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.
Hollow Earth, Time Travel, Sasquatches, Demonic Possession, A Lost Civilization of Reptilians that live underground, Alien Light Beings that can read our minds (the Zarn). Was it not, a total indoctrination to the Art Bell Show and all of our internet conspiracy lore? They even had their own “Mel’s Hole.“
One particularly unsettling episode was Split Personality. After some sort of earthquake, a doppelgänger of Holly shows up from a parallel universe. I remember thinking, “A Parallel Universe? What the hell is that?” What kind of crazy occult people were writing this stuff for children. In the wake of “The Summer of Love”, Hollywood was sure employing some dubious writers. The young Kathy Coleman Bell (Holly), with her ability to waterlog the TV screen with tears of terror (almost every other episode) sure had me convinced this was dead real. (Did I mention I was eight years old?) But as we all now know, from LOTL (and our beloved New Agers) nothing fights off paranormal woes like crystals. It’s safe to say that 70′s pop-culture played a big part of who I am today. Sometimes I wonder if it was the intention, of those shows, to influence an entire generation.
Little did I know, that, in the same year I was learning my all my occult knowledge from Saturday morning TV shows, there were actual portals to other dimensions being opened. And my family would move, only a half-hour’s drive away from where it happened. For those that have never been to South Jersey, there are, and always have been, us immigrant New Yorkers who have nothing to do with the so-called “Piney Power”. Before the rise (and FALL) of housing bubble, our suburbs were surrounded with acres of vacant woods, sand pits, and parkway trails. I mourn for the kids of today, to now, be robbed of such a wonderland. One could always go a little west on Rt. 72, to Lebanon State Forest.
If you have heard this story before, it’s only because your like me and seek this stuff out. Or, you live west of the shore and heard the whispers in the pines. We’ll I’ve lived here now since 1981 and have never meet anyone, in person, who’s heard it. I’m confident it will be news to some people. Maybe the author of Ong’s Hat: The Beginning, Joseph Matheny, might welcome it’s reiteration.
So. Sometime in the 19th century, your a popular, hat-wearing, young man about town (or in this case village) named Jacob Ong. It’s a typical night of trying your luck on the ladies at a local dance hall. You’ve had your heart set on one piney princess in particular, but you get shot down. Unable to conceal your frustration, you walk outside and start giving your hat a good thrashing. You throw it on the ground, stomp on it and fling it up in the air. And it never comes back down.
Legend does not state what color the hat was, but it sure must have stood out, hanging from a branch in the vast woods. All the area residents start to use Jacob Ong’s hat as a landmark. So much so, that Ong’s Hat was the adopted name for the town. Perhaps, evidence of the Pineys’ partiality to the path to least resistance. Names like “Stop the Jade” Creek (a group of people chasing after a wild horse yelling “Stop the Jade.”) and Buddtown (named after some guy – Thomas Budd?)
For those unfamiliar with the word ashram, it’s basically a retreat of sorts from cultural fatigue. A hiding place for a community that does not want to be found. It is heavily rumored that one such community existed, around 1978-early 80′s, in Lebanon State Forest; in the lost town of Ong’s Hat.
An enigmatic fella himself, Joseph Matheny, stumbled apon some mysterious literature. The first of which was entitled: INCUNABULA : A Catalog of Rare Books, Manuscripts & Curiosa Conspiracy Theory, Frontier Science & Alternative Worlds and later tracked down ONG’S HAT:GATEWAY TO THE DIMENSIONS! “A full color brochure for the Institute of Chaos Studies and the Moorish Science Ashram in Ong’s Hat, New Jersey. Matheny became intrigued with what he was reading, and rightly so. In his book, Ong’s Hat: The Beginning he let’s the contents of the pamphlet stand alone. It starts out with an apparent sales pitch to the potential consumer. “You have been searching for us without knowing it..” ending with an orotund, “Otherwise…you would not be reading this brochure…” Once you delve into the actual catalog, anyone paying close attention to text, can tell this is not a catalog at all. It’s reads like a mass pen-pal letter to a very discrete audience.
Within the “full color brochure”, it discloses a history of the Moorish Orthodox Church of America. A group of world-traveling white guys seeking esoteric knowledge (which was common in the 50′s and 60′s). One these Moorish players, was Wali Ford. Ford owned about 200 acres of land in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. He moved into an old rod & gun club on the property along with “several runaway boys from Paramus, New Jersey, and an anarchist lesbian couple from Brooklyn, and founded the Moorish Science Ashram“. (how do these people find each other?)
The MSA eventually gathered more recruits. Among them were “two young chaos scientists fired from Princeton (on a charge of “seditious nonsense”), a brother and sister, Frank and Althea Dobbs” (anyone familiar with Discordia, knows this is a big RED FLAG). With the addition of two more scientists (already residents of Ong’s Hat) and machine shop, set up by Chatsworth’s native, Martine Kallikak. The Institute of Chaos studies was born.
In an old airstream trailer they constructed a laboratory in a barn hidden deep in the Pines. In a patchwork of mind-altering drugs, meditation techniques, networked computers, quantum physics & (maybe) some sex yoga, they conjured up a great machine. This consisted of an sensory-deprivation chamber, called The Egg, in which attention can be focused on a computer terminal and screen. As the brochure states “..under these conditions progress proved amazingly swift..”
As the story goes, one of the Paramus runaways, named Kit, and the Egg itself, unexpectedly vanished from the laboratory during one of the experiments. After seven minutes of panic, the Egg reappeared with its passenger intact. And.. Yes, as you may have guessed, (just like Marshall, Will & Holly) Kit had traveled to a parallel universe. (No, I don’t have any grains of salt on me…)
In conclusion, the entire ashram discovered one universe, unpopulated by humans and set out to start a new Utopian society in another dimension. There are several conflicting stories about, whether or not, they actually migrated to the new world or the whole project was raided by a Shadow Government. And so, it remains a sort of mythology reality.
In the last pages of Ong’s Hat: The Beginning, Matheny conducted a phone interview with Emory Cranston, owner of INCUNABULA books. He goes into further detail about the progress of ICS and the Moorish Science Ashram. “..permanent doorways have been constructed..” he states “…which work even for non-initiates, sort of like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They’re very nicely camouflaged…”
Going back to the INCUNABULA catalog itself, it really does it’s best to convince the reader of the reality of this science, as well as, the actuality of a network of conspiracy to stop mankind from knowing it. Depending on the type of person you are, you can find yourself slowly entering another “reality tunnel.” Which is the intent of all cult pamphlets that circulate, but it’s also why Ong’s Hat: The Beginning is such a good read.
There are apparent synchronicities to my own past (…and present) that gave me ample pause throughout the reading of this material. There are constant references to an “anonymous traveler” on a spiritual quest, from Brooklyn (right around the time I lived there, as a child.) The entire plot, of my favorite kid show, Land of the Lost was a family that went to a parallel universe, unpopulated by humans. Lastly, I wind up residing about a 30 minutes away from Ong’s Hat. Then I reflect back to the introduction of this book “You have been searching for us without knowing it…Otherwise…you would not be reading this brochure…” Fucking nuts!!
I took a recent drive to Lebanon State forest, only to find it wasn’t there. It’s now named the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest. (who is this guy anyway) The visitors center was open. I took some maps & a postcard of Walt Whitman. While driving in Four Mile circles for about 15 min. I found Ong’s Hat Road. I kept looking for a Buddtown Rd. which, according to the trail map from the visitors center, leads to Ong’s Hat. No signs read “Buddtown Rd.” anywhere! It was too cold for this shit. An hour & a half later I head back to the shore. After some Googling when I got home, I realized I drove right through the town of Ong’s Hat, about 3 times. Fucking nuts!!
What started, on my part, to be a simple regurgitation of piney mythos had become, for me, a self-analytical reverie. Inside the perpetual waiting room of the human condition, what else can we do but ponder fantasies of Utopia. As I venture further into the parawilderness, there’s always a trepidation, that will slingshot me back to the safe bosom of the consensus. But still, it always brings on a bigger sadness. Somewhere deep in your being, you know it’s a much worse fate. I cannot see the faces but, man, can I hear the voices.
If your a local, and bored, I found a link from trails.com on how to get there.
Sort of last minute, I decided to attach a companion podcast of Joseph Matheny interviewing some of the survivors. In hopes of further titillating any curiosity to it’s validity. The following recordings were indeed from the incunabula.org website. And I give full attribution Joseph Matheny & the incunabula.org staff. enjoy
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