Transmedia as an idea of collaborative, multi-platform creation and narration origins in the 70’s and 80’s of the last century, in the area of telematic art, where artists experimented with collaborative narration and defined the idea of transmedia.
It soon moved on to the gaming industry, creating so-called Alternate Reality Games (ARG).These are games that, based on the Internet as a main hub, use(d) multiple other technological platforms like telephones, email and real offline mail to tell and simultaneously create different parts of the game’s story in those medial habitats relevant to the players. So not just transmedia telling, but transmedia engagement that requires interaction from every gamer in order to bring the game’s plot to the next level. In other words: “Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and collaborate as a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities.” (Wikipedia) An early example being Ong’s Hat.
A few collected Ong’s Hat literary references from 2014. Other references pre-2014 can be found on the Reviews page. I only include the ones which directly relate to the legend as told in my works, not the historic references about the lost town itself.
Two Ong’s Hat spin off novels by other writers:
Also, by my friend D.R. Haney: Room 32 – A great story all on it’s own, but with the strange appearance of a picture from room 32 where the phrase “Jim is in Ong’s Hat” can clearly be seen. (also ran on Salon)
***The rest of “Room 32″ is now available as an e-book in the Kindle Store. To get it, please click here.***
Non Ong’s Hat
Chapter dedicated to Ong’s Hat in Destinations Across Paranormal America 2 by Hugh Mungus
It’s a widely held belief the legend of Ong’s Hat is the ﬁctional brainchild of author Joseph Matheny. Matheny posted his saga on the Internet in the early 1990s, in attempts to insert the story into the collective consciousness of the then-burgeoning World Wide Web. If you’ve ever watched the lonelygirl15 webisodes on http://www.youtube.com, you’ll understand this anecdotal blending with online reality. To those not familiar with lonelygirl15, it was the precursor to Destinations Across Paranormal America 20 vlogging, videotaping oneself rambling about various subject matter, and posting it on the Internet for the world to view. Debuting in 2006, lonelygirl15 was created by a group of young ﬁlmmakers. Although ﬁctional, the show was initially believed by its audience to be fact. The story followed the everyday existence of a teenaged girl named Bree. As the production gained popularity, and its fanciful nature was revealed, two derivative series — centered around conspiracy theories — were produced.
Back to Ong’s Hat, baby! There are those who claim Matheny’s legend is true. Whether or not one believes the Ong’s Hat saga is beside the point, contends its creator, who asserts his work stemmed from an actual written narrative known as the Incunabula Papers. To be certain, it’s a lot of information to digest. Reading Ong’s Hat: The Beginning, listening to the Incunabula Papers on-line (see the Bibliography) or visiting southern New Jersey, would be great initial steps to unraveling this mystery.
Much more in the book! Read it all on-line (Ong’s Hat chapter is chapter 13)
or get it at Amazon
Excellent observations on the Ong’s Hat/Incunabula mythos from Spittle Gauze
Lists seem to have a certain power over people. It is hard to find any form of media that does not utilize them often, since it is a way to convey a larger picture with a superficial set of objects. Since the efficacy of lists is so overwhelmingly apparent in modern media, it is a bit strange that they aren’t often used to create narratives, like hugely popular epistolary form. Recently, by happenstance, I’ve read 2 works of fiction (probably fiction!) that utilize lists to create their structure, Hawkeye #3 by Matt Fraction/David Aja and Incunabula by Joseph Matheny (probably!).
Although I read the Incunabula catalog first, it is a stickier topic, so I’ll start out withHawkeye. The 3rd issue of the new series by Fraction/Aja is a story created by the joining of two lists. The first is a series of bad decisions and the second a tally of different novelty arrows in the Avenger’s arsenal. The story starts out with Hawkeye in plain clothes attempting to label and clean up his assortment of trick arrows. To label them he needs some tape, so he travels out into the world where he commits a series of bad decisions. The narrative then unfolds as, out of order, Hawkeye makes a series of 9 poorly thought out actions. Punctuated between the action, which are given out of their list order, someone in the story uses each of his trick arrows (acid arrow, net arrow, boomerang arrow, etc). After setting up these two lists, the rest of the narrative unfolds almost solely by revealing the items of the list. The pace of the lists being revealed by word and image in the comic makes the story happen effortlessly and in a way that grabs the reader’s attention. Afterwards it is easy to see how painstakingly the structure was created to provide such a great read for the audience.
