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Worried that there is something going on in this world that we don't quite have a handle on? For confirmation, turn to Fortean Times, "a monthly magazine of news, reviews and research on strange phenomena and experiences, curiosities, prodigies and portents". It was founded in 1973 to continue the work of Charles Fort, who was famously "sceptical about scientific explanations, observing how scientists argued according to their own beliefs rather than the rules of evidence and that inconvenient data was ignored, suppressed, discredited or explained away". Strangely, it's British.

In the online edition, the Breaking News page is where you may want to start. Alongside the news that a bun (yes, bun) said to resemble Mother Teresa of Calcutta is no longer to be displayed in the Tennessee coffee shop where it was "discovered", you get; reported sightings, by about 100 people, of the Virgin Mary in the sky above Western Samoa; a fire caused by a rat that crawled into a thatched roof to die after eating a phosphorus-based rat poison which subsequently "broke down into pure phosphorus", and ignited on exposure to air as the rat decomposed. And so, addictively, on.

The Articles department appears to contain abbreviated features from the current printed edition of Fortean Times. The June issue includes a report of "a case of apparent spontaneous human combustion" in Co Kerry. The body found "had been severely damaged by an intense and localised fire; only his head and upper torso and his feet remained unburnt. There was little smoke damage to the room or furniture". Spooky.

Or is it? The local priest, who attended the scene, said it looked "as if somebody had poured petrol into his lap", and a Gardai representative observed that the deceased "was a heavy smoker, and we know that he had suffered from blackouts and had burned himself badly in the past". I don't wish to appear "sceptical", but what was that about inconvenient data being ignored?

The site's Reporting Centre offers a great opportunity to broadcast your own spooky story to the world.

It seems, however, that some irresponsible individuals have been abusing this facility, and as a result you have to register with the spooky story monitor before you can send in your story.

There's a Millennium page that flags imminent milestones on the way to the year 2000 (or is it 2001?). You may wish to know that on 19 June at 01:37:38 there will be 22,222 hours, 22 minutes and 22 seconds to go to the millennium.

As you might expect, the links page is great fun, or at least a gateway to great fun. To explore the world of conspiracy theories, crop-circle watching and UFOs, this is the place to startn

Chris Gill

Fortean Times