Friday, 31 October 2008

Of course I like him. I like pizzas too, but I'm not gonna marry one.

It's the most wonderful tiiiiiime of the year.

I love Halloween. No really, I do. It's one of the very few nights of the year I always look forward to. The reason being that, in the normal run of things, a posse of close friends and I hit a bar in the city centre and settle in to a booth to watch people wearing very little walk by while discussing love, life, and everything in between. This is followed by a trip to a night club where, inevitably, we'll spend the rest of the evening flirting outrageously with any woman foolish enough to cross our path (Gee Note: "What have you come as? A black cat you say? Silly me, I should have guessed by the mini skirt.")

Sadly this year I have to miss out, due to a prior engagement involving myself, a four star hotel, a mini bar, and a rugby game the day after. And so, in an effort to keep the holiday spirit alive, I've decided to raid my DVD collection for a couple of good horror flicks and settle down on the sofa with some popcorn and a good bottle of wine. And so tonight's entertainment is shaping up quite nicely, with "Dawn of the Dead", "The Exorcist", and "Bad Taste" all making it to the play list. Topping the bill however is the Davies household première of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose", a DVD I bought on a whim about two months ago and have yet to watch.

For those who haven't heard of this movie, it's part courtroom drama, part supernatural horror, starring everyone's favourite downtrodden Chippendale choreographer Tom Wilkinson. It deals with the trial of a priest accused of manslaughter after an exorcism on a young woman goes badly wrong. Made on a shoe string budget it became an unexpected success, taking $144 million world wide. And when you consider that it's director was Scott Dickerson, a man whose previous efforts include the straight to DVD epic that is "Hellraiser V: The Inferno", it really is quite remarkable.

But even more remarkable is that the movie's plot is based on a true story.

Anneliese Michel was born in Bavaria on September 21st 1952. She was raised by her strictly devout Catholic parents named Josef and Anna in the small town of Klingenberg Am Main, and was considered by most to be a straight laced, God serving, pleasant girl. At the age of 16 she began to suffer seizures, unable to control her muscle movements or even speak. A local neurologist at the Psychiatric Clinic Wurzburg diagnosed her with "Grand Mal" epilepsy, a severe condition that can cause entire body convulsions due to abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. Due to the severity of her condition it was agreed by all parties that Michel be hospitalised.

Epilepsy is, much like most neurological disorders, very difficult to treat. Mostly seizures are controlled by a variety of medication (Gee Note: "Epilepsy" is more of an umbrella term to describe many syndromes with varying symptoms, all of which share a common cause. Because of this there is no "one pill fits all" way of treatment.). Even then, according to G. D. Cascino's paper "Epilepsy: contemporary perspectives on evaluation and treatment", roughly 30% of people with epilepsy can not control their seizure's even with the best medicines available.

Such was the case with Michel. Despite the doctor's best efforts, and a truck load of drugs, she continued to lose control of her body at regular intervals. After two years of regular hospital visits and God only knows how many different prescriptions, Michel began to think that she was destined to live the rest of her life under the worst conditions imaginable.

And then, in the autumn of 1970, Anneliese Michel began to see demons while praying.

She kept it to herself at first, maybe because she believed that her visions were simply side effects of the drugs, or maybe she simply couldn't face up to the fact that the Devil's face haunted her when she was supposed to be conversing with God. Even when the demons started talking to her, telling her she would "Stew in hell" and ordering her to do things for them, she kept quiet about it. But other people picked up that something wasn't quite right with Anneliese. An elder woman in the village apparently reported to the local priest that she had noticed that Michel was unable to walk past a certain image of Jesus, and had refused to drink water from a Holy spring. Eventually Michel would admit that she believed she was being stalked by dark forces to doctors. Unfortunately this was seemingly ignored as it was believed to have been just an “off hand” remark.

Michel's parents, on the other hand, were pretty worried by this point. After hearing the testimony of the elder woman, and after persuading Anneliese to confide in them, her experiences at prayer immediately convinced them that their daughter was possessed. They called upon the local Pastor Ernest Alt, requesting an exorcism be performed. The Pastor applied for a permit to perform an exorcism, probably just to placate the Michels more than anything else. The permit was duly rejected with the advice that Anneliese should live a “more religious life”.

The reason why the permit was rejected is because the Catholic Church has definitive guidelines as to what makes a person possessed (Gee Note: Can you spin your head around 360 degrees? No? Shame, we haven't had someone who could do that since Twooty the Evil Owl). Apparently these include speaking in a language the person has no prior knowledge of, and supernatural strength and abilities. If you do not meet this criteria then you aren't possessed, just very messed up in the head.

However the parents of Anneliese didn't take “no” for an answer and kept on campaigning for an exorcism. Every once in a while Pastor Alt would apply for one, only for it to be turned down. In the meantime Anneliese's condition took a turn towards the sinister when she refused to eat food, claiming that the demons had forbidden it. Instead she began to live off a steady diet of flies, coal, spiders, and her own urine. She'd lash at those around her, biting any member of her family who got too close, and would routinely destroy crucifixes and rosaries. She began to self mutilate, while often tearing her own clothes open in fits of rage.

It took another two years before a permit for exorcism was granted. Seeing this as, quite literally, the answer to their prayers Josef and Anna stopped renewing Anneliese's medication and pinned their hopes of Pastor Alt and Father Arnold Renz. To two Holy men soon determined that Anneliese was in fact possessed by several demons including the spirits of Nero, Judas Iscariot, Cain, and Adolf Hitler (Gee Note: The poor girl couldn't have been possessed by someone like Buddha could she? You know, sitting around all day talking about bees while someone brought her a handful of fruit. That would have been pretty sweet. But no, instead she gets Hitler and the guy who betrayed Christ. Some people just 'aint got no luck.)

And so the exorcism began, and to be fair Anneliese rallied enough to go back to school and even attend church. But it turned out to be a false dawn. Soon the attacks resumed, worse than ever before. Again Anneliese stopped eating, and this time would often need to be chained to the bed during her convulsions. The holy men decided that what was needed was, er, even more exorcism. And so twice weekly for the next ten months Pastor Alt and Father Renz would go through the Roman Ritual.

Anneliese became gradually and gradually weaker. Her parents, convinced that the exorcism would heal their wounded daughter, did not contact a doctor to help her. Instead they put all their faith in the priests. The priests, convinced that the girl was indeed possessed, put all their efforts in to exorcising the demons from her. They would record their sessions with Anneliese, compiling over 40 tapes. During this period Anneliese would seemingly go in to a trance and speak the words of the demons possessing her. Some of these recordings can be found on this video.

And then, after months upon months of barely any food and high emotional strain, her body could withstand no more. On July 1st 1976 Anneliese Michel passed away. Her last words were “Mother, I'm afraid.” The young woman, with her entire life in front of her had gone from this.

To this.

The authorities became involved. Almost two years later Father Arnold Renz, Pastor Ernest Alt, Josef Michel, and Anna Michel were on trial for the death of Anneliese Michel.

The case became famous, and gained nationwide coverage in Germany. After a long and drawn out ordeal the jury found all parties guilty of Manslaughter. The court concluded that had they not neglected the physical well being of Anneliese during the time that they were performing the exorcisms then she would still be alive today. The court also made a point of stating that in it's opinion Anneliese Michel was not possessed but instead suffering from severe psychological issues brought on by the strain of trying to cope with epilepsy.

Immediately public opinion divided. Those who believed saw Anneliese as a martyr, sacrificing herself to show us the dangers that straying from God's path can entail. Those who didn't simply saw a sick girl whose life was tragically cut short due to the naivety of four people.

They say that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he doesn't exist. If that's true then this was a home run for the Big Red One. Because after this court ruling, the Devil legally doesn't exist. Or at least he didn't in Bavaria in the early 70's.

So, yeah, I can't wait to see what the “Exorcism of Emily Rose” makes of all this. Because if I'm honest with you, whether you believe that she was possessed or not is neither here nor there. The truth is a young woman lost her life in the worst possible way, and that alone is enough to make me sick to my stomach.

So if you find yourself with a glass in your hand tonight, think about raising it to Anneliese Michel. Because I don't think that I'll be alone in hoping that where ever she is now, she's hopefully found some peace.

And finally, to all who have taken the time to read this blog over the past couple of months, may I wish you all a very very happy Halloween.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

You ain't Bruce Lee. Stop kicking Woodstock.

There's a character in the novel “Good Omens”, written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, named Anthony Crowley. Crowley is a demon from hell, one who didn't so much fall as “vaguely saunter down”. Reborn for the modern age as a stereo typical 1980's yuppie he is placed on Earth to taint as many souls as possible, while at the same time overseeing the beginning of the apocalypse on behalf of Beelzebub.

Crowley is a thoroughly modern demon. He drives a flash car, wears expensive suits, and most importantly believes that a “one demon, one soul” system just doesn't work. And so instead he regularly puts things in place designed to simply irritate people, believing that all those effected will irritate someone else, thus creating a domino effect. Some of his greatest achievements in this regard are Welsh Language Television, Value Added Tax, and Game Shows.

During the course of the novel Crowley struggles against his own conscience about his role in bringing forward the end of the world. When explaining his philosophy behind his “work”, Crowley muses that Hell really isn't anything other than a counter point to Heaven, a way of making sure that good deeds are done for the right reasons. He goes on to say that every so often he'll pick up a newspaper and that on the front page will be the story of someone who murders an orphanage of disadvantaged children. The psychopath who commits this crime will always say “The Devil made me do it”. Crowley scoffs at this idea, saying the Devil makes people do nothing of the sort. Instead humans just by being themselves are much worse than the Devil could ever be.

The reason this has struck a chord with me is that this morning I was listening to “I Dovregubbens Hall” by Edvard Grieg. A piece of orchestral music written for the play Peer Gynt it builds slowly, starting off as quiet as a mouse before finally working itself in to a frenzy of strings, brass, and the crash of cymbals. Now I'm not usually one for orchestral music, but I'll be damned if this isn't the perfect music to get one ready to take on the world (Gee Note: Or, as was the case this morning, the perfect music for putting on some trousers to).

So, imagine the scene. We're just about to get to the bit where it all kicks off, where the violins and the trombones start hammering away at a viciously intense pace, when out of nowhere next door's dog starts howling. Now, if “Animal's do the funniest things” (Gee Note: Alternative title - “People will, it turns out, watch anything if it's got pretty colours.”) is to be believed then dogs howl along to music all the time. Our dear neighbour's dog, however, is a big old Alsation with a permanent scowl, kind of like Mira Furlan in Lost. He can neither be considered cute nor friendly and, if judging by the events of Monday morning, doesn't seem to suffer postmen gladly either. And his howl really isn't a pleasant sound. It's more like a combination of bear growling and an elephant screaming out in pain.

Add the music that was now going at full pelt and I have to admit this concoction of noise kind of freaked me out a bit (Gee Note: And getting a case of the heeby jeebies while half way into putting on a pair of trousers is never a good thing.) Firstly because the two separate sounds created something that was, well, really disturbing if I'm honest. And secondly because it reminded me of David Berkowitz.

Now bare with me on this, there is a point to all of it. On July 29
th 1976 in Pelham Bay, Bronx, New York an eighteen year old by the name of Donna Lauria was murdered in cold blood outside of her parent's apartment. She had been sitting in an Oldsmobile at approxiamtely 1.10 am with her friend Jody Valenti, discussing boys and discos and whatever young people talk about. They bid each other goodnight, but as Lauria got out of the car to go back to her apartment she was approached by a medium sized man with dark hair. She had enough time to say “Now what is this...” before the man pulled out a bulldog revolver and shot her in the chest. The gun man then fired two more shots, one of which struck Valenti in the thigh. Valenti survived her injuries and gave a description of the suspect to the police. Lauria died pretty much as soon as the bullet ripped through her.

Sadly Donna Lauria was just one of five people to be killed by the same person in the New York area. The other's, Christine Freund, Virginia Voskerichian, Valentia Suriani, Alexander Esau, and Stacey Moskowitz, all met their end by the same gun over the next year and three days. During this period nine others were wounded by seemingly random shootings, their injuries ranging from paralysis to minor cuts.

The police were initially baffled as there was no motive and, because of the lack of physical evidence, no initial suspects. In fact it wasn't until the after the fifth shooting that it was determined that one person may be responsible. On March 10
th 1977 the NYPD held a press conference to announce that two of the murders had been linked by forensic evidence. The truth was that while police strongly suspected there was a link, the physical evidence simply wasn't there to prove it.

And then someone wrote the NYPD a letter.

"I am deeply hurt by your calling me a wemon hater! I am not. But I am a monster. I am the "Son of Sam." I am a little brat. When father Sam gets drunk he gets mean. He beats his family. Sometimes he ties me up to the back of the house. Other times he locks me in the garage. Sam loves to drink blood. "Go out and kill," commands father Sam. Behind our house some rest. Mostly young — raped and slaughtered — their blood drained — just bones now. Papa Sam keeps me locked in the attic too. I can't get out but I look out the attic window and watch the world go by. I feel like an outsider. I am on a different wavelength then everybody else — programmed too kill. However, to stop me you must kill me. Attention all police: Shoot me first — shoot to kill or else keep out of my way or you will die! Papa Sam is old now. He needs some blood to preserve his youth. He has had too many heart attacks. "Ugh, me hoot, it hurts, sonny boy." I miss my pretty princess most of all. She's resting in our ladies house. But I'll see her soon. I am the "Monster"— "Beelzebub" — the chubby behemouth. I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game — tasty meat. The wemon of Queens are prettyist of all. It must be the water they drink. I live for the hunt — my life. Blood for papa. Mr. Borrelli, sir, I don't want to kill anymore. No sur, no more but I must, 'honor thy father.' I want to make love to the world. I love people. I don't belong on earth. Return me to yahoos. To the people of Queens, I love you. And I want to wish all of you a happy Easter. May God bless you in this life and in the next. And for now I say goodbye and goodnight. Police: Let me haunt you with these words: I'll be back! I'll be back! To be interpreted as — bang bang bang, bank, bang — ugh!! Yours in murder, Mr. Monster”

It wasn't mailed to an address however. In fact it wasn't mailed at all. It was left in the street near the sight of the sixth shooting. And it was addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli.

Officially, one of the worst serial killers in history had just announced themselves to New York and the rest of the world. He named himself “The Son Of Sam”.

How do you spell “panic”? Do you spell it p-a-n-i-c? Well if you answered “Yes” to that question, well done, you can award yourself 5 points.

How would you spell “panic” if you were in New York in 1976? Again, p-a-n-i-c? If you answered “yes”, bad luck, you'll have to deduct 5 points.

After this letter went public, in New York you spelt “panic” S-O-N-O-F-S-A-M.

New York by all accounts did a New Dehli circa 2001 and tore itself apart. Communities searched high and low for a mass murderer. And in doing so suspicion fell upon the oddities in the neighbourhood. Many people were persecuted by their peers for no reason at all, other than the fact they were different.

In short, Anthony Crowley would have been proud.

Eventually the Son of Sam got sloppy. At the scene of the final shooting he'd parked his car next to a fire hydrant and received a parking ticket. The police took note of the address and with, literally, nothing else to go on turned up on masse. There a man named David Berkowitz stepped out of his appartment to find several members of New York's finest pointing pistols at him. He turned to to the nearest officer and said

"You've got me. "

The officer asked “Who exactly do I have?”.

Berkowitz answered. “You have the Son of Sam.”

And with that the killing's stopped.

Berkowitz confessed to the murder's straight away. Debate still rages on as to whether he acted alone. Regardless, the only person currently convicted of all these crimes is David Richard Berkowitz.

So what would posses a man to kill six strangers and wound countless more? Well the natural assumption is that David Berkowitz was a lunatic, a sick puppy who was simply a timebomb waiting to happen. Except, and this is the problem with all serial killers, how did nobody pick this up before hand? Berkowitz does not have an intellect to match Einstein, or Plato, or in fact Jay Leno. Did the “system”, the one thing that's supposed to protect us against our own selves, simply fail in this instance?

Berkowitz has his own theory as to why he became a killer. He believes that his next door neighbour's dog had become possed by the Devil (Gee Note: See? I told you it there was a point to it all). The dog, a black labrador, would bark all night long. But rather than call for food or attention the demon dog would be ordering Berkowitz to kill. And kill. And kill.

So the question remains, which do you believe? Could a completely anasuming, completely average person be suddenly hurtled into complete carnage by a possessed pet?

Or, when it all comes down to it, are we humans far worse than the Devil ever could be?

Sunday, 26 October 2008

I took a sip from my devil cup.

Unlikely things happen all the time. For example, had anyone said that 12 months ago Britney Spears would be back on tour looking and sounding fantastic then I for one would have let out a chuckle. After all it was only a year ago that Ms Spears was in the middle of a very public breakdown which involved her shaving her head, speaking with a British accent, and stumbling around at the VMA's like a startled Panda bear.

But somehow Britney has managed to make the greatest comeback since Jesus. And I think I speak for everyone when I say “good on you”. I mean don't get me wrong, Britney being bonkers was endlessly entertaining, but there was always the worry in the back of one's mind that it would all end in tragedy. To see someone hit pretty much rock bottom only to get back on their feet and have another go is, in some ways, inspiring.

It also gives me an excuse to dust off my record collection and give Britney's greatest hits another spin. Now I'm not usually one for cheesy bubble gum pop music, and if I'm honest most of her records leave me cold. But every once in a while, to her credit, Britney comes up with a piece of absolute musical genius. For example, Hit Me Baby One More Time has lyrics that Morrissey would have been proud of. I mean who couldn't see the quiffed wonder singing a line like “My loneliness is killing me. I must confess I still believe”?

Anyway you may be wondering what got me thinking about Britney Spears this afternoon (Gee Note: Because apparently I need an excuse to think of an attractive blonde). Well the truth is two things made the pop princess foremost in my thoughts. Firstly it's the end of week and I've run out of clean clothes, meaning I am now limited to a black tank top that has the slogan “Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave.”, and for some ungodly reason I'm also wearing a baseball cap. I am, in short, looking deliciously white trash.

Secondly I came across this while looking up something or other this afternoon. And of course the song “Toxic” popped in to my head and has yet to leave.

Allow me to explain. Gloria Ramirez was admitted in to the emergency room of Riverside General Hospital, California on February 19th 1994 suffering from respiratory problems brought on by the advanced stages of cervical cancer. Paramedics injected her with Valium, Versed, and Ativan to sedate her and a Nurse named Susan Kane drew some blood from the patient. And then, quite unexpectedly, all hell broke loose.

Kane noted a foul odour emanating from the syringe and passed out cold. Dr. Julie Gorchynski, the senior medical resident attending in the room at the time, rushed over to Kane to check on her and took a whiff of the syringe. Noting a strong smell of ammonia, and some strange looking manilla coloured particles floating in the blood, she complained of feeling nauseous and then promptly passed out. Ramirez's care was taken over by Dr. Mark Thomas, who became light headed and dizzy after a short period of time. These same symptoms also effected the respiratory therapist Maureen Welsh and Nurse Bettina Betty just seconds later (Gee Note: And down like Dominoes they go). Fearing that somehow the room was contaminated by a toxic gas the Emergency Room was evacuated with a skeleton staff left behind to care for Ramirez. She died about 35 minutes later of kidney failure.

Freaky huh? The good news is that the county health department called in the Californian Department of Health and Human Services to find out just what the heck had caused, when all was said and done, 32 members of staff to report symptoms of nausea and dizziness. (Gee Note: Bare in mind that Gloria Ramirez's autopsy showed no toxins in her blood stream or major organs). Their conclusion?

Mass hysteria.

Now I'm willing to accept that media reports of a terrible half man half monkey terrorising the streets of New Delhi could cause the good folk of India to panic. Or that communities in 16th Century France could convince themselves they had contracted an illness that forced them to dance (Gee Note: Nurse come quick! This man has a severe case of the “Boogie Woogies”), but a hospital room full of people who are trained to deal with all sorts of atrocities that can befall a human body, all of whom experienced mass hysteria because one of their member fainted? Sorry but I'm not buying it.

