A Modest Request…

Malcolm J. Brenner

Punta Gorda, FL 33982

Susan James

SPAWAR

Dear Ms. James,

Thank you for inviting me to send this letter to you personally after the SPAWAR page for FOIA requests failed to deliver my message yesterday.

I am making a request under the Freedom of Information Act specifically for a paper written for Stanford Research Institute in 1987 by Drs. Edwin May and Charles Pleass titled “A Remote Action Investigation with Marine Mammals.” My search has lead me from SRI to you, via several alternative stops.

Please see the attached article for documentation.

In addition, I am requesting under the Freedom of Information Act generally for any and all papers, documents, recordings or films in your possession regarding human-marine mammal telepathy, remote viewing involving marine mammals and/or anomalous cognition involving marine mammals.

I’m asking for a waiver of all fees for duplicating this material. My reasons are as follows:

SUBJECT OF THE REQUEST: Right now, a lot of people think that the Navy’s marine mammal program either uses them as living torpedoes to blow up ships or as hypodermic-tipped frogman-killing machines. You and I know different, and I’d like to let people know that the Navy has experimented with communicating with dolphins telepathically. This knowledge will materially contribute to a greater understanding of Navy operations and activities.

INFORMATIVE VALUE OF THE INFORMATION TO BE DISCLOSED: Very high. I think it will be a major revelation to the public that the Navy has attempted this kind of communication. It may also help to dispel the rumors that the Navy has employed dolphins for various kinds of lethal missions (see above).

CONTRIBUTION TO THE PUBLIC’S UNDERSTANDING: I think the public-at-large would be greatly interested in know that the US Navy has attempted human-dolphin telepathy, as it is not widely known at this time. And we pay for these experiments. I am the author of “Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover,” a 2010 non-fiction novel discussing human-dolphin telepathy, among other things. Since 1971 I have been involved in researching this subject, and have discovered several trainers who have achieved a level of non-verbal communication with their dolphins. I release this information via a web page (http://malcolmbrenner.com) and a Facebook page, as well as by press releases. Furthermore, I have been on many radio shows and podcasts talking about dolphins, including Bubba the Love Sponge and Howard Stern. I have the necessary means to get the information out there. The purpose of the information is to educate the public-at-large about the US Navy’s attempts at human-marine mammal telepathy.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CONTRIBUTION TO PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING: Nobody knows that the Navy has carried out such programs. Therefore, the significance could be significant, even revolutionary. Michael Greenwood, a former civilian scientist who worked with dolphins for the US Navy, personal told me “If the Navy would release what it knows about dolphins, it would revolutionize psychology.” I’d like to know what he was talking about, and I think other people would, too. I think we deserve to know if there are other sapient species on this planet, and how we can communicate with them. And, I should point out, our tax dollars paid for this paper to be written. If it’s not still classified, we deserve to know what’s in it, and if it is still classified, why?

COMMERCIAL INTEREST: I have no commercial interests that could benefit from this information, nor do I envision myself doing so in any way.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, Malcolm J. Brenner

 

 

 

 

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The Wet Aliens

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(This is an article I wrote for Future Life #2, May 1978, and illustrated with my own photos. I’ll get them posted here when I can find them. Meanwhile, it’s surprising how little has changed in the dolphin world.)

THE WET ALIENS

By MALCOLM BRENNER

Suppose you are tuning your radio, 
hunting for your favorite music,
when the following blood-curdling 
announcement comes on: 
“NEWS FLASH: Scientists report
the Earth is about to be invaded by
 extraterrestrial aliens. The invaders 
range in length from six to thirty feet,
 and their brains, much larger than ours,
 suggest a fantastic degree of intellectual
 development. They are so strong they 
can leap twenty feet into the air or travel 
two hundred and fifty miles a day for
 days at a time without sleep! Their jaws 
are filled with needle-sharp teeth, and 
their tails can break bones with a single 
blow. Furthermore, these aliens possess
 an unusual ‘sixth sense’ which enables
 them to look into our internal organs,
 uncovering our hidden strengths and
weaknesses! Their cryptic language,
 undeciphered by scientists, allows them
 to communicate ten times faster than we 
do. They can hear the sound of  a single
drop of rain falling fifty feet away! And 
latest reports indicate they possess
 highly developed psychic abilities which 
allow them to read our minds and 
second-guess our thoughts. Prepare
 yourself!”

“What is this?” you might wonder.
“Another War of the Worlds prank?
 Should I get a gun; clean out the old
fallout shelter? Or should I pray?” 
But wait! Before you can stir, the 
announcer’s back on the air.

“NEWS 
FLASH: More on those alien invaders. 
Scientists report that they are not
warlike, but peaceful! Their astounding 
powers are used only for gathering food 
and for protection against their 
enemies. Despite their great strength,
 they are helpless under Earth ’s gravity 
and can exist only in a weightless environment. Our air is corrosive to their skin and will kill them in twenty-four hours unless they are constantly bathed in fluids from their home world. Their 
huge brains have produced no form of
technology, and many scientists believe 
them to be no smarter than dogs. They 
lack clothes, shelter, and even the most 
rudimentary tools. They have rescued
humans from mortal danger, on occasion, and they have built-in smiles! Congress has imposed fines up to $20,000
 and jail penalties up to one year for killing or injuring them; but scientists 
studying the aliens report several thousand are being held captive around the 
world, and despite government protection more than fifry thousand of them 
may be killed next year — accidentally!”

