Top Ten Famous Bermuda Triangle Disappearances-Debunked!

It was probably inevitable that my tour of the world’s infamous paranormal “triangle” hotspots would eventually bring me back to the one that started them all.

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.

0. The outline of the Bermuda Triangle 1. Fort Lauderdale 2. The Hens and Chickens Shoals 3. The position where Flight 19 was supposed to turn north 4. The position where the Flight was supposed to turn back to base 5. Fort Lauderdale again 6. The red shaded area shows where the planes could have been 7. The area of the planes’ last know position 8. Banana River Navy Air Station, from which the PBM Mariner took off 9. Last known position of the Mariner 10. The Florida Keys, where Taylor thought he was

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!

Ten More Arguments Against Climate Change-Debunked!

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.

Indeed, the studies have shown that volcanoes have had a net cooling effect over the past 50-65 years… which has sadly been canceled out by the rising CO2 emissions in that same amount of time. Yay!
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!

Original Data citation: “Marland, G., T.A. Boden, and R. J. Andres. 2007. Global, Regional, and National CO2 Emissions. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, United States Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A.”.

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 YouTube 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.

Complied by Wikipedia user Mgcontr based on data from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (or EDGAR, for short)

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.

Date source: Evans, Simon Analysis: Which countries are historically responsible for climate change? / Historical responsibility for climate change is at the heart of debates over climate justice.CarbonBrief.org. Carbon Brief (5 October 2021). “Source: Carbon Brief analysis of figures from the Global Carbon Project, CDIAC, Our World in Data, Carbon Monitor, Houghton and Nassikas (2017) and Hansis et al. (2015).”

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 and will likely start to level out sometime later this century. 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.

New Year, New Updates!

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’s three animated adaptations 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!

So I Just Watched A Christmas Carol 2019…

…and it is easily one of the most joyless media-watching experiences I have ever had to endure.

Don’t let this poster fool you. Nothing even remotely as cool as this ever happens in the film.

We all know Charles Dickens’ story of how the elderly miser Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler soul when several ghostly spirits help him see the true magic of the holiday season. We’ve also seen it portrayed in many adaptions starring Reginald Owen, Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, George C. Scott, Patrick Stewart, and many others in the title role (although the version starring Michael Caine alongside the Muppets will always be my personal favorite). It has been well renowned for not only helping to codify many modern Christmas traditions in a time when the holiday had slowly been regaining popularity in Victorian England but also for simply being a life-affirming story about the value of kindness and generosity.

Even so, some have noted that the story, despite acknowledging the plight of the poor numerous times, doesn’t really engage with the question of why they’re impoverished in the first place and paints too much of a happy, sentimental picture over the very genuine and very terrible suffering that the lower classes went through in this period. Need I remind you that Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto appeared only five years after A Christmas Carol was published?

It seems that this was the lens that Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight was approaching the story through when he wrote the three episodes that make up the 2019 adaptation. He decided to lift the veil on the horrific conditions that the proletariat worked under as the age of capitalism truly codified itself in the early 1800s. But does Knight’s approach work when he applies his critiques of systemic abuse to an adaptation of A Christmas Carol of all things?

Before I go into my many, MANY problems with this adaptation, however, I should at least go into what I felt the series did right.

The best element that the series has going for it is its cast. Despite being much younger than the traditional image most of us have of an elderly skinflint, Guy Pearce is suitably imposing, manipulative, and chilling as a more middle-aged Scrooge. Stephen Graham is obviously having fun playing Jacob Marley, providing most of the series’ rare moments of comic relief as he stumbles in confusion through Purgatory. Another standout performance is Andy Serkis as a much more grizzled and imposing version of the Ghost of Christmas Past than we’re used to.

Although he looks more like a battle-scarred cross between the Ghost of Christmas Present and an ax-murdering lumberjack.

Meanwhile, Vinette Robinson gives an intense performance as Mary, the matriarch of the long-suffering Cratchit family, while Lenny Rush is delightfully adorable as Tiny Tim.

Another point in the series’ favor is its cinematography and set design. The setting is appropriately Victorian, and the design for Purgatory is suitably dark and Christmassy. It takes the form of what looks like a giant abandoned Christmas tree lot, which is tended by the Ghost of Christmas Past periodically burning the trees.

The more horror film-inspired scenes are also very creative, especially during the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come sequence when Scrooge sees the ceiling of his office transform into a frozen pond surface and watches in horror as Tiny Tim falls through it and drowns.

That being said, the series also does that annoying thing some cinematographers do in that they try to emphasize the darkness of the story by making the shots so dark that you can barely tell what’s happening onscreen. This series is definitely guilty of that, although it does brighten up a little as the story goes along.

The literal darkness is one thing, but the thematic darkness inherent to this version of the story is what ruins it. For example, this version begins with a boy with a prominent facial scar pissing on Marley’s grave. This alone is cringeworthy edgelord bullshit, but what pushes it into unintentional hilarity is that as some of the piss drips on Marley’s corpse, he wakes up and starts loudly complaining about how he’s not allowed to rest in peace. And it all goes downhill from there.

The biggest sin that this series commits is the way it handles Scrooge himself. One can argue that Scrooge in the original novella really wasn’t all that bad a guy. True, he is ruthless in charging his financially challenged debtors for more than their meager dwellings are worth. He also just sits on his wealth rather than spend it on anything and pays Bob Cratchit starvation wages that more than likely are condemning his youngest son to an early death. Plus, when told that the poor would rather die than slave away in prisons or workhouses, he famously responds, “Well, if they’re going to die, they’d better do it and decrease the surplus population!” But that type of evil is subtle enough that some readers (especially those more sympathetic to Ayn Rand) might wonder why he’s treated as evil at all, especially since he is presented as scrupulously honest and, for all his grumbling, does allow Cratchit to take Christmas Day off.

Unfortunately, Knight’s solution to this problem goes so far beyond the realm of good taste that one ends up concluding that Pearce’s Scrooge deserves nothing more than an eternity in the lowest pit of Hell. For example, unlike in the novella where Scrooge and Marley’s business doesn’t seem to go beyond the impoverished Londoners they lend money to, this version portrays them as the Victorian era equivalent of a private equity firm, buying struggling small businesses for far less than they’re worth and gradually ruining them for a profit. The consequences of this are shown plainly when the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge a factory explosion and a mine collapse that was directly caused by his financial meddling. Indeed, the boy shown pissing on Marley’s grave was a survivor of the mine disaster.

But that’s nothing compared to what made Scrooge this way in the first place.

(Major trigger warning for those sensitive to issues of sexual assault, especially the kind involving children. Please proceed with caution for the following three paragraphs!)

Knight was determined to show Scrooge as having the worst childhood possible, from watching a pet mouse gifted to him by his sister get decapitated by his howling drunken beast of a father…

Who in this version looks and acts like a discount version of Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York.

…to his father letting him be sexually assaulted by his schoolmaster so that he could get a discount on tuition fees. Incidentally, this leads to the other most infamous scene in the series when Scrooge’s sister (named Lottie in this version) pulls a gun on the schoolmaster to rescue Scrooge from his abuse after their father dies. I will admit that I was rather entertained by this scene, mostly because of present-day Scrooge’s reaction (“She pulled a fucking gun on him!” he exclaims in shock).

Later, the effects of this abuse are shown when Mary Cratchit, desperate for money to save Tiny Tim’s life, asks Scrooge for help. Scrooge says he will, but only if she will come to his house to prostitute herself. When she is halfway undressed, however, Scrooge tells her to put her clothes back on, as he wasn’t interested in sex, just in trying to prove how easily people will abandon their morals for money. The Ghost of Christmas Past storms away afterward, convinced that Scrooge is beyond all hope of redemption.

Many critics trashed the series for this, as it seemed less like Knight was using this to open up a dialogue about these issues and more like he just added them for shock value. It doesn’t help that after Scrooge dismisses Mary, she lays a curse on him that is strongly implied to have set Marley and the Spirits on him. The ending even implies that Mary will continue to enlist the Spirits’ help to punish men who abuse women. Many reviewers have pointed out how having the only central non-white character be into witchcraft is… rather tone-deaf at best, but that’s probably a conversation for someone more qualified than me to have.

The unrelenting grimness of the proceedings is not helped by how sluggish the pacing is. The series runs for three episodes that bring it up to a total runtime of just seven minutes shy of three hours. And believe me, you will feel every single minute of it, especially if you watch it all in one sitting as I did with the version shown on Hulu (plus commercials! Joy to the fucking world!).

To give you an idea of just how badly the series paces itself, let me show you where the appropriate plot beats happen in this version of the story:

  • Scrooge doesen’t even leave his office until about 40 minutes in. Most other feature-length adaptions are well into the Ghost of Chrsitmas Past sequence by this point.
  • Jacob Marley’s meeting with Scrooge happens an hour in, at the beginning of the second episode!
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past sequence last for about seventy-five minutes! And virtually all of it is spent wallowing in Scrooge’s miserable childhood and equally miserable business career watching him carry on the cycle of abuse to basically all of London’s lower class (and possibly even farther: Marley mentions them having employees as far away as India). There is no Christmas cheer to be seen anywhere. Scrooge’s eternally sunny nephew Fred never shows up again after his short visit in the beginning and Fezziwig has become Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Adaptaion.
  • The consequently truncated Ghost of Christmas Present sequence, which only lasts twenty minutes, doesn’t lighten the atmosphere one bit. For one thing, the role of said Ghost is filled by, of all characters, Scrooge’s deceased sister, presumably just to remind us more about how Scrooge sucks. And for another, because Mary Cratchit is a witch in this version (ugh!), when Scrooge visits the Cratchit dwelling, she’s able to see him, which causes her to have a nervous breakdown and ruin Christmas for everyone. Fa la la la la, la la, la la!
  • Finally, with not even half an hour left, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come finally arrives… and he looks utterly ridculous!
What, Steve, did the dark, imposing cloaked figure not give you enough body horror to work with?

All of this makes the ending scenes feel incredibly rushed. Scrooge decides to reject redemption because he doesn’t feel he deserves it (Yeah, no shit!) and decides instead that all he wants is to save Tiny Tim from the skating accident he foresaw, which he accomplishes by spreading salt over the ice. He then visits the Cratchits to announce that he’s shutting down his business, thanks Mary for summoning the spirits (ugh!), and heads off to try to become the best person he can be. And despite Pearce’s best efforts to bring back memories of the joyful Scrooges of old, none of it feels convincing. This is still a ruthless, sexually harassing capitalist we’re talking about. After almost three hours of Steven Knight ripping out all of the salvation present in the story, it’s hard for me to get on board with him suddenly taking a 180 and saying, “See, I can do Christmas cheer too!”

I get what Steven Knight was trying to do. He wanted to lift the veil on the economic conditions underpinning this beloved classic and recontextualize it with our more modern understanding. But in doing so, he ended up removing everything that made A Christmas Carol a beloved classic in the first place. Scrooge is turned into an irredeemably awful cad, the darker elements are handled with about as much subtlety as a Monty Python sketch, the story is too busy wallowing in the melodrama to actually go anywhere most of the time, and the supposedly “happy” ending is so rushed and underdeveloped that it almost makes the whole affair seem like an unfunny joke.

Hell, I almost recommend watching Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas instead: at least that film’s incompetence makes for good riffing material at parties and such. Basically, any adaptation of A Christmas Carol is better than this one simply by virtue of having some goddamn cheerfulness to them as opposed to three hours of wallowing in a cycle of abuse. And I’m giving this one a 3/10. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left #2: Marxism-Leninism

Marxism-Leninism was by far the most widespread strain of socialist thought to emerge in the 20th century. It was the form of government that the Soviet Union took after the death of Vladimir Lenin, as Josef Stalin sought to combine Lenin’s philosophy with that of Karl Marx. The results were wildly successful for a time; at its height in the early to mid-1980s, thirty countries followed Marxist-Leninist principles when setting up their socialist governments. But today, only four are still considered bona fide Marxist-Leninist states: Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, and China. But did these states fail on their own merits, like capitalist propaganda would have us believe? Or did capitalism end up strangling the baby in its crib to stop the working class from seeing a better way?

General Beliefs

Before we answer those questions, we must first examine what Marxist-Leninists actually believe. The main difference between Marx and Lenin was that Lenin thought that Marx had been mistaken when he predicted that the working class would achieve solidarity as poverty got worse and more jobs were replaced by machines. Lenin instead argued that by outsourcing hard labor to overseas colonies during the age of imperialism, the capitalist ruling class had managed to instill workers with a false sense of solidarity with the bourgeoisie. They did this mainly by providing the workers with enough benefits to satisfy them and forestall a populist uprising.

Lenin argued that the solution to this problem was to form a political party composed of intellectuals to show the misguided working class that their bourgeois solidarity is wasted on rich people who don’t care about them. With this vanguard party in place, a revolution would overthrow the old bourgeois class and be ruled under a dictatorship of the proletariat, which Marx predicted in his original writings. Lenin interpreted this “dictatorship of the proletariat” as a one-party political system that would determine what was good for the workers and establish a strong law enforcement arm to suppress counterrevolutionaries (something that many other socialist thinkers disagreed with; more on that later).

With all of this in place, the path to the classless, stateless society that Marx originally dreamed of would eventually be realized as the rest of the world saw how well the citizens of the Soviet Union were doing under the newer, better communist regime. But sadly, as history has demonstrated, capitalism doesn’t like competition as much as it claims it does.

History and Principle Figures

Russia did indeed have its socialist revolution in October of 1917 that established the very first non-capitalist nation in the modern-day. Some sources, like the Libertarian Socialist Wiki, have divided the subsequent history of Marxism-Leninism into six phases.

Phase One starts with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and ends with the invasion of the USSR by Nazi Germany in 1941. This period saw the establishment of the Soviet Union as a formal state in 1922, Josef Stalin coming to power in 1924 after Lenin’s untimely death, Mongolia becoming a socialist republic the same year, and Stalin pursuing a policy of isolationism as he pursued independent industrial development.

Phase Two lasted from 1941 to 1959. This period saw the Allied Powers’ defeat of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire with significant help from the Soviet Union and the beginning of the Cold War between the USSR and the United States. This period also saw the first big wave of new socialist republics as the USSR sought to spread its foreign influence. Yugoslavia was the first to join in 1943, followed by Poland (1945); Albania and Bulgaria (1946); Romania (1947); Czechslovakia (1948); East Germany, Hungary, and China (1949); North Korea (1950); and Cuba (1959). Stalin died in 1954, and his successor, Nikita Krushchev, pursued a policy of de-Stalinization. Meanwhile, the capitalist countries begin covert military operations to destabilize emerging communist governments like those in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954).

