Many people, at some point in their lives, enter a realm bounded by mystery. This is a famous theme in noir and horror movies. David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986) explored what would happen if two 'normal,' 'everyday,' 'rational' people veered off into mystery.
In Blue Velvet, the hero - a perfectly 'normal,' 'average' college student named Jeffrey - is shaken when his father has a heart attack. Then his curiosity is piqued when he comes across a severed ear in a paper bag on a shortcut to the hospital. Lynch combined Jeffrey's proximity with death with a symbolic slide into another world:
"The ear is like a canal, it's like an opening, little egress into another place...It's like a ticket to another world that he finds. If he hadn't found it, you know, he would have kept on going home and that would have been the end of it. But the fascination with this, once found, drew him into something he needed to discover and work through."
Jeffrey finds the ear in Blue Velvet (1986) © De Laurentiis Entertainment Group/Paramount. Video Source: Youtube.
Hellraiser 3 (1992; see the trailer here) uses similar portal tropes. It opens with a reporter protagonist, Joey Summerskill, chomping at the bit waiting for something extraordinary to happen so that she can get a scoop that will boost her career. Why isn't there a story waiting for her, late at night, at a huge, silent, metro emergency room? Her cameraman reassures her: "It's a mystery. But that's all it is - a mystery." With those words, the scene subtly shifts tone. It is almost as though stating that a mystery is present has initiated a chain reaction of unimaginable and inexplicable events. The antagonist, a demon named Pinhead, later indicates that Joey stumbled upon mystery and horror because of her haunted dreams: "You think your nighttime world is closed to me? Your mind is so naked. A book that yearns to be read. A door that begs to be opened."
Real life mysteries are worse than fictional ones, because they so often offer no narrative resolution, unless ironically, they are later dramatized. Follow the occasional odd detail here and there, and a thread emerges. For example: when Walt Disney (1901-1966) was dying, the last thing he did was write his final words on a piece of paper. He wrote the name of actor Kurt Russell, who was a child actor signed with Disney Studios at that time. Russell has said: "It's true. I don't know what to make of that. I was taken into his office one time after he died and I was shown that."
There is an urban legend, probably spread by Disney animators, that Disney was cryonically frozen and interred beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. The first known human cryonic freezing actually occurred in January 1967, shortly after Disney died. The recipient of this treatment was University of California psychology professor, James Bedford, who is currently stored with the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
Walt Disney was cremated and interred Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Forest Lawn's eschatology, famously satirized by British novelist Evelyn Waugh in The Loved One (1948), guards many secrets. Waugh found a different slide into mystery here: the core of the Hollywood ethos. That ethos is the ultimate, desired slip into immortality, when youth, beauty and art lightly evade death. Waugh found the American approach to death in Hollywood to be completely different from anywhere else; it was a gentle, step-by-step, seamless tip toe from plastic-surgeried age into a weird glossed afterlife. Waugh wrote an essay in which he imagined archaeologists excavating Hollywood in 2947 and wondered what they would make of Forest Lawn and its concept of 'easeful death':
"[Forest Lawn's] is not the leisure of Palm Beach and Monte Carlo where busy men go for a holiday. It is the leisure of those whose work is done. Here on the ultimate, sunset-shore they warm their old bodies and believe themselves alive, opening their scaly eyes two or three times a day to browse on salads and fruits. They have long forgotten the lands that gave them birth and the arts and trades they once practised. Here you find, forgetful and forgotten, men and women you supposed to be long dead, editors of defunct newspapers, playwrights and artists who were once the glory of long-demolished theatres, and round them congregate the priests of countless preposterous cults to soothe them into the cocoon-state in which they will slough their old bodies. The ideal is to shade off, so finely that it becomes imperceptible, the moment of transition, and it is to this process that Forest Lawn is the most conspicuous monument."
"Michael Jackson was reported to be one of the largest owners of property on the moon. In 2005, he bought a 1,200-acre (4.9 km2) plot in the Lake of Dreams and owned a smaller parcel in the Sea of Vapours. After his death, a crater on the moon was renamed Michael Joseph Jackson by The Lunar Republic Society in Jackson's honor. The crater, officially named Posidonius J, is located on an area of the moon known as the Lake of Dreams, or Lacus Somniorum. The crater is 22 kilometers across and is situated near Jackson's owned land. A spokesman for the society said: 'The official designation of a Lunar crater is a singular honour bestowed upon only a select few luminaries. "Among those receiving this rare tribute over the past century are Leonardo da Vinci, Christopher Columbus, Sir Isaac Newton, Julius Caesar and Jules Verne.'"
Wikipedia lists people who died mysteriously and who disappeared mysteriously. Among the latter: "Tommy Davis (40), head of the Church of Scientology's Celebrity Centre International in Los Angeles, California, was reported missing on Channel Nine's program, A Current Affair[,] along with his wife; they have not been seen for over a year."
McCandless self-portrait (1992). Image Source: Chris McCandless Now I Walk into the Wild.
Another figure who wandered too far was Christopher McCandless (1968-1992). After college, he abandoned his middle class world to find himself, eventually trekking to Alaska, where he was injured, then starved to death. His haunting self-portrait in front of an abandoned bus, not long before he died, became an iconic image, later subject of much media attention. Sean Penn directed a bio-drama about McCandless in 2007.
Sometimes, the mystery comes from conflicting memories or perceptions of reality. There can be disturbing discrepancies between what one person remembers or sees, and what others remember or see. To the person who perceives the disconnection, the inconsistency can appear to be a time trap or reality warp, as discussed in this post. This week, an anonymous commenter responded to that same post and related the following mysterious personal experience:
Today's mainstream empirical world secularizes and rationalizes spiritualism, strange memories and fractured awareness. These experiences are labeled now in terms of mental illness. In another age, they might have been accepted as omens or holy visions. Only on the fringes of Millennial science, in the physics of the infinitesimal, might this commenter's experience find explanation in quantum consciousness. For now, it remains a mystery."The one that really bothers me the most, is that of a high school friend. We were very close. During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, my friend, who was a very talented football and baseball player for our team, was with friends pulling a railroad car down the tracks. He lost his footing and it ran over his right leg. This resulted in an amputation at the knee.
I worked all summer at a local fast food restaurant. He lived in the area. He would stop by and we would spend a lot of time talking. And then, when school resumed, it was obviously the talk of the campus. And for months I remember him withdrawing from friends, and becoming a kind of recluse. But him and I would always talk. This went on for the entire year.
So, I had the summer before senior year, and the entire senior year of memories.
Three years ago, I finally gave in, and opened a Facebook account. I reconnected with all of my high school friends. He was one of them, and he seemed to be doing well. I didn't look through his pictures much or anything, so I didn't know right away. But eventually, my wife looked through his pics. She had heard the story (we were married twenty two years, so she knew most of my stories lol). She noticed that he didn't have an amputation. She told me this, and I looked. I was shocked to see she was right.
I had a tremendous issue accepting this. I had almost two years of memories regarding this...Lots of memories... But, at the risk of sounding (and literally feeling) insane, I laughed it off and said I must have been thinking of someone else. But inside, I am torn apart. I asked my other high school friends who was the guy that got run over by a railroad car, and no-one can remember anything about anyone that that happened to. Really??? I mean, really???"