Monday, November 23, 2015

Identified Box-like Objects (Part 2)

In my previous post I demonstrated how boxes with mysterious and supernatural qualities show up in ancient myths from all over the world. Judging from the many examples I and others have found it is probably an element that has appeared in most storytelling traditions, at one point or another. Having said that, it seems as if there are certain geographical areas where these stories are more prevalent than others. And even though the stories share many of the same qualities, there are also locally specific details that seperate them from each other.

The pursuit of ancient mystery boxes continues here, with examples from both the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religious traditions.

What's in an Ark

Much of my fascination with mystery boxes comes from watching Raiders of the Lost Ark at a very young age. Particularly the scene where Indiana Jones' arch-nemesis Belloq opens the Ark of the Covenant and brings doom upon himself and his nazi collaborators, made a huge impression on me as a child. Looking deeper into the subject, I quickly realized that a complete overview of the many legends surrounding the Ark of the Covenant was impossible to fit into a single post. Still, I have attempted to untangle a few threads and uncover some select details, in order to better place the Ark within the broader "tradition" of mystery boxes. 

The word 'ark' is derived from the latin 'arca', meaning "box" or "chest" and is also the root of the word "arcane". An entry from Biderman's Dictionary of Symbolism (1994:66) provides some further information:

ARK. chest (Latin cista, Greek kiste) A box-like container, corresponding also to the Latin area (see ARK). The mystic chest of Dionysus (see Bacchus) - probably a basket rather than a wooden chest - was filled with symbolic objects and carried by special priests known as kistophoroi; when the mysteries of Dionysus were celebrated, a snake emerged from it. The image of Demeter (Latin, Ceresas worshipped in the Eleusinian mysteries shows the goddess seated on a chest. In the Roman period the cista became a general symbol for esoteric mystical religions. The anatomical meaning of the English word "chest" is an extension of this same etymology.

The above resonates somewhat with what is told about the Ark of The Covenant in the Old Testament, where its dimensions, materials and contents are listed in great detail. In the Book of Exodus, the Ark is described as a gold plated, oblong box made of Shittah (acacia) wood, adorned with two golden cherubs. God ordered Moses to construct the Ark at the bottom of mount Sinai, for the purpose of storing the stone tablets containing the ten commandments. But another item that was put inside it was the Staff of Aaron, which is said to have had the ability to turn into a serpent. This proves an interesting link to one of the main themes from my previous post. It is probably not a complete coincidence that the "reptilian" King Cecrops came from Egypt and quite possibly lived during the same time as Moses.

Erichthonius of Athens depicted in an "ark" ritual, that very likely was "imported" from Egypt. In some way this probably also served as the foundation of the later myth of Erichthonius and the three daughters of Cecrops (courtesy of Ove von Spaeth).

Following its creation, the Ark was carried back and forth between many different locations for a period of over 500 years, demonstrating many miraculous (and, quite frankly, horrifying) feats along the way, before finally being placed in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. This is the last time it is mentioned in the Old Testament. It is only briefly referred to in the New Testament  - once in Revelation 11:19 and once in Hebrews 9:4, but neither of these sources provide any further details.

Theories abound regarding what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. The general, scholarly opinion seems to be that it was lost during the destruction of Solomon's Temple in 587. B.C., if not earlier. Many Jews, on the other hand, believe that the Ark is still in Jerusalem, stored somewhere underneath the city - perhaps under the Dome of The Rock. The plot in Raiders of the Lost Ark builds on the idea that the Ark was stolen from Solomon's Temple and taken to Egypt by a Pharaoh named Shishak, in the beginning of the first millennium, B.C. The Bible does indeed mention a Shishak and his brutal attack on Jerusalem, however, the Ark is not listed among the items he is said to have stolen. This seems like a curious neglect as it would have been considered the greatest of all the Hebrew treasures. Several hypotheses have also been put forward regarding the true identity of Shishak, but most mainstream egyptologists seem to believe that he was really Pharaoh Shoshenq I, who reigned from 943-922 B.C.

A still from Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. The plot of the movie is the quest to find Pandora's Box, but the Greek myth is greatly expanded upon and even changed to the point where it seems to be more inspired by the story of Shishak and the Ark. Here, another (fictional) Pharaoh finds the box/ark and brings it to Africa. All in all an interesting example of different mythical-religious elements morphing together within a modern context.

One of the most widespread hypotheses about the Ark of The Covenant's whereabouts derives from the 700+ year old Ethiopian text known as the Kebra Nagast. An account within it states that the Ark was stolen from Solomon's Temple but brought instead to Ethiopia - not by Shishak/Shoshenq but by Menelik I, the lovechild of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (known as Makeda to Ethiopians and claimed in the Kebra Nagast to be of Ethiopian descent, although this is widely disputed). The popularity of this particular notion is largely due to Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal, in which he investigates and documents the many clues about the Ark's presence in Ethiopia. 

What Hancock discovered during his research was something largely unknown outside of Eastern Africa at the time, namely that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church believes it has the Ark of The Covenant (known to followers as the Tabota Zion). It is supposedly kept inside a small sanctuary in the town of Axum where it has been under the protection of a long line of carefully selected guardians for centuries. While it is easy enough to locate the sanctum (adjacent to the Church of our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum), the Ark itself may only be looked upon by select members of the priesthood and its current guardian. Even catching a glimpse of the guardian himself is considered a rarity as he spends almost all his appointed time within the sanctum walls.

The Chapel of The Tablet in Axum, Ethiopia, where the Ark of The Covenant is allegedly stored and guarded 24/7.

