Is Space Not What It Seems?

Space is everything. It is more as the cosmos or the universe. Space surrounds us everywhere. Space is both inside and outside. There are small spaces and there are huge spaces. Sometimes space is open. Then there are closed space. We don’t think so much about space normally. It’s like the fish in the water. Space is what’s inside the fish’s habitat, the sea or an aquarium. Does the fish have an idea about the world outside the aquarium?

Perhaps there is a world outside the known space. If we think about it, it becomes soon something beyond our imagination. Indeed it is hard to imagine, what’s outside the known universe. A knotty question. Even if our scientists belief that our universe is not endless we can barely imagine space as not endless.

What is space? This is a question leading to many fundamental problems. Is space empty or not? How can forces interact between distant places if space is an empty thing. Contemporary science tells us that space can be bend or deformed. Space itself can be altered by Black Holes or other supermassive objects.

The idea or the very concept of space is becoming a complex matter. Ancient and medieval philosophers and scientists already thought about space as something which is not empty. An old concept is the idea of ether. Ether is a bit like the “force” in Star Wars. Is is something which surrounds us but it is not the same thing like air. It is the same word but means something completely different as the chemical substance “ether”. There are different theories about ether, which is simplified something like a fifth element.


The modern equivalent of ether is for some people “spacetime”. Spacetime is a concept in modern cosmology which is even a bit like a placeholder but is hard to define or describe in simple terms. It is like the water in the aquarium. Our aquarium. Albert Einstein laid the very foundations of our modern understanding of space and spacetime. The important thing is that we don’t speak about theoretical ideas. There is proof. Scientists delivered proof that massive objects like planets can influence the direction of light. Black Holes were originally a theoretical concept. Today we know that Black Holes do exist. There are other “paranormal wonders” out there like gravitational lenses or anomalies. Contemporary theories about the universe require the mysterious dark matter. Everyday scientists search for traces of Black Matter. Sometimes they find spooky things instead.

Living In A Cosmic Funhouse?

If space is some sort like “stuff” even we can’t see that stuff is it possible we see only a glimpse of the real world? Anybody who is working with today 3D programs like Blender or Cinema 4D knows that operating in a 3D space requires some sort of training. We often miscalculate where an object actually is in 3D. We need values (of an x-axis, a y-axis and a z-axis to get the coordinates of an object. In the normal everyday world we trust our senses. However if we get lost in a city perhaps we made a misconception of the “space” or the topography even in the real world. Remember the rearview scene in Jurassic Park? “Objects are closer than they appear”. We look always at things from a certain point of view not from a universal all encompassing perspective.

That’s important. We can take this further. Maybe our view or sense of reality is even more limited because we not only miscalculate proportions of whereabouts of objects in space but have not much understanding of that “stuff” what space really is, too. Our sense of reality is more like the limited view of an actor inside a (computer) game. If we are the creator of the computer game we have an all encompassing perspective of the actor’s world. We can surprise the actor anytime with wonders, traps or shocking abnormalities and monstrosities.

Space Time As The Matrix

Therefore there might be two things to consider here: First there is our limited ability to really grasp the space around us in his wholeness. We can’t see the forest for the trees. Secondly, we don’t very much about what space actually itself is. And we don’t know who created space or if somebody has the ability to manipulate space as he wishes. We are in a Forest Dark. Like the fish in the aquarium or the actor in the computer game our perspective is limited. We wish to look beyond. We know there must be that real world somewhere. Moviegoers await the return of the legendary “Matrix” franchise. A matrix would indeed another promising idea for what space really is. Ancient myth and modern movies sometimes present us a hint about the deeper truth behind ordinary reality.

Dreadful Apparitions: Mysterious Flying Objects In The Woods And In The Skies

Mysterious objects which appear in the sky or in the woods are considered usually UFOS. And most people believe that UFOS are spaceships. The typical pattern is the legendary “Flying Saucer”. However, countless reports about sightings tell us about abstract objects. They are often very rural shapes of spheres, tubes, cylinders or cubes. They are not like any design of a spaceship we know. What are they?

