‘Strange Effects’ out in the Desert

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The submarine U-122 was a type IXB U-Boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine, active during the early years of World War 2. She was launched on the 20th of December 1939 and commissioned roughly three months later under her first and only commander, one Korvettenkapitän Hans-Günther Looff.

In June of 1940, she disappeared without trace.

Her last reported location was approximately 56.00N, 10.30W, apparently returning to her operational base just west of Cape Finisterre in Spain. Historians speculate that she may have been sunk by a collision with the British steam tanker the San Filipe on the 22nd of June, or by depth charges launched from the HMS Arabis on the 23rd.

Either way, U-122 was declared lost with all hands.

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In 1978, 33 years after the end of the war, nearly five thousand pages of translated U-Boat logs and diaries were released by the United States Office of Naval Intelligence. These documents were seized by Allied forces in the April of 1945 at Castle Tambach in Coburg. They consist of a daily narrative detailing operations, intelligence reports, claimed successes and losses, organisational matters, and discussions of tactical and strategic issues.

I must confess, I was not planning to peruse them: naval operations are not my primary interest. However, a few weeks ago, a colleague of mine at the Royal Navy sent me a package. Within this package were excerpts from these logs. Several passages that my colleague believed I would find interesting were highlighted. I shall reproduce these highlighted passages below:

16th June 1940

Situation:

[12.40]   Korevettenkapitän Looff reports that the Halo has been successfully retrieved and secured. U-122 is homeward bound via the Jormungand route. Expected date of return, June 30th. Radio traffic to be kept at a minimum during this voyage.                                                                                            

#

       19th June 1940

Situation:

[21.10]   Korevettenkapitän Looff has broken radio silence to report that the crew of U-122 are experiencing ‘strange effects’. The crew are blaming the Halo. Looff is concerned about morale and is requesting passing the Halo on to another vessel on the Jormungand route to complete its journey.

#

 Command:

[22.20]   REQUEST DENIED.

#

20th June 1940

Intelligence:

[03.00]   Reports of U-112 engaging and sinking enemy cargo ship.

Situation:

[03.15]   Korevettenkapitän Looff is reminded that the safety of the Halo is NOT to be compromised under ANY circumstances.

[22.20]   Multiple attempts to contact U-112 have been unsuccessful.

#

 22nd June 1940

Situation:

[00.45]   Garbled transmission received from U-122. Several voices talking all at once. Dive alarm heard sounding erratically in the background. Transmission ends abruptly. No further contact.

#

 Command:

[23.59]   UNACCEPTABLE. CONTACT WITH U-122 MUST BE RE-ESTABLISHED IMMEDIATELY.

#

1st July 1940

Situation:

[12.00]  U-122 declared lost along with all on-board. Fate of the Halo unknown.

 #

 

I have acquired the complete records, and, having read through them, I can find no further mention of the ship U-122 after this point, nor her mysterious cargo, the item rather ambiguously titled ‘the Halo.’

But the sinking of a submarine during war-time and allusions to its peculiar burden are, in and of themselves, no sign of the paranormal.

However, within the package from my colleague was a further document; the contact details of a gentleman named Eustace Hayes.

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4th February 1996

Eustace Hayes is a tall man, in his early sixties, with arms like tree trunks and skin stained by many a year out in the sun. I meet him in the bar he currently owns in Hue Province, central Vietnam. He was stationed here as a Technical Sergeant for the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War, and became part of the small contingent of American serviceman who stayed on after the conflict was over.

Back in the May of 1959 he was stationed at Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli, on the coast of Libya.

He invites me to sit on a small plastic stool by a low table topped by a sticky sheet of plastic. A young waitress brings us a crate of bottled beer and a bucket of ice, and in a slow but booming voice that seems to push through the humid air between us, Mr Hayes shares his story.

“The previous year, I think it was November, a group of surveyors for BP reported seeing a downed aircraft out in the desert, miles from anywhere. Top brass didn’t take them seriously at first. Why would they? There had never been any reports of missing US airplanes in the area. I think they assumed it was either a mirage or a classic bit of British leg-pulling.”

“But as the months went by, more and more people began to mention it. Apparently the location of the wreckage was now being marked on maps for the next batch of oil surveyors.”

“Well even the CO couldn’t ignore that.”

“I was an Airman at the time, and I got sent out with the first search team. And we found it, right where they said it would be. It turned out to be the wreck of the Lady Be Good.”