Phase Three lasted from 1960 to 1973 and saw the creation of several Marxist-Leninist organizations that failed to seize power in their home countries. Examples include the Naxalite movement in India, the Red Army Faction in West Germany, and the Japanese Red Army. Others successfully achieved socialism, like Yemen in 1967 and Congo and Somalia in 1969. It also saw tensions between the US and Soviet Union reach a fever pitch during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Meanwhile, tensions between the USSR and China led to the Sino-Soviet Split, as Mao Zedong accused Nikita Krushchev’s policies of de-Stalinization and attempts at peaceful coexistence with the West as a betrayal of Marxist principles. Even so, Mao himself eventually established friendly relations with the US after Nixon’s famous visit in 1972. During this period, the US would also pursue much more hostile relations with other Marxist-Leninist nations, most infamously with its toppling of Salvador Allende’s government in Chile in 1973 and the Vietnam War (1964-1975).

Phase Four lasted from 1974 to 1988 and saw the second big wave of states joining the Marxist-Leninist cause. These included Ethiopia in 1974; Benin, Angola, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Mozambique in 1975; Afghanistan in 1978; Nicaragua and Grenada in 1979; and Burkina Faso in 1983. Indeed, one might call this the golden age of Marxism-Leninism, as not only did the philosophy hold sway over 30 nation-states at this time, but revolutionaries were conducting insurrections against their capitalist regimes all over the globe, albeit with little success. Meanwhile, the US continued its fight against the rise of communism. First, it seized upon the assassination of socialist prime minister Maurice Bishop to lead an invasion that toppled Grenada’s Marxist-Leninist government in 1983. Then it joined France, Libya, Israel, and several other nations in assassinating Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara in 1987. This period also saw American president Ronald Reagan become involved in the Iran-Contra affair, in which he was outed as using money from illegal arms sales in Iran to fund the Contra movement to oust the Communist government of Nicaragua.

Phase Five, lasting from 1989 to 1992, was when the bottom dropped out of the old communist regimes, as the contradictions inherent in the centralized economies of places like the Soviet Union caused them to start falling apart, partly thanks to Mikael Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika and glasnost. The age of neoliberalism formally codified itself as authoritarian governments, communist or otherwise, were replaced by capitalist representative democracies. Only five countries still operated on Marxist-Leninist principles when it was all over; China, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, and Cuba.

Phase Six, which started in 1993 and continues today, sees the remaining five socialist governments struggling to adapt to the neoliberal era. Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba remain steadfastly Marxist-Leninist despite often overbearing international pressure. Meanwhile, China has adopted more and more capitalist elements as the years have gone by, while North Korea devolved into an authoritarian hellscape. What major socialist movements are left have mostly turned to social democracy or libertarian socialism (like the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico, or the PKK and Rojava movement in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria).

Personal Thoughts

I have rather complex feelings about the Marxist-Leninists. On the one hand, Marxism-Leninism has a lot to answer for in terms of some of their actions, some of which might even rise to human rights violations. Indeed, the millions of deaths that occurred under events like the Holodomor in Stalinist Russia, the great famines that happened under Mao Zedong’s watch in China, and the millions of people murdered by Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia could make a strong case that trying to centralize the entire economy under government control never works.

Even many contemporary leftists had a lot of negative things to say about how Lenin and co. were handling things in Russia. For example, Polish communist Rosa Luxemburg heavily criticized Lenin’s idea of a vanguard, which she thought would lead to a one-party totalitarian state (something that would prove all too true once Stalin took power). My personal political hero, Pyotr Kropotkin, also criticized the Marxist-Leninists as being too centralized and authoritarian. The great American anarchist Emma Goldman, deported to Russia for her radical views, even wrote a two-volume book entitled My Disillusionment in Russia, in which she excoriated the Marxist-Leninists for their suppression of independent voices (something that was brilliantly depicted in the 1981 film Reds during her argument with John Reed (see my review of that film here)).

However, as my literacy of the history and philosophy of the political left has increased, I’ve also come to realize two things. The first is that, in many cases, the supposed crimes of the Marxist-Leninist regimes have often been grossly exaggerated or even outright fabricated by capitalist propagandists. Much capitalist propaganda would have us believe that all communist nations were Stalinist or Maoist hellholes where everyone was crushed under famine and economic stagnation and anyone who dared to speak out about it was deported to a life of hard labor in the gulags. Of course, this ignores the fact that the gulags were discontinued under Krushchev’s administration as part of his de-Stalinization policies. It also ignores the fact that the Soviet Union became an industrial superpower that vastly increased living standards. Many egalitarian achievements, in the form of social programs for education, housing, health, and jobs, helped lift up much of the population.

This is your country on socialism, and this is your country on capitalism. Any questions?

Speaking of which, that leads me to the second thing I’ve realized: that capitalism is far deadlier than communism could ever hope to be. Let’s say we take 1997’s The Black Book of Communism at its word and assume that communism has indeed killed 94 million people in the 100+ years since the Bolshevik Revolution. That doesn’t change the fact that capitalism kills just as many, if not more, people every five years!

Of course, that’s not including all the atrocities that capitalism wrought on the world during the age of imperialism. Let’s go through some of these atrocities one by one and see how long it takes to surpass The Black Book’s death toll, shall we?

  • The Atlantic slave trade is estimated to have directly killed around 17 million, according to the United Nations, although many estimates place the death toll much higher.
  • Colonial negligence by the British resulted in the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852, which some have estimated killed as many as 1.5 million.
  • The colonization of North America in the wake of Christopher Columbus’ arrival lead to genocide of the Indigenous population, resulting in anywhere from 50 to 100 million deaths.
  • King Leopold II of Belgium’s infamously brutal treatment of rubber laborers in the Congo Free State between 1885 and 1908 resulted in the deaths of 15 million, according to the highest estimates.
  • Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust against the Jews, the Romani, the homosexuals, the disabled, and several other groups (resulting in over six million deaths) is a direct legacy of the systems of racism created by capitalists to justify the Atlantic slave trade.
  • One direct rebuttal of The Black Book by noted leftist philospher Noam Chomsky noted how deaths from hunger in India typically exceeded 4 million deaths even in non-famine years, in contrast to the 15-55 million figure death toll often applied to China’s Great Famine of 1959-1961.

Of course, that doesn’t cover nearly all the people killed by capitalism and all the genocides, wars, and just plain negligent actions that it propagates, but the point still stands. In all, I think the last paragraph of this article from the eco-socialist journal Capitalism Nature Socialism puts it best:

Leftists who object to communism will hardly put an even infinitesimal dent on the capitalist killing machine by reproducing anti-communist propaganda. It only helps intensify the threat of burgeoning anti-communist legislation and fascist street actions against the left as a whole… Let us then consciously reorganize and struggle for economically tenable classless egalitarian ends before capitalists obliterate most of humanity and other beings with another world conflagration or simply conducting their regular buisness.

Engel-Di Mauro, Salvatore; et al. (4 May 2021). “Anti-Communism and the Hundreds of Millions of Victims of Capitalism”Capitalism Nature Socialism. Routledge. 32 (1): 1–17.

Indeed, from what I’ve gathered, it seems that the ultimate end goal of Marxist-Leninists and anarcho-communists is ultimately the same: a classless, stateless society devoid of any and all forms of coercive power. The former just disagree that such a society can be achieved without some form of centralized government, no matter the risk of it turning just as authoritarian and repressive as the capitalist society it is trying to replace.

Still, though, Vietnam and Cuba seem to have managed to achieve stable systems under Marxist-Leninist principles, even despite pressure from the capitalist West to “reform,” so maybe I’m overstating my case. Even so, I still think it’s imperative to remind my dear readers that arguments about what kind of socialist government should replace the current capitalist world order should wait until after we gain the upper hand. Arguments over whether Marxists, anarchists, primitivists, or syndicalists are correct should wait until after we’ve extricated ourselves from under the crushing weight of income inequality and climate change. What matters now is that the capitalists are hurting people, and we need to make them stop!


And that’s another episode of The Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left in the bag! Join me in future installments as I look at the various communist ideologies that directly spun off from Marxism-Leninism, like Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, Titoism, Guevarism, and others. Stay tuned for those, and maybe keep an eye for this year’s Christmas special sometime later this month. See you then, beautiful watchers!

P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist #6: “Vigil” by Fish

Progressive rock has often been seen as the red-headed stepchild of the family when it comes to the various subgenres of rock. In its heyday in the early 1970s, it was rivaled only by early heavy metal in terms of how much critics hated it. Granted, even as a big progressive rock fan myself, I can acknowledge that some of this criticism was warranted. Prog artists tended to take themselves way too seriously, and their often idealistic and fantastical lyrical themes became increasingly out of touch to average Joes as economic woes set in toward the latter half of the decade. Some bands managed to escape this stigma by having more cynical lyrics (i.e., Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Van der Graaf Generator) or having a sound more compatible with the radio rock format that was becoming more popular (i.e., Rush, Queen, Supertramp). But most ended up being overtaken by the much more DIY working-class sensibilities of the punk rock movement or the much more radio-friendly experimentation of new wave music.

One way that newer prog bands tried to counter this was by taking influence from these new styles, especially new wave. This led to the creation of neo-progressive rock, a primarily British scene featuring bands like IQ, Pallas, Pendragon, Twelfth Night, and Arena. However, some North American groups like Saga and Spock’s Beard have also been included under the label. However, the biggest band in the subgenre was undoubtedly Marillion.

Top photo L-R: Guitarist Steve Rothery, drummer Ian Mosley, singer Derek William Dick aka Fish, keyboardist Mark Kelly, and bassist Pete Trewavas. Bottom photo L-R: Kelly, Mosley, singer Steve Hogarth, Rothery, Trewavas

The band experienced its highest level of popularity during the 1980s when it was fronted by charismatic Scottish singer Derek William Dick, who earned the stage name Fish due to the long baths he liked to take. The band had no less than eight albums reach the Top Ten spots in the UK charts between 1983 and 1994. The high watermark of their chart success was undoubtedly the 1985 concept album Misplaced Childhood, which spawned the chart-topping singles “Kayleigh” and “Lavender.” The former even entered the Billboard Top 100 in the United States.

Unfortunately, the album’s success quickly began to wear on Fish as he began to fear that the excessive touring schedule and pressure from management would lead to him drinking himself to death. This is especially obvious given that the band’s next album, Clutching at Straws, tells the story of an unemployed man who dives further and further into whiskey bottles to escape the shambles that his life has become. Fish performed his last concert with the band in July of 1988, and the band has continued with singer Steve Hogarth ever since.

Fish would begin his solo career in January of 1990 with the release of his debut solo album Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors. Several well-known musicians performed on the record, including former Dire Straits guitarist Hal Lindes, future Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, veteran prog-rock keyboardist Mickey Simmonds, Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki, and Spandau Ballet drummer John Keeble. And it is the title track of this album that I want to focus on for this episode of P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist.

The Song

The track, totaling almost nine minutes in length, begins on a soft note, with Mickey Simmond’s keyboards giving the song an almost new-age sound for the first two minutes. Fish’s vocals start out equally soft, singing about his alienation in a world that’s gone mad with consumerist greed and political violence. He asks the crowd around him to quiet down so he can find another soul who shares his disillusionment.

I get so confused I don't understand.
I know you feel the same way; you've always wanted to say,
But you don't get a chance;
Just a voice in the crowd (in the crowd).

The vocals take a sharper tone in the second verse as Fish talks about how the way our society is set up has left him in a confused and depressed state, with Frank Usher and Hal Lindes’ guitars making their entrance with big power chords.

I don't know the score anymore!
It's not clear anymore!
I can't tell right from wrong anymore!
I just don't understand.

From there, the song turns to a more traditional rock format as Fish describes the betrayals in his life by authority figures in his life that lead him up to this point (“I was sitting here thinking of exchanging a new world for old, like changing channels on the TV, or the dirt that we stand in to gold.”) He recalls words from his father about the nature of good and evil in the world:

When I was young, my father told me only bad guys die;
At the time just a little white lie.
It was one of the first, but it hurt me the most,
And the truth stung like tears in my eyes;
That even the good guys must die.
There's no reasoning, no crimes, and I never knew why.
Even now, it still makes me cry!

As the chorus rolls around, Fish appeals to a higher power to show him the truth about the world, to tell him if the authorities of this world really are all a bunch of liars or if he is the one who is deceiving himself (“If there’s somebody up there, could they throw me down a line? Just a little guiding light to tell wrong from right? Just some answers to the questions that I’m asking you.”).

He vows to “keep a vigil in a wilderness of mirrors, where nothing here is ever what it seems.” The phrase “wilderness of mirrors” was initially coined by T.S. Elliot in his 1920 poem “Gerontion” and has since been used in spy fiction as a metaphor for disinformation. This seems to indicate that Fish has dedicated himself to studying the mirror maze he has found himself in so he can finally parse out the truth for himself.

The chorus and the following verse are separated by an instrumental passage dominated by a bagpipe solo performed by Davey Spillane, who also plays the tin whistle alongside Phil Cunningham. This section is likely there to remind listeners that Fish is very proud of his Scottish heritage.

The next verse shows Fish applying this “wilderness of mirrors” approach to others who claim to share his radical beliefs to determine if they actually agree with him that the system needs to be overthrown or if they are simply telling Fish what he wants to hear in order to undermine his cause from within.

And you sit there and talk revolution,
But can you tell me just who's in command?
When you tell me the forces we're fighting,
Then I'll join you and gladly make plans.
But for now just our T-shirts cry freedom,
And our voices are gagged by our greed;
Our minds are harnessed by knowledge,
By the hill and the will to succeed,
And if that's not what you believe,
Would you just let me know I'm not standing alone,
That I'm not just a voice in the crowd?

The chorus repeats one last time before the song ends, this time with additional lyrics that reflect on both the hope that a better world is possible if only the powers that be would just get out of the way and let us have it…

You're reaching out, you're so close you can touch it, 
But it all disappears when it's always so near, 
But one day we will find that we stand in the light!

…as well as the fear that Fish might be putting a target on his back by criticizing said powers in such a public manner.

I'm scared to shout in case I draw attention
From the powers that preside over our hearts and our minds
When they find what I want is the deadliest weapon;
That is truth.

The last part of the song then tones back down to the soft keyboard tones present at the beginning, with Fish’s vocals calming down equally as much as he croons about how the need to do something about his decaying society is building inside of him.

Day by day, it's getting louder,
And day by day, it's getting stronger,
But when I can't scream no more, and I need reassurance,
I listen to the crowd.

This somewhat hopeful note of solidarity with the lower class masses negatively affected by the grinding nature of capitalist greed is contrasted with this spine-chilling spoken word passage at the very end of the song, which, alongside portraying the David and Goliath character of the struggle against late-stage capitalism, also instills an almost Lovecraftian sense of existential dread is this particular listener.

