COINTELPRO & Operation Mockingbird

Have you read the news lately? Son of a bitch. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore conspiracy theories that say the world is really run by rich people. I think it goes much deeper, though: I suspect it might be run by rich idiots.


In fact, sometimes it’s so hard to ignore conspiracy theories, you have to start forgetting that some of them have been confirmed to be true.

In the 20th century, within living memory of some of you readers, the American government has admitted, directly, to deceiving and subverting its own people. COINTELPRO and Operation Mockingbird are just two cases of it, and they may still be having effects today.

Not these effects.

COINTELPRO was a program run by the FBI from 1956-1971. It stood for COunter INTELligence PROgram, and was the government’s way of fucking with racists, feminists, nationalists, war protestors, and this one dude you may have heard of: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Long before internet trolls, there was the FBI.

The idea behind COINTELPRO was to infiltrate and disrupt groups deemed subversive to the United States government. Specifically, they were interested in womens’ and blacks’ rights groups, which doesn’t seem very cool nowadays, and white power groups like the KKK, who are totally okay to fuck with by most people’s standards. Essentially, they were interested in any group that they deemed pro-communist, nationalist, or just plain having the potential to disrupt or overthrow the government in some way, shape, or form. (Or, sometimes, just because the president asked them to look into somebody.)

The usual M.O. for COINTELPRO operatives was to divide and conquer by creating rifts in these groups after infiltration. Other popular ways to cause drama? Charging people with fake crimes, illegal wiretapping, searching houses without a warrant, and just plain driving up and shooting motherfuckers. (I felt that was important enough to actually cite an in-line source for once.)

So why did the FBI drop the program in 1971? Because a bunch of dudes broken into one of their offices and found documentation about it. Otherwise, they’d have kept on doing it. The Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate (aka The Church Committee, named after Senator Fred Church, who led it) took a look at all this and shat their collective pants.

“We would like to declare that this shit officially just got real.”

After the Church Committee brought COINTELPRO into the light, the FBI had no choice but to shut it down… except they never actually stopped doing the shit they were doing, they just quit calling it COINTELPRO. Stay classy, FBI.

But the FBI weren’t the only ones up to crazy shit. The CIA had their own set of trolling tactics. One of these was known by a couple of names, but the most common is Operation Mockingbird. Now, why would you name some cool intelligence campaign after the state bird of Tennessee? When you hear what the program was meant to do, you might see why: Operation Mockingbird was a propaganda program targeted at journalists, both domestic and overseas, from the 1950s to the 1970s. Specifically, both newspaper and television reporters were paid, blackmailed, and otherwise coerced into reporting the news the CIA wanted you to hear.

The operation was started to cause unrest in foreign, communist-controlled areas of the world, but the CIA figured if they had the resources, better use them. And the names of some of the reporters they were alleged to have dragged into it are some you might recognize. Names like Walter Pincus, Joseph and Stewart Alsop, Walter Lippmann…  you don’t know any of those people? Okay, how about Ed Murrow? George Clooney made that movie about him.

“’Hello, America. This is the CIA Calling’? Why can’t I just do ’This… is the CIA?’”

Okay, well how about these respectable publications: The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS, Time Magazine, Washington Post, all were infiltrated by the CIA during Operation Mockingbird and used to publish stories approved by, and sometimes written by, the CIA.

So what happened to Operation Mockingbird? The Church Committee found out about it, too, and brought it down around the same time as COINTELPRO… just kidding! The CIA agreed to stop “Operation Mockingbird”, but the new head of the CIA at the time didn’t really say they’d quit using the media for propaganda. What he actually said was “Effective immediately, the CIA will not enter into any paid or contract relationship with any full-time or part-time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, periodical, radio or television network or station.” Notice how he didn’t say anything about unpaid? That’s because he immediately followed it up by saying that the CIA would welcome any “voluntary”, unpaid cooperation from journalists. That new head of the CIA? I bet you’ve heard his name: George H.W. Bush.

“That’s right, bitches.”

Now, you may be wondering why I chose these two particular programs to mention in this one article. Honestly, there was enough material for me to do two separate articles, but there’s a bit more I want you to chew on.