Objects like cylinders, orbs, or simple shapes appear more like the raw version of the phenomena.

These things are seen both in the sky and in the woods. Most of the time there is a discussion about whether a sighting is real or not. Sometimes people look for natural explanations like swamp gas, distant car lights, or a mirage. There are psychological explanations too. There is often a cultural or religious context. Some researchers say that today’s Ufo is the apparitions of the holy virgin of former times.

The orbs, cylinders, or triangle-shaped objects appear more like a raw version. Is it possible that some people see a more original version of celestial phenomena and other witnesses are quick to interpret them in a certain way?

The celestial phenomena above Nuremberg 1561

One of the most prominent sightings of mysterious flying “raw objects” was the 1561 celestial phenomenon over Nuremberg. This was a mass sighting of celestial phenomena above Nuremberg. Many interpreters saw this event as a UFO sighting or even an “aerial battle of extraterrestrials”. Psychologists as C.G. Jung interpreted this mass sighting in a symbolic way.

A broadsheet – the very early form of today’s newspapers – illustrated with a woodcut engraving and text by Hans Glaser describes the event in detail.

Many men and women of Nuremberg saw around the dawn of 14 April 1561 an aerial battle “out of the sun” followed by a large triangular object and spheres falling to earth in clouds of smoke. “The broadsheet claims that witnesses observed hundreds of spheres, cylinders, and other odd-shaped objects that moved erratically overhead. The woodcut illustration depicts objects of various shapes, including crosses, small spheres, two large crescents, a black spear, and tubular objects from which several small spheres emerged and darted around the sky at dawn” (Wikipedia).

The original text translated by Ilse von Jacobi speaks of a “dreadful apparition”. There were mentions of “two blood-red semi-circular arcs” or “a round ball of partly dull, partly black ferrous color”, a “torus”, “globes” and “Blood-red crosses”.

The Nuremberg sighting is not the only one describing a battle or more or less abstract objects. Mass Sightings of celestial phenomena occurred in 1566 above Basel, too. The scene sounds similar: “Numerous red and black balls in the sky fought before the rising sun”.

Leaflets in the 15th and 16th centuries describing “sky spectacles” were a common thing. It is impossible to figure out what exactly real. The point is the unique imaginery. The events are very unlike religious wonders. There are no angels or other figures. The celestial phenomena are mostly geometric shapes which behaved erractically.

The interesting thing is that the same phenomenon happens on a smaller scale many times in different circumstances. People have seen the oddest things in the woods. Orbs are very common. But there have cylinders and other more abstract things too. A good example is the stories of the hunters in the Sierra Camp in David Paulides’ Missing 411 – The Hunters. During one night a group of hunters witnessed not only incredible strange noises but also some sort of flying cylinder.

Usually, if it comes to paranormal sightings we expect at least something “meaningful” from flying saucers, Bigfoot to White Ladies. Abstract shapes like spheres or triangles appear somehow meaningless.

The Rendlesham Forest incident in the UK is a good example. There was a flying saucer but also lights and other strange objects, which don’t make much sense.

Are these strange shapes some sort of sign? This would make some sense. In ancient and medieval times they were signs of God of course. There is no clear indication here but what if these objects appear wherever there is some sort of change of reality like the shift of one dimension to another? If we look at the very building blocks of our world we find more and more abstracts forms for example in the microcosmos or in certain shapes in nature.

On the other side these sightings tells us that the shapes are intelligible. They behave like machines or like living beings. Are they some sort of communication? Something sent to us from a higher dimension? And is it possible to decipher these signs? A good idea might be to see them as images which contain information.

Are they projections of the collective consciousness as C.G. Jung said? In a higher dimensional universe there are a lot of options. An interesting thought – introduced also by Jung – is that they seem somehow connected to moments and times of crisis.

