Who suppresses humanity’s psychic abilities? Bill Nye, the President of Science, apparently.
Welcome back. I sure didn’t update much in 2018, except to celebrate the ongoing death of the InfoWars empire.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in Austin… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read…
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Alex Jones, buy my brain supplements;
Before Obama turns frogs gay!’
Nothing beside remains.
Solemnly presses F.
But we’re snared in an ongoing conspiracy hell, and so the Space Lizard Report must rise with…a post about viral ads people think are evidence of the paranormal.
“It’s a viral ad” is the most tired of suggestions tossed out whenever a paranormal event is recorded, no matter how unlikely (I have fond memories of people accusing Cartoon Network of planting the Montauk Monster corpse). But sometimes it’s true: something created as part of a guerilla ad campaign loses its context, loses its last-second website link or show tease, and is believed by many thousands, even millions of people as evidence of the supernatural. Here are some examples.
Most popular upload: 449K views; millions across multiple uploads; appeared on Japanese TV show
Real Origin: Sci-Fi Channel ad campaign
Here’s one I covered before. A series of fake ads for the Sci-Fi Channel, Sci-Fi Happens seemed destined to be forgotten…until this one ad from 2000 gained new and horrible significance. Half-remembered viewings fed into the myth, even transforming into a sighting “the day before” the attacks instead of an ad from a full year earlier. It was easy to forget it was an ad; it was easy to assume it had been on Sightings or some other paranormal show, or even on the nascent paranormal internet.
Of course, now that we have the video there’s no excuse.
Spread as: Internet meme, myth, odd and unexplained cameos in the revived X-Files
Real origin: An ad agency doing…something?
This Man was a creepy myth about a man who appeared in the dreams of man all over the world. What was he? What was he doing? What was his sinister plan?
To be an…art project? Failed film pitch? Who…knows? Crafted by an ad agency. Sure.
“Alien Attacks Police Officer”
Spread As: 660K+ views across popular uploads
Real Origin: Viral ad for The 4400
Oh, The 4400. A good mid-00s sci-fi show on USA, The 4400 focused on 4,400 missing people who returned in a ball of light after years, even decades away. Soon, they discover that many of the 4,400 possess supernatural abilities; and all are back for a reason…
Sadly, The 4400 is a good display of what could be termed the Anti-Lost: that is, the opposite of Lost. The 4400 is that rare show that explained too much: by the end of the six-episode first season, we’ve been told the entire story behind the abductions. The 4400 never became a bad show, except during a stretch where it made a character’s baby grow up in seconds & become an all-powerful demi-god, which, what even, but it never reached the heights of a Lost or even early Heroes.
And so, by the time of The 4400‘s final season, only 8,000 people watched a video called “Promicin Freak Kills Cop”.
…and so it was easy-pickings for someone to strip off the The 4400 promos at the start and end, and turn it into a dubious paranormal video stalwart for years to come.
Source for debunking: IsaacKoi
John Titor, Time Traveler
Spread as: internet meme; urban legend
Real Origin: Ad for a book
Another one I’ve covered previously, the news that John Titor had long been solved – as an ad for a shitty book that no one read – was a tremendous disappointment. Now, let us move on.
English Sewer Alien
Spread as: 1 Million+ views over multiple uploads
Real Origin: April Fool’s Day prank by a utility company
Multiple videos uploaded by United Utilities show an unnerving creature hiding in England’s sewers; they’ve become a mainstay of creepy video compilations ever since.
Of course, they brush past a few facts: the video’s April 1st upload date, or that its creators openly said it was a prank meant to make people think about the real issue of flushing waste down the drain. Oh well.
Teleporting Girl In China
Spread as: 11 million views on most popular upload
Real Origin: ad for a MMO
Another mainstay of bullshit video compilations, here we see it uploaded with an ostentatious Guy Fawkes Mask intro.
The invaluable IsaacKoi also provides the source for this one: after apparently debating if angels exist for several pages, AboveTopSecret noticed a game company’s logo subtly inserted into the video. Then they discovered that the video was straight-up linked on the game’s website. Whoops.