This is Hal Turner:

This is what making threats against federal judges gets you.

Some of you from, ahem, unmentionable web communities may be familiar with him already. Hal Turner used to be an internet radio show host who, if you didn’t notice there, got put in the pokey for calling for his listeners to kill three federal judges. Turns out, the police don’t like that very much. His show was a white supremacist sounding board, accepting calls from racists and assholes all over the country, all while Hal and his cronies turned the ultra-conservative paranoid rhetoric up to 11.

The thing is, Hal thought he had some protection against what he was saying. Why would he possibly think that? Because Hal worked undercover for the FBI. Hal claims he’s not a racist at all, but a paid informant. Not only a paid informant, but a former FBI operative. He claims that the FBI put him up to the radio show to act as an agent provocateur, that is, a shit-stirrer. His goal was to ramp the crazy talk up so high that some violent people might go overboard and spill the beans on plans they had to commit assassinations and other crimes. The FBI called him “Valhalla”, and used him as a source for over 100 arrests. But when he got taken into prison, the FBI pulled the Saint Peter card, right up until documentation came to light that proved that Turner worked for them. So Hal asked for the FBI to help defend his case, but got no response. Then Hal started making threats. Really scary threats. You see, Hal says he’s not alone.

Hal Turner claims that government intelligence agencies have infiltrated major news magazines, papers, and television channels, and are using those positions to their advantage, just like Operation Mockingbird. He says that this information, were it leaked, would put his life in danger, but would possibly cause a massive reaction in the general population, because these people aren’t just targeting dissidents, they’re trying to influence the average American television viewer. And these aren’t people working in the back rooms and behind the scenes.

Hal Turner says that these people are major reporters and television talking heads, household names. And since Hal started making these threats, the FBI has caved and begun acknowledging his work with them. We’ll probably never hear what Hal had to say now, since he’s clammed up and many of the news sources who were covering his threats have removed the information. But still, the idea looms. Could intelligence agencies be using pundits to influence and direct the conversation of American political and social issues? Is this the new Operation Mockingbird?

I’m just sayin’.

Wikipedia – COINTELPRO & Operation Mockingbird (Reliability? They have an article on it, at least.)
The Raw Story


Atmospheric Beasts

We laugh at old-fashioned things now. Our conveniences and scientific advances are so, well, convenient and advanced that it gives us a lofty throne from which to judge things from yesteryear. We can laugh at those olden days, with their strange devices that were meant to make life easier, but seem like stone tools to us.

“Pathetic. My iPod is at least half that size.”

And sometimes, the ideas and beliefs of previous decades seem funny as well. For example: It was once believed (uncommonly, I’ll admit) among paranormal researches that some UFO sightings may have actually been creatures that lived in the atmosphere. They also speculated that, instead of just abducting their victims, the creatures were eating them. (It wasn’t until the 70s and 80s when people started telling stories of being abducted and returned. Before then, it was common to say that you heard a UFO abducted some dude and that motherfucker was never seen again.)

“Oh cool, no more bills for me.”

But there’s a bit more to it than that. Before the term “flying saucer” was even invented, much less “UFO”, folklore told of shit flying around and bugging people and generally scaring the bejesus out of them. But we also didn’t have things like planes back then, so anything that flew around and fucked with folks wasn’t a “flying object”; it was a goddamned monster. In the 1800s, there were legends that claimed that there might be some sort of dragons that lived in the sky and disguised themselves as clouds when they weren’t about to eat motherfuckers.


But after we began putting our own flying shit up there (and the shit we were pretty sure we didn’t put up there started getting called UFOs) the atmospheric beast stories began to die off. It is worth mentioning that atmospheric alien life has been speculated to exist on planets with a different makeup (and far less gravity) than that of Earth by people as bad-ass awesome as Carl Sagan.


These would be silicon-based jellyfish like creatures that could be as large as a mile long and filled with helium or hydrogen. V.S. Tsytovich, in a 2007 study, even discovered that space dust suspended in plasma might be able to take on life, of a sort.

