Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mystery Death: Mac Tonnies, 34

Why do some people die so young, and all we hear is that they passed away of "natural causes"? The two pieces of information do not compute.

Mac Tonnies, 34, a rising intellectual presence in Fortean thought, the "Posthuman Blues" blogger, and the author of the forthcoming book, The Cryptoterrestrials (Anomalist Books, 2010), has departed this plane. He was found dead in his apartment on Thursday afternoon, October 22, 2009. Reports indicate that there was no foul play or suicide involved, and "natural causes" are being blamed for his sudden and unexpected death. There is some indication that he may have been feeling "faint" in the days leading up to his death.

nessie tag

I never met Mac, but he did correspond a few times with me. In April 2008, he was curious about a mysterious graffiti artist that had popped up in his town, who was leaving iconic Nessie stencils around and about. He wrote me and asked if I'd heard about any other incidents like it happening around the country. I posted a brief note on CryptoZooNews about the cryptoart.

The title of Mac's forthcoming book, The Cryptoterrestrials, also, of course, interested me. In talks I had with his publisher, Patrick Huyghe, I understood it would be a book that extended the thoughts of John Keel's ultraterrestrials. I looked forward to seeing what new take Tonnies had on it all, and was open to hearing if cryptozoology played into his intellectual ponderings.

Mac Tonnies had the potential to ask some challenging questions. That seemed to have scared some people.

Strangely, Mac's name appeared at the end of the "death list" of people that a group of extremely youthful ufologists placed in their infamous posting of March 22, 2008, 19 months or so, before the day of Tonnies' death. The so-called "RRRGroup," in their "UFO PROVOCATEUR(S)" blog entry entitled "Death(s) will clean the UFO palate," listed the names of people whom they almost seemed to be wishing would die more quickly so the "future" of the field could dawn more quickly.

They wrote:

When ufology’s old-guard passes on – Dick Hall, Stan Friedman, Kevin Randall, John Schuessler, and even the 60ish Jerry Clark to name a few – taking hangers-on and sycophants with them (and you know who they are), the UFO palate will be cleansed.

That is, the mummified concepts of ufology will be washed away, and new paradigms will be allowed to flourish.

Standing in the wings already is a group of middle-agers who, while not particularly astute about the UFO history and inclined to be cavalier with their observations and characterizations of ufology and UFOs themselves, think they are the news faces of ufology, which is a mantle they hope to change.

Those people include Paul Kimball, Nick Redfern, Greg Bishop, and Mac Tonnies.

...Once the old-guard is gone, and the mid-lifers dismissed because of their foolishness, the young crop of UFO mavens’ newer ideas will hold sway with the public and media....

Blood mixed with ink.

I wrote in their comment section at the time:

It seems incredible to really read these words: "...the young crop of UFO mavens’ newer ideas will hold sway with the public and media, because this new generation isn’t conscripted by former old-think about UFOs, presenting instead original thought and pursuit of the UFO mystery..."
Being a radical Fortean observer watching the coming and going of all matter of writers, researchers, and theorists in the last four decades, you have given me a good chuckle.

Every "new" generation sees themselves as having the "real" solutions or the next best outside-the-box suggestions. Of course, it will only be something you will reflect upon when the next generation after you, the new group of "Young Ones" start nibbling at your aging heels, [and] says something similar to you.

It's always been that way, and it will continue so into the future.

Besides being intellectually dishonest, such a critique as the one from the RRR group has no sense of history or reality. But in terms of karma, frankly, I think it is bad form to put names out there of people you almost seem to be wishing were dead. I am shocked, therefore, to see that Mac Tonnies, the last name on the RRR list, along with Dick Hall, the first one, both now have died. Sad indeed.

The tributes for Tonnies, as often happens in a surprising death like this are pouring in from his deep friends. I recommend those of Nick Redfern, Greg Bishop, and many other of his true friends.

