The Holiday Spirit (Short fiction)

This is a short piece I wrote for a friendly holiday contest one of the guys at the Cracked forums are running. The prize: bragging rights. I thought I’d go for a little twist on the traditional seasonal story. It’s actually my first totally finished story in about three years, so I hope you’ll enjoy it. Merry Christmas and all that.

Leonard grumbled as he gathered the holiday decorations. He wasn’t going to half-ass it this year, no way. He was going to show Mallory that he still had some spirit left.

She had turned into a real bitch since she found that new man. Suddenly, nothing Leonard did was good enough for her or the kids. So what if he didn’t have the tree decorated? The kids weren’t coming for the tree, they were coming to see him, right?

“I just want the kids to celebrate the holidays somewhere that’s a little more… festive,” she had said.

Festive. Fuck festive, Leonard thought.

“What happened to all those old decorations you used to put up every year? You had boxes and boxes of things.”

“Those were yours. I put them up because you made me put them up.”

“Well, I left them in the attic. Why don’t you spruce the place up? Come on, it’ll make you feel better and the kids would love it.”

It was true, Leonard did need something to make him feel better. He’d been a wreck since she left, and just when he had started to come to terms with it, “the asshole” had showed up.

Leonard didn’t even know the guy’s name. He was just “the asshole.” Well, that wasn’t technically true. He did know that the guy had a name, Leonard just made it a point not to remember what it was every time he heard it.

Mallory didn’t tell him she was seeing someone, not at first. He’d call to ask if he could have the kids for the weekend and he’d hear someone talking in the background.

“It’s the TV,” she’d say.

Bullshit. Leonard knew better. She’d replaced him that quickly? That easily? It seemed so. He’d never met the guy, never wanted to. He thought, one time, that he’d even heard Julia calling him “dad” in the background.

That son of a bitch. Thinks those are his kids. They know who their father is. If they want to see their dad festive, then that’s what they’ll get.

He pulled a long, red rope out of the box. It was tangled in a few places. He sighed and began trying to untie the shit.

He hauled himself to the top of the ladder, stapling a few places, then climbing all the way back down and scooting the whole operation a yard to the left. What a bunch of tedious crap.

Leonard had tried to date around, but hadn’t had any luck. He’d met a girl who worked in the office next door. She was beautiful, leggy, just the kind of woman he liked. He met her when she was filling up a water bottle at the fountains by the bathroom.

“It’s so much cheaper just to fill these up and put powder in them than buying stuff out of the machine,” she said.

Leonard had grunted agreement. He had to cut corners anywhere he could, since Mallory’s income had just barely put them past the tipping point. Now he had to spend most of his checks on the mortgage. He wanted to sell the shit heap, but he kept waiting to see if the property value would ever go back up.

The woman finished filling up her bottle, snapping Leonard out of his thoughts. She held out a hand. “I’m Rebecca. Becky.”

They met like that a few more times, and finally, Leonard got her number. He called her a few times, went out to see her, things like that. He didn’t think it would work out, though. She thought he was “too intense” or something.

Finally, he had the damned trim put up around the gutter. He looked around for his box of ornaments.

Left it inside, you big moron, he thought. He went back in, passing into the kitchen and opening the cupboard door.

Becky’s skinned body lay crumpled in the corner. Luckily, he’d managed to pull things together with her at the last moment, just in time for the holidays. He’d called her up and breathed heavily into the phone, like he always did.

“Leonard? Is that you? I told you to stop calling me. I’m calling the police. This is the last time.”

After that, he knew she’d be too scared to stay home, so he caught her when she walked by the alley. He stuffed her into his van and took her home.

Now Mallory could see just how festive he was. He had strung Becky’s guts all along the house, dripping and criss-crossed with blue veins. He put lights inside them to give them a nice orange-red glow.

He had tenderly removed her organs and pickled them for a week. Now they were ready to be hung from the big evergreen outside. Her skin made up the tree skirt.

It’s gonna be a hell of a holiday.

Leonard heard a car pulling into the driveway. Mallory’s. She was early. Wait until she got a good look at what he’d been doing.

She turned off the car, too busy talking to the kids to notice what he’d done. She opened the door and stepped out. Oh good, Leonard thought. She didn’t bring “the asshole.”

As she turned from the car, her jaw dropped and her eyes got wide. She stared at the house, then her eyes went to the tree, and finally, to Leonard.

“Oh Leonard… Oh… my… Leonard.”

He grinned his best grin.

“It’s beautiful! Fresh decorations?!”

The kids piled out of the car, Julia and Mark rushing to the gutters to play in the blood that dripped down, Sammy and Thomas going for the tree to get a good whif of the formaldehyde coming off the ornaments.

“I didn’t know you’d be here so early, I’m really sorry. Dinner’s in the cupboard. I haven’t even carved her yet.”

“It’s okay,” Mallory said. “God, Leonard. I didn’t know you still had this much holiday spirit in you. I really didn’t.”

Golgotha (Short fiction)

No life found on Titan after all. Bummer.

Anyway, this is a story that I wrote for my grad school applications three years ago. I haven’t touched it since, so it’s probably full of technical errors.

I tried to write it in a style that made it seem as though it were translated from another language. I thought it was nice back then, but I probably wouldn’t do it again if I were to re-write it today.

I’ve considered re-writing it, trying to touch it up, but I’m not even sure if it’s who I am anymore. Ah well, read and enjoy.