This diagnosis also ignores what happened to Dr. Gorchynski. Perfectly healthy until Ramirez was admitted, Gorchynski spent two weeks in intensive care with breathing difficulties and developed degenerative problems with her knees. Susan Kane also suffered respiratory problems for years after the event. As did Maureen Welch.

So if it wasn't mass hysteria then what was it? Well initially the hospital claimed Ramirez had been taking pesticides in order to commit suicide, which as you can guess is a stellar way of winning over the poor woman's family (Gee Note: To top it all off the hospital improperly stored Ramirez's body, meaning that when the family did get it back for burial 10 weeks later it was so badly decomposed that any chance of a secondary autopsy or an open casket funeral were pretty much ruined. Riverside, the hospital that cares). But the idea that a chemical compound called dimethyl sulfate (DMSO4) could have poisoned the medical staff seems to have gained a modicum of respectability. Traces of dimethyl sulfone (DMSO2) were found in Ramirez's blood during the autopsy, a by product of a solvent that she may have been taking as a home pain remedy. Dimethyl Sulfone is itself pretty harmless, however dimethyl sulfate is nasty stuff. So far though no one has been able to determine a likely chemical reaction that would have caused one to metamorphosis in to the other.

The other theory is of course a toxic gas leak that the hospital were well aware of yet, for fear of litigation, have covered up. In this theory Ramirez just happened to arrive at the hospital at the same time as the leak.

Whatever the case the “Toxic Lady” is certainly an intriguing mystery. Could one woman have been able to make several other people ill by a syringe of her blood alone?

Well, in my opinion, if Britney can make a comeback then anything's possible.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

How do you go from this tranquility to that violence?

Did I ever tell you about the “Curse of the Wendigo”?

In the Spring of 1879 the Roman Catholic Mission Station at St. Albert, Alberta, Canada were surprised by the arrival of a 200 lb Native American Cree named Swift Runner. Swift Runner had approached the station after spending months in the woods north of Fort Edmonton. Throwing himself at the mercy of the priests there, Swift Runner recounted a tale of terrible woe and strife. In the months previously Swift Runner had taken his family, which consisted of his brother, his mother, his wife and six children, in to the woods for the annual winter hunt. The hunting was the worst Swift Runner had ever experienced, and as a result no kills were made in the first two months. Eventually their initial stock of provisions ran out and they were forced to kill and feed off rodents. When that supply ran out, Swift Runner instructed that strips be cut from their tent and boiled in an effort to gain sustenance.

Swift Runner's youngest child was the first to die of starvation. In a desperate attempt to save the rest of the family his mother and brother, both weak from the lack of food, ventured off further in to the woods in order to find some game. It was the last Swift Runner saw of them. With no food to be found and the harsh winter setting in they started to succumb one by one. His wife, unable to deal with the heartbreak of losing so many of her offspring all at the same time took her own life in grief. By the winter's end only Swift Runner had survived, left to bury his wife and six children.

Immediately the priests showed compassion and sympathy towards Swift Runner, giving him new clothing, food, and a place to stay. A cheerful soul by nature Swift Runner soon became a much loved part of the community, entertaining the children at the station with stories from the wars between the Cree and the Blackfoot. At night however Swift Runner would be plagued by screaming fits in his sleep. Upon waking up he would tell the priests that he was being pursued by the Wendigo, an evil spirit of the Algonquian people who could both posses humans and shift shape in to human form. The priests mostly agreed that such a dramatic loss of his loved ones must have left Swift Runner psychology scarred, and that it was manifesting itself in his subconscious dreams. They hoped that in time the wounds would heal and that Swift Runner would be able to put the past behind him.

Father Kemus, however, couldn't quite shake the feeling that something was wrong with this whole scenario. For a start all the other hunters who had travelled past the Mission Station that winter had reported good hunting in the area that Swift Runner had claimed to be unable to find game. Also Swift Runner's body looked strong and healthy, and his body weight showed no indication of a man who had spent the winter months close to starving to death. And, most importantly, Swift Runner's family had been stationed only 25 miles away from an emergency relief station that would have supplied the family with extra provisions. And so when in May a group of children asked for Father Kemus's permission to join Swift Runner on a hunt in the woods, Kemus went to Fort Saskatchewan, and reported his concerns to the North West Mounted Police.

The North West Mounted Police sent Sargent Richard Steele (Gee Note: Who sounds like he should be the main character in an '80's cop show. “Criminals beware. Richard Steele is on the scene”. Cue electric guitar and the slow motion shot of a Ferrari driving through some cardboard boxes.) to interview Swift Runner. Unable to get a coherent detailed description of what happened in the woods, Steele arrested Swift Runner and took him back to Saskatchewan.

At the police station Sub-inspector Severe Gagnon made the decision to visit Swift Runner's camp site. And so, with Swift Runner in tow, Gagnon and his men headed in to the woods on June 4th.

It was there that they discovered the true horror of what actually happened.

At the camp site the police discovered eight human skulls, and littered around them were clumps of human hair and skin. Swift Runner calmly surmised that bears must have got to the bodies and picked them clean. However, what was to follow would show that to be a lie. First a tea pot on the outskirts of the camp was found, it's insides lined with fat. The tent that Swift Runner had claimed to have torn strips from remained untouched. And then a pair of babies stockings were discovered, stuffed inside one of the skulls eye sockets. Presented with this Swift Runner broke down and confessed all.

Claiming to be under the influence of the demon Wendigo, Swift Runner said that he was overtaken by an uncontrollable urge to feed on human flesh. He had killed his family one by one, stripped the carcasses of their meat, and survived in the woods by cannibalising their bodies. He then begged to be killed, not able to live with the monster he had become. He was duly tried and convicted of his crimes.

And on December 20th 1879 Katist-chen, aka Swift Runner, was executed.

Fast forward 28 years later. Jack Fiddler was a shaman and chief of the Sucker clan. He was known to be an expert when it came to Wendigos. Fiddler was believed to have defeated 14 Wendigos that had threatened the clan and dealt with countless members of the tribe that had been possessed by the demon. This sometimes led to Fiddler taking the life of those believed to be possessed, often at the afflicted person's request. Their head would then be severed from the rest of the body to prevent the Wendigo raising from the dead.

In early 1907 two members of the North West Mounted Police arrived in Island Lake, home of the Sucker clan, having heard of Fiddler's prowess in defeating Wendigos. A year earlier Wahsakapeequay, a relative of Fiddler's, had been possessed by a Wendigo. She had begged to be killed before she was unable to control herself, and Fiddler and his brother Joseph adhered to the customs and traditions of their people and performed the act of assisting Wahsakapeequay's death.

Upon hearing of this, the Mounties promptly arrested both brothers and charged them with murder. The story became a sensation across Canada, with blazing headlines across national newspapers telling of Satanic rituals and murder. Both the public and the police demanded a conviction.

Jack Fiddler was a clever man, and knew the writing was on wall. On September 30th he escaped from his holding cell at Norway House. He was found hanged nearby.

Joseph Fiddler still went to trail. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. A series of appeals secured his release, but too late. Three days before the order of release arrived, Joseph Fiddler died in jail. With their most prominent leaders dead the Sucker clan, one of the few in Canada who stuck to the old traditions and ways, had no choice but to except white rule.

Two stories about the Wendigo. One from a man perverted by its evil, one about an injustice carried out against those trying to keep their people safe from it. But what exactly is a Wendigo?

Well if you believe the Native Americans, it is a cannibalistic demon who would hide in the woods waiting to feed on any humans wandering through. It could, and often would, also possess humans by entering their dreams. While possessed the human would become violent and crave human flesh despite other food sources being in plentiful supply, before finally begging to be killed. Most people consider the Wendigo to be a mythical creation, born out of the need to maintain social order and reinforce the taboo of cannibalism even during famines. Those suffering from “possessions” may have been suffering from a mental illness, commonly known as “Wendigo Psychosis”.

But could Wendigos really exist? And if so did they die out when Native Americans became more accustomed to Western Ideologies and customs? If they didn't, if they exist today, would they just prey on Native Americans?

Tim McLean was a 22 year old man who was fatally stabbed on July 30th 2008. He had been heading back to his home town of Winnipeg from Edmonton by way of a Greyhound bus. He did not know his attacker, nor did he provoke him in anyway. Instead the man accused of the crime, Vince Weiguang Li, was a 44 year old delivery man who got on the bus at Erickson, Manitoba about 7 hours after McLean had first taken his seat. By 8.30 police had been called to Portage La Prairie where they found Li still on the bus with McLean's decapitated head in his hands.

Li was described by his local pastor as quiet and shy but completely harmless. His boss at the delivery company he worked for said he would was unassuming but a hard worker. So the question must be asked what would cause an normally reserved person such as Li to kill someone he doesn't know and then proceed to eat parts of the body, which was apparently witnessed by more than one police officer at the scene?

Li was eventually taken alive after trying to smash through a window of the bus (Gee Note: They tend not to shoot people in Canada it appears) and arrested. At his appearance in Court on August 5th Li, upon hearing the list of charges against him, said the words “Please kill me”.

I don't know about you, but that sounds awfully close to the work of a Wendigo to me.

Either that or the human mind really is the darkest place known to man.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Yeah, it's uh, "Bring an Obscure Relative to Work Day".

Has anyone here ever seen the movie "Leprechaun"? If you haven't then you really are missing out on something special. Featuring everybody's favourite "Ewok" Warwick Davis as a homicidal mythical Irish creature and a young Jennifer Anniston in one of her first film roles, it's a work of unparalleled genius. A slice of campy shlock horror of the highest order, it was a rip roaring commercial success that has since spawned no less than five sequels. And it's easy to see why. You honestly haven't lived until you've seen a member of the "Friends" cast beating a dwarf over the head with a red shoe.

The reason I bring this up is that today is Monday, traditionally the quietest day of the week. Due to the rock 'n' roll lifestyle that I lead (Gee Note: Staying up late to watch a documentary about a really big monkey is rock 'n' roll right? Right?) I often find myself getting up late on a Monday. In fact it's very rare that I'm even functional before 2 o'clock in the afternoon some days. Normally, due to the sleepy nature of my docile little town, I don't really miss much. However since Friday, due to electrical difficulties involving a combination of my phone charger and a cup of tea, my mobile has been out of action until this morning when it suddenly sprang back in to life.

