Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Most of you know that until very recently, Uncanny Radio was recorded from the studios of WBSD in Burlington, Wisconsin. In the past month , though, the weather had been getting bad out here, and Linda had been reluctant to make the long trek to the studio. Well, we solved that intially by making her a guest, but that left us with a new problem: the radio station can only call one person at a time, so if I have to call Linda, I can't call anyone else. (We're working on that, but...)
Coincidentally, at the same time, a new problem cropped up when our former archive host crashed, taking our entire library of shows down with them. (Most of those shows are still unavailable.) We did, however, find a new venue to host the archives -- Blog Talk Radio. And that solution presented us with several new opportunities as well: 1) we could use their system to return to our usual 2 hosts + a guest format, 2) we could also use the system to have listeners call in as well as the guest. Seemed like a great opportunity.
The trick, though, has been working the bugs out. The simple fact is that the BTR switchboard doesn't have nearly the same number or quality of controls I have in the WBSD studio. There is a similar ability to play clips -- like our intro/exit music -- but no ability to fade them in our out; they're either on, or off at whatever level they start at. Likewise, there is no ability to control the audio level of the callers to the service -- whether they're the hosts, the guests, or the fans. People who call in end up at whatever level they call in at. Worse, the earpiece quality -- that is, what the hosts/callers hear on their earpieces -- may or may not represent what's actually being heard "on air." Often, the are drop-outs that exist only on the phone lines. (You can hear me ask Linda to repeat things numerous times in our first BTR show, in the mistaken belief that if I couldn't hear her, the audience couldn't, either.)
Further, there's not even any indication of what the audio levels actually are, so the people calling in can, perhaps, adjust the volume on their end with any accuracy. So, every week the audio level of the show is a guessing game on my part. Linda recently upgraded her phone capability (so it now pretty much matches mine), -- yet, my audio is still louder and/or "brighter." Why? We haven't figured it out yet. Maybe it's my church-bred speaking voice.
People have suggested moving my mic further from my mouth. But it's on a fixed, inflexible pivoting arm (not bendable), and I've raised it up to the level of my eyes; apparently didn't help. Next: change the mic-in level on my computer (I'm using MagicJack to call in) -- I've pushed the level down almost to nothing; apparently didn't help.
So, what to do? Well, it'd be easiest if BTR would upgrade their switchboard to include some basic mixing levels -- but who knows if they'll do that. I could try putting a small windscreen over my mic, if I can find/buy/improvise one. (That's probably worth a try.) Or I can go back into the studio at WBSD and use the tried & true methods. But that still leaves us with the problem of 2 hosts + 1 guest can only use one call-in line. And the weather precludes Linda coming in.
I'll take suggestions, but you should realize that I'm pretty good at this stuff (not perfect), and I've already tried every solution that quickly sprang to mind -- and a few that required some pretty deep thinking. I could go in and manually fix all the audio levels for the show in post-production -- but that would take literally hours, and nobody is paying me to do it. Frankly, I can't afford to put in a lot more free time on this show.
So, until we can solve this problem -- and we'll continue to work on it -- you have to ask yourself: Is Uncanny Radio worth having even with curent audio flaws, or would you rather not have the show in its current format at all?
Yours -- Steve "Manwolf" Sullivan
Friday, December 12, 2008
What was seen in the skies over Phoenix Arizona on the night of March 13, 1997? Is it something alien, or a top secret government project? That night, thousands of witnesses saw a wedge-like shape of bright lights hovering "over" the city. Earlier in the night, a boomerang-shaped craft was seen over other parts of the state -- sometimes hovering, sometimes moving at incredible speeds. The craft was said to be up to a mile wide. Though witnesses claim the lights were otherworldly, the government says they were flares dropped by the Maryland National Guard (see Lights Over Phoenix in a previous review). A councilwoman who suggested an investigation was ridiculed and harassed. The state governor seemed about to look into it, and then brought out a man in an alien costume for a press conference, setting off more laughter and derision. The night in question, a witness described the lights coming on in an arc, and then going out in the same order they came on in. He says they look nothing like the flares he'd seen before. He thinks they could have been 1) a hoax, 2) an alien craft (which he says unlikely), or 3) a military experiment. Expert Ted plans to test the military's flare explanation.
A psychiatrist says that she'd seen such lights before in the months leading up to the sighting. She describes the events that night as not flickering like flares, but "orbs." Another witness and his wife first saw lights on the 10th of March. They do not believe they're flares, either. Ted explains that flares may look different under different atmospheric conditions. He sets up a test using maritime parachute flares off of Longbeach, CA. The witnesses say Ted's flares look different from what they saw -- the other lights hovered. (This fact was disproved by Lights Over Phoenix; the lights did move, and eventually disappeared behind the mountains.) The crew then goes on to interview witnesses of the boomerang-shaped craft with five lights. One witness describes a huge, black shape with an undulating surface, which the show then recreates with CGI. The show then digresses to try to compare the 1997 sightings to local petroglyphs, 1000 years old -- though crew members point out the symbols on the rocks could as easily be stars (or something else) as UFOs. They then talk to a scientist/researcher/article writer who says there are some triangular rigid-hull experimental airships (as big as a football field) in experimental use by the military. They may have been developed for special forces ops, and no pictures exist -- nor will such craft be revealed while they present an advantage to our military.
An interview with the former governor reveals that he was concerned about the intensity of interest in the event, and set up the "alien" interview spoof to defuse the situation. He tried too look into the incident, but got a "no comment" from the air force (which the show takes as an admission that something was there). In an earlier interview, he also admitted that he saw the strange huge craft on the night in question. He describes it as "otherworldly." The crew of the show is split whether the craft is alien or conventional but secret. The show seems to conclude that the lights could not have been flares. Personally, I think the UH crew should have done better researsh on this point, or at least watched UFOS Over Phoenix.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The UH team goes to Roswell, NM to follow up on old leads and dig up new witnesses -- while they still can. The show starts with a recap of the Roswell story from the initial report to the Friedman research tp the recent Air Force report debunking the incident. Working with local researchers, the crew points out that time is running out on the witnesses -- as, one by one, they're dying off due to old age. One new witness is Earl Fulford, who was at the Roswell airbase at the time, but never spoke about it until now. He says he saw floating objects in the sky near the airbase before the crash; circular objects that hung motionless in the sky and then disappeared -- perhaps a week or ten days before the crash. Later, Earl went with with members of the base to pick up unusual debris from a crash 70 miles NW of Roswell. As part of the UH team takes Earl to see the crash site, other parts of the team research the Plains of San Augustin, site of another alleged crash during the same time period. They also look for debris from the crash that may have been hidden in caves by local farmers. (The team finds caves, but no debris.)
Earl describes picking up a strange metal-like substance, and -- in the most interesting part of the episode -- the team sets up an experiment to see if they can determine what he and the others recovered. Meanwhile, another local researcher has debris from the second site that seems highly unusual; the team takes the twisted blob of something to be tested. In the crash metal test, UH takes a handful of different metals, cardboard, and plastic-like substances. They then have two witnesses who claim to have touched the substance -- Earl and Jesse Marcel Junior -- examine the samples in independent viewings. Both men pick silver acetate as being very similar to what they encountered. It has the right consistency and it springs back to its original shape when crumpled. And while acetate was available at the time, the government document about Project Mogul, the supposed explanation for the crash, says that mylar was used in the Mogul targets, not acetate. (Although, when I was in art school, the terms were used almost interchangably -- and what they show as acetate is what I picture when I hear the word "mylar.") The mysterious melted substance found in the 2nd crash site turns out to be HDPE - a plastic used in Tupperware, fuel tanks, and aircraft windows. Oddly, the plastic only melts at 250% farenheit, too hot for normal desert conditions. (Though it seems to me that the investigators have ignored potential, manmade causes of melting -- like bonfires.)
Though the show tries to draw conclusions about the artifact found and the "memory metal" test -- seeming to imply that the things encountered had not been invented at the time they were found -- the fact that both objects had very ordinary explanations seems to me to bely this argument. In a sad coda to the story, Earl Fulford (81) passed away before the show was aired -- adding to the show's eerie warning about the witnesses to the event dying of old age.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The MUFON crew goes to Mexico City to investigate the huge number of sighting constantly coming from south of the US border. Is it possible that one place can consistently have so many "genuine" UFO sightings? Or is it more likely that the culture of Mexico -- which features a very popular UFO-sighting show -- is making people mistake more mundane objects for truly strange things? After interviewing witnesses, the group decides to focus on three incidents: a videographer who works with Jaime Maussan (ultra-popular UFO show host) and consistently sells UFO footage, a witness who turned in very clear photographs of a daytime sighting, and an incident where a UFO landed atop a hill and made the local lights flicker in time with its pulsing.
