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Speaking in Tongues: The Dark Truth Behind an On-Air Meltdown

Last week the world watched and cackled with delight as a reporter's brain went completely haywire live on television. While delivering a post-Grammy summary the young woman's brain completely abandoned the mouth, leaving it to handle the rest of the report on its own. And like a puppy or an incompetent plumber, that mouth got shit everywhere.

As many observers have pointed out, for several seconds it looked like the woman was speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, is a condition where a speaker emits a bunch of random sounding gibberish, with just enough fluidity and coherence to make it sound like an alien language. It is weird as hell, and has been linked to other weird as hell phenomena, such as hypnosis and bible camps.

Knowing that Cracked is the first place people go when crazy crap like this happens, when this news broke we immediately set to the business of farting around, not writing a column about it. Eventually someone volunteered me for the task, I'm told due to my unique qualifications - namely my babbling, near-unintelligible Canadian accent. "It sounds like the noise a raccoon would make while repairing a saxophone," several co-workers have confided in me privately. "Birds won't land when you're nearby."

My self confidence thoroughly bruised, I set out to prove my worth by writing the best darn article on glossolalia I could. Rather than read the Wikipedia page on glossolalia, or throw around a few blond jokes like the rest of the lamestream media, I thought that the best way to the bottom of this was by strapping on my old investigating outfit...

The kerchief is useful for picking up clues without getting fingerprints on them, and also sets off my jaunty hat quite nicely.

...and hitting the pavement to discuss glossolalia with the real experts.

My first stop was at the university where I met Dr. Earnest Tungsprecher, who explained that he was an expert on linguistics. Worried about getting off on the wrong foot I clarified some ground rules...

"And I promise that I won't make that cunning linguist joke that's so lame," I said.

"What cunning linguist joke?" he replied.

"That cunning linguist joke," I said, confused. "That's the whole joke. It's because it sounds a bit like... You know." I made an incredibly classless gesture with my hands and mouth.

"I see. Do you begin all your interviews this way?"

"No. I used to, but stopped until just recently."

The interview halted there for a time, while we both considered what was wrong with me. Then, anxious to pull my investigation out of the ditch, I asked the professor about the possible causes for glossolalia.

"Yes, well there's many competing theories about how glossolalia works. First, it is an acquirable skill - it can be taught and learned. It can also potentially be brought on by hypnosis. And in some cases it can be brought on by mental or physical illnesses. I understand the doctors who diagnosed this reporter think it was tied to some migraines she was having."

"What about religious epiphanies? I'm pretty sure I saw that in an Indiana Jones movie once."

The professor nodded. "Another popular explanation. 'Speaking in tongues' has been mentioned in the bible. It's been claimed that it's a sign of divine intervention, that a higher power has taken control of a vessel. Honestly, I think in most of these cases that it's been used deliberately as bit of a ruse - a parlor trick."

"In most cases?"

Dr. Tungsprecher hesitated. I sensed I had found my story, and licked my lips, to let him know I was interested in what he had to say. That seemed to put him off a bit, and the conversation skidded and swerved to a halt. Putting my tongue away, I waited for him to continue. "I've seen a few things which have made me wonder," he finally said.

"Where? How?"

Tungsprecher swallowed now. "In the swamp once. A cult that spoke in tongues. But those were no tricks. It was something much worse than that. I don't know what I saw." His eyes seemed to focus on something in the far distance. "There's evil in those swamps." Remember where he was, he shuddered, then glanced at something behind me.

I turned around to see what he was looking at: a bookshelf, upon which sat a simple wooden sculpture. Tungsprecher explained to me had obtained in the swamp "at great cost." Carved into its surface was an awful figure, grotesque, but impossible to wrap my head around. Impossible to describe. All the worst parts of man and octopus and cucumber, combined into something unspeakable.

Although he warned me several times, I was able to secure the location of the swamp from him, after repeatedly explaining the hardy and resilient nature of comedy writers. "There is no evil, nor banality greater than what happens weekly in my comments section, professor."

Then, after changing into a more suitable outfit...

Can you believe it only cost me six dollars?

...I was on my way to the swamp.

I'm really pleased to report that the swamp people I met on that black day were just delightful. Evil yes, holy cats, yes, a thousand evils stacked on top of one another, like a malevolent game of Jenga. They would murder a person in the eye if their swamp gods commanded it. But afterward they would tell such fantastic stories about it and drink such fantastic rum cocktails, that you simply wouldn't care.

I arrived in the swamp in the midst of one of their ceremonies. There was much chanting and shrieking, fantastic words hurled at the sky, evocative of a world that didn't exist. But it wasn't glossolalia, not as I understood it. Too controlled. Too practiced. Accompanying the chanting was a display of elaborately choreographed dancing, with carefully staggered pelvic thrusting, harmonies of humping.

They found me soon after the dancing began, clapping and laughing from my hiding spot, and did very nearly come to murdering me, but once I explained who I was, and how Cracked used to murder people in the swamp all the time in the late 90's, things got cool. They showed me around their compound, and told me that if I waited patiently and put my empty rum drinks in the tub to be washed, I would be permitted to speak to their head priest.

After another hour or so, the priest, who had been loitering in the rear of the compound, sketching out new sinister rites with the cult's choreographer, finally sent for me. As I approached, he seemed to go absolutely off his nut, and started spouting gibberish like a fountain made of Youtube commenters. This was glossolalia, happening right up all over me.

"Can you explain why you're doing that?" I asked when he'd finished.

The priest weighed those words for a time, considering his response carefully. "We do it to please the ancient one, who slumbers even now," he finally said.

"At two thirty on a Thursday?" I asked. "You worship an unemployed guy?"

"Your cutting words will do you no good when the great D'kthulu comes."

"That's your god's name? Were his parents hippies? No wonder he can't get a job. He should try calling himself Derek or something. At least on his resume."

The priest ignored this blasphemy and showed me a crude wooden shrine, with an image of an awful figure who was clearly this cult's god. It was different from the one the professor had shown me, but also the same, but even more also, it was much much worse. This figure was more detailed, and left me feeling, in a way I don't want to describe, confused and intimidated. I'm really uncomfortable describing even that much.

"Your god looks like a pretty cool guy," I said, trying to be polite. I turned away, no longer capable of looking at it. "If he's ever in town, tell him we should party," I added.

The priest laughed and chortled, bellowing "Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha," straight at the sky. His laughter changed somehow, as he slipped into another trance, and I realized he was speaking in tongues again. "Blety heu hort koeo meieyu thirty three north one twenty west dgye mekpe."

I stared at him, incredulous. He returned my stare. "Did you get that?" he asked.

"You've got to fucking be kidding me."

________

So, after getting a map, and then forgetting how maps work, and then just Googling it, I changed into something more suitable for an ocean voyage...

Don't get me wrong, I can swim just fine. I actually wear them to make my arms look bigger, and, by comparison, my head look smaller.

...then chartered a boat and told the boat man to take me to the coordinates the priest had "accidentally" let slip. On the way the boat guy taught me everything he knew about glossolalia - in his words, "shut the fuck up kid" - after which I busied myself by vomiting on various objects.

As we arrived at the coordinates I was astonished to see an island there, not on any charts. It was then that my captain proved his worth, by explaining that there were several important differences between boats and islands, and that what we were looking at, was in fact a boat. As we drew nearer I could see he was correct, but the boat was unnatural in appearance, strange lines and protrusions emitting from it at crazy angles. It was organic and foul and somehow flaccid.

After tying up to the strange vessel that did not belong in our universe, I jumped aboard. Every surface was sticky and befouled, the deck strewn with collapsed and comatose human beings, dead or dying or just sleepy, I didn't know. I wasn't checking any pulses. Horrible crunching and popping sounds under foot as I walked. I looked down in horror to find that I had been stepping on thousands of empty Tecate cans.

Then from somewhere in the depths of the vessel, a great roar erupted, the belching of a billion dead suns. I turned in horror to see a creature most appalling, the sights and smells from a thousand nightmares made manifest, emerge from the bowels of the ship.

The creature roared and bellowed, speaking its strange tongue to me. I cowered in fear, confident that something much worse than death would soon happen to me and my many orifices. Then, silence.

"Hey Bucholz."

I turned and looked at the being, though I swear to you reader that I did not want to.

"Dan? Is that you?" As I looked closer, the foul beast pulled back on the surface of what I took to be its head, revealing it was but a sinister mask. Beneath it lay the sweaty head of my fellow Cracked columnist, Dan O'Brien.

"Some party, hey?" he said. He looked around a bit, surveying the human detritus that covered the party boat. "Hey what are you doing here anyways? You're normally not very cool."

He was right. My presence normally made women put on more clothes, and my social calender was consequently quite thin. "I'm doing some research for a column. What are you doing here?"

DOB looked at me and squinted, unsure of the answer to that question himself. Reaching into an unspeakable orifice, he produced a Blackberry, which he scrolled through thoughtfully. "What's today?" he asked.

"Saturday."

"Ok. It says here I'm supposed to be on an adrift party boat, wearing a many dicked costume." DOB looked himself up and down. "So there you go."

I nodded, expecting that. "And does it say why?"

Dan threw his awful arms up in the air floppily. "Look man, I'm a busy guy. I get these meeting requests. I click Accept. What do you want me to say?"

I sighed. "Fine Dan, I'll make it simple. Are you a God?"

He considered that. "Well I don't mean to brag, but I do often call out my own name during sex."

"That's fantastic."

"Dantastic."

"Yes. Of course." I massaged my face with my hands. "But more specifically, have you tricked a bunch of hill people into believing you are an elder god, ancient beyond man's ken?"

"Oh those guys. Yes."

"Why?"

"Tax thing. I needed to write off the costs of the dick suit," he said. "Which I'd purchased earlier, for other reasons, too obvious to mention." He did a little dance, a horrible dangling flapping display, which surely sent psychic tremors around the earth.

I felt wearier than I'd ever been before in my life. "Fine. One last thing. Do you know anything about speaking in tongues?"

He squinted at me. "Is this a rim job thing? Because no. Thanks though!" He winked at me.

Sensing I'd learned all I could from this hot mess from beyond the known dimensions, I retreated, attempting to return to my charter boat, only to find that it was no longer there. The captain had secured a tow line to the party barge and was now towing us back home, leaving me trapped in that Tecate scented nightmare for the next six hours.

The truth behind glossolalia had taken me to a place darker and stupider than I could ever imagine, and although I ultimately returned home unharmed, I know that mentally I will always be trapped in that place, forever turning down requests to 'wrestle' with my colleague, the Elder God D'kthulu. Save your prayers for yourselves, reader; for me they come too late.

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