Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs does conspiracy theory.

02 May 2010

After dinner tonight, Mika and I somehow got off on the topic of libraries and books and our shared love of same.. around that time, Mika wondered out loud if I Hate Perfume, her perfumery of choice, manufactured anything which smelled like books or libraries. While she checked I bounced over to my favorite supplier of decorative scents, Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs to see if they had anything along those lines. On a lark because I haven't been to their site in a couple of months I hit the link for their limited edition catalogue and was shocked and amazed to find that they have a limited edition conspiracy theory themed collection which will only be available until 29 May 2010. Being something of an afficionado of modern mythology (which I have rants about that I've yet to get around to posting) I just about laughed myself sick before spending way too much money on BPAL.

The collection is called Black Helicopters. You can't get imps, or samples of the scents from this collection by purchasing them or hoping to get lucky with the free samples you get with orders; you have to buy them in 5ml bottles for $20us each. I have no first-hand knowledge of what these scents are like right now but I have found that BPAL has always been top quality so I'm confident that these scents won't suck. Besides, if they do (or if they don't jive with your biochemistry, which happens to everyone sometimes, you can always sell or trade them).

I'm sufficiently tickled by this that I've written a concordance on the folktales and urban legends which inspired these scents. If that's of interest, I've put it behind the cut.

The first scent is called The Aurora Spaceship Takes A Dive and is said to smell like Texas thistle, bluebell, red corn poppy, magnolia, sunflower, cedar sage, and smashed, flaming windmill. What probably inspired this perfume is a tale dating back to the year 1897 from the state of Texas. So the story goes, in April of 1897 an unknown airship went out of control and crashed into a windmill on the local judge's property. The story goes on to detail that the occupant of the strange craft was found dead in the wreckage; an obituary was printed in the local newspaper and the occupant was buried in the Aurora town cemetery with a Christian memorial service and a headstone paid for by the state. Different versions of the story have different explanations for what happened to the wreckage but they all seem to agree that there was no coverup. The stories have it that the headstone was stolen at some point in recent history (probably the late 1970's) and later the grave itself was opened so that something (maybe the entity's personal effects, maybe part of the wreckage, maybe nothing at all) could be removed. The grave is widely considered to be lost in the cemetery, not that this has stopped UFO investigators from searching for it.

The second scent in the collection is called The Committee of 300: Meeting Minutes, and is comprised of the scents of polished wood, tobacco smoke, faded cologne, and neon discharge. The Committee of 300 is an archetypal conspiracy theory in which a secret society of aristocrats founded in the early 18th century controls, well, everything. An author named John Coleman, who claimed to be an intelligence officer in MI6 wrote a book called Conspirators' Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300 in which he detailed how the movers and shakers of the modern world - everyone from the RAND Corporation to the Club of Rome to the Trilateral Commission are trying to forge a single government that can unify and thus control every country in the world. Now, if only they could do something about that pesky thing called human nature...

The third cologne of the collection is called Illuminati Cotillion and smells like a combination of ceremonial temple incense, pipe tobacco, temple roses, and shittim wood. Interestingly, a cotillion is a type of dance, and best exemplifies what is said to be the modus operandi of the conspiracy to end (or beget) all conspiracies, the Illuminati. You can't swing a ceremonial robe without hitting at least one telling of the history of this group which actually did seem to exist for a time in the late 18th century. So the stories go an ex-Jesuit named Adam Weishaupt founded a group of people who thought outside the box (for their time) to infiltrate and gradually take over the governments of the countries Europe. Membership in the Bavarian Illuminati is hard to pin down because practically anybody who was anybody at the time was said to be a member. The group disbanded around the year 1785 after the ruler of Bavaria at the time, Karl Theodor made the existence of all secret societies illegal. From time to time people have tried to restart the organization, sometimes for real, sometimes as a joke, sometimes as a legend. There are people who claim that the Illuminati exist to this day and, like the Committee of 300, control Everything (or are well on their way to doing so). It's not hard to dig up rumors, myths, tales, and stories about the Illuminati - most famously, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson penned an epic trilogy about them called The Illuminatus! Trilogy, which is a fun read that I highly recommend.

