Tag Archives: joseph matheny

Corrections to Brian Dunning’s Skeptoid Podcast About Ong’s Hat

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:

Skeptoid says:

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 reply:

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

Skeptoid says:

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.

I reply:

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.

T=Robert Anton Wilson, Nina Graboi (back turned to camera), Joseph Matheny at the 2nd Street compound, 1991

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.

From the Left: Purple shirt- I forget, bottom row- Nick Herbert, Nina Graboi, Jenny the Angel Lady, Ralph Abraham, Pink Sweater- I forget. Back row from the left- Elizabeth Gips, Paddy Long, Joseph Matheny, Ted and two friends from Millbrook west. The end, the pink sweater I forgot her name, end, pink vest with a blue shirt, Betsy Herbert.

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

Skeptoid says:

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.

I reply:

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”:

Games Magazine, 2013 https://josephmatheny.com/2013/05/16/the-rise-of-the-arg-games-investigates-alternate-reality-games-and-what-the-future-has-in-store-for-the-curious-experiment/

“ 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…

Example of clickable image form ebook.

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

Skeptoid says:

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.

I reply:

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

Also, see

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.

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.

ALSO, SEE-

BRIAN DUNNING ON THE JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE: A MASTERCLASS IN BAD SKEPTICISM

The Worst Thing Brian Dunning Has Done for Skepticism

Joe Rogan and Brian on Twitter

Brian’s “Shell Game”? 

Some of Brian’s “Greatest Hits” 

Skeptoid’s Dunning: The Story of a Man Who Hoodwinks Unskeptical Skeptics*

 

Grimerica: Denny Unger and Joseph Matheny – Alternative Reality Games and Conspiracies

Here’s a show with Grimerica that I recently did with my old friend Denny Unger along with the hosts of Grimerica, D-Ron, and Grahambo.

There’s one more interview I did back in December of 2018, supposedly still floating around in post-production limbo. If that ever sees the light of day,  then that is it. No more interviews.

I made an exception for this one because Denny and I have never done an interview together and I really liked the idea of our great team dynamic being on display in an interview. I hope you enjoy.


Show notes

Interview Starts at 36:05
Denny Unger and Joseph Matheny join us for the last chat about Ong’s Hat, Alternative Reality games, Magick and the last couple decades of Conspiracy Culture.
Denny is the CEO and Creative Directive of Cloudhead Games and used to run the website darkplanet in the early 90’s which was a big part of the Ong’s Hat mystery.
Joseph is an internet litterbug from the ironic school of conspiracy, reality hacker, storyteller, synchronicity inducter, and a hypermedium magician among many others.
We chat about how synchronicities and how they multiply when people get interesting in AR, and the flip flop aspect of the Mandela affect.  We chat about the various aspects of the Ong’s Hat mystery, weaponization of contemporary conspiracies, Joseph’s past interviews, Alternative Reality Gaming, legend tripping, grift, pizzagate, ritual magick, zen, larping, and Q just to name a few….

 

Ong’s Hat: The Early Internet Conspiracy Game That Got Too Real

LINK TO Gizmodo piece on Ong’s Hat, from 2/21/19

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.

LINK TO Gizmodo piece on Ong’s Hat, from 2/21/19

Decoder Ring: The Incunabula Papers

What lies at the heart of Ong’s Hat?

Listen to this episode of Decoder Ring: 

LINK TO DECODER RING PAGE

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

Email: decoderring@slate.com
Twitter: @willapaskin

This episode was co-written and edited by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch. Benjamin Frisch produced the episode.

