Because I’m posting this on Halloween, I thought I‘d try to stick to the theme of trickery. However, I’m not going to be talking about deceptive demons or satanic rituals. It gets old. I think the subject I have in mind is much better than that. So let’s just jump right into it. – Nick Hinton
Ong’s Hat used to be the suburbs within the Pine Barrens of Nj. However, within the 1990’s, rumours started to swirl online of secret experiments which had occurred there by several rogue scientists, and they had travelled for an alternate dimension. What this real? Or could it have been actually the earth’s first ARG. Let us explore.
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Photos: Misha Friedman (Gizmodo)
The first thing one learns upon becoming a subject of press interest is that there’s actually very little one can generally do in the face of inaccurate or even malicious press coverage. – Barrett Brown
The tl;dr version
(I urge you to come back and follow the referenced links to verify the validity of the information)
There’s a podcast/website called The Skeptoid that is run by one Brian Dunning. The website seems to consist of a collection of transcriptions of the Skeptoid podcast, links to the podcast and a personal vita for Mr. Dunning. I learned that recently, Brian Dunning ran an episode of the Skeptoid titled: Ong’s Hat, which was, predictably about the Ong’s Hat literary game.
Brian Dunning claims that his podcast, “Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena is an award-winning weekly science podcast. Since 2006, Skeptoid has been revealing the true science behind popular misinformation and urban legends.” His words.
While I haven’t sampled any of the other offerings on that Skeptoid website, I did read the text transcription of Mr. Dunning’s “investigation” into the Ong’s Hat urban legend and found it dismissive and misinformed in the following areas.
Robert Anton Wilson is was a participant in the Ong’s Hat project
The Skeptoid, aka Brian Dunning, starts with the following basis for his analysis:
To explain what happened, I’m going to lay some groundwork by referring you back to someplace unexpected: last week’s episode #657 on the Illuminati. When we see pop stars and other celebrities today holding their hands up in the triangle symbol — possibly hoping to persuade their fans that they are members of the Illuminati which they believe to be an ancient, all-powerful sect — we learned that this legend really only goes back a few decades, to a little piece of cultural engineering dreamed up by a few writers at Playboy magazine. Robert Anton Wilson created the reader feedback campaign in the magazine and co-authored a novel trilogy, that essentially created the entirety of modern belief in a powerful shadow cabal called the Illuminati. It was a fascinating example of how a well-planned and well-executed cultural engineering campaign can effectively create whole mythology which not only survives but actually flourishes and persists for decades. Today, intelligent people honestly believe that the Illuminati exist — thanks mainly to Robert Anton Wilson.
When we look into the background literature for Ong’s Hat, guess whose name we find: Robert Anton Wilson. That should set the tone for where we can expect the rabbit hole of Ong’s Hat to lead. Wilson is mentioned several times throughout Joseph Matheny’s writings. In his book, Matheny wrote of having lived in Santa Cruz, California with a group of academics, authors, and pioneers of the psychedelic movement — a group who called themselves the Formless Ocean Group. Among them was Robert Anton Wilson. It was from these folks that Matheny — according to his legend — learned of and first read a collection of documents titled The Incunabula Papers. Supposedly, these papers are how he first learned of the experiments at Ong’s Hat.
I won’t bother with critiquing the theories regarding RAW and his role in the modern belief in the Illuminati that Mr. Dunning holds. I’ll leave that to the RAW fans out there. I am not here to teach a history lesson.
I will, however, correct the erroneous and confusing assertion that RAW’s name somehow appears in “background material” for Ong’s hat. While RAW was aware of the Ong’s Hat project he was not a participant. Yes undeniably, he was a mentor to and influence on me, but what one has to do with the other is tenuous at best. Correlation does not equal causation. I’m not sure what “background” literature Brian is referring to, but Bob’s name never appears in any of the Ong’s Hat material. Where Bob ‘s name does appear is on my website in conjunction with other projects we did together. I think Skeptoid is experiencing some information drift.
Anyway, that is a minor aside.
On to the meat of our corrections.
Skeptoid asserts that my dearly departed friends, The Formless Ocean Group, never existed
The Formless Ocean Group — which never actually existed outside of Matheny’s fiction — appears to have been based on other similar groups of counterculture intellectuals who came together, lived together, worked and wrote together, got high and broke new ground. Think of the free-living occultists who lived at Jack Parson’s house in Los Angeles called the Parsonage and founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as described in the book Sex and Rockets; or those who gathered at the New Jersey property of paranormalist Ivan T. Sanderson called the Farm and refined the New Age mythologies of ley lines, ancient aliens, and the Bermuda Triangle.
In a nutshell, the entire story of Ong’s Hat was a fictional work, created mostly if not entirely by Matheny. Nothing about it checks out. There are no corroborating reports of any group ever calling themselves the Formless Ocean Group, and no record of any of its members living at its given address in Santa Cruz. There never was an Institute for Chaos Studies at the ashram; indeed, there never was a Moorish Science Ashram. No acres were ever purchased in the Pine Barrens in 1978. No group of runaway boys ever lived there. About the only thing that does have a grain of truth is the name of the place itself, Ong’s Hat.
I could even draw a full circle, from Matheny’s Formless Ocean Group to Ivan Sanderson’s Farm, to the Bigfoots and other cryptids that Sanderson pursued, to the Jersey Devil, to Daniel Leeds, and right back around to Matheny’s ashram. The fabric of our cultural legends is richly interwoven indeed.
Brian Dunning via The Skeptoid claims that the group made up of now mostly late friends of mine, never existed. The group was an informal salon-style group of people who met in Santa Cruz in the early 90s, primarily meeting in Nina Graboi’s and Elizabeth Gipps living rooms. Nina lived downstairs from me at the 2nd street apartment complex. This was pre-Internet, and the group never was formal in any way, it pre-dated public Internet activity, which explains why Mr. Dunning was unable to find any reference to it. This, of course, could have been deduced by the timeframe, clearly referenced by me in several places and the acknowledgment that this as an informal group but of course, if something isn’t on the Internet, it never really existed. Right?
Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to Ong’s Hat the Beginning, print edition:
Becoming a resident of 321 Second Street acted as a nexus point for me. Nina was fond of entertaining various counter-culture figures as they came through central California in her “parlor.” Eventually, a semi-organized group formed out of these salon sessions and took a name: the F.O.G., Formless Ocean Group. By the way. of association with Nina, Bob, and the F.O.G., I was brought into contact with many of the psychedelic figureheads of the time…
You notice in no way did I allege that everybody in the F.O.G. Group lived at the second street complex. However, I did, Nina Graboi did, others did, and at various times people came through and stayed with us or stopped by for a visit. It was, as I have said several times, a location that acted as a nexus for various people in the scene to stop by and mingle. The F.O.G. actually grew out of the impromptu salon that formed around Nina’s living room, which was downstairs from my apartment.
For example, here’s a photo of Bob and I in Nina Graboi’s garden (that’s Nina with her back to us). This photo was taken in 1991. At that time, Bob was living in LA but soon after he and Arlen moved to Santa Cruz to be near their children. As I said, that place was a NEXUS.
Here’s just one person remembering the group on Erowid a few years back after Elizabeth passed: http://www.changes.org/remembering/nina_hollenberg.html
Funny aside, Bruce Eisner (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Eisner) who ran a more formal group called the Island Group, nicknamed the F.O.G. “Friends of Gips” since we were all part of Elizabeth’s extended family. I recall F.O.G. being started in part as an informal alternative to the Island Group. The F.O.G. members had little to no regard for formality or structure.
Here’s another photo of another salon style hangout, upstairs on the deck of the 2nd street complex. On this day we comingled with another slightly more formal group from Stanford (but annoyingly formal) called Millbrook West. A lot of the people pictured were also attendees at a lot of the FOG meetings.
What follows next in Skeptoid’s “analysis” is a lot of unfounded extrapolation that the living room salon group I hung out with in the early 90s is in fact somehow drawn from Parson’s Pasadena “Parsonage” and some place called the Farm which I had no previous knowledge of. (See Skeptoid quote above).
I would point out that none of this speculation is presented in the language of such by Mr. Dunning, but rather presented as a foregone conclusion.
Anyone who has followed my work knows that I have always dedicated my work to the F.O.G. The group dissolved by the early nineties, I had gone off to Silicon Valley to pursue my interests in technology and art, eventually, one by one all the elder members passed on. These people meant a lot to me and my time with them is still one of my fondest memories.
Ong’s Hat Was Not a Game
Some say Matheny was trying to create a game; a type called an Alternate Reality Game, a kind of real-world adventure where people follow a storyline, find clues, and solve puzzles. But there really aren’t any puzzles or solutions in Ong’s Hat. It’s just information, the fabric of a detailed urban legend, which you can choose to believe or not; you can take a deep dive and research thoroughly, or you can laugh it off as a silly story. Either way, Matheny did pull off a feat of cultural engineering by inserting the Ong’s Hat mythology firmly into pop culture.
This one is really hard to digest because there is no basis in fact and no real reason why he would make this assertion unless he is simply skimming and half reading things to draw his conclusions. I guess it must be awfully hectic trying to throw a show together every week or whatever his publishing cycle is.
I’ve said it a hundred times or more, I reiterated it in 2001 when I closed the game and I have repeated it multiple times since in print. THIS WAS A LITERARY/GAME HYBRID EXPERIMENT. Therefore, I’ll simply give you these links, rather than continuing to flog a dead horse. If you’re really interested, you can read them or you can repeat the opinion of someone who clearly did not.
The short answer is, many qualified people recognized it as a game because it was a game. It was designed to be a new style of game, one that blended literary style with video and RPG style narrative, and structured, ala, gameplay, to advance the narrative. It also attempted to use an infinite game structure as much as possible, playing for the simple joy of playing, rather than zero-sum game style. I think this is the part that baffled people most. Structure and feature wise, I took a swiss army knife approach and again I recognize that this could confuse some people. However, this approach has allowed it to pivot over time and therefore contributed to its longevity. Just because something isn’t a game as you understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t a game.
Sometimes I think I need to write a book about everything that went on in the background to make this work. Other times I feel like I should just stop trying to explain it to people who have shown no interest in understanding the work on its merits. I meet people all the time who instinctively get what I was attempting. I have also met people who have already made up their minds even in some cases telling me they had “no interest in hearing me out.” Anyway, back on point—
Some examples of people “thinking it was a game”:
“ With Ong’s Hat, Matheny took the concept of ‘legend tripping’ – that is, the act of venturing to areas of some horrific and supernatural event aIa The Blair Witch Project- and shifted it online. “I set up this mythos, and hid elements of it all over the internet,” he remembers. “There were phone numbers that you could call, and you would get strange voice mail messages; you might even get a call back from one of the characters. Everybody would come at it from a different angle. It was not a zero-sum game. The whole thing was set up to be an infinite play, so different people would get different things out of its persistence.” This element “People who are interested in this kind of experience are interested in working together. It’s what the community calls the ‘collective detective’ scenario,” says Matheny. “One of my influences was also the murder mystery theatre things that they used to do … I think that people like that kind of stuff. They like to feel that the story is crossing the proscenium and they’re immersed in the story -even to the point of being a character in the story. of the experience, with players reassembling the scattered elements of the story in order to determine exactly what it all meant, would go on I think that’s the hook with ARGs.”
Put a pin in the above because it also dovetails into a future point.
The ”gameplay centered around two things. One the eBook and two the Darkplanet forum. The ebook has a lot of built-in rollover states and hidden clickable areas.
