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Super-Sargasso Surfin'

by Dave (daev) Walsh


After spending any reasonable amount of time recording and cataloguing the odder aspects of daily life on this planet, certain conclusions almost beg to be arrived at, such as "people are generally speaking, nuts," or that perhaps half the population really are more intelligent than the average person. But from these studies, one starts to get a grasp on the "bigger picture" that Charles Fort and hundreds of others have devoted so much time, in some cases even their lifetimes, examining. In the last year, while researching my weekly email newsletter, Blather
[1], several events and a few tenuous mental tangents brought me to consider Fort's humorous hypothesis on the "Super-Sargasso Sea," an aerial ocean from which eels migrate back to old mother earth, aided by the wonderful force of gravity. But when rather out-of-date military projectiles and then--saints preserve us--people starting falling out of the sky, questions arise about the connections between "Magonia"--the possible home of historical "aerial sailing ships"--and the "Super-Sargasso."


Amphibious Vertical Migrations

The Associated Press, on 8th July 1997, reported that on Saturday 5th July, at around 11 pm, it rained toads in the Mexican town of Villa Angel Flores, in the Pacific Coast state of Sinaloa. Apparently a "mini tornado" picked them up from a pond and dumped them on the town. The Fortean Times On line Reporting Service
[2], which is wired into the Forteana mailing list [3], had a posting culled from BBC teletext of 26th June 1997, via Rompes news agency, which told of people in Southern Romania rising from their beds after heavy rain overnight to find themselves up to their ankles in frogs. (I would presume that the people of Southern Romania sleep indoors, and the correspondant was merely indulging in colourful hyperbolic metaphor.) The report concluded that the frogs had been sucked up by strong winds, carried long distances and deposited in the Urziceni region.

Typically enough, neither of these run-of-the-mill (if bizarre) reports state how this can happen, or more importantly why it was only toads and frogs that the tornado or strong winds allegedly picked up. This phenomenon has been reported in some shape or form for hundreds of years, and there's still precious little information as to why these rains are so selective. Sometimes it's berries, sometimes it's fish, and sometimes of course, the classic frog falls. Charles Fort's Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), and Lo! (1931)
[4] record many of these reports of weird organic and apparently manufactured "rain" from all over the world, with all sorts of interesting ingredients, including alabaster, ants, ashes, beef, beetle larvae, berries, bitumen, blood, butter, charcoal, china fragments (naturally vitrified?), cinders, coal, cobwebs, coins, crabs, crayfish, eels, fish, flesh, gelatinous matter, grain, hay, ice, iron balls, jelly fish, limestone, lizards, mud, mussels, oyster shells, periwinkles, quartz, resin, salt, sand, sandalwood, seeds, silk, snails, snakes, spawn, spiders, carved and shaped stones, turtles, and of course, toads and frogs. But never all at once, you understand.

Fish are a particular favourite of fall aficionados, spawning the likes of the "mad fishmonger" explanation for the Worcester fish fall of 1881. (Much study has gone in this phenomenon, Bob Rickard's collection of E.W. Gudger's work in Fortean Studies 2 springs to mind, as well as a recent issue of Fortean Times
[5].)


Crows, well, they'd be in the sky anyway, wouldn't they?

On Monday December 21st 1997, I received an article from Daniel Ko in Hong Kong, with news from The Nation (Thailand) on Saturday, 29th November, 1997 (ppA7). It told of a "Village stoned by crows" in southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan on Thursday the 27th. Between 200 and 300 crows flew overhead as a "black cloud" before suddenly dropping dead into the village of Dujiangyan. The China News Service said that "Only a dozen got away, making desperate cries as they flew." "Experts" were quoted as saying that the crows could have been suddenly killed by poisoning. I suppose we are expected to be content with such an explanation.

Other notable falls of 1997 include a couple of blocks of ice hitting the ground in Brazil in July. One of them, which crashed through the roof of bus factory, weighed more than 50kg. On 28th November, reports came in about "purple blotches" found all over peoples homes, gardens and cars in Rochester, New York. Airplane lavatory fluid was quickly ruled out, according to theAssociated Press, and a theory concerning the droppings of berry-eating birds was introduced, which understandably enough left many people unconvinced.


