Thursday, October 25, 2012

Creature of the Month - The Wendigo by Dr. Bob Curran

In the northern United States, close to the Canadian Border, the landscape is thickly forested, broken only by the outlines of hidden lakes tucked away where men seldom go. This is the land of the Algonquin-speaking peoples who lived there before the coming of the White Man. It is also the land of the Wendigo, more fearsome and deadly of all Algonquin monsters.

Just what the Wendigo is depends on who you speak to for each of the Indian tribes has a slightly different perspective on it. Even descriptions of it may vary. For some it is a large and hairy giant, living deep in the forest – a bit like Bigfoot – with a heart of ice. It has glowing eyes which cut through the natural darkness of its forest home and extremely sharp and rending claws. In other legends, it appears as a thin, emaciated creature with an almost skeletal, deformed body. Again it has rending claws and when it walks, say the stories, its footprints are always full of blood. Other tales simply depict it as a forest spirit or Manitou which can possess any traveller or hunter at will. However, it is also suggested that the spirit can only inhabit the bodies of those who have committed some terrible act or who have lived evil lives. Once possessed the person goes off to live in the forest and takes on certain physical characteristics such as their body being deformed, or growing long teeth or hair. In the folklore of the Ojibwa and some branches of the Cree, the Wendigo is associated with coldness, famine and death. It is also associated with Winter and the far North.

A description of the Wendigo from the Ontario region suggests that it looks partially like our impression of a zombie – thin, ash-coloured skin pulled over the bones and marked by suppurating sores; its eyes hollow and red tinged, the mouth drawn back into a rictus of evil. It also gives off, says the account, a distinct odour of decay and corruption. Its breath is often thought to be poisonous. This is a human body which has been turned into a Wendigo. This can be done by evil acts such as eating human flesh or by intense gluttony – because despite their emaciated appearance, Wendigos are great gluttons. They are never satisfied with simply consuming one individual but the taste of human flesh makes them crave more and so they go off hunting for other victims. They are never satisfied and will eat any man, woman or child who ventures into their territory. Amongst the Westmain Swampy Cree, the Eastern Cree, the Naskapi and the Ojibwa, Wendigos are thought to be great giants and although emaciated with a disgusting hairy skin, they dwarf any human who encounters them. Curiously, this idea is absent from the mythologies of the Salteaux and the Montagnais who portray the creature as being of human height. The Cree further believe that when a Wendigo eats a person, it gains some of the individual’s height and power and this makes it even more ravenous for human flesh. Although it appears thin and skeletal, the creature is continually gorging itself and may well be growing all the time. Some stories say that there is no limit to the height to which a Wendigo can grow.

copyright Asher Elbein.  
Perhaps the most dangerous form of the creature is that of an invisible forest spirit which can possess passing hunters and turn them into the physical manifestation as described above. Of course, there is a “moral” element to the belief as the Wendigo spirit is only drawn to an individual by evil thoughts, which it can “smell”. In many instances, the creature approaches its victims through dreams and visions.

If the spirit of the Wendigo possesses a person, he or she will become obsessed with terrible thoughts, becoming violent and only interested in eating human flesh. In some of the Northern areas this was not unusual in former times. There were times when the game was poor and famine set in amongst the tribes. In such desperate circumstances it might have been tempting to eat dead bodies – those who had died from starvation. This was a truly serious taboo amongst the Algonquin-speaking peoples. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Wendigo has become the symbol of that taboo and as a warning against cannibalism.

Curiously, there is a recognised form of psychosis in Western psychiatry which is known as “the Wendigo syndrome”. Symptoms of this particular psychosis include the desire to eat human flesh when other food sources may be available and the belief that one’s body has been occupied by a Wendigo. In all documented cases, the patient is young, male and of Northern Indian background. In most cases too, the patient was also being treated for some other problem by a traditional Indian healer who had diagnosed the influence of a Wendigo in the patient’s behavior. One of the most famous instances of the Syndrome was a Plains Cree trapper who was executed by the authorities at Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, at the end of the 19th century. 

He had killed and eaten his family, comprising a wife and five children, during a particularly severe winter and was convinced that he was a Wendigo. However, a more modern study of his case reveals that rather than being a cannibal, he may have been suffering from some form of psychosis. Another more famous figure connected with the Wendigo psychosis was Jack Fiddler, a famous Oji-Cree medicine man who lived much of his life among the Anishinaabee of North-Western Ontario where he was known by his Swampy Cree name of “Stylish Man”. 

A number of Wendigos had allegedly been sent against the Anishinaabee by enemy shamans and Jack Fiddler was able to protect the tribes against these – usually by killing the “possessed” person <although he claimed that having exorcised the being, the victim begged for death in case it would return>. Jack Fiddler was arrested by North-West Canadian Mounted Police, near Deer Lake in 1907 and charged with the murder of his niece. The case against him was never proven because shortly after his arrest, Fiddler escaped during a walk outside the prison and hung himself from the branch of a nearby tree. His brother Joseph, who had been arrested with him, was brought to trial and though he pleaded innocence <he had only been assisting Jack in destroying the last vestiges of the Wendigo in the body of their victims> he was found guilty and sent to jail where he died. It is possible that both men were suffering from what might be termed “a Wendingo delusion” 

It is worth noting that the idea of the Wendigo as a possessing spirit began to decline across the 20th century as the Algonquin-speaking peoples adopted a more settled and less rural lifestyle and as they came more and more into contact with Westernized perceptions.

Where do these legends come from? Are they perhaps no more than a response to the sometimes dark and gloomy forests through which the Indians traveled and in which they hunted?  Under the thick canopies of leaves which often shut out the light, it might be possible to believe some sort of eerie monster lurking there, its skin pale and ulcerated by the absence of the sun, ready to devour anyone who strayed within its domain. Was it simply a supposed manifestation of evil?

Or is there something else there in the deep forests – something that the white people don’t know about but the Indians do? Is the Wendigo legend actually based on something like Bigfoot which the Indians have glimpsed in forest glades and has wound its way into folklore? Some stories talk about a great, grey, furred man-like figure, always seen at a distance, so it there some form of hominid waiting out there amongst the trees in order to be discovered? And if so what is it? A cryptozoid creature? A zombie-thing? Or a disembodied spirit that can possess the unwary?  Who knows what dark entity might be lurking in the snow-bound woods!     

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Re-Visioning Our Place in the Universe with some help from the Paradigm Symposium

We were very excited to have been involved as a sponsor at the recent Paradigm Symposium that took place in Minnesota this past weekend.  Fans got a lot of face time with their favorite authors opening conversations about different Ancient Alien theories and getting involved in discussions regarding our place in the Universe.

We want to thank Scott Alan Roberts and Micah Hanks for all of their work on pulling together this fine event as well as big thank you to all of the staff and authors who lent their own contributions.

Here we share some of our memories...

Micah Hanks, Larry Flaxman, Marie D. Jones, & Scott Alan Roberts

Author Panel

Allison Olson & Nick Redfern

Kathleen McGowan & Philip Coppens

Giorgio Tsoukalos & Laurie Kelly-Pye

Frank Joseph & Michael Pye

Laurie Kelly-Pye, Allison Olson, Erich von Daniken, & Michael Pye

Erich von Daniken

Michael Pye, Allison Olson, Larry Flaxman, & Marie Jones

Michael Pye & Scott Alan Roberts

Micah Hanks

We hope to see you in attendance next year.  Check back for more details for October 2013.

Weird News of the Week

More Chocolate = More Nobel Prizes

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Organisms Creating External Memories

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Do Animals Feel Guilt?

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Architecture by Astronomy

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Positive News of the Week

Learning while on Vacation

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New Fonts for Dyslexics

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Crossing the Finish Line - with the Marines

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Spreading Sweets & Love

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weird News of the Week

Shaved Heads, More Masculine?

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Black Mamba Venom = Painkiller?

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Shades of Honey

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Off the Manatee Ma'am

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Concentration and Adorable Animal Photos - who knew?

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Friday, October 5, 2012

On the Hunt for the Creatures of White Rock Lake by Nick Redfern

We thought that since we were now in October it would be a good time to share some tales from Nick Redfern's Memoirs of a Monster Hunter.  This was Nick's first publication with New Page Books back in 2007 and since then we have published 7 other books with Nick.  In fact there's a new one signed for Spring of 2013 (keep checking back to see our new list).

Here we venture with him onto the path of the Lady of the Lake excerpted from Chapter 8.....

Our new abode, which was destined to be our home for almost two years, was a pleasant third-floor apartment at a gated complex that was situated practically on the shores of Dallas’s White Rock Lake, a picturesque and tree-shrouded area that was tucked away only a few miles outside of the city’s downtown. But just like everywhere we seemed to go, White Rock Lake had a distinctly strange atmosphere, and it was an atmosphere that just got stranger and stranger as time progressed. Legends of monstrous fish, bizarre man-beasts, the Lady of the Lake, deranged killers, and wartime Nazi spies all emanated from the heart of White Rock Lake. Oh, and nothing less than an island had mysteriously gone missing from within its murky waters.

Constructed in 1911 as Dallas’s first reservoir, White Rock Lake has 9 1/2 miles of shoreline, thick trees, a path for walkers and cyclists, and is home to an estimated 33 types of mammals, including squirrels, rabbits, skunks, raccoons, possums, bobcats, red foxes, and minks, and no less than 54 varieties of reptiles, among which are rattlesnakes, turtles, a whole variety of lizards, and horned toads. Salamanders and frogs also abound, along with an incredible 217 species of bird, including swans, pelicans, sea gulls, loons, and all manner of ducks.

As I got to know some of the elderly locals, a number of whom had been there since the 1930s, I learned that the tale of the Lady of the Lake had been circulating for years. As the story went, a Dr. Eckersall, a local physician, was driving home from a country-club dance late one Saturday night when he saw a young girl by the lake, who he suspected was in trouble. He quickly stopped his car, and motioned her to climb into the back seat of his vehicle.

“Please, please take me home,” she begged. The doctor drove quickly to her destination, and as he pulled up before the shuttered house, he said: “Here we are.” Then he turned around. Yep, you guessed it: The back seat was empty, except for a small puddle of lake water dripping down onto the floorboard. He thought for a moment then rang insistently on the house bell. Finally the door was opened by a gray-haired man.

“I can’t tell you what an amazing thing has happened,” began the doctor, breathlessly. “A young girl gave me this address. I drove her here and…” “Yes, yes, I know,” the man wearily interrupted. “This has happened several other Saturday evenings in the past month. That young girl, sir, was my daughter. She was killed in a boating accident on White Rock Lake almost two years ago.”

Needless to say, this was a tale I was very pleased to get my teeth into. And like a lot of such tales, there were many rumors but very few facts. The late writer and researcher Ed Syers said:
“In the 1920s, an excursion boat operated on the lake. One warm summer night, perfect for a moonlit ride, a young couple attended a formal party on the boat. An argument between the lovers ensued—possibly alcohol-induced—and the woman left the boat, jumped into her date’s car, and sped off into the dark night. The poorly maintained road around the lake twisted and turned, and the distraught woman lost control of the car where Lawther Road runs into Garland Road. The car careened into the lake and she drowned.”

This was particularly interesting to me as our apartment complex was on Garland Road, so I continued to dig into the tales. According to acclaimed Austin, Texas-based ghost hunter Lisa Farwell:
“One of the scariest reports of the ghost appeared in a 1987 Dallas Times Herald article by Lorraine Iannello. Iannello interviewed a mother and daughter, Phyllis Thompson and Sue Ann Ashman, who had a frightening encounter with the female phantom. The two were sitting on one of the boat docks at night when they spotted a white object floating in the lake. The women heard a blood-curdling scream and saw the white object roll over onto its back. The object turned out to be a body; it stared at the horror-stricken women through big, hollow sockets where the eyes should have been. Then, just as quickly, the terrifying sight disappeared.”

