Podcast with Oliver Mell – “Million Eyes”, Black Death conspiracies and Princess Diana’s death

I’ve just taken part in my first podcast! I chatted with Oliver Mell, author of horror novel Godless, about Behind The Curtain, my reasons for creating it, and my forthcoming novel Million Eyes.

We talked specifically about some of the conspiracy theories and unsolved mysteries that feature in Million Eyes, as well as whether the Black Death might’ve been a deliberate plot to wipe out the West. We also touched on several other conspiracies that I’ve written about, including the Royal Family being reptilian aliens, Watergate, Karen Silkwood and Princess Diana.

And Oliver’s invited me back at the end of next month to talk more about Princess Diana, since it’ll be the 20th anniversary of her death on 31st August (can’t believe it’s been that long).

Go to this page of Oliver’s website if you’re interested in having a listen!

Karen Silkwood: How to silence a whistleblower and get away with it

Remember Erin Brockovich? She’s the file clerk who famously uncovered evidence that a huge Californian gas and electric company was poisoning people. Karen Silkwood’s story is similar, but the big difference is that Erin Brockovich’s story had a happy ending and Karen Silkwood’s… didn’t.

Karen Silkwood was hired to work for the powerful Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant in Crescent, Oklahoma in 1972, where she made plutonium pellets for nuclear reactor fuel rods. There she met her boyfriend, co-worker Drew Stephens, who expressed concerns about working conditions at the plant, putting health and safety on Silkwood’s radar.

Just 3 months into her employment, she joined the local Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union and took part in a strike at Kerr-McGee calling for better wages and safer working conditions. After the strike ended, she was elected to the union’s bargaining committee — the first woman at Kerr-McGee to achieve such a position — and was charged with investigating health and safety issues.

In 1974, Silkwood found numerous violations of health and safety regulations, including faulty fuel rods, exposure of workers to contamination, improper storage of samples, falsified inspection records, and more than 40 pounds of missing plutonium.

That’s when strange things started happening.

Was somebody poisoning Karen Silkwood?

On November 5th 1974, Silkwood performed a routine self-check and discovered that her body contained nearly 400 times the legal limit of plutonium. She was decontaminated at the plant and sent home with a testing kit. The following morning, she again tested positive for plutonium and was given a more intensive decontamination. But on November 7th, dangerous levels of plutonium were found in her lungs, and following an inspection, plutonium traces were found all over her home.

Questions arose over how she’d been contaminated. She believed Kerr-McGee was poisoning her because of her whistle-blowing efforts, while Kerr-McGee accused her of poisoning herself to add fuel to her accusations. What’s disturbing is that the soluble plutonium in her body came from an area of the plant she hadn’t been in for 4 months…

The meeting that didn’t happen

Silkwood decided it was time to go public with her evidence and contacted David Burnham, a journalist at the New York Times. On November 13th 1974, witnesses said Silkwood left a union meeting at the Hub Cafe in Crescent with a binder and a packet of documents and headed for Oklahoma City for her meeting with Burnham.

She didn’t make it.

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Avril Lavigne is dead

Yup, that’s right. In fact, Avril Lavigne’s been dead for years. A lookalike called Melissa Vandella has been impersonating the Canadian ‘Pop Punk Queen’ since 2002…

2002 was the year Avril Lavigne blew up the teen music scene. Her debut album Let Go was certified 6 x platinum in the US while hitting the number 1 spot in Canada, the UK, Australia, Argentina and a bunch of other places. She was winning awards left, right and centre. Meanwhile teens the world over were warbling the words to catchy smash hit singles Complicated and Sk8er Boi.

Ah, but that was the problem. According to a popular conspiracy theory that recently saw a wild resurgence online, Lavigne decided before 2002 was done that she just couldn’t handle the attention, the pressure, or the fame. And so her record label, Arista, hired lookalike and ‘best friend’ Melissa Vandella to pretend to be her in public.

Things went from bad to worse for Ms Lavigne. In 2003, she killed herself while at the very height of her fame. The money-hungry bosses at Arista Records weren’t about to let all that profit go down the crapper, so they decided to cover up her death and continue recording and releasing songs using Melissa.

