Friday, April 30, 2010

The Road to Shambala

Shambala (or Shambhala) is a mythical land that, depending on one's interpretation:

A. Literally existed in ancient Tibet
B. Literally exists on another plane of existence that can only be reached by humans with sufficient spiritual advancement
C. Metaphorically exists in one's mind and heart.

Although commonly associated with Tibetan Buddhism, the concept of Shambala predates it, having been mentioned in prior texts of the ancient Zhangzhung culture and Bön religion. In Sanskrit, the word literally means "self powered" or "self determined".

In 1791, George Washington, Andrew Ellicott, and Pierre L'Enfant set about designing the new capital city of the United States, which would ultimately become Washington, DC. Elizabeth Clare Prophet, cofounder of the New Age organization Summit Lighthouse claimed that George Washington and the others were influenced by higher-dimensional beings to model their design plan for the city layout of Washington, DC after that of Shambala. (But since it's well documented that Washington inserted Masonic symbolism into that design plan, wouldn't that mean that Shambala is therefore a Masonic city?)

The concept of Shambala was seized upon in the 19th century by Theosophists like H.P. Blavatsky and Alice A. Bailey in the course of their controversial teachings. In two expeditions in 1926 and 1928, Soviet secret agent Yakov Blumkin attempted to discover Shambhala's physical location but (reportedly) failed. And then the Nazis sent three expeditions to the mountains of Tibet - first in 1930, and then in 1934-35, and then again in 1938-39. In each, the search for Shambala was a significant part of their mission.

During the same time period as the Nazi expeditions, rumors of the cryptozoological Yeti in this exact same region were also coming to a peak (no pun intended). Though many believe the Yeti to be an apelike humanoid, others maintain it's actually a Tibetan Blue Bear. If true, however, this is makes it no less fascinating, because the Tibetan Blue Bear is said by some to possess a much higher intelligence than the average bear. Perhaps this is why the animal is so secretive that it's considered one of the most elusive creatures on Earth today.

In 1957, a book entitled From the Subterranean World to the Sky: Flying Saucers was published by O.C. Hugenin, who suggested that the real Shambhala was not on a Tibetan mountain top, but rather underground as part of a "Hollow Earth" theory.

In 1959, a song called "Shombalor" was released by Sheriff and the Ravels. (The band was managed and produced by Hollywood actor Aki Aleong, whose screen credits include a 1964 episode of The Outer Limits called "The Expanding Human" with James Doohan, and also the original V television series.) The singer seems to be actually saying "Shambala" rather than "Shombalor" most of the time in the chorus. The lyrics are a staccato litany of gibberish phrases delivered at rapid-fire speed throughout the song, which contains references to Frankenstein, Albinos, Chickens, Nazis, and Bears. There's one significant exception: both the nonsense gibberish of the lyrics and the hypnotic loop of the melody stop abruptly to underscore one, and only one, lucid couplet:

Of all the animals in the world
I'd rather be a bear
Climb the highest mountain
Just because it's there.

In 1973, country-rock singer B.W. Stevenson had a minor hit (#66 on Billboard charts) with a very peculiar song called "Shambala". Click here to hear it.

Just one week later, the same song was released by rock band Three Dog Night and it became a smash hit, muscling out Stevenson's original version.

Three Dog Night's cover of the song was playing on an 8-track tape in the Dharma Initiative Volkswagen bus that Hurley and Charlie jumpstart in a significant moment on the ABC TV series LOST. Watch it here.

"Victory or Death", as Charlie says in that video clip, indeed. "Victory or Death" was George Washington's rallying cry at the Battle of Trenton, and also the password code among his men at the crossing of the Delaware River. Washington borrowed the slogan from the Scots, and years later it would in turn be borrowed by Adolf Hitler.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Thistle Killer

Further forwarding a Hulu that was forwarded by Tome Wilson on Dieselpunks: one of the great Ronald Howard installments of Sherlock Holmes. Devotees of the Johnny Depp Jack the Ripper film From Hell will doubtlessly find more than a few parallels with The Case of the Thistle Killer, originally broadcast on February 14, 1955.

Click here to watch!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Get 1918's Papers Today

Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan and an all-around swell guy, was vehemently opposed to the passage of time. He wrote a very compelling essay entitled "What's New?" in which he opined that most people actually die from newness:

"Contrary to the accepted premise of staying young by keeping up on things, newness is a devastating, death-dealing state. The only way you can get old is by exposure to the new. If there is no present to involuntarily match the past against, the past remains the present. And you remain in the past present, or, like a vampire, the way you were in your prime."

As he grew older, LaVey began to employ emissaries and liaisons to go forth into the outside world for him, to obtain supplies and handle business duties. Not because he was feeble or infirm - far from it, he was as robust and energetic as ever in his final years. Rather, at that advanced age, he had endured about as much modernity as he could stomach.

He listened solely to antiquated cylinders and 78s by artists like Rudy Vallée, and books and magazines from the 20s and 30s were his preferred reading material. "Keep up on the news," he wrote, "The news, that is, of the time frame you exist within. Keep periodicals on hand to reinforce what's happening in the world. This may entail acquiring a collection of vintage newspapers and magazines."

Even before I was familiar with LaVey and his philosophy, I was already attuning myself to the same principle. I've always studied pre-1966 materials as a monk would study illuminated manuscripts in a monastery, and I increasingly spend a significant chunk of my time dwelling on other segments of the time track than the one in which you are living now.

There once was a time, in the late 1980s and early 90s, where I tried hard to keep only pre-1966 coins in my pocket. At whatever job I worked, I painstakingly parsed out the older coins from the register and swapped them out for the unworthy modern ones. Older coins turned up with far greater frequency back then, but unfortunately, for some unknown reason, they are rarely circulating in common currency these days.

I posit a conspiracy to keep us from maintaining contact with the past via the morphogenic residue of old money, and quantum connectedness with the old dead people who once handled them. The way they keep messing with the appearance of paper money in recent years is further evidence that my theory may not be altogether off-base.

One of the few good things about the internet is that it makes old newspapers and periodicals available to a degenerate past-huffer like myself.

When people come up to me and say "hey, have you seen the latest picks from the Oprah book club?" I can top them by replying "No, but have you been following Sophronia Currier's splendid new serialized novella in the latest issue of Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion?

When people tell me about some current political issue in the news today, I can respond "I'm more concerned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, have you heard about that?"

No, they say, when did that happen?

"1911", I reply.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Glomar Response

The term "Glomar Response" in law - meaning a "neither confirm nor deny" response to Freedom of Information Act requests - comes from a ship called the Hughes Glomar Explorer, which was ostensibly owned by mysterious and eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, but was actually a CIA project.

In 1972, Hughes was approached by the CIA to help covertly recover the sunken Soviet submarine K-129. The Soviet sub, allegedly containing nuclear missiles, had sunk near Hawaii four years earlier. Thus a special-purpose salvage vessel for "Project Azorian" (aka "Project Jennifer") was born, and Hughes' involvement provided the CIA with the plausible cover story of being a research vessel searching for undersea manganese nodules.

Wikipedia on the K-129:

After having successfully completed two 70-day ballistic-missile combat patrols in 1967, K-129 was tasked with her third patrol to commence 24 February 1968 with an expected completion date of 5 May 1968. Upon departure 24 February, K-129 reached deep water, conducted its test dive, returned to the surface to report by radio that all was well, and proceeded on patrol. No further communication was ever received from K-129, despite normal radio check-ins expected when the submarine crossed the 180th meridian, and when it arrived at its patrol area.

By mid-March, Soviet naval authorities at Kamchatka became concerned that K-129 had missed two consecutive radio check-ins. First, K-129 was instructed by normal fleet broadcast to break radio silence and contact headquarters; later and more urgent communications all went unanswered. By the third week of March, Soviet naval headquarters declared K-129 "missing", and organized a massive air, surface and sub-surface search and rescue effort into the North Pacific from Kamchatka and Vladivostok.

This highly unusual Soviet surge deployment into the Pacific was correctly analyzed by U.S. intelligence as probably in reaction to a submarine loss. U.S. SOSUS Naval Facilities in the North Pacific were alerted and requested to review recent acoustic records to identify any possible associated signal. Several SOSUS arrays recorded a possibly related event on March 8, 1968, and upon examination produced sufficient triangulation by lines-of-bearing to provide the U.S. Navy with a locus for the probable wreck site. One source characterized the acoustic signal as "an isolated, single sound of an explosion or implosion, 'a good-sized bang'."

Soviet search efforts, lacking the equivalent of the U.S. SOSUS system, proved unable to locate K-129, and eventually Soviet naval activity in the North Pacific returned to normal. K-129 was subsequently declared lost with all hands.

As the story goes, eager to recover the sub and gain Soviet military secrets, the CIA took the Glomar to the spot and attempted to dredge it up from the ocean floor. The official story says that only a third of the sub was retrieved, as its hull broke up during the effort. Other sources claim the entire sub was brought back intact, and that the "it broke" version was yet another cover story within a cover story, to further conceal our Government's possession of classified Soviet materials if the project were to be found out.

And in 1975, that's just what happened. The New York Times planned an expose on the Glomar, but held the story back when the Nixon administration privately urged them to do so, on the rationale that it could cause a dangerous international incident if the truth were known. The Los Angeles Times also got wind of the story, ignored Nixon's requests, and ran the story anyway. After the cat was out of the bag, the New York Times went ahead with their article also.

