Thursday, December 9, 2010


THROUGHOUT HISTORY, PEOPLE have noted strange lighting phenomena emanating from remote areas of natural land. ‘Will-o’-the-wisps’ are well known occurrences featuring small flames that spark from marsh and woodland. Ball lightning is a curious form of meteorological phenomenon where air pressure causes an electrical charge in the form of a ball. But the most fascinating natural lights are even more bizarre. People across the world have reported seeing strange orbs of light that seem to ignore the standard laws of physics – explanations for their appearance are anything but definite. Present theories range from alien spacecraft to pan-dimensional energy. All we do know is that they seem to appear from the ground, and so they have been termed Earth Lights.

These odd glowing visions have been witnessed radiating all manner of colours, from bright white, to blue, red or even black. They can be as small as a tennis ball, or as large as a car, and although they are normally spherical, witnesses have seen Earth Lights of many designs. Accounts of glowing tadpole shapes are particularly common. People who have managed to view them close-up report odd internal reactions, and bizarre crackling noises. The lights move in erratic directions, and can split into formations of multiple floating orbs. They seem to have a strong connection to geological and geographical features, and linger around lakes, mountains and rocky ridges.

One of the most impressive series of sightings happened in Hessdalen, Norway, in the early 1980s. People living in the area began to see strange lights emerging from the valley in November 1981. The glowing designs ranged from bullet shapes to triangles, and were commonly white and yellow in colour. The level of reports reached such a pitch that two airforce officers were sent by the Norwegian government to examine the occurrences. By the start of 1984, Swedish and Norwegian UFO enthusiasts had begun Project Hessdalen, a month long scientific study of the valley. This yielded some readings of Earth Light properties and also managed to capture examples of the Earth Light phenomenon on film.

Although the 1960s saw the creation of theories that connected these unexplained light displays with earthquakes and fault lines, in-depth study of the subject had always been overshadowed by alien and UFO interest. However, unlike UFOs, the verifiable scientific relationship between these lights and the earth has allowed the phenomenon to be quietly, but seriously, studied. The leading name in this field is Paul Devereux, the man who actually coined the term ‘Earth Lights’. Devereux has travelled the world studying versions of the phenomenon, separating fake or mistaken incidents from genuine Earth Lights. His conclusion is that they are an honest and real phenomenon.

Devereux, along with much of the interested scientific community, believes the lights may be connected with the strains and conflicting energy found in the Earth’s crust. Just as heavy pressure in the atmosphere causes storms and lightning, so too pressure under the surface causes equally impressive reactions. As the tectonic plates rise and fall, it is suggested that energy is released through particular areas of weakness such as fault lines, or areas of high mineral or rock density. It has been discovered that many historical accounts of strange lights appeared on recently discovered fault lines, or just before earthquakes developed.

Different theories suggest the lights could be alien landing craft; some alien abduction victims have reported seeing similar glowing features. Other people believe they have amazing paranormal qualities, and link our world with another dimension. Some witnesses claim to have heard ghostly voices and seen apparitions after an Earth Light display. In both these cases the effect of magnetic variation on brain patterns has been cited as having an influence. Many experts believe the extreme magnetic upheaval caused by conflicting tectonic forces needed in Earth Light creation may cause the brain to suffer hallucinations.

The effect on witnesses, although not dangerous, can be striking. One of the most common areas for Earth Light incidents in Britain is the Longendale Valley in the Peak District. Sean Wood is a local resident who has seen the lights over thirty times in sixteen years. As a catalogue of his sightings he now produces paintings of the local landscapes. In all his pictures, in the corner of a field or the side of a valley, there lurks the image of a small glowing orb. For him, the phenomenon of Earth Lights is an unexplainable, but acceptable, natural occurrence.

*) Matt Lamy
Tuesday, November 30, 2010


REMOTE VIEWING IS one of the most verifiable of all human paranormal abilities. It allows ‘viewers’ the power to see and experience situations and places separated from them by distance and time. Using naturally inherent psychic talents, known as psi, the viewer then records details of what he or she has seen. Many enthusiasts say it is an acquirable craft rather than some divine gift and that, whereas many so-called psychic powers now have unfortunate connotations of con-men and tricksters, remote viewing, or RV, began as a scientific experiment and is used by police, military and large corporate organisations.

Many companies now offer remote viewing tutorials and promise that anyone can understand and control this ability with practise and a good teacher. Unlike other psi powers such as clairvoyance, remote viewing is conducted under strict controls. Viewers are not allowed to know anything of their target other than the detail that instigates the search. It might be a photograph or a coordinate on which the viewer then trains their thoughts following a scripted format. The viewer operates in a quiet room, often going into a trance-like state, and sometimes has a companion who helps direct them. Unlike an out-of-body phenomenon, the viewer always knows where they really are. They still feel and experience all aspects of their target.

The creator of remote viewing was an American artist and paranormal student called Ingo Swann. Swann had taken aspects of previous psychic experiments and formed a new technique, which was tested by scientists at the American Society for Psychological Research. In these tests, he was able to accurately describe in detail the weather in different US cities. In 1972 Swann was introduced to Dr Hal Puthoff, a physicist at the Stanford Research Institute in California. The two conducted further experiments and were subsequently approached by the CIA. The department approached Puthoff with some tasks it wanted his team to look at, and were impressed with the results.

At the time, American intelligence experts were becoming increasingly worried about reports coming from Russia that Soviet authorities were spending vast sums on paranormal activities. The CIA had become aware that Communist scientists were developing psychic warfare capabilities including ‘psychic spies’. Initially, Puthoff’s programme was used to test the feasibility of this. But as remote viewing produced more accurate and detailed results, the use of viewers in intelligence gathering roles was explored, and various military and intelligence agencies developed their own branches of the remote viewing programme.

The potential of Swann’s work grew immensely, and rather than just using people who already had a demonstrable psychic ability, he recruited normal, non-psychic civilians. In 1991 the entire US programme was renamed the ‘Star Gate’ project. With the end of the Cold War, viewers were used to collect intelligence against a broad range of targets, including drug dealers, tyrants and terrorists. Swann had also developed an effective new technique called Co-ordinate or Controlled Remote Viewing, which actually directed viewers to their targets. In 1995 the US Congress decided that the remote viewing programme be given back to the CIA, who then commissioned an unfavourable report. The team was disbanded and many of the military viewers have gone on to offer their services privately with a few even receiving contracts from the US intelligence agencies to work in a freelance capacity.

Other nations have not been so quick to end their official psychic warfare divisions. The intelligence agencies of Russia, France and especially China continue to fund and study in-depth experiments. Many intelligence experts believe China has a select group of military ‘Superpsychics’. Their programme is said to be highly advanced, even to the point of recruiting and training particularly talented psychic children.

More peaceful uses of remote viewing have been adopted by large corporations, and controlled, scientific research in civilian universities has come to some staggering conclusions – particularly talented viewers are said to achieve results with odds of over 100 billion to one. As the subject has become more widely available in the public domain, former members of the US military involved in the project have spoken out; even former president Jimmy Carter has recounted tales of remote viewing. He reports having once met a female viewer who was looking for a lost aircraft: ‘She went into a trance. And while she was in the trance, she gave us some latitude and longitude figures. We focused our satellite cameras on that point, and the lost plane was there.’ With testimonies like this there can be little doubt that remote viewing is a genuine phenomenon.

*) Matt Lamy
Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The Piri Reis map, showing the coastline of Antarctica under the ice.
IN 1929 A GROUP of historians at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, found something rather fascinating. Imprinted on an old Gazelle skin dated 1513 they uncovered a segment of an amazing map. The chart seemed to depict part of the Atlantic Ocean and included the Americas and Antarctica in perfect detail. The mysterious thing was it had been drawn up only a few years after Columbus’ discovery, and three centuries before Antarctica was even known about. Over the years since the find, debate has raged about how the cartographer had assimilated his knowledge. Did an advanced ancient race, or aliens, create his source charts, or have the map’s features been adapted to fit wishful-thinking theories?

The map came to be named after its creator – Piri Reis. The word ‘Reis’ actually means ‘Admiral’, and it was discovered that Muhiddin Piri had originally worked as a privateer for the Turkish Ottoman empire, before accepting a role in the imperial navy. On his travels, he had collected all manner of charts, sketches, drawings and diagrams of coastlines and lands in the known world. In 1513, using an exhaustive list of source charts and data, he drew his first world map, which
is what we now recognise as the Piri Reis Map. He is known to have compiled another, quite different, global study in 1528 and continued to enjoy a distinguished military career until 1554, aged almost 90, when he was beheaded by the Ottoman Sultan.

The segment of the map that still exists is only a portion of the original, and shows the Atlantic Ocean from the west coast of Africa, to the east coast of South America, to the north coast of Antarctica in the south. Piri also included details about his sources on the map, claiming some of the reference charts he used were from the fourth century or even before. The map is not drawn with the straight lines of longitude and latitude found on today’s maps. It was designed using a series of circles with lines radiating out from them. These types of charts were called ‘portolan’ maps and were used to explain sailing routes, guiding ships from port to port, rather than giving sailors a definite position in the world. Ancient charts of this type were widespread, and Columbus is said to have used one when he set off to find the Americas.

Many Piri Reis Map enthusiasts believe the level of geographical detail and mathematical knowledge needed to create the map was far beyond the reach of navigators from the sixteenth or earlier centuries. Indeed, experts at the United States Air Force in the 1960s found the map so accurate they used it to replace false information on their own charts. Some people believe the map could only have been achieved with the help of aerial surveys, and suggest alien creatures mapped the planet thousands of years ago, leaving their results behind to be copied by Mankind.

The map’s seemingly accurate depiction of the geography of Antarctica is its most fascinating aspect. Antarctica was discovered in 1818, and the actual land of the continent was only mapped in 1949 by a combined British and Scandinavian project that had to use modern equipment to see the land underneath the mile-deep icecap. The theory put forward to compensate for this is that an ancient race using advanced, but now lost, technology was able to accurately record details of the continent before it was covered with ice.

Most experts suggest Antarctica was icefree no later than 6,000 years ago, although others believe ice has covered the continent for – at least – hundreds of thousands of years. Similarly, many cartography experts claim the accuracy of the portolan system of map drawing is more in the eye of the beholder, and many maps of this time included imaginary continents in the south Atlantic. But there are still some unexplainably accurate details on the map. The Falkland Islands are placed at the correct latitude, despite not being discovered until 1592, and the unknown Andes mountain range was included on the map of America. Similarly, Greenland was shown as three separate islands, a fact only discovered this century.

So the debate continues. Did Piri Reis just strike lucky with cartographic guesswork? Or did the Turkish admiral have access to charts and maps created by an advanced race, living on the planet thousands of years ago?

*) Matt Lamy
Thursday, November 11, 2010


IN 1963, A SCIENTIST known as Fritz Werner was working on specialist nuclear tests in Arizona. In May of that year, Werner was asked to go on a specialist assignment – he was flown to Phoenix, and then taken by bus with a group of other men to a destination north-west of the city. The men were told not to talk to each other, and when unloaded from the vehicle they were shown a crash site. Werner claims that he saw a 30-feetwide metal disc protruding from the desert sand. He was asked to calculate the speed of the impact, and says that during his time on site he also saw the body of a four-foot-tall creature wearing a silver suit in the medical tent. He was taken back to Arizona and made to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

In 1957, a crashed UFO actually resulted in physical evidence being put into the public domain. On 18th September a journalist named Ibrahim Sued, who worked at a major Brazilian paper called O Globo, received a very odd letter. It was unsigned, but was said to be by a man who had been fishing near the town of Ubatuba in Sao Paulo, and saw a bizarre flying disc almost crash into the sea. The anonymous man said the craft was travelling at incredible speeds, and although it missed the water, it exploded in mid-air. The man managed to collect fragments from the strange vessel, which he included in the letter. These pieces were sent for official testing, and the Brazilian agricultural ministry declared it was a form of unusually pure magnesium. The results of experiments carried out by the Brazilian Army and Navy were kept secret.

Unlike more remote areas, the great advantage UFO researchers have when investigating odd incidents in America is that there are often plenty of witnesses. On 9th December 1965 hundreds of people saw a bizarre object streaking across the skies over Ohio and Pennsylvania. Some of the witnesses were airline pilots whose planes were shaken by the turbulence created by the unusual heavenly body. For six minutes, people watched what they thought was a meteorite travel from north-west to southeast before it seemed to explode. In fact, the object crashed in a wooded area in the town of Kecksberg, and started a small fire. Local police and fire authorities were unable to reach the site because they were turned away by a specialist military team who had immediately descended on the area. Witnesses said they had later seen the armed unit load a rounded metallic object onto a flatbed lorry which was then covered in tarpaulin to disguise its load.

Undoubtedly the most unsettling UFO crash and subsequent government reaction is reported to have occurred in northern Mexico, in the state of Chihuahua. UFO investigators have obtained documents which they claim reveal that an unidentified object was tracked by two US Air Defense radars on 25th August 1974. The object seemed to be entering the atmosphere from orbit, and was heading towards the United States, but veered off at the last minute and disappeared from sight over Mexico. At the same time, Mexican authorities said a light aeroplane had been lost over the area. The next day, Mexican search and rescue teams hunting for the downed plane started reporting that they had found the crash site, and two aircraft seemed to have been involved. When they transmitted a message that claimed the second appeared to be metallic and circular in shape, all broadcasts were ordered to stop.

UFO enthusiasts believe the US government heard these messages and immediately organised a response team. The US government strongly urged Mexico to accept their help, and when the local authorities ignored the offer, they decided to go in anyway. Mexican salvage squads had already loaded the two craft onto a truck and were heading south. By the time the US forces, travelling in helicopters, had caught up with them, a terrible tragedy had occurred. All the people with the convoy had somehow been mysteriously killed, so the American team, wearing protective clothing, took charge of the suspect air vehicle. They ferried it slung underneath a cargo helicopter, and took it to a secret installation in the US.

There is no absolute proof of UFO activity, but investigators continue to claim that more and more official evidence is being revealed that support these stories. The truth may not be ‘out there’, but it could certainly lie hidden in the vaults of a government agency.

*) Matt Lamy
Tuesday, November 9, 2010


AT 7:17AM ON 30th June 1908 there was a massive explosion in the atmosphere five miles above Siberia. It left the forest underneath burnt and charred, and pushed trees over in a 20-mile radius. It threw people to the floor and broke windowpanes 50 miles away. One hundred miles away, witnesses reported seeing the explosion create an enormous black cloud of ash which was accompanied by a terrific roar. This deafening noise was even heard 300 miles away, and all across the world scientific equipment recorded strange occurrences in northern Russia. To this day, bizarre growth patterns in plant and animal life can be found in the area. But what exactly happened in Tunguska that day?

The nearest witnesses to the explosion were reindeer herders 25 miles from the blast’s epicentre. They were sleeping in their tents when the massive force blew them into the air. One man was reported to have died, and the others lost consciousness. When they came round, they saw the forest around them devastated and smouldering. Other witnesses at a trading post in Vanavara 50 miles south of the explosion, reported seeing the sky split in two, with the northern part covered in flames. A blast that washed over them was so hot it felt as if their clothes were on fire. It threw them 20 feet in the air, and when they regained their senses, a terrible crashing bang was followed by a noise which sounded like a downpour of small stones hitting the ground.

More distant witnesses had seen the phenomenon’s final impressive act approaching. Residents in remote towns had seen a great ‘ball of fire’ with an iridescent tail streaking across the morning sky. Many thought it was the beginning of the great final apocalypse. The local newspaper, the Sibir, reported what was seen from the village of Nizhne-Karelinsk, 200 miles from the explosion:

The peasants saw a body shining brightly – with a bluish white light. It moved vertically downwards for about ten minutes. The body was in the form of a ‘pipe’. The sky was cloudless, except that low down on the horizon in the direction in which this glowing body was observed, a small dark cloud was noticed. It was hot and dry and when the shining body approached the ground it seemed to be pulverised: in its place a huge cloud of black smoke was formed and a loud crash, not like thunder, but as if from the fall of large stones, or from gunfire, was heard. All the buildings shook and at the same time, a forked tongue of flame broke through the cloud. The old women wept, everyone thought that the end of the world was approaching.

The Russian authorities were not able to send anyone to investigate the phenomenon until March 1927, when Leonid Kulik was chosen by the Soviet Academy of Sciences to find out what had happened. Kulik arrived in the area and noticed the lines of trees all knocked down radiating from a distant point. He took photographs and studied the land, but never found any fragments or meteorite samples. It seemed that whatever had caused the huge heavenly event had vaporised itself. The absence of physical remains left the Russians perplexed. They felt that only a massive rock from outer space could have caused those effects.