By now you’d know it was a hoax — but you’d be wrong! These aliens are not the dream of a science-fiction 
writer, nor the creation of some Hollywood special-effects department. They 
are real. They have existed on Earth for
 over thirty million years, their form unchanged, their roots going back before
 the beginning of human evolution. We 
call them dolphins.

All of the above statements about
 dolphins are true, including those that
 seem contradictory — depending on 
whom you choose to believe. They 
reflect the current scientific confusion 
about dolphins, but it’s nothing new. 
Throughout history, dolphins have 
either been worshipped as demigods, or 
devoured as delicacies, with no middle
ground. Prehistoric Norwegian hunters
 carved them on the walls of caves. The 
author of the biblical Book of Job held 
a creature called Leviathan in high
 esteem; we now call the same creature 
orca, or killer whale, an overgrown 
dolphin with an overblown reputation 
for ferocity. 
The Nabataeans, a pre-Christian 
race of Bedouin merchants, were so
 fond of dolphins they carved them into 
the statutes of their gods, posing a riddle to the archaeologists who discovered
 their crumbled temples — in the middle 
of the Negev desert! The Greeks were 
infatuated with them; killing a dolphin, 
the sacred beast of Sun-God Apollo,
was an unforgivable sin. Greek authors 
told stories of their friendliness which
 were considered fantasy until well into 
the 20th century.

Pliny the Elder, a Greek naturalist, is credited with 
discovering that they are not fish but 
warm-blooded, air-breathing mammals, 
like ourselves. The Romans and Polynesians ate them, but the Chinese and
 Vietnamese held them to be divine.
 The truth about dolphins is no less astounding than the many myths surrounding them, but until the 1950s 
almost nothing was known about them. 
Dolphins had been kept in oceanariums
since the early 1900s, but not until
 World War II and the development of
underwater microphones was their 
astonishing sense of echolocation (or “sonar,” to use a military term) 
discovered.

Like bats, dolphins emit high-pitched
 clicks, which sound like a door with 
rusty hinges. Originating in the larynx
 and in nasal sacks below the blowhole 
(nostrils), these clicks are reflacted off 
the dolphin’s concave skull and through 
an oil-filled ‘acoustic lens’ in its domed forehead. By varying the shape of this 
lens, the dolphin can spread a wide beam
 of sound for miles under the sea, or 
focus it with laser like intensity to nearby objects. The “sonar” pulses are ultrasonic to humans, but the dolphins hear 
their echoes bouncing off objects. By
 listening carefully, a dolphin can determine the size, distance, and shape of an
 object; what it is made of; whether it is 
alive or nonliving; whether it is approaching or retreating, and how fast;
 whether it is hollow or solid, textured or
 smooth — everything but its color! Since animal flash is 75% saltwater, dolphins 
can “X-ray” each other — or humans –
with harmless beams of sound.
 A dolphin’s enormous and complex 
brain enables it to process all this information instantly. The brain of a 
bottlenose dolphin — the species seen 
in oceanariums and on TV — is about 
10% larger than a human brain, and appears to be superior to ours as a
thinking machine. It has more folds on 
the neocortex, where rational thought
originates, and the density of its 
neurons is greater. The only animals
 with larger brains are elephants and 
some whales, the dolphins’ distant
 cousins. Some scientists believe the extra brain matter is occupied with controlling the dolphin’s large bodies, or analyzing their complex echolocation.
 But whale sharks and dinosaurs possessed huge bodies and very small 
brains, and bats are able to use their 
“sonar” with brains that fit on a dime!So these theories do not wash.

Given this fantastic biological computer, you might think scientists would 
have long ago recognized the dolphin as 
a creature of unique intelligence. Not 
so! Dolphins lack hands and, being self-
sufficient, have no need for human 
technology. Their oceanic lifestyle
 makes them difficult to observe. Not 
until 1955 did anyone wonder what the
dolphins might be doing with all those 
brains, aside from chasing fish. In that year Dr. John C. Lilly, a young psychiatrist and neurophysiologist, was conducting sensory-isolation experiments
 for the Air Force to determine what
 would happen if an astronaut were cut
 off from contact with Earth. Lilly 
simulated weightless outer space by immersing himself in a tank of warm sea-
water. Breathing through a facemask,
isolated from all sensory inputs, Lilly experienced incredible hallucinations
 and proved that the brain can generate 
its own ghostly form of reality from 
within. He also began to wonder what 
the mind of a creature living under such
 conditions would be like. 
He conducted a series of experiments 
on the dolphins at Marineland near St.
Augustine, Florida. While anesthetizing 
them to implant electrodes he made his 
first startling discovery — when a dolphin loses consciousness, it stopsbreathing! Unlike other animals, each 
breath for a dolphin requires an act of
 will. His first few experiments proved 
fatal to his subjects and angered the 
Marineland staff, some of whom have 
not yet forgiven him. After developing
 more humane techniques, he was able to 
“map” the dolphin’s brains and determine which areas controlled what
behavior.

During these experiments, Lilly 
noticed that the dolphins in his laboratory behaved more like curious humans than white rats or rhesus 
monkeys. They second-guessed his experiments and tried to imitate the voices of his assistants! Fascinated, Lilly ended his brain research and began studying the dolphin’s sound emissions.
 He found they produce complex trains
 of whistles and squawks with which they
  communicate. In 1961, convinced of the 
existence of a dolphin “language,” Lilly 
received a NASA grant on the ground
 that his research might help us better 
understand communications from other
 planets — when we receive them.

He quickly encountered hostility 
from other scientists. Like early UFO 
investigators, Lilly found himself up 
against a wall of mockery and prejudice. His recordings of dolphins mimicking human speech were not convincing to untrained ears. His remarks
 were sensationalized by a press more eager for headlines than the plodding
methodology of science. His stories of 
“intelligent” behavior were laughed at
 by cetologists familiar only with 
robotized oceanarium dolphins. Even the basic premise of his research was 
challenged; any idiot could see that
 human beings were the most intelligent 
creatures on earth — otherwise the 
dolphins would be keeping us captive!

Undaunted, challenged by the alien 
mind of the dolphin, Lilly began a series 
of experiments on his own mind, using 
sensory isolation and the then-legal drug 
LSD. Tripping among his dolphins, he 
realized that, if he was right, keeping 
them captive was not just an insult; it 
changed them, in the same way involuntary imprisonment changes a free man 
into a slave. The dolphins locked in his
lab were not the same creatures as those
 roaming the wild seas; they were products of his experimental parameters.

“I 
felt,” he has since admitted, “like I was 
running a concentration camp for dolphins.”

As he considered closing the lab
and setting his subjects free they began
to die mysteriously, starving or drowning themselves. In 1967 he released the
 survivors, ending his research.
 Lilly remains much-hated among professional cetologists, partly for his 
“unscientific” theories, partly for his 
early brain-probings, and partly for his
drug experiments, which nearly cost him
 his life on two occasions. If he were the
 only person to report such experiences with dolphins one might well doubt 
him, but a small number of scientists
 and laymen, fascinated by the idea of an 
Earthly non-human intelligence, began 
their own investigations. Some supported Lilly’s theories; others sought to 
disprove them. Still others wavered.

This is typical of the problems scientists encounter when they attempt to
 measure the dolphin’s intelligence.
 Its sense and thought processes are so 
different from ours that it’s hard to 
develop a meaningful test! But there are
 still profound mysteries surrounding 
them. For almost every fact postulated
 by a respected dolphin researcher, an
 equally illustrious scientist can be found 
to contradict it!

For example, Lilly 
claims that dolphins can produce a 
“distress whistle” when in danger or 
pain. This call, described by him as a
 whistle of rising, then falling pitch (like
 an inverted V) brings other dolphins to
 the rescue. Rene-Guy Busnel, a French
cetologist who works with Jacques 
Cousteau, agrees about the “distress 
whistle” but insists it’s exactly the opposite — falling, then rising in pitch 
(like an upright V)! The Caldwells,
 equally respected, maintain there is no 
such thing as a distress whistle. According to them, dolphins have only one 
whistle apiece, which they repeat over 
and over to tell other dolphins “here I
 am,” like Kurt Vonnegut’s mythical
 Mercurian harmoniums.

Are you sufficiently confused?

One person who shares Lilly’s views is 
Ric O’Barry, formerly a trainer for 
Ivan Tors’ Flipper TV series. After 
working with dolphins for years, 
O’Barry concluded that the dolphins 
were not only smarter than he was –
 they were sometimes able to read his mind, learning complicated tricks faster 
than seemed possible. He now devotes 
his time to saving the whales and 
dolphins from extinction.

Another believer is Michael Greenwood, formerly dolphin trainer for the
 U.S. Navy and CIA. Greenwood
 became interested in marine mammals during the Navy’s Sea Lab program. 
Dolphins can dive to 600 feet and return 
in three minutes without being crushed
 by the pressure, equal to 200 atmospheres, or dying from the bends. 
Having gained some experience training sea lions, Greenwood was asked to take
over a top-secret dolphin project in the
 Florida Keys. The mission, under a conservationist cover story, was to train
 dolphins to run intelligence missions 
against communist Cuba, planting instruments on atom-powered Soviet warships which would transmit data on the
 size and power of their nuclear reactor.
 The CIA and Navy factions on the project were warring with each other; the 
electronic equipment malfunctioned;
 and the dolphins were poorly trained! Greenwood became convinced it was immoral to train such intelligent and 
friendly creatures for warlike ends. He, 
too, came to believe they could telepathically read his mind. He now fears
 they are facing a slaughter by the
world’s naval powers, who are unable 
to tell an innocent dolphin from one 
trained for espionage.

But the dolphins are already facing a
 wipeout. For the past fifteen years, 
tuna fishermen have been killing hundreds of thousands in the huge purse-seine nets used to trap yellowfin tuna, 
which are packaged for sale as “chunk 
light.” The dolphins and tuna stick 
together — no one knows why — and 
when the fish are netted the dolphins
panic. Their “sonar” beams pass uselessly through the net’s mesh, and in their
confusion they may become tangled and
 drown, or, worse yet, be dragged on
board and crushed in the machinery. In 
1971, an estimated 320,000 were killed. 
Since then the numbers have been dropping, thanks to new types of nets, new 
catching techniques, and the Marine
 Mammal Protection Act, which sets
 yearly quotas on the number killed. But
 the battle isn’t won: the tuna fishermen, 
chafing under what they feel are unfair
 restrictions, talk of taking their boats to 
nations without quotas.

Dolphin ESP is a highly puzzling
 issue, one that is infrequently discussed. Studies on humans
 show that, contrary to most science fiction, strong emotions, rather than powerful intellect, are responsible for telepathy, and this also seems true in human-dolphin mental contacts. People who see dolphins as highly intelligent are more open to psychic contacts than those who regard them as big fish; familiarity with dolphin ways also increases the likelihood of interspecies ESP. People who have had psychic experiences with dolphins find them difficult to describe.

Don’t rush down to your local oceanarium expecting to pick up dolphin brainwaves, however. While you might, it is highly unlikely, unless you’re exceptionally psychic. As Dr. Lilly discovered, captive dolphins are a different breed from their wild counterparts. While some thrive in captivity, many more have died from it, and the survivors frequently display spirits broken by the rigorous behavior-modification techniques used to produce oceanarium shows. Conditions vary greatly from one establishment another: some take great pride in maintaining healthy, happy specimens, while in others the death rate is staggering. Stories of trainers mistreating their dolphins out of malice or ignorance are confined to backroom discussions, where the public can’t overhear.

Sometimes the dolphins bear mistreatment
 stoically; sometimes they retaliate!
 Some dolphins have been kept for years
 in lagoons with nothing more than a line
 of floats keeping them in; others have 
ripped steel fences apart to escape! It’s 
impossible to generalize about dolphins 
for the same reason it’s impossible to
 generalize about humans: no two are 
alike.
 But there is no doubt that the “happy 
dolphin” image perpetuated by
 oceanariums and the media is a lie.

The 
Flipper series shows them as happy-go-lucky types, fawning all
 over their human masters, Kenny and 
Bud. The movie The Day of theDolphin, while somewhat more
realistic, still showed dolphins as being 
childlike, naive, and gullible. Trainers 
know better: dolphins can be sweet, 
even sexy, but they can also be deceptive, arrogant, and demonically cunning. The recent movie Orca, the Killer
 Whale did little to change the image of
 the most maligned creature since the
 snake. Although the orca saves the
heroine, Rachel Bedford (a sympathetic
 biologist played by Charlotte Rampling)
 from a shark at the beginning, and
 spares her life at the end, in between 
these chivalrous deeds it devours Jack
Campbell’s (Richard Harris’) crew, 
sinks a fishing fleet, sets a town on fire,
 and rips a woman’s leg off! Dino De Laurentiis would be well advised to restrict his swimming to pools from now on.

Paul Spong, a Canadian biologist who has studied orcas for the past six years, knows better. When a group of orcas swim by his research station in Alert Bay, Spong may hop into a one-man kayak and paddle out to meet the “deadly” killer whales. When he plays his flute to them, the whales stop roaming and listen raptly. If we stop to think about it, aren’t humans the real monsters? Orcas are captured for oceanariums with concussion grenades, and catchers show no qualms about breaking up pods that may have existed for centuries.

The future holds greater promise for interspecies communications. While the scientific community wrangles, several groups are planning to decipher the dolphins’ language. The Dolphin Embassy Project, based in Australia, is headed by Doug Michaels, of San Francisco. This group is building a ferroconcrete “floating embassy,” loaded with electronics, which will function as a meeting place where humans can observe and interact with wild dolphins along the Great Barrier Reef. Plans call for the expedition to begin in April, 1978.

Members of the Canadian Greenpeace Project have, for the last several years, been literally laying their lives on the line to save the great whales. Using rubber Zodiac boats operating from a converted fishing vessel, Greenpeacers have been harassing Soviet and Japanese whaling fleets in the North Pacific, gathering evidence of illegal undersized kills and producing a documentary film. On two occasions Russian whalers have fired harpoons at whales the group was guarding, narrowly missing the humans!

Dr. Lilly, too, is returning to the dolphins with a new plan. He is programming a sophisticated computer to act as a human-dolphin translator, linked by radio to communications equipment in a sailboat. Lilly hopes that, by working with wild dolphins, he will both avoid the problems that plagued his earlier work, and vindicate his theories.

If any of these groups are successful, the benefits to humanity could be endless. We will have established communication with minds perhaps greater than our own; we will receive an outside view of ourselves from creatures who watched us evolve. The dolphins and whales could help us control ocean pollution and aid in the search for undersea energy sources. They might be able to shed some light on the persistent myth of Atlantis. And who knows? By the time we encounter real aliens from outer space, we humans might be able to say “Hello!” to them in their own language — with the smiling dolphins by our sides.

WGslide27

The Greeting, © 1970, 2010 Eyes Open Media.

 

Book Review: The Perfect Pair, Volume III: Shards from the Mirror

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Book Review: The Perfect Pair, Book III: Shards from the Mirror

By David C. Holroyd and Tracy J. Holroyd. 2016, Matador Press.

In the mid-1950’s, Leon Festinger, an American psychologist, infiltrated a UFO cult. The leader channeled a warning of the end of the world – but the cult’s members would be saved by a flying saucer. When the expected deadline passed, the Earth endured and no saucer materialized, the leader issued a revelation: Their faith changed the aliens’ minds! No Earth cataclysms! The members of the previously media-shy group went out… and began to proselytize.

What does this have to do with dolphin-training and Shards from the Mirror, the final volume of David and Tracy Holroyd’s The Perfect Pair trilogy?

Oh, plenty!

Festinger labeled the mental anguish that comes from holding two mutually-exclusive concepts “cognitive dissonance,” and those two words popped to mind as I read about “David Capello’s” downfall. That was the stage name of an English dolphin trainer who shot to fame in the early 1970’s for his “perfect pair,” two dolphins who performed in flawless synchronization.

Because, by the time this book opens, Capello is experiencing growing cognitive dissonance. On one hand, his dolphins’ act wows audiences, makes him famous and makes a lot of money for the entertainment conglomerate he works for. On the other, he knows a concrete tank is no place for dolphins, he’s seen them suffer and die and he’s totally fed-up with bottom-line managers who have no fondness for them.

Volume I, The Enchanted Mirror, chronicles how young Capello falls into the job and succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. The first dolphins he meets, Duchess and Herb’e, are not only a perfect pair, but can communicate with him mentally!

As its title suggests, The Mirror Cracks recounts not merely Capello’s increasing success as a trainer but his growing frustration with the callous corporate bureaucracy. Particularly troublesome is his general manager Tommy Backhouse, a besuited corporate suck-up more concerned with the dolphinarium’s profits than the welfare of his performers, dolphin or human. Backhouse’s attitude is best summed up by his oft-repeated remark “Anybody with a whistle and a bucket of fish can be a dolphin trainer.”

This rather grates on Capello, who not only slaves to make his dolphin show the best in Europe but teaches Scouse, a blind dolphin, to perform using his unique “psychic training” method!

Backhouse, who fancies he knows everything about dolphins, isn’t impressed with Capello’s Jedi mind-tricks, and his requested raises (he’s a “presenter,” not a “trainer,” Backhouse reminds him) keep getting denied by the main office.

Worse, Backhouse pinches pennies by physically endangering the dolphins, like refusing to dump the dirty tank water, or expecting them to perform to exhaustion. And Capello suspects his boss is just waiting for the right moment to grab all the credit for his achievements.

When Shards opens, Capello is wondering if he hasn’t gone too far. He’s thrown his weight around trying to get what his performers need, and now the head office is talking about his mysterious way with dolphins… dolphins who won’t work for anyone else!

Even with all this hanging over him, Capello pushes forward, trying to train Duchess and Herb’e to do a double forward somersault. It proves difficult for an unexpected reason: Herb’e gets the trick, but wanting to perform solo, he won’t teach Duchess how it’s done! Duchess, in turn, has started courting Capello, and won’t allow a woman presenter he’s fond of in the pool! And earlier, Capello was freaked by the way his dolphins ignored a dying comrade.

These revelations mark Capello’s growing disenchantment with dolphin ethics. As marine mammologists are fond of reminding those of us who have dared read the late Dr. John C. Lilly’s scientifically embargoed books, “Dolphins are not little humans in wet suits!”

Like those of us who have been close to them need to be reminded! Once you’re in their environment, they appear quite large, and they’re happy to let you know they are now in charge!

Only something as dissociating as knowing you are harming the creatures you love could explain why, when Backhouse gets in his face once too often, Capello grabs a fire hose and blasts the man off his feet, then has to be physically restrained from pushing him into an empty concrete tank.

Backhouse, of course, tries to fire Capello, but the head office intervenes, instead transferring their golden-boy trainer to another dolphinarium far from Backhouse’s lair, a place called West Coast, where seemingly nothing ever goes right.

Reluctantly preparing to move his pair, Capello recounts one of the book’s strangest scenes. With the dolphins slung in canvas stretchers, the attending veterinarian notices that Duchess has outgrown hers, and he proposes to cut an eye-hole in the fabric to avoid a possible injury. Almost immediately, Duchess starts screaming in Capello’s head, projecting images of blood and pain. When the surgeon pulls out a scalpel and goes to make the cut, Capello, acting as if entranced, slides his hand between Duchess and the blade. Need I say he ends up at the local emergency room, bleeding profusely? The veterinarian, it seems, slipped.

What happens next becomes the crux of Capello’s disenchantment with the “magic mirror” of dolphin training. While he and the vet are tending his wound, Backhouse vindictively orders the helpless dolphins placed in an unheated truck on a cold night. When Capello returns two hours later with a few new stitches, he finds to his horror that his dolphins are freezing, and they have shut him out of their minds. Especially Herb’e, who has fled where humans cannot follow, a dark corner of the dolphin psyche that marks a fatal disengagement from life.

Having previously dealt with force-feeding other dying dolphins, Capello is determined not to give up on Herb’e, and to restore his perfect pair to their former glory.

It takes lavish care and a diagnosis of Herb’e’s illness, a viral infection, to bring the pair back from death’s jaws, and during this interval Scouse worms his way onto Capello’s center stage. Now the trainer must juggle not only human politics but the politics of his dolphins, too! (In defense of dolphins at large, I will ask the reader not to judge them by their behavior in captivity.)

In an odd twist of fate, the determined young trainer makes Scouse a star in spite of his disability. The dolphin is eager to perform, and while directing him through mental images, Capello has the bizarre experience of bi-location – of seeing both himself and Scouse performing their act from a remote point of view…

By this point, the reader may be granted some skepticism, and rightly so, if the reader has no experience with ESP or dolphins. However, some of us who have are sharing notes and rapidly approaching the conclusion that what Capello calls his “connection” with his dolphins and I call my “telepathy” with Dolly bear striking resemblances that can’t readily be explained by chance alone. It was even investigated by the U.S. military at least 31 years ago, yet it’s still classified! What did they find, and what methods did they use? While I have no ready explanation for this, I am working to make it a recognized phenomenon.

