Nic: From Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, it’s Tanis. I’m Nic Silver. We’re telling the story of Tanis in order every two weeks, so if you haven’t listened to the first ten episodes, go back and start there. We’ll try not to get too far ahead by the time you get back.
So last week Melanie Nedved took me to meet The Grackles, a group of fringe scientists researching an area of the Pacific Northwest, an area located along the perimeter of a region that may or may not be connected to Tanis. I'll have more on that shortly. But first, as promised, Cameron Ellis was going to show me something.
- Ellis: Thanks for coming.
- Nic: Of course, it's uh...
- Ellis: I'm gonna get right to it if that's alright.
- Nic: Yeah. Okay. That's...
- Ellis: Alright.
- (footsteps, doors opening)
Nic: Cameron Ellis met me in the lobby of the tall Kubrickian building MK yanked me out of a few episodes back. He led me through a security checkpoint into a large elevator. We stepped out on the fourth floor and walked down a long hallway to a second elevator, which took us down again. At this point I must have looked worried, because Cameron Ellis smiled and explained that this elevator accessed a different section of the building. The elevator opened into what appeared to be some kind of huge underground lab. Although the first word that popped into my head to describe it was "bunker."
- Nic: What is this place?
- Ellis: It's a research facility mainly. We do some light laboratory work as well.
- Nic: Eh, what are they researching? Tanis?
- Ellis: They would have no idea what that word means.
- Nic: Oh.
- Ellis: You know, unless they've been listening to your show.
- Nic: Right. Um.
- Ellis: They're simply researching signals and data as it comes in.
- Nic: Signals and data from where?
- Ellis: All over.
- Nic: And to what end?
- Ellis: Environmental analysis, pattern recognition, territorial changes.
- Nic: Tanis?
- Ellis: It's a complicated set of values.
- Nic: Right, okay. So what did you bring me down here to show me?
- Ellis: It looked like Carl van Sant might have a few more things to tell us from beyond the grave.
- Nic: From his tapes?
- Ellis: Listen to this.
- (loud whooshing over deep vocal noises)
- Nic: What is it?
- Ellis: It's audio from one of Carl's cassette tapes. It was unlabeled.
- Nic: Do you have any idea what's making those sounds?
- Ellis: We believe the signal originated in Russia based on the age of the cassette, the grouping, and the label.
- Nic: Carl van Sant was stationed in Russia in the 90's, I think.
- Ellis: Yes. But there's more.
- Nic: (pause) Uh, what is it?
- Ellis: Listen to this.
- (loud whooshing, followed by deep vocal noises)
- Nic: Okay, it sounds like more of the same.
- Ellis: It's not the same.
- Nic: What do you mean?
- Ellis: This was recorded underwater.
- Nic: What, really? Where? When?
- Ellis: March 1st, 1999. It was loud enough to be heard over the entire Equatorial Pacific Ocean Autonomous Hydrophone Array.
- Nic: Okay, that sounds... loud. How long did it last?
- Ellis: 15 seconds. They thought it was an iceberg.
- Nic: Do you think it was an iceberg?
- Ellis: (pause) I do not.
- Nic: Tanis?
- Ellis: It's complicated. There are many... facets, threads to follow. It's hard to explain.
- Nic: Yeah, I get that a lot.
- Ellis: I'll bet.
- Nic: So what is this underwater recording tell you, if anything, research wise about what I'm calling Tanis?
- Ellis: One theory is some... thing might be trying to communicate. It's not a popular theory, but you marry it to certain other... factors, potential changes in geography...
- Nic: Right, so you think something might be trying to communicate. Like? What? A whale?
- Ellis: We're looking into it. It's probably not a whale.
- Nic: Right. So is there anything else you can tell me? Any starting point? Any location on a map? Anything that might help me learn something more about Tanis? The thing that I'm calling Tanis?
- Ellis: (long pause) Like you, we uncovered a possible measurement of latitude. But we're not entirely sure it's accurate.
- Nic: Right.
- (footsteps echoing in a hallway, papers shuffling)
- Nic: What's this?
- Ellis: If you sign this form I'll be able to go into a few more details about what we do here.
- Nic: (laughs nervous) Um. Do I need a lawyer?