Dimension Hopping Cannonballs?

Apart from "rains" of materials, other than the various forms of dihydrogen monoxide, there exists reports of single, or relatively small numbers of, falls of apparently man made objects. A "civil war-type" missile tore through a window and two walls of Leonard and Kathy Mickelson's mobile home in House Springs, Missouri, on Thursday night 16th of October 1997, according to the Associated Press. Nobody was home when it happened, and the neighbours noticed nothing strange. Police are reportedly investigating the possible use of a small cannon, a weapon readily available for Civil War re-enactments. Just three days later, on the 19th, in an apparently unrelated yet somehow relevant incident reported by the Associated Press in Cincinnati, Ohio, a 14-year-old boy was severely injured by an exploding gunpowder charge during a Civil War re-enactment.

Following this news, and while researching "The Smoking Cannon" for Blather
[6], I spent into the wee hours of the morning poring over the books of Charles Fort and others, but I could find no mention of cannonballs from the sky. (Obviously he didn't record cannonballs that would have fallen during wars.) As the Honourable Mr. Andy Silverman pointed out on the Forteana mailing list, perhaps the "civil war-type" projectile plummeted from Fort's hypothetical heavenly Super-Sargasso Sea--from which many eels have reportedly migrated back to solid earth, rather than liquid water. Mr. Silverman goes on to wonder if a stray cannonball from the Ohio re-enactment was lost in the floating Sargasso

I was inclined to ponder, if such a floating sea, as ridiculous as it seems, manages to exist, why should we be at all bothered by the trivial matter of the Ohio re-enactment taking place after the House Springs cannonball incident? (i.e., daft as it sounds, perhaps the Mickelson's missile transcended time and space and possibly several other dimensions, to make sure it was home and waiting for them.) If I may be even sillier, perhaps the damned things have been hanging around in the sky since the U.S. Civil War! What goes up, must come down. . . sometime?

Or then again, surely such an aerial ocean has maritime vessels floating about in it. . . the missile may have been a stray from some heavenly hostile exchange between alien galleons.

Recently, while delving through James Hardiman's 1843 notes to Roderick O'Flaherty's A Description of West or H-Iar Connaught (1684), in a search for anomalous animal reports (and I can conclude that I found many, including mentions of Irish crocodiles!), by complete chance I stumbled across the following, in a note pertaining to the appearance of "Demon Ships" in Galway Bay in 1161 A.D., which was mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, a year-by-year history of Ireland from the "earliest times" to 1616, compiled by four friars in the Abbey of Donegal in Bundrowes, on the coast near Bundoran
[7].

"Fantastical Ships --Our annalists, in recording this occurrence, call these ships loinger demnacda. . . the meaning of demnacda, which literally signifies devilish or diabolical, from deaman (demon), the evil spirit. But our author's phrase, "fantastical ships" (viz., visionary, or having the appearance of a phantom, not real), was happily chosen to express this instance of atmospheric refraction. [Ah, the wonders of science.] The writer remembers to have seen, when a boy, a well-defined aerial phenomenon of this kind, from a rising ground near the mountain of Cruach-Patrick [a.k.a. Croagh Patrick]. It was on a serene evening in the autumn of 1798. Hundreds who also witnessed the scene believed it supernatural; but it was soon afterwards found to have been caused by the fleet of Admiral Warren, then in pursuit of a French squadron, off the west coast of Ireland."

The Annals of the Four Masters holds other mentions of strange aerial vessels; "Ships, with their crews, were plainly seen in the sky this year." The year? 743 A.D.
[8].

After much hunting about, some other references were unearthed. In "Mystery Airships of the 1800's" by Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman in Fate magazine of June 1973
[9], which states the following:

"An ancient obscure Irish manuscript, Speculum Regali, records an incident that supposedly occurred in the year 956 A. D.: 'There happened in the borough of Cloera, one Sunday while people were at mass, a marvel. In this town there is a church to the memory of St. Kinarus. It befell that a metal anchor was dropped from the sky, with a rope attached to it, and one of the sharp flukes caught in the wooden arch above the church door.The people rushed out of the church and saw in the sky a ship with men on board, floating at the end of the anchor cable, and they saw a man leap overboard and pull himself down the cable to the anchor as if to unhook it. "He appeared as if he were swimming in water. "The folk rushed up and tried to seize him; but the bishop forbade the people to hold the man for fear it might kill him. The man was freed and hurried up the cable to the ship, where the crew cut the rope and the ship rose and sailed away out of sight. But the anchor is in the church as a testimony to this singular occurrence.'"

Naturally enough, after perusing various texts on the mystery airships of the last century, I began to wonder how much recoil a cannon carrying airship could stand, without propelling itself into the past or future.

Soon after Blather's 'Smoking Cannon' issue, folklorist Leslie Ellen Jones stumbled across the following on page 11 of Daibhi O Croinin's Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200
[10]:

"The Annals of Ulster, for example, in the year AD 749 report that ships were seen in the air (some said above the monastery of Clonmacnois). Other sources report a similar episode at Teltown, during the reign of Congalach mac Maele Mithig (d. AD 956), when a ship appeared in the air above a market fair (oenach) and a member of the crew cast a spear down at a salmon below. When he came down to retrieve the spear a man on the ground took hold of him, whereupon the man from above said: 'Let me go! I'm being drowned!' Congalach ordered that the man be released and he scurried back up to his shipmates, 'who were all that time looking down, and were laughing together.' Well they might. There is no point in trying to explore the Otherworld with the apparatus and outlook of the science laboratory: flying ships are not subject to the laws of quantum mechanics."(Leslie adds that 'the actual text and translation of this episode is cited as being in Myles Dillon, 1960, "Laud Misc. 610", 'Celtica,' pp. 64-76, and Kuno Meyer, 1908, "Irish mirabilia in the Norse 'Speculum Regale,'" 'Eriu', vol. 4, part 1, pp. 1-16.')

So how does all this relate to "Magonia," a symbolic point of reference to the home of all and mysterious and apparently manned aerial craft throughout the ages--a kind of Super-Sargasso Sea without the humour, popularised by astrophysicist and UFO researcher Jacques Vallee?

The word 'Magonia' originates from a series of events, believed to have taken place in Lyons, France around 833A.D., and which Jean Louis Brodu
[11], presents a English translation from the French of Saint Agobard, De la GrÍle et du tonnerre (Imprimerie de Dumoulin, Ronet et Sibuet, Lyons 1841), which is translated from the Latin of Archbishop Agobard of Lyons who tells us that:

'We have seen and heard from a lot of people so mad and blind as to believe and to assert that there exists a certain region called Magonia, from which ships, navigating on clouds, set sail to transport back to this same region the fruits of the earth ruined by hail and destroyed by storm, after the value of the wheat and the other fruits have been paid by these aerial navigators to the tempestarii, from whom they have received them. We have even seen several of these senseless fools who, believing the reality of such absurd things, brought in front of an assembly of men four persons in chairs, three men and a woman, who they said had fallen from these ships. They retained them in irons for some days, before they brought them before me, followed by the crowd, to stone them to death as they had been condemned, but after a long discussion, the truth finally triumphed after the many reasonings which I opposed to them and those who had shown them to the people were found, as a proverb has it, as much confused as a thief when he is surprised."

Vallee's "Magonia" interpretations, while streets ahead of the run-of-the-mill extraterrestrial hypothesis and flying saucer pabulum popular today, deserves some criticism, and received an interesting barrage from Brodu who accuses Vallee of being a little too fond of referencing the abbot Montfaucon de Villars 1670 "studies" of the Magonia material, in his cabalistic book Le Comte de Gabalis ou entren sur les sciences secrets (The Count of Gabalis, or Briefing on the Secret Sciences). Brodu seems to find this work to be a glossed-over popularist work, and too apocryphal and satirical to use as an absolute reference, as well as being laced with cabalistic "secrets."

In Gervase of Tilbury's Otia Imperialis from the 13th century, a very similar event is described as having taken place around 1200 A.D. at a church near Bristol, which brings to mind the "Card Playing Devil on a Stormy Night" form of ghost story, which seems to be linked to several "haunted houses" in Ireland and Britain. Loftus Hall in Wexford and "The Hellfire Club" in the Dublin mountains spring to mind
[12]. Could the various texts have being describing the same story, or even the same parable, misinterpretation, or mistranslation? As for the form of these UFOs, an apparent aerial vessel would have been possibly described as a sailing ship, just as various people were cataloguing reports of "mystery airships" long before the days of "flying saucers." It's always worth bearing in mind that the UFO phenomenon is not as new as we like to think, "visitations" of one form or other are the basis of many belief systems, and date back to at least the beginning of history.

All this, of course, doesn't necessarily explain the cannonball buried inside Leonard and Kathy Mickelson's mobile home.


But people...?

On December 1st 1997, Reuters told of a body discovered in a canefield in Palm Beach County, Florida. Police reckoned that it was a missing sky diver who plunged to his [er, apparent?] death a week beforehand.

"We believe it is the body of Omar Lozada but I can't confirm it yet," said Mark Phillips of Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Lozada went missing after crashing into Victor Govone, 25, as they were free-falling from about 5,000 feet. Govone had only minor injuries. The Palm Beach Post of Friday 28th November said that James Michael Darby had died while his ski board was hit by another sky diver and he crashed into a lake.

These deaths are hardly classifiable as forteana, until you read the news from Reuters on Wednesday 3rd of December, of the body of a woman in her 30s or 40s, dressed in black, which fell from somewhere on to a garden wall, resulting in massive fatal injuries. The Miami Herald reported her body was nearly ripped in half. And where is Miami? It's in Florida.

Initially investigators reckoned that she had fallen from an aircraft, but have since decided that this isn't the case. They now feel that she fell from a nearby apartment balcony, due to the kind of injury, and the reasonably high temperature of the body, which supposedly means that she fell from a low altitude. They don't seem to have considered a small, pressurised low-flying aircraft.

Later, the Associated Press said that she had been named as Helene Deborah Gusik, and the police reckoned that she had fallen from a nearby apartment block, but didn't know why she was even in the building.

Reuters also mentions that on 23rd May, 1996, "a teenage boy found in a Miami street the body of a man who apparently fell from the wheel well of an aircraft about to land at Miami International Airport. Police concluded the man, whose body was smudged with airplane grease, was a stowaway."

Now I may be jumping to conclusions, but isn't that an awful lot of people falling out of the sky in one state? Call me Chicken Licken, but consider these tales with the plethora of bizarre aircraft accidents in Florida these last couple of years, and you would be forgiven for sticking to surface travel for manoeuvring your way around that particular neck of the woods, remembering to wearing a hard hat.

Perhaps the winds of change have blown a piece of Fort's Super-Sargasso Sea into position over Florida? (It could be on a south-easterly drift from House Springs, Missouri.) Were people falling from that place which seems to divulge ships, cannonballs and vertically migrating eels? Bear in mind that I'm resorting to sheer whimsical conjecture here, not A Scientific Theory of The Severest Authority. Now that we know that we live on an almost spherical planet, and we have poor unfortunates sitting in ancient metal cans in orbit about it, surely we would notice something has obvious as an aerial sea full of silver saucers, sailing ships and salmon splashing about above our noggins? Well, wouldn't we?

On mentioning this spate of vertically migrating humans, Brian Chapman in Canada was quick to recall an article in Fortean Times 72:15 of December/January 1994, when a Parisian lady had her tree vandalised and her phone lines cut by a man who descended from above --without a parachute. He was quite dead, lightly dressed, "swarthy" and carrying three obsolete Russian banknotes, amounting to 55 roubles.

He, too, was thought to have fallen from the undercarriage of an aircraft landing at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. If this was the case, he would have had to survive several hours at 36,000 feet or so, at a temperature of minus 45 degrees. The "average" person can live for 10 minutes in these conditions, according toFortean Times . However, investigators claim that he was alive when he hit the ground.

Regarding body temperatures of freefallers and stowaways on aircraft, Daniel Ko, in Hong Kong, told me that: "I used to do a fair bit of skydiving (60 jumps) and even 13,500ft jumps from an open doored Cessna during very early spring through hailclouds. It's unlikely that the victim's body core temperature would drop significantly. Indeed, it's significantly more likely that a low flying light [aircraft] was involved, as (1) they're easier to fall out of. (2) security makes it difficult to stow away in the external recesses of commercial pressurized airliners. (3) Bodies in freefall accelerate slowly. The first 1000ft takes 10 seconds and 5 seconds thereafter. Given the height of lowrise apartments the purported extent of the damage is not entirely consistent. (Guesstimate; experiment impractical.)"

On Sunday 7th December 1997, to ice the wake cake celebrating an alarming tally of parachute related deaths in a short space of time, three skydivers, two Americans and an Austrian, were killed attempting to sky dive at the South Pole. They were jumping from a Twin Otter at 8,500 feet, and two of the parachutes failed to open, the other only partially opening.

Aside from the more explicable phenomena detailed above, the choir of skydiving angels (now sadly deceased), there is a great deal of bizarre circumstantial evidence to add to Fort's theories of another layer of Swiftian reality above our heads. Are flying saucers actually submarine vessels from another dimension? Is the ocean that the Magonians sail upon and dive in the same air that we breathe, as the ocean that we sail and dive in is breathed by fishes? Are "aliens" in fact deep sea divers? Do Magonians trawl these waters? Was James Cameron's movie The Abyss have the right idea, but the wrong way around, with its water-god "aliens" residing in the gloomy depths of our oceans? Or perhaps I'm merely trying to milk Swiftian sunlight from common cucumbers.

Add a few hollow earth theories and one or two flat earth theories to the Sargasso pea soup, compare the taste of the resulting dish to the current popular understandings of "reality" and How It All Works, and the finished dish will provide plenty of food for thought.

------------------------------
[1] http://www.blather.net or send email to list@blather.netwith the word "subscribe" on the first line of an otherwise blank message.

[2] http://www.forteantimes.com

[3] Send email to majordomo@primenet.com with the words "subscribe forteana" on the first line of an otherwise blank message.

[4] Book of the Damned ISBN 1-870870-53-0, New Lands ISBN 1-870870-62-x, Lo! ISBN 1-870870-89-1.

[5] Fortean Studies 2 ISBN 1-870-870-70-0 and Fortean Times 106:35.

[6] http://www.blather.net/archives/issue1no24.html

[7] The Way That I Went, Robert Lloyd Praeger, 1937. The Collins Press, ISBN 1-898-256-357

[8] "Fortean Phenomena in the Annals of the Four Masters," by Peter Alderson Smith, Fortean Times 54:51.

[9] Interestingly, mention of the 956 A.D. incident is also mentioned in a United States Air Forces Academy textbook, Introductory Space Science, Volume II, Department of Physics, USAF, edited by Major Donald G. Carpenter and co-edited by Lt. Colonel Edward R. Therkelson (http://in-search-of.com/frames/WWWBoard/messages/1412.html). According to the online version, the book was taken off the curriculum in the 1970s, due of the controversy surrounding it.

[10] Daibhi O Croinin's Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200 (Longman, 1995 ISBN: 0582015650)

[11] "Magonia: A Re-Evaluation," Jean Louis Brodu, Fortean Studies 2, ISBN 1-870870-70-0.

[12] A breed of off-the-rack ghost tale. A loose version would consist of a young stranger seeking shelter on a stormy night, and whiling away the hours playing cards or dining with his hosts, and flirting with the daughter of the household. She drops a card, or a fork, and on reaching beneath the table, notices that the mysterious guest has a cloven hoof. She screams, and the guest departs via the ceiling in a ball of flame.

Acknowledgements:
I would offer thanks for the sterling support and much needed assistance of Paul "Archeire" Clerkin, Bob "Fortean Times" Rickard, Leslie Ellen Jones Ph.D., Kelly McGillis, Andy Silverman, Tim Hodkinson, Daniel Ko, Brian Chapman and Patrick Huyghe.

Copyright 1998 The Anomalist