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Conventional UnConventioneers

It was the first day on UnCon today, that's the Fortean Times convention. There are twelve one hour lectures each day arranged in two streams of six. Today chilledchimp and I went to 4 1/2 each.

We both went to see Mike Dash's Spring-Heeled Jack, an extensive investigation into what is usually thought of a Victorian phenomenon although Mike has evidence stretching as far back as 1677 and as wide as Russia and New Zealand. I think we'll be getting the book when it comes out.

Next was Theo Paijmans doing something similar for the Woman in Black. Unfortunately Theo was no Mike. He read a prepared script, it was very florid and meandering and then people started to leave, so much so that you couldn't hear what he was saying. So we left too and had a cuppa instead.

For the final lecture of the morning chilledchimp went to see Jan Bondeson talking about rains of animals, the quintessential fortean phenomena, and I listened to Ian Simmons talking about space mythologies and music. This, with copious videos, was about musicians who had created their own extensive space mythologies (no Bowie or Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, he saw these as being either space themed or not having their own extensive mythology). First up was Joe Meek and his attempt to produce a space album. This didn't really get anywhere and was later recycled as country and western. Then we had a nod to the space them with the Floyd, Hawkwind's Space Ritual, the French Gong and Magma (for which there was a clip of them 'terrorising some priests in a French sci-fi B movie').

Then we got into the really weird, a heating salesman from Scotland who reinvented himself as Ramses and appeared with his wife as Selket. He then moved to Lowestoft with his mother-in-law and made one of the first albums with a cover by Roger Dean.

Next was Sun Ra, a black American from Alabama who claimed to be an Egyptian spaceman from Saturn. His Arkestra stills run a convenince store in Philadelphia to support their music.

Finally there was a nod to Stockhausen who claimed late in life to have come from Sirius.

After a very nice lunch in Leon, we watched a talk called Psychedelia Forteana about the history and influence on the Fortean of LSD. It was a jolly talk including this clip of British soldiers tripping and a certain amount of talking up the benefits of getting off your head.

Finally, chilledchimp went to see Gail Nina Anderson talking bats and I saw a genial discussion about the nature of hoaxes with reference to Virginia Woolf's Egyptian delegation getting on HMS Dreadnought, the Bolton forger (who seemed possibly less driven by money and more by rejection by the art establishment, southerners and a chip on his shoulder about Bolton), a UFO hoax in Warminster, Dr Beringer's stones and crop circles.

One woman from the audience complained that the American burn mark circles were genuine but one of the presenters said he knew the man who had purchased the iron powder used in the hoax.

This might have worked better as a presentation because the chatting didn't really get anywhere but the subjects were interesting enough (even if I knew most of them). The Museum of Hoaxes is a good resource in this respect.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
What's Spring-Heeled Jack?

Nov. 2nd, 2008 01:07 am (UTC)
A ruffian or a devil who accosts women, breathes blue fire in their faces and escapes by leaping over walls and buildings.

It's all nonsense of the highest, and most entertaining, order.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 2nd, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)
It's a strange mixture that lurks on the borderlands of academia. Whilst several of the speakers were professors of sociology or psychology (anomalous or otherwise), to a certain extent many of them shun the establishment believing that it will damage their credibility.

Today's talk on Folklore v Forteana examined this rift, albeit not very well.
Nov. 2nd, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)
As a bare to the bones skeptic, I would love to attend a Fortean convention just to hear what was being said. That there may even still be a tradition of scholarship with it, I confess I'm very much out of the rain-of-frogs loop and have been since the early 1990's.

It is in the absurd and fantastic that you hear the collective riff of the human consciousness having the best of larks, we can often learn more about ourselves through the absurd than the mundane.
Although both are fair grounds for examination.
Nov. 5th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
Only just read this, and the title: Boris Johnson was there?
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )