Wednesday, 23 February 2011

more mysterious adventures

As promised, to add to the Marcel Belline post, more covers from mid-70s editions of L'Aventure Mystérieuse series.

Tiger-men! Fox-ladies! Cat-ghosts! Werewolves! Fabulous monsters of all kinds. "In all ages, in all places, the human soul has roamed the uncertain boundaries of the animal world." But here, that cover is more punk than punk in its year of publication, 1977.

Former 1940s surrealist writer, postwar newspaper seller, tunnel digger and journalist de Sede is the guy responsible for the the whole Priory of Sion/Knights Templar malarkey. In other words, the Da Vinci Code? His fault. De Sede's son said that his father had made it up. But this 1973 book is all about that popular favourite, ancient astronauts, wrapping aliens and mythology up into a perplexing yet somehow cosy alternative DNA strand, so obviously that's completely ok.

Giant statues high up in the Andes, geology and the legend of Atlantis - at last, the full story, and geologists get to be (kind of) exciting.

George Adamski was a Polish-American ice cream salesman who rose to fame as the first human, so he said, to be contacted by aliens in the 50s. Adamski was befriended by a Venusian called Orthon and  took photographs of Orthon's spaceships. Reports of the these encounters spread across the pond to Desmond Leslie, an esoteric-obsessed Irish aristocrat who wrote to Adamski requesting more information, added it to his existing research into ancient astronauts and made Adamski a co-author of the 1953 factual bestseller, Flying Saucers Have Landed. Arthur C Clarke was among those who rubbished the book as a "farrago of nonsense". Leslie went on to preach the aliens' message for humans, and punch Bernard Levin (he'd given Leslie's wife a bad review) live on television in the 60s on That Was The Week That Was.

More from the self-styled prince of the seers, Marcel Belline, on clairvoyance and looking beyond the veil.

An exotic character by any stretch, William Seabrook was an American reporter and medal-awarded first world war veteran who had an inveterate eye for a story throughout the 1920s, turning every nook and cranny of his admittedly interesting life into commercial fodder, whether in books or articles for magazines like Cosmopolitan. Much of his focus was occult based, as he explored devil worshippers and whirling dervishes in Arabia, voodoo and satanism in Haiti and Aleister Crowley and witchcraft (in what must have been a decidedly intense week-long visit by Crowley to Seabrook's farm). But Seabrook also wrote up his experiences when he was committed to mental institution for alcoholism as a bestseller, Asylum. His wife in turn wrote a biography of him, long after they had divorced and he had died, called The Strange World Of Willie Seabrook.

Shortly before his death in 1978, Bergier said of himself "I am not a legend", but that honour had already been sealed in 1960 by the publication of his occult-revival inducing seminal work with Louis Pauwels, The Morning Of The Magicians. Bergier's life was pretty legendary anyway even before then - a gifted toddler who escaped with his family from revolutionary Russia, ending up in France, became a pioneering chemical engineer, signed up with the French resistance and went cloak and dagger as a cold war spy after the second world war. Recommended reading: Bergier on whether 70s eastern Europe was A Mental Wasteland Or A Psi Paradise. The Book Of The Inexplicable, pictured above,  was one of several dozen titles written by Bergier.

Superhuman knowledge and geometric prophesies based on mathematical measurements. Unfortunately, most of the deadlines for the dark dangers prophesied had already been and gone without incident before it was even published in 1936, never mind when it was reprinted in this graphically satisfying edition in the mid-70s.

It Was Thus (published in 1976) was one of a mountain of books by Lobsang Rampa, otherwise known as Cyril Henry Hoskin, a writer born in 1910 who claimed that he was the reincarnation of a Tibetan monk, that his cat had dictated one his books to him by telepathy and, in his last book, that there was an enormous secret cave in Tibet that existed outside of time, filled with futuristic technology belonging to a race that had disappeared millions of years before. Denounced frequently in the British press as a charlatan, Hoskin/Rampa moved to Canada in 1960.

the museum of british folklore

Two great exhibitions to look forward to later on this year, both brought together by Simon Costin, whose Museum Of British Folklore (you can like it on facebook and find out more) will hopefully have a permanent home at some point, although for now it's got a really lovely logo (pictured above), designed by Jonny Hannah.

