Tuesday, December 16, 2008

From the Private Diaries of Tristan Eldritch.

Tzadkiel and I have been spending an inordinate amount of time indoors of late, owing to a combination of the bitter cold, and an increasing fondness on both our parts for opium. Itching to engage in some field work, my familiar struck upon a novel notion. While visiting friends in San Francisco, Tzadkiel had been acquainted with several technopagans, and learned a particular spell whereby the astral body could be miniaturised, and transferred into a digital format. This allowed the cutting age magus to traverse the byways of cyberspace in something akin to the immersive, bodiless fashion envisioned by William Gibson in Neuromancer, and had facilitated all manner of ritual magicks hitherto unimagined, as well as opportunities for high end information hacking and minor credit card fraud. Though generally used for occult practises of the utmost gravity, when it was discovered that the astral body could be sent via email, a form of etheric tourism evolved which some have labelled astral back-packing. This practise, needless to say, is remarkably cost effective, albeit not without some degree of peril. Witness the tragic example of Sausalito local Peter Evans, goddess worshipper, part-time data entry clerk, and luckless exhauster of the arena of online dating. Peter’s astral body had been mistaken for spam in a cyber-cafĂ© in Thailand, and promptly deleted to whatever chaotic limbo is the final resting place to all chain-letters, scams, and dubious purveyors of erection enhancing pharmacology and Rolex watches. God rest his soul, his curious tale is a timely warning to us all of the dangers inherent in adopting an avatar.

It was Tzadkiel’s conceit that we might utilise these techniques to embark upon a fieldtrip to Google Earth, in order to explore the recent rash of UFO sightings therein.

-Mebbe it’s all just glitches, or that pareidolia, but mebbe, just mebbe…..

Tzadkiel’s tobacco seared baritone trailed off.

My last escapade into the astral realm had been an unmitigated disaster. Back in 1976, I was the lead guitarist, lyricist, and occasional bassoon player with a Lovecraftian prog-rock group called the Great Old Ones. In January of ‘78, we scored an unlikely top 20 hit with the edited version of Cyclopean Masonry (Dripping with Slime.) (I have often suspected that this bizarre success was due to some illegal machination on the part of our manager Chas Hendricks; I always maintained that Chas was a dubious character, though in fairness, the sole reason for my suspicion was his popular and doubtless affectionate nickname “The Hoxton Nonce.”) We spent most of ’78 holed up in the notorious Cavendish Manner, situated near the picturesque village of Chenies, about twenty miles outside London. A mere three miles away stood the very cottage where the blind bard Milton completed his mighty theodicy Paradise Lost, and began its worthy appendage Paradise Regained. (The necessity for a sequel emerged when Milton showed Paradise Lost to a trusted acquaintance, and received the stern rebuke: “There is much here of Paradise Lost….but what of Paradise Regained?”) Cavendish Manor itself was a place of extraordinary architectural and historical interest, containing upon its grounds a white garden, a sunken garden, and an extensive Physic garden comprising an immense variety of esoteric plants and herbs; the obligatory underground passages, a reconstructed penitential maze, and even a reputed “Priest’s Hole.” (I must confess that to this day I have no precise idea what kind of thing a “Priest’s Hole” really is. However, when discovered skulking about the grounds of Cavendish Manor, it was old, infallible joke to say that one was looking for the “Priest’s Hole”! Magical times.)

If the Manor were a person gifted with the faculty of cognisance and the ability to lift a pen, then it could have written a vast summa of scarcely credible anecdotes, such were the wild debauches that took place upon its environs, and the palpable air of legendry that hung like a dank and alluring stench about the place. In the early sixties, due largely to the dissipation of its erstwhile master the 2nd Earl of Amersham, the Manor had fallen into the hands of an amusement arcade entrepreneur called Ronnie Brixton, and his then partner Chas Hendrix, a little known skiffle impresario and all-around dabbler in unlikely money making ventures. What the pair initially used the Manor for is unknown, though there is much talk and innuendo. However, around ’64 or ’65, when London began palpably to “Swing”, it was well-known in certain circles that Ronnie and Chas were throwing frenetic sex parties in their posh gaff in the countryside. These early orgies were illicit and incongruous affairs, where crooked property tycoons and psychotic underworld figures rubbed shoulders with minor pop stars, where secretaries and typists cooed over actors, and a steady stream of “birds” were eagerly pursued, some winsome and youthful in the then-popular style of Twiggy, others, encapsulating the style which I have always found to predominate at organised sex parties, middle-aged, robbed of all illusion, and Rubenesque in proportion. I have myself betimes taken much comfort in these fleshy and gregarious creatures.

A typical scene from Cavendish Manor. More Innocent times.