Next is the Menacing Ionospheric Research Instrument, which is obviously a riff on HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program), and smells like a combination of electrically charged amber, violet, sage, mint, and neroli, metallic scents and white-hot wires. The exoteric explanation is that it is a research program run by the Air Force and the Office of Naval Research in the state of Alaska which studies the ionosphere by blasting it with high frequency radio waves from time to time to study how it reacts. Among the things the project studies are how the atmosphere reacts to various forms of radiant energy (it does so all the time due to the solar wind) but under controlled conditions. HAARP is an unclassified project; it's not hard to get hold of the project documentation or data. You don't even need to file a FOIA request. That in itself is enough to make the fringe afraid of it because "nothing the government ever does is not a secret." Some claim that HAARP is a weapon, some claim that it's Tesla tech seized by the government after his death, some say it's a mind control device... you get the picture.

Next is a relatively new urban legend, the Montauk Project, which I still say would be a cool name for a synthpop band with a black ops aesthetic. As the name implies, the Montauk Project was said to take place at Camp Hero in Montauk, New York as a continuation of another conspiracy theory, the Philadelphia Experiment. The Montauk Project myth has more twists, turns, and doublebacks than me trying to find the grocery store on a bad day. It involves time travel (to and from 1943 c.e.), psychotronics, mind/machine interface, psychic research, interdimensional travel, reincarnation, sexual abuse, weird science, sometimes Aleister Crowley, and and and... the Montauk Project attempts to be Unified Field Conspiracy Theory. If you want to dig into it, by all means make some popcorn and do so because there's no way in hell that I can outline the whole thing in a single post. Entire series of books have been written about it.

The next scent in the series is called Phantom Time Hypothesis and is a blend of the essences of balm, benzoin, damask rose, gumdragon, lignum aloes, orange water, ambergris, and vegetal musk. In my experience this isn't a particular common story so I had to do a bit of research on it while writing this post, but in a nutshell the phantom time hypothesis makes the claim that the Early Middle Ages (614 c.e. and 911 c.e.) never happened. For whatever reason - be it a massive mistake that nobody bothered to fix (nevermind that covering it up would be a hell of a lot harder than simply admitting the mistake and fixing the history books), Something Shady Going Down, a fnord of epic proportions, an army of master forgers fabricating an astounding amount of historical evidence, or some combination of factors (listed and/or otherwise), the current year is 1713 and not 2010 as most of us reckon it. Supposedly, some historical figures (like Charlemagne) are fictional and a fantastic number of academics have decided to go in on a scam to make everyone think otherwise.

The next scent amuses me greatly: it's called Reptoid Dominion and smells like the musk of a superintelligent (possibly post-singularity), dimensional traveling, malevolent shapeshifting lizard person. While reptilians are found in the mythologies of peoples the world over, this is most famously traced back to the books and speeches of one David Icke, who claimed at one time that the movers and shakers of the world (like the last two dozen US presidents or so, the Queen Mother, and the heads of various megacorps) are in fact shapeshifting lizard people. Supposedly, if you pray to God you may be granted a vision of these people in their True Form, and there are people who claim to have done so. Some claim that the reptilians are in league with the greys, some claim that they're fighting them, just about everyone who believes in them says that they drink our blood and eat people (which explains all the missing people who are never seen again every year), and one person claims to hook up with them once in a while. Oh yeah, and they control the world.

A bit closer to today is Skytyping With Chemtrails, with all of the best scents of spun sugar, white amber, white musk, citron, lemongrass, elemi, zdravetz, and ravintsara without any of the cerebral cortex wrecking, immune system pwning side effects. As far as I can tell, the chemtrail conspiracy theory appeared somewhen near the end of the last millennium - long story short, people started looking up into the sky and noticing that the puffy white contrails left by airplanes weren't going away, and in fact were making the skies hazy. Some people started saying that they began to feel sick after the skies turned murky, others claimed that they would see jets flying cris-cross patterns in the sky, leaving chemtrails as they went. Airliners, the proponents claim, have been retrofitted with special apparatus that spray various chemical mists into the atmosphere for any number of reasons: depopulating the planet, making people too sick/woozy/befuddled to rise up and strike back, geoengineering to cause/prevent/repair global warming/cooling, inoculating people against some hideous disease without their knowledge, take your pick. Some claim to have found heavy metal compounds, unidentifiable viruses, red blood cells, pharmaceuticals that shouldn't be there, something else I haven't mentioned, or some combination of the above in what they claim can be found in weird residues left on vehicles and plants some hours after the planes fly over.

