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Coming soon: Vanished City / Cult of Corvo / North / The Bright Labyrinth / Epiphanies / Lord of Strange Deaths / The Undertaker at Work / England\'s Hidden Reverse / Tape Leaders / Murderous Passions / Jolly Lad / Animal Music

Curiosities

Dance of the peacock spiders

Incredible footage of the courtship and mating behaviour of the Australian peacock spider Maratus volans.

More peacocks this Sunday at Nomad Codes with Erik Davis and friends. Erik is also speaking on Friday 19 May at the British Library with China Mieville and others as part of their science fiction season.

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1968 UFO detector

Calling all makers!

Here’s a simple electronics project we can all approve of: The Electronic UFO Detector, from a 1968 edition of the then-highly-respected British journal of ufology, Flying Saucer Review.

The device is actually a magnetic field detector. While the case for UFOs producing strong magnetic fields is not exactly cut and dried, magnetic anomalies do appear to have been detected in at least some cases over the years.

Magnetic anomalies  do seem to be associated with earthquakes [see this paper from the Journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration for example] and so, perhaps, with the UFO-like lights sometimes linked to them.

Even if it won’t help you spot UFOs , this would be a fun paranormal project and it might help you to detect a quake, or perhaps even a ghost.

Via the excellent Forteana blog

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Ride the Ghost Train

From The Independent:

A new ride at one of the country’s biggest theme parks has been moved after fears that it had disturbed an ancient burial ground, prompting paranormal activity.

Workers creating the water ride at Thorpe Park in Surrey for the new season said they started noticing ghostly sightings nearby, including what appeared to be a headless monk. There were reports of objects being moved, workers feeling like someone was watching over their shoulders and sudden cold feelings being experienced.

“The results were so strong, we felt the only explanation could be that an ancient burial ground or settlement was being disturbed, prompting the extra paranormal activity.”

Forensic geophysicist Peter Masters, of Cranfield University, has since been called in to analyse the site, using deep ground radar. He said: “From the preliminary investigations, we have picked up signatures similar to that of a burial ground – possibly ancient.”

Never mind the ghosts, what’s underneath Thorpe Park?!

Before we get too excited about Neolithic burial grounds, underground stone circles and the like, it’s worth noting that Thorpe Park have previously used haunting tales to promote horror-themed rides.

Thanks Blue Firth!

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Gef the talking mongoose tells all : 10 Nov 2010

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‘I’ll split the atom! I am the fifth dimension! I am the eighth wonder of the world!’ Gef.

For several years beginning in the early 1930s, a family living in a remote smallholding on the Isle of Man were plagued by something that called itself Gef:

I’m a freak. I have hands and feet, and if you saw me you’d faint, you’d be petrified, mummified, turned into stone or a pillar of salt.

One of the strangest tales in the long history of high strangeness, the story of Gef, the so-called talking mongoose (pictured left… What do you mean you can’t see him?) has never been satisfactorily resolved, nor properly re-investigated. Until now. Researcher Christopher Josiffe has spent the past few years digging through the archives of famed ghost-hunter Harry Price in search of an answer to this truly puzzling and rather sinister series of events.

What makes the Gef affair so fascinating is that it doesn’t quite fit into any of the usual categories of anomalous phenomena. Was Gef a prank, a poltergeist, a demon, a real creature, or something else entirely? Find out at the Strange Attractor Salon, this Wednesday…

Christopher Josiffe will be talking about Gef, Harry Price and his own research at 7pm this Wednesday, 10 November at the Strange Attractor Salon at The Little Shoppe of Horrors, 11 Mare st, London E8.

Book tickets (£6/£4, includes a drink and free admission to the museum) here.

[Gef also features on the cover of this month’s Fortean Times]

UPDATE: Christopher Josiffe talks about Gef and Harry Price on Strange Attractor On Air, Tuesday, 2pm UT, on Resonance 104.4 FM.

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Austin Spare on the box!

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Phil Baker, author of SAP’s forthcoming book Austin Osman Spare: The Life and Legend of London’s Lost Artist joins Alan Moore (who has written its foreword), Fulgur‘s Robert Ansell and others on BBC Two’s The Culture Show to talk about the boy genius who became the hermit of Walworth Rd.

You can watch the segment on Youtube here.

SAP’s Austin Osman Spare will be published in Mid-January 2011. We’ll be taking pre-orders for a special edition once the new SAP web site is up and running, hopefully by early December 2010.

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Haunted Air

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Haunted Air is a beautiful new book of photographs from SA pal Ossian Brown, compiled from his own collection of American Hallowe’en snaps taken (not by Mr Brown) between 1875 and 1955.

By this time the festival, imported into the United States during previous decades by predominantly Irish Catholic immigrants, had insinuated itself firmly into the ritual year and was celebrated, as these pictures show, by both rich and poor in towns, cities and rural communities all over the country.

The images in Haunted Air reveal some of the earliest expressions of fear and play captured on film; some are as sharp as if they were taken yesterday; most, however, are atmospherically warped and misted by time. Here are clowns, skeletons, goblins, scarecrows, pumpkins, ghosts, devils, angels, myriad strange hybrid beasts and even what looks like an anachronistic extraterrestrial.

Some of these images will make you smile; others, either through the costumes themselves, their settings or due to an accidental, intangible something in the composition or the image itself, provoke a delicious, involuntary chill, evoking an uncanniness sadly missing from today’s mechanically-reproduced festivities.

Perhaps the key difference to emerge from the Hallowe’en depicted here and Hallowe’en now is that, while there are similarities in the themes and masks on display, most of these costumes were made by the children who wore them, or by their families. Similarly the figures they depict were, with a few exceptions – is that a demonic Donald Duck lurking in there? – more likely to be drawn from the imagination, if admittedly a shared folk imagination, than from today’s library of copyrighted film, television, or comic strip ghouls.

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Haunted Air‘s ghost boys and girls are also revenants of a time when the horrors parading through your neighbourhood still maintained a dim spectral hold on reality, living on in the memories and superstitions of their parents and grandparents. Perhaps it’s not overly romantic to suggest that those who lurched, pranced and spooked at Hallowe’en were, as they mocked, also paying their respects to the denizens of an unseen, demon-haunted world that is all but lost to us.

Sumptuously produced, with a foreword by David Lynch and text by Geoff Cox, Haunted Air is available now from Jonathan Cape.

John Coulthart also points out that there was a piece on Ossian and Haunted Air at, of all places, the Financial Times web site.

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Sime online

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A gorgeous selection of Sidney Sime illustrations over at Golden Comic Book Stories.

Sime, best known for his illustrations accompanying the tales of Lord Dunsany and Arthur Machen, is perhaps the greatest ever illustrator of dream-worlds and fantastical landscapes and SAP has always dreamed of publishing a collection of his work.

There’s a small but wonderful  museum of his work above the village hall in Worplesdon, Surrey, where Sime lived, which contains many original illustrations as well as some of his lesser known but no less striking stage designs.

Via Arthur mag

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Vigil press release

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[Download the full Vigil PDF (3MB)]

VIGIL
Participatory Observation and Field Work
An Investigation into Haunted Space, Psychometry and Spectatorship
Royal Academy Schools, 1-2 October 2010
Investigating haunted space at London’s Royal Academy of Arts.
Researching a series of unexplained incidents at this historic building, artist Blue Firth uncovered a first-hand account of apparent poltergeist activity in the artists’ studios.
While patrolling the 18th century corridors one night in 2008, Red Collar guard Nathan Phillips experienced something that prevented him from finishing his shift, ‘When I got back to where the skeletons are kept, the
doors all slammed shut — like boom, boom, boom one after another. I tried to make out what it could be and checked all the doors again. I got to the same point in the same sequence and the bangs happened all over again. I didn’t finish my patrol that night.’
To make sense of what happened to Nathan, Blue has collaborated with parapsychologist Dr David Luke and writer Mark Pilkington. As preparatory research they undertook investigative training sessions with the Associa-
tion for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) that included conducting a vigil in an allegedly haunted stately home.
Bringing together their knowledge and experience of the paranormal and arts fields, the trio have devised an event that merges Blue’s art practice with David and Mark’s expertise in making sense of the unexplained. The end result is a unique participatory experiment in which the audience are both observers and the observed, the haunters and the haunted.
Participants will be asked to complete psychological and physiological assessments before and after entering the site of the haunting, which will be monitored for any unusual occurrences. The vigil will take place under
carefully controlled conditions and in total darkness.
Combining authentic investigative procedures with subtle performative aspects, Vigil examines and subverts the roles of audience expectation, spectatorship and belief.
Spaces for both nights are extremely limited so we advise reserving your position soon.

An Investigation into Haunted Space, Psychometry and Spectatorship

Royal Academy Schools, 1-2 October 2010

Researching a series of unexplained incidents at this historic building, artist Blue Firth uncovered a first-hand account of apparent poltergeist activity in the artists’ studios.

While patrolling the 18th century corridors one night in 2008, Red Collar guard Nathan Phillips experienced something that prevented him from finishing his shift: ‘When I got back to where the skeletons are kept, the doors all slammed shut — like boom, boom, boom one after another. I tried to make out what it could be and checked all the doors again. I got to the same point in the same sequence and the bangs happened all over again. I didn’t finish my patrol that night.’

To make sense of what happened to Nathan, Blue has collaborated with parapsychologist Dr David Luke and writer Mark Pilkington. As preparatory research they undertook investigative training sessions with the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP).

(more…)

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Daily Telegraph: Crop Circle Conundrum

‘The media are stupid, narrow-minded, bigoted and boringly predictable. I want nothing more than sensible treatment of the most important event on planet Earth.

‘The hoaxers are the most constant con tricksters and liars in the world,’ Michael Glickman says. ‘They are out fundamentally to deceive; we are out fundamentally to tell the truth. Hoaxers have never made a circle of quality. We’ve seen what they can do and it’s crummy. It’s the difference between a five-star meal in Lyons and a Big Mac.’

Field Guide author Rob Irving and I have cameos in this fine feature article by David Jenkins over at the Daily Telegraph.

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