In this final volume, Capello at last muses about the dolphin behaviors that have puzzled and infuriated him, something he’s only given passing thoughts to before:

What if dolphins view life and death differently from us humans? That would explain why your Atlanteans constantly show indifference when in the presence of a dying colleague – a phenomenon you’ve never been able to get your head around.

 What if they view their bodies as a mere conveyance – temporary vessels to be discarded when deemed no longer of use? An ethos that could well explain their suicide beachings in the wild. A view of death not as an end, but as a new beginning… in which case, you’ve been totally wrong in your previous evaluation of their attitude…

 It’s not that they are uncaring; it’s simply that they have a different set of beliefs.

 Blimey, Capello, what an idiot you’ve been – some expert you turned out to be!

As is often the case, dolphins are full of surprises, and Capello, unlike some people, is humble enough to admit it. For a while he’s finally able to concentrate on training the mostly rehabilitated perfect pair for the double forward flip, the culmination of a “shadow ballet” performance that will win them (and their proud trainer) a permanent gold star on the Dolphin Walk of Fame. But he can’t get Herb’e back to his old self, and soon Duchess is battering her former partner and showing an unwelcome interest in teaming up with Scouse for work and play.

When his latest request for a raise is rudely refused, Capello realizes he’s being played, that Backhouse and his people have out-maneuvered him. He has two equally repugnant choices, to remain in the sub-par trainer position under the thumb of a man he hates, or to quit and cut his telepathically-trained performers loose with the same man. Reluctantly, he decides to deprogram the dolphins for his inevitable departure. Cognitive dissonance seems to be the inevitable fate of any dolphin trainer stupid enough to care.

But the next blow is fatal: bad fish. Not just a few, but a prime supplier sending its good fish to restaurants and the rest to the dolphins, who only rate “animal feed.” This disruption is too much for the barely-recovered Herb’e, and Capello realizes to his shock that his beloved performer is slipping away. When management learns they’re about to lose half their top money-making duo, they do what any sensible executives would do: they throw gas on the flames. They send Backhouse to manage West Coast.

The confrontation, as inevitable as a Main Street shootout in an old western movie, takes place with Capello in the water supporting Herb’e, who is clearly on his last legs (pardon the meaningless expression). Distracted, Capello loses track of him, and the dolphin sinks. He somehow drags the 180-kg creature back to the surface, but it’s too late. Shattered, Capello stalks off, leaving Herb’e’s lifeless body for the others to deal with. He makes the last entry in the dolphin’s logbook, and in a final act of defiance, steals all of Herb’e’s logs from the company.

But like the inevitable resurrection of an immortal monster in a horror movie, things aren’t quite over yet. Capello goes home, where his dolphin odyssey started four years before with his mother’s innocent suggestion he answer a classified ad. And for several nights, he’s bothered by dreams where he violently attacks the props and scenery at West Coast. And early morning phone calls, which his mother answers, asking what he’s doing there when he’s been banished from all the company’s dolphinariums?

The dolphins have apparently taught Capello how to astral project, or create what Tibetan Buddhist monks would call a tulpa – a copy of a person composed of mental energy but capable of acting in the real world. And one last frantic “call” from an agonized Scouse sends him rushing back to West Coast in person, where he finds the dolphin just deceased. A nameless caller later informs Capello that an autopsy showed Scouse was horribly murdered, and that Duchess has followed her partner Herb’e into depression and death.

This being a true story, nobody gets what they deserve in the end. Capello goes back to his father’s sign business and tries to forget he ever trained dolphins. Backhouse buys the first dolphins sold by the notorious Taiji drive hunts, and winds up a celebrity dolphin expert and honored naturalist on a popular English TV show.

Years later, Capello visits an American uncle who drags him to a dolphin show at the local zoo. Capello reluctantly attends, only to find his fame precedes him: his success with the perfect pair hasn’t been forgotten after all. Capello closes with every ex-dolphin-trainer’s powerful suggestion: Don’t buy a ticket!

And now, after four decades of silence, he is sharing this tale with everyone. It is a truly remarkable story as much for his achievements and perseverance as any paranormal content, but my high praise for Capello’s telling of it doesn’t change the fact that, at 350 pages, Shards is not only the longest of the three volumes, but the weakest stylistically.

In contrast to the first two books, which open with vivid flashbacks, the beginning of Shards is scattered and unfocused, which leads to confusion about where Capello is and what’s happening. When the narrative finally settles down around page 10 and the paranormal themes emerge, the Holroyds, an unusual brother-sister writing team, seem determined to spin out Capello’s descriptions of his astral encounters by employing every ellipsis (you, know, those three dots…) in the United Kingdom! I know they’re trying to capture the disoriented, shifting feeling of an interspecies mind-meld, but the scene where Capello saves Duchess’s eyesight goes on with ellipsis after ellipsis for four bloody pages, and we get the point, already!

I can’t blame the Holroyds too much, because I tried the same literary tactic in my novel Wet Goddess for exactly the same reason, and concluded there were better ways to achieve the same result without annoying the reader. Compared to the first two volumes, Shards feels a bit rushed and padded, in need of some good stiff editing. Perhaps if the Holroyds do another printing, they will consider this suggestion.

But in relation to the importance of Capello’s moving and momentous story, this is minor carping. I’m thankful that he’s finally chosen to share his saga to create the perfect pair with us, not only because it validates my own strange experiences, but because we cannot have too much truth about how the dolphin enslavement industry destroys and consumes the self-aware beings it employs. Along with the revelations of Frank Robson and the confessions of Ric O’Barry and John Hargrove, The Perfect Pair trilogy deserves a space on every true dolphin-lover’s bookshelf.

