I saw a film today, oh boy..."
                         — The Beatles

     While enthusiasts and detractors will continue to empty entire dictionaries attempting to describe or deride it, "authenticity" still remains the word most likely to stir a debate. In fact, this leading obsession—to validate or invalidate the reels and tapes—invariably brings up a collateral and more general concern: whether or not, with the advent of digital technology, image has forsaken its once unimpeachable hold on the truth.1
     For the most part, skeptics call the whole effort a hoax but grudgingly admit The Navidson Record is a hoax of exceptional quality. Unfortunately out of those who accept its validity many tend to swear alleigance to tabloid-UFO sightings. Clearly it is not easy to appear credible when after vouching for the film's verity, the discourse suddenly switches to why Elvis is still alive and probably wintering in the Florida Keys.2 One thing remains certain: any controversy surrounding Billy Meyer's film on flying saucers3 has been supplanted by the house on Ash Tree Lane.
     Though many continue to devote substantial time and energy to the antimonies of fact or fiction, representation or artifice, document or prank, as of late the more interesting material dwells exclusively on the interpretation of events within the film. This direction seems more promising, even if the house itself, like Melville's behemoth, remains resistant to summation.
     Much like its subject, The Navidson Record itself is also uneasily contained—whether by category or by lection. If finally catalogued as a gothic tale, contemporary urban folkmyth, or merely a ghost story, as some have called it, the documentary will still, sooner or later, slip the limits of any one of those genres. Too many important things in The Navidson Record jut out past the borders. Where one might expect horror, the supernatural, or traditional paroxysms of dread and fear, one discovers disturbing sadness, a sequence on radioactive isotopes, or even laughter over a Simpsons episode.
     In the 17th century, England's greatest topographer of worlds satantic and divine warned that hell was nothing less than "Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace/ And rest can never dwell, hope never

1A topic more carefully consiered in Chapter IX.
2See Daniel Bowler's "Resurrection on Ash Tree Lane: Elvis, Christmas Past, and Other Non-Entities" published in The House (New York: Little Brown, 1995), p. 162-244 in which he examines the inherent contradiction of any claim alleging resurrection as well as the existence of that place.
3Or for that matter the Cottingley Fairies, Kirlian photography, Ted Serios' thoughtography or Alexander

Wednesday, May 25, 2022