Also, so you don’t get terribly bored, I’ve decorated this with fine art. Hooray!

Adam sat on the hard, grimy bench. It was slick from the sweat running down his back. He hadn’t showered, hadn’t eaten, and hadn’t even used the bathroom unsupervised in weeks. He felt ill. Even if he did eat anything, it would probably come right back up, half-digested, rejected by his own belly. Not smart enough to save itself, he thought. His own body would probably rather him die than continue to suffer in this place. He stared outside, into the yard, where others broke rocks and their captors broke them. No smiles, no glee. It was gray, a Friday, possibly, but Adam couldn’t remember. He had tried to keep up with the days when he arrived, hoping to observe the Sabbath when it came, at least in his mind. Then, he gave up on that when it looked less and less likely that he would be getting out. Now, he had even begun to give up on God.

Adam had not been meant to be here, he knew. He was supposed to have arrived a week earlier and gone back to London before the Germans invaded. How a loving God could have intervened, sent him to this miserable place, separated him from his family, he did not know. What could God’s plan be but to make him suffer?

Adam had once argued with a fatalist over God’s plan. The fatalist argued that God decided who was going to heaven and hell the moment they were conceived. “God,” he said, stroking his thick salt-and-pepper beard, “has a plan for us all, and we are not meant to interpret it, just to live it out.” A smug Gentile if Adam had ever seen one. “What kind of God,” Adam countered, “would judge someone before their decisions had been made? Would that not mean that God would force a man to make choices that would forever damn him? This does not sound like the father of Abraham.” The fatalist had gotten flustered at this. “You do not gather my meaning,” the fatalist said. “You must understand, God knows men’s hearts.” Adam felt he understood perfectly. “God knows a man’s heart before he has set himself?” The fatalist sighed and explained, as if to a child: “God has already seen what path the man’s heart will take. Man has free will. God cannot change it, but he can know it. God is omniscient. He can see the twists and turns of our lives before we experience them. He has set it all out. It is unchanging.” Adam had grown angry, frustrated at this. He hated arguing with these old fools. They didn’t seem to understand when they were being foolish, either, which irritated him further. “To what end? Salvation? Why try to save what is already lost?” The fatalist looked at him as though he were the fool. “None can know His ultimate plan.”

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Adam felt his temper flare even at this memory. He flung a bowl that had been empty short of mouse droppings for four days. It clattered against the caged wall. He hated remembering his losses, his disappointments. They reminded him of his lack of perfection. Ever since he heard his father tell the story of the Messiah, Adam had wondered if he could be Him. But Adam was not meant to be Him. He was too angry, too short tempered. He was full of pride, greed, the occasional lust. He knew these things about himself, but could do nothing to change them. He was weak, far too weak, to do anything to fix the damage that had been done. And now, now that he was here, living this horror, his faith was beginning to waver. He didn’t respect his family enough, either. He respected them enough to have ventured back to his homeland to see his father put in the ground, though.

Part of him despised the old man. Part of him respected his father’s ability to always turn to God, and to no one else. The turning to no one else was what he despised. His father had been convinced that God could solve any problem, no matter what it was. The faucet could be leaky and God would fix it. What was most damnably frustrating about it was that the old bastard was always right. Instead of opening his purse to pay for it to be fixed, he’d wait and pray. And then, as if by a miracle, a plumber would just happen to knock on the door asking if they had an extra room. A carpenter would smell his mother’s cooking and ask for a meal in return for fixing a wobbly table leg. God provided for Adam’s father, but not for Adam.

His father’s scrimping and saving and praying paid off, though, and when the time came, he was able to send Adam to England to study theology. Something he himself had never been able to accomplish. His father, ever the amateur debater. He would speak to rabbis for hours, debating the nature of God, delving into the meaning of the tetragrammaton, trying to pin down the exact locations and time frames of biblical events. His father enjoyed these things. Adam did not know what he enjoyed. He had tried singing, dancing, playing an instrument, painting, law, medicine, and all forms and flavors of science.

His father inspired him to finally try his hand at theology, albeit indirectly. For years, he’d listened to the old man praying and genuflecting to God. When Adam begged for God’s love he received nothing. He had grown jealous of his father. He had grown angry and disgusted with his father and his father’s God. Finally, it had occurred to him to take up theology. He could argue with his father, debate against him, and finally prove the old man for the lucky fool he was.

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Now Adam wouldn’t get that chance, though. His father was dead and soon he would probably be dead himself. He didn’t even know if his mother or sister were still alive. They had been torn apart at the train yard, Adam placed on one train, Elzbieta and his mother on a different one.

He had felt ill most of the way to the facility. There had been no bathrooms, and several men, Adam included, had been forced to move their bowels in the corner, like livestock. He had felt shame at this, but had no choice. He had met the eyes of an old man with only a few teeth left in his head. The old man stared him down as Adam squatted in the corner, grimacing. He grinned a toothless grin at Adam and made a swirling downward gesture with his finger to resemble the waste exiting Adam’s body. Adam had been horrified, greatly disgusted by this man. He had nearly choked. Such bold crassness Adam could not fathom. He stood on the opposite side of the train car the rest of the way to the facility.