The stories and speculation aren’t completely dead, however. Earth-based atmospheric life has been proposed to have similar traits to those silicon-based whoopee cushions: They’re semi-transparent or even downright invisible, are gas-filled, and that they possibly even migrated here from space. (Interestingly enough, it has been theorized by actual, legitimate scientists that the silicon jellyfish above could put out spores that would survive in space and germinate on other planets. How about that?) They might even be able to change their density and transform between hard, metallic states and cloud-like, invisible states just by contracting and expanding.

One of the most famous atmospheric monster sighting stories is that of the Crawfordsville Monster. (Doesn’t that just sound awesome?) At about 2am on September 5th, 1891, in Crawfordsville, Illinois, two ice delivery men, Bill Gray and Marshall McIntyre, were hitching horses to their wagon when they saw a large, white, rectangular shape flying through the air with fins all up and down its side. They claimed that it wheezed as if in pain and had no head, but that it simply had one large, flaming red eye and a mouth on one end of its body. 

Not pictured: The Crawfordsville Monster

They, however, weren’t the only witnesses that night. Reverend G.W. Switzer and his wife also saw it, describing it as serpent-like. Of course, the standard reaction to such a claim is, “And you had how much to drink?” The people of Crawfordsville were incredulous, to say the least, but boy were their faces red (From embarrassment or from drinking, whichever) when it came back the next night in full view of 100 people. It even swooped so low that a few people claimed to be able to feel its hot breath. (If you’ve ever been on a public bus, you know you have to be pretty close to something to feel its breath.)

Other sightings tell of “living clouds” that spit water like Jim Belushi in Animal House and small, blanket-like masses that are soft to the touch and smell of mildew. (So they’re like laundry you forgot about in the washing machine?) A few people have even claimed to find the bodies of atmospheric beasts, describing them as small, translucent spheres that apparently evaporate within a few minutes of death.

Some even go as far as to say that these semi-visible creatures could be the explanation behind things besides UFO sightings, too. Star jelly, for example, could be their corpses, as described above. (Oh fuck, what if it’s their poop?) And, as with any just about any pseudoscience or legendary creature, paranormal researchers are using the concept to explain that paranormal classic, ghosts. Some cryptozoologists believe that it’s possible that many ghost sightings could actually be sightings of atmospheric life. Atmospheric beasts, the supernatural chameleon.

“Casper: The Friendly Atmospheric Monster” just doesn’t have the same ring.

The always completely truthful Wikipedia (x2)
“Unexplained!: Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena” by Jerome Clark


Murder Monday: The Taman Shud Case

If crime shows have taught us anything, it’s that DNA evidence, computer simulations, and cameras with zoom levels higher than a microscope can solve any crime in about a week or so. (Don’t forget snappy one-liners, constant removal and re-placing of sunglasses, and excessive standing around with your hands on your hips.) Even a hard-nosed cop and a series of really, really unlikely events can put away even the most dastardly of crooks.

And so, to fly in the face of that Hollywood tradition, I’m starting a new feature here at the Weird Shit Blog: Murder Mondays. Every Monday, I’ll be featuring unsolved murders, crimes, and deaths from all over the world. (Yes, it’s still Murder Monday even if they’re not technically murders.) Sherlock Holmes, Batman, even motherfucking Robert Stack wouldn’t know what to think of these.

Pictured: Motherfucking Robert Stack, esq.

To set things off, we’re gonna take a look at a death that’s remained unsolved for more than 60 years, and it’s a hell of a case. So put on your deerstalker, blue jeans and white sweater, or (God help you) cheesy sunglasses and leisure suit, and get ready to make some brilliant deductions… or probably not. You know, whatever.

On December 1, 1948, in Adelaide, Australia, a man was found dead on a stretch of beach called Somerton. He appeared to be approximately 40 to 45 years old, average height, average build. In fact, everything about him was pretty average, except that no one knew who the fuck he was. He had no identification, even his dental records didn’t match any known living person in the whole damn country. Weirder still, he had on a suit with a sweater (despite December being summertime in Australia) and no hat, which was apparently uncommon in 1948.

“That’s a bold fashion choice, Tom.” “Go suck a bag of dicks, Bill.”

