Category Archives: Alternate Reality Game

‘Vanishing’ Towns That May (Or May Not) Have Really Existed

Did Scientists In Ong’s Hat, NJ, Burrow Into Another Dimension?

Near where New Jersey Route 72 intersects with Route 70, there’s little left to mark what was once a small town called Ong’s Hat – but it was, in fact, really there. You can find evidence of its history in things like a local street called Ong’s Hat Road.

Depending on who you ask, it may have once been a bustling town, or nothing more than a stopover point for a farmer with the surname Ong who was transporting goods from Little Egg Harbor to Burlington. Midway between, the farmer built a hut where he could spend the night, and over time, Ong’s Hut became Ong’s Hat.

Whatever the case may be, the town (if ever was one) is no longer there, but it left its mark. In fact, there’s an online conspiracy theory suggesting the town is gone because it’s in another dimension. But if that’s not the case, where did the story come from?

The answer lies in a sort of alternate reality game (ARG) or a work of meta-fiction created by Joseph Matheny, among others, on early BBS sites and other places during the internet’s early years. The story suggested that some Princeton scientists working in Ong’s Hat had found a way to reach another dimension and, ultimately, took themselves and their studies to this alternate Earth. Alternatively, the government wiped them out to keep their discoveries quiet.

If it is, in fact, widely known that this story of inter-dimensional scientists is fiction, why would people still believe it? Because, according to conspiracy theorists, its creators supposedly had to pretend it was fiction in order to protect themselves from the government.


Ong’s Hat isn’t a place, it’s a world. by waxbanks

Ong’s Hat isn’t a place, it’s a world.
by waxbanks


Stating what should be obvious:

Ong’s Hat — not the ghost town in New Jersey but the fictional town-story overlaid on it by Joseph Matheny and later collaborators/followers — isn’t a place, though it’s certainly tied to one. Rather, it’s a way of experiencing a place: once again we’re recasting supposed discrete form and substance as modes of relation. Understanding story-system, meaning-system, ideological system, etc. as perceptual filters, you might be better able to imagine how they stack and interact, and how they seem to alter experiences deeply but not so predictably and not at all consistently.

Ong’s Hat doesn’t need to make sense, only to perturb sense — it’s ‘true’ in the way any filtering functioning is ‘true’: it does what it does to how you see. It un-senses you.

Seeing the transmedia project in this way we can avoid the twin traps of (1) reducing it to ‘just’ a game/story and (2) treating it like a set of fact-claims. ‘You determine your own level of involvement.’ As with so many conspiracy theories (not only explicitly, intentionally fictional ones), the fiction offers entry to a feedback loop between new/fictional thought, new/provisional belief, and new/exploratory action. All three arcs of the circle might be termed ‘generative’ — creative. Fiction, provision, exploration.

And of course bullshit.

The Ghost Of Ong’s Hat by Nigel Roth

The Ghost Of Ong’s Hat by Nigel Roth
In the 1980s, a writer and transmedia artist called Joseph Wayne Matheny, who was born on Christmas Eve in the early sixties, wrote The Incunabula Papers, a tale that follows a series of narratives about time travel, and tells the story of a gateway to a parallel dimension at Ong’s Hat. When Matheny stated that the books were mere fiction, many saw these denials as evidence of government intervention and suppression, and they continue to this day to accept the gateway as fact, despite the improbability of a door to another world.

The truth of Ong’s Hat will probably never be known, and its rise and fall – if it ever rose and fell – is lost to the decades that have wiped the town from today’s maps.


a color photo of an elderly Peter Lamborn Wilson with a microphone reading from Temporary Autonomous Zone, Photo by Chris Funkhouser

by David Tighe
Fifth Estate # 412, Fall, 2022…

Peter Lamborn Wilson is best known for the book TAZ.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchism, Poetic Terrorism, and rightfully so. Written as Hakim Bey and first published by Autonomedia in 1991, many of the texts in TAZ had circulated for years in the ’80s zine underground.

Drawing inspiration from the Situationists, classical anarchism, continental philosophy (Lyotard’s Driftwork, Deleuze & Guattari’s Nomadology), pirate utopias, the American communitarian tradition, and dropouts of every sort, Wilson did not invent the TAZ—he just gave it a name.

The book and the concept of the TAZ served as a sort of lightning rod. It received ringing denunciations from some quarters (Murray Bookchin dismissed it as lifestyle anarchism) and was a source of inspiration for generations of rebels and anarchists who did not want to wait for the revolution to have experiences of freedom and autonomy in their lives.

