Aside from preternatural beings, the Phenomena Department also investigates and documents all kinds of paranormal phenomena. A brief overview of these events is as follows:
The Bermuda Triangle, the Devil's Sea and Vile Vortices
The origins of the Bermuda Triangle myth can be traced to an Associated Press dispatch of September 16, 1950. In it, reporter E. V. W. Jones discussed a number of mysterious disappearances of ships and planes between the Florida coast and the island of Bermuda. Two years later, George X. Sand wrote an article in Fate magazine which described "strange marine disappearances" in a "watery triangle bounded roughly by Florida, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico."
The myth grew quickly through the 1950s and into the 1960s, with new books and articles crediting the vanishing to malign alien intelligences and/or an advanced underwater civilization. The peak of popularity for the myth was in 1974, when Charles Berlitz (a name greatly despised by the Phenomena Department) wrote The Bermuda Triangle, which went on to sell five million copies world wide.
In 1975, the myth was brought to a end with the publication of Larry Kusche's The Bermuda Triangle Mystery - Solved. By engaging in true research, and not just rewriting a previous author's stories, Kusche proved that many of the "strange marine disappearances" weren't so strange after all. To top it off, Lloyd's of London stated that as of 1975 there were 428 missing vessels reported since 1955, and that there was no evidence to support claims that the "Bermuda Triangle" had more vanishings than anywhere else.
The Phenomena Department calls the Bermuda Triangle a "manufactured mystery," one created by lazy and sensationalist writers. When one examines the facts, the truth about the subject becomes apparent and the "mystery" collapses.
The Devil's Sea - Located in the Sea of Japan, the Devil's Sea is a presumed area of ocean where numerous ships and aircraft have vanished. In reality, there is no such area, and most of the mythology has been built up around a few New York Times articles from 1952 and 1955, and an article in the January 14, 1955 Yomiuri Shimbun. About the only trace of truth to the entire story is that the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency has issued a warning for ships to avoid the Myojin Reefs, located some 300 miles to the south of Tokyo and home to several submerged, but active, volcanos.
Vile Vortices - The Vile Vortices are the creation of Ivan T. Sanderson and the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU). They were first described in 1968, and are said to be twelve areas, each 72 degrees apart, that were spaced equally around the globe (with the exception of two points, that were located at the North and South Poles). Each is said to be the location of various anomalous events (strange skies and seas, spinning compasses, UFO sightings, etc.). Naturally, one of these Vile Vortices is the previously-described "Devil's Sea."
Research has shown that the evidence of the Vile Vortices is scant and proves nothing. As with the entire Bermuda Triangle myth, the idea of Vile Vortices causing bizarre events around the world has no real basis.
Endnote - Although the Bermuda Triangle really isn't much of a mystery, the Phenomena Department does acknowledge that there have been unsolved vanishing and mysterious disappearances of ships and planes around the world. Two of the most famous are the derelicts the Mary Celeste and the Carroll A. Deering. Both were discovered abandoned (the Mary Celeste at sea, while the Carroll A. Deering had run aground), with no clue as to why.
A phenomena of the 1970s, cattle mutilations were once thought to be the result of a nation-wide Satanic cult. This cult killed cows in the dead of night and carefully removed various body parts for sacrifice. Later, once this theory fell through, the United States government was thought to be responsible, and reports of mysterious "black helicopters" surfaced.
Investigation in 1979 showed that most reports of cattle mutilation were groundless, and that the appearance of the dead cows was entirely consistent with "what one would expect to find from normal predation, scavenger activity, and decomposition..."
Research by the Phenomena Department has shown that overall, this is the case. Cattle mutilations are nothing more than hyperbole and exaggerations of normal phenomena. However, evidence does show that there is some truth to the stories of "black helicopters," many of whom are far more silent than one would expect. In addition, certain reports of mutilated cattle are not hoaxes or cases of mistaken identity, and should be taken seriously.
As a final note, there are also cases of cattle (and other livestock) massacres, in which the evidence does not point to any known form of predator. These cases include animals physically ripped apart, or drained of blood, or slashed, wounded and/or partially eaten. Although certain preternatural entities may be responsible for some of these attacks, a few defy explanation even when these factors are considered.
Crop circles first came to world-wide attention in the early 1980s, when circles were found in the grain fields of southern England. The earliest known circles were found in August, in an oatfield in Bratton, Wiltshire. There were several circles, each more than 60 feet across. A year later, more circles where found in nearby Hampshire County. There were three main circles, each 60 feet across and set in a straight line. Attendant circles flanked the main ones, and were only 25 feet across.