Download the ebook, here https://archive.org/details/inc-iso for just one example. Navigate to the page (seen below) and roll your mouse around. You will see some still functioning pop-ups and click states. Even though this ebook was designed in a very early version of Adobe Acrobat, a lot of the effects still somewhat function. Some of these used to lead to pages on Incunabula.org (now retired) with more solves required to move forward. I also used to set up “pop-up” pages on the website that would appear and then mysteriously disappear. Steganography was used on some of the images on the website and many times cryptic messaging was scattered across a fleet of interlinked websites. There were also geocaches, bookcrossings and dead drops. Why am I even explaining this? Oh yeah…
Here’s a quote from Dave Szulborski’s book, This is Not a Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming https://jmatheny.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/tinagqua.pdf (download the full chapter on Ong’s Hat)
Like any good narrative, the Ong’s Hat story actually intertwined two distinct plots or sequences of events: the events in the Ong’s Hat Ashram in the 1970s that the “Incunabula 83 Papers” allegedly detail, which served as the story level of the narrative, and the discovery and distribution of the documents sometime later, which served as the discourse level of the narrative. So, undeniably, the Ong’s Hat experience had the aesthetic elements of a story required to make an ARG an immersive experience. Additionally, Ong’s Hat: Incunabula, by using the various real-world communication methods available on the Internet at the time to tell its story, and by requiring players to interact at a critical point of the discourse, also incorporated the game elements that traditionally make up and define an alternate reality game. At the very least, like House of Leaves, referenced earlier in this book, it was a literary/digital crossover, utilizing Xerox, BBS and later Internet technology, CD ROM technology, and even traditional print publishing as it’s various mediums. In fact, one of the creators of the original CD ROM has said that it included 23 intricate puzzles, most of which were never solved!
And one more for good measure, although far from the only clear signs of the game and puzzle aspects of Incunabula/Ong’s Hat.
Chronicle of Higher Education review of Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/pageview/the-surprising-online-life-of-legends/29221
In Legend-Tripping Online, he describes how his observations led him to a bizarre Internet phenomenon, the main focus of his book: an “immersive” online experience—part mystery, part game, part who knows what—known as both the Incunabula Papers and Ong’s Hat. Those were the abbreviated titles of documents that someone—probably a group of four provocateurs—posted on The Well, a pioneering Internet social site in the late 1980s.
The Incunabula Papers/Ong’s Hat was, or is, a “many-threaded, open-ended interactive narrative” that ”weds an alternate history of chaos science and consciousness studies to conspiracy theories, parallel dimensions, and claims that computer-mediated environments can serve as magical tools,” Kinsella explains.
Fortunately, he elaborates: After sitting largely dormant on the social Web site for a decade, the documents provoked a widespread “immersive legend-trip” in the late 1990s. Via Web forums, participants investigated the documents—manifestos—which spun up descriptions of brilliant but suppressed discoveries relating to paths that certain scientists had forged into alternate realities. Soon, those haunted dimensions existed in the minds and fantasies of Ong’s Hat’s many participants. That was evident as they responded to the original postings by uploading their own—all manner of reflections and artifacts: personal anecdotes, audio recordings, and videos—to augment what became “a really immersive world, and it was vast,” says Kinsella.
Then there’s the matter of this document which was included in the Original CD ROM (99) of the interactive ebook that was the starting place for the gameplay and which I referenced in the original 2001 game conclusion announcement.
Stick a pin in this as well for our last point.
Rather than continuing to flog a dead horse, I refer you to multiple articles that can be found on my site: https://josephmatheny.com that clearly demonstrate that Ong’s Hat suffered from acute gamification.
I Am Still Being Cryptic About the Origins Behind Ong’s Hat
What does Matheny himself have to say? Well, he’s as cryptic as ever — stating that he’s kind of done talking about it, but he’s not yet giving any hint that he might have made it all up.
What follows is a small sampling of the many items prominently highlighted on my site. Does this looks like someone who’s being “cryptic”? I see that Mr. Dunning has a copy of a link to the Salon piece at the bottom of the article on Skeptoid, but I wonder if he actually listened to it? Well, I advise you to and then ask yourself, “Does this sound like a man being coy or cryptic?” Before you say it, the Salon article came out months before the Skeptoid article.
Wikipedia: Ong’s Hat was one of the earliest Internet-based secret history conspiracy theories created as a piece of collaborative fiction (aka Incunabula) by four core individuals, although the membership propagating the tale changed over time.
This Wikipedia entry was not made by me but I have never contested it nor tried to disavow it. It is correct and it has been in place for a very long time. I even link to it from my site, on the opening page.
Decoder Ring: The Incunabula Papers (October 2018- before the pub date of the Skeptoid article) https://slate.com/culture/2018/10/decoder-ring-explores-the-interdimensional-conspiracy-theory-known-as-ongs-hat-the-man-who-created-it-and-the-new-form-of-art-it-birthed.html?via=section_features
Or even more recently, Gizomodo: Ong’s Hat: The Early Internet Conspiracy Game That Got Too Real https://gizmodo.com/ongs-hat-the-early-internet-conspiracy-game-that-got-t-1832229488
Chronicle of Higher Education review of Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/pageview/the-surprising-online-life-of-legends/29221
This and Kinsella’s book, published in 2011 is something that I have not only never contested by have actively promoted on this site and others.
Remember when I said to put a pin in this?
“The response of Joseph Matheny to Legend-Tripping Online suggests the success of Kinsella’s read on the Incunabula Papers. On his Web site, Matheny wrote that Kinsella “did an excellent job and only missed the mark with two or three of his conclusions,” which Matheny said he would clear up by writing a complimentary account.”
Read the rest at your own leisure and tell me, does me promoting these items sound like someone who is being “cryptic?
Games Magazine, 2013 https://jmatheny.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/games-arg1.pdf Remember when I said t put a pin in this?
“I set up this mythos, and hid elements of it all over the internet,” he remembers. “There were phone numbers that you could call and you would get strange voice mail messages; you might even get a call back from one of the characters. Everybody would come at it from a different angle. It was not a zero-sum game. The whole thing was set up to be an infinite play, so different people would get different things out of its persistence.” This element “People who are interested in this kind of experience are interested in working together. It’s what the community calls the ‘collective detective’ scenario,” says Matheny. “One of my influences was also the murder mystery theatre things that they used to do … I think that people like that kind of stuff. They like to feel that the story is crossing the proscenium and they’re immersed in the story -even to the point of being a character in the story. of the experience, with players reassembling the scattered elements of the story in order to determine exactly what it all meant, would go on I think that’s the hook with ARGs.”
That should be pretty self-explanatory,
A few more for the road.
- https://jmatheny.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/mk.pdf (1995)
Yes, I already hear the objections but check the dates of those articles. ALL of them precede the publication date of the Skeptoid article, with the exception of the Gizmodo piece.
My Conclusions Regarding Brian Dunning and The Skeptoid Podcast
All in all, if I were a fan of Skeptoid I would unpack a few episodes besides this one and see if Brian is on point with other of his self proclaimed “Skeptoid style investigations”. I mean, after all, he is encouraging us to be skeptics, right? I see from a simple search that this isn’t his first error or even his second or– well you get the point. One can only hope he is a sincere actor and learns from and admit to his errors.
As I said before, be careful who you allow as the curator of your “truths” on the Internet Because after all, it is 2019 and it is the Internet.
One of the things I always wanted to do in 2001, post-Incunabula/Ong’s Hat was host to a conversation about what’s real and how perception can be weaponized and used against you. I was not allowed to do this mainly because the conspiranoia crowd had such a violent reaction to my “admission” that a far-out story like Ong’s Hat was actually a modern Borgesian fairy tale. Too bad, because considering all the things that followed, like Pizzagate and Q-Anon, that may have been a useful conversation to have had that early in the process. That part of it was always intended as an act of closure, it just never happened due to irrational hysteria that shouted down any attempt.
I fully support the stated mission statement of Skeptoid but at least, in this case, it seems they do not really live up to the promise.
In conclusion, I’ll remind you, gentle reader, be a critical thinker, be a skeptic, by all means, but please, if you’re going to critique something, take the time to actually read and/or listen to the material you are critiquing. Otherwise, your critique is neither a critique nor is it skeptical inquiry. It is merely dismissive opinion and frankly, looks like click-bait.
It’s fine to be critical and skeptical of someone’s work. Just do so based on the facts and not based on supposition or a pre-constructed narrative or heaven forfend, on incomplete research and therefore, misinformation.
Be well and stay safe. Lots of mind virii are afloat these days. Always remember to wear the cognitive condom of critical thinking and always, TFYQA.
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/
The methods used in creating alternate realities is also quite familiar to anyone with a background in Alternate Reality Games, which arose in the early Net and zine culture of the 80s and 90s at the hands of people such as Joseph Matheny. However, and this is absolutely essential, the intent of these works was to broaden the scope of creative possibilities, and was never in any sense to further political objectives. Here is what he said in “Transmedia: Who Invited the Lobsters Anyway?”,
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
Also: Lynne and Legend Tripping Online:: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat are cited in this examination of the Slenderman phenomena over at Semiotic Review. – http://www.semioticreview.com/index.php/thematic-issues/issue-monsters/22-the-sort-of-story-that-has-you-covering-your-mirrors-the-case-of-slender-man.html
Review by Joseph Laycock for Religious Studies Review
Texas State University, Philosophy, Faculty Member
Article first published online: 12 SEP 2014
Story from the Asbury Park Press, a New Jersey newspaper on the legend(s) of Ong’s Hat.
“Two weeks ago there were these young kids, like 19 or 20, who came by asking about Ong’s Hat,” said bartender Jacky Colon. “I looked it up on my phone. It was this weird interdimensional thing. Hold on, I have to look it up, this is how I got all my information on Google.”
Very short synopsis of said legend: Mash-up of religious sect, jazz musicians, native Pineys and rogue physicists settle in Ong’s Hat, open a portal to other dimensions. More on this later. First, that name.
During a lull, you can ask about those legends. The modern one about Ong’s Hat — that portal to another dimension somewhere out in the pitch pines — was popularized in the 2002 book “Ong’s Hat: The Beginning” by writer Joseph Matheny, who creates transmedia works and is a prominent figure in alternative reality gaming.
“Nineteen eighty-nine, I think this started. I had a friend who had a cabin out there in the Pine Barrens, and he hosted these parties. He was very bohemian and had artists and writers of all kinds out there,“ Matheny said. ‘He gave me a pamphlet that purported to be this story about Princeton scientists and something called the Ong’s Hat Rod and Gun Club, where they used to hang out and relax.“
During World War II the Pine Barrens were a testing ground for weapons development. Princeton scientists did explosives and ballistics work in the Forked Ruiver Mountains, and a Johns Hopkins University team fired crude surface-to-air missiles from the Project Bumblebee site at Island Beach. “There are kernels of reality to this legend,“ Matheny said.
With Matheny and other contributors writing, the story line arose ithrough the 1990s, first on computer bulletin boards frequented by gaming enthusiasts, generating online versions of urban legend that’s grown to an elaborate body of work. One consequence is an uptick in younger visitors seeking Ong’s Hat. Hence Colon’s close encounter at the Magnolia Bar.
Folklorists call it legend tripping — the urge to visit supposedly haunted houses and the like. One infamous place is Leed’s Point near Smithville in Atlantic County. The supposed birthplace of the Jersey Devil — a half-human monster said to haunt the forest since the 1700s — attracts people around Halloween.
But the Ong’s Hat story is one of the first examples of “legend tripping online,” said Michael Kinsella, a scholar who studies new religions, paranormal beliefs and folk traditions at the University of California Santa Barbara. He’s author of the 2011 book “Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat,” published by the University Press of Mississippi.
“I’ve always been fascinated by supernatural beliefs,” said Kinsella, who like Ong’s Hat enthusiasts stumbled across the story online, and wrote a whole dissertation on it for his master’s degree in 2007, which led to the book. The cross-connections of various enthusiast websites — whether gaming, UFOs or conspiracy theories — lead like a trail of digital bread crumbs to Ong’s Hat.
He sees it as technology simply extending an ancient human compulsion. “People really want to seek out the eerie and paranormal,” Kinsela said.