But the old man had reminded Adam of the homeless man who had lived outside of their apartment complex when he was a child. Once, Elzbieta had given him the last bit of money she had. Adam decided to follow the man out of cynicism. He had believed that the hobo intended to buy liquor, but he was wrong. He wanted to prove a point to Elzbieta, that homeless people squandered the money given to them. In actuality, he had gone to the corner market and ordered two sandwiches. One he ate there, the other he had wrapped to go. Elzbieta had actually provided livelihood for the man, while Adam looked like a pessimistic fool. This made him hot with anger and he did not speak to Elzbieta for a week afterward. Adam disliked being wrong.

Elzbieta had barely spoken to him at their father’s funeral. She was angry at him for having gone to London while she remained in Krakow, taking care of their mother. She had married a dour banker named Jakub, but he was infertile and could produce her no children to dote on. Thus, she was left only with mother, in declining health, and her husband, a distrusting, moping sort of man. Her life was dull as a rainy day and she blamed only Adam for it. Elzbieta also, was physically afflicted from birth, being shorter than the average woman, just a little less than five feet tall, making her a prime target for jokes and insults. By contrast, Adam, slightly tall, had seemed to be given a gift she could not ever hope to gain.

Elzbieta was bitter toward Adam for his height and opportunities, and never once attempted to hide this truth from him.

“Where is mama?”

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“I do not know. Do you think I am her keeper? Do not answer that, you son of a bitch, or I will stomp on both your feet,” she said. She knew very well that their mother’s keeper was exactly what she was. “Is she with Jakub?” “Probably so, I told you I do not know. Look, there’s father’s old friend Justyn.” She had wandered off to greet him and exchange stories of their father in life. Adam continued to search for mother. He had finally found her, in her bedroom, staring out the window. “Mother,” Adam said. “Why are you not outside speaking with the mourners?” She wheeled around and looked at him. “I do not mourn your father,” she said. “He is in a better place, with God. I envy him, Adam. You should, too.” Adam stared at her quizzically. “You do not mourn him at all,” he half-asked and half-stated. “No,” she replied. “Not at all. I hope to be with him soon.”

His father was lucky and his mother was prescient of what was to come, it seemed. Adam had meant to have arrived a week before his father’s funeral and leave the day after. He had been delayed, however, by a summit on the nature of evil. The meeting was uninteresting and said little that Adam cared to hear, except a few brief discussions on what happened to those who did become damned. One particular fellow, a Jesuit, put forth the opinion of eternal purgatory. Man is required to repent constantly, for ages if necessary, until he was freed to go into heaven. Hell was reserved only for those who refused to repent in the face of God. The prideful. Those who could not accept what was before their eyes.

He had wanted to avoid going, but he had been too timid to ask his instructor. Instead, he came the day before his father’s funeral and vowed to stay the week after. A scant few days later, though, and the Germans arrived. Adam knew his chance was lost. He would have taken it earlier, had he known what was to come. He would have left Poland before the Germans ever thought to arrive. Let mother and Elzbieta deal with them. He could not take this, though.

When they had heard on the radio what was happening, he and Elzbieta had immediately begun arguing over what to do with mother. Adam had wanted to take her away, to try to flee. Elzbieta told him that was impossible, though, and he knew it was. Mother could not make it far, even with both of them helping. Instead, mother and Elzbieta tried to cram themselves under mother and father’s bed. Jakub had still been at work, and as far as Adam knew, Elzbieta did not see him again before they were taken. Adam thought, briefly, that he had seen him in the yard of the facility one day, but later became convinced that this was just an illusion and paid it no mind.

On the day the Germans came, though, Adam did not want to hide under any bed. He didn’t even live in Poland any more. He wasn’t even sure he considered himself a Jew. Surely they’ll understand, he thought. Any reasonable man would, of course. He stepped out the door of the apartment as Elzbieta hissed at him to stay. He went down the stairs of the building, out to the nearly deserted street. There, he saw two soldiers with their backs to a wall, sharing a cigarette. As soon as he approached, they turned their guns on him and shouted. Adam did not understand German and they did not understand Polish, so he tried English, the only other language he knew with any sort of adeptness. “English,” Adam said. One of the soldiers nodded. “Jew?” He pointed at Adam. “Yes, my father was,” Adam said. He nodded and said something to his cohort in German. “I’m not from here, not anymore. I live in England now. I’d like to get out of the country and get back to my studies,” Adam said. The German nodded. “Family?” Adam nodded eagerly. “Yes, if they can leave with me that would be fine.” The German nudged his fellow soldier and they followed Adam back to his mother’s apartment. Once there, he called their names and his sister scrambled out from under the bed. She saw the Germans and her face dropped. She slapped him, hard, and tried to run past the soldiers. The larger of the two caught her while the smaller one dragged his mother out from under her bed. She screamed and cried and wet herself. The small German then turned and sharply cracked Adam with the butt of his rifle, sending Adam sprawling to the floor, where he soon lost consciousness.

Adam felt shame at betraying his family and trusting the Germans. He claimed ignorance to himself for a few days, telling himself that he had not known, but eventually that faded too. He had gotten anxious to leave, to escape before the situation got bad, and it had cost him. He knew what his father would have done. His father would have made the bald spots on the rug larger by hitting his knees the instant that the radio announcement came on. His father would certainly not have doomed his entire family with his brashness.

