Kage Baker, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, was interested in some specific paranormal topics. She would get intrigued for a week or so at a time, and idly pursue them while reading or Web surfing; then let it all go until the next time she needed a giggle, or a weird idea.
It was like making a fire with a Presto log instead of real wood. It’s cheap and fast and smells funny, but it gives off BTUs nonetheless.
I don’t know if it’s a similar low-energy curiosity rousing in my own drowsy mind, or the memory of conversations with Kage on the weird phenomena that get reported. But I’ve had a sort of junk-food craving for this kind of thing lately. I’ve found myself resurrecting old freaky sites Kage used to watch, usually late at night; I’ve been reading through some of the stranger books available on Amazon under (believe it or not) the “Science/Cosmology” heading.
Kage was pretty picky about her sources, though. Too obvious a fake, a Photoshop or a mental aberration, and she turned up her nose. She said she wasn’t interested in knowing what kinds of craziness people came up with – she wanted to examine the incidents that maybe had a small element of Who knows? A certain amount of WTF was not unacceptable, and in fact added to the entertainment value. When people reported things that had apparently never, ever crossed their minds while sober and in daylight, the stories were more interesting.
She found the USA more than a little disappointing in this regard. While the USA is rife with weird phenomena – just this week, Bigfeet have been reported in Florida and Ohio, and UFOs have been sighted in the Midwest and New York – they are all much of a muchness. As noted previously, huge hairy primates are now seen across the entire US; even in the many, many states whose ecologies and landscapes wouldn’t be suitable for them if they were real. That disappointed Kage; she hoped for more imagination and less fadism in domestic hallucinations. No one’s been able to prove the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has survived, Kage argued, and they’re searching where it actually lived. Why are there 8-foot tall hominids reported coast to coast?
It showed a certain weak-mindedness, she felt, and a tendency to go along with fashion. Those shouldn’t apply in either science OR pseudoscience – although Kage did admit, fashions in apparitions did seem to follow the same patterns everywhere, at any given time. These days, people see and get abducted by aliens (always the same ones, too); 500 years ago or more, it was fairies doing it – but in the exact same circumstances. People marvel now over crop circles, and blame them on flying saucers and controlled plasma vortices: they were previously believed to be perpetrated by fairies and the Wild Hunt. Even Shakespeare blames them on Robin Goodfellow …
England still had the better stories, by Kage’s lights. The 20th and 21st centuries in the UK have been rich in weird sightings of everything imaginable: not just ghosts in ruined castles, which are really sort of passe these days. UFOs overfly the entire island of Great Britain as frequently as the trains run; and the majority of the world’s crop circles are reported from there. They show up constantly in those old, old fields, where the ploughman still follows boundaries that date back to the Neolithic … and maybe they’re not all being made by college students and old poachers.
Kage hoped so, anyway. In the meantime, crop circles are terrific art – so someone is doing the world a favour by producing them.
However, what Kage liked most of all were British Bigfoot sightings, and the constant reports of exotic beasts. She liked the Bigfoot reports because they were so obviously impossible – there is no place on the entire island of Britain, even including Wales and Scotland, that could harbour 8-foot tall hominids. Not even in the grungiest of council developments could they pass unnoticed; and where the hell could they have come from, anyway?
She felt that the sightings of Bigfoot in Moray or Yorkshire were unlikely enough; the Midlands and Kent were flat insane. It was likely that these apparitions were due to an emotional or spiritual source (an idea espoused by several paranormal “experts” in the UK); she was fascinated by what those could be. What makes people see otherwordly strangers in the first place?
The report of smaller than normal people throughout the UK, she dismissed as ordinary. People have been complaining about them since before the Romans. Kage suspected they were whoever the local indigenes were, sniping at the frequent invaders from the hills and moors.
For some reason, too, there is a huge body of reports of large, feral cats throughout Britain. Usually black; always larger than the average dog. They are reported most often from rural areas, especially those that breed sheep and cattle – which would be, if you wanted to find a logical place for escaped wild felines, the likeliest places. And the things have been seen – and occasionally shot – from Land’s End to John O’Groats, including Jersey and some of the Orkneys. It’s true that eccentric British collectors have kept private zoos for centuries; but there were still a lot of loose cats roaming round. Why cats? Why black ones? And among non-black cats, what was a puma doing in Inverness? Or a leopard on the Isle of Wight? They fascinated Kage.
Recently, a blue fox was found in the lobby of a Travel Lodge in Woolwich, in SE London. It was lured out with Doritos, by a self-described “fox whisperer”. What worries me a bit is that, judging from the photo, this is the same sort of blue canid that we’ve been seeing in the American South West; the ones diagnosed as having “super-mange”. Now, the UK has one of the most stringent dog quarantine systems in the world – to prevent rabies and other doggie plagues from entering the island. So what’s going on with this poor blue fox?
If it’s mange, there’s a real problem. If it’s UFOs – well, I guess it’s no worse than chicken-eating leopards on Wight.
Kage would think so, I am sure.