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The Lady Be Good was an American Heavy Bomber. Following a raid on Napels in April of 1943, she disappeared on her return to Soluch Field in Libya. She was assumed lost in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea.

Mr Hayes continues:

“It was amazing. She was split in two, but apart from that she was in almost perfect condition. You would think that fifteen or so years of just sitting there in the desert would’ve fucked her up. But the machine guns still worked, as did the radio. There was even a flask of tea on-board. It seemed drinkable too, not that we tried it.” 

“But that wasn’t the strangest we saw out there.” 

I ask him what else they found as he knocks back his beer and opens another on the edge of the table.

“Well, one of our crew noticed that there was something else on the horizon. Something glinting just over the dunes.”

“Now, remember that I told you that the wreck was being marked on maps, right? Because it was a landmark, visible from the air, yes?”

“Following that line of thinking, if there was something bigger out there, also made of metal, then logically that too would have been noticed.”

“So, we travelled about 20 miles to the north-northwest, towards whatever this thing glinting in the sand was. I don’t think any of us were prepared for what we found.”

“It was a submarine, just sitting there on her side. A German U-Boat to be precise. I recognised the insignia on her hull. And she looked to be in pristine condition. She even had her number stamped on the conning tower: U-122.”

Mr Hayes goes on to tell me how he and his crew circled the submarine, taking photographs and making notes. It’s hatch was open, but there were no signs of life, except for a set of bones about half a mile away, wrapped up in the remains of a Nazi captain’s uniform.

“It was really bizarre. It looked like whoever this man was, he’d climbed out and was crawling away across the sand. But maybe it was just the way the body had fallen.”

“As I was looking over the skeleton, Sergeant Caine climbed into the sub, through the hatch. He was only in there for a minute or two, but when he came out he was trembling, and his face was as white as a sheet.” 

“I’d known the Sarge for a few years, and he was as tough as shoe leather. I knew he’d seen some pretty nasty shit back in the Pacific. But whatever he saw in that sub must’ve really, what’s the expression you Brits use? ‘Knocked him for six’, yeah, that’s it.” 

“He was mumbling under his breath. Muttering about strange things, things that didn’t make any sense.”

“He was a mess. So we decided to pack up our gear and return to the base.” 

“The Sarge was shaking all the way home. And he was ice cold. Bear in mind that we’re in the middle of the desert, in May.”

Mr Hayes opens a third beer.

“I know what you’re gonna ask me. You’re gonna ask where the photos are that I took.”

I must confess, that was one of the questions on my mind.

“Two days later some ‘agency’ types turned up. Serious men in black suits wildly inappropriate for the climate, just like you now.” 

He smiles and winks at me.

“These fellas took everything; our photos, our notes, the lot. The made us sign something saying we would never talk about that damn submarine, or they’d throw us in jail without a trial.” 

“I’m not too bothered by their threats now. Hell, I’m an old man. What are they gonna do? I suspect they thought that no-one would believe us anyway.”

“It was never mentioned again on the base. I went out there again a few weeks later. There was no sign of the submarine. Or that she’d ever even been there in the first place.”

“And I never saw the Sarge again. Do you know what the top brass said when I asked about him? They said ‘don’t ask.'” 

To say this is a frustrating end to this case would be an understatement. But as I decide to wrap things up with Mr Hayes, he goes off upstairs and brings back a crumpled and yellowing piece of thin card.

“I’ve never shown this to anyone before. Hell, I’ve never even told anyone about it. I took it out of the uniform the body was wearing. Do an old guy a favour; don’t look at it here.”

We spoke for a little while longer as we finished our beers. As I was saying my goodbyes to Mr Hayes and thanking him for his hospitality, he shared something else with me about that day in the desert.

“As we were packing up our stuff, I noticed someone had written something in red paint on the side of the sub’s hull, in foot tall letters. At least I hope it was paint.” 

“It was in English. It said: ‘stop toying with things you do not understand’.” 

With this final piece of information occupying my thoughts, I returned to my hotel, where I duly unfolded the document the former Technical Sergeant had given to me.

It was Kriegsmarine identity card. The name stamped on it was Korvettenkapitän Hans-Günther Looff.

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This case poses many questions: Was that really U-122 that Mr Hayes and his colleagues found in the desert? If so, who or what on Earth could possibly possess the kind of power required to move her to the middle of the desert? And why did she go unnoticed for so long, indeed, if she was even there for all that time? Who were the ‘agency men’ who appeared so soon after it’s sighting? What, if anything, was the nature of U-122’s cargo, the mysterious ‘Halo’? Could the ‘strange effects’ experienced by her crew, and possibly Sergeant Caine as well, have been some kind of radiation poisoning? And who was the intended recipient of the curious message daubed on the craft’s hull?

