Sunday, 26 September 2010

Book review: Magic, Mysticism & The Molecule by Micah Hanks

All through human history, we've had contact with The Other- ghosts, spirits, fairies, extraterrestrials- it seems the guise changes but the core phenomena remains more or less the same. Much of this contact is transient, indeed this seems to be one of it's defining features, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to it. However, some people have sought out contact with these other intelligences, and this book looks at the various methods that have been used through history.
The book's broken down into three broad sections, as per the title, looking at the use of magic, mysticism and mind altering substances in the pursuit of making contact with the Other, taking in everything from John Dee, Alister Crowley's Amalantrah working (where he claims to have made contact with an entity he named Lam, the drawing of which looks suspiciously close to the modern image of a grey, and some have claimed that this ritual, and/or Jack Parson's attempted Moonchild ritual in 1946 opened a doorway for the UFO phenomena to begin in 1947), Ouija boards, psychomantiums (particularly interesting as the author has some direct experience of this), through to altered states of consciousness, thoughtforms  and the possible influence of electromagnetic energy on human consciousness and much more.
It throws up some fascinating possibilities- that altered states, be they induced by rituals, physical ordeals or mind altering substances may allow us access to other realities or to perceive things that we ordinarily can't. For instance, the parallels between shamanic experience and alien abduction narratives are difficult to ignore, being drawn up, often towards a bright light to be met by diminutive entities who will perform painful procedures (medical experiments in UFOs, shamen often report being taken apart and re-assembled). This is especially fascinating in light of the fact that the human brain can produce the hallucinogenic molecule DMT under circumstances that are not yet full understood.
Even if all this can be explained in terms of brain chemistry or hallucinations, it still begs the question why certain images recur, especially across time and different cultures. Do we have the trope of small beings who interfere with us medically hardwired into our brains, and if so why?
My favourite part has to be the final chapter, which ties together Nikola Tesla, HP Lovecraft and contemporary research into DMT- in "From Beyond", Lovecraft identified stimulation of the pineal gland as a method of perceiving extra dimensional entities, and recent research as identified this gland as being the site of where DMT molecules are manufactured in the brain.
This gives you a good insight into what the book's like- it weaves strands from Forteana, biology, psychology and anthropology into one coherent whole. Hanks' writing style is amiable and accessible, with a healthily skeptical attitude. It's solidly researched and referenced, so if anything in particular piques your interest, you'll have no problem in following this up.
I'd highly recommend reading this if you've an interest in strange phenomena and want to get beyond the gosh-wow-its-all-real/oh-no-its-not dichotomy that most books serve up. A worthy additional to any Fortean's bookshelf.
As a footnote, Micah's website, The Gralien Report is well worth checking out, you'll find a bunch of his writings on there.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Book review: The Cryptoterresterials by Mac Tonnies