There are other snippets from actual history in the Ong’s Hat portal legend, like radioactive waste. Around the time the legend was developing, the Department of Defense was figuring out what to do with thousands of tons of soil contaminated with plutonium when a nuclear missile burned up a few miles away at Fort Dix in 1961. That’s how modern legends grow, Kinsella said.
“It’s typical for these kinds of stories to mix up history and facts and legend,” he said. “So much weird stuff and stories seems to come out of the Pine Barrens, they reinforce each other.”
“If nothing else, it is a vortex of mysteries, legends, tradition and folklore…I’m interested in tracking it back as far as I can, but I don’t want to puncture that bubble,“ Matheny said. “There’s nothing in the structure of the story that I haven’t heard, in one form or another, from people in the area.”
Dominique Angela M. Juntado, M.A.
Doctoral Candidate in Social & Cultural Anthropology
University of the Philippines Diliman
International Journal of Social Sciences
Having been written for fellow fans of video game creepypastas and students of media anthropology and folklore, this article inspects said form of online lore as well as its complementing interactive media in terms of how experimentation with playable content
can effectively deliver not only an understanding of what transpired in a narrative, but more of a meaningful experience of a narrative. In theory, an interactive approach has much to contribute for the breadth of legend complexes.
Keywords: Creepypasta, ROM Hacks, Lost Episodes, Haunted Gaming, Democratized Production, Nontraditional Storytelling, Slender
To talk about a known, existing
contribution which encourages the inspection of
netlore and possible variants, Michael Kinsella‟s
 work on internet-based folklore is worth
attention for having included guidelines on how
legends online could be assessed, the basics of
legend-tripping, as well as the importance of knowing how to go about ecologies of legends in
general. It is likewise memorable for its
ethnographic rumination on the Incunabula
papers and Ong‟s Hat which has previously
showcased the potential pertinence of alternate
reality games (ARGs) in both the reconstruction
as well as promotion of a legend. In his case
analysis, Kinsella  spoke more of those
participating in the imersion within the legend —
their framing, emotions, and perceptions, as well
as their role in the legend‟s mortality.
On the one end, this discourse is in pursuit
of a personal inclination. But to place it in the
academic backdrop of the studies of media, it
complements the work of Russel Frank 
and Michael Kinsella  on the subject of
understanding how online lore works and
branches out through bringing the subject of
video game modification and hacking into the
academic theoretical limelight in terms of their
potential role in the deepening of netlore.
There is then a development into how
success of a video gaming creepypasta could be
assessed. The treatise then proceeds with an
analysis of how video game creepypastas with
playables could classify as a legend trip. This
segment is guided by Kinsella‟s 
guidelines on understanding the structure of
legend trips, derived from the second chapter of
his book Legend-Tripping: Online Supernatural
Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat.
As a practical counterpart to the theoretical
ruminations, there is included a concise survey
of the existing forms of playable lore which
serve as the present genres. This is
complemented by a segment discussing classic
features to incorporate in the production of a
playable pasta as well as brief notes on avoiding
Sec. 1: MW 2-3:15 & T 6:30-9 (film screening) / Sec. 2: MW 4-5:15 & T 6:30-9 (film screening)
This course examines three major folklore genres – legend, rumor, and conspiracy theory – focusing especially on those that manifest in different forms of media (film, television, Internet, social media, newspapers). From AIDS aggression and cannibalism to aliens, ghosts, and zombies, this class explores a range of “belief complexes.” In doing so, the class seeks to answer key questions, including: How are legends related to rumor, conspiracy theory, and myth? How and why are legends transmitted and performed? How do they shape human behavior? All films, research assignments, and in-class activities are geared toward providing the content knowledge and skills necessary to identify variants of contemporary legend, rumor, and conspiracy theory in context, analyze different variants in light of the above questions, and engage in a process of critical discussion and debate about these important genres. Cross-listed as Anthro 3150 and Film Studies 3005.
Aliens, Ghosts & Cults: Legends We Live (Ellis 2001); Bodies: Sex, Violence, Disease & Death in Contemporary Legend (Bennett 2005); Film, Folklore & Urban Legends (Koven 2008); I Heard It through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture (Turner 1993); Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat ( Kinsella 2011).
Precursor: Ong’s Hat
In the 1980s transmedia artist Joseph Matheny launched the Ong’s Hat game, inspired by play-by-mail multiplayer games run by Flying Buffalo. Though Ong’s Hat may not have set out to be an ARG, the methods by which the author interacted with participants and used different platforms to build and spread its legend has been reflected in later games. Also known as The Incunabula Papers, the game incorporated the practice of “legend tripping” in which a group of people visit sites known in folklore for horrific or supernatural events. Matheny built a mythos around a supposed ghost town in New Jersey throughout the 1980s through works disguised as research shared on bulletin boards and physical zines. One of the earliest archived theories about the alleged legend appeared in the October 1993 issue of Boing Boing and was posted online as early as February 11th, 1994.
Between 1994 and 2000, posts about Ong’s Hat were planted on a number of different Usenet groups to spark discussion, including sci.math, alt.illuminati, alt.conspiracy and alt.society.paradigms, among others. In 2001, Matheny stopped the project and went on to publish two books about it, as well as archiving all the materials on the Incunabula website.
If one takes the Turnpike to exit four and follows Route 70 east, they will come to Route 72 at Four Mile Circle. Taking a hard left leads to a place known as Ong’s Hat, and a trail that some say leads to a mysterious portal to another dimension.
The New Jersey Pine Barrens have a plethora of deserted villages, most of them simply abandoned decades, even centuries ago. One of the most infamous of these is Ong’s Hat in Burlington County. The true reason as to why anyone would name a village Ong’s Hat may be shrouded in mystery forever. The facts are not clear, but the folklore surrounding the town’s name is well known.
Legend has it that at one time a resident of the area was a flashy young gentleman by the name of Ong (while his first name is unknown, Ong is an old time Pine Barrens name––one of the earliest Pines settlers was Jacob Ong). He was a fixture at local dances, where he was famous for being able to woo the ladies with his fancy dance moves and suave attire––most notably his silk hat.
Apparently, Ong was something of what modern youth call a “player,” in that he would flirt and dance with all the ladies he could. One of his love interests caught on to this practice at a dance and attacked Ong, taking his hat and stomping on it. Ong, who was very drunk and very upset that his chapeau had just been ruined, ran outdoors and tossed the hat into the air out of frustration. It caught in the high branches of a pine tree and stayed there for years. It became a landmark by which people could find the small village, and the area was dubbed Ong’s Hat.
As the Pine Barrens themselves became less and less populated with the dying out of local industry, Ong’s Hat was all but forgotten. Today Ong’s Hat is home to no residents. Instead, there are piles of rubble, overgrown building foundations, and other reminders of a bygone age. Ong’s Hat might have been nothing more than a footnote in the local history books were it not for a very weird development that some believe occurred there in the last quarter of the twentieth century––the opening of a gateway to another dimension.
The following, more recent, history of Ong’s Hat and its mysterious inter-dimensional portal can be found in a book entitled “Ong’s Hat: The Beginning.” The author of the book, Joseph Matheny, is coy as to whether he intended the work as fact or fiction. “The split between who believes the book is fiction vs. nonfiction is pretty even,” he has said. Some claim that the book is pure fantasy, and has set up a hoax that many have come to accept as real.
According to Matheny’s history, the Moorish Orthodox Church of America was founded in the 1950’s by a group of white jazz musicians and poets who were formerly members of the Newark founded Moorish Science Temple. The members of this small sect traveled the world, learning different philosophies and spiritual practices from all different masters of the eastern world. One of these travelers was known as Wali Fard.
When Fard returned from his travels abroad in 1978, he spent all of his savings on 200 acres in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Along with a group of runaway boys from Paramus and two lesbian anarchists, he moved onto the property and formed a newer, even more exclusive sect, the Moorish Science Ashram.
Fard published a series of Xeroxed newsletters proclaiming his beliefs. Those on the fringe who had read his words began flocking to his land. Among these refugees were two scientists looked down upon for their radical views, Frank and Althea Dobbs.
The Dobbs twins were raised in Texas, among a UFO worshipping cult founded by their father. Needless to say, they were used to life on the outskirts of the mainstream. When they arrived in the Pines they set up a laboratory inside a ramshackle trailer. They began making discoveries that shook the small commune to its core.
The siblings had previously been working at Princeton, where they submitted as their PhD theses a series of equations that led to what they called “cognitive chaos.” They were dismissed from the university and found their way to the Pines. In the remote locale they were free to work further on their ideas, whether the academic establishment wanted them to or not. Their theories promoted the idea that people could tap into the unused portion of their brains and do things such as stop their aging and purge diseases from their systems. The Ashram used their research to found the Institute of Chaos Studies.
Progress occurred even quicker than the scientists involved could have predicted themselves. Within three years they had stumbled upon an extraordinary, bizarre device that came to be known as “The Gate.” This was one of a series of devices the scientists referred to as “The Egg.” They hooked people up to computers and charted their brain waves. By experimenting with sex, drugs, and other mind wave manipulators, the scientists learned how to control the chaos they found within the mind.
The fourth version of the Egg was tested on one of the Paramus runaways. When it was activated, he and the device itself disappeared. Moments later it rematerialized. The boy claimed that he had traveled to the dimension next door to ours. This was the opening of The Gate.
The members of the ICS had to leave their Pine Barrens compound due to a chemical spill from Fort Dix that was leaking nuclear material into the area. Instead of fleeing outward, they fled inter-dimensionally. They used the Gate to transport themselves and all of their possessions into an alternate dimension. In this dimension they still lived in Ong’s Hat, but humankind did not exist.
According to some, the experiments at Ong’s Hat led to a violent and bloody confrontation. They claim that the government got wind of the experiments being conducted at Ong’s Hat and stormed the compound there, killing seven members of the group. Some say it was Delta Force who did the killing, while others blame operatives of the Russian or Danish militaries.
Skeptics of this far-fetched tale believe that Joseph Matheny’s book “Ong’s Hat: The Beginning” is nothing more than a work of pure fiction, bolstered by an elaborate Internet hoax. Others claim that Matheny has had to hint at the book being a hoax to preserve his efforts to tell the truth and to protect his own safety.
Matheny first became involved in the Ong’s Hat saga when he posted a book catalog he had found, known as the “Incunabula Catalog,” on BBS and FTP systems around the Internet at the turn of the 90’s. Then he produced one of the essays reviewed in this catalog. From there he claimed to have interviewed one of the physicists mentioned in these papers, as well as the original author of the book catalog he had posted. These four documents make up what are known as the “Incunabula Papers.” It is somewhat unclear as to whether there ever was any documentation of these alleged events other than the ones that Matheny “found” and posted himself.
So was Ong’s Hat ever the home of a mysterious cult of science nerds, or is this inter-dimensional Gate merely one of the earliest known Internet hoaxes? Whatever the case may be, the story of Ong’s Hat is truly a bizarre one, and believed to be more fact than fiction by more than just a few sci-fi fanatics.
This Internet story is only an excerpt of the information we have published on this subject. For the full story we suggest you refer to past issues of Weird NJ Magazine. To keep up to date on this story and all the other weird goings on in the state subscribe to Weird NJ and we’ll deliver it to your door. If your local book seller, newsstand or convenience store doesn’t carry Weird NJ, just tell them to call us toll free at 1-866-WEIRDNJ and we’ll be happy to stock your favorite store for you.
My review: I was expecting to hate this book, but I didn’t. Michael Kinsella did an excellent job and only missed the mark with two or three of his conclusions. Of course, this is forgivable since he wasn’t in possession of all of the facts from behind the scenes. As a remedy to those few slight errors, and in interest of keeping the record straight I will issue a free companion guide to this book in a few weeks. Since the book is primarily about myself, my friends, my project and my methods, I do admit to being somewhat close to the subject. However,what colors my decision to release the guide is simply that I’d like the record to be as clear as possible if this is to become a subject of “study” by academia.
