Monthly Archives: January 2010

A Case Study on the Mass Hysteria of Brigstowe Hall

Fiction written exclusively for the IIAL

 

The first ever recorded case of mass Reduplicative Paramnesia occured on the 21st of May, 1982, in the call centre of Brigstowe Hall, an office complex on the outskirts of Plymouth, an event which caused the death of two members of staff, and permanently altered the psychiatric wellbeing of fourteen others.

The mental illness Reduplicative Paramnesia, normally associated with severe head injuries, is widely regarded to be one of the more unusual delusional brain disorders, causing the patient to believe that their current geographical location has been expertly and inexplainably duplicated, and relocated – often to somewhere many thousands of miles away. The most famous case (and that which resulted in the disorder being officially registered) involved a patient who, upon realising he was in a Boston hospital, began to insist that the entire institution had been disassembled and rebuilt in the spare room of his house in Massachusetts, whilst simultaneously maintaining that there still existed a hospital in Boston, and expressing an impressed surprise that the staff were able to work in both locations at once. The phenomenon which occurred at Brigstowe Hall has so far confused mental health experts and neurologists, as unlike the Boston patient, nobody in the Plymouth office had received the extensive frontal lobe damage suffered by the patient, or the formation of intracerebral hemotomas later discovered in his brain tissue.

According to the security footage, standard recorded telephone conversations and several eyewitness accounts, the hysteria took the form of a large proportion of staff members from the second floor of the office building – for a period of approximately ninety-two minutes – becoming convinced that their place of work had been duplicated and shifted an area which was eventually identified through recorded conversations with bewildered customers as being a town on the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. So severe were the delusions that three members of staff were seen leaving the building and completely losing the ability to walk on the real firmament – a simple pavement in Plymouth – as the paramnesia was presumably causing a hallucination which gave the appearance of a softer, grass-covered and marshy surface so convincing it caused unbalance, disorientation and misplacement of footing; an illusion which proved to be fatal when the staff members stumbled into the busy, traffic filled high street.

As might be expected, within minutes a state of panic, fear and confusion caused the office to come to a standstill. Several injuries were sustained, and the humidity of the particularly hot May afternoon had resulted in faintings, prompting the few unaffected staff members to call an ambulance, which, on arrival, removed a small number of the worst affected men and women, but were left baffled by the scene they surveyed. One paramedic went on record to report “the office looked and sounded like Bedlam… Everywhere (we) could hear demented babbling, foreign languages spoken, sweating bodies…the (paramedic team) began to feel effected by the oppressive atmosphere, as if a pair of hands had been clapped against our ears”.

Whilst the exact cause of the mass reduplicative paramnesia remains a mystery, it is the opinion of the IIAL that the reason for this phenomenon are potentially due to a four-fold series of factors, each coinciding with each other and multiplied due to the atmospheric conditions of this particular hour and a half in the summer of 1982. Firstly, one must consider the exact location of Brigstowe Hall, which sits atop one of Plymouth’s largest Victorian sewer ducts, a vast, subterranean arena-like structure that acts as a meeting point and subsequent vortex for seven separate ducts radiating outwards to the sectors of the old city. Recent studies into the peculiar effects of infra-sound on the human brain may go some way towards explaining unusual brain activity in those situated near this site, and it has been argued that very low frequency (and thus, inaudible by the human ear) soundwaves had been produced by firing drills undertaken by HMS Hecate some three miles out in the channel that very afternoon. It is arguable that such infrasoundwaves could reverberate through the sea-facing redbrick ducts, and be perceived on an unconcious level by the inhabitants of the buildings above, having an effect on brain activity.

A similar infrasound phenomena was written about when the study was in its infancy, a series of ecstatic visions experienced simultaneously by a yogic circle in the Bimbekta catacombs of Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1952 during a quarry blast of unprecedented volume, some 32 miles to the south of the caves. The infrasound created that travelled through the sandstone terrain was of a frequency that has since been proven in laboratory conditions to produce “feelings of awe or fear in humans” (John D. Cody. Infrasound Borderland Science Research Foundation), and resulted on this occasion to produce hallucinations so terrifying and lucid as to ‘strip the faith from the holiest of men… the yogis of Bhimbekta were reduced to ashen shells’ (Terence Thwaine. Infrasound and Synethesia – A Study of Perceived Madness Lucknow Press 1992). It seems the only rational explanation for the hysteria experienced at Brigstowe Hall was due to similar environmental factors as that in Uttar Pradesh – a combination of humidity induced mental weakness and tiredness, a blast of infrasound, and the peculiar amplifying effects of Victorian waterworks, certainly comparable to the catacombs that worm through the Pradeshi mountains. But why the connection with Croatian lakes? It has been argued that the most likely explanation would be due to a conversation in the office concerning this location (and by no means necessarily in recent times – such a conversation may have taken place weeks before and produced the same effect) triggering a shared experience. So far, after extensive psychiatric counselling, this has been discredited by all those involved in the incident itself, with the patients claiming no knowledge of such an exchange. Another hypothesis involves a sublimation of some sort, a message hidden in music or passed through the telephone headset. This has been so far unprovable, but by no means ruled out.

Stanthorpe, shortly before his death

For the final hypothesis, we must turn to the studies undertaken by M.R.Weber on the architectural works of Mr. James Stanthorpe, a devout christian and eccentric, plagued by the death of two of his children, and one of whose major works involved the design and construction of the sewage channels of Plymouth. According to Weber, Stanthorpe’s design for the antichamber and nucleus of his labrynthine sewer was based on the ‘perfected passageways of the human oesophagus’; an observation taken so far as to include something akin to red-brick larynx – an architectural musical instrument based crudely on the human voicebox at the summit of the chamber, which resembled a series of ridged, low walls jutting from the ceiling and peppered with holes measuring between three and nineteen inches in diameter. Nothing was thought of this oddity in design for well over a century, merely the fancy of a wealthy, yet distressed Victorian engineer. However, when the notebooks of Stanthorpe were re-examined and decoded, it was revealed that the design itself was made to potentially hold the ability to form certain (unrevealed) sounds, given the correct conditions and flow of water and pressure. Of course, Stanthorpe had never intended these sounds to be anything but abstract noise, echoing beneath the streets of a bustling city. No records exist of any audible sound coming from what many believed to be a failed experiment, but which Stanthorpe insisted in his lifetime was merely the absence of the ‘correct conditions’.

The atmospheric conditions on the 21st of May. 1982, could have produced something the architect may have had in mind, and it is on the edge of conceivable reason that within the abstraction and chaotic nature of the barely audible or inaudible sound produced, a nanosecond of ordered, understandable noise may have broken through, momentarily and subconsciously effecting some of those situated just above it. This noise may have, by some staggering coincidence, been a set of instructions, not dissimilar to a hypnotist’s demands, bypassing the rational part of the consciousness.

The investigation continues.

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Further Fictional Research into the Practices of the People of Drejnev

This short story is a continuation of a much earlier theme which can be read on this blog under the titles ‘Estuaries’ and ‘Histories’.

Produced by Benjamin Norris exclusively for http://iial.wordpress.com

The following text was recorded during the final therapeutic hypnosis session of an anonymous male patient who requested assistance in overcoming nicotine addiction, shortly before his untimely death involving a automobile accident on the M32 outside of Bristol. I have researched that which can be researched, and have included four slides with which to better illustrate the patient’s lucid monologue.

“The known facts surrounding the religious practices of the people of Drejnev were recently expanded upon and resurfaced in popular consciousness thanks to the discovery of a written text documenting the second dynasty of the settlement, something previously thought impossible due to the wideheld belief that the Krozkaw people who populated the settlement had been unable to develop the skills needed for writing. The text itself was unusual in that it consisted not of paper and ink, but of a remarkably long and thin strip of silver birch bark, removed from the tree trunk in a single cut measuring approximately thirty seven metres long, and three and a half centimetres in width. This strip of bark had been carefully and meticulously wound around a typically Drejnevian totem mast (made from the dark wood so representative of the people’s folk crafts) in tight concentric circles. The pole stood at a height of two and half metres, and was crowned by a delicate carving of the Farikh; the totemic deity (generally believed to be of Saharan origin) which is usually recognisable as a black bird of some sort, often adorned with womanly breasts and hips.

artistic rendering showing similar finds in Drejnev

The silver birch, being a tree of pale colour and littered with dark speckled blemishes, allowed the ‘writer’ to align the light and bruised patches of the strip of bark along the totem to create a series of motifs, a simple alphabet of twenty-two figures not dissimilar to morse code in its conception.

Upon finding this discovery (conservatively dated at approximately 900 b.c), anthropologists were put to work finding a way to ‘crack’ the code that spiralled its way around the staff, a task which took Mr. Conrad Davies of the IIAL and his team eight years to fully complete. Upon presenting their findings to the Royal Society, the research team had to admit to some awkward confusion. Whilst the totem did seem to reveal some of the few, yet well known histories of Drejnev (particularly the ceremonial usage of sage, and the instructions for a legendary ceremony involving the sajtkoz – a wind instrument whose ancestors still exist in central Europe to this day), the code could be read concisely and perfectly accurately in three separate ways, revealing three very distinct and fluent texts. The placement of the birch blemishes were not difficult to identify, indeed, the peat marshes near the river it was discovered in were notoriously effective as a preservative (see Drejnev Marsh: The Umber Man and other finds Millford and G. Walch 1944 Keele Press) and have informed Western Europe for decades on this abandoned culture. The problem lay in whether to firstly take into account the spaces between the blemishes, which were mostly uniform in size and placement, and by no means accidental when one considers the minute attention to detail paid to the remainder of the staff, and also whether to make the rather arrogant assumption that the Krozkaw wrote from left to right, as is common in Europe, but rare in the Middle East and Orient, where many scholars have placed the people’s origin.

Peat marshes of Drejnev, showing ruins of former habitation

When one considers the content of the two ‘alternative’ translations of the text, there is little wonder as to why the Davies team were left daunted and confused. Let us examine the first of the alternative readings, that which is read from right to left, using the twenty-two arrangements identified as the alphabet of the Krozkaw. The text primarily and thoroughly describes the restoration plans for the Cathedral of Chester made in 1057 a.d by Leofric, Earl of Mercia (a leader who would most likely be lost in the annals of time were he not so strongly remembered due to his relationship with Lady Godiva), shortly after the razing of Worcester. The staff, when read in reverse, is essentially little more than a list to be presented to the guilds of Cheshire concerning building materials and the relevant taxation, and the list is repeated indentically three times before being completed by a short rhyming couplet which can be roughly translated as ‘That is all, and that’s your lot, so put a penny in the slot (sic)’. One member of the research team has been asked to check upon the historical accuracy of such a list, but as yet all research has been inconclusive due to the lack of recorded material in 11th century Mercia.

Archaic map of Mercia, showing all the cities mentioned in the Krazkow text as those supplying materials for Chester cathedral

The third translation of the Drejnev totem is perhaps even more confusing. As mentioned previously, the spaces between the ‘characters’ found in the narrow strip of bark are uniform, and there is even archaelogical evidence that a fine tipped tool has been employed to smooth them down and clean them, accentuating the difference between light and shade. When these spaces are added to the ‘alphabet’ as extra characters, we find ourselves with a total of twenty-nine symbols, and a radically different translation that is concise and consistent when read from left to right, or vice versa. This third reading has so far been unpublished, to avoid attracting the attention of petty conspiracy theorists and hobbying fanatics, who would no doubt enjoy making a meal of the bizarre coincidence it reveals and claiming some sort of truth from sheer impossibility. The text read as follows:

 
 Solutions to the popular crossword puzzle in the Daily Telegraph caused an outrage with security officers who were responsible for guarding the secrets of the planned invasion of Europe by the allies in June 1944. Members of MI5 noticed that some of the clues appeared to give away vital code names invented to cloak the what was to be the largest seaborne attack to date. The answer to the clue ‘one of the U.S.’ turned out to be, for instance, UTAH, and another, OMAHA – beaches on which the American armies were to land. Another answer was MULBERRY, the floating harbors that would accommodate and supply ships. NEPTUNE was the naval support. Most suspiciously of all, there was a clue about ’some big-wig’ which produced the answer OVERGRAUT, the codeword invented to describe the entire operation. The writer of the crossword was Mr. Leonard Dawe, a 54 year old school teacher who, after lengthy interrogation, was found to be completely innocent of any wrong doing. 
 

The 'D-Day' Crossword, reproduction courtesy of The Daily Telegraph

It was not difficult for the research team to look into any historical correlation that may fit this translation, as the text merely recounts a well known story much loved by the British public. Upon speaking with the relevant authorities, Mr. Davies was able to confirm that the information given up by the third and final interpretation of the Drejnev staff was entirely accurate, with one notable exception – the answer to the crossword clue ‘some big wig’ which was printed in the newspaper, was not ‘overgraut’, but instead ‘overlord’ – a solution which makes considerably more sense in context.”

Section taken from Nonsensical True Histories Under Hypnosis, vol I by Dr. Raymond Pluhar, Thornbury Books 2009


Something Astonishingly Good

I don’t often talk with my own voice on here, but I want to draw my readers (who are now in their hundreds…hello everyone…) to a new blog containing the seeds of something truly exciting.

I ever so slightly begrudgingly suspect that Mr. Webber is becoming a genuine genius. Check it out, and enjoy.

http://iial.wordpress.com


Curio

Author’s response to panic and confusion of certain readers: THIS IS FICTION. I MADE IT UP. Thankyou.

The Edwardian gentleman could often be found perusing curious photographic oddities that came about with the developments in the artistic and jovial uses of the aforementioned craft when it was in its infancy. Alongside the earliest examples of pornography (which, for some generally unknown reason involved geese instead of the women who followed them) were the miracles of the magic lantern, fantasmagorias of photography which fooled the eye into seeing an image which disguised another beneath it. Famous examples included the Diabelerie D’Argent, an image which at first glance showed nothing more than a mountainous pile of money overrun with rats, and yet upon blinking, the viewer would immediately realise what they mistook for the shadow cast by the largest rodent was, in fact, an ornate headpiece, and the glinting of the silver made up for the eyes, nose and mouth of a beautiful woman. Once the face was seen, it became impossible for the viewer to regain sight of the original, fleeting image that had first confronted them, and no matter how they returned to the image with fresh eyes, the money had been lost, the rats evaporated.

The most legendary, and indeed, most complex of these circus images is widely known as the ‘Man Eater’ photograph. Currently part of a private collection in Vermont, it shows a young girl in a bustle, sitting astride a bicycle and looking demurely at the photographer. To her left is a hanging basket containing a wide variety of blooming autumn flowers, and from the position of the shadows, the viewer can deduce that it is approximately quarter past four on a September afternoon. Other details include such stalwarts of the early 20th century photographer’s reportoire; a cup, placed at the young lady’s feet, and a humunculus-like figure, the printer’s devil, if you may, peering from a corner.

What becomes apparant within a matter of seconds is that, of course, the bicycle and the maiden are mere phantoms, shadows and edges of what was believed to be the true picture, that being a portrait of the late hunter Kenneth Anderson, posing with his most celebrated prey, a dead tigress whose mouth is agape and whose ear has been removed. The tigress is none other than the Maneater of Jowlagiri, the famed and bloodthirsty slayer of twenty human victims, and what we had originally seen as a wheel on the bicycle could now be viewed with no mistake as being part of the striped pelt; the girl’s back makes up for the left side of Anderson’s rifle, and so on. The viewer feels as a fool for missing such obvious details, for failing to recognise such an iconic image immediately, and despite yearning to catch glimpse of his original mistake, cannot begin to scrabble for a handhold on which to do so; all that remains is a memory of another scene, and an agreed blindness which obliterates all but the new one.

A photocopy showing the third plate in Anderson's autobiography

What is truly astonishing about the Man Eater photograph is that when it was viewed by the third son of the Viscount Jensom, a certain famed and charismatic man by the name of Patrick Ellois, he managed to see yet another image composed of the curved sides of Anderson’s hunting hat and what he claimed was the optical illusion of the victor’s hands placed in the crook of his knee juxtaposed against the heavy foliage to his left. Mr. Ellois was quick to note down what the photograph revealed to him, and later to all others who were shown where, and how to look at the image. What Mr. Ellois saw were words, a page in a book which took up most of the frame, and blinded those who recognised it to the aforementioned image of the man and dead beast which, as we now understand, were merely an illusion and a testament to the photographer’s skill. The fact that it took several decades for viewers to recognise the photograph for what it is – a simple lithographic copy of a text (albeit a smudged and greatly foxmarked one), almost beggars belief.

The words were as follows:

“The dreaded killer of Jowlagiri had come to a tame and ignominious end, unworthy of her career, and although she had been a murderer, silent, savage and cruel, a pang of conscience troubled me as to my unsporting ruse in encompassing her end.”

The accompanying curio seekers who were with Patrick Ellois on the day included several members of a certain society, and a young man who was quick to point out that these words could be found in the autobiography of Mr. Anderson, a recently published book by the name of Nine Man-Eaters and One Rogue, Kenneth Anderson, Allen & Unwin, 1954, a book which had been read by few following the more sophisticated British public’s falling out with the former grandeurs of the empire and its white-suited heroes, and was thus subsequently pulped. The following passage concerning this confession was written by the young witness at a much later date.

The inept romanticism verbalised by the great white hunters of the dying 19th century can be demonstrated in no plainer terms than in the case of the killing of the famed Man Eater of Jowlagiri, a tigress responsible for the death of at least fifteen people on the borders of Mysore. The ‘unsporting ruse’ undertaken by Anderson which led to lost photographic phenomenon was that of the unspoken treachery that taunts heroes through history; that of the blow to the back, the bullet that kills from behind. Anderson, through his late and deathbed bound confession of cowardice demonstrates an unsporting anti-grace which has long since died (indeed, if it ever truly existed), that of the aim for martyrdom. Indeed, this autobiographical eulogy carries the weight of a delusional mind, a hollywood-tinted false grandeur that is telling of the madness and heat of the Englishman in the colonies, heaving with the jungle scent of anthropomorphisis and forced through sepia film. Other such examples of an unstoppable rush towards death and the martyr’s tomb can be found in ***** **** ********, unfortunately, this, as with all things, depends entirely on the firm will of the audience to remember what it is they see first.”

It has been the subject of considerable scrutiny by many to ascertain what examples the young witness was hiding beneath his row of asterisks. The most popular theories are, at present, the later life meloncholic paintings of Rauschenberg, the Gospel of Mark, and the famous last words of the poet Dylan Thomas. So far, no consensus has been agreed upon.

The “Man Eater” photograph of the Vermont collection can be viewed for a five minute period by recommendation of character only.


New Age

 

New look blog, new poetry style being road-tested. It’s been a strange old month, this January.

 

 
 
 
 
 
It started: a precipice of sorts.
A self-constructing
Corner-stone,
Backing out and down
.
To finish sediment, strata – like

Wedding cakes, and you will see;

                                    How to cut so

It’ll keep fresh until the naming

.

When water furrows

A small girl’s face,

Staining photographs of

Crumpled parents

.

Whose track-echo finally

                    Was absorbed

.

Walls. They do that thing with lines

.

Stretched beyond a dry spot

That might be Nevada,

Or

.

May be a pit in Rajasthan

Where elephant bones stack

.

Grainy cities, edging on horizons,

Huge –

                    a timely sprawl

Still visited  yearly, then less

.

Late, the day is over, the

Flashes left their scent,

And dresses fold themselves

.

As the soaking girl sees

With her name and silver

Something like old age.


Love Poem no. 63

We live in a sea-shaken house, my woman and I.

The deep voices of Wales shiver their way

Across the channel,

Splitting stacks,

Breaking years

Into months, days

Hours and seconds fall, try to dash themselves

On the blasted twist-rocks beneath our door

As we kill time

And splinter clocks

Small springs fly

To cut our hands.

They build bridges, don’t they? Great white

Stretches lift the coughing wheels of men;

Spinning miles

And pushing her

England back

Toward the beach

Where awful bones washed up and slowly

Turned to stone, long before his lotus feet

May have walked

In green and

Promised paces.

Maybe not

And maybe never, we have little love for tales

Which kick off calendars; anno one, anno two –

From our cracking bed

Breath is, is

In and out,

Ribs rise and fall

As water licks our morning feet, making miniature

Dances telling the old songs slow, smoothing flint and

Cutting through

As storm grey wings

Cry feathers from

The gulls all day

And night… at night. We hear the waves knocking,

Knock knocking at our walls. We wake to swim

Through tangles,

Kelp and arms

And lips, of course

To call the birds –

For there are singers in the strata, gaping redthroats

That shout morning through the end-days, with beaks

Sharpened on shells

Turning oysters

In the sands,

Sink deep our heels.


Just Before The Rain (number nine)

There’s a lot of queer talk in this town about the flood. A lot of people saw a man come down the delta, just before that fat cloud split like a doll’s head. He hadn’t been seen in this greasy part of town before.

“Jus’ last week”, they said. “He came to the city on a dirty old raft of oil barrels and waxy bitsa rope”, they said.

– A man gets on a sunken board to speak, but reads a soggy journal ’til his fingers be blackened badly –

He came to anoint his own head with the filthy oils and grime of the spits, to canonise himself with caution (dicing tuesdays with the backstreet abortionists, splitting open the Chinese ladies, the contortionists – man, oh, man – who littered the gutters with their muddy sequins, sequins and secretions, boy, all that was yours to take now that the carnival had moved on).

“Simple times, son” he sang to the grinders, watching with a careless gob of an eye at their monkey gristle arms. He whistled, once, and ‘bang!’ – the rain pissed down upon his head, ripping open the straw hats of stoppered schoolgirls, soaking the jackets of the toothpick chewers.

The river had been good to him, he thought, as he surveyed his parish. Its soupy deposits had dropped him into a land in need of a saint; that was for sure.

He picked up his shepherd’s crook and his dogs’ collar, and shoved his hands into his ripped sackcloth pockets, scrabbling against his skin for some copper, for a suggestion of change.

Head or tail?

‘bang!’

He muttered shitterns to the sodden alley cats that congregated around his bare feet, and tossed the penny into the stinking mass of decomposing cardboard that sat, obese and stratified, in the doorway of Giovanni’s. Shapes moved in the boxes, and what may have been an old, old emperor shuffled in the dirt, fingernails scraping the matter to fumble change into dusty pants. Paris couldn’t choose between the two – why should anyone else give a groove for an apple?

Somewhere, and old black man was singing river songs to a clanging piano. “Oh river, bring me back my home… Muddy water taking all I know…” Over and over. Somewhere, people were listening.

Man, it didn’t stop raining for a long, long time…