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No, truly, Adam was not meant to be here. If God intended him to be here, it made no sense to Adam. What was he to learn? Pain and suffering before death? For the last two days, he had been alone. They had taken him out of the field and placed him in a solitary cell. He could feel his ribs through his ripped shirt. His hunger pangs had subsided days ago, and now he felt like hunger was beyond him. He had transcended the need for sustenance. He felt like a sort of monk. His head shaved, tattered clothes, without food. Left only with his thoughts and visions.

Adam had had many visions over those two days. Mostly of his father, talking as he did with the rabbis when Adam was a child. He also saw his mother, kneeling down, nude, while someone else brought a shovel down onto the back of her neck. Adam somehow doubted that this was fantasy. It felt real, whereas his father seemed like a mirage or a memory. Perhaps seeing his mother killed was the mirage, though. Or perhaps he had seen it and pushed it out of his mind. It seemed like half his life had been spent in this facility but he knew it couldn’t have been more than a month, if even that. Memories of this place were fuzzy, though, compared to his memories of life before.

He had known, however, that fate had something in store for him. As though seeing his dead father, seeing his mother murdered, and seeing what looked like a nearly skeletal man who may have been his brother-in-law weren’t enough, he had been in this cell. Left for days. He wasn’t going to the gas chamber, it seemed. He was getting special treatment. Maybe they knew he spoke English and needed him for something. It could be that they had him confused with someone else. He was not sure. One of the guards had spoken to him, though, in German. “Sie werden morgen sterben,” he had said with a wink. The wink made it morbid. Adam knew exactly what he was saying, even if he didn’t know the language. “You will die tomorrow.”

So he sat, sullen, feeling sorry for himself. He waited for the cage to clang open, signifying that the end was on its way. He put his head in his hands and, closing his eyes, saw his father once again. There, on the backs of his eyelids, stood his father on a pillar above a pit of flame. “Adam, my son.” Adam could not tell if his father was speaking English or Polish anymore. It had to have been Polish. The only other language his father knew was Hebrew. “Adam. You must know. Hell is real. Hölle ist echt.” You are not my father, Adam thought at the vision. My father does not know German. You are not my father. You are the vision of this place, nothing more. He opened his eyes enough to dispel the vision and allow tears to seep through. He sobbed soundlessly and placed his head on the end of the cot. It was the first time his father’s image had spoken directly to him.

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It blended into his head. His father. His father’s father. His God. His Father. God, the Father. The God of Abraham and Isaac. What was this? A test of faith? Was God trying to shake his will before his final judgment? Adam shook his head violently and tears streaked to either side of his face. He wiped at them and erased the trails they had made through the dirt on his face, now coated over once more with the dirt from his hands. Adam was shaken, disturbed, but for once, he wasn’t angry. He was saddened. Saddened by how he had disappointed himself and his family. He was no Messiah. If ever there was to be a Messiah on this earth, it would not be him. The Messiah would not die like a feral dog in a labor camp.

Suddenly, another vision filled Adam’s mind. Himself, being led down the hallway outside his cell. Hearing the moans of others in the solitary cells. Led into a room with a small wooden table. A large, loud German bellowing questions at him. Adam not understanding. The German shaking his head. Adam being grabbed by the back of his neck and having his face thrust down into a sink. The tap turned on, pouring onto the back of his head. The closest to a shower he’s had since arrival. Then, a shot. Seeing his own blood fill the sink.

But perhaps this was not the vision, but the reality. Perhaps the vision was him in the cell, holding himself close, weeping at the feet of the ghost of his father. Adam could no longer tell what was fantasy, myth, and what was fact. His father had been a fact, but now was myth. The vision of his mother, was that a myth? What of his brother-in-law? What of his own execution? Were these just the dying dreams of a man whose thoughts are leaking out of him and down the drain in a soupy mush? Myth, legend, fable.

Gods & Aliens

Tomorrow, NASA is holding a press-conference about extraterrestrial life. It’s widely speculated that they may announce that they’ve found life on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

This may be the biggest announcement in human history, when you think about it. We’ve found aliens. Sort of, anyway.

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Welcome to Earf.

They’re not like, aliens aliens. They’re more like primordial bacteria that consumes arsenic, which is great if they’re married to a film noir black widow who wants their insurance money. Unless she pushes them down the stairs, I guess, but that’s not important.

What’s important is that 2010 really IS the year we made contact.


2010 the year we make contact
“My God… It’s full of giant babies.”

So, we’ll find out some of the most important information we’ve ever received as humans, that we’re not alone in this vast expanse, that we’re not special, and we’re going to hear it on a Thursday. People don’t even like Thursdays. Come on, NASA. Did you guys seriously not consider some sort of all-out Alien Weekend press bonanza? Get MTV involved, make it like a second spring break.

Then we get to the big question: Will we interfere? Will we try to meddle in these creatures’ existence, try to help them along, give them the push they need to eventually become sapient creatures? Will we become Gods? Are we the ancient astronauts in this?


charlie
Can a guy in a Charlie the Tuna suit be their Oannes?

It’s certainly a curious situation for us. We expected to find creatures far advanced to us. Instead, we find we’re far advanced to something else. Even if we decide not to interfere, and we watch from afar, how long do we keep that up? When do we become the aliens and mess with their rednecks? What if they start to die out? Do we save them? Do we develop some way to protect their existence, or do we sit back and watch them go extinct?

Would someone do that for us?

