Sunday, 16 March 2008

When hoaxes go bad...

Years ago, I was told that in Greece, gamblers who pull off a big coup are feted: there, making money for nothing is apparently seen as a kind of heroic alchemy, something to which everyone should aspire. And because hoaxes - stunts carried out not for art's sake, but to swindle - surely fall into this category just as much as many of the historical alchemists' "projections", it should be obvious why some Voynich researchers should link the swindler/alchemist Edward Kelley with the manuscript.

However, one good reason to be wary of Voynich hoax hypotheses is that, in the real world, the people (and the stories) behind hoaxes do tend to surface: as Shakespeare wrote, "but at the length truth will out". Tricky things tend to be collaborative, even if in only a loose way: I can say from my experience in the games industry that being a "lone gunman" on a high complexity project is a hard gig, like being an uomo universale with a spaceship to build. Anyway, where's the fun in conspiring on your own?

Regardless, all of this hoax-based free association was triggered by the article this month by Philip Mantle on the people behind the famous "Alien Autopsy" hoax. As you'd expect, all kinds of collaborative technical trickery was required to make it seem even remotely feasible: and the main technician behind the story (Cypriot-born video wizard Spyros Melaris) is now emerging to tell his story.

There's a longer transcript of the interview here: but if you simply have to know more, you'll probably be more interested in Spyros Melaris' book "ALIEN AUTOPSY: The True Story". It's a bit pricy (£37.50), comes with a DVD, though doesn't yet seem to be available: email for more details (allegedly). Confusingly, there's a (different) 2006 DVD out there with exactly the same name, presented by Eamonn Holmes: and you already know about the Ant & Dec "Alien Autopsy" film, so I'll skip past that too. Just so you know.

The punchline here is that, in the fullness of time, the only certain way to get participants in a big hoax to keep quiet is to kill them all, Hollywood stylee... and I don't really think that happened with the VMs. It also seems to me that Kelley gives the impression of having an enormous ego and a big mouth, particularly near the end of his life (he was a golden knight, after all), and if there was one iota of self-aggrandisement to be had out of his association with a strange manuscript, he would have done his best to extract it. But the record is silent.

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