The other item on the list, Incunabula, is much harder to pin down. It is a catalog of print items available from a printed word distribution. The list of items available forms a narrative at least and, possibly, also a conspiracy theory. I happened upon this story as part of .zip file that supposedly contained a book of occult theory that discusses the Lovecraft Mythos as a nonfiction magickal construct. Inside the file was not only the book I wanted, but also Ong’s Hat: The Beginning by Joseph Matheny. I am not really sure why, but I ended up reading all of Incunabula and never even perusing the item I was after. The basis for the Ong’s Hat book is the Incunabula catalog that is reproduced in its pages.
While Hawkeye used lists inside a narrative to drive it, Incunabula was a rigid list that contained a story that appears after the whole catalog has been read. As the catalog progresses, certain points brought up in earlier entries are elucidated upon or given an erratic, confusing depth. The play on information as treasure is the reward for the reader trying to figure out what the story actually is. That is if it is a story at all and not a conspiracy theory or buried history. The gaps in the narrative require action from the reader outside of the text in the form of research. The end story in the audience’s mind ends up being as big or small as the amount of time and effort each viewer gives to the subject matter.
After encountering both of these stories in the span of a month or so, it seems strange that I haven’t encountered lists as narratives more often in my readings. After reading both pieces it is obvious that the bare bones list structure can create powerful narratives in a wealth of different applications. I also find it very strange that the two list based stories I read use the list in opposing methods, Hawkeye with the lists inside the story and Incunabula with the story inside the list. The synchronicity of the way these two items overlap is enough to make me believe in the conspiracy path theIncunabula attempts to lead its readers through. Maybe there are more examples of the list as a story and I’ve just never encountered them, but the complimentary aspects of these two works makes me start to cast myself in the role of the unreliable audience ( as opposed to the unreliable narrator structure). Hopefully I’ll notice a lot more of this method now that I am aware of it.
To read these stories yourself is pretty easy. The Hawkeye story can be purchased from comixology or at most comic book/regular book stores. Incunabula is available online at http://deoxy.org/inc1.htm or as part of Ong’s Hat: The Beginning from online retailers like amazon or its publisher Sky Books. If you know of any other stories similar, please drop me a line!
—[- Spittle Gauze
Link to original article
Also see Goodreads review by same author
A few quotes from the article:
In a no holds barred interview exclusive onDisinfo.com, Jason DeMarco, the “Creative” Director for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swimprovides a shocking revelation:
THEY’RE JUST A BUNCH OF BORING EXECUTIVES WITH A LOT OF HYPE AND NO INSPIRATION!!!
All of this speaks to a question asked by media pioneer Joseph Matheny when he was reflecting on what happens to transmedia once it reaches the cold dead hand of corporate corruption: Who invited the Lobsters anyway?
Matheny describes the intentions of early transmedia as an attempt “to broaden and open up the storytelling process to mediums outside of the traditional publishing platforms, i.e. text/images. It was part Borges, part George Coates, part The Game (the move with Michael Douglas) and part other things.” Digital media has opened up the doors for a wide array of integral expression that can deeply accentuate our shared heritage of human endeavor. When the Creative Director for Adult Swim can’t cite much more than Instagram as an inspiration, and mentions the guiding philosophy of “wow that’s interesting to look at,” we know we’re in Lobster’land.
There is an Ong’s Hat section in this French article, from the site Tryangle about starting your own religion, titled: TUTORIAL: HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION?
