Large scale events such as the Miracle at Fatima or the Phoenix Lights -which have no problem manifesting before large crowds and possibly may even need them- operate on a different level to Betty and Barney Hill or Cadwalader and his goat -which are unlikely to have happened in front of an audience.
A good example may be witness accounts of Mothman following after cars at night, only to turn back as its occupants approached the town. It may be that a saucer is physically incapable of landing on the White House lawn, so to speak.
If these phenomena arise from entangled consciousness -and they probably do- then by a simple law of averages they should happen more often in Mumbai than in Barrow.
The first interpretation as to why this does not happen is that urban dwellers tend to close off as much of their senses as possible when they are out and about, largely as an unconscious anxiety reduction mechanism. Don’t believe me? Strike up a conversation on the Tube. So external events could be happening at a statistically similar rate, it is just that cityfolk are even less trained to see them than others.
The second interpretation is that these phenomena arise from entangled, altered consciousness. Given that most ‘alien abductions’ (sic) happen in the evening and, by some counts, 14% of Americans believe it has happened to them… then it’s very likely that some kind of sleep paralysis is in play. Road hypnosis, that kind of thing. Solitude, darkness, altered state of consciousness… liftoff. (Interestingly, in a recent interview, Nick Redfern advanced the hypothesis that these phenomena may have some holographic capabilities: contact is achieved via entangled consciousness and then our physical perception of the surrounding space is changed… as any number of these High Strangeness events certainly elicit physical marks on the body, etc, we may extend this to holodeckic capabilities… but the suggestion merits consideration. It certainly solves how a girl can spend an evening with her friends, messing about with the ouija board, then come home and manifest bigfoot in her bedroom.)
If isolation and darkness are prerequisites for extreme encounters, then you are most of the way to interpreting why they happen on lonely lanes and not Tottenham Court Road. There are, however, places one can achieve isolation and darkness in the city. When restricted to just these areas, it is likely that urban/rural encounter rates would normalise.
Can’t get more isolated than a shit-filled tunnel.
Those enterprising Victorians, eh? Not only did they build sewers large enough for rowboats, they also sprung an entire economic culture up around their side effects.
One such economic culture was known as the toshers. According to Westwood and Simpsons’s The Lore Of The Land, toshers “made their living by searching inside sewers and along the Thames banks for ‘tosh’, i.e. scrap metal, coins, lost jewellery, and anything else sellable. It was dangerous, secretive work, done at night, for unauthorised entry of sewers was made illegal in 1840; toshers formed communities of their own, with strange beliefs and stories relating to their work – for instance, that there were wild hogs in the sewers of Hampstead.”
Perhaps the most interesting tosher legend is that of Queen Rat. She is a luck-bringing entity whose true form is that of a sewer rat. She would take on an invisible form and follow toshers around the sewers and streets until one took her fancy. Then she would transform into a beautiful woman and have sex with them. In the dark of the sewers and riverside alleys, her few remaining rodent features would be largely invisible. If the toshers satisfied her, they were ensured of a successful toshing career and would come upon treasure and discarded valuables. She also often bites them, marking them so that no other rats will harm them. If they realised what was happening or recognised her, they were guaranteed grave misfortune and death, often by drowning (presumably in a flash flood of human feces and Thames water).
Already we are leaping to categorise this with the ‘wild hogs’ of Hampstead sewers… bogey
menswine clearly designed to keep interloping toshers out of lucrative patches. But in the case of Queen Rat, something else may be going on. In the 1990s, a Liz Thompson divulged a family secret passed down from her great-great-grandfather, James Sweetly. On his deathbed, he told his grandson how he believed he had met Queen Rat at the age of fifteen, after a night out drinking with fellow toshers. Deathbed confessions tend to be more “I buried the silverware in the woods and here’s a map” or “you remember that maid we had? Well, you have a Chinese half-sister.” Not “I banged a rat. True story.”
Sweetly, his pregnant girlfriend back at the house, was approached by a beautiful girl in the pub, who then took him to several other drinking establishments, a dance hall, and then to a rag warehouse where they had sex. During the act, she bit him. Alarmed, he accidentally lashed out at her. Before his fistjerk-reaction could land, the girl vanished. In the rafters above him, he saw a huge rat and heard a voice. “You’ll get your luck, tosher, but you haven’t done paying me for it yet!” A piece of cloth that matched his torn shirt dropped from the rat’s mouth.
James was a successful tosher but extremely unlucky in love. His girlfriend died in childbirth. His next wife, after giving him six children, fell between two boats on a Thames dock and was crushed to death. The offspring of a man who has lain with Queen Rat -offspring by his human partners- would always number among them a girl with mismatched eye colour. And any of her sons would be immune from death by drowning. James and his unfortunate wife had just such a girl.
We all know by now that Jacques Vallée was the first -and is still the best- at calibrating forward from the fairy faith to ufology, demonstrating the continuum of encounters contraindicates the ‘little green men’ hypothesis. The Queen Rat phenomenon, with its sexual/genetic component, zoomorphism, etc… falls squarely in this camp.
But we can also calibrate backwards from Queen Rat to the treasure hunters of the grimoires. There is an inciting extradimensional congress… fortunately without a small boy being used as a channel. (Although fifteen is statutory. Just saying, rat lady.) This is followed by a pact/bargain/exchange; in this case, sexual satisfaction. Then, profit.
Whilst the economic reasons for the plethora of treasure hunting spells and rituals in the grimoire tradition are fairly obvious, I am re-evaluating the how of what these encounters might have been like.
For this, and most things, I blame Jake.
Francois Truffaut plays a mad monk
Like anyone else out there who is serious about magic, I’m reading Mr Stratton-Kent’s The Testament of Cyprian The Mage, which is the Return of The Jedi of his goetic trilogy.
I’m actually reading it all over London, for reasons that are too annoying to go into. Here it is at Scarfe’s, where my reading got distracted by drinking the bourbon that billionaires can’t buy. This distraction turned out to be several blessings in disguise. For one, that bourbon is legit amazing. For two, it gave me time to process what I found so resonant about Jake’s analysis of the probably-apocryphal monk Jonas Sufurino’s reception of the Complete Treatise of True Magic.
Jake points out that the monk’s residence at a monastery near Brocken may be significant, as this German mountain has a very long association with witchcraft. In the monastic library, Sufurino encounters numerous books of magic, the black arts and astrology. After a flimsy justification, he commits himself to having an encounter with the spirits.
On a cold, dark night, he ascends the mountain during a storm to invoke the Lord of Avernus:
If you truly exist, I shouted with a thundering voice, oh, powerful genius of Avernus, show yourself visibly.
At that instant, in the midst of a crescendo of the lightning, appeared the infernal spirit that I invoked.
What do you want of me?
I want -I responded without hesitation- to enter into relations with you.
Granted -it replied, return to your cell. There you will hear from me whenever you wish. I know what you seek, and I will divulge to you all the secrets of this world and the other. I will give a book to you, the catechism of the secret arts, from which all but initiates are excluded.
Solitude? Check. Darkness? Check. Extradimensional relations? Check. Result of these relations? Check. This is basically the last twenty minutes of Close Encounters of The Third Kind transposed to seventeenth century Germany. Even if the monk is just a pseudonym or completely fictional, there is a curiously resonant shape to Sufurino’s inciting incident.
It -and Queen Rat- certainly make me re-evaluate the historicity of contact with ‘treasure hunting spirits’ beyond merely the economic rationale for these long dead magicians (and toshers) giving it a shot.
Back to London, and reevaluating historicity is in the air. Because you’ve been good, please enjoy this fascinating interview with Gian Quasar about Jack The Ripper. It certainly adds more than a little background mood to any further rumination on Queen Rat.
There is just something tantalising about her encounters, their convenient locality and the economic parallels between an age where people literally crawl through the shit of the elites to scrape together a few trinkets to survive and the Victorian era of James Sweetly.
It almost invites experimentation. I’ll leave that with you for now. In the meantime, will all chaos magicians please report to the conference room? Thank you.