Is it weird to write another update post so soon after the last one? Whatever! It’s my website, and I can do what I want with it!
But yeah, much like last summer, I’m going to be taking a break from the blog for a while to concentrate on writing Divine Conspiracy material on DeviantArt. I’m not planning to make this a yearly tradition; that’s just how the cookie crumbled both this year and last.
I don’t know how long I’ll be away working on the piece. Much like the “pilot” I released last year, this story focuses on the Banks family getting embroiled in a supernatural mystery, except this one involves them going out into the field alongside their fellow Templar knights. Specifically, they head to Massachusetts and team up with the local Wampanoag tribe to determine what’s behind the recent spike in activity surrounding the so-called “Bridgewater Triangle” and soon discover that it may have something to do with the long-buried mythology of the local indigenous tribes.
Writing this story is likely to take longer than the pilot, mainly because I’m writing this new story from scratch, unlike the pilot where I had an extensive rough draft to work off of. As such, I needed to take some time to do research, especially by reading the book Spirit of the New England Tribes by anthropologist William S. Simmons. Simmons’ book proved especially helpful in informing me of the truth of the folktales the Wampanoag and their neighbors used to tell (or at least as much truth as can be ascertained given how fiercely the Puritans tried to stamp them out).
As for the blog, I’ll still check in regularly to empty the spam filter and update plugins whenever needed. I’m also hoping I might be able to squeeze in time to write another P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist or Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left entry while I’m at it. I’m also pretty eager to start that series on esoteric spirituality that I’ve been promising you guys for a while now. We’ll see how that turns out!
Also, if you’re wondering what’s going on medically, given how much I discussed that in the last update post, things are going just fine. That bad case of the flu is long past, and while it’s clear by this point that I definitely have hemochromatosis, we managed to catch it at the right time where I only needed three phlebotomies to get my iron back down to healthy levels, so no worries there! That’s all for now. Stay healthy, beautiful watchers!
This entry in the “P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist” series will differ from the previous entries. With those entries, I focused on single songs that resonated with me personally. With the band we will be discussing today, however, I can’t simply choose just one song because they are just that good! This is especially true of what I and many of the other lucky few that have gotten to experience this criminally underrated band consider to be their magnum opus: a trilogy of albums released throughout the mid-nineties exploring humanity’s relationship to the divine with over 40+ tracks of symphonic heavy metal delight.
But to understand what makes this album trilogy so unique, one must understand the band behind it. One of the unsung pioneers of the American power metal alongside Manowar, Helstar, Jag Panzer, and Riot, this group ground away in the metal underground of Long Island throughout the eighties. They recorded four studio albums and fought through lineup changes and folding record labels before finally finding their proper niche with their charismatic and eccentric frontman’s “barbarian romantic” vision in the Marriage trilogy. But how did the band get there in the first place?
Virgin Steele’s story began in June 1981 when guitarist Jack Starr and drummer Joey Ayvazian sent out auditions for a lead singer to help them start a heavy metal band. David DeFeis, a recent graduate of S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook, answered the ad with his friend, bass player Joe O’Reilly.
DeFeis had grown up with an artistic family; his father owned a Shakspearian theater company, and his sister was an opera singer. DeFeis himself had grown up listening to classical music throughout his childhood and was introduced to rock through the band Stalk, featuring his older brother and sister on keyboards and vocals, respectively. He even started his own band, Phoenix, when he was only eleven. DeFeis and O’Reilly auditioned successfully, even though Starr’s group already had a bass player named Kelly Nickels. Nickels was fired, as the band judged him to have inferior skills to O’Reilly’s, and subsequently moved to Los Angeles and, after honing his craft, found success with the band L.A. Guns.
The band recorded their self-titled debut album in only a week that December and self-released it the following April. They had previously released the song “Children of the Storm” on the Shrapnel Records compilation U.S. Metal Vol. II, which was positively received by fellow up-and-coming metal bands Metallica and Queensryche. Virgin Steele and Metallica even became labelmates when the British company Music for Nations signed them, alongside bands like W.A.S.P., Manowar, and Mercyful Fate.
After the release of their second album, Guardians of the Flame, in June of 1983, Starr left the band due to creative differences with DeFeis. Starr preferred straightforward anthems, while DeFeis wanted to do more elaborate and classically inspired compositions. The former would form the band Burning Starr, while the latter brought on new guitarist Edward Pursino, who he had known since forming a Black Sabbath cover band named Mountain Ash in high school.
This lineup recorded two albums that would later be regarded as underground classics: Noble Savage, released in 1985, and Age of Consent, released in 1988. Despite joining bands like Manowar and Black Sabbath on tour, the band went into a semi-hiatus for a few years as music industry bullshit started wearing them down. DeFeis claims that “our manager made a royal mess of our career, both financially and spiritually. With other legal problems rearing their ugly heads, we didn’t record another album until ’92.” By that time, Joe O’Reilly had become disillusioned and quit the music industry altogether.
The band subsequently recruited Teddy Cook (of Dio and Great White fame) and Rob DeMartino (who had previously formed a blues-rock group called Smokestack Lightning alongside DeFeis and Starr) to record the bass track for their 1992 album Life Among the Ruins.
The album was somewhat poorly received by fans at the time, as it had ditched the epic power metal leanings of the band’s eighties output in favor of a bluesy glam metal sound heavily inspired by Whitesnake. However, while touring in Europe in support of the album, DeFeis was seized by a sudden wave of creativity that led him to produce the trilogy of albums that would secure Virgin Steele’s cult status as underground metal legends.
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
I should probably start by saying that The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is not based on the 1793 book of the same name by William Blake, despite what Wikipedia might tell you. DeFeis has insisted in several interviews (including this one) that he was unaware of any book by that name when he recorded Part I. He was more familiar with Blake’s collection of poems titled Songs of Innocence and Experience. It was drummer Frank Gilchriest who made the connection when he joined in the middle of recording the second album (Joey Avayzian had retired from the music industry to pursue a career as an inventor).
When asked in the same interview why the albums seem to have the same themes as the book despite not being influenced by it at all, DeFeis had this to say:
I was thinking of opposites. I just wanted to have this reconcilliation of opposites, and I thought, “What’s the most obvious thing you can try and have a union of?” And it was Heaven and Hell, and that’s where the title came from.
David Defeis, Interview with Mark Diggins for The Rockpile, June 30th, 2014
Opposites are also a major theme in Blake’s Marriage. As Blake famously wrote:
Without contraries there is no progression.
Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.
From these contraries spring what religions call good and evil.
Good is the passive that obeys reason. Evil is the active springing from energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.
Blake was saying that the binary sense of morality that humans had developed (and had been enforced by organized religion) was stifling their growth. They needed to recognize that human nature should not be restrained to please uncaring institutions and that divinity and humanity are not separate from one another.
A similar story can be perceived throughout DeFeis’ Marriage. The story of the album trilogy revolves around Endymion and Emalaith, two messianic figures struggling against a pantheon of uncaring and capricious deities and the earthly authorities who serve them. As David puts it in this interview, the names Endymion and Emalaith came from “a name that conjures up images of forests, pagans, beauty, ruins, and desolation, along with a yearning for a love beyond the grave.” While Emalaith appears to be entirely DeFeis’ own creation, he almost certainly took the name Endymion from a figure in Greek mythology who bore fifty sons to Selene, the goddess of the moon, who later put him into an eternal sleep as she couldn’t bear the thought of him dying.
DeFeis’ Endymion, on the other hand, is placed in a story that plays out like a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Admittedly, a lot of the following story I perceived comes from my own interpretations, as Invictus is the only album in the trilogy that actually tells a linear narrative, according to Dave. Even so, I think you could make a case that the trilogy as a whole does tell a cohesive story.
Part I (released in December of 1994) begins with Endymion and Emalaith running from the secret police of their theocratic government in the opening track, “I Will Come For You.”
Once we had beauty,
Our sun blazed in passion!
We lived a life!
Far from the reaching
Of close-minded preaching,
We lived and died!
Now all in darkness, we wait for the end,
Hunted by men of the cloth.
Murder and torture, they rape and they slaughter,
Claiming the way of the cross!
As Endymion wanders the postapocalyptic landscape that the theocracy has left in its wake, he vows, “under tortured skies, from a land with no sun, I will come for you!” As he searches for where they are keeping Emalaith prisoner, Endymion is harassed by visions telling him that he is either destined to destroy the gods’ despotic rule over the Earth or that he is doomed to die an insignificant death in the wasteland.
Endymion is finally tracked down and captured by the theocracy. Unbeknownst to them, though, they end up imprisoning him at the same facility where Emalaith is being held. Taking advantage of one of his visions, Endymion plans their escape around the outbreak of the final apocalyptic battle (most likely Ragnarok, given the numerous references to Norse mythology in Part II) between the gods, depicted in the song “Blood of the Saints”:
London is mine, New York and Paris shall fall!
One ring to rule in darkness to bind them all!
Come to me now, a moth to the flame,
Burning your eyes as you stare
With the Blood of the Saints!
But as the two lovers make their escape amidst the chaos, giggling excitedly about a “Life Among the Ruins,” Emalaith is killed, likely by the gods, in order to drive Endymion into despair. Instead, he declares himself the new messiah and swears vengeance on all who ruined the world in the name of their vicious gods.
Part II (released in December of 1995) sees the battle of Ragnarok raging on Earth as the various gods fight for their privilege to do with humanity as they please. Endymion gathers followers to help him in his crusade while simultaneously going on a journey in the spiritual realms to learn the secrets of the gods to fight them better. He befriends the god Prometheus, tortured by the gods who now fight the battle of Ragnarok for showing kindness to man, and even finds a way to communicate with Emalaith from beyond the grave. Along the way, he makes the critical discovery that good and evil are not as binary of a concept as he thought they were and declares open war on the gods and all who aid them.
The final album, Invictus (released on April 15, 1998), follows Endymion and his army as they battle for their right to live as they choose in a world without gods. Along the way, the gods send numerous challenges to trip Endymion up, including their own army of human loyalists led by a new antagonist called the Red Queen and a magical artifact called the Sword of the Gods that tempts Endymion into using his newfound powers for evil. They even manage to kill Endymion at one point and send him to Purgatory. The powers he gained during his spiritual journeys manage to resurrect him, however, and he leads his army over deserts and frozen tundras to the home of the gods. Endymion slays the guardian of the Red Queen, despite it being “seven rivers wide” (yikes), and finally destroys the gods once and for all, proclaiming to his followers with his dying breath, “I crown us kings!”
My Twelve Favorite Tracks from the Marriage Trilogy (In No Particular Order)
Before I talk about my favorite tracks from the trilogy, I should probably elaborate on what David DeFeis is talking about when he refers to his music as “barbarian romanticism.” DeFeis himself describes it this way in the official biography on the band’s website:
From a whisper to a scream; barbaric, romantic, bombastic, yet subtle; grandiose, yet earthly. A call, a shout, an invocation to freedom and the continual awakening to the awareness that every moment of life is lived to it’s fullest potential. It is a force, a sacred quest which drives Virgin Steele on!!!
David DeFeis, “Biography” on The Official Virgin Steele Homepage
Put more simply, it is a form of symphonic power metal that aims for an emotionally complex sound, with lyrics that are equal parts based on myth and legend (mainly Greek, Norse, Abrahamic, and Mesopotamian) as well as DeFeis’ own real-life experiences. Compare this to fellow New York power metallers Manowar, whose music focuses more on the over-the-top manliness inherent to sword and sorcery type fantasy. I’m not saying that makes them bad in any way; I’m just saying that it kind of makes me scratch my head when Virgin Steele is referred to as “the poor man’s Manowar.”
To explain what I mean, let us briefly examine twelve songs from the trilogy and see what makes them tick:
1. I Will Come for You
Starting Part I with a bang, this symphonic metal masterpiece is a prime example of DeFeis’ barbarian romantic style. Starting almost immediately with only a short instrumental intro, DeFeis immediately starts off his tale of gods and heroes, perfectly showing off the mythological and personal nature of his lyrics:
Whose god is stronger? Who's made by his hand?
Primitive blood stains the sand!
Murder and torture; they're raping your daughter,
Drunk with the blood of the Lamb!
It also demonstrates the band’s softer side about three minutes in as the band slows down to introduce the beautiful “Marriage of Heaven and Hell Theme” that recurs throughout the trilogy, most notably in the same-titled tracks that occur at the end of all three albums.
2. Trail of Tears
This track from the exact midpoint of the album is mainly a mid-paced groove with a faster middle section, featuring DeFeis lecturing an authority figure about the choices they’ve made, the numerous people that have suffered because of it, and how their choices may come back to haunt them someday.
Ask and you won't be forgiven.
This is a blessing in disguise.
All of your choices are spoken.
You've killed the child in my eyes.
I'm gonna see you burn!
When in some dark distant future,
You'll meet my presence in a song.
You'll punch the walls in frustration.
Can you hear my voice and say I'm wrong?
I'm gonna see you burn!
Indeed, with a title like “Trail of Tears,” it’s hard for me not to think that this might be DeFeis’ commentary on America’s treatment of its indigenous population, including by forcing their religion on them. The “you killed the child in my eyes” line especially reminds me of the boarding schools where Native children were abused in the name of “killing the Indian to save the man.”
3. I Wake Up Screaming
This song takes more of a traditional speed metal type of sound. It features DeFeis angrily ranting at the powers that rule over his society, accusing them of trying to strip him of his individuality and make him conform to a broken system run by people who don’t care about those lower than them in the social hierarchy (“All your promises are broken/I think you just want to bury me!”). I can definitely relate to the title of this song in an age when multiple system-wide failures are rapidly closing in on our current society, and our political leaders seem either unwilling or unable to try and stop it.
4. Life Among the Ruins
Another traditional metal track with some symphonic touches, this song reminds us to look for the beauty in life even when everything seems to be falling apart around us, for it is often that hidden beauty that inspires us to push onward even when everything seems to be going wrong.
You are a rose! You are a blade!
I'm down on my knees in the dark in the fiery reign!
You are a rose! You are a blade!
I challenge you to love my bride of pain!
5. Crown of Glory (Unscarred)
I'll never die while the light races over my head;
I can see where we are.
Why must you cry for the life you are leaving behind?