Although the claimed-to-be-true Ark is not viewable for the lay person, there is still a way to observe it by proxy, since every Ethiopian Orthodox Church is said to house an exact replica of it (This is also the case with many other churches, as well as several synagogues, masonic lodges and even Shinto shrines, by the way, although measures and materials differ). The Ethiopian replication practice was supposedly initiated many years ago to create confusion about the location of the True Ark. It has since become an important symbol for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and every year there are large ceremonies where these replicas, known as Tabots, are carried around for all to see. What the ceremonies reveal, however, is that the Ethiopian ark-replicas are much smaller than what is described in the Old Testament. In fact they are closer to a square or cube in form and are usually made up of slabs of wood or stone. The reason for this, Hancock eventually concluded, was that "Tabot" really refers to the most important interior of the Ark, the stone tablets, despite the original meaning of the word.

A ritual with senior religious authorities of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church carrying a Tabot

A Shinto Omikoshi ritual, very similar to that of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Some Shintoists believe that the Ark of The Covenant was moved to Japan after it disappeared from Jerusalem. This is a good example of how widespread ark-lore really is and how different cultures lay claim to it's possession.

From Ark to Ark

Intrinsic to the story of the Ark of The Covenant is the story of Moses himself. Many people have an idea about who Moses was, but the full picture goes far beyond the image of Charleston Heston in The Ten Commandments. One of the leading scholars into the life of Moses is Danish researcher Ove von Spaeth, who has spent half a lifetime or more uncovering the occult roots of this enigmatic figure. Von Spaeth has found evidence which suggests that Moses was an initiate of the Egyptian mystery cults pointing, among other things, to the fact that The Ark of the Covenant is very similar to certain ritual chests used by these groups at the time. The chests were especially popular in the main city of ancient Egypt, Thebes. 'Thebes' is derived from the Hebrew tebah and the Greek taibe, both meaning 'ark’, or 'chest". And yes, the Ethiopian word tabot has its roots here too. 

A ritual chest being carried in a depiction of an ancient egyptian religious ceremony in Thebes, very similar in style to that of the Ark of the Covenant.

The story of baby Moses, who was found drifting along the Nile in a basket has all the traits of a royal initiation ceremony that was consistently practiced in ancient Egypt, as well as in other early civilizations. In these rituals it was common practice to place a young boy inside a floatable container and send it down a river, in order to formally establish them as successors to the throne. But the episode can also be viewed as another aspect of the mystery religions. One of Ove von Spaeth's most interesting findings in this connection, is that the episode with Moses on the Nile was part of an astro-magical ritual, as it happened at a time when both the sun and the moon passed the axis mundiIn the Rabbinic literature Moses is literally mentioned as found floating around inside a chest or a little ship, which correlates with the Carina (Keel of a ship) and Eridanus (river) constellations, that are located at the very root of the axis mundi. Graham Hancock also discusses the etymological link between the words ark and ship in The Sign and the Seal. Furthermore, Hancock mentions the tradition of interpreting the Ark as a symbol of the womb of Mary, adding yet another dimension to the overall picture. 

The symbolism of water, birth and change connects the story of the Ark of the Covenant with another ark that plays an important role in the Old Testament. In fact, the word Tebah is used twice here to describe a shiplike container: once in reference to Moses' vessel on the Nile and once in reference to Noah's Ark. Ove von Spaeth also points out a very interesting fact here: that Noah and his family drifted around for 40 weeks (or 9 months, the duration of a pregnancy cycle). Also, in the Babylonian tradition from which the story comes, it was common to use large chests to symbolize the relationship between the earth and the sky. 

With Noah's Ark we have another good example of how popular representations end up overshadowing the original, written word. But where Pandora's box went from originally being a jar to eventually becoming a box, almost the opposite is the case with the ark. In the Old Testament Noah's Ark is mainly described as having box-like dimensions, and in early illustrations, for example those found in the Roman catacombs, it is shown as an elongated, box-shaped object, often like a case or chest. During medieval times this image morphed slowly into that of a floating house which became firmly established as the main symbol of the church. Things changed again during the Renaissance, when artists began depicting the ark as a boat in the manner we know today. I have included a few examples that illustrate this development below, but a more detailed evolution of the art of Noah's Ark can be seen here.

This image found on the 6th century A.D.Tunisian Kélibia baptismal font is thought by some scholars to be an early depiction of Noah's Ark. As an interesting side note, the first thing Noah brought onto the ark was a golden box containing the Book of Raziel

Noah and his family in the ark, from a 14th century stained glass panel, originally part of the Marienkirche in Frankfurt, Germany. The image shows the common depiction of the Ark at the time as being more akin to a house. 

A Different Kind of Ark

A famous islamic example of a box with extraordinary qualities is of course the Ka'bah or Kaaba (literally: cube), the huge, grey, cube-shaped granite stone, covered in black robes which stands at the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. From observing the swarms of people clinging frantically to the Kaaba during Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages one might get the impression that the structure itself is an object of worship. This is of course not the case. It is, however, considered as the center of the world (the axis mundi again) and the holiest of places in Islam. The Kaaba is also said to symbolize the end of the final cycle of creation, being the essence of "the city" in its most geometrically pure form (although in reality it is irregular by more than one meter on two of its sides and therefore not really a perfect cube). In the Quran it is told that the original foundation for the Kaaba was laid by Adam, but that later construction on the site was done by Ibrahim (Abraham), together with his wife Hagar and son Ismail. In any case, we know that it has been damaged and reconstructed many times since then, so it is not really possible to know its original form.