Now where have I heard this before? Ah yes, a similar thing is said to have happened to Paul McCartney. Some people believe that he was killed in a car crash in 1966 and secretly replaced with a lookalike to maintain the Beatles’ continued success. They cite hidden clues in song lyrics and album covers, cryptic statements made by Heather Mills, and even the assassination of John Lennon as evidence for the conspiracy. (It’s a legend that forms the basis of my short story Paul, one of the Million Eyes Short Stories.)

There’s also the Hillary Clinton conspiracy from last year, in which it was alleged that she’d been replaced by a body double after collapsing and dying at a 9/11 Memorial ceremony.

But let’s get back to poor Avril and take a look at the evidence for her untimely demise…

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Secret snake discovered in Elizabeth I painting – what was she hiding?

In 2010, scientists investigating a 400-year-old portrait of Queen Elizabeth I made a very curious discovery — a hidden snake in the queen’s hand…

The mysterious painting was created in the late 1580s or early 1590s by an unknown artist. In it, Elizabeth I is depicted in a magnificent, jewel-laden gown with a faint smile and a small posy of flowers in her hand, a conventional symbol of virginity and virtue. The painting’s deterioration over time has caused an image beneath the posy to resurface, that of a dark-coloured snake coiled around the queen’s fingers.

Scientists believe that the artist originally painted Elizabeth holding a snake, then painted over it shortly afterwards with the posy. Since nobody knows who the artist was or what the circumstances surrounding the painting were, we can’t be sure what their motivations were for drawing the snake, or for removing it.

What we do know is that snakes and serpents were highly ambiguous in their symbolism. Sometimes they were used as a symbol of wisdom, prudence and good judgment, all good traits for a queen. However, in Christian iconography, their symbolism was a lot darker. Christians associated snakes with evil, original sin and Satan himself, and Elizabeth I was a devout Protestant.

What does this say about how the artist viewed Elizabeth? If they intended to paint her with a symbol of the Devil in her hand, did they see her as evil? As a sinner? As hiding something?

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Trump fired Comey to cover up Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election

Donald Trump spent much of his election campaign propagating conspiracy theories. Now he’s right in the middle of one. A big one.

Hot off the press, ink still wet, is a theory that Trump fired FBI director James Comey because Comey was on the verge of unveiling a deep well of secrets about how America’s 45th president came to power.

Since the firing only happened on May 9th — literally days ago — new information is materialising every hour. Meanwhile the outlook’s growing bleaker and bleaker for Trump, whose first few months in office have already been saddled with controversies and court battles.

The theory goes like this. Russia illegally interfered with the 2016 election to secure Trump’s win, and Comey was fired because he was stepping up the FBI’s investigation into said interference. The Trump administration was afraid of what Comey might find, and took swift and decisive action to stop him.

To be fair, the part about Russia interfering with the election is a matter of fact, not theory. What remains a theory is the true extent of it, and how far the Trump administration was involved. What the US intelligence agencies have concluded so far is that the Russian government used disinformation, leaks and data thefts to advantage Trump over Hillary Clinton in the election. They’ve also concluded that it was part of a campaign personally ordered by Vladimir Putin. (Russia, of course, has denied everything.)

What’s also known is that British intelligence found evidence of suspicious “interactions” between Russian agents and Trump’s inner circle in late 2015, with more evidence of Trump-Russia links discovered by other European agencies in 2016. This led the FBI to launch an investigation.

Trump’s switcheroo

Trump fired Comey on May 9th. He stated in the dismissal letter that his decision was based on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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Jesus didn’t rise from the dead — he went back to the future

Here’s a thought. Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t the son of God at all. He was a time traveller. His miraculous abilities were the product of technology and medicine brought back from the future. And his ‘resurrection’ was just him returning to the future. Go on. Prove me wrong.

It’s Easter, the time of year that Christians celebrate Jesus Christ magically rising from the dead (and the rest of us stuff our faces with chocolate eggs). What better time to explore the notion that Jesus duped us all into thinking he had magical powers and zombie tendencies, when in fact all he had was some clever future tech and a time machine? Naughty scamp.

Seriously, though, it’s worth considering. The gospels have Jesus performing a whole bunch of different miracles. Could all those healing miracles be the result of Jesus using medicine that was way ahead of its time? Okay, so a lot of the stories talk of Jesus touching lepers, paralytics and blind people and instantly curing them of their ailments. Even the technology of today wouldn’t be able to do that.