Crown of glory unscarred!
The second track from Part II reads almost like the band’s mission statement. It calls out to the listener to get up and make something of themselves and to stand up against authority figures, both in this world and the next, who would prevent them from doing so. It also provides this verse, which one could consider the trilogy’s thesis statement:
What was forbidden now is open,
The golden apples of the sun.
All that's alive consider holy! Holy! Holy!
Body and soul are reconciled.
And Heaven and Hell, remember their love,
And every road leads me to you! To truth!
Indeed, this might be one of my favorite songs of any genre. It just fills me with a desire to run out into the world to right all the wrongs and knock the daylights out of anyone who tries to stop me.
6. Prometheus (The Fallen One)
It’s hardly a surprise that DeFeis decided to include the story of mythology’s most famous martyr (besides Jesus) in his story about divine injustice. It’s also probably not a surprise that it is an epic track full of galloping guitar riffs, symphonic flourishes, and soaring vocals (including an impossibly high shriek in the atmospheric Middle Eastern-influenced intro that almost puts Rob Halford to shame). However, the epicness of this track still pales in comparison to the one that comes right after it.
This track is often considered one of Virgin Steele’s best. It is often considered the one best representative of DeFeis’ barbaric-romantic vision, alongside “The Burning of Rome (Cry for Pompeii)” and “Perfect Mansions (Mountains of the Sun)” (both from Age of Consent). It goes through several different musical shifts throughout its ten-minute runtime. It starts with a soft, keyboard-heavy intro with crooning vocals before launching into a more direct heavy metal assault. This song goes harder than any other song on the album in terms of symphonic elements, even quoting from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor at one point. It definitely succeeds in DeFeis’ goal of portraying “a love from beyond the grave.”
8. Victory Is Mine
The penultimate track from the album is more of a straightforward metal anthem celebrating the spirit of revolutionary fervor (“I will run to the hills where you hide/Seeking vengeance for all of my kind!”). It boasts one of Ed Pursino’s best riffs, and Joey Avayzian’s performance on drums was a great note on which to end his tenure with the band. It also dramatically foreshadows the change in tone as the story moves into its third and final act.
The title track on the third and final album of the trilogy immediately shows us that things will be different this time around. The production is much gritter than the often soaring acoustics of the previous two albums, possibly to signal that we’ve reached the ugly part of the story, where the final battle to free humanity from their uncaring gods has commenced. Even so, the epic factor has not diminished. Pursino’s riffs are still excellent, and DeFeis’ lyrics have grown extra-defiant as his character Endymion confronts God Himself and calls him out for his mistreatment of humanity. It brilliantly sets the tone for the rest of the album.
10. Mind, Body, Spirit
This song plays out like a heavier version of the title track of Noble Savage. In addition to both tracks being seven-and-a-half minutes long, they both feature pounding metal for the first four-and-a-half minutes and an extended symphonic outro where the guitars are almost nonexistent. The main difference between the two tracks is that M.B.S. is far less melodic, taking more inspiration from thrash metal in its main riff. Despite that, it’s still a worthy song and well worth a listen.
This is another candidate for one of my favorite songs of all time, though not so much for Pursino’s guitar work or DeFeis’ snarling vocals. It’s mainly due to the lyrics, which, appropriately enough, consist of some of the most uncompromising “Fuck authority”-type lyrics I’ve ever heard in a song this side of Rage Against the Machine. I especially love this little speech Dave gives as the band drops out in the middle of the song to let him have the stage to himself:
Now turn to face me, great despot enshrined.
The wealth of our years of injustice has purchased this night.
I take your power! I slay your clan!
Clouds and furies now fly in the face of despite.
I take your power! I look in your eyes!
Watch! See! See how a god... DIIIIEEEES!!!
12. Veni, Vidi, Vici
Closing out the trilogy is the longest song on all three albums, running at a total of 10:44. It is the culmination of all of Endymion’s struggles as he finally leads his army into the home of the gods and banishes them from the mortal realm once and for all. It features another contender for one of Ed Pursino’s best riffs and a truly epic vocal performance from Dave, including his beautiful falsetto cry of “I crown us kings” at the end. It’s a true masterpiece of power metal magic.
After the Marriage
DeFeis didn’t slow down his rock opera productions one bit after completing the trilogy. He immediately followed it up in 1999 and 2000 with The House of Atreus, a two-part album series based on The Orestia, a trilogy of Greek plays written by Aeschylus in the 5th century B.C.E. The story follows the trials endured by King Agamemnon’s family in the aftermath of the Trojan War, including Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of Queen Clytemnestra, her murder at the hands of their son Orestes, and Orestes’ subsequent torment by the Erinyes (aka Furies) and trial. The two albums combined include a total of almost three hours’ worth of music, yet it never gets boring once. Particular highlights include the epic opening track “Kingdom of the Fearless (The Destruction of Troy),” the ominous “Through the Ring of Fire,” the pounding swagger of “Agony and Shame,” the majestic “Fire of Ecstasy” and “Flames of Thy Power (From Blood They Rise),” and the epic finale “Resurrection Day.”
The next proper studio album didn’t come out until September 2006. The band did release two albums called The Book of Burning and Hymns to Victory in 2001 to celebrate their 20th anniversary, but those were simply compilations (albeit the former featuring re-recorded older tracks and rarities). The next proper studio album was titled Visions of Eden and was another mythological rock opera, this time centering on the story of Lilith, Adam’s first wife. She turns out to be too independent for Adam’s liking, so he trades her for the more submissive Eve. Lilith is banished and tormented by the Demiurge who created her for messing with his divine vision, eventually creating the demonic spirit of vengeance we are all familiar with today.
This album has divided Virgin Steele fans thanks to the obvious shift in the band’s sound, which shifted to a much darker and low-register tone, perhaps owing to their new guitarist, Josh Block, preferring seven-string guitars. Not helping matters was that the songs have become much longer. None are under five minutes, and the longest one (“Adorned with the Rising Cobra”) lasts just shy of ten. Personally, I enjoy this album, even if it somewhat overstays its welcome as its 79-minute runtime draws to a close. I like to imagine it as a prequel of sorts to the Marriage trilogy, with the Demiurge of this story eventually being the main villain of Endymion’s tale. Highlight tracks include “Immortal I Stand (The Birth of Adam),” “The Ineffable Name,” “Angel of Death,” “God Above God,” and “Visions of Eden.”
Sadly, the band would only double down on the worse aspects of Visions… as the years went on. Their next album, 2010’s The Black Light Bacchanalia, made it clear that the band was starting to lose itself in DeFeis’ growing artistic insanity. His vocal choices are particularly bizarre; most of the time, he sticks to his lower range, only occasionally leaping out of a soft croon to deliver a sudden castrato wail like at the beginning of “Prometheus.” Not to mention the bloated track lengths continue here. Much like Visions…, there are eleven songs covering almost eighty minutes, only two lasting less than five minutes and the rest lasting between six and eleven (!) minutes. There are some good tracks here (“By the Hammer of Zeus (And the Wrecking Ball of Thor),” “Pagan Heart,” and “In a Dream of Fire”), but they get less frequent as the album goes on.
Things didn’t get much better with the next album, 2015’s Nocturnes of Fire and Damnation. First of all, longtime drummer Frank Gilchriest is nowhere to be seen, having apparently been replaced by a drum machine. Second, Dave overcompensated for his lackluster delivery on the Bacchanalia by leaping all over the place on his vocal range, packing his vocal tracks to the brim with piercing shrieks. This gets annoying, especially since the vocals are mixed way too high in the final tracks, and he sounds like a parody of himself most of the time. Ed and Josh do their best with good guitar material, but Dave’s overly bombastic performance ultimately drags them down. The only song on the album that manages to make it out with some dignity intact is “Persephone,” thanks to David at least managing to rein himself in a bit more. “Lucifer’s Hammer” almost reaches its level until Dave’s overly expressive vocals pull it down. So yeah, this album wasn’t much to write home about.
The band also released a five-album box set in 2018 called Seven Devils Moonshine. Granted, two of said albums are just reissues of Hymns to Victory and Book of Burning, but I haven’t had the courage to listen to anything on the other three albums since they just seem to confirm that David DeFeis is continuing to lose himself in his own ego.
So yeah, it kind of ended on a downer note there. But that’s not to say the band isn’t worth listening to. It’s only because of their run of albums from Marriage Part I to Visions ofEden being so good that their run of albums from the last fifteen or so years feels so disappointing. Maybe the band has its own Death Magnetic waiting in the wings for some future date, but that seems increasingly unlikely at this point.
But still, even if the band’s descent into mediocrity continues, David DeFeis can rest assured that he still gave The Marriage of Heaven and Hell trilogy to the few like myself who have been lucky enough to witness its majesty firsthand, lighting a fire in our bellies to create our own works of art and fight back against the authority figures in our life who clearly care nothing for our well-being. So from me to you, Dave, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you, and may you have long days and pleasant nights conducting your symphony of Steele.
Hello, everyone. You may have noticed that my upload schedule has recently become a lot slower on the blog. There are a few big reasons for this.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve wanted to devote more energy to The Divine Conspiracy on DeviantArt. That is certainly true, as I have been writing a new story centering on the Bridgewater Triangle and how the urban legend intersects with indigenous Wampanoag mythology. Progress has been slow, mostly because I’ve been reading the book Spirit of the New England Tribes to understand their spiritual traditions better.
But that’s far from the only reason progress has been slow. For one thing, I recently decided to have myself tested for hemochromatosis, or iron overload in the bloodstream. My Dad has the disorder, and with all the tests I’ve been subjecting myself to (blood tests, MRIs), it’s increasingly likely that he passed it down to me. Fortunately, the disorder is easy enough to treat. Dad takes care of his by frequently donating blood. A doctor also informed me that eating red meat also contributes to iron buildup, so I’ve been wondering lately if going on a mostly vegetarian diet would help at all (I say “mostly” because, while I don’t have much of an appetite for most meat products these days, I’m not sure I’m ready to give up cheeseburgers of meat lover’s pizza).
On top of that, I also came down with a nasty cold this week that has left me more exhausted than I have ever felt in recent memory. Mom and I believe it is influenza, mostly because it is definitely a lot worse than most colds I’ve had and because a COVID test I took yesterday came out negative. Either way, yesterday morning was an absolute slog. I got up to eat breakfast, only got halfway through because my appetite just wasn’t there, and went back to bed for the next five hours. You can imagine that I didn’t have the energy to stand up, let alone write anything.
The good news is that I’m pretty sure Thursday morning was rock bottom for me, and now there’s no way to go but up. You can likely expect a new post on the blog sometime next week or the week after. There won’t be a big birthday retrospective like the one I did for Watership Down last year, and it won’t be about that TV series I hinted at in previous update posts.
For those who are curious, I was referring to The Shannara Chronicles, based on the Shannara series by Terry Brooks. I remember seeing the first season of the show back when it first aired on MTV and being profoundly disappointed in the choices the series creators made. However, I couldn’t find any streaming services that offered it for free. I especially did not want to pay $17.99 to watch it on Amazon Prime and end lining that vampire Bezos’ pockets.
Instead, this year’s mini-retrospective will be about a very underrated heavy metal band that is almost as near and dear to my heart as Terry Brooks’ books are. I won’t say which one just yet. Just keep a lookout for it in the near future.
And that’s everything I wanted to discuss with you guys today. Remember to wash your hands and keep your masks on because we may be done with COVID, but COVID sure as hell isn’t done with us! Until next time, friends.
…and it certainly took me on a roller coaster ride, especially regarding its main subject.
(Trigger warning for those sensitive to violent crime topics: this article will contain mentions of such subjects and some brief references to pedophilia.)
This documentary series, which served as one of the earliest Netflix original programs, generated a storm of controversy when it first premiered in December 2015, thanks to its shocking accusations of police corruption and misconduct in the trial of Steven Avery.
Before we explore that controversy, a little background: Steven Allan Avery was a resident of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, who grew up in a family that was widely viewed as the redneck black sheep of the community. Nevertheless, his father owned a successful auto salvage business that kept his family fed.
Avery’s calm rural existence was shattered in July of 1985 when he was sentenced to thirty-two years in prison for the rape and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen, despite eyewitnesses corroborating his alibi of being in Green Bay at the time. He was released after 18 years when DNA evidence proved that the rape had actually been committed by Gregory Allen, another local man who bore a striking resemblance to Avery and had a history of violence against women. A vengeful Avery decided to sue the Manitowoc County police department for $36 million and was even the primary inspiration for new Wisconsin state legislation to decrease the likelihood of future wrongful convictions.
But, to paraphrase the words of Michael Corleone, just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. On Halloween of 2005, a local photographer named Teresa Halbach went missing, and a search party found her Toyota RAV4 in the auto salvage junkyard a few days later. Police searched Avery’s property and claimed to have found Teresa’s bones in the remains of a bonfire Steven had held on Halloween. They later found the key to the RAV4 in Steven’s bedroom, and Steven was arrested and tried for her murder. When his nephew, Brendan Dassey, confessed to helping his uncle kill Teresa and dispose of her corpse, things became even bleaker for Steven. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, while Dassey (only 17 at the time of his sentencing) was ineligible for parole until 2048.
Steven and Brendan’s defense teams pointed to numerous inconsistencies in the prosection’s evidence, including but not limited to:
It seemingly took multiple searches of Steven’s property to find enough evidence to incriminate him (I think the key wasn’t discovered until the sixth search, if I’m not mistaken).
Steven’s lawyers questioned why Steven didn’t use the compactor in the junkyard to dispose of the RAV4 and how he would be stupid enough to leave Teresa’s bones lying around on his property.
The lawyers also questioned how little of Steven’s blood was found inside the RAV4, especially when they found a vial of Steven’s blood collected from his previous conviction that looked like a hypodermic needle had punctured it. This was possibly disproven by the prosecution when analysis proved that there was no EDTA (a preservative added to blood samples to prevent coagulation) in the sample.
Brendan Dassey’s confession was also thrown into question, thanks to the coercive tactics his interrogators used and Dassey’s intellectual and developmental disabilities (he scored in the seventies on an IQ test), which the defense argued made him highly impressionable.