Excerpt (machine translation):
In fact we can find the origin ARGs “occult” or “sacred”, in particular through the myth of Ong’s Hat . In the 90s indeed circulated anonymous documents, Incunabula Papers, which told the story of a team of physicists, refugees in the ghost town of Ong’s Hat, which had succeeded in using tantric techniques to contact parallel universes. But this story myth, far from being presented in a linear fashion, as in a novel, was distributed over multiple independent media, browsing els networks (which at the time consisted mainly of small telephone servers because the Internet was still very accessible to the average person) or available via fax or photocopies … Especially at no time said document does not explicitly claimed as fictions. The game designer Denny Unger shows in the passage that follows the religious aspect, occult, the myth of Ong’s Hat:
Ong’s hat and Incunabula have always treated the problem of levels of understanding. When you look at every aspect of the story, you find yourself facing a challenge. You discover an exciting info that takes you on a path only to discover that it was a dead end, but … he is ultimately the way you thought wrong is the right truth, and so on .
A portion of the population simply does not grasp the incunabula and will be a “weird thing” but some will be captured by them, obsessed with their mystery. This obsession usually lasts until the person has extract of the story something that is vital for it. There is also another kind of explorer incunabula. This one goes beyond personal obsessions and begins to understand a more comprehensive picture by linking information apparently unconnected. What it perceives is also a series of carefully constructed to filter certain types of personalities and find suitable “candidate” tests. A general scheme of Incunabula appears. It reminds initiations sects, but is very different because this process selects a particular type of personality someone hedonistic, open-minded, but skeptical, with a free turn of scientific spirit, creative, thinker, educated, and critical. Certainly not typical of the standard sect initiated.
A batch of emails has alerted me to another strange synchronicity re: the Ong’s Hat material. This time it involves the infamous scene in the Ong’s Hat graphic novel (included with this post as a PDF) that plays out between Cranston and myself. The scene takes place in front of the “red door” (a very real place) which is the entrance to the “Chinese Freemason of the World” organization. I ended up there one day, during a customary dérive through Chinatown. Back then (2000’ish) I often embarked on a dérive through Chinatown when I was trying to think deeply about something.
Now it seems that SF/CA Senator Leeland Yee has recently been arrested and charged with weapons trafficking, and the scandal involves the Chinese Freemasons in Chinatown. Pictures of the “red door” are currently all over the news. A few vigilant OH fans noted it and alerted me.
According to FBI Special Agent Michael Gimbel, “the FBI is executing numerous arrests and search warrants around the Bay Area.” Included in this mornings raids are Yee’s Sacramento office, his home on 24th Avenue in San Francisco’s Sunset District, a building on the 1700 block of Hyde Street and the Ghee Kung Tong Chinese Freemason Lodge in Chinatown.
It seems that 2014 is going to be a year chock full of personal synchronicities for me, as this site can attest lately. Since I am a fan of the serendipitous experience, I look forward to living the Chinese curse/blessing (depending on your outlook): “May you live in interesting times.”
Excerpt (machine translation):
The ” transmedia “buzzword in digital media and its parent, the alternate reality game , they were diverted from their original mission, the subversion, the questioning of consensus reality? It is believed that Joseph Matheny , which can be considered the inventor of the domain. A recent post published on the blog of journalist Nicholas Belardes , strongly condemns the recovery of transmedia by companies and advertising agencies. This n is not the first time that Matheny complains about this fact . But he expresses in this post the full extent of his disappointment.
A few years ago I produced an ARG to coincide with a live theater piece in London, put on by my friends The Foolish People. The name of that ARG was Third Realm (The Yellow King) see here. I called it The Yellow King rather than The King in Yellow, which it was a reference to, so as not to be overt, but subtle because TKIY reference was only partially what this puzzle based ARG was about.
Coincidentally, the new HBO series, True Detective has a reference to The King in Yellow where it is referred to as The Yellow King (see here).
For those who have come to this site because The Yellow King is referenced on the writing page, this is merely a coincidence that both myself (years ago) and the writers of the HBO series chose to use The Yellow King as a reference to the King in Yellow. Sorry to disappoint you, but no rabbit hole here. It is merely a coincidence, albeit an odd one.
“Might we contrive one of those opportune falsehoods … so as by one noble lie to persuade if possible the rulers themselves, but failing that the rest of the city.”