During the time of Mohammed, up until his occupation of Mecca in 629 A.D., the Kaaba functioned as a shrine of worship to a multitude of deities (no less than 360 different religious idols is said to have stood in its immediate vicinity). Not only the worship of multiple gods, but also the decadent rituals that went along with it, was a huge thorn in the eye of Mohammed. It was in fact the main focal point of his proselytizing while he was still living in Mecca, and the opposition he met for doing so eventually forced him to flee the city. This is also why his later abolishment of polytheism in the area around the Kaaba has huge symbolic value in Islam. It is a story that is often brought up when muslims talk about their beliefs, and in effect it was the event that brought legitimacy to Islam.

The Kaaba, or "Sacred House". In Islam, the Kaaba stands at the center of the world and is considered the true place of worship of the One God and the ultimate enclosure of the divine presence of Allah - "a sanctuary consecrated to god since time immemorial" (Glassë:2007, 276) - to which all muslims direct their daily prayers. 

The main ritual connected with pilgrimages to Mecca is the Tawaf, which is a counter-clockwise procession that visitors make around the Kaaba, performed for 7 successive rounds. The rotation has been likened to that of a moving galaxy, but this idea does have some scientific problems and is also not officially accepted by Islamic scholars. Ove von Spaeth mentions what seems like an interesting parallel to the Tawaf ritual. When the Ark of the Covenant was used to bring down the walls of Jericho it was also carried around the city for 7 days (7 times on the 7th day).

The Tawaf ritual always begins in the south-eastern corner of the Kaaba where the famous al-Hajar al-Aswad or "Black Stone" is located. Muslims are encouraged to kiss the stone or otherwise engage in direct physical contact with it, but this is often impossible due to the large masses of people at the pilgrimages (considered to be among the largest gatherings in the world). 

The Black Stone itself was also worshipped by various groups of pre-islamic, Arab tribes and has a long and complicated history. The earliest mention of it within an islamic context is not in the Quran, but in a hadith, where Mohammed talks of it as having come down from paradise. Later, it was revealed to Ibrahim via the archangel Jibril (Gabriel). Over the years there have been many scientific theories about its origin. One of the more popular of these is that it indeed is a remnant of something non-earthly, namely a meteorite. Today, however, most geologists seem to believe that it has a more earthly origin. But there is really no way of knowing for sure without a direct sampling of the stone, which is not likely to happen anytime soon. 
There are many pre-islamic examples, particularly within the Semitic tradition, of worshipping stones said to have fallen from the sky, too. An extraterrestrial origin has even been attributed to the stone tablets with the ten commandments. So the role of the Black Stone in Islam can be seen as a modification of a much older tradition.

There certainly are a lot similarities between the Kaaba and the Ark of The Covenant when you add it all together. There are even theories floating around that the Ark is hidden inside the Kaaba and that this is why non-muslims arent allowed to enter. It is possible to find several videos on YouTube that are filmed inside the Kaaba, although none of them show anything that looks like an Ark.

Finally, the Kaaba has been attributed to certain feminine aspects, echoing another, earlier point in this post. Undeniably, there are certain distinct features about the way the Black Stone is presented on the Kaaba that wouldn't just make seasoned Freudians pause and take notes. I will simply end this post with a picture of the stone, along with a short passage about the earlier use of the Kaaba, and let people draw their own conclusions about to what I am hinting at.

Goddesses played an important role in pre-Islamic Arabian religion and mythology. Manat, Allat (al-Lat, "the Goddess"), and al-Uzza are all mentioned in the Qur'an (53:19-22). Manat was worshiped in Qudayd, near Mecca, and in northern Arabia. She was a goddess of rain, health, victory, and destiny and was particularly honored during the pre-Islamic pilgrimages to the Kabah. Allat was popular in Taif, also close to Mecca. There she was represented by a large flat stone and smaller precious stones kept in a wooden box. .(Leeming:2005, 122).

Main sources

  • Biderman, Hans: Dictionary of Symbolism - Cultural Icons and the Meaning Behind Them. Plume (1994)
  • Campo, Juan E. Encyclopedia of Islam. Facts on File (2009)
  • Cirlot, J.E.: A Dictionary of Symbols (Second Edition). Philosophical Library (1971)
  • Coleman. J.A.: The Dictionary of Mythology - An A-Z Of Themes, Legends And Heroes. Arcturus Publishing Ltd. (2007)
  • Glassé, Cyril: The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam (Third Edition). Stacy International (2008)
  • Green, Alana Abadessa (ed.): The Sync Book: Myths, Magic, Media, and Mindscapes: 26 Authors on Synchronicity. Sync Book Press (2011)
  • Green, Alana Abadessa (ed.): The Sync Book 2: Outer + Inner Space, Shadow + Light: 26 Essays on Synchronicity. Sync Book Press (2012) 
  • Hall, James & Clark, Kenneth: Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art. Westview Press (2007) 
  • Hancock, Graham: The Sign and The Seal - A Quest for the Lost Ark of The Covenant. Arrow (1993)
  • Jensen, Robin M. Living Water - Images, Symbols and Settings of Early Christian Baptism. Brill Publsihing (2011)
  • Kebra Nagast - The Queen of Sheba and Her Only Son Menelyk (translated by Sir E.A. Wallis Budge). In Parentheses Publications (2000) 
  • Luingman, Carl G.: Dictionary of Symbols. W. W. Norton & Company (1995)
  • Mercante, Anthony S. & Dow, James R.: The Facts on File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend. Facts on File (2008)
  • Morgan, Diane: Gemlore - Ancient Secrets and Modern Myths from the Stone Age to the Rock Age. Greenwood Press (2008) 
  • Schwartz, Howard: Tree of Souls - The Mythology of Judaism. Oxford University Press (2007)
  • Tresidder, Jack: The Illustrated Guide to More Than 1,000 Symbols - Their Traditional and Contemporary Significance. Friedman (2000)
  • Von Spaeth, Ove: Tempelridderne og Moses Skjulte Skat. Zenith IC (2012)
  • Von Spaeth, Ove: De Fortrængte Optegnelser - Attentatet På Moses. Zenith IC (1999)

...and special thanks to Ove von Spaeth.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

UFO's Over Copenhagen - A Case Of Hidden Contact?