Interim and Reactions
I’ll admit that I was fully convinced that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey had been framed by the last few episodes of the first season. However, as I looked at some other articles about the incident, I learned about certain troubling facts of Avery’s past that the miniseries’ directors, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, had conveniently left out.
They did talk about some morally questionable things Steven had done before his 1985 conviction. For example, in January of that year, he ran his first cousin off the road and threatened her with a gun after she accused him of masturbating in her direction. They also brought up an incident from 1982 where Avery and a few friends horrifically murdered a cat by pouring gasoline over it and dropping it on a fire (which the documentary frames as an accident) and his burglary of a bar the year before. Avery dismisses it in the first episode by saying that he “was young and stupid and hanging out with the wrong people.”
Somewhat less defensible is the fact that Steven wrote letters to his first wife threatening to murder her, especially when she told Steven she wanted a divorce. He is also alleged to have told another prisoner that he planned to create a torture chamber with which to spirit away female victims. He even bought handcuffs and leg irons shortly before Teresa’s murder, which he claimed was for his then-girlfriend Jodi Stachowski. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Stachowski (who was featured in the first season) later claimed that Steven threatened to kill her if she said anything that made him look bad and had been physically abusive in the past.
Not even members of his own family were allegedly safe from Avery’s depredations. A female relative claimed that Avery had raped her in 2004 and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone. Also, Brendan Dassey later claimed that Steven had touched him in ways that made him uncomfortable, so there’s that too.
That being said, that still doesn’t mean the prosecution is totally innocent either. There are clearly several holes in their arguments. For instance, Dassey originally claimed that Teresa had been murdered in Avery’s bedroom, despite there being no blood anywhere in the room. Their alternate theory that Teresa was murdered in Avery’s garage is also questioned by his attorneys, who question how Avery could have been thorough enough to scrub all of her DNA from the garage and the junk inside and still not think to dispose of her bones. On top of all that, the Manitowoc County sheriff’s department clearly had a conflict of interest in involving themselves in Avery’s case (so much so that his trial took place in neighboring Calumet County). Yet, they were the ones who searched Avery’s property and found all the evidence the prosecution used.
The second season, released in December of 2018, mainly follows Kathleen Zellner, an attorney specializing in wrongful convictions, as she tries to build a case for Avery’s innocence. At the same time, we follow Brendan Dassey’s new attorneys as they battle for appeals all the way to the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court.
All the while, Zellner digs up new inconsistencies in the prosecution’s evidence, including but not limited to:
The idea that the police did not take Steven’s blood from the vial that his attorneys originally found but from Avery’s bathroom sink after he bled into it from a cut on his middle finger (possibly supported by marks from a crowbar on Avery’s front door).
Zellner also managed to gain access to a bullet found in Avery’s garage that allegedly had Teresa’s D.N.A. on it, arguing that if Avery had fired it through Halbach’s skull as the prosecution claimed, there should be bone fragments embedded in it. Instead, forensic investigators only find wood fragments and a waxy substance that Zellner suspects to be Halbach’s lip balm (thus suggesting where Teresa’s D.N.A. came from).
Zellner learned of a truck driver who claimed to have seen the RAV4 in a location away from the Avery property before it was discovered in the junkyard. Unfortunately, the first officer he told of this was Andrew Colborn, the officer accused in the first season of being one of the masterminds behind Avery’s framing, and thus nothing came of it.
Zellner also interviews Debra Kakatsch, the Manitowoc County coroner at the time, who was not only prevented from investigating the alleged site of Halbach’s murder but was also prevented from testifying at the trial and even quit her job a few months later as she no longer felt safe.
The most shocking new evidence that Zellner uncovers is Bobby Dassey’s internet history. Bobby (Brendan’s brother) is revealed to have a morbid interest in violent pornography (some involving children). Zellner even claims that several of the subjects of the images Bobby searched even looked like Teresa Halbach. The same motorist who claims to have seen the RAV4 off the Avery junkyard also texted his friend Scott Tadych (Brendan Dassey’s stepfather) about it, asking to be put in touch with Dassey’s attorneys. Nothing came of it.
There are many reasons to criticize the Manitowoc County police for letting their obvious biases color their view of this case, as I’ve hopefully demonstrated above. However, that doesn’t mean I’m totally convinced that Steven Avery is innocent of Teresa Halbach’s murder, especially in light of his previous history of violence against women. True, it is doubtful that the murder occurred either in Avery’s bedroom or garage. But, even with the alternate scenario that Zellner lays out in the final few episodes, I see no reason why Steven couldn’t still have been involved as well.
Even if it seems like one hell of a coincidence that Avery’s second conviction came right when he was trying to hold the sheriff’s department accountable for its previous foul-up, that doesn’t seem so improbable when you remember that there is a reason American police jokingly refer to prisons as “crime colleges.” Allow me to reiterate this Pyotr Kropotkin quote from my essay on anarchism:
Have not prisons-which kill at will and force of character in men, which enclose within their walls more vices than are met with than in any spot on the globe-always been the universities of crime? Is not the court of the tribunal a school of ferocity?
Pyotr Kropotkin, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Model
If you combine the horror of American prisons with Avery’s previous violent tendencies, you can probably see why I and many others have a nagging suspicion that Zellner and Steven’s loved ones might be barking up the wrong tree.
However, I am absolutely not convinced that Brendan Dassey had anything to do with the crime. Given his limited intelligence and lack of a criminal record before his fateful interviews, plus the fact that that interview is literally the only evidence connecting him to Halbach’s death, I feel extremely confident in stating my opinion that Dassey is innocent. If you think I’m being overconfident, allow me to point you to another Netflix Original true-crime documentary series called The Confession Tapes, which details the numerous coercive techniques police can use to obtain false confessions. When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Original docudrama about the Central Park Five, also provides a good case study on false confessions.
The date was December 28th, 1922. A group of over 2,000 delegates from all over the former Tsarist empire of Russia gathered in Moscow to consolidate the new socialist republic they had fought so hard for over the last five years. Two days later, from the stage of Bolshoi Theatre, they presented to the Russian people the Treaty on the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Thus began the first true socialist nation in the history of the world.
But the country’s birth was not without strong labor pains. Indeed, the three biggest names associated with the advent of the Soviet Union-Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Leon Trotsky- all had very different ideas for structuring the new government and how best to continue the worldwide socialist uprising they started. In this entry of “The Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left,” we’ll examine the philosophies of these three men to see how the future of socialism may have progressed had either one may have done things differently, as well as how Russia fared when Stalin became the victor.
Part 1: Lenin vs. Stalin
Lenin had already been in poor health for about a year before the December 30th declaration. He had been showing signs of hyperacusis, insomnia, and headaches that were so bad that he tried to get his wife and sister to purchase potassium cyanide so he could kill himself. To this day, no one is exactly sure what was wrong with him; theories include neurasthenia, cerebral atherosclerosis, and even syphilis.
In any case, Lenin’s poor health worsened significantly when he suffered a stroke in May of 1922. He had largely recovered by July but then suffered another stroke in December. It has been reported that this second stroke was caused by an argument with secret police chief and Stalin loyalist Feliks Dzerzhinsky over a crackdown in the Caucasus region. Another Stalin loyalist, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, had been sent into Stalin’s homeland of Georgia to quell protest movements against the “autonomization model” that Stalin advocated for. Lenin was angry that Dzerzhinsky had exonerated Ordzhonikidze for any wrongdoing, but the stroke left him unable to do anything about it.
Perhaps I should explain what this “autonomization model” is. Autonomization was Stalin’s proposed solution to the problem of what relationship the former states of the Russian Empire would have with the Bolshevik ruling class in Moscow. He offered to incorporate the Russian regional republics into the new Soviet Federation, with the ethnic minorities of each respective region allowed autonomy within the boundaries of Soviet law. Many republics protested this approach, especially Ukraine, Belarus, and the Caucasian states of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.
Lenin sided with the regional republics, arguing that Stalin was pursuing an imperialistic goal. Remember that Lenin’s principal innovation in Marxist thought was combatting the new capitalist model of imperialism, which Marx had failed to foresee. He was worried that autonomization would undermine the Soviet Union’s credibility as the vanguard of the worldwide socialist revolution. The regional republics’ right to self-rule must be preserved, he argued.
Stalin and Lenin managed to reach a compromise before Lenin’s second stroke. Stalin, aware of how powerful Lenin still was within the Bolshevik Party system, agreed to Lenin’s terms, allowing the new socialist republic to come into being as the USSR on December 30th. After the second stroke, however, Stalin quickly set about limiting Lenin’s activities under the pretense of not exacerbating Lenin’s poor health.
But Lenin wasn’t finished with Stalin. He wrote letters protesting against Stalin’s power grabs throughout 1923, even after suffering a third stroke in March. His anti-Stalin complaints became especially vociferous after Stalin insulted his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, when she refused to let him see an ailing Lenin in his bedroom.
The biggest one was “Lenin’s Testament,” which he finished in January of that year, which notably argued for the removal of Stalin from the position of general secretary in favor of Leon Trotsky. He also argued that the centralization of the new socialist government functions should be limited solely to defense and international relations to keep thuggish personalities like Stalin from taking advantage.
Sadly, after Lenin finally passed away on January 21st, 1924, at the age of 53, Stalin managed to persuade the other party leaders to ignore these suggestions. Of course, one must wonder what would have become of the Soviet Union if Trotsky had taken power.
Part 2: Stalin vs. Trotsky
I think the best way I’ve heard to explain the differences in Leninism, Stalinism, and Trotskyism comes from this Quora article by historian Cameron Greene: Stalinism was the conservative side of Bolshevism, Leninism the moderate/centrist side, and Trotskyism the radical side.
Stalin advocated the “socialism in one country” policy, which argued that Russia should not focus on leading socialist revolutions in other countries until it has perfected socialism in the Russian state. He also pursued rapid industrialization and collectivization of agriculture, intensification of class conflict (especially with kulaks or property-owning peasants), a one-party totalitarian police state to crush counter-revolutionary movements, and subordination of socialist movements across the globe to the interests of the Soviet vanguard. Stalin was also willing to seek the advice of private enterprises like the Ford Motor Company to help the Soviet Union get its state-owned enterprises off the ground.
On the other hand, Trotsky argued for a global socialist revolution in multiple countries to overwhelm the international capitalist order more quickly. He also argued that the bureaucratic police state that Stalin was developing was antithetical to the working class self-determination and mass democracy that Marx advocated for. He was also a harsh critic of Stalin’s willingness to cooperate with capitalists to help jump-start Soviet industrialization, as he was determined not to negotiate with capitalist nations.
Unsurprisingly, Stalin did not take kindly to this criticism. After Lenin’s death, Stalin and the Politburo gradually stripped Trotsky of his government positions until he was formally exiled from the Soviet Union in February 1929. He had been living in Alma-Ata (now Almaty, Kazakhstan) for a year at that point. He spent the rest of his life dodging assassination attempts as he traveled the world railing against Stalin’s betrayal of the socialist revolution, even forming the Fourth International in France in 1938. Stalin’s assassins finally caught up with him two years later. Trotsky died at the age of 60 on August 21st, 1940, in Mexico City from brain injuries caused by the blunt end of an ice ax wielded by Ramon Mercader.
It is tempting to argue that the Soviet Union would have been a true worker’s paradise if Trotsky had come to power instead of Stalin. Let’s face it: even if his rapid industrialization did bring Russia into the modern era, Stalin was a terrible ruler by any standard. While there is still debate over whether or not the great famines of 1930-33 (the Ukrainian Holodomor being by far the most infamous) were deliberately engineered by Stalin or whether it was an unintended side effect of rapid collectivization, there is no question that it is a large black stain on his character. The dekulakization program, which took place around the same time and may have led to over half a million deaths, is a lot less excusable, as is the Great Purge of Stalin’s political enemies in 1937, which some estimate killed over a million. His religious persecutions and the roughly 1.6 million who died in the gulags should also not be dismissed.
That being said, however, there isn’t much reason to believe that Trotsky would have been any less of a dictator. Okay, that is kind of a lie. He did believe that the Soviet Union should be more of a union of worker’s councils, which does appeal to my personal preference for anarcho-communism (even if all the communes would still have been required to report to Moscow). However, as the YouTube channel Alternate History Hub explains in their video “What If Stalin Never Came to Power,” Trotsky wasn’t any less bloodthirsty than Stalin. Indeed, Stalin’s rapid industrialization ideas in his Five-Year Plans were actually stolen from Trotsky. The only difference was that Trotsky wanted to share the profits with all Russian citizens, not just a privileged few. There is no reason to believe that a Trotskyist Russia would have avoided the famines and purges that plagued Stalin’s Russia.
In addition, Trotsky would have had a whole nation at his disposal to pursue his goal of a worldwide socialist revolution. Indeed, given that Trotsky was of Jewish heritage, it is highly likely that Trotsky would have been a lot tougher on Nazi Germany than Stalin was. Of course, this could have backfired on the Soviets, as this might have led to fascists being seen as martyrs to the anti-communist cause and leading to the Soviet Union being the main Allied antagonist of World War II instead of the Axis Powers. Then again, it may also have led to socialism gaining a solid foothold in many more countries than just Cuba, Vietnam, and others. Or maybe I’m just being too optimistic.
Some fellow socialists have gone further, arguing that Bolshevism itself was its own worst enemy, that Soviet Russia was doomed to an oppressive dictatorship no matter which leader it ultimately chose. For instance, the October 1973 issue of The Socialist Standard (the official magazine of the Socialist Party of Great Britain) includes an article titled “Trotskyism, Stalinism: What’s the Difference,” where the author argues that Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and all of the other Bolsheviks were operating off a grievous misinterpretation of Marx. He contrasts Lenin’s view that “on its own, the working class cannot go beyond the level of trade union consciousness” with Marx and Engel’s view that “the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority.” He also points to how Trotsky handled the Kronstadt rebellion as proof that he was no better than Stalin.
The Kronstadt rebellion was one of the most prominent left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks. Thousands of Soviet sailors, soldiers, and civilians seized control of the port city on the island of Kotlin near St. Petersburg for sixteen days in March of 1921. The rebels were disillusioned by the direction of the Bolshevik government. They demanded more civil rights and economic freedom for the working class, that more libertarian socialist groups receive government representation, and that the bureaucratic systems implemented by the Bolsheviks be dismantled. The Bolshevik party leaders, Trotsky included, dismissed their rebellion as a capitalist false flag and invaded the island on March 18th, slaughtering thousands. This move was widely criticized even by contemporary leftists, perhaps most notably Emma Goldman in her essay “Trotsky Protests Too Much.”
