaphorical than literal, is again open to personal interpretation...

[H/T Micah Hanks, a.k.a. 'The Mouth of the South']

News Briefs 31-03-2015

Angels on the sideline, baffled and confused...

Thanks Red-walker.

Quote of the Day:

Silly monkeys give them thumbs.
They make a club.
And beat their brother down.

Tool, 'Right in Two'