Sunday, 9 March 2008

We'll always have Paris... or whatever it was

The misses Moberly & Jourdain, about whose "adventure" you read in the last post, were probably the ultimate tourists, Baedeker and all (especially the "all"). Because, let's face it: it's one thing to visit Versailles and listen to stories about the French Revolution, but to visit Versailles during the French Revolution - now, that's a feat!

Still, even during their grand adventure the misses dutifully obeyed the basic law of time-slippage as deduced from the Minkowski's spacetime equations: travel in time, but don't move in space. In other words: if you want to visit the Paris of the 15th century, you'd better be in Paris - not in Iceland or Albania. Or Haiti.

But, wouldn't you know it, there was - or so it seems - another couple who somehow managed to break even that sacrosanct law: the biologist and cryptozoologist (and father of
the Globster) Ivan Sanderson and his wife.

According to Jerome Clark's book bearing the alarmingly exclamatory title
Unexplained!: 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena, the Sandersons were in Haiti doing a biological survey, when one evening their car got stuck on a muddy road, miles away from civilisation (it figures). Luckily, their assistant - appropriately clad in white - was with them at the time, so he went ahead, while the couple walked up the road at a more leisurely pace.

Walking a few steps behind his wife, Sanderson suddenly observed - much to his astonishment - there were houses along both sides of the road. Not cottages, not cabins, not huts: three-storied houses made of stone, varied in style.

But there was more.

In Sanderson's own words:

"These houses hung out over the road, which suddenly appeared to be muddy with large cobblestones. The houses were of (I would say) about the Elizabethan period of England, but for some reason I knew they were in Paris. They had pent roofs, with some dormer windows, gables, timbered porticoes and small windows with tiny leaded panes. Here and there, there were dull reddish lights burning behind th
em, as if from candles. There were iron frame lanterns hanging from timbers jutting from some houses and they were all swaying together as if in a wind, but there was not the faintest movement of the air about us".

Before Sanderson, who at this stage was likely questioning his sanity (and possibly his menu of that day), could say anything, he bumped into his wife's back. She had stopped all of the sudden. Then, says Sanderson, she took his hand and stood there, "wide-eyed and speechless"; and then, pointing towards the edge of the road, she said:

"How did we get to Paris five hundred years ago?"

So, what do we have here: another case of folie a deux...?
(Even though this is a clearly rhetorical question, it's still worth mentioning that "contagious folly", not being induced by bacteria, virus or any such vermin, spreads exclusively by oral communication... In other words: Sanderson hadn't communicated his "folly" to his wife - and yet she seemed to be sharing his "hallucination", in all its details.)

EDIT (June 10, 2014):

Actually, telepathy does seem a plausible cause in such cases. And I am a little disappointed that none of the readers challenged me on this point.
For relevant examples, see The Ultimate Tourist, about C. G. Jung's experience in Ravenna, and Another Vanished House, featuring the theories of G.N. Tyrrell.

Sanderson did point out that the feeling of being in Paris was perhaps just that: a feeling, an impression (which is by definition subjective) - perhaps based on architectural similarity. After all, Haiti had been a French colony since 1697.

On the other hand, "impressions" - not being filtered by the rational mind and its hardwired prejudices - are often the most accurate mirror of whatever is happening.

None of the above matters very much, of course, because, regardless of the "actual" placement of the nonexistent houses - were they in Paris, or were they "just" in the French style? - the houses were still... well, nonexistent. If there ever were any houses, in whichever style, at whatever time, along that road - they had not been there at the time the Sandersons had started their walk along that deserted road.

, an extraordinary, truly unique detail of their adventure leaves little doubt that the Sandersons, even if it were possible, never left the island in any way, shape or form: even as they were walking through the faux Paris, they never lost sight of their assistant, Fred Allsop, in his white shirt, who was walking further down the road - and Fred hadn't seen any "Parisian "sights, anything out of the ordinary; all he ever saw was the dark, muddy road through the Haitian countryside.

How is it possible?

Assuming the account is truthful - and, in all fairness, being a cryptozoologist does
not automatically signify that one is a lunatic, predisposed to "hallucinations", nor is there the slightest shred of objective evidence that Sanderson was simply lying - there are several possibilities that could explain their unexpected vision. But one thing is certain: something had caused an anomaly, a disturbance, a temporary shift in the pattern of the perceived local reality; and since only two of the three voyagers walking almost - but not quite - simultaneously down that muddy road saw that disturbance, or its effects, that something would have had to been localised : a small "field" of... what?

Reenter Miss Moberly with her novel theory regarding the possible cause of her own "slip": sudden access to Marie-Antoinette's memory field. (I don't really remember Miss Moberly using the word "field" - she might have - but that's how I imagine it, at any rate.)

Is that what it was?
Did the Sandersons unwittingly enter the memory field of somebody who, once upon a time, perhaps on that exact spot, reminisced about a street in Paris on a windy night from many years, decades, centuries before?

I like to think so.
But I don't really know.
Do you?


The excerpt - and my erudite interloping regarding the implications of the Minkowski (not "Minowski", Herbie!) equations - were taken from J. H. Brennan's highly entertaining and intelligently written book that you'll often see mentioned here:

(There should be a hyperlinked book cover visible above. If you cannot see it, try switching to a different browser. It seems Firefox is having a lot of trouble in its interaction with Blogger - and I am yet to determine with certainty whose fault is it.
Anyway, I apologise for the inconvenience.)

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