From Spanish cartoonist and filmmaker Manuel Bartual comes a fun little story about a man’s vacation being interrupted by doppelgangers, strange warnings and more, told via Tweets and videos. English translation here.
Here is a vintage case: the tale of a Canadian singer who believed herself to be Marilyn Monroe reborn, and the doctor who believed her. It hails from ye olde 2005, and has been immortalized in the book Marilyn Monroe Returns: The Healing of a Soul, which has a mighty four stars on Amazon after nineteen reviews. Despite the overall positive rating, the top reviews are all distinctly negative – with even believers in reincarnation calling the book’s case a stretch.
You may regard reincarnation as primarily a spiritual matter: a process where, upon death, a person’s soul moves on to another body – which may be completely different, and may indeed – depending on the belief system – not even be human. But Dr. Adrian Finkelstein believes reincarnation to be an altogether different process. Namely, one can decode a individual’s past lives not via hypnotic regression or memories, but because they look similar to their prior self:
Dr. Finkelstein become convinced that Ms. Laird is indeed the reincarnation of Ms. Monroe, not only due to her memories, but also due to the presence of similarities in facial bone structure, hands, handwriting, voice pattern, linguistics and personality traits that exist between Marilyn Monroe and Sherrie Lea Laird.
I can understand the same soul showing the same personality across lives, but the same bone structure? The same physical appearance? Does a reincarnated soul warp their new form into its favored appearance, or does it specifically seek out fetuses that will grow up to look like their past self?
Ms. Laird, who goes by the stage name, Sherrie Lea, is a singer whose production of No Ordinary Love hit the top of the charts in Canada and Europe. It is interesting to note that in her film Bus Stop, Marilyn’s role was of a singer named Cherie.
So Marilyn Monroe is reborn, and she names herself – not Marilyn, not Norma, but to…a name that’s kind of similar to one of her characters.
Sherrie Lea Laird experienced vivid memories of her life as Marilyn Monroe, but more importantly, she looks just like her:
MY GOD, THE RESEMBLANCE IS UNCANNY! (more…)
In the immortal words of Jerry O’Connell, imagine if you could travel to parallel worlds. The same year, the same Earth, but everything else is different. Imagine a world where the Soviets rule America, or where ketchup is purple and the Beatles still exist.
“Wisconsin has the highest proportion of eccentric environments in the USA, more than 10% of the total.” – Jan Friedman
Since the demise of Time Cube, I’ve become nostalgic for the early, more personal days of the internet. Before social media was around, before content was shuffled towards a few overarching services. Things that are now Twitter feeds and Tumblr blogs would once be a gigantic number of individual, single-topic websites and forums, an array of personal homepages and strange blogs stretching off into eternity. You might stumble across a weird Subreddit now, but at least it’s cloaked in the familiarity of a larger site. Finding one of the web’s oddities once meant entering into an alternate world, created to mirror the author’s mind.
I once enjoyed browsing these websites. I heard about them on the old Snopes message boards, or places like Crank.net and the Museum of Hoaxes, or through long lists of links on places such as the Insolitology or even the Sci-Fi Channel.
I don’t know where I found today’s website. It’s one of several sites describing the many oddities of Wisconsin. I’ll detail the others in future Flashback Fridays; bizarrely, while today’s site is defunct, the other sites that are still up look way more outdated.
What do you think of when you think of Wisconsin? Cheese? Beer? Serial killers? The Fonz? How about the Beast of Bray Road, the werewolf that calls Elkhorn home? Or the Hodag, a reptilian beast made up in a failed attempt to make Rhinelander interesting? Those are just the obvious legends about the state. Today’s site looks at the deep cuts.
The now-defunct Weird Wisconsin last updated in 2004; it vanished some time in 2006. Presumably inspired by Weird New Jersey, it’s home to many accounts of Wisconsin’s paranormal phenomenon, and wonderful images like this:
The National Parks are, according to Ken Burns, America’s best idea. Ken Burns made a twelve-hour long documentary telling of how we came to conserve nature. I have not seen Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, but I have seen Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the National Parks, a cheap show that turns beautiful parks into terrifying, dark places where evils lurk.