The videographer has a lot of interesting-looking shots, most of them taken from the roof atop his studio. The roof is a good viewing area, as it has a 360-degree view of Mexico City. And as the group tours the roof, they spot something mysterious in the sky. The videographer whips out his camera and captures what becomes known on YouTube as the "Morphing UFO" footage. It all seems too convienient--and indeed, it is too convenient, as the MUFON group has set up this sighting to test the ability of the videographer (and Jaime) to differentiate mundane objects in the sky from truly unidentified ones. This "UFO" is actually a group of mylar balloons released by another MUFON member in a nearby park. The videographer fails the test, and Jaime insists that he trusts the man implicitly, even after the MUFON folks have revealed their hoax. Ironically, a coda to the episode notes that the hoax video is now a very popular "real" video on YouTube. Sorry, folks, it's just a bunch of balloons (and if you don't believe me, watch this show).
Jaime's tendency to trust too willngly shows up again in the next sighting, in which a young man claims to have photographed a hovering disc several times during one day, and then again several weeks later. The photos are very sharp, and -- at first -- seem convincing. The MUFON folks, though (rightly) distrust pictures that are too clear, and soon discrepancies crop up in the young man's story. For one thing, the time stamps on the shots from his camera don't match the time frame he says they were taken in; the total time of the incident being about three minutes, though one of the photos was taken the better part of an hour after an ealier shot in the same series. Also, the second sighting photos show signs of having been tampered with -- the UFO has apparently been pasted into the sky. Confronted with these facts, the witness feigns ignorance, and Jaime claims to still believe him. The MUFON folks (rightly, I think) conclude that the witness has faked the photos to get on Jaime's UFO-sighting show. Jaime, unfortunately, is invested in his franchise and "wants to believe" more than he wants to know the truth.
Next, the group travels to the town where a UFO landed on a mountaintop and caused the local power grid to flicker on and off. Using their CGI capability, the MUFON folks recreate what they think the sighting looked like -- based on the stories they've heard. They then show the simulation to the community. When they do , they discover a huge discrepancy between the stories and what the actual witnesses report: in reality, the "UFO" didn't fly over the town, but appeared glowing atop the local hills. The crew tracks down the young man who took the (impressive) video of the incident. The photographer shows them where he took the film, and states that he thought it was some kind of transformer short, rather than a UFO. And it turns out that there is a series of power towers right where the "UFO" was sighted. Taking the film to an expert in power line and grid problems, the group confirms that the report is entirely consistent with some kind of short circuit in the grid. (The expert says that a thick tree limb fallen across the lines might cause shorts for days before finally burning away.)
So, on this episode, we have three cases that prove to be entirely mundane: one mistaken identity (by a too credulous vidographer and TV show host), one hoax, and one unusual but by no means unexplainable event. This is like getting a "not haunted" conclusion on a ghost hunting show -- something far too rare on television. Since this episode aired back-to-back with the series premier (at least I hope it will be a series), it allows folks like me to form an impression of what the continuing show may be like. And I'm impressed. Unlike the other UFO shows regularly on the air, this show seems more concerned with finding out the truth than with building UFO mythology (a mythology that fuels a multi-million dollar "believers" enterprise). In fact, members of the investigation even state this as one of their goals: to find the truth, not build myth. As someone who has complained long and loudly about other shows building myth, I'm very happy to see this development. And I hope that when/if this show continues, it will continue to operate in this same way -- calling the incidents as they see them. (Like the drone hoax, also mentioned in this episode.) It might be helpful, though, if MUFON would put up a page of UFO Hoaxes or Debunked Cases on their sight -- so that people would know what to look for and not believe so quickly. (Like the "ghost lights" that are showin being launched in one of the show's cut shots -- which are something that most believers have probably never heard about or seen.) After all, as this episode proves with its "morphing UFO" footage, some people will believe a myth, even when the truth is right before their eyes.
There's a new player in the UFO hunt, though it remains to be seen whether this show will be a perennial player, or if it's just a flash in the pan (I.E. a pilot that doesn't pan out -- Disc. seems to be showing a lot of "one shots" in their Monday night time slot right now). This episode looks at a spate of recent (spring and summer 2008) sightings in Pensylvania. After interviewing a number of witnesses, the investigators -- all members of MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network) -- narrow their focus to two witnesses. One is a retiree, who seems very credible and has no obvious reason to make up his two sightings, and the other is a woman who claims both multiple sightings and to have pictures of the alleged UFO. Unfortunately, the first witness has no actual proof, just a compelling story. So the MUFON folks recreate his sighting using their CGI equipment, and filddle with the simulation until the witness approves the octagonal-shaped craft and the sighting conditions.
The woman witness proves both more interesting and problematic. Her picture evidence is unimpressive (the usual blurred lights), and one image even seems to match up to the position of the moon and Jupiter on the night in question. Additionally, she claims to have seen some kind of glittering dust falling from the UFO into one of the trees in her yard, only to have the dust then return to the UFO. Despite claiming that this phenomnon lasted 20 minutes, she has no photos. The group takes cuttings from the tree and sends them to a scientist, who claims that the tree was subjected to radiation which caused mutation in the leaves. Fortunately (for science), the group then sends the sample to another expert, who says the first expert is totally wrong; there is no evidence of either radiation or mutation. I was impressed by this, as most shows of this kind consistently fail to get a second opinion -- prefering to go with the most sensational finding (and dubious expert) possible. The group also re-creates the woman's sighting, and she is very moved by the compupter-generated recreation. This makes the group believe that she is sincere, though they retain some skepticism about her report. This would be my only reservation about this episode -- that they give a witness more leeway than perhaps they should. (To me, at least, the dust part of her sighting seems more like a waking dream.) Fortunately, the MUFON folks make up for this lapse of "toughness" in the Mexico show. (See following review.)
This show is to MUFON what UFO Hunters is to UFO Magazine -- that is, the program seems to be built around the people in the group and their interests. And I have to say, from what I've seen so far, I find this show much more interesting. Where UFO Hunters (the History Channel one, not the SciFi series which had one show and then disappeared -- seemingly for good) is built around UFO mythology and "investigating" classic sightings -- nearly all of which seem to be more than 20 years old. This show is tackling sightings that are current (2008 as this is written). I find the immediacy much more compelling. The witnesses have had less time to become "set" in their stories, or to forget or embelish details. (Though, as regular readers know, I don't put a lot of stock in witness reports; see the review of Unsolved History: Roswell - a.k.a. UFOs Over America for a scientific study of witness' memory.) Also, the MUFON crew seems much more interested in finding out what's really happening than in building the UFO mythology. In the Mexico show (see review), they even state this goal specifically. So far, I'm favorably impressed. The "crew" may not be as flashy and memorable as UFO Hunters or Ghost Hunters, but they're serious about their work and asking the hard questions that UFO Hunters -- for one -- seldom wants to ask.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Here's the URL:
You have to page down a bit to see the actual review.
But, in case you'd rather just check this blog entry, here's my cut 'n' paste of the review itself:
This summer's IRON MAN was, in my opinion, one of the best comic book movies made — certainly my current favorite, replacing the reigning champ of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE after 29 years. The beauty of the film — besides pitch-perfect acting and characterizations, seemingly effortless special effects, and the tight package in which it is all wrapped up — is the simplicity of the story: a man brought down by his own ego finding redemption through service to the world. The subtlety of his unfolding salvation provides the adult viewing experience that drew all those hundreds of millions dollars to the box office. For the young 'uns, it was the coolness of a guy who's been knocked down by bullies, but gets back up to fight back and win.
And that's how it plays in IRON MAN: THE JUNIOR NOVEL by Stephen Sullivan, featuring eight pages of photos from the film. Sullivan is faithful to the screenplay, while downplaying many of the too-grown-up motivations that might confuse his younger readers. It is, as I say, a good story and difficult to ruin, and Sullivan brings the right tone and style to keep things moving at a brisk pace that should keep even the kids who have seen the movie enthralled.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
A brief review, as this is another in the UFO Hunters' "mythos" shows -- with lots of story, speculation, and theory, and no real (incontrovertible) evidence. The team goes to Texas to investigate an 1897 incident in which a UFO allegedly hit a windmill on a ranch. The ranch's well water was said to be contaminated, and an alien body was supposedly buried in a nearby cemetery. The end result is that the team discovers the well was closed for non-alien reasons, though there was metal (aluminum -- possibly from the windmill) found there and in the property. An ancient tree also sets off a metal detector (possibly from "molten debris" embedded in its wood), and ground-penetrating radar seems to indicate an umarked grave in the spot indicated by legend. Unfortunately, the team doesn't have authority to dig up the alleged grave. So, again, a lot of poking around and speculating, but little else. If you like UFO stories and little or no proof, this show remains the one for you.
Friday, November 21, 2008
* Michelle has gotten her baby's body and had had the funeral. Real-life is weirder than anything I can come up with in the comic book. Michelle and her husband Rhene were arguing (once again) with the Hospital powers-that-be, when a Doctor RECOGNIZED Michelle from our appearance together in FHM magazine. The Doctor actually brought the magazine to her asking her to sign it -- as she was grieving! The upside to this? The Hospital administrators said, "Oh...she's kind ofa celebrity? Maybe she's good for the money." And they released baby Reinee's body to her -- but not before they had her write three post-dated checks, essentially giving her another two months or so to pay the debt.
* Thanks to some wonderful people contributing, we've raised over $3,800.00 toward the $9,000.00+ that Michelle needs. The first person to contribute was STAN LEE! Several Glass House Graphics artists contributed anywhere from $10 to $500. Some of the biggest fans of BANZAI GIRLS also contributed (you know who you are). One amazing fan contributed $1,000.00!!
We're still hoping to reach the $9,000.00 point and pay off Reinee's hospital and funeral bills.
We approached "The Hero Initiative" for help. They said, "We'll look into it and get back to you," but they never did follow-up.
Thank you to all who have contributed!
I'm sure they'll still acccept donations at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, November 20, 2008
In this episode, George Noory looks into stories from "the greatest storyteller ever born," Lionel Fanthorpe -- whom the caption claims is the author of more than 250 books (Wikipedia says author or co-author). They start with Springheel Jack, who began attacing people in 1837 and was a thin creature which breathed blue fire before leaping away, cackling. Fanthorpe says that strange beings may be half-forgotten memories of races that once inhabited a land before it was invaded by modern humans. The next story deals with Time Travel. In Roxom (sp) Broad (a lake) two 17th century swimmers were crossing the lake when the water vanished and all at once they were surrounded by Roman soldiers. They followed the procession for several minutes, until they faded back into the water. Fanthorpe says this is the first evidence of a timeslip at the Broad. Later, a yatch saw the same thing. Noory relates a story of a cab driver who hit an apparent 18th century man who appeared out of nowhere before being struck and killed. He also mentions a pilot who entered a cloud to emerge in a WWII dogfight and returned to the present with bullet holes in his plane. Fanthorpe tells of a 1932 flyer who flew over an abandoned Edinburgh airfield and saw it alive with activity from WWI.
Next they turn to vampires and a blood-curdling vampire attack story. (With elements from Langella's Dracula -- or the other way around.) Fanthorpe explains to a caller that drinking someone's blood would, traditionally, give you their strength. Asked what a ghost is, Fanthorpe says three or four theories should be considered. Some apparitions are psychic recordings of emotional events. He says the scariest story ever told would be the tale of the Barbados coffins -- which mysteriously rearranged themselves, repeatedly, in a sealed crypt. What could move such large, lead coffins in a sealed room? A caller asks how we can know whether a strange feeling we have is a ghost. Fanthorpe replies that a vivid dream is hard to tell from reality, but we should apply the same tests to a strange situation that we would to determine whether we were dreaming.
While I enjoyed the stories in this show, they strike me as being more myth than history -- and some seem to be combinations of elements from several other stories. Fun to listen to, but not to be mistake for fact. After watching three of these shows, Unexplained with George Noory seems a mile wide, but not very deep. How it may develop is hard to tell. My guess would be that it will remain more about stories -- like this episode -- rather than becoming more critical. So far, though, UwGN has been a fun diversion.
Monster expert Lee Frank joins George Noory in this episode of the show. Frank has been to Loch Ness and looked for bigfoot, and is convinced that unknown creatures remain at large in the world. (He cites the usual exotic finds - squid, coelacanth, etc.) Mermaids, however, he dismisses as imagination and pent-up hormones. Frank defends the largely discredited Rines flipper photograph, and seemingly draws broad conclusions from less-solid Loch Ness evidence. Frank says that at first it was thought unlikely that Nessie could be a plesiosaur, because the loch is so cold -- but now we know some dinosaurs were warm blooded, so perhaps that's not so outlandish. He also claims such creatures are reported in 75 lakes around the world. Frank dismisses criticism that Nessie reports are inconsistent in their discriptions, describing a creature with "baleen mouth" (?), red eyes, and horns, though pleseosaur like. The show also uses the discredited three-hump photo (in actuality, bales of hay covered in tarps set in a shallow part of the lake) to illustrate the monster's multi-humped or shape-changing back. A caller asks for more empirical evidence to support the claims of Nessie and Bigfoot, and asks what Frank has. He replies they don't have good empirical evidence and they need it. He believes the witnesses are credible and calls for more research. (Which, IMO, is a nice admission from a monster hunting expert.)
During the bigfoot segment, Frank plays a tape he thinks might be a bigfoot cry. It's a coughing, growling sound that some think might be a bear. The show also displays a "hidden bigfoot face" picture and a brief movie (which looks like a costume) with no explanation. Frank then shows some "recreations" of bigroot prints (which I doubt would hold up to scientific scrutiny), and dismisses the idea that hoaxers could have made all of the many prints found. He then defends a footprint from the Patterson film (see previous blogs, especially the Is It Real Bigfoot episode). He also mentions the late Grover Krantz as a serious scientist who has investigated the bigfoot/yeti phenomena. He also says that investigators keep certain information about the prints secret from the public, so prints will be harder to fake. (Nothing like witholding evidence!) A caller asks why we haven't found any bones. Frank says that we don't find deer or bear carcasses (I'm skeptical of this), and "nature takes care of its own." Franks says it is certainly possible that these creatures live in caves and avoid humans, which has helped bigfoot survival.
A caller asks if sightings of strange creatures coincide with world events. Franks points out that the Loch Ness sightings started when a road was built around the loch. He's surprised that more bigfoot sightings didn't happen after Mt. Saint Helens. He also says there is clearly a breeding population in Loch Ness, and that three creatures have been sighted at once. (Is he talking about the debunked photo?) He also says there is plentiful food in the loch "a veritable garden of eden" -- a fact that Adrian Shine, at least, would dispute. Asked if anything else coul make the bigfoot tracks, Frank notes bears can walk upright for a short distance, but witnesses say they're not seeing bear.
I liked this episode better than the UFO show; with one guest for the whole half hour, it seemed more focused. Still, it strikes me that suppositions and theories are often being stated as fact here -- and a casual viewer would not be able to discern the difference. FYI Here's an interesting page on Loch Ness hoaxes.
This is George Noory's new show, playing every night or so on the SciFi channel. It's a half-hour format covering a single subject each night. Unfortunately, I missed the first segment of this episode, which was probably about the Stepheville, TX sightings. (See previous Howls blogs.) The second segment included some fuzzy footage of lights in the sky and strings of lights, with not much explanation of what we were supposed to be seing (perhaps I missed that), though some was supposedly from a police car camera at Stephenville. The second segment featured an interview with expert Linda Mouton Howe and a police witness, who talked about the Stephenville case, as well as taking a few caller questions. In the third segment, George interviewed frequent Coast-to-Coast guest (and Dreamland host) Whitley Strieber. Striber talked about his alien encounter/abduction/molestation -- details of which are probably familiar to readers of Communion (or those who have seen the movie).
This is the first show in the series I've watched, so it's a bit hard to judge (especially having missed part of it), but it seemed a bit heavy on the story/mythos/conspiracy elements and pretty much free of scientific counterpoint. Still, if you like Art Bell's old radio show, this is probably worth looking at. A half hour, though (minus commercials) is not a lot of time to dig into the subjects presented.
Monday, November 17, 2008
This program (which shares a name/subtitle with an earlier program about the same mystery) starts with a reenactment of an air burst explosion that devastates San Francisco -- a blast similar to the famous Tunguska Event of 1918. Believed originally to be an asteroid or meteor strike, there have been no meteor fragments found. Other possibilities are an explosion from within the earth -- a freak eruption of volcanic gas, a collision with "mirror matter," and even UFOs. The only way to solve the mystery is to gather physical evidence -- and so this show sends an elite group of geologists, physicists, and astronomers to the explosion's epicenter. One scientist, Dr. Kletetschka, believes that half the mass in the universe is trans-dimensional "mirror matter" -- which we can only detect through gravity or when it strikes the earth. He looks for a magnetic signature in the oldest trees left standing. Another scientist, Boslough, believes the event was a low altitude air-burst asteroid explosion, which destroyed over 800 square miles of forest but left no crater. During the event, people heard a series of booms (20-21) and one witness described the sky opening up. The explosion left a butterfly-like "fall pattern." In 2007, an Italian team claimed to have found an impact crater nearby, but expert Boslough sticks with his air-burst theory -- and he seems to have the computer simulations to back him up. This is a high-tech version of the 1960s Soviet matchstick experiment from the earlier Siberian Apocolypse show -- which the show recaps. But Boslough believes the explosion was more powerful, and burns on trees seem to suggest he is right. Kletetschka beleives the air burst came from his mirror matter, and hopes the wood of the trees will provide the magnetic signature proving his theory. They take core samples in the area until they find a tree the right age.