In the end, if you ask my opinion, the Bolsheviks ended up falling prey to the same trap that the Founding Fathers of the United States fell into when they created the United States; they were not confident enough in the decision-making capabilities of the working class to allow them to exercise true democracy. True, the Bolsheviks had a leg up on the Founders in that half of them weren’t slave owners, but it’s hard for me to argue that they were any more altruistic than the Founders in the end, given how little tolerance they gave towards leftist ideologies that differed from their own.
However, that leads me to think about the other factions of the Russian socialist movement. Indeed, the Bolsheviks were only one of three main factions in the Russian revolution. So join me on the next episode, where I compare and contrast the Bolsheviks with the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries. See you then!
Hello again, beautiful watchers! I figured that since I have ended a somewhat ongoing series on this blog recently, it was time that I give some more updates on what’s going on on this site in the future.
First of all, many of the future blog ideas I mentioned in my New Year’s update post are still things I’m interested in. The first one I tend to tackle is the next “Noob’s Guide to the Left” entry, where I plan to compare and contrast Stalinism and Trotskyism to better understand their place in both Russian and communist history. I’m also still interested in examining myths surrounding the 2020 election and the Capitol insurrection (as well as “ancient aliens” myths), and I’ve also got some new ideas for “P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist.”
As for the desire to talk more about animation, I still haven’t decided how to tackle that subject on this blog. I do have some ideas, but I think I’d prefer to sleep on them a bit more before I fully commit to them. I also want to expand upon some spiritual traditions I mentioned in the post I wrote a while back about my religious beliefs, particularly ones involved in Western esotericism, as that is one of the special interests that my autistic brain is focused on at the moment and also because of the significant influence they have on The Divine Conspiracy.
Speaking of which, that is another significant change that will occur on this blog. You see, with all of the nonfiction writing I’ve been doing on PrestonPosits, I’ve found I have very little time for my fiction writing endeavors on DeviantArt, including The Divine Conspiracy. I won’t deny that my insecurities as a writer have played a part in that as well. However, I figured it was time to commit to the project much more concretely. And so I’ve decided that from now on, I’ve decided that I will be devoting every other writing day solely to DeviantArt.
This is undoubtedly going to affect my upload rate on PrestonPosits. My upload rate is already slow because I’m working three out of every seven days of the week, and I never have the energy to write after I get home every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On the other hand, I often go months without uploading on DeviantArt, which I imagine must be immensely annoying for my watchers on that site. Unfortunately, this is the best compromise I can come up with at the moment. This means that I’ll be working on the next Divine Conspiracy story this Thursday, then PrestonPosits on Saturday, Divine Conspiracy on Sunday, then PrestonPosits next Tuesday, and so on.
This likely means that I won’t be doing a large birthday retrospective this May like the one I did last year on Watership Down. I do have an idea for a smaller retrospective on a T.V. series that adapted a certain book series I’m a huge fan of (rather poorly, in my opinion), but I’d prefer to keep that a secret for now.
My biggest focus for the near future is seeing what happens when the Banks family decides to go toe-to-toe with the supernatural forces of the Bridgewater Triangle. Makes sure to tune in to my DeviantArt account to see how that turns out! I hope you’ll see me there, friends!
For the final entry in my world tour of famous paranormal triangles, let us examine one man’s attempt to present a grand unifying theory of anomalous triangles. The man in question is the equal parts renowned and reviled Scottish-born biologist Ivan Terence Sanderson.
Sanderson is probably best remembered today for helping to found the pseudoscience/subculture of cryptozoology alongside Belgian-French zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans. But he didn’t just content himself with the search for folkloric beasts. As the legend of the Bermuda Triangle gained popularity in the 1960s, Sanderson threw his hat in the ring with an apparent discovery he made in 1968. He claimed that the Bermuda Triangle was but one of twelve such regions on Earth where reports of unexplained phenomena and electromagnetic distortions were higher than usual. Five each rested along the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, while the other two rested at the North and South Pole. Sanderson believed that these vortices were shaped like icosahedrons and that the electromagnetic anomalies were caused by cold air and sea currents.
A trio of Soviet scientists (Nikolai Goncharov, Vyacheslav Morochov, and Valerey Makarov) expanded on Sanderson’s ideas in a 1973 article titled “Is the Earth a Large Crystal?” In it, they claim that they had discovered that twelve pentagonal plates of cosmic energy cover our planet and that electromagnetic abnormalities occur at the junctions of these plates (62 in all). They additionally claimed that these plates ran parallel with natural phenomena like seismic fracture zones, ocean ridges, animal migratory routes, and even the locations of ancient civilizations (especially those that constructed megaliths). Perhaps Ancient Aliens alumnus David Arthur Childress puts it best:
…we are speaking about an intelligent geometric pattern into which, theoretically, the Earth and its energies are organized- and possibly in which the ubiquitous megalithic sites are also positioned.
David Hatcher Childress. “Mapping The World Grid.” Bibliotecapleyades unknown . 28 Apr 2008
Of course, the evidence for this phenomenon being a reality is entirely dependent on the vortices actually being paranormal hotspots. I’ve already covered the Bermuda Triangle and the Devil’s Triangle in previous articles and found the evidence decidedly lacking. So let us examine the remaining Vile Vortices and see what mysteries lie within.
The South Atlantic Anomaly
The SAA, located off Brazil’s southeast coast, is interesting because it is an actual scientific phenomenon that NASA has documented. This is because the vortex is located in the region where the Earth’s inner Van Allen radiation belt comes closest to its surface (120 miles to be exact), thus allowing cosmic rays and solar radiation to reach farther into the atmosphere. This thinning often exposes satellites to higher-than-usual radiation levels due to trapped protons, causing technical problems in spacecraft like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station and sometimes even destroying the craft (as with the Japanese X-ray observatory Hitomi in March of 2016).
While the reasons why spacecraft malfunction over the SAA are fully scientifically understood, that still hasn’t stopped paranormal researchers from connecting it to the Bermuda Triangle, thanks to reports that aircraft often experience electronic and navigational malfunctions while flying in the region. The story of the sailboat Tunante II doesn’t help in that regard.
According to the Argentine news website Infobae, the sailboat set out from Buenos Aires on August 22nd, 2014, carrying four passengers on a pleasure cruise to Rio de Janeiro. Four days later, the boat’s owner, Horacio Robert Morales, sent out a distress signal stating that a storm had damaged the vessel’s rudder, mast, and engine. While a Norwegian cargo ship sent to assist the Tunante lost sight of it the next morning at 4 a.m., records from the company that owned the satellite phones onboard indicated that the vessel had survived the storm. But, despite a search covering over 40,000 square miles, no trace of it was found other than an empty life raft.
Some paranormal researchers have seized upon the timeline of events and the Argentine government’s seeming reluctance to carry on the search to suggest that they may be covering up something. However, relatives of the Tunante’s passengers have not ruled out the possibility that the sailboat might have run across pirates that may have hijacked the vessel and its occupants and spirited them away to who knows where.
The Algerian Megaliths
So talking about this vortex is kind of tricky, mostly because I can’t seem to figure out which megaliths the vortices proponents are talking about. The most commonly cited location associated with the supposed vortex is Djebel Mazala Salluste, located outside the city of Constantine in the northeast corner of Algeria. Oddly enough, though, many sources cite it as being south of Timbuktu, which would place it in Mali, while another lists its coordinates as 26.6 North, 4.8 West, which would put it in the central region of the country.
In any case, some have connected a spate of plane crashes in the western Sahara region with the vortex at Djebel. For instance, Air Algerie Flight 5017 was carrying 116 passengers and crew from Burkina Faso to Algiers on July 24th, 2014, when it crashed due to ice accretion in the engines, which caused the plane to stall. At least one source, Ranker.com, implicitly connected the crash to the vortex at Djebel, even though the aircraft came down near the southern border of Mali. Ivan T. Sanderson apparently became interested in the site after hearing reports of two submarines and four smaller boats that vanished off Algeria’s coast. I haven’t been able to determine which of these he was referring to, although I’ve come across two submarines, the HMS Urge and Minerve, which disappeared in the western Mediterranean in 1942 and 1968, respectively. However, both wrecks have since been located (near Malta and France, respectively), so there’s not much of a mystery there.
The Zimbabwe Megaliths
This time the center of the vortex is more concrete, resting around the medieval African city that gave Zimbabwe its name. Constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries CE, it was the capital of a great kingdom back in the late Iron Age, although which kingdom is something that modern archaeologists have yet to figure out. First discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1531, Europeans didn’t properly investigate it until 1871.
Of course, because this was the colonial period we’re talking about, the British rulers of the country then known as Rhodesia often bent over backward trying to deny the indigenous Shona people their rightful credit for constructing the city. Because, of course, these backward tribesmen couldn’t possibly be smart enough to build a structure this sophisticated. They need us to bring them into the modern era so they can become smart enough to build structures that sophisticated.
Of course, this begs the obvious question: If the Shona didn’t build Zimbabwe, who did? You probably already know where this is going.
While not as famous as the Great Pyramids of Giza and Meroe in that regard, Great Zimbabwe has on occasion been caught up in the “ancient astronauts” hysteria that really blew up in popularity when the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens started airing in 2009. It doesn’t matter that archaeologists have demonstrated numerous times that ancient peoples had the tools and the resources to construct these sites. In many ways, the ancient astronaut theories have continued the racism that turned the Global South into what it is today.
As for Bermuda Triangle-like activity around Great Zimbabwe, I haven’t been able to find much. Some have mentioned planes vanishing in the region, although those same sources describe those disappearances occurring over the Sahara Desert, which is on the complete opposite side of the continent.
Speaking of ancient aliens, Pakistan’s Mohenjo-Daro is another site that has often been connected with alien builders as well as vile vortices. Ivan Sanderson claimed to have received a letter from a woman who said that planes carrying gold bullion over nearby Afghanistan would go missing, although some of their gold cargo would be left behind, oddly enough.
However, the former area of the Indus Valley Civilization is probably better known among ancient astronaut enthusiasts for the persistent rumors that the area bears scars from an impossibly ancient nuclear war dating as far back as 12,000 years ago. Let’s examine the supposed evidence, shall we?
Many passages of the Hindu holy text the Mahabarata describe scenes that sound uncomfortably similar to modern descriptions of nuclear warfare. “A single projectile charged with all the power of the universe… An incandescent column of smoke and flame, as bright as 10,000 suns, rose in all its splendor… It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messanger of death which reduced to ashes an entire race.”
Mohenjo-Daro itself, along with its sister city Harappa, allegedly are the sites of mass graves, with skeletons scattered across the streets “as if some instant, horrible doom had taken place,” in the words of Kisari Mohan Ganguli, who wrote the first complete English translation of the Mahabarata. “People were just lying, unburied, in the streets of the city.” Some of the skeltons also showed radiation levels 50 times greater than normal, comaprable to modern victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The city of Jodhpur, resting in the Thar Desert in northwestern India, is allegedly so radioactive that cancer deaths and birth defects are extremely common, to the point that the government has quarantined the area. In addition, an archaeologist named Francis Taylor claimed to have discovered an ancient city nearby, which shows signs of a nuclear blast that killed as many as half a million people.
Finally, there is the Lonar crater, located under a lake around 300 miles east of Mumbai. The crater is about 3900 feet in diameter and is definitly not volcanic in origin. Maybe it could be the result of a nuclear explosion, then?
However, episode 541 of Brian Dunning’s Skeptoid podcast pretty much put paid to all of these ideas:
He logged onto a searchable online copy of the Mahabarata and found nothing even remotely similar to the passage quoted above.
He similarly found no mention of mass graves in the abundance of archaeological literature available on Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, or any of the other excavated sites in the Indus Valley region.
Jodhpur having radiation levels that high from a nuclear conflict that occured 8-12,000 years ago makes no sense. Even the strongest nuclear isotopes, like cesium-137 and strontium-90, only have half-lives of 30 years at most. Even Hiroshima and Nagasaki are clean of radiation just three quarters of a century after the infamous bomb drops. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence that Francis Taylor’s city of half a million people ever existed.
The quotes attributed to Ganguli make no sense, as he lived in the 1880s-90s, long before nuclear weapons were even concieved of.
Indeed, it seems as if everything involving nuclear weapons in ancient India and Pakistan was invented out of whole cloth, most likely by Erich von Daniken in his infamous 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? However, I prefer to save those comments for a list of ancient astronaut theories that I will almost certainly be making sometime in the future. In the meantime, let’s move on to…
The Wharton Basin
The Wharton Basin is a region of the ocean floor located between Western Australia and Java. The area has not been mapped since the 1960s, despite being on the boundary of the Indian and Australian tectonic plates, thus making it a very active seismic zone. Indeed, the basin ended up on many a geologist’s radar after it was struck by two massive earthquakes on April 11th, 2012, measuring a magnitude of 8.6 and 8.2, respectively. While they occurred too deep underwater to trigger tsunamis (unlike the infamous 9.2 magnitude quake that triggered the deadly Boxing Day tsunami of 2004), geologists are concerned that the quakes may have further destabilized the fault lines that they lie upon.
As for supposed Bermuda Triangle-type activity, there isn’t much to report, probably because the shipping lanes in the region are a bit more lightly traveled than the ones in the Bermuda Triangle. However, one major mystery is connected with the area: the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8th, 2004, carrying 239 passengers and crew bound for Beijing. Air traffic control lost communications with the aircraft around 38 minutes after takeoff. However, they could still track on radar until it suddenly vanished about 200 nautical miles northwest of Penang Island. Search efforts naturally focused on the South China and Andaman Seas until analysis of satellite communications showed that the plane had last been detected over the Indian Ocean at a point about 1500 miles west of Perth, Australia. There are numerous guesses for how the aircraft got there, ranging from hijacking to being shot down to outlandish theories involving black holes and alien abduction. However, there is probably nothing to connect it directly with the supposed Wharton Basin vortex.
The Hebrides Trench
This vortex rests in the Pacific Ocean and centers on the Loyalty Islands on the eastern edge of the Coral Sea. The trench, marking the area where the Australian tectonic plate is being subducted under the New Hebrides plate, is around 4.7 miles deep. It is known for its unique wildlife (cusk-eels, prawns, and other crustaceans) and its frequent earthquakes. The most recent occurred in February 2021 and measured 7.7 on the moment magnitude scale. And that’s the weakest of the many earthquakes listed on the trench’s Wikipedia page!
As for supernatural phenomena, one book published by TIME-LIFE called Mysteries of the Unknown describes strange currents and “ocean vortices of water.” I’m tempted to believe they may be describing maelstroms here, but I’m not entirely sure.
Perhaps the biggest mystery associated with the region is Sandy Island. This phantom island, which supposedly rested east of New Caledonia, has been described as early as 1774 by Captain James Cook. It was first formally recognized in 1876 after being “discovered” by a whaling ship named Velocity. The island, which was roughly the size of Washington D.C., continued to appear on maps as late as 1982, even though cartographers quickly began to doubt its existence. It was finally disproven in November 2012, when the Australian research vessel RV Southern Surveyor surveyed the seafloor and found that no island had ever existed there.
Of course, some quickly jumped to supernatural conclusions when they heard about a whole island disappearing. However, most researchers today believe the Velocity actually encountered a massive raft of pumice that an underwater volcano had expelled.
The Hamakulia Volcano
Speaking of underwater volcanoes, this one, located northeast of Hawaii’s Big Island, is allegedly the site of plane and ship disappearances. There have also been reports of strange lights around the crater as well as “piezomagnetic effects” that magnetize rocks and cause them to throw navigational equipment out of whack.
This might sound like something out of The X-Files, but scientists actually understand very well what is going on here. For instance, the blog Cryptoville points out that volcanoes often produce lightning due to static electricity buildup in the ash cloud, a phenomenon that has been widely photographed. Piezomagnetic effects are nothing mysterious either; they are simply another effect produced by natural electric energies during a volcanic eruption, such as the friction of magma flowing underground.
With all this in mind, it’s probably no wonder that ships and planes are sometimes lost in this region. It’s far from inconceivable that the magnetization of the rocks could mess with a sailing vessel or aircraft’s electronic hardware, so there’s probably no Bermuda Triangle type portal to worry about.
This South Pacific island (known to its indigenous inhabitants as Rapa Nui) forms the easternmost vertex of the Polynesian Triangle, the other two being New Zealand and Hawaii. Its biggest claim to fame is undoubtedly its over 900 moai, which is the name given to the monolithic humanlike statues that dot its landscape. Carved out of compressed volcanic ash at the quarry Rano Raraku, the natives carried them to all parts of the island between 1250 and 1500. They are commonly agreed to be the representations of deified ancestors, set around the island as protectors.
Sadly, they could not protect the Rapa Nui people from the cruel hammer of colonialism when Europeans first arrived in 1722, bringing disease and slave raiders. While it has been long believed that the Rapa Nui society was already in decline due to deforestation caused by the construction of the moai, a growing number of experts believe the colonizers exaggerated such reports to absolve themselves of blame (because of course they would!). By 1877, the island’s native population had been reduced from as much as 3,000 to just 111. Thankfully, the population has increased to 7,750 as of 2017, with most still living on Rapa Nui in the village of Hanga Roa.
Of course, along with colonialism came the arguments that the Rapa Nui peoples couldn’t have possibly created the Easter Island moai. There had to be someone else. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the moai have shown up frequently in ancient aliens lore. Not helping with such rumors is the idea often spread that many of the statues (some of which are as much as 33 feet tall) have the entire rest of the body buried underground, which is demonstrably untrue.
However, famed Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, upon hearing the common Rapa Nui explanation that the statues literally “walked” to their present positions, conducted an experiment in 1997 alongside Polish engineer Pavel Pavel. A team of 16 people tied a rope around a moai replica’s head and base and rocked it back and forth, causing it to literally rock forward.
Heyerdahl’s experiment sadly had to be cut short due to damage inflicted on the statue in the process. However, a much more successful version of this experiment was performed in 2012 by American archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo. They used teams of three people to rock a ten-foot-tall moai replica with ropes tied around its head about 330 feet. You can view the results in this Youtube video on National Geographic’s official channel, as well as on the November 7th, 2012 episode of PBS’ Nova, titled “Mystery of Easter Island.”
The North Pole
The northernmost part of the globe has been well known for causing wonky behavior in compasses. Indeed, the Magnetic North Pole is where all compasses point to, to that’s to be expected. However, the Arctic is no stranger to mysterious disappearances, perhaps the most notable being the Captain Sir John Franklin expedition in 1845.
Captain Franklin’s expedition, consisting of the combined 129 man crew of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, set out from Greenhithe, England, on May 19th of that year. European whalers last encountered it in Baffin Bay in July. Subsequent archaeological investigations, writings by the crew, and interviews with local Inuit peoples have since demonstrated that the missing expedition became trapped in ice off Prince William Island in September 1846 and, after losing two dozen men (including Franklin), the crew abandoned both ships and set out for the Canadian mainland in April 1848. All eventually perished due to a combination of hypothermia, starvation, lead poisoning, zinc deficiency, and exposure to the harsh polar climate. Indeed, many crew members resorted to cannibalism to no avail.
Indeed, even though that cause of the expedition’s demise is well understood by this point (and both ship’s wrecks have since been located), that hasn’t stopped some from speculating about supernatural foul play. Most notably, the 2007 novel The Terror by Dan Simmons (subsequently adapted as a TV series by AMC in 2018) depicts the expedition being stalked by a demonic beast from Inuit mythology on top of trying to stay alive in the harsh Arctic climate.
The South Pole
The South Pole is also involved in a tale of a doomed expedition. In 1911, the race was on to be the first people to reach the South Pole. The two teams were led by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and British Royal Navy officer Robert Falcon Scott. Amundsen’s team became the first humans to ever set foot on the South Pole on December 14th, 1911. Scott’s team reached the pole a little over a month later, on January 17th, 1912.
While Amundsen’s team managed to reach their base fully intact, Scott’s crew struggled through blizzards and frostbite, having failed to reunite with the dog teams that were supposed to resupply them. They all succumbed to the elements over the next two months, with Scott himself being the last to perish, probably around March 29th. While they failed in their goal of being the first to reach the pole, they did make one significant discovery. Among their corpses, the search parties found 35 pounds of Glossopteris tree fossils from the Permian period (299-252 million years ago), which, along with being the first fossils ever found on Antarctica, proved that the continent had once been in warmer climates and connected to the other continents.
But some believe that Antarctica holds more secrets. For example, notice the strange shape of this mountain:
This is one of three mountains in the Ellsworth Range, located at the base of the peninsula that juts out below South America, that many say look suspiciously like pyramids. Some, like the new-age website “Earth. We Are One,” have even gone as far as to argue that the pyramids were built by an ancient civilization over 100 million years ago, apparently misinterpreting a study by the Royal Society that showed that Antarctica was lush with vegetation during the Middle Cretaceous. They also incorrectly argue that Antarctica was located at the equator 100 million years ago (it wasn’t; global temperatures were just warmer back then).
In reality, the pyramidal shape of these mountains is the result of glaciers smoothing out their topographies. Indeed, scientists have noted that the mountains are four thousand feet high, which would make them ten times larger than the Pyramids of Giza. That would be a tall order for any advanced civilization, whether they came from space or not. Indeed, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between theories like this and H.P. Lovecraft’s novella At the Mountains of Madness, which, incidentally, may have inspired the 1960 French conspiracy tome The Morning of the Magicians, which in turn was heavily plagiarized by Erich von Daniken in Chariot of the Gods? Interesting.
Also, there’s this conspiracy theory about the disputed territory of New Swabia, which has been rumored to have served as a base for the Nazi Party ever since their defeat in 1945, but that’s a little too ridiculous to get into here, so let’s just wrap this up.
And finally, my world tour of paranormal triangles has come to an end. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Remember to tune in for new updates later this week, as there will be some significant changes to how this blog works in the future. So keep your eyes peeled, and maybe keep your eyes peeled for anything strange if you ever find yourself traveling through one of these triangles. I know I’ve shown a lot of evidence to suggest that there’s nothing supernatural going on in these places, but you never know…
The idea that the Bermuda Triangle is an inherently more dangerous and mysterious part of the sea seems to have started in the wake of the Flight 19 incident in 1945, especially after this article that appeared in the September 17th, 1950 edition of the Miami Herald. The term “Bermuda Triangle” was coined in February of 1964 by Vincent Gaddis in an article he wrote for the pulp magazine Argosy. But it wasn’t until Charles Berlitz wrote the book The Bermuda Triangle in 1974 that the public at large learned just how deadly this stretch of the Atlantic really was.
Or maybe not, as librarian Larry Kusche demonstrated in his book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery-Solved, published the following year. He found that Berlitz and several other authors had either exaggerated or omitted details, making some incidents sound more mysterious than they actually were or even invented some incidents out of whole cloth (like a plane that allegedly crashed off Daytona Beach in 1937 that Kusche could find no newspaper records of).
One particularly egregious error that Kusche found was Berlitz writing about an ore carrier that allegedly vanished three days from an Atlantic port. Kusche found the ship had actually departed from a port of the same name on the Pacific coast! Kusche deadpanned that Berlitz’s research was so sloppy that “If Berlitz were to report that a boat were red, the chance of it being some other color is almost a certainty.”
Indeed, the findings of the Coast Guard, Lloyd’s of London, and NOAA seem to back up Kusche’s conclusions that the so-called Bermuda Triangle is in reality no more dangerous than any other part of the ocean. So what is the truth behind some of the more infamous vanishings? Let us examine ten such incidents to determine the real stories behind them, starting with:
1. The Ellen Austin (1881)
The story behind this particular derelict ship begins on the outskirts of the Sargasso Sea when the crew of the 1800-ton schooner comes across an unknown and completely abandoned vessel on a voyage from London to New York.Part of the Ellen Austin crew boards the ship and confirms that not only are there no souls aboard, but they cannot find any sign as to why the crew may have abandoned ship. Everything, including the mystery ship’s cargo of mahogany, is in order, except for the captain’s log and the ship’s nameplate, which are missing.
The captain of the Ellen Austin orders the salvage crew to steer the mystery ship to New York. Two days later, the ships are separated in a storm, and when the Ellen Austin finally catches up with the other ship, the salvage crew has also gone missing.
The tale appears to have entered the popular imagination after it was retold by Rupert Gould, a retired Royal Navy commander, in his 1944 book The Stargazing Talks. There are other variations of the story. One tells of the Ellen Austin captain trying to send a second salvage crew over, only to abandon the mystery ship when the terrified crew refuses to board it. Another tells that the Ellen Austin never saw the mystery ship again after being separated by the storm. But which is the correct version of the tale?
If Larry Kusche is correct, none of them are because he could find no concrete evidence that the incident happened at all. There was a schooner named Ellen Austin operating in the North Atlantic at the time (built in 1854), although it was named Meta until 1880. Kusche could not find any casualty reports from around the time that suggested anything unusual happening to the ship’s crew between leaving London on December 5th, 1880, and arriving at New York City on February 11th, 1881. Furthermore, the ship made a stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland, which would have taken her far away from the Sargasso Sea.
Of course, Kusche’s search for the truth was complicated by the fact that Gould never gave a source for where he originally heard the story. However, an investigation by the website Sometimes Interesting found that the earliest mention of the incident came from a 1906 newspaper article from the Daily Deadwood Pioneer Times, which gave the year of the incident as 1891. That webpage offers a very detailed history of the Ellen Austin that I highly recommend you read for yourself (including an 1857 incident where the captain beat a crew member with wire rope and set his dogs on him).
Ultimately, neither they nor Kusche could find any concrete evidence that the Ellen Austin encounter really did happen. It could simply be a mixup of the records that prevents us from getting the real story, but until we get better confirmation, perhaps it’s best just to regard this as a nautical tall tale.
2. USS Cyclops (March 1918)
This nearly 20,000 ton US Navy collier sailed into history after departing from Barbados on March 4th, 1918, en route to Baltimore, Maryland, with 306 crew and passengers on board. When the ship failed to arrive on schedule on March 13th, a massive search was launched, which was unable to find any wreckage.
Some more fantastically minded Triangle enthusiasts might point to UFOs or Atlantis or the Kraken or interdimensional portals to explain the vessel’s disappearance, but there are plenty of more logical explanations:
The ship’s captain, George W. Worley, had a bad reputation. He was a violent drunkard who would verbally abuse crew members over minor infractions and even chased the ensign with a loaded pistol at one point. He was also reviled for his pro-German sympathies, and subsequent investigations even found that he was born in Germany. This has led some to speculate that Worley may have spirited the Cyclops away to Germany to help with their war effort. It certainly doesn’t help that one of the ship’s passengers, Alfred Louis Moreau Gottschalk (consul-general in Rio De Janeiro), also held pro-German sympathies. However, there are no records on Germany that the ship ever came to Germany, and there is no concrete evidence that the ship may have run across a U-boat or mine during its voyage either.
The crew of the molasses tanker Amolco claimed to have spotted the Cyclops near Virginia on March 9th, the day before a massive storm swept the area, which could have claimed the vessel. However, this makes no sense, as that means the Cylcops would have safely reached port the next day, three days ahead of schedule. This isn’t to say the ship couldn’t concievably encountered a storm en route to Baltimore, but the March 10th storm almost certainly wasn’t it.
The most likely theory is that the highly corrosive manganese ore that the Cyclops was carrying may have corroded the I-beams running along the length of the ship, eventually causing it to break in half in the middle of the ocean. BBC journalist Tom Mangold also proposed in a 2009 documentary that that ore could have become wet due to the cargo hatch covers being canvas, which could have caused the cargo to shift and cause the ship to list, which could have led to its foundering in bad weather.
The Cyclops’ sister ships, the Proteus and the Nereus, would also vanish while traveling the same route in November and December of 1941, respectively. The last, the Jupiter, later became the USS Langely, the US Navy’s very first aircraft carrier, which was scuttled off the southern coast of Java on February 27th, 1942, after sustaining heavy damage from Japanese bombers.
