“Might we contrive one of those opportune falsehoods … so as by one noble lie to persuade if possible the rulers themselves, but failing that the rest of the city.”
– Plato in The Republic
“If you read it, you will be infected. If you are infected you will be InFicted. If you are InFicted, you will get UnFucted.”
– Joseph Matheny
Matheny was one of the first to recognize the power inherent in the interconnected culture that is developing through the rapid technological progress driving globalization. His insights and accomplishments help us to understand the intricacies of transmedia arts and provides a valuable tool in becoming a co-creator in the world wide game already in progress called the “21st Century.”
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)
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.
Oddly enough, this recently showed up on Google. It appears some company is selling a “genuine” Ong’s Hat ring for only $398.00! After reposting a lot of the info from the Ong’a Hat catalog to give back story, they make the following claim:
Apparently some of you have a Google Alert for the term “Ong’s Hat” and therefore have seen the recent addition to IMDB. Specifically this listing (you’ll need IMDB Pro to see complete information). I had planned on doing a full interview with the two people responsible for this new venture when they return from shooting in Europe and I still plan on doing that. So, you’ll have to wait for that post for more info, but in the meantime, I’ll fill you in on a few “who and what” details.
Few have ventured into the many heavily guarded, top-secret locations scattered across the earth. Even fewer have emerged with stories to tell. Yet every now and then the common man is given an illicit glimpse of something extraordinary…
In Beyond Area 51, Mack Maloney explores the truths behind the many myths and legends surrounding some of the world’s most mysterious locales. From the Homestead Air Force base in Miami, Florida to Russia’s Kapustin Yar, Maloney investigates incredible reports of extraterrestrial experimentation on animals, UFOs with road rage, and other unbelievable tales beyond our wildest imaginings. Filled with fascinating, true accounts, Beyond Area 51 will convince any skeptic of the infinite possibilities of what exists on, and beyond, our tiny planet.
“Might we contrive one of those opportune falsehoods … so as by one noble lie to persuade if possible the rulers themselves, but failing that the rest of the city.”
– Plato in The Republic
“If you read it, you will be infected. If you are infected you will be InFicted. If you are InFicted, you will get UnFucted. “
– Joseph Matheny
Those who entered the digital world in the late 80’s and early 90’s were introduced to a nearly unfathomable host of possibilities for media and creativity. DVD’s offered the potential for integrative experiences that tracked user preferences and allowed for multiple story formats which changed with each viewing based on previous use, virtual reality models held the possibility for turning these experiences fully immersive, cell phones and wireless technology promised an unthought of openness to it all, and the internet allowed everyone to dream of a fully connected, creative global conversation that synchronized each aspect into a beautifully coordinated whole. Looking back on those dreams in light of growing concerns over surveillance, advertising, neuromarketing and the like one might wonder what happened to turn the dream into a lousy cold war sitcom.
Game magazine: Issue 135, available now at newsstands, print or digital. The article runs about 6 pages, with citations to Incunabula/Ong’s Hat and myself throughout.
Here is a small excerpt (used with permission) from that article:
“But what exactly is an ARG? For the community, that definition is largely rooted in the ‘this is not a game’ aesthetic. ARGs are games that do not acknowledge that they are games; they pose as alternate realities hidden away in streams of dormant internet code. Their stories exist not in unified narrative, but are spread across phone lines, email addresses, websites and any other forms of media that the puppetmasters – that is, the game’s creators – deem to be useful. ARG’s exist in real-time as constantly evolving, potentially boundless storytelling experiences.
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.
The Hat, The Egg & the Chaos
Ong’s Hat: Hidden History or Piney Mythology
“…to vanish without having to kill yourself may be the ultimate revolutionary act…” The Sacred Jihad of Our Lady of Chaos
“..That story again! Man, that’s old hat..” …some Buddtown local
I remember 1978. I was an eight year old boy, in Brooklyn, where Avenue H meets Kings Highway. After battling my older brothers for the last bowl of Cap’t Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch, I’d settle in front of the tube for my all-time favorite morning show, (and still today – now owning all three seasons on DVD), Sid & Marty Kroft’s Land of the Lost. Kid TV shows of the 70′s were especially wrought with invasive weirdness; New Zoo Revue, The Magic Garden, The Patchwork Family…OH! and GIGGLESNORT HOTEL!! (what the F#@K was that about?) But Land of the Lost, for me, was the Led Zeppelin IV of children shows.