I first came across Mac Tonnies in a volume of the excellent Darklore series, which included his "The Ancients Are Watching", a piece on the possibility that the UFO phenomena represents an interaction with a post biological intelligence. In this essay, he mentioned in passing another theory that an impoverished culture of indigenous humanoids could be behind UFOs. This idea really piqued my curiosity as I've had a long term interest in things like The Shaver Mystery,  the notion of an earth based origin for UFOs (beyond secret military technology etc) had largely fallen out of fashion since the 60/70s and was intrigued to see it framed in more modern terms.
So it was with much anticipation, and a degree of sadness (Tonnies passed away in his sleep last October, he was only 34) that I approached this book. His basic idea is that if we look at close encounter narratives, the UFO occupants are very human like, suspiciously so for apparent extraterrestrials. Also, given the apparent degree of interest in our DNA and reproductive systems, this raises red flag in the sense that we are unlikely to be biologically compatible with extraterrestrials (if we can't reproduce with close relatives such as chimps, the chances of reproducing with aliens would be even less), yet there are cases of humans allegedly having sex with UFO occupants (the best known probably being that of Antonio Villas Boas), which if true, would point to them being more or less human. Also, there seems to be staged aspect to many close encounters, like the UFO occupants want to be seen and want us to believe they're from out there.
So from this, he theorises that we may have a sister species living amongst us, perhaps under the sea (there is a large body of sights of UFOs exiting or entering bodies of water), underground or even in remote parts of the planet. Similar ideas have been advanced in the past, notably by the likes of John Keel (though he did ultimately formulate the idea of ultraterresterials, prior to that he noted that many UFO occupants appeared very human, with long fingers, pointed chins, high cheek bones and slanted eyes being a recurring feature), what's novel in Tonnies' theory is that they may well be exaggerating their technological prowess in an attempt to maintain the charade that they're aliens and so keep us off their trail, but ultimately may represent a species in decline.
In one sense, the book works well as a critique of the Extraterresterial Hypothesis (ETH), which is the dominant explanation for the phenomena (beyond the null hypothesis, which is that it's all hoaxes, misperceptions and novel psychological phenomena). There's no evidence at all of an extraterrestrial origin, beyond claims of the entities themselves and our own cultural assumptions, and 63 years on from Kenneth Arnold's seminal sighting over Mt Rainer, we're no closer to an answer, so maybe we should be looking elsewhere?
The logic of the Cryptoterresterial Hypothesis is fairly strong, however it's weak point is firm evidence to back it up- if scientists can detect fossil remains of ancient bacteria, you would expect a humanoid race to leave more traces, especially one with a degree of technology, and the book doesn't tackle this aspect, though it does point to areas for research, such as the fossil record, unusual artifacts, unexplained transmissions or energy emissions, the forensic aspect of close encounters and so on. I would have liked to have seen some discuss what's out there that could support this idea. Frustratingly, he had mentioned during a interview on a podcast that he'd seen US military documents relating to encounters with humanoids on a Pacific island during WW2, but none of this is included in the book.Also, he cites some fascinating first hand correspondence he's had from a man who claimed he'd had an encounter with small human-like beings that pre-date us, but now live amongst us, passing themselves off as children and homeless people, but the details of this are frustratingly brief.
Of course, it should be pointed out that this book was released after Tonnies death, and was taken from a draft he had given to a friend, so had things worked out differently, the book may have been fleshed out a bit.
What endeared Tonnies to so many was not only his endless stream of ideas (and you'll find more ideas packed into a page on this book than you'd find in the whole of some writers output), was his lack of dogmatism- he's came up with this theory, has put forward how to test it, and was more than willing to be proved wrong, which is refreshing in this field where there are so many defenders of the faith, who'll stick by theories or cases when there's no credibility left in them.
Tonnies use of language makes the book a joy to read, even if you're extremely skeptical and I suspect some of the ideas put forward in the book may well be lifted by SF writers in the future.One note I'd make is that it's probably not for people unfamiliar with the field as it discusses cases and concepts with little exposition, so if that is the case, I recommend reading a few more general books before tackling this one.
So, all in, a thought provoking book that's a great read, even if the central theory may not ultimately hold up.
If you're interested in finding out more about the CTH, this interview with Tonnies is a good starting point.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Another Perthshire Big Cat

From Big Cats In Britain, a further sighting of what is presumably the same animal mentioned on previous post:

Aberuthven. Behind houses in fields.

Jet black, blacker than black, chasing roe deer.
Pointed ears
This is the strange part I can't remember noticing the tail.
Same size as roe deer but longer in length.
250yrds down field, from my house.
I was just up and standing having my coffee and went out to have a cigarette on my decking and I always look down the field when I saw roe deer running away from this jet black creature, at first I thought it was a bear, but it ran into woods on all four!
I am more vigilant. I have been down field with my dog looking for prints, thats's how sad i have become!!"

Aberuthven is a village on the road between Perth & Stirling, close to Auchterarder, and just north of the Ochil Hills, which places it in the same general area as the previous couple of sightings. I'm fascinated by the recurring description of the cat being bear like, this suggests quite a heavily built animal (though I admit I'm mildly confused by the witnesses statement that they thought it was a bear until it ran off on four legs- does this imply it was on two legs at one point??)
Edit: having just reread the previous sighting, they sound pretty similar, so they could possibly be different accounts of the same sighting.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

You Wouldn't, Would You?