And the boy stood and stared at the hill,
And the hill stared back.
Personal Thoughts

This song perfectly captures my feelings of confusion in these politically fraught times. To be sure, the era in which Fish wrote these lyrics was equally fraught. America and Britain were just coming out of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations, which were an absolute nightmare for people like him with left-leaning sympathies. The LGBTQIA+ community had been devastated by HIV-AIDS, which Reagan had ignored; both countries had engaged in controversial military actions in Central and South America; and the neoliberal world order that devastated the world with a new era of laissez-faire capitalism was codified. And now, thirty years later, here I am feeling the same things Fish likely was as the seeds planted during the 70s and 80s have grown into the poison oak of climate change and wealth inequality.

This song also captures the feelings of paranoia I have espousing leftist beliefs in a country that has been historically hostile to such ideologies. My own family is very conservative, with my dad, in particular, being a very enthusiastic Trump supporter. Indeed, the verse that begins with “When I was young my father told me only bad guys die” is incredibly relatable to me because I was raised to believe that the moral divide between conservatives and liberals was as clearly good and evil as the one between the orcs and elves in your average epic fantasy novel. So you can only imagine how frustrated it makes me feel to learn about things like the U.S. backed coups in burgeoning socialist countries that installed murderous right-wing dictators like Augusto Pinochet or the truth about how law enforcement agencies treated civil rights leaders and organizations like the Black Panthers and Martin Luther King Jr. It also frustrates me how my father continues to view Trump as overall good for the country despite things like the “grab them by the pussy” tape and his instigation of the January 6th attack on the Capitol building.

This makes it very awkward since Trump pretty much destroyed any sense of patriotism I once had for the United States and eventually drove me into my current affinity for anarchism. But I’ve had trouble coming clean about this to my family members because I tend to take even the smallest amount of criticism very hard, and I can only imagine what kind of shitstorm coming out as a socialist might do to my family.

Still, though, I know I’m right about the real causes of the problems in the world. I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life. And I know that nothing my family members say can change my mind on this. Who knows, my sister and brother are younger than me; maybe I can sway them before they get older and set in their ways. The possibilities are endless.


And that’s all I have to say about this tune. Be sure to check out some of Fish’s other stuff, and maybe look up Marillion as well. They are a criminally underrated band, and both the Fish and Hogarth-fronted eras are chock-full of fantastic music. Join me next time for another episode of The Complete Noobs Guide to the Left, where I talk about Marxism-Leninism, the official political ideology of most socialist countries that formed during the twentieth century. But that will most definitely have to wait until after Thanksgiving. Hope you have a festive one this year, beautiful watchers!

Halloween Special: The Existential Satanic Horror of Deathspell Omega

Lungs filled with embers and regurgitating boiling blood, I say praise the Lord; praise, O servants of the Lord…may scoria bury Eden and blind the light of hope-First Prayer, S.M.R.C.

(Content warning: the following blog post will contain discussions of fascist and antisemitic hate speech, as well as very brief discussions of pedophilia, although that won’t come until later in the article. I will give a second warning later for those who are sensitive to those topics.)

So here’s a question: what kind of music do you like to listen to on Halloween? Maybe it’s the silly novelty songs like “Monster Mash,” “The Purple People Eater,” or “Spooky Scary Skeletons.” Perhaps it’s a spooky classic rock tune like “Season of the Witch” or “Witchy Woman” or “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Or you might indulge in some supernaturally themed heavy metal and punk music like Helloween’s “Halloween,” Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?”, or anything by King Diamond or Black Sabbath, or anything by Powerwolf or Rob Zombie or the Misfits. Or maybe you like to be hypnotized by the industrial horror of “Frankie Teardrop,” or the stark gothic blues of a spooky Nick Cave or Tom Waits track.

For a voracious music consumer like myself, all of these are equally valid options. However, there is one band over the years that has managed to worm its way into my fear centers like no other for a variety of reasons: their nihilistic lyrics, their theistic Satanist religious outlook, their incredibly harsh and dissonant music, and their extreme reclusiveness, to the point that no one knows who they even are. That band, coming to us from the city of Poitiers in west-central France, is Deathspell Omega.

Backstory

Deathspell Omega, or D.S.O. for short, was founded in 1998 out of the ashes of the black metal project Hirilorn. Its lineup consisted of Frederic “Shaxul” Sescheboeuf on vocals, Christian “Hasjarl” Bouche on guitars, Khaos on bass, and Yohann Pasquier on drums. Pasquier left before the recording of the band’s first album, Infernal Battles, in June of 2000, as the other Hirilorn members were angry at him and second guitarist Sinn for participating in a hardcore recording. The name of the drummer who replaced him is unknown.

Indeed, that’s one of the biggest gimmicks this band has- its complete and total anonymity. They have no official website, no social media accounts, and have never allowed themselves to be photographed. They have never performed live, do not credit themselves in their liner notes, and conducted no interviews between 2004 and 2019. This lack of information certainly plays a large part in the nightmarish mystique of the band.

Even so, several names have been attached to the band over the years. For example, Tobias Forge of Ghost, in a 2018 interview with Loudwire, stated that the band’s producer was Frank Hueso, a fellow Poitiers musician best known for his synthwave project Carpenter Brut. The vocalist who took over after Shaxul’s departure is often suspected to be Finnish musician Mikko Aspa (which has caused no small amount of controversy for the band for reasons I’ll get into later). Another vocalist is suspected of having joined the group sometime around the recording of the 2010 album Paracletus. Most fans suspect him to be Spica, vocalist for fellow French black metallers S.V.E.S.T. (who, incidentally, haven’t put out any new material since recording a split E.P. with D.S.O. in 2008).

In any case, most fans generally agree that the band didn’t become truly great until after Shaxul’s departure following the release of their second album, Inquisitors of Satan, in May of 2002. Shaxul later clarified that he was uncomfortable with the shift in themes that the band was undergoing. The band’s music on the first two albums consisted of orthodox black metal, very similar to pioneering Norwegian bands like Darkthrone and Mayhem. However, starting with their next album, the band would find a new sound that would catapult them into the highest echelons of the French black metal scene, alongside Peste Noire, Blut Aus Nord, and Alcest.

Si Moventum Requires, Circumspice
Stare wide-eyed at this dense pitch boiling by the art divine; Amniotic liquid of another kind, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God- Blessed Are The Dead Which Dye in the Lorde.

The first and most apparent difference one might notice between this album (released in February of 2004) and the previous two is the change in music and vocal style. The music has changed from the orthodox black metal style to a much more avant-garde style, making heavy use of polyrhythms, dissonant and atonal riffs, and weird chord structures. The vocals have changed from the typical black metal shrieks of Shaxul to a deeper, more full-throated growl closer to death metal vocals (or the operatic rasp of Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar).

The album’s title is Latin for “If you seek his monument, look around you,” and is taken from an inscription on the tomb of widely celebrated English architect Sir Christopher Wren. In this context, however, the title is not for the aggrandizement of a single great man. No, here, D.S.O. is inviting us to see the monument to their Lord and Savior, Satan. And that monument is Earth itself.

This concept is further reinforced by the album art, drawn by the late Timo “Davthvs” Ketola, which features a decaying cherub corpse over a globe, its genitals hanging over the Levant in an apparent middle finger to the holy land of all three Abrahamic religions. But that’s not all the symbolism going on here. The cherub as a whole represents all three of the album’s most significant themes: antinatalism, antinomianism, and putrefaction.

Antinatalism is the philosophical belief that procreation is a moral evil, usually borne out of environmentalist concerns or because they think the very act of being born is a violation of consent. This theme appears most clearly in the lyrics from “Blessed are the Dead Which Dye in the Lorde,” which I quoted above. This sentiment is also clearly stated in a Latin phrase that appears in the closing track, “Malign Paradigm,” which translates as “the house and church of our Lord is childless.”

This antinatalist stance is closely tied with the band’s symbolic use of the concept of putrefaction. D.S.O. takes the common Christian concept of original sin and cranks it up to eleven, arguing that a spiritual rot is inherent in every human’s soul, making Heavenly salvation impossible. For the heart of a lost angel is in the Earth, and that heart belongs to Satan. As the lyrics of “Carnal Malefactor” state, “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.” The empty throne of Christ that resides on the Earth will forever remain empty because humanity will never be spiritually pure enough to receive His kingdom. Again, in “Carnal Malefactor’s” words, human nature is a “ciborium of shame and waste.”

With that, D.S.O. offers the third theme of the album as a solution; antinomianism. Antinomianism, which Wikipedia defines as “any view which rejects laws or legalism and argues against moral, religious, or social norms,” is often used in Christian contexts in the same vein as “sola fide,” or “by faith alone” in Latin (that is, when it’s not referring to heresy). Several Christian scholars have criticized this notion.

D.S.O. is equally critical of the notion in the context of their metaphysical Satanist perspective. Faith in Satan alone is not going immanentize the eschaton and finally render humanity to the dustbin of history where it belongs. One must commit evil acts in the name of Satan to bring about his will on Earth. Such actions might take the form of the nightmarish avian-assisted abortion portrayed in “Carnal Malefactor”:

A phallic communion that sanctifies interior wastelands,
When a woman is knead by the claws of fowls attracted
By seminal odors no longer hidden by dignity,
And purified by their beaks rummaging her swollen vagina.

The carrion birds extract the woman’s unborn fetus, which is then used as part of a Satanic Eucharist in the following track, “Drink the Devil’s Blood.”

The whole theme of the album is that humans are far more susceptible to Satan and his influence than to that of God or His angels. Thus, in the words of this Pop Matters article, the album is about how “Satan is pervading every aspect of our material and metaphysical realms and how Man’s relationship with him should be one of reverence and devotion.” In short, if you can’t beat him, join him.

The band would take this premise a step further in the 2005 E.P. Kenose, named after the Greek word for “emptiness.” This concept is one method by which Christian scholars have theorized that Jesus’ relationship to God the Father worked while He was performing His miracles on Earth. Upon incarnating as a human child in Bethlehem, He emptied Himself of all divine attributes to live on Earth as an average person. D.S.O. seized on this possibility to argue that Jesus Himself ended up falling prey to the putrefaction inherent in the human soul, and thus His death upon the cross to redeem humanity’s souls from the grip of Satan was all for naught.

S.M.R.C. would only be the first in a trilogy of albums dealing with humanity’s relationship with Satan. The second would be released in July of 2007.

Fas-Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeturnum
God of terror, very low dost thou bring us, very low hast thou brought us- The Shrine of Mad Laughter.

This album gives us what is probably the most chaotic music out of all of D.S.O.’s discography. Featuring riffs that almost sound more like random noises than chord progressions and drumming that is equally breakneck and madcap, the music is surprisingly fitting for the absolutely shattering existential crisis that the main character is going through in this album’s story.

Although the album title (Latin for “Divine Law- Depart From Me, Ye Accursed, Into Everlasting Fire”) and art above may seem to represent Satan’s fall from God’s grace, the lyrics indicate that Satan’s and man’s fall from grace are one and the same. Because, again, the heart of a lost angel is in the Earth, and that heart belongs to Satan.

This album is where the band really starts to show off the influence of one of their biggest literary idols: the French post-surrealist philosopher Georges Bataille (pronounced buh-tie). His book Inner Experience is quoted extensively in the lyrics, alongside texts like My Mother, Theory of Religion, and The Solar Anus. Bataille’s philosophical writings were obsessed with limit experiences and acts of transgression. The basic thesis of his entire life’s work is probably best summarized by this quote from Inner Experience, which also appears in the track “A Chore for the Lost”:

Every human being not going to the extreme limit is the servent of the enemy of man and the accomplice of a nameless obscurity.

Georges Bataille, Inner Experience

Bataille saw no differences between the emotional states aroused by divine ecstasy and extreme horror and thus came to believe that humanity must seek experiences that drive us to our mental and physical limits to discover the absolute truth that lies within our souls.

In Fas-Ite…, D.S.O. argues that that truth lies in “Oobombration,” derived from the Latin word for “shadow,” which provides the title of the opening and closing tracks of the album. The Oobombrations seem to represent the darkness that comes before birth and after death and demonstrates humanity’s fragility and insignificance compared to their all-powerful, all-knowing God.

The four tracks between them show the stages of the protagonist’s journey after discovering this fact. He starts by going insane with terror in “The Shrine of Mad Laughter:”

A senstion of everlasting rot and those frantic wails!
No, it is not a fall into the abyss,
The defiance of descent,
A coronation beyond liberty and slavery!

The protagonist tries to cling to some semblance of normalcy in “Bread of Bitterness,” even as the truths he built his worldview on crumble around him:

From a suppliction without response,
The essence of man, his ground giving way,
Comes illumination by a sun of great evil that sets aflame the inner core
And enthrones suffocation and the intolerable without respite
As the joyful reward for a million aborted truths.

The protagonist then realizes that all of this was predestined in “The Repellant Scars of Abandon and Election,” and thus decides to follow the left-hand path away from conventional morality:

I was beyond withstanding my own ignominy.
I invoked it and blessed it.
I progressed even further into vileness and degredation.
Am I resurging, intact, out of infamy?

Finally, in “A Chore for the Lost,” we see the protagonist finally embrace the intoxicating transgressions that all men succumb to one way or another, for Satan is the unquestioned Lord of this World. Thus we must “be a blight… on all orchards of this world.”

What pleasure of inconcievable purity there is
In being an object of abhorrance
For the sole being to whom destiny links my life!

Darkness encloses the human soul every step of its journey through life, and one way or another, the darkness always reclaims us.

Paracletus
Raging winds over Babylon like a primal chaos spread. Emaciated beasts howl with angel voices. Thou shalt be desolate forever.- Malconfort

The title for this album comes from a Greek word that literally means “he who was called for/sent for.” It has also been used as “advocate” or “helper,” primarily in Christian contexts where it is used as an epithet for the Holy Spirit. Here, however, D.S.O. seems to be taking inspiration from French writer and Catholic apologist Leon Bloy, who is quoted in Raymond Barbeau’s book Un Prophete Luciferian as arguing that Satan will rise out of Hell at the end of days to become the Paraclete.

D.S.O., of course, spins this idea in a much darker direction, portraying his rise from Hell as being the final battle between God and Satan as depicted in the Book of Revelation. Of course, the shadowy seven-headed dragon illustrated in the album art is a big giveaway in this regard. There are other more subtle hints, however; for instance, the albums runs for just over 42 minutes, which is a reference to Revelation 13:5, which states that “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority over forty-two months.”

Indeed, the lyrics have a very apocalyptic feel to them. The first half of the album seems to show Satan’s followers chanting an epiklesis, or “invocation,” for him to rise out of Hell to claim what is his. He commands his followers to undergo abscission, shedding parts of themselves that they don’t need, much like a maple tree sheds its leaves in autumn (likely shedding all sense of self in the same type of limit experiences Georges Bataille was so fascinated with). Meanwhile, those who still insist on following God are left without any sense of unity in His absence. Any perceived case of Him answering His followers’ prayers is nothing more than the spiritual equivalent of phosphenes, the phenomenon in which the eye perceives light without light actually entering the cornea.

