Magical Realism As An Expression Of A Deeper Reality

The Question is not, “is it real” or is it magic”, it is about finding magic in the mundane.

Magical realism can call on folk-lore and myth to question the true nature of reality. Forest-horror-stories are often stories of this type of magical realism, and this is also what I am aiming for in my own work.

The magical elements are as natural as the everyday world in this genre. The term was originally coined by Franz Roh for an exhibition called “Neue Sachlichkeit” in the 1920ties.

Magical Realism is often connected with South-American literature and describes books or movies with magical elements or a dreamlike-landscape.

Sometimes magical realism is used as toolbox by romantic comedy writers to set up a story – like the lightning stroke making the main character capable to understand what women think – but that’s not what magical realism is really about.

 

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The mother of all magical realism stories on TV is “Twin Peaks” with its credo “The Owls Are Not What They Seem”. Here the magical reality becomes a form of hyper realism: it feels for some folks more real as our limited everyday reality experience. “Twin Peaks” and other great series/movies/books abandon our model of physical reality. However they don’t reveal the mechanics of an alternative model of physical reality like the 5th dimension in “Interstellar”.

“Twin Peaks” interacts with the viewer in a much deeper sense. It reminds us about a daimonic reality where strong hidden forces rule our lives behind the curtain of ordinary reality. We do know about this daimonic reality but is something which became suppressed in our times.

In the best of all cases the magical elements in a magical realism story doesn’t appear like some writer’s invention or something with is kind of an appendix. Magical Realism can reveal what we usually don’t see, something which we are not supposed to see.

I had always a weird comparison in mind: Our reality is perhaps like the layers in the photoshop software: Normally we can only see the surface (the image on top of a pile of images and layers) but with certain techniques the surface (or the picture on top) becomes transparent and you can see what is beyond. If you work with layers in photoshop software you can reveal something which is normally not visible. David Lynch is doing this in his films: He scratches on the surface layer and reveals for a glimpse what lies beneath.

Unraveling the myth behind our reality is more about revelation rather than an invention of fictional ideas or mere fantasies.




I don’t think we need necessarily alternative models of physical reality to get to the hidden layers in our plane of reality. It is what a good story can do. It also happens in real life. The many cases of unexplained phenomena discussed earlier could be also sudden appearances of hidden layers.

Usually we can’t see what’s really going on. Our models are always inconsistent or tend to driven either by anthropocentric biases or scientific assumptions. Nobody can tell us the truth, but we can try to create something which feels right. Even we don’t admit it we often quietly accept a different idea of reality where our destinies are driven by mythical forces when we watch certain series or movies; there are often three levels in series like “Game Of Thrones” or “Twin Peaks”: action and relationship development, everyday events, then there is politics and undercurrents in society affecting characters and deep down there are powerful myths at work.

Perhaps we need to re-discover the magical dimension of our lives not only in TV-series but also in real life.

Indeed the most fascinating thing is that magical realism or fantastic realism has its roots not in fiction but in reality. Long before the first official UFO-sightings Charles Hoy Fort wrote his “Book Of The Damned”. Fort is quite simple the “Father Of X-Files”: he was a collector of “damned data”, of events or things which were excluded by official science: “A procession of the damned. By the damned, I mean the excluded. We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.” (Charles Ford, Book Of The Damned). He was motivated by criticism of the mainstream science. He saw the problem of reductionism in science very early, and his “damned data” are kind of a provocation, like the rat on the table in a clean house.

His book is a ride into a rich world full of weird phenomena. It tells us stories about raining frogs and mysterious disappearances, thunder-stones and much more. Fort didn’t invent these reports. He was looking through weather reports and piles of newspaper articles. He worked for years but wasn’t a simple believer in the fantastic. He is basically a sceptic. He simply demanded open-mindedness. Often he expresses a certain irony about the weirdness of a phenomenon and the even weirder explanations.

There may be a good reason for keeping his distance: investigating phenomena of “high strangeness” is like crawling through quicksand. It’s terribly difficult to find out what exactly has happened and the search for the truth becomes more and more complicated. This is perhaps because this phenomena happen in the realm of “magical realism”. It’s hard to say how much phenomena of “high strangeness” depend on the witness, but they seem to be strongly connected to a certain atmosphere and character (remember the fish in the coffee-filter in the legendary Twin Peaks Pilot?).

