Thursday, 26 November 2009

Dehra Dun

Ok I am now in this crazy Indian City on my way to Mussoorie on the Hannibal Fogg trail. Flight from UK was OK- Delhi was a nightmare and I had to leave by train at dawn to come here- 12 hours- but in second class AC so it was OK. Dehra Dun is dirty, sprawling and wild- and I kind of like it, but I am really looking forward to getting to Mussoorie which is where the real trail begins. However one strange thing happened to me at the bus station where I went to inquire about getting up to the hill stations. A rather elderly man with obviously dyed hair engaged me in abstruse conversation about the 'British in India'. He spoke in an exaggeratedly verbose way that suggested he was showing me how educated he was- which worked because he used words I had only a vague idea what they meant. Anyway after lecturing me about the largely malign influence of the British- fair enough I thought being ignorant of this subject myself- he said, "I can tell you are an educated gentleman, a cut above the rest. Please come and visit my shop." Ot Oh. That old chestnut. But having nothing to do, and a desire to see just how far he would try and push me to buy some knick knack or other, I went with him.

The shop was a seedy old bookshop off the second main street after the railway station. The window was stacked with computer software manuals, but in the back of the shop he had large numbers of reprinted anthropological texts written by British administrators in the early 20th century. We sat down on two stools and he shouted through a dirty curtain to the back of the shop for tea. The conversation was all over the place until I mentioned Hannibal Fogg. He looked at me with horror (no kidding) and said- you are the second person to ask about him in one week! And get this- he sold a hannibal fogg book (which I thought were all unavailable) to this 'young female backpacker not unattractive, antipodean I suspect' as he put it. I was so intrigued i even bought a map and guide to Mussorie off him. He had no more details of interest except he said he could get me 'numerous copies of the work of Hannibal Fogg'!!!! Incredible. i said I would be back in a week from Mussoorie to buy whatever he had. when I told him about the Tibetan hibernation secrets I was looking for he poh poohed it by saying 'that is fakir trickery my friend, nothing serious'. I didn't believe him. So a good start to the journey!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

hannibal fogg society


Hannibal Fogg and Tibetan Monks

From clues in the Hannibal Fogg monograph on Tibetan Monks I will be flying early next week to Delhi in India and then by train to Dehra Dun and by bus (?) to Mussoorie which until about two weeks ago I thought was in the USA! turns out it was a place Brit officials used to go in the hot summer to recover in the mountains while they were colonising Inja. anyway I shall be going hot on the trail of my role model (I wish) and hero Hannibal Fogg who reported meeting exiled Tibetan monks there. Even in his day they were driving tibetans from their homeland, but then, the 1900s, it was because of a widespread practice then frowned on; human hibernation. I kid you not. These monks were experts at reducing body temperature and even slowing their heartbeat right down. If I have a chance I will talk by phone to James Lings an expert on these matters, though he isn't answering my emails right now!!!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

me and hannibal fogg

My name is Martin Potter (No Harry jokes please!) and I am originally from the beautiful Clifton area of Bristol. I work in HR and have a massive interest in Pink Floyd, and I’m an especial fan of the Floyd sound tracked movies by Barbet Schreoder- More and La Vallee- both of which I own along with a ton of late 1960s concert footage. I have also always been fascinated by early science fiction and it was doing a search for Jules Verne that turned me onto Hannibal Fogg, since there was some web discussion that Fogg was the real life (and name) inspiration for Phileas Fogg in around the world in 80 days. I did some more digging and discovered that Hannibal Fogg’s uncle Peter Fogg, who also attended Jesus College Oxford University  and was president of the Oxford Union in Micahaelmas term 1859, was in Paris in the 1860s and was known for his eccentric ways. It is certain Verne would have heard of him and stored away the name for later use in the novel which was published in 1873.

I found out about the Hannibal Fogg society (which has a fairly sparse website though I am told they are working on it) and discovered that there is a whole history out there waiting to be publicized. The Fogg society is in the process of republishing some of Hannibal’s most important monographs. Also his long poem, The Serpent and the Vine, some of which the secretary Mark Ellsworthy was kind enough to email me: and I was blown away. Hannibal Fogg has a mind of such width of interest and knowledge it would be hard not to be totally impressed. And please excuse the fact that when I am talking of Hannibal I use the present tense- there is a reason for that- namely that Mark told me the Fogg society receives two or three reports a month that Fogg is still alive!


Mad though that may sound I decided to investigate further- and this blog is the result. Apologies for its rough and ready appearance- I’m working on it- meanwhile I am hot on the trail of the latest reports of Fogg being sighted. Fogg was a strange man who visited almost every country on the planet- lomg before it was easy to do so. He knew many many famous and infamous people and was also subject to a vindictive campaign after his so called death (variously reported as Lahore India 1938 or Bromsgrove, Worcestershire 1942). But neither of these places have any records that I can find that definitively put Fogg there for when he is supposed to have died. My own view, which is supported by the arcane metaphors of the Serpent and the Vine- is that Fogg mastered some technique of suspended animation which he learnt from the Tibetan monks who to this day practise hibernation. This will be this blogs starting point: visiting the Tibetan monks and checking it out for real. If there is even a remote chance Fogg learnt this technique (and he wrote a monograph on it so my guess is he did) then it is indeed possible that Hannibal Fogg is out there and still alive, strange though that may seem. There are attested cases of Georgians and inhabitants of the Gilgit valleys (see Frank Smythe’s Valley of the Flowers) living for 160 years or more. Fogg was born exactly 148 years ago- it’s possible!


The aim of the blog is to visit as many of the places where Fogg is known to have traveled. To meet the few people still alive who met him and to co-ordinate and investigate all reports  (PHOTOS TOO PLEASE!) of sightings of Hannibal Fogg.