The following five tracks describe the chaos that reigns on Earth as the final battle between Heaven and Hell rages. The rivers and seas boil away into nothing, and sickness and famine spread among the emaciated populace. Perhaps “Devouring Famine” depicts this hellish apocalypse best:

It is senseless to fight against this infinite stream.
Behind this threshold life exhausts itself, loses itself.
Rejoice! For tonight it is an eerie birth that we celebrate!
And with dusk, as shadows slowly recover the land,
The most extreme solitude drapes the shoulders
Of a distant silhouette bearing a glacial emptiness,
Laden like a luminous storm in which sun and lightning are prolonged;
A wound through which, hastening from all points of the universe,
Desolation spreads in chaotic convulsions.

The album, and the trilogy proper, ends with the track “Apokatastasis panton,” meaning “recreation of the universe” in ancient Greek. Usually, the phrase is used in the context of universal salvation, as with the Leon Bloy quote above. But of course, D.S.O. uses it to mean Satan is remaking the world in his image after his victory in the final battle. The track’s stark lyrics seem to represent Satan’s last message to all those poor souls who still cling to a belief in the essential goodness of humanity:

You were seeking strength, justice, splendor!
You were seeking love!
Here is the pit!
Here is your pit!
It's name is Silence!
Drought
A shadow of horror is risen. This will not be redeemed no matter how sincere the genuflection and ardent the confession.- Fiery Serpents

In between the main albums in the trilogy, D.S.O. released several E.P.’s that examined topics adjacent to the themes presented in the albums. Most of them only contained one song, usually running around twenty minutes in length. In order of their release, they are:

Mass Grave Aesthetics: Originally released in 2005 as part of a split L.P. titled From the Entrails to the Dirt, the song was eventually released as its own E.P. in December 2008. Lyrically, the song is based on this quote from the 19th-century French anarchist Laurent Talihade, which was responding to a terrorist attack against the Chamber of Deputies:

What matter the victims, provided the gesture is beautiful? What matters the death of vague human beings, if thereby the individual affirms himself?

Laurent Talihide, December 1893

D.S.O. uses this quote to argue that human self-affirmation is only possible through acts of violence, whether against oneself or others, especially to prove one’s loyalty to certain ideologies. Or, as Georges Bataille argues:

To choose violence is to choose freedom. What evil in essence rejects is a concern with a time to come. It is precisely in this sense that the longing for the summit-that the movement toward evil-constitute all morality within us. Morality has in itself no value (in the strong sense) except inasmuch as it leads to going beyond being-rejecting concerns for a time to come.

Geroges Bataille, On Nietschze

Diabolis Absconditus, meaning “the devil is hiding” in Latin, was also released on a 2005 split L.P., this time titled Crushing the Holy Trinity. It also received its own E.P. in May 2011. Here, the band portrays the traditional patriarchal archetype of God being replaced by a sexually depraved feminine archetype. This concept was heavily inspired by a Georges Bataille short story titled Madame Edwarda, in which the narrator hires the services of a prostitute who claims to be God on Earth.

Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeturnum: Chaining the Katechon: Released in December of 2008, this track revolves around the concept of the Katechon, a figure from New Testament esoterica who is believed to hinder the rise of the Antichrist as well as the second coming of Jesus. Thus, this Katechon needs to be chained so the apocalypse can proceed as planned. Indeed, one could interpret this as a direct prequel to Paracletus, especially in this repeated verse in which the Satanic cultists summon their Lord from the firey pit and experience an appropriately Lovecraftian response to his appearance:

We went to the trough, Lord!
We went bent and convulsed!
We saw blood, Lord! It was glittering!
You dispensed it and we drank it!
We saw your image!
The gap of your* eyes and mouths is void!
We went bent and convulsed!
It broke us and dissolved us!

*The lyrics in the liner notes read, “The gap of our eyes and mouths is void,” but the singer to me seems like he’s saying “your eyes and mouths.” I don’t know. I kind of think it’s scarier that way.

But by far the most consequential E.P. the band ever recorded was Drought, released in June 2012. It acts as an epilogue to the trilogy, showing the aftermath of the final battle from the point of view of the poor human souls left to rot on a dying planet Earth. God has surrendered to Satan, and, whether because He thinks humans are not worth the trouble anymore or because He has lost any power to save them from their fate, He has abandoned them to Satan to do with them as he pleases. Satan thus leaves Earth as, in the words of the track “Scorpions and Drought,” “a desert with no life but scorpions coming as a swarm, as a flood, with an abundance of deadly stings.” Naturally, D.S.O. views this as a mercy kill, “like the shooting in the head of a horse with a broken leg,” in the words of “Abrasive Swirling Murk.” All is truly lost.

The Synarchy of Molten Bones
The Synarchy of Molten Bones shall consist of men of worth and men of ill intent in abandoned yet equal numbers, for their insurgent wills harbor the seed of transgression alike.- The Synarchy of Molten Bones

Despite not being related to the trilogy in any direct fashion, I like to view this and the next album as prequels to the trilogy. Although calling Synarchy an album feels kind of wrong, as it only clocks in at slightly over 29 minutes, seven minutes shorter than the Kenose E.P.

The album art depicts Nimrod, a Biblical king who is often attributed as the man behind the Tower of Babel, thus portraying him as a rebellious and hubristic ruler who tried to usurp the authority of God. Some Jewish and Islamic traditions also describe him as an evil counterpart to Abraham. However, the artwork here is inspired by Book I of La Fin de Satan, which was Les Miserables and Hunchback of Notre Dame author Victor Hugo’s answer to Paradise Lost. Book I depicts Nimrod, who, having conquered and laid waste to the Earth, decides to conquer Heaven. To this end, he constructs a makeshift cage driven by four eagles drawn upward by lion carcasses. After traveling for a whole year and seeing nothing but blue skies, he finally shoots an arrow into the infinite and is thrown back to Earth.

D.S.O. uses this story to portray a group called the “Synarchy of Molten Bones” who take inspiration from the figure of Nimrod and decide to find a way to kill God so that they can become the ultimate power of the universe. For those wondering what a “synarchy” is, Wikipedia offers two definitions. Going by the original Greek, it comes from the words for “joint/harmonious rule.” However, D.S.O. seems to be going for the other definition, which is “rule by a secret elite.” Indeed, this was the definition popularised by French occult philosopher Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre in the 1880s as a conservative alternative to anarchism that preserved the existing hierarchies rather than abolishing them.

Indeed, the central thesis of this album’s story seems to be that humanity’s boundless ambitions will only end up destroying us in the end, both materially and spiritually. The result of the Synarchy’s meddling, according to the final track, “Internecine Iatrogenesis,” will be “a brazen holocaust, brighter than a hundred suns, that slowly consumes God and man.”

But D.S.O. isn’t content with simply stating that the Synarchy’s reign and their insatiable quest to conquer Heaven and Earth will create a nightmarish hellscape in our world. They want to show us what that world might look like…

The Furnaces of Palingenesia
Hear our voices, all of you men of resentment; whose stomachs and souls are aflame with the poisonous flame of impotence; you who have been wronged again and again; wiping your face clean day after day, from the spit of those sitting unjustifiably above you. We will grant you freedom from freedom!– The Fires of Frustration

This album, released in May 2019, presents possibly the most unambiguous themes in their entire discography. The album is presented as a speech by an authority figure who serves as the spokesperson for a fascist organization called the Order. The lyrics present fascist rhetoric in its purest form, divorced from all the alt-right’s facile promises of a utopia waiting beyond all the bloodshed. The spokesperson admits that the Order is only looking to amass more and more power for itself and those who swear loyalty to it.

Granted, the band does throw some shade at left-wing authoritarian governments as well, as another big theme seems to be that every violent revolution, regardless of its stated goals, contains the seeds of its own destruction. Take this passage from “Ad Arma! Ad Arma!” which quotes Mao Zedong almost verbatim:

Nothing from the world of yore deserves to be preserved;
Every particle is infected and corrupt.
The great cleansing shall take as long as necessary,
For power exclusively stems from the gun barrel.
On a glorious dawn,
The odor of tear gas shall replace the scent of fresh brewed coffee,
The dust of crumbling buildings shall darken the horizon and fill your lungs
As the sun reaches its zenith;
Victorious chants will resonate at dusk
To the rhythm of cracking necks and the gunfire of mass executions.
Behold the glorious beauty of unrestrained fraternal compassion and love!

However, these passages are far outnumbered by others that directly condemn various fascist beliefs, including some that have become mainstream talking points among traditional conservatives (because we live in the worst timeline). Take this quote from “Sacrificial Theopathy,” for instance:

Thou shalt decree that thine enemy comes from shores unknown to the man of virtue,
Strange lands that breed beings devoid of any redeeming qualities.

Anyone else getting major Tucker Carlson/Stephen Miller vibes from this quote? “Absolutist Regeneration” also contains a promise that “we will clean out the marsh at all cost.” In other words, we will drain the swamp. Of course, the Order’s spokesperson has a much less outwardly altruistic motive for doing so than Mango Mussolini, as the preceding sentence states that “We will turn this world into a cemetery rather than not regenerate it in our own way” (which, let’s be honest, is probably what Individual 1 meant anyway).

Several other passages speak to the cutthroat nature of the late-stage capitalist economics that most fascists prefer, especially this one, also from “Absolutist Regeneration/Year Infinity”:

Those who nourish the famished shall be left to starve.
Those who heal the wounded shall be maimed.
Those who console the lamenting souls shall be buried alive,
Thier stomachs filled with ignonimous larvae.
Rats shall feed on the eyes of those guilty of empathy towards their fellow men.
That which is not our credo is not to be.

And now I get major Augusto Pinochet vibes from this passage.

The album goes on like this for ten songs for about forty minutes, the spokesperson ranting like a deranged and murderous psychopath over music that is much more straightforward than the other albums but no less dissonant and discordant (unlike all other D.S.O. albums, this was apparently recorded live in the studio). The final track, titled “You Cannot Even Find the Ruins,” dispenses with this to present much softer (yet still heavy) music, as the narrator describes the end result of the Order’s rapacious power grabs:

You cannot even find the ruins
of the jewels of yesterday
they're ashes gone
memories wiped clean

Indeed, this may reflect how another fictional fascist organization called “the Order” left the Earth after its final victory. The classic white supremacist text The Turner Diaries ends with much of the Earth becoming an irradiated hellscape with 90% of the human population wiped out and the remaining 10% likely soon to follow. But the author wants us to view this as a good thing because at least all the Jews and non-whites are dead, right?

But here is where we address the larger controversy that this album spawned upon its release. While the majority of listeners have (rightly, in my opinion) come away from The Furnaces of Palingenesia seeing it as a double-barrelled dark satire of fascist rhetoric, given the massive amount of self-aware irony present in the lyrics, some are accusing Deathspell Omega as a whole of being an outright National Socialist Black Metal (or N.S.B.M.) band.

Remember that content warning I gave way at the top of this essay about fascist and antisemitic hate speech and pedophilia? Yeah, here’s where I warn you that anyone sensitive to those topics should proceed with caution because here is where we discuss the one person who is the reason why D.S.O. is accused of being fascist sympathizers.

Mikko Aspa (aka The Elephant in the Room)
Mikko Aspa playing in Bar Rock Bear in Helsinki on 6.12.2018, an Independence Day neo-Nazi gig in Finland.

Mikko Reino Juhani Aspa, from the city of Lahti, has long been recognized and decried for being a leader in Finland’s National Socialist music scene. Aside from his suspected involvement in Deathspell Omega, Aspa has racked up a truly massive number of other musical projects over the years, including but not limited to:

  • A one-man black metal project called Clandestine Blaze
  • A Rock Against Communism group called Vapaudenristi
  • A one-man funeral doom metal project called Stabat Mater
  • A pornogrind project called Creamface
  • A noise project called Nicole 12
  • Guest work for bands like Goatmoon, Mgla, and Pagan Skull

Of all the bands listed above, probably Stabat Mater is the only one not embroiled in controversy around white supremacy or Aspa’s somewhat disturbing obsession with taboo/illegal sex acts. For instance, Creamface songs have sported such lovely titles as “Rimjob Teenager” and “Underage Anal Girl,” and Nicole 12 was a project that was apparently centered on the lyrical theme of pedophilia (although Aspa apparently shelved that project after becoming a father in 2011, so… good on him, I guess?).

As for the white supremacy accusations, those most prominently come up in relation to Clandestine Blaze and Vapaudenristi. I won’t go over all the details here since the Finnish Antifa network already went over Aspa’s connections in this beautiful article on their blog. Suffice it to say, though, Aspa’s ties go pretty deep.

For instance, in October of 2016, Vapaudenristi participated in a benefit concert for Jesse Eppu Torniainen, a Neo-Nazi activist sent to prison for the murder of an anti-fascist activist named Jimi Karttunen. The band has also gotten flack for anti-Semitic rhetoric in their lyrics, which seems to be true if Google Translate is working correctly.

Anti-Semitic themes are equally present in the Clandestine Blaze song “Tearing Down Jerusalem” from the 1999 E.P. On the Mission:

War! Strike to the holy city!
Crush Jerusalem!
Torture the followers of weakening God!
Let the blood stream through dirty streets!
Zionist cancer faces zero tolerence!
Tearing down Jerusalem!
Crushing Zionist power!
Victory of unholy forces!
Our victory!

Granted, Aspa seems to have toned down the anti-Semitism in more recent albums, although that probably has more to do with not wanting to appear too extreme to the unconverted rather than a genuine heel face turn. Indeed, as recently as a 2020 interview with the WordPress blog Excuse the Blood, Aspa identified Pentti Linkola as an influence, a Finnish ecofascist who once said he preferred dictatorships to democracies.

As for his history with Deathspell Omega, the band released their first two albums on Northern Heritage, a record company founded by Aspa in 1999. Ironically enough, though, all of the albums with Aspa reputedly on vocals were released through D.S.O.’s self-publishing label Norma Evangelium Diaboli. Some have argued that someone other than Mikko Aspa is the vocalist, at least since Synarchy, usually Hasjarl, Spica, or Frank Hueso. However, I took the liberty of listening to “Ad Arma! Ad Arma!” from Furnaces and the title track of the 2018 Clandestine Blaze album Tranquility of Death back-to-back, and I am pretty well convinced that Mikko Aspa is indeed the vocalist.

Personal and Concluding Thoughts

I admit that I was pretty excited to talk about this band back toward the beginning of this month, as the band seemed the perfect scary topic for the month of spooks and specters. However, right after I finished the previous article on paranormal triangles, I decided to read that article I linked above outlining Mikko Aspa’s connection to the Neo-Nazi underground, and subsequently became much more conflicted. Am I indirectly supporting fascist movements in the Baltic region by listening to Deathspell Omega? How much in the way of royalties does Aspa receive via his participation in this band?

