Almost every society and every people in human history have believed in other worlds—not just other planets in our universe but, in a sense, other universes. Christians believe in Heaven and Hell (and some believe in Purgatory) and, although a few Christians have always believed that Hell was literally underground, most believe Heaven to be “above” only in a metaphorical sense. These are commonly seen as spiritual realms, inhabited by souls no longer confined to bodies, realms that could share our space without our being aware of it, or exist in a reality that simply transcends space. Before Christians conceived of Hell as a place of punishment, pagans believed in a literal underworld inhabited by the spirits of the dead, often believed to be a rather dreary place but not a place of evil and punishment. A few favored heroes (mostly god/human hybrids) might ascend to Mt. Olympus or some realm in the sky inhabited by the gods.
Most cultures have believed in classes of humanoid beings, lesser gods perhaps, or races (not necessarily physical) somewhat similar to humans but having supernatural powers and being either very long-lived or immortal. In Europe they were called fairies, elves, dwarves, gnomes, kobolds, and brownies, to name but a few, and fell into two main categories. Short, rather ugly ones (dwarves and gnomes, for example) were said to live underground in a realm somewhat similar to the pagan realm of the dead, and to be obsessed with mining, metalworking, and precious stones. The taller, more attractive ones (but quite often vengeful, easily offended, and dangerous) might live underground or in hills or funeral barrows called ‘fairy mounds’. Or it may be that they lived in some sort of parallel universe that could be accessed underground or through mounds (and maybe we have to reconsider yet again the purpose of pyramids). A curious detail is the relativity of time; travelers to fairyland (like Rip Van Winkle) might spend hours there and return home to find that centuries had passed. Equally curious is the belief that eating fairy food in fairyland (and why would purely spiritual beings need food?) could trap someone there forever.
This is similar to Greek myths concerning Hades; the goddess Persephone was forced forever to spend part of each year there because, when taken there by the god of the dead, she had eaten a pomegranate and swallowed the seeds. Some Christians, well into the Renaissance, associated fairyland (also called “faerie,” or, in Scotland, “elfame” or “elphyne”) with Hell, or at least with the Devil, and women accused of witchcraft supposedly claimed to know the “Queen of Elfame.” In 1911 the American researcher W.Y. Evans-Wentz published The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries and suggested that the fairies really were the spirits of the dead and that their world was basically the pagan Hades (not to be confused with the Christian Hell).
People often refer to parallel worlds as other dimensions, and this leads to a good deal of confusion, because “dimensions” has a variety of meanings. It can refer to other orders of being, but it also has a very precise geometric meaning. A line has one dimension: length. A two-dimensional plane has two dimensions: length and width, and a finite section of a plane can hold an infinite number of lines because they have zero width, or it can contain two lines at right angles to one another. A solid (like us and our world) has three dimensions: length, width, and height, and can hold an infinite number of planes, or one or more sets of three lines, all at right angles to one another. Now here is where things get a bit tricky, and we nonmathematicians cannot visualize anything beyond our three-dimensional universe, but we can understand at least one higher dimension by resorting to analogy. If there is a fourth spatial dimension, it could hold an infinite number of our three-dimensional universes, or four lines, all at right angles to one another (don’t even try to visualize this).
If, as relativity theory demands, time is another spatial dimension, then past, present, and future have always existed and always will, in a timeless state; and what we call “time” is merely an artifact of our limited consciousness. Time travel into the past (or to the future and back) would seem at first glance to be ruled out by the usual paradoxes (going into the past and killing your grandfather, for example, so that you would never be born to travel into the past), but, if we are four-dimensional “objects,” free will is an illusion, and someone might be fated to travel into the past and, for example, fix his father up with a date with his mother. The problem is that if we are four-dimensional objects we cannot “travel” back in time… we already exist there, here, and in the future.
But if the next higher dimension is not time but a spatial dimension in the present (or if time is a fourth dimension and there is a fifth dimension that extends “sideways” in time), there could be an infinite number of very real, physical parallel universes “next door” to ours. Any number of science fiction stories have explored this theme, speculating that the “nearest” parallel world might be one almost identical to ours, while a bit further away is one where America lost WWII (for example), and then one where the South won the Civil War, and so on. Then there is the idea inspired by quantum mechanics that each instant may branch into infinite possibilities. Can our consciousness somehow “jump” into any of these possible futures? Or can we learn to project ourselves into a parallel world? These ideas seem to raise more questions than they could ever answer.
Or, at certain places and times, do the worlds somehow overlap, so travel from one to the other becomes possible, or at least it becomes possible to see into the parallel universe? Long ago, the Irish believed that people could see into fairyland at dawn and dusk (the borderline times) on Beltane (Mayday, the first day of May), the summer solstice, or Samhain (Halloween). Note that Mayday and Halloween are not solstices or equinoxes. But is there any real evidence that such worlds might exist?
In a previous Atlantis Rising article, I discussed “high strangeness” events that hint at this possibility. There is the case of the British engineer and his Iranian colleague who claimed that they traveled to an Iranian town that doesn’t exist, and even ate a meal there, or the two British couples, the Simpsons and the Gisbys, who did the same thing by staying overnight in a French hotel that doesn’t exist (at least not in this universe). And then there is the famous case of the two British women, Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain who, on holiday at Versailles, claimed to have been transported to the time just prior to the French Revolution. Could there be a world very similar to our own with its past very near to our present? If the two ladies traveled not to our past but to another world’s past, no paradoxes need to be feared.