Following the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan during the Second World War, photographs comparing the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the area near the epicentre of the Tunguska explosion displayed many similarities. A revision of eye-witness accounts also increased the possibility of the Russian phenomenon being a nuclear explosion. However, no nuclear weapons existed in 1908, so some people speculated the blast was caused by an alien space craft crashing to Earth.

Such an idea is now largely scoffed at, and has been replaced with theories of antimatter or a black hole imploding above Siberia. Our improved scientific knowledge has been able to deduce that the explosion was the equivalent of a 40-megaton nuclear weapon. But Man’s ideas about what caused this amazing event, whether it involves UFOs or other intergalactic oddities, requires an understanding of a subject that we still have not quite grasped.

*) Matt Lamy
Thursday, November 4, 2010


The White River Monster – or possibly an elephant seal – basks on a river beach.
OF ALL THE awesome and hideous mystery beasts in the world, nothing is loved by its neighbours quite as much as ‘Whitey’, the White River Monster. In fact, Arkansas State Legislators have declared the area where it has been most often seen – around the town of Newport – a ‘White River Monster Refuge’. It is now illegal to ‘molest, kill, trample or harm’ the legendary beast. But this has not always been the case – originally locals wanted to dynamite the monster.

Whitey’s first appearance was in the 1890s. He then reappeared in 1915, but it was only in the first week of July 1937 that he really made a splash. Men fishing in the White River, a tributary of the great Mississippi, noticed that they were finding it hard to land many fish. One day they spotted a strange creature in an eddy, and reported it to the local plantation owner, Bramlett Bateman. Bateman was sceptical, but agreed to have a look at whatever they had found. He was shocked at what he saw. A monster with the skin of an elephant, four or five feet wide by twelve feet long, with the face of a catfish, was lolling on the surface of the water.

Bateman felt this beast was a threat to his crops, and applied to local officials to blow up the eddy with TNT. The authorities refused permission, and by then hundreds of people had heard of the phenomenon. They came from as far away as California, some with cameras, some with explosives; one man reportedly brought a machine gun. A plan to capture the monster with a giant net fell by the wayside, and Bateman’s use of a deep-sea diver to find the creature came to nought. As people lost interest in the beast, Bateman felt he was being accused of creating a hoax although there had been over 100 confirmed sightings recorded during the short period of excitement.

Whitey was forgotten, but he made a dramatic return in June 1971. A man was fishing with two friends when suddenly a great fountain of water spurted in front of them and a creature with a 20-feet-long spikey back was seen to surface and then disappear beneath the water. The man managed to take a photograph of the beast, which he sold to the Newport Daily Independent newspaper. People who saw the picture were unimpressed by its clarity and the newspaper has since lost the original copy.

However, numerous other witnesses saw a long, grey creature surfacing in the water of the White River. Some said it was the length of a boxcar, that its smooth flesh looked as if it was peeling. Others said it made a bizarre noise, like a cow’s moo or horse’s neigh. Those who managed to see the beast’s face in detail told of a strange tusk protruding from its forehead. A trail of peculiar 14 inch tracks were found on the nearby Towhead Island, and a CBS news team was duly despatched to report on the area. The last reported sighting came in late July when two people out fishing claimed their boat was rocked by what they believed was the monster. Media coverage killed off sightings of Whitey, and in February 1973 the Arkansas Senate passed its resolution to protect the beast.

From the accounts witnesses have provided, some experts believe Whitey may be a lost elephant seal. They can be immense creatures, up to twenty feet long, and the descriptions of noise, skin and forehead horn would all fit correctly. It is also known that the elephant seal migrates seven thousand miles each year so it may just be off-course. However, the nearest seal colony lies on the west coast of America, so it would have to come through the Panama Canal to reach the White River. Also, elephant seals only live for around fifteen years, so no single animal could possibly account for sightings over almost a century. Whatever Whitey is, he can be assured of a warm, if not explosive, welcome the next time he pops up in Arkansas.

*) Matt Lamy


Examining the wreckage of a UFO – or is it a weather balloon?
DEEP IN THE Nevada desert lies a military base that is surrounded by so much official secrecy that the US government has even refused to acknowledge it exists. The base was built by the CIA and all pilots, ground crews and the staff have to retire from their original military departments and join the agency before taking residency on site. As a CIA installation it operates independently of other government departments. To this day, signs at the entrance warn all visitors that they have no constitutional rights on site, and armed units guard the perimeter. It is the UFO world’s worst kept secret, and the area is now a pilgrimage point for alien watchers. This is Area 51.

Built in the 1950s around the Groom Lake Air Force base, and next to the Nevada atomic test range, Area 51 was a perfect site to carry out classified aircraft tests. It had a large flat surface perfect for laying few local residents, and a highly unattractive reputation to new settlers due to the nearby nuclear pollution. Initially it was built purely for testing the U2 spy plane, but the programme was such a success that all the United States secret aircraft were experimentally flown there. The base grew in size, creating its own small community and the landing strip was increased to three miles long. The Blackbird and Stealth planes were developed on site, and countless unknown technologies are housed in the base’s hanger. Many people believe these technologies are, quite literally, from a different planet, and the base is actually a test zone and hiding site for alien aircraft. At night, strange lights are seen in the sky above the base, and many watchers believe the site hides enormous underground installations.

More in-depth knowledge of operations there have come through one man, Bob Lazar. Lazar is a scientist who was employed by a company called EG & G in 1989 who said they were working on a propulsion project at their testing centre near Area 51, on a base called S4. In later conversations Lazar revealed that he and other scientists were employed to pull an alien aircraft apart and see if they could manufacture it using manmade components. As part of their work, the scientists were informed about the role of aliens in the history of the Earth, and on one occasion Lazar even claims to have briefly seen at first-hand, a real, live alien at S4.

It’s out there somewhere: members of a UFO search team pose for the camera.
Over time, Lazar says he decided to rebel against his employers. In the evening of 22nd March 1989 he and a friend went out to the Groom Lake road and watched a flying disc test flight. The following week Lazar, his friend and three others visited the same area. They saw a disc flight, which Huff described as ‘the thrill of a lifetime’. The disc they witnessed glowed extremely brightly, and flew so close that they felt they had to move backwards. The following week, on the way back home from another UFO-spotting trip, the group were seen and stopped by base security patrolling the outlying area. The next day Lazar was sacked from EG & G’s employment. He has subsequently revealed that nine discs are said to be held at S4.

Some of the unsettling things that go on at the base are more real than others. The road to its entrance is known as ‘The Widow’s Highway’ because of the high numbers of workers at the base who die through contact with fatally poisonous materials. Many experts suggest the area is a secret dumping ground for toxic substances, rather than a UFO base. In either case, the workers are sworn to secrecy, and cannot reveal details about what they have been handling to their doctors. This has led to their wives launching court proceedings against the US government, who have traditionally refuted the allegations on the grounds that Area 51 does not officially exist. However, a statement made in January 2001 by President George Bush did refer to the ‘operating location near Groom Lake’, which is the first official recognition of Area 51. But Bush also said that the site was exempt from environmental disclosure requirements, so the widows are still fighting their case. But at least we now know the place is not just a figment of our imaginations.

*) Matt Lamy
Tuesday, November 2, 2010


The Man in the Iron Mask. Reputedly the King’s unfortunate twin brother, there is little or no evidence as to whether he ever existed or not.
OF ALL THE MYSTERIOUS figures in history, no one has sparked more interest, and provided such little detail, as the Man in the Iron Mask. Despite more than 300 years of puzzle, conjecture and uncertainty, there are precious few clues to his identity. The man is a enigmatic character who has been the subject of a classic novel by Alexandre Dumas and countless feature films. His place in the public’s mind is assured, but despite arousing such popular interest, no crucial revelations have been discovered. All we know is that he was a distinguished prisoner, and from the moment he was imprisoned, he had to hide his identity behind a strange mask.

The Man in the Iron Mask was first imprisoned sometime in the 1660s, probably towards the end of the decade. He was initially jailed at the fortress of Pignerol in the French Alps, where he was guarded by Benigne d’Auvergne de Saint-Mars, who would continue to be his personal jailer until the mysterious man’s death. He was transferred to the nearby prison in Exiles in 1681, and then to the island castle of Sainte Marguerite in 1687. It was during this second change of jail that the first witness account reported seeing a prisoner in an iron mask. In 1698 Saint-Mars was made the governor of the Bastille, the famous Parisian prison. Consequently, the masked man moved to the French capital and more reports, this time of a man in a black velvet mask, were recorded. He is said to have died in the Bastille in 1703.