And even weirder than that, all the tags on his clothes had been removed, making them unidentifiable. The contents of his pockets included cigarettes, matches, a comb, some gum, one used bus ticket to Glenelg (Which is totally a palindrome. Just look at it.), and an unused ticket to Henley Beach.

I’m just saying. Maybe he built a time machine or something.

So, they did what you always do when you find an unknown dead dude on the beach: Threw him in a dumpster and called it a day. Wait, I mean, they did an autopsy. (What I said before, don’t worry about that.) And when you do an autopsy you can usually find some trauma or wounds or poison in the stomach or something. In the case of The Somerton Man, as he came to be known, they found… absolutely jack shit. Apparently, the dude just quit living. That’s totally a medical conclusion that can be reached.

“It was the opposite of being ‘too legit.’”

Since they didn’t find any real cause of death, (although some heretofore unknown poison was decided to be most likely) they sewed his ass back up, pumped him full of chemicals and let him sit around for nine months while they investigated. They briefly believed that a man named E.C. Johnson might have been their victim, but he kinda ruined that when he showed up to the police station alive. Things were at a dead (hah) end at that point until two weeks later, when train station workers found a briefcase with its label removed that had been checked into their cloak room the day before the Somerton Man had showed up on the beach.

Inside, police found more clothes with the tags cut out, an electrician’s screwdriver, stenciling scissors and brush, a table knife fashioned into a sharp instrument (probably also used for stenciling), and a bit of thread, which had also been used to repair a pocket in the dead man’s trousers. Also found were a tie, laundry bag, and singlet, each with a dry cleaning tag bearing the name Tom Keane on them. Unfortunately, the only missing Tom Keane anywhere in the world wasn’t their guy, and so police assumed that the killer left that name behind because that wasn’t the victim.

“Samsonite! I was way off.”

However, the man’s coat was American-made, and not imported. Presumably, that meant the coat had been fitted to him, as was the practice with this style of coat, but police couldn’t rule out that it had been originally tailored for someone with the same measurements as the victim and that he had bought it second-hand. And so it was back to the drawing board, until someone took a look at that repaired pocket and found that it wasn’t a repair at all.

A secret pocket had been sewn into the victim’s trouser pocket, and inside was a slip of paper that read “Taman Shud”. (This became the popular name by which to refer to the case in later years.) They soon found out that the phrase was Persian, and that it was the last line of a book of poetry called “The Rubaiyat”, by a man named Omar Khayyam. Roughly translated, it means “The end” or “Finished.” Since the scrap of paper did appear to be from a printed book, police set out to find the copy it had been clipped from.

Soon after, an anonymous man contacted police and told them that he had a copy of the book mysteriously appear in his unlocked car the night before the Somerton Man was found. After examining the book, authorities determined that this copy of the book was indeed the one they had been looking for. In addition, the back cover page had faint pencil markings in it, which appeared to be some sort of code.

“Dear diary, my alphabet soup and I had a fight again today.”

The code was examined by cryptographers all over the world. While most agreed that it was some sort of code, they didn’t have enough information to crack it. (It remains unsolved today.) In addition to the code, police found an unlisted phone number belonging to a former nurse (whose name was unreleased) who lived less than a mile from the beach where the body had been found. When she was questioned about the case, she confirmed that she had once owned a copy of “The Rubaiyat”, but had given it to a soldier named Alfred Boxall back during World War II. Investigators then came to believe that Boxall was the Somerton Man.

Except he wasn’t, because Alfred Boxall was still alive and working at a bus station near Sydney. In fact, when police came to Boxall, not only was he still alive, but he had his copy of “The Rubaiyat” and showed it to them. It had a dedication from the unnamed nurse on the front inside cover and the Taman Shud verse in the back was intact. He and the nurse both claimed to know nothing of the dead man. Rumors stated that Boxall may have been a former intelligence officer (which he did not deny in at least one interview) and that the Somerton Man had been some sort of Russian spy, but neither was ever confirmed.

And that’s where the trail ends. 60 years later, there’s still no positive identification of the victim, no cause of death, no firm evidence that it wasn’t just a suicide, an uncracked code, an unidentified woman, and an unmarked grave where the body was finally buried. Television programs and criminal justice students have attempted, time and again, to uncover new evidence, but none have. Australia even opened its own intelligence agency as a result of the Taman Shud case. The case is still considered open to this day.