This post is based on an article I wrote for a 2012 issue of UFO-Mail, the official organ for SUFOI (Scandinavian UFO Information), about a very unique Danish UFO case that I investigated a few years earlier. Besides just translating the article to English I have added some further details and comments to the main body of text, as well as to the conclusion. All names of those involved have been changed, for the sake of anonymity.

I came across the following story about 5 years ago, in the spring of 2010, while I was still at university. At the time I had been working on a larger research project for over a month, together with a fellow student who we can call Christian. On one occasion during a break, the talk turned to UFO’s and what they could be. Looking back, it was probably Christian who brought it up, since I very rarely start conversations about the topic myself. It's not that I’m embarrassed about my interest in UFO's, but simply because there are exhaustingly many layers you have to cut through every time you present your views, to people who mainly have their knowledge of the subject from documentaries etc. Still, I must take part of the responsibility, as he could hardly have failed to notice the many books about UFO’s I had lying around.

Anyway, after having talked about it back and forth for a few minutes Christian suddenly remarks: “Hey! I just remembered that my wife once saw a UFO!”. I was of course surprised and a bit intrigued, but didn’t really expect anything major. For all I knew, and from the little Christian could remember of her story, she might just have seen a strange light in the sky one night. But, as I was soon to learn, it was something a lot more dramatic than that. Furthermore, this came along right when I was most engulfed in reading about such cases. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At this point, not knowing very much, I asked Christian if he could tell his wife, Marianne, that I had a serious interest in UFO’s, and ask her if she was willing to share her experience with me some day. A few days later he had made arrangements for me to speak with her.

Marianne’s Close Encounter

Marianne’s UFO encounter took place sometime during the mid-1990’s – possibly in 1996. That’s about the closest we have come to putting a date on it. At the time she was living in an apartment on Carit Etlars Vej, in the western part of Copenhagen (actually in the city-within-the-city known as Frederiksberg). Her apartment was special, in that it had one of the only two French balconies on the rear end of the building - Marianne’s being on the fourth floor and the other just below it, on the third floor. In fact those balconies are the only two openings in the building facing in that direction, period.

The building housing Marianne’s former apartment. Her balcony was the top one, on the white facade of the building to the left.

The immediate view straight from the balcony is a medium-sized, red-colored apartment complex which partially blocks the view of a heavily trafficked road, Vesterbrogade. I couldn’t get both buildings to fit properly into one shot, so I took two separate pictures. There is some distance to the complex from the balcony, and in between is a small, cooped-up, ball court which is visible on the photo above and the one just below.

The back of the red apartment complex. You can see the ball court that separates it and the building housing Marianne’s apartment, to the left in the picture.
Although we haven’t been able to determine the exact year of the encounter, there can be no doubt that it took place in the summertime - possibly in June or July – during the the late night/early morning hours. She remembers that it was getting bright outside and the birds were singing. Due to the really humid climate around that time, she had pulled her bed all the way up to the balcony only a few days before, in order to get as much fresh air as possible. 

Suddenly, for some reason she can’t recall – or maybe there was no particular reason - Marianne looked out the balcony window. There, immediately outside, hovering above the ball court, was an object of bright aluminum complexion, without any visible windows or doors or other distinguishable features. Anne says that the “body” of the object was about 5-6 meters long, and the “wings” maybe 1.5 meters each. The things that attached the “wings” to the body seemed to her like some kind of pipe system. She made a sketch of it which you can see just below.

Marianne describes the rest of the experience as if time itself started to fall apart, or as if two different timelines were moving along at the same time. The object was moving, but very slowly. She noticed that all sounds and smells now disappeared, almost as if her surroundings faded away from her, and she felt that her sense of space and time was the only “real” thing present - all tell-tale signs of what British veteran ufologist Jenny Randles has dubbed the Oz Factor

Eventually the object began moving to the right, around the corner of the building. According to Marianne it should have been visible from the kitchen window immediately afterwards, but when she ran out to look it wasn’t there. Marianne isn’t sure how long the encounter lasted altogether, due to the strange state she was in, but she knows that it couldn’t have been that long because the sun hadn’t yet come up when it ended. She remembers that she was a bit scared, but most of all she felt that the object had been curious about her and that it was somehow “just passing by”.

An important part of the story is that Marianne's boyfriend at the time, Marco, was there with her during the encounter. He had been out partying pretty hard all night, but had arrived a short time earlier to crash at her place. Talking with Marianne, and later also with Marco, it became clear to me that the UFO encounter happened shortly after they had had sex that night/morning. Anne says that she remembers being awake for a little while afterwards, in a state of complete relaxation – very different from anything she had ever experienced before or since. Marco had fallen asleep almost immediately and was already snoring. She remembers that she tried her best to wake him up, but he was as far gone as the object now was. Marianne never saw the UFO again. 

