Fortean Times Uncon 2006

UnconBlack magic theatre, 1920’s horror movies, pony-tails, waistcoats, murdered Prime ministers, ghost hunting gear, drummers of the Damned and a lot of hot air about some dead Italian artist and his poxy code…

So. That was the Fortean Times UnCon 2006. It was, as always, a mixed bag – some wonderful events, some not so wonderful. Overall the uncon was as enjoyable as I hoped it would be. The talks were varied and entertaining and the side-room events were intriguing to say the least.
The book that cannot be mentioned
But, I have, as always, my complaints. Most notably concerning the avalanche of DaVinci code-related material. Every book-stand groaned under the weight of DaVinci/Sauniere/Rennes tat and two of the central talks revolved around the mystery. Whilst Rat Scabies (founder member and drummer of punk band the Damned) maintained a healthy sense of humour and irreverence during his talk on Rennes le Chateau and Berenger Sauniere, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, selling yet another book on the same subject, took a rather different tack.
Their talk was punctuated by references to how it was they who created the DaVinci code, how it was they that didn’t sue Dan Brown and how it was they that had a cameo in the upcoming movie, temporarily sharing the screen with their mate ‘Tom’. As a result, they came across as rather smug and self-satisfied, losing most of the audience after about fifteen minutes. Myself included.
Seriously folks, enough is enough. Just stop it.
Blood on the Snow
By contrast, the ever-wonderful Dr. Jan Bondeson held his audience rapt as he explored the controversial murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme: a murder which has come to occupy the same place within the Swedish zeitgeist as the Kennedy assassination within the American. Palme, was brutally gunned down on the way home from a night out with his wife, twenty years ago. From the very outset the murder investigation was a botch job of almost Pythonesque dimensions. So inept was the police handling of the investigation that it made the recent London Met handling of the DeMenezes shooting look like a textbook operation.
The Palme murder, for which no-one has been properly convicted, has given birth to a sub-culture of conspiracy and counter-conspiracy. As always Dr. Bondeson dealt with the issues in his hilariously clinical manner – dismissing the rubbish and reducing the audience to howls of laughter with his dead-pan delivery of macabre facts and figures. Luckily enough, I managed to get to meet him briefly afterwards and thrust a book in his mits to sign. A true Fortean gem.
The cabinet of curiosities
The full cavalcade of lunacy on display at Uncon would take too long to describe, but highlights included the HP Lovercraft societys’ wonderful movie ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ – a cracking 1920’s-style adaptation of the classic horror story, Doug Skinner’s Cabinet of Musical Curiosities – a fun romp through some of the darker corners of the musical world and ASSAP‘s experiments with mind-controllable computers. Nope, don’t know what that was about either.

Foolish people

Last but by no means least I saw a two hour performance by theatre group Foolish People (see below). Now, I’ll be honest: I didn’t understand what was going on from start to finish, I felt at certain points like I was having bad-trip and large parts of dialogue got lost amidst the screaming and wailing, but overall I was quite impressed. Their work is clever, inventive, confrontational and often hilarious. Combining black-magic ritual, interactive audience participation and a healthy-dose of pigs’ entrails, Foolish people is the quixotic brainchild of actor/director John Harrigan. You’ll either love them or hate them, but their unique brand of visceral and physical theatre (they will literally get right in your face) will make you squirm and wriggle. Enjoy the ride.
Fortean Times
Foolish People
Lovecraft Historical Society
Jan Bondesons’ ‘Blood on the Snow’
Centre for Fortean Zoology
ASSAP – The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena

Damien DeBarra was born in the late 20th century and grew up in Dublin, Ireland. He now lives in London, England where he shares a house with four laptops, three bikes and a large collection of chairs.


  1. I bet that tattoo is from Shelley Jackson’s amazing “Ineradicable Stain” project. He was lucky to get a nice word. I’ve met someone who got “whatever”. o_O

  2. Damn. I couldn’t go for one reason and another. Anyone know where I can get hold of a copy of the Lovecraft film?
    Was it any good?

  3. Please learn how to spell Olof Palme. Theories about assassination plots will not appear worthy of notice if the writer can’t even get the name of the victim right.