On a probably unrelated note, these billboards started popping up here in Nashville:

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“We use math to find a date, we announce it, what could possibly go wrong?”

I love the implication that they, too, are Wise Men for figuring this out. I also love that even our local news is pointing out that this shit never works. They’re even using the Day-Year Principle, for fuck’s sake! Assuming history repeats itself, we might get a Great Disappointment 2, or maybe it’s just a gritty reboot, starring Sam Worthington as William Miller. Won’t this be great?

A few more things before we’re done, I wanted to say thank you for all the encouraging messages I’ve been sent about continuing the blog. You guys have outnumbered the Glenn Beck weirdos now, and that’s a bit of a relief.

I’ve got some more stuff coming on Cracked.com soon, and I’ll post about those as soon as they happen. I will be posting more essays here, too, eventually, although they’ll probably be different from what they were before. Instead of purely informative, I’m thinking of a more analytical approach, deconstructing some of the ideas and implications of these things. It should be fun. I’ll probably be doing more posts like this, too, discussing weird shit I find in the news. I hope you’ll enjoy both.

Oh, and my mom texted me to tell me that Fringe had an episode about Numbers Stations a while back. I’m so timely.

Video: Hell

Today’s film is called Hell, and that should probably tell you a lot about it right away. It’s a stop-motion piece by David Firth, creator of the bizarre web series, “Salad Fingers”. It’s a strange claymation trip into utter fucked-upedness. Few words can describe it, so we might as well just get to it. Enjoy.


There’s a word for this, and that word is “goddamn.”

Shanti Devi

When I was a kid, I saw an episode of Sightings, that old Fox show from the 90s, about past lives. They interviewed a dude who claimed that he had been killed in the Civil War. He was shot with a cannon or something insane like that, but the part that I found most compelling was that he claimed that this seemed to explain his fear of fireworks and loud noises in his current lifetime.

I won’t lie, I was a nervous sort of kid. I didn’t like fireworks, I didn’t like swimming, and so on. Point is, I was scared of several things, so I started thinking. Maybe all these things I was afraid of were things I had experienced in a negative way in some previous light. As I got older, I realized that I didn’t like fireworks because my brothers would play with bottle rockets and I got hit by one by accident. Whoops. I didn’t like swimming because I jumped in the wrong end of a pool and had to have a lifeguard drag my ass out. I wasn’t scared because of past life experiences, but because of bad experiences in my current life. I pushed those things out of my head, though, until I was old enough to acknowledge that I was just being stupid and eventually quit bothering with the past life nonsense.


Except when I pretend I’m a French Duchess… but everyone does that, right?

But the idea has stuck with me, and I suppose that’s why the story of Shanti Devi interested me. It’s a compelling tale, and some researchers have even called it the best existing evidence for past lives and reincarnation.


Keanu Reeves is the second best evidence.

Shanti Devi was born in 1926 in Dehli, India. Shanti was a normal little girl, and her parents reported nothing strange about her upbringing. She learned to talk fairly quickly and seemed quite intelligent. When she turned four years old, though, things started to get a little weird. One day, out of the blue according to her parents, Shanti told them that she was not from Dehli, but a place called Mathura, about 90 miles away. Not only that, but she also claimed to be married, which is definitely not something you want to hear from your young kid.


“I need a carton of Virginia Slims if you’re headed out to the store, too.”

Shockingly, her parents weren’t receptive to her claims and just assumed she was being fanciful. When she ran away from home at the age of six, trying to hitch a ride to Mathura, they got a little more concerned. Shanti even made the claims to her school teacher, adding that she had a child, as well, but that she had died ten days after its birth. Her teacher, unimpressed, took her to the school’s headmaster, presumably for disciplinary action.

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“School is for learning how to perform better on standardized tests, nothing else!”

The headmaster, however, became interested in Shanti’s story after she began using words in the Mathura dialect (which he felt she could not have possibly known) and told him the name of her husband, a merchant named Kedar Nath.

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That’s a Jedi name if I ever heard one.

The headmaster, who must have been a pretty gullible dude to buy into a school girl’s weird stories, looked into Shanti’s story and found that there really was a Kedar Nath in the Mathura area. He contacted Nath, who confirmed that he had indeed had a wife, Lugdi Devi, who had given birth to a son nine years ago, but died ten days after childbirth. The headmaster told Nath the story Shanti had told him, and Nath was dumbstruck by the news.

A few weeks later, he travelled to Dehli and visited Shanti, claiming to be Kedar Nath’s brother. However, Shanti immediately knew who he was and began recounting stories and incidents from Lugdi Devi’s life that Nath claimed Shanti could not possibly have known, and he quickly came to believe that Shanti was the reincarnation of his dead wife.

The tale eventually came to the attention of none other than Ghandi himself, who commissioned an investigation into the story.

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“Go to Delhi, and bring me back a sandwich. HAHAHAHAH! It’s funny on so many levels.”

The investigative crew brought Shanti to visit Lugdi Devi’s family in Mathura, and were astonished when she knew several members of Lugdi’s family without having to be introduced to them, and apparently also knew stories about their individual lives, some of which could presumably only be known by Lugdi Devi herself. The investigative team eventually felt it was conclusive that Shanti Devi was the reincarnated soul of Lugdi Devi.