Geophysicist Morgan has a very different theory. He believes that volcanic gasses built up in the basalt (volcanic) planes of Siberia. A massive eruption of superheated gas (a "Verneshot") triggered the Tunguska explosion, and the debris hurled into the air would explain the atmospheric glow reported after the event. He's looking for shocked quartz to help prove his theory. The final theory is that a UFO caused the blast; benevolent aliens saved earth from a meteor by crashing their own space ship into the deadly object. The Russian scientist found no spaceship, but many "strange" rocks. Kletetscha's samples don't have the magnetism he hoped for, though he vows to search again. Morgan does find his shocked quartz, but that only proves a Verneshot might have happened in the past. Tree scarring bears out Boslough's theory, and he is able to adjust his computer model to explain the possible Italina crater as well (by simulating less of the asteroid exploding). Though the final verdict is still out at on the event's cause, NASA scientists urge that we guard our planet against strikes by near-earth asteroids.
This show starts with the debunked video of two balls of lights forming crop circles. (A video made by a special effects firm -- though later in the show, they do note this film is a hoax -- and then use it again to illustrate a beliver's story.) The show then states that some circles have been hoaxed, but what about the rest? Can they really all be hoaxed? This show takes MIT students and tries to fake its own crop circle. An expert states that the first incident was in the 1700s, but the circles have been building in numbers and complexity beginning in the last 25 years (since 1978). In the summer of 1991, Doug Browley and Dave Chorley (sp?) claimed to have made the circles for the last 15 years. Some, though, didn't believe their story (though Doug & Dave did inspire copycats). The show asked 3 MIT students to replicate 3 effects -- explusion cavities (blown nodes), magnetite particles (on the circle perimeter), and balanced geometry in the circle itself. The show claims that most crop circles are made (or appear) at night, and many have strange balls of light (unexplained -- though the pictures of ones they showed looked like badly photographed birds to me) associated with them. They say "natural" crop circles can take hours to form, or just a few seconds. (Though they offer no proof to either of these statements.) On scientist/believer suggests that many circle formations would take too long to form for people to make them during one night. (Though he fails to take into consideration the possible number of hoaxers working -- as some of these circles look like mathematical/artistic projects to me.) There are also anecdotal reports of people being healed by circles. Some people believe the circles are natural phenomena. Others believe that they're being made by human, pagan artists who are "anarchists."
The MIT students will attempt to duplicate what the BLT research group (which cliams to be the only publisher of peer-reviewed crop circle information) considers the signs of "real" crop circles. (I.E. non-manmade ones.) The students bring mashing boards (per Doug and Dave) as well as various gadgets to replicate the magnetite "contamination" (a "meteorite cannon"), a microwave generation "gun," and other effects. Interestingly, the microwave projector screws up the video equipment, sucking all the power out of the cameras' batteries. After checking their equipment, the students head out into an Ohio field in the middle of the night to begin their circle making. It takes them a while to get well coordinated, and they've only alotted themselves 4 hours to make the formation. Using their microwave gun and their meteor cannon after makign the circle, they soon start running out of time. (Though it seems to me that scattering magnetite while making the circle would have been easier than doing it afterward.) In the end, they use an explosion to scatter the magnetite. The next day, a different set of students check the circle to see how "real" it may be. (They also experience a power outage while flyinhg in their helicopter -- another supposed crop circle effect.) The investigating graduate students give a B+ to A- range grade. The size of the circle is excellent, but there weren't quite as many of the blown nodes, magnetite, and radiation effects as they'd hoped. This was the students' first effort, though. The narrator wonders who would go to all this trouble for a hoax. (Well, a group of MIT students obviously did.)
This show was originally broadcast around the time of the movie Signs. It is filled with unsubstatiated, anecdotal stories about crop circles, more myth than fact. But it also has the highly interesting MIT experiment. Are anomolies found in the area proof that crop circles are real? I'm no scientist, but it seems to me that when one goes looking for anomolies, one is likely to find them. (Very few spots on earth are compltely "normal.") Science is about forming hypotheses and then testing them to create theories, and refining knowlege until one discovers how things work -- by duplicating effects. I'm not seeing a lot of that here. ("There will be magnetite in a crop cricle," is certainly an hypothesis, but I'm not sure what good the prediction does.) Personally, it's hard for me to look at pictures of crop circles without seeing them as what I believe they are -- artwork. And that's what the students conclude, too. One even suggests going out and making your own; it's fun.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
After the show broadcasts/podcasts live, it should be available in the archive as well. And will hopefully stay there for as long as we want.
That's assuming I've done everything right. Tune in and let me know if it worked.
If it works, our new segment - featuring Bob Beutlich -- should air next Wednesday night, 11-19-08 at 10pm central time (and then be archived automatically).
With luck, we'll even have the podcasts available on iTunes soon. Stay tuned, and wish us luck!
(And if it doesn't work, I'll try it again tomorrow.)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
In April 16, 2008, at 10:38 PM, something "exploded" over Kokomo, Indiana. People investigating saw lights in the sky, which more than one witness describes as a "fireball." (There are the usual blurry pictures.) Initially, the local air base (15 miles away) denies any involvement, though later they say their F-16s were dropping flares and maybe have "accidentally" broken the sound barrier. A local paper reports that a meteor shower may have been the cause. (Personal Note: Fireballs can break the sound barrier and cause sonic booms.) The UFO Hunters set up offices to interview witnesses and try to figure out what happened. (Being the show this is, I'm sure they'll find a government conspiracy at the least.) Three months earlier, in January, a witness saw a tower-like flying object. He grabbed his video camera and shot pictures -- which show a hovering light (and a passing car). As usual, the witness accounts are contradictory -- though many describe a fireball, and some pieces breaking off. For a while, the police believe it might be an airplane down. There's even a mention of a debris field.
MUFON has invesatigated and turned up video of local fighter jets dropping flares. They also did an aerial recon and may have found a possible crash crater or as the show says "UFO crash site." Since the pictures were taken, spring rains have flooded the location. A sheriff says that though there were emergency first responders sent out, they never found any crash site. A witness then describes something breaking up in the air. (Note: a common fireball phenominon.) A former air force man describes a bright ball of light accompanied by another, smaller ball and then a series of smaller lights. Calculating sizes based on the car and the light in the video, they think the size of the thing is about 40 feet -- the wingspan of an F-16; but, it seems to be hovering, which an F-16 can't do. The team eventually finds the crater they're looking for, but no evidence of impact; an expert declares it might just be a sinkhole. (And that proves correct.) The team builds a "sonic boom cannon" to try and recreate the event and gathers witnesses to listen. They hope to duplicate the experience and thereby learn the size of the object creating the boom. Witnesses don't totally agree, but the sonic booms do seem to match those of an F-16 flying at 5000 feet.
The team disagrees on whether this was merely a military plane or something stranger. (It still sounds more like an actual fireball to me.) Though at least there wasn't much talk of government conspiracy.
The MQ team returns to the remote Canadian cabin where, last year, they had strange occurrences that might have been attributed to bigfoot. They've returned this time loaded for . . . well, bigfoot. They've got more and better cameras, a "blind" to hide their surveillance equipment (making the cabin appear deserted at night), scent traps, camera traps and all sorts of science stuff. They've also got new DNA and hair analysts (back home), utilizing more advanced science than previously. As you recall last time, this cabin had been attacked by some strange creature which ransacked it. A "nail trap" left by the owner seemed to have wounded something with very big feet. Then there were the "rock throwing" incidents during filming. The cabin is too remote for pranksters, and no known North American animals throw rocks.
Unfortunately, the new, well-equipped stake-out comes up empty -- though as they're waiting, a bigfoot is sighted 125 miles away. Theorizing that the late spring may have kept the creature further south to feed on blueberries, the crew decides to pack up and relocate their search. They interview witnesses and search the area, but find only bear tracks and one possible footprint in the grass. Sadly, again, it seems this team has come up a day late and a dollar short. The new DNA tests find only fungus, no primate DNA (as before). Is the sample just too degraded, or was the old test contaminated? A hair reclaimed from a fishing rod case thrown at the cabin (in a recent incident) proves to be merely human hair. But what has done the throwing? Perhaps a longer expedition -- say, a few months -- could find out.
