Abductees titillate our TVs once again – part 2


Confessions of a shameful kind reared its ugly head tonight and I can quite happily smile in the knowledge that my instinct was right all along. The style of the documentary was typically Channel 4’s, but its content was utter nonsense. It included a flying saucer as the emblem for the show which is a tired and overused cliche.

Actually if the show’s researcher had done her homework then she would have discovered that flying discs are not as commonly reported in UFO sightings as they were in the 50s and 60s, compared to LITS (lights in the sky), flying triangles and cigar-shaped objects that are reported today. They even had the time to include a link to the Rendlesham Forest incident of 1980…another cliche and…yawn…how terribly dull. Another British UFO case that is riddled with inaccuracies and which has become Britain’s latest myth.

Of course the production company needed a common symbol that viewers could relate to…how very tiresome and disappointing of using the saucer, and certainly this was a lost opportunity in using something fresh and different.

Clipboard02The background to tonight’s show can be found here, in yesterday’s entry. This one hour documentary focuses on an organisation called AMMACH, Anomalous Mind Management Abductee Contactee Helpline, which is jointly run by ex-broadcast engineer Miles Johnston and Joanne Summerscales, a trained therapist (in what we’re not told) and AMMACH director. Through them we get to hear about the experiences of three abductees.

Both Miles and Joanna sincerely believe that aliens are visiting this world. They have clearly embraced what is termed the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis – this is relevant to my fundamental concern about the subject. Take a look at their website if you have a moment, I think you’ll find it of interest. This serves to illustrate my point about the power of the UFO researcher who informs witnesses (I call them percipients) about the nature of their experiences – this is where problems usually begin when belief systems are proselytised.

Anyway I watched the programme and took lots of notes and here is my conclusion…

The programme focused on three ‘alien abductees‘. The documentary didn’t question this term, it just accepted it, allowing the percipients to do the explaining themselves. Like an unwrapped orange, it is what those people interviewed say about the subject and about themselves that enables the audience to take a glimpse into their experiences and the subject of ‘aliens‘, albeit a very biased one.

This style of documentary is particularly lazy as it doesn’t question the subject or the people concerned…it pretends to be a fly on the wall but unfortunately this style doesn’t work well with the subject. One could do the same with a hospital patient and be none the wiser about what is happening to them until a qualified doctor is interviewed. So where were the experts in the field?

The subject of UFO’s and alleged ‘alien abductions‘ requires objective investigatism. It requires time and money and no TV channel is going to do that as they don’t believe that it’s a subject worth paying much attention too. Hence the pay peanuts get monkeys approach to Confessions.

So…my shocking revelation…those in the programme labelled ‘alien abductees‘ are very normal rational individuals who have encountered real yet extraordinary experiences. The problem with them is that they’ve become deluded and it’s not their fault! The blame simply resides with a popular myth created by UFOlogists in the 1980s and the 1990s just prior to the coming of the Millenium. It involves a story about alien contact, people being kidnapped, humans being made to act as pawns in a cosmic game of good versus evil. There are sexual acts that help the aliens survive by creating hybrids…this myth even entered the TV through the X-Files and from TV, books etc into our subconscious minds.

simonparkesSimon Parkes, 53, a councillor and a driving instructor is very sane and in my opinion his experiences are very profound as they have obvious links to his father who abandoned him when he was a baby, and his mother was an alcoholic. His experiences with a race of alien creatures offer him love, friendship, satisfying sexual relations, above all they protect him, these are the very things parents are designed to show their children through basic nurturing processes. No one questions why the aliens are dominating males…so why wasn’t a psychologist interviewed?…Oh yes that’s why, because this programme was produced on the cheap.

Interestingly, in talking about his encounter in the town of Cloughton shared with another woman. Mr. Parkes questions the incredible technology used by the aliens to abduct them both and take them physically through the car and up into the spaceship above them. It’s so easy to try and explain this in simplistic terms that an advanced extraterrestrial technology has control of their physical selves…but it’s a pity that Mr. Parkes hadn’t considered the possibility of something happening on a non-physical level. Perhaps that in itself is too difficult for most people to comprehend. Let’s face it, if the abduction phenomenon is a physical event then we should be able to prove that such events are real…but no one is able to do this.

Watching I noticed that Mr. Parkes was surrounded by science fiction and fantasy models…a man after my own heart even though I don’t have such collections in my own home (but I wish I could). He is clearly an intelligent and creative individual and I think this is very relevant to his experiences. I believe the experiences he continues to have are there to act as a parental and normalising process – something that would have been picked up by BUFORA. However, as a result of the biased programme I wonder if his reputation and credibility and personal life will suffer. Such is the possible damage incurred by appearing on this type of show. I wonder if he was properly advised about it at all?

All three individuals seem to be having shamanic experiences, very profound psychic experiences that are not based in the physical world but in a non-physical reality. They are designed to help him cope, even to help him change his life for the better.

chantelleChantelle, 49, a housewife and someone who is labelled as ‘the most abducted woman in Britain‘ – I don’t think this lady is looking for a place in the Guinness Book of Records! However, her experiences occur on a somewhat daily basis and she claims to see aliens in the form of what many ETH UFOlogists label as ‘the grey’.

Her description of them is fascinating. They don’t wear all-in-one suits like the aliens encountered by witnesses in the 1960s through to the 1990s. Instead they wear black polo-neck top with black trousers, here we have a reference to the old Man in Black archetype! (see John Keel’s Mothman Prophecies) They also have a sense of humour and this again is an important reference to many other narrative accounts given by Close Encounter witnesses (percipients).

However, we don’t know too much about her. What about her hobbies, her interests, her social life, her friends? She seems to be a loner but this isn’t explored by the documentary. It appears that the programme wants to focus on the effect of alien abductions alone than on the individual, as if they (the people) are not important. We only know that she has a very close relationship with Dominic her son and his friend Danny. All of whom come across as very down to earth individuals. Dominic also believes that he has been abducted by aliens too (by the same greys). Psychologists can explain shared experiences but none, it seems, were called to participate in the programme.

MarieMarie, 52, believes she’s been abducted by aliens since the age of 3. Kidnap from a very young age, or contact, is commonly reported among ‘abductees’. I feel sorry for this lady because the programme didn’t provide the time nor the interest to explore her life and I think this would have helped the viewer to understand her better. Unfortunately, she was portrayed as a completely fantasy-prone individual and I’m aware that had the programme explored alternative viewpoints in the subject the viewer would have appreciated her circumstances more.

Marie is a typical individual who has been led falsely to believe that her regular contact with aliens means that she is only part human and that she has a role to play in uncovering the real truth about her life. She also has implants, investigator Miles Johnstone uses some piece of equipment to detect alien implants and tracking devices and they appear to be effective…perhaps he should patent these devices? If they work then we should all have one.

Marie’s clearly upset in the programme by two key events; a polygraph test and a DNA test. Now I want to know who recommended these tests because they clearly didn’t work, certainly not in providing proof of Marie’s alien side – this was poor advice. Polygraph testing is seriously flawed (see earlier entry) and here when Marie was tested using this method she actually failed. Terry Mullin, a polygraph expert with the British Polygraph Association, told her that she failed on the question about deliberately lying about her experiences in order to make her life more interesting! Obviously Marie felt upset by this…but polygraph testing isn’t used in legal courts because of its unreliability, in fact poor Marie was feeling anxious beforehand and then felt insulted afterwards!

Then came the result of her DNA test. With a swabbing taken from her inner cheek and a 4 day wait for the results, Marie believed that the aliens have in some way altered her. The testing was conducted by a company called DDC, who specialise in paternity testing. If any of her parents are truly alien then the results should highlight this through puzzling data, however, the results showed a common result, DNA from a human father and a human mother was present in her genes. Somehow I think Marie might be persuaded to believe that the aliens secretly influenced the data, that the company are part of a conspiracy to cover up the alien presence or that the aliens have human DNA, either way these beliefs are not going to help her get to the bottom of her quest.

One thing to note was the tragedy of her daughter’s death It was stated that her daughter had also experienced alien abduction at some point prior to her commiting suicide. The programme didn’t explore this or the effects of her death upon Marie (who perhaps hasn’t had a chance to grieve).

Marie, however, is not going to give up in her search and that is whole point of these shamanic experiences. They’re designed to show one the way to spiritual meaning and truths and not lead to alien space craft… as a researcher in this field I am not a believer in the ETH.

So throughout this programme where were the experts? There weren’t any, not a single one, and this is one of my biggest concern about the programme. Instead we were subject to old interviews given by Nick Pope, probably because he’s now living in the States trying to make a career in another subject, likely talking about scientific discoveries etc…but he was never a UFO investigator for the Government, don’t let his former role as a junior officer in the MoD and two general books on the subject fool you; Nick’s a lovely man (I’ve met him) but he’s also a very clever one. The programme needed contextualising, it needed a specialist understanding of the subject to be included and it wasn’t, instead we were confronted with journalistic arrogance and possibly a breach of ethics.

If we explore the style of the show did anyone pay attention to the music in the background. It’s a type commonly used in the likes of The Apprentice, usually a light-hearted piece that is used when highlighting a moment of silliness. In Confessions, the music is reminiscent of Harry Potter and subtly implies a fantasy or delusion that accompanies person shown. It clearly exposes the aim of the programme…to show…through the words and actions of these people…that they are living in a fantasy world. Unfortunately, acting as judge and jury the programme creator has totally got it wrong. It doesn’t unveil something interesting, instead it mocks and ridicules. They may have well just tied them all to poles and burn them as witches.

Not one psychologist, folklorist (Dr. David Clarke), anthropologist, sceptic, UFOlogist (Jenny Randles, John Spencer and myself come to mind) with an alternative point of view was considered/included/invited, just Nick Pope because people seem to be convinced that because he’s ex-MoD he has had access to high-level secrets and here is where journalists fall down on credibility and investigative skills…they were simply lazy in producing a cheap TV show and Confessions of an Alien Abductee is the worst of its kind.

The problem is not the person having the experiences but the people behind the ‘research‘, which is rarely published and rarely peer reviewed. It’s these very people with their  beliefs in alien beings that causes the problem we have today, particularly when those people having strange experiences are searching for answers. Instead of discovering this for themselves they are guided instead by a belief-driven therapist.

Mile Johnston, AMMACH’s technical adviser sent Chantelle a piece of equipment that consisted of a crystal connected to a battery. Apparently Chantelle was supposed to place this under her pillow to prevent the abductions from happening but she wasn’t convinced, nor was I or anybody else who watched this. Chantelle tells us that it was a waste of time. And if it did succeed in keeping aliens at bay then it needs to be produced en masse for the alleged millions around the world claiming similar experiences. This isn’t going to happen though is it?

Joanna Summerscales revealed that she believed that the organisation was attacked by a shadow being, which destroyed terabytes of important data from their computers. The shadow being, according to her, is a special ops figure sent by the Government, likely to deter them from their important work. These are the very people who are advising, guiding and counselling those in need of help and who appear to be upset by their experiences! Mile’s dodgy-looking equipment also speaks volumes about the organisation and the beliefs embraced by them and their poor followers.

Perhaps the most telling thing to come out of the show is what Chantelle tells us about her own experiences.This very interesting comment was missed by the programme makers but is commonly heard by a number of others who have these experiences. Chantelle tells us that if the abductions suddenly stop she’d likely miss them as they’ve become a great part of her life. On one occasion she was in her living room and experienced her body being lifted up, and suddenly she became aware of this brightly coloured light passing by her at great speed. Asked if she was frightened by this, Chantelle replied that she wasn’t, in fact she also tells us that

it can also be an amazing experience…to me I’m partly torn between two worlds, their world and ours

if that doesn’t reflect the ecstasy of shamanic experience I don’t know what does and it’s unfortunate that Confessions of an Alien Abduction has completely missed the point about the profound nature of these experiences for these very individuals.

