Robert E. Howard's fiction is usually thought of as sword and sorcery, but he wrote for all the pulp fiction magazines, most notably Weird Tales. His stories cross genres, and also include horror, detective stories, and westerns. However, as several critics have pointed out, any of these stories could be rewritten as a Conan story with only cosmetic alterations.
Howard was born in 1906 in Cross Plains, Texas. He was a runt as a child and older boys picked on him. To compensate, he took up weightlifting and boxing and became almost as much of a he-man as his favorite characters. It didn't help young Howard that he was an intelligent, moody, and above all, imaginative misfit with poor social skills. Howard began writing professionally not only because he best expressed himself through writing, but because he was completely unsuited for any other job in Cross Plains.
It is easy for the "lit snobs" to dismiss Howard's writing as purple prose for mass audiences. However, Howard had a distinct style with undeniable power. His writing is big, expressive and gloomy: a Wagnerian Opera filtered through the skies if the American prairie. His voice is supremely masculine, and he used it to extol the virtues of the self-made, independent man. Although in parodies, Howard's heroes are often stupid and dull-witted, Conan and his fictional brethren all possess keen intelligence, and usually out-smart their opponents as well as out-fight them. Although many of his characters came from different times and places, Howard was writing about a peculiarly American roughneck; they are the kind of men who tamed the West with nothing but smarts, determination and hard, back-breaking work.
Moreover, while literary merit is often judged by the number of professors teaching the works, there is something to be said for the fact that more people will correctly identify Conan the Barbarian than Jay Gatsby, or Nick Adams. If the three characters are personifications of different American Male stereotypes, it was Conan who endured the Depression and won World War II.
What makes Howard interesting to us is his use, and roundabout contribution, to High Weirdness. Although Howard never traveled more than 30 miles from his hometown, he loved to read about faraway times and places. His favorites were new articles on archaeology, anthropology, and history. Even in his most fantastic stories, he incorporated the latest research of the day on historical cultures. In addition, Howard corresponded with other pulp writers of the day, including H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith who also shared his passions for using real information and basing fantastic tales on it. This writer's community used shared plot devices and even characters alongside stock references to real history. The real and the imaginary combined and intertwined in the minds of the readers. Even today, it can be hard for the casual reader to know that the Cimmerians really were a proud, Celtic, warrior people, that the Yezidi people of the Middle East really do worship the Devil (well, after a fashion), or that Set really is an Egyptian serpent god. University librarians still get confused calls from well-meaning individuals for access to copies of Unausspreclichen Kultenand even the Nemedian Chronicles. His imagination can be that convincing.
Of course, none of Howard's inventions have reached the lunatic proportions of Lovecraft's infamous Necronomicon. (No, I'm not linking from that reference. It deserves its own topic with its own series of links.)
My wife has been trying to pick up a copy of The Loch, by Steve Alten for me. She works in a bookstore and saw the book arrive. Knowing I have an interest in the weird, she came home to ask if I would be interested in reading this novel, which purports to include the latest scientific evidence supporting the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, I said yes, but when she went back to the store, all four copies mysteriously had gone missing. No record of sale, just missing. Now that's weird.
I spent six weeks in Scotland back in 1995. During that trip, I spent three days at Loch Ness. Now, I usually do my investigation into the weird at home in a comfy chair reading a book. But if you have any interest at all in the strange, you can't go to Scotland and not visit Loch Ness.
I decided to take an official Loch Ness Monster tour. There were several competing tours at the time, but this one had several features to recommend it. First, the tour bus picked us up in front of an Inverness pub, and we had an hour and half before it started. (There certainly was no reason to let that time go to waste.) Second, it took us to the Official Loch Ness Monster Museum in Drumnadrochit. Then we went down to Urquhart Castle, a ruined fortress overlooking the lake front most associated with monster sightings. And the tour finished with a ferry cruise back up the lake to Inverness.
Loch Ness marks the edge of the Scottish Highlands, and the scenery is spectacular. Even without its most famous (possible) resident, the lake would still be a tourist attraction, and even a scientific curiousity. I recommend the tour to anyone going to Scotland. The Museum covers the "history" of the beastie right back to St. Columba in the 6th Century, but it also describes the nature and ecology of the lake. Urquhart Castle is an amazing ruin with a commanding view of the lake. And the cruise gave us a chance to appreciate the many shades of green in the hillsides of the Loch (plus the opportunity to snap pictures of the wildlife).