In the meantime, it wouldn't surprise me if this "bigfoot cabin" is now fetching a premium price as "fishing" rental with other monster hunters. While entertaining, this episode adds little new to the previous case. Too bad they brought all those experts and all that equipment for nothing. Maybe next time.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The team looks into two historical cases of UFO encounters, one from 1994, another from 2000, which were investigated by police officers in Ohio and Illinois. The show is filled with dispatcher audio tapes, and features interviews with cops and dispatchers, too. In the Trumble County, Ohio case, Sgt. Molaro sees something that lit up the highway with bright lights, flew silently, and may have been cylindrical. At the same time, his car stalled and his radio became inoperable. When the object moved away, the car started on its own. What did these officers and people see? The show then recaps other similar encounters from history, and interviews a witness from 28 years earlier. As a trucker, he watched a UFO with a bright beam of light move over his rig (as he hid underneath). Both present and past witnesses describe the UFOs moving off at incridble speed. In 2000, a similar incident took place near Lebanon, Highland, & Millstaff, Illinois. A new video has come to light, purporting to show the UFO from that night, January 4th -- though the video is from much earlier in the evening (8pm) than the police sighting (4am). The witness claims that the four lights appeared in various formations. Expert Ted declares the 20-minute tape appears to be good quality and perhaps they can learn something from it--but they learn very little. The show brings in a CGI sketch artist to interview the witnesses and create a simulation model -- but the two sketches are very different, though there is some overlap. (The investigation crew suggests that it could be because of the sighting conditions.) The team then investigates a similar incident, nine months earlier, in 1994 in Holland, Michigan -- again, four lights were seen in the sky. Though the narrator says that multiple people were seeing the same object in these cases, the descriptions don't really match. Radar signatures suggest a fast-moving object that breaks into three objects. The radar operator seems to confirm details of the police sightings from the incident. But no one has any idea what either the lights or radar hits could actually be.
And, of course, being a mythology show, UFO Hunters doesn't offer any non-alien possibilities. As usual, the show's "investigations" consist of interviewing witnesses, compiling 911 tapes, doing recreations, and speculating about the alien nature of the craft, whatever they may have been.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thousands of remote islands dot the western Pacific Ocean; do ancient dragon-like reptiles still live here? Aboriginal cave paintings in Australia seem to show lizards larger than men. Do these giant goanna (monitor) lizards -- Megalania -- exist today? Cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy believes they lived as recently as 1890, when such a creature reportedly attacked Australian livestock. Other sightings are more recent, and though scientists are skeptical, Gilroy has plaster casts of footprints. He also claims to have found massive lizard like tracks in the forest in January 2008. The tracks are 12-inches across, and MQ will have them analyzed by a reknowned paleontologist. An MQ team tromps out into the outback forest to search for evidence of the beast. Images of dragons are as old as mankind, but whether they were combinations of existing animals or, perhaps, based on fossils discovered by ancient peoples remains open to debate. But could something like Megalania still live today, 40,000 years after the giants' supposed extinction? How big a population would be needed to maintain the species? Though monitors can reproduce by parthenogenesis (without male fertilization), it seems unlikely that could mantian the species for long (as -- oddly -- females cannot be created this way).
The komodo dragon is the world's largest monitor lizard, and it lives in Indonesia. The largest, though, are still only ten feet long -- merely a third the size of Megalania. One expert says dragons can mutate quickly, over the course of only three generations, so a giant mutation might be possible. In any case, the dragons can be dangerous to humans. In 2007, an eight-year-old boy was attacked by a komodo dragon; he died before he could get medical attention. Swedish divers also had to fight off a dragon in the same year. A 20-footer would be much more dangerous. And most komodos have deadly bacteria in their saliva. Despite this, a team of researchers wrestles with several large komodos in the same way that Steve Erwin uset to wrestle crocodiles. In the outback, camera traps are set to try and find the mythical creature. But only ravens take the bait. And the plaster print looks too symetrical for the paleontologist; a fake, perhaps? As usual on MonsterQuest, "The chase goes on."
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the river, sharks swim upstream from the sea -- sometimes hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. In 2007, at Simmesport, LA, 160 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, fishermen caught a five-foot-long bull shark. They caught a half dozen smaller sharks that same day, and swear a ten-footer got away. Bull sharks can live in fresh water, unlike most of their kin, and they have been known to attack and kill people. They are suspected of the series of killings in New Jersey at the turn of the 20th century. Monsterquest goes looking foor bull sharks in the inland waterways of Louisiana. They get some bites, but no sharks to show for it. In the waters of the Saint Lawrence River, MQ divers go looking for Greenland sharks. Diving at night, the team sees an apparent shark on the sonar, but can't get their cameras on it. During the day, though, they find one, its skin traced with a spiderweb of scars. Since Greenland sharks can live 200 years (!), the 12-toof shark has potentially had a long time to bet beaten up. The dive confirms that huge sharks are living in the Saint Lawrence River, close to shore. Greenland sharks are both scavenger and predator; are they a threat to humans? A week after the show finishes shooting another 6-footer is caught in Louisiana. Clearly the sharks are there, but whether this is a new phenominon or has gone unnoted previously, remains in question.
Do monster spiders up to 5 feet across live in the Amazon, the Congo, or other remote regions of the world? In 1938, a British couple went to the Congo on a honeymoon safari. They saw a 4-5 foot creature crossing the road that they at first thought was a big cat or monkey, but then they realized it was a huge spider. In ancient times, giant sea scorpions got as large as crocodiles, but could huge arachnids still exist? In the Amazon, a shaman describes a basketball-sized tarantula that could rear up to the height of a man. In Iraq, US troops report gigantic camel spiders, and in they're know as Texas "deer killers." How big can such known species grow? US soldiers claim to have been attacked by cat-sized camel spiders (actually a solifugid). The one photo of a supposed monster, though, turns out to be two creatures, not one -- though such solifugids have been reported to grow five inches cross.
Despite eyewitness reports, experts doubt that there is enough oxygen in the air today (21%) to support such monsters; air in the age of giant insects had 60% more oxygen. Bugs have very poor circulatory systems and needed the richer oxygen content to grow to huge size. In 2007, an enormous web the size of 2 football fields was found in a forest in Texas. Whether it was created by many spiders working together or by an unknown giant? Scientists remain unsure. Field teams turn up no giants, though they find some big tarantulas. While eyewitnesses can't be discounted, to date there is no solid evidence that monster spiders still exist.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Tecumseh Brown-Eagle - linguistics and migrations
Stanton Friedman - Roswell expert
Heidi Hollis - shadow people, meeting Jesus
Frank Joseph - Atlantis in Wisconsin, Ark of the Covenant
Bonnie Meyer - contactee, alien invasion
Don Schmidt - Roswell expert
Jerry E. Smith - weather control, Spear of Destiny
Sherry Strubb - Wisconsin ghosts
Dr. Claude Swanson - the science of the paranormal
Peter Moon - Montauk project
There were a couple of other expected guests who couldn't make it at the last minute. All of the people listed did two, hour-long lectures except Sherry who gave one, and Stanton, my favorite of the bunch, who gave three. The only problem was that there were almost too many speakers for the time alotted. (Even after the drop-outs.) This happened mostly because the local theater had demanded -- and got -- a continuous schedule before dropping out. (Leaving us holding the bag.) That resulted in a constant pressure to get people on and off the stage in an hour.
As AV guy and videographer, I was there for nearly every minute of the 22+ hours of lectures over the weekend. I made some new friends and lined up some prospective guests for Uncanny Radio.
There was a "meet and mingle" dinner on Saturday night in what used to be an underground speakeasy, and there were tours of the local tunnels and the haunted woods (both of which I was too busy to attend; but I live here and will get to go some other time).
Friday was pretty chaotic, as those of us working and/or helping out tried to deal with mechanical gremlins and the disruption of having to hold the events in the cleared-out Mysteries Museum, rather than the planned theater. (Which cancelled at the last moment.) Those obstacles made things tricky, but by the next day, Saturday, things adjusted and the schedule ran more smoothly. Several attendees, Russ and Diana in particular, came through big-time in helping solve the video/display problems. (Thanks!)
The whole event seemed very well attended to me. The lecture room was extremely busy, and sported a crowd of 30 to 60 (or more) at every event. The Cafe, with food, sovenirs, and signing tables, also seemed packed much of the time.
I spoke to some fans of Uncanny Radio, but didn't sell any books -- probably because I was too darn busy running the lecture room. I'm sure I would have done better, too, if the book I'm doing with Nick Redfern (and friends) hadn't gotten hung up in producton. It's called Uncanny Encounters: Roswell. Look for it soon.
People seemed happy, despite the initial chaos, and numerous attendees expressed to me their desire to do it again next year. Certainly I hope to do it again. With luck, Mary and the SciFi Cafe did well enough to justify another year. As long as they didn't run themselves into debt the way the It Came from Lake Michigan film festival did, they should be fine.
Next step is to figure out a plan for mastering and releasing DVDs of the conference. Should we release the "raw" footage of the whole thing, or try to edit it down into highlights? Right now, noe of us are sure. If you've got an opinion, leave a comment.
And I hope to see you all at the Burlington Vortex Conference next year!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
There is a paypal account near the bottom for donations.
Please pass this along to those who might care to help.
Thanks for reading.