The actual details we have of his life are extremely scant. A death certificate states the prisoner’s name was Marchioly, and he was about 45 years old when he died. This seems unlikely, particularly as he had been held in captivity for almost 40 years. One man who initiated many theories about the Bastille’s mysterious inmate was another, later, resident of the jail – the philosopher and writer Voltaire who had spoken to the man’s captors. He revealed that the man had been in jail since 1661, and was young, tall and handsome when first captured. He was said to dress in exquisite clothing, had refined hobbies and tastes and, crucially, he looked very much like a member of the French Royal Family.

Although Voltaire was a known adversary of French Royalty, this suggestion that the prisoner was possibly a twin brother of King Louis XIV lingered, and was adopted by Dumas for his novel. Despite the fact that an identical physical resemblance to the king would account for the man being permanently masked, it seems unlikely that such a monumental fact could have stayed a secret. However, the king’s birth did have some unusual qualities, and there is a strong possibility that the prisoner may have been an illegitimate brother of Louis XIV.

Other theories for the masked man’s identity include that he was actually the playwright Moliére, who had been imprisoned for fear of corrupting the king. This can be discounted because Moliére would have been too old to fit the dates recorded. There are also suggestions that he may have been Nicolas Fouquet, a envied wealthy French nobleman, or even an illegitimate lovechild of Charles II of England.

What cannot be in doubt is the reverence with which he was treated. Saint-Mars was known to call him, ‘my prince’, and his guarding soldiers referred to him as ‘Tower’. It has even been revealed that the soldiers would often remove their hats when entering his chamber, and would stand silently until the man motioned them to sit. In 1711, Princess Palatine, the king’s sister-in-law, wrote a letter about how the man was flanked at all times by two musketeers who had orders to immediately kill him if he removed his mask. Similarly, letters between the king and Saint-Mars have revealed that the prisoner should be executed straight away if he tried to talk or communicate with anybody.

Certainly, the prisoner warranted special attention, whoever he was. Many experts have wondered why, if he was such a threat to the French Royal Family, he was not just executed anyway. However, the fact that was allowed to live, but only behind a mask, perhaps does indicate he had an interesting relationship with the monarchy. The identity of the Man in the Iron Mask is now a fact lost in time, and the true story of his life is probably a tale we will never fully know.

*) Matt Lamy


Crystals like these are claimed by many to have mysterious healing powers.
THE NEW AGE movement has placed great emphasis on one particular type of power instrument – crystals. These attractive chemical solidifications are now regarded as being the wonder substance of New Age belief, and have permeated into the world of popular culture. The celebrity world is awash with high-profile, spirituallyaware people who attest to the positive power of crystals. They believe these substances direct and control energy flows in the body and promote physical and emotional well-being. But do crystals really provide magical support for people or is this effect merely an unsubstantiated craze?

A crystal is a solid ‘rock’ created by chemicals solidifying in a solution. Its chemical construction is particularly special because it is formed by regularly repeating patterns of atoms and molecules, and the crystal particle is pulled together by flat external forces. Like snowflakes, they are a naturally occurring phenomenon where each one created is unique, and crystals occur in any number of shapes. They are highly aesthetic and prized for use in clothing and jewellery.

Throughout history, crystals have also been regarded as having magic properties and were often believed to hold bizarre paranormal powers. Ancient races considered crystals to contain the power of Mother Earth as they originated in its crust, and the energy of the sun because they were seen to reflect light in bizarre ways. Crystals were also supposed to show the future and give people superhuman powers, with the use of crystal balls by psychics being a deliberate choice.

Modern New Age enthusiasts believe the power of the crystals lies in their ability to regulate, calm and heal the body. They are believed to channel good energy, ward off bad energy and are also said to ‘vibrate’ at frequencies which compliment natural body functions. Lifestyle gurus declare that crystals promote self-expression, meditation and creativity, and that a full complement of different crystals is needed to engage with all a person’s needs.

Different crystals are said to affect the body in different ways. Amethysts are believed to help headaches, eye and hair problems, balance blood sugar levels, increase psychic abilities and reduce anger, impatience and nightmares. Emeralds apparently increase the efficiency of a body’s respiration, heart and blood systems, lift depression and insomnia and evoke peace, harmony, patience and love. Finally, diamonds increase clarity, confidence and trust, clarify attitudes and thoughts and develop prosperity, generosity and love. What better reason could there be for buying them for a loved one?

In recent years it has been fashionable to employ crystals in jewellery, not only for aesthetic qualities, but so as to have beneficial power sources near the body. A chiropractor called Charles Brown developed the Bioelectric Shield – a piece of jewellery that has crystals arranged in such a way that they protect people from all the many harmful electromagnetic forces in the modern world: mobile phones, computer screens and power lines. These ‘shields’ are said to be medically proven, and are even worn by Cherie Blair, the wife of the British Prime Minister. The different constructions of these shields are said to provide protection for different things.

Unfortunately, these assertions are not based on any sort of scientific basis. Indeed they are based on nothing more than blind faith. Sceptics believe any reaction they do have on human beings is the result of selective or wishful thinking, more selfdeception and placebo effect. But crystals do have many vital roles in our modern world. They are important components in electronic, optical and communication industries, and feature in many types of high-tech equipment. These functions are due to one special function that crystals really do have. In 1880 Pierre and Jacques Curie realised that certain crystals produce an electrical change when they are compressed. This discovery was termed the ‘piezoelectric effect’, and now crystals are used for highly scientific purposes.

However, the piezoelectric effect has no effect on the human body, and crystals provide no protection from illness, calamity or misfortune. That does not detract from their beauty, but as far as science is concerned the magical power of crystals is completely unfounded.

*) Matt Lamy


The Roswell crash scene; why was there no debris left after the crash?
THROUGH THE HAZY black and white footage, the relaxed shape of a bloated, swollen-headed, six-fingered humanoid figure can just be viewed. The grainy scene is a bizarre image of death as the pathologist cuts into the alien skin. Could this be the most incredible evidence ever uncovered to prove that something out of this world really did land at Roswell over fifty years ago?

On 7th July 1947 the wreckage of a strange vehicle and some non-human bodies was found on the Foster ranch just outside Roswell. The next day, a press officer from the Roswell Army Air Fields was happy to announce to the Roswell Daily Record that the 509th Bomb Group, an elite section of the Air Force, had salvaged an alien vessel. Immediately his words were refuted. The US 8th Air Force’s commanding officer, General Roger Ramey, said they had actually recovered an experimental balloon. Ramey’s explanation was quickly adopted as the official line throughout the following years, and this technique of outright denial would continue to be championed by governments questioned about flying saucer stories.

Although the public initially accepted the official version of events, this episode sparked a consistent stream of UFO sightings, particularly around remote US Air Force bases. Sites such as Area 51 in Nevada, and the government’s denial of its existence, led to suspicion and conspiracy theories. The 1947 ‘Roswell Incident’ itself has also never quite left the public consciousness. In 1994 a New Mexico congressman instigated an inquiry into the affair. The investigative department of the US Congress, known as the General Accounting Office, discovered that many relevant US Air Force documents had gone missing or had been destroyed. However, the GAO also came to the conclusion that it was, indeed, a weather balloon that had been recovered from the Foster ranch, and the bodies there were in fact anthropomorphic dummies. Case closed.

Little did US officials realise that the ‘Roswell Incident’ was about to dramatically appear on television screens across the globe. In 1992, a British media businessman, Ray Santilli was in Cleveland, Ohio to meet a retired cameraman. Santilli wanted to buy some vintage 1955 Elvis footage from the man, who revealed he also had some interesting alien autopsy film from his time in the military. Santilli purchased the film in November 1994 and agreed to show it at the British UFO Research Association annual conference on 19th August 1995. However, by March 1995 news of the film had been released to the media, and a serious world premier of the footage was needed. It took place in front of invited guests at the Museum of London on 5th May. By the end of August 1995, millions of people around the world had seen moving pictures from a supposed alien autopsy.

Although this was compelling evidence, doubters immediately began voicing their theories about the film. The most obvious suspicion was that the autopsy had been created by movie special effects processes. Many experts believe the film is fake, but they also believe it is very high quality. The Hollywood effects industry is a closed shop, with insiders having friends and contacts across the range of companies, but so far no one has an inkling as to who created the Roswell film. Other experts in the field of biology are less convinced that the body is entirely man-made, and some suspect that it may be a human being adapted to look otherworldly.