The Loch Ness Monster is one of those mysteries even the most hardnose skeptics don't like to cutdown. The Scottish courts have declared the mystery as "Not Proven," there have been moves in the United Kingdom Parliament to declare it illegal to harm the creatures as endangered species, and it even has a scientific name in Latin. After British Naturalist Sir Peter Scott's expedition caught two fuzzy, underwater photos of "flippers" the beastie was christened Nessiteras rhombopteryx, which mean "monster of Ness with diamond fin." Of course, I'm sure it is purely conincidental that it is also an anagram for "Monster hoax by Sir Peter S;" try it, you'll see.
As for me, I don't think a giant monster, let alone a breeding-sized population of them, lives in Loch Ness. There was a time when Loch Ness was remote and few people lived in the region. Now, it is one of the most heavily touristed spots in Scotland. Millions train their cameras on the waters every year. I think we'd have far more definitive proof by now if something was there. That said, back in 1995, I also had the chance to take a submarine tour of the lake. Two white passenger submersibles would take tourists underwater for an hour or so. I thought about it. Then I thought about how sure I was that there was no such thing as giant monsters. Then I thought about whether or not I wanted to be proven wrong -- underwater.
NBC News' Stone Philips strayed off the path of hard-hitting investigative journalism long enough to explore the secrets of the Da Vinci Code.
For those of you who may have been living under a rock for a couple of years now, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown explores some heretical theories about Jesus Christ. The bulk of Mr. Brown's research comes from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a book published by three British "investigative" journalists back in the Eighties. Here's one website that neatly summarizes the debunking of HB,HG. I won't claim it is the best, but it's a quick read.
Most of the books that do the best job of poking holes in the highly dubious factual claims of HB, HG are in French. They weren't deemed to have sufficient commercial interest to the American public to warrant translation.
If you crave more on this particularly popular trend in weirdness, don't worry. I'm sure we'll get back to it.
An international celebrity of celestial proportions has recently been sighted in Chicago. A salt stain below an underpass bears a remarkable resemblance to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The faithful have been gathering to establish a makeshift shrine and pray to the Mother of God. To these people, the shape of the stain is no coincidence, and no less than a miracle.
To others, this phenomenon is known as a simulacrum. The simple explanation is that people are constantly taking in information through their five senses. The brain's job is to order the information into something usable. This is the ability children use when they stare at the clouds and find recognizable shapes. This skill was important early in human evolution when the ability to discern a lurking shape as a sabertooth tiger was the difference between life and death. Now we see Elvis lurking in a potato chip.
Here's a gallery of natural shapes that bear a resemblance to something else.
The Amityville Horror, starring Ryan Reynolds (Don't call him "Mr. Alanis Morrisette"), was the top box office draw this past weekend. This is a remake of a 1979 movie, that was in turn adapted from a "non-fiction" bestseller by John Anson. "Non-fiction" means it was "based on a true story." As we explore the weird, we'll hear that phrase a lot.
The bare bones of the "true story" are these: In the mid-70's, the Lutzes, a newly blended family, got a bargain deal on a spacious house in Amityville, Long Island, New York. They apparently were not put off house by either the spooky attic windows that look like staring eyes, or the fact that the previous owners were murdered in their beds by the son, Ronald DeFeo. The Lutz family stayed in the house for 28 days, and then left the house claiming all manner of strange phenomena had driven them from living there another moment.
What kinds of strange phenomena? Well, here's where I get shaky on the story. You see, I've never actually seen either movie, and it's been years since I read the book. I was only about 7 or 8 when the original film was released. My experience of the story came mostly from the teenage guys in my neighborhood who loved to torment me with stories from the movie. And when they ran out of scenes, the made stuff up to scare me. It didn't help that we had a house down the street with the same creepy attic windows.
So over the years, I've always been confused between what was in the movie, what was in the book, and what was fabricated by the warped mind of Jackie Mason, who lived up the street.
Ok, I remember a few "facts" of the case. As part of his defense, DeFeo claims "voices" told him to kill his family. As for the Lutzes, their daughter gained an imaginary friend named "Jodie." There was an odd, and alarmingly large, infestation of flies. George Lutz became excessively cranky and grew a beard -- he may also have heard voices. After that, you'd do better to follow the links for the scary stuff. Most people refer to the incident as a "haunted house," but in fact, most of the story points to interference by demonic entitities, not ghosts.
