A question I am frequently asked, especially if I do an Instagram post on a particularly obscure case or topic, is “Where do you find this stuff?” The question implies that there is a “Somewhere” where morbid, bizarre or otherwise fascinating topics can be discovered, and to an extent that is true – there are websites, Youtube channels, etc.
Mostly, however, you have to create your own “field”, the way a researcher writing a paper on, say, teenage culture creates his or her own landscape to study; there is no “teenage culture” to be discovered in a monolithic, forever-stagnant form Somewhere; the researcher herself has to decide what constitutes an aspect of teenage culture and what doesn’t. The same logic is at work in my Instagram posts and in my research for my book: there is a kind of dark allure to certain kinds of topics, and in chasing after them, you create the landscape in your own mind. An article here, a mention of a bizarre event during a casual conversation there, and so on it goes.
While there is no concise road map, there are signs along the way. Here are some I have found particularly helpful in seeking new topics to write about and in digging deeper to topics I am doing a book on:
Quite simply. Us Finns are a notoriously quiet bunch – that silence in a bus, for example, is akin to the silence of a church or a monastery. I have found, however, that people are often incredible flattered if you just flat out ask them about something you feel they might know more than you about.
Here’s an example. My wife’s brother is a stereotypical Finnish country boy, a great guy but not the kind of person you’d expect to discuss local creepy folklore with. A few summers back, my wife and I were visiting him, and the topic of my Instagram account came up. I flat out asked him if there are any local legends he might be interested in sharing. Thirty minutes later I was on a personal tour of some of the most pants-sh*ttingly horrifying abandoned houses you could think of. One had a hook in the ceiling, and my wife’s brother explained that the guy who lived there had hanged himself from up there years ago (true story, verified by other sources).
You can usually find them on microfilms preserved at libraries (you will usually have to take a short course on using the reading machines, but these courses last about an hour and are entirely free). Of course, you have to know what you’re looking for, otherwise you’re going to be stuck going through newspaper after newspaper in search of something interesting. No worries, though – luckily, we have…
Discussion boards, websites dedicated to bizarre topics and other such cyber spaces will often provide you with at least clues to start chasing. Be careful, though – a person writing on a discussion board, for example, doesn’t necessarily know what he or she is talking about; be sure to fact-check if at all possible.
You should also be cautious in reading articles or watching videos with titles like “10 Strangest Disappearances”, or something to that effect. The people who run these sites often make money from them, which means they sometimes have to produce several articles per day. It can also mean they have to produce articles on topics they don’t necessarily care or know much about. This can lead to some pretty sloppy, hastily done research.
The good old book will never fail you. Jacques Vallee, Colin Wilson, Brad Steiger – dig in, and you’ll find an endless selection of clues to research further. I am on my personal journey because I read Jacques Vallee’s seminal trilogy Dimensions, Confrontations, and Revelations.
Why am I so passionate about dark topics?
Quite simply, because I feel that in order to understand something, you have to know both sides of the issue. If you build your world view into a purely materialistic, atheist one without reading religious scripture, you will only understand half what’s out there. If you only read the story of a victim, you will not understand the mind of a killer, and so on.
To understand the dynamic of human life, it isn’t enough to be awake during the day – you also have to stay up a few nights to get an idea of what’s truly going on.