The Trickster on a String.
The text messages coming from the filming was — to say the least — encouraging. We’re shooting the fifth season of a popular paranormal show and this time the cast and team is traveling the United Kingdom to visit some of the most haunted spots we could find, at least considering the difficulties filming at the height of ghostly adventures — the autumn and winter. This time they’ve finally managed to capture something unexplainable on camera, maybe authentic paranormal activity? Well almost. The vase came rolling on the floor, from its place up on a dusty shelf. The circular mark on the spot where it stood, a clean spot surrounded by years of dust, pointed at some kind of levitation. The vase must have lifted above the surface, glided in the air over the dust and then down on the floor.
The second part of the activity was there on video, it had been captured on one of our surveillance cameras, tumbling over the creaky planks making up the floor, until it stopped. However, that first part, well… as usual that initial movement, that magical and impossible levitation was unfortunately hidden behind a slim, wooden bannister. It was like the phenomenon cheekily wanted to say “Oh, that’s a pity! Sooo close!” with a slight, naughty giggle. It was just centimeters away from the ultimate proof of something extraordinary, a few millimeters away from getting a headline in some cheap, exploitative news magazine: “Paranormal team captures levitation on camera!”, setting off a whole chain of copied articles all over the world, mentionings in podcasts and quickly composed posts on Facebook to generate likes and comments.
I put bread on the table through the paranormal, and have been spending the last years behind the scenes of the most popular paranormal show in Scandinavia, doing research and writing to make the circumstances the best possible for the team out on location. Over and over again I encounter evidence from honest witnesses and other paranormal teams, where the evidence hints at something strange, but never ever goes full goblin mode. To be honest, it IS annoying. Some lyrics by David Bowie echo in my mind, “So far away, so far away. Little wonder, little wonder you…”, because that wonder we’re always searching is always just behind the hill, somewhere over the rainbow. That revelation that’s hidden behind the event horizon. I guess it’s the curse we who work in this biz always encounters. Some get insane, others give up and the rest just keep going and going, because the truth is out there… or?
Recently I dug deep in my DVD collection to find something that was once released by UFOTV, often very speculative documentaries about the subject of flying saucers, aliens and other kinds of extra- and ultraterrestrial strangeness. Ships of Light: The Carlos Diaz UFO Experience (Michael Hesemann and Natalia Zahradnikova, 2004) is a two part documentary about the Mexican contactee and experiencer Carlos Diaz, who was the da bomb in the field 20 or so years ago, causing celebrities to take photos of him while embracing and lots and lots of speculation if he was a hoax or not. Diaz himself seems like a sympathetic man with an extraordinary memory of pointless details in 30 year old observations, and it’s easy to see the fascination. Even if I dig the guy, even if I dig his photos more, hoaxed or not (The Undead Gaucho has found something that points to some kind of locally produced lamps that Diaz allegedly used). No matter what, earlier that day, I discussed the old, now basically dead, idea about UFOs moving as a “falling leaf”, slowly back and forth in a slight arched motion. This is something you can read in most older UFO literature, and is something that’s fallen out of fashion in modern times. To my surprise this was brought up in Ships of Light (part 1, part 2), as the luminous plasma craft seems to move — at least in some videos — just like that.
Some say it’s just a miniature on a string, others — like Ivan T. Sanderson in his, to be honest, brilliant 1967 classic Uninvited Visitors: A Biologist Looks at UFO’s, speculates in why this particular movement occurs: “This is principally the inclination or ability of these objects to perform a sort of “falling-leaf” motion in one spot. They have also been reported to “bounce up and down.” The most curious aspect of these performances is that they most usually occur when a UAO comes to a stop. Thus, one of these things may go buzzing all over the sky at terrific speeds, make instantaneous (to us) stops and starts, and apparently angular turns; then it may come to a stop and just “sway there for any period. Since they have an equal ability to just stop dead and stay put, one wonders why they indulge these secondary movements. Is it induced by some pulsing of their energy output or drive, or are they just rocking like a ship tied to jetty exposed to an ocean swell? By “falling-leaf’ is meant a seesawing but not necessarily with any loss of altitude”, and adds, in a very frank way, “in fact, I have been unable to trace a single report of descent by this method)”.
If we focus on those last words by Sanderson, who claims to never have encountered such a report — is the falling leaf theory just a myth that’s grown and grown and somehow become a reality, until it actually manifested itself in real life observations? Just like with Diaz and his plasma friends? Where did the movement itself come from? Could it be from the popular way to fake flying saucer footage in the past, to attach a string to a saucer and let it dangle in front of the camera? Or is it from popular culture, for example the wonderful saucer appearing in Ed D. Wood’s not-bad-at-all 1957 sci-fi romp Plan 9 from Outer Space?
But let’s go back to the trickster element in the phenomena, and the admittedly outrageous thought I had about it and how it would interact with witnesses. The majority of the footage showing flying saucers doing the “falling leaf” dance is from the 50’s and 60’s. Some of them confessed to be hoaxes, but there are of course a bunch of them where the witness never backed off their initial claim it was what they saw and filmed with their little camera. If the UFO belongs to a larger trickster universe, why wouldn’t it be possible if this unknown intelligence actually disguised itself in a way so no one else would believe in what was caught on camera? For example, as something that looks fake? Like a flying saucer miniature attached to a fishing line, wobbling chaotically above the tree line? What a wonderful prank by the phenomena — to be seen, clear as day, and still be as ridiculous as possible.
Super 8 cameras and such are of course something of the past, but nowadays we’re still reacting to blurry photos and videos of unidentified flying objects. It’s like whatever it is just don’t want to be seen and identified, but still has that attention craving personality? Is it possible the trickster deliberately makes the Bigfoot creature look like a gorilla suit? The ghost like a pareidolia effect in a moisty window or mist floating by? I don’t want to sound like I’ve been smoking something, but what if pareidolia is its own kind of ultra-terrestrial reality? I’m exaggerating of course, toying with ideas — but it is a fascinating thought, and always the powerful concept of “what if…”.
One can say that hoaxers and scammers are such a big piece of the phenomena as experiencers, contactees, researchers, ufologists, scientists, authors, fans etc. They all belong in this mystifying web of weirdness, all doing their part to make it all move forwards, backwards or somewhere else. We’re all involved in a strange game of chess, and the phenomena, the trickster, is the chessboard we’re all standing on.
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.