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Abductees titillate our TVs once again – part 1


I’m hoping that I will be proven wrong on Thursday night but somehow I doubt it. My experience tells me that I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

What is the media fascination with people who have unfortunately been labeled ‘abductees’? It’s simple really; titillation and sales. As an ethnographer working work in this field I’ve already encountered first hand many invitations to participate in TV programmes or interviews. Once, a for a certain late night TV show, I was asked to participate in came with the add-on

We would love you to come on the show but would you be willing to dress up as an alien?

Ok, so it wasn’t Panarama and I promptly told them to get stuffed.

However, I strongly recommend that fellow UFO researchers consider taking my own skeptical approach (we’re not desperate for publicity, take the hint). There are a large number of us who have spent years looking into the subject, we don’t search the skies for alien craft and we don’t look for Government conspiracies. I’m not a dog who likes to chase his own tail. I do believe that with this subject the media have a lazy attitude, such is the integrity of the media who claim to have a ‘serious’ interest in the subject. Let’s face it, this subject and all of its components have more in common with philosophy, spirituality and folklore than it does with contact with extraterrestrial visitors.

Well we already know this, from the ultra skeptical pages of the broadsheets to the ultra ‘this is real’ take so often conveyed in the pages of the Daily Mail. The example cited here illustrates perfectly what I mean and shows how a newspaper deliberately portrays the UFO percipient as ‘strange’, look at their portrait photos to see how they’ve been posed…this is shameful journalism. These photos suggest that there’s something possibly wrong with these individuals and I’m sure that they’re very normal people who just happen to have had incredible experiences that have ‘rocked their world’.

I’m aware that the subject has its madmen and nutters (one of my cases involved someone suffering with schizophrenia so I called a psychologist to come along with me as I’m not qualified in this field, I just happen to recognise some symptoms) but so too do many other subjects but these are considered too dull to be covered by the media, after all UFOs and ‘alien abductions’ make fun stories and they also sell news. This is the only reason why the media want to cover such esoteric topics, for ultra cheap TV programmes to be made and I’ve personally witnessed this myself. An analogy would be the potential for having a meal made personally by a chef but instead because the ingredients seem cheap one decides to opt for a burger product.

Miles-Johnston-1940293So on Thursday night, viewers are to be treated to what appears to be a classic example of a UFO freakshow. Confessions of an Abductee will be aired on Channel 4 at 9pm (that’s 13 June folks). Here we are going to take a look at Ammach, a UK-based UFO belief-based organization that supports and counsels people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. Co-founder Miles Johnston can be seen seated here on the left.

Here the programme seems to make the mistake in assuming that the UFO community does not consider other view points on this subject.It will be interesting to see if this is the case. Will Dr. David Clarke be involved in the making of this show, probably not.

For example, was consideration given to the possibility that such experiences could be interpreted as, even are, shamanic experiences. That sounds just as crazy I guess as those people claiming to have been kidnapped by aliens, isn’t it? Well no, there’s actually a huge amount of evidence for this…this being the subject of my own research.So no this hasn’t been considered to date. I wonder if this will be mentioned, even discussed on the show?

How about the possibility that the UFO movement is also a New Religious Movement for the 20th and 21st centuries with its growing number of churches, priests and bibles being read by those deeply involved in the subject? I don’t literally mean real UFO churches are being built, no I mean that UFO organisations can act as churches with high profile authors and TV presenters acting as priests and anyone else who believes that this planet is being visited by alien beings as church followers. This too may not have been considered.

How about that UFO believers are actually participants in a cult, where the UFO ‘researcher’ is the cult leader informing ‘abductees’ that they’re playing an important role in a huge cosmic battle between the forces of good (aliens) against the forces of evil (other aliens) and that we’re their pawns…this is where many ‘witnesses’ acquire the belief that they have been taken by aliens – it’s what they read or what they’re told or what they’ve seen in films and TV programmes that informs a classic abduction narrative for their experience.

After I had been interviewed by a journalist in 2003 about UFOs, I turned their attention to the Anamnesis project, a long term project led by the British UFO Research Association which enables the UFO percipient to try and understand more about themselves and their experiences. It does not involve any act of hypnotism and regression (which have been demonstrated time and time again to be flawed techniques in recovering ‘real’ memories). Anamnesis is a very different, more humane, certainly more normal approach to studying people (not aliens – do you see where I’m going with this?).

Years ago I helped to co-ordinate what was called a Witness Support Group in Merseyside. Basically a group of people with shared experiences would meet regularly in an informal setting. Its aim was to normalise people’s experiences and it was based on an American buddy system. A friend of mine, and psychology student and nurse at the time was the insider who worked with the group). In a short period of time this group failed to work as witnesses were strongly influenced by the UFO literature available at the time (glossy mags and videos) that seemed to promote the myth about visiting aliens. Once I saw this happening I disbanded the group and the support of the British UFO Research Association. The same thing happened with the London WSG but they’re still going as a belief-based group.

No, the media may not have even considered any of the above. Why? Is it because this information isn’t available? Or that no academics have taken an interest? There have been several books on UFO religions over the last ten years,and a plethora of academic articles that can be reached as free pdf’s online. Eve the Anamnesis project was published in various journals and books by Ken Phillips and Dr. Alex Keul, there’s actually an abundance of material for the journalist to access. However, from experience I know that some journalists can be very lazy, basing their ‘subject intelligence’ from glossy magazines and a plethora of websites – not one journalist has asked me how one accesses this material and know how to separate the wheat from the chaff – ‘cos they’re the experts here aren’t they?