It informed the philosophy and tactics of Reclaim the Streets, the squatters movement, Burning Man, Occupy Wall Street, radical environmental camps, and the anti-Globalization movement. Anarchists, punks, ravers, hackers, activists, dropouts, and revolutionaries of many stripes took what they wanted, magpie-like, from an inspired and colorful text.

The Z.A.D. (zone à défendre) in France, and the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle are just two of the recent manifestations that drew inspiration from TAZ. It is a book that has left its stamp on anarchist tactics and direct action and continues to be discovered by new generations who re-imagine it for the present moment.

Peter Lamborn Wilson was an anarchist, author, poet, independent scholar, and visual artist. His work did not stop in the 30+ years since TAZ was first published. Although his ideas evolved over the years, he never turned his back on the TAZ concept, nor did he mind when younger generations took it to very different places than he would have.

Wilson was a student radical and a classics major at Columbia University before dropping out in the mid-1960s. He spent time at Timothy Leary’s Millbrook LSD estate and participated in the psychedelic churches movement. In a memoir, he recounts his attempt at being an anarchist bomber, which failed when his bomb fizzled.

Disillusioned by the failure of revolution in America, he traveled to Afghanistan and India, seeking initiation into various spiritual traditions. Eventually ending up in Iran at the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy, he edited their English language journal Sophia Perennis, studying (and practicing) Iranian Sufism, and translating Sufi and Ismali poetry from Persian. This exploration of the heterodox edges of Islam continued after his forced emigration from Iran after the revolution in 1979.

His interest in antinomianism (anti, “against”; nomos, “law”), sexual liberation, and heresy within various religious traditions continued his entire life in both research and spiritual practice. He admired figures like Sabbatai Sevi, Jacob Frank, African American Islamic pioneer and prophet Noble Drew Ali, Catholic anarchists Ivan Illich, Dorothy Day, and Ammon Hennacy, Abeizer Coppe of the 17th century Ranters, William Blake, Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi, French Utopian Charles Fourier, and many others. His writings are peppered with examples of colorful sects, failed messiahs, and millenarian uprisings.

Returning to the United States in the 1980s and settling in New York, Wilson reconnected with the anarchist movement. He was instrumental in the reinvigoration of the Libertarian Book Club. Using the original sense of libertarian (i.e., anarchist), the LBC was originally founded by Sam and Esther Dolgoff in 1945. Wilson and a new generation of anarchists connected with the Dolgoffs and many other old timers who had known Emma Goldman.

Another active member of the LBC at the time was Frank Brand (Enrico Arrigoni), a fascinating Stirinerite illegalist anarchist who was a veteran of anarchist struggles in Italy during World War I. Wilson wrote about Brand and was instrumental in getting his memoir (Freedom: My Dream) republished in 2012.

Wilson also inherited a radio show on the venerable radical New York City institution, WBAI. Beginning in 1987, The Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade was a vital source for information about anarchist and subcultural activities in New York. Wilson went through his mailbag live on-air promoting the vibrant blossoming of radical ideas happening in the zine scene at the time.

Announcements were made for upcoming episodes of Tuli Kupferberg’s anarchist TV show, fundraisers for various causes and upcoming protests. Reports from the crumbling Soviet bloc, long form interviews, and fascinating music were mainstays, along with reports from co-host Bill Weinberg about the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas and other hot spots in Latin America.

At the same time, Peter was a member of the editorial collective at Autonomedia publishing, and a co-editor of its New Autonomy series. Many readers first encountered the work of John Zerzan, Silvia Federici, Steve Abbot, the Critical Art Ensemble, Jacques Camatte, Th. Metzger, or Bart Plantenga through that series. Autonomedia was publishing the journal Semiotext(e) at that time, and Wilson co-edited two very important issues.

Semiotext(e) USA (1987) was the first book length exploration of the 1980s underground zine scene, and brought together a wild array of voices from zines ranging from totally obscure figures to well known literary ones like William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Later, through Ginsberg, Wilson taught at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colo.

Recordings exist of all the courses he taught and faculty readings. They are worth checking out to get a feeling for Wilson’s gift of gab. He was a tremendous speaker—funny, charismatic, extremely knowledgeable about a wide range of topics—in any context. In lecture hall, radio broadcast, or face-to-face conversation, Wilson was a natural.

At Naropa, he befriended Shaman-in-residence Harry E. Smith, the legendary curator of the Anthology of American Folk Music and film maker. Wilson inherited the challenge of editing Smith’s Naropa lectures into book form, one of several yet-to-be-published book projects.

Semiotext(e) SF (1989) brought together many of the same voices from the zine world with many of the most radical voices in (professional) science fiction. These connections to the science fiction world had developed through Wilson writing anarchist-themed science fiction stories for both amateur and professional publications. He wrote six or seven short stories around this time, most of which were collected in his book False Documents (2016). He also has a lost sci-fi novel, Hunter’s Moon.

