An eccentric English tradition acquires some new academic firepower
If like me you get all your news from the Cornish Guardian, you may have spotted an article announcing that the Fairy Investigation Society is conducting a survey. They’re seeking information from anyone who has seen any pixies, elves or sprites — all on a strictly anonymous basis. I rang the man behind the research and he told me that in just three months, he’s had over 400 replies. An example: ‘I was walking down a field in Scotland when I noticed a winged being leaning up against the side of a sycamore tree. He was as tall as the trunk, maybe 15 feet.’
You might laugh it off, but the man was deadly serious — as are his informants. Well into the 21st century, beneath the radar of a popular culture obsessed with vampires and aliens, elements of traditional British folklore have inexplicably survived.
A century ago, discussion of the little folk was quite common. The Fairy Investigation Society was founded in 1927 by a group of spiritualists and, legend would have it, attracted such illustrious members as Walt Disney. Its true believers were delightful eccentrics of a very English stripe. Marjorie Johnson, eventually secretary of the society, encountered an elf in her bedroom as a child and grew up to be a committed fairy-hunter. In the post-war years, she assembled a remarkable archive of sightings — including a family of gnomes in Wollaton Park who were observed driving about in small racing cars. Miss Johnson intended to publish her magnum opus but was undone by some unguarded comments to a tabloid. ‘It has taken me years of study to win their friendship and discover the secrets of their sex life,’ she told the Sunday Pictorial. ‘But anyone who is admitted to the circle of fairy friendship is very fortunate. Through billions of years fairies have learned the secrets of universal love.’
It is thought that this tabloid scandal encouraged this sweet lady to retire from public life, and her fellow fairy-hunters to retreat into the closet. What little research took place thereafter gained scant attention. We owe much of what we know about Hikey Sprites thanks to the dedicated investigations of one Ray Loveday, who travelled East Anglia asking strangers at bus stops if they had ever seen any. A reviewer of his excellent pamphlet, The Hikey Sprites: the Twilight of a Norfolk Tradition notes that Mr Loveday’s research was sadly restricted by the limitations of the local bus route.
Though Britain stopped openly talking about fairies, faith in them remained. Dr Simon Young, the academic conducting the fairy survey, says that sightings still occur even though the look of fairies changes according to popular tastes. Until the Victorian era fairies were flightless and often regarded as amoral — even mischievous. Indeed, when I told a Catholic academic friend about the Fairy Investigation Society he insisted that fairies were demonic. ‘The best thing you could do if you encounter a fairy is step on it,’ he said, ‘or lay down slug pellets.’
Since Disney began to do PR for fairies, a significant number of sightings feature creatures who bring a sense of peace; however, there are also reports of gnomes, a walking tree and ‘a group of creatures, maybe 25cm tall, humanoid, hairless, with spindly limbs and slightly shiny leathery skin’ that ‘wore nothing but Oxford commoners’ gowns (no mortarboards)’. The best encounter is that of a teenager camping on the moors who went behind his tent to relieve himself only to discover that he was not alone: ‘when I looked down [there] appeared silhouetted a small shape with his hands on his hips, I could see it by a faint light coming through a large hole behind him in the hedgerow. I got the impression of someone very angry. This scared me and needless to say I could not do what I intended. Slowly backing away I quickly apologised (sincerely believed I had almost pissed on a wee folk).’
Are some of these stories are tongue-in-cheek? Maybe. Nevertheless, there’s charming sincerity to many of the tales and to the work of Dr Young in general. ‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ he told me. ‘But perhaps it indicates in part that the countryside has a presence.’ I think he’s right. I very much doubt that hedgerows are home to thousands of magical creatures, but it’s true that the countryside is magical and that the British relationship to it goes well beyond the physical and into the spiritual — which is why should preserve it as passionately as the fairy-hunters seek to preserve our folklore.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 3 January 2015
William Friedkin revisits old haunts with new documentary on famous exorcist, Father Amorth
The New York Times
When you’ve got a demonic child in Washington splattering dark stinking bile, croaking gibberish, spewing vulgar personal attacks, lying to sow confusion, whining about the unfairness of the attempts of righteous men to compel the diabolical behavior and head-spinning outbursts to stop, who do you call?
