“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Mrs J's Nessie Encounter

In October 2011 Mrs J and I hired a boat and took a trip along the Caledonian Canal in Scotland. During our trip we spent a day moored up in Fort Augustus prior to crossing Loch Ness. Fort Augustus lies at the South West end of Loch Ness and is home to a former Abbey (a Benedictine Monastery) that sits on the Loch’s edge.

While walking along the Loch’s edge in the shadow of the former Abbey Mrs J was alert enough to spot Nessie lurking in the trees. It seems that some artistic person had taken the time to "decorate" a natural kink in a tree to make it resemble the famous serpentine resident of Loch Ness (Nessie). Slightly hidden in plain sight, this simulacra of Nessie is no-doubt passed by many tourists each year, but I suspect very few actually notice it.

This picture of Nessie has previously featured in Andrew May’s Forteana Blog, and on the Loch Ness Mystery Blog.

Pictures, Fort Augustus (October 2011).

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Rotterdam's Cube Houses

In the early 2000's I took a short trip to Amsterdam and Rotterdam. While exploring the streets of Rotterdam I stumbled upon the rather odd looking houses pictured below. The houses are cubes that are set at about a 55 degree angle and positioned upon hexagonal plinths. On first sight the houses are very striking and confusing to the eye, it certainly takes a bit of thought to try to imagine what they would be like on the inside.

It cannot be easily seen from the picture below, but the houses do in fact look like trees when viewed from the correct angle, and it seems that the design philosphy behind the Cube Houses was to create high density housing while leaving space at ground level.

Perhaps the designer had spent some time in Amsterdam himself, before designing these houses!

Pictures, Rotterdam (early 2000's).

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Peak District Rock Art

The below three simulacra were captured by my colleague, David "DB" Byrne, during a visit to the Peak District in 2011. I submitted these pictures to Fortean Times on David's behalf for consideration for "Simulacra Corner" in July 2011, but they are yet to feature. Here is hoping that one or more of them will grace Fortean Times' pages one day.

Simulacra 1, a face in profile, looking to the right.

Simulacra 2, a face looking roughtly towards the camera (facing slightly to the right of the frame).

Simulacra 3, a sheep sideways on, facing the left hand side of the frame.

Pictures, David "DB" Byrne, Peak District (2011).

Monday, 1 October 2012

Bloody Montségur

Pictured below is the mountain fortress of Montségur, which lies in south western France in the Languedoc region. The fortress pictured dates from around the 17th Century, however a much earlier fortress once stood on the site, a fortress that was once home to the Cathars.

The Cathars were a religious sect that were considered heretics by the Catholic Church and, as such, the Catholic Church set about a 45 year-long military campaign (the Albigensian Crusade) to eliminate the Cathar faith from the Languedoc region. Towards the end of this campaign in May 1243, the Cathars of Montségur (including a fighting force of circa 100 men), were besieged by around 10,000 men of the French Royal forces. The siege lasted around nine months until March 1244, when the Cathars eventually surrendered.

As the story goes, the terms of surrender offered to the Cathars were, renounce your faith and go free, or retain allegiance to your faith and be burnt alive. Bizarrely enough, it seems that around 200 hundred of the Cathars besieged in Montségur decided to retain their faith and walk willingly into the mass bonfires that had been built to burn them. Even stranger, it is said that some of the non Cathar residents in Montségur adopted the faith in the last couple of weeks of the siege, in full knowledge that by doing so would result in their painful death by fire!

The siege of Montségur is also linked to the myth that during the siege, a small band of Cathars smuggled a great treasure out of the fortress and away from the besieging forces. In some tales, this great treasure was rumoured to be the Holy Grail itself!

These pictures have also featured on Andrew May’s Forteana Blog.

Pictures, France (May 2010).