Other than a few forgivable gaffs (and I do mean a very few), this book is quite enjoyable, insightful and entertaining. I’m glad someone in academia was able to decipher many of the the objectives and methodologies of this project and I highly recommend it (with the soon to be released companion guide, of course). If you choke at the price of $55 USD, you may want to wait for the paperback (if they publish one) or the inevitable ePub that’s sure to show up in the wild. (added 8-12-11: Looks like it showed up on Google Books.)
As is the custom with “conspiracy/paranormal” types, this article tells you to dismiss the “Ong’s Hat” project (the subject of the book) as “a post modern art project” and a “prank”. I was thinking the other day about this kind of attitude and recalled someone once expressing disappointment that Incunabula: Ong’s Hat was JUST ART, which was pronounced with a dismissive sneer. Are you as puzzled and even slightly disturbed as I am by the statement and/or attitude that something is MERELY ART ? Well, each to his/her own I guess.
Anyway, here’s the review, for what it’s worth. It’s the first “sort of negative” review of “Legend Tripping” I’ve seen to date and mostly the reviewer just wants to snark on Ong’s Hat.
Of course, this is a review from a non-academic source, by a non-academic conspiranoia type, about an academic subject, so the expectation bar should be low to begin with. 😀
I remember the days when Fortean Times was a publication with a healthy skeptical bent, but like so many other institutions, it seems to have been overrun by “believers”, who of course will expend a lot of energy and spittle protesting such an accusation.
Reviewed by David J. Puglia, The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg
In a day and age when legends are as likely to be transmitted online as they are face-to-face, folklorists have begun assessing how our established concepts apply to the digital realm. The convergence of different forms of media has increasingly diminished the traditional boundaries between folk and popular culture and the digital and analog world. If the legend continues to thrive under these new conditions, folklorists will want to determine how the closely related legend-trip has similarly transitioned to the online environment.
On the Internet, seekers investigate anonymous manifestos that focus on the findings of brilliant scientists said to have discovered pathways into alternate realities. Gathering on web forums, researchers not only share their observations, but also report having anomalous experiences, which they believe come from their online involvement with these veiled documents. Seeming logic combines with wild twists of lost Moorish science and pseudo-string theory. Enthusiasts insist any obstacle to revelation is a sure sign of great and wide-reaching efforts by consensus powers wishing to suppress all the liberating truths in the Incunabula Papers (included here in complete form).
In Legend-Tripping Online, Michael Kinsella explores these and other extraordinary pursuits. This is one of the first books dedicated to legend-tripping, ritual quests in which people strive to explore and find manifest the very events described by supernatural legends. Through collective performances, legend-trippers harness the interpretive frameworks these stories provide and often claim incredible, out-of-this-world experiences that in turn perpetuate supernatural legends.
Legends and legend-tripping are assuming tremendous prominence in a world confronting new speeds of diversification, connection, and increasing cognitive load. As guardians of tradition as well as agents of change, legends and the ordeals they inspire contextualize ancient and emergent ideas, behaviors, and technologies that challenge familiar realities. This book analyzes supernatural legends and the ways in which the sharing spirit of the Internet collectivizes, codifies, and makes folklore of fantastic speculation.
Publisher University Press of Mississippi, 2011
ISBN 1604739843, 9781604739848
- review (Peter Monaghan, Chronicle of Higher Education)
- review (David J. Puglia, Journal of Folklore Research)
- review (Óli Gneisti Sóleyjarson, Folklore)
- Legend tripping at Wikipedia
|“Note: This is just an opinion piece based on vague feelings, concepts and ideas with no foundation in reality. I cant back up one shred of what Im talking about here. In the end Im just talking out of my ass. Read at your own discretion”By: Denny Unger|
What really did happen at Ong’s Hat and has this just been one gigantic experiment in behavioral-belief system modification? We have asked the question many times and more recently we were given “another” answer (Sort of):
Open letter to conspiracy community
Nick and I decided today to publicly announce in the near future that the Ong’s Hat Project has now concluded. We will be contacting Peter L. Wilson as well and see if he’d like to make a statement. I think it would still make a good book from a cultural anthropology perspective, your call.
My program has finished running and I am being recalled from duty. I think we were successful in laying the groundwork for the coming change. The gateways are open now.
I am glad to finally be myself again: 7:37 PM PST.
PS: This is not a joke.
The Real Joe Matheny
AKA/ Michael Kelly
And one final statement:
was a necessary ruse for deflecting
attention from our real project–
to open up your conduits, brother and sisters,
to rip off the confining condom of language and
to Fuck Nature Unprotected.
Huh? I think I was mind controlled…
Incunabula Research Center
Peter L. Wilson
Don’t unplug me!
Permission to repost
The Analysis of an Idiot
So what are we to make of these obviously humorous final statements from Joseph Matheny and friends? Well, I think the implied message is that Ong’s Hat/Incunabula was an experiment in messing with belief systems, culture jamming or whatever term suits your mood. Of course this is not an obvious assumption but with very little research you find that this is implied heavily.
It would seem that humour was used as a device to invalidate Ong/Inc as quickly and efficiently as possible. Guess what?…It worked! Strangely enough the vast majority of “Eggheads” accepted these scant comments and moved along. For such a long running , multi-faceted, controversial conspiracy don’t you find it odd how silently it ended? A whimper, a quiet breeze, an utterly boring ending to a fantastic, expansive story.
Ong’s Hat/Incunabula has always been about levels of understanding. As you research each aspect of the story you are presented with a challenge. That challenge is usually based on twisting and distorting your belief systems. For example: You find a piece of compelling info that takes you down one path only to find that its a invalid path but wait…it turns out that the path you thought was a false path is actually the correct path and so on, and so forth. This is the dance of the Incunabula. Destroying rational assumptions of what is true and what is false.
A portion of the population just wont “get” the Incunabula and will pass it off as”that weird web thing” but some are captured by it, obsessed by it’s mystery. This obsession generally lasts until that person has extracted whatever meaning is vital to them from the story. There is also another class of Incunabula explorer. This person extends beyond the initial obsession and begins to see a larger picture by piecing together seemingly unrelated bits of information. What this person also sees is a series of carefully constructed tests designed to filter out certain personality types and draw in successful “candidates”.
A grand picture of the Incunabula evolves. It all seems very reminiscent of cult like initiations but very different in the sense that they are looking for a very unique personality type. A person who is hedonistic, open minded but skeptical, spiritual, scientifically minded, creative, free spirited, educated, critical. Not the typical initiate of your standard cult. I can break the apparent process down in five simple steps:
- Create a interactive medium that immerses the public in an addictive, tantalizing story but keep the content restricted to certain personality types. Reveal concepts and ideas that generally represent your beliefs.
- Along the way, feed this portion of the public information which may or may not be true about the story. (Filtration of the idiots)
- Those that breach the truths and untruths may pass to the next level of information. Introduce more directed and personal information. Once again reveal accurate and inaccurate information. (Further idiot filtration)
- As this select group narrows, inject information that more specifically reveals their personal belief systems, ideals, goals.
- If the users ideals, beliefs and goals have been properly modified by the process or the user already fits the mold, those persons are then accepted into the “fold”.
So what is the “Fold” all about any ways? Well…You got me, I never made it that far therefore I fit into the “idiot” category. lol. The bottom line here is that I’m not sure what lies beyond door number 2 in this complex game called Incunabula. This brings me back to the final statements voiced by Joseph and his crew. If this really is some kind of recruiting program then the question becomes: why the sudden sabotage? I can think of many reasons why it was time to end it but here’ s my top three:
- Sorry…No new members permitted. Were all full up! Fuck off!
- Jeez…People really are stupid. I quit!
- Times up. Time to leave this stinking hole we call Earth before it’s to late. “Pack your bags Sally, were goin to Java 2…YEEEHAAA!”
Personally like number 3 the best as it brings the story to a much more appropriate close.
Mastebatory Q and A
So…Is Ong’s Hat/Incunabula a bunch of lies?
- YES and NO. It’s both and its designed that way for a reason.
Do parallel universe exist?
- Incunabula aside there is more evidence every year to support this theory by actual scientists, so YES!
Does Ong’s Hat exist?
- YES. Ong’s Hat was an actual town and it is an actual place on our actual planet we call Earth.
Did Hippies in Airstream trailers live there?
- I have no idea and as far as I know not one person has a shred of evidence to back up that one.
Do travel egg’s exist?
- From my own research I can tell you that these egg’s do exist but I’m not sure if they “travel” very far. I would guess that the travel experienced by the user is closer to a intense drug trip than a trip to Java 2. You could call them training pods.
Is this group travelling to parallel worlds?
- At the risk of sounding like a fool (too late) my gut instinct tells me against all rational thought that these people are travelling to parallel worlds. How do they travel to other worlds? My feeling is that (And I can’t prove one word of it) this is accomplish by a mixture of methods: Technology, Magik, sex, drugs and good times all around.
This is the End. Beautiful friend the end.
This little rant of mine is really for my own sake. A chance to let off Ong/Inc steam and let it all come out. Does this mean that what I am saying is the “Truth”? That depends on how you view truth I suppose. This was my “long time coming” commentary on the meaning of it all. Not a collection of research links but an impression of the extended moment. I have talked uncountable hours with those involved (on all fronts), I have read the boards, ingested the slander, followed the bread crumbs and experienced the strangeness of synchronicity and chaotic destiny. I have come to my own conclusions as you all have and I am satisfied with the mystery. The bottom line here is that Ong’s Hat/Incunabula may be dead in the eyes of many but there are still those of us who play the game. Not to validate the elusive but to simply play.
A Catalog of Rare Books, Manuscripts & Curiosa
Conspiracy Theory, Frontier Science & Alternative Worlds
Emory Cranston, Prop.Incunabulum: cocoon; swaddling clothes; cradle; in-cunae, in the cradle; koiman, put to sleep, winding- sheet; koimetarium (cemetery); printed books before 1501, hence by extension any rare & hermetic book… Introduction
This catalog is a reproduction. This is not a commercial advertisement. ECommerce links to the available books are offered a as courtesy to researchers. Consider this first file an unusually complete bibliography to the story that unravels in the companion files.
No book for sale here was actually printed before 1501, but they all answer to the description ” rare and hermetic” – even the mass market paperbacks, not to mention the xeroxes of unpublished manuscripts, which cannot be obtained from any other source!
The symbol INCUNABULA was chosen for our company for it’s shape – cocoon, egg-like, gourd-like, the shape of Chaos according to Chaung Tzu. Cradle: beginnings. Sleep: dreams. Silken white sheets of birth and death; books, white pages, the cemetery of ideas.
This catalogue has been put together with a purpose: to alert YOU to a vast cover up, a conspiracy so deep that no other researcher has yet become aware of it (outside certain Intelligence circles, needless to say!) – and so dangerous that the “winding sheet” imagery in our title seems quite appropriate; we know of at least two murders so far in connection with this material.
Unlike other conspiracy theories, such as Hollow earth, Men In Black, cattle mutilation, UFO, Reich & Tesla or what have you, the INCUNABULA Theory harmonizes with genuine frontier quantum mechanics and chaos mathematics, and does not depend on any quack nostrums, psuedoscience or ESP for proof. This will become clear to anyone who takes the trouble to read the background material we recommend and offer for sale.
Because of the unprecedented nature of the INCUNABULA File we have included short descriptions of some of the books, pamphlets, flyers, privately-circulated or unpublished manuscripts, ephemera & curiosa available through us. Some of this is highly inflammable and sexual in nature, so an age statement must be included with each order.
Cash (or stamps) only. No cheques or money orders will be accepted.