Ghosts, of course, are generally regarded as a spiritual manifestation of a once living person. Demons, on the other hand, are not people but sentient, non-physical, evil beings -- fallen angels, if you follow a mainstream Western religion. Most people are familiar with the concept of demonic possession, where an evil being inhabits a person's body against his or her will. Less well-known in the modern world is the concept of demonic obsession, which is a manifestation of a demon in the outside world to torment a victim.
Demonic obsession used to be very popular against hermits and future saints in the early Church. Perhaps the best known, although special, case of demonic obsession is recounted in the Bible, when Jesus retreats to the desert and is tempted by the devil. However, over the centuries, many saints have reported similar visits. Martin Luther, the man who began the Protestant Reformation, also reported being tormented by the Devil and demons who would interfere with his sleep and writing. Luther got rid of the devil by throwing an inkwell at him. It took more for a Catholic saint to dispose of the devil. The saint was working in his forge when the devil appeared to torment him. Although the saint tried very hard to ignore Satan, eventually the devil annoyed him enough to get him mad. The saint snatched up the red hot pinchers and grabbed Old Scratch by the nose before throwing him out of the forge.
Nowadays, we find that modern medication does wonders for people afflicted by hallucinations and hearing diembodied voices. However, it should be noted that the Catholic Church still believes there is no metaphysical reason not to believe in demonic possession or obsession. So say your prayers!
For those who haven't heard, the cardinals elected a new pope today. In something of a surprise, the choice was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany (I hope the link works, it was down for awhile after the election), and he has chosen to be known as Pope Benedict XVI. His choice was surprising because he was among the front-runners, and there is an old church saying that men who go into a conclave as pope, come out as cardinals.
I don't pretend to know much about Church politics. I think his election signals that the Catholic Church will continue to have an all male priesthood, be opposed to condoms, and not be very welcoming to homosexuals. At least, that's what the American newsmedia is interested in talking about. On the other hand, Catholics can appreciate that 2000 years of doctrine will probably not be turned on its head overnight -- and despite the rather extreme social conservatism, that's probably a good thing. On the third hand, in the current world climate, I fear for the calling of a new Crusade... Just kidding.
Okay, there is some weirdness surrounding the Popes. Two things are directly connected to Pope Benedict XVI and worth posting about. First, Cardinal Ratzinger has spen the past several years as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This institution is the oldest of the large organizations governing the Church, and it is charged with maintaining Catholic dogma and orthodoxy. Or in other words, they root out heretics. When it was first established in the 1500's, the orgainzation was known as The Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. Yes, that Inquisition. You thought that was gone? Well, "Nobody expects the Spainsh Inquisition," so why should you?
Also, and I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more play, there's a little known Irish Saint named Malachy who lived in the Middle Ages. He wrote a prophetic list of all the Popes, about 111 into his future. All told, he said there would be 266 Popes. Pope Benedict XVI is number 265. The next Pope will suppossedly be the last. In addition, there are several other prophecies surrounding the Popes which are equally apocalyptic. Just something to brighten your day; and as always, you believe it at your own risk.
Umberto Eco wrote an excellent novel of high weirdness entitle Foucault's Pendulum. The plot follows three skeptical editors from an occult publishing house as their world unravels. In the opening chapters, Casaubon, the youngest of the three, makes his first acquaintance with his future partners through the one named Belbo. Casaubon is a student of medieval history, and in an effort to impress the older man, he tells him he is writing a thesis on the KNights Templar.
"What an awful subject," scoffs Belbo.
Intrigued, far more than offended, Casaubon asks Belbo what he knows of the Templars.
"I work for a publishing company," answers Belbo, "We deal with both lunatics and nonlunatics. After awhile an editor can pick out the lunatics right away. If somebody brings up the Templars, he's almost always a lunatic."
Over the centuries, and certainly through no fault of their own, the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon (to use their proper name) have moved from Catholic orthodoxy to the very center of high weirdness in the western world. Since no one interested in the strange can escape their influence, as we embark on our pilgrimage through the landscape of the weird, we would do well to make proper acquaintance with the Templars.
The Crusades: It's a shame that the conspiracy theorists have so well co-opted the Templars. The legitimate, mainstream history of the order is interesting in its own right. To begin their tale, we need to understand the world they were born into.