Interestingly, a perusal of old newspapers revealed to me that, in the late 1970s, the story of a woman who was claiming to be the “real” Lady of the Lake surfaced briefly in an article written by Dallas Morning News columnist John Anders. According to Anders, the woman had written to the newspaper describing how, on one night back in the 1930s she and her lover were parked by the lake, watching a full moon. While they sat together, however, the man’s car suddenly rolled into the lake, its parking brake presumably having failed. Dripping wet, she hitched a ride to her parents’ house on Gaston Avenue. And sure enough, the legend of the mysterious drowned lady started soon afterward. The woman cryptically signed her note “Jam Net Jaid,” taunting Anders to figure out her real identity. She remained elusive. But the one case of the Lady of the Lake that I personally investigated turned out to be truly creepy.

After we moved to White Rock, I was interviewed by a local magazine that specifically served East Dallas. The feature, titled In Search of Sasquatch, had been written by the magazine’s editor Kris Scott, and brought me a lot of local attention and also, and more importantly, a lot of stories and leads to follow up on. And one such story, from Bobby John Craig, had a direct bearing on the ghostly woman of the lake. Craig’s family was originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but had moved to Texas in the 1960s. And as a lifelong fisherman, Craig had fished White Rock Lake for many years.

As I listened, Craig told me a macabre tale about the fateful night he sat on the far side of the lake in 1971. It was a summer’s evening and he had been fishing for a while, with considerable success, when he was overcome by an all-encompassing feeling of dread, and saw something slowly begin to haul itself out of the water about 20 feet in front of him. To his horror, he could see that it was a woman—or perhaps some insane soul’s monstrous and diabolical idea of what a woman should look like would be a better description.

Craig told me that the woman was dressed in dark rags, had long black hair, deathly white skin, and her soulless eyes were utterly jet-black. Dirty water dripped from her mud-encrusted locks, and she moved slowly toward him with a maniacal grin on her face. Her slow, jerky fashion reminded Craig of the relentless flesh-eating zombies that were featured in George A. Romero’s classic movie Night of the Living Dead. The creature—it may have looked human, said Craig, but a creature is all it really was—continued to move toward him in faltering steps, its arms outstretched, while it issued a dark and sinister moan and pointed an elongated finger in his direction. This was enough to convince Craig to grab his rod and gear, and hit the road, which he duly did.

On the following day, and after the shock had worn off, Craig tentatively revisited the site of his unearthly encounter. The woman was gone. And despite the fact that Craig continued to fish that same area for several more years, he never saw the horrific specter again. But there were far stranger things than weird, wet women afoot at White Rock.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Positive News of the Week

Home is Where the Books Are

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Toy Train in Space

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Helping Out

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Kesv Valdez wins Children's Peace Prize

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Become a Permanent Optimist

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Monday, October 1, 2012

A Journey into one of the world's Weirdest places.....Laguna, Philippines

If you haven't yet caught site of it The World's Weirdest Places is now available at your favorite re/e-tailer.  We thought we'd share some stories of the weird all the way from Southeast Asia specifically Laguna in the Philippines excerpted from Chapter 15.

From the legendary Loch Ness, Scotland, to the slopes of Mount Shasta, California; from the dark depths of the Solomon Islands to the heart of the Kremlin; and from the magical landscape of Sedona, Arizona, to the turbulent waters of the Devil’s Sea of Japan, The World’s Weirdest Places reveals the sheer astonishing scale of strangeness that dominates our planet.