And you can imagine my surprise when I wiped the sleep away from my eyes to find five missed calls and sixteen text messages waiting for me on my phone. All of which pretty much said the same thing.

"Have you seen the gnome!".

Heck of a way to start the day.

It turns out that our friends at The Sun have been at it again (Gee Note: I know I've ripped on The Sun mercilessly on this blog before. I should at least thank them however for giving me material to work with). This time it's all about Gnomes. “Creepy” Argentinian Gnomes to be exact.

Duendes are mythical creatures, Latin American versions of the aforementioned Leprechauns. Since the summer of 2007 Duendes have seen quite a bit of national exposure in Argentina thanks to this.

Then in March of 2008 the Sun picked this story up from the Argentine newspaper El Tribuno. In true bombastic fashion The Sun announced that this “creepy” gnome had been “terrorising” the small town of General Guemes. And of course they had the evidence to back it up. Namely this slice of cell phone video magic.

Spooky huh?

Although I have one question. Why is it moving sideways? I mean granted it's a gnome. It is not, however, a crab. You would think that in the evolutionary process they would have mastered the art of walking forwards and backwards. After all, considering their small stature you would think that the ability to move in all directions would come in useful to avoid, you know, predators.

Anyway, this past Thursday the Sun triumphed once again. Crowing that the “Creepy” gnome was back, and that this “midget monster” was making people “too terrified” to go out at night. (Gee Note: Remember that scene in Monsters Inc. where the Abominable Snowman complains that people call him “Abominable”? It makes me think that somewhere in Buenos Aires a gnome with a funny walk is reading Thursday's Sun and crying in to a bowl of Count Chocula every time the word “creepy” is mentioned). And, of course, the obligatory video followed.

Now apparently this video shows a dog, black sheep, small child, gnome again scaring the bejesus out a bunch of teenagers by, er, running across the road some way off in the distance. (Gee Note: Wow Argentinian teens really do scare easy. They should be more like British teens, what with their hoodies and their knives. Those kids are fearless.) And so once again the internet is ablaze with the talk of spooky gnomes terrorising Argentina.

Except, and brace yourself for this, it's all pretty much nonsense.

No one is staying at home for fear of running in to a gnome. No one has, as reported by the Sun, spent the night in hospital due to gnome fright. And the natives of Argentina are probably more concerned about the global financial crisis that is crippling their economy than they are about running in to a knee high goblin.

But what about all that video evidence? Well I really don't think that two of the videos, the first and the third featured in this post, can honestly call themselves “evidence” such is the low quality of the footage.

How about the second? The one that only four days ago the Sun used a still from to introduce their second freaky gnome story? The one that blatantly shows a figure in a pointy hat dramatically coming out of the long grass sideways?

It's a fake.

A complete unadulterated hoax.

Because right here you can see the “take one” of the video under the title of Duende Toma 1 (Gee Note: Personally I'm glad those kids chose to stick with “take two” when it came to hoodwinking members of the press. It looks far less like a puppet in that one.)

But there is, you'll be pleased to hear, something genuinely scary about this tale of gnomes roaming the streets of South America. Something that, when you think about, leaves any spooky video in it's wake.

It took me all of half an hour to find out that the second video had been exposed as a hoax this afternoon.

The Sun, Britain's best selling daily newspaper, the people who tell the general public who to vote for and what to believe, are still reporting it as fact more than seven months later.

Which is terrifying when put in to context.

So sleep tight. And try not to have nightmares about the idiocy of the British media.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Britain is a country steeped in a rich and violent history. In the past 500 years it has seen ritual burnings of civilians for following the wrong religion, a King who beheaded two of his wives because he found the procedure of divorce a tad tiresome, a Civil War over the issue of whether Britain should be a republic state, the rise and fall of a worldwide Empire, and two World Wars with Germany that resulted in over 110 million deaths, most of them civilian. Even now Britain is heavily involved in efforts to stabilize Iraq as well as continuing to send troops to Afghanistan. In short it would appear that we Brits simply enjoy conflict.

It's not surprising then that stories of ghosts are common in Britain. Pretty much every castle that's still standing has a spook or two linked to it. From Henry VIII in Windsor Castle to the legs of, erm, someone walking around Dover Castle (Gee Note: To be fair it is very difficult to identify somebody just by their legs), the number of spirit sightings linked with Castles every year is staggering.

It turns out though, it's not just Castles that are breeding grounds for the corporeally challenged. Stories of hauntings in anything from Bed and Breakfast joints to Priories litter the British landscape. In fact, one suspects that if we travelled to every town, to every hamlet, and to every village within these quaint little shores we would likely find a ghost story in each and every one.

Ghosts have had a large impact on British culture. William Shakespeare, arguably the greatest writer Britain has ever produced, was positively nuts about ghouls and such. To the point that he featured them in pivotal moments in Julius Ceaser, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Richard III to name but a few. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, possibly his most widely recognised work, is in some ways nothing more than a ghost story with a heart warming ending. Even in today's modern media, one of the most popular home grown cable television shows is “Most Haunted”, in which a team of mediums and psychics spend a night in a supposedly haunted location freaking out whenever the building creaks.

And so it's very rare that sightings of ghosts are reported in the UK's Media. For a start such sightings are ten a penny, and none of them supply any evidence outside of eye witness statements. So unless they are doing a piece along the lines of “This person is as nutty as bunch of bananas wearing sunglasses, and here's why” newspapers and current affairs programmes tend to stay away from them, leaving them to specialist “Paranormal” programmes undoubtedly narrated by the British equivalent of Jonathan Frakes. (Gee Note: I've been trying to think of the British equivalent of Jonathan Frakes for three hours now. So far I've come up with nothing. Which either means that Jonathan Frakes is unique, or we in Britain simply don't make enough Sci Fi television. )

But in the middle of 1997 when it was rumoured that a Dean at Cambridge University was contemplating hiring an exorcist to rid them of a ghostly presence, the entire media circus came to town.

Peterhouse is the oldest college in Cambridge University, founded in 1284 by a Medieval bishop named Hugh de Balsham. It is, with exception of some other colleges that have a restricted membership, also it's smallest college with only around three hundred students. Which all in all sounds like the perfect place for a body less spirit to hang around.

And as it turns out in April of 1997 two butlers (Gee Note: For those who didn't know, Cambridge is rather posh.) were cleaning in the Combination Room, which dates to the 13th Century and uses wood panelling for the walls. They were half way through the chores when they were shocked to see a figure moving slowly across the room before disappearing by the Morris fireplace.

Interestingly in the neighbouring churchyard of Little St. Mary's lies the body of Francis Dawes. Dawes, a bursar at the college in the 18th Century, is believed to have committed suicide after overseeing the fraudulent election of a master to the college named Barnes, who made life miserable for the bursar. His body was discovered by the Morris fireplace.

Now, because butlers are pretty much slaves dressed up to look like penguins, no one paid much attention to the story. But then, in October the same year, the senior bursar Andrew Murison reported that he had been in the Combination Room one night when it suddenly became very cold. Placing his hand on the heating pipes he found them to be hot to the touch, and as usual the fire was blazing away, but the room itself remained at what felt like a low temperature. Then, according to Murison, the pipes began to screech like a strangled parrot and a dark figure appeared at the back corner of the room. Murison, being a sensible Cambridge chap, immediately got the hell out of there. He was quoted as saying :

“It's not the sort of thing that bursars like to talk about too much because we're supposed to be the sort of chaps who have our feet on the ground, and people might think I'm a complete fruitcake”.

See? I told you he was a sensible chap.

Anyway as soon as the story was reported in the papers, Dr. Ward was besieged by phone calls and letters by white witches, druids, fakirs, and mediums. Some babbled incessantly offered to perform an exorcism, others advised him to leave “the spirit alone”. Ward, a Professor of Theology by trade (Gee Note: Which surely meant he would have been qualified to deal with an exorcism himself right? One would have thought the mediums and so on would have “sensed” that and saved themselves the time of offering their services) believed the two butlers and the bursar but decided to hold off on an exorcism and adopted a “Well let's just see what happens shall we?” approach.

And, it turns out, nothing else did happen.

No more sightings of the ghost have been reported since then. Not a dark moving figure, not a change in temperature, not a pottery class with Demi Moore. Nothing.

Life carried on, as it always does. The media lost interest. Dr. Ward moved on to the University of Manchester. And the name Francis Dawes disappeared off everybody's lips.

And so the ghost of Peterhouse remains a bit of a curio. It's more than likely that it was simply a case of what psychologists term “the power of suggestion”. Undoubtedly it fits the bill as far as Murison's account goes. Obviously mindful of the two butler's story, and presumably hyper aware of any changes in the environment around him, a shadow cast by the fire could explain the “dark man” in the corner of the room.

But what of the two butler's themselves? Well in all honesty, I'm not even sure how reliable the reports of their sightings are. I've yet to find an article that quotes or names either of them directly. So everything we know about what they saw is delivered via a third party. Call me cynical, but the temptation to embellish their account must be huge.

And so it appears that Peterhouse is unlikely to be home to a wandering ghost after all. They'll just have to settle for the consolation prize of being home to the country's best and brightest students.

Tough break.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I am the President.

Well it was bound to happen. After months upon months of resisting temptation to pass comment on the upcoming election for President of the United States of America, something has gone and forced me to. I mean I saw the following video a couple of months ago and not even that was enough to break my silence on the subject. Believe me, I thought I was safe.

(Gee Note: What the hell? McCainiacs? Did he just say McCainiacs?!?

Also, I love the bit where he talks about how “We watch WWE because it's about celebrating our freedom”. Please remember that the next time Vince McMahon airs a segment on national television depicting a terrorist attack against one of his wrestlers, when that very morning four suicide bombers have blown apart three underground trains and a bus in London, killing 52 people and injuring approximately 700 others. If that's how McCain celebrates “freedom” remind me to go to someone else's for Thanksgiving.)