After several years of increasingly dire reports filtering back from pilgrims in the Holy Land, Pope Urban II called for a "Crusade" in 1095. Being a pilgrim in medieval times was always dangerous -- even on journeys to shrines inside Europe. Banditry, thievery, disease, poor roads and transportation were all common hazards. But these new reports were of persecution by the Muslims who ruled Palestine. Whether the Muslim treatment of Christian pilgrims was as bad as was reported is open to debate. Better historians than I have speculated on the other possible motivations behind the Crusading movement. A traditional explanation is that the Pope wanted to harness the aggressive tendencies of Christian knights against heathens rather than each other. More modern writers argue the importance of economic motives in invading the crossroads of European/Asian trade. There is little doubt that these motives all played some part. However, to de-emphasize the inherently religious impulse behind the Crusades is to fail to understand the medieval world. The deep faith of medieval Christians is difficult for even the most devout modern readers to fully comprehend. This faith drove many of the ordinary knights and warriors to fight for Jerusalem.
After a long campaign with substantial military and logistical obstacles, the Crusaders eventually succeeded in conquering Jerusalem in 1099. In the immediate aftermath the conquered lands were split into several kingdoms under European nobles. The situation, however, was extremely tenuous from the start. The Crusader kingdoms were surrounded by the Mediterranean on one side, and unified, hostile neighbors on the remaining three. On their way to Palestine, the Crusading army had managed to alienate the nearest Christian power, the Byzantine Empire. And finally, they looked at each other as rivals. Ironically, pilgrims to the Holy Land were only marginally safer after the First Crusade. There was still much uncertainty in traveling to Palestine.
In 1120, a small band of knights, lead by a man named Hugh de Payen went to see the local church council meeting in Nablus, just outside Jerusalem. They presented themselves as a possible solution to the security problem facing the pilgrims. Being devout christians, and skilled knights, they wished to live in community together and take holy orders as monks did. They further pledged to act in the defense of pilgrims. Although the request was somewhat unusual, the church council agreed that the proposal had promise and granted the knights request. King Baldwin II of Jerusalem also gave his blessing, and even presented the new brotherhood with the Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount to use as their headquarters. Since the Crusaders all called the mosque the Templae of Solomon, the order took this as part of their name.
From the start, the Templars captured the Christian imagination. They had combined into one profession the two competing ideals of medieval manhood: the monk, and the knight. In doing so, they had managed to distill the essence of service in the crusades to a set of core values. New members flocked to the order, and patrons lined up with donations of money and resources. In those early years, even a future saint, Bernard of Clairvaux, wrote of the Templars' virtue in an essay, "In Praise of the New Knighthood." In 1129, Hugh de Payen and a delegation of brother-knights returned to Europe to receive formal recognition from the Church at the Council of Troyes. The Pope, in fact, not only granted recognition but gave the Templars autonomy and independence from both church authorites other than the papacy and secular rulers. In essence, the Templars were their own nation.
This special status allowed them to grow. Their primary mission was military. The number of knights stationed in Jerusalem and the nearby garrisons probably never reached many more than 1000 at any given time. Probably far fewer through most periods. However, when combined with the mounted and unmounted sergeants, the local light cavalry (called turcoploes) in their employ, and the assorted men-at-arms and mercenaries, the Templars fielded the largest -- indeed the only -- standing army in the Western World and the first since Roman times. The whole enterprise was devoted to arming and training these fighting men, while in the household warbands of the Crusader nobles, the logistics were left mostly to the individual warriors. The fighting prowess and discipline of the Templars (and, to be fair, their sister order the Knights Hospitaller) was such that they were accorded significant slots in the marching and fighting orders of the Crusader armies.
As mentioned, the Templars maintained a world-wide enterprise to support their military organization. As wealthy patrons donated resources to the fledging order, the Templars made investments in creating a logistical and supply network. Arguably, the majority of Templar holdings were agricultural. Some of these activities, such as horse-breeding farms or the shipping fleet, directly supplied and supported the war effort. These were early examples of corporate vertical integration. Other activities sold their products to raise capital and represented a form of horizontal integration.
With many different economic activities spread over vast territory and throughout multiple kingdoms, the Templars developed a rather advanced accounting and audit system to manage their finances. Over time, this developed into an international banking system serving many customers outside the Templars. It became possible for a lord going on Crusade to deposit money at a Templar house in France and then draw on the funds in Jerusalem. The Templars developed a checking system, financed loans, and even acted as trustees for state treasuries.
Thanks in part to the advantages provided by these far-sighted innovations, coupled with a ferocious faith in their God and causem the Templars and their Crusader allies achieved many battlefield successes. However, the strategic advantage enjoyed by the Muslims weighed heavily in the ultimate outcome. Also, the many, if occassional, bad judgments by Crusader leaderships added up. Gradually the Muslims pushed the Europeans out of Palestine.