From 1980 to 1987, the number of circles increased, with a total of 100 to 10 circles formed over eight years. In 1988, however, around 112 circles where recorded in that year alone, and in 1989 the number of over 300, and in 1990 the number reached 1,000! 1991 saw a draw in the number of circles to a "mere" 200-300, although many of these weren't circles, but complex pictograms. Over the next few years, the phenomena expanded in scope, until there were more than 2,000 recorded circles from all round the world, including Australia, Canada, Japan, the former Soviet Union, and the United States.
It is thought that most crop circles are hoaxes, made by human agents under the cover of darkness. Certainly, some of the more complex pictograms are man-made. "True" crop circles seem to appear in the early hours before dawn. The procedure only takes a few seconds, and is marked by thick mists and high wind. The scientific explanation is a electrically-charged whirlwind or a plasma-vortex. These vortexes do no rise like tornados or waterspouts, but collapse instead.
Magicians tend to point to the inhabitants of fairie as the culprits. Known to be mischievous, it is thought that certain members of fairie started to create large and more bizarre crop circle formations after new services began hype the "mystery." Naturally, the more researches tired to debunk or explain the phenomena, the more complex shapes the fairie would create. SImply ignore them, the sorcerers say, and they'll stop.
Some circles seem to be the result of visitations by unidentified flying objects. Spinning disks and domes have been blamed for several circles. These sorts of manifestations are also blamed for electrical interference in monitoring devices, as well as headaches and nausea in researchers and visitors.
Finally, some theories blame secret military experiments with microwaves, lasers, and radiation (always a popular target), or espers (either deliberate or as subconscious acts).
The Phenomena Department isn't interested in man-made circles, but is engage in research of naturally occurring circles, as well as those thought to be a result of fairie magic or UFOs.
The word "cryptozoology" was coined by Bernard Heuvelmans, who derived it from the Greek words kryptos (hidden), zoon (animal), and logos (discussion). Thus, it means "The Study of Hidden Animals." The word "hidden" was preferred to that of "unknown," as it was felt that such creatures were usually well known to the local inhabitants. In 1982, when the International Society of Cryptozoology was founded, the definition was made clearer. Cryptozoology the study of animals undescribed by science, as well as ones that were known but in places they weren't supposed to be, and the existence of animals thought to be extinct.
Although the Phenomena Department isn't engaged in any active cryptozoological investigations, it does keep track of reports and sightings, as many such cases are related to other forms of phenomena.
Alien Big Cats - An Alien Big Cat (ABC for short) is any large feline found in a location where such casts are supposed to be nonexistent. Most ABCs are large black panther-like animals, and have been reported in such locations as the East Coast of the United States and all through England. It is thought that the American sightings are proof that the Everglades Puma isn't as endangered as was once believed. The English sightings have been blamed on feral domestic cats and wild dogs. The Phenomena Department notes that some ABC sightings are closely related to certain instances of Cattle Mutilations (see).
Hairy Bipeds - Best represented by "Bigfoot" or "Sasquatch," Hairy Bipeds are large ape-like hominids seen the world over. In general, they are said to have a simian visage, stand anywhere from six to eight feet in height, and are covered with thick pelts of hair. Most of them have a foul smell (hence the term "skunk ape") and live in thick, remote wilderness.
The Phenomena Department takes a special interest in reports of Hairy Bipeds, as many sightings seem to be in relation to a wide variety of other phenomena (such as UFOs, Cattle Mutilations, Crop Circles and more).
Lake Monsters - Just about any large, deep lake the world over is said to be inhabited by a resident "lake monster." The most famous one is the Loch Ness Monster (a.k.a. "Nessie"), but other lakes have similar residents: Lake Champlain has "Champ," Loch Morar has "Morag," Lake Manitoba has "Manipogo," and Lake Okanagan has "Ogopogo," There is even a "Caddy," short for Cadborosaurus, seen off of the coast of British Columbia.
Although in many cases the lake monster in question is a mere myth, some lakes are large enough to provide a home to a population of large animals. Research has ruled out the popular plesiosaurs, as most lakes are too cold to allow a marine reptile to survive. A more acceptable theory is that of the primitive whale Basilosaurus, which is a forty to seventy foot snake-like animal.
Living Dinosaurs - The depths of the African Congo are said to be home to a number of animals that sound suspiciously like dinosaurs. The most well-known of these is the Mokele-Mbembe ("stopper of rivers"), a large water-dwelling sauropod. However, efforts to find and/or capture of these animals is hampered by the remoteness of the locations, as well as the incredibly thick jungle.
Mothman and Other Flying Humanoids - From 1966 to 1967 the Ohio River Valley was haunted by one of the strangest creatures ever reported. Standing seven feet tall, with large red eyes, and a large wingspan. Silent except for certain high-pitched squeaking noises, the creature was credited with flying at speeds upwards of 100 miles an hour, all without flapping its wings. Dubbed "Mothman" by the press, the creature was seen by more than 100 people over the course of a year, frightening most of them terribly.
