Yetis and Extraterrestrials?

September 22, 2011

Alert Government Book Talk reader Deb Christmas tipped me off to this document which, although not the kind of thing I usually discuss here, has a couple of things going for it. First, what’s not to like about an American diplomatic memo outlining the special procedures required by the Nepalese government for those engaged in yeti-hunting expeditions?  The diplomat involved may have wondered exactly how he wound up drafting such a memo, but I hope he derived some amusement from it. I also wonder how many intrepid explorers received this excellent advice prior to launching themselves into the high Himalayas. The other aspect of this little “Foreign Service Despatch”  that stimulated what pass as my thought processes is the juxtaposition of an official, rather bureaucratic Government memo regarding a subject widely considered to be…well…paranormal. Since this blog already has discussed the possibly occult nature of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, how could I pass up the opportunity to delve into such enigmatic realms again?

This brings me to the U.S. Air Force’s 1997 The Roswell Report: Case Closed. This study, written by Air Force Captain James McAndrew, “was to determine if the U.S. Air Force, or any otherU.S. government agency, possessed information on the alleged crash and recovery of an extraterrestrial vehicle and its alien occupants nearRoswell,N.M. in July 1947.” The conclusion? “…the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army Air Forces, recovered debris from an Army Air Forces balloon-borne research project code named MOGUL. Records located describing research carried out under the MOGUL project, most of which were never classified (and publicly available) were collected, provided to GAO, and published in one volume for ease of access for the general public.”

Jim McAndrew, whom I met in the course of GPO’s printing and selling The Roswell Report: Case Closed, was a sincere and enthusiastic disbeliever in the much-hyped Area 51 stories that circulated then and now, but I’m afraid that his conclusions haven’t had much influence on those with a will to believe in extraterrestrials, UFOs, etc. I try to keep an open mind about these things, feeling that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Based on this well-documented study, though, I think the official version holds up pretty well. (Those anthropomorphic test dummies are pretty creepy looking…)

You can read The Roswell Report: Case Closed here or find it in a library. The yeti memo? Look here.  As far as is known, no yetis were shot at,  testifying to its effectiveness.

The World’s Most Enigmatic Manuscript

November 18, 2010

Have you ever read a Government publication that discussed such topics as the Hermetic tradition, astrology, demonic and angelic magic, alchemy, the Cabala, and the history of Hindu-Arabic numerals?

I thought not.

All of those esoteric subjects and more can be found in The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma, published by the National Security Agency (NSA). The Voynich manuscript, often dubbed “the world’s most mysterious manuscript,” is a remarkable conglomeration, written in an unknown script and language and profusely illustrated with carefully rendered images of unidentified plants, enigmatic astronomical drawings, and puzzling human figures. Known to have existed since the late 16th century, when it was owned by the physician of that most enigmatic of rulers, the Emperor Rudolf II of Austria, it has been labeled variously as a magical manual, a herbarium, and a hoax. NSA’s interest stems from the widely held belief that the manuscript is enciphered. The noted American cryptologist William Friedman, as well as many other professionals and amateurs, have tried without success to crack the code – if code there is.

The Voynich Manuscript gives a brief history of this mystery, along with its possible connections to the topics I’ve listed above, and a discussion of the many unsuccessful attempts to crack the code or cipher, or at least discover whether it is written in a natural or artificial language. Although none has been successful, efforts are still underway, as even a brief perusal of the Internet reveals.

Is it a hoax? If so, the hoaxer must have labored for years to create it – surely too much effort for very little known return. Given the penchant of early modern scientists and philosophers to disguise their researches through the use of symbols and allegory, its obscurity is not unprecedented, although obviously extreme. One clue may reside in this book’s reference to the Art of Memory, a system of using physical or mental landmarks to enable the memorization of incredible amounts of information. Is the Voynich manuscript a colossal “memory palace”?

The Voynich Manuscript is more evidence that the world of Government publications is almost infinitely vast and surprising. It tells a great story and provides enough decipherment tables to delight the amateur and aficionado alike. You can read this very unusual publication here, order your own copy, find it in a library, or, to get a real feel for thee original (and maybe solve the mystery!), you can study the real thing, page by page. Note: Some readers have run into a problem in downloading the PDF of the Voynich Manuscript. Try clicking the link that says “PDF with text,” which downloads much quicker.

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