Up until the 1980's, Sedona was just another northern Arizona town, set in a picturesque location among impressive formations of red rocks. Passing tourists and the odd film shoot (The Angel and the Badman) provided minor sources of income, while agriculture remained the main pursuit. However, in the 1980's, a whole new group of visitors arrived, enticed by Sedona's vortices. Or vortexes - like most things related to them, there's no real agreement on the matter.
Indeed, you'd be hard-pushed to find two people who agree what these vortices are. Generally, they seem to be areas of increased energy, which can be felt by the especially sensitive - cynics may suggest this is just a nice get-out clause, allowing any failures to be blamed on the participant. From this humble beginning has spun off an entire industry of tours, seminars and New Age activities, which has turned Sedona into a Mecca for the spiritually-minded. Now, anywhere between 2 and 4 million tourists visit a year, swamping the year-round population of barely 10,000.
We are not equipped to comment on the vortices, since we've never bothered to hike our way to their supposed locations - with an appalling lack of consideration for tourists, there are no vortices located on Main Street, or near to Starbuck's. Sedona does, however, remain a cutesy little destination that's an inevitable stop on the itinerary of visiting guest, as well as the occasional weekend getaway for Chris and myself. It seems like every second shop is an art gallery - with the ones in between occupied by gift shops or new age stores, selling crystals, psychic readings, aura cleansings and the like.
Coming out of one such, we were grabbed by a guru who demanded, "What's the connection?". Connection? Ah, spiritual. Now, Chris is from New York, and I spent a decade in London, where strangers only talk to you if they want cash. This guy seemed more benign, though he may have been angling for business. He said we both need exercise - hardly a stretch, and true for 90% of Americans. I need to watch the water I drink, Chris should get her acupuncture points adjusted. Maybe she can do it at the garage, when she takes the car in for a service.
It wasn't all holistic fun and games, however - the main purpose of the Sedona trip was to hear a talk by Dr. Nick Begich. We first encountered Begich at the 2002 Conspiracy Con, and he remains one of the best speakers we've heard in our three years attending that event. It says something that a ninety-minute drive to hear him once more, was absolutely no discouragement at all.
Dr. Begich differs from many conspiratorial researchers in a couple of ways. Firstly, he cites sources with a zeal that borders on the obsessive, yet is refreshing - compare and contrast Arizona Wilder, whose claimed experiences are her only evidence. Secondly, too many conspiratologists take a fact and run amok with it, ending up in wild speculation. Begich is happy to admit the limits of his knowledge, and differentiates between knowledge, inference and extrapolation.
His family background is interesting: his brother is the mayor of Anchorage, Alaska and he's the son of an Alaskan Congressman who disappeared, along with his plane, in mysterious circumstances - also on the vanished aircraft was House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, a member of the Warren Commission which investigated the assassination of Kennedy, and announced that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Begich entered the fray with a 1994 article about the hi-tech HAARP project located in a remote area of Alaska, a topic later explored more fully in his book, Angels Don't Play This HAARP.