(Malcolm J. Brenner is the author of the 2010 novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Loverand two other books. He lives in Punta Gorda, Fla.)

 

Book Review: “The Mirror Cracks”

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Book Review: The Perfect Pair, Book II: The Mirror Cracks.

By David C. Holroyd and Tracy J. Holroyd. 2014, Matador Press.

Reviewed by Malcolm J. Brenner

Excuse me, I need to calm down. I’ve just finished reading David and Tracy Holroyd’s non-fiction novel The Mirror Cracks, the middle volume of their trilogy The Perfect Pair, and I was startled to be reading pages from my own life.

Of course, I’ve had some astonishing, almost unbelievable experiences, but that’s the point! Your opinion may vary, but you’ll be entranced by this story.

The books recount one young man’s involvement with the English dolphin enslavement industry in the 1970’s, when small oceanariums were springing up all over the land, when anyone could become a dolphin trainer (and did), but before the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act made dolphin lives expensive, or public opinion in the U.K. made the sorry business illegal.

(Would that my country showed such compassion, but with the current administration I’m not holding my breath. I’m a writer, not a sperm whale!)

Book I, The Enchanted Mirror (reviewed earlier on this news blog) introduced us to “David Capello,” the show name of a man once known as the greatest dolphin trainer in England for having a “perfect pair,” two dolphins who could perform in synchronization. He found them in the first dolphins he met, Duchess and Herb’e, and something more: Capello realized the dolphins could get into his mind and respond to his thoughts. He claims to have trained them telepathically, and before you jump to a conclusion that he’s bullshitting the reader, I’ve had similar things happen to me. So have other people. This type of experience, which almost drove me crazy, is real. And if you’re skeptical, I don’t blame you, so was I!

The “enchanted mirror” of the title refers to the glittering reflections on the water surface of Capello’s dolphin training facility, improbably located in an English mining town (all names of places and humans have been changed, the authors say, but not the actual names of the dolphins, as Capello wanted to honor them). Book I introduced us to Capello, a common sort of lad thinking about joining the family sign-painting business when the allure of dolphins beckoned in a classified ad. He responded, and due to a combination of hard work, talent, and sometimes sheer luck (not to mention other people getting fired), Capello soon found himself the lead trainer – and then the only trainer – for the three dolphin shows owned by the vast, unnamed entertainment conglomerate he worked for.

His boss, a corporate sycophant named Backhouse, keeps telling Capello “Anyone with a whistle and a bucket of fish can be a trainer,” thus disparaging not only all Capello’s hard work, but his dolphins’ too! Once all the dolphins were trained, Backhouse says, the show could be run by “presenters,” who work for less. Worse yet, Capello’s charges (he thinks of them as his dolphins) have to swim in a cesspool half the time because the cheap filter in their pool isn’t up to the task. Dumping the water is a costly corporate no-no, but when his dolphins’ skins start peeling, Capello does what he has to, muttering “Screw the establishment!” while he pulls the plug.

In spite of this, at the end of Book I things were going swimmingly for Capello, his perfect pair and another pair of unlikely performing dolphins. Then Bonnie and Clyde were shipped in, to board at Capello’s pool until their new oceanarium was completed. They were the imperfect pair, two show veterans who already knew where all the humans’ buttons are and how to push them.

Capello is able to win Bonnie over, but Clyde is a serious problem. He seems to be receiving his trainer’s mental commands, but not responding, and he radiates a cold contempt for show business. During one memorable performance, Capello throws out several rings, which the dolphins are supposed to fetch on their snouts. Clyde, instead, elects to use his penis.

The arrival of this pair doesn’t so much change things as it marks a stress point in Capello’s career. He finds his telepathic method effective with his dolphins, but the concentration required leaves him exhausted. Dealing with Backhouse and the bureaucracy is so frustrating that Capello turns to valium, which affects his connection, as he calls it, with Duchess and Herb’e. And while his staff are being whittled down, he’s constantly being called to do more with less, and put out fires at other oceanariums, with trainers far less talented than he.

When David is ordered to send his backup team to another pool, he snaps. They are Baby, a talented juvenile, and Scouse, a dolphin accidentally blinded by bashing his head on this plywood shipping crate. Fuming with rage, he does it, only to find Scouse still mentally calling him from 100 miles away! This so closely resembles my own experience with my dolphin lover that I freaked out when I read it. I’m sure other dolphin trainers have felt this, but no-one other than Capello has had the courage to write frankly about it!

Slowly, Capello’s little empire begins to crumble, and he is forced to acknowledge that the dolphins he’s trained with his own sweat and tears aren’t his. The realization seems to break him, but as one of the characters in Book I told him, “Dolphinariums don’t just break dolphins, they break people too.” A woman presenter is attracted to him, but he’s too busy to give her the attention she deserves. And then the seemingly inevitable happens: Duchess, his favorite dolphin, starts courting him!

Being a normal sort of guy, Capello doesn’t fall for this the way I did, but he finds it startling. Fortunately for him, he’s able to thwart her advances.

The final scenes see Capello struggling with prescription drug addiction, hating his unfeeling manager, and more dolphins arriving to winter-over at the already crowded training facility. He rallies, only to hear that Scouse has quit working, and nobody can get him to perform…

Capello has become indispensable, but the Company doesn’t realize it, and his request for a raise is turned down. The only thing keeping him working is his devotion to his perfect pair. He cannot abandon them to a cold, hard world run by bean-counters, where the dolphins he loves are merely replaceable pawns in a vast game of riches.