This week, I have mainly been thinking about human/ape hybridisation, mainly off the back of this week's episode of The Paracast, where David Hatcher Childress discusses Bigfoot, the Yeti and so on, and at one point discusses various alleged attempts by various cryptohominids to mate with humans.
The best known of these is Zana, an alleged abnauayu (the local word for a relict hominid, similar to alma, kaptar etc) captured in the Caucasus mountains in the 1840s- more info on her capture is here. She became tame, and gave birth to several children, many of whom died after she washed them in a cold stream immediately after birth. The villagers eventually saved some of her offspring by confiscating them. The aforementioned article shows a couple of pictures of her descendants, including her son and grand daughter.
Various people have claimed this as evidence of a population of relict hominids in the area, though if she produced viable offspring with mating with humans, this suggests she was fully human. An analysis of what is thought to be her skull has been done, along with that of her son, and although they are unusual, they are not outwith the morphological range for modern humans, and DNA analysis has confirmed they are both genetically modern humans. This has lead some people to suggest that Zana may have been a black slave who had escaped from Turkey and her wildness exaggerated over time, alternatively it's been postulated that she may have been a local suffering from a condition such as hypertrichosis. Another interpretation is that the area does harbour an extremely primitive but otherwise modern tribe of homo sapiens.
Going by the photographs, her descendants don't look unusual at all- maybe a bit darker than you'd expect people from that part of the world to look- her son in particular looks a bit like an aborigine, but you wouldn't look twice if you saw them on the streets of a multi-racial city.
There are quite a few other tales of Bigfoot/yeti/other wild people abducting humans with the intention of mating with them, possibly the best known being that of Albert Ostman, who claimed he was kidnapped to be the mate of a young female Bigfoot.
Hatcher Childress mentioned a photograph of an apparent human/hominid hybrid woman from Brazil, which I'm not familiar with, I may need to invest in a copy of his book to find out more.
I'd barely finished digesting that when Micah Hanks posted this article at The Gralien Report about chimp/human hybrids. There's no confirmed humanzees of chumans, some biologists do believe it could be possible, in the laboratory at least- although there are documented instances of human/ape sexual contact, such as this story about a female orangutan rescued from prostitution (I realise Vice is hardly the best source of info, but I'm reluctant to dig further on this subject)- not sure if it's the same orangutan, but a couple of my friends visited a primate sanctuary in the UK who had a orangutan rescued from prostitution, not sure how widespread this practice is, and I suspect it's maybe better not to know in this case.
As a footnote, it's worth mentioning the chapter on sex and the sasquatch in Loren Coleman's excellent Bigfoot: The True Story Of Apes In America which includes a sighting of what can only be described as a sasquatch bumming a cow. Friends have accused me of making this story up, but it's in this book, make of that what you will!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Stone Age Genocide

Outside of Forteana, one of my main interests is bad films and occasionally the two crossover. While watching the 80s cave man/Conan knock off Ironmaster, one particular scene caught my attention. The film revolves around a tribe of cavemen who discover iron and use this to wage war & conquer their less advanced neighbours. In one scene, they chase down some apemen into a cave, pile up firewood and suffocate them with the smoke.
Interestingly, this parallels tales told about what have been interpreted by some as relict hominid populations. Possibly the best known is the Ebu Gogo, a diminitive race said to have dwelt on the island of Flores in Indonesia (and linked by some to Homo floresiensis). They would occasionally raid villages for food, and eventually, so the legend goes, islanders trapped them in a cave and set fire to palm fibres piled inside, exterminating the remaining population.
Similar legends are attached to the Nittevo of Sri Lanka.
So how did this end up in an early 80s Italian exploitation film? Is this a wider spread archetypal tale than we realised? Was the writer familiar with these legends? Co-incidence?
If you're interested in tracking down a copy, it's not had a dvd release, so you may need to track down a vhs copy (or it's easily available on file sharing websites). I would warn you that it shares many of it's contemporaries cavalier attitude to animal cruelty, which is a shame as otherwise, the film's a hoot, Gerorge Eastman is great as the despotic tribal chief. There's a trailer on youtube, with a clip from the scene in question around one minute in.
I may need to do a post on Sasquaplotation films, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Another Perthshire big cat sight

Following on from my last post, this sighting from the Big Cats In Britain blog caught my eye:

"On Monday 6th September I was having my usual coffee while standing admiring the view out my back door in Strathearn when I noticed Roe deer running, then what I thought looked like a jet back bear/cat, it was chasing the roe deer into the woods. I nearly choked on my coffee.
I told my husband and some colleagues. I didn't think they believed me until my husband came home on Thursday with an article that was in the Sun newspaper about Ray Mears saying he had saw 3 cats in Scotland. The article had two pictures and the cat/bear I saw was like the second picture.
I have since spoken to the Strathearn Herald (local newspaper) and they are going to do an article this week about my sighting, they also told me to get in touch with you guys, well I think it was you! So I just thought I'd let you know about my sighting."