“I guess I’ll just wait here until you guys are finished.”

Wikipedia (Because knowing is half the battle)



A lot of people fantasize about having a double that can go around and do shit for them while they do far more awesome stuff. Who wouldn’t want that? I could go sleep or grab a bite to eat instead of typing these posts out. Actually, I kinda like typing these out, so maybe I have a double somewhere doing back-breaking labor while I’m doing this.

My bad.

But doppelgängers aren’t a purposeful double that you can control and ask nicely to do things you don’t want to do. (And if he or she is your exact double, why would he or she want to do it either?) Nor is it about cloning someone for some hot twin/threesome action.

Ladies, your dream boats have arrived.

The actual idea behind a doppelgänger is pretty damn terrifying. According to Germanic lore, your doppelgänger is basically built specifically for evil. His or her job is to go around and do stuff that gets you in trouble, that bastard. In addition, having one seen by a relative or friend is a bad omen. Even worse, seeing your own means you’re probably gonna die. Your doppelgänger is completely independent from you, and presumably you don’t even know he or she exists until you actually see it, and then it’s too late, because you’re pretty well fucked by that point.

Percy Bysse Shelley saw his own several times immediately before his death, and also right before Mary Shelley miscarried their child. Percy Shelley was a bit of a fanciful guy, to be sure, but he wasn’t the only one who saw “himself”- one of his maids also saw what appeared to be Shelley walking into a part of the yard where the only exit was over a 20 foot wall. Then, he approached again from the very same direction as before. And on top of all that, he wasn’t even around in the first place, so neither one was the real him. Apparently he was cool enough to have two doppelgängers.

“We’re available for parties, too.”

Other famous people who’ve seen their own doppelgänger (or that of a relative) include Abraham Lincoln, John Donne, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe’s story is particularly interesting. He claimed to have been riding on horseback down a dirt road when he saw himself riding the opposite way, toward… uh, himself. He noted his other self wearing a gray coat with gold trim. 8 years later, he was riding down the same path in the opposite direction and suddenly realized that he was wearing the same gray and gold coat his other had been wearing 8 years earlier. Historical celebrities are not alone, however, as even into modern days, it’s not difficult to find someone who has sworn they saw someone they knew, only to find out later that they were all the way on the other side of town, or something along those lines.

I make no claims as to the nature or whereabouts of O.J. Simpson’s doppelgänger.

All this is different, however, from the Norse vardøger, which is said to be a ghostly image that precedes you. So, say you go to a buddy’s house and he says, “Weren’t you just here?” Vardøger. If you’re sitting at home, eating Doritos and watching re-runs of Miami Vice and your buddy calls you up and asks, “Hey, were you just at the at the adult toy emporium with an arm-load of marital aids?” Doppelgänger. (Warning: Do not use your doppelgänger to get out of shit you did. It never works. Trust me.)

By the way, it’s alt + 0228 if you must know.

And what do our party-pooping friends, the scientists, have to say about this? Well, Swiss scientists performed lab tests on a 22 year old epileptic woman, finding that when certain parts of the brain (the left temporo-parietal junction if you’re nasty) were stimulated with a minor electric shock… wait a second, didn’t I do this before? Oh fuck, that damn vardøger!

No, wait, nevermind. It’s just the same experiment that I mentioned in the post about the Third Man Phenomenon. Yeah, that’s right. Scientists think that the Third Man Phenomenon and doppelgängers are due to the exact same mental switch, except without the whole mental stress and isolation thing. Oh, and also the fact that the doppelgänger is usually a living person the individual knows. In fact, they also believe that the mental switch can be used to explain ghost sightings as well.

Scientists: Trying to ruin everyone’s fun since the Renaissance.

And even still, rumors have begun spreading that airport face-scanning machines, intended to catch terrorists and other criminals before they can board planes, have captured images of people who live on entirely different continents, aren’t related, and have never met, yet look exactly the same. A popular urban legend making the rounds claims that one airport screener was shocked to see his own face pop up in a scan, and that upon further inspection, found 10 other men in the FBI database who looked exactly like him.