1. Wolf, Fred Alan.
Parallel Universes: The Search for Other Worlds
(New York, Simon & Schuster, 1988) cloth; 351 pp.; $25
Written by a scientist for non-scientists, simplistic and jokey, makes you feel a bit talked-down-to. Nevertheless Wolf uses his imagination (or other scientists imaginations) so well he seems to hit accidentally on certain truths (unless he knows more than he reveals). For example: the parallel universes must have all come into being simultaneously “at the beginning” in order for quantum uncertainty to exist, because there was no observer present at the Big Bang, thus no way for the Wave Function to collapse and produce one universe out of all the bubbles of possibility (p.174). If an electron can disappear in one universe and appear in another (as suggested by the Everett/Wheeler material), a process called “quantum tunneling”, then perhaps information can undergo a similar tunneling effect. Wolf suggests (p. 176) that this might account for certain “psychic phenomenon, altered states of awareness,” even ghosts and spirits! Actual travel between worlds must of course involve tunneling by both electrons AND information – any scientist would have predicted as much – but the mention of “altered states” of consciousness is extremely revealing! Elsewhere (p.204), Wolf speculates that a future “highly developed…electronic form of biofeedback” will allow us to observe quantum effects in the electrons of our own bodies, making the enhanced consciousness and the body itself a “time machine” (which is what he calls a device for travel between universes). He comes so close to the truth then shies away! For instance (p.199) he points out that the Wave Function has a value BETWEEN zero and one until it collapses. If the wave function does not collapse, the “thing” it describes exists in two universes simultaneously. How strange of him not to mention that fractal geometry also deals with values between zero and one! As we know the secret of travel between worlds is rooted in the marriage of quantum and chaos, particularly in the elusive mathematics of fractal tesseracts (visualize a 4-dimension Mandelbrot Set – one of the simplest of the trans-dimensional “maps” or “catastrophic topologies”). Wolf appears so unaware of this, we must sadly conclude that he’s not part of the conspiracy.
Particularly interesting – and not found in any other material- are Wolf’s speculations about schizophrenia. Are schizophrenics receiving information from other worlds? Could a schizoid observer actually observe (in the famous double slit experiments) a wave becoming two particles and then one particle? Or could such an observation be made by an extremely blank and simple-minded watcher (a sort of Zen simpleton perhaps)? If so, the perfect subject for parallel-worlds experiments would be a paradoxically complex simpleton, a “magnetized schizophrenic” who would be aware of the split into two worlds which occurs when a quantum measurement is made. Oddly enough, such a mental state sounds very close to the “positive schizophrenia” of certain extreme psychedelic experiences as well as the meditation-visualization exercises of actual travelers between worlds.
Despite it’s flaws, an essential work.
A masterful and lucid exposition of the different versions of reality logically describable from various interpretations of quantum mechanics. The Everett/Wheeler Theory is here given it’s clearest explanation possible in lay persons terms, given the authors awareness (at the time) of experimental verification.
Faster Than Light:Superluminal Loopholes in Physics
(NAL,1988) cloth, $30
Some of the theorists who touch on the Many-Worlds “hypothesis” place too much emphasis on time distortions and the implication of “time travel”. These of course seem present in the theorems, but in practice have turned out (so far) to be of little consequence. Chaos Theory places much more emphasis on the temporal directionality than most quantum theory (with such exceptions as R. Feynman and his “arrow of time”), and offers strong evidence for the past-present-future evolution that we actually experience. As K.Sohrawardi puts it, “the universe is in a state of Being, true, but that state is not static in the way suggested by the concept of ‘reversibility’ in Classical physics. The ‘generosity’ of Being, so to speak, is becoming, and the result is not reversibility but multiplicity, the unmeasurable resonant chaos-like fecundity of creation. “Nevertheless, Herbert’s second book is a brilliant speculative work – and it led him directly to a certain circle of scientists and body of research concerned with dimensional travel, rather than “time travel,” with the result that his third book (see next item) finally struck paydirt.
4. “Jabir ibn Hayaan” (Nick Herbert).
(publication suppressed by Harper & Row, 1989); bound uncorrected galleys, 179pp. $100. (We have 5 sets of proofs for sale, after which only Xerox copies will be available at $125)
While working on Faster Than Light Herbert came into contact with one of the “travel cults” operating somewhere in California, perhaps one with a sufiistic slant (“Jabir ibn Hayaan” was a famous 10th century sufi alchemist); according to the preface of Alternate Dimensions, which is irritatingly vague and suggestive, this group seems to have trained him and sent him on at least one trip to America2. Herbert suggests that he already had so much experience of altered states of consciousness and ability to visualize complex space/time geometries that only a minimum of “initiatic” training proved necessary.
In any case, despite it’s vagueness and brevity, this book is the most accurate and thoroughly-informed work on travel between worlds in our entire collection. So far we have been unable to obtain any deep theoretical work, and only a few papers dealing with practical aspects – but Herbert provides a magnificent overview of the entire field. Written for the lay person, with his usual clear and succint approach to theory, Herbert’s is the first “popular” study to make all the basic links: the Everett/Wheeler hypothesis, Bell’s Theorem, the E/R Bridge, fractal geometry and chaos math, cybernetically-enhanced biofeedback, psychotropic and shamanic techniques, crystallography, morphogenetic field theory, catastrophe topology,etc.
Of course he’s strongest in discussing the quantum aspects of travel, less sure when dealing with the math outside his field, and most inspiring when describing (pp.98-101) visualization techniques and “embodied ecstasy” (ex-stasis, “standing outside” the body; hence embodied ecstasy paradoxically describes the transdimensional experience).
Herbert makes no claim to understand the traveling itself, and goes so far as to suggest that even the (unnamed) pioneers who made the first breakthroughs may not have completely understood the process, any more than the inventor of the steam engine understood Classical physics (p.23). This definitely ties in with what we know about the persons in question.
Unfortunately the six illustrations promised in the table of contents are not included in the galleys – one of them was a “Schematic for a Trans-dimensional Express” which might be worth killing for! – and the publishers claim that Herbert never supplied the illustrations. They refuse to say why they suspended publication of Alternate Dimensions and in fact at first denied ever having handled such a title! Moreover Herbert has apparently dropped out of sight; if he hasn’t met with foul play, he may have returned permanently to Earth2.
We regret having to sell copies of a flawed book for such an outrageous price; we’d like to publish a mass market edition affordable by all – but if Harper & Row ever find out what we’re doing, we’ll need the money for court costs and lawyers’ fees! So get it while you can – this is THE indispensable background work for understanding the Conspiracy.
5. Thomsen, Dietrick E.
“A Knowing Universe Seeking to be Known”
(Xerox offprint from Science News, Vol.123, 1983); $5
Unwittingly demonstrates the resonance between quantum reality theory and the sufism of (for example) “the Greatest Shaykh” Ibn’Arabi, who discusses in his Bezels of Wisdom a saying attributed to God by Mohammed (but not in the Koran): “I was a hidden treasure and I wanted (lit.’loved’) to be known; so I created the universe, that I might be known.”
5a. We also have a few offprints (at the same price) of Thomsen’s witty “Quanta at Large: 101 Things TO DO with Schrodinger’s Cat” (op.cit,129,1986).
6. DeWitt, Bryce S. & Neill Graham.
The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics
(Princeton, NJ, 1973); cloth, $50
The standard (and far from “easy”!) work on the Everett/Wheeler hypothesis – a bible for the early pioneers.
A popularization of the Theory by a prominent physicist – no knowledge of the Conspiracy is detectable. We’re selling copies of the SciFi mag itself for $10 each.
8. Greenberg, D.M., ed.
New Techniques & Ideas in Quantum Measurement Theory
(Vol. 480 Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences, 1986); cloth, $50
Contains the valuable if somewhat whimsical article by D.Z. Albers,”How to take a Photograph of Another Everett World”. Also the very important “Macroscopic Quantum Tunneling at Finite Tempatures” by P.Hanggi (we suspect him of being a Conspiracy member).
An in-house document from the Institute where the first breakthrough was attained (probably in the late winter or early spring of 1979) – therefore, although it makes no overt mention of Travel or the Egg, the Catalog is of prime importance for an understanding of the intellectual and historical background of the event.
According to an unreliable source (see ESCAPE FROM EARTH PRIME!, #15 in this list), the Institute was located somewhere in Duchess County, New York, where the founder and director, Dr. Kamadev Sohrawardi, was employed by IBM in the 1960’s, “dropped out” and began investigations into “consciousness physics”; it is also claimed that Sohrawardi was a Bengali of mixed English, Hindu and Moslem origin, descended from an old sufi family, and initiated into Tantra. All this disagrees with clues in other sources and is perhaps not to be trusted. Other groups take credit for the Breakthrough, and sohrawardi may have been a fraud – but we’re convinced that the Catalog is authentic and Sohrawardi’s claim the most certain.
At first glance, the Catalog appears an example of late-hippy/early-New-Age pretentiousness. Thus there are courses in “Visions of Color & Light in Sufi Meditation,” “Inner Alchemy in Late Taoism,” “Metaphysics of the Ismaili ‘Assassins,'” , “Imaginal Yoga & the Psychotoplogy of the Imagination,” “Hermetic & Neo-Pagan Studies,” (apparently based on Golden Dawn teachings), “Visualization Techniques in Javanese Sorcery,” “Stairways to Heaven: Shamanic Trance & the Mapping of Consciousness,” “Stirner, Nietzsche & Stone age Economy: An Examination of Non-Authoritarian Hunter/Gatherer Societies,”, and – interestingly enough! – “Conspiracy Theory”.
The “shamanic” course may have been a blind for research in psychotropic drugs, including such exotica asahuasca (yage, harmaline), ibogaine, yohimbine, Telepathine and Viatmin K, as well as the more standard psychedelicatessan of the late 70’s.
However, the Catalog also contains amazing courses in frontier science, any combination of which could have provided the key or final puzzle-bit to the Breakthrough: apparently Sohrawardi taught or supervised most of them. Thus “The Universe in a Grain of Sand” promised information on models of brain activity, cybernetically-enhanced feedback, Sheldrake’s morphogenetic field theory, Rene’ Thom’s Catastrophic Theory as applied to consciousness, lucid-dreaming research, John Lilly’s work on “altered states” and other mind-related topics. Then in “Strange Attractors & the Mathematics of Chaos,” Sohrawardi discussed discussed matters unknown outside of the margins of academia till the mid-80’s,and made the astounding prediction that Chaos in the macroscopic world somehow be found to mirror Uncertainty in the microscopic or Quantum World, a truth still unrecognized in “official” scientific circles today.He felt that n-dimensional strange attractors could be used to model the quantum behavior of particles/waves, and that the “so-called collapse of the wave function” could actually be mapped with certain bizarre ramifications of Thom’s catastrophic topology. Making references to work by Ilya Prigogine which was still being circulated in private “preprint” or samizdat form at the time, Sohrawardi suggests that “creative chaos” (as opposed to “deterministic” or entropic chaos) provides the link that will unify Relativity, Quantum, Complexity and consciousness itself into a new science.
Finally in his “Advanced Seminar on Many Worlds,” he states baldly that the alternative universes predicted by Relativity (Black Hole Theory) are the same as the many worlds predicted by Quantum, are the same as fractal dimensions revealed in Chaos! This one-page course description is the closest thing we have to an explanation of why travel to other worlds actually works. Hence the Catalog is an indispensable document for the serious student of the Conspiracy.
10. Beckenstein, J.
“Black holes & Entropy”
(Xerox offprint from Physical Review, Vol.D7, 1973; 28pp), $15
An early (pre-Breakthrough) speculation with suggestive hints about quantum and chaos-as-entropy – although no knowledge of actual Chaos Theory is demonstrated. This paper was referred to in an in-house memo from the Inst. for Chaos Studies & Imaginal Yoga, believed to have been composed by K.Sohrawardi himself (see #9).