The Sun article referenced is here. The second picture that the witness compared her sighting to looks a still taken from this video, filmed in Helensburgh last year. I find her description of the animal as a bear cat interesting as the squat, muscular build combined wth the short face is something that crops up in big cat sightings from time to time, and has lead researchers such as Di Francis to speculate that Britain may be home to an as yet unrecognised species of big cat, sometimes referred to as the mastiff cat hypothesis. The idea of a large predator surving unrecorded in the UK into the 21st century, is of course, unlikely. However, the occasional snippet of intriguing evidence does crop up, such as a photo taken by a camera trap in Argyle, which shows a squat, muscular black feline in quite clear detail. (This photograph has not appeared online, though it has been used by the Centre For Fortean Zoology on the cover of a previous issue of Animals & Men, though if my memory serves me correctly, it does appear in this video, which is  talk given by Shaun Stevens of Big Cats In Britain).

As a footnote, I went to the Strathearn Herald website, and found this article from last year which had a completely different interpretation to the above, suggesting that a binturong (also known as a bear cat) was loose in the area, so maybe this coloured the witnesses choice of words? Certainly seems to have been a fair few sightings in the area.
NB- Strathearn is an area of Perthshire, covering Comrie/Crieff/Auchterarder, plenty of country for a cat/bearcat/whatever it is.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Big cat in Perthshire

I've been meaning to post this for a while, so it's slightly old news now, but I found this report of a big cat just outside Perth to be really interesting. Rather the usual panther or puma type sightings, it sounds a bit more like a Kellas cat, a hybrid between a domestic and Scottish wildcat, or possibly even a rabbit headed cat, the status of which is a bit more controversial.
My mum had an encounter with a large black cat outside of Luncarty (the other side of Perth to where this encountered occurred) around 20 years ago. Flicking through a book, she tenatively identified the Kellas cat as being closest to what she saw. One of her workmates spotted what was presumably the same animal a few days later, which crouched in a field and hissed at her. Could they range much further South than is generally assumed?
For more info on the Kellas Cats, I recommend My Highland Kellas Cats by Di Francis, who first brought them to national attention, and even attempted breeding them.

A quick plug...

For anyone in central Scotland with an interest in the strange, you should get yourself along to the Edinburgh Fortean Society, which presents a talk on the second Tuesday of the month, upstairs at the Bongo Club in Holyrood Road.
This month, Alison Rutter will be talking on The Scottish Mermaid Flap.In the early nineteenth century there were a number of mermaid sightings around the Scottish coast. This talk will look at these and perhaps provide
an explanation.
Kicks off at 7.30pm, admission is the princely sum of £1. More info on the Edinburgh Fortean Society website, including past and future events.

A further appeal for information...

While reading Nick Redfern's massively entertaining Three Men Seeking Monsters, my interest was piqued by a report of sightings of a family of Bigfoot type creatures in the Falkland area of Fife. It also mentioned the area was rich in werewolf legends. It cited the source as cryptozoologist Mark Fraser of Big Cats In Britain, so I dropped him an email to see if he could give me any more information on the source of these tales. Unfortunately, all he really knew was what was in the book (and mentioned on various websites), and that the stories were vague rumours, the source of which is unknown.
Funnily enough, I've always thought the area looked like it should have a werewolf- it's a picturesque village, nestling under some steep wooded hills like something out of a Hammer film, it's practically crying out for a strange creature to be lurking in the woods!
I've had a hunt around on the internet and in various books, but I also can't locate any werewolf legends (they're not common in the UK, especially Scotland). The general area is rich in big cat sightings, but I can't draw up much more than that, which obviously makes the tales suspect. However, again, if anyone reading this can furnish some firmer details, I'd be very interested.