Shanti has repeated her story on many occasions, and has remained consistent on all fronts. It’s possible that some of the details of her story have been fudged, as the only records are written, and not always from extremely reliable sources. (Ghandi’s investigation, for example, was intended to prove that reincarnation is possible, since it’s a key belief in the Hindu religion. This, obviously, introduces a large potential for bias.) It’s also possible that she was simply an imaginative little girl whose fantasy happened to share many lucky coincidences with another woman’s life. Perhaps, even, it’s some combination of both.

But the story is intriguing because of the detail, and the lack of repressed memories (which are extremely easy to plant, even unintentionally) and all that stuff that’s common in more modern past life stories. It’s a simple story, but with appealing implications for the woman’s family, and for the families of anyone who’s lost a loved one. After all, who wouldn’t want to believe that there’s some little kid out there who remembers everything about your dead relative’s life?


Except, you know, if it’s your creepy uncle.

Sources:
Wikipedia

Fulcanelli

To most of us, chemistry is a class in high school we got a B in and being able to measure just the right amount of sugar into our Kool-Aid without fumbling around for the measuring cup.


“Seriously, man, it’s a fucking art.”

But it’s an invaluable science, and without centuries of hard-working, proud chemists, we’d almost certainly have missed out on many, many huge innovations. (We also, sadly, would not have Breaking Bad. Fuck, that’s a great show.) And if we’re going to thank all those chemists for the things we enjoy today, we have to thank their forerunners, the alchemists. Alchemists, arguably, were just chemists who hadn’t yet discovered the scientific method, but their tireless effort advanced humankind in incalculable ways.


My own alchemical experiments have involved transmuting $2 at McDonald’s into death.

Alchemists, if you didn’t know, are commonly regarded as having been after two goals, referred to as the Magnum Opus: Turning lead into gold, and eternal life. Just think about that. You could go to the dollar store, buy a pack of pencils, turn them into gold, sell the gold to those scam artists on TV, buy more pencils, and keep going until you’re sick of it, because your ass is going to live forever. Fuck, who wouldn’t want that? An alchemist who accomplished either of those things would have it made.

Unfortunately, science kinda came up and popped alchemy in the mouth like Sean Connery to a woman giving him lip. No alchemist ever discovered eternal life or transmuting gold. That is, of course, unless you believe the legends told of Fulcanelli, The Master Alchemist. (Yes, seriously, he’s referred to as the master alchemist.)

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If nothing else, it would be an amazing DJ name.

Who was Fulcanelli? Well, Frank Zappa, I’ll let you in on a little secret: No one has a fucking clue. Fulcanelli was a pseudonym, much like the one used by my Jedi stripper friend, Obi-Wan Disrobi. Fulcanelli was believed to be a Frenchman, exceptionally educated, and very, very secretive. He was presumably born sometime in the 1800s, but even this fact is debated. What is known is that he was the author of two alchemy manuals, both published after 1926, and both in extremely limited quantities. What little is known about the man himself comes from his apprentice’s apprentice, a man named Patrick Riviere and the two books Fulcanelli published, both made up primarily of riddles, obscure symbols, jumbled code that has still not been solved, and odd Greek and Latin puns and jokes. (What did the Roman mother tell her son? “Semper ubi sub ubi!” Seriously, it’s hilarious if you know Latin.)

The information we have today, a mere 100 years later, is but fragments of tales. He was, according to his apprentices, able to truly convert lead (and other base elements) into gold and could create life in dead objects, including reanimating a toad, a dog, and possibly even a human being.


Like this, but presumably without that weird decapitated head cunnilingus scene.

His skills in alchemy were so great that the Nazi’s military intelligence branch spent several years and the modern equivalent of millions of dollars seeking him out. One legend says that he was captured and questioned by none other than Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Reportedly, a document describing the incident was in the hands of the KGB in Moscow until the collapse of the USSR, when it disappeared. According to this document, Goebbels entered the cell and pulled up a chair across from Fulcanelli. He then asked if Fulcanelli would answer a few questions, to which Fulcanelli briskly replied, “No, I will not.” He then rose and exited the room by walking directly through the west wall. As in, through 16 feet of thick concrete.


“I’ll show myself out, thanks.”

Even before that time, it’s known that Fulcanelli visited several luminary scientists and great military leaders throughout the 30s, allegedly warning them about the dangers of nuclear weaponry before it had even been invented. The U.S. Army, too, spent time looking for Fulcanelli after World War II, but had no luck finding him. He disappeared after that, and much of his notes, work, and a third, unpublished manuscript were lost in a fire at the residence of Eugene Canseliet, his apprentice, several years later. Legends assert that some of the burned pages were examined and it was found that Fulcanelli apparently had a knowledge of nuclear physics that exceeded that of some of the greatest scientists in the field.

Canseliet, too, claimed to have encountered Fulcanelli twice after his disappearance. Once, in the early 50s, he claimed that Fulcanelli came to his home. Oh, and Fulcanelli had also managed to transmute his dick, because he was now a woman. Fulcanelli called it “an experiment”, and assured Canseliet that it would be reversed after he was finished testing. (In other words, probably feeling up his new boobies.)


Science.

Later, in 1956, Canseliet claimed to see Fulcanelli for the last time. He was once again a man, but when Canseliet had last seem him with a penis, he had been in his 80s, but Fulcanelli now appeared to be in his 50s. Canseliet offered no further details, and claimed the meeting was short.

