In the ‘90s and early 2000s, seekers looking into the legend online began to believe that just reading about Ong’s Hat was starting to affect them. “People reported various synchronicities, strange dreams, unusual visual perceptions, and shifts in reality monitoring,” wrote Michael Kinsella, a professor at Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant and author of Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat, in an email.
If you were into science fiction or the paranormal, “you’d eventually butt up against Ong’s Hat,” said David Metcalfe, who runs social media for the University of Georgia Business School, and edits Threshold: Journal of Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies. When he discovered Ong’s Hat as a teen in the late ‘90s, said Metcalfe, “It was popping up on chat boards and message boards, it would bleed into your life.”
Unlike the Jersey Devil, or other Barrens horrors, this was no ordinary urban legend, shaped over years of teen campfire retellings in the woods. Rather the Ong’s Hat story, the Incunabula catalog, and the rest of the surrealistic sci-fi pretzel were manufactured by Matheny and his friends, like Herbert, over more than a decade, starting with photocopied pamphlets in the ‘80s, and bolstered with fake documents, radio show appearances, and other hijinx. But the exercise in collective storytelling made its deepest impression online, amassing a following of internet detectives who filled page after page on web forums and personal blog sites with research and theories about what really happened at Ong’s Hat.
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/
Topics include: Crimbus gifts, planning our funerals, Scary German Lady, Philly Legends: The Bubble Fairy, Josh is home alone, Alien Alloys, BFS Road Trip, Corrections and Josh’s Chaos Dimension: Ong’s Hat, the Pine Barrens, and Joseph Matheny
Characters: Sammy Squarespace (the CEO of Square Space)
This episode is part two of our interview with Joe Matheny. Part one, The Digital Underground, covered Joe’s experiences running The Grey Lodge, an early, underground private torrent tracker used by millions of people per month. Part two covers Joe’s groundbreaking ARG & literary work, Ong’s Hat, and its place in early internet culture, before we veer off into a discussion about how the ‘fakelore’ methods Joe used in the development of that work connect to the meme wars of today and the increasing political importance of memes (e.g. Kek, the ‘alt-right’ appropriation of Pepe The Frog.) We also discuss the very improbable connection (it really is) between Joe and Jamie, and how Joe became a patron of the show himself; PLUS, the potential for Kodi addons as a distribution point for indie creators.
A lockfile with all the links mentioned in this episode is coming up for Patrons. Enjoy!
Presented by TorrentFreak
The Grey Lodge was an underground private torrent tracker used by millions of people per month in their quest to uncover the esoteric, strange and the downright weird. In this episode we hear from Joe Matheny, one of the founders of the site, about how it kicked off in the very early days of BitTorrent, online culture in the early days of the Internet, proto-copyright trolls, how even weirdos eventually get pursued by the MPAA, and how the demise of indie trackers from Grey Lodge to What.CD mean a net loss for our culture.
Coming soon: the second part of this interview, in which Joe discusses his work as an early creator of “this is not a game” ARG experiences and his well-known work Ong’s Hat, The Incunabula Papers. We’ll be making that available for supporters on the Patreon (and maybe more widely) in due course. In the meantime, if you’re curious to take a look at some of Joe’s work, he’s been kind enough to give us a free pack including Ong’s Hat and some samples from his ARG! Enjoy.
Executive Producers: Mark Zapalac
3. Ong’s Hat.Translation: Ong’s Hat, New Jersey, was founded somewhere in the nineteenth century by a man named Ong after he tossed a hat into the air and it got caught on the branch of a tree … very interesting about hats history, but anyway, put that aside and turn our attention to parallel universes.Already by the 1930s, the city had become a ghost town, but despite this, it was never forgotten: this abandoned city became the subject of one of the first conspiracy theories of the Age of the Internet.Theory has it that during the 70s and 80s, a new scientific paradigm called “Chaos”, which sought to find the relationship between everyday situations, such as tying shoelaces or reading a book and all the consequences that each could bring – for example, you are going to tie your shoes, you find a book under the bed, you take the book with you, you’re going to read it to a place, a person goes, read the title on the cover, it seems curious, decide to buy the book, read the book and becomes a serial murderer because of that, that is, if you had not tied the laces at that exact moment, there would not have lost a serial murderer – began to gain popularity.Two groups of researchers, led by one Dobbs developed the theory that through awareness could model the universe itself, provided the ability to control the chaos and had, consequently, making available to the observer the journey other dimensions. Dobbs even have invented a machine that developed the brains of people to confront this strange complexity: the first sensory deprivation chamber dubbed “The Egg”. However, like any good story, this alternative has even more sinister than what you just read.One version says that Dobbs did nothing more than finding an interdimensional portal. Remember to Ong earlier this sub? Urban legend has it that he was a man who was always well dressed in a suit and a silk hat, who founded the city in 1920 and had serious problems with his hat did not stay on his head. Ong was a pretty weird guy and no one knew where he came from nor where he was … to be exact, no one knows where were all the villagers after 1936. All were very demure and only had contact with the inhabitants of the same village . Still, back in 1932, according to a local urban legend, things got weird. Gradually, the city seemed to be disappearing. In early 1936, there was no trace of the city, leaving only the brick structures that once stood up there and an old shed. No inhabitant, nothing but the wind always Ong defeated the hat.In 1970, Dobbs had come to the small left with a team of specialized scientists is populated Underground Constructions. For some reason – that is not entirely clear – Dobbs was aware that there was something on this village.And his hunch was correct, Dobbs supposedly found in a bunker sort of a machine called “The Egg” that allowed any man could travel between dimensions.