Further Experiences

When I asked her about other unusual experiences, prior to or after her encounter, Marianne recalled a few very interesting things. One was an extremely vivid ”alien dream” she had a few nights later, in which she interacted with some very tall, golden ”super women” that looked like normal people, except for their height and large heads. In the dream she was supposed to help these beings with something, maybe a pregnancy. She also found some peculiar markings on her body, but doesn’t remember whether this only happened after the incident, or if it had also happened prior to it. She describes these markings as if they were indentations made by a hair brush. Curiously enough, while we were talking about all this, Christian suddenly broke in and stated that he himself had had those kinds of markings, more than once. He thinks that he may even have had them before he met Marianne. He describes his markings as 5 small dots, in a dice-like pattern. Christian also remembered calling Marianne his “intergalactic star goddess” one of the first times he met her, after falling in love with her. This was before she ever told him about her UFO encounter and he has no deeper explanation for this choice of nickname. 

Later I also found out that Marianne has a thing about owls and has made more than one very detailed piece of artwork involving them. I asked into this and she couldn’t explain why, other than they just had some sort of meaning to her. Although I am hesitant to make a direct connection between this and Marianne’s encounter it bears mentioning, because owls have been appearing under odd circumstance to a lot of UFO experiencers (just ask Mike Clelland, who has been documenting his own and other peoples stories involving owls for years)   

The conversation had turned into something of a surprise for all three of us. Marianne and Christian had very rarely talked about these things before - and certainly never all of them, within a UFO context. For me it was incredible that I seemed to have stumbled upon one of those very cases of “hidden contact” that I had been reading so much about. At least, all of the details I was getting just seemed to fit so well with incidents of that type. At the same time I was cautious and did not try to paint a picture of alien abductions and hybrid programs, although it would have been very easy to jump in head first like that. In fact I tried my very best to not even mention the abduction mythos in that or any of our later talks, except when asked - and then only very hesitantly. Nevertheless the details just kept coming forward.

Next, I felt had to find out if there could be something about Marianne that made her particularly susceptible to unusual experiences. This was very much inspired by reading books by Jenny Randles and Kenneth Ring, which document that certain personality traits make some people more prone to UFO experiences. This also brought forward some extremely interesting details. Just for the record it should be stated at this point, that Marianne has never touched any hard drugs and only occasionally smoked a joint.

About Marianne

Marianne is now in her mid-to-late 30’s and is the mother of 3 children. Christian is the father of the 2 youngest, a son and a daughter, and Marco is the father of the oldest, a daughter named Natalie who is now in her teens. Marianne is a designer, and at the time I spoke with her she worked specifically with furniture design. She describes herself as having had strong creative urges ever since childhood. As a child she was extremely good at visualizing shapes in front of her and when she closed her eyes, she could instantly imagine complex figures retract and expand, almost like fractals, which she felt she had to shape and balance in order to keep them separated. She still gets these images once in a while, but she says that with time it went from being an ability to being more of a “feeling“ which she often gets just before falling asleep. She feels that if she could only train this ability properly she would be able to use it for so many things. She has thought about practicing transcendental meditation to help further this goal.

Marianne has also had several odd things happen to her throughout her life, but nothing that she ever thought of connecting with the UFO encounter. In kindergarten for example, she suffered from an unknown and perplexing condition, where she would periodically experience static in front of her eyes, as if tuning into a dead TV channel. The doctors ran a long series of tests on her, for epilepsy and other disorders, but never figured out what was wrong. After a while it disappeared by itself.

Next I asked Marianne, inspired directly by Jenny Randles' experiencer-checklist, if she often had vivid dreams of flying. She confirmed. In fact, for a long time during her late childhood and early adolescence she believed that she could actually fly, if only she concentrated hard enough on it. She told me that even today this can be a source of conflict to her because, in a way, she still thinks that it can be done, but at the same time she knows it isn’t supposed to be possible. She has to keep her thoughts in check once in a while, so she won’t get too carried away.

Another trait in encounter-prone personalities is the clear recollection of events stretching back to very early childhood, sometimes even late infancy. Marianne confirmed this part as well. For example, she vividly remembers her younger sister’s birth, even though she was barely 2 years old at the time. Natalie, the daughter of her and Marco, also has detailed memories from when she was only 1½-2 years old. 

The story, as it now stood, would have been interesting in and of itself. But as it turned out, it didn’t end there. There proved to be a very definite link between Marianne's encounter and her former boyfriend, which we shall now explore further.

Marco’s UFO Encounter

As you will recall, Marco never woke up in time to see the UFO outside Marianne's balcony. But when she drew a sketch of it one of the following days he completely freaked out, for a very good reason: he had had a sighting of what appeared to be the exact same object, many years earlier. I haven’t been able to find out precisely which date this happened either, but Marco thinks it was probably in the early summer of 1987 or 1988, although it could be as late as 1989 or 1990. What we do know is that on this day he was out rollerskating with a few friends on Eskildsgade, a street not that far away from Marianne’s old apartment (and incidentally, I found out later, also the street where Mike Tramp, who I interviewed not long ago for a completely different purpose, grew up). Marco and his friends had a thing back then where they would grab onto cars and roll with them up and down the street, and they had been at this for several hours when it was beginning to get dark. Marco remembers that around 21.00 he was standing in one end of Eskildsgade, next to the medium-sized public square called Vesterbro Torv, while his two friends were much further down the the street, closer to Istedgade

The street where Marco & friends where rollerskating. Marco was standing approximately where I took this picture, facing the same direction as the camera, when the object appeared.