Laguna, Philippines, Southeast Asia

The Republic of the Philippines, which is a collection of 7,107 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, sits between Taiwan and Vietnam. Its people claim it is absolutely overflowing with just about anything and everything of a weird and enigmatic nature. And that is particularly so in the province of Laguna, which is situated in the Calabrazon region of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. After all, how many places on our planet can claim amongst its varied supernatural residents the following: real-life dragons, gigantic birds with huge wingspans; goblins and dwarfs (or, as they are known in the Philippines, the Nuno sa Punso and the Duende); one-eyed giants (Cyclops-type beasts); and a multitude of vampires whose appearances include those of a beautiful woman, a hideous, fetus-like being, and the bat-winged Manananggal?

Laguna is the perfect setting for an absolute menagerie of bizarre entities to inhabit. A deep waterfall, the Pagsanjan Falls, dominates the area. Two long-dormant volcanoes, Mount Banahaw and Mount Makiling, lie to the south. And the province itself sits on the southernmost shores of Laguna de Bay, the biggest lake in the entire Philippines. It’s amid this picturesque and captivating environment that terrible things roam, swim, and soar. Let’s start with those creatures that science and zoology tells us simply cannot exist, but that the folk of the area most assuredly suggest otherwise: fire-breathing dragons.

The Mameleu is a huge snake—one whose length is reputed to reach almost 200 feet when fully grown. Atop its head sits a large and powerful horn capable of inflicting very serious damage on anyone who dares to get in its way. It’s also a creature that shoots flames out of its cavernous jaws and whose evil-looking eyes glow a constant fiery red. A sea-dwelling beast, the Mameleu has reportedly been seen to prowl the waters of Laguna de Bay by the light of a full moon, carefully and hungrily scanning the rolling waters for a tasty fisherman or several. And, the people of Laguna say it has a land-based cousin: the Marcupo, a very similar-looking monster with a devilish forked-tail. Then there is the mighty Baconaua, a silver-colored dragon of immense size that soars across the skies of Laguna thanks to the power of its gigantic, bat-like, membranous wings. To demonstrate the alleged, sheer size of Baconaua, local mythology says that in the very distant past our planet had seven moons, of which Baconaua greedily devoured six, leaving us with just one to call our own. And, now: from monsters massive to creatures distinctly small.

The Nuno sa Punso are secretive and shy creatures of distinctly dwarfish stature that, in the folklore of Laguna, live deep inside discarded, old ant hills. Having the appearance of wizened, old men with red-hued skin and long, flowing beards, they very much keep to themselves—that is, unless someone makes the monumental mistake of disturbing their hilly homes. Then all hell breaks loose. The goblin-like Nuno sa Punso are very practiced at placing one particular curse upon people who dare to cross them, and it’s a curse that surely no-one would wish to endure, particularly because it causes swelling of the face and hands, excessive hair growth all over the body, and will even turn your urine black! In other words, if you happen to visit Laguna, stay the hell away from the ant-hills.

Somewhat Nuno sa Punso-like are the Duende: little figures that also bear an uncanny resemblance to wrinkled old men, but who possess only one eye and live under trees rather than in the nests of ants. They are cold-hearted creatures that trade gold for children, and stealthily break into homes late at night and steal newborn babies. Should you ever encounter a Duende, the people of Laguna say, shower the beast in salt. And, finally, on the matter of the miniscule entities of the Philippines, we come to the Kibaan. They are a decidedly odd bunch, with golden-colored teeth, feet that face backwards, and heads of thick hair that reach to the ground. They are said to construct and play their very own, tiny guitar-like instruments while sitting in the trees amongst their favorite of all friends: fireflies. Now to monsters of the skies.

Sounding very much like the type of unlikely creatures that Godzilla would do valiant battle with in an old Japanese monster-movie, the Mikonawa and Bawa are massive, winged things with beaks and talons made of pure steel, and feathers as strong, long, and deadly as the average sword that King Arthur would have been proud to own. Just like the Baconaua, they, too, both have a curious penchant for devouring entire moons. There is one way to prevent these monstrous, bird-like beasts from having a catastrophic chow down on the solar system, however: Place a welcoming bowl of hot and tasty food outside of your front door late at night, or gently lull them into a pleasant slumber with an inviting local, folk tune.