-- Steve Sullivan
To our friends --
Please pass this around and help if you can --
Our closest friends have heard of MICHELLE CALANOG PRINCIPE.
But you haven't heard the rest of it:
Michelle works in the comics industry abroad and is quite involved in many of the comics being published. She manages Glass House Graphics Asia and Studio Sakka, a creative agency and manga studio, respectively, coaching and guiding dozens of artists and colorists across the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, and even India. What's more, she oversees bunches of free seminars each year, bringing in experienced talent to teach hopeful young artsts about the comics biz.
Among her talent roster: Bong (Star Wars) Dazo; Carlo (Hulk) Pagulayan; Stephen (Wolverine: Manifest Destiny) Segovia; Lui (New Terminator) Antonio; Noah (Red Sonja) Salonga; Patrick (Avengers/Invaders) Berkenkotter; Harvey (Avengers: The Initiative) Tolibao; Jonathan (Battlestar Galactica) Lau; Anthony (Bratz) Tan; Wilson (Wolverine Manga) Tortosa, Tina (Space Ace) Francisco, and plenty of colorists for Marvel, Dark Horse, Dynamite, Dabel Bros., and so on.
She's also been a comic book character. Michelle is the sister of Jinky Coronado (artist of TokyoPop's Avalon High series and writer/artist of her own series Banzai Girls). Michelle has been a character in every issue of Jinky's comic book. And the two of them even appeared together in FHM Philippines. So Michelle's overall ties to the comics industry go pretty deep.
Married at the beginning of the year to her college sweetheart Rhene Principe, Michelle had a baby exactly one month ago. That should be cause for celebration, and it was. But within 12 hours of taking home newborn Reinee, Michelle found him not feeding and unresponsive. Back at the hospital, doctors discovered what they thought were blood clots in his brain. A catscan and surgery further revealed them to be inoperable deposits of calcification in his brain. Soon they also learned the baby had multiple hernias -- intestines pushing through muscle walls -- and areas of bowel that were not processing food. Young Reinee went through four weeks of painful surgeries, spending nearly every day in ICU.
Born September 26, 2008, Reinee Jaden Principe died today, October 26, 2008. But every mother's worst nightmare HASN'T ENDED.
Although Michelle and her husband emptied their savings account on hospital expenses, and Glass House's head honcho David Campiti and Jinky Coronado (they are married) have each donated thousands of dollars toward Reinee's medical expenses, the hospital wlll not release Reinee's body to Michelle for burial until she pays the remaining $9,000.00+ in medical costs.
What's more, they now have funeral expenses to worry about.
Jinky is trying to help her sister to raise the remaining money. Help from anyone -- a dime, a dollar, $10, whatever -- is greatly needed in a hurry, and appreciated. Michelle and Rhene need to bring some closure to their heartbreaking situation and, literally, put him to rest.
She has set up a PayPal donation Email specifically for this -- email@example.com
For any generous individuals donating $1,000.00 or more, Jinky will illustrate and personalize a custom cover-quality illustration of whatever characters they want.
Your help for Michelle and her family is appreciated.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Josh and the crew go to Gambia to look for two mythical monsters: one dragon-like river beast, and the other a gigantic owl. Their first problem is that the Gambians, fearing spies, refuse to let the team use their Fleer thermal imager and their state-of-the-art night vision equipment. (The virtues of which I've extolled many times.) That refusal haunts the data collection on this expedition. After the usual talks with locals, the team travels upriver to find the Ninki Nanka, a trip that includes running out of gas and having to wait until night for their captain to return. They locate a witness who has some of the creature's scales, and they obtain one for analysis. Avoiding dangerous hippos and chimps, they take to the river again and head to the center of the sightings. Without their best gear, poking around in the dark on the river is even more dangerous than usual, and Josh and company fear crocks and hippos as well as unknown creatures. Something tries to eat and run off with their underwater camera -- but only disconnects it and bites through the camera housing. On their way back to base, the weather turns bad and the boats fills with water, only the rest of the team holding lights allows Josh and his guide to find their landing. The crew moves on to the next search.
Before leaving Gambia, the team goes looking for the kikiyaon, a five foot tall cross between owl and man. After consulting an ornithologist, they head out to find the monster. Naturally, their rented vehicle breaks down, and Ryder teaches the local kids athletics until the repairs are done. When they arrive at the village near the recent sightings, the villagers -- much afraid of the creature -- do an elaborate dance to ward off the kikiyaon. Josh hears some strange calls near dusk, and Ryder and Casey see a large shape in a tree which then flies away. But, lacking their usual equipment, the crew doesn't get pictures. Rain drives them to seek shelter before they can investigate further, but they go back afterh the storm breaks. They hear more strange noises and see more flying shapes before storms again end the hunt.
Back home, an expet and DNA testing prove the Ninki Nanka scales come from a fish; the strange cries come from an ordinary owl, not a giant. The expert ornothologist opines that normal, local birds can take on huge aspect (a four-foot crane becoming a nine-foot monster) in the dark. Josh declares that both creatures are a testament to the power of folklore. Since this is the final show of the season, he also declares his renewed faith in hearing people's stories and looking for strange monsters. The quest for the truth will continue.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The Abominable Snowman is the bigfoot of the Himalayas. This show looks at whether the Yeti, the Sherpa name for the creature, could actually exist. There are other similar creatures sighted across the world: Mono Grande in South America, Almas in Russia, and of course Bigfoot. Are these the hairy giants of the Bible? Certainly hairy wild men exit in many traditions and mythologies including Gilgamesh and Beowulf. And of course there is gigantopithecus, at 10' tall, the largest of the apes and now extinct. A Tibetan book of 18th century medicine describes the medicinal properties of a creature called the man-animal. The Sherpas of Tibet and Nepal believe in the creature to this day -- and their monasteries keep relics of caps and skin of the supposed animal. Villagers and monks know many stories about the creature -- but whether it is natural or supernatural remains unclear. One woman shepherd claims to have been attacked by the creature and thrown into a stream as the monster ate her cattle. She insists the attacker wasn't a bear or a snow leopard of any known animal. Since Sir Edmund Hillary found strange tracks during his quests for Everest, western media have embraced the legend of the snowman. But scientific expeditions have returned without any evidence.
Tom Slick's 1957 expedition broke into two groups, one searching the high mountains for footprints, the other searching the valley for other traces -- and supposedly finding hair samples, droppings, and a "nest" much like those made by gorillas. Slick also saw some monk yeti relics, but could not get the monks to give up the samples for scientific examination. A man called Burn stole some yeti bones from the monastery, replacing what he stole with human bones. The bones turned out to be from an unknown primate; but (according to Loren Coleman) a later expedition (with Hillary and Marlon Perkins) found the fakes and declared the relic to be a fake; a yeti scalp turned out to be from a local sheep. The H/P expedition declared all the relics to be fakes. Sadly, since then the entire hand has been stolen, so no further testing is possible. Slick was killed in a plane crash, and his evidence wasn't examined until Loren Coleman (mentioned in Uncanny Radio 027) examined the crates many years later. Some of the bacteria in the scat samples seemed to suggest an unknown primate. The show recaps the panda, the megamouth, and other creatures not known to science until recently. Vietnam is home to two such creatures, and also rumored to be home of a wild man. Richard Greenwell looked for the Chinese wild man, the yarin, and brought back hair samples to examine. The hair brought back established that the ratio of zinc to copper in the samples indicated that the hairs came from an as-yet undiscovered creature. The rest of the scientific community has yet to weigh in on whether this proves the existence of an unknown primate.
Scholars contend that such wild man stories should not be taken seriously but are psychological remnants of our pre-human history and/or collective unconsciousness. Does the wild man represent our repressed desires? In 1996, the "snow walker" video claimed to capture an actual abominable snowman. It appears to show a humanoid creature waking up and moving downhill through the snow; neither the filmmakers nor the location has ever been disclosed, so the film seems likely a hoax -- though a videographer disagrees. He thinks the thing in the film is larger than 9' tall. With no indisputable solid evidence, the hunt for the yeti continues.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Josh and crew first go searching for Issie, an elephant-sized monster in Lake Ikida (Japan again) that, like Nessi, is plesiosaur shaped. Locals describe the classic humped back (as well as a long neck and flippers). After flying over the lake, which is the flooded crater of an extinct volcano, the team decides to go looking with sonar and divers. While Ryder waits nervously on the surface, the divers see a huge dark shadow with silvery reflections, but no large fish live in the lake. Bringing their massive technology to bear at night, they chase something large breaking the surface. Then something knocks their underwater camera around. Whatever it is, it's large enough and tough enough to damage the carbon cover of the camera. Back in the US, an expert suggests that an eel -- which can reach up to 6' long in the lake -- may be responsible. The team remains open to the idea that there could be something in the lake.