D.S.O. themselves have stated that their intention was for Furnaces to be interpreted as anti-fascist in a 2019 interview with Bardo Methodology, in which they said that a minority of their contributors stand on opposite ends of the political spectrum from the core French collective “and are therefore irreconcilable political foes.” They also point to the historical friendship between French communist philosopher Louis Aragon, Gaullist Andre Malraux, and fascist Pierre Drieu La Rochelle as a parallel to their relationship with Aspa. However, they fail to mention that Aragon and La Rochelle became enemies when the latter sided with the Vichy French government after the Nazi takeover of Paris in May of 1940.

A part of me does get a sense of schadenfreude listening to Aspa singing the lyrics to Furnaces as his bandmates take the piss out of an ideology he clearly holds dear. But then I wonder if it’s just slightly hypocritical that the band is working with an avowed fascist while writing lyrics about how fascism is the ultimate expression of human evil.

Then again, I feel that the band has been operating on this mantra that opens the Furnaces track “Absolutist Regeneration” since the beginning of their career: “The only truly malignant evil is hope.” Indeed, just by reading the interviews the band gave around the release of Furnaces, they seem to think that humanity is incapable of finding a way out of their inevitable destruction, that fascism or some version of Stalinist Russia or North Korea is the logical endpoint of human progress. Thus, they probably don’t see collaborating with a known fascist collaborator as really anything worth commenting on.

Indeed, any reader who is aware of my previously stated political beliefs might naturally be wondering why I’m giving this band the time of day in the first place. Well, the answer is probably similar to many other people’s fascination with true crime or with violent gangster rappers: humanity is evolutionarily hard-wired to pay attention to dangerous people who might say or do things that may cause them harm.

Deathspell Omega is truly a one-of-a-kind band, for better or for worse. They took a tried and true black metal tradition, bashing Christianity, and took time to actually engage with the religion they were criticizing rather than attack a caricature of it. And while I disagree with most of their conclusions, especially their view of human nature, their lyrics have given me a possible philosophy for the human villains of The Divine Conspiracy to work off of. So maybe there’s some good one can get out of this band.

So, what are your opinions? Am I a terrible person for profiling this band despite it collaborating with a fascist? Is it possible to separate the art from the artist in this case since Aspa has been confirmed not to contribute songwriting in any way? Or is it best for me to just leave this band behind and focus on less problematic artists? I appreciate any and all comments and responses.

In the meantime, that’s it for this article. Join me next time when I do a P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist Episode on an obscure Scottish progressive rock artist from the 1980s. Until then, have a safe and happy Halloween, and remember: “Judica me… perinde ac cadaver!”

Have you beheld the darkness sitting upon the Earth, overshadowing the wind rose, lost in the smoke?- Phosphene

Ten More Paranormal Triangles (Located Nowhere Near Bermuda)

Guess what, beautiful watchers! It’s October! And you know what that means; it’s time to delve into the spooky side of things.

You may recall last February when I last talked about so-called paranormal hotspots that were labeled “triangles” thanks to the infamy of Bermuda’s supposed vortex. In the spirit of Halloween, I wish to continue that globe-trotting adventure by looking at ten more lesser-known paranormal triangles, both to tell you the stories and to see whether any of them can hold up to scientific scrutiny. Let’s not tarry about and jump right in.

1. Bass Strait Triangle (Australia)
Map of Australia and Tasmania with Bass Strait marked in blue

Author Jack Loney identified this triangle in his 1980 book Mysteries of the Bass Strait Triangle. The strait has long had a reputation for being treacherous for passing ships, but is this because of supernatural goings-on, or do these disappearances have a more earthly origin? Let us examine some individual incidents to find out:

1797: Bass Strait is first discovered by European explorers after the Sydney Cove wrecks on Preservation Island (its namesake, George Bass, becomes the first European to sail through it the following year while circumnavigating Tasmania, then known as Van Dieman’s Land). Things take a turn for the mysterious when one of the salvage ships, a sloop named Eliza, vanishes during a return trip to Sydney.

February 1858: The Royal Navy brig HMS Sappho vanishes while en route from the Cape of Good Hope to Sydney, with a subsequent search turning up no trace of the ship or her crew. Most scholars believe she foundered in the Bass Strait, either holed by rocks or capsized in a gale (she was last seen off Cape Bridgewater on February 18). HMS Sappho is only one of several ships that went missing in the strait in the 1800s; other notable incidents included the Harlech Castle in 1870.

1901: The SS Federal disappears along with its 22 crew members and its cargo of coal. Its wreck was discovered in 2019.

1906: The German cargo ship SS Frederick Fischer vanishes en route to Tasmania.

September 10, 1920: A schooner named the SS Amelia J disappeared shortly after entering Bass Strait. A barquentine named the SS Southern Cross and an Airco DH.9A aircraft also vanished while searching for her. The wreck of the Southern Cross is the only wreck to have been discovered so far. Witnesses reported strange lights in the skies over Bass Strait around the time of the incidents.

October 21, 1934: A de Havilland DH86 airliner named Miss Hobart inexplicably went missing while flying over Bass Strait, despite being in perfect weather. All eleven people on board were lost with it. Only a small amount of wreckage was ever found on the coast of Victoria. Eerily, much like a similar incident 44 years to the day later, the pilots radioed that the passengers witnessed an “aerial machine” approaching the airliner before all contact was lost.

1935: The Loina, a Holyman airliner, vanishes near Flinders Island with five people aboard. Officially, the cause was human error compounded with the poor design of the craft. However, a small piece on the plane’s floor was among the wreckage recovered, which showed a burned patch several centimeters wide, which someone had attempted to stamp out.

World War II (1939-1945): Several strange incidents were reported by pilots flying over the strait during the war. Seventeen military planes vanished during this period, despite no record of enemy combatants ever coming near the region (official sources blame inexperienced crew flying too close to the ocean’s surface). One Bristol Beaufort bomber flying over the strait in 1944 claimed it was followed by a “dark shadow” for 20 minutes until it suddenly shot up into the sky. A fighter pilot claimed he was followed by a bronze disc-shaped craft in 1942 while investigating local reports of strange lights in the area.

April 6, 1966: Children and school staff in Melbourne witness a huge disc-shaped craft lazily drifting over their cricket field, which they follow until it vanishes over the treeline. Other witnesses later come forward to say that they saw five smaller craft trailing behind it.

1972: A vintage de Havilland Tiger Moth owned by Brenda Hean and Max Price vanishes while en route to Canberra to protest the proposed hydroelectric dam on Lake Pedder. Investigators believe the plane crashed somewhere between the East Coast and Flinders Island and may have been sabotaged by pro-development interests.

October-November 1978: A flap of UFO sightings occurs along the coasts of Tasmania and Victoria. A husband and wife pair of motorists describe a bright light coming down from the sky and following their car on October 9. A month later, a taxi driver in Hobart slams on his brakes when he sees a green light on the road in front of him. The light vanishes when he takes his eyes off the road to tend to his radio, which is suddenly on the fritz. On November 25, a woman reports seeing a “doorway of light” appear in her driveway. Some ufologists have suggested a connection with the following incident in this list…

October 21, 1978: When 20-year-old amateur pilot Frederick Valentich set off from Moorabbin Airport that Saturday evening, he likely had no idea he was about to become the subject of one of the most infamous UFO incidents, not just in Australia but in the entire world. He radioed Melbourne air traffic control at 7:06 to inform them of a strange aircraft that seemed to be following him from about a thousand feet overhead. He described the craft as having a shiny metal surface and had green landing lights on it. Over the next six minutes, he described the craft approaching him from the east and “orbiting” over him. He claimed his Cessna 182 was experiencing engine problems and then said these ominous words about the strange craft: “It’s not an aircraft.” When air traffic control asked Valentich to clarify, all they got in response was what they described as a “metallic scraping sound.” When he failed to arrive at his destination at the King Island Airport, the search was on.

Despite the search covering 1,000 square miles, no trace of the aircraft has been found, although an engine cowl flap belonging to a Cessna 182 washed up on Flinders Island five years later. Theories for what happened to Valentich abound. Some say he faked his death and landed the plane elsewhere. Others say the strange lights he saw were because he was flying the plane upside down without realizing and saw his own lights reflected in the water (something that should have been impossible with the Cessna’s gravity feed fuel system). Others speculate that he may have found himself in a graveyard spiral, in which a pilot thinks he is flying level when they are actually in a banking turn, which they didn’t realize until it was too late. The supposed lights on the UFO were actually the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury and the star Antares.

True, the graveyard spiral theory is probably far more likely than an alien abduction, but there is still one strange aspect of the Valentich incident that I feel I would be remiss not to discuss. On the same evening as the Valentich incident, a plumber named Roy Manifold was photographing the sunset near the Cape Otway Lighthouse (well within Valentich’s flight path) when he and his son, Jason, heard the sound of a plane overhead. Instead of gradually fading off in the distance, however, Jason claims that the engine’s sound cut off entirely at one point, “as if someone had turned a radio off.” Later, when he and his dad developed the photos, one of them came back like this:

Some other anonymous eyewitnesses came forward later to claim that they saw a plane flying down toward the ground at a 45-degree angle while a green light floated 1,000-2,000 feet above it. They never saw the plane crash. None of this necessarily proves that Valentich was killed or abducted by aliens, but you never know…

December 1979: A yacht named Charleston vanishes while en route to Sydney to join the Sydney-Hobart yacht race. Theories for what happened include wind damaging the mast or a loose container damaging the rudder, leaving the boat helplessly adrift. The family of the owner of the yacht even contacted a clairvoyant who told them the vessel had come ashore on an island south of New Zealand. Whatever the case, no trace of the yacht has ever been found.

Admittedly, the Bass Strait has long held a dangerous reputation for things other than UFOs. The prevailing winds and currents breaking up against King’s Island in the east combined with the strait’s shallow depth (160 feet at the deepest) and numerous reefs and submerged rocks can create very rough seas, especially in bad weather. Still, the strait’s history with UFOs is hard to ignore, especially after the strange phenomena was immortalized in the 2016 TV show The Kettering Incident. The series co-creator, Victoria Madden, has explained in interviews that the show was inspired by several odd incidents that occurred around the north coast of Tasmania while she was growing up. These included missing persons, cars suddenly coming to a halt, “dome objects in the Lake Country,” memory loss, etc. Madden herself recalls a childhood memory where she and her friends witnessed lights hovering over the trees, making a weird noise before they suddenly vanished.

Some have even gone as far as to argue that there may be an underwater UFO base in the region. I’m not going to agree or disagree with this argument, even if I’m a bit on the skeptical side here.

Sources:

https://listverse.com/2018/02/11/10-truly-bizarre-incidents-from-the-bass-strait-triangle/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bass_Strait_Triangle

https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4385

UFO Disappearance-Unsolved Mysteries

UFOs and Strange Vanishings at Australia’s Mysterious Bass Strait Triangle

2. Little Egypt Triangle (Illinois)
The Illinois counties generally agreed to make up the Little Egypt Triangle

Little Egypt is the colloquial name for the southern third of Illinois, bordered by the Wabash, Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers. Often divided from the rest of Illinois by Interstate 64, the region is often renowned for having a distinct cultural identity from the rest of the state, principally due to its association with the antebellum South (for better or for worse). However, several paranormal investigators have also argued that the area is a hotbed of paranormal activity, with a high concentration of haunted buildings, UFOs, and cryptid sightings.

For example, in Madison County, Alton has often been described as “the most haunted town in America,” hosting such hotspots as McPike Mansion, the First Unitarian Church, the Mineral Springs Hotel, and the Milton School. Other haunted locations that one can find in the triangle include (but certainly aren’t limited to) Cave-In-Rock State Park (allegedly home to buried treasure and moaning cries), the Crenshaw House in Equality (ironically home to a place where free blacks were sold into slavery in a reverse Underground Railroad situation), the Coate Mental Health Center in Anna (a mental hospital that burned down twice. Need I say more?), and Lebanon Road in Collinsville (a local legend says that if you pass under all seven bridges on the road at midnight, a portal to Hell will open up!).

As for UFOs, St. Clair County hosted one of the most infamous so-called “black triangle” sightings when, for two hours starting at four in the morning on January 5, 2000, several eyewitnesses (including four police officers) saw a triangle-shaped object flying overhead. They described it as having three white lights on the vertices and a red light in the center. One officer even managed to photograph the object. Even though Skeptoid podcast host Brian Dunning has built a rather compelling case that the “UFO” was nothing more than an advertising blimp, the incident has remained a mainstay in Illinois urban legend, even being referenced in Sufjan Stevens’ landmark 2005 concept album Illinois.

As for cryptids, southern Illinois has played host to several sightings of animals that seem out of place. Out of place big cats seem to be very common in Illinois. Champaign County was plagued by a particularly vicious one in 1963 that killed a lot of livestock, including dozens of chickens. Shawnee National Forest has also been a historical hotspot for big cat sightings. One of the more dramatic reports to come out of this region happened to Mike Bubsy on April 10, 1970. He was tending to engine problems outside Olive Branch in Alexander County when a six-foot-tall black feline attacked him. It only stopped when a passing semi-truck startled it and allowed Bubsy to catch a ride to the hospital.

Phantom kangaroos have also been reported in the region, as have several Bigfoot-type creatures. One particularly alarming encounter occurred near Cairo in the evening hours of July 25, 1972, when Leroy Summers reported seeing a 10-foot hairy white creature standing near the Ohio River levee. The area also boasts its fair share of lake monsters, the most famous being Du Quoin’s Stump Pond Monster that was sighted several times between 1879 and 1968 when the lake was partially drained.

But by far the most infamous and strangest cryptid to come out of Little Egypt is probably the Enfield Horror, which stalked White County in April and May of 1973. On the 25th of that month, Henry McDaniel went to his front door to examine a strange scratching sound. He claims to have found the culprit squatting between two rose bushes. “It had three legs on it, a short body, two short little arms, and two pink eyes as big as flashlights. It stood four and a half feet tall and was grayish-colored.” McDaniel fired on the creature, but it did not seem to be affected by the bullets. It leaped away, covering a distance of fifty feet in three jumps.

The sighting sparked panic, with the police having their hands full arresting would-be monster hunters for hunting violations. The hysteria quickly vanished as suddenly as it first appeared, and nowadays, several skeptics have argued that the townsfolk mistook an escaped exotic pet like a kangaroo or an ape for “a monster from outer space.”

