In the world of Hollywood horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, fiction isn’t quite as fictional, after all, as Nick Redfern demonstrates…
Poltergeist: The concept of poltergeist activity was thrust into the public domain in 1982 when the movie Poltergeist – taken from the German for “Noisy Ghost” – was unleashed in cinemas across the globe and sparked brief and widespread interest in the subject. But the reality is equally as weird as its fictional counterpart, and maybe even more so. That numerous examples of poltergeist activity occur in homes where young girls, in the early stages of puberty, are living has led many ghost-hunters to conclude that “psychic stress” is the underlying cause. In other words, it’s the victims themselves, or at least someone in the family, who is unknowingly releasing pent-up rebellion and teen-frustration in the form of psychic powers that can violently smash furniture, break windows, and cause untold havoc in the home. Mom and dad: keep the kids happy or else!
28 Days Later: It was the definitive movie that introduced us to the fast-running zombie phenomenon. Except, that is, for one thing: they weren’t zombies. They were “the infected.” As a result of the disastrous escape of a manufactured virus from a secret research lab, the U.K. becomes overrun by crazed and frenzied killers. As the virus spreads across Britain, the infected grow in number, and Armageddon rapidly unfolds. But, it couldn’t really happen. Could it? Well…for decades scientists have been warning us about the very real threat posed by created super-viruses that could take hold of the planet’s population in frighteningly quick time. In 1966, Professor of Genetics Joshua Lederberg famously stated: “The large scale deployment of infectious agents is a potential threat against the whole species: mutant forms of viruses could well develop that would spread over the earth’s population...” We have been warned! Get those tennis-shoes ready, you may need to run…very fast.
The Omen: Come on, would you consider naming your son Damien, even for a moment? Maybe, maybe not! After all, whether people like to admit it or not, just about the only thing the name brings to mind is the sinister kid in The Omen. And who is Damien of the 1976 movie? Nothing less than the Anti-Christ, that’s who. And although The Omen is nothing more than a good and enjoyably-supernatural diversion from the real world, for many people the Anti-Christ is no joke. The Darth Vader of the Bible, the Anti-Christ is not – as some assume – an evil demon or literal monster. Nope. He’s a man, albeit a dastardly cunning and evil man, carefully carrying out the orders of the forked-tailed, horned dude who lives where it’s very, very hot. Stay away from him. And, just to be safe, anyone named Damien, too.
Godzilla: He first took on Tokyo, Japan in 1954 and did a great job of pummeling the city to the ground. Not surprising, given that he stands hundreds of feet tall and has atomic breath! Since looming out of the ocean all those years ago, the green and mighty one has taken on King Kong, a giant moth, mechanized-monsters, aliens and more. But: what about a real Godzilla? Could there actually be goliath-sized, reptilian nightmares in the deeper waters of our world? Possibly. According to official Navy documents, an extraordinary encounter occurred on December 13, 1857 in the Atlantic Ocean. Naval commander George Henry Harrington wrote in his ship’s log: “...we were startled by the sight of a huge marine animal which reared its head out of the water within twenty yards...it was more than double the length of the ship, in which case it must have been five hundred feet.” Good job they were nowhere near Tokyo.
Paranormal Activity: An out of the blue surprise hit in 2007, Paranormal Activity was a creepy supernatural thriller that had people gripping the arms of their cinema-seats or loved-ones in terror, and particularly so when the main characters, a couple named Katie and Micah, become the target of malevolent, occult things in the dead of night. If you’re worried that you might end up in the same boat, well, some might say you shouldn’t. Hypnagogia is a term that was coined in the 1800s by a French scholar named Alfred Maury. It basically describes a state between waking and sleeping, during which the victim (which is not a bad term to use!) may hear strange and unearthly sounds, experience a malevolent presence in the room, and be unable to move. Or: sleep-paralysis, as it’s also known. Psychologists and doctors will tell you it’s a condition purely internal to the witness and provoked by the mysteries of the brain. But, try telling that to the people who have experienced it.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: In the 1981 adventure movie starring Harrison Ford, the Nazis are hot on the trail of the Ark of the Covenant. The reason: to use it as a weapon against the Allies. Of course, only Indiana Jones can save the day – and he does exactly that in fine, whip-cracking style. It’s just great fantasy-fiction, right? No. It’s all too real. Adolf Hitler was obsessed by ancient and mysterious relics and created a group that traveled the planet in search of such prized artifacts as the Spear of Destiny, the Holy Grail and, yes: the Ark of the Covenant, itself. They were known as the Ahnenerbe and were the ancestral arm of the SS. Thankfully the goose-stepping nutcases were stopped before they got the chance to make weapons of war out of mystical mysteries.
