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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The Broad Haven school kids who spotted a UFO

In 1977, aliens touched down in the seaside resort of Broad Haven, Wales, for a nose around. It led to the area being dubbed the Broad Haven Triangle. The most famous was a sighting by 14 schoolchildren…

It was a cold day in February when the children of Broad Haven Primary School saw a UFO land in the playing field next to their school during lunchtime. It was torpedo-shaped, shiny grey, and had an upper dome with a blinking red light. Some of the kids saw a silver-clad spaceman emerge from the craft.

Convinced they were telling porkies, headmaster Ralph Llewellyn asked the 14 children to draw what they’d seen under exam conditions so there could be no conferring. He was astonished by how similar their drawings were.

The children proceeded to sign a petition demanding a police investigation into what they saw.

The children, now in their 50s, have not wavered from their original accounts in all the years since. One of the kids, David Davies, aged 10 at the time, said a few years ago:

“The object was pearlescent silvery-grey, approximately 40ft long, torpedo/cigar-shaped with an upper domed section that covered the central third of the vehicle and which was topped with a red pulsating light. It popped up and then went back behind a tree. The sighting, despite only lasting a few seconds, is burned on my memory like a photograph. I’ve spent my entire life and countless thousands of pounds trying to find answers about what we saw.”

A spate of further local sightings followed. A few days later, a teacher and three dinner ladies saw the same UFO. One of them reported seeing a “creature” making its way into the craft.

Two months later, Rosa Granville, owner of the Haven Fort Hotel, was woken at 2.30am by a series of strange noises and lights. She reportedly saw an “upside-down saucer” next to the hotel, surrounded by multicoloured flames, and two “faceless humanoid” creatures with pointed heads emerging from the flames.

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My short story “The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller” has been re-published in Suspense Magazine

Bonsoir les lecteurs!

I’m back from my long bank holiday weekend in Disneyland Paris, but due to a big rush of copywriting busyness on my return, I’m afraid a new mystery/conspiracy article will have to wait till next week.

In the meantime, I come bearing news about my short story, The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller. The second of the Million Eyes Short Stories to be published, it initially appeared last summer in Issue 11 of Tigershark Magazine.  Now it’s been re-published in Suspense Magazine, a popular and long-standing mystery/horror/thriller magazine that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It’s been named one of the 100 best book and magazine markets for writers by Writer’s Digest.

Click on the extract below to read a PDF of the magazine. The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller is the first story in the issue.

For those of you who don’t remember, the story is inspired by an urban legend about a bonus feature on a Charlie Chaplin DVD, an extra containing something rather out of place. The story stars real-life Irish filmmaker George Clarke, the man who made the discovery, as he embarks on a dangerous pursuit of the truth.

I actually showed the story to Clarke himself prior to publication and he gave me the thumbs-up, even mentioning he might turn it into a film one day! 😀

Even more exciting is the fact that the editor of Suspense Magazine has said they want to publish a further story of mine. I don’t know which one yet but I’ll keep you posted!

Happy Thursday!

Next week: the mystery of the ‘Broad Haven Triangle’

No rules please. We’re fiction writers.

So I came across an article in the Guardian recently called Elmore Leonard’s rules for writers and saw red. (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration given all the things currently happening in the world I could get angry about. Let’s say I saw carnation pink.) Anyway, I felt compelled to write an anarchic response for writers and readers everywhere.

As always, before I move onto that, I have a handful of updates to share regarding Million Eyes.

Million Eyes — just 4 chapters to go

At the time of writing, I’m on page 248 of 291 of the final edit of Million Eyes. My copywriting work has quietened down a little over the last month, so I’ve used the time to make good headway with the edit. Now that I’m numbering each chapter (which I didn’t do before), I’m about to start editing Chapter 28, which means I have four chapters to go and the final book will have a total of 31 chapters.

My August 31st deadline for finishing is still ages away, so I’m more than on track to hit it, even as my copywriting busyness is now on the up. In fact, I’m hoping that I might have the book finished and proofread by then. I have two lovely volunteer proofreaders — my bookworm girlfriend and a fellow member of Rushmoor Writers. They tell me they’re fast readers (unlike myself), so let’s see if Million Eyes grips them enough to rattle through!

The Million Eyes Short Stories

No major news to report this month. I’m still submitting the Million Eyes Short Stories that remain unpublished, and the ones that have been published are being submitted to publications that accept reprints.

I had a particularly frustrating rejection from one publication that shall remain nameless a couple of weeks ago. It was a story called “The Bisley Boy” (regular readers of my blog might be able to guess what it’s about). The editor told me she “really liked the story” and got me to confirm that it was unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere. Then, hours later, she sent a further email saying she just wasn’t “comfortable” publishing it, but that the story was good, the writing was good, and she was sure other editors would love it. This magazine has done this to me before, telling me how much they liked The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller and saying they wanted to publish it before ultimately rejecting it.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate constructive feedback, and what writer doesn’t love praise and kind words about their writing. This magazine has given me both over the last year or so. But when a writer is told these things while an editor is still considering a story, it makes the eventual rejection so much harder. My friend at Rushmoor Writers said the editor was a “lit-tease”. She’s right. It was some serious carrot dangling.

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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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Book Review – “The King’s Deception” by Steve Berry

The King’s Deception is a Dan Brown-esque conspiracy thriller that centres on one of British history’s most intriguing political conspiracy theories. FULL SPOILERS AHEAD…

There are two reasons why I wanted to read The King’s Deception. 1. Because of its parallels with Million Eyes, my own forthcoming conspiracy thriller with historic British conspiracy theories at its core. 2. Because I read a fascinating article about it in the Daily Mail.

I wrote an article about this theory myself a while back. It was entitled, Queen Elizabeth I was actually a man in drag. Yes, you read that right. This isn’t a new theory. In fact, the first person to put the theory in print was none other than Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, who described the legend of “the Bisley boy” in his 1910 non-fiction book Famous Imposters.

The story goes that Elizabeth I was sent by her father, Henry VIII, to stay in the village of Bisley to escape a bubonic plague outbreak in London. She was 10 years old at the time. While in Bisley, she fell sick with an unknown illness and died. Her minders, terrified that Henry VIII would blame them, replaced Elizabeth with a lookalike. As it happened, the only person in Bisley who looked vaguely like the princess was a boy.

Proponents of the theory argue that this is why Elizabeth, as queen, never married or bore children. Why she always wore wigs and heavy makeup. Why she only let a couple of trusted physicians attend to her, and ordered that no autopsy be undertaken after her death. And why during May Day celebrations in the village of Bisley, the May Queen is always played by a boy in Elizabethan costume.

While The King’s Deception has numerous point-of-view characters, the main one is Cotton Malone, a former agent for the US Justice Department. He and his son, Gary, become entangled in a CIA operation called King’s Deception, which is trying to expose a centuries-old mystery to blackmail the British and stop them from releasing of a Libyan terrorist. That mystery being (we learn later) that Elizabeth I was an imposter.

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