- Plato in The Republic
“If you read it, you will be infected. If you are infected you will be InFicted. If you are InFicted, you will get UnFucted.”
- Joseph Matheny
Matheny was one of the first to recognize the power inherent in the interconnected culture that is developing through the rapid technological progress driving globalization. His insights and accomplishments help us to understand the intricacies of transmedia arts and provides a valuable tool in becoming a co-creator in the world wide game already in progress called the “21st Century.”
A new piece, the first in a long series I’ll be doing for my friend Nick Belardes new literary start-up. Wherein, I don the mantle of Jack Smith, reborn!
Transmedia: Who Invited the Lobsters Anyway?
Also just noticed this article which just showed up on Reality Sandwich: http://realitysandwich.com/216411/in-beautiful-dreams-nurturing-narratives-and-the-forgotten-potentials-of-digital-culture/
And this one at French magazine Internet ACTU: http://www.internetactu.net/2014/02/11/transmedia-de-la-rebellion-a-la-recuperation/ (you’ll need to translate)
Episode 99 Joseph Matheny, Ong’s Hat and artificial Intelligence.
Were back after our short fall sabbatical. In this episode we welcome Joseph Matheny, The man who pulls the strings behind Ong’s Hat.
Joe joins us from the middle of no place Via Cell Phone as he literally takes a walk through the woods. No We are not kidding! We take a brief look back at the early days of Ong’s hat and talk about how it evolved and what it is now. We then move into a discussion about the concept of Artificial Intelligence. We ask what A.I is. Why are we striving to make it and why are we so afraid of it. Does Artificial Intelligence even still mean what we think it means and what is the current state of A.I.
Welcome to the machine.
Oddly enough, this recently showed up on Google. It appears some company is selling a “genuine” Ong’s Hat ring for only $398.00! After reposting a lot of the info from the Ong’a Hat catalog to give back story, they make the following claim:
Apparently some of you have a Google Alert for the term “Ong’s Hat” and therefore have seen the recent addition to IMDB. Specifically this listing (you’ll need IMDB Pro to see complete information). I had planned on doing a full interview with the two people responsible for this new venture when they return from shooting in Europe and I still plan on doing that. So, you’ll have to wait for that post for more info, but in the meantime, I’ll fill you in on a few “who and what” details.
Few have ventured into the many heavily guarded, top-secret locations scattered across the earth. Even fewer have emerged with stories to tell. Yet every now and then the common man is given an illicit glimpse of something extraordinary…
In Beyond Area 51, Mack Maloney explores the truths behind the many myths and legends surrounding some of the world’s most mysterious locales. From the Homestead Air Force base in Miami, Florida to Russia’s Kapustin Yar, Maloney investigates incredible reports of extraterrestrial experimentation on animals, UFOs with road rage, and other unbelievable tales beyond our wildest imaginings. Filled with fascinating, true accounts, Beyond Area 51 will convince any skeptic of the infinite possibilities of what exists on, and beyond, our tiny planet.
“Might we contrive one of those opportune falsehoods … so as by one noble lie to persuade if possible the rulers themselves, but failing that the rest of the city.”
- Plato in The Republic
“If you read it, you will be infected. If you are infected you will be InFicted. If you are InFicted, you will get UnFucted. “
- Joseph Matheny
Those who entered the digital world in the late 80’s and early 90’s were introduced to a nearly unfathomable host of possibilities for media and creativity. DVD’s offered the potential for integrative experiences that tracked user preferences and allowed for multiple story formats which changed with each viewing based on previous use, virtual reality models held the possibility for turning these experiences fully immersive, cell phones and wireless technology promised an unthought of openness to it all, and the internet allowed everyone to dream of a fully connected, creative global conversation that synchronized each aspect into a beautifully coordinated whole. Looking back on those dreams in light of growing concerns over surveillance, advertising, neuromarketing and the like one might wonder what happened to turn the dream into a lousy cold war sitcom.