It all started with a road map of New Jersey. A little north of the Red Lion Circle, in the heart of the Burlington County Pine Barrens, the map depicted a tiny hamlet marked with the unusual name of “Ongs Hat.” In the early 1930s, Henry Charlton Beck, a reporter with the Camden Courier Post, became curious. After convincing his editor that a story could be found there, he and a photographer packed up a car and set off to investigate. Little did he know that his explorations at Ongs Hat, and a succession of later voyages to mysterious places in the hinterlands of New Jersey, would inspire generations of other “lost town hunters” –pouring over ancient maps, exploring dismal cellar holes in the middle of nowhere, and sharing their discoveries with one another – first by telephone and letter and presently through online forums.
We were told to look at this map to see a strange egg shaped ridge which some locals swear is the remnants of the old Ong’s Hat Ashram. Sure enough, there it is. Spooky!
A very interesting article/review of Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat.
From The Chronicle of Higher Education: Now, from the you-can-learn-something-new-every-day files, comes Michael Kinsella’s Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat.
From the article:
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 complementary account.
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.
The featured audio that I play in this podcast is part of a two-CD collection produced by Joe Matheny and given to the salon to podcast by the distributor, The Original Falcon Press, which you can find via originalfalcon.com. The voices you will here are those of: Douglas Rushkoff, Antero Alli, Tiffany Lee Brown, and Joseph Matheny.
Disclaimer: While I am quite proud of the framework I created to deliver the OH story (as outlined here, here, here and other places) I can no longer endorse some of the ideas used in the actual story content (co-created) or some views held by some of the people behind those ideas. I’ll leave it at that since I also despise gossip and those that traffic in it. This is not intended as Internet drama. I merely leave this as a historical record.
- Official Print Version: This is currently the only print version I endorse. I have made it available for people who just have to have a print book. It is priced at cost. For those unwilling or unable to use a non-Amazon ebook, there is a Kindle version priced at cost for purchase through Amazon.
- Various digital formats: Archive.org and Smashwords.
- iPad, iPhone, Android phone and tablet users may want to download the ePub version from Archive.org or Smashwords. If you want a version for your Kindle or Kindle reader software, you may download the mobi at Archive.org or Smashwords. PDF at Gutenberg. For those unwilling or unable to use a non-Amazon ebook, there is a Kindle version priced at cost for purchase through Amazon.
- Audiobook versions: There’s the official Audible, iTunes and Amazon versions here and the older radio drama style we did years ago here.
- The Zip/ISO of the original CD ROM/eBook can now be downloaded here and the graphic novel by itself here.
- Other related content on Archive.org like audio, video, etc.
Lorenzo ran more excerpts of one of my audio projects over at the Psychedelic Salon. This time Hakim Bey and Robert Anton Wilson from the T.A.Z. CDs. Enjoy.
“The Power of Art and the TAZ”
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.
My friend Lorenzo has posted another show of Robert Anton Wilson material on the ever edifying Psychedelic Salon. This one is audio excerpts from The I in the Triangle DVD that I produced (and introduced).
If you don’t know about “Mirror” I highly recommend it as a magazine of “High Weirdness”. I read every issue, cover to cover when it arrives in my mailbox. It is a print only publication and handily comes with a standard three hole punch so you can collect them all.
Lorenzo over at the Psychedelic Salon has (with my permission) put together a podcast of excerpts from the CD I produced, Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Sessions. I hope you enjoy and if you do, remember you can get your own copy at Original Falcon (on CD) or as a digital download form any number of download services. Complete list here.
I’ll be on OTHER WORLD RADIO tonight at 8pm PST
OTHER WORLD RADIO
with Sandra D. Sabatini, Host
Show starts USA: 11PM EDT USA / 10PM CDT / 9PM MST / 8PM PDT
Overseas listeners please check for your local time difference at: http://www.WorldTimeEngine.com/