3. SS Cotopaxi (December 1, 1925)
You may remember this ship for its appearance in Stephen Spielberg’s classic 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in which the long-lost bulk carrier is found sitting intact and abandoned in the middle of the Gobi Desert. The ship’s mysterious vanishing after departing from Charleston, South Carolina, on November 29th, 1925, with a cargo of coal bound for Havana, led many to connect the ship’s disappearance and her 32 crew members with the Bermuda Triangle.
However, we know this isn’t true for two reasons. The first is that the Cotopaxi sent out a distress signal on December 1st, reporting that the ship was caught in a tropical storm and was listing and taking on water. Many experts suspect that the ship’s wooden cargo hatches may have been damaged, thus allowing water to flood in. Several family members of the Cotopaxi’s crew even sued the ship’s owners when a carpenter revealed that the company had ordered the ship to depart for Havana before he could finish repairing the dilapidated hatch covers.
The second reason is that the ship’s wreck has since been found. No, I’m not talking about that news story from 2015 about the Cuban Coast Guard finding the ship abandoned floating somewhere west of Havana. That was from a satirical newspaper called the World News Daily Report and has been debunked by Snopes.
The actual wreck of the Cotopaxi was found forty miles east of St. Augustine, Florida, sometime in the 1980s. However, it wasn’t positively identified as the Cotopaxi until January of 2020, after about fifteen years of work by marine biologist Michael Barnette. The ship’s wreck was later the subject of the series premiere of Shipwreck Secrets on the Science Channel the following month.
4. Flight 19 (December 5, 1945)
By far the most infamous Triangle vanishing was the day five Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers flew off into history, taking their 14 crew members with them and helping to cement the Bermuda Triangle’s place in the popular imagination. What was the squadron’s vanishing really as mysterious as its reputation claims it is? Let us examine the timeline of events on that day and find out.
The squadron took off from the Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at 2:10 p.m. with Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor in command. The squadron was set to perform an exercise called “Navigation Problem No. 1,” which involved a practice bombing run on the Hens and Chickens Shoals in the Bahamas. They were the 19th squadron scheduled to complete the three-hour run that day.
The squadron completed the bombing run around 3:00 and continued flying due east for another 77 miles as instructed, intending to turn north over Grand Bahama Island and then return west for home. However, this is when the trouble started, as Taylor suddenly sent a distress signal around 3:30, stating, “I don’t know where we are. We must have gotten lost at the last turn.”
This transmission was overheard by Lieutenant Robert Cox, who was just then preparing to leave Fort Lauderdale with his own squadron of bombers. When Cox asked Taylor to clarify what was going on, he got this baffling answer:
Both of my compasses are out and I am trying to find Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am over land but it’s broken. I am sure I’m in the Keys, but I don’t know how far down, and I don’t know how to get to Fort Lauderdale.
Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor, December 5th, 1945
Even if we acknowledge that Taylor was almost certainly mistaking the northern half of Abaco Island for the Florida Keys, it is still a baffling error. How did Taylor think the planes could have gone that far off course? Here’s a map of the region to show you what I mean.
True, Flight 19 was experiencing compass problems, but it’s hard to believe that that could have brought the plane that far off course. In any case, Taylor decided that flying northeast would bring them back over land, which should have taken only twenty minutes.
Lt. Cox offered to come and find Flight 19, but Taylor turned him down, sure he knew where he was. When that didn’t work, one of Taylor’s students suggested flying west, arguing that any Fort Lauderdale plane worth its salt would follow the setting sun. Even as late as 5:00, Taylor was still convinced beyond all reason that he was over the Gulf of Mexico and could be heard saying, “Change course to 90 degrees [due east relative to Fort Lauderdale] for 10 minutes.” To which a frustrated trainee responded: “Damn it, if we could just fly west, we would get home! Head west, damn it!” By this time, the Flight had drifted into an oncoming storm.
Around 5:50, several radio stations had managed to triangulate Flight 19’s position as being within 100 nautical miles of 29 degrees north, 79 degrees west, which enabled the Navy to start planning a rescue mission. This was hampered somewhat by Taylor’s refusal to switch to his radio’s search and rescue frequency.
By around 5:24, Taylor seemed to have finally realized his error and ordered the planes to head west, only to change his mind around 6:04 and tell his trainees, “We didn’t fly far enough east. We may as well turn around and fly east again.” The last message ever received from Flight 19 came at around 6:20:
All planes close up tight… We’ll have to ditch unless landfall…When the first plane drops below ten gallons, we all go down together.
Charles Taylor, December 5th, 1945
The plot thickened further after 7:00 when three flying boat aircraft set out to search for the missing bombers. One of them, a Martin PBM Mariner, which had taken off from the Banana River Navy Air Station with 13 crew members at 7:27, vanished after sending a routine radio call three minutes afterward.
With the complete timeline laid out, it’s self-evident what really happened to Flight 19; they got lost and eventually ran out of fuel. Indeed, Charles Taylor, while an experienced pilot, was not exactly competent. He had gotten lost twice while fighting in the Pacific theatre of World War II and had to ditch his planes both times. Even on the day of Flight 19’s mission, he had shown up 25 minutes late and asked for someone to take his place. His reasons are unknown. I’ve read some sources suggesting he had a hangover, but I haven’t been able to confirm it. If that wasn’t bad enough, Taylor didn’t even bring essential navigational equipment like a watch or a plotting board with him. Indeed, the only reason the Navy didn’t ultimately pin all the blame on Taylor was because his mother begged them not to ruin her son’s reputation.
As for the PBM Mariner, that design had an unfortunate history of gas leaking out from fully loaded fuel tanks, often setting off catastrophic explosions. Indeed, the crew of the tanker SS Gaines Mills witnessed a mid-air explosion at around 9:12 a few miles off Cape Canaveral and later found an oil slick in the water around where the blast took place. The escort carrier USS Solomon had been tracking the Mariner on radar and had lost the flying boat in that exact position.
5. Star Tiger and Star Ariel (January 30, 1948; January 17, 1949)
Both of these incidents involved Avro Tudor Mark IVB passenger planes belonging to British South American Airways, and both vanished while covering roughly the same route.
The Star Tiger initially set out from Lisbon, Portugal, on January 28th and stopped in Saint Maria in the Azores to refuel. However, the airliner departed sooner than expected as pilot Brian W. MacMillan wanted to get ahead of a storm that was set to drift across their route. The plane took off at 3:34 p.m. with 25 passengers and crew (including distinguished World War II veteran Sir Arthur Coningham) on the 29th.
The Star Tiger flew at a shallow 2,000-foot altitude to avoid the worst of the headwind. At 3:15 a.m. the next morning, the plane radioed its position to its destination on Bermuda and estimated its arrival time as 5 a.m. It was the last that was ever heard from the Star Tiger. After attempting to contact the aircraft three more times and receiving no response by 4:40, the radio operator on Bermuda declared a state of emergency. The rough weather hampered the search, and it was called off after only five days.
While subsequent investigations of the Star Tiger’s loss have been unable to determine the exact cause of the plane’s loss (especially with the absence of any wreckage), they have determined that the aircraft had more than enough fuel to reach Bermuda. They have also ruled out engine or structural failure, as the plane was designed to run on as little as two engines, and the craft was flying at a low enough altitude that cabin pressure shouldn’t have been a problem.
The most likely possibility was that, given that the crew kept reporting that they were flying at 20,000 feet instead of 2,000 feet, they may have forgotten their actual altitude and may have accidentally flown the plane straight into the ocean, likely due to fatigue after a long flight.
The Star Ariel departed from Kindley Field in Bermuda at 8:41 a.m. on January 17th the following year with 20 passengers and crew en route for Kingston, Jamaica. Unlike the Star Tiger, the Star Ariel flew in excellent weather. The plane sent two radio messages at 9:32 and 9:42, reporting that it was flying 150 miles south of Kindley Field at 18,000 feet and would reach Kingston at 2:10. It was never heard from again. Despite a six-day search covering a million square miles, no trace of the plane was found.
Subsequent investigations found that the Star Ariel had switched to Kingston’s frequency at 9:37, which was unusual given that the plane was still so close to Bermuda at the time. This may have combined with problems with radio communication, including ten-minute blackouts, which may have led Kingston radio to miss any distress calls the plane may have made. Guesses as to what may have brought the Star Ariel down are scarce, again given that no wreckage was found. In the same 2009 documentary mentioned in the Cyclops entry, Tom Mangold suggested that faulty heaters may have brought down both planes. The Star Tiger flew at such a low altitude because its heater was broken, thus leaving it little room to maneuver in case of emergencies. Meanwhile, the Star Ariel could have suffered from a mid-air explosion due to hydraulic vapors being exposed to the heater.
In any case, the Tudor Avro was retired from passenger service and switched to freighter service instead. A subsequent attempt to return two Avros to passenger service ended when the Star Girl was involved in the Llandow air disaster of March 12th, 1950, when the plane stalled due to overloading upon approach to RAF Llandow in southern Wales. Of the 83 passengers and crew on board, only three survived, making it the deadliest air disaster in history at the time.
6. Douglas DC-3 NC16002 (December 28, 1948)
The Douglas DC-3 has long had a reputation as being one of the most reliable aircraft ever designed and built, with hundreds remaining in use to this day, mainly as cargo planes. Even so, a fair share of DC-3s have met with unfortunate ends, including the one registered as NC16002.
That airliner had arrived at San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 7:40 p.m. Pilot Robert Linquist noted that the landing gear warning light was not working and that the batteries were low on charge. Linquist did not want to delay the return trip to Miami, Florida, and decided to use the plane’s generator to charge the batteries mid-flight.
The plane took off at 10:03 with 32 passengers and crew, despite the way that the drained batteries were interfering with the plane’s radio transmitter. Even so, the craft was able to complete routine radio transmissions until 4:13 in the morning, when it reported that it was about 50 miles south of Miami. It was never heard from afterward.
Oddly enough, despite being allegedly that close to Miami, the DC-3’s last message was not received by Miami air traffic control. It was instead heard in New Orleans, about 600 miles away. Given that both cities had tried to warn the plane that the wind had shifted from northwest to northeast (although it is unknown whether the flight crew received that message), it is likely that the wind blew the aircraft off course. This would have been a big problem, given that the plane only had enough fuel for another hour and twenty minutes of flight time.
Even so, it seems strange that the plane should have vanished so thoroughly even with the Gulf Stream dispersing debris, given that the area in which it disappeared contains relatively shallow water. In his 2007 book The Bermuda Triangle, David West reported a story about a diver named Dr. Greg Little, who claims to have discovered a DC-3 wreck about seven miles south of Bimini in the Bahamas that may be consistent with NC16002’s description. However, DC-3s were also widely employed in the drug trade in the Bahamas during the 70s, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.
7. SS Marine Sulpher Queen (February 4, 1963)
The Sulpher Queen was among the 533 T2 oil tankers built during World War II in order to help transport vital oil to the war effort. Originally christened as the SS Esso New Haven in 1944, she was renamed and converted in 1960 to transport molten sulfur in a single tank that spanned 306 feet of its total 524-foot length.
Her final voyage began three years later when she set out from Beaumont, Texas, on February 2nd for Norfolk, Virginia. She carried 15,000 tons of molten sulfur, kept at 275 degrees, along with 39 crew members. Her last known position was a point approximately 350 miles west of Dry Tortugas, according to her last radio message on the 4th. When communications failed over the next two days, a nineteen-day search was called, mainly focusing on the Straits of Florida. While some debris, including life preservers bearing the ship’s name, was located, neither the ship itself nor her crew members have ever been discovered.
Let’s get a few facts straight before we go from zero to aliens here. The T2 tanker class was infamous for being remarkably prone to catastrophic structural failures. They were particularly prone to breaking in two in rough or cold seas, mostly due to their speedy construction, which entailed welding the steel hull plates together instead of attaching them with rivets. Indeed, such structural weaknesses were observed on the Marine Sulpher Queen before she set out on her fateful voyage (one of her crew members even told his wife that the ship was a “floating garbage can”). But her owners, being the greedy capitalists that they were, insisted that the ship set out anyway so that they wouldn’t lose out on profits. Given that sixteen-foot waves were reported in the area around the time of the disappearance, it’s entirely possible that the ship broke in two and rapidly sank like all the other T2 tankers before her.
There is also the possibility that the ship’s highly flammable sulfur cargo may have ignited and blown the ship to pieces. The Sulpher Queen’s tank was remarkably leaky, and fires often started around it. The leaking sulfur would puddle and cake around vital electrical equipment, causing it to short out. While I haven’t found any sources other than the 2005 book Ghost Ships by Angus Konstam to back this up, there have also been reports that a ship out of Honduras reported sailing through a patch of ocean that smelled strongly of sulfur off the west tip of Cuba around four days after the Sulpher Queen vanished.
A much more interesting development occurred in January of 2001. According to an article on texasescapes.com, a group of scuba divers claimed to have found a capsized wreck in the Gulf of Mexico about 140 miles west of Fort Meyers, Florida, that fit the Marine Sulpher Queen’s description in 423 feet of water. Sadly, there does not seem to have been any new developments regarding that wreck since then.
8. The Witchcraft (December 22, 1967)
This mystery revolves around a 23-foot cabin cruiser owned by hotelier Dan Burack. He had invited a close friend, Father Patrick Horgan, on an evening cruise to see the Miami Christmas lights from offshore. They planned to cut the engine near buoy #7, about a mile offshore, and take in the scenery.
The trouble started around 9 p.m. when Burack radioed the Coast Guard to inform them that the cruiser’s propeller had struck a submerged object, and the boat would consequently need to be towed. Burack seemed calm, perhaps because a) he had recently had the Witchcraft’s hull fitted for a flotation device that rendered the cruiser virtually unsinkable, and b) he had flares with which he could signal passing boats should the need arise.
This makes it seem all the more baffling that when a Coast Guard vessel did reach buoy #7 just 19 minutes later, there was no sign of the Witchcraft whatsoever. Not even a subsequent six-day long 24,500 square mile search was able to turn up any sign of the missing vessel.
So what happened? Here are some theories:
A thunderstorm that happened to pass through the area that night swept the cruiser away. The problem is that Burack seems like he could have easily radioed another SOS in that case.
