It didn't help that I found myself as an actual part of the proceedings every once in a while. Remember when I was hiding from the sun god guy? I spent much of that time leafing through the various magazines and books on display at some bookstore stall, the name of which I forget but was probably something New Age-related. Almost immediately, I bumped into myself -- namely, some old sci-fi short story I'd written that was now adorning the pages of a magazine on surprisingly (uncomfortably) prominent display. "Nice going, Pauli," I remember thinking. "You've been here for 10 fucking minutes and you're already sucked in."
(The story was about aliens and Nazis. Don't judge me. Everyone has a story about aliens and Nazis.)
A while later, I wandered off to the Kirlian photography stand, only to make the swiftest U-turn of my life when I heard someone referencing the very fucking Cracked article M. Asher Cantrell and myself wrote that debunked the Kirlian auras as plain old sweat. I don't know what the odds are of that shit. I just know that, after this, I made damn sure not to give anyone my name. I've been chased out of plenty of places with torches and pitchforks, but a paranormal convention just seems like overkill.
The Speakers Make It Clear Everyone's Crazy After All
Ivonne Wierink/Hemera/Getty Images
Up to that point, I had somehow managed to avoid the guests of honor and their various speeches. But, as the day progressed and the bigger names started approaching the podium, I could no longer stay away. Still, maybe the strange camaraderie and odd dedication I'd witnessed would carry over to the grander stages. Maybe, just maybe, I'd gotten the whole "paranormal" thing wrong, and it was just another, slightly off-beat way to compare experiences and deal with the fucked-up hands the poker game of life keeps dealing us.
That impression lasted roughly two minutes into the first speaker's piece. Rauni Kilde, a respected doctor who at some point started buying into every fucking conspiracy theory ever and actively promoting them, was an elderly woman with vats of charisma and a gaze like a nail driven directly between your eyes. You could have told me she was a professor at Harvard and I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. And then, she dropped a page from her lecture notes without noticing it. Upon realizing that a page was missing, and without missing a beat, she declared that this happened to her quite often, and it was because the government was constantly stalking her and disintegrating her notes with their melt-rays when she wasn't looking.
She couldn't use the "dog ate my homework" one,
because everyone knows dogs aren't real.
The rest of her 45 minutes went exactly as you'd expect. Google "10 Most Popular Conspiracy Theories" -- chemtrails, vaccination bullshit, Illuminati, aliens, they're all there -- shit, considering her advanced age and activity in the field, they might be all her.
After that, out stepped Juhan af Grann, who I'm told is an award-winning ufologist, which gives rise to the infinitely more interesting fact that there's someone out there giving out awards to ufologists. As a true testament to the possibilities of downers and uppers, he started out as a borderline puddle, showed us a half-hour documentary about ethereal giants dropping boat keys on people's cars, because fuck you, and retook the podium as the most manic entity I've ever seen, swatting back hecklers and serious questions with the energy and wit of a coked-up Bill Hicks.
Aaaand that's when I realized me and my friend were in a fucking madhouse after all.
I did manage to take one picture. Feel free to imagine this is
an alien in a wig, because for all intents and purposes it was.
Convention: 4 (But guess who gets to use their points after exiting the premises, fuckers. You know what, we'll call this a tie. This time.)
All in all, this wasn't an entirely horrible experience. I learned a lot about people who believe in this stuff and about myself in relation to them. I'm not saying I'll stop making fun of them. Still, maybe I'll cut them a couple weeks' worth of slack, if only because one of them managed to tear our people masks away and we had to burn the whole place down in retaliation.
Now that you've read this, human, remember that Pauli knows where you live. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.