I received the copyedited chapter files for my mound builder book, which means that I now have to review and approve the changes. Because this takes a lot of time, I’m taking this weekend off to work on the review process. Therefore, I’ll leave you with a brief notice that the claim made this week that a researcher using “ingenuity” and “lateral thinking” had deciphered the mysterious Voynich Manuscript in less than two weeks has already descended into recriminations and claims that academics just don’t understand radical new ideas—you know, the standard. It is another case where a sexy claim got overblown through over-ambitious PR and sensational media coverage, aided by a claimant who seems to lack humility about the limits of his own claim.
This week, Vice visited the site for Erich von Däniken’s Mystery Park, his ancient astronaut theme park that went bust and reconstituted itself as Jungfrau Park, an amusement park operated by new owners, at which von Däniken maintains an office. Vice explored the park and talked to von Däniken, who, as is typical, is a bit phlegmatic about the changes that the new owners imposed on his vision.
I should begin today with a note in passing about the passing of Stanton Friedman, the UFO researcher who devoted more than four decades of his life to researching—and failing to find—evidence of an alien presence on Earth. A familiar face on the UFO circuit, the 84-year-old Friedman supported the authenticity of the hoax Majestic-12 documents and thus helped to promote a culture of conspiracy in the UFO community by dressing it up in scientific garb.
It’s been a bit of a slow week so far in the world of the outré, so today I’d like to dip into the archival record to share a strange incident that occurred in 1971 when Jacques Vallée and J. Allen Hynek went to visit esoteric researcher Manly P. Hall at Hall’s library at the Philosophical Research Society. The building impressed Vallée greatly because of its elaborate woodwork, iron staircase, and displays of cross-cultural bric-a-brac such as Chinese sculptures. What impressed him most, he wrote in Forbidden Science, was that Hall’s library was the first occult building he had seen that was not dilapidated.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an embargoed press release announcing a radical new interpretation of the ninth century Mesha Stele, which a team of researchers now claims could represent the first and only independent confirmation of the existence of King Balak outside of the Bible (Numbers 22-24). I honestly don’t care whether Balak existed or not, but I found the reasoning used to make the claim to be somewhat lacking.
Yesterday was a busy day for me and a slow day for fringe history, so I do not have much to say today. Instead of trying to come up with something just for the sake of writing, I will present you with a short film that is being released today. I received a screener for it prior to its release with a request to review the film. The short, called Occupant, stars Dan O'Brien of Grey's Anatomy and is being released by Gunpowder & Sky. I cannot imagine how one reviews a 4-minute short, but here goes: It's a minor effort that delivers an eerie feeling but is ultimately far too short to have anything real to say. The plot is unfortunately far too similar to the Jordan Peele film Us from only a few weeks ago, and the comparisons make this look like a deleted scene from the movie, and not necessarily in a good way.
The YouTube video link will become active at 10 AM ET and can be viewed directly on YouTube here.
Today is going to be one of those days when my blog post will be brief, as I mentioned yesterday. I’d like to highlight a logical fallacy that has been making the rounds since the recent disclosure that the U.S. Navy will make it easier for its pilots to report sightings of aerial phenomena that they do not recognize, a move characterized in the media as a new UFO reporting program, though it isn’t quite that. Anyway, Micah Hanks presents the fallacy in unalloyed form in a recent Mysterious Universe posting piggybacking on the Navy announcement. He starts by saying that he doesn’t know what UFOs really are.
Due to a series of upcoming life events, including upcoming book deadlines as well as personal responsibilities, I’m going to have much less time for writing blog posts between now and the end of summer. As a result, there will be days when I will not be able to post and many days where posts will be significantly shorter than normal. Today is going to be a mid-length day, but I hope not less interesting for it.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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