If one takes the Turnpike to exit four and follows Route 70 east, they will come to Route 72 at Four Mile Circle. Taking a hard left leads to a place known as Ong’s Hat, and a trail that some say leads to a mysterious portal to another dimension.
The New Jersey Pine Barrens have a plethora of deserted villages, most of them simply abandoned decades, even centuries ago. One of the most infamous of these is Ong’s Hat in Burlington County. The true reason as to why anyone would name a village Ong’s Hat may be shrouded in mystery forever. The facts are not clear, but the folklore surrounding the town’s name is well known.
Legend has it that at one time a resident of the area was a flashy young gentleman by the name of Ong (while his first name is unknown, Ong is an old time Pine Barrens name––one of the earliest Pines settlers was Jacob Ong). He was a fixture at local dances, where he was famous for being able to woo the ladies with his fancy dance moves and suave attire––most notably his silk hat.
Apparently, Ong was something of what modern youth call a “player,” in that he would flirt and dance with all the ladies he could. One of his love interests caught on to this practice at a dance and attacked Ong, taking his hat and stomping on it. Ong, who was very drunk and very upset that his chapeau had just been ruined, ran outdoors and tossed the hat into the air out of frustration. It caught in the high branches of a pine tree and stayed there for years. It became a landmark by which people could find the small village, and the area was dubbed Ong’s Hat.
As the Pine Barrens themselves became less and less populated with the dying out of local industry, Ong’s Hat was all but forgotten. Today Ong’s Hat is home to no residents. Instead, there are piles of rubble, overgrown building foundations, and other reminders of a bygone age. Ong’s Hat might have been nothing more than a footnote in the local history books were it not for a very weird development that some believe occurred there in the last quarter of the twentieth century––the opening of a gateway to another dimension.
The following, more recent, history of Ong’s Hat and its mysterious inter-dimensional portal can be found in a book entitled “Ong’s Hat: The Beginning.” The author of the book, Joseph Matheny, is coy as to whether he intended the work as fact or fiction. “The split between who believes the book is fiction vs. nonfiction is pretty even,” he has said. Some claim that the book is pure fantasy, and has set up a hoax that many have come to accept as real.
According to Matheny’s history, the Moorish Orthodox Church of America was founded in the 1950’s by a group of white jazz musicians and poets who were formerly members of the Newark founded Moorish Science Temple. The members of this small sect traveled the world, learning different philosophies and spiritual practices from all different masters of the eastern world. One of these travelers was known as Wali Fard.
When Fard returned from his travels abroad in 1978, he spent all of his savings on 200 acres in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Along with a group of runaway boys from Paramus and two lesbian anarchists, he moved onto the property and formed a newer, even more exclusive sect, the Moorish Science Ashram.
Fard published a series of Xeroxed newsletters proclaiming his beliefs. Those on the fringe who had read his words began flocking to his land. Among these refugees were two scientists looked down upon for their radical views, Frank and Althea Dobbs.
The Dobbs twins were raised in Texas, among a UFO worshipping cult founded by their father. Needless to say, they were used to life on the outskirts of the mainstream. When they arrived in the Pines they set up a laboratory inside a ramshackle trailer. They began making discoveries that shook the small commune to its core.
The siblings had previously been working at Princeton, where they submitted as their PhD theses a series of equations that led to what they called “cognitive chaos.” They were dismissed from the university and found their way to the Pines. In the remote locale they were free to work further on their ideas, whether the academic establishment wanted them to or not. Their theories promoted the idea that people could tap into the unused portion of their brains and do things such as stop their aging and purge diseases from their systems. The Ashram used their research to found the Institute of Chaos Studies.
Progress occurred even quicker than the scientists involved could have predicted themselves. Within three years they had stumbled upon an extraordinary, bizarre device that came to be known as “The Gate.” This was one of a series of devices the scientists referred to as “The Egg.” They hooked people up to computers and charted their brain waves. By experimenting with sex, drugs, and other mind wave manipulators, the scientists learned how to control the chaos they found within the mind.