But perhaps the most compelling tale of Fulcanelli comes from a journalist named Jacques Bergier. According to Bergier, who had been writing a book on occult influences in European history, Fulcanelli summoned him to a home in Paris, where Fulcanelli revealed the truth of the Magnum Opus to him. Fulcanelli claimed that the Magnum Opus was actually a secret method for observing the universe, and if performed correctly, one literally could see the inner workings of all things from a strange, godlike viewpoint. He also intimated that the Philosopher’s Stone, an object believed by alchemists to be required for transmutations and pursued endlessly, was not meant to change elements, but the alchemist himself, and this change was what allowed the Magnum Opus to be known.


Artist’s rendition of the Philosopher’s Stone.

Could all this possibly true? It is a bit much to take in. It kind of sounds like Harry Potter mixed with The Stig. Most of the information is secondhand at best, except for Fulcanelli’s books. Some scholars believe that Fulcanelli could have just been Canseliet himself, and that he had made up stories of the great Fulcanelli to tell his apprentice, Patrick Riviere, from whom the majority of Fulcanelli’s life is known. The rest is legend and hearsay, although the U.S. Army and Nazi intelligence apparently did believe him to be a real person. There is fleeting evidence that a man known as Fulcanelli may have existed, and several French scientists and journalists do acknowledge that they met with a man who introduced himself as Fulcanelli at various points.

But the fact that, even in recent history, legend and truth can be so closely intertwined to the point of being nearly inseparable is part of the appeal of Fulcanelli. This deeply mysterious figure, who apparently has intricate knowledge of things unseeable by most and, possibly being immortal and therefore still alive, is an attractive idea. As for the reality of it, well, perhaps one day Fulcanelli will reappear and let us all know.

Sources:
Wikipedia has an article, but it’s awful.
Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic and the Occult

Numbers Stations, part 2

On Wednesday we took a look at three of the more popular numbers stations. Since most of them are out on YouTube anyway and there are so many interesting ones, I figured it would be more fun to post more of them instead of doing a YouTube video this week. So, without further adieu, here are some lesser-known stations.

Cherry Ripe Station

This is another British station, apparently closely related to the Lincolnshire Poacher Station that I mentioned in part one. Instead of playing “Lincolnshire Poacher” between numbers, however, this one plays a tune called, obviously, “Cherry Ripe”. It appears to be based out of Australia or Guam.


Why do I imagine a grove full of satyrs dancing around with radio equipment?

Gong and Chimes Station
This German station plays an oddly ethereal tune that sounds like it would be more in place on a church broadcast than a shortwave spying station.


It could be sexy if you imagine her wearing a nurse’s outfit. Could be.

The Swedish Rhapsody Station
And the award for god-awful creepy goes to the Germans for this blight on mankind’s ears. The video only makes it worse, unfortunately. You’ll never look at ice cream trucks the same way.


It’s okay. You weren’t going to sleep anyway, right?

The Yosemite Sam Station
Here’s a short clip from a very odd American station that’s recently popped up. Just listen. Yes, this is actually a real transmission.


It’s been triangulated as being somewhere near Albuquerque. I’m not even joking.

And there are plenty more out there, from Cuba, China, and all sorts of other corners of the world. Check out the Conet Project if you’re really interested, because there are quite a lot. Hell, you could even build or buy a shortwave radio of your own and try looking for some.

Numbers Stations, part 1

When you need to get a message to someone these days, you’re not hurting for options. Between ten billion social networks, e-mail, instant message, text message, or getting real old-fashioned and just calling them, we’ve got it pretty easy. But how secure are those communications? Ostensibly, they’re secure enough for day-to-day use. Realistically, they’re not that secure at all, considering any and all of those things can be hacked and, if you read any sort of tech news, you’ll find that such a thing happens quite frequently.

So what can you do? Well, you can encrypt the message. But what if the recipient is a spy, deep undercover, and the very act of transmitting a message to that person could blow their cover, regardless of its content?


“Bond- Your last physical showed evidence of a sexually transmitted disease. Please contact all previous partners from the past 48 years.”

Well, that’s where governments have to get a bit clever. Did you ever try to talk in code when you were a kid? You could say whatever you wanted in front of everyone, and only you and your friends knew what you were talking about. That, essentially, is the idea behind numbers stations. They’re shortwave radio transmissions that transmit encrypted codes to spies. All you need to listen is a shortwave radio and the knowledge of the station’s frequency.

Of course, the problem is that anyone else can listen to them, too, including ham radio nerds. So, all throughout World War 2 and the Cold War (and from some that still operate today), people listened and recorded the odd broadcasts from these stations, and have since conveniently put them on the internet for everyone to enjoy.

Since there are a lot of these, and they’re all just YouTube videos of the recordings, I’ve decided to post several of them and split it up over two days. So it’s kind of like mashing up a Wednesday article with a Friday video post. Hooray!

Lincolnshire Poacher

This station seems to be a British station, and according to some amateur radio enthusiasts, appears to originate from a Royal Air Force base on the island of Cyprus. It’s named after the snippet of the folk song, “Lincolnshire Poacher”, that plays between numerically coded messages. This particular station is no longer on the air.


It could also be a crazy lady who gets a kick out of reading off financial reports and messing with a Casio keyboard.

