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Once more into the breach we stumble, to give a run down of the second day of the Fortean Times UnConvention 98 (with a brief hark back to Saturday). This week Blather is joined by not only by Barry 'Dacianos' Kavanagh and Mark 'Firestarter' Pilkington, but also Paul Holloway, giving his dissertations on MIBs. EMIBEES Jenny Randle's talk on Men In Black Randles spoke seriously but entertainingly. I didn't start drowsing or eyeing the exit, as I have a tendency to do when most people talk UFOlogy for more than about ten minutes. In fact I thoroughly enjoyed her talk. She told of the number UFO witnesses who are happy to discuss their experiences at first -- but then suddenly clam up, refusing to talk at all. She argued that this happens too often to be entirely explained by fear of ridicule, or publicity. Her case histories of men, mostly...

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After surviving an evening of subconsciously premeditated alcoholic beverage consumption at what has become known as the UnDrinking, the morning of Saturday 25th of April saw some ragged Blatherskites staggering through the foyer of the University of London Union, en route to the Fortean Times UnConvention 98. This report was compiled with this week's Blather guests, Barry Kavanagh and Mark Pilkington... DEATH IN 101 The Dublin contingent headed straight for Room 101, where FT's Bob Rickard initiated the proceedings. He introduced *Strange Magazine's* Mark Chorvinsky, who imbued us with stories of Grim Reaper visitations . This topic -- which some readers may find to be a rather odd topic, even for forteans -- seems to have had quite an effect on attendees. Chorvinsky identified several cases where dying people were seen to interact with an invisible, personified 'death', witnesses *close* to death meeting the Reaper (either driving it away or...

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This week's haphazard Blather delivers a report on Australian poltergeists, along with a smidgen more calendric controversy. Post-apocalypse Reader Brian Miller asks Blather: 'Isn't the whole 2000-2001 question further muddled by the fact that our modern calender was set back by plus or minus 4 years at some point in the middle ages? So that in actuality, the second "millennium" passed sometime in 1996, if you're going by strict "1,000 year periods," and it's technically right now about 2,002 years since the birth of Christ'. Well, yes, and no. In 1650, James Ussher, Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland slogged his way back through the Bible to reach the conclusion that the world was created in 4004 BC. A few years later, Dr. John Lightfoot, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University 'worked out' that the world was created on 23 October, 4004 BC. By straightforward calculations, this would appear to...

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Last week, bizarre as it may seem, I found a copy of the palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's 'Questioning the Millennium' lying upon my infamous couch . Not having the faintest idea as to where it had materialised from, I went and read it. I'm an admitted Gould virgin, not having managed to get round to perusing his texts, but while he is spoken of fairly highly with regard to his evolutionary work, I gather that there is some hestitation towards attributing kudos to his exploits outside his this field. In 'Questioning the Millennium', Gould carefully weaves his way through our numeric foibles, pointing out the absurdity of our obsession with the forthcoming change of millennium. He's quick to ram home the understanding that the millennium is not something that will happen in a couple of years time -- that the millennium is an arbitrary period of 1000...

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Welcome to this week's (Pretty) Good Friday Blather extravaganza, disseminated from a uncharacteristically (for the time of year) chilly Dublin, where vague hints of snow have been all day threatening the populace. GNOMES WANT TO BE FREE A smattering of snippets assail us this week, first and foremost we have the latest on gnome-napping. With the arrest of several members of the Gnome Liberation Front last November, we at Blather Operations were devastated, long time fans that we are these daring surrealists, who tend to leave behind calling cards reading 'The Garden Gnomes Liberation Front has been here. Your gnomes are now free and can finally live in peace together deep in the forest'. However, all is not lost.Reuters (via Yahoo!), on April 3rd, reported a police hunt for the 'gang' that liberated 100 gnomes from a private garden in the Netherlands. Also, Australian 'Wormman' Peter Darben warned us that...

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A fine week of fringe religious activity it has been, what with guest appearances of the Virgin Mary in Georgia, crying statues of that same hallowed lady in Spain and a couple of hundred people becoming gods, down in Garland, Texas. According to the BBC on April 2nd, people in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, people have been reporting close facial encounters of the Virginal kind since Christmas, attracting thousands to Tbilisi's blue cathedral. The BBC's rather disjointed report proceeds to tell of Tatia, a local faith healer who has 'squiggly' lines appearing about her navel, sometimes in the shape of a cross. I felt so much wiser after reading about Tbilisi and Tatia, thanks to the BBC - why did they bother? Meanwhile, the Associated Press on March 30th told of how the Roman Catholic church in Spain had 'impounded' (can they do that?) a statue of the Virgin...

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A NEW LIFE AWAITS YOU IN THE OFF-WORLD COLONIES On Saturday 14th March, this Blatherskite was conversing with the Church of Subgenius's Rev. Nickie Deathchick whilst attending an open-house reception in the Fringeware Store (Austin, Texas). Suddenly, a representative of a company calling themselves 'Celestis' was thrust upon us. In case you don't know, Houston based Celistis were responsible for last year launching into space the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry, and philosopher and scientist Timothy Leary. This Celestis representative (who I shall refrain from naming) filled us in on the basic idea of their latest project - but asked us to keep mum until he contacted us with further details, as this information was not yet public knowledge. We agreed (wondering why he had told us at all). . . but on the following Tuesday, March 17th, the Daily Telegraph ran a story concerning this 'secret' information....

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MONKEY BUSINESS The Sunday Nation, via The Electronic Telegraph, reported on the 9th of February 1998 the invasion by some 100 baboons of a hospital in Marsbit, Kenya. The unexpected visitors (was it during visiting hours?) were accused of plucking dextrose drips from patients. Three weeks later, Reuters (via Yahoo) told of a troop of monkeys (species unspecified) staging a pitch invasion at a schoolboy soccer match in Hargeisa, Somalia. Several players were injured while making for shelter, and the police eventually had to open fire to disperse the monkeys, killing an apparent 'ringleader'. A consolidated effort, or a mere coincidence? WHEN YER DEAD, YER DEAD On a more macabre note, one of Ireland's oldest cemeteries, the Yew Tree graveyard in Monasterevan, Co. Kildare, has an exhumation of human bones on a nightly basis, according to the Irish Times of February 12th . The graveyard is on the site of...

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Blather has been idly comparing the news of these past few days to our hypothetical dramatisation (adapted for the 'net) of the Book of Revelations. On March 8th, traffic on 200 mile stretch of North Californian highway slowed to a near halt as it was illuminated by flaming objects falling from the sky, convincing many that an aircraft had crashed. According to Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, it was a large meteor shower (The Associated Press, Via Nando News, and the San Francisco Examiner on March 10th). This was preceded by a disclosure concerning a 32-year-old Chinese farmer who had just been divested of two of his three tongues (Agence France-Presse March 9th, Reuters March 8th), and a Canadian cow which gave birth to four calves, a rather rare and momentous occurrence (The Associated Press, via Nando March 8th). MIRACLE ALERT We nearly didn't get round to mentioning this little...

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MARCH SPAWNED A FROG FROG FALL Suzanne Charlton the BBC Weather Centre had a rather intriguing weather report to make on the 5th of March. A 'distraught' woman in Croydon (The Times say Croydon, while several people reckon that the BBC said Crawley), in the southern U.K., phoned the Meteorological Office to inform them of a deluge of of frogs which were proceeding to cover her garden and much of the surrounding neighbourhood. Neil Lofthouse, the U.K.'s national forecaster, was quoted as saying that : "You do get reports of things getting sucked up by water spouts, which are rotating columns of water, or tornadoes. They would have to go over a lake or something with a lot of frogs on it." Unfortunately Mr. Lofthouse is fumbling in the dark with this fairly weak, if typical explanation. For more on anomalous falls, see The Anomalist's 'Super-Sargasso Surfin' and Blather's 'Raining...