Finally, where did this misplaced U-Boat go? Surely moving almost a thousand tonnes of submarine during peacetime would be substantially more difficult than during the chaos of World War 2, which in itself would be a Herculean feat.

Sadly, without further information, it seems the fate of the U-122 will have to remain an enigma.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

A Colossus of the Deep

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In the late November of 1861, just off the coast of Tenerife, the French steamer Alecton was cruising its way toward Cayenne when the lookout on duty called out.

Beside the ship, partly submerged beneath the waves, was what appeared to be a giant sea monster. It had several long arms, and a large, torpedo-shaped body.

The captain, one Commanduer Bouger, ordered his crew to open fire with the boat’s cannons.

Over the course of the next two hours, the Alecton scored several direct hits on the creature’s rubber-like body, which they estimated at over six metres in length.

Whilst the aquatic beast did react to the blows, it was not put off by them, merely diving several times and each time resurfacing closer to the boat.

Eventually the crew were able to harpoon the creature and lasso a rope around its body, but when they attempted to haul it aboard, its weight was so great it caused the rope to tighten and cut the beast in two.

Only the tail end of the creature made it on-board the Alecton, the rest sank beneath the waves without a trace.

Commandeur Bouger took the section of tail back to the French Consulate on Tenerife. From there it travelled to the French Academy of Sciences, accompanied by the Commandeur’s report on the incident.

The representatives of the Academy resoundingly mocked the tale of the crew of the Alecton. To them, serious men of serious science do not believe in the existence of such creatures. As one member stated: ‘it is against the very laws of nature herself.’

But in these more ‘enlightened’ times, it is possible to surmise that this fearsome creature the crew of the Alecton did battle with was, in fact, a colossal squid.

Though they are rarely sighted, and little is known of their habits, it is widely accepted in scientific fields that such squid exist.

The only example ever captured alive was caught in 2007 in the South Pacific Ocean, and measured a total of five metres from its posterior fins to the tips of its two longest feeding arms.

Whilst this in itself is impressive, the beak of this specimen was significantly smaller than the beaks of other colossal squid that have been found in the stomachs of adult sperm whales, one of the creatures few predators.

This suggests that these squid can grow much, much larger.

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In the March of 1978, the USS Stein left San Diego, California and embarked on a journey around South America, calling at ports in Peru, Ecuador, and Panama.

Somewhere along its journey, the USS Stein collided with something very large in the ocean waters. Immediately after the impact, the ship began to experience massive technical failures, culminating in the ship’s sonar system being rendered useless. Aware of the danger of attempting to carry on without it, the captain ordered the vessel to head for the Long Beach Naval Dockyard.

The ship was sent to a dry-dock so maintenance could be carried out. A highly skilled team of engineers set about repairing the damage, but when they reached the sonar dome they found considerable damage to its thick rubber coating. By their estimates, ten per cent of the dome was covered in deep scratches. Within these cuts were curved hooks, like those found within the suction cups of squid, but substantially larger.

A leading marine biologist was summoned to examine these gashes and hooks. She concluded that they did indeed come from a squid, but a squid much larger than any ever seen before.

By her estimate, the creature would have to be at least 70 metres long.

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There has been tales of monstrous cephalopods in the murky depths as long as there have been men out on the waves, and I believe cases like these validate my opinion that, just because the majority of evidence for something is merely anecdotal, it is not automatically true that such things do not exist.

Indeed, time always reveals the truth.

It is interesting however to note that the crew of the USS Stein were under the impression that they had collided with a submarine that fateful day, and even when confronted with the gashes in the rubber covering the sonar dome (an extremely resilient substance, and one not easily damaged) and the US Navy’s own report, refused to believe that they were, in fact, attacked by an unseen monster from the deep.

This may be the only example in recorded history of the government backing the more ‘fantastic’ explanation, and the actual witnesses on the ground, so to speak, siding with the mundane.

In 1992 the USS Stein was transferred to the Mexican Navy and renamed the ARM Allende. One can only speculate as to whether this was some bored naval administrators cheeky homage to one Carlos Allende, of Project Rainbow and the Philadelphia Experiment* notoriety.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* Once again, the Philadelphia Experiment pops up! The good doctor also mentioned this in his report on A Figure on Hack Green – C.R.