Happy Halloween! The world can be a dark and scary place, but today is the day when we celebrate that darkness and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. To that end, I thought I’d give a shout out to Lovecraft scholar Justin Woodman, whose seemingly inexhaustible supply of items for his “Lovecraftian Thing a Day” blog has churned up some interesting non-fiction fringe books that connect Lovecraft to modern fringe history in unexpected ways, and a few ways that I wasn’t aware of.
So, it seems that I do everything the hard way. I learned to read Latin, Spanish, French, and other languages so I could translate texts from as close to the original sources as possible. Meanwhile, 73-year-old novelist John Crowley is making money off of a “translation” of the foundational Rosicrucian text The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencruetz. As the New Yorker reported, “Because he doesn’t know German, Crowley pieced together the book by comparing various English translations, deciding on the most readable and sensible interpretation of a given passage and then putting all of it in a new voice.” Doesn’t that take the cake? I know a guy did a version of the Odyssey that way years ago, but I can’t say I’m thrilled to see that Kickstarter funders paid Crowley and his publisher at Small Beer Press $73,000 to rewrite someone else’s English translation without an understanding of the underlying text. I felt bad that I had to use the French edition of the Akhbar al-zaman for my translation because I can’t speak Arabic. I should start demanding money to rewrite other people’s translations of texts, too!
Such is the world we live in today.
"Ancient Aliens" Creator Kevin Burns Discusses His Belief in Fringe Claims and Conspiracies in New Interview
Right now in California, fans of the History Channel series Ancient Aliens are gathering for Alien Con, the fan convention put on by the History Channel and Famous Monsters of Filmland. Regular readers will remember that the convention’s PR team offered me a chance to interview the creators and stars of Ancient Aliens and then promptly stopped communicating with me the second that I took them up on the offer. Based on press coverage of the convention, it appears that the stars of the show and producer Kevin Burns are only willing to sit down for fluff piece interviews and are afraid of being challenged.
Scott Wolter Wows Fitness Gurus with Conspiracies, Attacks Critics, Announces Summit with Graham Hancock
Well, this is a weird one. I’ve never heard of the Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit Experience podcast, hosted by Lynn and Drew Manning, and it seems the last place you’d expect to find fringe history. Drew Manning is the man who intentionally gained 75 pounds in 2012 to document his subsequent fitness regime to lose the weight. The fitness guru’s entire brand revolves around selling fitness regimes and health products. And yet here we are: Scott Wolter appeared on the fitness podcast to discuss fringe history with the hosts because Drew Manning was blown away after meeting Wolter as part of an event in Mexico this month to promote A+E Networks shows in Latin America. “He’s a scientist, and he definitely knows what he’s talking about!” Drew Manning enthused. Lynn Manning added that “these are the facts” and not a conspiracy, “and I find that fascinating.”
Regular readers will remember geologist Robert Schoch, who has spent more than two decades advocating for the existence of a lost civilization that carved the Great Sphinx of Giza at the end of the last Ice Age. Since then, Schoch has grown increasingly fringe in his views, arguing at various times for a global pyramid-building culture, the catastrophic destruction of said culture by solar bombardment, and that the Easter Island moai are remnants of an Ice Age civilization. He also started a nonprofit, Oracul, to help fund his flights of fancy, and like many fringe figures, he now runs for-profit “ancient mysteries” tours of ancient sites. Anyway, he apparently now believes humans have psychic powers.
Many of you will remember that Ancient Origins, the clickbait fringe history website, developed a fascination with Ecuador after the site’s leadership decamped to the country’s expatriate community. Earlier this year, the site’s owners “investigated” the supposed golden treasures of Father Crespi with giant hunters Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman, and they refused to believe their own eyes that the accumulated treasures were nothing more than scrap metal badly forged into fake Old World artifacts. They are also pretty certain that the laser-carved caves at Tayos, Ecuador filled with a golden library are real, even though everyone involved in investigating the hoax conceded as much at one time or another. These, of course, were the “mysteries” at the heart of Erich von Däniken’s Gold of the Gods. This has only encouraged the Ancient Origins team to look for new ways to make their adopted home magical by accepting the Cuenca giant hoax and trying to prove Erich von Däniken’s Gold of the Gods correct, despite even von Däniken himself having admitted off and on in the 1970s that its stories of Ecuadorian mysteries were not true.
The National Center for Science Education published a terrific tour of creationist Ken Ham’s new Noah’s Ark theme park by Dan Phelps, the president of the Kentucky Paleontology Society. The entire piece is well worth a read, but I was especially interested in the Ark Encounter’s presentation of antediluvian life, the period of the Nephilim from Genesis 6 that so interests both creationists and fringe historians of every stripe. After reading Phelps’s description, I was genuinely surprised to see that Ham has absorbed so much fringe history into his supposedly “scientific” approach to Biblical literalism.
Do you remember Ralph of Coggeshall? Chances are that you don’t, but he plays an important role in fringe history because his Chronicon Anglicanum recorded the story of the so-called Green Children of Woolpit, the famous tale of a mysterious pair of green children who appeared in medieval Suffolk, acted strangely, and then disposed of themselves infamously (the boy by dying, and the girl by becoming sexually promiscuous). Ralph’s account was translated and published by Thomas Keightley in 1850, and his account was rewritten as the story of the Green Children of Banjos and spread among twentieth century fringe historians like Brad Steiger and Charles Berlitz. I am not interested in this story today but in the one that immediately follows it in Ralph’s Chronicon, composed sometime before 1227. I will quote the passage from folio 89b in full, in my own translation from the Latin:
And now for something completely different… I was reading a Vox article this week about the influence of Turner Classic Movies in terms of promoting classic film in an age when the recent-release bias of streaming services have made some of the greatest movies of all time practically invisible to anyone under 30. In it, Todd VanDerWerff quotes David Bordwell quoting Roger Ebert to the effect that when today’s film scholars came of age, Casablanca was a newer movie than the Godfather is to young adults today. The former film was 25 in the middle 1960s, while today the Godfather is about to turn 45. I was thinking about that when I watched Warner Bros. new direct-to-video movie Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, based on the 1966-1968 Batman television series. When I first watched Batman in syndicated reruns as a little kid, it was only 20 years old. That’s hard enough to believe, but it’s horrifying to realize than in just a couple of months Buffy the Vampire Slayer will be as old as Batman was then. Time comes for us all in the end.
Critics are really excited about the new season of Black Mirror, a show whose first two seasons I only occasionally sampled. But on the strength of the reviews I watched one of the new episodes yesterday, which TV Insider critic Matt Roush identified as the best of six-episode anthology: “Playtest.” It was, critics said, the closest that the series comes to pure and traditional horror, which happens to be one of my fields of expertise. I wrote the book on it, after all. The episode tells the story of an American tourist named Cooper (Wyatt Russell) who takes part in a video game company’s beta test of a neural implant that creates an augmented reality horror video game experience. If you haven’t seen the episode, you should probably stop reading because to criticize it is to give away part of the “twist” at the end.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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