Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the series.

From the 1985 claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain

Originally published on Medium on 31 March 2022

I like to think of rabbit holes as explorations without a question in pursuit of information that isn’t an answer. This is how I maintain the guardrails of delightful inquiry.

With this in mind, I want to share a story about a fascinating and bizarre rabbit hole I recently fell down.

Do they watch you sleep at night?

It all started a month ago with a throw-away comment to a friend about masks watching them sleep at night.

We hadn’t spoken in weeks, but I saw them on social media and fired off a quick DM. This led to a conversation that, out of respect for privacy, will remain private. The relevant bits to come out of this conversation have to do with them telling me a story about a white mask that was directly tied to things angelic in nature. And by angelic, I mean the biblical beings, not porcelain figurines with harps.

My friend sent me the image of a plain white mask, and seeing it unlocked the memory of a movie I hadn’t thought of in a long time — The Adventures of Mark Twain. (Sidenote: crafted by the same artist responsible for the California Raisins!) The movie was released in 1985, a year ahead of Halley’s Comet’s return.

Mark Twain’s Mysterious Stranger

For those who don’t know, Mark Twain was born in 1835 when Halley’s Comet passed by Earth, and died upon its return in 1910. In fact, he stated in 1909, “I came in with Halley’s Comet. It is coming again next year. The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’”

The movie follows Twain characters Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher as they stow away on the airship Twain is using to meet Halley’s comet as it passes by. We soon learn that there is one other figure aboard clad in black and wearing a black brimmed hat. This, it turns out, is the other aspect of Twain.

The airship is equipped with magic doors that let the children experience scenes from several of Twain’s more poignant works. At one point the dark version of the author opens one of the magic doors on the airship to reveal to the children the story of The Mysterious Stranger.

This is the imagery I remembered when I saw the mask:

The figure in the Mysterious Stranger forms into a headless, red-leather-armor-clad being holding a white masquerade mask through which it speaks and emotes.

The children ask, “What are you?” It replies, “An angel.” They then inquire, “What’s your name?” The Mysterious Stranger answers, “Satan.”

I shared the clip to my friend. We both had a mild freak-out, and that was that.

But it piqued my interest.

I looked up The Mysterious Stranger. Twain attempted to write this story several times, dying before any version was ever published. Each of the unfinished manuscripts followed a mysterious stranger who was identified at times as Satan’s nephew, Satan, and at other times as №44, New Series 864,962.

In 1916, Harper’s Bazaar published a version in serial form as well as in full novel form. This copy was available free online, so I gave it a quick read. It was clearly the inspirational content for the scene in the film.

Both published versions conclude with the same words from The Mysterious Stranger:

“It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream — a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought — a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!”

In the 1960s a Twain scholar discovered that the version of The Mysterious Stranger published by Harper’s had taken some liberties with the author’s draft. A second version, based on one of the more complete manuscripts, was published in 1969 entitled №44 The Mysterious Stranger.

Well, with all of these numbers, I decided to play with one of my favorite number-related tools, the NAEQ (New Aeon English Qabalah).

The NAEQ, in brief

I am not in the least bit qualified to lecture on the nature of this tool, so I will hand it over to the experts for a deeper dive if you are looking for more information:

The short of it is: You enter text. The database converts the text to a number value based on the cipher key. It then spits out phrases from Crowley’s works (primarily Liber AL, the Book of the Law) that have the same numerical value.

As a serious tool, it is subject to a great deal of confirmation bias. For example, my given name returns the value of 96 and 90 corresponding phrases. Within that list of results is the phrase MY BOSOM. I can decide that means something to me because I’m vain, while ignoring the words THOU FAIL and UNFIT.

So, yeah. There’s a mountain sized grain of salt, a lot of introspection, and a sense of humor that must come with using this system.

But, as a thought game? It’s a helluva lot of fun.

This is when I tumbled right into the rabbit hole.

A mask of sorrow

I started with Mark Twain.

Mark Twain, with a value of 108, returned the result: A MASK OF SORROW

Funny, that! What with the whole mask thing.

Then I typed in Samuel Clements. Value of 176, the result was: A MASK OF SORROW THEY

Huh. Strange.

I entered: Mark Twain Samuel Clemens. 284. A MASK OF SORROW THEY THAT SEE

Okay, now I was really baffled!

I remembered the reason I started down this path, and typed in No 44 The Mysterious Stranger.



And now I was having that free-fall sensation at the pit of my stomach. Not a bad feeling. A distinct feeling. The feeling of movement without movement, a nothing kind of excitement.

No 44 The Mysterious Stranger Mark Twain. 484. A MASK OF SORROW THEY THAT SEE THEE SHALL

What else could I add to see where this phrase ended? Well, Satan and Angel both came up. But he was Satan’s nephew, Satan. So he wasn’t THE Satan. He was A Satan.

No 44 The Mysterious Stranger Mark Twain a Satan Angel.



This line come from The Book of the Law paragraph 53:

53. Fear not, o prophet, when these words are said, thou shalt not be sorry. Thou art emphatically my chosen; and blessed are the eyes that thou shalt look upon with gladness. But I will hide thee in a mask of sorrow: they that see thee shall fear thou art fallen: but I lift thee up.

I typed in Angel. It’s value?

53. FALL DOWN. IN WAR. But also, amusingly: CAKES.

Then I typed in Satan. Value of 45. I AM. A funny result, all things considered.

I typed in Mark. Value of 43. A STAR.

I typed in 44. A BOOK.

And then the maps

I stopped there, feeling I had run out the search. I pondered it all for a few days, letting it settle and seeing if that pit-of-the-stomach feeling was gone, which is usually my indication that I am through with a line of inquiry.

The feeling persisted, gently.

About a week later, I was talking to a friend on the West Coast. Out of the blue she asked, “You know the map thing you do? Do you think you can do that for me, to see if it passes anything important?”

The “map thing” she was referring to is connecting two significant locations on a map and seeing if the line between them passes through any locations of personal significance or areas of high strangeness.

It’s something I started toying with a little over a year ago after watching Hellier for the first time and seeing Karl make connections in the same fashion.

The first one I attempted actually delivered a lot of in terms of personal significance. I connected the burial site of one of my ancestors who lived in Pike County, KY to a cemetery of importance to my partner located in Fargo, ND. When I followed the line it passed within a few miles of a statistically significant number of places his ancestors and my ancestors settled on their trek west to Minnesota. It even passed homes we’d bought and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival grounds where we’d met and still work together to this day.

I love maps. I used to pour over the old atlas books in my dad’s office when I was a kid. So, any chance to play with maps, I’m game. My friend asked me to use Coos Bay, OR as one of the end points.

This friend had watched Hellier and was a fellow Museum Clubhouse member, so I mentioned to her the line another friend of mine, Shawn Knight, had drawn connecting Somerset, KY to a place in New Hampshire.

I’d forgotten the name of the city in New Hampshire. Fortunately I could look in my Google Maps history and find it, since I’d played with the same line he created after learning about it.

I scrolled back to the last time I’d searched in New Hampshire. This is what I found:

The city in New Hampshire is located in Coos County

Again: hello, synchronicity! Bi-coastal Coos. Oh, and Coos Bay is located in — Coos County. Oregon.

The city was Lancaster, NH. I figured a line is great, but a triangle is better, so I wanted to connect her line to that line with the point of the triangle at Somerset, KY.

I made my beautiful triangle:

Coos Bay, Coos County, OR to Lancaster, Coos County, NH to Somerset, KY — bending for the curvature of the Earth.

I saw it passed through Missouri, so I thought to myself, “There’s no way it passes by anything Mark Twain related, is there?”

Well… within 7 miles of the line is Florida, MO — the birthplace of Mark Twain.

The line passing within 7 miles of Florida, MO — the birthplace of Mark Twain.

This was all very odd.

A few days later, I watched The Adventures of Mark Twain again for the first time in well over 25 years. It was a fascinating journey to go on through the lens of an adult.

After watching the film I looked up information on the production. It was made in a makeshift studio in Portland, OR.

Well, I hopped back over to the map and redrew the line between Portland, OR and Somerset, KY.


The line drawn between the center of Portland, OR to the center of Somerset, KY passes directly next to the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge across the Mississippi River in Hannibal, MO

All of this for… nothing?

The thing about rabbit holes is that they’re fun to dig into, but if you don’t listen to our body and come up for air, they can suffocate you.

I have always been good about listening to when that pit-of-the-stomach feeling releases, and pulling back from my dig for a while. The last thing I want to do is lose myself to maps and numbers that ultimately mean… nothing?

Honestly, what I tend to find at the bottom of rabbit holes is a stack of books. I’ve taken on three new books thanks to this adventure: both versions of The Mysterious Stranger as well as Jung’s Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle.

I encourage the enthusiastic exploration of rabbit holes — as long as you know when to come up for air.

Oh, but there’s one more thing…

This past weekend I popped on Hellier, Season 2, Episode 9: The Center of Your Mind.

Page | Posts

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t believe in magic, or that when I spoke with the trees they could hear me, or that one day I would see a unicorn.

I still believe all these things, but more than that, I have grown in curiosity over the years.

My path had largely been solitary, and while I do enjoy my alone time, I love supporting community and finding opportunities to support independent creators, artists, thinkers, and performers.

The Weirdo Collective is a passion project. The idea was sparked by two desires:
1. To keep up with the content my freinds create, regardless of how regularly they post
2. To have a searchable database of Weird thought so we have a better chance of building on ideas and learning from one another.

My personal favorite topics are: lucid dreaming, rocks, nature energy, teaching natural observation skills, and diversity in Weird spaces.