Welcome back to It Gets Weird! In this episode, Nile and Kyle discuss a mystery that’s been kicking around since the late 1980s: the secret of Ong’s Hat, New Jersey. What even IS Ong’s Hat? A charcuterie? Ye Olde Hat Shoppe? Ah, wait, says here in our notes it’s a town. Turns out some shamans and mystics and chaos scientists got together to conduct some pretty zany experiments, things like transporting a bunch of people to an alternate dimension. Join us on this bizarre inter-dimensional tale!
There’s one more interview I did back in December of 2018, supposedly still floating around in post-production limbo. If that ever sees the light of day, then that is it. No more interviews.
I made an exception for this one because Denny and I have never done an interview together and I really liked the idea of our great team dynamic being on display in an interview. I hope you enjoy.
What lies at the heart of Ong’s Hat?
Listen to this episode of Decoder Ring:
Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month, host Willa Paskin, Slate’s TV critic, takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means and why it matters.
On the early internet, a conspiracy theory known as Ong’s Hat flourished. It combined real physics, speculative science, mysticism, and radical politics, to tell a tale about a secret cult of interdimensional travelers. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, clues would emerge about the travel cult: brochures, book catalogs, mysterious interviews, buried artifacts, and more. For years, users worked together to solve the mystery of Ong’s Hat and the man who masterminded it all.
Decoder Ring talks to those seekers and the man behind the curtain, to find out the truth: What is Ong’s Hat?
Download the art for this episode.
Links and further reading on some of the things we discussed on the show:
• Michael Kinsella’s book about Ong’s Hat: Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat
• “Interdimensional Portal” on YouTube
• Audiobook version of The Incunabula Papers
• Scans of the original Ong’s Hat mail-art
• Joseph Matheny’s website
• Joseph Matheny’s interview on Coast to Coast AM
This episode was co-written and edited by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch. Benjamin Frisch produced the episode.
*SPOILER ALERT* In case anyone missed it, here is the game that was embedded in that episode: https://www.reddit.com/r/trustaleph/
Ong’s Hat, also known as The Incunabula, is the original ARG and laid the ground for all future experiments in transmedia storytelling. Join me as we take a brief look at the tale of a ghost town in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey…
FOLLOW THE WEIRDNET: TWITTER: @theweirdnet GAB.AI: @THEWEIRDNET FACEBOOK: @welcometotheweirdnet INSTAGRAM: @theweirdnet MINDS: https://www.minds.com/THEWEIRDNET ALTERNATIVE VIDEO SITES BITCHUTE: http://bit.ly/weirdnetbitchute OTHER PROJECTS: IDENTMUSIC/TOMMY SINGS: https://www.youtube.com/user/IdentMusic THE SCOTTISH STORYTLLER: http://bit.ly/TheScottishStoryteller
Topics include: Crimbus gifts, planning our funerals, Scary German Lady, Philly Legends: The Bubble Fairy, Josh is home alone, Alien Alloys, BFS Road Trip, Corrections and Josh’s Chaos Dimension: Ong’s Hat, the Pine Barrens, and Joseph Matheny
Characters: Sammy Squarespace (the CEO of Square Space)
This episode is part two of our interview with Joe Matheny. Part one, The Digital Underground, covered Joe’s experiences running The Grey Lodge, an early, underground private torrent tracker used by millions of people per month. Part two covers Joe’s groundbreaking ARG & literary work, Ong’s Hat, and its place in early internet culture, before we veer off into a discussion about how the ‘fakelore’ methods Joe used in the development of that work connect to the meme wars of today and the increasing political importance of memes (e.g. Kek, the ‘alt-right’ appropriation of Pepe The Frog.) We also discuss the very improbable connection (it really is) between Joe and Jamie, and how Joe became a patron of the show himself; PLUS, the potential for Kodi addons as a distribution point for indie creators.
A lockfile with all the links mentioned in this episode is coming up for Patrons. Enjoy!
Presented by TorrentFreak
The Grey Lodge was an underground private torrent tracker used by millions of people per month in their quest to uncover the esoteric, strange and the downright weird. In this episode we hear from Joe Matheny, one of the founders of the site, about how it kicked off in the very early days of BitTorrent, online culture in the early days of the Internet, proto-copyright trolls, how even weirdos eventually get pursued by the MPAA, and how the demise of indie trackers from Grey Lodge to What.CD mean a net loss for our culture.
Coming soon: the second part of this interview, in which Joe discusses his work as an early creator of “this is not a game” ARG experiences and his well-known work Ong’s Hat, The Incunabula Papers. We’ll be making that available for supporters on the Patreon (and maybe more widely) in due course. In the meantime, if you’re curious to take a look at some of Joe’s work, he’s been kind enough to give us a free pack including Ong’s Hat and some samples from his ARG! Enjoy.
Executive Producers: Mark Zapalac
Here is a reading I did of a segment of the late Robert Anton WIlson’s book: Cosmic Trigger. This reading was done at the bequest of the people putting on the play: Cosmic Trigger, currently showing in the UK. There are other people reading chapters, I believe with the intention of there being an audio-book assembled out the pieces.
I hope you enjoy.
To see all the Robert Anton WIlson freebies available from this site, go here.
The featured audio that I play in this podcast is part of a two-CD collection produced by Joe Matheny and given to the salon to podcast by the distributor, The Original Falcon Press, which you can find via originalfalcon.com. The voices you will here are those of: Douglas Rushkoff, Antero Alli, Tiffany Lee Brown, and Joseph Matheny.
Lorenzo ran more excerpts of one of my audio projects over at the Psychedelic Salon. This time Hakim Bey and Robert Anton Wilson from the T.A.Z. CDs. Enjoy.
“The Power of Art and the TAZ”
My friend Lorenzo has posted another show of Robert Anton Wilson material on the ever edifying Psychedelic Salon. This one is audio excerpts from The I in the Triangle DVD that I produced (and introduced).
get it on:
by Douglas Rushkoff (Author, Narrator), Antero Ali (Author, Narrator), Tiffany Brown (Author, Narrator), David Brown (Author), Zac Odin (Author), Joseph Matheny (Author, Narrator), Alan Meridian (Narrator)
Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Session
By Robert Anton Wilson
and Joseph Matheny
First recorded in Chicago in 1994, this previously unreleased audio session with the renowned Robert Anton Wilson has been stored away for fifteen years…and almost lost entirely. If Bob knew how many synchronicities surround the rediscovery and release of this “lost” studio session, he would be chuckling in that half jolly, half mischievous way of his. If you believe in any kind of afterlife, maybe you can imagine him laughing right now. I like that image: Bob the laughing Buddha, still having one over on us from the great beyond. -Joseph Matheny (from the liner notes)