Throughout this story, the Holroyds keep you turning pages. Their writing is tight and concise, but also supple and emotional. Capello’s thoughts and feelings are expressed clearly, and so are those of his performers. “The Perfect Pair” trilogy should be REQUIRED READING for anyone even daydreaming about becoming a marine animal trainer. The heartbreak and hard work of this career are made palpable here, more so than the joys and excitement that marked Book I. By the end of The Mirror Cracks, Capello, resurrected, has become a tougher, shrewder personality, and so have his dolphins.

Stay tuned for Book III, Shards from the Mirror. The truth will prevail!

Another day, another podcast…

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I’ll be appearing on “Uncle Tee’s Cool Pool Party,” a podcast at 8 p.m. EDST Monday on STLR Media in Sarasota. This is the same time slot as “The Twysted Tyrants Show” with Johnny Christ BayBay that I was on about a month ago, but Johnny is gone and it’s a new show. Host Cat Welch has promised me we’ll be able to talk about other things than my love affair with a dolphin, things like my family’s involvement with the crazy pseudo-science of the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich, the 20 years I spent practicing Wicca, the decade I spent reporting on the Navajos and Zunis, or my attempts to understand the elusive nature of the UFO, starting when I was a child. (Photo of me defending the First Amendment outside the trailer of the Farmington Daily Times in Shiprock, N.M. Photo by Chas Clifton.)

Pandemonium in the Porpoise Pens!

Zachary Zimmerman, our 19-year-old protagonist, has just met Elaine Ingersoll, a cute young woman he wants to impress. What better way than to take her swimming with a dolphin at Florida Funland, where Zack is fulfilling a college contract to photograph the park’s dolphins for a local author’s book?

Chapter XIV:
Pandemonium in the Porpoise Pens!

Unless a female has a calf, she usually does not become very aggressive, but she may even kill a recently introduced animal if she has been permitted exclusive control over one area for several years. –David and Melba Caldwell, Bottlenose Dolphin, ibid.

“Oh, this is so exciting,” Elaine cried as we sped south on the Tamiami Trail. “I’ve never swum with a real live dolphin before! What’s it like?”
I groped for a word to describe my experiences with Ruby that wouldn’t totally pulverize my relationship with Elaine. “Wet,” I finally said. “Very, very wet.”
“Really? Wet? Wow!”
As promised, I was taking Elaine to Florida Funland so she could swim with the dolphins. If Beau had at one time been cautious about such experiments, the news that the park was closing must have made him less concerned. You can’t get blood from a turnip, after all. If he thought about liability, he probably figured it would fall as severely on the park’s owners as on him. Or maybe he was trying to be nice to me. A lot of time has passed, and I don’t really know.
“Do they ever talk to you?” Elaine asked.
These innocent-sounding questions got thornier and thornier. I didn’t know how to explain my telepathic experiences with Ruby, didn’t even know if they were real. We hadn’t communicated since the night I fell off the bed.
“The one we’re going swimming with, Ruby, I think she has.
“Really? Tell me about it!”
My brief description of our “language lesson” impressed her. “Wow, that’s really cool! I mean, I’d heard they could talk and everything, but I never met anyone who’d talked to one of them before! Do you think she’ll talk to me?”
When I picked her up, Elaine had seemed a little aloof, as though she expected our relationship to stay platonic indefinitely but didn’t want to say so. Perhaps things would be different after this swimming expedition. Perhaps she would warm to me, recall some of the exuberance she’d felt the night we met at the juvenile detention center.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I can try to get her to talk…”
“That would be so cool!” she went on. “Is she like Flipper?”
For the first time, I had an inkling of how marine mammalogists must feel, confronted with uninformed laymen demanding dolphin dictionaries.
“Elaine, there’s something you need to understand.”
“What?”
“Well… the dolphins you see on TV resemble real dolphins about as much as the people you see on TV resemble real people.”
That stopped her cold. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, it’s not real, none of it! It’s all the product of Hollywood writers and producers and directors and editors and cameramen!”
That didn’t help.
“Have you noticed real life doesn’t have a plot, never breaks for commercials and doesn’t solve all its problems at the end of thirty minutes?” I asked, realizing I was talking down to her but not knowing what else to say or how to say it.
“Well yeah, I had, sort of. I always thought it was a bummer, that way.”
“It’s like that with the dolphins. They’re not like big, friendly dogs that happen to live in the ocean, Elaine! They’re not even domesticated animals!”
“They’re not?”
“No! They’re wild animals that have been captured and trained to tolerate humans! They have strong personalities, and, and they, uh, they get along with some people better than others. I went in with a couple the other day, and they sort of roughed me up.”
Now Elaine seemed aghast. Great going, Zack! “They wouldn’t hurt a person they didn’t like, would they?”
Satan flashed to mind; I could imagine him cheerfully playing with a severed limb. “Those were a couple of rowdy ones,” I said. “Ruby, the one we’re going in with, is the gentlest one in the whole place.”
“Well that’s good,” she said, relieved. “You had me thinking they were sharks or something! I don’t know how I’d explain it to my dad if a dolphin bit me. He’d probably say I must’ve bitten it first.” Continue reading Pandemonium in the Porpoise Pens!