*SPOILER ALERT* In case anyone missed it, here is the game that was embedded in that episode: https://www.reddit.com/r/trustaleph/ 

Ong’s Hat: The Original ARG – Sex, Drugs & Quantum Physics

Ong’s Hat, also known as The Incunabula, is the original ARG and laid the ground for all future experiments in transmedia storytelling. Join me as we take a brief look at the tale of a ghost town in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey…

FOLLOW THE WEIRDNET: TWITTER: @theweirdnet GAB.AI: @THEWEIRDNET FACEBOOK: @welcometotheweirdnet INSTAGRAM: @theweirdnet MINDS: https://www.minds.com/THEWEIRDNET ALTERNATIVE VIDEO SITES BITCHUTE: http://bit.ly/weirdnetbitchute OTHER PROJECTS: IDENTMUSIC/TOMMY SINGS: https://www.youtube.com/user/IdentMusic THE SCOTTISH STORYTLLER: http://bit.ly/TheScottishStoryteller

Best Friend Simulator Episode 16: Those Mummy Flippin’ Flintknappers/ Ong’s Hat

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)

LINKhttps://bestfriendsimulator.podbean.com/e/episode-16-those-mummy-flippin-flintknappers-ongs-hat/

Cosmic Trigger Audiobook

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Here is a reading I did of  a segment of the late Robert Anton WIlson’s book: Cosmic Trigger. This reading was done at the bequest of the people putting on the play: Cosmic Trigger, currently showing in the UK.  There are other people reading chapters, I believe with the intention of there being an audio-book assembled out the pieces.

I hope you enjoy.

cm-listen-icon_0https://soundcloud.com/cosmic-trigger-play/05a

To see all the Robert Anton WIlson freebies available from this site, go here.

Audiobook- The Incunabula Papers: Ong’s Hat and Other Gateways to New Dimensions

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Above image used with permission of the artist.  Courtesy of James Koehnline : http://www.koehnline.com/

Available now:

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.

Of course, the free radio play version P. Emerson Williams and I did years ago remains and will always remain available for free in the commons

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).

Listen

2014 Literary References to Ong’s Hat in Other Works: A Collection

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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:

Other references (non-fiction)

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.”

Destinations Across Paranormal America 2

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Chapter dedicated to Ong’s Hat in Destinations Across Paranormal America 2  by Hugh Mungus

Excerpt:

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

The Rise Of The ARG: games™ investigates alternate reality games and what the future has in store for the curious experiment.

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.

pdficon_largeComplete article here: The Rise Of The ARG: games™ investigates alternate reality games and what the future has in store for the curious experiment. 

Here is a small excerpt (used with permission) from that article:

Excerpt: 

“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.

Continue reading The Rise Of The ARG: games™ investigates alternate reality games and what the future has in store for the curious experiment.

The Surprising Online Life of Legends – Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat

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.

Read it here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/pageview/the-surprising-online-life-of-legends/29221

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.

Continue reading The Surprising Online Life of Legends – Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat

Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat

Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat

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.)

Continue reading Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat

Coincidence Control Network: File #009

This week: The death of Megaupload, Legislation that could kill Internet privacy, Has George Lucas really retired?, History being made by blackouts, Jim Henson avant garde, Sega Toylets, How the US lost out on iPhone production, and shooting nails into your brain.

 Listen on-line or download here

Personnel – Joseph MathenyNicholas PellKim Monaghan, and Ken Eakins.

Email us with stories you think we should discuss here.

Continue reading Coincidence Control Network: File #009

Monoskop Log reblog – Michael Kinsella: Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat (2011)

Sourcehttp://monoskop.org/log/?p=8717

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
208 pages

  • review (Peter Monaghan, Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • review (David J. Puglia, Journal of Folklore Research)
  • review (Óli Gneisti Sóleyjarson, Folklore)
  • Legend tripping at Wikipedia

publisher
google books

Download
Download (alt link)

THE BUSINESS OF STORYTELLING: PRODUCTION OF WORKS, POACHING COMMUNITIES, AND CREATION OF STORY WORLDS

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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.

pdficon_largeA 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.

Abstract:

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.


Thriving Underground Website Anonymously Markets Illegal Drugs

I’m cited as an “expert” in this article by my old friend David Jay Brown. It’s about Bitcoin and Silk Road.