Could people or animals from these worlds sometimes “leak” into ours? Researcher Loren Coleman has for years written of strange creatures that appear and often (but not always) vanish. In Mysterious America he tells of huge serpents seen in places like the American Midwest and black panthers and lions seen all over the U.S. He claims that the Mt. Diablo/Las Trampas Regional Preserve region of Northern California is especially “haunted” by such creatures. I saw no lions there, but in 1999, I and several friends saw some unsettling and seemingly paranormal things in the watershed area just west of Las Trampas. I also once saw a tiger by Interstate Ten in Texas. Coleman relates that four huge, maned lions were actually shot dead in September, 2002 near Quigman, Arkansas; when Sheriff Dudley Lemon investigated, he found no lions had escaped from the only possible nearby source, the Safari Unlimited animal park. Perhaps such ape-like humanoids as Bigfoot and the Yeti inhabit parallel worlds and travel back and forth.
And what of the mysterious lake monsters reported from places like Loch Ness, Lake Okanagan, and Lake Champlain? Could some of these be creatures from parallel worlds who “leak” in and out of our world? Some fairy legends say that the other world can be accessed by going underwater. Could bodies of water at times somehow form portals to other worlds? Is this the explanation for “USOs,” unidentified submerged objects, or underwater UFOs?
And then there are the appearing and disappearing islands reported by seafarers right up until modern times. Certainly, islands can sink beneath the waves; this is particularly true of volcanic islands when the underlying magma chamber becomes depleted. But it looks as if something else is going on. There is the old legend of Hy Brasil, an island located a few hundred miles west of Ireland that may or may not have given its name to the country of Brazil, depending on which account you read. Perhaps it was a real island in our world that sank; Porcupine Banks and several other relatively shallow spots are in the vicinity. Its name may come from Ui Breasail, an ancient Irish clan. Geographer Angelo Dulcert (sometimes spelled “Delarto”) put it on his portolan chart in 1325. In legend it is usually hidden by fog (quite common there, where the warm Gulf Stream enters colder areas) and can be seen and landed upon only every seven years. Several early mariners claim to have landed there and found it to be inhabited and prosperous. In 1636 one Captain Rich and his crew allegedly sighted it briefly before it vanished in the mist, and in 1674 Boullaye Le Gouz claimed to have seen trees and cattle there. As late as 1872 one T.J. Westropp, his mother, and several friends claimed to have sighted it. Stranger still, USAF Sergeant Jim Penniston, one of the witnesses to the Bentwaters UFO landing, claimed to have telepathically received long lines of binary numbers, and History Channel programmer Nick Ciske claimed to have deciphered them and found the coordinates for Hy Brasil.
Bear in mind that latitude is easily determined and that no known islands exist in that latitude between Ireland and North America. Longitude could only be estimated until Englishman John Harrison finally perfected his chronometer in 1761, a clock so accurate that mariners could pinpoint their location not only north and south but also east and west.
And there were other reports of islands that vanished, like the Aurora Islands, SE of the Falkland Islands, about halfway to South Georgia, first reported in 1762 by a Spanish ship of that name (it is unlikely that they had yet acquired a chronometer, so the exact position is a bit uncertain). The officers of the San Miguel plotted their position at 52 degrees 37 minutes south, 47 degrees 49 minutes west. There were several more sightings, including one by the Spanish ship Atrenida in 1793; by then, chronometers were more widely available. In 1856, the captain of the Helen Baird reported five snow-covered islands at 52 degrees 42 minutes south, 48 degrees twenty two-minutes south.
Some years ago I sailed on a cruise ship around Cape Horn, then past the last, desolate southeast point of South America, and on to the Falkland Islands, perhaps a little over halfway to the Falklands, I sighted what appeared to be a glaciated mountain peak to the southeast (the Falklands were to our northeast). I assumed that I had seen South Georgia, until I checked the map; South Georgia was over 1,000 miles away, as was the Antarctic Peninsula. To this day I don’t know what I saw.
There have been reports of sightings of cities that don’t exist in our world. One “explanation” for this is the claim that people were seeing real earthly cities hundreds of miles away, with the light bent by a temperature inversion around Earth’s curved surface. The problem with that is that hundreds of miles of air would simply absorb the light, so the city could not be seen at such a distance. There have been several reports (and one clearly hoaxed photograph by a William Willoughby) of a city seen just above the Muir Glacier in Alaska’s Glacier Bay. The reports might be based on nothing more than atmospheric distortion of the glacier and the peaks behind it, but witnesses claimed to clearly see houses and what appeared to be cathedrals or mosques. One L.B. French claimed to have seen a city (perhaps the same one) near Mt. Fairweather, which is just west of Glacier Bay. North of Glacier Bay is Mt. Saint Elias, and one of the first men to climb it was the Duke d’Abruzzi. One of his companions, C.W. Thornton, reported seeing a city there in 1897. People have reported seeing fairy castles in Ireland, nonexistent islands just west of the Irish coast, and, also in Ireland, cities (where none exist) with forests around them.
It seems unlikely that all of these reports are hoaxes or are based on atmospheric distortions of known landmarks. We need to take seriously the possibility that real, physical worlds exist near our own—and that travel to and from these worlds may be possible—perhaps this accounts for at least some of the many people who have “gone missing,” usually in wilderness areas (although it is very easy to get lost or injured and die in such locations). Perhaps one d