It's been another weird year, but at least it's not The End.
Four years ago it was end-of-the-world this, end-of-the-world that. New books about the Mayan's allegedly dire Dec. 21, 2012, prophesies were inescapable.
Now three weeks out? Crickets.
A University of Southern Maine professor reveals why. Meanwhile, there's still time to catch a Mayan 2012 planetarium show in Maine before it's retired for keeps. Also, one ghostly update and an electric eel bound for the big time.
Not the end of the world as we know it
The Maya are in what Professor David Carey Jr. terms a "tricky spot."
Dec. 21, 2012, marks the end of their Long Count calendar, a measure of 5,125 years based on complex planetary alignment. Many, often Western, authors who have written of the date suggest it signals the Apocalypse or something close.
"This whole idea of doomsday is not part of their calendar; it's not part of any archaeological evidence," said Carey, a USM professor of history and women and gender studies. "What the Maya are afraid of — they still recognize it as an important date for sure, they'll celebrate it, they'll tend to it with reverence — and then the world will go on and they'll be blamed for nothing having happened."
Carey, 45, speaks Maya Kaqchikel and travels to Guatemala for research every few years.
That the doom and gloom has quieted as the actual date draws near may be blow-back, he said, from people such as Harold Camping predicting end times in May 2011, then again in October that year.
"My reading of what's going on is 2012-ologists and New Age people are kind of changing their tune a little bit, saying it's not going to be the end of the world, but there'll be a major shift of some sort and the change will be more spiritual as opposed to destruction," he said.
Carey will spend six weeks next summer in Antigua, Guatemala, as co-director of the Oxlajuj Aj center run through Tulane University. It's an intensive college course and where he learned to speak the language.
"To me, what would be the most significant thing to come out of this would be a broader awareness of who the Mayan are today and the sort of things they continue to struggle with — racism, violence, and how they're overcoming that," he said.
For more about the science behind that Long Count calendar, look to the skies in Orono.
The University of Maine's Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium is showing "2012: Prophesies of the Maya" on Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. It's half talk, half video shown against the full dome. Tickets are $3.
"Some people got quite worried early on about the dire prophesies that people were espousing. We wanted to make sure we got the right story out there instead of the fear," Director Alan Davenport said.
"We talk about some of the Apocalypteers and what they've been saying and how some of them are going way, way afield of anything scientific or factual," he said. "We try to let people understand, although these people sound like scientists, they're not — at least they're not good ones."
On the other hand, on the actual horizon: A comet coming close to Earth and the sun, maybe next November, he said. (Comets are hard to pin down.)
"I think that'll be more exciting closer to the event," Davenport said. "Wouldn't it be strange if that one caused the end of the Earth and it was a year late?"
Here and gone in a flash
After investigating the Topsham RollerWorld, psychic medium Eddita Felt returned in October to lead two public ghost tours.
Before one tour, Felt, from Lisbon, said she found a ghost who likes to hang out behind a skate rental counter, a child who runs the halls, a spirit who leaves coins and, unexpectedly, her own mother.
Earlier that day she had visited her sister in Southern Maine who had shared, for the first time, a dream she had had weeks before their mother's death last December.
"My mother (was) knocking on the door and calling her, 'You need to get up, you need to get up,'" Felt said. "In her dream, she heard my mom say, 'It's time for me to go; you have to get up.'"
Felt, a little skeptical, repeated the story to RollerWorld's owner, Charlene Roberts, and her mom while they waited for the tour to start.
"I said, 'Universe, you'll have to find a way to tell me whether or not this is true," Felt said.
When she finished, a man watching an infrared surveillance camera trained on the rink's darkened snack bar poked his head out. Every time Felt had said, "Donna, it's time to get up," the snack bar lit up on the infrared spectrum. Four flares in two minutes.
He played it back for the group several times.
"We all saw it," she said. "Then, when Charlene tried to make a copy, it wasn't there. It just shows nothing. It shows complete darkness."
Still, she's convinced.
"I'm a medium, so I've been saying to my mom since she left, 'You're going to have to find a way to come through to me so that I'll know that it's you and it's not my ego wishing it were you,'" Felt said. "It's got to be something in the presence of other people."
Felt plans to teach a first-time paranormal investigation class to would-be ghost hunters on Jan. 12, 13 and 20 and plans to visit the rink as part of the class, among other places.
Maybe it's his electric personality
Frank Zappa was one of the stars, and one of only two living attractions, in the Bangor Rock & Art Shop's Natural History Freak Show that ran from October to November and drew about 500 visitors. The 4.5-foot electric eel hails from the Amazon and has spent a lot of time here at the bottom of his tank, motionless, next to a replica human skull.
Now that the show has wrapped, Frank will reside in the back office, said Tony Sohns, who co-owns the shop with his sisters.
But the eel is not slipping into obscurity.
Sohns said he's been approached by a photographer who recently moved to Northern Maine from Los Angeles and wants to experiment with Frank in some of his work.
"We are going to get Frank to zap some film in the near future," Sohns said.
Another Portland artist plans to pull together an art show next summer "using the eel."
Hmm. Eel as art? Hello, 2013.
Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly series on the strange, intriguing and unexplained in Maine. Send ideas, photos and prophecies to firstname.lastname@example.org