- Ellis: You're welcome to a lawyer, but I think you'll find it's pretty straightforward.
- (pen scratching against paper)
- Ellis: Okay then. What would you like to know?
- Nic: Were you the one that... magnetically erased Carl van Sant's tapes when they were at the studio?
- Ellis: No.
- Nic: Really?
- Ellis: Really. Anything else?
- Nic: Um. What about the novel Pacifica? And what happened with your daughter?
- Ellis: Avery went onto my computer. She was acting out. It's not uncommon.
- Nic: True, but... that was a lot more than simply ruining your mother's favorite dress or coming home late from a party.
- Ellis: Yes, it was.
- Nic: Do you happen to have a copy of the novel Pacifica?
- Ellis: No.
- Nic: What happened to it?
- Ellis: It's not what you think.
- Nic: No?
- Ellis: There was considerable... (long pause) There was considerable spin.
- Nic: Okay. I have time.
- Ellis: Julie Sanders, or Green, isn't living in Antarctica.
- Nic: No?
- Ellis: No. The woman you spoke with works for me. Julie Sanders died.
- Nic: When?
- Ellis: A while ago.
- Nic: So, what, you paid some woman to lie to me?
- Ellis: It's more complicated than that.
- Nic: Again, I have time.
- Ellis: I'm afraid that's all I can tell you at the moment.
- Nic: Are you sure?
- Ellis: I'm positive.
- Nic: Alright, um.
- Ellis: Is there anything else?
- Nic: Uh, yes (laughs). There certainly is. How about anything and everything you can tell me about this... thing?
- Ellis: You know, it's easy to become-
- Nic: Obsessed?
- Ellis: (long pause) I was going to say "engaged" but, yes, it's a compelling thing.
- Nic: By "it" you mean Tanis?
- Ellis: We're not sure.
- Nic: But by "it" you mean something?
- Ellis: We're not sure about that either. But our data has been leading us in that direction.
- Nic: Well that sounds promising.
- Ellis: Maybe. But our data has been leading us in that direction for decades.
- Nic: Oh.
- Ellis: (long pause) There is something else. Something about this breach in particular.
- Nic: Breach?
- Ellis: The thing you're calling Tanis.
- Nic: What about it?
- Ellis: We believe it's expanding.
Nic: Even though he did have me sign a security document, Cameron Ellis appeared to have softened his stance on my continued public exploration of Tanis. He's allowed me to divulge everything we discussed and, although I don't believe for a second that he let me everything he's keeping behind the curtain, so to speak, he was kind enough to allow me access to their analysis of Carl's tapes.
It was interesting seeing all of the numbers stations and possible location elements mapped out, but there wasn't much new there. I kept coming back to Cameron Ellis' tone when describing the nature of Tanis. There was someone else who described Tanis in a very similar way. The person who, in many ways, was responsible for igniting my interest in the myth in the first place, Professor Adams.
Professor Adams' enigmatic description of Tanis indicated that sometimes it was a place, sometimes it might be a person or a thing. At one point he actually alluded to Tanis as a cat. Here he is again in a brief telephone interview conducted by Pacific Northwest Stories for that story or segment on Atlantis that never aired.
- Adams: There are a number of complicated issues surrounding the Tanis myth. It's similar to any modern strangeness: the Yeti, the Bermuda Triangle, the (Meacham Radiant? 0:11:49.9). These things attract clutter or static. Tanis is the most difficult of these mythologies to unpack. Tanis could be some kind of access point, for lack of better description, a door or gateway of sorts, through geography, the human mind, a set of atoms vibrating in an artifact. Maybe Tanis is all of these things, or none of them. I don't subscribe to any of the alternate dimension theories. I think it's more organic, related to some kind of reaction by your... Tanis is kind of hard to pin down.
Nic: There are a few more unintelligible bits and then... this.
- Adams: For example, look at the potential recent iteration of Tanis in the Pacific Northwest. In our contemporary world, genius loci generally refers to a specific location or region's unique atmosphere or spirit. But the term dates way back. The genius loci, or protective spirit of a place, or guardian spirit of the crossroads, was very popular in many ancient religions. Some Roman altars featured cornucopia, paterna, snakes. Each dedicated to a specific genius loci.There were many cults and expensive rituals sacrifices. Some of these rights were reputedly incredibly savage. In almost every mythological representation, genius loci is bound to the area it protects. The myth of Tanis has much in common with the genius loci, but there appear to be other complications where Tanis is concerned. Many other elements or factors to consider. That's what makes the Tanis myth so compelling. And, to be honest, frustrating.
