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.


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.