But I should have known this whole “conscientious objector” stance was way too good to last. Because, unfortunately, election fever has finally got to me. And all it took was a bunch of crackpots on Youtube. A conspiracy theory so completely ridiculous that I simply have to say something about it. Here you go:

Isn't that fantastic?

No really, isn't it though?

For a start I love the guy who introduces the video. I mean anyone who calls themselves “Molotov Mitchell” is obviously trying way too hard. It would be like me calling myself “Fabulously well hung Gee” or “Writes Really Well Davies”. It just smacks of desperation. Anyway “Molotov” (Gee Note: Or “Molly” as I've taken to calling him in the past couple of hours) starts the video by telling us of his little hit squad's greatest hits. Namely that Obama kills babies, which I'm pretty sure is news to his 7 year old daughter Natasha, and that somehow “Black Liberation Theology” is evil. Black Theology is a combination of Liberation Theology and the beliefs that inspired the civil rights movement. Now if anyone out there honestly believes that a Christian theology that opposes the repression of ethnic minorities is a bad thing then, well, I think you've got the wrong idea about what makes someone evil.

Also when you start talking about about how your videos have reached “tens of millions of Americans this year” and the hit count on the video reads, er, 720,362 at the time of writing then you have to wonder if Mitchell is living in his own fantasy world. And in all honesty even that number is a bit of a misnomer. You could dress up a badger in a little ballerina outfit, call it “Barack Obama” and film yourself tickling it with a feather duster for five minutes and get a ton of viewers. Such is the level of interest in this years election.

Backing up the idea that Molly isn't all there is when he claims he's “not in to conspiracy theories”, despite the fact that he's the president of “Illuminati Productions”. (Gee Note: “You mean the secret Government supposedly manipulating world events to their own evil ends shares it's name with my production company? What a coincidence!”).

Anyway eventually they segue to an interview with Philip J. Berg. Berg has genuinely filed a lawsuit against Barack Obama ordering him to prove he was born in America. Like a guy who's accosted on the bus by a lunatic shouting “WHY IS THE SKY BLUE?!?!?!?!”, Barack has done the best thing he possibly could in this situation and smiled and nodded while hoping that eventually this nutter will go away.

Berg professes to have studied law for 37 years. Now, I'm no expert but surely the fundamental basis of Democratic law is that everybody is innocent until proven guilty, right? Well Berg is demanding that Obama produce his birth certificate in a court of law to prove he was born in the U.S. of A. Berg's evidence that Obama wasn't born in America? Ummm.... well.... his birth certificate looked a bit fake on the official Barack Obama website. That and Obama's sister called the hospital that he was born in by the wrong name. I don't know about you, but that really doesn't sound like an open and shut case to me. (Gee Note: By the way, I have absolutely no idea where my birth certificate is. Not even the faintest idea. So I honestly couldn't produce it if I was asked to. Does that mean that I too was born in Kenya as opposed to Morriston Hospital?).

Just in case you thought that Berg was just a crazy man with way too much time on his hands you'll be pleased to know he does a nice line in hypocrisy as well. He's bemoaning the fact that Obama's lawyers will have the case thrown out on a “technicality” rather than go to court and do something he is under no legal obligation to do. The irony is spellbinding.

I mean say for arguments sake the Berg is right. Obama, despite spending almost all of his life in America, despite being an American Citizen, despite graduating from Harvard Law School, despite marrying an American woman, despite fathering two American daughters, despite being red, white and blue through and through, could be stopped from running for President simply because his mother happened to be in another country when she gave birth? Sounds an awful lot like a technicality to me.

And the sad thing about all this is that some people may take it seriously and actually not vote for the person they think could be a better President. Or even worse not vote at all. And for what? So an insanely misguided lawyer can have “a moment in the sun”? So that conspracy nuts will have something to talk about in ten years time?

If you're reading this and have the ability to vote in the upcoming American general election then please do us, the rest of the World, a favour. Don't abstain from voting for Obama because he once attended a Muslim school, and don't abstain from voting for McCain because you think Sarah Palin is an awful ditz when it comes to parenting. Instead vote for who you want to. But please make sure that the criteria you use when choosing who to vote for is this. Vote for whoever you think would do the best job as the President of the most influential country in the World.

Trust me, get it right and the rest of the World will thank you for it.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea.

The Cold War has a lot to answer for.

Don't get me wrong. The fallout from the United States and the USSR eyeballing each other with suspicion, like a pair of hobo's who come across a crisp five pound note on the ground, was always going to be huge. While neither side could quite get around to nuking the other one off the face of the planet in over 50 years of conflict, the battle of the superpowers (Gee Note: It sounds like it was promoted by Don King doesn't it? "In the red corner, the Soviet Submission machine, the mauler from Moscow…") has left it's mark on the world in more ways than one.

As with everything in life, there are pluses and minuses to this. On the minus side, according to some historians Osama Bin Laden's deep seated hatred of America can be directly linked to an American funded proxy war between Afghanistan and Russia. The Senator McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950's are rightly seen in most quarters as one of the darkest and disturbing era's in modern American history. And due to the cloak and dagger approach used by both countries, countless men and women gave their lives for what was believed to be the greater good. Sadly due to national security reasons these sacrifices have never truly been acknowledged.

There are, however, a couple of relatively good things to come out of The Cold War. The space race for example. Driven by a "can you top this" mentality between the U.S.A and the USSR, it was responsible for both massive leaps in the evolution of technology and a man named Neil Alden Armstrong walking on the moon. And it should never, ever, be understated what a remarkable achievement that was. In one single event the very best bits of human nature, bravery, fortitude, genius, were on display for the entire World to see. If nothing else man walking on the moon shows how good we can be, despite it being born from us at our worst.

Also without The Cold War Alan Moore would have had no reason to write Watchmen, which single handed revolutionised the entire genre of comic books. Goodnight and Good luck, one of my favourite movies of the past couple of years, wouldn't exist. And we would have lost the experience of listening to Sean Connery' s half Glaswegian half Moscow accent in The Hunt For The Red October (Gee Note: Seriously it knocks spots off his "Egyptian" accent in Highlander).

But most importantly as far as this blog is concerned, without The Cold War we wouldn't have discovered "Bloop".

At some point during the late 1950's America became very aware that the Red Menace had a vast fleet of submarines. Now, as any fool will know, the problem with submarines is that they travel underwater, making it dashed difficult to see the things before they sneak up and blow you to kingdom come. To combat this a bunch of boffins got together and created SOSUS, short hand for sound surveillance system. Setting up a series of microphones in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans they were able to track any approaching water based vehicles.

Eventually The Cold War came to an end and as the American defence budget grew the technology became redundant and unnecessary. And then, in a moment that I can only describe as “brilliant” some wonderful soul made the decision to give the microphones to a bunch of scientists to use (Gee Note: Seriously, I've been trying to find out who actually made that call for the past five hours. So far I've come up with nothing. Which is a shame because I think whoever it was deserves a statue raised in their honour).

Anyway, these microphones proved to be exceedingly useful for all types of things, like tracking whale migrations, or learning more about the mating habits of dolphins.

Or discovering bloody great big sea monsters.

Because on several occasions in 1997 two separate SOSUS installations 3000 miles apart picked up this sound. (Gee Note: I hear... Marlon Brando after an all night session of margaritas and prostitutes? No? Really? Awww man, I suck at this game). Now to the untrained ear it sounds like a combination of a very grumpy frog and a very large bee. But apparently to the trained ear it sounds like a marine animal. A very very large marine animal.

The largest animal that has ever known to have existed is our very own Blue Whale. Weighing in at 190 tonnes they can reach up to 110 ft in length and can eat up to 8000 lbs of krill a day. In short these things are just plain massive. However, not even a Blue Whale can make a sound loud enough to be heard 3000 miles away.

In fact nothing can. At least not in the animal world. And pretty much almost every scientist agrees that this is most definitely an animal.

Various theories have been put forward as to what "Bloop" could actually be. A common suggestion is that it's a massive form of Octopii or Squid. After all no one really knows how big the Colossal Squid can grow to, with current estimates being based on immature specimens rather than the almost impossible to find fully grown adults.

Which kind of makes sense. Except that for an animal to make this type of sound they would have to big enough to make the Blue Whale look like a Red Snapper. And even though I'm willing to bet that estimates of Colossal Squid's may be slightly on the conservative side, for them to be a good five times larger than is currently thought may be pushing it a bit. Also cephalopods have no gas filled sac, meaning the only real sound they make is created by movement through the ocean waters and not by the animal themselves. Bottom line is, squids don't roar.

So if it's not a really big squid then what the deuces could it be?

Well, remember the story of The Michigan Dogman? The beast that didn't exist until someone wrote a prank song about it?

Well what if Steve Cook was beaten to the punch by a chap named Howard Phillips Lovecraft over 60 years previously?

For those of you not familiar with H.P. Lovecraft, he is pretty much considered to be the father of horror fiction. Basically every writer that has turned their hand to the genre from Stephen King to Matt Jones carry the influence of Lovecraft on their sleeves (Gee Note: To the point where the movie “Cloverfield” was basically Lovecraft for the Youtube generation). His writing was cynical, claustrophobic and beyond dark.

Lovecraft's most famous creation is a giant evil alien called Cthulhu. This demonic beast of unbelievably massive scale was trapped under the sea in a sunken city known as R'lyeh, the coordinates of which were given by Lovecraft as 47º9'S, 126º43'W. Bloop was believed to have emanated from “somewhere around 50º S 100º W”.

Or to put it another way:

Spooky no?

And so in conclusion, whatever Bloop is or was, I'm more convinced of it being a fictional alien demi-god than I am a large squid. Which isn't to say that I believe that alien demi-god's are splashing about the Pacific willy nilly (Gee Note: I mean, imagine the size of the bathing suit). But the truth is that Bloop is something that's “legitimate” in the sense that it's bona fide scientists who discovered it. And it really does defy explanation. So as it stands any theory is as good as the last one.

Unless of course Cthulhu really is on his way. Because if that's the case then I suggest you look busy.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Out, damn'd spot! Out I say!

It turns out everything is connected.