Mothman isn't the only flying humanoid figure to have been reported throught history. There are a scattering of other "flying men" reports from around the world, dating back to the late 1870s. Many describe a bat-winged individual with a horrific face.
The Phenomena Department has no real idea what to make of these reports. It is thought that some may be sightings of magicians, residents of the fairie realms, or large, unknown birds.
Sea Monsters - Reports of "sea serpents" can be found all though recorded history. Many a thought to be reports of whales and large sharks, garbled by time and translations difficulties. Other are less quantifiable, and seem to be of truly unknown animals. It is now thought that the giant squid may behind some reports, especially those from waters around Norway. There is also a theory that most sea serpents are really sightings of the primitive whale known as Basilosaurus (also known as Zeuglodon), which was a long, snake-like mammal measuring upwards of 70 feet in length. Although considered extinct, the possibility of its continued survival has been considered, especially in light of such discoveries as the Megamouth shark, and the coelacanth, a primitive fish thought to be extinct for some 80 million years.
In addition to sea serpents, the list of unknown sea creatures includes reports of surviving sea cows in and around Alaska and the Bering Sea, giant sharks (such as Megalodon), immense jellyfish, the giant squid (it has never been seen in its natural habitat), and if the reports are to believed, an octopus that would have measured over 200 feet across from tentacle tip to tentacle tip while it was alive! This later creature is based on a corpse that washed ashore on Anastasia Island, Florida, in November of 1896. Known as the "St. Augustine Carcass" it was originally said to be the head of a sperm whale, despite any sort of whale-like characteristics. When examined by A. E. Verrill, an authority on the giant squid, he initially proclaimed it to be a giant squid, although later he changed him mind to that of a gigantic octopus, which he named Octopus giganteus.
Despite 5,000 years of sea travel, it is painfully obvious that man has only begun to plumb the depths of the oceans, and is ignorant about much of the life to be found there. Although the Phenomena Department normally doesn't engage in oceanic research, it does keep abreast of new developments as they are announced.
In 1944, the town of Mattoon, Illinois was besieged by the so-called "Mad Gasser of Mattoon." Dressed in dark clothing (or, conversely, woman's clothing), the Mad Gasser sprayed a sickly-sweet smelling gas in to a number of homes, resulting in nausea, paralysis, and a burning of the mouth and throat. Clues were scanty, and the culprit (if there was one) was never found. Interestingly enough, the case, although written off as mere hysteria fueled by lurid newspaper accounts, was highly similar to to that of of Botetourt County, Virginia, in late 1933 and early 1934. Both cases reported a men (or several men) dressed in dark clothing, assaulting homes with a gas that brought sickness and paralysis. One of the most telling clues was that in both cases, a man dressed in woman's clothing was said to be responsible, and that the imprints of a woman's shoe was found under a window in both Matton and Botetourt.
After one of the Botetourt attacks, discolored snow was found. The oily material was analyzed and found to contain arsenic, mineral oil, and sulfur—common insecticide ingredients.
The Phenomena Department has no explanation for either incident, or any of the other minor "Mad Gasser" attacks that have occurred since them. One theory is some sort of chemical warfare tests being committed by certain unscrupulous individuals. Although a bit far-fetched, the Phenomena Department concedes that certain revelations about covert government activities lends weight to such a theory.
Men in Black
Along with "little green men," the Men in Black (a.k.a. "MIBs") are permanent fixture of UFO mythology. They first were mentioned in 1953, when Albert K. Bender, director of the International Flying Saucer Bureau, shut down operations, stating that he knew the truth behind the UFO mystery, but could not reveal his information due to "orders from a higher source." This higher source was apparently three men in black suits, who had threatened him with imprisonment if he revealed his knowledge. Although Bender initially described his three visitors as members of the American government, retellings of his experience turned the visitors into evil foreigners, aliens, and demons.
The Men in Black resurfaced in the 1960s, when writer and investigator John A. Keel collected and described many encounters with MIBs from witnesses. Many of these people had recently seen UFOs, and the two were solidly linked in the minds of followers of the UFO phenomena. Keel himself described meeting MIBs on several occasions, describing them as driving large black luxury cars (such as Cadillacs). He also felt that they were not human, but rather alien intellegences, and were inimical to humanity.
The common consensus is that the MIBs are not exactly human. The usually appear to be Asian, or olive-skinned, claim to be part o the United State military, are rude, as odd questions, and known a great deal about obscure information (such as a person's private life), but nothing about more common topics (like how to eat certain foods). Many MIBs are said to never blink, or never sweat, regardless of the heat.