My own interest in this subject, an interest that spans 20 years, enables to me to say with some authority ‘well there’s tons of rubbish being kicked about in the UFO subject, it’s very difficult for a newcomer to know what is fact from fiction – if that’s possible. But despite this fact there’s actually something very profound and very interesting going on with the UFO subject and if someone sits up and pays attention – away from the conspiracy theories of crashed ships, Government alliances with aliens and all that nonsense, and away from the alien abduction beliefs and actually focus on what matters, the people having these very experiences, then one will sit there completely fascinated about the wonders of human life and the world which we are privileged to inhabit.

Very few people are interested in paying for subject knowledge (especially as one as strange as UFOs)…let’s see there’s Nick Pope, ex-MoD (just one officer to investigate the many sightings being reported to the MoD each year – this isn’t practically possible – and the tax payer wants their pounds being spent on investigating UFO sightings?) and Jenny Randles (the closest Britain has to a professional UFOlogist) and…hmm…Dr. David Clarke an academic who has many years experience research, investigating and writing about the subject. Very rarely would these lovely individuals consider doing TV, newspaper work for free and quite right too. Instead the media go and interview anyone who is willing to the talk about the subject for free. Pay peanuts get monkeys.

And so on Thursday evening we may be subject to a wonderful circus show, Confessions of an Alien Abductee, where viewers will be presented with a middle aged lady who has paid for DNA analysis and a lie detector test that have proved fruitless in her quest to understand her experiences and life tragedies (btw, both of those techniques are flawed for examining such experiences – who advises these people to take these tests anyway? Likely the ‘researcher’/believer involved).

One of Ammach’s founders, Joanne Summerscales, informs the viewer that many ‘witnesses’ experience ridicule, vilification and isolation (this is very true). Here one of Ammach’s roles is to offer non-judgemental interviews and an opportunity to talk about it. She says

We had someone whose child was taken off them because social services think they are nutty. A lot of people are afraid of losing friends and family if they speak out. They’re afraid people will think they’re cuckoo.

Joanne is correct in informing the viewer that many UFO ‘witnesses’ and Close Encounter percipients suffer from ridicule and isolation – I’ve experienced this myself through my own UFO experience in 1989 and I’ve discovered in my research that there’s little difference between a UFO/abductee experience and a religious one. It’s certainly ecstatic and enough to change a person’s life profoundly.

However, I do have concerns about the way UFO percipients are led to believe that they’ve been kidnapped by aliens when something else might be happening.

Perhaps I’m jumping the gun, being unfair, my harsh judgement about a subject I’ve become fond of after all these years, and yes I’ve become protective of the people concerned…the percipients that is…so Thursday night I’ll be watching hoping for surprises, new information, new research, perhaps even a piece of gold dust but I think I know where this is programme is going…edited in a way that gives all participants a helping hand in making them all look rather stupid.

I have a feeling, and I want to be wrong, that Thursday’s show will not be very different to what viewers have come to expect on their screens…indeed I have strong suspicion that this programme will be sent to that basement of TV production where crap is hidden away until it crumbles to dust to be forever more forgotten.

Posted in Anamnesis, BUFORA, Close Encounter, Flying Saucer, Mysteries, UFO, UFO and Close Encounters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bunnies of Bradninch (a tale of fear)


I don’t normally upload any of my nonsense poetry but I’ll make an exception with this example. First written in 2008 when I was going for guitar lessons in the Devon village of Bradninch. On my return to Exeter, I would often find myself driving in foggy moon-lit nights with rabbits staring at me on the side of the road. Anyway, one night in bed I woke up with an urge to write the following, and so at 3.30am this stuff came out of my head, my apologies in advance.

Image by Chris Chew

Crazed Dazed Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bunnies of Bradninch (a tale of fear)

Road lit by car beams, the land lit by moonlight,

Strange shapes and shadows in the middle of the night.

Bunnies of Bradninch at the side of the road,

Gathered in numbers so huge they’re a horde.

Fluffy ears and cute eyes, but don’t fall for that look,

As it’s all explained in a psychology book.

The beauty outside and the madness within

‘Tis a natural order to the bunny’s sin.

Bunnies to the left and bunnies to the right,

All with evil faces that fills me with fright.

Black wide-open eyes, floppy ears on parade

With long sharpened fangs and carrot grenades.

And then in the fields when all is asleep,

They hop in like mad and kill all the sheep!

Hear the pigs go oik! Hear the cows go moo!

It’s a panicky bloodbath then they’re gone too.

And then in your home, hopping up to your bed

The hard heads of cabbage are smacked on your head.

They’re nibbling, then jumping, biting and bumping,

And this craziness ends with mad bunny humping.

So heed my warning on this special occasion,

The few nights before their little invasion.

The Bunnies of Bradninch evil horde on the road

They’re hatching a plan to take over the world.

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The Bigfoot Tapes (2012) – 1 hour 19 minutes wasted


There are plenty of reviews of this film and I agree with the frustrated feeling conveyed by the ones I’ve read. The Bigfoot Tapes DVD is currently selling for £7 in Sainsbury’s and I pondered long and hard (5 seconds) as to whether I should buy it or rent it via Virgin Media at home. I decided on the latter option and now I’m pondering if Virgin Media will take pity on me and refund me my £3.99 for watching such utter garbage. The Bigfoot Tapes is one of those films that simply shouldn’t have been made. the-bigfoot-tapes-dvd-cover

Now there’s no spoilers here, I certainly won’t give away the plot but I have plenty of comments that may be of interest to you.

The film is mimicking the style of the Blair Witch Project; in fact it doesn’t add anything new to it and I wonder if Bigfoot had a special focus elsewhere such as  plot. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, the film is unoriginal and it left me feeling disappointed.

This is the story of three film-makers who go out in search of the Bigfoot due to a recent alleged sighting, the characters are very much like those characters in the Blair Witch Project; these are film-makers who are no different in that they are of low intelligence and are irrational. For adults they lack even the basics of common sense, they were annoying and very unconvincing. They also did no research into the subject matter they’re supposed to be investigating. Writer, producer and director Stephon Stewart should have picked up the phone and called Richard Freeman or someone from the CFZ first (Britain’s most famous cryptozoology group)! It would have resulted in a film worth watching, especially if you want interesting characters.

Whether this film is making a comment about a modern day United States is up for a very short debate, something else I’m not convinced about. There seems to be three elements to this film; the mysterious elusive Bigfoot, the urban film-makers with money, opportunity and a sense of ‘fun’ – because let’s face it that’s the only reason why they’re making a film and the rural population who appear to be just as wild and chaotic as nature itself and who are bent on savage criminal acts, which they consider normal. In this way, the film appears to convey stereotypes, which I think is unnecessary and unfair – almost in the way The Wrong Turn and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre encourages viewers to be scared of strangers including those people who live in the country, because let’s face it psychopaths and cannibals love living in isolated places!

Film-makers often don’t understand the rudimentary elements of human psychology, particularly when trying to make a good scary story, this film is a good example of this.the-bigfoot

If one reads about the reported Bigfoot sightings in the USA then one would learn that these observations are being reported by your average person, not backward individuals with nothing better to do than create a good yarn for a fast dollar. A sighting of the Bigfoot does not necessarily reflect the intelligence or the religious beliefs of the observer as suggested by this film.

Permit me to ask you this? If you’re in a tent at night (something you’re told you shouldn’t be doing)  investigating a mysterious creature in the middle of nowhere and then in the early hours you hear strange frightening noises nearby do you

a – keep still, stay calm, keep listening and hope that the noises don’t come near you or do you

b – act like a freak, switch on as much light as possible and make enough noise so that whatever’s out there will learn of your location?

People panicking, acting like idiots and accompanied by irrelevant camera shaking makes frustrating watching – I felt a little like this when watching Cloverfield. These characters are not schoolkids, they’re adults, admittedly very stupid ones but this doesn’t make a good story. If characters are going to be so annoying then the viewer will be tempted to switch off. I didn’t and that’s only because I paid £3.99 to watch it. Mr. Stewart I want my money back please as I’ve lost 1 hour and 19 minutes of my precious life.

Viewers are informed in the film that the forest is the home of the Bigfoot but it’s also where evil men grow drugs! So who are we meant to be more frightened of? The Bigfoot or a gang of druggies? I didn’t feel a thing in this movie except the coming of Death to take me away to a place where I would forever be exposed to Coronation Street reruns.

One scene presents a clearing in the forest where goats are tied to posts, spilled blood has been found along with a black cockerel, so this alludes to the belief that these locals are into devil worship. Yet this isn’t explored at all, it’s a red herring from the start and adds nothing to the story as the ‘bad guys’ are plainly just evil men. Although questions about the coming harvest was discussed briefly by farmers this was lost in the story arc and made no sense. Is there a devil worshipping community in the outback as suggested by one of the characters? Well we don’t know because the film doesn’t go in this direction.

I hate to say this but Bigfoot is a lazy production. The badly acted religious nut (the man who made the phone call to the police) leaves the film makers behind because he had an ‘experience’ and then we don’t see him anymore. It’s not logical for a writer to not invest in his characters.

The three film makers believe that the locals are setting them up for some occult ritual but the film consists of unconvincing dialogue. Just look at the work of amateur film maker Ashley Thorpe, it’s very refreshing to have someone like him focus his material on existing legends (e.g. the Hairy Hands legend on the B3212 road) – long may his success continue.

One thing that really gets under my skin, more so than a bad plot and shallow characters is the amount of swearing contained within the dialogue. Perhaps it’s my age but one of the reasons why I hated this film was the constant use of the F-word. I don’t think this is needed, in fact, it diminished my ability to lose myself in the story. In fact the only sympathy I felt was not for the characters but for myself in watching this crap. Stewart had no reason to use this amount of swearing.

So, does the film have any scary moments? Apart from the opening 911 call, which made me want to know more as a viewer, no it didn’t. When characters started disappearing by an unseen force the remaining characters, in trying to look for the girl for example, lacked any credibility. They had no sense of urgency, they frequently self-reflected as if they were characters in a war movie, they lacked genuine emotion. Davey, one of the film makers, says “I think tomorrow is going to be a good day.” No it isn’t. The viewer knows that Davey and Stefan are going to die, it’s obvious. The fact that they’re completely dum actually encourages the viewer to want them to have a most horrid death. In fact, the sooner the better.

I didn’t care for any of the characters. None of them were believable nor did the plot take me away to a fantastic place of the imagination. The whole plot was lame and any special effects were reserved for the final few seconds where….and even that was a pointless exercise as a nod to the 1967 Patterson footage.

The Bigfoot Tapes is a major disappointment. I don’t know if my friend Steve Horvath has reviewed it but knowing him he would have hated it. This is Stephon Stewart’s first attempt at writing/producing/directing a film so I can appreciate that it’s a steep learning curve etc etc but scary films aren’t as easy to make as one may think.

It’s unfortunate that the film is rubbish and here’s why. Whilst the legend of Bigfoot is universally known, the cases of alleged sightings are actually quite creepy. This atmosphere is lacking and the film could have done with a build up of it but it wasn’t captured.

Knowing, and having spoken to a couple of cryto-zoologists myself, who have also been to the States (and elsewhere) to try and find Bigfoot, I’m aware that there are some really interesting observations.One example is of an American Bigfoot hunter who took the CFZ to a place where she communicates with Bigfoot regularly and leaves food for it. It inhabits a tree and communicates to her through banging on the wood. When I was told this my sceptical thinking came into play but I couldn’t help but imagine how scary this would be; to hear a knocking in response by something hiding in a huge tree. Of course, it wasn’t Bigfoot but a bear and the CFZ knew this, but it’s how the scenario played out in my mind, like a story being told in a tavern, it caught me completely by the hook and led me into a lovely piece of imagination. This is what the film lacked, using sound to allow our imagination to build a pciture in our minds in order to terrify us. The only sound the viewer got to hear was the constant rustling of grass and branches and the annoying unnecessary shouting of the characters. It destroyed any element of surprise that sound could bring to the screen.

