“A Bottle of Mezcal”

CHAPTER SEVEN

Alien autopsies, AK-47s on the Western Front. Quantum mechanics explains everything.

 

Connie Saint Vrenna stares into her device and clicks on the headline.

Mystery or hoax? Experts disagree on Cleveland Arms video

 She watches the video. She has seen it before. Nearly everyone has. A one-minute, 32-second, black-and-white clip from a pair of security cameras in an Ohio gun-supply warehouse. The first camera is outdoors, trained on the building’s rear entrance and a broken-asphalt parking lot. Twelve seconds into the video, time stamped in the lower right corner for early afternoon, the image shimmers for a half-beat, then soldiers appear, as though emerging from an invisible closet. First one, then another, one by one, until there are 12. They wear uniforms that appear to be vintage, with a wide steel infantryman’s helmet, called a Brodie, and rifles casually slung over their shoulders. They walk up to the building. One of the soldiers points his rifle at the door and soundlessly – there is no audio – fires at the heavy lock three times. Another soldier kicks at the door, knocking it open. The men file in.

The view shifts to a second camera, positioned inside the warehouse. The soldiers pass from one edge of the screen to the other. They are out of sight for perhaps 30 seconds. When they appear again, they are carrying long wooden boxes. Two men apiece, front and back, lugging two boxes between them, with two or three smaller cardboard boxes sitting on top of the larger ones. They struggle just a bit with the weight.

The view shifts again, to the parking lot. Each pair of men, still holding the boxes, seems to shimmer again and disappear, one by one, as if returning to the unseen closet.

The parking lot is empty.

Connie scrolls down and reads the accompanying news story.

 

EUCLID, Ohio – The controversial viral video known as “The Cleveland Arms Warehouse Mystery” continues to leave experts baffled after it was aired at a conference on scientific anomalies Monday in New York City. Some have declared it a hoax, while others speculate that a legitimate paranormal event has been captured on camera.

  “We have closely examined the video and find no evidence of tampering,” said Gerhardt el-Moon of Philadelphia’s Fortean League, a group committed to the study of unsolved mysteries. “The cameras appear to show us a dozen World War I-era British soldiers emerging from thin air, breaking into a warehouse, stealing 12 boxes of AK-47s, and ammunition, and then disappearing into the same thin air.

“Apparitions, disappearances. Quantum-mechanics theory now allows for the very real possibility of ghosts, spirits lost in some great calamity, souls separated from their reality and trapped in our world.”

Leonard Carter, a researcher specializing in the authentication of photographs and videos at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, scoffed at the notion that no evident sign of fraud is a guarantee of legitimacy. “An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof,” he said. “Digital manipulation is an art form. In fact, one doesn’t even need today’s technology to pull it off. Think of the many alleged UFO photos, all likely fakes or mistaken images that we’re still unable to explain. Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, ripe territory for charlatans. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in the existence of fairies after seeing photographs of cut-out drawings of little winged things taken by a pair of British school girls. He was no dummy. He simply wanted to believe.”  

Carter also pointed to the widespread belief in the veracity of an alleged alien autopsy film broadcast on national television in more than 30 countries in 1995. Even doctors were fooled by a mannequin filled with a sheep’s brain, offal from a British butcher and raspberry jelly.

According to Helen Hair of the Imperial War Museum, the uniforms worn by the soldiers in the video are either authentic or very exacting reproductions of those issued to British forces during World War I. “My only quibble is with the unit shoulder patch on the men,” she said. “The image is difficult to make out, but appears to be some sort of geometric arrangement of lines. Some come close, I can’t quite find an insignia to match. But there were hundreds.”

Even if the images of the soldiers are real, “They could have been pulled from existing film stock and digitally inserted into that security camera clip,” Carter said.

 Jack Leif, a retired Phoenix school teacher and an expert on British Army munitions dating back to the Boer War, confirmed the soldiers are carrying Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifles. “Three smashed bullets were found at the door, and they do appear to be .303 Mark II rounds with copper-nickel jackets,” he said. “So we know the arms are authentic. And, we do know that 12 boxes of AK-47s were stolen from Cleveland Arms that day. Something happened here.”       

“The idea of British soldiers taking automatic weapons to a century-old battlefield is intriguing,” Hair admitted. “But such a weapon’s presence would undoubtedly not go unnoticed in an era when armies were still riding horses at the start of the conflict.”

Carter estimates there is a 56 percent probability that the Cleveland Arms Warehouse Mystery is a digital hoax, a 28 percent probability it was recently shot with actors, a 10 percent probability it was created from the editing of existing film stock, a 3 percent likelihood that it was a product of mass hallucination and 2 percent probability that it was swamp gas.

 

Connie scrolls back to the top of the story and watches the video once again. The air shimmers, the soldiers appear, they break into the warehouse, emerge with the boxes of rifles, and slip back into… where?

She thinks: 56, 28, 10, 3 and 2. What about the remaining one percent?