There is a whole host of further questions about the Roswell autopsy. Whoever captured the footage has never been revealed, although a bizarre film was released where someone purporting to be the cameraman attempted to explain his involvement. Santilli has never uncovered the footage he has of another alien autopsy and has never really allowed any of his films to be subjected to proper scrutiny. Most importantly, the aliens in the footage look nothing like the bodies witnesses saw recovered from the New Mexico desert floor. All experts who view the autopsy film agree that it is a fake. Santilli has made a great deal of money from the Roswell autopsy footage, and he still maintains that it is genuine. The rest of us will probably never know. The public’s natural instinct is to question governmental denials, but the other options here are also so unreliable that it is very hard to determine the truth.

*) Matt Lamy


Map of Mars. The most up-to-date reports from the European Mars Express mission confirm the presence of large quantities of ice-held water at the Red Planet’s South Pole.
THE IDEA THAT the Earth could be invaded by a marauding army of creatures from Mars is a scene now suitable only for vintage science-fiction – with the advent of modern technology and better understanding, even our creative writers have progressed. The suggestion that intelligent life forms live so close to Earth is now too implausible for fiction. But as we learn more about the universe, so our intelligence contradicts old, established beliefs. Can it be true that conventional wisdom is wrong?

In 1976, Viking Orbiter 1 was sent to scan the surface of Mars. The craft was designed to photograph the planet’s terrain and find a suitable landing site for a future Viking Landing 2 mission. Investigators studying the photographs found a picture of Mars’ Cydonia region that seemed to show a milewide hill shaped like a human face. NASA claimed it was just a trick of the light, and released the image, naming it the ‘Mars Face’. However, many enthusiasts believed that close scrutiny of the photographs proved that some formations were artificial, rather than naturally created. Some people stated that the face was the design of an intelligent life form, and some believed that triangular-shaped hills near the face were actually pyramids.

In 1998 and 2001 the Mars Global Surveyor took more photographs of the Cydonia region. These pictures showed the ‘Mars Face’ and other geographical objects as being much more innocent. However, most astonishingly, ‘Mars Face’ enthusiasts claimed these new pictures depicted a whole city frozen underneath a giant glacier in the region. NASA has promised to continue mapping the area until the question is answered and former NASA administrator, Dan Goldin, vowed that the Cydonia region of Mars will be studied to everybody’s satisfaction.

Other developments in the quest to find life on Mars have also thrown up some fascinating results. A meteorite from Mars was found in Antarctica in 1984 and the NASA scientists who studied it found it contained evidence that bacterial life may actually exist, or have existed, on the planet. The space rock contained hydrocarbons, which are the natural waste products of dead micro-organisms, mineral structures consistent with bacterial activity and tiny globules of carbonate, which may be microfossils. In NASA’s opinion, these features found together strongly point to possible micro-organism activity.

Another recent discovery was published when data found by the Pathfinder mission to Mars suggested there might be chlorophyll in its soil. Pathfinder touched down in the Ares Vallis region of the planet in July 1997, and took many pictures and readings from the area in which it landed. Some of the pictures it took revealed that two areas close to the landing site may have contained chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a substance used by plants and other organisms to extract energy from sunlight. It is an important component of life on our planet, a very stark indicator that there may be life on another planet too.

The most important ingredient for life is water. It had generally been assumed that there was little easily available water on the surface of Mars, and most of that was frozen solid. However, recent studies have suggested that the surface is actually just a covering over a permafrost layer. NASA and Russian scientists have looked at the examples of life found in permafrost regions of Earth, and believe similar organisms may lurk somewhere on Mars. Other experts who have studied the surface of the planet have noted how similar it is to former, now driedup, river, lake and ocean areas on Earth. It all suggests that water was in abundance at some time on Mars.

American President George Bush certainly seems to share in this opinion, and his budget announcements have all favoured putting some money into space research, particularly on Mars. One statement said that ‘habitable worlds’ may be more prevalent than scientists once thought. He vowed to put $3 billion into Project Prometheus, a plan to find out more about our solar system. This money should prove to be highly beneficial for the Mars projects, for, as each new study seems to throw up more potential questions, it may well take nothing less than a manned mission to Mars to finally put the mystery to rest.

*) Matt Lamy
Monday, November 1, 2010


THE BERMUDA, Or Devil’s, Triangle is an area of ocean found off the southeastern tip of the United States. It is a region of water indelibly connected with mysterious vessel disappearances; the popular perception is that countless boats and planes have been inexplicably lost there. The triangle extends from Bermuda to Miami and then to the Puerto Rico, and is said to contain a supernatural secret. Some high profile disappearances have occurred there, and the notion of its existence has been turned into a modern myth in the media. Even the term ‘Bermuda Triangle’ was coined in a fictional publication. But does the sea here really house some unknown power that pulls sea and airmen to their doom, or is this mystery based mainly on imagination?

The most famous loss in the triangle is known as the mystery of Flight 19, and happened on 5th December 1945. A squadron of five US Navy Avenger torpedo bombers set off from their base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to conduct a practice mission over the island of Bimini. The flight contained 14 men, all of them students apart from the commander, Lt Charles Taylor. About an hour and a half after the mission began, radio operators received a signal from Taylor saying his compasses were not working, but he believed he was over the Florida Keys. He was advised to fly north which would bring him back to the mainland. In fact, he was over the Bahamas, and his attempts to head north and northeast merely took him further away from solid ground. A terrible storm that day hampered communications and it seems Taylor rejected a suggestion to pass control of the squadron to one of the other pilots.

Radio contact was entirely lost and search craft were dispatched to try and find the flight to guide them back in. Of the three planes used to rescue Flight 19, one lost communications itself because of an iced over aerial, one was just unsuccessful whilst another seemed to explode shortly after takeoff. Flight 19 itself has never been found, but it is assumed that they ditched into the raging sea when their fuel ran out, with the heavy planes rapidly sinking to the ocean floor. The US Navy recorded that the disaster was caused by Taylor’s confusion, but an appeal by his family had this overturned, and a verdict of ‘causes or reasons unknown’ was given. However, Flight 19 is not the only high profile official loss in the area, and the USS Cyclops and Marine Sulphur Queen have also disappeared without trace.

The legend of Flight 19 was cemented by its inclusion in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind movie. Indeed, some theories state that visiting UFO craft enter an underwater base in the Bermuda area, and they have been the cause of the disappearances. Other fantastical ideas such as technologies from Atlantis or evil marine creatures have also been considered. Some people even suggest the triangle is the site of a gateway into another dimension. Strange oceanographic features such as huge clouds of methane gas escaping from the seabed have also been blamed for the disappearances.

In reality, the triangle does have one natural quality which may contribute to the losses. Unlike everywhere else in the world – apart from the Dragon’s Triangle near Japan – compasses point to true north rather than magnetic north. This may be a contributing factor to the triangle’s legend, but the US Coastguard officially believes the losses are caused by a mixture of environmental and man-made mistakes. This region is used by a large amount of ocean and air traffic, much of which is navigated by inexperienced pleasure-seekers. A strong Gulf Stream and unpredictable weather conditions not only cause vessels to run into trouble, but also remove many traces of them once they have been wrecked.

It is interesting also to note that the coastguard does not view the area as having a particularly high incidence of accidents. One researcher examined many historic losses in the triangle. He came to the conclusion that rumours and elaboration had clouded the real, understandable, causes behind the events. Similarly, the international insurers, Lloyd’s of London, have records that demonstrate that this region near Bermuda is no more treacherous than any other waterway. However, the myth of the Bermuda Triangle is so strong it will live on as long as fictional writers use it as a site of mysterious happenings.

*) Matt Lamy
Sunday, October 31, 2010


MOST RELIGIONS AGREE that when we die, we are going to face some kind of reckoning or judgement. However, so much of our lives are spent dealing with trivial day-to-day distractions that we often forget this. For some people, a truly amazing phenomenon reasserts their priorities. It is a phenomenon that takes them beyond the shroud of life, to the very edges of the next dimension where they leave their mortal bodies and are shown the error of their ways. It is a phenomenon characterised by a dark tunnel, a shining light at the end, and extreme feelings of serendipity or fear. These are Near Death Experiences.

Near death experiences are reported by people who have been, at some stage, physically and medically dead – that is to say, they show no vital signs of life. It is normally experienced by heart attack sufferers, overdosed drug users, and people who have attempted suicide. Some estimates suggest that over ten million people in the United States have had personal experiences of near death experiences, so it is hardly a select phenomenon.

Although no two near death experiences are the same, they do share some common qualities. Many people report that they feel as if they have risen out of their body. Often they look down upon the medical teams trying to bring them back to life. Indeed, many people who have had near death experiences can even state exactly what happened, who said what, and which instruments were used to resuscitate them. Other experiences involve the person hovering above members of their family at the time of death.

Sometimes seeing their close relations is enough to force them to return to their mortal frames. But if they continue their near death experience, it is often reported that a feeling of sublime peace and joy sweeps over them. They find themselves in a dark tunnel with a beautiful white or golden light at the end of it. Sometimes they hear the voices of deceased loved ones, or even God, telling them to return to Earth. Some near death experiences involve an overview of the person’s life, showing where things have gone wrong or need completing, and sometimes the person feels as though they have gained knowledge about the meaning of life. Whether by voluntary or involuntary means, they return to their bodies.

Not all near death experiences are so enjoyable, for there are some people who suffer horrific fear during their near death experience and see monsters or devils. What is largely universal is the effect of the experience on the person; they often instigate massive, life-changing decisions as a result. People review what is important in their life, and find new happiness from simple things. Many do voluntary work, or become teachers or lecturers. Those who do not chose to show their commitment to serving people publicly frequently reveal a new approach to life, and often become more pleasant, sympathetic and understanding.

In 2001, The Lancet medical journal published a report of a 13-year study into near death experiences that occurred in Dutch hospitals. The investigation was conducted by cardiologist Pim van Lommel, and was unique in that it questioned 344 patients immediately after they had been resuscitated. It was established that the patients’ brains had no flow of blood, and so would have ceased to operate, yet 18% of those questioned had some memory of events during the time they were technically dead.

The researchers also found that 12% had a deep experience – that is, an out-of-body, bright light, or meeting of dead relatives type of phenomenon. The most impressive part was that the details of their experiences stayed precisely exact, even when they were re-interviewed two and eight years later. It was also seen that those who had near death experiences reprioritised, and became noticeably more appreciative of life, when compared to non- near death experience flatliners. Near death experience sufferers also had a radically declined fear of death.

Some in the medical profession considerthe accounts to be products of fantasy, false memory or confused consciousness. This view does a disservice to the huge numbers of people who genuinely feel they have had these moments; their reported near death experiences are just a sample – it has to be pointed out that many who had near death experiences in the past failed to come forward for fear of ridicule.

Do these experiences mean there really is an after-life? There is no scientific proof, although many near death experience sufferers will slip into death without fear when the time comes again. For them, it is not a step into the unknown.

*) Matt Lamy


WATERWORKS VALLEY, in the parish of St Lawrence in the Channel Island of Jersey, is named after the great number of reservoirs and pumping stations found along it. Even in the daytime, it is a brooding, haunting place, overcast as it is by a thick layer of trees and foliage. It is damp and dark, and people are often forgiven for seeing or hearing things. Sometimes there is no mistaking the ghostly sights and sounds that occur. Countless people have seen it pass by, and even more have run away after hearing it approach. This, they say, is the ‘Phantom Carriage’.

The stories often follow a similar pattern. Usually the events occur in the evening and begin with the muffled ringing of bells – the unearthly music is said to sound more like wedding bells than anything sombre. Gradually, mixed with ringing, another noise becomes discernible. It is the sound of horses trotting along the valley, accompanied by the spinning, bumping rattles of a carriage. Emerging from the gloom, witnesses spot the procession which is clothed in eighteenth century costume. They see that the coach’s passenger is a bride in her wedding dress, but as it rolls past witnesses see the face behind the veil. It is the haggard skull of a corpse.

One tale of explanation claims that in the early eighteenth century a girl who was due to be married at St Lawrence parish church was disappointed at the altar. It is said she committed suicide that evening, and the apparition is a representation of her timeless sorrow. Another variation of the story is that she committed suicide on the eve of the wedding, but her ghostly figure appeared at the church the next day anyway. It was only as the groom lifted the veil that he noticed the pale lifeless face of a corpse underneath. Many people believe the phenomenon happens only once a year at a specific time. But there are so many sightings, and such vivid recollections, that perhaps this poor girl’s misery is constant and never-ending.

*) Matt Lamy


SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE the earth has a natural source of energy that manifests itself as a magnetic field or electrical current. This unseen power is thought to have the ability to affect human bodily conditions and create biochemical reactions when people are near a prime spot of Earth Energy. Particularly potent areas are known as vortices, and many enthusiasts are of the opinion that these points help provide Man with rejuvenating or beneficial energy. As a sign of proof, they point to the idea that ancient races were more in tune with natural powers, and built important structures on sites emanating large amounts of energy. They claim Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid at Giza and Nazca are all points of strong natural forces.

As the idea of quantifiable, geophysical Earth power or natural energy has developed, the subject of ley-lines has very much caught the public’s imagination. Although leys have significance based on historical and archaeological fact, the theory of Earth Energy was popularised by New Age philosophies. Many enthusiasts have examined the subject with a scientific approach, despite it originating alongside many of the ‘hippy’ theories of the 1960s and 70s. Certainly, many people do connect Earth Energy with ley-lines and mystical qualities, but there is also some scientific substance to the idea.

Actual hard evidence is scarce, despite enthusiasts’ opinions. Dowsers suggest they can pick up strong sources of energy at many sacred sites, but that is a fact only as believable as dowsing itself. Earth Energy researchers often suggest that power centres are all areas heavily charged with negative ions, and there is an unusual state of electrical, magnetic or electromagnetic flux. They term the whole phenomenon ‘geophysical anomalies’, and whilst it seems superficially impressive, the technological community is less convinced. Although many scientists are happy to entertain the possibility of untapped natural energy sources, they do not agree that many of these qualities attributed to Earth Energy have yet been proven.

*) Matt Lamy


ONE OF THE FIRST ENCOUNTERS between a civilian aircraft and a UFO happened at 2.45am on 24th July 1948. Captain Clarence S. Chiles and Pilot John B. Whitted, both former US Air Force pilots, were flying an Eastern Airlines DC-3 flight from Atlanta, Georgia to Montgomery, Alabama. The plane was travelling at an altitude of 5,000 feet when both men noticed a strange aerial vehicle approaching their aircraft. They said it appeared to be cigarshaped, 400 feet long, and travelling at around 600 miles an hour. They managed to make out two rows of windows along its side, which glowed bright white, and a blue light underneath. It had no wings and its trail rocked the DC-3 as it blasted off. For the rest of the 1940s and 1950s many aeroplanes were ‘buzzed’ by UFOs, and the phenomenon grew to such an extent that military officials brought in a code that gagged US commercial pilots from talking about their experiences.

On the other side of the border, in Canada, pilots did not have to follow such regulations. In 1966 a Canadian Pacific DC-8 was flying at a height of 35,000 feet from Peru to Mexico City when the crew witnessed something very odd. The Captain, Roger Millbank, was so certain of what he and his staff had seen that he filed an official report with Mexican authorities. He said that he and the co-pilot had seen two bright white lights to the left, which gradually separated and approached the DC-8. The lights seemed to change in colour and intensity, and they turned into two distinct beams, pointing in a V-shape. They came nearer still, and finally levelled off by the airliner’s left wing-tip. Millbank said that in the light of the full moon they could ‘see a shape between the two lights, a structure which appeared to have been thicker in the middle’. It remained close to the DC-8 for a couple more minutes, and then disappeared behind.

On one flight in the 1970s the passengers on a British Airways jet had a very lighthearted encounter with a UFO. The plane was flying just south of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, when the Captain heard air traffic control issuing a warning about a strange object in the skies near their flightpath. The crew of the BA flight saw a bright light in the distance, and a cigar-shaped craft soon appeared close-by. Realising this was too good an opportunity to miss, the British pilot issued an announcement over the passenger address system, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, if you look on the starboard side of the plane, you will see what we believe to be a UFO.’ The airliner reached its destination safely.

In November 1979, a rather more unpleasant episode befell the pilot flying a Spanish charter plane from Ibiza to the Spanish mainland. At an altitude of 24,000 feet a strange subject almost collided with the airliner. The pilot saw a bright red object, seemingly on a collision course with his vessel, and began an emergency dive to avoid it. The UFO continued to buzz round the airliner, and in the end two fighter jets were sent to intercept the object. The whole incident was witnessed on radar screens and by countless people watching from the earth below. A similar occurrence happened in the same area exactly one year later. The pilot of an Iberian Airways jet flying at 31,000 feet suddenly saw an immense green bubble in his flight-path. The phenomenon was witnessed by six other commercial airlines in the vicinity, and some reports said it even swooped down on Barcelona Airport.

In recent years, other similar incidents have occurred. A British Airways 737 was arriving at Manchester Airport in 1995 when a UFO buzzed near to the side of the plane. An even closer event happened on 12th June 1998 when an Oslo-bound jet took off from London’s Heathrow Airport. The plane’s captain reported to air traffic controllers that they had almost been hit by a small aircraft. Later the co-pilot said he had seen a very clear bright light and the captain filed an official report claiming a fighter-sized aeroplane had passed within a 50 metre distance of the aircraft. Aviation, military and police authorities found no explanation for the incident, however they say that no matter how safe air travel is, accidents sometimes do happen. With this level of unexplained aerial activity, perhaps it’s surprising they do not occur more often.

*) Matt Lamy


Men in Black: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones prepare to save the Earth in a still from the film of the same name.
THE FIRST KNOWN ENCOUNTER with two ‘Men in Black’ happened in 1947. Two US harbour patrolmen, Harold A. Dahl and Fred L. Crisman, had spotted a UFO over the water of Puget Sound, Washington. Dahl said that a man dressed in black visited him shortly after the sighting and forcefully advised him not to discuss the incident further. A similar meeting happened to Carlo Rossi, from the area near San Pietro a Vico in Italy. In the early hours of 25th July, 1952, Rossi was fishing in the River Serchio when he witnessed a strange circular craft hovering over the river. Rossi hid, watching the craft as it passed over him, and then sped away. In the following weeks he told no-one about what he had seen, but on 15th September he found a stranger dressed in a dark blue suit waiting for him by the river. The stranger spoke Italian, but with an odd Scandinavian accent, and had very strange facial features. The man forcefully asked Rossi about what he had seen, but Rossi denied everything.

A bizarre Men in Black case happened on 18th May 1968, when UFO witnesses started contacting researchers. George Smyth was one of those who had seen a strange object in the skies above Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA. He began to receive visits from strange men, and received phone calls warning him not to attend upcoming UFO conventions or speak to independent investigators. A bizarre aspect of this case was that the three visitors Smyth described were apparently the men he had been told to avoid – the UFO enthusiasts John Keel, Gray Barker and James Moseley. What made this even more odd was that these three men were actually miles away from Smyth’s house at the time of the visits.

Other UFO investigators in the area, John Robinson and his wife Mary, also noticed strange things happening to them. A large dark car seemed to be parked outside their house in New Jersey City, with a strange man inside constantly watching them. One day Mary went out and noticed their friend James Moseley making a spectacle of himself further up the street. She thought this was very strange, but went inside to make a drink for him, thinking he was there to visit them. But then the phone rang. To her surprise it was Moseley, not on a street corner in New Jersey City, but at his home in Manhattan. In recent years, more incidents have been reported. On 15th January 1997 William Shearer experienced a UFO encounter in Essex, southern England. Four days later he had a knock at the door and outside stood two strange men, dressed in dark grey suits and long coats. One man stood on guard by a large imposing saloon car, the other stood at Shearer’s threshold. This man was said to be very tall, deathly pale but with bright red lips, and spoke in a very unusual, almost automated, way. He repeatedly asked to come in but Shearer refused and the men finally said they would come back later.

A month later, Shearer was at work when two men appeared. One was the visitor who had stood by the car at the housecall, the other was a different man. They were both dressed in suits with hats, and they told him they wanted to talk about his UFO experience. They gave him exact details of the incident, details that Shearer felt only he should know, and were forceful in their requests. Shearer asked to see their ID, but the men just kept repeating a formulaic set of questions. In the end, Shearer refused to let them into his place of work and the two men disappeared. However, since then, he has reported blatant tapping activity when using his telephone.

Although no one can be absolutely certain, one theory is that these strange visitors are UFO investigators who belong to a research group that has standardised their visiting uniform. Others say they are actually aliens trying to cover their tracks. Sceptics believe they are pranksters or simply figments of witness’s imaginations. In most cases, they claim to be from the CIA or intelligence agencies, and there is a theory that these organisations have been happy to assume such identities in recent years as a readymade method of intimidation. The other option is, of course, that they are from a secret department of government intelligence, trying to control UFO and alienrelated sightings.

*) Matt Lamy
Saturday, October 30, 2010


Loch Ness, Scotland. Could this be the home of a plesiosaur?
OF ALL THE MYTHICAL BEASTS in the world, the most famous, most hunted for, and most talked about must be ‘Nessie’ the Loch Ness Monster. She, for the Scottish monster is always seen as a not-so-wee lassie, is often the first phenomenon thought about when the subject of unexplained mysteries is raised. She is an internationally-known celebrity, who has probably done more for her native tourist industry than any other famous Scot. There have been Nessie documentaries, programmes, films and even cartoons. But although she appears each year to a select few, she has been too shy to debut in a major scientific investigation. So is Nessie really a strange creature, lost in time, and lurking at the bottom of Loch Ness?

Loch Ness is a 24-mile-long freshwater lake found in the Great Glenn, a massive crevice that cuts the Scottish Highlands in two. The loch is up to a thousand feet deep and, at some points, a mile-and-a-half wide. The first tale of a monster living in the water originates in AD 565 and features Saint Columba, who rescued a swimmer from the beast’s advances. Experts now generally feel that Saint Columba actually encountered a known, normal, marine animal that had ended up outside its natural environment. Although the loch continued to be the focus of strange sightings, it was not until the 20th century that the phenomenon really flourished.

In 1933 the Loch Ness Lakeshore road was built. This initiated a flood of sightings and created the Nessie legend. In April that year, a local couple spotted an enormous animal rolling and playing in the water. They reported what they had seen to the man in charge of salmon stocks in the loch who then saw the monster himself, describing it as having a six-feet-long neck, a serpentine head and a huge hump. He suggested the creature was a total of 30 feet in length. In the July a family from London were driving along when they almost crashed into a massive dark, long-necked animal that strolled across their path and then
disappeared into the water. Similarly, early the next year a young veterinary student was riding his motorcycle along the road when he almost struck a creature. He said what he saw had a large bulky body, with flippers, a long neck and a small head.

Over the years, many people have tried to capture the creature on film. One Nessie witness managed to take a rather inconclusive photograph of something appearing from the water in 1933. In 1934 a London doctor released a most mysterious photograph of the monster to the public. It showed a strange head and neck appearing from the water; 60 years later it was revealed to be a fake. In April 1960 an aeronautical engineer used a 16mm movie camera to film something moving through the loch’s waves. Although it has never been established exactly what is captured on the film, experts at the Royal Air Force’s photographic department have verified that the footage is not a fake and has not been tampered with. Dinsdale himself devoted the rest of his life to finding Nessie.

Recent years have also provided new sightings. In June 1993, a couple were on the bank of the loch when they saw a huge, strange creature lolling about in the water. They said it must have been about 40-feetlong, with a giraffe-like neck and very light brown flesh. Later that same evening, a father and son were on their way home when they spotted something odd in the water. They later told reporters they saw an animal with a neck like a giraffe swimming swiftly
away from the shore. Because of the evidence accrued during these two episodes, bookmakers William Hill slashed the odds of there really being a Loch Ness Monster from 500-1 to 100-1.

Despite over 3,000 similar sightings by private individuals, Nessie has always been coy about exposing herself to dedicated, scientific research teams. The Academy of Applied Science from Boston, Massachusetts operated the first extensive expedition in the early 1970s. Using underwater cameras and sonar equipment, the project captured images of what looked like an eight-foot-long flipper, an unusual 20-foot-long aquatic body, and even a hazy photo of a creature’s face. However, an organised, structured sonar sweep of the loch in 1987, named ‘Operation Deepscan’, revealed the earlier portrait picture of Nessie was actually a tree stump. That said, Deepscan did report various, unaccounted-for, large sonar echoes moving about in the extreme depths of the loch.
The first photo of the Loch Ness Monster, which sparked the current ‘Nessiemania’.

Although these hunts have proved inconclusive, other recent scientific evidence has been more hopeful. In March 2000, a team of Norwegian scientists, the Global Underwater Search Team, picked up bizarre noises in the loch’s water. At one point whatever was making the sounds even crashed into the team’s underwater microphone. This group had already recorded unusual sounds from another mythically monster-infested lake in Norway. The strange noises found in Loch Ness are described as a cross between a snorting horse and a pig eating, closely matching the experiences in Norway. Not only does this suggest there are unknown creatures in both lakes, but they might actually be related. In recent years, sonar equipment has also discovered huge underwater caverns opening onto the bottom of the loch. These structures have been termed ‘Nessie’s Lair’, and may well be large enough to house and hide a whole family of monsters.

It is agreed that a breeding colony of beasts would be needed to continue its existence, and some witness accounts have reported more than one Nessie appearing on the water’s surface. Nessie’s actual species is still unknown although experts have suggested it may be a manatee or type of primitive whale. It my also be a large otter, a long-necked seal, a huge eel, or even a giant walrus. However, Nessie seems to bear a much stronger resemblance to a creature now thought to be extinct. This is called the plesiosaur, a marine dinosaur that has not been found on Earth for over 60 million years. It had large flippers, a small head and a large body, and some experts believe a few of these animals were stranded in the loch after the last Ice Age.
Monster hunters: the search for Nessie goes on.

None of these suggestions are completely plausible. Even if the plesiosaur did survive the disaster that wiped out the rest of its fellow prehistoric creatures, it is generally believed to be a cold-blooded animal, and would find the chilly environment of a Scottish lake too cold to survive. If Nessie is really a modern day aquatic mammal like a whale or a seal, then it would constantly have to come to the surface for air, resulting in many more sightings. One cannot help but feel there might actually be something in the murky depths of Loch Ness. With a continued interest that actually grows with each unsuccessful scientific study, this loch remains the home of the world’s most mysterious, unexplainable monster.

*) Matt Lamy


Tarn in the foothills of the mountain of Ben MacDhui.IN THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS lies a mountain where many have felt a dread quite unlike anything else they have ever experienced. As the fogs and mists roll across the cairns, they say there lurks a creature huge and terrifying. They call it ‘Am Fear Liath Mor’, or the ‘Big Grey Man’. Some see him as an old figure in robes, a giant, or even a devil. The creature does not just threaten with a force of physical power, this beast also causes an almost suicidal sense of depression and panic in all who come near it.

Ben MacDhui is the second highest mountain in Scotland, standing at over 4,000 feet. It is an imposing sight and a substantial test for experienced climbers. Many of the witnesses who see, or feel the presence of, the Grey Man are serious, hardened mountaineers, not prone to flights of fancy. The first person to reveal he had met the mountain’s strange tenant was Professor Norman Collie. Collie was a respected and well known climber, but when he gave his speech to the Cairngorm Club in 1925, the audience was truly stunned.

Collie explained that he had been coming down from the peak of Ben MacDhui in 1891 when he heard footsteps behind him. At first, shrouded in mist, he rationalised that it must just have been an echo of his own footfalls. But eventually he realised the noises he heard were not corresponding to the movements he was making. It sounded like a giant was following him. He said it was

as if someone was walking after me, but taking steps three or four times the length of my own.

Terrified, Collie blindly ran for four or five miles down the mountainside until he could no longer hear the noise. Collie never returned to the mountain, and to his dying day resolutely believed there was, ‘something very queer about Ben MacDhui.’

During the Second World War, Peter Densham was a mountain rescue worker, locating and saving pilots who had crashed in the Cairngorms. One day he was at the top of Ben MacDhui when a heavy mist started to fall. He sat and waited for conditions to improve. After a while he began to hear strange crunching noises and suddenly felt a presence close by. He stood up to investigate, but was immediately seized by a feeling of panic. Before he realised what was happening,
he was running down the mountain, dangerously close to the sheer cliff edge. He said afterwards ‘I tried to stop myself and found this extremely difficult to do. It was as if someone was pushing me. I managed to deflect my course, but with a great deal of difficulty.’

Since then, many people have spotted a strange being, or felt an overpowering sense of impending doom in the area. One of the most recent encounters occurred in the early 1990s. Three men were walking in a forest just outside Aberdeen. One of the party spotted a human-shaped figure running across the track a little way ahead of them. He told his friends, and when they all looked in the same direction they saw a strange, not-quite-human face. A few weeks later, the same group were driving in the area when they realised they were being followed by the same tall, dark being. The creature kept pace, even at speeds of 45 miles an hour, but eventually tired and stopped. Again, these men felt a distinct sense of terror and foreboding.

Monster enthusiasts have plenty of ideas about the beast’s origin. Some say he could be an alien, or the ghost of an old Highland race, or even a mystical, wise religious figure. One interesting theory is that atop Ben MacDhui there is a gateway to another dimension, and this creature is the gatekeeper. If this really is his role, then he is doing a good job. After an experience with the Big Grey Man, very few people have dared to venture up Ben MacDhui again.

*) Matt Lamy


A larger-than-life (we hope!) model of Bigfoot on display outside a US museum.
In the Wilds of North America a mystical ape-like creature hides in the shadows. Standing over seven feet tall and having an immense, muscled body, it should be hard to stay concealed. Many that see him say he just disappears into the background. Like a man, he walks upright, but the short black hair covering his entire body indicates he is no homo-sapien. No bodies, bones or remains have ever been found despite more than two centuries of searching. The only evidence we have of this mythical beast is its huge tracks. That is why the creature is named ‘Bigfoot’.

Like many legendary Native American monsters, Bigfoot is a central part of indigenous traditional tales. They call him ‘Sasquatch’, the ‘hairy giant of the woods’. But it was his early personal introduction to European settlers that sparked off real interest. In 1811, David Thompson, a white trader, was in the north Rocky Mountains when he spotted a set of massive 14 by 8-inch footprints. Over many years, the tales of Sasquatch spread and on 4th July 1884, the Daily Colonist newspaper in British Columbia was proud to announce that a train crew had caught a strange beast. In reality, the stocky, black-haired primate that they trapped was probably just a chimpanzee

The American and Canadian mountains gradually grew awash with stories of Sasquatch appearances; there were even reports of gangs of strange creatures attacking people in the forests. The Sasquatch phenomenon was never solely focused on the idea of a single creature, and people have always considered there might be a breeding colony. At that time, the mystical beasts were primarily of interest to lumberjacks, miners and those who lived or worked in areas where it had been sighted.

That changed in 1958 when Jerry Crew, a bulldozer operator working in Humboldt County, California, made casts of the bizarre footprints he had found. A local newspaper photographed Crew, and his picture was syndicated across the United States. The sight of a man holding a plaster cast record of the tracks of a mysterious beast started the modern Bigfoot legend. But if Crew’s discovery helped to launch the myth, it was an episode nine years later that sealed Bigfoot’s place in the American consciousness.

In October 1967, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin were riding on horseback through Bluff Creek, north California. They were in the area specifically looking for Bigfoot. Suddenly one appeared in their path, and Patterson was thrown from his horse. Whilst Gimlin kept a rifle trained on the beast, Patterson quickly regained his footing and ran towards the creature, filming all the time with a cine camera they had taken with them. The result is perhaps the most enigmatic evidence yet. The footage shows a large hairy biped slowly strolling into the undergrowth. Experts who have closely studied the film suggest it is a female Bigfoot, as two mammary glands are just discernible on its front.

Although the evidence is startling, many have questioned its authenticity. A still taken from Roger Patterson’s film of Bigfoot. Some experts believe, if the film is played at a slightly faster speed, it could easily be a human in a costume. However, aspects of the footage are quite amazing. For example, biotechnology scientists have said that for a creature like Bigfoot to walk upright it would need an extended heel. The creature on the film has an extended heel.

Experts in the industry initially expected the film merely to be special effects, but they have been unable to find any tell-tale signs that it is a hoax. Similarly, a group of Russian scientists who attempted to determine the correct speed of the film came to the conclusion that the creature really did have a long, lumbering gait. However, Gimlin himself has entertained the possibility that he might have been an unwitting participant in a hoax orchestrated by his friend. This we shall never know as Patterson died of cancer in 1972.
A still taken from Roger Patterson’s film of Bigfoot.

More recent sightings of the ape-man have taken on a new and bizarre twist. People have reported seeing UFOs in the regions of Bigfoot appearances. Also, the creatures are now said to have bright red eyes and be carrying glowing orbs. This may seem a strange development, but Sasquatches were always reported as having a quality beyond the physical, and it has always been suggested that when they die, Bigfoot bodies vanish into the ether. This is a shame, because to really accept Bigfoot’s presence, the world needs to see some hard, physical evidence.

*) Matt Lamy

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