Some other legends also make similar claims, saying that the shared criminal database of mugshots the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies use has a secret sub-database (called Doppelgänger, of course) of people who look identical to each other, even down to the scars on their faces, but have no actual known connection. Further, it’s said that some of the images in this database are of people who lived and died decades ago, but appear to have duplicates alive and well today.

On a barely-related and less creepy note, The Fall of Troy’s Doppelgänger is fantastic.

Wikipedia (The only infallible source of information, ever)


The Montauk Project

There are a couple of things that can get a conspiracy geek turned on. First off, you’ve gotta have the U.S. Government or, rarely, some other large-scale operation. (This can include foreign governments, groups of foreign governments in collusion, secret societies, and mega-corporations.)

They’re up to some shit. What is Grimace even supposed to be?

Then, you’ve gotta have a reason for the conspiracy. Secret research into time travel, psychotropic drugs, alternate dimensions, basically anything that’s been made into an episode of The X-Files or Fringe. Or both. (John Noble got robbed, I tell you. Fucking robbed.)

Lastly, you have to have the cover-up. It’s not a conspiracy if everyone knows about it, dumbass. Shell companies, secret government sub-agencies, hidden messages, a few murders, and boom, you’ve got a conspiracy.

And if that turns a conspiracy geek on, then The Montauk Project gives them a raging hard-on so huge that the government is gonna have to hush that shit up.

“Boner sighted, sir. Firing on your mark.”

Think of how Area 51 used to be super-secret. Not so much now, though, considering they had to acknowledge that it existed in court documents. But before the 90s, Area 51 was a place you talked about in hushed whispers, but you still knew about it. Now it’s referenced by the Las Vegas Minor League Baseball team.

I bet you thought I was joking.

So when Area 51 started becoming a household name among conspiracy theorists in the 60s and 70s, and with everyone else in the 80s and 90s, they couldn’t really do all their secret experiments at their no-longer secret base. So what happened to all of that research? Well, conspiracy lore has it that Area 51 was never a centralized location, and all the experiments done there were also done in tandem with other bases. So, they had a bunch of shit going on at a bunch of places, and the story goes that many non-aerospace related experiments were moved across the country to an Air Force base in Montauk, New York.

According to the earliest legends, Montauk Air Force Station’s original purpose was to continue the research that led to The Philadelphia Experiment and the USS Eldridge “disaster”. As time has gone by, though, and The Philadelphia Experiment has become a cheesy 80s movie and generally regarded as a hoax, that story isn’t usually the one that conspiracy theorists lead with.

There was this ship and it traveled through time and… you know what? Nevermind.

Originally, several of the less strange projects that ended up at Montauk were allegedly conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. But when they needed a big-ass radar dish for their experiments in cloaking technology (See: The Philadelphia Experiment above) they moved everything, secretly, by ship to Montauk. It’s important for conspiracy theorists to note that the dish at Montauk operates at 400 – 425 mhz, which is claimed to be exactly the frequency needed to control the human mind.


As for what kind of other experiments were conducted at Montauk, you’ve got a whole range of shit, including time travel, parallel dimensions, teleportation, contact with extraterrestrials, creating objects out of thin air with psychic abilities, brainwashing and subliminal messaging, and mind-altering drugs. Oh, and the whole thing was supposedly run by Nikola Tesla, who would have been 120 years old at the time.

“Fuck death. And Edison.”

Other rumors claim that the facility stretched 12 levels underground, had hundreds of employees, and expanded underneath the city of Montauk itself. Apparently, to throw people off the trail, the government converted most of the land above the base into a national wildlife preserve, so long as everything below ground remained property of the Department of Defense. While the base began taking on a few projects in the late 60s, most of the wild shit is claimed to have occurred in the 70s and up until early 80s, when the base finally closed. Turns out that wildlife parks tend to be big tourist attractions, and so the legend goes that when loads of people started showing up for family vacations, the government realized that they’d probably have to find somewhere else to do their crazy crap. They opened it to the public as a museum in 2002.


So what happened to all the experiments there when the DoD decided to close up shop? No one knows. The government probably still has plenty of other secret bases. We just may not have heard about all of them yet.