However most of all, Charles Ford wasn’t after the proof for the existence of a ghost or the “shower of jellyfish”, which happened in Bath near the Main Station on April 1871 for example. He didn’t believe in any theories or models about our physical reality. His damned data are supposed to say think twice before you believe in anything.

There seems only one idea running through his work expressed by John Michell that our whole existence is an organism. The universe is a living organism. If we think of the Universe as an organism we would indeed live in a world of magical realism.

The forest is a good place for getting a feeling for this idea, both in a literal sense and in a metaphorical sense. It is like one big organism. It is not possible to reveal that organism in a simple model of physical reality. It remains a mystery like a forest dark with an endless number of secrets. That’s what for example “Twin Peaks” is about and what make it a true “forest story”. The idea of a living universe full of consciousness as a background of the mystical aspects of our life is also rooted in ancient mythology and philosophy.

If we open our eyes and ears we may find the magical reality which the forest actually is. There is a surface, and at certain times a window open up showing us what’s behind the curtain.

Otherworldly Traps

“ROSLIN
Things. The forest is showing me…
Things…”(The Forest Dark Screenplay)

People getting lost or people losing their wits after they entered a dark place in the forest. Are there supernatural traps hidden in certain places in this world?

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In fairy tales the trap is a very prominently motive. Writers were fascinated by these folclore stories. There are famous works particularly in the period of romanticism. An example which was described earlier is the “Runenberg“.

Another well-known trap is the court of venus, “Venusberg”. These traps lure the wanderer into another realm. The man who can’t resist will finally lose everything.

These kind of “erotic traps” use temptation. Of course, this is something which works very well in a number of stories.

However it’s indeed primary a literal motive not a very realistic one.

We don’t expect a beautiful fairy queen tempting us to walk straight into a rift in time and space when we enter the woods.

Otherworldly traps are perhaps something which works in a more subtle way. Nevertheless these kind of traps could be very powerful and dangerous.

It seems that there are places in this world were people lose their orientation or get depressed. The perfect description of this kind of otherworldly trap could be found in Algernoon Blackwood’s “The Willows” where two wanderers get maddened by a supernatural force and one of them is close to committing suicide.

“The Willows” is also a fictional supernatural tale but what happens could be closer to what’s really going on. Every year a number of hikers vanish mysteriously. In most cases there are very rational explanations for what has happened with these persons, but some cases remain unsolved. There are areas which have a reputation for this like “The Bennington Triangle”. According to the Indians the woods are cursed in this territory in Vermont.

I think there are two ways to make you losing your wits. If there are forces which could look deeply into the soul of a person these forces will find the weak spot. They will hit you on the most personal level. The other way is showing you disturbing things, things which are somehow not right, something like H.P. Lovecraft’s “Color From Outer Space”.

These kind of phenomena exist. There were described for example in “Dangerous Lights”. Obviously, they act more on a psychological level. They are happen in a realm somewhere in-between the physical world and the inner-life of a person.





Getting into the mind of a person is the most efficient way how a trap could work. The purpose of the trap it to break somebody’s will. Without a strong will we are an easy prey for whatever lurks in the forest. As soon as we are depressed and disoriented we’re lost. Sometimes the victim returns but is changed forever.

Peter Weir’s famous movie “Picnic at Hanging Rock” describes the mysterious disappearance of a group of girls in the Australian outback. One of the victims returns but cannot describe what happened. The girl is changed and cannot remember anything.

The movie is based on a novel which is fiction but played around with the “based on a true story” pattern. The ending was left open for interpretation but the otherworldy quality of the “Hanging rock”, which exists, is a dominant motive. There are hints that it is the special quality or power of place itself which is responsible for the events.

This story is a very good example for a supernatural trap. It’s like a paradigm. We find similar stories surrounding other notorious place like Freetown-Fall River State Forest. In this case the forest itself seems to be the trap, like the famous woods in the Blairwitch-Movies.

Games In The Forest

Forest Horror Stories are in some way often close to the reality in a computer game or a simulation. This is because there seems not only the character’s misjudgment of the situation is leading him into dangerous territory. In the dark forest we are like Katniss Everdeen confronted with the interventions from an invisible game maker. It’s like being chosen for the hunger games without knowing it.

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Sometimes it´s surprising we accept the conceptual approach in forest horror because of course we know the story was written by an author and certain events in the forest are created by the director and his crew. This is always a problem in storytelling and drama and for badly introduced interventions which change the course of action there is even a term from the old Greeks. It’s called “deux ex machina”. Particularly if we see a so-called found coverage film it could easily look like some trick.