Where-ever the door is opened to pure sensation, its myriad forms soon follow in rapid succession. As the sixties progressed, Cavendish House became a kind of laboratory for the new hedonic technologies which were the printing press and telegraph- pole of that extraordinary decade. Soon the pungent aroma of marijuana became commonplace, and after that the befuddling sacrament of LSD. Black magicks of all kinds inevitably followed, and in its own strange macrocosmic way the Manor emulated the helter-skelter trajectory of the sixties to its own apocalyptic Altamont. Many believe that the events depicted in the 1970 film Performance were a mere fever dream of the counterculture; in actuality, they were directly based on shadowy events which occurred in the Manor in 1966. In September of that year, Brian Jones paid a two month visit, during which time he fell into the company of psychotic and charismatic hoodlum Chas “Bigs” Chandler. Other revellers described a peculiar symbiosis occurring between the virile thug and the androgynous mod: Chas wore a blood wig, and donned the imitable beads, stripes, and drainpipes of the Stone, while Jones took to wearing an undertaker’s suit, and speaking in the inelegant ergot of the working class hoodlum and fixer. It is suggested that they attempted astral projection, and Chandler stole Brian Jones’ body, strangling his own, which now contained Brian, and depositing the body in the elusive “Priest’s Hole.” Chandler was a marked man, having fled to the Manor to escape certain death at the hands of rival mobsters. Brian/Chas continued to play with the Stones for awhile, by virtue of the peculiar “memory” apparently possessed by the tissue and internal organs, as evidenced by various transplant recipients who have acquired miraculous musical talents. However, his abilities diminished fast; during the recording of You Can’t Always Get What you Want, Brian/Chas famously asked Jagger “What can I play?” to which Jagger responded “What can you play, Brain?”

In 1969, the 27 year old Stone was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm. The coroner said “death by misadventure”, others alleged suicide; those who had been at the Manor in 1966 whispered that the past of Chas “Bigs” Chandler has finally caught up with him. (In actuality, as unlikely as it may sound, the body-swapping of hardened London hoodlums and sixties pop icons was more common than you might imagine. Many say that Paul McCarthy was never quite the same after his visit to the Manor, also in 1966. Indeed, I have reason to believe, over and the above the extraordinary mediocrity of Wings, that the Paul is Dead hypothesis is much, much more than a pothead conspiracy theory.)

By the time the Great Old Ones descended on Cavendish Manor, it had been staging its particular brand of madness for well over ten years. Alongside those like ourselves who merely sojourned at Cavendish, a sizable community had gradually come to live permanently there. They had gone native, so to speak. They had reached such pitches of ecstasy and unreality that they could no longer return to the grey patina of daylight reality. Like emaciated, sleep-deprived Peter Pans, they had plunged deeper into the schizophrenic realms of unfettered debauchery. Like all such people, they could occasionally resemble sages and the initiates of some higher truth; for the most part, however, they were the very gibbering and inchoate handmaidens of Luna. The singer Bryan Ferry was among their number at that time; clad in trademark tuxedo, he was said to have wondered the maze for a whole month on end, warbling erotic songs about valkyries and mermaids.

Thoroughly inoculated from the reproach of reason, the regulars had come to believe virtually every outré conjecture one could possibly entertain about an old house: that whole family trees were interred within its walls; that a myriad of ghosts walked its corridors, with the endless repetition of anachronistic habit and gesture which such creatures are said to possess; that a race of diminutive humans lived like mice in its nooks and crannies, staging daring midnight raids to steal victuals, and sometimes befriending imaginative little girls; that the very house itself possessed a soul, and the physical decay of the building mirrored the dissipation and decrepitude of their own spirits. I must confess that their madness was contagious. I myself witnessed the somnambulant peregrination of ghosts, and fancied they saw me also, perhaps as an exotic spectre impinging upon their own time. I conversed with the diminutive humans, and found them amiable in the main, albeit prone to prankishness, and a certain insular mentality, rather like the gypsies.

To be continued.

The Great Old Ones freak out the squares at Cavendish Manor:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Country of Paradoxes: The Cautionary Tale of Paul Bennewitz.

One of the preeminent cultural legacies of the Cold War in America was a rich mythology of secrecy and paranoia. Some of these myths have grown inextricably entangled with their embellishments, and reside in a slippery, ambiguous country akin to the fluctuations of the quantum; others possess bare historical bones stranger than most fictions. With their majestic, haunted skies and arid, lonely plains, the deserts of New Mexico are the heartland of high strangeness in America, and the cradle of so many of these myths. In 1945, surveying the detonation of the first nuclear bomb over what is now the White Sands Missile Range, Oppenheimer famously laid a potent hex on the twentieth century with his citation of the Bhagavad-Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the skies, that would be like to the splendor of the mighty one. Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Also that year, Project Paperclip began its importation of German rocket scientists to continue their research at Fort Bliss and White Sands; according to popular conspiracy lore, they brought with them the prototype for a bell-shaped anti-gravity craft called Die Glocke.