For example, in 1187, the Muslim general Saladin threatened Jerusalem and his forces conducted successful harassment raids on Christian outposts. In a smart move, the Crusaders fielded an army to take the fight to Saladin rather than be put on the defensive. However, at the urging of the Templar Master, the Crusader army marched through the blistering desert for several days and ran out of water. They found Saladin's wel-rested army near a saddle-shaped hill called the Horns of Hattin. Without pausing, the Templars lead a heavy cavalry charge against superiro numbers. The Muslims rightly feared the heavy cavalry charge of the European knights. However, by this time, they had developed tactics to counter this kind of atteck. In this case, the Muslim's drew the Templars to extend their line. Then the Muslims surrounded the charging troops. Once cut-off from the main army, the Templars and Hostpitallers were easily killed and captured. The rest of the Crusader army was pursued and broken. As a result, Saladin's forces were able to take Jerusalem with a minimum of resistance. After the battle at Hattin, Saladin ordered the beheading of the Templar and Hospitaller prisoners because he considered them to be especially dangerous. The other Crusader knight were ransomed.
Although the Templars moved their headquarters from Jerusalem to Acre, recruited replacements, and retained their supporting logistics network, the strategic stituation dictated that they were fighting a losing battle. A series of military set-backs for the Crusaders pushed them out of the Holy Land by 1300. By this time, the Templars had moved their headquarters to the island of Cyprus and hoped to reinvigorate an effort to invade Palestine again. However, they were too focused on their military enemies, and not focused enough on the changing politcal situation in Europe. New enemies were lining up against them, and the Templars could not hope to defend themselves in the coming fight.
Next: The Trial of the Templars
Surf it:www.templarhistory.com; www.newadvent.org/cathen/14493a.htm; www.newadvent.org/cathen/o4543c.htm; www.newadvent.org/cathen/07477a.org; I went looking for a website with Templar re-enactment groups so you could have a visual for what these warriors looked like in full equipment. Unfortunately, most of the re-enactment groups are defunct. I'll leave that up to you whether or not that is symbolic of anything. In the meantime, you can visit www.museumreplicas.com and click on the Kingdom of Heaven section to see the white tabard and red cross motif of Templar heraldry. They are also an excellent source for replica medieval weapons -- if you're into that sort of thing. You can also visit www.imperialweapons.com for quality replicas. And, of course, you'll want to check out www.kingdomofheavenmovie.com to see what the Crusader armies, Hospitallers and the Templars looked like in action. Thank god for Ridley Scott; savior of the epic movie. I'll typically leave movie reviews to my friend at www.dandorman.blogspot.com, but I'm really looking forward to this movie. If I had money, I'd be buying the associated Templar duds from Museum Replicas. Read It: I have an extensive library of Templar books -- most of them on the actual history. Before posting this article, I reviewed Knight Templar:1120-1312 by Helen Nicholson, and published by Osprey Publishing. Nicholson is the current leading historian on the mainstream Templars. If you are looking for an excellent history of all things Templar, and putting them in the context of the Crusades, The Templars, by Piers Paul Read can not be beat. If you're a masochist looking for the best primary source of Templar knowledge, The Rule of the Templars, translated by Upton-Ward tells you how the Templars ordered their days, their wardrobes, their armories, their barracks, etc. I have a copy. Invaluable if you're writing a Templar novel, not so much if you have only a passing interest.
I know I already posted "Welcome to Occam's Broadsword," but welcome again.
My intent with this blog is to explore the fringe area between human reason and imagination. To be sure, I will subject all of you to an occassional post about some of my other obsessions, but mostly I will attempt to confine myself to the vague category of "weird stuff."