A second volume of sci-fi-inflected fiction was published in 2017, Night Market Noodles. Through an unlikely series of events (and tech savvy friend, Joseph Matheny) two of these early stories moved onto BBS boards and the Internet, morphing into Ong’s Hat, the first alternate reality game (ARG).

Wilson was actively involved in anarchist agitation against the colonialist celebration of the quincentenary of Columbus’s journey and subsequent genocide. One of the things that came out of this agitation was the influential collection Gone To Croatan: The Origins of North American Dropout Culture, which documented the hidden history of resistance to colonialism in North America.

It brought together an all-star cast of radical scholars, scholarly radicals, activists, and artists, and provided tangible evidence that “another world is possible,” and it was there the whole time if you just knew where to look. Wilson helped conceive of the project and assisted co-editors Ron Sakolsky and James Koehnline to bring the volume together.

There is no complete bibliography of Wilson’s work, but his Wikipedia page lists 56 books. He was a prolific writer in many different subjects and the very model of an independent radical scholar.

Wilson was a historian, promoter, and participant in the American communalist tradition. He was a radical historian of piracy in the tradition of E.P. Thompson, Larry Law, and Marcus Rediker. He wrote historical work about anarchism, eugenics, the fringes of Free Masonry, entheogens in Ireland, the last stand of classical Paganism in 5th century Egypt, contemporary art, and was a well-respected poet with 20+ published volumes.

He was a regular figure in the anarchist press, publishing extensively in the Fifth Estate and various zines and micro publications from the 1980s until his death.

Later in life, despite poor health, Wilson remained enthusiastic about the Kurdish struggle, and edited a volume about the Rojava Revolution. He was passionately interested in Indigenous resistance, soliciting information about, and raising money for Wet’suwet’en land defenders in so-called Canada.

He lived out the last years of his life in upstate New York in poverty, surrounded by piles of books, manuscripts, letters from his vast numbers of correspondents, objets d’art, strange religious artifacts, and many friends.

Peter Lamborn Wilson was a brilliant mind who was generous with his time and encouragement. He was a scholar dedicated to human liberation, a lifelong anarchist (from the age of 12, converted by George Herriman’s Krazy Kat) and one of our few truly great anarchist literary figures.

Hail and farewell, Peter Lamborn Wilson: October 20, 1945-May 22, 2022.

David Tighe is an anarchist, mail artist, and zine maker living in Alberta, Canada.


This show has now made Pokémon creepy to me.” Augmented and Alternate Reality Games, Interactive Narrative and the Documentary TV Series Hellier

Regardless of whether it is a genuine documentary or not, the series certainly represents the investigative team’s immersion in an interactive quest narrative comparable to such Alternate Reality Games as Joseph Matheny’s Ong’s Hat from 1988 – widely considered to be the first Alternate Reality Game and, like Wriste, associated with both anarchism and occultism – or The Jejune Institute (2008-11) devised by Jeff Hull, which appears to be influenced by Situationism. The team’s immersion parallels the experience of Hellier viewers, such as Dessie_Hull, who are active on Reddit and other social media platforms where they discuss not only the series but also the numerous esoteric texts referenced by the investigators throughout both seasons. It may be, then, that Hellier is not only a work of fiction but also itself an Alternate Reality Game, in which viewers who believe that it is a work of non-fiction are unwitting participants to the extent that, for Dessie_Hull, it has affected their participation in an Augmented Reality Game, the obviously fictional (being based on an existing media franchise) Pokémon GO


My Old Friend, Nick Herbert in The New Yorker

My old friend gets a nod in the New Yorker regarding his contribution to quantum computing.

The World-Changing Race to Develop the Quantum Computer

Such a device could help address climate change and food scarcity, or break the Internet. Will the U.S. or China get there first?

But Clauser had also demonstrated that entangled particles were more than just a thought experiment. They were real, and they were even stranger than Einstein had thought. Their weirdness attracted the attention of the physicist Nick Herbert, a Stanford Ph.D. and LSD enthusiast whose research interests included mental telepathy and communication with the afterlife. Clauser showed Herbert his experiment, and Herbert proposed a machine that would use entanglement to communicate faster than the speed of light, enabling the user to send messages backward through time. Herbert’s blueprint for a time machine was ultimately deemed unfeasible, but it forced physicists to start taking entanglement seriously. “Herbert’s erroneous paper was a spark that generated immense progress,” the physicist Asher Peres recalled, in 2003.

Read the entire article: