Latitudes of terror
Posted on Sunday, 25 January, 2015 | 1 comment
Columnist: Edward Crabtree
Were it not for the rumble of traffic and the odd glimpse of office blocks through the trees, the place could feel like a part of peaceful countryside. In fact we are but four Metro stops away from Moscow’s Red Square.
Then we encounter a ravine. This is the size of a small road and about the height of two people. Now and again you meet Muscovite families on a stroll, crossing the wooden bridge across the ravine and looking at the ancient stones and reading the new signs telling of the local flora.
So far there is nothing untoward: you would not know that, here in Golosov ravine in the Kolomenskaya region of Moscow, you are in what the tourist site Geomerid.com calls `one of the most anomalous areas in central Russia`.
The same source claims that the `electromagnetic radiation` there is twelve times above that of the standard, the stones have healing properties, and the river never freezes over no matter how cold it becomes.
To be sure, in the Nineteenth century newspapers told of disappearances in the region. The stories had begun two centuries earlier when a group of Tartar horsemen from the 16th century made an inexplicable appearance in the ravine (Moskovski Novosti, November 3rd, 2003).
Spoken of with awe, such fearsome territories have spanned the globe long before the Bermuda Triangle made headlines. These Anomalous Zones have a reputation for vanishings, strange fogs (and other unusual weather conditions), curious entities, and of being UFO hotspots as well as exuding an `atmosphere`. They are where fireside tales and tourist promotions come together around some truly unexplained happenings.
Like Golosov ravine there are many of these that escape Western attention. Last year the Saint Petersburg based weekly magazine of the unknown – Anomalni Novosti – brought out a Golden Collection of articles on such zones. Alongside mentions of Molebka and Dyatlov Pass this contained features of such less well known places as Medvedichkaya Gryada and Samarskoi Luki.
Forests, valleys and deserts and even roads and bridges can gather a name for hosting the strange and forbidding. So too can towns....
One hears little of Warminster nowadays but, as a child, I cherished a paperback called The Warminster Mystery (1967). In this a local middle aged newspaper scribe, Arthur Shuttlewood, detailed how this west Wiltshire village in England (not so far from a military base in Salisbury Plain) had become the place to go flying saucer spotting. Strange to say, though, the story did not open with UFO sightings but with a noise. This noise – likened to twigs being dragged across a roof – was first heard in 1962 and was then just dubbed The Thing.
A few years later, the city of Bristol, also in the southwest, also reported an unknown sound. This invasive `hum` was heard by up to 800 residents. The source of it has never been ascertained. (BBC News,19th May 2009).
Over in America in the mid-eastern state of Utah the name Skinwalker ranch has become synonymous with an array of creepy events. The ranch itself is named after a type of Native American demon. Landowners were driven out of the place by a host of paranormal encroachments. The irony is that the remaining property managers there are being menaced again, this time by sensation seekers (Lueder, p-78).
Beyond the safety of the city of Cluj Napoca in Transylvania lies a forest of twisted skeletal trees. This place, called Hoia Boca, is Romania’s best known anomalous zone. They say that the forest came to be named in honour of a shepherd who, together with 200 of his sheep, was lost forever among the trees there.
Then in 1968 the location drew new interest when a biologist on a field trip, Alexandra Sift, caught a picture of a flying disc over the area. Since that time paranormal researchers have been scouring the forest. People who wander off the beaten tracks have suffered from unaccountable rashes and burns together with missing time. ( www.epochtimes.com)
The Russian Federation, as we have seen, can boast such places: the most celebrated must be the village of Molebka. Straddling the border of Perm and the Sverdlosk region in the Permskaya Oblast, this village of about 250 residents, provided the setting of a UFO flap 23 years ago. Also known as `Zone M`, the place features magnetic anomalies and now hosts Russia’s only monument to E.T. Moreover, Igor Bourtsev, Russia’s top yeti investigator, has done field work in the region and claims it as a locale of yeti activity.
Rendlesham – revisited
Utter the name of this forest in Suffolk, UK, and you will soon hear rumours of an unsolved UFO-meets-the-military account from the winter of 1981. Dig further, however, and you will unearth the fact that Rendlesham and its outlying areas constitute something of an Anomalous Zone.