Sources:

Alton, Illinois-The Most Haunted Small Town in America: Mysterious Universe

The 15 Most Haunted Places in Illinois-Haunted Rooms America

Loren Coleman, Mysterious America (NY, Paraview, 2001)

Skeptoid Episode #435: The St. Clair Triangle UFO

https://copycateffect.blogspot.com/2015/08/10Triangles.html

W. Haden Blackman, The Field Guide to North American Monsters (NY, Three Rivers Press, 1998)

3. Ossipee Triangle (New Hampshire)

This one covers a vast swath of the Granite State if this map is to be believed, with the vertices being in Franconia in Grafton County, Ossipee in Carroll County, and Salem in Rockingham County. The whole area is centered on Lake Ossipee and was a sacred area to the indigenous Abenaki tribes. The lake was surrounded by a 100 million-year-old volcano and several glacier-carved kettle lakes. One of these, Snake Pond (formerly known as Mystery Pond), is reputed in local legend to be bottomless. UFOs have been reported diving into it and other deep ponds in the region, which has led some to argue that underwater tunnels connect the ponds.

Indeed, one of the most famous alien abduction incidents in UFO history occurred around the north edge of the triangle in 1961. Portsmouth residents Betty and Barney Hill were returning from a vacation in Canada on September 19 when they spotted a strange light just outside Lancaster around 10:30 in the evening. The craft, which they later described as “pancake-shaped” and covered in red lights, followed them until it caught up with them around Indian Head, near Franconia, and hovered about a hundred feet above them. They observed several humanoid figures in the craft’s windows.

Suddenly, the Hills realized they had lost two hours and were driving near Ashland, about thirty-five miles south. They later recalled that the aliens had taken them on board their ship and physically examined them. When Betty asked the beings where they came from, they showed her a map that astronomers later identified as being near the Zeta Reticuli constellation. Some astronomers have argued that the Hills inadvertently discovered a new star system in the process, although some skeptics, most notably Carl Sagan, disagreed. Indeed, a fair number of skeptics have argued that the whole incident was a hallucination triggered by the stress of being an interracial couple in the early 1960s (Barney was black, Betty was white).

Another notable UFO sighting occurred near Exeter on September 3, 1965, when a hitchhiker named Norman Muscarello witnessed a large red glowing object descending upon two houses. When Muscarello persuaded a police officer to follow him back to the site, they saw the same UFO hovering about a hundred feet off the ground. The incident inspired the “Exeter UFO Festival,” which started as a fundraiser to benefit children’s charities in 2010. New Hampshire was also the site of what is often considered the very first photo ever taken of a UFO, which was taken over Mount Washington in 1870.

Finally, there is the mystery of America’s Stonehenge in North Salem, a thirty-acre archeological site whose origins are hotly debated. It is reputed in local lore to have a pre-Columbian origin and to have been created either by local indigenous tribes or by monks of the Irish Culdee order or even ancient Minoan or Phoenician explorers. However, most archaeologists disagree, as no artifacts from pre-Columbian times have been found in the area. They conclude that the site was built by white settlers in the 18th/19th centuries for farming purposes and that William Goodwin, who purchased the land in 1937, started the fantastical stories to drum up business. Either way, it certainly seemed to attract the attention of horror literature icon H.P. Lovecraft, who may have based his story “The Dunwich Horror” on the megalith.

Sources:

http://copycateffect.blogspot.com/2015/08/10Triangles.html

Dennis William Hauck, Haunted Places: A National Directory

4. Aroostook Triangle (Maine)

This tiny sliver of Aroostook County, Maine, which occupies a 10x25x25 mile sliver of wilderness south of Presque Isle, occupies a rather prominent spot in the work of local folklorist Michelle Souliere. Aroostook is the largest county in New England, which, in Souliere’s eyes, makes it a perfect spot for a colony of Bigfoot to hide. Indeed, the area which she and fellow Mainer cryptozoologist Loren Coleman have dubbed “the Aroostook Triangle” has long been a hotspot of activity commonly associated with Bigfoot lore: wood knocks, snapped trees, large rocks being thrown about, unidentifiable roars, etc.

What follows are a sampling of alleged Sasquatch encounters in Aroostook County collected by Souliere in her book Bigfoot in Maine, presented in chronological order:

c. 1983, E Plantation: An anonymous John Doe claims that he was camping out in his cousin’s backyard when they were woken up by what sounded like rocks being banged together. They went back to sleep, thinking it was a horse in a nearby barn. But when they checked the barn the next morning, the horse wasn’t there.

They had more sleepovers that summer and more weird encounters. Something followed them while they were walking in the woods and growled and ran off when they tried to get a closer look. They later saw a long, humanoid arm reaching over their tent one night after they were woken up by something brushing up against it.

Later in life, John Doe would learn that his sister had once seen an ape-like face peering through her bedroom window, that his brother had seen what he thought was a rock stand up on two legs and walk away, and that one incident in which his mother had ordered him and his siblings back into the house, shotgun in hand, was because she had seen a black shape lurking around the bushes.

May 1990, near Island Falls on Mattawamkeag River: Mike Dunphy Sr. was out on a Memorial Day fishing trip with his son Mike Jr. when a creature walking on two legs and covered in dark brown hair emerged from the woods and crossed an old logging road. They immediately packed up and left and didn’t speak about the incident for years afterward.

May 2007, Moro Plantation: Jeff Kaine was fishing in Green Pond when the peaceful silence was broken by two loud knocks, followed by what sounded like a small tree being snapped in half. Around 7 p.m., Kaine was getting ready to pack it in when a monstrous roar ripped through the evening air. Scared out of his wits, he immediately made a break for his truck and tore out of there. Kaine would later learn that a friend had had large rocks thrown at him during another fishing trip to Green Pond.

Of course, there are probably others, but that’s all I could find from Souliere’s book. Maybe you have your own. Let me know in the comments!

Sources:

http://copycateffect.blogspot.com/2019/07/Aroostook-Triangle.html

Michelle Souliere and Loren Coleman, Bigfoot in Maine (SC, Charleston, The History Press, 2021)

5. Pag Triangle (Croatia)

This location is a rarity in that it is one of the only paranormal triangles that is an actual, physical triangle. The triangle takes its name from the island that houses it, Pag, and can be found just outside of the small town of Novalja. It was discovered by geologist Zlatko Grabovac in 1999 while surveying the region around Velo Tusto Celo Hill (which means “Big Fat Forehead” in English).

The triangle itself, officially known as the Pag Venture Star, is unusual in several ways. It seems to form a perfect isosceles shape, with two sides measuring 72 feet and another measuring 105 feet. It also consists of rocks of a different structure than those surrounding it, being of a much lighter color. Since science still has yet to explain how the triangle came into existence, many fringe theorists have come up with their own answers.

Some, like Stjepan Zvonaric, have noted that Pag Island seems to be a UFO hotspot and has accordingly suggested that the rocks within the triangle were superheated when an extraterrestrial spacecraft landed on the spot 12,000 years ago, which is the scientists’ best guess on when the triangle was first formed. Some have pointed out the fact that one of the angles of the triangle seems to point to the star Sirius as further proof of this theory.

Others, pointing to a local legend stating that Jesus Himself visited the island after His resurrection, argue that it is a sign from God and that the three vertices symbolize the Holy Trinity. Father Zlatko Sudac, a famous priest with stigmata, even claims that he received his wounds while conversing with a friend about the triangle.

Whatever you believe about the triangle, there is no denying that it is a fairly popular tourist destination, with half a million people having visited in the two decades since its discovery. Several of them have claimed to have experienced unusual activity inside the triangle, including GPS’ turning off or connecting with six satellites at once, batteries on electronic devices spontaneously draining, and overall eerie feelings.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pag_Triangle

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/pag-triangle

https://croatiaundiscovered.info/en/blog/pag-triangle/

https://unexplainedfile.blogspot.com/2014/01/pag-triangle-ufo-landed-site.html

6. Broad Haven Triangle (Wales)

This UFO hotspot, also known as the Welsh Triangle and the Dyfed Triangle, centers on St. Brides’ Bay in the province of Pembrokeshire, located on the tip of Wales’ southern peninsula. Although it was the wave of sightings that occurred in this region in 1977 that really put this area on the ufology radar, at least one prior sighting has also been recorded.

Taking place near the town of Castlemartin in 1952, it involved a Mr. Thomas who was taking a lunchtime stroll on the sand dunes when he noticed something unusual. A group of men was standing over a metallic object that was partially buried in the sand. When Mr. Thomas approached the men, they warned him not to approach any closer, as he was not adequately protected from the deadly rays that the object was giving off. After warning him that Earth was on a self-destructive path and that they had been monitoring the planet for hundreds of years, they told Mr. Thomas the name of the planet they came from, a detail that Thomas had forgotten by the time he finally came forward with his story.

As for the 1977 wave of sightings, as usual, here’s the most notable incidents recorded in chronological order:

February 4: A group of fourteen schoolchildren are playing football outside of Broad Haven Primary School when a yellow cigar-shaped craft lands in a nearby field. Six of them also see a humanoid figure with long ears and a silver suit emerged from the craft. When the headmaster asks the witnesses to draw what they saw, he is struck by the similarity of their drawings. A teacher later comes forward to say she saw a shiny oval-shaped object with a slight dome departing from the same field, making a humming noise as it did so. The same craft allegedly made a repeat appearance at the school on February 17, witnessed by three teachers.

March 13: 13-year-old Steven Taylor sees a domed object land in the field near his house. When he goes outside to investigate, he is approached by a tall humanoid wearing a shiny one piece suit. After he punches at the figure, it vanishes. That same evening, a 17-year-old Milford Haven resident claims she was menaced by a three-foot-tall humanoid standing on her windowsill.

April 7: 64-year-old Cyril John, another Milford Haven resident, is woken up at 5 a.m. by a light shining through his window. He looks out to see an egg-shaped object about four feet wide floating above a nearby field, colored silver-grey with a reddish-orange light on top. Floating beside it is a faceless humanoid wearing what looks like a silver-grey boiler suit. The being and the object hovered like that for 25 minutes before slowly moving off.

April 19: One of the more infamous sightings to occur during this flap happens to Rosa Granville, owner of the Haven Fort Hotel in Little Haven. She was woken by a light shining through her window around 2:30 in the morning. She looked out her window to see a craft shaped like an upside down saucer in a nearby field, spouting flames of all different colors from its underside. The heat was so intense that Granville claims her face felt burnt afterward. She also sees two faceless humanoids with pointed heads next to the craft. The saucer disappears in the time it takes her to gather other witnesses. She investigates the site the following day and discovers that the grass has been compressed and scorched.

April onward: Whatever was behind these incidents seems to have held a grudge against the Coombs family, the owners of Ripperston Farm. The family consisted of Billy, his wife Pauline, and their three children. They experienced numerous incidents throughout 1977 that some paranormal enthusiasts have compared to Utah’s infamous Skinwalker Ranch. These include lights that chased Pauline as she drove the nearby country lanes, whole herds of cattle being transported to different fields in the time it took Billy to brew a cup of tea, electrical items in the house constantly going haywire, and perhaps most disturbingly, a seven-foot faceless humanoid staring through their living room window.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there were also several cases of people claiming to have been abducted by the aliens that were haunting the region at the time. The reports were compelling enough that the British Ministry of Defense sent an investigator to see what he could find. He became convinced that the sightings were all the work of a practical joker, something that seems to be backed up by local businessman Glyn Edwards coming forward in 1996 claiming that he was the silver-suited spaceman.

Even so, sightings of cigar-shaped UFOs have continued to trickle out of the region sporadically, and several witnesses have continued to stick by their stories, including the boys from the primary school incident and Rosa Granville.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broad_Haven

BROAD HAVEN-THE WELSH TRIANGLE: sjhstrangetales

https://www.specialaccesspodcast.co.uk/post/broad-haven-the-welsh-triangle

https://www.ufoinsight.com/ufos/close-encounters/broad-haven-school-ufo-incident

7. Falkirk Triangle (Scotland)

This sliver of the Scottish lowlands covers the area between the towns of Falkirk, Stirling, and Bonnybridge and lies rather close to the capital at Edinburgh. It has been described as the UFO capital of the world, with 300 sightings being recorded every year!

The sightings in the area seem to date back as far as 1979 in the nearby town of Livingston, when a forestry worker named Robert Taylor was chased by a metallic black flying dome in Dechmont Wood and may have been the victim of alien abduction (he reported being grabbed by metal rods around his hips that pulled him toward the ship before he blacked out). The sightings in the triangle itself would begin in earnest about ten years later:

1989: A firefighting crew is battling a blaze in Gradrum Moss when a red object approaches them. It hovers over them for several minutes before speeding away. Suddenly, a second object approaches them, this time glowing white before it too hovers and then speeds off.

November 12, 1991: Two photographers at the Polmont Reservoir see two flashing lights over Kincardine Bridge. Despite thinking it was a helicopter at first, the pair noticed that it made no sound. The craft approached them, and the pair reported hearing a quiet, pulsing hum.

1992: Local businessman James Walker becomes the subject of the most famous encounter to come out of the triangle. On his way home from work, he encounters a star-shaped UFO that starts following him and eventually cuts him off. As he gets out of his car to take a closer look, the UFO shoots off at blinding speed. It never makes a sound at any point during the encounter.

March 1992: The Sloggett family is out on an early morning walk outside Bonnybridge when they spot a ring of strange lights over a nearby moor. When the family books it back toward their house, a blue football-shaped craft lands in front of them and opens a door, out of which a howling roar bellows.

August 1992: Gary Wood and Colin Wright are driving along the A70 highway through West Lothian near the Harperring Reservoir when a UFO intercepts their car. They suddenly experience a case of missing time lasting two hours. Under hypnosis, they claim to have been taken to an underground base, where they were experimented upon and saw walls lined with people frozen in glass jars.

January 19, 1994: A motorist in the town of Larbert is chased by a white light, which a bystander manages to capture on tape in an 18-second film.

September 1996: An airforce family reports a truly bizarre encounter in Falkland when they claim to have seen a field swarming with ant-like beings seemingly being commanded by taller white entities to make nests out of saliva and hay. They also claim these beings were being teleported out of a black triangle the size of a stadium via an array of bizarre lights.

1999: The town of Gorebridge is claimed to have been placed under siege by UFOs. Reports range from a 737 jet being buzzed by three glowing objects while approaching Edinburgh Airport to two men being chased by a “floating green eye” while looking for Christmas trees near Blinkbonny Mine to an apparent alien being who was photographed standing on someone’s roof.

Again, those are just some of the more infamous sightings. As the 300-a-year figure noted above indicates, there are far more sightings where those came from. There are, of course, many theories as to why this area is such a significant hotspot.

Some have seized upon the Wood-Wright account to posit that there is indeed an underground base in the region out of which the UFOs are operating. Others argue that the area’s rich history has something to do with the sightings. For example, not only did the celebrated Battle of Bannockburn occur within the confines of the triangle, but some legends state that the town of Camelon was the site of the Battle of Camlann, in which King Arthur fought his battle to the death with his bastard half-son Mordred. Not only that, but Midlothian also houses Rosslyn Chapel, which is popularly believed to hide the Holy Grail, among other holy artifacts, within its walls. This legend was popularized by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, although most scholars agree the story has no basis in fact.

Many ufologists have noted the similarities between alien abduction stories and old legends of encounters with fairies and elves, suggesting that the fair folk were just how people in the Middle Ages and before conceptualized extraterrestrial beings. Indeed, Scotland and other Celtic countries have a long history of fair folk traditions.

Then again, many local residents have accused local leaders of making it all up to turn Bonnybridge and other towns into tourist traps, arguing that the strange craft are just experimental military technology being tested on one of several military bases in the region. That is, admittedly, the most plausible explanation, but one can never really know for sure…

Sources:

https://www.ufoinsight.com/ufos/close-encounters/falkirk-triangle-rosslyn-chapel

http://www.andrewhennessey.co.uk/STA1/falkirktriangle.html

UFO’s and High Strangeness at Scotland’s Falkirk Triangle- Mysterious Universe

https://www.parkdeanresorts.co.uk/discover-more/places/the-falkirk-triangle/

8. Molyobka Triangle (Russia)
The village of Molyobka: population 374

This town is nestled within the southern reaches of the Ural Mountains in the Kishertsky District of Perm Krai. The town is located on ground that was sacred to the indigenous Mansi people, who believed it was a gathering place for gods and spirits. Maybe that explains the wealth of paranormal phenomena that has been recorded in this triangle, also often known as the Perm Anomalous Zone or the M-Zone.

The M-Zone first gained international attention from ufologists in 1983, when Russian UFO enthusiast Emil Bachurin led an expedition into the village’s thick forests. Not only did he witness a purple light rising out of the trees that left behind a patch of melted snow 206 feet across, the team was also chased by orbs of light that burned them with rays and even knocked one of them unconscious.

Over the years, various people have reported mysterious lights in the sky, luminous translucent beings stalking through the trees, sightings of Chuchunya (Russia’s answer to Bigfoot or the Yeti), weather anomalies like strange-colored lightning, disembodied singing voices, malfunctioning compasses and electronics, and watches stopping or even ticking backwards.

Another ufologist expedition in 2005 reported seeing a giant glowing ball above the trees. Chillingly, one of the team members went missing afterwards, and the last photograph taken of him allegedly shows a beam shining on the man from the UFO.

The American TV series Sightings also filmed a segment on the Perm anomalies in the early 90’s, and allegedly had their camp surrounded by orbs of light later that evening. Not only did locals confirm that the mysterious phenomena had long since been accepted as a fact of life among them, but the TV crew was also warned beforehand by government officials that staying more than 24 hours in the M-Zone might be hazardous.

Despite this, there are also several people who believe that the region has healing properties. Sure, ill health effects like headaches, nosebleeds, muscle aches, nausea, and dizziness have been reported. But others have claimed that the unique energies have a refreshing and enlightening effect and can even cure various ailments.

Perhaps the most famous case of the M-Zone’s alleged healing abilities comes from journalist and cosmonaut Pavel Mukhortov. After being turned away from the cosmonaut program due to physical disabilities, Mukhortov traveled to the M-Zone to do a possible story on it. While he didn’t see any UFOs, he and his traveling companions did fall ill. But soon after, they became filled with “an intense sense of well-being,” and claimed to have suddenly had their heads filled with visions and knowledge that seemingly came from nowhere. Mukhortov claims that these effects allowed him to pass the Soviet Space Program with flying colors when he reapplied, and thus finally fulfilled his dream of becoming a cosmonaut.

Whether or not this is because UFOs are drawn to the strange electromagnetic forces endemic to the region, or it’s the electromagnetism combined with infrasound that is causing hallucinations of UFOs, one cannot deny that there is something weird going on in the woods around Molyobka. However, if you want to check it out for yourself, be forewarned; the area is apparently overcrowded with other “pilgrims” seeking answers to the phenomena. Just make sure you’re not placing too much strain on the locals.

Sources:

Molebka’s triangle- MYSTICAL RUSSIA

A Bizarre Anomalous Zone in the Wilds of Russia- Mysterious Universe

9. Great River Triangle (New York)

This is certainly the smallest triangle I’ve covered in either triangle list in terms of the total area it covers. It spans only a tiny 4 1/2 square mile area of Suffolk County on Long Island, New York, between the towns of Islip and Oakdale and Heckscher State Park. What sets this area apart, according to local urban legend, is its history of UFO sightings. Indeed, with 554 sightings recorded between 2001 and 2015 alone, Suffolk County has been described as the UFO capital of New York. Some notable sightings include:

May 1908: Several residents witness what they describe as “a string of lighted beads” flying across the sky. At one point, the lead UFO stops, causing the others to merge with it and “spin like a Fourth of July pinwheel” before taking off at great speed.

July 1954: An Oakdale resident calls his wife and son, named Tom, out to the yard. They witness three glowing objects in a V formation up in the night sky. Tom remembers seeing a discharge that reminded him of Christmas tinsel pouring out of the back of the objects before they disappeared behind the trees.

May 1997: A female motorist, as well as several police officers and many persons in a nearby building, witness six golden-colored lights hovering in the sky. Oddly enough, several other people in the area later claim they saw nothing unusual.

July 2014: Several Islip residents report seeing a bright orange fireball traveling east-southeast around 10:30 in the evening.

According to ufologist Cheryl Costa, there have been 40 sightings of UFOs within the perimeter of the Great River Triangle between 1918 and 2014. What attracts them to the region is unknown.

Sources:

Syracuse New Times- The Great River Triangle UFOS

NBC New York- Suffolk County Leads NY State in UFO Reports

UFO Digest- Long Island’s Great River Triangle UFOs

10. Romblon Triangle (Philipinnes)

This one comes to us from the Philippines. With its three points resting on the Conception municipality in the north, Sibuyan in the southeast, and Dos Hermanos in the southwest, the triangle encompasses the entirety of the Romblon island archipelago, hence the name. The Sibuyan Sea that surrounds the archipelago has gained a nasty reputation over the years for being involved in several of the worst maritime disasters in history, wartime or peacetime. For example:

October 24, 1944: The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea was part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf, which is often considered not just the largest naval battle during World War II but the largest battle in the entire history of naval warfare. Out of the 200,000 naval personnel involved in the battle, 15,500 died, all but three thousand on the Japanese side. The Allied Forces’ victory in this battle allowed them to take the Philipinnes back from the Japanese and left the Japanese navy as but a shell of its former glory.

One big reason for this was the loss of the Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea, the first of four major engagements in the Leyte Gulf affair. The Musashi, alongside her sister ship Yamato, was the largest battleship ever constructed, displacing 72,000 tons. Not that it did her much good in the end, as she was sunk by 19 torpedos and 17 bombs in 4430 feet of water with the loss of 1376 of her 2399 man crew. The Yamato would suffer a much worse fate off Okinawa on April 7, 1945: struck by 11 torpedos and six bombs, she capsized and exploded with the loss of 3055 of her 3332 crew.

April 22, 1980: A ferry called the MV Don Juan, belonging to the Neros Navigation shipping company, collides with the oil tanker MT Tacloban City at 1 p.m. between Dos Hermanos and Conception islands. The Don Juan sank with the loss of only 18 lives, although 115 were reported missing. Still, 745 survivors were recorded, which is far more than I can say for the next shipping disaster on this list…

December 20, 1987: The severely overcrowded ferry MV Dona Paz sets out from Tacloban on Leyte en route to Manila. Around 10:30 that evening, the ferry collided with the oil tanker MT Vector in the Tablas Strait off the island of Marinduque and subsequently burst into flames. The ships sank within two hours and four hours, respectively. Although the ferry’s official capacity was 1424 passengers, survivor testimony places the actual number of people aboard closer to 4000. Indeed, out of the only 24 passengers who survived (plus one crew member), only five were recorded in the ship’s manifest. Current estimates place the death toll over 4300, making the Dona Paz incident the worst peacetime shipping disaster in history.

June 21, 2008: The Romblon archipelago suffers another deadly ferry disaster, this time thanks to Typhoon Fengshen. The MV Princess of the Stars was on a voyage from Manila to Cebu City when the typhoon, then a Category Two storm, unexpectedly changed course. The ferry was caught in the middle of it, and after being battered by the stormy seas for twelve hours, it capsized around one p.m. off the municipality of San Fernando on Sibuyan Island. The heavy seas prevented any rescue ships from reaching the foundering vessel for another twelve hours. By the time help finally came, only 56 of the 870 people on board were left alive.

So far, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly mysterious about this triangle. Indeed, as the Philippine Coast Guard has pointed out, there hasn’t been much we’ve talked about in this entry that couldn’t have been caused by typhoons, high tides, hidden rocks or reefs, or navigational errors. That is unless you think Lolo Amang is somehow involved.

Lolo Amang can be described as the Philippines’ answer to the Flying Dutchman. He reportedly sails the waters around Romblon in a golden ship so shiny that it can be seen from a mile away. Those who approach close enough have reported seeing a massive party on the decks, full of food, music, and fair-skinned dancing women. Indeed, if we believe some eyewitness accounts from the MV Don Juan incident, the ships collided because the Don Juan’s captain was steering to avoid colliding with Lolo Amang’s ship.

Of course, many are inclined to believe that the Lolo Amang legend is nothing more than a sailor’s fairy tale born either from booze or an attempt to escape liability for a shipping accident. Still, legends of strange incidents in the region seem to date back to the Spanish colonies in the 16th century, with many galleons plying the Manila-Acapulco route leaving offerings to the spirits and mermaids living in the cursed seas around Sibuyan.

Who knows? Maybe the age of myths from the indigenous tribes of the Philippines is still alive and well in the seas around Romblon.

Sources:

https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads/features/romblon-triangle-a00289-20210104

https://www.wattpad.com/18533801-urban-legends-romblon-triangle

https://statusbookph.blogspot.com/2012/03/romblon-triangle.html

https://manilastandard.net/news/-provinces/139634/the-curse-of-the-romblon-triangle.html


And there you have it; ten more paranormal triangles profiled and examined! I will most definitely be returning to this subject again at a later date. I’d like to determine whether the Vile Vortices are really that vile and to examine some famous incidents in the Bermuda Triangle to see if they really are all that strange. But for this Halloween, be prepared for me to introduce you to one of the most mysterious and terrifying Satanic black metal bands ever to exist.

Until then, stay spooky, you beautiful watchers!

A Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left, Pt. 1: Anarcho-Primitivism

Welcome to my new multi-part series on this blog! You could view this in some ways as a continuation of my “How Anarchism Works” post that I wrote way back around the time I first started this blog. I still think it holds up splendidly as an excellent introduction to the kind of things that anarchists like myself believe in.

However, I do feel there is one big issue with the piece as a whole: It’s far too narrow in scope, as it doesn’t cover the beliefs of every different strand of anarchist thought. In “How Anarchism Works,” I mostly only covered the strand known as “anarcho-communism” and its closely related partner “anarcho-syndicalism.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing. For starters, social anarchism, of which the above-stated ideologies are a part, is the most popular anarchist ideology. And, of course, trying to cover the beliefs of all anarchist doctrines would turn the post into a book, and that would be far beyond the scope of someone like myself who only discovered this stuff mere months before I started this blog.

For these reasons, I have decided to start a series dedicated to individually examining the different ideologies of the political left to see how they compare and contrast with one another. This won’t be restricted to just the libertarian socialist left, however. I also want to examine several leftist ideologies that don’t fall under the anarchist umbrella. I want to understand, for example, how the Marxist-Leninists differ from the Maoists, or Stalinists from Trotskyists, or what separates collectivist anarchism from mutualism. This is just as much for my benefit as for my readers since I’m still a complete noob at this myself. I fear that my affinity for anarcho-communism might make me somewhat biased in my coverage of several of these ideologies, especially non-anarchist ones. However, I still need to know, and I want to share whatever knowledge I have gained with whoever might be interested in hearing it.

But enough about explaining my motivations for starting this series. For now, let us begin with the very first ideology I wish to profile in this series: anarcho-primitivism.

General Beliefs

Anarcho-primitivism is often considered to be the most extreme wing of the larger “green anarchism” movement. Green anarchism (which also includes schools of thought like anarcho-naturism, green syndicalism, and social ecology) is often contrasted with classical anarchism (sometimes referred to as “red anarchism”). Green anarchists tend to argue that classical anarchists do not place enough emphasis on the human relationship with the natural world and that we must think about how we may liberate the non-human plants and animals of the world from the same hierarchical forces that led humans to dominate other humans.

Anarcho-primitivists (who I will call “an-prims” for short from this point) go a bit further than that. Their basic thesis is that the problems with human civilization are rooted in the very creation of civilization itself. Specifically, they believe that the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies during the Neolithic Revolution is at the root of the widespread coercion, social alienation, and social stratification that socialists of every stripe want to see eliminated from human society.

An-prims thus advocate for eliminating all technology developed after the advent of agriculture and especially after the Industrial Revolution in favor of hand tools, minimalist housing, and wild food sources. It is from an-prims, as well as the green anarchist movement as a whole, that we get the term “rewilding,” which refers to the process of undoing not only the domestication that humans inflicted on wild plants and animals during the Neolithic Revolution but also the domestication that agricultural (and later industrial) societies have inflicted on humanity.

Suppose you want a picture of what an ideal an-prim society might look like. In that case, one essay I found in The Anarchist Library quotes a passage from Chuck Palahniuk’s classic novel Fight Club:

Picture yourself planting radishes and seed potatoes on the fifteenth green of a forgotten golf course. You’ll hunt elk through the deep canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center, and dig clams next to the skeleton of the Space Needle leaning at a forty-five degree angle. We’ll paint the skyscrapers with huge totem faces and goblin tikis, and everything what’s left of mankind will retreat to empty zoos and lock themselves in cages as protection against the bears and big cats and wolves that pace and watch us from outside the cage bars at night.

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996 (pgs. 125-126)

Now, eliminating technology doesn’t necessarily mean “literally everything we’ve created since 12,000 BCE needs to be destroyed.” The primitivist view of technology tends to be more ambiguous than outright evil. They don’t tend to think that it’s their duty to take the destruction of modern civilization into their own hands. They tend to believe that our current technology-based society is inherently unsustainable and prone to collapse any day now. When that happens, they see themselves being there to lead the wayward sons and daughters of Mother Earth into a new and more harmonious age.

