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Fringe phenomena are something that many travellers seek out to document or experience for themselves, be they proven curiosities, local folklore, or even the reputed (if unproven) manifestation of the paranormal. By extension, fringe travel is travel for the purpose of exploring, potentially experiencing, and possibly documenting all manner of unusual phenomena and their associated folklore.

Understand[edit]

Fringe phenomena have existed as long as there have been people to experience, reliably document, and attempt to provide varying explanations. Tourism regarding the sites of such phenomena has a similarly long and storied history. Whilst rational skepticism has dismissed many fringe phenomena as scientific curiosities or the wonders of the material universe, there is still a core of enthusiasts and travellers trying to explain the anomalies, fill in the evidentiatry gaps, and figure out the things that just don't make sense yet.

Prepare[edit]

When considering travel in pursuit of fringe phenomena, there are many things to take into account:

  • Will you startle easily?
  • Can you wait around for a long time, and not be disappointed when something advertised does not occur?
  • Can you temper you desire to accept a 'textbook' explanation, if it doesn't fit the evidence?

Prior research will also help to inform you on what to expect, greatly assist you in making sense (and veracity) of any of the accounts you encounter. Accounts can of course vary greatly. Amongst many other factors, local conditions and the embelishment of local folklore, can influence on how phenomena are perceived or reported. It is best to remember that "Extraordinary claims need exemplary evidence", which should be just as strong for scientific explanations as well as supernatural ones.

Equip[edit]

What to bring depends on the location, and on the nature of the phenomena, at the very least you'll want to bring an open mind, and perhaps a notebook to record observations.

You may also wish to bring a camera, but in dark locations, a fast film (analog), or boosted sensor (digital) will be needed. If you want to use a flash, seek specialist advice, as the flash may affect how the purported phenomenon is recorded. There are many aspects of photography and optics which can create apparent phenomena out of otherwise perfectly natural conditions.

Details of the technical equipment needed to mount full-scale investigations is beyond the scope of a travel guide.

UFOs[edit]

See also: UFO tourism

Cryptids and crypto biology[edit]

Main article: Cryptozoology

Folklore ancient and modern is full of diverse and unique species (both flora and fauna), with these cryptids piquing the interest of travellers hearing tales of them. Before the modern era, some maps often used phrases evocative of cryptids to mark the edge of their knowledge.

Whilst the existence of some (former) cryptids has been confirmed biologically (as living fossils, rare species, or species outside their natural range); evidence for others remains as elusive as the cryptid themselves. New Fossils and survey finds can also challenge previous conceptions about the diversity of life.

Some famous cryptids include bigfoot, sasquatch and yowie; the chupacabra; as well as the lake cryptids of Loch Ness, and Okanagan Lake in British Columbia.

Black Shuck, Old Shuck, Old Shock or Shuck[edit]

There seem many reported "ghostly black dogs" reported from around the UK, some considered an omen of death and others being more companionable. Of particular note is "Black Shuck", a ghostly black dog that roams East Anglia, in particular the coastline. Named from the Old English word "scucca" meaning "demon", or possibly from the East Anglian dialect word "shucky" meaning "shaggy" or "hairy". Black Shruck moves silently around the dark lanes and footpaths, it being his howl that makes one aware of his presence. The dangers from encountering Black Shruck seem to vary geographically; to the south of his territory (around Maldon and Dengie) an encounter is said to cause your imminent death; but often encounters, though terrifying the victim, leave them to continue living their normal lives.

United States[edit]

  • The International Cryptozoology Museum, 32 Resurgam Place, Portland, Maine. 11:00-17:00. A Museum of cryptozoological exhibits. Digital Recording and filming prohibited, Photography restrictions apply. Masks and social distancing advised. 'Adult' (13+), $10 Child (12 and under), $5.

Earth mysteries[edit]

The natural world, and human observations within it, have caused many to speculate about phenomena encountered within it. Even if scientific thinking has found explanations for many , the evidence eludes on others. The search for explanations and confirmatory evidence of advancing theories continues.

Crop circles[edit]

A crop circle

Crops circles are patterns that can appear in fields of crops, typically formed by the flattening of the crop within the nominal pattern. The patterns can range from simple circles to complex geometric figures or fractals. Various explanations including localised weather, mycology, and human causation have been suggested.

Depending on the mood of the landowners and farmers, you may be able to visit recently created crop circles for a nominal fee, or even free. However, there is no generally accepted right of access, and you should also accept a refusal politely. In any event you should respect that any crop field (crop circle or not) is still part of the working countryside, and the usual responsibilities apply.

Norway[edit]

Mexico[edit]

  • Mapimí Silent Zone - A remote desert region bordering Durango state, where it's alleged that a number of unusual phenomena have occurred, and radio reception is adversely affected. The area also overlaps the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve.

Ley Lines[edit]

Malvern Hills, a location Alfred Watkins believed to be a ley line.

Ley lines are lines formed by places of natural, religious or cultural significance believed to have spiritual significance through and considered “conduits of infinite energy". In Ireland they are known as "Fairy Paths", in China "Dragon Paths" or "Spirit Lines", whilst in Australia they are called "Song Paths". In the UK it is thought that many ancient monuments lie at the intersection of lay lines.

The term was originally adopted by archaeologist Alfred Watkins in 1921 when researching ancient paths and tracks. The idea was not universally accepted, amongst critics Richard Atkinson demonstrated that researching the locations of telephone boxes one can find "telephone box ley". Many consider that in the UK there is a sufficiently high number of archaeological sites that such "lines" are bound to occur through random chance.

Haunted sites[edit]

Haunted sites are places where ghosts or spirits of the deceased are believed to exist and make their presence known. There are a variety of ways in which they are said to achieve this. As ethereal beings, they are most commonly reported to get human's attention by utilizing our senses, such as making sounds, emitting bad smells, changing the temperature, and creating touching sensations. Taste is rarely mentioned in hauntings. Visual manifestations have been reported, ranging from fully identifiable human forms to amorphous shadows and glowing orbs. Ghosts have also been reported to move objects, manipulate lights and electronics, influence recording media (both magnetic and optical), manipulate human emotions (particularly sadness and despair), and affect animal behavior. Spirits may be benevolent or malevolent, so caution is advised if you believe a spirit is making contact with you. With haunted sites however, visitors have the advantage of being able to read up on the history of the location, what sort of phenomena have been recorded there, when and where it occurs, and whether or not the entity is believed to cause harm. Knowing the history is invaluable if you are visiting with hopes of coming into contact with a spirit, or avoiding an unexpected one.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it is undeniable that some reported hauntings can be attributed to mundane explanations, wishful thinking, or even outright embellishment of a good story, on the part of observers. Despite or perhaps because of this, legends about wandering spirits, phantoms of the departed, or malign entities, persist in the local and cultural folklore of many regions and destinations. Other hauntings have scientific explanations. For example, hauntings that include ghostly sightings have been linked to hallucinations caused by gas leaks such as carbon monoxide; optical illusions; pareidolia; or even the emotional impact of a location. In 1998, researcher Vic Tandy at Coventry University, discovered that infrasound at or around 19Hz could cause people to experience cold sweats, depression, fearfulness, and even see apparitions, all of which are associated with hauntings. He found that these infrasounds were present at Warwick Castle, which was said to be haunted.

Unless part of an organised tour, it's not generally advised to explore abandoned buildings, ruins or sites that aren't generally open to the public. There are practical, unquestionably fact-based reasons why many old sites are sealed, unrelated to folklore or haunting claims.

What sort of locations can be Haunted sites can vary considerably. Whilst some are the cliched castle, or ageing mansion, hauntings have been reported in comparatively modern settings such as urban rail networks, amusement parks and the facilities of media production concerns. Quite surprisingly though, according to some lore, you'll only ever find one ghost in a graveyard, its guardian so to speak.

For entire abandoned settlements which may or may not be reputedly haunted, see Ghost towns

United Kingdom[edit]

It is claimed by some, that the British Isles have more places that are haunted than anywhere else, given the long and varied history of the region. Many old cities in the United Kingdom have several Ghost legends associated with them, most notably Edinburgh in Scotland.

Both Hampton Court and The Tower of London, are said to have Royal ghosts, and Pluckley in Kent was once considered "the most haunted village in Britain", with no less than 12 individual phantoms being part of local lore. Even something as comparatively modern as London's tube has its rumoured ghosts.

A number of UK cities and towns have ghost walks. On these guides will take a moderate number of travellers around the city or a related locality, giving some version of the local folklore that has become associated with them. Cities in the UK that have these include York and Whitby.

England[edit]

Borley Rectory is no longer standing (the site now being a private garden), but its location as a center of alleged poltergeist activity is noted in many accounts.

  • Hampton Court
  • Whitby, The abbey and the town itself has a long history. There are many haunted sites so be sure to go on one of the guided ghost walks. Warning: the old town is a creepy place after dark and not for the faint hearted.
  • Potter Heigham A convenient haunting for enthusiasts as the apparition is purported to appear on the same time & date each year (making visiting easier). Each 31 May at midnight (allegedly) a phantom coach driven by a skeleton crashes into the bridge over the River Thurne at Potter Heigham. The haunting goes back to the 18th century when Lady Carew sought the help of a witch to entrap an eligible husband for her daughter. "Payment" for the witch was left vague - "anything the witch wanted". Following the wedding the party returned to Bastwick when at midnight a skeleton appears, kidnaps the bride, makes off in the coach which bursts into flames at Potter Heigham bridge and falls into the water - the death being the payment the witch demanded. And since then each 31 May the sound of hooves, screech of wheels and a fiery coach allegedly appears on the bridge at midnight.
  • Blickling Hall, Norfolk. The Boleyn family (of the wives of Henry VIII fame) have significant connections to Norfolk, having owned the property on the Blickling Hall site and Anne Boleyn is believed to have been born at the property. Each 19 May (the anniversary of Ms Boleyn's execution) a coach pulled by 4 headless horses allegedly races up the drive to the hall where a headless Ms Boleyn gets out carrying her dripping head and enters that hall and spends the night searching each room to find where she was born. But it is a fruitless and always unsuccessful search as the current hall was built on the ruins of the Boleyn property.

Wales[edit]

  • Kennfig, Mid Glamorgan has a pub called the Prince of Wales, which under certain conditions is reputed to replay the sounds of a past age.

Scotland[edit]

Ireland[edit]

In Ireland there are long standing Banshee legends, forming part of the mythology and culture.

United States[edit]

  • Winchester Mystery House.

Occult esoterica[edit]

Legends and folklore about external forces (be it natural and supernatural) and the practitioners in communication with them, pre-date recorded antiquity in their earliest forms. Across the world, such lore has become part of the rich diverse cultural tradition of many regions. They also retain their influence in societal rituals or customs, and taboos.

Whilst the skeptical traveler understands some forms of "magic" have relied on the susceptibility of the willing to elevate superstition (or sleight of hand) to something supernatural, many seemingly occult practices are a matter of cultural tradition, which many communities hold strong views on, and which the traveler should politely respect, even if the tradition seems strange to you.

The role of 'magic', superstition and occult esoterica in both recorded history and myth remains an area of social study.

England[edit]

  • Cornwall has a number of legends associated with the occult, despite a strong Methodist tradition. Boscastle has a museum displaying housing exhibits devoted to folk magic, ceremonial magic, and Wicca, as practised in Europe historically. The museum also has an extensive library available to researchers, on prior request.
  • The area around Pendle Hill, Lancashire, was historically the location for a series of witch trials. There is a modern trail associated with the history of the trials and individuals involved.
  • The self-styled "Witchfinder General" was active in East Anglia during the mid-17th century.

United States[edit]

  • Salem, Massachusetts was the site of the world's best or worst (depending on your perspective) example of occult hysteria.

Japan power spots[edit]

A power spot

Japan has many so-called "power spots", which are believed to bring visitors various fortunes. Most are breathtakingly beautiful natural landscapes, and worth visiting for that scenery, even if the power does not grace you.

'Explained' Phenomena and Illusions[edit]

In the ongoing search to understand the fringes of understanding, some phenomena have been explained by careful observation and analysis. Illusions (both optical and auditory) and misperceptions feature amongst the explanations. Skeptical observers have also commented that, 'Extraordinary claims require exemplary evidence.'. Sometimes that 'exemplary' evidence can uncover curiosities or new breakthroughs.

Some examples of explained phenomena:

  • phantom ships, and ghostly towers caused by mirages and horizons distorted by altered refraction of a distant view.
  • 'gravity-hills' where local topography leads to a mis-perception of slopes.
  • The Brocken Spectres, which are mere shadows reprojected onto cloud, under certain combinations of sun positions and cloud.
  • 'Will-o'-the wisp', a dancing light seen in the dark, is often no more than bio-luminescence, oxidation of certain compounds in air, or the ignition of methane released from biological decay.

Given the attention supposed fringe phenomena generate, it's not unexpected that there also have been cleverly constructed illusions to meet a perceived interest. In these illusions, various phenomena apparently violating physical laws are supposedly demonstrated. Of course, no such laws are broken. The American roadside attraction and illusion, "Mystery Spot" in Santa Cruz, California, being a prominent example.

Hoaxes[edit]

Given the mystique of 'fringe' phenomena there have also been a few documented hoaxes, be they deliberate or inadvertent due to embellished claims amidst other factors. The artifacts associated with some of these documented hoaxes can occasionally be found in museums.

  • The original camera used to take the Cottingley Fairy photographs can be seen in the National Media Museum in Bradford, England. (The original photos were in the 1990s admitted to have been carefully staged using cutout illustrations.)
  • The original hoaxed "Cardiff Giant" is on display at Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

Stay Safe[edit]

While most scams involving paranormal phonmeons are only financially damaging, some such as "psychic surgery" can cause real danger by giving false confidence in a medical condition being healed.

Despite efforts by serious researchers (both amateur and professional) to weed out some of the more prevalent scams around fringe phenomena, there are still some scams that seek to exploit the gullibility of a willing mark. Whilst most scams involving paranormal claims are at worst financially damaging, knowing you've been duped can dampen the mood of a trip quickly. "Psychic surgery" however can cause genuine harm by giving false confidence in a medical condition being healed. It may also be wise to know what your "generous donations" are actually funding!

Respect[edit]

Whilst a traveller may not have a firm belief in fringe phenomena, the locals in any given region may in contrast have strong and deeply held views. For example, the influence of the 'evil-eye' is a view still held in the Middle East, Western Asia, and parts of the Mediterranean. Appropriate respect should be given to local taboos and mores.

See also[edit]

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