The demon-buster himself, of course, William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist.
Before Donald Trump became president, the most frightening thing that happened in the capital was The Exorcist, which brags on its DVD cover that it’s “the scariest film of all time.”
It could well be, if the measure is moviegoers putting down their popcorn in unison when Linda Blair gushes green vomit.
“That was oatmeal – the pea soup was just for coloring,” the 82-year-old Friedkin tells me, as we have lunch at 1789 in Georgetown, a restaurant opposite the steep concrete steps where Jason Miller’s tortured Father Karras fell to his death in a violent struggle with the demon.
Friedkin offers an eerie connection to the Trump White House, noting that he edited the film at 666 Fifth Avenue, the accursed Manhattan building with the Number of the Beast at the center of Jared Kushner’s money problems.
The book and screenplay were written by William Peter Blatty, inspired by a news story he heard about in a religious class: the 1949 case of a 14-year-old boy in a Maryland suburb of Washington. Objects appeared to move around on their own in the boy’s bedroom and he was violent and speaking Latin phrases. The boy, a Lutheran who grew up to be an engineer at NASA, underwent an exorcism, first with a priest from Georgetown University and then with priests in St. Louis.
After studying up on the case, Friedkin has decided it was “jive.”
“It just doesn’t hold water,” he says, eating asparagus soup that looks enough like what came out of Linda Blair’s mouth to make me a little queasy.
Friedkin’s career peaked in the early ’70s with two blockbusters, The French Connection and The Exorcist. Eventually he felt so out of touch with a Hollywood possessed by comic books and Sci-Fi’s that he began directing operas.
Now he has returned to the subject that haunts him with a documentary called The Devil and Father Amorth, opening this month.
Friedkin used a hand-held camera to film an interview with Father Amorth, the chief Vatican exorcist, who worried that “Satan rules the world” and was in the Vatican. He died in 2016 at 91.
The director, who had never seen an exorcism, also talked the priest into letting him film the exorcism of an Italian architect named Christina with whom he had done the ancient ritual many times.
“It was harrowing,” Friedkin says. “These five strong guys are holding her down. They’re sweating. Father Amorth told me that during one of the exorcisms, she accused him of his sins and they were real.”
Friedkin took this footage to neurosurgeons and psychiatrists, and one psychiatrist challenged it, saying Christina did not show “the classic symptoms” of possession, such as her head turning 360 degrees and her body levitating.
“I said, ‘Doctor, we made that up,'” Friedkin recalls dryly. “Blatty invented what we think of as possession and exorcism today, and I had to find a way to film it. Father Amorth never encountered stuff like that, but he encountered other extraordinary occurrences and personality changes and voice changes. But there was no levitation or head spinning.”
The filmmaker says that for his documentary he did nothing to amplify the guttural growl of Christina, which evokes the terrifying voice used by Mercedes McCambridge, which was dubbed in for Blair’s in the possession scenes.
“When she breathed into the mic, you’d hear five or six sounds come out at once, like John Coltrane playing the sax,” he says. “When I first called her, she said, ‘I’m in A.A. I had a serious drinking problem. I am a lapsed Catholic, but I still have strong ties to the church. So in order to do what you want, I’m going to have to start drinking Jack Daniel’s again and smoking cigarettes and eating raw eggs.’ And she wanted to have her own two priests with her at all times.”
Friedkin is chockablock with such tales.
He says the first of his four wives, Jeanne Moreau, installed a lifelong love of Proust in him by reading it aloud.
Happily married to Sherry Lansing for 26 years, Friedkin says, he wasn’t really “Hollywood’s most combustible director,” as The Telegraph once called him.
“I don’t drink,” he says. “I’ve never done drugs. I’ve never tried grass. But I think Miles Davis is a reason to live.” He does cop to slapping a couple of people to get the sad and angry performances he wanted, noting that another word for director is “manipulator.”