From there, the crew moves to Iceland (again) to look for elves. I might think this quest absurd, or believe such creatures were merely confined to my novels, were it not for my friendship with Edward Readicker-Henderson -- Uncanny Radio 016 -- who's been to Iceland and knows they take their elves very seriously. In fact, he even brought back an "elf rock" for me from that visit. (Hear the story on the UR 016 podcast.) So, I was intrigued by what Josh and crew might find; to them, the idea seems more than slightly absurd. But one Icelandic expert says that 54% of Icelanders believe that elves exist. Some say that angry elves vex construction projects (and electronics), and the government will build roads around elf habitat. And, of course, locals claim to have seen the "hidden people." One local claims the best way to find them is to sit quietly (which, I note, seems to rule out Josh).
After the midnight sun sets, the team goes looking with their IR equipment. Supposedly, one of the way you know elves are around is that machinery breaks -- and the Fleer thermal is the first to go. To pass the time, Josh and Ryder have an "elf off" - each naming elves until one runs out. Other cameras start freaking out, too. The team does some call and response and actually hears a high-pitched reply. Then, some team members start hearing laughing and other noises (and there are no other people around). Then one of their cameras is pulled apart and its power and video cords disconnected. Ryder, trying to put the camera back together hears a big crash, and soon the others are hearing strange thuds, too. And something the thermal (now repaired) won't pick up is moving branches. Then they get a thermal hit that vanishes when they look in the bushes, though there's no escape, even for a burrowing animal. Then their time-lapse camera is knocked over, despite its solid tripod. Josh looks into the incidents, but is at a loss to explain how two cords, one of which won't work unless it's "locked," could be unplugged. Eventually, the team goes back to LA to check over their evidence. While they don't find any hard evidence -- despite a very harried exploration -- Josh concludes that it's difficult to dismiss Iceland's love of elves, since the creatures represent respect for nature in a world beset by ecological trouble.
Previously, in 2006, MQ went out looking for colossal squid in the Sea of Cortez -- they found something experts thought could be what they were looking for. Now, the team returns for another go. Last time, they mounted a camera on a Humbolt squid and caught a tantalizing glimpse of another squid, deep in the ocean, estimated at upwards of 60' in length. Was it a massive Humbolt or something else? They're going back with better lights on their camera as well as a laser measuring system. Divers will be going amid the ravenous Humbolt's again,with a special safety vest to pull them out should the squids try to drag them down. (Humbolts can be as large as a man.) The crew believes that their big advantage this time is the experience they gained during the last hunt. One scientist shows fascinating high-speed photos of smaller squid shooting out tentacles to attack their prey. Legends have giants and even Humbolts attacking and killing humans. How much danger is the team in? The first small squid they catch is attacked and killed by larger squid before they can reel the subject in.
The next squid they catch -- a 4 1/2 footer -- turns on the diver once the camera is attached to it. Unfortunately, the squid goes down into the deep so fast it breaks their camera rig. They replace the camera with a backup and try again. The next squid they catch is too small, and the one after that turns on them again. But they managed to attach the camera and send the squid into the deep. But the other squid seem to fear the new laser set-up, and when the team tries to detach the laser, the squid attacks again. With the lasers gone, the squids return in droves. After four days, the crew has a lot of film to review, but though they have some great squid attack footage, this time, they have no giants. The skin of their "Trojan squid," though, shows signs of attack by a large squid with inch-wide suction cups. Tantalizing, but not proof. Again, this MQ show suffers from the short duration of the expedition, and I have to wonder what they might find with more funding and a longer quest.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
At the base of Mt. Fuji, in Japan, there is a forest that is Japan's most popular place to commit suicide. Naturally, the forest is reputed to be haunted. The thick woods and spectacular scenery are "the perfect place" to kill yourself. It is also, apparently, a very easy place to get lost. Ryder the researcher makes yet another of her ongoing appearances in procuring an undersized horse for Josh to ride. (The forest is gorgeous and looks like something out of a samurai film -- and, in fact, it probably is.) Josh and his crew pick a secluded spot and look for spirits -- which may appear as apparitions or even strange mist. Ryder quickly gets lost in the dark, and the other folks struggle in the dense foliage, too. During their trek, the crew encounters university students out looking for dead bodies; they also claim to have seen spirits. The forest is dotted with suicide prevention signs. Soon, lots of the crew are lost, and some are freaking out, and compasses seem unreliable -- the whole situation is very Blair Witch. An abandoned campsite (perhaps from a suicide) becomes the focus of their call & response (and EVP) work. Soon people are hearing and seeing things -- and even Josh freaks out when he spots something that looks like a person lurking in the dark. (No one's there.) They also find photos, cut-up credit cards, and other debris from desperate people's lives. Josh describes their experience as a "long and terrifying night." EVP work turns up a strange "voice," and the camera picks up a "human shaped" figure that appears and then seems to collapse into itself. (Unfortunately, the show doesn't do a lot of video enhancement on this evidence to better show us the shape.) Josh concludes that the best evidence is what he and Casey saw, people that weren't really there. This is one of the crew's most unsettling investigations to date.
The aswang is a Filipino creature with stringy hair, long claws, and a thread-like tongue; the creature lurks in the trees and attacks people. (Clearly the show spent a good deal of time in the Philippines.) The creature is also reputed to be able to shapechange into a dog, a cat, or even a human. (Which must make it very hard to pick out from normal fauna and folk.) After the usual oddball trek into the countryside, the team reaches the center of the recent sightings. A medicine woman gives Josh a strange blessing, and he then heads out to find a tree so haunted that a small church has been built next to it to counteract its evil. The team sets up their equipment and then eats -- or mostly barfs -- a local delicacy of unhatched chicken. They spot something on the infrared camera and hear a strange "ticking" sound (reputed to be one of the noises the aswang makes). One of the infrared shapes turns out to be a cow. In the church, they hear strange noises -- whispering and moaning -- from outside, but can't track down anything. Something flies by a camera, and a cat and a bat appear in the church on their observation cameras. When a dog appears (completing the monster's trinity of unholy shapes), Ryder freaks and retires from the investgation. Once again, full-blown back-country superstitions are on display, and it seems convenient to me that the monster can appear as local small animals. At the end of the show, Josh reaches the same conclusion. Returning home, one analyst declares the ticking sound a probable bug, and the shadow on the camera a probable cat. Josh points out that the aswang is a local boogie man based more in superstition and the natural noise and animals of the jungle than anything real. He suggests that Ryder not buy into the legends so much in the future.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Java (Indonesia) & the Philipines are the destinations for Josh and crew this week as they look for the Ahool (a bat-like creature with a twelve foot wingspan) and the Pinatubo monster. Their jeep breaks down in Java, but that and a quip from Ryder (again, very prominent in this episode) just add to the adventure. Once in the outlands, Josh and crew talk to witnesses and look for the Ahool, which makes owl-like noises (and thus its name). When the road is blocked they first hike and then swim upriver to search for the beast. They hope to find the caves the monster purportedly lives in -- and of course they set up their excellent night-vision cameras. They find the cave and it's filled with flying bats, which buzz Josh and Ryder. After exploring the cave, they discover a strange, rusting scaffold-like structure ascending into the canopy. Naturally, they decide to climb up it and see what they can see; it leads to a rope/cable bridge, which Josh begins to cross. The bridge spans a river, but as Josh crosses, he's bitten by a spider and has to stop while the medics come to check him out. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be a deadly bite. They encounter leeches and barely avoid vipers, too. The taped sounds and video the crew has obtained turn out to be normal animals, but with difficult search conditions, it's hard to conclude that locals are just exaggerating their encounters. Maybe the ahool is still out there, waiting to be discovered.
The Pinatubo monster is a serpent-like creature threatening locals and fisherman. The beast is eight feet long and three feet wide and resembles a cross between a catfish and a shark. Unfortunately, the local waters have been contaminated by mercury from a nearby defunct gold mine. In addition the lake contains a town sunk by the volcano (PInatubo) and probably bodies as well. (Starting to sound like a monster movie?) Naturally, the crew plans to dive and look for the monster; so long as they don't drink the water, they should be okay. They bring an impressive array of equipment with them, including an underwater camera, a fish finder, and a hydrophone. Complicating the exploration is a local guerrilla group, which may harm our crew if they run into them. Naturally, Josh and company brave the rebels and move to the far side of the lake to continue searching anyway. Night sweeps with IR cameras and the sonar (during a thunder storm) follow. Sonar picks up some large, serpentine hits right beneath the boat, and whatever it was scares off the small local fish. The team then patrols the lakeshore, but fear of guerrillas eventually shuts down the search. Examining the sonar record later shows the hits to be multiple creatures together, not a single large creature. A US expert suggests that changes in the river and lake have changed the schooling habits of the local game fish, and these schools are creating the shadowy shape which suggest a lurking monster.