Once upon a time, we laughed at History Channel’s obsession with World War II. Now, to see anything historical on that network is a welcome oasis in a sea of Ancient Aliens. Scripted television is the greatest its ever been, yet reality television somehow keeps hitting new lows. Channels that once had a unique theme are now interchangeable. A&E may have once been a high-brow network, but now no such thing exists. No history networks exist. All have the same indistinguishable shows. Next up: Pawn Hunters, followed by a new Swamp Men!
Channels now air fictional documentaries about Megaladon and mermaids, and justify it by pointing to one tiny disclaimer in the end credits, visible only to ants crawling on the screen. The paranormal genre, represented by Sightings and Crossing Over with John Edwards in the 90s-early 00s, flourishes. You may not be able to learn about the War of 1812 on the History Channel, but by God will you learn about how aliens visited the ancient Egyptians, Mayans, and every culture outside Europe. These shows are harmless fun…until you consider the fact that they drove so many actually educational shows, about real history, off the air.
Last Friday I stumbled on a show called Mysteries at the National Parks. Airing Fridays at 10/9c on Travel Channel, Mysteries at the National Parks is the cousin of shows Mysteries at the Museum and Mysteries at the Castle. Those shows explore odd historical stories via museum exhibits and castles. They’re entertaining enough, and mainly stick to reality. Mysteries at the Museum features a UFO story every now and then. Mysteries at the National Parks is nothing but paranormal stories.
This is Saint Mary Lake, only the second largest lake in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Look at that image. It’s beautiful, right? That’s what you see.
A Travel Channel producer looks at that photo and sees Adolf Hitler.
The first of two episodes of Mysteries at the National Parks focuses on how Glacier National Park is home to a secret Nazi base.
We begin with a soldier seeing lights in the sky. Before we long, we make the incredible leap from “UFO” to…Hitler.
It seems a Nazi named Otto Skorzeny fled to Montana, with Hitler and other prominent Nazis at his side. Hitler retired there, largely because it resembles a region of Germany, and he was photographed in 1997:
We hear of tourists discovering train cars with shackles inside, and a deep base where defected Nazis work, similar to Operation Paperclip. We’re warned that if you get too close, you may be shot.
And for half an hour, this is all we hear about Glacier National Park.
Time spent on other elements of the park was minimal. We don’t hear about its Blackfoot history. We don’t hear about how it came to be preserved. We don’t hear of its animal life, which includes mountain goats and lynx. We don’t hear about how its titular glaciers will disappear by 2030 if nothing is done about climate change, but we do hear about how they possess strange abilities. We hear of its mountains, because they reminded Hitler of home.
All we hear about Glacier National Park is how it’s a scary place, home to Hitler and soldiers that won’t hesitate to shoot you if you wander off the path.
The second episode focused on Gettysburg National Park. If you cannot tell an interesting story about the site of the Civil War’s most important battle without resorting to tall tales about ghosts, then you have failed as a storyteller. Yet here we are, and here’s a half hour about how Gettysburg is home to ghosts, quartz and time travelers.
Apparently, Gettysburg is particularly haunted, not because of the many who died during the battle, but because it lies on a layer of quartz. Quartz conducts ghosts, as you may know if you watch these sorts of shows. I saw one once called Ghost Mine, about a mine haunted by spirits in the quartz. At one point, an investigator saw a shadow move past a light and yelled, “Does it make you angry that I’m a woman? And that I have red hair in a mine?” That one moment is more entertaining than this entire series, which adopts a tone that seems to mock its own material. It’s as if the narrator is saying “can you believe this stupid thing I’m telling you”?
Yet the true low point of the series comes with a self-described time traveler. A man named Andrew D. Basiago claims to have traveled back to Gettysburg as part of a DARPA project. He provides evidence – a photo of himself in the past. Surely conclusive, except…
Andrew D. Basiago also claims to have traveled to Mars with Barack Obama. Such are the experts trotted out by Mysteries at the National Parks.
Looking ahead, today – after a midday marathon of Ghost Adventures – there are two new episodes. One is about Chupacabra. The other concerns unexplained disappearances.