And now one that I really should have bought to wear to official functions at work just to be a smartass, Staged Moon Landing, featuring the odors of fake moon rocks: muguet, orris, white sandalwood, galbanum, cistus, and dusty vanilla. This myth is pretty much what it says on the tin: we never made it to the moon. For many years people have been claiming that the Apollo moon landings were staged on Earth on a movie set somewhere out west. Some claim that it happened on a movie studio's back lot, others in the desert, others someplace in Arizona, and still others say that it was done at Area 51. A lot of people have spent a lot of time picking apart the footage of the Apollo landings frame by frame and criticizing each one, which is a testament to patience and determination in itself, except for the fact that their knowledge of basic physics is.. how should I put it?... somewhat lacking, and they're not keen on showing their work for validation by third parties, either.

Circling back to UFOs, we have one which I'm waiting patiently to give a try, a cologne called Teatime In Roswell, which is supposed to smell like Earl Grey tea, fresh biscuits, Battenberg cake, and cucumber sandwiches (which sounds about right for paying someone a friendly visit in 1947). In case UFOlogy isn't your thing, the Roswell crash is considered by many to be the defining UFO incident. Long story short, sometime in early July of 1947 there was a violent electrical storm in the skies above Roswell, New Mexico. Some time during the storm, so the tales go, an unidentified craft shaped very much like a disk is said to have plowed into the ground, strewing wrecking everywhere as it skidded to a halt. The Air Force sent a team to recover the wreckage and the local paper ran a headline stating that they had recovered a flying saucer. Not too long after that the Air Force ran another story which claimed that it wasn't a UFO at all but a radar tracking balloon; Major Jesse Marcel was hung out to dry in the newspapers and transferred to the Strategic Air Command one year later, where he was put in charge of producing and maintaining briefing materials. There is more to the Roswell story, however - there are rumors that pieces of the wreckage showed unusual structural properties, such as returning to their original shape if crumpled up or cut and metal beams that supposedly weighed no more than balsa wood. There are also stories that aliens (dead and alive) were picked up from the crash site. It is at this point that the stories begin to diverge: some say that the live aliens were kept alive for a few years afterward, and some make the claim that they were released. The UFOlogical community is strongly divided by what they think actually happened at Roswell, and it appears to be something of a sore spot.

Last and certainly not least in the series is Traipsing Through the Crop Circles, which smells of the crops that agriglyphs are commonly found in: wheat, barley, and maize. If you've never seen one before, this is pretty much what they look like. In essence they are huge sigils flattened or woven into grainfields, primarily in the United Kingdom but occasionally elsewhere in the world. If you go back through history a couple of hundred years there are tales of them in pretty much the same places they're found today. They were considered a mystery until two pub buddies from Southampton, Dave Chorley and Doug Bower came forward and claimed that they've been making them all these years. In fact, they demonstrated that they could make a 40 foot circle with boards and rope in about fifteen minutes. Now, here's where it gets interesting: on one hand there are people who enjoy making them just to mess with people and their methods are well documented. On the other hand, agriglyphs on the order of several hundred feet or even a kilometer or two are not unheard of. Commonly, the stalks are not broken or crushed and in fact may have been braided together. Now, I love a good shenanigan, and even moreso a practical one but that scale and complexity makes me wonder.

Amusingly, every order from this series comes with a 2ml sample of an undescribed scent called tin foil hat.

I've ordered four of them - Committee of 300 Meeting Minutes, Illuminati Cotillion, Menacing Ionospheric Research Instrument, and Teatime In Roswell. When I get them I'll post before application and after application reviews, and I'll also solicit the opinions of a few other folks to round things out.

Now, for those of you who are about to open up on me with both barrels about "believing this garbage," I would kindly ask you to hit your page up key a couple of times to reread my introductory paragraph, and then look up the definition of the word mythology, in particular as it relates to academic discourse and psychology.