So what qualifies as "weird stuff?" Rather than try to define it, let me post a representative list. My list is by no means all inclusive, nor is it in any particular order:
Knights Templar, UFOs, Atlantis, Lemuria, Deros, Hollow Earth Hypothesis, Nazi Fringe Elements (because regular Nazis aren't crazy enough), the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yeti, Cthulhu, Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC), Aleister Crowley, Isaac Bonewits, Grant Morrison, L. Ron Hubbard, the Philadelphia Experiment, Time Travel, force fields, pan-dimensional travel, Madame Blavatsky, Black Holes, Worm Holes, Out of Place Artifacts (OOPAs), fnords, Sea Monsters, Thunderbirds, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Church of Satan, the Cult of Assassins, The Church of the Sub-Genius, Thuggees, Vimanas, Ancient Astronauts, Ancient Mariners, Antarctic Coast Maps, Society of the Golden Dawn, Church of Thelema, Priory of Sion, The Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, the Spear of Destiny, the Tomb of Genghis Khan, Shambala, the Plain of Leng, Yezidi Devil Worshipers, Sunken R'yleh, Qigong, Vampires, Werewolves, zombies, secret history, Adam Weishaupt, Princess Diana's death, Ultima Thule, Mokele-Membe, the Mothman, the Beast of Gevaudon, Stonhenge, Glastonbury Tor, Ley Lines, Mont St. Michel, Nazca Lines, Pyramids, MJ-12, Men in Black, Faeries, The King on Yellow, Narlathotep, Robert E. Howard, Alien Abductions, Michael Jackson, Chupacapbras (the Goatsucker), Mind Control, clairvoyance, telekenesis, scrying, auras, Tengu, H.P Lovecraft, Hanger 18, Roswell, Shoalin Monks, dragons, wyverns, chimeras, unicorns, Urban Legends, ghosts, poltergeists, demonic possession, miracles, demonic obsession, divine apparitions, relics of saints, the Oak Island Treasure Pit, Black Madonnas, vitrified forts, flat earthers, cargo cults, King Arthur, Roanoke colony, Pope Joan, Gnostic Gospels, mystery radio beacons, cattle mutilations, black helicopters, hantavirus, stigmata, Marburg Virus, Jersey Devil, Spring Heel Jack, Santeria, Pagans, witches, the Bimini Road, Edgar Cayce, Nostradamus, Tarot Cards, imps, the Curse of King Tutankamen, Vlad Tepes, Joseph of Arimethea, Capt/ Kidd's Treasure, Comte de Saint Germaine, Elizabeth Bathory, megalithic walls, Troy, Tir na nog, Mu, Crystal skulls, Necronomicon, Voynich Manuscript, Nemedian Chronicles, Doctor John Dee, Pirates, conspiracies, demonolgy, superstition, cryptozoology, spiritualists...
Whew! That list ought to keep us in topics for a while.
Obviously, my list of "weird stuff" is very broad. A few items are clearly real, but odd. Most items are not real, but share a devoted following who insist otherwise. A disputed few fall into an unlabled "in-between" category. If this blog had a patron saint, it would be Leonard Nimoy in his incarnation as the narrator of "In Search Of," the classic of '70's television that told a good story, and didn't let scientific fact get too much in the way. That's the attitude I'll be taking here. I'm telling a good story, and I don't want too many facts spoiling it. If you have factual knowledge to prove or disprove the topic of a post, by all means -- post a comment!
I don not claim to be the authority on every topic. In fact, many times, I'll be re-packaging someone else's information. I do not intend to prove or disprove anything, although occasionally I might let my logical mind intrude on a story. I do hope your find the forthcoming posts entertaining. I also hope that my approach will help stretch your mind.
A word of warning to true believers who may stumble into this blog by googling keywords: No matter what I say, do not think for an instant that I believe in the phenomena I will post. Sure, maybe I want to believe something, but the fact is: I need hard, empirical proof. I am a skeptic. I need evidence that holds up. The name of the blog is "Occam's Broadsword." For those of you who are unfamiliar with the reference, Occam was a medieval monk who announced a logical investigative method based on the principle that the simplest explanation for any given phenonmenon was most likely to be correct. This methodology was called "Occam's Razor" because it neatly cut through to the answer. To illustrate: If I walk into my kitchen and find a glass of water on the counter, I can be reasonably sure my wife left it there. I do not need to resort to a mischievious poltergeist playing tricks to explain the presence of the glass of water. So when I post a topic, feel free to comment using the "Razor" to explain it all away. Or tell me it's all real. I don't care. Just enjoy the story, and expect someone to contradict you.
A few administrative notes: 1.) I don't know how to post pictures yet. When I learn, I will be illustrating my posts. 2.) At the conclusion of each post, I hope to leave you with some additional information for your own research into the weird. Surf it: (websites to explore) www.forteantimes.com, www.sjgames.com, www.bujinkan.org, www.us.games-workshop.com, Read it: (titles of books or magazines to read) Fortean Times magazine, The Ninja and Their Secret Fighting Art by Stephen K. Hayes, Watch it: (movies and tv shows) The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere, Lost on ABC 8pm Wednesday nights, Millenium available on DVD.