Of course good acting and the right use of effects and emotion could put the audience in a state where the audience doesn’t think too much about the construction of the story. However there is more about it. As said in the previous post it seems that on some level close to base reality the other world appears like a simulation (whereas it is questionable to interpret reality generally as simulation) or even a game where we have interventions of the “game maker”.

Perhaps we accept these stories because sometimes they feel true. Even in reality life is not “character-driven”. There are interventions from invisible forces from somewhere. Therefore the best writers are able to write something which rings true which make use of “cosmic interventions”. There are real cases which look like a weird constructed plot with supernatural interventions. This is an impression particularly if it comes to stories and reports of real events in the forest. Naturally its difficult to distinct between reality and “scripted reality” – every witness report gets interpreted, fictionalized or becoming a folk tale with some sort of morale in the end.

If we look at the real accounts of “forest horror” as described in “Dangerous lights” with cases in Brazil, Jacques Vallee’s investigation of the Happy Camp events in California, The Freetown Fall River Forest case or the Hoia Bacu Forest we find the same dramaturgy at the bottom of the story as in many forest horror stories. It looks like some “Elder Gods” orchestrating supernatural events which are overwhelming for the human mind. The events often go far beyond the “local old legend” encompassing some ghost roaming the woods.

A typical difference between “real accounts” from haunted woods and fictional horror is the forest as a physical attacker. What’s happening in the forest in most real stories is not so much a physical attack from the woods itself its more as something which happens somewhere in-between reality and imagination, somewhere between dream and real experience. Forest horror feels true if we understand Lovecraft’s idea of cosmic horror: “A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present” It all happens more on an atmospheric level rather than a pure physical level in the first place, only later it could lead to physical consequences.





These forces tend to play tricks with the mind. Indeed some events and sightings sound like a part of a game or like everything is happen in a form of virtual reality. However we don’t know the mechanism of the game or the intentions of the game maker. Thus we try rituals and study magic, often we need to solve a riddle in the forest and getting lost. We don’t understand any longer what’s going on. Perhaps this is the true nature of the game: It’s all about not losing your mind in the first place. Then we might be able to understand the nature of our own role in this game and overcome its limitations. Perhaps this is the trick both in a forest horror story or in real life: don’t do what the game maker wants you to do and overcome your limitations.

Fire In The Air

“There are also times when, as happens to a land when the sea-dykes break, the invisible forces flow in upon us and swamp our lives” (Dion Fortune).

“Something is breaking through from another dimension into ours…” (The Forest Dark Screenplay)

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Fire is the element which means both creation and destruction and most of all transformation.

“The aim of magic is to steal the fire from the heaven” said the English artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare.

If we see fire as a form of energy it is the kind of an extreme powerful force; it is an energy both inside and outside of the body.

When we say there is fire in the air it could mean not a literal fire, but – according to some sources – an otherworldly energy, which is more like an electric field in the first moment, then the air becomes more dense and hot until finally something breaks through.

These kind of super natural events happen in stories but are also mentioned in reports about strange encounters like in “Happy Camp”, California, in a series of UFO encounters.

The best way to understand the element of fire (and its meaning in the otherworld) is the myth of Prometheus.

Fire here means also wisdom. Fire is the light of knowledge. Prometheus brought it to mankind. That’s why Prometheus was punished by the Gods.

Furthermore there is a fire of creation. In Zoroastrianism the fire of creation is “a direct creation of God” and “the material universe coalesced from the fire or energy of creation.

Fire is also the transition between the spiritual and material creations”.

This could mean that the moment of transitions are dangerous because fire signals danger.

These ancient ideas could be an interesting alternative in understanding reports of contemporary contacts with the unknown; like the car driver which ended up in a strange illuminated mist,felt an unnaturally thick and hot air, lost consciousness and missed some time and later he could not remember what happened. In some of these encounters people later said they received sudden knowledge about the world which in normally unknown to mankind.

It’s also worth to think about what it means “to play with fire”. In my story somebody plays with the fire and faces unforeseen consequences.




 

A Beacon Of Light In The Forest

“She can see a luminous glow coming from between the trees and the undergrowth itself. Before she can make out the origin of the mysterious light it disappears” (The Forest Dark, Screenplay, August 2015, page 81)

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There is a popular myth around the world about false lights that a sailor warns the captain about people occasionally luring ships into underwater threats, thus causing a wreck.