In 1947, the Roswell region of New Mexico witnessed what is either the most significant event in the history of the world, or the most elaborate and persistent Chinese whisper ever to whip through the earlobes of time. In the height of the Flying Disk epidemic of that year, farmer “Mac” Brazel found some unusual debris scattered about the homestead where he was foreman, and eventually “whispered kinda confidential like” to the local sheriff that he might have found a crashed saucer. Legendary Texan conspiracy guru Jim Marrs, linking the Roswell incident to the earlier detonation of the Atomic bomb at Los Alamos, pithily suggested that the extraterrestrials came to New Mexico at that time because “the kids had just found the matches!”

The truth of what happened in Roswell is now thoroughly lost in a sea of claim and counter-claim, bitterly entrenched debate between its adherents and debunkers, unconvincing military obscuration, profiteering, mythologizing, and time. To socio-cultural historians and eager pop-culture poachers alike, the objective truth remains infinitely less important than the extraordinary corpus of legendry Roswell has engraved upon the modern subconscious: the idea of crashed disks, retrieved debris, back-engineered ET technology, alien bodies and autopsies, and, perhaps most significantly, the dark military cover-up which researcher Stanton Friedman, exhibiting a certain genius of inevitability, has labeled “the cosmic Watergate.”

Whatever the true nature of the black magic Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project unleashed upon the New Mexico desert in ’45, the region remains haunted to this day, and continues to be a focal point for the weirdest manifestations of hidden Americana: the seemingly entwined worlds of secret weapons testing, UFO’s, cattle mutilations, and alien abductions. During the 1980’s, a myth emerged of an underground facility in Dulce, New Mexico, which combined all these nefarious and unlikely activities under one very secretive roof. The true origin of the Dulce base conspiracy theory is in itself a dark, shadowy, and disturbing tale, which highlights the murky operation of disinformation.

Disinformation differs from regular propaganda, in that it is a far more subtle and underhand method of disseminating untruths. Propaganda, to a large degree, doesn’t hide its origins, and spreads itself through official channels. Disinformation, on the other hand, possesses a more fiendish ingenuity. Its method is to persuade certain groups that they have come upon privileged information which would otherwise be hidden, and thus turn the would-be truth seekers themselves into unwitting propagandists. The purpose of this activity is either to discredit those who had come too close to the truth, or to distract attention altogether from the reality of a particular situation. Since disinformation sometimes contains partial truths, it generally winds up producing endless Moebius strips of uncertainty: if a government openly acknowledges disinformation, does that constitute a further act of disinformation, thus rendering the initial information potentially true, and so on.

The extent to which the UFO mystery has been mired in disinformation is something which can probably never be accurately gauged. However, in 1955, the CIA started using the then-secret Lockheed U2 high-altitude airplane to perform “overflights” over Russia in order to take aerial photography. Memos from the period prove that the CIA quickly realized the efficiency of fomenting belief in extraterrestrial UFO’s as a cover for their own aerial espionage projects. From this period onwards, the history of the UFO becomes inextricably bound up with the history of secret aeronautics and black budget military technology. While explicit examples of disinformation are difficult to find, the story of Paul Bennewitz is a disturbing example of the occasional ramifications of such strategies.

Paul Bennewitz was an apparently gifted physics postgraduate and inventor who ran a small electronics company called Thunder Scientific Corporation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which provided the nearby Kirtland Airforce Base with high-altitude testing equipment. Bennewitz was also an avid UFO buff, acting as a part-time investigator for the Arizona based APRO (Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization.) Bennewitz’ journey into the bowels of the Chapel Perilous began in 1979, when he and some friends began to witness strange lights in the sky over the Monzano Test Range outside Albuquerque.

While carefully cataloguing and filming the unusual lights, which, in one of the many strange twists in the case, were apparently genuinely anomalous, Bennewitz encountered the psychologist and ufologist Dr. Leo Sprinkle. Sprinkle was one of the first academic figures to openly study the alien abduction phenomenon, and a pioneer in the highly controversial use of hypnosis to restore the memories of abductee encounters. In 1980, a patient of Sprinkle’s named Myrna Hanson claimed that she and her son had been abducted while driving home near a cow pasture at Cimarron. Under hypnosis, Hansen claimed to see two white clad figures emerge from a UFO, and mutilate several cows with an 18-inch knife. Later, she and her son were kidnapped, and taken onboard different crafts, where they were subject to the obligatory examination, and given the obligatory implants. Hanson only escaped after being taken to an underground desert facility where she witnessed more severe cruelty being perpetuated against cows, and row upon row of liquid vats containing human and animal body parts.