He did not want Gene Hackman to play the iconic New York police detective Popeye Doyle in The French Connection.
He gave the role to Jimmy Breslin instead. “He had exactly the look I had in mind, a Black Irishman,” Friedkin says. “The first day, he was great, great, great. The second day, he forgot what he did on the first day. The third day, he didn’t show up. Comes Friday, he shows up and says, ‘Hey, isn’t there a car chase in this movie?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘You know, I promised my mother on her deathbed I wouldn’t drive, so I don’t know how to drive.’ I said, ‘You’re fired.'”
He gave Hackman the part, and they sparred so much during filming that at the end, he told a producer: “I may get away with this thing, but if I had to do ‘The Gene Hackman Story,’ I wouldn’t hire this guy.” He acknowledges now that Hackman is one of the greatest American film actors.
After lunch, Friedkin makes me descend the Stairway to Hell, the 75 steps in the movie’s climactic scene that I had avoided my whole life. I saw The Exorcist on my 21st birthday and was so unnerved, I went to bed and missed my own party.
Standing on the steps, Friedkin channels the demon, growling, “Your mother still rots in hell, Karras, you faithless slime.” Tourists taking selfies on the stairs look around, startled.
And even all these years later, I still want to crawl under the covers.
Does this 1917 photo prove time travel is possible?
A BIZARRE photo of what appears to be a time traveller in 1917 has resurfaced online after scores of disbelievers have finally found a piece of ‘evidence’ which made them question the laws of physics.
The photo taken more than 100 years ago in Canada, portrays a group of men, women and children sitting on the side of a hill of some sorts.
But eagle-eyed observers have noticed the photo stands out for a very particular reason – what appears to be a man straight out of the 20th century.
The photo was discovered in Lester Ray Peterson’s 1974 book ‘The Great Cape Scott Story’ – a tale of the Canadian region’s history.
What has fascinated those who came across this photo is how out of place the ‘surfer man’, as some have called him, appears to be.
He is wearing a very baggy t-shirt and shorts, sporting a modern windswept haircut and is clearly at odds with everyone else around him.
Looking closer at the people around, the man to his left appears to be utterly stunned by his presence.
Further to the right a woman also appears to be pointing her hand at the supposed time traveller, leading many to speculate the man was out of place and out of his time.
In fact, it almost looks as though he jumped right into the scene as the photo was taken.
YouTuber Jamie D. Grant found himself gobsmacked when he picked up the book and came across the mysterious photograph.
In a YouTube video titled ‘Time Travel proof found. Truth or Illusion?’, he says: “Notice the group, their clothes, their hats. Even how they sit poised for a photo.
“Now look closer. His head uncovered, his hair, his shorts. The man on the left stares in disbelief.
“Has a mysterious traveller proved the impossible and journey through time? What do you think?”
The ‘surfer man’ has joined the ranks of the so-called ‘time travelling hipster’ who appeared in a 1940s photograph with a fashion sense seemingly decades ahead of those around him.
But as some have pointed out, ‘surfer man’ may appear to stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the crowd, but his clothing could have very well been in vogue.
One person commenting on the book on GoodReads.com, referenced a Post Gazette article, saying: “In the comments to the article, someone mentioned that t-shirts were around then and that they made it into the common lexicon soon after that date – it appeared in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in the 1920s.
“This Article says they were worn by US Navy sailors as early as 1913.
“Considering that other guys in the picture are also wearing shorts, I’m going to say that he’s not a time traveler.
“Other than Bill and Ted, what time travellers would think that a t-shirt and shorts would be the best thing to wear when time-traveling into the past anyway?”
In either scenario, physicists all agree that it is impossible to travel back in time by our current understanding of the universe and its laws.
According to Professor William Hiscock, of Montana State University, we can move forward due to the the time-dilation effect of Special Relativity. Moving backwards however is a dead end.
The expert said: “Time travel into the past, which is what people usually mean by time travel, is a much more uncertain proposition.