- MK: You want me to help you explain it?
- Nic: If you don't mind, for the listeners.
- MK: You're paying. Where do you want me to start?
- Nic: Um, the classified ads, I guess.
- MK: Okay (sighs). It looks like they were meeting up, gathering, to discuss Tanis or whatever.
- Nic: And where were these meetings taking place?
- MK: All over the country. They'd place a classified ad with two contact numbers, but they were never working, the numbers.
- Nic: How do you know?
- MK: Really?
- Nic: (laughs) Right, okay. Well, if they weren't working numbers, why include them?
- MK: Because they were measurements of longitude and latitude.
- Nic: They were sending directions to locations for meetings?
- MK: Exactly.
- Nic: Okay, is this still happening?
- MK: I don't think so, no. I wasn't able to find anything later than the early 80's.
- Nic: So how do we move from the classified ad people to the modern cult that allegedly kidnapped Sam Reynolds?
- MK: Right, well I haven't been able to directly connect the classified ad version of the cult, but I did manage to dig up something on Nathaniel Carter.
- Nic: So, not a ghost?
- MK: Not entirely, no.
- Nic: What did you find?
- MK: I traced a bunch of auction purchases to a few different holding companies. It looks like this guy is a collector of ancient cult mythology. And I mean "cult" as in, nobody's ever heard of it, not "cult" as in Rosemary's Baby.
- Nic: (laughs) Right. What kind of stuff does he collect?
- MK: It varies, but it appears his biggest area of interest is stuff relating to Babylonian and Sumerian mythology. And some fiction: Lovecraft, Derleth, (Braid? 0:15:26.2). It looks like Cthulhu, Mithra, and Eld Fen are his main jams.
- Nic: Morgan Miller told me that the people Sam Reynolds was involved with referenced that name, “Eld Fen.” They said "The Navigator knows they way to Eld Fen." Does that... did you...
- MK: (laughing) That sounds like a whole lotta fuckin’ crazy.
- Nic: That's actually what Morgan Miller said about the same subject.
- MK: Yeah, you'll have to go to a library.
- Nic: Really?
- MK: Yeah. There's nothing anywhere online, I'm afraid. Like I said, it's niche stuff: it's rare, weird.
- Nic: Right.
- MK: Oh! Actually, before I forget, I may have found Veronika Pillman.
- Nic: Really? Where?
- MK: The Hanslope Park file, I “accessed” earlier was updated recently to indicate that Veronika Pillman has been working at a used bookstore in Bellingham as recently as three months ago.
- Nic: Another bookstore makes sense, I suppose.
- MK: I sent you the address.
- Nic: Great, thanks.
- MK: Yeah no sweat. She was using the name Sarah Grinko.
- Nic: Sarah Grinko. Okay, thanks.
- MK: Ciao.
- Man: Hey.
- Nic: Hey, I called earlier. I'm looking for a woman named Sarah Grinko.
- Man: Uh, right. I remember.
- Nic: And you mentioned on the phone that she worked here a while ago?
- Man: She did. It was before my time though.
- Nic: Did she leave any forwarding information, or is there anyone here that was close with her, or?
- Man: And this is for a radio show or something?
- Nic: Yeah, it's a podcast.
- Man: Okay well, there is something here.
- Nic: Something here? What do you mean?
- Man: She's coming in.
- Nic: She's coming in, really?
- Man: Yeah, she ordered some books last week. They just came in, I emailed her and she replied. She says she's coming in tomorrow before 5:00.
- Nic: I don't suppose you could give me her email address?
- Man: Sorry.
- Nic: Right, I understand. Um, okay. Thank you.
- Man: Good luck.
- Nic: Thanks.
Nic: So I knew where I was going to be spending the next day. In that bookstore, waiting for Veronika Pillman.
In the meantime, I went back to Seattle, to the library, to try and dig up something on Eld Fen. Apparently this stuff is pretty hard to track down. They didn't have anything at the library, but there was a specialty used bookstore that had a few volumes related to the subject of ancient myths and literature.
