‘We were somewhere over Manchester on the edge of England when the drugs began to take hold… and suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the plane, which was going about a thousand miles an hour on the way to the UnConvention in London. And a voice screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
‘I thought about telling the pilot, dragging myself up the aisle, fighting off the lizard-like stewardesses with my sword-stick, but no…
…no point in mentioning those bats I thought. The poor bastards will see them soon enough.’
+Unconventional Means 1+
By 1100 hours, Blather’s leading gonzo journalist staggered from his plane at London City Airport and lurched into the steaming fleshpots of the City. By 1900 hours he was seated by the Thames – outside a certain alehouse near Blackfriars bridge – those adept in conspiracy lore may note that Roberto Calvi – The Italian financier – was found dangling from this bridge in 1982, his pockets laden with bricks. Calvi was known as ‘God’s Banker’, due to his ties to the Vatican, as well a member of Propaganda Due (P2), a right-wing, once Masonic group with connections to the CIA and the Italian Mafia.
But we digress. Various folk of the forteana mailing list clique sucked down ales in the bearable damp of Friday’s twilight UnDrinking, before some of us – members of the American and Irish contingents – slunk off for a Chinese meal, during which the waiter insisted on ripping apart a duck for our entertainment. Fortunately, it was dead and well-cooked beforehand.
After hours of sampling the late night drinking dens of Soho and slugging back garlic-chili-vodka shots, we made for home, grabbing some fitful shut-eye in for preparation the UnConvention weekend ahead.
*Monsters, Madness & the Millennium*
Long-time Blather sufferers may recall last year’s UnConvention reports – a two-day conference on the weird, wonderful and paranormal, staged by Fortean Times, the *Journal of Strange Phenomena*. Last year’s event covered such topics as Goat-Suckers, giant elephants, thunderbirds, grim-reapers, Elvis cults, hollow earth, Men in Black amongst other oddities. This year’s UnCon – which took place in the Commonwealth Institute on Kensington’s High St., had a different thread – ‘Monsters, Madness & the Millennium’. We shall try to furnish the readership with a brief rundown of the events… Yikes!
When Damian Thompson, author of the excellent *The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the shadow of the Millennium*, kicked off his talk, the atmosphere was comparable to the first day of school term. So intriguing was the Thompson spiel, we’re giving it an exorbitant chunk of column space.
A week before speaking to the UnCon, Thompson had been in Peru, visiting the ‘The Israelites of the New Universal Covenant’, a new religious movement in the Andes, now with allegedly 200,000 members. The talk was accompanied by interesting photographs of the the group. He described the sacrifice of a heifer by men in ‘old testament clothing’, surrounded by hundreds of people in a scene seemingly influenced by Hollywood renditions of Biblical themes, inside a half-built copy of Solomon’s Temple, with a Mexican Mariachi band playing along… He talked of 100ft (30.48m) high letters on a mountainside reading:
‘Israel in Peru’
‘Peru is Privileged’
The Israelites believe that Peru is new Holy Land, that Israel is out of favour with God, that they *are* the Incas, and that their leader – Ezekiel – an 81-year old shoemaker with Seventh Day Adventist influences is the Son of God, The Holy Spirit and the Last (of the old) Inca rolled into one (this somehow reminds of Jan Bockelson, the 16th century MÃ¼nster (Germany) tailor who became a local Messiah figure after ‘running naked through the town in a state of ecstasy’. See *The End of Time*, page 85.
The Israelites seem to be a mixture of Andes peasants, Peruvian Indians, repentant criminals, reformed alcoholics, ex-drug addicts and narcotics pedlars – these people are searching for a better way of life. As Thompson states, they ‘get new meaning from life when they join Israelites’.
While Ezekiel’s followers dress in a Cecil B. De Mille gone Technicolor chic – the men in long beards, white robes, vivid blue sashes, the women with their heads wrapped in red scarves, the Son of Man himself (who, according to Thompson, seems somewhat senile) wears normal black clothes, and seems almost indifferent to his thousands of worshippers. On his birthday, they sing to him… there’s a full moon, and a mariachi band playing outside. Worshippers appear in plastic Inca apparel, a woman is in tears – she has met the Living God. Ezekiel seems more interested in his food. Perhaps he’s bored…
Most Israelites were illiterate before getting hold of Bibles. Thompson states that there seems to be no fixed doctrine – any Bible will do, and any question – never mind how mundane – is referred to the Bible. His own visit was shown to have been a prophecy fulfilled. In fact, Doctrine seems to be a fast evolving concept there, with Ezekiel constantly surprising his followers with his unpredictable whimsy – he gives Thompson answers about forthcoming apocalyptic events that seem to be plucked from the air.
Despite their taste for the death penalty – it’s in the Bible after all – and their sense of impending doom, Thompson seems have a lot of time for these people. Although, like many, most, or perhaps all religious movements, followers are being strung along with ‘false’ hope, this hope may be far better than any other existence that these people may have had to look forward to.
*The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the shadow of the Millennium*, 1996
The End of Time (Amazon.com)
The End of Time (Amazon.co.uk)
Tony Healy was next up, with ‘The Poltergeist Down Under’, referring to last last year’s alleged poltergeist activity in Humpty-Doo, in Australia’s Northern Territory. We won’t dwell too much on the matter here, as while Healy’s talk was riveting, highly enjoyable and informative, much of the information has been dealt with in both Blather and *Fortean Times* (FT116:34). Tony Healy, and his associate, Paul Cropper spent much time investigating one the arguably most interesting ‘polt’ cases ever, a case further complicated by a tabloid TV show’s manhandling of the facts.