“There are many solutions to Einstein’s equations of General Relativity that allow a person to follow a timeline that would result in her (or him) encountering herself – or her grandmother – at an earlier time.
“The problem is deciding whether these solutions represent situations that could occur in the real universe, or whether they are mere mathematical oddities incompatible with known physics.”
The professor underlined that no experiment or observation in the universe has ever indicated such time travel occurs.
Philadelphia Experiment – The Real Story Here
The Philadelphia Experiment is an event during 1943 in which the United States Navy purportedly teleported a Navy destroyer escort, the USS Eldridge, from Philadelphia to Norfolk. They also made it invisible – as in, to the naked eye. Most people believe the incident was either a hoax or the ravings of a lunatic, however, some still believe that it may have really occurred and that there is a large conspiracy to cover it up. What is interesting is that the tale of the Philadelphia Experiment has made it into the annals of American legend. So, what’s the real story?
VIDEO is at the end of the article.
The story of the Philadelphia Experiment begins in October of 1943 in Norfolk, Virginia, though the story did not turn up until more than ten years later. Purportedly, some men aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth saw a ship spontaneously appear in the water in Norfolk on October 28. The story goes that it came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The destroyer had first disappeared and then it instantaneously teleported to Norfolk. The disappearance and the teleportation were apparently two different functions of the experiment. In other words, the disappearance was not the result of the teleportation, but rather came before it.
Once the USS Eldridge reached Norfolk, it was clear something went wrong. Some of the men had disappeared during the trip. Others had gone mad. Some kept becoming invisible and then regaining their forms. Others still had become fused — yes, fused — with the ship in various ways. Perhaps that is why no U.S. ships currently have invisibility cloaks and teleportation devices. It could also be that the story is completely false.
The story of the Philadelphia Experiment comes from a man named Carl Allen or “Carlos Allende,” his pseudonym. Carlos wrote a detailed description of the event, along with claims he was a witness aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth when the USS Eldridge arrived in Norfolk, Virginia. He sent the description to the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research. The public got hold of the story and it took off, despite the many unlikely events described in the letter.
Carlos Allende wrote that the Philadelphia Experiment was made possible by Einstein’s “unified field theory.” Einstein supposedly told Carlos all about it himself. This is not direct proof that the story is mere myth, but it does lend a bit to the crazy factor of the claims. Firstly, it is common for such myths to borrow from the genius and fame of great scientists. Oftentimes, it is easy to refute these myths because the works of great men are typically followed closely. There is no evidence that Einstein ever met Carlos Allende and there is no evidence that his work resulted in a disastrous teleportation.
The USS Eldridge, like most other Navy ships, especially in war times, had a thorough log of where it had been in October of 1943 and the months around it. These logs are currently public information. According to them, the ship was nowhere near Philadelphia in October 1943. The SS Andrew Furuseth was also not in Norfolk at any time the Eldridge was present. Furthermore, William S. Dodge, the man in command of the boat at the time of the Philadelphia Experiment, later said that neither he nor any of his crew saw anything strange in Norfolk, Virginia.
The Office of Naval Research conducted an investigation. They did not find any evidence that the U.S. Navy was conducting experiments in teleportation. Of course, rendering ships invisible or stealthy is always an interest, but that pertains to radar, not to the human eye. As far as the U.S. Navy is concerned, no such technology exists.
In 1994, Jacques Vallee wrote an article about the Philadelphia Experiment. He had written about it before and, at that time, had requested that anyone who might have more information contact him. Someone did. Edward Dudgeon had served as an electrician in the Navy between 1942-1945 on the USS Engstrom. He said the Engstrom was in Philadelphia during the summer of 1943. The nature of his job allowed him access to the classified nature of the equipment aboard his ship and the USS Eldridge.
Far from being teleportation engines designed by Einstein (or aliens), the devices enabled the ships to scramble their magnetic signature using a technique called degaussing. The ship were wrapped in large cables and zapped with high-voltage charges. A degaussed ship wouldn’t be invisible to radar, but would be undetectable by the U-boats’ magnetic torpedoes.
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