Tales of bands of one-eyed giants (Cyclops-like creatures) abound, also. The Bungusngis are known for being as large as they are stupid. With a single eye protruding from their foreheads and huge tusks dominating their mouths, they roam the wilds of the land in search of water buffalo—their favorite morsel. The Amomongo is a goliath-sized, gorilla-like animal of a most violent nature that will slaughter and devour pretty much anyone or anything that has the misfortune to get in its path. Interestingly, witness reports from the vicinity of the old volcanoes suggest the creature has far more than a passing resemblance to Bigfoot of the United States. And possibly of relevance to the Amomongo are the Kapre, also a species of hair-covered giants. Rather than being hostile to humans, however, they are genial and gentle folk who are most at home when devouring raw tobacco or smoking huge cigars!

Then there are those creatures of Laguna that seem to almost completely defy any sort of classification whatsoever. A perfect example is the Tikbalangs. They are tall, humanoid entities that have the head and hooves of a horse, and legs so long that, when they sit, their knees rise above their heads. While not specifically malicious or aggressive, they are definitive tricksters. Tikbalangs take particular pleasure in leading people astray, getting them lost in the woods, and generally causing disorientation and distress whenever and wherever possible. Most bizarre of all, however, are the Sigbin. Resembling white-haired, hornless goats, they have huge ears that they clap together as a means to warn others of their kind of impending danger. They also walk backward, and slaughter by licking the shadow of their prey

Now, from the bizarre let’s turn to the downright deadly: Laguna’s vampires.

The Tiyanak is a terrifying creature of the night that resembles a human fetus and cries like a human baby to attract and lure its prey to a horrific death—very much like the giant Svokan of the Caucasus Mountains. Also of a nocturnal and bloodsucking nature are the Balbal. They fly and glide through the moonlit skies of Laguna with only one goal in mind: to seek out the homes of the recently departed. Then, when they find such a place, and their powerful nostrils alert them to the fact that the body is still in evidence, they wildly tear off the roofs of the buildings, and hang from the rafters by their vicious-looking talons, eagerly on the lookout for both body and blood. And on finding both, the Tiyanak extend their coiling, long tongues downwards and proceed to excitedly lick the corpses of the unfortunate people, a process via which massive amounts of blood can be extracted to fuel their soulless forms. Even worse than the Tiyanak is the Manananggal: by day, the loathsome thing appears in the form of a beautiful, alluring woman. By night, however, it transforms into a hideous hag replete with matted hair, a hooked nose, long claws, and yellowy fangs. On achieving its vile transformation, the Manananggal takes to the skies in search of fresh flesh on which to feed—but not before detaching the lower part of its body from the upper section, a process which ensures that those who are unfortunate enough to see the creature soaring overhead are witness to the unforgettable and awful sight of its bloody entrails hanging and swaying wildly below. And, finally, there is the Asuang: a shape-shifting sucker of blood that can take on the form of a pig, bird, cat, or dog. It is not at all averse to mercilessly slicing open the stomachs of pregnant women and devouring their unborn children.

And there we have it: Laguna, a land filled to the brim with bizarre and deadly monsters, none of which it would be at all wise to cross paths with.

Nick Redfern is an author, lecturer, and journalist who writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. His previous books include The Pyramids and the Pentagon; Keep Out!; The Real Men in Black; The NASA Conspiracies; Contactees; and Memoirs of a Monster Hunter. He writes for many publications, including UFO Magazine, Fate, and Fortean Times, and has appeared on numerous television shows, including the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, Monster Quest, and UFO Hunters; National Geographic Channel’s The Truth about UFOs, and Paranatural; and SyFy Channel’s Proof Positive. More information can be found on his blog.

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