Wikipedia (Now with more [Citation needed])


The Antikythera Mechanism

It’s the age of the smartphone, where you can carry around a little computer in your pocket and look at Facebook or YouTube or whatever whenever you feel like it. I never knew I wanted to watch porn, loudly, in a public restroom before. God damn, technology is great. I mean, what’d we do before these mini brothels came into our lives? Oh yeah, we sat at a computer. Wait, we still do that.

Because I’m gonna type these posts on this.

Okay, so smartphones and tablets and things like that haven’t supplanted the desktop just yet, but the point still stands. Devices are getting smaller and smaller. Laptops were massive and not very lap-friendly at all just a few short years ago. The earliest computers took up enormous amounts of space.

“Little do the engineers know, we’ve secretly replaced one of these with a beehive.”

And now we can hold something in our hand that’s many, many times faster and more powerful. We can perform complex mathematical calculations, view and record the positions of the stars… Oh, but did I mention that the Greeks could do that over 2,000 years ago? Yeah, they couldn’t get turn-by-turn directions to get Odysseus’ ass home or play 3D games or any of that.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 490 BC.

But they could do those other things, the calculator and the star map. It doesn’t sound very impressive, but consider that everyone else in the world, for many years yet, was still using ink, paper, and maybe an abacus. For 1400 years, that is. That’s a pretty huge technological leap, and we didn’t even know they had it until 1901. It’s kind of like finding out that your ancestors had a Lincoln and cruised around in it a couple hundred years ago. Why wouldn’t they tell you about that?

Well, maybe they wrote a big instructional book about it and some other ancestors threw it out. (Or maybe they thought you’d steal it, dick.) What we do know is that the mechanism is so well-crafted that it must have had predecessors.

It was made up of several bronze gears, and was able to calculate the heavens and simple mathematical problems using clockwork methods not seen for over a thousand years afterward. It even had markings to let you know when the Olympic games would be, making it a sort of calendar as well. In fact, this thing has so many features, it’s kinda hard to pin down just what it was primarily meant to do. (The smartphone analogy just gets more and more apt.)

Pictured: Expert craftsmanship after two thousand years at the bottom of the ocean.

We also don’t even know for sure if the Greeks made it. (I just wanted to throw in a couple of Greek jokes before I got to that part.) The instructions are in Greek, and the writing on it is too, but there’s some conflicting research that shows that it may have come from Sicily or Turkey.

Regardless, though, there is plenty of evidence showing its pedigree in scientific history. There were many similar devices, just not as tiny and nicely built. However, that’s not stopped people from theorizing that the people who came up with the concept that led to this ancient PDA were taught by aliens. Or maybe a time traveler. Or maybe reckless, time-travelling aliens.

This time those aliens have gone too far.

And when you’re talking about an eon and a half gap in technology, maybe ideas like that don’t sound so wild. But you also have to remember that this thing could very well have been some sort of state or military secret, and so it wasn’t widely written about, not to mention that it was made of bronze, which has always had some kind of value and is easy to reuse. So, it’s really likely that any others of its kind that didn’t end up on the bottom of the sea got repurposed into other shit.

Far more useful.

So maybe aliens or Bill and/or Ted weren’t involved, and bogus as that may be, it’s still an archeological wonder that has completely re-shaped our view of just how much ancient civilizations really knew. Now, I don’t want to get into “ancient technology that surpasses our own” speculations, but it does make you wonder what other huge innovations simply got lost to time and set us back hundreds or thousands of years.

Yeah, hop on my motorcycle, we’ll be there in no time.

The Telegraph
The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project
Wikipedia (Home of the Edit War)


Shades of Death Road

Have you ever seen one of those old cheesy horror movies where the locals call some nearby old ruins “Terror Hollow” or some shit? And how maybe the scariest thing there is some pissed-off badgers?

“Fuck it, we’ll call it Terror Hollow. I’m out of here.”

Okay, now what if I told you there was a place in Warren County, New Jersey that’s called Shades of Death Road? Funny, right?

What if I told you that’s its actual, official name?

Oh, shit.

