Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter!

Spring is here, and hopefully more cryptid sightings will be on their way.  Until then, we'll continue to work on our Human/Ferret telepathy experiments at our new underground midtown laboratory.

In the meantime, here's a nice little Easter egg for all of you readers - Check out the FBI's own webpages on Unexplained Phenomena at:
http://vault.fbi.gov/search?Subject%3Alist=Unexplained%20Phenomenon

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Tumbler Tumbles

If you were at Park Central Square at 7:30 AM last Tuesday, the morning before the Spring Equinox, you would have seen an uncommon sight:  A small crew from Springfield Public Works using heavy machinery to lift a huge steel sculpture, roll it over, then set it back onto the ground.  Why was this happening, and what was its significance?

It all started in 1971 when the City of Springfield Missouri received a gift of $15,000 for a new sculpture, the first modern sculpture to be displayed by the city, designed and built by an aspiring artist named Aris Demetrios.  Though some in the community didn't think highly of modern art, the sculpture was soon accepted by the public in its new home at Park Central Square.

Then, 41 years later, the Public Works Department realized that they did not know the name of the sculpture or what it was intended to represent.  That's when Public Works Director Jonathan Gano sought out the artist for the answers.  Fortunately, Mr. Demetrios has done very well for himself since 1971 and was more than happy to give the answers.

It turns out that the name of the sculpture is "The Tumbler", and it had a purpose that no one had guessed.  It has a clever polygonal structure that is not obvious at first sight, and has no official top, bottom, or sides.  It was intended to be turned over, or "tumbled" once a season so that it would be a sculpture that changed and moved over time.

And so, last year, the city began to tumble the Tumbler at the beginning of each season, at each Equinox and Solstice.  This, strangely, appears to have had some kind of Feng Shui like effect on Park Central Square, experienced by the scores of peaceful, happy people who visit the Square, especially on weekends.  So, next time you get a chance, you may want to thank the staff of Springfield Public Works for understanding the importance of an artist's remarkable vision (and for helping to keep our good city in alignment with the Cosmos!)

For more info and to see a neat video interview with the artist go to:
http://cityview.springfieldmo.gov/media/the-tumbler-on-park-central-square



Friday, March 15, 2013

Part 3: Bramwell's Final Notes

Bramwell, his Ephemerozoa, and a modern depiction
As mentioned in two previous posts (Part 1 & Part 2), Thomas Atherton Bramwell had resettled near the town of Springfield Missouri in January of 1898 in hopes of making contact with the occupants of the Martian Airship seen by W. H. Hopkins in that same location the previous year.  Suspecting that the Martians used unknown invisible rays to propel their craft and for communication, he continued to experiment with and modify his own version of Nikola Tesla's High-Intensity Discharge Lamp in hopes of creating new invisible rays and eventually contacting the Martians and emulating their remarkable flying machine.  It was during these experiments that a peculiar and unexpected effect was noticed:  Floating globular organisms, otherwise invisible, could be viewed during certain unpredictable and temporary modulations in the Discharge Lamp's radiance.   Bramwell was never able to purposely bring about their appearance for other witnesses, nor was he able to photograph them due to the limitations of his camera equipment, but these accidental events were frequent enough during the summer and autumn of 1898 that he could make a number of observations regarding the creatures.

During one event lasting a full five minutes he discovered that the organisms had remarkably short lifespans, leading him to name them "Ephemerozoa":
"The creatures, when visible, appear to live only a minute or little more before disintegrating into droplets resembling fine mist, then ceasing to exist altogether.  Just as quickly, new creatures coalesce to replace them." 
Bramwell also noted that the creatures appeared in various colors and sizes, but otherwise had the same basic shape and features.  They had no mouths or limbs, only delicate sensory tendrils hanging from their outer surfaces and one or more deep, eye-like organs.  They did not interact with each other, even when in groups.  Their only activity was to watch Bramwell as intently as he watched them.

Eventually, these observations led to his recognizing even more remarkable aspects of the globes:
"No means of reproduction...  These creatures neither produce nor consume, they simply form without ancestry out of the chaos of the elements, coldly observe us, then dissipate without progeny."
This implied that these were not creatures resulting from the pressures of natural selection.  Instead, some form of spontaneous generation was at work.

At this point Bramwell's notes become very confusing, and in the last three months of his experiments he appears to have made no attempt to leave any useful information for posterity, only nonsensical electrical schematics and cryptic statements such as:
"von Hohenheim is vindicated!  Sylphestri, Gnomi, Volcani - All these intelligences existing as complex standing waves of Radiopotentiality in the Aether"
"Sylphestre Globus... Each an ephemeral ocular aquastor of the mind of Nature, and in this way Creation's curiosity is satisfied and its knowledge made complete!"
From this it may be suspected that he had been influenced by the writings of the 16th century physician Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, more commonly known as Paracelcus, believed to be the author of Liber de Nymphis, Sylphis, Pygmaeis et Salamandris et de Caeteris Spiritibus.

Finally, in November of 1898, Bramwell's mad flurry of scientific inquiry came to a puzzling end.  On the 12th of that month visitors to his home and laboratory found that Bramwell was missing.  His dynamo was still, though the steam engine driving it was still hot.  No evidence was ever found explaining his disappearance.  A few joked that he had been devoured by his "invisible monsters", though there were no signs of violence.  With no known relatives or will ever found his property was auctioned to pay outstanding debts.  Many items of lab equipment and paraphernalia, including the contents of several darkened glass jars, were purchased by Ben Meyer and moved to the Lodge at Bethesda.  It is with these sad details that we end the story of T. Atherton Bramwell, as nothing further pertaining to his life or work is recorded in history.

Well, there is one odd footnote found in the writings of Nikola Tesla, the man whose demonstrations of electrical wonders in St Louis first inspired Bramwell...

On one clear night in 1899, while working on an improved radio device at his laboratory in Colorado Springs, Tesla began to receive extraordinary radio signals of mathematical progressions. Two years later in 1901 he shared this news to the world in an interview with Collier's Weekly and was heavily criticized, but he maintained until his death in 1943 that the messages had come from someone on the planet Mars.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it was proof that T. Atherton Bramwell truly had disappeared from the face of the Earth, having traveled to that planet in the Martian Airship whose occupants he had worked so hard to contact.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Part 2: The Serendipitous Apparitions of 1898

When Thomas Atherton Bramwell left St. Louis in January 1898 to resettle in the little town of Springfield Missouri he brought with him much of the remarkable equipment that he had accumulated in his previous 4 years of research into the creation and identification of "invisible rays", an effort begun in earnest following his witnessing Nikola Tesla's historic St. Louis demonstration of 1893.  Bramwell established his new laboratory on high ground north of town on the road to Kansas City near the location where W.H. Hopkins had reported contacting the occupants of a Martian Airship the previous year.  Interestingly, this spot was only a few miles east of the village of Bethesda and its secretive Lodge frequented by a number of Springfield's notable citizens.  Before long, Bramwell became a favored guest of businessman and future city mayor Benjamin Meyer who appears to have tolerated the scientist's more irritating personality traits, referring to him as "a latter day Paracelsus".  It appears that it was Meyer who introduced Bramwell to the Fraternal Order of the Seekers after Bramwell's first reporting his discovery of the "Ephemerozoa".

As mentioned before, Bramwell had come to Southwest Missouri in hopes of witnessing a hoped-for return of the Martian Airship.  He believed that invisible rays, similar to those discovered by Wilhelm Röntgen earlier in the decade, were responsible for the vessel's flight.  He also suspected that these rays were being used by the Martians for communication in the manner of a radiotelegraph.  As he waited for the return of the Martians he continued his efforts to replicate and prove the existence of the rays.

Bramwell, 1898
One night, as he worked to focus the radiation created by his High Frequency Discharge Lamp onto a target screen of barium platinocyanide, he became aware that he was not alone in the room, as he noted:
"Several small undulating globes... floating in the still air... faintly phosphorescent... similar to the animalcules seen under a microscope"
Unfortunately, the images disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.  Many of Bramwell's contemporaries would have judged these apparitions to be of the realm of Spiritualism, but he instantly realized that he had seen naturally invisible organisms becoming visible in the strange light of his apparatus.  Only an accidental modulation in frequency had brought them into view.  He could now claim the greatest biological discovery since Antonie van Leeuwenhoek - If only he could replicate the specific frequency that allowed them to be seen!

NEXT WEEKEND - The Strange Disappearance of T. A. Bramwell

Friday, March 1, 2013

Part 1: Bramwell's Ephemerozoa

Verifiable facts regarding the life and work of Thomas Atherton Bramwell are nigh nonexistent.  Any attempt at biography would be made up of mostly rumor, speculation and third hand information, but the contemporary interest in photographic anomalies such as "orbs" and "rods", plus Bramwell's links to the history of Springfield, Missouri and the recent appearance of ephemerozoic imagery in the street art of the Springfield area lead me to make an attempt at a reexamination of his efforts.

Thomas Atherton Bramwell
If one looks hard enough at the histories of the greatest technical minds of the Victorian era one may find, in the dusty margins, the name of one Thomas Atherton Bramwell, photographer, failed electrical engineer and self proclaimed expert in the field of Ephemerobiology.  Due to his secretive nature he wrote nothing of his own life - only a few letters and his drawings of perceived creatures and planned designs for electrical apparatus remain. We have no date of birth, and only the notion that he was born in Britain, perhaps Devonshire (though some say that he was an American who copped a British accent in a feeble attempt to impress his peers and hide his own background).

Strangely, the story of Bramwell and the Ephemerozoa begins with an event that would at first appear to be entirely unrelated but would have profound repercussions   On April 10, 1897 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a story reporting that a Mr. W. H. Hopkins (Kansas City resident and member of the Missouri Horticultural Society) encountered an airship and its occupants, thought to be from the planet Mars, about 20 feet in length and 8 feet in diameter near the outskirts of Springfield, Missouri.  Bramwell, at that time living in St. Louis and reading of the event, quickly began a correspondence with Hopkins in hopes of gaining some insight into the workings of the craft.  Bramwell suspected that certain invisible rays emanating from the vessel were responsible for its powers of levitation and flight, and he had already begun experiments with a machine patterned after Nikola Tesla's High-Intensity Discharge Lamp design of 1894 in hopes of creating such rays.  Eventually, Hopkins tired of Bramwell's confusingly technical questions (and perhaps sensed Bramwell's abrasive personality) and brusquely began ignoring his letters later that year. Undaunted, Bramwell speculated that the extraterrestrial visitors had some reason to visit Southwest Missouri and, perhaps, would return.  Packing his electrical equipment and a newly purchased camera, Bramwell moved to the little town of Springfield in January of 1898 in hopes of photographing the airship.  What he instead discovered were creatures that were, though terrestrial, far stranger!

CONTINUED NEXT WEEKEND