We find such traps also in the mountains or in the forest: In “Ghost Lights” I mentioned examples of “foolish lights misleading the wanderer from his way”

Normally, the purpose of a beacon of light is either to guide you or it could be also a warning signal. Sometimes we don’t know if it is a warning, and we need to follow the light. How should we know? We have to get closer if we want to find out.

I can’t tell too much about the story in my movie project (in order to avoid any spoilers) but the light in the forest is one of the things where imagination met reality.

In places like Witch Mountains the foolish lights happen more often. The lights appear where the border between reality and unreality is indistinct. It may be that the forest in this mountains has moved somewhere that is like another dimension.

We’ve seen from very real encounters in our world that it’s hard to distinct if the creators of the lights have positive intentions or if it is indeed a trap: Sometimes a fire in the sky promises a miracle, sometimes there is a deadly blinding light in the forest as the dangerous lights in Brazil and Romania.

Perhaps the light orbs and ghost lights are like the beams of some invisible lighthouse in the forest sending a message we still need to understand.

I am convinced that there are places on Earth which work light lighthouses attracting sensible people. For example cult sites with strong tellurian forces can play a huge variety of tricks upon us. Maybe some people who disappeared in the forest “followed the light”.

What we need to ask is: who is the machinist in this lighthouse and what’s his intention? Is he more like the “people luring ships into underwater threats” or is he kind of a guardian angel?

 

 




Paranormal Forest

Is a “paranormal forest” the same as a “haunted forest”? Isn’t that splitting hairs? Yes, but if we think about this further there is a slight distinction. Even if we believe in a “real haunted forest” the word haunted insinuates often a fictional element like the good old story. If we look what’s maybe paranormal about a forest we might get closer to some real phenomena. There are even many things yet to discover which sound fantastic but which are not necessarily supernatural. We are far away from knowing anything about nature and our forests.Over the last years scientists discovered more and more real wonders of nature in our forests. We already know that trees and plants can emit chemicals into the air which help them to communicate with other trees. They warn others about dangers for example. They’re also taking care of their offspring and their neighbors. On old beech tree controls the way his offspring grows up.
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But trees and other plants are also linked underground. In a BBC article, „Plants talk to each other using an internet of fungus“ we learn some fantastic insights about the „wood wide web“. It says, that „most of mushroom bodies are made up of a mass of thin threads, known as a mycelium. These threads act as a kind of underground internet, linking the roots of different plants. The mycelial connections help plants to exchange nutrients and information but even to commit „cyber crime“.

Trees help each other out. A German ranger, Peter Wohlleben, who wrote a book about „The secret life of trees“, showed a reporter the overgrown remnants of a tree which was cut a long time ago. He is still alive because he gets supported by the trees in his neighborhood.

There is not only friendliness among the trees in the forest. The wood wide web is also used by plants which produce a biological phenomenon called „Allelopathy“. “Allelopathy” means that an organism produces biochemicals which influence the growth, survival and reproduction of other organisms. Simplified there are hostile plants in nature which could send something like a „computer virus“ through the underground web of mycelial connections.

It’s well known that they can do this with some odors but „these fungal network make communication between plants, including those of different species faster and more efficient“, said Kathryn Morris, a chemical ecologist.

These are fascinating facts but that doesn’t make a forest „paranormal“.

It’s interesting that the idea that „all organisms are connected and that they can communicate collectively manage resources” occurred 2009 in James Cameron’s blockbuster „Avatar“ (BBC). In the movie lead character Dr. Grace Augustine says: Цhat we think we know – is that there’s some kind of electrochemical communication between the roots of the trees. Like the synapses between neurons. Each tree has ten to the fourth connections to the trees around it, and there are ten to the twelfth trees on Pandora…

It seems, there is some truth to this. A lot of the mechanisms are still not understood. But if we take this further there are many possibilities which even link to some paranormal phenomena attributed to forests around the world.

Maybe certain smells and gases which are emitted by trees have an influence on animals and humans.

There is no evidence to this, but in some cases “lightheadedness” was reported in forests among other phenomena. What if there are biochemicals in the air which hasn’t been discovered yet?

And we know for example that so-called „magic mushrooms“ have tremendous hallucinogenic potential. Where does that potential come from?

If we think of the internet, the wood wide web could also work as a data storage.

Another question would be if plants and tree could form some sort of collective consciousness.

Some thoughts might be highly speculative, and we don’t know if we’ll discover any kind of wonders in the future but one thing is sure: the intelligent infrastructure of our forests is a striking argument to protect our forests and stop their destruction.

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