History and Prominent Figures

Some have argued that the roots of anarcho-primitivism go back to Henry David Thoreau’s classic Transcendentalist work Walden which advocates for a self-sufficient lifestyle in harmony with nature in opposition to the then-current Industrial Revolution. Thoreau’s work (and that of Leo Tolstoy and Elisee Reclus) would influence the anarcho-naturist movement in the early 1900s, which shocked more conservative onlookers in Europe and Cuba with their proclivities toward nudism and free love.

In the United States, an-prim is generally best known for its association with the Philadelphia-based MOVE organization and Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. MOVE, founded in 1972 by John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart), can be understood as the missing link between the Black Panthers and the naturalist communalism of the hippie movement. It is especially infamous for its involvement in the May 13, 1985 incident in which the Philadelphia Police Department dropped C-4 explosives on a house with thirteen MOVE members (six of them children) holed up inside, John Africa being one of them. Not only did the ensuing fire kill all but two of the MOVE members (Africa being one of them), but the fire department simply let it burn until sixty-five houses in the surrounding neighborhood burned with it. Unsurprisingly, subsequent investigations and lawsuits found that the city had used excessive force and violated the MOVE members’ Fourth Amendment rights.

As for Kaczynski, his writings, especially the 1995 essay “Industrial Society and Its Future,” were embraced by an-prims for its core thesis that the Industrial Revolution ushered in a harmful process that destroyed nature and human freedom by making them slaves to advanced technology. As such, his bombing campaign was his way of attempting to topple this industrialized society to mitigate the devastation it wrought. However, even though he was friends with prominent an-prim John Zerzan for several years, Kaczynski has criticized the primitivist movement as having an overly romanticized view of hunter-gatherer cultures, as well as leftists politics as a whole for, in his view, simply trying to replace the current organized, technological society with a different, collectivist one. As such, several eco-fascists like the Christchurch and El Paso shooters have cited Kaczynski as an inspiration, although Kaczynski has also condemned fascism as a “kook ideology.”

From what I’ve gathered, the most popular writers in the field of anarcho-primitivism are the aforementioned John Zerzan and Derrick Jensen (Daniel Quinn’s 1992 novel Ishmael also seems to be highly regarded amongst their ranks). Zerzan is best known for his essay collections, including a 1994 compilation of his own writings titled Future Primitive and Other Essays and 2005’s Against Civilization: Readings and Reflections, which collects writings of others who have influenced primitivist thought.

Derrick Jensen, for his part, is probably best known for his two-volume book Endgame, published in 2006, in which he advocates for the overthrow of our unsustainable civilization through violence, in a similar manner to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. I confess that I haven’t read either of these men’s work, although even with the somewhat cursory research I’ve done on this philosophy, I feel comfortable in sharing my opinions on what I’ve seen.

Personal Thoughts

As someone with strong romanticist leanings, I will admit that there is a certain appeal in the prospect of going back to a bygone age where humanity lived in harmony with nature instead of trying to strangle it into submission. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen abandoned houses or other buildings on the side of the road during a drive in the country and wished we would just let the buildings rot and let the lots they lie on be reabsorbed back into Gaia’s bosom. But when looking at the primitivists’ ultimate end goal, my rational side immediately kicks back and says, “Now hold your horses there, buddy”!

First of all, there’s no way of getting around the fact that achieving the kind of civilizational collapse that an-prims seek would undoubtedly condemn millions, if not billions, to premature death. True, an-prims generally don’t want to perpetrate deliberate genocide to achieve a Malthusian cull of human overpopulation. Still, the simple fact remains that they want to abolish the current technological infrastructure that has made modern living standards possible. Do an-prims seriously believe that humanity will just give up indoor plumbing just like that?

This brings me to my second significant objection: I find the entire foundation of the primitivist worldview, that all technological development since the Neolithic Revolution has been nothing but bad for humanity and the world, to be ridiculous on the face of it. I mentioned indoor plumbing above, and the modern medical system is another thing that has benefited humanity (well, at least when it’s not driven by profits like here in America). Yes, technology has several bad effects, like war and the harmful effects of social media, but it’s not civilization itself that is to blame here. It is the capitalist perversion of it, seeking human suffering and misery and ecological collapse on a scale we’ve never seen for the sake of the ruling class’s bank accounts.

Finally, an-prims don’t seem to realize (or don’t care) that systemic racism and classism inherent in the capitalist system would mean that marginalized communities would be disproportionally affected by the kind of civilizational collapse that the primitivists advocate for. Indeed, not only has the an-prim movement as a whole faced several accusations of transphobia in the past, but it often seems disturbingly easy to draw a direct line between anarcho-primitivism and eco-fascism, even if, as stated above, an-prims aren’t seeking deliberate genocide or to deny certain ethnic groups resources so the “superior race” can keep them for themselves.

All that said, though, I generally don’t think the an-prims are a significant threat to the world in the same way that fascism as a whole is. Even many an-prims seem to be self-aware that their philosophy is far too extreme even for most leftists and that it has more utility as a critique of late-stage capitalism than a practical alternative to it.

I’m still doggedly in the anarcho-communist camp myself, but I’m by no means dogmatic about it. Anyone who wants to make their own communes based on their own philosophies are free to do with them as they wish. Make it Marxist-Leninist if you wish, or black separatist, or even anarcho-primitivist. I really don’t care. I just care about overthrowing the capitalist system so we can finally be free to make those choices for ourselves.


So that was my first entry in this new series about leftist ideologies. Let me know how well I did, and join me for the next episode in the series. I haven’t decided what the next philosophy I will discuss is yet, although I have been leaning toward Marxism-Leninism. We’ll see about that, but first, Halloween is coming, so I will be delving back into the mysterious world of paranormal triangles for the next blog post. Until then, stay golden, my beautiful watchers!

P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist #5: “Atrocity Exhibition” by Joy Division

From left to right: Peter Hook, Ian Curtis, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner

Today on P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist, we cover one of the most (in)famous bands to come out of the late seventies post-punk movement. Post-punk is an umbrella term used to describe several different styles of music that tried to apply punk rock’s energy and DIY stylings to genres not necessarily within the parameters of rock, like electronica, jazz, funk, dance music, etc. The movement produced numerous bands of note, from Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image Ltd., and Pere Ubu to Devo, the Talking Heads, The Cure, The Fall, and Gang of Four. It was not only the starting point of a surprising number of commercially successful bands, like U2, R.E.M., and Depeche Mode, it also helped influence even more experimental genres like goth rock, no wave, and industrial.

However, the band I want to focus on today is best known for the life of its lead singer, who died tragically at a far too young age and thus cast a shadow not just on the band member’s reputations but also on the history of post-punk as a whole. So let’s talk about Ian Curtis and the genre he helped define.

Backstory

The band was conceived in the town of Salford in Greater Manchester, England, after childhood friends Bernard Sumner (guitars) and Peter Hook (bass) attended a Sex Pistols concert on June 4, 1976. After acquiring the talents of Stephen Morris on drums and Ian Curtis on vocals, the group initially chose the name Warsaw, after the David Bowie song “Warszawa.” However, the group soon decided to rename themselves to avoid confusion with an obscure punk group from London called Warsaw Pakt. Their new name, Joy Division, raised some eyebrows at the time since it was inspired by sex slavery programs run in Nazi concentration camps. This, combined with the illustration of a Hitler Youth prominently displayed on the cover of their debut EP, An Ideal for Living, led to accusations of Nazi sympathies.

But this minor controversy didn’t deter local TV personality Tony Wilson from signing the band to his independent Factory Records label shortly after. The band would go on to release two albums with Factory. Unknown Pleasures was released on June 15, 1979, followed by Closer, released on July 18, 1980. The non-album single “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” released the previous month, became their first chart hit, reaching the 13th spot on the UK singles chart.

Sadly though, Ian Curtis would not live to experience this success. Ian had epilepsy, which would often cause him to experience seizures in the middle of a concert. This condition did not mix well with the band’s relentless touring schedule, and Ian quickly drove himself to exhaustion. Bouts of insomnia, alcoholism, and a failing marriage finally combined to send him beyond the breaking point. His wife, Deborah, found his body hanging in his apartment on May 18, 1980, with the album The Idiot by Iggy Pop playing on the turntable and Werner Herzog’s Stroszek playing on the TV. He was only 23 when he died.

Both albums would go on to influence the alternative rock scenes on both sides of the Atlantic. Joy Division itself had made a pact to change their name if any member left. Thus, after recruiting Stephen Morris’ partner Gillian Gilbert as a new guitarist/keyboardist, they regrouped as the seminal new wave group New Order.

But what exactly was it about Joy Division’s sound that made them so influential to future bands as diverse as The Smiths, Radiohead, the Pet Shop Boys, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Maybe I can do my best to explain as I examine the opening track of Closer, a stark and riveting piece of music titled “Atrocity Exhibition.”

The Song

The song takes its title from the experimental anthology novel The Atrocity Exhibition, written by J.G. Ballard and published in 1970. Inspired by recent tragedies like the Kennedy assassination and his own wife’s sudden death from pneumonia, the book attracted controversy for its sexually charged nervous breakdown of a plot, which sees the narrator fantasizing his way through several different roles and scenarios to try to make sense of the chaotic world events he’s living through. Ian Curtis only read the novel after he had written the majority of the lyrics, however.

When listening to the song, one may scratch their head, wondering why the band chose this of all songs to open the album. It sounds nothing like anything that Joy Division has done before, be it the straight punk of An Ideal for Living or the dirges on Unknown Pleasures that sound like Black Sabbath minus Tony Iommi’s heaving metallic crunch. Granted, the calm and steady bass riff sounds like business as usual, as does Ian Curtis’ vocals (albeit a bit more strained than usual).

Stephen Morris’ drums, on the other hand, sound much more tribal and African inspired than the more straight-ahead beats of “Shadowplay” and “New Dawn Fades.” This chaotic atmosphere is further reinforced by the guitar work, which dispenses with recognizable riffs and instead simply bangs away with random screeching, clattering, and scraping sounds that might sound more at home with future noise rock groups like Swans, Big Black, or The Jesus and Mary Chain. This may have something to do with the fact that bassist Peter Hook and guitarist Bernard Sumner switched instruments for this track. The result, as TV Tropes put it, sounds “like a chorus [read: cacophony] of deformed souls moaning in agony.”

Martin Hannett’s production, which shaped the sound of both albums, is the final piece that brings it all together. His cavernous and atmospheric production style has been widely praised for how well it complements Ian’s tales of isolation and mental torment. However, Sumner and Hook hated it at the time mainly because they thought it was too far a departure from their more aggressive live sound. On the other hand, Morris and Curtis liked what they heard and thought it would be asking a bit too much for Hannett to make an exact copy of their live sound.

The Lyrics

The lyrics seem to be Curtis spelling out his view of society and human nature, with a chorus that solely consists of the phrase “This is the way, step inside.” What exactly is Curtis beckoning the listener to see? Allow the first verse to illustrate:

Asylums with doors open wide,
Where people had paid to see inside.
For entertainment they watch his body twist;
Behind his eyes, he says, "I still exist."

This verse likely references the practice of 19th century Englanders to visit mental asylums to watch the struggles of the mentally ill inmates, as if they were animals caged up in a zoo. It also has a much more personal meaning for Curtis related to his epilepsy. While he was initially open about his diagnosis, he started to become paranoid that much of the band’s audience was there hoping Curtis would have a seizure on stage. It’s certainly not hard to see how Ian could draw a connection between such sick ways of getting entertainment, given the continued stigmatization of those with mental and developmental disorders.

The darkness and nihilism only grow more in scale as the song progresses. The second verse adds to the asylum inmate’s ordeal:

In arenas he kills for a prize,
Wins a minute to add to his life,
But the sickness is drowned by cries for more;
Pray to God, make it quick, watch him fall.

Here, Ian reaches further back in history to the gladiator games of ancient Rome for another case of humans being entertained by atrocities, especially those the ruling class considers so far beneath them as to be barely even human.

After this point, Ian’s narration seems to take the form of a godlike outside observer, watching with glee as the lower classes of humanity struggle against the powers that be, only to be knocked back down into the stations their rulers have chosen for them and slaughtered if they refuse to stay put.

You'll see the horrors of a faraway place,
Meet the architects of law face to face,
See mass murder on a scale you've never seen,
And all the ones who try hard to succeed.

The song ends with this spine-chilling parting message from the omniscient narrator:

And I picked on the whims of a thousand or more,
Still pursuing the path that's been buried for years.
All the dead wood from jungles and cities on fire,
Can't replace or relate, can't release of repair.
Take my hand and I'll show what was and will be.

Here, the narrator seems to admit that he’s been orchestrating these atrocities from behind the scenes and argues that these atrocities will always plague humanity for as long as they continue to exist as a species. The verse takes even darker personal implications for Ian’s mental health at the time if one interprets the last line as an answer to this line from the Unknown Pleasures track “Disorder”:

I've been waiting for a guide to come
And take me by the hand.
Should’ve been more specific.
Personal Thoughts

Those familiar with my political beliefs probably already know where this is going: late-stage capitalism and America’s cultural takeover of the world. It’s hard not to draw parallels between the third verse and America’s forever wars (“See mass murder on a scale you’ve never seen”), its ongoing problems with racism and police brutality (“Meet the architects of law face to face”), and the rigid class divides enforced by the moneyed classes (“And all the ones who tried hard to succeed”).

I can certainly relate to the last line of the first verse (“Behind his eyes, he says ‘I still exist'”) as a person on the autism spectrum. In a society that looks down on the neurodivergent, it’s hard for me not to be self-conscious about my disorder. I usually keep it secret from my coworkers and friends out of fear that they may simply dismiss me as a “retard.”

I feel like Ian Curtis might have been having the same thoughts I’m having right now when he wrote this song. Indeed, many of the lyrics in the last two verses seem to be referencing various capitalism-induced crises that have only gotten worse in the four decades since his death, from the cycle of poverty to the destruction of the environment (“All the deadwood from jungles and cities on fire”). He had previously talked about the bloody history at the roots of the current global order in “Dead Souls”:

Where figures from the past stand tall
And mocking voices ring the halls.
Imperialistic house of prayer;
Conquistadors who took their share.

Fortunately, I have faith that there is a way out, and it lies in what the fourth verse refers to as “pursuing the path that’s been buried for years.” You can call that path whatever you want; Daoism, anarchism, socialism, paganism, the indigenous peoples’ ways buried by the tides of imperialistic conquest. There is no need to surrender to the defeatist attitude that Mark Fisher named “capitalist realism.” We can fight this, and we should.

And that’s all I have to say about the song “Atrocity Exhibition.” Next time, I will be starting a new series where I will dive into various leftist ideologies to teach my readers (and myself) how they would run a post-capitalist world. So until next time, stay safe, beautiful watchers, and rest in peace, Ian Curtis, wherever you may be.

An abyss that laughs at creation/A circus complete with all fools/Foundations that lasted the ages/Then ripped apart at their roots- Heart and Soul