But there are two possible arguments we can make here. The first is that these are stories, not historical accounts. Most modern scholars and historians and some liberal Christians recognise this. None of the gospels are contemporaneous and all are inconsistent with one another. So these healings could easily be distorted accounts of events that, in reality, involved medicine, technology and recuperation time. If Jesus was using today’s medicine, it would still have appeared miraculous to people at the time, and then decades of Chinese whispers would’ve led these stories to become the instant-healing-with-a-magic-touch tales that were recorded in the gospels.

Taking the gospel stories more literally, the other argument is that Jesus’s magic touch was the result of medical technology far beyond anything that we have today. After all, time travel itself hasn’t been invented yet (or has it? There’s debate on this…). It’s quite feasible that if Jesus was a time traveller, he came from our future. Perhaps a hundred years from now. Perhaps two hundred. Perhaps a thousand. Who knows what medical technology we might have in a thousand years? Healing someone with a single touch sounds like science fiction. But two thousand years ago, so would antibiotics.

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Forensic evidence proves Hitler didn’t die in 1945

The official story is that Adolf Hitler, one of evolution’s biggest mistakes, blew his brains out on 30th April 1945. However, recent forensic tests have revealed that the skull we all thought was his was actually a woman’s, lending credence to the theory that he was secretly whisked away to safety…

In his subterranean bunker in Berlin, Adolf Hitler met an unsatisfactorily tidy end via a suicide pact he made with his wife, Eva Braun, just as Germany was about to surrender to the Allies. He shot himself while Braun swallowed a capsule of cyanide, less than 40 hours after they got married.

This is according to eyewitnesses, including two of Hitler’s most loyal military officers, Otto Günsche and Rochus Misch, who found the bodies. According to them and others, Hitler announced to his commanders his plan to stay in Berlin till the end and shoot himself. Right before doing the deed, he reportedly said farewell to all of his staff, before retreating into his private study with Braun. At 15.30, a gunshot rang out.

Like I said, though, this is according to the witnesses. Witnesses often aren’t reliable as it is. But witnesses loyal to Hitler? They wouldn’t be at the top of my trust list. That means we need some physical evidence to corroborate their stories. Some bodies would be nice. Those should be easy to get hold of, right?

A convenient burning

Er, perhaps not. According to Hitler’s instructions, his and Braun’s bodies were immediately removed from the bunker, doused in petrol and torched. Hitler wouldn’t have wanted their bodies falling into Allied hands, granted. But this is an awfully good way of hiding evidence that you’ve escaped, too (as any Game of Thrones fan will know).

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The Nampa figurine — more evidence that time travel is real?

nampa-figurine-1In 1889, well-drillers discovered the Nampa figurine, a mysterious artefact that really puts a spanner in the works of modern evolutionary theory. But I have another idea. What if the figurine is proof that time is not as linear as we all thought, but a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff?

On August 1st 1889, workers led by M.A. Kurtz were drilling a water well in Nampa, Idaho. Suddenly their steam pump spat out a small piece of a brownish clay and sparked a baffling archaeological mystery.

The object, also known as the Nampa image, was one and a half inches in length, made from clay and quartz, and clearly human-shaped, with one leg partially broken off. Geologist G. Frederick Wright said it was a “female figure” with “lifelike lineaments” and “remarkable for the perfection with which it represents the human form”.

Professor Albert A. Wright of Oberlin College (yes, another ‘Wright’, but I think the two are unrelated…) said that there were “faint geometric markings on the figure, which represent either clothing patterns or jewellery”. These markings, mostly on the arms, wrists and around the neck, led Wright to conclude that “the doll is the image of a person of a high civilisation, artistically attired”.

Wright also commented on who might have crafted the figure. He decided that it was not the work of a “small child or amateur”, but of a “true artist”.

Herein lies the problem. The problem that has confounded scientists for decades.

An out-of-place artefact

The Nampa doll was recovered from depths of 320 feet. The stratum at that depth was about 2 million years old. However, humans like us have only been walking the Earth for 200,000 years. This makes the Nampa figurine an out-of-place artefact, an ‘oopart’, because, well, who the hell could have crafted it if humans didn’t exist?

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