In the Nineteenth century dwellers of the town of Sudbourne spoke of `hobby lanterns`. These were bright red illuminated orbs which appeared in the local woodland (Forte an Times 204, 2005). Earlier in that same century the nearby village of Woodbridge hosted a poltergeist case which is well known among psychic investigators. In the Bealing bells case, the home of a Major was menaced by the unaccountable sounding of the domestic bells used to summon servants (Haining, p-66). If all that were not enough, then consider the fact that Rendlesham forest is home to its own man-like ape. This has been dubbed the shug monkey. (www.newenglandghosts.com).
Limbos of the waters
The most infamous of all Anomalous Zones must be the Bermuda Triangle, a 440,000 square mile area of sea spanning Miami to San Juan in Peurto Rico and the Isle of Bermuda. Nowadays a casual reader might be left with the impression that this is nothing but an urban myth generated in the seventies. The reality is more complicated than that.
A wild-eyed New York linguist known as Charles Berlitz did indeed popularise the zone in an eponymous book on the subject in 1974. The name Bermuda Triangle itself, though, had been coined by his fellow American Vincent Gaddis some years earlier – who had already written on the triangle. Even before that, in 1969, the UFO believing publisher John Williams Spencer had taken a look at the disappearances in that part of the world. He called it The Limbo of the Lost, which was the title of his book (New York, Bantam books, 1969).
As early as 1975, however, Larry Krusche challenged some of the data and claims made in particular by Berlitz. Since then the fact that the naval insurers Lloyd’s of London charge no special rates for crossing the Bermuda triangle has been trotted out in a routine way as if that clinched the `anti `argument.
Notwithstanding that, this part of the world had dark associations previous to the arrival of Spencer/ Gaddis/ Berlitz trio onto the scene. `The greatest mystery of the seas` is the name given by the U.S. Navy itself to the disappearance of the U.S. Cyclops with all 309 men on board. This occurred in 1918.
Moreover, directly opposite the Triangle on the other side of the globe there is an area of water which Japanese boatmen themselves have long called the `Devil’s Sea` on account of its treacherous nature. The place is in the Pacific, 500km to the south of Tokyo and around Mikayo Island.
Lakes too have their triangular tribulations. Lake Michigan, the largest freshwater lake in the world, has witnessed disappearances (as well as re-appearances), ghost ships and strange fogs among other things. `Such experiences are hard to categorise. This strangeness is representative of certain locations that often posses their own pall of weirdness ` said former merchant navy sailor Roy Bainton of the `Michigan Triangle` (Bainton, 391).
Some believe that they have this thing nailed. The Scottish botanist turned riddler Ivan T. Sanderson proposed as far back as 1972 that there were twelve points around the globe. These `vile vortices` as he christened them include both the Bermuda triangle and the Devil’s Sea but also Easter island along with numerous other such ancient monuments. There exist five arranged along the Tropic of Cancer and the same number lining the Tropic of Capricorn. The final two comprise the North and South poles (Bainton p’s 396-397, Lueder p-90-91). Quite how Sanderson arrived at this neat formula is not so clear to me, but ley lines are mentioned. Some of us draw the line at ley lines.
The blogs and posts of many an investigative journalist are peppered with glib allusions to `interdimensional portals`.
This model has proven a gift to science fiction. For instance, the British ITV show Primeval, first broadcast in 2007, featured prehistoric creatures invading our reality via `earthquakes in time`. What about science fact though?
There exist three popular theories concerning further dimensions. One of the oldest is that a `higher dimension`, one extending beyond the three known ones, is folded away and hence just beyond the reach of our perception.
Then the lightning bolt which was Quantum theory, following on from Einstein’s revelations, introduced us to the dizzying proposal that the universe splits itself into separate branches of possible outcomes at each moment in time. (So there is even a universe in which the reader of this piece is overcome with admiration of the author of this piece!)