Around this time all three boys began noticing a loud, roaring sound coming from the air. Marco had trouble describing it to me, but according to him it was different than the sound of thunder. It was more like when a plane breaks the sound barrier, although even more powerful. Then suddenly, a 5-6 meter long grayish object, shaped sort of like a dumbbell or rolling pin, passes over his head, in the sky above the buildings. While the object flew over the street the sky was completely gray, but Marco distinctly remembers a pink, triangular patch of light in the distant sky, somewhere to the right (which could indicate an exotic weather phenomenon, but more about that later). As the object flew by, the streetlights and all other lights in the surrounding apartments went out one by one, and turned on again immediately after it had passed them. The object eventually disappeared into the horizon, but just before doing so it seemed to transform into a light.

A rough illustration (not correctly scaled) showing the object Marco saw, and the manner in which it flew forward. Marco estimated it to be about 40 meters above the buildings, but it kept itself in between them throughout its whole “route” of flight.

As can be seen on the above picture, the object was very similar to what Marianne observed years later, if not nearly identical to it. But the shape of the object is not the only element that recurs in Marianne’s encounter. As it turns out, Marco also tried everything he possibly could to get his friends to see the thing, but without success. They did not notice anything flying above them, although they do remember seeing a light disappearing in the distance. They also observed the electrical lights going off and back on again. In fact, one of them even heard a local radio show a few days later, where the host described an “unexplained blackout” that had taken place the night of the encounter. Even more interesting, like Marianne, Marco also felt as if time was distorted during the whole incident, and that the object somehow “sucked out” all the energy of its surroundings. He believes that, objectively, the whole experience only took about 20-30 seconds, but it felt a lot longer. Marco doesn’t think that there were any other people on the street who actually witnessed the object.

Marco describes the above experience as a turning point in his life. In retrospect he realizes that this was the one event that made him seek out a more spiritual lifestyle at a young age. He became a vegetarian instantly afterwards and has not eaten meat since. He also changed his personality from being a “smartass street kid” into a more sensitive and open minded person. When he saw Anne’s drawing and heard her recount her experience many years later, it felt kind of like redemption to him. Finally, someone had seen the same thing as him and he could know come to terms with the fact that it hadn’t just been a hallucination. One thing that he has wondered about many times since though, is why he never saw the object the second time around and why there was this strange temporal aspect to both his and Marianne's sightings. They discussed this many times afterwards and Marco distinctively remembers thinking that “time was against him” and that “something” prevented him from waking up in time to see the object. He also remembers Anne’s dreams about the aliens and speculated that there was a connection, even then.

Further Investigation

There were several things at this point that merited further investigation, but without any exact years to place the sightings, it was very difficult to approach them. In the case of Marianne I had hoped that at some point, a diary entry or similar would remind her of a more precise date. So far this hasn’t happened. Marco, likewise, who I have spoken to on several later occasions, can’t remember anything precisely about either of the two sightings, except the general time of year. Even after getting in touch with the friends he was skating with on the day of his encounter, we weren’t able to narrow it down much. Concerning his sighting, however, I have been able to work somewhat “backwards”. First I tried approaching local bars in the immediate area of the sighting, but in all of the places that existed back then (which weren’t many) the owners couldn’t pinpoint any power failures which had stood out particularly throughout the years. I did get the impression that it was something they had experienced quite often, though. I also began asking around in local shops, but quickly realized that it didn’t make much sense. Even if some of them did exist back then, they would surely have been closed at the time of the incident.

Next, I set out to look through local newspapers from the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, in order to find articles about power failures in Copenhagen – unexplained or otherwise. I figured that since it was apparently worth mentioning on the radio, there could have been a mention of it somewhere. However, searching both printed newspapers and Infomedia, a database covering a large section of Danish newspapers back to the 1980’s, has not yielded any useful clues.

Parallel to this, I tried locating a recording of the said radio program itself. I suppose I could have put up flyers all over the area of Vesterbro, in hope of finding someone who had an old cassette tape with the broadcast, but I wasn’t quite prepared for that. Instead I tried to find out what local radio station could have been the source of the announcement of the “unexplained blackout”. Marco helped me in the right direction on that one, and we discovered that it was probably one called Radio Ratatosk (now defunkt). After a short email exchange with the former administrator of the radio, a forwarded reply came back to me revealing that a former Radio Ratatosk host named Michael remembered a strange power failure in the late 80's, most likely after 1987 (but not whether he had talked about it on air). In any case, Michael told me that one day around that time, the power suddenly went out. For some reason he thought to himself “this is it. Chernobyl happening all over again”. Even stranger, when he picked up the phone to call a friend, the line was busy and full of voices. Then suddenly, the friend he was supposed to dial up was speaking from the other end. His friend had not tried to dial him either, and this was in the days before automatic callback was a standard feature on telephones. Michael then found out some time later, that the blackout was actually connected to the nuclear power plant, Barsebäck, which is located just across the water from Copenhagen, in southern Sweden. And if that isn’t enough, I also found out that Michael had an interest in UFO’s himself and was in contact with a lot of old characters from the heyday of Danish ufology. He could even tell me, that the last surviving member of a notable 70’s UFO cult lived just around the corner from me.

