November 2002

Sonia Pereira

magazine whore

Fortean Times and The World of Strange Phenomena

My husband has this obsession. It's with anything otherworldly or just downright kooky. UFO's, stigmata, cow mutilation, uncanny coincidences, and traveling freak shows make up part of his passion for the weird. It's not like he's into sci-fi though. Or even the "X-Files." Naw, the stuff's gotta be real or narrated as a truth to be pondered. Now, I've always been interested and frightened of the occult and such. Ghost stories knock my socks off and I couldn't get through the first chapter of "Communion" due to shivery shakes and sleeping with the light on. So, when I first started reading my husband's copies of Fortean Times," a Brit mag dedicated to all things creepy, I was decidedly grossed out.

"Eew," I said to my husband, tossing the mag on his desk, "I can't look at one more picture of some kid with two heads...you are truly weirding me out. I mean, this is as bad as that stupid "Bizarre" magazine with the nastily sexist covers."

But whaddya know? I couldn't keep myself from those damn suckers. Every time we went to the bookstore I'd look at his copy in the car driving home.

"Gross! Disgusting! Ack!" I'd shout as he drove, forbidding me to spoil the contents with any further comments of the mag's disturbing vibe.

And alas, I have been converted from a "Fortean Times" basher to a regular reader, or at least skimmer. (Some of the pieces are still too damaging to my finer sensibilities for deeper exploration...after all, I may be a mag whore but that doesn't mean I don't have boundaries.)

What's in a typical issue of "Fortean Times"? Well, let's take a look at the November 2002 issue.

The first thing you'll notice about this particular issue is the troubling picture of a woman's hand, shot through with the mark of the bloody stigmata. If this were an episode of "Buffy" this is the time when Xander would say, "I'm feeling a major wiggin' comin' on" and no one would laugh but look at him with jaded slayer-esque eyes.

Well, I'm not too spooked by this, so I continue delving. Hmmm, this is interesting, page 6 recounts the story of a somewhat disturbed English 17-year-old male art student who decided to play out his vampiric fantasies by stabbing an elderly woman, removing her heart, cooking it, and drinking the blood from gashes made in her legs. See, you never know what you'll find in Britain. It's not all Tennyson and roses, is it?

A few pages later and we find a short piece on an artist who sold a sculpture of his head for 12,000 pounds in '91. The head was made of 9 pints of his own blood. Aw, crap. That was kind of disturbing. Do I continue? Sure...

Everything isn't all real-life ghouls though. Tucked between the majorly strange are the kinda cute. For instance, did you know that on April 28, 2002, a panicked man phoned the police to say that he was afraid to approach his car because a strangely motionless creature sat behind it? No? Well, lemme tell ya about it. Turns out that the exotically eerie thing was actually a 28 inch stuffed cow. A mauve one though. Which I guess can be particularly offending to some with more refined tastes. (Like me).

There are also some pretty funny headlines, in the same vein as Jay Leno's, printed for the sole purpose of saying to yourself, "Now if I worked there, nothing like that would ever, ever see the light of day, dumb bastards." Like the recent "Oak Tree Wins Poetry Trophy" from the August "Somerset Standard" or "Dead Fox Run Over By Road" from the "Banbury Guardian." Heh-heh. Told you they were funny.

Other popular topics in this often humorous stew of curious articles are as follows: religious relics, teleportation, extremely hairy children, strange deaths, unusual talents and/or mental disorders (which leads me to wonder how many crazy people are in fact only super talented...hm...), cults, vampires, government conspiracies, and Hitler's occultist tendencies.

This is not a magazine to take to bed or the bath. At least not for me. I find it most pleasurable in small bites (no pun intended, dammit). It's not easy to digest such wacky information, especially when one isn't quite used to chowing down on human body parts for brunch. Kids. Hmmm, maybe if they had "Gilmore Girls" over there to water down the blood-thirst with some good old smart ass quips, stuff like this wouldn't happen. (I've been dying to throw in something about that darn show somewhere...)