Read it here: The Silk Road website uses an anonymous browser, untraceable currency, shifting servers and an encrypted Web address to allow for a thriving illegal drug trade on the Internet.

To learn more about Silk Road, and about the Bitcoin economy that fuels it, I interviewed transmedia writer/artist Joseph Matheny, who is an expert on computer encryption and the underground Internet economy. According to Matheny, ordering from Silk Road is generally safe, if you know what you’re doing and take the proper precautions.

Now see me blather and spew on Kindle as well!

Just an update: Some titles I wrote and/or contributed to are now available on Kindle.

Robert Anton Wilson Remembered

Robert Anton Wilson Remembered [Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition]

get it on:

UPDATE: This collection is now availabe on Archive.org

by Douglas Rushkoff (Author, Narrator), Antero Ali (Author, Narrator), Tiffany Brown (Author, Narrator), David Brown (Author), Zac Odin (Author), Joseph Matheny (Author, Narrator), Alan Meridian (Narrator)

 

New Book Coming Out: Rebels and Devils

Rebels & DevilsRebels & Devils

The Psychology of Liberation

edited by Christopher S. Hyatt, Ph.D. introduced by S. Jason Black foreword by Nicholas Tharcher contributions by William S. Burroughs Joseph C. Lisiewski, Ph.D. Timothy Leary Ph.D., Robert Anton Wilson, Austin Osman Spare, Genesis P-Orridge, Aleister Crowley, Joseph Matheny, Peter J. Carroll, Israel Regardie, Jack Parsons, Phil Hine, Osho, and many others.

I feel honored to be included in such rebellious company. Available Now.

The GSpot: Mark Mallman

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Joseph Matheny in conversation with the diversely creative spirit, Mark Mallman.

Listen here


“Criminally under appreciated” and “The greatest indie songwriter you’ve never heard” are both phrases written in the past 12 years of Mark Mallman’s professional career.  He’s opened for the likes of Donovan, Of Montreal, Cat Power, Green Day, Howie Day, Linda Ronstadt, Tegan and Sara, and Guided by Voices to name a select few.  His songs have been featured on This American Life, MTV, VH1, MSNBC, Current Television, and Public Radio International.  In Minneapolis, he boasts a star on the side of First Avenue Nightclub.  He is also featured contributor in the book “Music Theory for Dummies”.

As front man for Kindercore records electro/house/rock act, Ruby Isle – or composer for major motion picture trailers such as 10000bc, Adventureland, The Hitcher, and The Haunting of Molly Hartley – Mark Mallman has accomplished more creatively than most artists twice his age.  Unlike ANY other artist, he’s performed the longest rock song ever written, a piano solo with the rear tire of a full sized motor scooter, and for 10 hours inside of a refrigerator box.  His newest release, “Invincible Criminal”, was released  fall of 2009 on Badman Recording Company (My Morning Jacket, Starf***ker) .

www.markmallman.com
www.markmallmancomposer.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Mallman

The GSpot: Yony Leyser

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Joseph Matheny in conversation with filmmaker Yony Leyser director of the documentary “William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

Listen to or download show here


Yony Leyser is a twenty-five-year-old filmmaker living in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He has directed several short films. After being kicked out of film school, he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, and began his passionate first feature film, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within,  about one of the most interesting icons of
the 20th century,

He also works as a curator, video artist and photographer, documenting people who are outside the mainstream of society. His photograph series have included Ida, a utopian transgender commune in Tennessee; Christiana, an anarchist village in Copenhagen; Kopi, Berlin’s largest
squat, and naked bike rides in the US. His work has been shown work in galleries and theaters in Chicago, New York, London, Berlin, Paris,
Vienna and Los Angeles. Yony Leyser brings a more personal perspective to Burroughs’ legacy, examining the private versus the public personae
of Burroughs and the effect this may have had on his most intimate
self.

http://www.burroughsthemovie.com/