Eventually, although an interesting coincidence, I came to have my doubts about whether this was really the same blackout as the one during Marco’s encounter. They didn't sound like the same, since all the lights came on again almost immediately after the object had flown past them. But the sense that there was something about this area of Copenhagen that made it particularly susceptible to power failures, was further reinforced after my article was “printed” in UFO-mail. One of the reasons for putting the story out there in the first place, was to see if it would generate any useful clues to understanding the case better. I received a few replies in that regard, one of them an email from a reader who prefers to keep his name a secret. He wrote the following (translated from Danish):

In the 1980’s I became chief administrator for an organization with headquarters close to Vesterbro Torv (the square from which Eskildsgade is connected). From the late 1980’s until the middle of the 1990’s we experienced many short, unexplained interruptions of data transfer, typically during the night. We spent a small fortune trying to solve this problem, which was very damaging to us, but without any luck. The only explanation we were offered was that the interruptions were due to short power failures, despite the fact that we had the best UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) available on the market at the time. What the cause really was, we never found out. One day in the mid 1990’s, the problems suddenly stopped.

In light of Marco and his friends description of the power going shortly off and on during his encounter, the above account is highly interesting. It does indicate very strongly that there were some general problems with the electricity supply in the area around Vesterbro Torv during the 1980’s and 1990’s. I did try to follow this trail as well, but the main electricity provider at the time has long since been absorbed by the much larger company DONG, and contacting them was not very helpful at all. But I doubt that it would bring me any closer to a date for the Marco encounter anyways.  

Map showing some of the different places mentioned. The center of Copenhagen begins less than 1 kilometer to the right of  Vesterbro Torv.

Case Analysis

As readers can probably sense, this is a case that I have spent a lot of time on throughout the years. The reason is, as indicated earlier, that it presented itself to me at a time when I was really opening up to the complexity of the UFO phenomenon. In fact, I can think of no better example than this case to demonstrate just that complexity. I will (and can) not completely exclude that the object seen was some reconnaissance ship from another planet, keeping tabs on certain individuals while at the same time granting them exclusive experiences to further “their” own cryptic goals. I just think that when looking at the full picture - whether or not one accepts that both encounters are connected, which isn’t necessarily a given – the evidence points to several different answers. I also think it makes more sense to look at the individual elements on different levels.

On one level we have the undeniable physical aspects – the light in the distance, the power outage and the loud noise that both Marco and his friends saw and heard. I will go out on a limb and say that I think the odd pink, triangular patch in the distance, could also have been observed by others (in fact I plan on looking into this possibility in the near future). Along with the circumstantial evidence I received later on, this all indicates that something physical did in fact happen - it wasn’t all in the mind of one person. Furthermore it points to the area around Vesterbro Torv as being somehow electricity-sensitive.

On another level there is what seems like a purely individual and subjective part of the experience which, if we boil it down, only occurred to two people (that we know of, at least): Marco and Marianne. This is also where we find the most exotic descriptions – the shape and color of the craft, its movement, the time-warping, the sense of being watched, as well as the aftereffects that manifested (In Marco’s case, a complete change of lifestyle). In a way it seems like these experiences were meant only for these two people, and only one at a time.

But even though most of it seems very individual, how do we explain that so many of the core details can be found in both encounters?  Focusing on the personality traits of UFO experiencers that I mentioned earlier, which Marianne fulfills almost to a tee, some degree of deviation becomes apparent. Marco doesn’t seem to me as nearly the same kind of person. In fact I could only really pinpoint a few elements of experience-proneness that he somewhat conformed to. So if the whole case wasn’t already complicated enough, we also have to explain how Marco could have this experience to begin with, years before meeting Marianne, if he is not even the experience-prone type. Here again I think we should take note of the unusual weather conditions at the time. There are lots of other cases on record involving strange - in fact, often pink-colored - clouds, which include the same temporal distortions as Marco (and Marianne) experienced. Jenny Randles explored many of these in her excellent book Time Storms.

We also need to explain why Marianne suddenly saw what she saw, so many years later. She did not notice anything unusual about the weather, but did mention that it was extremely humid. This humidity could perhaps be linked in some way to a weather phenomenon similar to the one involved in Marco's encounter. Besides this, there is the aspect of Marianne’s experience occurring immediately after having sex with Marco. I left this part out in my original article for UFO-mail, but in fact I think it is highly relevant, whether or not one thinks of the case in “mystical” terms. Of course you might say that there is a good case for explaining Marianne’s sighting as an advanced after-effect of unintended sex magick, but even if this is uncomfortable for the more materialistically-oriented people out there to hear, I will suggest that it is not too far out to simply look at it in terms of an altered state of consciousness.

In addition to the above, we of course can not ignore the fact that Marco could have influenced her with the story of his own experience. In fact it is very likely that he did on some level, although neither of the two remember it. There were also many popular UFO movies, books etc. (X-Files was huge here around that time), which Marianne could have sought out for information. It was not my impression that she had even the slightest interest in those things, though, and the same goes for Marco, for that matter.


If asked to speculate freely, I would connect the dots in the following way:

  • Marco has a UFO experience at a young age that may or may not have been triggered, in part, by an exotic weather phenomenon
  • This phenomenon somehow interferes with both the electricity in the area and somehow also with his mind, creating an altered state of consciousness that makes him hallucinate a metallic object flying over him. It changes him, in fact so much that he becomes an almost different person afterwards, similar to people undergoing a mystical experience.
  • Years later, he manages to affect Marianne – an encounter-prone person who has a unique ability to easily and vividly imagine geometrical shapes , just by closing her eyes –with ideas of this oddly shaped UFO. He might even have told her in detail about it on several occasions, without remembering it.
  • One night, one or more stimulations put Marianne into an altered state of consciousness. During this state she recalls the details Marco’s UFO so strongly that she actually believes she sees it in front of her.
  • This state of consciousness- the Oz Factor or whatever we choose to call it - may be so similar in “feeling” from person to person, no matter what initially triggers it, that both Marianne and Marco were able to have an experience in the same basic way.
  • Marianne, however, being the more encounter-prone type of person, has an even closer encounter with the “object” and experiences even more dramatic effects that Marco did.

