Recently, while kayaking on Lake Windermere in Cumbria, England, Tom Pickles and Sarah Harrington caught sight of something cutting swiftly through the water nearby. What they saw is uncertain, but one thing is clear, and it's definitely not Pickles' and Harrington's grainy photograph: sightings of strange objects and/or creatures typically means a tumultuous year on Wall St. (For related reading, also check out Alien Species Invasion: The Deep Economic Impact.)
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The English Loch Ness Monster?
"At first I thought it was a dog and then saw it was much bigger and moving really quickly at about 10 miles per hour," Pickles told The Telegraph. "Each hump was moving in a rippling motion and it was swimming fast. Its skin was like a seal's but its shape was completely abnormal - it's not like any animal I've ever seen before."
What Pickles and Harrington saw - and managed to take a hurried cell phone picture of - is still a mystery. Some insist it was the English version of the Loch Ness Monster, a refuse-to-say-die plesiosaur of prehistoric times. Others claim that the duo either witnessed, or were perpetrating, a hoax, possibly designed to boost local tourism; after all, just a few years ago, Mikko Takala, one of the founders of the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club, called the diminishing interest in Nessie "a potential crisis."
Take UFO sightings, for example. Since 2000, whenever eyewitness accounts tallied by the National UFO Reporting Center have increased by 10% or more in a single year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has moved approximately 17% in one direction or the other. When UFO sightings have increased by less than 10% or, in fact, decreased from one year to the next, the Dow rose or fell by an average of just 11%; on the Nasdaq, the corresponding figures were 36% and 18% respectively.
Likewise, the last two years that Nessie sightings reached double digits - in 1998 and 2000 - the Dow moved an average of 11%, while the Nasdaq averaged a whopping 39% change.
Is It Related?
Of course, this correlation between things that go bump in the night and the stock market is not all hocus-pocus. Many experts believe that increased sightings of flying saucers, Bigfoot, Nessie and other unexplained phenomenon are simply a manifestation of deep-seated fear and unease. Although actual numbers are hard to come by, researchers generally agree that UFO sightings in particular peaked in the 1950s, during the heart of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and have been waning ever since. However, with the current political unrest in Egypt and Libya, along with the continuing global economic struggles, that trend seems to be reversing.
Last May, the co-founders of the Northern Minnesota Bigfoot Society told KSAX Eyewitness News in Alexandria that "they have received more than 75 reports of sightings, captured images, and Bigfoot footprints in just three years." This is significant because, based on data compiled by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), the North Star State is hardly a haven for hairy, barbaric creatures, especially since Brett Favre retired from the Vikings.
What's more, according to a story that appeared in The Telegraph, UFO sightings over Britain more than tripled from January to August of 2009 compared to the same period the year before. The Telegraph reported that 394 UFO claims were submitted to the Ministry of Defense during that time, eclipsing the previous one-year high of 331 set in 1997, the first year that such claims were recorded.
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Not Just Here
Similarly, a wave of UFO sightings swept over Iran in 2004. Interviewed by the UK edition of Wired magazine, Mark Pilkington, author of "Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs," added to the previously advanced notion that political tension might have been a contributing factor in the rash of sightings.
"It's interesting to see how in Iran, just as in the U.K. or the U.S., initial reports of lights in the sky will quite quickly transform into more dramatic stories - the second wave of sightings in 2004 involved strange robot creatures with claw arms hovering in the skies. This kind of escalation is a natural part of the folkloric narrative process, though it's also possible that these stories were faked by witnesses or journalists to sell newspapers, or were even planted by Iran's enemies to stir up unease."
The Truth Is Out There
Whatever the truth behind this recent spate of eerie incidents is, it will be interesting to see how Wall St. reacts. As for investors, rather than studying the Consumer Confidence Index or analyzing the latest employment or housing numbers, perhaps it would make better sense to look to the heavens, take a walk in the woods or go kayaking.
Who knows, it could change your financial fortunes. (For additional reading, also take a look at 5 Bizarre Insurance Policies.)