11. Sohrawardi,Dr Kamadev.
“Pholgiston & the Quantum Aether”
(Offprint from the J. of Paranormal Physics, Vol.XXII, Bombay, 1966), $40
An early paper by Sohrawardi, flooded with wild speculations about quantum and oriental spirituality, probably dating from the period when he was still working for IBM, but making visits to Millbrook, nearby in Duchess Co., and participating in the rituals of the League of spiritual discovery under Dr.Timothy Leary, and the psychedelic yoga of Bill Haines’ Sri Ram Ashram, which shared Leary’s headquarters on a local millionaires estate. The basic insight concerns the identity of Everett/Wheeler’s “many worlds” and the “other worlds” of sufism, tantrik Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. At the time, Sohrawardi apparently believed he could “prove” this by reviving the long-dead theories of phlogiston and aether in the light of quantum discoveries! (Phlogiston Theory – based on the thinking of the sufi alchemist Jabir ibn Hayaan – the original Jabir – was propounded seriously in the 18th century to unify heat and light as “one thing”.) Totally useless as science, this metaphor nevertheless inspired Sohrawardi’s later and genuinely important work on alternate realities.
“Zero Work & Psychic Paleolithism”
East Village Other, Vol.IV #4 (Dec.1968)
Xerox reprint, single sheet 11 1/2 x 17 $5
Unfortunately no scientific speculations, but a fascinating glimpse into the political background of the inventor of Travel (or rather, one of the inventors). Making reference to French Situationist and Dutch “Provo” ideas which helped spark the “Events” and upheavals of Spring ’68 all over Europe and America, Sohrawardi looks forward to a world without “the alienating prison of WORK,” restored to the “oneness with Nature of the Old Stone Age” and yet somehow based on “green technology and quantum weirdness.”
Wild and wooly as it is, this text nevertheless poses a fascinating scientific question in the light of the author’s later accomplishments – a question still unanswered. All the “First Breakthroughs” we know of with any degree of certainty (those in New York, California, and Java – the actual sequence is unclear) without exception entered parallel worlds without human inhabitants, virtual forest-worlds. Most science fiction predicated other worlds almost like ours, populated by “us,” with only a few slight differences, worlds “close” to ours. Instead-no people!
Two possible explanations:
1. We cannot enter worlds containing “copies” of ourselves without causing paradox and violating the consistency principle of the “megaverse” – hence only wild (or feral) worlds are open to Travel.
2. Other worlds exist, in a sense, only as probabilities; in order to “become fully real” they must be observed. In effect, the parallel universes are observer-created, as soon as a traveler “arrives” in one of them. Sohrawardi wanted a Paleolithic world of endless forest, plentiful game and gathering, virgin, empty but slightly haunted – therefore, that’s what he got! Either explanation raises problems in the light of what actually happened; perhaps there is a third, as yet unsuspected.
Ong’s Hat: A Color Brochure of the Institute of Chaos Studies
(photocopy of the original color brochure) $25
*Note - I am in the process of putting this into an ASCII file that will be available here or in my home directory. This is the only rare pamphlet from this series that I have been able to procure besides Alternate Dimensions. - Joseph Matheny (07-23-92)
This bizarre document, disguised as a brochure for a New Age health retreat, reveals some interesting information about the activities of Sohrawardi’s group or a closely-associated group, a fairly accurate description of the Egg is provided, as well as a believable account of the first (or one of the first) Breakthroughs. However, everything else in the pamphlet is sheer disinformation. The New Jersey Pine Barrens were never a center of alternate-worlds research, and all the names in the text are false. A non-existent address is included. Nevertheless, highly valuable for background.
14. “Sven Saxon”.
The Stone Age Survivalist
(Loompanics, UnLtd., Port Townsend, WA 1985), Pb, $20
“Imagine yourself suddenly plunked down buck-naked in the middle of a large dark forest with no resources except your mind,” says the preface.”What would you do?”
What indeed? and who could possibly care? – except a trans-dimensional traveler! Loompanics specializes in books on disappearances and survival involving a good deal of escapist fantasy – but as we know, this situation is all too real for the Visitor to Other Worlds.
Part I: Flint-knapping, an excellent illustrated handbook of Paleolithic tool-production; II Zero-tech hunting and trapping; III, Gathering (incl. a materia medica); IV, Shelter; V, Primitive warfare; VI,Man & Dog: trans-species symbiosis; VII, Cold weather survival; VIII, Culture (“Sven” recommends memorizing a lot of songs, poems and stories – and ends by saying “Memorize this book – ’cause you can’t take it with you.” Where is Mr.Saxon now, we wonder?).
This – unfortunately! – is the book that blew the lid off the Conspiracy for the first time. We say “Unfortunately” because ESCAPE!, to all appearances, is a piece of unmitigated paranoid pulp tripe. Written in breathless ungrammatical subFortean prose, unfootnoted and nakedly sensationalistic, the book sank without trace, ignored even by the kook- conspiracy fringe; we were able to buy out unsold stock from the vanity press which published it, just before they went out of business and stopped answering their mail.
Balcombe (whom we’ve been unable to trace and who may have “vanished”), is the author of one other book we’ve seen – but are not offering for sale – called “Drug Lords from the Hollow Earth” (1984) in which he claims that the CIA obtained LSD and cocaine from Dero-flying-saucer-nazis from beneath Antarctiac. So much for his credentials. How he got hold of even a bit of the authentic Other Worlds story is a miracle.
According to Balcombe,the first breakthrough was due not solely to K.Soharawardi – despite his importance as a theoretician – but also a “sinister webwork of cultists, anarchists, commies, fanatical hippies and renegade traitor scientists who made fortunes in the drug trade” (p.3). Balcombe promises to name names, and out of the welter of rant and slather, some hard facts about the pioneers actually emerge.
Funding (and some research) emanated in the 70’s from a “chaos cabal” of early Silicon Valley hackers interested in complex dynamical systems, randomicity, and chance, and-gambling! – as well as a shadowy group of “drug lords” (Balcombe’s favorite term of abuse), with connections to certain founders of the Discordian Illuminati. Money was channelled through a cult called the Moorish Orthodox Church, a loose knit confederation of jazz musicians, oldtime hipsters, white “sufis” and black moslems, bikers and street dealers (see” A Heresologist’s Guide to Brooklyn”, #24 in this list) who came into contact with Sohrawardi in Millbrook in the mid-60’s.
Sohrawardi was a naive idealist and somewhat careless about his associations. He received clandestine support from people who were in turn connected to certain Intelligence circles with an interest in psychedelic and fringe mind-science. According to Balcombe this was not the CIA (MK-ULTRA) but an unofficial offshoot of several groups with Masonic connections! The Conspiracy was penetrated almost from the start, but was actually encouraged in the hope of gleaning useful information about parallel worlds, or at least about the “mental conditioning techniques” developed as part of the basic research.
By the mid-70’s, Sohrawardi and his various cohorts and connections (now loosely referred to as “the Garden of Forked Paths” or GFP) had become aware of the Intelligence circles (now loosely grouped as “Probability Control Force” or PCF) and had in turn planted double-agents, and gone further underground. In 1978 or 79 an actual device for trans-dimensional Travel, the “Egg” (also called the Cocoon or the Cucurbit, which means both gourd and alchemical flask) was developed in deepest secrecy, probably at Sohrawardi’s institute in Upstate New York, certainly not at a branch lab supposedly hidden away in the NJ Pine Barrens near the long-vanished village of Ong’s Hat (see #13 in this list), since no such lab ever existed, nor does it exist now, despite what some fools think.
The PCF were unable to obtain an Egg for several years and did not succeed in Breakthrough until (Balcombe believes) 1982. The California groups, however, began Egg-production and broke through (into “BigSur2”) in early 1980 (again, Balcombe’s chronology). (Balcombe clearly knows nothing of the situation in Java.)
It remains unclear whether the East Coast and West Coast groups both entered the same alternate world, or two different but similar worlds. Communication between the two outposts has so far proved impossible because, as it happens, the Egg will not transport non-sentient matter. Travellers arrive Over There birth-naked in a Stone Age world – no airplanes, no radio, no clothes … no fire and no tools! Only the Egg, like a diamond Faberge easter gift designed by Dali, alone in the midst of “Nature naturing”. Balcombe includes a dim out-of-focus photo of an Egg, and claims that the machine is part computer but also partly- living crystal, like virus or DNA, and also partly “naked quantumstuff”.
Eggs are costly to produce, so the early pioneers had to return after each sortie and forego permanent settlement on E2 until a cheaper mode of transport could be discovered. However, emigration via the Egg proved possible when the “tantrik” or “double-yolk” effect was discovered: two people (any combination of age, gender, etc.) can Travel by Egg while making love, especially if one of the pair has already done the trip a few times and “knows the way” without elaborate visualization techniques and so forth. Balcombe has a field day with this juicy information and spends an entire chapter (VIII) detailing the “perversions” in use for this purpose. Talent for Travel ranges from brilliant to zero – probably no more than 15% of humanity can make it, although the less-talented and even children can be “translated” by the tantrik technique – and extensive training methods have somewhat improved the odds. California2 now contains about 1000 emigrants scattered along the coast, and the eastern settlements add up to 500 or 600. A few children have been born “over there” – some can Travel, some can’t, although the talented percentage seems greater than among the general population of Earth-prime. And being “stuck” on E2 is no grave punishment in any case!, unless you object to the Garden of Eden and the “original leisure society” of the Paleolithic flintknappers.
Balcombe claims that the PCF was severely disappointed by the sentience “law” of Travel, since they had hoped to use the parallel worlds as a weapons-delivery system! Nevertheless they continued to experiment, hoping for a more “mechanistic” technique; meanwhile they devote their efforts to (a) suppressing all information leaks, (b) plotting against the independent GFP and infiltrating the E2 settlements, (c) attempting to open new worlds where technology might be possible. They are however handicapped by a shortage of talent: the kind of person who can Travel is not usually the kind of person n who sympathizes with the “patriotic discipline of the PCF” and rogue Masonic groups, but some of these end up defecting and “doubling”, and anyway most of them are much too weird for the taste of the rigidly reactionary inner core of PCF leadership, who wonder (as does Balcombe) whether these agents are “any better than the scum they’re spying on?”
More worlds have been discovered – E3 and E4 are mentioned in ESCAPE! (and we know that E5 was opened in 1988) – but all of these are “empty” forest worlds apparently almost identical with E2.
In summary, Balcombe’s style is execrable and attitude repulsive, but his book remains the most accurate overview of the Conspiracy to date. If you’re only going to order one item from us, this is it.
“Bionic Travel: An Orgonomic Theory of the Megaverse”,
(Xerox of unpubl. typescript headed “Top Secret – Eyes Only”; 27pp), $15
If this paper emanates from PCF sources, as we believe, it indicates the poor quality of original research carried out by the enemies of Sohrawardi and the GFP, and may explain the PCF’s relative lack of progress in the field (especially considering their much larger budget!). The author attempts to revive W. Reich’s Orgone Theory, with “bions” as “life-force particles” and some sort of orgone accumulator (Reich’s “box”) as a possible substitute for the Egg. An unhealthy interest is shown in “harnessing the force of Deadly Orgone” as a weapon for use on other worlds. References are also made to Aliester Crowley’s “sex magick techniques” of the Ordo Templi Orientis – even speculations on human sacrifice as a possible source of “transdimensional energy”. A morbid and crackpot document, devoid of all scientific value (in our opinion) but affording a fascinating insight into PCF mentality and method.
17. Corbin, Henry.
Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn’Arabi
(trans. by R.Mannheim; Princeton, NJ, 1969), cloth, $50; Pb, $20
One of the few books mentioned by title in the Catalog of the Inst. of Chaos Studies & Imaginal Yoga (see #9 in this list). The “mundus imaginalis”, also called the World of Archetypes or the “Isthmus” (Arabic, barzakh), lies in between the World of the Divine and the material World of Creation. It actually consists of “many worlds”, including two “emerald cities” called Jabulsa and Jabulqa (very intriguing considering the situation on Java2!). The great 14th-century Hispano-Moorish sufi Ibn’Arabi developed a metaphysics of the “Creative Imagination” by which the adept could achieve spiritual progress via direct contemplation of the archetypes, including the domains of djinn, spirits and angels. Ibn’Arabi also speaks of seven alternate Earths created by Allah, each with its own Mecca and Kaaba! Some parallel-universe theorists believe that Travel without any tech (even the Egg) may be possible, claiming that certain mystics have already accomplished it. If so, then Ibn’Arabi must have been one of them.
18. Gleick, James.
CHAOS: Making a New Science
(Viking Penguin, NY, 1987), cloth, 254pp, $30
The first and still the most complete introduction to chaos – required reading – BUT with certain caveats. First: Gleick has no philosophical or poetic depth; he actually begins the book with a quote from John Updike! No mention of chaos mythology or oriental sources. No mention of certain non-American chaos scientists such as Rene Thom and Ilya Prigogine! Instead, alongside the admittedly useful info, one gets a subtle indoctrination in “deterministic chaos”, by which we mean the tendency to look on chaos as a weapon to fight chaos, to “save” Classical physics – and learn to predict the Stock Market! (As opposed to what we call the “quantum chaos” of Sohrawardi and his allies, which looks on chaos as a creative and negentropic source, the cornucopia of evolution and awareness.) Warning: we suspect Gleick of being a PCF agent who has embedded his text with subtle disinformation meant to distract the chaos-science community from any interest in “other worlds”.
19. Pak Hardjanto. “Apparent Collapse of the Wave Function as an n-Dimensional Catastrophe”
(trans. by “N.N.S.” in Collected Papers of the SE Asian Soc. for Advanced Research, Vol.XXIX, 1980), 47pp, Xerox of offprint, $15
An early paper by the little-known scientific director of the Javanese “Travel Cult” which succeeded in breakthrough, possibly in the year this essay was published or shortly thereafter. Hardjanto is known to have been in touch with Sohrawardi since the 60’s; no doubt they shared all information, but each kept the other secret from their respective organizations. The pioneers of Java2 became known to the GFP and PCF only around 1984 or 85.
This article, the only scientific work we possess by Hardjanto, shows him to be a theoretician equal or even superior to Sohrawardi himself – and if Hardjanto is also the anonymous author of the following item, as we believe, then he appears a formidable “metaphysicist” as well!
“Apparent Collapse”, while certainly not a blueprint for Egg construction, nevertheless constitutes one of the few bits of “hard” science published openly on our Subject. Unfortunately, its theorems and diagrams are doubtless comprehensible only to a handful of experts. The topological drawings literally boggle the mind, especially one entitled “Hypercube Undergoing ‘Collapse’ Into 5-Space Vortex”!
20. (Unsigned, probably by Pak Hardjanto).
A Vision of Hurqalya
(trans. by K.K.Sardono; Incunabula Press, 1988), Pb, 46pp, $20
The Indonesian original of this text appeared as a pamphlet in Yogjakarta (E.Java) in 1982. We ourselves at Incunabula commissioned the translation and have published this handsome edition, including all the illustrations from the original, at our own expense.
If one knew nothing about the Conspiracy or Many-Worlds Theory, A Vision would seem at first to be a mystical tract by an adherent of kebatinan, the heterodox sufi-influenced freeform esoteric/syncretistic complex of sects which has come to be influential in GFP circles, inasmuch as the idea of “spiritual master” (guru, murshed) has been replaced by “teacher” (pamong); some kebatinan sects utilize spontaneous non-hierarchical organizational structures.
However, in the light of our knowledge of the material existence of other worlds, Vision takes on a whole new dimension, as a literal description of what Hardjanto and his fellow pioneers found on Java2.
They discovered another uninhabited world, but with one huge difference. The author of Vision steps out of his “alchemical Egg” into a vast and ancient abandoned City! He calls it Hurqalya (after a traditional sufi name for the Other World or alam’e mithal). He senses his total aloneness, feels that the City’s builders have long since moved on elsewhere, and yet that they still somehow somewhere exist.
The author compares Hurqalya to the ancient ruined city of Borobadur in E.Java, but notices immediately that there are no statues or images, all the decoration is abstract and severe, but “neither Islamic nor Buddhist nor Hindu nor Christian nor any style I ever saw”. The “palaces” of Hurqalya are grand, cyclopaean, almost monolithic, far from “heavy” in atmosphere, despite the black basalt from which they seem to have been carved. For the City is cut through by water … it is in fact a water-city in the style of the Royal Enclave of Yogjakarta (now so sadly derelict), but incomparably bigger. Canals, aqueducts, rivers and channels crisscross and meander through the City; flowing originally from quiescent volcanic mountains looming green in the West, Water flows down through the City which is built on a steep slope gradually curving into a basin and down to the placid Eastern Sea, where a hundred channels flow dark and clear into the green salt ocean.
Despite the air of ruin – huge trees have grown through buildings, splitting them open – mosses, ferns and orchids coat the crumbling walls with viridescence, hosting parrots, lizards, butterflies – despite this desolation, most of the waterworks still flow: canal-locks broken open centuries ago allow cascades, leaks, spills and waterfalls in unexpected places, so that the City is wrapped in a tapestry of water-sounds and songbird voices. Most amazingly, the water flows at different levels simultaneously, so that aqueducts cross over canals which in turn flow above sunken streams which drip into wells, underground cisterns and mysterious sewers in a bewildering complex of levels, pipes, conduits and irrigated garden terraces which resemble (to judge by the author’s sketches) a dreamscape of Escher or Piranesi. Viewed from above, the City would be mapped as an arabesque 3PD spiderweb (with waterbridges aboveground, streams at ground level and also underground) fanning out to fill the area of the basin, thence into the harbor with its huge cracked basalt-block docks.
The slope on which the City is built is irregularly terraced in ancient SE Asian style – as many staircases and streets thread their way up and down, laid out seemingly at random, following land-contours rather than grid-logic, adding to the architectural complexity of the layer of waterways with a maze of vine-encrusted overpasses, arched bridges, spiralling ramps, crooked alleyways, cracked hidden steps debouching on broad esplanades, avenues, parks gone to seed, pavilions, balconies, apartments, jungle-choked palazzos, echoing gloomy “temples” whose divinities, if any, seem to have left no forwarding address … all empty, all utterly abandoned. And nowhere is there any human debris – no broken tools, bones or midden heaps, no evidence of actual habitation – as if the ancient builders of the City picked up and took everything with them when they departed – “perhaps to one of the other Seven Worlds of the alam’e mithal” – in other words, to a “higher dimension.”
Thus ends the Vision of Hurqalya, raising more questions than it answers! There is no doubt that it describes exactly what was discovered in Java2 in 1980 or 81. But if the “observer-created” theory of other-worlds travel is true, “Hurqalya” represents the “imaginal imprint” of what Hardjanto (or whoever) expected to find. Yet again, if that theory is false … who built Hurqalya? One current explanation (arising from time-distortion theorems which have so far remained unsolvable) suggests that the Builders “moved” in prehistoric times to Earth-prime and became the distant ancestors of the Javanese (“Java Man”). Another guess: the Builders have indeed moved on to a “distant” alternate universe, and eventually we may find them.
A small settlement now exists in Hurqalya. Once the American groups heard of the City’s existence, members of both the GFP and PFC were able to visualize it and Travel to it from America (the Javanese can do the same from Java-prime to America2). Since 1985 all three groups have expanded most of their exploratory effort on “opening up” new worlds in the Java series. Apparently Indonesian sorcerers and trance adepts are very good at this, and we believe they have reached Java7 – without, however, finding replications of the City or any trace of the Builders – only more empty forest.
21. Von Bitter Rucker, Dr R.
” ‘The Cat Was Alive, But Looked Scared As Hell’: Some Unexpected Properties of Cellular Automata in the Light of the Everett-Wheeler Hypothesis”
(Complex Dynamical Systems Newsletter no.8, 1989), offprint, $10
Who is this man and what does he know? No other serious mathematician has so far made any connection between cellular automata and the Many Worlds. Tongue-in-cheek (?), the author suggests that Schrodinger’s poor cat might be both alive and dead, even after the box is opened, IF parallel universes are “stacked” in some arcane manner which he claims to be able to demonstrate with a piece of software he has hacked and is selling for an outrageous sum; we have also seen and ad for this program in a magazine called MONDO 2000, published in Berkeley and devoted to “reality hacking”. We’d love to know what certain members of the Conspiracy would make of this bizarre concept!
This writer appears to have inside information. The notion of a drug-induced hallucination so powerful it can be shared by many (in a proper “blind” experiment) and can actually come into existence, into material reality; the idea that drug-enhanced lucid dreaming can be used to discover objective information from “other ontological levels of being”; and finally the “prediction” that “a combination of these methods utilizing computer-aided biofeedback monitoring devices” will actually make it possible to “visit ‘other’ worlds in ‘inner’ space” (which suggests that the author adheres to the “observer-created” theory of parallel universes) – all this leads us to believe that the author is probably a member of one of the California Travel Cults – as well as an expert bruja!
23. (Anonymous). A Collection of Cult Pamphlets, Flyers, Ephemera & Curiosa from the Library of a traveler
(Looseleaf portfolio of photocopied originals) sold by lot, $25
The unknown compiler of this Collection (whom for convenience we’ll call “X”) left it behind when he “vanished”, whence it came into our possession. We know something of the compiler’s career from an untitled document written by him and found with the Collection, which we call “The Poetic Journal of a traveler” (#24 in this list), as well as a pamphlet believed to be by the same author, Folklore of the Other Worlds (#25). (The Ong’s Hat Color Brochure was also discovered in the same cache, and is sold by us as #13.)
The Collection contains the following items:
1) A History & Catechism of the Moorish Orthodox Church, which traces the origins of the sect to early (1913) American Black Islam, the “Wandering Bishops”, the Beats of the 50s and the psychedelic churches movement of the 60s – deliberately vague about the 70s and 80s however.
2) The World Congress of Free Religions, a brochure-manifesto arguing for a “fourth way”, a non-authoritarian spiritual movement in opposition to mainstream, fundamentalist and New Age religion.The WCFR is said to include various sects of Discordians, SubGeniuses, Coptic Orthodox People of the Herb, gay (“faery”) neo-pagans, Magical Judaism, the Egyptian Church of New Zealand, Kaos Kabal of London, Libertarian Congregationalists, etc., and the Moorish Orthodox Church. Several of these sects are implicated in the Conspiracy, but no overt mention of the Travel Cults is made here.
3) Spiritual Materialism, by “the New Catholic Church of the Pantarchy, Hochkapel von SS Max und Marx”, a truly weird flyer dedicated to “Saints” Max Stirner and Karl Marx, representing a group claiming foundation by the 19th century Individualist Stephen Pearl Andrews, but more likely begun in the 1980s as a Travel Cult. Uses Nietzsche to contend that material reality itself constitutes a (or the) spiritual value and the principle of Infinity “which is expressed in the existence of many worlds.” It argues for a utopia based on “individualism, telepathic socialism, free love, high tech, Stone Age wilderness and quantum weirdness”! No address is given, needless to say.
4) The Sacred Jihad of Our Lady of Chaos, this otherwise untraceable group calls for “resistance to all attempts to control probability.” It quotes Foucault and Baudrillard on the subject of “disappearance”, then suggests that “to vanish without having to kill yourself may be the ultimate revolutionary act … The monolith of Consensus Reality is riddled with quantum-chaos cracks … Viral attack on all fronts! Victory to Chaos in every world!”
5) The Temple of Antinous, a Travel Cult of pedophile boy-lovers and neo-pagans devoted to Eros and Ganymede. (Warning: this leaflet contains some just-barely-legal graphic material.) “Wistfully we wonder if the boygod can manifest only in some other world than this dreary puritanical polluted boobocracy – then, gleefully, we suddenly recall: there ARE other worlds!”