The mysteries in the world also say much about the people who report even experience them. These encounters inform us about social concerns and anxieties and then there is the genuine esoteric element to these encounters that I find fascinating, which involves ideas of liminality. Instead of presenting such themes in the film as I expected The Bigfoot Tapes was merely a cheap attempt in making a scary film and it failed completely.

Anyone interested in the mystery of Bigfoot should watch the infamous and enigmatic Patterson-Gimlin film. (The stabilised version of the film can be found here). Its authenticity is irrelevant, it’s the way it’s been filmed that offers the viewer a shuddering moment and the recognisable camera shake that led to the style adopted by the Blair Witch Project et al. Obviously Mr. Stewart thought is was appropriate to mimic this in his own film but he should have created something more original.

Good points: just two, the film starts off with a realistic sounding 911 call where two voices, the police woman and the caller, are conveying a frightening scenario. That there’s an intruder in the caller’s grounds, that the intruder is big and that the intruder is staring directly at the observer as he’s making the call. The caller doesn’t know what he’s looking at. This is the best bit of the film and the viewer is advised to switch off at the end of that scene. The Patterson film is briefly included that’s the second point.

Verdict: an awful, badly made film. A harsh review I know but I’m a scary film buff and I want to be entertained, The Bigfoot Tapes did not do this.

Posted in Films, Mysteries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lecture – The Golden Age of the Museum


The Worldwide Spread of Museums in the 19th Century

Evening lecture – 6.30pm

When: 9 May 2013

Where: Royal Albert Memorial Museum (01392 265858)

Tickets: £4.50 (£3 concession)

The nineteenth century was truly the great ‘Age of the Museum’. Local authority-run museums in Britain sprang up after the 1845 Museums Act, but they were already being founded throughout the colonies of the British Empire.

John-M-MacKenzieThis lecture will be given by Professor John Mackenzie, historian and pioneer of the study of popular and cultural imperialism and environmental history.

He will discuss why colonial museums were important, what form some of these extraordinary museums took, what they tell us about the global spread of European culture and the role this played in the development of national identities.

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My goodness they were good – Doctor Who episodes 3 and 4


Judging from my last comments about the current series of Doctor Who I wondered if I was going to be led into a room of utter despair, but I was surprised. Cold War saw the return of the Ice Warriors, in an episode that featured only one of them in a number of scenes reminiscent of the film Alien. The story was wonderfully pleasant and touched on my fondest memories of classic Who. What better than a group of mariners trapped on a submarine deep underwater, if that wasn’t terrifying enough! One also has Grand Marshal Skaldak to contend with in and out of his suit…I’ve always wondered what they look like out of their uniforms,  still do.

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Okay, so story good, special effects good, atmosphere good (but borrowed, not original) but I don’t really care for the character of Clara and that bloomin’ sonic screwdriver is continuously exploited as a plot device from episode to episode. Holy moly if the Doctor ever seriously loses it then we’ll never have a story where he solves a problem without ever needing to use it! However, my point here is that I enjoyed the episode.

The fourth episode, Hide, was just as good as the previous story. It has a great cast and I was hooked at the start sat with my dinner on my lap enjoying every moment. A little scary but the story’s haunting was only due to a pair of aliens in love who had been separated for a long time, one trapped here on Earth and the other trapped in another dimensional reality. How sentimenal, how dull, zzzz.

This was a lost opportunity for genuine creepiness, the sort that Blink offered but instead we’re back to the same old lovey-dovey side of human nature. It makes me sick with rage and I want to get my big stick and whack the heads of the writing team again and again and again until I hear a voice or two cry ouch! I might even take that sonic screwdriver and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine (I love Fox Mulder’s character).

When are you guys going to learn that the cause of ‘hauntings’ isn’t meant to be about people being in love. The idea of being separated into different realities didn’t lend itself to a spooky atmosphere. Stop being traditionally Dickensian, I know you work for the BBC but you need to up the Aunty and stop being namby-pamby!

Stories of love and tragedy also contain expressions of anger even hatred by a love that’s been spurned or other horrible tragedies such as death caused by jealousy. Do you not think an audience would be interested in such things where viewers can feel sympathy for a victim. How about the personality behind the haunting to be an utterly evil force  that  needs banishing by the Doctor and without the use of his blasted sonic screwdriver!

I think Doctor Who writers need to rethink their stories and offer us something original. Either do that or I want to see the return of Sapphire and Steel, where the stories were scary and different.

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I’m trying to be as positive as possible about Dr Who and whilst I did enjoy the last two episodes they weren’t at all original stories. I know the success of the film The Woman in Black makes it difficult for writers to do something to rival it but at least make the effort!I feel very strongly about this but I think the writers are perhaps resting on their laurels of past efforts and in so doing are losing opportunities in creating unique plotlines. I don’t believe that Doctor Who has ran its course as there are plenty of writers outside of the BBC who contribute original fiction within Who fandom on a regular basis, so I think there’s hope yet.

Next time I will comment on something Ufological along with belief systems….unless the next episode of Who I watch punches me below the belt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phonicon feedback and Doctor Who ep.2


Phonicon was very popular with lots of money raised for PhonicFM, the local community radion station. I want to personally thank Sean Branney for giving us permission to show the HP Lovecraft Historical Society film The Whisperer in Darkness, which stirred a lot of interest among new fans of Lovecraft’s stories. It was also an opportunity for me to promote their work.grimm-entertainment

Incidentally, this film is scheduled for release in UK cinemas later this year courtesy of Grimm Entertainment. So keep a look out for their exciting screenings.

Phonicon also featured a Simon Guerrier film called Cleaning Up (2012), which was  produced by the notorious Guerrier Brothers, who have just finished Wizard guest starring David Warner. Cleaning Up is a great short that features the talent of Mark Gatiss and Louise Jameson. This is one B&B I wouldn’t like to stay in. If you haven’t discovered it go to the Guerrier link above and have fun. Above all, please make sure that you forward the link to others who enjoy the genre of the fantastic. Simon has written “tonnes” on Doctor Who, Bernice Summerfield etc and there’s more to come.

Sunday’s Phonicon also gave me the opportunity to say hello to and interview Gary Russell.

47861_10201013941255930_2065577651_nOne time child actor in the TV-series of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five he was also instrumental in being one of a large number of fans who produced high quality Doctor Who articles and stories in the 80s and 90s. His fine moment was the 30th anniversary of the show. Gary, like many other fans around him, helped to convince the BBC that the return of Doctor Who to the screen would be a huge hit. It was bigger than the Beeb expected. Gary is too humble to admit being a part of such a massive contribution but he forgets that his corpus of work inspires writers like me today who are also massive Who, sci-fi and horror genre fans to know what can be achieved through hard work and determination. Gary, I’m not kissing bottom, just appreciating your effort.

Doctor Who – The Rings of Akhaten

Okay. So what about series 7 episode 2 of the current series of Doctor Who? I’ve been holding this off for as long as possible – you know I don’t like ranting. This particular story, called The Rings of Akhaten, had potential for being something interesting but was rushed into a 45 min episode. My opinion is simply this…it shouldn’t have been made in this way.

I’m not going to blame the team behind it because they work incredibly hard to deliver something for the fans…it’s the way the BBC works that’s the problem in determining how programmes are produced set against budget expenditure and time schedules. Not what an angry viewer would agree with after seeing that pile of poo on Saturday evening, but the young fans I met at Phonicon told me how disappointed they were with it. That says an awful lot…it tells me that the show has lost its way and the BBC don’t understand how to structure a show’s longevity…here’s a clue…involve the fans…you’re such a dumb-ass (my favourite American word to date).

And what is it with that bloody sonic screwdriver? It can do everything and is constantly used as a plot device to resolve tricky situations. STOP IT BBC, stop being a p***k and get back to basics with the show, you’re missing an obvious trick!! Get some new blood…can’t you hear me? I’ve been ranting for so long about this.

I thought Rings had some decent elements within it, apart from the alien-scape clearly copied from the cantina from the Star Wars IV film, it had some great characters and some menacing evil aliens but not enough was made of them. This episode could have been scripted for two episodes, enough to bring out character and plot. The living planet, which is essentially Lovecraftian, appeared as nothing more than an angry hungry planet-like thing, is the best way of describing it. Not really Azathothesque or Nyarlathotepisque! But it could have been…it could have been much more and a little frightening too. So the Beeb have missed yet another opportunity. The Moff has my complete support and sympathy but Steve you need to get back to your Coupling days of writing…much more interesting. Stop focusing on female characters…this has already been done to death with them playing a pivotal role with the end of the world or the origins of the daleks (is this to come? zzz).

Sorry that was harsh so who do I direct my anger and frustration too? The BBC? Well I did send a complaint once and heard nothing back…customer service isn’t the same nowadays. To Steve? No I’ve met him and Sue and they’re lovely. No, for now I’ll just shake my fist in the air, growl and sound like a man in his 90s who couldn’t make it to the loo on time.

But seriously we need a fresh approach, new blood in the form of writers who understand Who not just good writers. How about the BBC inviting the fans, who know how to write, contribute stories to a new series of Who? A little bit of inclusivity wouldn’t go amiss here. TV companies used to do focus groups…has this been done for Who? Shrug. Crikey Aunty Beeb perhaps you lack much in the way of vision? Perhaps you suffer from tunnel vision.

Well, until next week when I’m…hopefully…excited by the appearance of Ice Warriors. As an optimist I believe in hope, well for humankind anyway.

Rant over.

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Exeter’s sci-fi convention – Phonicon 2013


Phonicon science fiction convention

Date: 7 April 2013

Location: Phoenix Arts Centre, Bradninch Place, Gandy Street, Exeter

ADULT £12.00
CHILD (Under 14) £4.00
FAMILY (2 adults 2 children) £25.00
CONCESSIONS £8.00

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Something exciting is coming to the city and I will be there on the day interviewing Devon-based film maker and Fangoria writer Ashley Thorpe. The Q& A session will not only focus on his successful award-winning short films but I will attempt to unearth more information about his Spring-Heeled Jack and Borley Rectory Projects.

I also have the privilege of being able to introduce the HP Lovecraft Historical Society later that day. The Society was founded by a group of Lovecraft fans and they are a very talented bunch as over the years they have turned a number of HP Lovecraft‘s tales into audio recordings  such as Shadow over Innsmouth and the Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

DART-cdw-cover-lgThese are incredible productions and they’re value for money too. Let’s face it, some of Lovecraft’s tales have over the years been produced as audio CDs but the voices of some narrators are less than inspiring.

[NB an exception is the podcast material, produced by Andrew Leman and Chad Fifer, is definitely worth a listen. Their version of Call of Cthulhu is a greate xample of how to produce quality podcasts. Their Cthulhu illustrates how the narration is brought to life through an interesting voice (that of Andrew Leman’s) supported by wonderful sequences of music that was produced by Chad Fifer.]

At least one can always rely on the fans to produce the goods (look what happened with Dr Who in the late 1980s) the HPLHS bring Lovecraft’s writings to life through dramatisation, great sound effects and a masterful supportive soundtrack to boot. However, their hard work has also been translated onto the big screen. The Call of Cthulhu was  released in 2005 and has since won acclaim and several awards. Honouring the old black and white silent films, this production used basic special effects proving that old tricks of the trade still work to produce on-screen magic. It was a wonderful moment seeing Lovecraft’s story come to life, even the mighty Cthulhu appeared to be a nod to Ray Harryhausen.

So on the 7th April visitors to the Phonicon (Black Box Studio) will be able to watch The Whisperer in Darkness, which was written by Lovecraft in 1930. This 2011 adaptation is true to the original tale with the exception of the appearance of Charles Fort. Although not one of Lovecraft’s characters, Lovecraft himself would have appreciated the addition of a man who at the time was clearly interested in understanding anomalies that had been observed in reported in numerous publications of the day.

Running at just over an hour in length, this silver screen wonder was made in the style of a black and white talkie. The film itself doesn’t look aged as it lacks crackling in the sound and film, it looks a little too clean perhaps, but the storytelling is wonderful and this time the special effects includes CGI which was used to imitate stock motion animation. A superb telling of one of Lovecraft’s most disturbing tales of terror from beyond the stars!

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Posted in Doctor Who, Films, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

Will Storr is back!


His previous work in 2007 was Will Storr vs The Supernatural which was a fresh opinion on the subject given by a journalist who experienced the paranormal and those people whose lives are very much focused around the subject matter. Mr. Storr experienced the frightening as well as the clearly ridiculous and I enjoyed reading it very much so much so that I actually contacted him and asked him to do something similar about the UFO subject. Storr’s response was surprisingly disappointing in that he told me that he didn’t see any connections between the UFO subject and the paranormal. Unfortunately he’s very wrong in that assessment and the link is very much with the people who are deeply involved in the subject. It is the life-changing ability of reported extraordinary experiences and their deep convictions that link them. the-heretics-9781447208976022

So why am I writing about Will Storr now? Well I just received a blanket email from his publisher’s blog to inform me about Will Storr has a new book, which is called The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, published of course by Picador. Heretics, which is available from the 14th February, questions why people believe in the irrational and using his fun investigative journalistic skills he travels to different parts of the world  to speak to “creationists, UFO spotters, ESP experimenters and people who believe they have alien worms living in their skin.”

Now, I will be reading this book because I enjoyed his last endeavor, however, I won’t be expecting any surprises and unfortunately he should have just focused on the subject of UFOs. This book possibly just sounds like a jolly. Now you might be thinking…well of course you would say that Mr. Eccles because you’re interested in UFOlogy so you’re bound to be biased…well yes but from having been in the subject for many years I have encountered a plethora of people, a multitude of ideas and beliefs, a variety of experiences, I’ve even interviewed members of cults such as the Aetherius Society whilst on one of the sacred hills on Dartmoor. (By the way, the Aetherius members I met were very normal lovely people who, regardless of what they believe, want to make the world a better place…perhaps a hint that more of us should get off our backsides and actually do something ourselves).

I can tell you too that my own experiences are nothing like those shared by individuals who claim to be aducted by aliens nor are my thoughts the same as those members of the Aetherius Society. Basically, UFOlogy is an indepth subject worthy of a tome to be written by someone neutral like Mr. Will Storr, I really want this to happen because the subject would benefit from such a fresh perspective, Storr’s own humour and his opinion…UFOs shouldn’t be tackled as a quick chapter in a book – a common mistake made in many popular press publications.

I am a UFO witness myself but I don’t believe in Government conspiracies and crashed saucers!! So Storr’s writing will not, I feel, represent my experience nor the experiences of other UFO witnesses, that’s the point really. Whilst I experienced the irrational I certainly don’t attribute the alien mythology to it…which makes me a normal open-minded individual. Storr’s book clearly seems to focus on extreme beliefs, which has been done before so it won’t cover the UFO subject in any depth just its top thin skin.

When I’ve read his new book I’ll review it on here and who knows maybe my current expectations and cynicism in such publications will have been misplaced…

Posted in Close Encounter, Flying Saucer, UFO, UFO and Close Encounters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Realms of the Haunting, remember the game?


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Realms of the Haunting was a game I played fondly back in the late 90s on my old PC. It was created by Gremlin Interactive in 1996 and has remained in my mind since then as an inspirational piece of work. Despite technological advancement in gameplay this old haunted house game is a great piece of story-telling. I know the graphics are very much Doom-like but the atmospheric graphics and simplistic eerie keyboard music actually gave me fond memories of frequent late evening play.  I got past many of the chapters but never actually finished it, there was one puzzle I couldn’t get past so I found that very frustrating.

Basically you play Adam Randall, a character who receives a mysterious parcel in the post from his father. You’re then visit a large house somewhere in Cornwall which is connected to him and you’re exposed to a multitude of magical worlds within. Adam Randall, a young and good-looking chap, rarely shows the brain patterns of today’s man but it’s a basically it’s a game of good versus evil. I’m currently watching a walkthrough on YouTube (composed of 60+ plus ten minutes sections) and it’s bringing back so many fun memories.

ROTH was ahead of its time in the late 1990s and surprisingly when I look at purchasing PS3 games now I hold ROTH up as a comparison. It’s amazing how many games actually don’t compare in terms of story-telling and gamer experience. Obviously I feel that the series of Unchartered, Resistance, Killzone and Mass Effect are games that push those very boundaries we need. You see, a game shouldn’t just be about great graphics and guns that go BANG!! It’s more about the quality of the story-telling and a good number of console games for me rarely do this.

If we take Unchartered, for example, all those small treasures one can find on secret ledges can be revolved 360 degrees, this is nothing new…it was done in Realms of the Haunting, but what a great way to show off newly found items. I understand why Unchartered 4 needs the Playstation 4, because gameplay evolution is important and as a player this is the sort of thing I want…although what I don’t want is to fork out £300 for another console when I feel that the PS3 is still a young machine.

Now Doom has been revamped and sold with the old PC games attached…I played them a couple of weeks ago. So how about someone making Realms of the Haunting for the modern console but with a new twist and new content or even a sequel game? And a second CD with original and new music scores? I’d be very interested in hearing about such a project…

 

 

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