UVB-76

This Russian station, known as “The Buzzer” because of its regular buzzing tone, going off approximately once a second, is famous among numbers station enthusiasts. Not because of what it normally plays, of course, which is kind of like someone blowing a kazoo in your ear in short bursts for fucking eternity. Its notoriety comes from the fact that it has played almost the exact same broadcast for nearly 30 years. Notice how I said “almost”. The Buzzer has actually had voice messages relayed on it a mere three times in 28 years, in 1997, 2002, and in 2006. The long gap between the voice transmissions has caused a lot of interest, in addition to the fact that conversations and background noise can occasionally be heard over the signal. The actual purposes of the station and its messages are still unknown. Recently, European hijackers have begun broadcasting over the station, causing some confusion over what is and isn’t a legitimate signal from UVB-76, meaning that several possible transmissions heard in 2010 are now questionable.


This video was oddly hilarious when YouTube had the vuvuzela button.

The Backwards Music Station

Very little is known about this mysterious station that broadcasts over several varying frequencies and has appeared to come from both England and the U.S. at different times. It doesn’t actually play backwards music, but some sort of odd, screeching, grinding, and banging sounds. No voice transmissions have ever been recorded, but it has been theorized that the station is actually some sort of very complex coded message.


I kinda feel like this is the sound will bring my machines to life and turn them against mankind.

Come back on Friday for part two!

The Winchester Mystery House

When I was a kid, there was this house around the corner from me. It was a two-story house, and fairly small. I didn’t know the people who lived there at all. I didn’t know one damn thing about them. One thing that stuck with me, though, was that, for some reason that I couldn’t grasp as a child, there was a door on the second story that just opened up into nothing. It was smack in the middle of the house. The closest thing I could imagine for an explanation? Obviously, it was to trick burglars, who’d see the door, attempt to run out, and severely injure themselves on the way down.

When I got older, though, I drove by one day and saw they’d put up a balcony. I guess it had always been meant to be there.


Or a clever burglar built it and left it behind like some really expensive calling card.

Because, really, who’d build a house with stuff like doors that lead into nothing to trick people? Who even has that kind of time and money? Apparently, Sarah Winchester had both, but lacked a little in the sense and sanity departments. She spent 38 years (and the modern equivalent of $71 million) building just such a house. And it wasn’t necessarily people she was intending to trick.

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That’s 38 times longer than the Chocolate Rain dude’s entire music career.

There are plenty of rumors about why she began this massive project, but the most common story goes like this: After her husband, William Wirt Winchester, son of the creator of the Winchester Repeating Rifle, died in 1881, he left her a massive inheritance. (About $20.5 million and another $1,000 per day. That’s not adjusted for inflation.)

She fell into a deep depression, however, and reportedly consulted a psychic in Boston for guidance (though some variations on the tale say there was no psychic at all, but Sarah was instead guided by a prophetic dream.) Supposedly, Sarah Winchester was told that her father-in-law’s invention had taken many lives, and it would take many more. Eventually, the psychic warned her, the spirits of those people would seek vengeance against her. And so, Sarah Winchester decided that she would need to take drastic measures to deal with these spirits.


Building a time machine to go 100 years in the future and hire fictional characters might actually be a less elaborate scheme.

She decided she needed to build a house. And not just any house, but a house made of pure crazy. She would keep the vengeful spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles at bay by building stairs that lead nowhere, rooms that were mirror images of each other, windows opening onto blank walls, and, as previously noted, doors that opened into nothing. Winchester also had a particular obsession with the number thirteen. Many rooms had thirteen windows, some staircases had thirteen steps, and there were thirteen total bathrooms in the house.

A construction team worked on the house 24/7 for the entire 38 year construction period, which only ended upon Sarah Winchester’s death. She would reportedly hold a séance each night and ask the spirits what she should do next. Then, in a move that was either really clever or really fucking insane, she’d draw up new additions for the house that were the opposite of the spirits’ recommendations.


“Hold this up to a mirror, throw in a couple of fake doors, don’t wall the cat in, and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Winchester’s desire to keep building even led to neglect for the already existing parts of the house. When the top three stories of a seven story section of the house collapsed in an earthquake, she opted not to rebuild that section, instead leaving it at four stories and continuing to expand outward. It’s claimed that, when the house needed to be re-painted or have new carpeting put in, it would take the workers so long that by the time they were finished, the paint or carpet would need to be replaced again at the spot where they had originally begun working.

When Sarah Winchester died, the house took up six acres and had 160 rooms with 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 sets of stairs, and 6 kitchens. Legend has it that carpenters left nails half-hammered when they heard Winchester was dead.


“From that day forward, I swore I would only take up a hammer out of anger.”

Shortly after Winchester’s death, the house was sold to a local investor, who opened it to the public as a tourist attraction. The noble practice of making money off of confused outsiders continues today, and the house has even gained a reputation for being haunted by the ghost of Sarah Winchester herself. Ironically, her ghost is supposedly unable to leave the house because it’s too complicated to navigate.


“Up ceased to be a direction and became more of a vague concept about 50 years ago.”

Sources:
Wikipedia
The Winchester Mystery House

Video: Metalosis Maligna

This week, we’ve got a disturbing mockumentary by Dutch filmmaker Floris Kaayk called “Metalosis Maligna”. The film showcases a rare (that is, non-existent) and truly fucked-up disease with very sinister overtones related to humankind and our effect on the world around us. Enjoy.


This is why I don’t go into Home Depot anymore.