6) A Collage, presumably made by X himself, consisting of a “mandala” constructed from cut-outs of Strange Attractors and various Catastrophic topologies interwoven with photos of young girls and boys clipped from Italian fashion magazines. Eroticizing the mathematical imagery no doubt helps one to remember and visualize it while operating the Egg.
Poetic Journal of a traveler; or, A Heresologist’s Guide to Brooklyn (Incunabula Press, pamphlet, $15. Believed to be by “X”, the compiler of the Collection, & transcribed by us from manuscript.)
Apparently X began this MS with the intention of detailing his experiences with a Travel Cult and eventual “translation” to the various alternate-world settlements, but unfortunately abandoned the project early on, possibly due to PCF interference.
It begins with a summary account of X’s spiritual quest, largely among the stranger sects of his native Brooklyn: Santeria in Coney Island, Cabala in Williamsburg, sufis on Atlantica Avenue, etc. He is disappointed or turned away (and even mugged on one occasion). He becomes friendly with a Cuban woman of mixed Spanish, black, amerindian and Chinese ancestry who runs a botanica (magical supplies and herbs). When he asks her about “other worlds”, she is evasive but promises to introduce him to someone who knows more about such matters.
She orders her grandpdaughter, a 14-year-old named Teofila, to escort X through the “rough neighborhoods” to the old man’s shop. The girl is wearing a t-shirt that says “Hyperborean Skateboarding Association”, and indeed travels by skateboard, “gliding on ahead of me like Hermes the Psychopomp.” X is clearly attracted to Teofila and becomes embarrassedly tongue-tied and awkward.
The old man, called “the Shaykh”, who claims to be Sudanese but speaks “pure Alabaman”, runs a junk shop and wears a battered old Shriners fez. His attitude toward X is severe at first, but X is enchanted by his rather disjointed rambling and ranting – which reveal a surprisingly wide if erratic reading in Persian poetry, the Bible, Meister Eckhardt, William Blake, Yoruba mythology and quantum mechanics. Leaving the girl in the shop, the old man takes X into his back office, “crowded with wildly eclectic junk, naive paintings, cheap orientalismo, HooDoo candles, jars of flower petals, and an ornate potbellied stove, stoked up to cherryred, suffusing waves of drowsy warmth.”
The Shaykh intimidates X into sharing a big pipe of hashish mixed with amber and mescaline, then launches into a stream-of-consciousness attack on “Babylon, the Imperium, the Con, the Big Lie that there’s nowhere to go and nothing to buy except their fifth-rate imitations of life, their bullshit pie-in-the-sky religions, cold cults, cold cuts of self-mutilation I call ’em, and woe to Jerusalem!”
X, now “stoned to the gills”, falls under the Shaykh’s spell and bursts into tears. At once the old man unbends, serves X a cup of tea “sweetblack as Jamaica run and scented with cardamon”, and begins to drop broad hints about “a way out, not to some gnostic-never-land with the body gone like a fart in a sandstorm, no brother, for the Unseen World is not just of the spirit but also the flesh – Jabulsa and Jabulqa, Hyperborea, Hurqalya – they’re as real as Brooklyn but a damn sight prettier!”
Late afternoon; X must return home before dark, and prepare to take leave of the Shaykh – who gives him a few pamphlets and invites him to return. To X’s surprise, Teofila is still waiting outside the shop, and offers to escort him to the subway. The girl is now in a friendlier mood and X less nervous. They strike up a conversation, X asking about Hyperborea and Teofila answering, “Yeah, I know where it is, I’ve been there.”
The main narrative ends here, but we have added some other poetic fragments included with the original MS, despite the fact that they might offend some readers, in light of the importance of the “tantrik technique” of other-world Travel. (And let us remind you that a statement of age must be included with every order from Incunabula Inc.). These rather pornographic fragments suggest that X, too shy to attempt anything himself, was in fact seduced by Teofila, and that his subsequent “training” for Egg-navigation consisted of numerous “practice sessions for double-yolking” with a very enthusiastic young tutor.
We believe that X subsequently made an extended visit to America2 and Java2, that he returned to Earth-prime on some Intelligence or sabotage mission for the GFP, that he composed a paper on Folklore of the Other Worlds (see #25), that he and Teofila somehow came to the attention of PCF agents in New York, aborted their mission and returned to Java2, where they presumably now reside.
25. (Anonymous). Folklore of the Other Worlds (Incunabula Press, pamphlet,$15. By the same author as #24, transcribed by us from manuscript.)
Our anonymous traveler from Brooklyn appears to have composed this little treatise after his first extended stay in E2. It deals with tales of Travellers and inhabitants of the other-world settlements, pioneers’ experiences and the like. Of great interest is the claim that ESP and other paranormal abilities increase in the parallel universes, that the effect is magnified by passing through the series of discovered “levels”, and that a small band of psychic researchers has therefore settled on Java7, the present frontier world. The “temple” of Hurqalya (or whatever these vast buildings may have been) are used for sessions of meditation, martial arts and psychic experimentation. X claims that telepathy is now accepted as fact “over there,” with strong evidence for telekinesis and perhaps even Egg-less Travel.
Also intriguing are various accounts of “spirits” seen or sensed around the settlements, were animals supposedly glimpsed on higher levels, and legends which have arisen concerning the lost Builders of Hurqalya. Something of a cult has grown up around these hypothetical creatures who (it is said) are “moving toward us even as we move toward them, through the dimensions, through Time – perhaps backwards through Time”!
X points out that this legend strikes an eerie resonance with “complex conjugate wave theory” in quantum mechanics, which hypothesizes that the “present” (the megaverse “now”) is the result of the meeting of two infinite quantum probability waves, one moving from past to future, the other moving from future to past – that space/time is an interference effect of these two waves – and that the many worlds are bubbles on this shoreline!
This “bible” of the modern neo-shamanic movement also served as a metaphorical scripture for the pioneers of interdimensional consciousness physics and alternate-world explorers.Not only does it contain innumerable practical hints for the traveler, as well as a spiritual ambience conducive to the proper state of mind for Travel, it is also believed that Eliade’s mythic material on the prototypal Stone Age shamans who could physically and actually visit other worlds, offers strong evidence for the possibility of Egg-less Travel – which however so far remains in the realm of “folklore”, speculation and rumor.
27. Lorde, John.
Maze of Treason
(Red Knight Books, Wildwood, NJ, 1988), Pb, 204 pp, $10
You may remember that after the Patty Hearst kidnapping it was discovered that a cheap pornographic thriller, published before the event, seemed to foretell every detail of the story. Jungian synchronicity? Or did the Symbionese Liberation Army read that book and decide to act it out? It remains a mystery.
Maze of Treason is also a pornographic thriller, complete with tawdry 4-color cover, sloppy printing on acidulous pulp, and horrendous style. It’s marketed as Science Fiction, however. And there is no mystery about the author’s inside knowledge. “John Lorde” not only knows about the Conspiracy, he’s obviously been there. This book is probably a roman a clef, as it appears to contain distorted portraits of Sohrawardi and Harjanto (depicted as Fu-Manchu-type villains) as well as several actual agents of both the GFP and PCF – and even a character apparently based on the real-life “X”, author of several titles in our list (#s 24 & 25).
The hero, Jack Masters, is an agent of an unnamed spyforce of American patriots who jokingly call themselves the Quantum Police. Their mission is to regain control of the alternate worlds for “the forces of reason and order” and “make trouble for agents of chaos in every known universe.” The Q-Cops’ secret underground HDQ contains a number of Eggs granting access to hidden bases on the other worlds, including “the Other America” and “the Other Indonesia”.
Jack Masters is investigating the activities of a Chaote named Ripley Taylor, a “child-molester and black magician who runs a Travel Cult out of a comic book store in a “racially-mixed neighborhood” of New York. The Cops hope to catch Taylor with his “juvenile delinquent girlfriend”, blackmail him and turn him into a double agent.
The hero now becomes involved with Amanita, a beautiful woman performance artist from the Lower East Side who seems to know a lot about Taylor and the Travel Cult, but also seems quite attracted to the virile Jack Masters. At first he suspects her of duplicity, but soon decides he needs to “convert” her by making her “fall for me, and fall hard.” Jack’s problem is that his own “talent” will not suffice for solo Traveling, and in fact he has never managed to “get across” – since the Cops do not practice Tantrik techniques! He suspects her of being an “Other-Worlder” and hopes she can convey him thence via the “infamous ‘double-yolk’ method.”
Meanwhile Taylor has laughed off the blackmail attempt, burned down the comic shop and escaped “into the fourth dimension – or maybe the fifth.” Masters heats up his affair with the artist Amanita, and finally convinces her to “translate” him – after three chapters of unininterrupted porno depicting the pair in many little-known ritual practices, so to speak. (The author rises above his own mediocrity here, and attains something like “purple pulp”, an inspired gush of horny prose, especially in the oral-genital area.) Masters now rises to the occasion for yet a fourth chapter in which a “government-issue Egg” becomes the setting for a “yab-yum ceremony of searing obscenity.”
Immediately upon arrival in “Si Fan” (the author’s name for Hurqalya), Amanita betrays our hero and turns him over naked to one of the tribes of “chaos-shamans who inhabit these Lemurian ruins”. At this point Maze begins to add to our knowledge of the real-life situation by depicting more-or-less accurately the state of affairs and mode of life in present-day Hurqalya, at least as seen through the eyes of a paranoid right-wing spy.
The thousand or so inhabitants have made few changes in Hurqalya, preferring a life of “primitive sloth” and minimal meddling with Nature. Sex, hallucinogenic mushrooms and song-improvisation contests comprise the night-life, with days devoted to the serious business of “sorcery, skinnydipping, flintknapping and maybe a couple of hours of desultory fishing or berrypicking.” There is no social order. “People with bones in their noses sitting around arguing about Black Hole Theory or recipes for marsupial stew, lazy smoke from a few clan campfires rising through the hazy bluegold afternoon, children masturbating in trees, bees snouting into orchids, signal drum in the distance, Amanita singing an old song by the Inkspots I remember from my childhood…”
Masters, or rather the author, claims to be disgusted by all this “anarchist punk hippy immorality, all this jungle love!”, but his ambivalence is revealed in his continued desire for Amanita, and the ease with which he falls into his own curmudgeonly version of dolce far niente in “Si Fan”.
We won’t give away the rest of the plot, not because it’s so great, but because it’s largely irrelevant (Taylor flees to distant dimensions, Masters gets Girl and returns to Earth-prime in triumph, etc.,etc.) – the book’s true value lies in these pictures of daily life in Hurqalya. Sadly, Maze of Treason is still our only source for such material. The Conspiracy to deny the world all knowledge of the Many Worlds is maintained by both the forces active in the parallel universes – the GFP and PCF both have their reasons for secrecy, evasion, lies, disinformation, distortion and even violence. Maze of Treason is not our only source for claiming that people have lost their lives as a result of getting too deeply involved in all this. But we at INCUNABULA believe that truth will out, because it must. To stand in the way of it is more dangerous than letting it loose. Freedom of information is our only protection – we will tell all, despite all scorn or threat, and trust that our “going public” will protect us from the outrage of certain private interests – if not from the laughter of the ignorant!
Remember: parallel worlds exist. They have already been reached. A vast cover-up denies YOU all knowledge. Only INCUNABULA can enlighten you, because only INCUNABULA dares.
Emory Cranston, Prop.
- ONG’S HAT:GATEWAY TO THE DIMENSIONS! A full color brochure for the Institute of Chaos Studies and the Moorish Science Ashram in Ong’s Hat, New Jersey.
- Advances in Skin Science: Quantum Tantra -An Interview with Nick Herbert by Joseph Matheny
- Joseph Matheny’s Journal: Emory Cranston Interview
- Incunabula: Ong‘s Hat– Graphic Novel at Archive.org
- Various uploads in various formats at Archive.org