Bennewitz believed Hanson’s story, and become utterly convinced that the cattle mutilations and underground facility must be connected to the lights he had been filming over the Monzano Test Range. The story continued to take stranger and stranger turns. Bennewitz built a series of low-frequency electromagnetic antennas, and became convinced he was receiving signals from the alien space crafts. He even subsequently developed a computer program which he believed could translate these signals, and gave his mission to thwart the aliens the grandiose title of Project Beta. Understandably alarmed, he then attempted to alert both the media and the military.

Bill Moore was the head of APRO in 1980. As the co-author of one of the very first books exploring the Roswell incident, Moore was a well established figure in UFO circles. According to Moore, “In early September, 1980 I was approached by a well-placed individual within the intelligence community who claimed to be directly connected to a high level project dealing with UFO’s. This individual told me that he spoke for a small group of similar individuals who were uncomfortable with the governments continued cover-up of the truth, and indicated that he and his group would like to help me with my research in this subject in the hope and expectation that I might be able to help them to change the prevailing policy and get the truth out to the public without breaking any laws in the process. The man who acted as liaison between this group and myself was an Airforce Office of Special Investigations agent named Richard Doty. I knew I was being recruited, but at that point I had no idea for what.” As it turns out, Moore had been enlisted to spread disinformation.

Here we find ourselves in thoroughly ambiguous territory. For the purposes of security and anonymity, Moore and his associate Jaime Shandera named this high level group the Aviary, giving each member a bird codename. According to Shandera: “We wanted the information, but didn’t want to reveal where we got our clues. To maintain anonymity, I give Bill’s source the codename “Falcon”, the next source we used was called “Condor” and so on, until we had 24 contacts from all levels of government. It was my idea to use bird names.” Shandera continued to give a brief description of individual members, in the same irresistible mixture of All the Presidents Men and the X-Files: “Hawk is a person well-connected in areas of study in ESP since the sixties, with impressive credentials. Blue Jay is person close to the President of the United States, capable of checking on information to determine its reliability. Partridge is a scientist privy to UFO information collected by the government. Chickadee is well-placed in the Pentagon and versed in scientific study. Heron is enigmatic and puzzling, he seems to speak in riddles…” What exactly was going on here? It may be that the group’s intentions were as Moore describes them, but why then was he encouraged to spread disinformation? Were Moore and Shandera merely dupes, actually being feed disinformation as a payment for spreading more disinformation? Or was Moore simply a straight-up disinfo agent from the beginning? The world of disinformation is akin the paradox of the liar extended to Escherian dimensions; when Moore eventually confessed his sins to the 35th Annual MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) Symposium in Los Vegas, he warned them that his information would be a mixture of true information and disinformation, for that was how the government worked, even in dealing with him.

The victim in all this, however, was the hapless and tragic Paul Bennewitz. Its now acknowledged that Bill Moore and Richard Doty subjected him to a sustained disinformation program. Rather than divest him of his delusions, the pair proceeded to feed him evidence with validated and intensified his suspicions. Sections of his notes reveal his increasing paranoia and panic: “Established constant direct contact with the alien….aliens on the ground in electro statically supported vehicles….charging beam weapons. The aliens are picking up and “cutting” people every night….whether all implants are totally effective I cannot predict…..Conservatively I would estimate that at least 300,000 people have been implanted in the US….at least 2 million worldwide….”At the same time, his conception of the aliens at Dulce base were acquiring the complexity of a personal mythology: “Their body metabolism is very high, estimated at 110 to 115 degrees. Elimination is through osmosis. Skin color of the ruling echelon varies from a jaundiced yellow or white. No hair of any kind. Their arms are long – near to knee level. They have very long hands and fingers. All of them look underfed. They have big heads and eyes. The humanoid types are generally light green. When in need of formula or dead they turn GREY. Many in this culture walk with a limp or shuffle their feet…”

Fearing the intrusion of his home by threatening energy balls, Bennewitz constantly surrounded himself with knifes and guns. Inevitably, he suffered a complete physical and nervous breakdown, and was finally placed in institutional care, and released from the quixotic courage and rigors of Project Beta.

The Dulce base and variations of it have gone into popular and conspiracy lore. In the 1990’s, the X-Files brought these kinds of ideas to Simpsons-levels of cultural dispersal, and made conspiracies the widespread fan-boy pastime they continue to be today. It is amusing to speculate that some of these florid scenarios may have originated in the imaginations of Airforce Intelligence spooks. Bennewitz died in 2005, a largely unknown victim of the extreme callousness of the National Security apparatus. Many, including Richard Doty, claim he never stopped believing in the alien threat revealed by Project Beta.

Monday, December 1, 2008

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