And what if I told you that, considering everything that’s happened there, that that name is actually pretty tame?

“Wait a second,” you say. “Why is it called Shades of Death Road anyway? And why are you a paragon of manliness?” Well, person who is not my wife, as she would never say such a thing, I would be happy to tell you why it’s called that, except no one knows anymore.

“Okay, so, twisty road, in the middle of nowhere, only two lanes, maybe it’s called that because of all the fatal car accidents and because the residents have a weird sense of humor?” I’d say you were on to something, if it hadn’t been called that since before Henry Ford was even born, much less inventing automobiles.

There are other theories regarding the road’s name, however. Some say, for example, that in the olden days, highwaymen liked to hide out in shady spots along the road, then jump out and attack people.

“You want my pants? Have ‘em.” “Er… I asked for your money.”

Other legends say that it wasn’t named for the highwaymen, but instead because those highwaymen were beaten and lynched, then hung at intervals along the road. God damn, that is brutal. I mean, they did rob and rape people, but, seriously? That’s a hell of a “Don’t fuck with us.”

The final commonly given explanation is that the road was named after an outbreak of malaria. Wait, what? Yep, in the mid 19th century, the area was filled with swamplands, which attracts mosquitoes who, of course, carried malaria. In fact, it was such a big deal that the government said, “This shit has to stop.” They drained all the swamps, leaving the mosquitoes with no place to live. 

Homeless. Thanks a lot, government.

So, after the malaria epidemic passed, it’s believed that some smartass may have proposed changing the name of the road, which may have previously been Shade Road, to Shades of Death Road.

“Well, that’s all fine and interesting, King Ashe the Benevolent, but I could give a fuck less about why it’s called that. You said it’s actually worse!” That’s true, I did say that. And now I will tell you about it.

Firstly, just off the road, you’ve got Ghost Lake. Unlike Shades of Death Road, this is not its official name. Also unlike the road, the reason for its name is pretty clear. On some mornings, a white vapor tends to emanate from its surface. Okay, so that’s not so weird. That happens lots of places. But, it’s also rumored that the sky stays bright there, as if it were dusk, no matter what time of night it is. Fair enough, that’s pretty interesting. Oh, and there’s a deserted cabin nearby that locals say is haunted by the ghosts of dead highwaymen. Those fucking highwaymen.

“No, really, leave them on. Why do you people keep taking your pants off?”

In fact, the whole area where Ghost Lake is located is called Haunted Hollow. (There’s gotta be an old movie somewhere with that name in it.) It’s probably pretty apt, because right nearby is a place called The Fairy Hole. (Go to bed, Tinkerbell, you’re drunk.) It’s a small cave, but in the early part of the last century, it was found to contain several pieces of Native American pottery and arrow heads. Since the cave appeared to be sparsely used and out of the way of their normal routes, and due to the presence of burial grounds nearby, it’s been theorized that this could have been some sort of ritual site for the dead. And if bad horror movies have taught us anything, (Besides the fact that locals apparently come up with really uncreative names for places) it’s that anything to do with Native Americans and death is a recipe for horrible disaster.

The first result for “Indian burial ground” in Google Images. Holy shit.

Now, all this doesn’t include stories of an unpaved, one-lane road where you might see a red light that indicates you’ll die, reports of apparitions, fogs, and a haunted bridge supposedly occupied by the ghosts of two children who were run over there. Oh, and I’d remiss if I didn’t share this one- a “spirit guide” who takes the guise of a deer and stands on the side of the road. Apparently, if you don’t slow down enough, the deer might jump out in front of you and cause an accident. (Seriously? No shit?)

But let’s talk about a more down-to-Earth kind of weird. Say, a couple of guys in the 1990s who found not one, not two, but hundreds of Polaroid pictures scattered around the area. (Remember those? They were so quaint. The 90s, I mean.) Now, sure, Polaroids on their own aren’t scary.

God damn. Nevermind. Yes, they are.

These Polaroids contained pictures of a television changing channels, a woman lying on a piece of metal with no expression on her face, and other things that even Weird NJ magazine wouldn’t publish. And this is a magazine about weird stuff specifically in New Jersey. Who knows what they won’t print?

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