The makers of Mysteries at the National Parks look at beautiful places and see monsters. They look at historical monuments and see phantoms. They see you as a gullible rube, who must be terrified by imaginary demons and belittled by the show’s insulting, lowest common denominator tone.
When people attack reality shows, they generally talk about the Duck Dynastys and Honey Boo Boos of the world. At least the point of those shows is purely to entertain. It asks the audience to look down on its subjects. At their worst, they’re shows based on embarrassment. At their best, their broad archetypal subjects and easy laughs turn them into the modern equivalent of a TGIF sitcom.
But a show like this has no best-case scenario. It exists purely to misinform and scare. Its creators, or more likely its network, assume that this is all the world wants. It will, I have no doubt, perform well. Maybe it’s silly to spend so much time dwelling on a piece of cheap, Friday night death slot filler. But it is not alone.
As I type this, the Science Channel is airing a show about a man who claims to have been healed by aliens. The Animal Planet is airing a show about killer fish. I hear it promises a message of conservation. So did Discovery’s special where a man planned to be eaten alive by a snake. So does Shark Week. It’s easy to throw in a “save the animals!” message after showing them as objects of terror for an hour. It’s easy to have your narrator say they’re just asking questions to justify your specials about aliens and ghosts.
I can watch Long Island Medium, a show following a woman who uses cold reading to prey on the desperate and grieving. If I want to watch a show about skepticism, I can hope Mythbusters airs a episode not about movie stunts. I can watch Dr. Oz, an actual doctor, pitch miracle cures. If I want to see a show about medicine that doesn’t sell pseudoscience, well, I’m out of luck. The Mysteries at the National Parks of the world didn’t just take over, they pushed out anything more intelligent.
There is, of course, no audience for intelligent shows about history or science. That’s why Cosmos failed. That’s why Planet Earth was swiftly forgotten. That’s why there’s no such thing as a popular historian. That’s why there’s no interest in astronauts like Chris Hadfield, and that’s why Carl Sagan died in obscurity.
Mysteries at the National Park peddles bizarre conspiracy theories and fear in place of curiosity. It squanders wonderful, interesting places. It’s made by people who think the most interesting thing about Gettysburg is a guy who says he time traveled with Barack Obama. There may be worse shows yet in 2015, but none this sad. Here there be monsters – and I’m not talking about chupacabra.
Ghost Study, the biggest ghost site on the web since 1999, offers the world two things: dubious ghost photos and advice on how to best misuse tools to make them find “ghosts”. This photograph hails from August 2001 and describes a concept that couldn’t even catch on in the world of ghost hunters.
“Look for the demons. You’ll find several of them in this picture!”
Supposedly this photo includes several DEMONS, including: t-rex eating a dude’s head, a shadow man in the stands, and a giant bird or something they helpfully highlighted.
It’s impossible for these to be a woman’s hair, or a face, or a dude wearing black. It’s impossible that this is a terrible photo. Photos never lie, have errors or just look like shit. No, it’s DEMONS.
“This photo from Jeff gives us greater insight into the phenomena of crowd demons. The term “Crowd Demons” is a term I came up with here at Ghost Master to differentiate them from other demonic beings caught on film. It’s not unusual to catch strange and unidentifiable anomalies on film which I call “Crowd Anomalies”, but this is much different! These are not ghostly anomalies at all, but appear to be actual Demons on film! It is believed that the appearance of these types of demons are a direct result of either the location being haunted or their attractiveness to the photographer or member/s of the audience…….scary thought.”
If you’re looking for other examples of “crowd demons”…there aren’t any. The few times paranormal sites discuss “crowd demons” it’s…a link to this photo. This terrible, terrible photo.
It’s a terrible, terrible photo that’s lasted until 2013, when it made an appearance on a Listverse listicle about lesser-known kinds of ghost, along with kobolds (!?), doppelgangers of Nic Cage, 100% artificial ghosts and vortexes, strange, camera-strap like spirits that only show up on camera.
So next time you’re talking a low-resolution photo of a crowd with a terrible camera, you can always hope that someone will find ghosts and demons in it and keep spreading it around with some ridiculous backstory about “crowd demons”. Ain’t life grand?