For example, only a handful of weeks after writing a post on New Delhi's Monkey Man, this news story made it's way on to the BBC website. (Gee Note: Special thanks to Jenny from Generation Minus One for taking the time out of her hectic schedule to mail me the link. I owe you a breakfast.) Sadly despite the title of the video, this Monkey Man is a guy in a mask walking around half naked on all fours in order to, um, scare off other monkeys. It turns out that people actually get paid for doing that. I should really think about a career change.

Another example, remember when I was talking about how, unfortunately, a local murder is often the most interesting story of the year? Well blow me down if this news story from a couple of years ago hasn't gone and resurfaced.

Basically, for those of who are far too busy to click on the link provided, a man named Neil Davies was murdered with his own ceremonial oriental knife after an argument with his wife Kelly during a family barbecue back in 2007. Kelly Davies was promptly arrested and charged with homicide in the first degree and despite being unable to recall any of the events of the evening, and having previously threatened to stab Neil only two weeks before, she was found not guilty by a jury on May 18th of that year. Since then no further arrests have been made in relation to the case.

The reason why this is back in the local headlines is thanks to a medium named Austin Charles (Gee Note: Oooh wait. I'm feeling a.... a presence in the room. It's saying... wait.... it's saying that “Austin Charles” may be a made up name, and that his real name is probably something really dull like Brian Smith. Wait... I'm losing them...).

Austin's claim to fame is that, according to the proud boast on his website, he once appeared on a program called “Britain's Psychic Challenge” in which eight charlatans Psychic Mediums duked it out in a range of challenges to determine which, if any of them, had contacts on the other side. And to be fair to the chap he did rather well. Not as well as the two other psychics that finished above him, pushing him down in to third place. But, you know, being the third most reliable psychic out of eight isn't bad is it?

Anyway the story goes that Mr. Charles was performing at the Neath British Legion, his home town venue which attracted some 200 people. One of those people that night was none other than Kelly Davies. Austin singled Kelly out and after presumably asking Mrs Davies if she knew someone called “Jim” or “John”, suddenly blurted out that she would be accused of something horrendous but that she was innocent and that it would all sort itself out in the end. Now both Austin Charles and Kelly Davies have confirmed this to be true. Which, let's face it, is very interesting because only two nights later Neil Davies lay bleeding to death on his kitchen floor.

Now the reason all this is being brought to light is that last week Austin Charles gave an interview to “The Big Issue”, a current affairs magazine whose profits are used to help out Britain's homeless population. During the interview Austin was quoted as saying:

“I had to give a message to a woman that I didn't like saying. I was in Neath, my home town, at the legion, and I felt very uncomfortable. It was a lesson for me that things are said for a reason. The message was that she was going to be in court and blamed for something she hadn't done, but it would be okay. Two days later, on the news, I saw she had been arrested and charged with the murder of her husband. It was the famous barbecue murder in Neath.”

Things are said for a reason indeed. But if this was said for any other reason than for Charles to use someone's violent death to promote himself then I'm afraid he's done a really poor job of conveying it. Because, alas, that's how Neil Davies' mother Julie Chapman saw it.

She of course was contacted by a local reporter and issued a statement saying that, you know, it was a pretty low thing to do. “There is a police investigation ongoing and I think he should leave things for the police to decide.” were her exact words.

Charles responded by apologising and saying that he never meant to cause any offence, before going on to say that “I can understand what she's saying about the inquiry, but it's not going to make any difference, because the police don't listen to what I have to say.”

Which kind of jars with Austin's own website, which declares on it's homepage that he “has also worked on unsolved murder cases....”. Which may be true. But if it is then I'm afraid it obviously hasn't been in any kind of official capacity.

And so what can we learn from all this?

Well apart from the dubious nature of Mediumship in general (Gee Note: I watched an episode of “Crossing Over with John Edward” earlier on this afternoon. Even they have to start the show with a disclaimer that basically reads like a “please, don't end up taking this seriously and sue us for false advertising.”), and the obvious lack of closure for both Kelly Davies and Julie Chapman there is one major point to take on board if you're a budding medium. If you're going to try and promote yourself be very careful about what you say. Because you may end making yourself look a lot worse in the process.

And as a medium, not to see that coming would be very foolish indeed.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

I bet your father spent the first year of your life throwing rocks at the stork.

You know, the only thing I know about Philadelphia is that Will Smith's character in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had to leave the city. Apparently it was because he ran into a “couple of guys who were up to no good” while he was “shooting some b-ball” (Gee Note: Which I think means “playing Basketball” for all of you who, like me, are seriously behind the times when it comes to street vernacular). Apart from that I have really have no idea of what Philly is like.

So when it comes to discussing an alleged scientific experiment that led to transportation, time travel, and the fusion of inanimate objects and human flesh, please bare in mind that as far as I know that could be a regular Sunday afternoon out in Philadelphia. (Gee Note: “Bored kicking around the house? Well then why not come down to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival where you can see The Amazing Davros solder a kettle to his wrist, and disappear from sight only to come back riding a hoverboard? Book now for an “early bird” discount on ticket prices.”)

Anyway as I've probably mentioned a couple of times on this blog already, I'm not a massive fan of conspiracy theories. I think part of the reason I don't like them is that most of the conspiracy theories I've come across tend to use the flimsiest pieces of evidence to back up ridiculously outlandish arguments. I have a book somewhere dedicated to the concept that Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It's conclusion is entirely based on, wait for it, the author over hearing a conversation between LBJ's lawyers talking about how they had sorted out that “Dallas thing”. (Gee Note: Literally that was it. Those two words. And some how he wrote a 500 page book about it. I'd be impressed if it wasn't such a gargantuan waste of time.)

But there is one conspiracy theory that's a bit different. Don't get me wrong. The premise of the theory is still very, very silly. And yes the “evidence” is wafer thin at best. But even I have to admit there's something a little more interesting about The Philadelphia Experiment.

It is, in fact, an absolutely perfect example of what's wrong with conspiracy theories.

The “Philadelphia Experiment”, or “Project Rainbow” to give the supposed military codename of the operation, was a scientific endeavour conducted in, er, Philadelphia oddly enough. On October 28th 1943 in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard the USS Eldridge was, for all intents and purposes, made invisible to the naked eye. Not only that, but at the time it was invisible in Philadelphia the Eldridge appeared off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia some 215 miles away before disappearing from there and reappearing in it's original location with a blue flash.

Now you would think that seeing as it was 1943 and a chap called Adolf Hitler had decided to take over the World by exterminating it's Jewish population and invading and occupying country after country (Gee Note: Kind of like Britain and America with Iraq now, except with less talk of “liberation” and more talk of “extermination”), a ship that could quite literally be beamed to another point on the planet instantaneously would be rather useful. However the experiment was officially cancelled shortly after this because of some unforeseen side effects.

Unfortunately the crew of the Eldridge were all on board at the time of the transportation, which as all members of the scientific community will know is customary with exceedingly dangerous experiments. Almost all of the crew members became violently ill. Some lost their minds shortly after would while others, well, others came off much worse. Some simply vanished in to thin air and never appeared again, while apparently five of the crewmen that did come back found themselves fused to the ships deck or metal bulkhead. Horrified by these results the Navy decided to discontinue Project Rainbow and then proceeded to cover the whole thing up.

It is, of course, all nonsense.

The USS Eldridge wasn't actually anywhere near Philadelphia during the month of October 1943. Alas it wasn't because she had been mystically thrown through space and time by some crazy scientist. Instead she was on her first shakedown run in the Bahamas, something that the ship's log documents in full.

But still the Philadelphia Experiment is amazingly popular amongst conspiracy theorists. So the question has to be, if the Eldridge can be shown to have been somewhere else at the time and so therefore proving the story to be fiction, where the hell did this all come from? How does something that has absolutely no basis in fact become a corner stone for conspiracy nuts?

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Morris K. Jessup and Carlos Miguel Allende.

Morris Jessup was a native of Indiana who graduated from The University of Michigan with a degree in astronomy. In 1955 his book The Case for The UFO was published and garnered quite a bit of attention. Ground breaking in many ways, it was a theoretical work analysing alternative propulsion methods that might be employed for space travel. Jessup argued that even though the current fashion for space travel, as much then as it is now, was centred around rocketry there may be more suitable ways of travelling the solar systems. Namely anti gravity created by electromagnetism. This he claimed could explain why so many reports of flying saucers described them as moving through the sky in often peculiar ways.

On January 13th 1955, Jessup received a letter from a “Carlos Miguel Allende”. In the letter Allende informed Jessup of the tale of Project Rainbow, which Allende claimed to have witnessed from the SS Andrew Furuseth, supplying enough details to make a convincing argument that it could have happened.

Jessup, intrigued by this mysterious letter, replied to Allende asking for proof of his claims. The reply came back a couple of months later this time signed by a “Carl M. Allen”. The letter stated that Allen couldn't recall any more details about the event, but may be able to do so with hypnotherapy. Jessup upon reading this, and being a rather astute man, promptly decided he was dealing with a probable nut job and discontinued their correspondence.

Jessup got on with writing a couple of more books dealing with theoretical physics and generally gadding about. Two years came and went and life carried on as normal until, in the early part of 1957, Jessup was again contacted unexpectedly. This time however it was in the form of an official correspondence from the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Jessup was asked to come to Washington DC and aid the ONR with helping decipher the contents of a package they had received. Jessup duly went only to discover that the ONR had in fact received a copy of The Case for The UFO in an enveloped marked “Happy Easter”. The actual book itself appeared to have been annotated extensively by three different people. Through out the book they made veiled references to “Project Rainbow” and underlined several passages of text discussing theory of flight. One of the scribes, dubbed “Mr. A” by the ONR was identified by Jessup as having the same handwriting as Allende. Or Allen. (Gee Note: Sadly reports do not state how Jessup referred to his former pen pal. Although I think “that freaking lunatic” might have been appropriate.)

Now all this doesn't really amount to much. It's really only one of two things. Either Allen Allende your man scribbled the entire thing himself in three different coloured pens. Or someone else out there is as bonkers as him.

But then the ONR did something very strange, which in retrospect is the only justification as to why this theory is given any credence what so ever. For reasons that one can only assume were sound as pound at the time the ONR decided to print several copies of the book, annotations and all, and handed them out to high ranking officials within the Navy.

And, just like that, off to the races a bunch of conspiracy nuts went.

Because by reprinting the book, they unwittingly placed the Philadelphia Experiment in a position of importance it really doesn't deserve. Rather than be seen as a coffee table curio and nothing more, the reproduction of the Jessup's work, known as the Varo edition after the name of the printing company, was seen by some as the Navy's acceptance that such a thing may have actually happened.

Which is beyond frustrating when you think about it. Because, when all's said and done, there are a thousand and one things that could warrant serious investigation by the authorities which are left untouched because they cross the line in to the realm of, well, odd (Gee Note: I mean could you honestly see George W. Bush holding a press conference to announce extra funding for the study of Unidentified Flying Objects in America's skies? Even though over 40,000 insurance policies have been taken out to protect against alien abduction with Lloyds of London, let alone any other insurance company. I mean them folks might be wasting their money, but the least the government can do is placate them a bit right? Yeah right. Fat chance I'm afraid. You're on your own you bunch of weirdos).

But the sad thing is that when an authority does for once take an interest in something a little a bit unusual, a community of obsessives start shouting from the rooftops about cover ups and throwing around all sorts of accusations about the motives of the investigation itself, despite the fact that there is absolutely no proof what so ever that anything actually happened in the first place.

And so people complain that events and occurrences that possibly should be treated seriously get dismissed out of hand. But when said events and occurrences are treated with a modicum of respect then the public at large blow everything out of proportion. The fact that the Philadelphia Experiment theory has survived this long is testament to that, especially when it's only basis in reality is one man's scribblings in a book about flying saucers. (Gee Note: In an unrelated news it turns out I complain a lot. As an experiment I actually sat down and counted every time I complained about something the other night. I clocked up 27 separate instances of me grumbling in one single hour. In my defence, Spider-Man 3 was on television so I'm actually quite surprised it was that low. Seriously that God awful dance sequence in the Jazz club has been known to make me rant for days on end).

Therefore we find ourselves trapped in a vicious circle. Either taking things too seriously, or not seriously enough. And because of that, conspiracy theories are nothing more than circuses. Entertaining yes, but you wouldn't want to join one.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Right is more precious than peace.

War is often insane. None more so than the First World War. At the end of the four year period between 1914-1918 over 20 million people had died, and another 21 million people were seriously wounded. And all because Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot to death in his car by Gavrilo Princip.

Princip was a member of Young Bosnia, a radical political organisation who's goal was to unify the state of Yugoslavia by violently destroying Austria-Hungry, the throne of which Ferdinand was an heir to. Princip's group had attempted to blow up the Archduke's motorcade earlier that day but instead had destroyed the car directly behind Ferdinand's. Gavrilo, having learned that their plans had not come to fruition, went and got himself a sandwich (Gee Note: Hey, even a cold blooded murderer's gotta eat). Upon leaving the café he spied Ferdinand's car pull up in the same street, the driver having taken a wrong turn and then stalled the engine. Princip drew his pistol and from a distance of five feet unloaded in to the back of car, killing both the Archduke and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. Ferdinand's last words were begging his wife to stay alive for the sake of their children.

As Austria-Hungry started to retaliate against the Kingdom of Serbia, alliances formed all across Europe. And within a month the entire continent was ravaged by war, battles being fought over pretty much every square inch of land.

How crazy is that? I mean forget for a moment that the Young Bosnian's must have thought that Austria-Hungry would crumble to it's knees after the death of Franz Ferdinand, and not lash out and start kicking the holy hell out of Serbia. Forget that Ferdinand was actually on his way to the hospital to visit those hurt in the earlier attack when a bullet ripped through his neck.

Instead, think about this. 20 million people died because of an amazingly inept chauffeur and a ham roll. I don't know about you, but that kind of worries me a bit.

Anyway it was in the aftermath of all this madness, in the midst of the war to end all wars, that a German Submarine named U-28 came in to conflict with a British ship called the Iberian. U-28, which by the end of the war was responsible for sinking 39 ships in total, was more than a match for its British counterpart and a single torpedo was enough to down the steamer. In fact she sank so quickly that, according to the report of the U-boat's captain George Von Forstner, “its bow stuck up almost vertically into the air.”

And then according to the captains log something quite unexpected happened. (Gee Note: Which reminds me, does anyone remember that awful song they used for the theme song to “Star Trek: Enterprise”? Well it was also used in the soundtrack for “Patch Adams”, which is even more of a reason to hate it if you ask me. Any time the punchline to the last “joke” of a movie is Robin Williams' naked bottom, I think people should be legally allowed to throw soda cans at a cinema screen in protest).

Approximately 25 seconds after the hull had disappeared from view an explosion underwater caused pieces of the ship to rocket up some 80 feet in to the air. And with them, a sixty foot long aquatic crocodile with large flippers for limbs.

No, really.

According to Von Forstner he and six of his fellow crewmen watched the beast writhe amongst the debris for a full 10 seconds before it sank out of sight. And then they simply went about their business looking for the next British vessel to send to the watery depths. Well, there was a war on after all.

Two things are really interesting about this account. One, it's reported by a bunch of super serious German's hardened by a particularly bloody and brutal war. Secondly it accurately describes an animal called a Mosasaur. Which, um, died out approximately 65 million years ago.

And, amazingly, it may not be the first instance of a Mosasaur pleasantly swimming around and minding it's own business before being rudely interrupted by a bunch of sailors.

Almost 100 years earlier, January 13th 1852 to be precise, the whaler Monongahela was cruising around the North Pacific, hoping to catch sight of one of 'em big ol' mammals (Gee Note: I have no idea why but I always think of Whalers as good old country boys). Instead they came across a vast “sea serpent” which was apparently over 100 feet in length, with a head like a crocodile, and large flippers instead of limbs.

Now the crew of the Monongahela were a good bunch. And, like most folks back in the day, they were aware of humanity's carbon footprint on the Earth and the absolute need for conservation. And so when they came across this gigantic marine animal, possibly the only one of it's kind, they allowed it to swim away with the least amount of hassle before commenting amongst themselves about the glory of nature and how wondrous it can be.

Well OK, not really. Instead upon spotting the creature the crew of the Monongahela immediately manned their stations and spent the next 16 hours harpooning the snot out of the poor thing until it eventually died. Then the crew cut it's head off and placed it in a pine box so that when they docked they'd be able to show off their discovery to the public at large (Gee Note: Man, I should run a poll. Question : If Bigfoot walked right past you and you had a loaded gun in your hand would you fire at him? A) Only if it was aggressive towards me. B) No, I would never injure an animal so rare as Bigfoot. C) I would fire a warning shot and try and capture it. D) Screw animal rights. Kill the Goddam thing. We're gonna be rich).

As it happens the Monongahela sank off the coast of the Umnak Island near the Aleutians a couple of weeks later, never having made it to shore with it's prize catch. And so the identity of the animal, along with the Monongahela, were lost to the bottom of the ocean. Probably forever.

Having said that, it appears that these two cases suggest that a great big lizard fish might still be lurking in the waters out there, 65 million years after it was supposed to have perished. Now the thought that somewhere in the murky depths a prehistoric animal could still be thriving and surviving may be scoffed at by some. And to tell the truth is does sound a little far fetched.

But then most people thought that about the Coelacanth, which fossil records show became extinct roughly around the same time as the Mosasaurus. Well, that was until someone intrepid soul found a Coelacanth alive and well off the coast of South Africa in 1938. Since then it's “extinct” status has been quietly rethought.

So it could be possible, theoretically anyway, that the head of a Mosasaur is lying underneath the shipwreck of a 19th century whaler, or that one became an unlikely victim of a First World War fight between the Germans and the British.

If that's the case then it also begs the question of just how unlucky can one species of reptile be?

Friday, 3 October 2008

He says the sun came out last night. He says it sang to him.

Somebody asked me about why I don't write a blog about Welsh oddities the other day. After all being a native of this lovely, ugly land it seems fitting that “I Saw Elvis” should spend time talking about the wonders and mysteries of the beautiful principality that is Wales.

Um, well, the truth is there isn't all that much to write about. There's all of one big alien crash site, two lake monsters, one big cat, some ghosts, a possible vengeful witch, and.. er.. that's about it. To prove how uneventful my tiny little corner of the world is, only today the local newspaper proudly proclaimed on it's front page “Man Gets Job”. That is what counts for news around these parts. Occasionally someone goes nuts and kills someone else, and sadly a brutal murder is often the most interesting news item of the year.

So you can imagine my surprise when The Sun newspaper reported earlier on this year that a UFO had been spotted in the skies near Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Amazingly it wasn't just some random anorak with too much time on his hands and not enough friends who reported it. Nay good kinsmen, this was witnessed by people of authority, namely a South Wales Police Helicopter crew.

Now for those of you who may be reading this overseas and aren't all that familiar with The Sun Newspaper it's either a “national treasure” or a “worthless tabloid rag” depending on how ironic you are feeling at the time. Appealing to what could charitably be called the lowest common denominator, The Sun packs it's pages with human interest stories. And by human interest I mean a Z list celebrity who has a new hat, a van drivers' opinion on the economy (Gee Note: “What we need to do is start trading things 'at actually mean somethin'. Like buying a newspaper wiv a tin of fruit or somethin' like 'at!”) and a topless 19 year old girl on page three called Nikki who loves “socialising”. Incredibly, and this simple fact has been known to keep me up at night, it's Britain's best selling newspaper.

Oh, and if there's any doubt about how truly awful this newspaper is, remember that paedophile “Name and Shame” campaign I mentioned a couple of blogs back? You know, that ridiculously reckless and irresponsible scaremongering, all dressed up as championing a good cause? Well that genius idea was thought up and implemented by someone named Rebekah Wade. Who's current vocation is, er, editor of The Sun.

Anyway on June 20th 2008, while the rest of the World's media led with stories about China's appalling human rights record, or how protests over the treatment of Tibet may threaten to spoil the forthcoming Olympics, The Sun took a different approach.

“ELLO ELLO UFO” read the headline. And beneath it a breathless report of a daring chase from St. Athan Royal Air Force Base all the way to the coast of Devon. A flying saucer hunted down by a Police Helicopter after the boys in blue had to swerve to avoid a mid air collision. All this happened, according to the report, on the 7th June. A full 13 days before the story was published.

And all of it was pretty much nonsense. Yes the three man crew did report to their superiors that they saw a vehicle which could not be identified in the night sky. And that it flew off at some pace into the distance. But there was no swerving, no chasing, and no hunting down. Instead the Police Officers simply noted down what they had witnessed and went back to doing their job. Which consisted of tracking down joyriders driving at speeds that left unchecked would almost certainly kill someone. (Gee Note: See, that's the thing that really annoys me about The Sun. By “giving the truth scope” they've in fact cheapened the hard work, effort and, seeing as helicopter's aren't exactly blessed with a 100% safety record, risk that these fine women and men go through every day to make our streets safer. Seriously those guys at The Sun = bunch of jackasses).

Now if this was, say, in California or New York this story would have sunk without a trace and been dispatched from the news cycle within, ooooh, 3 minutes. But as it's already been established that nothing happens in Wales and as Britain, just like anywhere else, is full of people interested in stuff like this the follow up story on the BBC website became it's most read of the day.

The Sun, upon hearing about how much interest their original article had generated, excelled themselves the next day by reporting how they were bombarded with calls from Sun readers who saw the very same object that had tussled with the Police. They even accompanied it with this photograph.

(Gee note: The better part of valour forbids me from commenting on how insulting this is. I have mentioned that the guys at The Sun are jackasses already right?)

And then the BBC, in what must have been a wonderfully smug moment, trumped them.

Meet Lyn and Lucy Thomas. On the 7th June, the same night as the sightings, they celebrated their wedding in a field close to Cowbridge. During the “mini festival” of nuptials they let off 30 Chinese lanterns (Gee note: They may kick the holy living hell out of the Dalai Lama, but damn those Chinese make good lanterns). These lanterns were lit and ended up floating away in the night sky towards, according to Lyn and Lucy, St Athan.

And immediately the rest of Britain's media, relieved at the chance to prove The Sun wrong and to get back to reporting serious news instead of this silly alien stuff, jumped upon it like R Kelly meeting a 12 year old fan.

Now the fact that the helicopter crew were described as very experienced and that Chinese lanterns look like, well, Chinese lanterns and not unidentified aircrafts seemed to hold no sway with the newspaper folk. Instead it was soon agreed by everybody that it was a case of mistaken identity. Except for The Sun, who took the brave step of sending some poor photographer out in to a field in Wales with nothing but a camera and a tent for, er, three months.

To tell you the truth, something bothers me about all of this.

In all of these reports, of the thousands of column inches written about this subject, not one single quote is direct from the officers themselves. Now this may be because South Wales Police placed an embargo on the crew talking to reporters. Which would have been a very smart move as far as public relations were concerned. But when it comes to cold, hard, unloving evidence all that we in general public can say for certain is, “three people in a chopper saw something they didn't recognise one night.”

And so whether you believe this was a genuine close encounter or not is, to be honest with you, neither here nor there. Because I honestly don't think that either those who were reporting it as a fact, or those who were reporting it as fiction, tried all that hard to find out what the real story was.

Which is a shame. Because quite possibly something very interesting could have happened in Wales this summer.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city.

In the natural order of things art should be an imitation of life. The artist, whatever their talent may be, takes an interest in something, forms an opinion and expresses it in a way that is unique to them. Whether it be in the form of a 16th Century water colour or a mid 1980's action movie starring Arnold Schwerz, Shwarz, Schawrz, er, Sylvester Stallone, all forms of art should share that one thing in common.

But every so often life finds itself all flippity backwards and, like a clown with a substance abuse problem, gets it very very wrong. Because once in a while, especially when it comes to the subject of monsters and the like, life has a horrible tendency to imitate art. (Gee note: On a completely unrelated note I went to a Clown Fair that was hosted near where I live a couple of months back. Really I did. Not for the clowns you understand. Oh, heavens no. That would be silly, a grown man travelling for an hour and a half just to watch some clowns. Imagine that. No, obviously I went for the balloons instead).

Allow me to explain. One of the world's most famous “I'm sorry, but run me through this once again. You're saying you saw, um, what??!?” animals, arguably just behind Bigfoot in the pecking order of money spinning mysteries, is the wonderfully elusive Loch Ness Monster. Or Nessie for short.

Now most people who claim to have seen this bonkers creature describe it, rather accurately in some cases, as a plesiosaur. Or for those reading this with no interest in pre-historic animals, one of those flippered wotsits with a long neck. You know, like that thing at the top of this page. And even though some modern cryptozoologists have speculated that any ancient creature living in the Loch is much more likely to be a Basilosaurus, which apparently is a kind of stretched whale that used to kick around the oceans about 40 million years ago, every year reports rack up of an animal exactly like a plesiosaur being spotted from the shore of the lake.

Thing is, the first reported sighting of said wee little beasty was in 1933. An often reported sighting by “D. McKenzie” in 1871 appears to have been made up, as no real evidence of a source from that time has been produced.

Which is a shame. Because otherwise the following theory wouldn't hold any water at all.

See 1933 was all kinds of monster crazy. In fact the world pretty much switched itself on to gigantic beasts on the 2nd March that year. But it didn't start in Scotland. And it's major player wasn't a tartan wearing water horse.

Instead it all started in New York, New York. And it's major player was an overgrown ape with a terrible temper and a fascination with Fay Wray. Because in 1933 King Kong was released for the first time. And in a pivotal scene a stop motion plesiosaur pops it's head above water, probably the first time one had ever been shown on a big screen for a mass audience. (Gee note: By the way, I actually sat down and watched King Kong this afternoon. Man, is that a racist film. I nearly coughed up a litre of tea when the natives of Skull Island try to barter 10 black women for 1 white one).

And so the theory goes that the sight of the long necked animal sparked the collective imagination of Scotland and her tourists, and that sightings of Nessie are simply a manifestation of the public's subconscious.

Now this, it should be pointed out, is still only a theory. There may very well be something lurking in the Loch that defies scientific understanding. (Gee note: Which also may be able lend a helping hand if called upon with a Thistle Whistle). But an oddly similar thing happened to a chap named Steve Cook, a Michigan resident who carves out a living as a musician

The story goes that in 1987 a local radio station disk jockey was looking for something to do as an April Fool's joke. He contacted our man Steve who, with a life long fascination in all things paranormal, set about writing a song called “The Legend of Michigan's Dogman”. Detailing the account of a fictional beast roaming around Michigan, it was seven verses of made up accounts of attacks and sightings involving a half man half dog monster. The radio host didn't like it, unsure that it really qualified as an “April Fool's” gag. Instead he thought it might be something they could use at Halloween instead. However Cook pleaded with the DJ, and having nothing else to use on April 1st they decided to give it a bash.

The song was first played at 07:40 am. It gained no response from the public, not a single phone call was made to the station regarding the tune. The host gave it another spin sometime after 9 o'clock. Again no response. And just as the recording was on it's way to waster paper bin, considered to be nothing more than a failed prank, something very odd happened.

The phone rang. And kept on ringing.

The public went nuts over it. People kept calling, asking the same questions. “What was that song?”, “Who sings it?”, “Where can I get a copy?”. And then at some point that afternoon, an elderly gentleman called the station to tell them that he had actually seen the Dogman years ago.

In the following month or so the song gained more airplay. And during that time reports kept on coming in from people who claimed to have encountered the Dogman.

Which until April 1st 1987, er, didn't really exist.

Now it may be easy to dismiss all this as simple delusions of a couple of gullible people who heard something over and over again until they convinced themselves it was true. (Gee Note: “Yeah you remember that blob in the distance we saw in 1974 that we all thought was a squirrel? Well, after thinking it over, I've decided that we definitely saw the Dogman.”). But by dismissing it as a bunch of crazy people saying crazy things, one would then have to ignore the Gable film. And the Gable film is fascinating.

Basically, somehow Steve Cook became the main man when it came to Dogman lore. People kept on contacting him with their Dogman stories, possibly hoping they would use them in a future version of the song. Actually, thinking about it, that might be a very good reason for people to fabricate tales of the Dogman in the first place.

Cook started receiving all sorts of stuff in the mail. Blurry photographs of household cats with letters asking “Is this the Dogman?!?!”, tape recordings of distant coyotes howling at the moonlight, and badly shot student films of teenagers heading out to the woods only to find, er, nothing. (Gee note: Nothing's happening. Nothing's happening. Something about a map, I don't know I wasn't listening. Nothing's happening.)

Then one morning Cook found another type of film in his mail. Having been contacted by the owners before he already knew its origin. It had been purchased as part of a box of random bits and bobs at an estate sale a few years earlier. It showed a series of regular family occurrences such as chopping wood and riding on snowmobiles, set sometime in the 70's judging by the clothing and the hairstyles. And then, in the last minute of this 8mm family feature, things go a bit nuts.

You can still find pirated copies of the last minute of the film on Youtube. I suggest if you've got this far through this post you might as well look it up. It's under the title “Gable film”. There's almost no point in me trying to describe it to you because, if I'm honest, I wouldn't know what to describe.

Steve posted the film on his website and then about a week later removed it with an apology. It turns out Cook had some experts look over the film and they determined that it was a fake. (Gee Note: Certainly the “Blair Witch” style ending seems contrived at best). But almost as soon as he apologised for the “unintentional hoax” he was deluged with emails from all sorts of folk, from amateur cryptozoologists to University lecturers, imploring him to take another look at it.

So he went back to the film to investigate it once again. And in doing so he put together a team of video analysts, physical movement experts, and wildlife buffs. The results of said investigation are frustratingly vague, the closest thing to a conclusion is that it's unlikely a human being could replicate the movement's of, well, whatever the hell that is.

But that's why the film is so fascinating. Is it a hoax? Quite possibly. Some aspects of it seem to be too “comfy”, if that's the right word. But there's enough in this sixty seconds of footage to raise some genuinely interesting questions.

It's a wonderful little mystery born from a deliberate joke. Only problem is, those questions that are raised are never likely to be answered.