Eld Fen. Apparently this thing goes back a long way. The legend of Eld Fen is old, like, Beowulf old. And rare. It's barely mentioned anywhere, and if it is, it's usually in passing. Apparently Robert W. Chambers, HP Lovecraft, and, later, August Derleth were inspired by this legend. Like Beowulf, the authorship is unknown, passed down through oral tradition mainly. I was able to find a manuscript, something Chambers referenced in a couple of letters to one of his publishers. He indicated he'd been inspired, actually obsessed, with the world of Eld Fen and felt connected to it in a strange way. Lovecraft was definitely aware of Eld Fen as well, and most likely based Cthulhu and the Ancient Ones, along with the Mad Arab and the Necronomicon, in part at least on the myth of Eld Fen.
I did manage to dig up part of a short story and some collected fragments of fiction and poetry related to Eld Fen. In a handwritten note near the bottom of the last page, the author indicated that he or she had based the story on some old poetry they'd unearthed, related to Eld Fen. I've asked my friend and producing partner Alex Reagan to read the excerpt for me. I believe it was written sometime in the 1970s or early 1980s, but the author's name isn't included anywhere on the manuscript.
- Alex: As he entered the forest, the hunter lowered his bow and looked around. Something was different here. There was a smell, a sour sting in the air. As he made his way through the thick woods, oak, maple, and pine eventually thinned out and the path he was following twisted and turned, finally widening into a large circular clearing bordered perfectly, almost symmetrically, by hundreds of tall birch trees.
- In the center of the clearing stood a smooth stone altar. Ancient, cold. The white marble stained almost black with dried blood. The hunter's pulse quickened and his mouth went dry. His feet suddenly froze in place. He'd gotten turned around chasing a deer, and lost his sense of direction. He should never have some this far into these woods.
- He turned and readied himself to run, as fast as he could, as far away from this place as he could get.
- He felt it before he saw it. The darkness. It was coming. The watcher. The voice in the night. The one they call Eld Fen. King Wurm. He suddenly knew everything that it was. And he suddenly understood that he was wrong. That is wasn't coming. It wasn't coming because... It was already here.
Nic: Eld Fen, Old Fen, King Wurm. That's wurm with a u, which feels like a much scarier version of the word for some reason. Apparently the legend of Eld Fen was of significant interest to weird fiction writers of the 20th century.
What I was interested in uncovering was how the myth of Eld Fen might be related to my investigation by way of whatever or whoever the Cult of Tanis are calling "The Navigator." Could it be the mysterious Nathaniel Carter?
I wasn't finished looking into this stuff, but I needed to switch gears. Morgan Miller was having some issues with Sam.
- Nic: What happened?
- Morgan: Nothing happened, exactly. He's just slowing down or something.
- Nic: Sam?
- Morgan: Yeah, Sam. He's asking about you, about his sister.
- Nic: He still believes I know where to find her?
- Morgan: Yes.
- Nic: So you haven't told him the truth?
- Morgan: No.
- Nic: (sighs) I'll come by the hotel tomorrow if that's okay.
- Morgan: Fine.
- Nic: Okay. Can I ask you something?
- Morgan: Of course.
- Nic: What was Pacifica about? (very long pause) Morgan?
- Morgan: I wrote it when I was 17 years old.
- Nic: I thought you were in community college?
- Morgan: I was in highschool. I took a creative writing class at the college at night when I wasn't working.
- Nic: Really?
- Morgan: Yeah. Is that weird?
- Nic: I guess not. Um. Well, anything you can tell me about the book would be extremely helpful.
- Morgan: I can't.
- Nic: I promise I'll keep it off the show if that's what you prefer. I just-
- Morgan: It's not that!
- Nic: No? Well what is it?
- Morgan: I can't remember.
- Nic: You can't remember your novel?
- Morgan: That book was a collection of stories. Stories based on... lucid dreams. I'd wake up and write them down. They were extremely vivid, but, well. The reason I wrote them down was because I couldn't remember them. I couldn't... I can't remember any of them.
- Nic: And what about the editor, Julie Sanders?