Despite Healy explaining – and even showing – how he and Cropper had checked all sorts of possibilities – such as checking that objects were not being hurled from ceiling fans – a rather obstinate member of the audience piped up to say that it ‘had to be’ the ceiling fans, and that fakery ‘was’ the ‘only’ explanation (presumably meaning that this ‘explanation’ also covered the outdoor incidences of materialising lightbulbs, flying knives and the like – all in the presence of a toddler).
We hope that this irate (and apparently deaf) sceptic attended Ian Simmons’ talk on the ‘Proof of Everything’ on the Sunday of UnCon, where he would have had his claims torn asunder – Ian had been practising with the ceiling fan in his hotel room, showing that objects will drop from a ceiling fan while it is accelerating after start-up, not at unpredictable times while it is running (unless they are temporarily fixed to the fan, which still wouldn’t explain how they can fly horizontally at face level, from a ceiling fan…)
Blather coverage of the Humpty-Doo case, by Cheyne D. Conrad, Peter Darben, and Paul Cropper, with varying opinions…
Poltergeists Down Under
UFO’s and HumptyDoo
Irish UFO Season Declared Open
At 1400 hrs, The Duke of Mendoza, in an exquisitely tailored suit, followed the Count O’Blather’s furtive forage for back-seats for Daniel Wojcik’s ‘Modern Millennial Beliefs’. Wojcik, Associate Professor of English and Folklore at the University of Oregon, author of *The End of the World as We Know It: Faith, Fatalism and Apocalypse in America* and the forthcoming *Doomsday Passions*, gave a rousing speech on modern American end-time beliefs, showing some of the frankly hilarious popular Christian comic-strips depicting the rapture.
This talk was a boon to those still rather addled by the whole millennial thing, giving a good overview on the sheer ludicrousness of it all. Wojcik’s talk ended with the conclusion that millennialism isn’t about to disappear due to a mere change of millennium – he reckons that we should expect a kind of reformist millenarianism for the 21st century. An excellent quote (which I don’t think he knew he made until later) was:
‘No Catastrophe Necessary’ Check out the Millennial Information Exchange at endnear.com
‘Theatrical Maverick’ Ken Campbell came to entertain and confound us with his proposition of a ‘Wol Wontok’ – a One Word Language, i.e. pidgin English. This talk took the form of entertainment with a message – Campbell was dressed in a strange (hemp?) suit scribbled with pidgin – a language apparently created about 150 years ago when south-seas tribesmen slaves, captured and segregated from others of their own tongue by the British.
They developed a language with no tense or grammar, by listening to their apparently Irish guards…and lo, we have pidgin, variations of which are known as Creole. Campbell claims that he can teach the entire language in 24 hours (Blather may send an envoy to learn), and has re-written Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Pidgin. Ken Campbell – Wol Wontok
Various helpers come on stage to help him with excerpts, including Lady Macbeth ‘Take my milk for gall’ becomes something (saemting) like ‘Put grilli in my titti’ or somesuch. Roddy McDevitt came on stage armed with a bodhrÃ¡n – the Irish traditional goatskin drum – and performed Paul McCartney’s *Blackbird*…in pidgin. This was followed by his reading of *The Second Coming* by W.B. Yeats – which his brother, Niall, performed in pidgin…
It’s certainly fascinating to listen to and use:
ting=deep thought (thought about thought)
ting ting blong ting ting
(deep thought belonging to deep thought)
It’s a language that seems to mean very little when seen written – but makes much more sense when heard.
As the first site below mentions, if you’re at the airport, and someone asks you:
Plen bambae i foldaon long wanem taem?
(Plane by and by it falls down at what time?)
‘Don’t run for cover. The enquirer is simply trying to establish what time the plane is due.’
“Evri samting yu wantem save long Vanuatu be yu fraet tumas bling askem”
(Everthing you wanted to know about Vanuatu but were afraid to ask)
At this point in time, we ran out of steam and so retired to the bench, loading ourselves with coffee and chocolate…and spent time nattering to various fiendish folk who were found wandering the grounds of the Institute. Other notable attractions were the bookstalls, where the inimitable Jon Downes was holding forth, various authors were inscribing manuscripts for their fans, and people were laying out money to have their auras photographed – if any readers had a go at that, we would be delighted to hear their comments. Pictures are Gordon Rutter and Scott Russell, who spoke about Rosslyn Chapel and those infernal templars…
As we didn’t get a chance to pay much heed to the other UnCon periphery pursuits – such as the *The Mind Machine*, The Seances, and The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) experiments, Blather appeals to those who did to come forward and be heard… and, as there were always two speakers on at the same time, we only managed to make to less than half the speakers. As a result, we missed Richard Wiseman, David Barrett, Jenny Randles, Gordon Rutter & Scott Russell, Andy Roberts, Neil Nixon, Emmet Sweeny, and rather deplorably Tony Healy’s Yowie talk.
Any readers wishing to contribute their comments on these talks – feel free to pass their Blatherings to us…
– and so Day I ended, and the troops headed off to various Kensington Hostelries for revelries…
Next week: Day II of the UnConvention
The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena
Wild paraphrasing from *Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas* by Hunter S. Thompson
More photographs (from Fortean Times)
Unconventional Means 2
Dave (daev) Walsh
May 4th 1999