Mac's last tweet was on October 18th, 2009, and he pointed to "sculptural manifestations of audio footage."

I want to leave you with Mac's own words, as he has summed up his own life, here below, from his self-authored biography. Good-bye, Mac:

I'm a Kansas City, Missouri-based author and essayist. I blog daily at Posthuman Blues and tweet religiously. My latest book is After the Martian Apocalypse (Paraview Pocket Books, 2004), a speculative and generally well-received examination of extraterrestrial intelligence on the Red Planet. I'm presently at work on a new non-fiction book titled The Cryptoterrestrials: Indigenous Humanoids and the Aliens Among Us, excerpts of which I've posted on my blog. If you're in the mood for a multiplex Fortean anthology, my essay "The Ancients Are Watching" is included in 2008's Darklore Vol. II. (My first book, Illumined Black, is a collection of naively "Blade Runner"-ish science fiction short-stories. It can still be found in used-book stores and on

I've been a guest panelist at ConQuest, Kansas City's premiere science fiction convention. More recently, I've lectured in the United States and Canada on subjects ranging from exoarchaeology to transhumanism and have appeared on programs such as Coast to Coast AM, Strange Days . . . Indeed, 21st Century Radio, The Paracast, Binnall of America, and Radio Misterioso. My first play, produced and directed by Paul Kimball, debuted in Halifax, Nova Scotia in late 2007. In early 2009 I appeared as the "investigator" in an episode of "Supernatural Investigator," a Canadian program covering fringe beliefs and esoteric science. I also make an appearance in "Best Evidence," an award-winning UFO documentary.

I spend an inordinately large portion of my time pursuing unpopular ideas and esoteric theories with what I sincerely hope is balanced skepticism. I'm a member of the Society for Planetary SETI Research, a group that seeks to use scientific methodology to explore the possibility of extraterrestrial artifacts in our solar system. I read voraciously; preoccupations include cosmology, nonhuman intelligence, UFOs, consciousness studies, and futurism. Writers I admire include William Gibson, Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs.

I tend to think in the future-tense. I'm a skeptic, agnostic and existentialist; I perceive reality as a kind of consensual hallucination that forces us to define our sense of identity without recourse to faith or superstition. I have a deep affinity for 80s pop music; some of my favorite bands are The Cure, R.E.M., Portishead, Talking Heads, and The Smiths. Favorite film-makers include David Cronenberg and David Lynch. I can regularly be found haunting the Country Club Plaza, taking pictures, reading cyberpunk novels, and marinating my synapses in espresso. And I'm a voracious doodler.


Consciousness is a potential technology; we are exquisite machines, nothing less than sentient patterns. As such, there's no convincing technical reason we can't eventually upload ourselves into matrices of our design and choosing. It's likely the phenomenon we casually call "intelligence" will cease to be strictly biological as we begin to merge with our machines more meaningfully and intimately. (Philip K. Dick once wrote that "living and nonliving things are exchanging properties." I suspect that in a few hundred years, barring disaster, separating the animate from the inanimate will probably be an exercise in futility.) Ultimately, we have two options: self-mutate by venturing off-planet in minds and bodies of our own design, or succumb to extinction.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Heenes Are UFO Family

It is not a coincidence that the balloon that supposedly abducted Falcon Heene to nowhere looks like a flying saucer. Now it turns out, the Heenes are a media-aware family that allegedly may be obsessed with UFOs and ETs.

Yes, there is a happy ending. He was hiding in a box in the attic of the family's garage. But the chasing of the balloon dominated the news all afternoon and early evening.

The six-year-old boy who was thought to be in a mylar balloon speeding high across Colorado on Thursday, October 15, 2009, was on the ABC series "Wife Swap."

Falcon Heene, 6, is the son of Richard and Mayumi Heene of Ft. Collins, Colorado. His parents are stormchasers, and their "chaotic parenting style" was criticized by their "Wife Swap" swap family, according to Fox News.

Richard and Mayumi Heene of Ft. Collins, Colorado have two other sons, Bradford and Royo.

Richard Heene created his own indie video series, and sells the DVDs online as "The Psyience Detectives." Episodes have included "ROTATING STORMS AND MAGNETISM," "DUST DEVIL CHASING," and "TORNADO SEEKING ROCKET." The program is described as "The Psyience Detectives, a new documentary series investigating the mysteries of science and psychic phenomena."

The family was invited back by ABC to appear on the 100th episode of "Wife Swap," where Mayumi Heene switched places with Sheree Silver, a psychic.

A Los Angeles Times story documented the "Wife Swap" show by saying "The Heene family, with its three rowdy boys, is anchored by father Richard, whose anger arrives in sudden bolts between his fringe science projects."

The description of the episode from ABC that appears on their website said "[The swapped wife] is shocked as the Heene kids jump off banisters and run wild, and appalled by Richard's attitude to women."

The Heenes reportedly allowed their children to accompany them as they tracked Hurricane Gustav.

According to the ABC "Wife Swap" website, the family sleeps in their clothes so they can leap from bed and run after a storm at any given moment. The site also describes a "flying saucer" that sounds like the one that ultimately came back to earth Thursday.

"When the Heene family aren't chasing storms, they devote their time to scientific experiments that include looking for extraterrestrials and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm," says the site.

They're also apparently shooting music videos. An amateur rock/rap video called "Not Pussified" starring the three boys was posted on Youtube, showing the brothers shooting off rockets, throwing rocks at stuffed animals, and riding some sort of hovercraft that looks eerily like the saucer thought to be carrying Falcon on Thursday.

As far as the name game, the history of "Heene" originates from an unknown background.

Friday, October 09, 2009

MLB Suicide: Brian Powell

Brian Powell, a former major league baseball pitcher, has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a sheriff's official in Georgia has reported. He was 35.

Captain Liz Crowley of the Decatur County Sheriff's Office said Powell died Monday, October 5, 2009, at a hospital in Tallahassee, Florida. Powell was from Bainbridge, Georgia.

The Bainbridge native was a three-year letterman for the Bulldogs from 1993-95, going 19-14 with a 3.80 ERA. He ranks second in school history with 17 complete games, 352 strikeouts and five shutouts. In 1995, he led the Southeastern Conference in strikeouts (138); innings pitched (147) and was second in complete games (seven).

Powell was a second-round pick, the 41st overall selection, of the Detroit Tigers in the 1995 MLB draft and reached the majors in 1998.

Powell was 7-18 with a 5.94 ERA in 59 games for Detroit, Houston, San Francisco and Philadelphia. He last pitched in the majors with the Phillies in 2004, and spent 2005 in Triple-A for Washington.

Funeral services were held at 11 a.m. Thursday, October 8, 2009, in Bainbridge, Georgia.

Powell is survived by his wife and three children. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and former teammates.

The timing of Powell's suicide, at the end of the regular season of 162 games (despite the one tie-breaker that was played on Tuesday, October 6, 2009), does not appear to be a coincidence.

I wrote the following concerning what my study of such suicides revealed about their timing:

Baseball players were most likely to die by suicide during the off-season, if the individual was a recent player, within three years of an active involvement in the majors, or after age 65, after a "retirement" from a post-baseball career. For some former players, the end of March to the April opening days seemed to be a specific temporal black hole.

That a suicide should occur so close to the end of the regular season should not be a surprise.

Chapters on my findings regarding baseball players' suicides are to be found in Baseball and American Culture: Across the Diamond (2003) by Edward J. Rielly, in my own book The Copycat Effect (2004), and in other sources now quoting those books.

This year, 2009, is the 20th anniversary of my research and call for suicide prevention efforts among Major League Baseball players. There was a cluster of baseball suicides in 1989, which I had predicted. Donnie Moore was the individual MLB player who died of suicide receiving the most publicity, but there, sadly, were others.