On the general subject of Bigfoot like creatures in the UK, Nick Redfern runs a blog devoted to the subject: Man-beast UK. I'm very much looking forward to his book on this fascinating but problematic phenomena.

The Edinburgh Mothman

Another interesting tale from Ron Halliday's UFO Scotland that turns up in other books & websites from time to time is that of the Edinburgh Mothman. While investigating a UFO sighting over the Portobello area of the city in October 1992, he uncovered an unusual story. The unnamed witness, who lived in the Niddrie Burn area of town, woke up during the night and noticed a brilliant white light coming in the window, she tried to wake her husband, but he remained fast asleep. Peering out the window, she saw what she described as a giant bird the size of a man or possibly a human like figure with wings. Again, she tried to wake her husband, but to no avail. She returned to bed, and remained in an agitated state until she drifted off to sleep at dawn.
While this report has occasionally been claimed as a Mothman appearance, the fact the witness had woken from sleep and remained unable to wake her partner is suggestive of some kind of sleep paralysis or night terror, though this kind of experience is more commonly associated with bedroom invaders, such as the Old Hag, shadowy figures or even the Greys of UFO abduction lore.
While there certainly is a body of reports of large birds and winged humanoids (as well as the Mothman, let us not forget the Owlman of Mawnan), whatever they represent- misperceptions of known species, hoaxes, interdimesional interlopers, tulpas, some kind of cultural phenomena, or something we can't even conceive of- many of these reports have multiple witnesses in the same area over a time period, then it seems to melt away (in common with many Fortean phenomena, such as UFOs or alien big cats). As far as I know, this seems to be a one off- though if anyone knows different, I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Even Cryptoterresterials Get The Munchies

I'd forgotten about this report until it re-surfaced over at Phantoms & Monsters the other day:

Location/Date: New Town, Edinburgh, Scotland - 1990 - late evening

A man named Brian Wilson was working the late shift one night at a local pizza parlor when a pair of "rather small" adults, who had a somewhat "lopsided" look about them, approached the counter, raised their right hands, and announced; "Hi, we're Americans!"

"What would you like?" Brian asked them.

They countered, "What do you make?"

"Pizzas" replied Brian.

"What are pizzas?" inquired the supposed Americans.

The couple watched Brian intently as he prepared two cheese and tomato pizzas. All the while, the male "kept looking around the shop like he'd never been in a pizza parlor before". Then the female pointed to a bowl of green peppers and asked what they were.

By now, Brian's colleague Doug had also noticed that there was something rather odd about the pair, and the two chefs exchanged glances of disbelief as Brian carefully explained what a pepper was.

"Do they taste nice?" wondered the female.

As the pair waited in silence for their pizzas (complete with green peppers) to cook, other customers came in and out of the shop as usual. Once their order was ready, the extraordinary Americans settled their bill. Each took a single bite out of their pizza then threw the remainder into the bin outside the shop.

Brian entertained a suspicion that his visitors may have literally been from another planet "I had read stories on the subject of aliens masquerading as human beings," he told investigators. "These two individuals came across as acting as humans, but not doing a very good job of it!"

Source: UFO Scotland by Ron Halliday

Hmm, maybe the shock of the pizza being deep fried was too much for them? I dare say you think they'd have been used to people asking what fresh vegetables were...

Joking aside, although there's nothing at all to suggest these people were actually aliens, or even some form of cryptoterresterial, there is a body of lore of people having interactions with apparent humans who just aren't quite right, they act inappropriately, they seem confused or amazed by everyday things or they just don't look right. For instance, there are Men In Black reports that include them trying to drink jelly, looking amazed at a biro and so on.

The late Mac Tonnies cites a case in his excellent book The Cryptoterrestrials (which is in my pile of books I intend to review on here), relating to a similar encounter with a Grey-like woman buying cigarettes, previously discussed on his blog here.

If, for the sake of argument, we are not alone on this planet, and share it with a sister species who are numerically inferior but possibly possess abilities we don't, maybe their best survival stratgey would to avoid detection by living amongst us, hiding in plain view.

That said, Edinburgh is home to a large number of people who're just plain weird- try working with the public if you want a handle on how many odd folk are out there!

Perthshire Bloodsucker

I've finally managed to track down the story I referenced in my previous post, regarding a possible sheep mutilation in Perthshire. I had it in my head that it occurred in the general vicinity of Loch Tay, but actually it occurred further North, north west of Glen Tilt, hence my inability to find it in my copy of Geoff Holder's Guide To Mysterious Perthshire, from which this account is taken:
The story takes place around 1923, in an old bothy to the north west of Glen Tilt. Two poachers decided they were going to stay the night in this remote location. The door was locked so they broke a window to gain entry and lit a fire. One of the poachers climbed back out through the window to get some water when something attached itself to his leg and began drinking his blood. He broke free and he and his companion searched the area to try and find what had attacked him. They could see some white winged objects and some faint blue lights. Somewhat perturbed, they forced the door of the bothy, cooked a meal and didn't sleep a wink.
In the morning, the only physical traces they could find were their own footprints, though the poacher carried the scars for the rest of his life. They never returned to the area. The bothy had an evil reputation among locals, but it's not clear whether this was a result of this incident or whether there were other tales attached to it.
Obviously, it's difficult to know what to make of a story like this. However, it does sound reminiscent of accounts such as The Skinwalker Ranch where small balls of light were associated with livestock mutilation.
Could whatever these things are got fed up of sheep and fancied a bit of poacher? Or, maybe more likely, did a wily gamekeeper spread a tall tale to deter poaching on their patch?
As an aside, Geoff Holder's written a whole series of guides to the mysteries of various Scottish counties, including Perthshire, Stirlingshire and Invernesshire, which I highly recommend. They cover everything from local myths to ancient sites to curious buidling and modern UFO and creature encounters. Invaluable for the Scottish Fortean (or Forteans with an interest in Scotland).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

My own brush with the odd

I was born and grew up in an unremarkable but pleasant village in rural Perthshire called Luncarty.
One summer holiday when I was around 7 or 8 (which would make it 1982 or 1983), my brother, a friend and I were playing in the woods in the middle if the village around mid afternoon. We'd decided we'd had enough and were heading home along the footpath at the bottom of the big hill (the one that heads towards the Witches Wood, and now at the back of Sandeman Court and Marshall Road-both fields at the time). There was a ruined house to the left of the footpath (which was supposedly a wash house for Luncarty House- it was demolished in the late 80s/early 90s). As we approached this, something flashed from the bushes on the right hand side of the path in front of us and into the ruined house. I remember this as being a white blob- almost like the stereotypical image of a ghost in a shroud but featureless- although this may be due to seeing it side on, and it looked like it was slightly luminous. It was moving clear off the ground- maybe a foot or two. This is what convinced us to turn and run! We made it home in record time, but our mum didn't seem too impressed with our story.
To this day, I'm at a loss to explain this experience- the fact whatever it was clear off the ground (and moved a fair distance on the level) mitigates it being someone in a sheet- and I'm sure if we'd been hoaxed we'd have heard all about it no end eventually. The weather was overcast, and I don't recall it being windy.
I don't know of any other reliable stories of strange events in that wood- a school mate claimed that you could see spectral figures glide across the waste ground where Sandeman Court now stands, but I never met anyone who claims to have seen them first hand.
I've trailed through that wood at all hours of the day and night and never had any other weird experiences.
At the time, we interpreted it as a ghost, but looking back, I'd be more inclined to view it as some kind of light or energy phenomena. I recall writing it up as part of the "what I did during the holidays" essay we had to write when the new school term started, would love to see this to see if there's details in there I've forgotten, but it long gone. I spoke to my brother about this recently, for the first time in many years, and his unprompted recollection of the event pretty much tallies with mine.
I have had a couple of other odd experiences that were much more fleeeting and subjective which I may get round to relating (though they're not that impressive!)

A Sheep Mutilation in Perthshire?

I came across this story on the Scotsman website:

Police are appealing for information after a sheep was killed and mutilated in the Killin area.
The sheep was killed sometime between 6pm on Saturday 27 and 8.30am on Sunday March 28.

A Central Scotland Police spokeswoman said: "The sheep's carcass appears to have been taken from the scene. There was evidence of the carcass being moved over a distance. All that remained was the heart, lungs and two unborn lambs which were discovered nearby."

The discovery was made near to Pier Road.

Police are keen to hear from any fishermen or walkers who may have seen anything suspicious.

Of course, the report's too vague to put this into the high strangeness bucket. It had piqued my interest partly as it occurred in my home county of Perthshire and partly as the general area is rich in folkore, including fairy cattle and hellhounds. I recall a tale of some poachers spending the night in a bothy in the Loch Tay area and encountering small ball of light that drew blood from one of them, but can't find the reference- I'm sure I first read it in Jacque Vallee's Dimensions, but a flick through that and Geoff Holder's Guide To Mysterious Perthshire has failed to bring it up- I'll post it once I locate it.
I'd also not long listened to this episode of the Paracast, which was a discussion on the mutilation phenomena. One of the participants was Phillip Hoyle of the UK based Animal Pathology Field Unit, an organisation I have to shamefully admit I'd never heard of until their appearance on Danny Dyer: I Believe in UFOs! He puts forward the theory that many of these mutilations in the UK are part of a secret monitoring program to test for pathogens in the food chain, which seems like a viable explanation, though I do wonder why whoever's behind it doesn't just buy the animals and do whatever they've got to do behind closed doors? Could it be they actually want people to come across the caracasses?
An interesting point made by Christopher O'Brien in the same episode is that mutilation waves tend to start with high strangeness ones but then later ones will have more hall marks of human activity. Inspiration or training?
As strange events tend to clump together, I'd been idly thinking about this blog post for a week or so, and lo and behold, there's been reports of more sheep mutilations in the English county of Shropshire. Nick Redfern's written an interesting piece on it here.
Be interesting to see if it's co-incidence or the start of a flap?


I'll kick this blog off with a piece I wrote for an essay competition at Micah Hanks' excellent Gralien Report. I took second prize with this, which I was pretty chuffed with:

For my money, the best film to deal with a Fortean topic was the BBC’s Ghostwatch. Briefly, it was a feature length drama broadcast on Halloween 1992 that purported to be a live broadcast from a poltergeist infested house on a London council estate. It starred a number of celebrities playing themselves, which confused many viewers into believing they were watching a real live broadcast. The line between fact and fiction was also blurred by it referencing various real life cases (it borrowed to an extent from the infamous Enfield poltergeist case). Even knowing it was a drama, I kept forgetting myself as the events escalated, especially with the fleeting appearances of the ghost in the background of a number of scenes and the gradual exposition of extremely unpleasant nature of the history of the house, though the OTT ending where the TV studio was taken over by the polt and the host possessed kind of blew the believability.
Thetricksterish aspect to it is a delight-the makers of this were genuinely bemused by the outrage caused by viewers being duped. It had been conceived, filmed and advertised as a drama and they’d no intention of fooling people. But yet it was one of the BBC‘s most complained about programs, and has never been repeated. A suicide has been laid at it’s door, and allegedly two cases of post traumatic stress disorder in children who viewed it.
Reaction to films can often depend on the context you see them in, and I first saw Ghostwatch in a house where someone had died six months previously, and I knew I’d have to walk home through a dark wood that local rumour held to be haunted and where I’d an odd experience a few years earlier that I’d interpreted as a ghost! That combined with the juxtaposition of the supernatural in a mundane setting was a heady mix for my 17 year old mind, giving a genuine chill I’ve not experienced again since.
Oddly, this seems to be the fictionalised blueprint that most ghost hunting programs now follow- but don’t let that put you off!
I'd gone way over the 100 words suggested for entry, so I left a few points out. To add a bit of context, I was watching it in my sister's recently acquired council house while baby sitting my nephews.The previous tenant had died in the room above barely six months before, in the room where my nephews were fast asleep. At one point, one of them got out of bed and ran across the room, the sound of which made me practically jump out of my chair.
I'll save the tale of my odd experience in the wood I'd to walk home through for a later post, but suffice to say, I made it back home in record time!
I've netted copies of Wm Michael Mott's Caverns, Cauldron & Concealed Creatures and This Tragic Earth and also a copy of Micah's Magic, Mysticism & The Molecule, reviews of which shall follow in due course.