Another possibility is that the fast moving Gulf Stream current carried the Witchcraft away from buoy #7 without Burack or Horgan noticing. This seems somewhat unlikely too, however, not only because of the aformentioned flotation device but also because, again, there was nothing stopping Burack from sending out another distress signal.
By far the most intruiging theory (at least for those who don’t buy into more supernatural explainations), as proposed by the likes of blogger Michelle Merritt and the YouTube channel Bedtime Stories is that Burack and Horgan faked their apparent deaths in order to avoid culpability for a criminal past.
Merritt notes that, at least to one familiar with the geography of the Miami waterfront, Burack’s route makes no sense. The biggest reason is that Burack and Horgan apparently sailed out into the Atlantic to view the Christmas lights, which should have been easier to see from within Biscayne Bay. She also notes that buoy #7 is not a mile offshore, as most reports claim, but only 300 yards from South Pointe Park, where it marks the entrance into Government Cut. Furthermore, given that Burack’s home was located about 2.5 miles north of South Pointe Park, it seems like he was going rather far for such a casual outing. All of this led Merritt to conclude that Burack and Horgan lied about their actual position to the Coast Guard, presumably to lead them on a wild goose chase.
But why? Merritt notes that Miami was in dire financial straits at the time. Several millionaires living in the city had been robbed, with the thieves using the waterfront as a highway to untold riches. Burack had been struggling financially for years, especially after his Galen Hall Hotel burned down under curious circumstances in 1963. After completing a new resort, the Galen Beach, he sold out his interest in the property. With the city doing down the tubes, Burack likely saw that his hotelier career was over, and he and Father Horgan sailed off into history.
Also worth noting is what happened to one of Burack’s neighbors precisely one month after the Witchcraft disappeared. On January 22nd, 1968, Saverio “Sam” Codomo, a real estate developer with Mafia ties, was throwing a party for his recently wed daughter when two masked bandits broke in and tied everyone up. They stole several valuable coins and escaped by boat.
Coincidence? Who knows?
9. SS Sylvia M. Ossa (October 15, 1976)
This T2 tanker was christened as Egg Harbor in 1943, was rebuilt as a bulk carrier in 1963, and had been renamed seven times throughout her years of service. She set out from Rio de Janeiro with a cargo of iron ore bound for Philadelphia and was reported lost alongside all 37 crew members around 140 miles west of Bermuda. If the New York Times is to be believed, the only debris ever recovered was an oil slick, a capsized lifeboat, and a life preserver with scorch marks on it.
Many Triangle enthusiasts are quick to jump on supernatural explanations due to statements from a Coast Guard spokesman that the weather was clear that day, with calm seas and visibility for forty miles. However, the same New York Times article mentioned above also notes that two days before the Ossa was reported missing, she had set out a radio message stating that she had run into gale-force winds and thus would be overdue for her arrival in Philly. The seas may have been much heavier than the crew anticipated, however.
10. SS Poet (October 1980)
This ship started life as the USS General Omar Bundy in August of 1944, serving as a transport ship for the US Navy in the final months of World War II. She remained in military service until 1964, when she entered the private sector and was converted into a cargo ship. She changed names several times and was going by the SS Poet when she sailed on her final voyage.
She departed Philadelphia on October 24th, 1980, carrying 34 crew members and 13,500 tons of yellow corn bound for Port Said, Egypt. The ship radioed its position off Cape Henlopen, Delaware, at 9:00 that evening. When it failed to radio any updates by November 3rd, six days before its scheduled arrival at Port Said, a massive search covering over 750,000 square miles was called. Not a single piece of debris was recovered.
Theories for what happened have included that the ship was hijacked by Iranian terrorists, pirates, or the New Jersey-based Gambino crime family. Another theory is that a storm that rolled across the ship’s route the night after its departure from Philly sank it. Some have even suggested that water might have gotten into the cargo hold and caused the corn to expand to the point that it could have ruptured the hull. While the ship was old and likely had been kept in service long after it should have been retired, it seems rather unlikely that the hull was that flimsy.
Others have suggested that a rogue wave might have capsized the ship. These unpredictable waves, reaching 80-100 foot heights, have been known to spring up during storms to swallow ships whole. Indeed, a possible rogue wave has also been implicated in the disappearance of the Sylvia M. Ossa as well.
Hopefully by now, one can see that the Bermuda Triangle mystery really isn’t a mystery at all. Practically every significant reported disappearance reported in the region has a logical explanation when you really look into it. True, the Triangle region has played host to several UFO reports and even some sea monster sightings. One particularly unusual case involves the crew of the famous submersible Alvin, who allegedly encountered a creature that looked awfully similar to a small plesiosaur in October of 1969 while inspecting undersea cables in the Tongue of the Ocean in the Bahamas. Then again, I learned about that particular incident from another Charles Berlitz book, Without a Trace, so maybe take that one with a grain of salt.
In all, practically every source knowledgeable about the area, from the Coast Guard to NOAA to Lloyd’s of London, has denied that the Bermuda Triangle is any more dangerous than any other part of the ocean, especially considering the heavy air and sea traffic that goes through the region every day. Indeed, when the World Wide Fund for Nature published a study demonstrating the ten most dangerous waters for shipping in 2013, the South China Sea, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean made the cut, but not the Bermuda Triangle. Indeed, when all is said and done, it seems like the Bridgewater Triangle has more to offer the average mystery hunter than the Bermuda Triangle.
And that’s all I have to say about the Bermuda Triangle, but not the rest of the Vile Vortices. Tune in next time for the conclusion of my paranormal triangles world tour where I examine Ivan T. Sanderson’s theory to see if there is anything to his theory of there being twelve Bermuda Triangles! See you soon!
In the time since I wrote my last article debunking common climate change denier myths, I’ve come across several more that I feel need to be addressed. Some I heard from my Dad or other family members and others from documentaries specifically trying to debunk some of these myths. I figured I’d throw my two cents in the ring to maybe help science win out over the short-sighted greed of Big Oil, Big Coal, and the lying politicians that help keep them in business. No need for a grandiose intro; let’s just jump right into it!
1. It’s the volcanoes, stupid!
Over the past 250 years, humans have added just one part of CO2 in 10,000 to the atmosphere. One volcanic cough can do this in a day.
Ian Plimer, “Legislative time bomb,” ABC News Australia, August 13th, 2009
It is undoubtedly true that there is far more carbon stored in the rocks of the Earth’s crust than there is in the atmosphere or the ocean. It is also true that volcanoes expel anywhere from 65 to 319 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.
Here’s the catch, though. Scientists have demonstrated that the amount of CO2 pumped into the air due to the burning of fossil fuels equates to an average of 34 billion tons, about 100 times greater than the volume produced by volcanoes.
Yes, volcanoes do influence climate patterns, but that has far more to do with sulfate aerosols than carbon emissions, and those tend to cause cooling rather than warming as they reflect sunlight.
Speaking of which…
2. Warming is caused by a lack of volcanic activity.
It is true that the early twentieth century was largely bereft of big explosions between the eruption of Novarupta in Alaska in 1912 and the eruption of Mount Agung in Bali in 1963. It is also true that recent eruptions (most notably Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991) caused global temperatures to decrease as much as 0.3 degrees Celsius.
However, scientists have demonstrated that the comparative lack of volcanic activity between 1925 and 1960 cannot account for the warming that has occurred since the 1970s. Indeed, measurements of aerosol optical thickness, or AOD, data since 1979 has shown that only about 0.12 degrees Celsius at most of the 0.5 degrees of surface warming observed during that period can be attributed to volcanic activity.
3. It’s the solar cycles, stupid!
I already discussed solar cycles, specifically the solar magnetic activity cycle, in the previous climate change myths article, in which I debunked the common myth that sunspots have more to do with warming climate than the greenhouse effect. I especially made clear that the gap between Cycle 23 and Cycle 24 displayed above should have meant a global drop in temperature between 2000 and 2008 (albeit with a different graph than this one), which clearly did not happen. However, there are other solar cycles deniers have turned to in trying to prove their “superior knowledge,” including the Milankovich cycle.
Unlike the magnetic activity cycle, which has more to do with varying solar radiation levels, the Milankovich cycle has more to do with eccentricities in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. First hypothesized by Serbian astronomer and geophysicist Milutin Milankovich in the 1920s, this theory has helped planetary climatologists demonstrate how changes in Earth’s orbit can affect planetary climate patterns.
Naturally, climate change deniers have seized on this cycle to try to explain away the recent warming trend. Indeed, I recently remember hearing my Dad explain to Mom about some kind of thousands-year-long cycle (I want to say 30-40,000 years) that the Earth was going into again as yet another reason why there’s nothing to worry about.
However, there’s one big reason why this assumption is way off base, as NASA’s climate blog demonstrates. The changes caused by any of the variables covered by the Milankovich cycle (changes in orbit shape, in Earth axial precession or “wobbling,” and changes in the planet’s tilt) work on geologic time, meaning that they take thousands of years to have any noticeable effects. It is exceedingly evident that the warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution has risen far too fast to be caused by anything other than the burning of fossil fuels.
Furthermore, the planet is currently in an interglacial period, which means that global temperatures should have continued on a 6,000-year downward trend. But the sheer amount of CO2 we’ve been adding to the atmosphere has canceled much of that out. The same NASA article I linked above mentions that natural concentrations of atmospheric CO2 tend to vary between 180 and 280 parts per million (or PPM for short). The current concentration rests at around 417 PPM, the highest levels we’ve seen in 650,000 years. Be afraid, people!
4. Other planets are warming.
This argument has been applied to eight other large bodies orbiting around our Sun. Most of these arguments tend to focus on four in particular: Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto. Deniers argue that if these other planets are warming, it is proof positive that it is solar radiation and not CO2 warming the Earth.
Let us examine each of these planets, in turn, to see if these arguments hold up to scrutiny:
First of all, collecting climate data from Mars is problematic since we know so little about the Red Planet. Still, there are various factors that scientists point out that we should take into account when assessing its climate patterns:
First, the Red Planet’s orbital eccentricities are five times greater than that of Earth’s.
Second, unlike Earth, Mars has no oceans and a very thin atmosphere, making its climate much more suceptible to extraterrestrial influences.
Third, Mars frequently experiences massive dust storms which have an enormous impact on climate patterns.
Finally, we have little to no historical data prior to the 1970s to compare with current observed changes, so we have no way of knowing if these changes are frequent trends or infrequent outliers.
Jupiter has not actually experienced any observed warming. Such warming is predicted based on the idea that several of the gas giant’s famous storms along the equator are merging into one humungous super-storm, which is projected to cause warming around the planet’s equator and cooling at its poles.
The argument that Neptune is warming is based on an observed increase in the planet’s luminosity around 2007 and that of its largest moon, Triton. However, this was a case of seasonal change: Neptune takes around 165 years, which means that it only completed its first orbit since it was discovered in 1846 in 2011. What scientists observed was summer coming to Neptune’s southern hemisphere.
As for Pluto, determining its climate patterns is even more problematic than with Mars. Its orbit takes 248 years, and it was only discovered in 1930. It has only been briefly visited one space probe, the New Horizons, in July of 2015. Indeed, the only “evidence” that the dwarf planet is warming comes from two observations made in 1998 and 2002. As SkepticalScience.com points out, that would be equivalent to making observations about Earth’s climate based on data collected over just three weeks out of a whole year! We simply do not know enough about Pluto to make these kinds of judgments.
Finally, I reiterate that solar radiation levels have been on a downward trend for the last forty years! The Sun is not causing this abnormal warming!
5. There was no warming during the Industrial Revolution.
Why didn’t we have global warming during the Industrial Revolution? In those days you couldn’t have seen across the street for all the carbon emissions and the crap coming out of the chimneys.
Alan Titchmarsh, quoted in “Back to nature,” The Telegraph, October 6, 2007
I remember my grand-uncle making a similar argument around Thanksgiving. He claimed that we would have seen it long before contemporary times if CO2 really were causing a worldwide increase in temperature. But here’s a good question for people who make this kind of argument: How much CO2 do you think it takes to cause a noticeable warming trend?
I don’t know what their answer would be, but, as always, scientists have crunched the numbers. In the late 18th century, during the first fifty years of the Industrial Revolution, emissions averaged out to about 3-7 million metric tons. By about 1850, the average had increased to 54 million. And what’s the current emission rate? Ten billion metric tons of CO2 a year, I shit you not!
As for Titchmarsh’s quote up above… you do realize that carbon emissions are different from soot, right?
6. The switch to renewables will destroy the economy.
One major study that pushes this myth was complied by Spanish economist Gabriel Calzada Alvarez in 2009, who claimed that for every new job created in the alternative energy sector, Spain lost 2.2 jobs in other economic sectors. Let’s put aside the fact that Calzada is involved with a libertarian think tank that takes money from Exxon Mobil (which alone should discredit him) and instead examine the multiple ways the study fails with even a cursory glance.
First, the study underestimated the number of jobs created by renewable energy in Spain since 2000. Calzada claims the number of jobs created was less than 50,200, whereas the United Nations Environmental Programme puts the number closer to 188,000.
Second, Calzada’s arguments should mean that the Spanish province of Navarre, which currently obtains 70% of its energy from renewable sources, should be experiencing high unemployment. However, Jose Maria Roig Aldasoro, the province’s Regional Minister of Innovation, Enterprise, and Employment, pointed out in direct response to Calzada’s study that unemployment in Navarre decreased from 12.8% in 1994 to less than 5% in 2007.
Third, Calzada was discovered to have cherry-picked data in order to support his conclusions. Perhaps most egregiously, he claimed that solar energy destroyed 15,000 jobs in the previous year, seemingly ignoring that that is a drop in a bucket compared to a 500% increase in the sector over the previous three years.
Fourth, Calzada seems to operate under the belief that government subsidies into the creation of green jobs crowd out private investments, which he believes are more efficient at job creation. This ignores the fact that private investments are at an all-time low thanks to economic stagnation and that this only really works when all economic resources are being utilized, which very rarely happens.
Finally, Calzada is proven wrong by the fact that many studies, including one done in 2004 by UC Berkeley, have shown that the renewable energy sector creates more jobs than fossil fuels, mostly because renewable energy tends to involve more labor-intensive manufacturing, installation, and maintenance than coal or oil extraction and transportation. True, renewable energy tends to be more expensive than nonrenewable, but that’s only because fossil fuel companies do not account for the air pollution and health effects that their products produce.