Costin is a designer and artist (he was Alexander McQueen's art director), whose lifelong fascination with the folklore traditions of the British Isles led him to create the Museum a few years ago. So far, it's toured the country in caravan form, presenting ephemera and artefacts about traditional customs and seasonal celebrations, from Padstow May Day to the Grovelly Rights (Grovely! Grovely! Grovely!) and all other kinds of mystically wonderful weirdness.

I've been impressed that it's not only about history, but also traditions that are still very much alive, and that goes too for the exhibitions the Museum's involved with. In November Remember, Remember: A History Of British Fireworks, at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, presents Maurice Evan's collection of 20th-century Bonfire Night packaging and advertising (pictured below), the pictures for which make me want to get a sparkler and some handmade vanilla fudge to go with it.

Before then, although I'm not sure when, Dark Britannica: The Witchcraft Counterculture In 1950s Britain, provides a flipside to this year's Festival Of Britain celebrations centred around London's Southbank Centre. Teaming up with the Museum Of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall, the Museum Of Folklore heralds 60 years since the repeal of the 1735 Witchcraft Act with archive films, press, letters, photographs and, no doubt, all kinds of interesting knick-knacks, all exploring the occult counterculture that emerged as witches and warlocks came out of the shadows. The exhibition is happening in central London, and when I know exactly when, you will too.

Friday, 18 February 2011

randomness (I can also read)

The Guardian adds honouring the dead and gaining magical powers to the story of the Cheddar cave-dwellers and their skull cupsJoe Moran's fine blog also always has a good 'mundane quote of the day' - liked being reminded of Susan Stewart on the suburbs "consumed by its past and its future. Hence the two foci of the suburbs: the nostalgic and the technological." 'Ruin porn' photos of abandoned Detroit houses create arty but rotten photojournalism, or maybe they just reflect our desperate desire to have our world re-enchanted

The programme for The Folklore Society Childlore Conference in April includes papers on Children's Encounters With The Souls Of The Dead In Lithuanian Folklore, Children And The Evil Eye In The British Isles and The Manson Girl In Mad Men's Paratext: Online Imaginings Of Sally Draper's Future. I'm there. No, really. 

Before then, it's a good time to see Don't Look Now, which just topped a Time Out magazine poll of 100 Best British films. A weekend bookended by that and Roger Corman's 1964 hallucinogenic colour-feast, Masque Of The Red Death (which Nicolas Roeg worked on) at the BFI in March should do the trick. And listen in to Atomic Bark's new radio show on, which delves into sci-fi, fantasy, horror and alternative culture every Thursday. 

Amazing spectral theatrics meantime in a Japanese theatre show where a swordfighter battles the shadows that hang around us (via neatorama).

randomness (vision on)

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount that I keep finding that I want to cover here, but in a good way. I'll put it down to it being a full (wolf, storm, candles and hunger) moon, and the middle of all the solar storms that mean you might not have to travel to the far north to see the northern lights

Wanderlust-inducing distractions courtesy of BBC documentaries add further fuel. Neil Oliver's A History Of Ancient Britain is compulsive viewing so far, particularly on stone age drawings hidden away in caves near Sheffield, drawn more likely for gods and spirits than humans and Avebury's West Kennet Long Barrow, dramatically described as where the dead were laid out not as individuals, but as a collective presence that visitors could commune with - the ancestors. He also explored the megaliths of Carnac in Brittany, which would be great to visit, though I'm still hankering to get a hint of the mysterious powers of Tintern Abbey in Wales that got to Wordsworth. More likely, I'll think of the video of The Flirtations doing Nothing But A Heartache (filmed there in 1967), or the 60s psych band. Supernatural stone-masonry of leering devils and the damned ("the medieval equivalent of the horror movie"?), as well as the mysteries of the 12th-century Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire and its fantastical carvings (and visiting dowsers) got a good spot on Romancing The Stone: The Golden Ages Of British Sculpture - plenty of great close-ups of pagan-like mythic creations, including the sheela-na-gig corbel. 

Also happily being drawn into the stealthy spooking of ITV's haunted house drama, Marchlands (though Paul Whitehouse as a ghost in the Aviva life insurance ad was a surprise). But what I really want is a Lego haunted house.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

did jack kirby believe in ancient astronauts?

Even if you don't know who Jack Kirby is, you'll know his creations. The New York comic book artist created Captain America with Joe Simon during the second world war and, with fellow comics legend, writer Stan Lee, classic characters such as the Fantastic Four and the X-Men for Marvel Comics during what's known as the silver age of comics in the 60s. 

Kirby left Marvel Comics for DC in 1970, but when he returned in 1975, it was with a series called The Eternals, which charts the battles between the godlike alien giants called the Celestials and mutant superhumans, the Deviants. If you're a comics fan, or a Neil Gaiman fan, you might be familiar with the more recent graphic novel version of The Eternals, but Kirby's original is in a different league - and I don't mean justice - with adventures that take in explaining the history of space gods to a college anthropology class, a Borg-like collective creation known as the Uni-Mind and a cosmically-powered robot called Hulk. 

Kirby had always been great on fantasy and sci-fi stories, working on anthologies like House Of Mystery, Strange Tales and World Of Fantasy, but when it came to The Eternals, there was more than a passing sense of fitting in with the Erich Von Daniken times. As the editorial to the first issue shows, it seems like Kirby did actually believe that space gods probably had at some point "stumbled upon this boondock planet called Earth." And that maybe they might come back. Now that really is belief in your work.

sean edwards maelfa exhibition

For those looking for art "exploring disappearing communities and failed utopias" Sean Edwards new exhibition Maelfa is an instant eye-catcher, not least with a poster (pictured above) that looks like a still from a 60s documentary about the promise of a new town. Maelfa Shopping Centre, the focus of the work, was built in a Cardiff council estate in the 1970s and was due for demolition when Edwards started his three-month residency there, creating film, photography, prints, models and intriguing-sounding "ephemera" that set out to comment on doomed aspirations, the social history of the area and his own personal history (he grew up  around the Maelfa). The silent video at the show's heart is "somewhere between a haunted house picture, a science fiction film, a socialist documentary, a family melodrama and a children's animation", and though Owen Hatherley's talk has already been and gone, there are further talks, with the artist, as well as one on Signs Of Post-War Housing (the latter hopefully suitably surreal).
Spike Island, Bristol, to 10 April 

devils' museum postcard, kaunas

I just can't understand why there aren't more postcards like this at holiday resorts ...

paris, the enchanted city

A town of labyrinths, dragons, Merlin, misty alleys and ... cats that fish?

pressman's witch dr head shrinkers kit

"Shrunken heads for all occasions ..."

echoes (pretty recent tho) : george shaw

"A postwar council estate on the edge of Coventry, with trees, grass and loads of woodland just beyond. The last built-up area before the countryside took over. I don't think it has ever left me, that sense of possibility and familiarity and possible danger lurking out there somewhere beyond. I haunted the place and now it haunts me."

From Sean O'Hagan's feature about George Shaw in The Observer, Sunday February 13

Thursday, 10 February 2011

a seer in search of future time

1978 edition
Marcel Belline was a popular - and typically dapper - French clairvoyant, known as the "Prince of Clairvoyants" from the mid-50s to the 80s, whose successes included predicting the deaths of the Kennedy brothers, Einstein and Marilyn Monroe and the May 68 riots. Un Voyant A La Recherche Du Temps Future (A Seer In Search Of Future Time) is one of three titles he wrote for the L'Aventure Mysterieuse (Mysterious Adventure) series of esoteric and paranormal books. More than 150 L'Aventure Mysterieuse titles were published between 1962 and the mid-90s, including works by Robert Charroux, Erich Von Daniken and HP Lovecraft, aided considerably by the 70s revival of interest in Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier's The Magicians and its occult magazine offshoot Planet. More 70s editions from this series to follow.

tired of the expected?

Coming soon... A tire that comes to life with horrifying telepathic powers? My kind of film. Unexpectedly, also from the same company, The Troll Hunter, about a bunch of Norwegian students who discover that trolls are real, and set out to film them. It looks sort of like Blair Witch Project meets Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are. 

Just when I thought I'd finally get round to watching all those Dario Argento films as well.

hitchcock's psycho fashion moment

Hitchcock makes like a monster for a 1962 Harper's Bazaar fashion shoot set around the Psycho house. Do I want to know how much it would cost to own a print of this Jeanloup Sieff shot? No, but you might.

randomness : february (I wish, you wish, we all wish for the retro-future utopia ...)

I feel like I've running around chasing my tail. Pretty pointless since I don't have a tail. Anyway, here's what's been going on (and sometimes what's already past). 

Aurally absorbed by Jon Brooks' Music For Thomas Carnacki - beautifully spectral found and made sounds. Happily hooked by the bait of Journey Around My Skull's blogpost, The Invisible World Pervades The Visible World - William Blake-style illustrations, both delicate and eerie. Endlessly distracted by the likes of discovering that vikings collected stone age objects (I knew there was a reason I called charity shopping looting and pillaging) and thought the objects had magical properties. 

Can't remember where I put my photos of the Horniman Museum, but it's an unexpected olde worlde museum gem in south London that's always flickr pic-friendly - Anna's Mondo-A-Go-Go post explains why the museum's big wood and glass cases full of stuffed animals, birds and skeletons are so great, and her photos have a hauntological eye too. 

Frederic Chaubin's long-awaited new book finally brings together his photos of Cosmic Communist Architecture from the 50s and 60s and, as things magazine points out, there seem to be a lot of people not only keen on such imagery, but also mourning the radical dreams of future past. 

And yes, of course I'm going to see Paul. Not so sure about Bedlam. In fact, really not convinced, but without Ghost Whisperer I don't have a guilty pleasure to fall back on and a trashy horror romcom set in a former lunatic asylum might just have to do. Or I could just play Zombie Farm.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

bats in your belfry game

You're a monster! Yes, you are, with your big claw to catch the bats that shoot out of the castle tower. But can you catch the most and be the biggest monster of them all? Mattel outdo Roger Corman for gaudy colour in 1964 with a boardgame that could leave you wondering whether to play it, or frame it (play it! play it!).

Monday, 7 February 2011

a book of charms and changelings

From the same series that included A Book Of Ghosts And Goblins, A Book Of Devils And Demons and A Book Of Magical Beasts - just a few of the more than 80 titles of tales collected and retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders. Few may have had as good a cover as this 1971 publication though.

Friday, 4 February 2011

1976 horror runaround with charles hawtrey

At the peak of 70s occult mainstream mania, not even a children's TV gameshow could escape the particular weirdness of the era. I would have loved to have been on Runaround, especially this Halloween special (thank you Kevin Younger), which revelled in all kinds of not for children type visuals (presenter Mike Reid carrying his guillotined head and the like), gory questions and Carry On's Charles Hawtrey doing a spectacularly weird (and probably sozzled) guest turn.

the 40 credit tour of earth

say "glppb*fltt!"  , originally uploaded to flickr by froggyboggler

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

occultisme bookshop

Sometimes you run into these things even when you're not looking for them - this old school occult bookshop was on the way to find the Salvador Dali sundial in Saint-Germain. It looked suitably out of time inside too. 

catacombs de paris

Went to Paris for a few days. Had a lovely time...

Thousands of tourists visit the Paris catacombs every year (even in January), entering a subterranean empire of the dead with bones and skulls piled high along dark, damp tunnels. It's all the more eerie for knowing that what you see is only a tiny part of a largely closed off labyrinth of nearly 200 miles, and that the mass graves moved here from 1785 were already up to 10 centuries old. I watched a father encourage his son to pick up a skull for a snapshot, posed Hamlet-style, and waited at the exit while my bag was checked - visitors sometimes like to take a bone or skull home as a memento. At the shop opposite,  the souvenir range stops short of glow in the dark skull lanterns, but they do have chewy skull sweets.