The fourth version of the Egg was tested on one of the Paramus runaways. When it was activated, he and the device itself disappeared. Moments later it rematerialized. The boy claimed that he had traveled to the dimension next door to ours. This was the opening of The Gate.
The members of the ICS had to leave their Pine Barrens compound due to a chemical spill from Fort Dix that was leaking nuclear material into the area. Instead of fleeing outward, they fled inter-dimensionally. They used the Gate to transport themselves and all of their possessions into an alternate dimension. In this dimension they still lived in Ong’s Hat, but humankind did not exist.
According to some, the experiments at Ong’s Hat led to a violent and bloody confrontation. They claim that the government got wind of the experiments being conducted at Ong’s Hat and stormed the compound there, killing seven members of the group. Some say it was Delta Force who did the killing, while others blame operatives of the Russian or Danish militaries.
Skeptics of this far-fetched tale believe that Joseph Matheny’s book “Ong’s Hat: The Beginning” is nothing more than a work of pure fiction, bolstered by an elaborate Internet hoax. Others claim that Matheny has had to hint at the book being a hoax to preserve his efforts to tell the truth and to protect his own safety.
Matheny first became involved in the Ong’s Hat saga when he posted a book catalog he had found, known as the “Incunabula Catalog,” on BBS and FTP systems around the Internet at the turn of the 90’s. Then he produced one of the essays reviewed in this catalog. From there he claimed to have interviewed one of the physicists mentioned in these papers, as well as the original author of the book catalog he had posted. These four documents make up what are known as the “Incunabula Papers.” It is somewhat unclear as to whether there ever was any documentation of these alleged events other than the ones that Matheny “found” and posted himself.
So was Ong’s Hat ever the home of a mysterious cult of science nerds, or is this inter-dimensional Gate merely one of the earliest known Internet hoaxes? Whatever the case may be, the story of Ong’s Hat is truly a bizarre one, and believed to be more fact than fiction by more than just a few sci-fi fanatics.
This Internet story is only an excerpt of the information we have published on this subject. For the full story we suggest you refer to past issues of Weird NJ Magazine. To keep up to date on this story and all the other weird goings on in the state subscribe to Weird NJ and we’ll deliver it to your door. If your local book seller, newsstand or convenience store doesn’t carry Weird NJ, just tell them to call us toll free at 1-866-WEIRDNJ and we’ll be happy to stock your favorite store for you.
The Hat, The Egg & the Chaos
Ong’s Hat: Hidden History or Piney Mythology
“…to vanish without having to kill yourself may be the ultimate revolutionary act…” The Sacred Jihad of Our Lady of Chaos
“..That story again! Man, that’s old hat..” …some Buddtown local
I remember 1978. I was an eight year old boy, in Brooklyn, where Avenue H meets Kings Highway. After battling my older brothers for the last bowl of Cap’t Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch, I’d settle in front of the tube for my all-time favorite morning show, (and still today – now owning all three seasons on DVD), Sid & Marty Kroft’s Land of the Lost. Kid TV shows of the 70′s were especially wrought with invasive weirdness; New Zoo Revue, The Magic Garden, The Patchwork Family…OH! and GIGGLESNORT HOTEL!! (what the F#@K was that about?) But Land of the Lost, for me, was the Led Zeppelin IV of children shows.
It all started with a road map of New Jersey. A little north of the Red Lion Circle, in the heart of the Burlington County Pine Barrens, the map depicted a tiny hamlet marked with the unusual name of “Ongs Hat.” In the early 1930s, Henry Charlton Beck, a reporter with the Camden Courier Post, became curious. After convincing his editor that a story could be found there, he and a photographer packed up a car and set off to investigate. Little did he know that his explorations at Ongs Hat, and a succession of later voyages to mysterious places in the hinterlands of New Jersey, would inspire generations of other “lost town hunters” –pouring over ancient maps, exploring dismal cellar holes in the middle of nowhere, and sharing their discoveries with one another – first by telephone and letter and presently through online forums.
We were told to look at this map to see a strange egg shaped ridge which some locals swear is the remnants of the old Ong’s Hat Ashram. Sure enough, there it is. Spooky!