The times of Hans Glaser’s celestial phenomena above Nuremberg were definitely a time of crisis. It was the end of the Middle Ages. Extreme social changes raised fears. A climate change, the “little ice age” led to poverty and even more fear. War was on the horizon. The plague eradicated whole populations. It was a real dark time with superstition and witch hunts on the rise. If there is any connection here these dreadful apparitions were a warning.

Perhaps this is what they are. This is why they appear in abstract forms. Because they give us something to think about. Aren’t the abstract apparitions much more unsettling as any Bigfoot or White Lady? The trick is that they appear meaningless at first sight but they leave an impression. Jacques Valle assumed they are reality changers and they might also manipulate us in a subtle way. The question remains if they are warnings are we still able to read these signs?

A Sense Of Dread

Dread is not the same as fear. Dread comes before fear. It is sometimes a foreboding feeling. Something which happens in the woods. It more often in the autumn. In the darker times of the year, but it can happen on a hot and bright summer day too. The experience of a sense of dread ends in panic. A feeling of impending doom.

This is a real phenomenon. There are countless reports of people who felt this sense of dread during a hike in the woods. People who went missing and were found later tell about this experience.

It is often not clear where the sense of dread or even a panic in the woods come from. Witnesses cannot tell if or what they have seen. In some cases it seems like some instinct kicking in.

There are some phenomena reported in connection with these events. Some people say the light suddenly darkened without reason. A typical phenomena is a sudden silence in the forest. The animals are quiet for some reason. No chirping of birds, no movements.

It is interesting that this a very old experience dating back to ancient time. The word panic stems from the pagan god “Pan”. Pan was a roman deity roaming the woods and frightening the lonely wanderer.

The best horror movies grasp that feeling and reproduce it for the screen. That’s perhaps how the classic Blairwitch worked. Even people who never had such an extraordinary experience seem to know that sense of dread from somewhere.

Where does is it all come from? If we feel that overwhelming force and this sense of impending doom it is mostly not triggered by a clear visible danger, like a predator, a bear or something which is a threat. It is like some sort of instinct. Something which happens not on the rational level in the first place.

There are real fears for example if we are out there and we are lost. The sun sets, its getting dark. Thoughts running through our heads like, can I make it back to the car? What if I cannot find the trail again? Why does my mobile have no reception? Are there dangerous people out there? These are all very rational thoughts. Even if our perception becomes distorted due to rising panic it’s not like that sense of dread which comes from deep down.

Hikers reporting this unusual existential fear are normal people. It’s not like some sort of post traumatic experience. Maybe it is like an inherited memory from ancient times when people could see things which are still there in the shadows in the woods. We have only lost the ability to see them but we fear them.

Some people might be still able to see them. However, it might be not something we want. Our sense of dread is a warning mechanism, a signal. It alarms us. Often people say it is good to listen to the inner voice or that feeling. It saved them. Otherwise they might have gone lost in the woods or something would have happened to them.

The Otherworldly Ambiance Of Landscapes

by Peter Engelmann,  August 5, 2021

If we do a supernatural story emphasizing places we either create such places or we took inspiration from what we call an eldrich location. Places that create “in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers” (H.P. Lovecraft) both exist in our mind and in our reality.

In movies and literature, we see the products of explorations of an uncanny world with hidden trapdoors and places where the veil between our world and another dimension becomes thin.

However if we look closer into this matter things appear more complex.

What makes a haunted landscape?

In the first moment, we might think of a typical scenery as the dark forest, the lonely mountain plateau, or barren, windswept landscapes like Dartmoor. However, it might be good to make some distinctions. There is a cultural tradition that we might consider the shadowy landscape for example with twisted trees as a haunted place. The gothic tradition and romanticism built the framework for a long time. Hammer films referred to this gothic tradition and we find references in films like “Sleepy Hollow”. They are spooky. Sometimes there is a ruin of a castle or the remnants of a cloister.

What about landscapes and places that trigger a real sense of dread? In the first place, this is not something we make up. It’s about places that really exist. And it is not automatically the enchanted forest or the wilderness. It’s about a weirdness, a sense of disenfranchisement that suddenly overwhelms us.

