These videos contain long interviews claiming to be “witness testimony” of the Roswell Incident in New Mexico in 1947 (more after the jump). There are many hundreds like them. What are we to make of them?

I assume that these accounts are not historically correct. I don’t take that for granted, but it seems the most likely the case, given the evidence I have seen in my research. However, it should also be noted that even if I accepted that the Roswell Incident was in fact a UFO crash, I wouldn’t be advocating that position in my work. I am methodologically agnostic – which is to say, I don’t have a horse in this race.

Are these people are lying? Given the history of disinformation campaigns by intelligence agencies (see Mark Pilkington’s Mirage Men), this may well be true in some cases. But in the majority, I don’t think so. For one thing, there’s little to gain, except maybe a little celebrity in the UFO world. While it might be to Moore and Berlitz’ financial benefit to elaborate on the Roswell story, the “witnesses” wouldn’t have made any money. Moreover, I found in my fieldwork that in many cases, such witnesses are rather reticent to talk publicly about their experiences for fear of ridicule or professional censure.

Perhaps their memories are at fault. Can we elaborate such a tale if it didn’t in fact happen, and convince ourselves it did? We’re not talking about a mental event that might be abduction or fairies or temporal lobe epilepsy here. Certainly, we can do this in smaller ways – like the people who remembered seeing Bugs Bunny at Disneyland – but so much detail? An event which actually, physically happened, albeit probably with a weather balloon rather than a UFO, and involved other people? Difficult as it may seem, this may be the most likely explanation. The ability of the human imagination to trump reality – for good and for ill – is one inexplicable phenomenon I do believe in.

After all, as Ethan Quillen likes to say, everything is fiction. Maybe the best way to think about this material is as new chapters in an open-source fiction, a fiction which has taken on a life outside of its original authors and is feeding back into the real world.

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The Blackford Folly, Part 5

Something I recognised crouched by the Treasure. The powerful reptilian legs and clawed arms. The thick black spidery hairs sprouting from farthing-sized pores. The dead gaze from full-moon eyes.

Willie fell dead on the cold stone floor. MacGregor fell to his knees and began to babble fearfully. Elias just stared at the profane creature, mouth gaping, feet glued to the floor.

The Treasure was a gate between worlds, I realised suddenly. The creature had travelled through it and was dazed by the journey. But it was going to wake up, and it probably wouldn’t be friendly.

On the night the Laird read to us from The Clavicle of Moses, hose many years ageo, the book I held tightly to my chest, he had given one passage particular emphasis. “If ever you go too far,” he’d said, and we’d laughed heartily at the idea. “I know what intelligent, curious young men are like,” he insisted. “If ever you summon, by accident, that which you cannot put down, then remember this.” He held up his right hand: the index finger extended up, the middle finger pointed forward, and the thumb was out to the left, making three right angles. His comically portentous seriousness burned the image onto my impressionable mind. “The sign of the N’beros. If you remember only one thing, then remember this. If it doesn’t work, nothing will.”

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The Blackford Folly, Part 4

An hour later, Elias, MacGregor and I stood before the Folly in silent awe, the terrier Willie snuffling blindly around our feet. Its south and east faces were lit brightly by the moon, their opposites cast in shadows of purest pitch. All but the sharpest lines of the imposing structure were black, as though no light was reflected off the rock, but rather absorbed; perhaps providing some sort of power to the interior, current for ancient circuits.

What was this building? What were we to find within? The moon was stark and bright, and I shuddered as I recalled that hideous eye I had glimpsed through the gloom. All at once, the absolute terror of the situation struck me like a hurricane, and I wished to be back in my study.

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The Blackford Folly, Part 3

We both knew the basic story, as does everyone in Scotland with a taste for history or mystery: the First Laird, Jacques Lindsay, returned from the Fourth Crusade in 1205, to take up the lands bequeathed to him by the King. He was, it seems, suddenly enormously wealthy, and began to spend like a pope. The original Blackford House was an example of his flamboyance; an elaborate, pinnacled Gothic construction that was to collapse three centuries later. There, he threw lavish parties, and soon became well-known in society. Through his contacts, he even gained some political influence in Hollyrood. Finally, in 1221, King William made him his Lord Chancellor.

Inevitably, dark mutterings began to circulate; Jacques Lindsay had some secret that gave him his power and wealth. The most stubborn of these was that he had uncovered a treasure of some kind, a relic of a famous saint, perhaps, in Constantinople. Others have suggested that it was a secret document that he uncovered, one that would give him political or religious leverage, perhaps even blackmail. Jacques joked to his friends about a fabulous treasure hidden in the Lindsay estate, but none has ever been found.

Whatever the truth, Jacques Lindsay died in 1243, and took his secret to the grave with him. Title, house, money, estate; all were passed down through the generations, from father to son. Except for that one thing: the nature of the Treasure.

The study of George Lindsay, Laird of Blackford, was situated at the very apex of the tower in the southwest end of the House, where it commanded a spectacular panoramic view of the estate. The valley crept around the House from the west, cutting a swathe through the land. Due north, just visible through yellow-flowered gorse bushes, lay the Folly. The weather had grown belligerent, and heavy clouds were sharply outlined as they hurried across the sky. The dramatic vista was curtailed as Elias hastily drew the heavy curtains.

The walls of the circular room were lined with towering bookshelves piled high with antique books. Somewhere among them was a black cloth-bound copy of The Key Mosaic, also known as The Clavicle of Moses, a book so rare that many take it to be a mere legend. The Laird had once even gone so far as to give us a surreptitious look at his centuries-old copy. I had a sudden pang of regret that I would no longer know the eccentric old man with his smiling, piercing eyes, who had indulged my hungry mind over the years.

My eyes wandered around the room, taking in the objects d’art dotted about on the shelves. They betrayed the exquisite taste of their absent owner – a carving in pinkish, almost translucent soapstone of a reclining Buddha, an intricate brass sextant, the Golden Spiral of a nautilus’ shell. However, a coarse bust of the cheapest plaster of Paris caught my eye. It was of a grinning fat man’s face, painted in gaudy colours with no subtlety or care. It simply did not belong.

I beckoned Elias over to the desk, and opened the topmost of a stack of notebooks. Scraps of paper marked the important pages. The page open before us was a hand-drawn map of the valley, shown in meticulous detail.

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The Blackford Folly, Part 2

I awoke late in the morning, with a terrible headache. Holding my head against the pain that the sharp light of day brought, streaming in through tiny leaded windows set in walls two feet deep, I rose and began to dress. At first I took the curious images which were beginning to return to my mind as no more than a nightmare. How likely was it that no one else would respond to the piercing howls of the dogs? Perhaps, I mused, I had suffered a bout of somnambulism, brought on by the unusually fine whiskey.

As I stooped to comb my hair in the mirror, Mrs. MacGregor knocked upon the bedroom door. At my beck she entered, bearing a tray of porridge, crumpets, marmalade and rich-smelling coffee. Her decrepit terrier Willie trotted in behind, and began to snuffle blindly around. I bid her good morning, and thanked her profusely, not having noticed until that moment the cramps of hunger that gripped my stomach.

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The Blackford Folly, Part 1

[A seasonal gift for you. I remembered about this story I published in Dark Tales, back in 2006. But it’s kind of long, so I thought I could break it up, as a serial. But it’s also a little… old-fashioned – it’s kind of my version of Lovecraft crossed with Walter Scott. Perfect for the holidays! One part every day until the 30th. Enjoy.]

I write this account because I know that soon, when the police knock on my door, with pale faces and many questions, I will not be able to explain clearly what happened. They will have put all the facts together, but will refuse to believe what is laid bare before them, as at first I did. Sooner or later, the terrifying elegance of the truth will be clear and they will call on me to explain it away, that they might return home to their wives and children without that blackness that by then lies so heavily upon their hearts. I won’t be able to, but perhaps by setting down this account while the events are clear in my mind I may be able to clarify a few of the finer details of the case.

But I will not be able to locate George or Elias Lindsay.

It began a little over a week ago. George Lindsay, Laird of Blackford, had disappeared: he retired late after a nightcap of whiskey, as was his custom, and had not been seen since. Nothing apparently was amiss in his chambers; his clothes, excepting those he had been wearing and an Inverness cape, were all hung in his wardrobes as normal, and his papers lay spread out on his desk as though he had been interrupted at his work. There was no sign of a break-in, nor did the staff hear anything curious during the night. Constables from the local constabulary had made as thorough a search as the frequently inaccessible environs would permit, but no body, footprints, nor any other clues were turned up. It seemed as though the Laird had simply melted into the ether.

George Lindsay had been a towering figure to me all of my life. He was my Mother’s Uncle, though due to some odd gaps between generations they were roughly the same age. He was a charming and engaging man, most popular amongst the villagers of Blackford. Furthermore, he was the father of my best friend through all my childhood, Elias Lindsay.

Four days ago, a telegram from Elias arrived. It was rambling and vague, and I became concerned for his well-being. But one thing that was manifest was that he needed me in Blackford. The telegram was a summons. If my friend needed me, I would go.

Listen well as I tell you now – if I had got the merest inkling from my friend’s missive of what I was shortly to be drawn into I should have never left the comfort of my home. Instead I should have urged Elias to board up the House for good and never return. Instead, in my innocence, I sent a telegram to the University, informing them of my absence, and booked a cab for the morning.

From my carriage I watched lambs gambolling in the springtime sun. The pink cherry blossoms and cloudless sky brought to mind the paintings of Constable, and I began to forget the distressing reason for my journey. This pleasant sensation evaporated as we entered Blackford itself. It is said that it was built where two lay-lines cross, and that this is the reason for the distinctive physical and emotional sensations one experiences. The chest becomes tight and the breathing shallow, and it is closely allied with the panic that has been observed to settle over men and beasts alike in the darkest depths of woodland. The carriage slowed as we passed over the crossroads and headed down the hill towards Blackford House.

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The Terrortubbies at Myebook

I took tentative toe-dip into the world of e-publishing a few weeks ago and uploaded a story to Myebook.com. I just wanted to see what notice it would receive, given zero promotion. To date, it is over two and a half thousand views.

The story is “The Terrortubbies and the Raven King”, a childrens’ story written by me and illustrated by my very good friend Andrew Baxter, drawing stylistically from Victorian childrens’ literature. When the midnight hour comes, the Terrortubbies come out of their coffins to play. In their timeless, twilit realm, all the monsters of horror fiction are children, and the only authority figure is the frowning face of the Full Moon.  When Poe’s pet raven disappears, the Terrortubbies – Mary Shelley, Stoker, Lovecraft and Poe – encounter the King of the Birds, and learn the real meaning of giving a gift.

We were very happy with it, but alas, agents were less so. So I have put it online. Please have a look. It’s a lovely interface:

Myebook - The Terrortubbies and the Raven King - click here to open my ebook

Another Chapman rejection

It is probably foolish to make this my first post, but  openness is important, isn’t it?

The manuscript of my newest short story, “The Men in Red”, was returned to me today by Chapman literary magazine. As Scotland’s leading magazine, it has been my goal to have a story published by them for a couple of years now. “Quod Scriptus Scriptus” was turned down last year, though they praised the writing. “The Men in Red” was a lot more suited to them, having a strong Scottish aspect and none of the supernatural themes that my stories typically feature, and I was quietly confident.

Alas, although I made the shortlist, the story was just too long at 4,200 words. The Editor, Joy Hendry, was typically complimentary, but nevertheless, I am a little disappointed. Still, some progress, and the story I am (slowly) working on should come in at exactly 3000 words, and also has the Scottish setting.  Next time…