30 Days of Night: From the days of those old movies starring the likes of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee to today’s world of True Blood, Fright Night and the savagely entertaining 30 Days of Night, vampires have brought people into theaters in their millions. But, like most old legends, there’s always a grain of truth behind them. And that goes for blood-suckers, too. How many know, for example, that there was a real Dracula? Not a black-cloak wearing creature of the night; but one Vlad Dracula, better known as Vlad the Impaler, who just happened to have been born in a real-life Transylvania – located in Romania. For six terrifying years – from 1456 to 1462 – the crazed tyrant was responsible for the deaths of possibly as many as 100,000 people via the grisly method of impalement, hence his legendary title. Sometimes the truth is worse than the fiction.
John Carter: So, you think that outside of such science-fiction-driven movies as John Carter, Mars is a dead world? It may be time to think again. Back in 1976, in an area of Mars called Cydonia, NASA photographed what looks eerily like the Egyptian Sphinx staring upwards from the surface of the planet. The structure has become infamously known as “The Face on Mars.” That there are even pyramid-type creations in the very same area makes the whole thing even more intriguing. Of course, NASA has an answer to all this. The official line is that when people see the “face” and the “pyramids,” it’s no different to someone who claims to have seen the face of Elvis in a cheeseburger or the Virgin Mary in a bagel. Real-life Martians: don’t bet against them just yet.
Harry and the Hendersons: It’s not every day you run headlong into Bigfoot while driving through the woods – that is, unless you are the stars of the hit comedy of 1987, which saw John Lithgow and his family take a fully-grown Sasquatch into their home, and which quickly provokes untold creature-chaos in the process. Although many are content to think Bigfoot is simply a myth, or an ingenious ploy to lure tourists to the Pacific Northwest, there may be much more to it than that. Reports of giant, hairy wild men roaming the woods of Washington State, Oregon and Portland have proliferated since early Native American times. And, monster-hunters suggest, there’s a possible answer to what Bigfoot might really be: Gigantopithecus, a huge ape that walked the Earth hundreds of thousands of years ago. Science says the immense creature went belly-up in the distant past. Those that want to bag a Bigfoot say otherwise. One final thing: if you do happen to collide with a Sasquatch in real-life Henderson-style, good luck on the insurance-claim.
The Fog: In the 1980 movie, The Fog, directed by horror-legend John Carpenter, ghostly and deadly mariners of the sea seek out their revenge on the people of Antonio Bay, California for fatal injustices of a century earlier. Cue lots of cool gore and violently entertaining death as spectral Blake and his creepy crew search for the priceless gold stolen from them back in the 19th Century. But, spectral men of the oceans with valuable bullion on their minds are not limited to Hollywood movies. A cemetery in Guadalajara, Mexico, Panteon de Belen is home to the ghost of an infamous 17000s swashbuckler whose daily ritual, for years, was to plunder and steal gold, silver and all manner of riches and bounty from just about anyone and everyone else sailing the seas. Guadalajara lore says that if you visit the cemetery at midnight, light a candle, and pray that his soul will be free of punishment and torment for his actions in his physical life, the old man of the ocean will appear before you and whisper in your ear the secret location of his priceless booty. Unfortunately, so the tale also goes, within minutes the priceless information will forever fade from your mind and you will always be cursed with the knowledge that you came so close to having all your money worries solved in an instant. Yep: time to go back to lottery-tickets.
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