Translation: Ong’s Hat, New Jersey, was founded sometime in the 19th century by a man named Ong after he threw his hat in the air and lost it on a tree branch … a very interesting story about hats, but anyway, let’s leave it and then went back to the focus of the post!By 1920, the city became a ghost town, but despite that, she has not been forgotten: the abandoned town became the subject of one of the first conspiracy theories in the Internet Age.Account the theory that during the 1970s and 80s, a new scientific paradigm called “Chaos”, which is concerned with finding the correlation between everyday situations, such as tying your shoes and read a book and all the consequences that each of them can bring – for example, you were to tie the shoes, found the book under the bed, took the book with him, was read in a square, one person went, read the title of the cover, found curious, decided to buy the book, read the book and become a serial killer because of it, ie if you had not tied the cardaço that exact moment, there was no serial killer – began to gain popularity.Two groups of scientists, led by Dobbs developed a theory that through consciousness can model its own universe, since it is able to learn to control the chaos, and therefore providing the observer travel to other dimensions. Dobbs would even made up a machinery to develop people’s brains to meet this strange complexity: the first sensory deprivation chamber called “The Egg”. However, like every good story has even more sinister alternative versions that you just read!One of the other versions say that Dobbs did absolutely beyond finding a Interdimensional Portal! Ong remembers the beginning of this item?For the urban legend is the fact that he was a man always very well dressed in a suit and silk hat who founded this city in 1920 and had serious problems with his hat that he kept in his head. Ong was a very strange guy and nobody knows where it came from or where it was … to be exact, no one knows where all the villagers were after 1936. All were very modest and only maintained ties with the residents of the home village. However, around 1932, according to local urban legend, things got weird. Gradually, the town seemed to be disappearing! In early 1936, there was nothing else in the city, but bricks representing the structures that once were there and an old shed. No inhabitant, nothing but the wind that always knocked the hat Ong.In 1970, Dobbs would come to the small abandoned village with a team of scientists specializing in Underground Structures. For a Reason- it was unclear – Dobbs would have known that there was something beneath the village. And it seems that his hunch was right! Dobbs would be found in a bunker sort of a machine called “The Egg” that allowed that any man could travel between dimensions.When this urban legend on the Internet came around 1999, received a new look at the story of Joseph Matheny. The urban legend hoax and ended up turning meme and eventually won hundreds of versions. The truth is that the towns of Burlington County always told lurid stories about this ghost town, though, where reality ends and fiction begins only Dobbs – if it exists – can say (although it is difficult to contact him now that he is in another dimension).
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
Above image used with permission of the artist. Courtesy of James Koehnline : http://www.koehnline.com/
A professional version of The Incunabula Papers: Ong’s Hat and Other Gateways to New Dimensions is currently available for Audible.com, Amazon.com and iTunes.com. (coming soon) It is narrated by the inimitable James Lewis.
REVIEWERS: Contact me for a free review copy. Just let me know what podcast/show/blog you intend to review it for.
Note to creatives reading this: If you have any audio v/o projects and you want to work with a consummate professional and all around nice guy, you can’t do better than James.
Here’s a sample of my conversation with Nick Herbert, read by James, so you can get a sense of the quality (Click the blue “Listen” button below to hear the sample).
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.”
A few collected Ong’s Hat literary references from 2014. Other references pre-2014 can be found on the Reviews page. I only include the ones which directly relate to the legend as told in my works, not the historic references about the lost town itself.