  4. Theories about assassination plots will not appear worthy of notice if the theories are absurd Anders. Which the majority of them (with the exception of the observations made by Dr. Bondeson) are.
    A typo will not change peoples’ opinions on the matter.

  5. Totally agree with your comments on this years Uncon. One addition though, the crypto zoologist on the ‘blood worm’ wasnt that just a guy and his holiday snaps? There was no background information on the topic, no scientific study or even attempt at it. I had a good laugh when his boss turned up at the end (who clearly hadnt witnessed the lecture) appealing for money and claiming that this wasnt just a jolly up when clearly it was just that.

  6. jaysus! i missed that one colin. sounds like a hoot.
    i also forgot to mention the rather good talk on intelligent design vs. evolution on sunday morning.
    it was quite illuminating – not least the observation that according to ID theory, any divine being is acceptable as a designer. so, that opens the door to velikovsky, hancock and von daniken-type theories.

  7. Colin…
    Getting caught in sand storms, getting stuck in the wilderness, getting the shits, you think these are jollies?
    If you had bothered to listen to my talk you would have known that i had done much research on this animal. We found out (as i had guessed) that it’s electrical powers were folkloric and we discovered information on it’s diet and habitat. The data is strongly supporting the idea that the deathworm is an unkown species of sand boa or worm lizard. A harmless beast that apochryphal powers have been grafted onto.
    The CFZ pour all the money we make back into research. We are the only organization in the world that studies cryptozoology full time. These expeditions are not glorified holidays.

  8. Richard,
    sorry I missed your talk. There were simply too many things going on at Uncon to see everything.

  9. No worries Damien. I never get to see all i want to at Uncon. I missed the Call of Cthulhu film and i’m a big Lovecraft fan! I’ll have to buy a copy.

  10. Richard, I don’t doubt that you’re earnest in your endeavor. Your lecture however did not focus on your scientific investigation. I did listen to your whole lecture and whilst it was entertaining in terms of your misadventures you did not have enough information on the blood worm to even merit an hour’s lecture. This fact was evident as you filled the time with distant pictures of sand storms, a dead lamb and introducing members of your team one by one in a slow but sure fashion! Your conclusion (guess) and evidence for it came from a couple of tales that elderly locals gave you, having seen the creature in their youth. At best this was an initial trip in order to see if further study was warranted at worst it gave little or no support to the CFZ as a scientific organisation. I have no personal axe to grind against you or the CFZ in fact a highlight of Uncon was the impromptu Owl man lecture. I just don’t think you did yourself or your organisation justice by featuring so heavily on the trip as opposed to providing further folkloric and even better factual/scientific information on the blood worm.

  11. Hi Damien, a friend of mine at Uncon was also pretty impressed with intelligent design vs. evolution talk and also experianced the foolish people performance. Whilst he enjoyed the latter I think he felt a little trapped in there for two hours and ended up coming out muttering something about a priestess stealing something from him (all part of the performance I gather not an actual theft!)

  12. Hi Again
    I try to tailor my talks to the audience in question. For the Uncon i allways try to make it fun and entertaining. It would be a bit dry and boring if i banged on about amphibaenas and obscure boids for the best part of an hour.
    We are currently planning a return for late summer 2006 or summer 2007. It looks like we will have sponsers who may be providing us with equipment. I’m convinced that the deathworm exists but it’s just not the acid spewing, lightning hurling beast of legand.

  13. Hi Richard, I appreciate your reasoning and response to my remarks. My apologies for the constant referral to bloodworm as opposed to the deathworm. You’re absolutely correct in your remarks on pitching a lecture to an audience. As this was only my second uncon I respect the fact that you know what the crowd want better than I. Perhaps I’ve been to too many dry lectures at the British museum of late! Now if we could get you together with one of them then perhaps I’d finally be happy! I will be fair on this and definitely attend one of your lectures again, just through in a few boids for me! Good luck in your hunt I do sincerely wish you success.

  14. That cover picture that I have come to refer to as “Rohypnol Girl” is having a very bad effect on me.

  15. Hi Damien, have been trying to reply to your email about meeting up, but it seems to keep bouncing. Hope all is well. Drop me an email when you have time.

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