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
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/
My dear, late friend humdog wrote this in 1994. You may recognize the name as one of the people I dedicated the Ong’s Hat project to. Her name, in real life was Carmen, and while I did interact with her in real life from time to time, most of my interactions with her were online, so I will always remember her as humdog (lower case mandatory) or “hummy” as I sometimes affectionately called her. Carmen/humdog was a teacher who sometimes used some of my early on-line art stunts as examples in her classes about the then emerging on-line art scene and she was one of the people I chose to participate in my private Well forum, known as Kaos. Kaos was a invitation only forum where a few of the first on-line art projects were hatched and humdog was always there to give us constructive criticism and encouragement.
I read the following piece now and I wonder if hummy had some kind of inkling, some prescience of the coming age of the social network and the resultant commodification of the customer, that effectively rendered them the product. Then again, maybe it’s always been this way and I’m only now refreshing my view after wandering in the digital desert in a state of induced optimism. (Read denial)
Either way, I recently re-read this piece and was struck by it’s timelessness.
by humdog (1994)
when i went into cyberspace i went into it thinking that it was a place like any other place and that it would be a human interaction like any other human interaction. i was wrong when i thought that. it was a terrible mistake.
A new piece, the first in a long series I’ll be doing for my friend Nick Belardes new literary start-up. Wherein, I don the mantle of Jack Smith, reborn!
Transmedia: Who Invited the Lobsters Anyway?
And since I wrote this article, it looks like someone took my advice.
Also just noticed this article which just showed up on Reality Sandwich: http://realitysandwich.com/216411/in-beautiful-dreams-nurturing-narratives-and-the-forgotten-potentials-of-digital-culture/
And this one at French magazine Internet ACTU: http://www.internetactu.net/2014/02/11/transmedia-de-la-rebellion-a-la-recuperation/ (you’ll need to translate)
Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Session
By Robert Anton Wilson
and Joseph Matheny
First recorded in Chicago in 1994, this previously unreleased audio session with the renowned Robert Anton Wilson has been stored away for fifteen years…and almost lost entirely. If Bob knew how many synchronicities surround the rediscovery and release of this “lost” studio session, he would be chuckling in that half jolly, half mischievous way of his. If you believe in any kind of afterlife, maybe you can imagine him laughing right now. I like that image: Bob the laughing Buddha, still having one over on us from the great beyond. -Joseph Matheny (from the liner notes)