Notice: Inclusion in this list in NO WAY IMPLIES AN ENDORSEMENT
Ong’s Hat spin off novels by other writers:
- Conspiracy! The Movie, The Novel (Ong’s Hat Ashram legend plays a significant role in this book)
- The Haunting of Ong’s Hat
- Ong’s Hat by Steven Reeves (actually uses the Egg and the travel cults as a central theme in the story)
- Ong’s Hat and a mysterious cult called The Ong’s Hat Flagellants plays a major role in Turnpike Flameout
- Ong’s Hat and mysterious non-existent books describing dimensional portals (Ong’s Hat: Adventures of Other Dimensions and Time) used in the plot of Quhaunt’em: a novel
Other references (non-fiction)
- My interview with Nick Herbert (from Ong’s Hat) referenced in The Physics of Miracles: Tapping in to the Field of Consciousness Potential
- Ong’s Hat section in The Geomantic Year: A Calendar of Earth-Focused Festivals that Align the Planet with the Galaxy
- Ongs Hat mentioned in The Big Book of New Jersey Ghost Stories
- Ong’s Hat mentioned in New Jersey Ghost Towns: Uncovering the Hidden Past
- Ong’s Hat: The Beginning cited in Prisoner of Words
- My friend D.R. Haney: Room 32 – A great story all on it’s own, but with the strange appearance of a picture from room 32 where the phrase “Jim is in Ong’s Hat” can clearly be seen. (also ran on Salon) The rest of “Room 32″ is now available as an e-book in the Kindle Store. To get it, please click here.
News and Popular Media
- A political post from Salon, , AUG 26, 2010 which has the quote: “The summer of 1963, then, was marked by graduation from the liturgical approach of loose, liberal Christianity to the crazy quilt Moorish Orthodox Church of America, my natural next home. An offshoot or perhaps incarnation of the Moorish Science Temple, the MOCA comprised a group of jazz musicians, poets, artists, improvisational comics and a few deeply weird people like the guy with the mustache and cape (that’s all I ever knew of his identity — he much resembled Brian Stack’s “The Interrupter” from the Conan O’Brien show decades later). As an acolyte of Salvador Dali (along with one of my close friends from school, who also taught martial arts and built explosive devices), the MOCA was a natural magnet for someone like me. It’s served me well off and on over the years as it has waxed and waned as a force. The nominal headquarters still operate in Ong’s Hat, N.J., in case anyone might conceivably be interested.”
Chapter dedicated to Ong’s Hat in Destinations Across Paranormal America 2 by Hugh Mungus
It’s a widely held belief the legend of Ong’s Hat is the ﬁctional brainchild of author Joseph Matheny. Matheny posted his saga on the Internet in the early 1990s, in attempts to insert the story into the collective consciousness of the then-burgeoning World Wide Web. If you’ve ever watched the lonelygirl15 webisodes on http://www.youtube.com, you’ll understand this anecdotal blending with online reality. To those not familiar with lonelygirl15, it was the precursor to Destinations Across Paranormal America 20 vlogging, videotaping oneself rambling about various subject matter, and posting it on the Internet for the world to view. Debuting in 2006, lonelygirl15 was created by a group of young ﬁlmmakers. Although ﬁctional, the show was initially believed by its audience to be fact. The story followed the everyday existence of a teenaged girl named Bree. As the production gained popularity, and its fanciful nature was revealed, two derivative series — centered around conspiracy theories — were produced.
Back to Ong’s Hat, baby! There are those who claim Matheny’s legend is true. Whether or not one believes the Ong’s Hat saga is beside the point, contends its creator, who asserts his work stemmed from an actual written narrative known as the Incunabula Papers. To be certain, it’s a lot of information to digest. Reading Ong’s Hat: The Beginning, listening to the Incunabula Papers on-line (see the Bibliography) or visiting southern New Jersey, would be great initial steps to unraveling this mystery.
Much more in the book! Read it all on-line (Ong’s Hat chapter is chapter 13)
or get it at Amazon
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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
THE BUSINESS OF STORYTELLING: PRODUCTION OF WORKS, POACHING COMMUNITIES, AND CREATION OF STORY WORLDS
by Bakioglu, Burcu S., Ph.D., INDIANA UNIVERSITY, 2009, 402 pages; 3373494
Accepted by the Graduate Faculty, Indiana University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
A paper [PDF] that uses copious quotes from This is Not a Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming and has section about the Ong’s Hat project.
My study is an analysis of the divergent ways the materiality of works affect the process of meaning-making across various media and investigates how it influences the production of works. A work born in media convergence inevitably elicits hybrid forms of story-telling that offer immersive and interactive environments in which users are expected to perform certain activities. In such an environment, I argue that storytelling becomes a collaborative, and more importantly, a participatory process. My dissertation, ultimately, interrogates the nature of performativity and collaboration in works that extend across various media. I develop the model of performative narratives to refer to works that encourage and rely on such activities for the formation of their texts, such as experimental novels, YouTube videos, Alternate Reality Games, and multi-user virtual environments that are based on user-generated content such as Second Life. As such, my study investigates how works become sites of struggle because the stories that they narrate are in a state of constant negotiation between its producers/creators, the medium of the work, and the communities that these works mobilize.