This can be anything: A place where high voltage power lines cross, a desert, a shore, a river bed, a tundra landscape or the outskirts of a town.

It’s also the type of place or eldritch location we find reflected in modern horror as in the writings of Algernon Blackwood, H.P. Lovecraft, and M.R. James. TV and films capture these weird landscapes too. Sometimes there isn’t necessarily so much strangeness at first sight. Whistle and I’ll Come to You is a BBC television drama and an adaptation of the short story of M.R. James. It has some memorable scenes with a sheer endless shore in East Anglia. Normally there is nothing sinister about a shore but here it’s wind, weather, and loneliness that creates the feeling of being lost. In the story and in the TV play it is a place where the hero is unprotected. It’s not only a bleak landscape it is the vast openness that establishes the supernatural cosmic terror in the story.

H.P Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood’s stories are best known for their distinct rich sense of place. Both took inspiration from real places. Perhaps the most prominent example is Algernon Blackwood’s masterpiece “The Willows”. The story is set in some river wilderness of the Danube between Vienna and Budapest. The two heroes of the story get stranded there and experience some nearly indescribable cosmic horror. Blackwood himself did two trips with a Canadian canoe on the river Danube 1901. The journey inspired his most famous novella “The Willows”, a milestone of cosmic horror and fiction about the wonder of nature. There is both a sense of awe and terror here. It is both about horror and a deep and profound sense of wonder. Of course, the revelations are very scary but there is more:

An outstanding article about the sublime horror in nature.

Eugene Thacker wrote an brilliant article “How Algernon Blackwood Turned Nature Into Sublime Horror” about Blackwood’s novella The Willows from 1907 in Lithub. He mentions a couple of important things among them “the sense of a deep time”. Deep time is a concept undergoing different meanings referring to the unimaginable age of the Earth’s geology but having philosophical implications too. Some sceneries on earth trigger similar thoughts and emotions as when watching alien landscapes, i.e. pictures taken from a Mars rover.

One of the key points in Thacker’s article mentions a form of life embedded in nature but beyond our comprehension: “But what gives scenes like this their ambiance of otherworldliness is not that there are menacing monsters in the night, but rather that the entire environment—the mountains, sky, river, trees—are somehow alive, and alive in an impersonal but sublime way that far exceeds the taxonomies of the naturalist or the theories of the biologist. “

Let’s think about this – It means that in some moments certain places or locations challenge our very idea of reality. The world is not what it seems. In The Willows – as Thacker says – the narrator” seems even more uncertain of what “nature” is by the end of the story”. A “something makes its presence known”. I strongly recommend to read Eugene Thacker’s article which in my view is the best I ever read about the subject and The Willows.

Creating Otherworldly Landscapes

But how do we bring that experience to the reader or in the case of a movie to the moviegoers? Algernon Blackwood was a master in the use of language. A language which allowed the imagination of the reader to see what he has seen. He and other writers as M.R. James and the lesser known H.R. Wakefield understood that sense of place and how to let the story and the descriptions work together. Filmmakers however need to visualise, they need to give answers where literature can leave more room for the reader’s imagination.

Doing artwork and previzualisation or design concepts for The Forest Dark Feature Film I am currently exploring the potential of all our wonderful modern technology and see what rings true or not. So far the process is not so much different from the work of the writers. Getting that sense of otherworldly ambiguity means a lot of exploration. Visiting places, taking in the atmosphere and wait for different moods in landscapes is part of the research. Frankly, we never know how much the sense of place comes across on a screen when the movie was made. But keeping the great examples from literature as The Willows always in mind as a sort of beacon we know where we are heading.

In the end of his article about The Willows Thacker suggests that “Perhaps the natural is supernatural, and vice-versa” and the “weirdest” understanding might come from science – what nature is. That’s also what a camera is looking for when filming nature and putting it in the context of a movie: Trying to getting us closer to the enigma. Reveal what’s hidden in broad daylight. Get that sense of the double nature of landscape. Bring it to life as a character and – if we are very lucky – getting into a communication about the metaphysical implications with our readers and viewers.