The Phenomena Department feels that MIBs are a mixture of human operatives and otherworldly agents. The only problem is, what "other world": do they come from? Many feel that the MIB are closely related to the Majestic 12 committee.
Note that many agents of the Federal Bureau of Paranormal Investigation (such as Jay and Kei) dress in all-black suits, almost as ifthey intended to parody the MIB stereotype.
Spontaneous Human Combustion
Throughout history there have been cases of people literally burning up, leaving only a pile of ashes. This phenomena is known as Spontaneous Human Combustion, and as of yet has no real explanation. In some cases, the cause is clear, the victim was a drinker, and fell sleep with a lit objects such as a match, cigarette, or cigar. In other cases, the cause is not so clear.
In most cases of SHO, the victim is reduced to ash, with few body parts surviving. Objects near the body are often consumed as well, and the heat is such that candles and plastic objects in the room will melt and warp.
Theories as to the cause are varied, although there is some weight to the idea of uncontrolled pyrokinesis in the victim resulting in a gruesome case of self-immolation.
All throughout history there have been reports of unusual rainfalls. Objects said to have fallen from the sky include (but are not limited to): beans, seeds, stones, straw, insects, fish, frogs, meat, blood, money, and huge chunks of ice.
Although science credits such natural phenomena as whirlwinds for most objects falling from the sky, that explination falls apart when it is pointed out that most fall contain (for example) a single species of fish, and there is no mud, water plants, or other animals to be found.
Unidentified Flying Objects
Man has been seeing strange things in the sky for as long as there has been recorded history. Reports of bright lights, dragons, fireballs, flying shields, and other strange apparitions can be found the world over. However, "flying saucers" seem to be a far more modern phenomena, and can be directly connected to the sighting of Kenneth Arnold, who spotted nine disc-shaped objects flying along in a manner similar to a saucer skipping across water. Shortly thereafter, a headline writer coined the term "flying saucers."
The number of types of UFO reports are far to numerous to even summarize here, however a few highlights will be mentioned:
In the 1980s abductions and the idea of a UFO conspiracy became popular. The aliens, known as "grays" captured people and performed experiments on them before letting them go. Some people went so far to state that the American government was in collusion with the aliens, allowing them access to the American people in exchange for technology.
Although the Phenomena Department recognizes that there is no hard evidence to support the idea that man has any definitive contact with extra-terrestrial life, it also notes that there is a large amount of evidence that something is behind many of these flying saucer reports. One popular explanation is advanced air craft being tested by the military. In any case, the Phenomena Department is justifiable skeptical of both UFO reports and government explanations.
Area 51 - Located in Nevada, Area 51 is just north of Groom Lake, a dry lake bed. It has been home to numerous national-security projects, including the development of the U-2 and SR-71 spyplanes, so-called "stealth" aircraft, and material related to the Strategic Defense Initiative (also known as "Star Wars").
These are the facts about Area 51, the rumors however, are much stranger. It is said in UFO circles that Area 51 is home to one or more flying saucer wrecks, as well as the bodies of the saucer's crew. The government is attempting to understand the technology and adapt for its own uses, specifically with regards to military applications.
Hanger 18 - Popular myth states that "Hanger 18" is the home of a wrecked UFO recovered from Roswell, New Mexico. It is popularly thought to be located on Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio.
The Philadelphia Experiment and the Montauk Project - During World War II, the United Stated Navy conducted experiments with magnetic degaussing on the destroyer escort USS Eldridge at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. If the rumors are to be believed, the experiments turned the ship invisible, and then teleported it to Norfolk, Virginia, and back again.
Following this experiment, the crew of the Eldridge experienced horrible side effects, including insanity, bursting into flames, and people vanishing from view permanently.
In an effort to understand what went wrong, several research projects were merged together and eventually moved to Montauk Air Force Base, on Montauk Point, Long Island, New York. There experiments were conducted that began to breach the walls of time and space, and if the rumors are true, created an operating time machine that could send people into any point in the past and the future.
Supposedly the so-called "Montauk Project" was disbanded in late 1983 after a terrible accident. Currently the Phenomena Department takes no more than a cursory interest in the subject, at least until more evidence is found to lend weight to some of the theories.
For a detailed look at the Montauk Project, the author recommends his article "The Montauk Project" published in Haymaker! 19.
Unidentified Submarine Objects
Similar to the more popular UFOs, a USO is usually a bright glowing ball or saucer that moves at a great rate of speed in both water and the air. A few reports describe immense and strangely shaped craft and/or living organisms.
The author would like to comment that all of the subjects mentioned here are actuall phenomena, although a few have been disproved and/or explained. However, the material presented here presumes a more fantastic universe than our own, and the entries have been written accordingly.
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