In short, Calzada’s study was clearly reaching for excuses to support oil over solar to make its Exxon donors happy. Speaking of being paid off…
7. Climate scientists are being paid off.
It is, of course, very tempting to dismiss this argument as a case of psychological projection. After all, it’s common knowledge by now how Exxon-Mobil, Koch Industries, and other fossil fuel companies have spent years lobbying politicians and the public to sow doubt about the scientific consensus behind anthropogenic climate change. But for the sake of argument, let us see how conservatives justify this narrative in their own words:
In truth, the overwhelming majority of climate-research funding comes from the federal government and left wing foundations. And while the energy industry funds both sides of the climate debate, the government/foundations monies go only toward research that advances the warming regulatory agenda. With a clear public policy outcome in mind, the government/foundation gravy train is a much greater threat to scientific integrity.
Henry Payne, “Global Warming: Follow the Money,” National Review, February 25, 2015
How do skeptics claim that scientists acquire such funds? Mainly research grants, which sometimes can reach millions of dollars. However, Scott Mandia, writing on his WordPress blog, has a question for deniers who follow this line of reasoning:
How many climate scientists are driving a Mercedes sports coupe or other $100,000+ car into a three car garage in a posh gated neighborhood?
Scott Mandia, “Taking the Money for Grant(ed)- Part 1,” Global Warming: Man or Myth?, updated on March 22, 2010
Mandia uses a NASA grant proposal he and his team received the month he wrote that article to demonstrate how grant money is usually spent. Out of the $437,232.67 his team receives over three years, the total costs come out to:
$152,678.50 to pay the 135 participants and trainees.
$4000 for consulting services to assess the cirricula being developed.
$76,064.25 for adminsitrative fees and others that are not collected by those named on the grant.
$204,489.92 to actually pay the investigators over the three years.
Mandia himself only receives $16,088.25 per year, while the PI, or principal investigator, at $16,391.77, barely gets over $300 more. Not exactly Mercedes money.
Meanwhile, oil companies like Exxon Mobil and BP made profits in excess of $20 billion in 2020, far more than any company solely investing in green energy, which is certainly enough to sway more unscrupulous scientists into selling their souls to live in the lap of luxury.
Climate scientist Richard Alley also made this salient point regarding this point in this interview:
If we could overturn global warming; if we could prove that CO2 was not a greenhouse gas; if we could prove that we could burn all we want and not worry about it, how exciting would that be?… Is there any possibility [that out of] tens of thousands of scientists, there isn’t one of them that’s got the ego to do that?! It’s absurd! It’s absolutely, unequivabably absurd! We’re people and we’ve got it in us the way people do.
“What drives scientists- Richard Alley,” published by the channel UQx Denial101x Making Sense of Climate Science Denial on August 25, 2015
Trust me, if any scientist ever found definitive proof that CO2 emissions weren’t causing climate change, everyone from National Geographic to ExxonMobil to the New York Times and everyone in between would be hailing them as the hero or heroine of the century. But none has arrived so far, and until then, we have to treat anthropogenic warming as an absolute certainty.
8. Why are we focusing on America and ignoring China?
It’s easy for deniers to cry hypocrisy when it comes to comparing America’s CO2 output with China’s. After all, China has had the dubious honor of being the largest emitter of greenhouse gases since 2006. Take this graph from 2017, for instance.
Indeed, since China’s total CO2 emissions far outpace those of the United States, you might understand at first glance why deniers might be incensed by environmentalists giving the U.S. such a hard time when China is clearly so much worse.
But notice the right-hand side of the graph. That side shows the tons of CO2 per person that were released into the atmosphere in 2017. When one looks at the data there, one can easily see that America’s CO2 emissions are far greater than China’s (which is rather impressive, given that China’s population of over 1.4 billion is far larger than America’s).
One also has to look at the cumulative amount of CO2 each country has historically emitted from 1850 in order to truly make the comparison fair. When looking through the lens of this metric, it becomes obvious that the U.S. once again outpaces China by a wide margin.
But even if all of this wasn’t true, so what? Do any other countries’ CO2 emissions absolve us of our own climatological sins? As the biggest global superpower, don’t you think we should be setting a good example for others to follow? I’m just saying, maybe those three-quarters of a trillion dollars that we spend on our military every year might be better spent on building up instead of breaking down.
9. CO2 limits will hurt the poor.
Climate change skeptics love to argue that enforcing restrictions on CO2 emissions would have a dangerous impact on the GDP of developing nations like India and many countries in Africa and South America. Of course, as my debunking of myth no. 6 on this list demonstrates, investment in renewables is likely to help these countries more than hurt them. But, of course, the real question here is, “Which will hurt the Global South more? CO2 limits or climate change itself?”
To answer this question, James Samson led a team of climate scientists in creating a new metric known as the Climate Demography Vulnerability Index (or CDVI for short) in 2011. First, they measured how much a population in any region on Earth is predicted to grow as well as how much the local climate is expected to change to determine which areas are most vulnerable. This showed that the areas most vulnerable to climate change were central South America, Eastern and Southern Africa, and the Middle East.
They next compared this metric to the amount of CO2 emissions that each country produced per capita and found that the countries that contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions were the ones most affected.
It is also highly unlikely that these countries will have the infrastructure necessary to handle these drastic climate impacts. In this light, Skeptical Science.com argues that the assertion that “CO2 impacts will hurt the poor” is just a dog-whistle for “Rich, developed countries should be allowed to pollute as much as they want.”
This kind of entitlement, along with the massive waves of immigration that are likely to result from climate impacts in the Global South, lead to the final climate myth I will cover here, which is by far the darkest of them all.
10. Overpopulation is causing the warming trend.
Here is where the ugly specter of fascism rears its ugly head once again.
Many experts have noticed that the far-right is starting to turn away from outright climate denial and finding an alternative source for the warming trend. They blame overpopulation, immigration, and multicultural attitudes towards certain populations they see as inferior.
“But Preston,” I imagine you must be asking from beyond your computer screens, “isn’t environmentalism a left-wing ideology.” Not always. Many ecofascists today (perhaps most notably Anders Brevik) have cited Madison Grant as an influence. You may remember Grant as one of the founders of the wildlife management discipline, but he is far more infamous for his influence in the fields of eugenics and scientific racism. Perhaps the most damning indictment of Grant’s legacy is the fact that none other than Adolf Hitler referred to his 1916 book The Passing of the Great Race as “my Bible.”
Speaking of the Nazis, much of their ideology also contained ecological undertones. Social ecologist Janet Biehl has argued that the Nazis had a deep abiding interest in “traditional agrarian romanticism and a hostility to urban civilization.” Indeed, the infamous white nationalist slogan “Blood and Soil” was first popularized by prominent Nazi ecologist and race theorist Richard Walther Darre, explicitly tying the Aryan race’s ancestry to the land that is “rightfully” theirs.
Ecofasict tendencies have continued to flourish through the writings of radicals like Ted “the Unabomber” Kaczynski, and Pentti Linkola. You may remember me mentioning Linkola in my Halloween article on Deathspell Omega, where their suspected vocalist, Mikko Aspa, cited him as an influence on his politics. Allow me to provide you with some more context as to why Aspa’s support of this man is such a red flag.
Linkola, who died in April 2020 at the age of 87, believed that democracies were ineffectual at preventing large-scale ecological collapse and that the only way to save humanity was mass murder to curb exponential population growth. He was a devout believer in “lifeboat ethics,” a philosophical concept developed by Garrett Hardin, an American ecologist well known for his anti-immigrant activism. Indeed, this Linkola quote succinctly (and chillingly) summarizes what lifeboat ethics is all about:
What to do when a ship carrying one hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides of the boat.
Pentti Linkola, The Doctrine of Survival and Doctor Ethics, 1992
We’ve seen similar expressions of a need to stop overpopulation even in more left-wing philosophies like anarcho-primitivism and the deep ecology movement, who also often argue for a drastic reduction in human population growth to prevent ecological catastrophe.
But I think all this is missing an important question: Does human overpopulation even exist in the first place? Leaving aside the fact that I already demonstrated that the Global South has little to no impact on greenhouse gas emissions, many environmentalists have argued that people arguing this Malthusian rhetoric are painting a reductive picture of what is really going on.
United Nations statistics have pointed out that population growth has actually slowed worldwide since the 1960s will likely start to level out sometime later this century and then start declining. Other critics have argued that issues like world hunger aren’t caused by overpopulation; they’re caused by late-stage capitalist inefficiency leading to resources not getting where they need to. Still others have argued that fears of overpopulation in the Global South have racist and colonialist undertones to them (for example, American biologist Paul Ehrlich claimed that his 1968 book The Population Bomb was first inspired by a trip he took to Delhi, India). As environmentalist David Roberts notes in this article he wrote for Vox, “where you find concern over ‘population,’ you very often find racism, xenophobia, or eugenics waiting in the wings.”
Indeed, Roberts also correctly notes that population growth often slows whenever women become more educated and start entering the workforce. He also points to income inequality as a major driver of greenhouse gas emissions.
So once again, the problem turns out to be capitalism all along. Why am I not surprised?
And that’s the end of this second go-round at helping to put paid to several more climate change myths. Once again, a big thank you to SkepticalScience.com for helping inform the critiques of these new myths. Join me next time for some more debunking as I dive into the mysterious waters of the Bermuda Triangle to uncover the truth behind some of its most famous disappearances. Until next time, friends.
It’s a new year, beautiful watchers, and it’s coming upon almost two years since I started this blog. Incidentally, it was actually one of my 2020 New Years’ resolutions to start this blog. Now, in 2022, I’ve three more. In order of the most to least likely I’m am to actually accomplishing it, they are:
Start doing sit-ups everyday. I feel like I should be doing a little more exercise considering that I’m usually spending 70% of my days off sitting down, either in front of a computer or reading a book. Besides, I’m kind of curious to see how far the number I can do in one sitting goes up by the end of the year.
Get a drivers’ license. I flunked the first driving course I took when I was in high school, and another one I took during college ended up getting cut short because of what I assume was a bureaucratic foul-up. This isn’t to say that I’m not totally blameless: I tend to get easily distracted, which certainly isn’t an ideal quality in a potential driver. However, I feel like I would be less of a burden on my parents if I was able to drive myself to wherever I needed to go.
Learn how to play the guitar. It feels kind of weird being as obsessed with music as I am and yet not being able to play an instrument. The problem is that the instruments I have available to play on hand are… less than satisfactory. One is a classical guitar made by Hohner that has a body so big that I can barely get my arms around it. The other is a much smaller children’s beginner guitar made by First Act that is much easier to handle but is missing its lower E string. Of course, assuming that I manage to surmount those obstacles, there’s still the matter of whether or not I have the patience to actually master the riffs. Still, there’s plenty of easy ones to start with. Pantera’s “Walk” might be a good place to start.
But you probably don’t care about all that. You’re probably more interested in what I have planned for writing on the blog (and possibly also DeviantArt). To be honest, however, I’m kind of low on ideas at the moment. True, I still have ongoing series like “P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist” and “The Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left” to keep me occupied. But beyond that, I’m having trouble coming up with new ideas beyond direct follow-ups to subjects I’ve already written about. Indeed, beyond the series I mentioned above, I have two main concrete ideas right now:
The first is a follow-up to the one I wrote about ten common climate change denial myths. I’ve come to believe that the original top ten list didn’t cover enough myths, especially because I’ve since learned about major ones that I missed, like the idea that volcanoes emit more carbon than humans. I’ve also heard new ones from Dad or other relatives (like one involving a 27,000 year solar cycle that’s causing the Earth to start moving away from the Sun, thus causing a period of cooling… maybe. I don’t remember the details). You can probably expect that one sometime later this month.
The next are two more ideas for posts relating to the subject of paranormal triangles, which I think may come out sometime next month (which is fitting, since my first paranormal triangles article came out on February of last year). The first is going to look at ten of the most infamous disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle to determine whether or not more mundane factors might have led to their vanishing. The second is going to look at Ivan T. Sanderson’s concept of “vile vortices”, of which the Bermuda Triangle is a part, to determine whether or not these places really are as dangerous as Sanderson claimed they were.
I’ve also been considering making lists debunking myths relating to the 2020 presidential election and myths relating to the January 6th insurrection. I’ll also definitely be continuing my look into offshoots of Marxist-Leninist philosophy in my “Noob’s Guide” series in my never-ending quest to prove that there is an alternative to the neoliberal capitalist system that made the Capitol insurrection happen in the first place.
But beyond all that, there is something else that has been bugging me. I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge animation buff. But I feel that hasn’t been reflected that well in my work on this site. Aside from the article I wrote on the “animation age ghetto” and the reviews I wrote of Watership Down’sthree animatedadaptations so far, I haven’t done much in that arena. I still need a bit of time to figure out how I might remedy that, although the best idea I have right now is maybe going through each year going backward from 2021 and seeing which films and T.V. series were the best of each year. Maybe. We’ll see.
On top of all that, I want to focus more attention this year on The Divine Conspiracy on DeviantArt. I find it hard to muster up the courage to actually work on my “magnum opus,” though, mainly because I find the amount of ambition that I’ve invested into the concept intimidating. I have so many things that I want this series to be. I want to explore ideas from the esoteric sides of religion and spirituality that I barely even understand. I want to convincingly show the weight of the cosmic horror elements pressing down on the Banks family. I want it to be an accurate portrait of the world as I see it, with the dark supernatural forces battling the Banks’ constantly exacerbating reactionary and regressive forces that are tearing both America and the world apart. I want to be sure I can make my characters actual characters and not just one note stereotypes and stock archetypes. Above all else, though, I want it to be a good fantasy series that makes people laugh, cry, grip their seats in terror, and hits the same emotions as any of the great fantasy epics of our time.
But I’ll deal with those struggles as they come, and my PrestonPosits watchers can expect a further short update regarding my activities on DeviantArt in the near future. For now, though, let’s hope this New Year is better than the last two. I look forward to what I can accomplish in the year to come, and I hope you’ll stick with me for the ride. Until next time, beautiful watchers!