When journalists attempted to get more info via the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA refused to either confirm or deny the existence of such documents. This type of evasive reply has since come to be known as the "Glomar Response" or "Glomarization."

But does the coverup stop there?

For every odd event related to the CIA, espionage, and secrecy, there's always someone on the internet who wants to bring extraterrestrials into it. The Glomar case is no different, but there is some food for thought in the idea that the real purpose of Project Azorian was to recover an alien craft that crash-landed in the ocean.

If you're willing to wade waist-deep in that swamp, start here and here and also here. And check out Bob Lazar's site when it comes back online, which is supposed to be any second now. Lazar, famous for his claims of insider knowledge of Area 51, is regarded variously as a genius or a charlatan. As is the usually the case, the truth likely falls somewhere in between.

Lazar is quoted as having said that the aliens arrived in the vessel from the fourth planet of the second star of the binary stellar system Zeta Reticuli. He also claimed to have seen a total of nine different types of alien spacecraft, and viewed autopsies of alien corpses. Recovered crafts such as that allegedly obtained by the Glomar were supposedly taken to Area 51 to be studied and reverse-engineered. Others have claimed that some of that reverse engineering is done by Raytheon at Kentucky's Blue Grass Army Depot.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pictures from Life's Other Side

"This doesn't matter. None of this matters. All that matters is that we felt it."

"There's always a choice, brother."

"I saw it. Just for a moment, I saw what it looked like."

"Hallucinations, seeing things that aren't there."

"You saw something, didn't you?"

"A certain unpredictability comes with the territory."

"He said this is quantum mechanics."

"Imagine something terrible is about to happen, something catastrophic, and the only way to stop it from happening is by releasing a huge amount of energy."

"It happened to you too, didn't it? You felt it."

"When do we start?"

The Little Colonel

One from our Unusual Kentucky blog:

All but forgotten now except to historians, classic film buffs, and a few other people in the know, is the Victorian-age meme of the "Little Colonel".

There's a theatre company in Pewee Valley (just outside Louisville) called the Little Colonel Players; perhaps you've seen their logo with an odd little character in a Napoleonic hat. But from whence did this concept originate?

Annie Fellows Johnston wrote a series of novels dealing with the aristocracy These were semi-biographical and based on actual local people and places. The stories were set in Lloydsborough Valley, which was actually a fictionalized version of Pewee Valley. Johnston, originally from Indiana, eventually made Pewee Valley her home, and she died there in 1931.

Among the books in the "Little Colonel" series: The Little Colonel in Arizona, The Little Colonel: Maid of Honor, The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation, The Little Colonel's Hero, The Little Colonel's House Party, The Little Colonel's Holiday, The Little Colonel at Boarding School, Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding, and The Little Colonel's Chum, Mary Ware. (From that last one, she spun off a popular series of "Mary Ware" books.) Other books in her decidedly dated oeuvre include Miss Santa Clause of the Pullman, The Rescue of the Princess Winsome, Georgina of the Rainbows, It was the Road to Jericho, Mildred's Inheritance, and Ole Mammy's Torment.

In 1935 a film adaptation was made, starring Shirley Temple and Lionel Barrymore. And after that, Johnston and her beloved characters seemed to vanish down the memory hole. Lists of popular Kentucky authors - even specifically lists of ones from the Victorian age - often omit Johnston and her "Little Colonel" books.

In the stories, the Little Colonel (a young girl), draws inspiration from "The Old Colonel" (a Southern Gentleman who had lost his arm in the Civil War):

"Along this street one summer morning, nearly thirty years ago, came stepping an old Confederate Colonel. Every one greeted him deferentially. He was always pointed out to new comers. Some people called attention to him because he had given his right arm to the lost cause, some because they thought he resembled Napoleon, and others because they had some amusing tale to tell of his eccentricities. He was always clad in white duck in the summer, and was wrapped in a picturesque military cape in the winter."

The Old Colonel was a thinly-veiled dramatization of one George Washington Weissinger, Jr., a well-known lawyer in Louisville and Middletown. He's buried in Cave Hill Cemetery, but visiting his grave is tricky. According to

Cave Hill Cemetery (the most prestigious burial ground in the region) has records that the Old Colonel was buried on February 25, 1903, his wife two months later. A plot map shows the exact location of the graves. But there are no tombstones or grave markers. Why? We don't know. We also can find nothing about the death of Amelia Pearce Weissinger (born Amelia Neville Pearce), his wife, just before her interment beside him on April 30, 1903.

And David Domine, in his great book Haunts of Old Louisville, reports sightings of an elderly one-armed ghost in a Civil War uniform, fitting the Old Colonel's description perfectly.