- Morgan: She taught the creative writing class. She helped me organize them, connect them like a novel. It wasn't good. Julie definitely made it better.
- Nic: Do you have a copy somewhere?
- Morgan: No.
- Nic: Why not?
- Morgan: Somebody didn't want me to have it anymore.
- Nic: Somebody? What somebody?
- Morgan: Maybe the Cult, maybe worse. My place was destroyed and I moved.
- Nic: Is there anyone you can think of who might have a copy of that book?
- Morgan: (pause) Julie Sanders, maybe.
- Nic: I don't think Julie Sanders is (pause) alive.
- Morgan: That's sad. But it makes sense.
- Nic: Why?
- Morgan: Somebody really wanted that book to disappear.
- Nic: You think somebody had Julie Sanders killed?
- Morgan: If I were you, I'd stop worrying about that book and start worrying about staying alive. I've gotta go.
- Nic: Okay, I have another call coming in as well. Can I call you right back?
- Morgan: Bye.
- Nic: Hello?
- Ellis: Nick, it's Cameron Ellis.
- Nic: Oh, hey.
- Ellis: Could you meet me at my office? I have something to show you.
- Nic: Umm, sure. Okay.
- Ellis: Great. I'll send a car.
- Nic: Oh, that's not necessary. I have a car.
- Ellis: Suit yourself.
Nic: I met Cameron Ellis at his office. He had a lot to tell me. And I'm gonna fill you in, I promise. At this point in the story, things begin to get, well, they started to accelerate. I'm going to do my best to lay everything out for you as simply and clearly as I can. I know "simply and clearly" is a tall order where the myth of Tanis is concerned, but, I'm going to do my best.
Cameron Ellis told me a few things about the research study in 2009 involving Jonathan Carnahan, and the 2015 study involving Tara Reynolds. It turns out TeslaNova was involved in both studies. And in both cases, the facilities were eventually shut down because people went missing. Tara Reynolds in 2015, and a young Scottish biologist in 2009.
Ellis confirmed that Veronika Pillman was involved in the 2009 study, but he told me that he had no idea where to find her. He went on to say that Jonathan Carnahan, although no longer officially on the payroll at TeslaNova, did act as a consultant in 2015. I asked him a few more questions about that most recent study.
- Nic: Tara Reynolds mentioned that pretty much everyone in the camp was Russian.
- Ellis: We had kind of an informal agreement with the Russians, almost like a timeshare. We had some equipment they needed so we were allowed limited access.
- Nic: So, wait, the Russians were in charge?
- Ellis: They became aware of the resurgence of the breach before we did.
- Nic: Resurgence?
- Ellis: Things had calmed down quite a bit since 1985.
- Nic: Okay. I'd love to hear more about this... resurgence.
- Ellis: I'm afraid that's all I can tell you for now.
- Nic: Okay. Um. Well, Tara Reynolds mentioned an American was in charge there, at the camp. Was that you?
- Ellis: No.
- Nic: Was it a man named Nathaniel Carter?
- Ellis: (long pause) Where did you hear that name?
- Nic: My research indicates that he's involved with the Cult as some kind of guru or something. And that he worked for Parzavala Communications. I believe that's a subsidiary of TeslaNova?
- Ellis: That's inaccurate.
- Nic: Okay. Could you elaborate?
- Ellis: I'm afraid not.
- Nic: Okay, well can you tell me if Nathaniel Carter was involved in these studies?
- Ellis: You don't wanna continue this line of investigation.
- Nic: Why not?
- Ellis: Believe me, Nic. Nathaniel Carter is not somebody you want to meet. Not now, not ever.
Nic: Ellis went on to tell me that, although these were the only two official TeslaNova research studies in the area recently, they were not the only studies conducted there. Apparently an organization Cameron Ellis referred to only as "Section" had been looking into the area for a long time. I pressed him for more information, but he told me that was everything he could divulge at the moment, except for the fact that the last official Section research facility shut down in 1985.
I found all of this fascinating, especially considering the following two things. First, the original 1985 research station is still standing. And in fact, Ellis told me it remains perfectly preserved, exactly as it was in 1985. The second thing, and perhaps the most interesting, is the fact that the 1985 research facility was called Pacifica Station.
So there was a secret research facility deep in the Pacific Northwest, sitting untouched since 1985, called Pacifica. I called Morgan Miller to discuss.
- (telephone ringing)
- Morgan: Hello?
- Nic: Hey Morgan, it's Nic.
- Morgan: Are you on your way?
- Nic: As soon as I finish at the bookstore, I'm just trying to track down Veronika Pillman.
- Morgan: Right.
- Nic: (pause) So I have a question.
- Morgan: Okay?
- Nic: How did you come up with the title of your book, Pacifica?
- Morgan: I don't remember.
- Nic: You don't remember anything at all?
- Morgan: Well. Like, I told you, it was written in a kind of... fugue state. I just woke up and sketched out my dreams.
- Nic: But you must have notes, outlines, scraps of paper, something?
- Morgan: No, nothing like that. It just... flowed.
- Nic: It just flowed?
- Morgan: Yeah.
- Nic: Well you must've had some idea where you were going with the stories? Didn't you?
- Morgan: I (sighs). Look, I didn't. Not at all, in fact. When I finished it I had virtually no memory of writing it.
- Nic: Well what about the words "Tanis" and "Pacifica," those are pretty specific words, right?
- Morgan: I have no idea where they came from! Maybe I read the Jack Parsons story? I used to collect old sci-fi anthologies.
- Nic: Right.
- Morgan: I don't know!
- Nic: Okay.
- Morgan: Let me know when you're on your way, maybe you could pick us up some food.
- Nic: (laughs) Okay.
- Morgan: Sam's allergic to dairy. I think.
- Nic: Alright.
- Morgan: Thanks.
- Alex: Day four. Conclusion. I felt tired, slow. Like I was walking through a thick, viscous liquid. A pressure from somewhere deep within felt like it was pulling, bending me back and onto myself. The blur was excited, vibrating deeply within me. I wanted to stop, to try and find my way home, but I understood that home wasn't where it was, exactly. I knew that going back wasn't the way home. Not anymore. I had to keep going. No matter what happened. Had to see this through.
- Someone, I think maybe The Runner, grabbed my arm and pulled me forward. A deeply disturbing feeling, like something was watching. Staring at me. Threatened to stop my feet from moving forward. The blur was on The Runner's side. They both wanted me to move. This is when I realized we were tied together somehow, The Runner and I. There was no sense of time here. At some point, maybe seconds ago, maybe hours, or days, we'd been tied together by our wrists with thick white rope.
- I looked at The Novelist, her eyes were wide. She was staring at something I couldn't see. We were all tied together. The Zealot was moving forward, slowly, his eyes on the ground. I made a note to myself to ask The Novelist what she had seen. But, like that moment right before you fall asleep, I knew that I wouldn't remember to ask her anything. That's why I'm writing this down. At least, I hope I'm writing this down. The blur is everything now. There's no point where it ends and I begin. The humming sound is constant, it never stops.
- The Runner says, "It won't be long now."
Nic: I arrived at the bookstore in Bellingham the next morning. I was there when they opened. I sat down at a chair and waited for Veronika Pillman. It didn't take long. I was halfway through the first chapter of a novel I'd purchased to pass the time, when she walked in the door. She went up to the counter and paid for her books. And when she turned around, she saw me and smiled.
- Nic: Veronika Pillman?
- Veronika: Yes. (very long pause) Hello, Nic.
Nic: Veronika Pillman was Melanie Nedved. I'd like to say I was completely surprised, but for some reason it made sense.
Next week I'm gonna unpack a few things for you, including Melanie Nedved as Sarah Grinko as Veronika Pillman, some dramatic changes in the Morgan Miller and Sam Reynolds situation. Plus, I dig deeper into Nathaniel Carter and what exactly transpired at those mysterious research stations in the Pacific Northwest.
It's Tanis, I'm Nic Silver. We'll be back again in two weeks. Until then, keep looking.
Nic: Tanis is produced by Terry Miles. Produced, mixed, and edited by me, Nic Silver. Executive producers Terry Miles and Paul Bae.
(The Black Tapes Podcast plug)
Nic: For legal and safety reasons, we've elected to change some names, and leave others out entirely. We don't do this very often, but we're not willing to compromise people's safety for any reason.
Thanks again for listening to Tanis.