The adventure-like nature of this show, combined with the charm of Josh and the rest of his crew (including the ever-more prominent Ryder), help this show to remain highly entertaining even when they don't find monsters. But, with enough concerted effort, perhaps they will someday find what they're looking for, and I'll keep watching until they do.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Are bear attacks becoming more frequent? Are bears becoming larger? MQ looks into a recent series of bear events -- searching for a gigantic version of a known creature, rather than a cryptid. As with many of these MQ programs, the show suggests that perhaps the giant bears are survivors of a bygone era. (Many animals had larger ancestors during the ice age.) Scientist John Hechtel suggest that natural variations and desires for "a campfire boogyman" may explain rumors of giants. Remains of a giant bear shot 100 or so years ago, McFarlane's Bear, are in the Smithsonian; the original, examining scientist thought the skeleton something odd. Is it the last remains of the giant short-faced bear? A hunter in Alaska shot a bear that stood 11 feet tall and weighed 1200 pounds and had 12-inch paws. MQ sends people to the Kenai peninsula in Alaska to look for large and unusual-looking bears. But bears are not limited to Alaska. In Lake Wanda, NJ (45 minutes from Manhattan), bears are encroaching on human habitat.
There are eight types of bears in the world, but John Martel recently shot a polar bear-grizzly hybrid. Could there be other such hybrids, and could they be responsible for freakish bear reports? An interesting discussion of bear evolution follows. Then more speculation about hybrids roaming to the edge fo the grizzly's range, in Wyoming. Yet another hunter shoots a polar bear-like animal 250 miles inland -- ten times further inland than the range of the usual polar bear. Could this be another hybrid? Native legends tell of huge bears large enough to swallow a man. The MQ team sets up a camp surrounded by an electric fence; they're not taking chances in bear territory. They also put up audio alarm motion detectors. And, what would any MQ show be without photo traps? They hope to gauge incoming bears' heights with a trap with baits at increasing heights. Of course, the traps catch nothing unusual. If confronting a bear, experts recommend pepper spray. (Also playing dead -- fighting only if you must. Big guns work, too.) The McFarlane's Bear turns to be only a brown, and not a particularly big one at that. The land-bound white bear turns out to be a pure polar bear, way off it's range. And so we end up with another show filled with sensational speculation, eyewitness stories, and no scientific or cryptid breakthroughs. Too bad they can't do a show called MonstersFound.
Legends say that a wildman called the Yarin, seemingly a smaller, red-haired version of bigfoot, lives in China even today. The MQ program takes a team and goes looking for the beast. Could it be a misidentified version of some other, known creature? Jeff Meldrum suggests it might be gigantopithecus -- the largest primate ancestor. Will footprints, hair samples, and other evidence lead to a breakthrough? The first prints they examine seem to have curled, ape-like toes -- unlike sasquatch. The show also features the usual witness reports of sightings, including a man who spotted a group of the creatures. Even a local naturallist/guide once saw the creature lounging on the hillside. "It wasn't a bear," he says, though some plaster casts (not from his sighting) turn out to be probable bear tracks. The team (from the US with local guides) sets up the two camera traps they've been allowed to bring into the country. After a delay by the Chinese authorities, the group hikes out and sets up camp at 9500 feet, lays out bait, and uses their thermal camera (for which they had to get special permission). In fact, they have only 36 hours to search -- not a lot of time in a very big country.
One of the scientists, Jeff Heldrum, brings a "mug book" of primates to see which of the shots eyewitnesses will pick out as being close to the creatures they've seen. The witnesses pick orangutans, though orangs have long been extinct in China. Hair samples from sightings are sent to the US for examination and analysis. As usual, camera traps turn up void of anything mysterious. Footprints are inconclusive, and no DNA is obtained from hair. One reddish hair sample turns out to be dyed human hair. Still, the scientists express their pleasure at having opened a new frontier for Western crypto exploration. Despite the exotic location, this turns out to be just another of MonsterQuest's standard bigfoot shows. It has the usual mix of interesting witnesses plus evidence that doesn't hold up to scientific scrutiny. If you like bigfoot stories, check this episode out; if not avoid it.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Legends say there are monsters lurking in the northern lakes of North America, but is there any truth to these tales? MonsterQuest goes to Lake Crescent to look for a gigantic eel-like creature. This is the first scientific investigation of Lake Crescent. Native legends of water serpents persist; could they be giant eels? Biologists on the show admit they still know little about eels -- eels have never been seen spawning. A fisherman in Lake Ontario claims to have once tackled a gigantic eel which pulled him out of his boat. Conger Eels, at 12 feet long and two hundred pounds, are ocean eels, not freshwater eels. Still, there are pictures of giant freshwater eels, 6-7 feet long. Crescent Lake is near the mouth of the St. Laurence Seaway. Could there be giant eels there? Joe Nickell believes that the monster is a local, self-perpetuating legend, brought on by optical illusion. Additionally, a sketch artist will draw from eyewitness reports, to see if there are consistencies. And Dr. Richard Haedrich will use submersible equipment to look in the lake itself. As the sketch artist works, the scientist discovers that a river into the lake gives easy access to the sea. Sonar shows caves and overhangs which should be a good shelters for large eels. Baited traps should lure out local predators.
Nickell examines photographs that seem like giant eels, but turn out to be otters frolicking together. The other scientists bring a real arsenal of equipment, including an ROV rated to 1000 feet. On the silty bottom, they see some strange "tracks" and what might be a carcass. They send in divers to investigate, bud don't turn up a corpse. Like Loch Ness, visibility is very limited, and the entire lake is described as a hiding place. Is "Cressie" hiding out here? All they find is lots of logs (from the timber industry) and debris. Nickell theorizes that gas-filled logs could be responsible for some sightings. He demonstrates by putting a mothball into carbonated water: the ball gathers bubbles, rises to the top, rolls a bit, and then sinks again. A rotting log would do the same, giving the illusion of life. Nickell sets up a floating log experiment to test people's perception of size -- a 14' log looks 18-30' long to the test subjects. Some guesses are close enough, though, to suggest some witness estimates may be accurate. In the meantime, something has dragged the 40# trap 200' from its original position. (Boaters?) But the bait remains undisturbed. And a mysterious creature leaving a wake turns out to be a beaver. But the forensic artist believes that the witnesses are seeing something real and perhaps even alive. Reluctantly, the MQ crew wraps their investigation -- with one of them wishing they had more time. (As I've often noted to be my main complaint with these shows.)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Josh and his crew go to Indonesia and Australia in search of ghosts and a mythical monster. First up, they trek to a supposedly haunted cave in a remote area of Indonesia. But, to get the ghosts to "play," they need to bring special holy water from another remote cave which, as it turns out, is at the bottom of a sheer cliff with rickety "stairs." Surviving that, they then enter the water-filled "haunted" cave, and go as far in as they can. Their native guide and medium chicken out about halfway home, but the rest of the crew -- including the increasingly visible Ryder (Is she becoming the main costar?) continues on. When they can go no further due to deep water and blockage, they backtrack and set up their considerable IR & night vision equipment. Then they wait and conduct EVP sessions. And, at one point, they seem to experience a lot of strange noises and shadows and such. But analysis back home proves inconclusive, and Josh rightly notes that the combination of cave acoustics and running/dripping water makes it impossible to say for sure what they heard, or thought they heard.
The search for the burunjor takes the crew to the Outback to look for a beast described as a living T-Rex like reptile twenty-five feet tall. One would think something that size would be easy to spot, but Australia is very large, and parts of it are very sparsely populated. The crew talks to locals and then heads into the bush to find a narrow lake by a tall ridge. They fly in to a likely location and spend the night. There, they encounter some small fauna, and hear something breaking branches in the darkness, and hear the sounds of an animal attack. The mysterious snapping sounds continue, and Josh tries to get a fix on it with their parabolic mic. Sadly, by the time they haul out the mic, whatever was making the sounds is gone. In looking for the bumping creature the next morning, they find no signs of the thing, but they do find some cave paintings -- including one that looks burunjor like, though Josh notes it also shares elements with the extinct (but very real) Tasmanian tiger. He concludes that here in the Outback, myth, tradition and reality are closely mixed, and it will take more than one short trip to figure out the truth. And now, he's off for another adventure. (Perhaps to find the Yowie -- in an earlier episode -- as they must surely combine trips to save expenses on this show.)
This is another fun episode in the DT series, despite the usual lack of a solid conclusion. And I remain convinced that, in some of these cases, longer investigations might yield better results. (The team usually only seems to spend a day in their main investigation location.) Maybe a two-hour episode would be in order?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I'm behind on a short story or two, and will hopefully update those in the near future.
That's the trouble with switching sites; if you have a large one, it can take a while to bring all the pieces over. However, if you still want to see the original site, you can find it here:
My original page.
And don't worry if you "misplace" the link -- you can find it any time in the nav bar on the new page. (At least, until I've ported over all the "important" stuff.)