There are of course still many aspects that are harder to explain, such as.

  • Why the distinct shape of this object and why did there even “have” to be one in the first place, that moved synchronously with the power outage?
  • Why does it appear to be “shielding” itself from more than one person at the time? One gets the feeling that these episodes happened exactly because no one else could see them, which was noted by both Marco and Marianne. Especially ‘Marianne said that she thought it was noteworthy, how the object could just about avoid detection from other people in the area, by appearing in front of her particular window.
  • Why did Marianne experience so many of both the physical and mental aftereffects that we see in abduction cases from the same period – and indeed still do – such as strange markings, dreams centering on aliens reproductive aspects and a fascination with owls? And more puzzlingly, why should Christian have indications of these too, perhaps even before meeting Marianne?

Whatever the final answer may be, this was the case where I finally realized, that putting only one or two tags on UFO's doesn’t always work. There are a variety of external and personal factors involved that can trigger unusual experiences, made up of imagery that people are not even aware that they have. The case also made me realize that this is actually what makes the investigation of close encounter UFO cases such an interesting – as well as creative – endeavor. As to what the true source of that creativity really is – that, in my opinion, is still not fully explained.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fairy Castles In The Sky

Mirages have fooled even the brightest minds over the years, and none more so than the Fata Morgana. "Fata Morgana" is Italian, and denotes the most complex of mirages appearing over the horizon, made up of multiple images, and often with high levels of dynamics and detail. The term itself has an interesting etymology: "Fata" means fairy, "Morgana" derives from Morgan le Fay, and "La Fata Morgana" literally means the same as in French: "The Fairy Morgana". It was once believed that mirages were acts of magic, performed by the devious Arthurian sorceress in order to lure sailors to their death. The specific Italian connection stems from the fact that these mirages have been seen all throughout history in the Strait of Messina, the narrow patch of water that seperates the southern tip of Sicily and Calabria. The term was adopted into English in 1818, specifically because of observations from this area.

A modern example of a Fata Morgana. It's easy to see how these distortions can fire up the imagination. For a more technical description and more images, see here.

Rummaging through the Danish newspaper archives, I've discovered several stories that, apparently, involve Fata Morganas - all from different parts of Denmark. What struck me as curious about these observations, besides the great level of detail, is the fact that they all describe castles. Now it's not as if this country doesn't have its share of castles, but to have them appear in every instance does seem like more than just a coincidence. 

Imagine my surprise, then, when i discovered that one of the most well known features of the Fata Morgana, one that is closely related to the Morgan le Fay legend itself, is the appearance of castles. However, these "castles", in most historical cases, were most likely distortions of the reflections of objects other than castles. They probably came to be interpreted as such, due to the most basic mechanisms of pareidolia (take a look at f.x. the above photo, and it will become clear why), but there are some quite complex and detailed examples on record too. The Danish observations I have found, would seem to be among these.

In the July 20th, 1860, issue of Nykjøbing Tidende the following scenario is recounted: 

Last Wednesday, a Fata Morgana was seen at Nykøbing Mors. To the right was seen a forest area, to the left mountains, and in the middle a church and the ruins of a castle. The mirage was seen for about 15 minutes.

The next two stories were both brought in Ebeltoft Avis during the summer of 1887. The first, from May the 20th, includes even more detail than the previous article. It is also unique in that it takes place at night. I'm not sure how that would work, given the usual circumstances necessary for creating Fata Morganas, but then again, the term is not actually mentioned in this case. But in all other aspects, it fits the same pattern:

The other night, at 9.30, an aerial sight was observed in the southwestern sky from Hjørring. According to Vendsyssel Tidende, a castle could be seen in the clear moonlight - in one direction stood its tower and in the other end it was in ruins. From the castle a road went out, on which two wagons were driving - the movements of the horses clearly observable. After a short while the two wagons seperated, one driving onto a side road.

Ebeltoft Avis, May 20th (1887)

1½ months later, on July 6th, the following article appeared:

On Saturday afternoon between 4 and 5, a beautiful mirage was seen from Ælsegårde. At first a rocky landscape became present, in which appeared churches, castles, and houses. But after some time this changed and it was as if Møns Klint, with the dark outline of forest on top an (indeciperable) down the white cliffs.

I am unable to understand the last part of the above article properly, but it does appear as if there was some acknowledgement of a distortion taking place during the observation. Also, the descriptions of castle ruins in the two previous accounts, could be a way to account for irregularities in the scenery. But otherwise, the sightings appear to have been quite clear and almost of a visionary quality, especially the nightime observation. This is entirely possible, because even though the articles mention mirages and Fata Morganas, we don't know if the phenomenon (or term) was known to the observers, or if it was employed solely by the newspapers. This could just have been speculation, in order to demonstrate a scientific angle, but, maybe especially due to the the description of castles, one can understand quite well why a Fata Morgana would have come to mind. Another thing that strengthens this hypothesis, is that all the observation areas mentioned in the articles, are close to the sea. The bottom line, however, is that we can't know for sure.

But whether or not these were mirages or "genuine" visions of other worlds, the sights themselves must have been quite amazing to behold. And one can justly speculate that they, and many others like them, were the basis of many campfire stories of fairy castles in the sky. Perhaps even the legendary cloud realm of Magonia can be traced back to such experiences?