Fortean Times - - Editorial -

FROM 1917 TO 1967

2017 is a year re­plete with an­niver­saries to stir the fortean in­ter­est: last month we cel­e­brated Ken­neth Arnold’s epochal UFO sight­ing and the dawn of the saucer age, and in this is­sue we mark a num­ber of other mile­stones em­brac­ing every­thing from pop mu­sic (p55) to poltergeists (p18).

Our cover fea­ture re­minds us that it is now 100 years since the first of the fa­mous Cottingley fairy pho­to­graphs was taken. It would be an­other two years be­fore this and its com­pan­ion pic­ture burst upon the world, elic­it­ing op­pos­ing re­sponses from camps di­vided, in the af­ter­math of the Great War, be­tween scep­tics and spir­i­tu­al­ists. Arthur Conan Doyle, the cre­ator of the em­i­nently scep­ti­cal Sher­lock Holmes, has tended to be placed squarely in the spir­i­tu­al­ist camp, and seen as a gullible vic­tim whose need to be­lieve saw him taken in by a hoax that may have started as noth­ing more than a fam­ily prank be­fore get­ting well and truly out of hand. This is the stan­dard ver­sion of events, but, as Fiona Ma­her flags up in her ar­ti­cle, the truth – prob­a­bly now un­know­able – might be more com­plex. The ex­is­tence of two ear­lier fairy pho­tos pre­dat­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of the ear­li­est Cottingley pic­tures sug­gests an­other pos­si­ble time­line for events, one in which the du­plic­ity of the var­i­ous par­ties in­volved in the case leaves us with a far trick­sier nar­ra­tive to con­sider; you can make up your own minds...

Fast-for­ward 50 years to 1967 and we find our­selves in a very dif­fer­ent world, de­spite the Ed­war­diana favoured by the

Sergeant Pep­per- era Bea­tles. This was the year that psy­che­delic con­scious­ness re­ally hit the main­stream, and noth­ing was ever quite the same again. As Gary Lach­man ob­serves, the po­tent mix of mys­ti­cism, mu­sic and drugs that char­ac­terised the ‘Sum­mer of Love’ had been in­cu­bat­ing for some time in the Haight-Ash­bury neigh­bour­hood of San Fran­cisco, where Ken Ke­sey, the Merry Pranksters and the War­locks (soon to be the Grate­ful Dead; see p55 and 67) had been tak­ing Tim Leary’s en­thu­si­asm for acid out of the labs and lec­ture the­atres and into the streets and dance­halls. What they hadn’t pre­dicted was that Leary’s call of “Turn On, Tune In and Drop Out” would send a mas­sive in­flux of young­sters, all in search of the hippy dream, rush­ing to the Haight, whose fragile ecosys­tem was swiftly over­run. A unique so­cial ex­per­i­ment in new ways of liv­ing was turned, al­most overnight, into a new set of so­cial prob­lems. But the Haight’s cre­ativ­ity and ide­al­ism – swiftly com­mod­i­fied and com­mer­cialised though it was – is well worth cel­e­brat­ing, and its legacy en­dures, in all sorts of un­ex­pected ways, to­day.


FT352:25: Mags Glen­non emailed with a cor­rec­tion to this is­sue’s ‘Fairies Folk­lore and Forteana’ col­umn. “The re­ported sight­ings of a lep­rechaun in April 1908 took place in the Kil­lough area of Co West­meath. This town­land is about 10 miles from Mullingar, where, as the ar­ti­cle men­tioned, a wee man was later caught. By con­trast Co Down is 100 miles away.”

FT352:39: David Clarke’s au­thor bi­og­ra­phy was cru­elly trun­cated by a last-minute de­sign er­ror. For any­one won­der­ing what “He is the au­thor of”, the an­swer is “How UFOs Con­quered the World: The His­tory of a Mod­ern Myth (2015).”

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