In the 1980s a new paradigm had to be added to this exhibition of strangeness: string theory. String theory posits an `eleven dimensional hyperspace`. Just as the discovery of radio waves provided a real boost to the Spiritualist movement of the early twentieth century, so has string theory been to paranormal advocates of every hue. Nevertheless, as much as establishment science is now not embarrassed to speak of a plurality of adjacent worlds, on no account can we be assured that these are in contact with one another.
Doctor Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at the City University of New York, is more open minded than any mainstream physicist has any right to be. He cautions, though, against any assumption that travel between dimensions is either an easy or common situation.
`(We) are glued to the universe`, he says as `the atoms of our body are like flies trapped in flypaper` (Kaku, p-239). He adds that: `The chances that you will interact with another universe consisting of dinosaurs or aliens is infinitesimally small ` and `you would have to wait for longer than the lifetime of the universe for it to happen` (Kaku.p-248).
Kaku concedes that an ultra-advanced civilisation might be able to manufacture its own interdimensional loophole. Such a civilisation would, however, need to have the power to utilise `huge atom smashers and laser beams as large as a solar system` (Kaku). P-249). That is a lot of trouble to go to just to put on a spook show!
The American pilot Bruce Gernon has long peddled his own pet notion as to what is behind the disappearances of planes and ships in some regions. He blogs of an unacknowledged meteorological event which he calls a `ball lightning cloud`, or a kind of `electronic fog`. Comparing this to St Elms Fire, he proposes that it `is created in the horizontal tunnels that form between thunderstorm cells. They are usually about two miles high and can last for at least five minutes`. He claims to have chalked up his own brush with this menace whilst on duty – as can be seen at www.electronicfog.com
This brings to mind the contribution of one Paul Devereux. This 75 year old England based academic has invented the term `Earthlights` to describe the natural illuminations which he believes are produced in the bowels of the earth. ` (U)nderlying geology`, he blogs `can produce sufficient tectonic forces to produce luminosities in the atmosphere` (www.pauldevereux.co.uk)
Indeed, seismic activity –the result of tectonic forces – has been associated with Anomalous Zones and other unexplained occurrences. One scientist, Dr Luigi Picardi from Italy has theorised that Loch Ness Monster appearances are really gas bubbles released by earth tremors in the locality (Mail Online: 1/7/2013). Meanwhile another investigator makes out that Bigfoot sightings act as warnings of imminent earthquakes (www.sunstar-solutions.com 1/11/11)
The Hessalden test case
All the above frameworks seem to converge on a valley in central Norway in the municipality of Holtaten. This is called Hessalden. Here flashing coloured orbs of light have long been making an appearance. Between 1981 and 1984, for instance, there were up to twenty reports of these each week.
Jader Morani, from the Institute of Radio Astronomy in Medicina, postulates that the geology of that part of Norway conspires to make a `natural battery`. The Hessalden lights, he says, are created as a result of a sulphur rich river flowing through rocks which contain a lot of zinc on one side and copper on the other (Mail Online, 19th may, 2011).
Could such lights be interacting with our minds to release archetypal visions? Could such lights, as Devereux himself has even speculated, be themselves sentient? Such playful theorising aside, the Hessalden experience does at least showcase the kinds of insights that can be gained when mainstream science takes Anomalous Zones seriously.
Location, location, location!
We need to think of anomalous events in terms of their geography. When and where they occur we need to get our maps, compasses and backpacks out and do some fieldwork. The place where they occur is what, maybe, unites such disparate phenomena as strange creatures, UFOs, vanishings and panic attacks. We need to think: location, location, location.
Can we afford not to?
Bainton, Roy The Mammoth Book of unexplained Phenomena: Astonishing Anomalies, Unknown Dimensions, Panic and Paranoia (London: Constable & Robinson Limited, 2013)
Haining, Peter Ghosts: The Illustrated History (London: treasure Press, 1974)
Kaku, Michio Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration of the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation and Time Travel (London: Penguin, 2008)
Lueder, Bret A UFO hunter’s guide: sightings, abductions, hotspots, Cover Ups, the identified and Unidentified and More (London: Watkins Publishing, 2013)
Sites not name checked in the text:
Article Copyright© Edward Crabtree - reproduced with permission.