The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation

We’ve got a new book out! Co-authored by editor Jo Keeling and David Bramwell, and designed by the Ernest team, The Mysterium explores 40 compelling mysteries, oddities and remarkable tales for the modern age.

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
Douglas Adams The Hitch-hikers The Guide to the Galaxy

In 2015, Guinness World Record holder, Steve Feltham, hung up his binoculars and headed home. For 24 years, living in a loch-side caravan in Scotland, he had waited for a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster until reaching the inevitable conclusion that it was, in all likelihood, a catfish.

Nowadays, many of us feel nostalgic for a more innocent age when we pored over compendiums of ‘the unexplained’. Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World and Reader’s Digest Mysteries of the Unexplained beguiled us with tales of spontaneous human combustion and blurry photos of Nessie, flying saucers and Big Foot.

But while a lack of credible proof in our digital age casts doubt over such stories, The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation (Hodder & Stoughton, 5 Oct 2017) sets out to prove that the world is just as mysterious as it ever was, it’s just a question of adjusting our gaze.

Co-authored by Ernest editor Jo Keeling and David Bramwell, with a host of guest writers and foreword by Dan Schreiber (No Such Thing As A Fish), The Mysterium delves into such tales as…

Strange fruit

Explore the stories behind trap streets and Mountweazels – fictitious entries hiding in dictionaries, maps and encyclopaedias. Investigate the meaning behind the Toynbee Tiles – 600 linoleum tiles embedded in roads across the USA and South America, bearing the message ‘resurrect dead on planet Jupiter’? And unravel the story of Panacea’s Box, which is said to contain the secrets of humanity’s future happiness; once opened, the problems of the world will dissolve. So why the heckers haven’t we opened it?

Reproduced with permission from Kendall Whitehouse. 

Reproduced with permission from Kendall Whitehouse. 

Ghosts in the machine

Eschewing the monsters and enigmas of the past, The Mysterium delves into new mysteries created in our interconnected, digital age, arguing that – rather than debunking mysteries – the internet has become a breeding ground for new mystery. Born of a 2009 competition to ‘create paranormal images’, Slenderman’s mythology manifested within the space of ten days. Five years later, a ghoul created entirely on the internet started claiming real-life victims. To lighten things up a touch, meet the trickster whose Gumtree ad – about a man in search of a tenant willing to dress as a walrus in return for free rent – inspired a horror film.

Are we not human?

Travel to the Melanesian island where residents worship Prince Philip as a volcano God. Ponder the rise of the mirage men – whether US government used mythology to cover up their advanced technology. And enter the bizarre world of Chuck Tingle – the cult, self-published, pseudonymous author who started penning stories about steamy encounters with dinosaurs and unicorns before moving on to anthropomorphised objects and even concepts.

Photo: Christopher Hogue Thompson

Photo: Christopher Hogue Thompson

Strange sounds & spooky transmissions

Tune in to mysterious coded transmissions on shortwave radio. Look into reports of the Hum – a low-frequency, untraceable buzz that has been plaguing residents of Bristol, Taos New Mexico and other cities around the globe since the 1940s. Meet The Residents, the world’s most mysterious band, and contemplate why the world’s worst orchestra threw in the towel.

Supernature

If we see films as a cultural expression of our inner anxieties, then it’s clear that abnormal weather and mysterious atmospheric phenomena tap into a primal fear. Perhaps it’s down to the very real threat of climate change or the fact that so much of what happens in our oceans is still unexplained. Investigate geomagnetic storms that can blow up pylons and wipe our bank accounts; balls of electricity that appear inside plane cabins and float down the aisle and dark lightning that shoots gamma rays into space so powerful it can blind sensors on satellites and create anti-matter. Plus, the Bermuda Triangle of Space, rogue waves that slice freighters in half and cats that can predict death!

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Mind games

According to the old playground proverb, sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. That proverb dates to the Victorian era, a time not noted for its emotional intelligence. Here in the hyper-connected 21st century, sticks and stones are seriously outgunned by the damaging power of words. According to one interpretation of a thought experiment called Roko’s Basilisk, simply hearing or reading about it will cause you to be unendurably tortured until the end of time. Meanwhile in Japan, a million youngsters are withdrawing from human contact. Explore strange tales of culture-bound syndromes, from semen-loss anxiety to Hikikomori. Plus, the disturbing story of 116 expatriated men from Cambodia, who died in their sleep within months of arriving in the USA.

The really creepy stuff

Why do human feet keep washing up on the same beaches in British Columbia? Will we soon be able to download our brains and live as a brain in a jar? And just to doubly make sure you don’t sleep at night – why not explore new ways of looking at our imminent destruction from a computer virus that could polish off the human race to self-reinforcing AI robots that could accidentally turn increasingly large chunks of the observable universe into paperclips. Sweet dreams.


Co-authored by Jo Keeling and David Bramwell. Foreword by Dan Schreiber (No Such Thing As A Fish). Designed by Tina Smith and Johnathan Montelongo. Guest writers John Higgs, Brendan C. Byrne, Matt Iredale, Leila Johnston, Jen Rowe, Mark Pilkington and Ian 'Cat' Vincent. 

Pick up your copy of The Mysterium: Unexplained and extraordinary stories for a post-Nessie generation on Amazon and in all good bookstores.

Diving into the World's End (a photo story)

Immerse yourself in the nutrient-rich waters of the Galápagos, explore the sheer edges of old volcanos and gently drift in the current alongside native Pacific green turtles. Scroll down for some of our favourite shots that didn't make it into the latest issue, captured by Graeme Owsianski

On 9 April 1925, marine biologist William Beebe became the first person to dive in Galápagos. His head enclosed in a cumbersome copper helmet, he sucked air through a garden hose wedged by his right ear. Beebe had been practising in the New York Aquarium, but nothing could prepare him for how it felt to sit below the surface, “wishing for a dozen eyes, so filled was the sea with strange living things.” As the sun’s rays shone down “as though through the most marvellous cathedral”, many never before seen creatures swam over to look at this curious visitor, whose helmet revolved like “some strange sort of owl”. Triggerfish took nips at him, “the strangest little blenny in the world... five inches long and mostly all head” stared in through the glass and an octopus poured over a rock “like some horrid viscid fluid in animal form”.

Since then, these waters have attracted many more pioneers – marine geologists photographed hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor in the 1970s, and lantern bearing anglerfish made their startling debut after being dredged from the depths. Ninety years on, exploring this underwater world still feels like you’re drifting into our last frontier...

197A7342.jpg
197A7967.jpg
197A7926.jpg
197A7422.jpg
197A7935.jpg
197A7149.jpg
EP6_Cover_LowRes.jpg
 
Print issue 6
10.00
Quantity:
Add To Cart

A glossary of seafaring terms

From "knucker" to "knockarse", historian Chris Hare is your guide to fisherman's words past and present

Illustration: Joe McLaren

Illustration: Joe McLaren

bexhill bunny (noun)

A term used on-board instead of saying ‘rabbits’, which was considered unlucky. Prolonged periods of bad weather meant that fishermen were forced to stay on shore and hunt for rabbits. 

gipper (noun)

Slime that oozes out of newly caught fish. 

hoggie (noun)

A Sussex fishing boat, particularly associated with Brighton. 

knockarse (noun)

A boat with a flat stern, like a hoggie. 

knucker (noun)

A legendary dragon that lived in the spring-fed pools found on the coastal plain of Sussex, known as knucker holes. 

mace (noun)

A dialect word for credit, e.g. “How did you afford your new nets?”, “Oh, I bought them on the mace.” 

shay (noun)

A bright misty haze or halo seen at night, often associated with supernatural apparitions. 

shraves (noun)

The dips in the chalk cliffs as seen from the sea, the truncated valleys of the the South Downs, e.g.The Seven Sisters. 

silver darlings (noun)

Fishermen’s slang for herring. A good catch of herring was worth a great deal to fishermen, equal in value to nets of silver. 

whale (noun)

A name for a fisherman’s apron. 

Chris Hare's book The Secret Shore and CD South Coast Songs and Shanties is available to buy at secretshore.org.uk.

This glossary originally featured in issue six of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

Print issue 6
10.00
Quantity:
Add To Cart

Shooting on a Leica IIIc

Dressed in woollen breeches and hobnailed boots, photographer Hanson Leatherby and writer Oliver Carter-Wakefield set out to climb Snowdon in the footsteps of mountaineer George Leigh Mallory, and to capture the expedition with the Kodak camera of the day – the Leica IIIc. We caught up with Hanson to find out more about this robust, yet elegant, piece of kit.

Images by Hanson Leatherby

Images by Hanson Leatherby

For those unfamiliar with vintage cameras, what is a Leica?

The first 35mm film Leica prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke, Wetzlar, in 1913. Intended as a compact camera for landscape photography, particularly during mountain hikes, the Leica was the first practical 35 mm camera that used standard cinema 35 mm film. Barnack conceived the Leica as a small camera that produced a small negative, with high quality lenses that could create well-defined negatives.

Tell us about the model you’re using – the IIIc.

My Leica IIIc was made in 1940. It's very small and portable with tiny interchangeable lenses that are really sharp and render beautifully with B&W film. They call it the 'Leica glow' with lenses from this era. The nature of shooting with a rangefinder urges you to frame in certain ways that give the image a particular style no other camera can give. This, as well as its portability, is why I chose it.

What should a user bear in mind when it comes to handling and operating this camera?

You have to cut the film leader to fit the film into the camera, which is a bit of a challenge. The shutter speed dial has to be operated after the film is wound on, not before.

How did you find using the Leica on the Mallory shoot in Snowdonia? Were there any surprises or challenges?

I have shot a lot with this camera so no surprises, really. As mentioned before, loading film is the main challenge as you have to cut the film leader to slide it into the body of the camera so that is doesn't foul the cloth shutter curtain. The curtain runs horizontally directly in front of the film plain, so when you slide film into the body of the camera it can hit the shutter curtain and cause damage or a jam.

Any other exciting shoots coming up?

The next shoot I have coming up is a Brassaï style nighttime street shoot in Paris, shot on film with models wearing 1930s clothing.

Hanson Leatherby is a Bebop fanatic, aesthete and an escapist. He is also a lover of cubism, sharp suits and industrial design. He shoots film on manual cameras to keep him sane.

hansonleatherby.com

You can read about Hanson and Oliver's experience walking in the footsteps of Mallory in issue 6 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

 

 

The history of the slipper

Fashion, customs, social science and industry – once you step inside the history of the slipper there’s much to sink into. But don’t get too comfortable, it’s not all about toasty toes 

What is a slipper? Until the late 19th century, the term could be used to describe any indoor shoe that slipped on to the foot, including ballroom slippers (think Cinderella’s glassy numbers), bathroom slippers, bedroom slippers and afternoon tea slippers. Nowadays, we use the word to mean footwear that is only to be worn in the home. Whatever the definition, its history is an absorbing proposition.

Slippers were worn in Chinese courts as early as 4700 BC. They would be made out of cotton or woven rush, had leather linings, and were adorned with symbols of power, such as dragons. Native American moccasins were also highly decorative. Hand painted to depict scenes from nature and embellished with beadwork and fringing, their soft sure-footedness made them suitable for indoors appropriation.

Inuit and Aleut people would make shoes from smoked hare hide to protect their feet against the frozen ground inside their homes. Conversely, the discerning Victorian gentleman was in need of a pair of ‘house shoes’ in order to keep the dust and gravel outside – much better than ruining his expensive rug and beautifully polished floor.

Embroidered slippers presented Victorian ladies (on both sides of the Atlantic) with an opportunity to show off their needlepoint skills. Magazines such as Godey’s Lady’s Book and Peterson’s Magazine contained patterns so that the latest fashions could be recreated in the home; a perfect gift for a loved one, and an ideal way to entice a man with an eye for embroidery.

The emergence of a slipper industry grew from the warehouse floor of the felt industry in northeast England. Workers would make themselves footwear from the scraps that were left over, and from this seed grew the businesses of John William Rothwell, Samuel McLerie and other commercial retailers in the late 1800s. Though the advent of heating and descent into everyday casualness may have led slipper sales to decline since the 1950s it doesn’t make them any less interesting, or snug! Read on for tales of notable styles, from those worn by Kanye West to the Pope. 

The Prince Albert slipper

The discerning gentleman’s house shoe, which gained popularity in the 1840s, is said to have been designed by Prince Albert himself. The Albert slipper has an extended vamp (the upper part), quilted lining and leather sole. Initially designed for Victorian men hosting dinner parties, and to be teamed with a matching smoking jacket, this design staple was later synonymous with Hollywood greats, such as Clarke Gable. From Robert Kennedy to the purveyor of questionable style Kanye West, it has continued to be a signature of the debonair.

To liberate or repress

Slippers have been used as both a symbol of freedom and oppression. For Rita de Acosta Lydig, receiver of one of the largest divorce settlements of her day in 1900, her Pietro Yanturni slippers, made of gold brocade and silver silk tissue (stored on shoe trees made from antique violins), were a sign of opulence. Slippers worn by members of a sultan’s harem represented something entirely different. Their frail nature made it impossible to escape over any rough terrain, but made them ideal footwear for the luxurious carpets of their masters.

Papal submission

The slippers historically worn by the Pope were an elaborate affair. Bright red, to represent the blood of martyrs and Christ’s own bloodied feet in his final moments, they were handmade from silk or satin and decorated with gold thread. A gold cross garnished with rubies completed the ornate spectacle. The Pope wore these slippers inside his residences, rather than the red leather shoes he would wear outside, and it was custom that any pilgrim having an audience with the Pope had to kneel and kiss one of his slippers. 

Words: Duncan Haskell, Illustrations: Jade They

This originally featured in issue six of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

Print issue 6
10.00
Quantity:
Add To Cart