Whatever Happened to Stranger Dimensions?

A Long And Winding Road

This post is both a rant and an explanation.

It’s something I’ve avoided talking about for a long, long time, mostly because I doubt anyone cares. It’s also just boring, and not the least bit paranormal. But I feel like I need to get it out there, finally, just for my own sake. After I publish this, I intend to say “to heck with it” and start posting again like it’s the good old days of 2012.

Almost twelve years ago, wow.

Anyway, you may have noticed that the number of articles I publish here dropped dramatically around 2020. I did not write a single article for Stranger Dimensions in 2022.

This may have appeared odd, especially to regular readers, because this website has always been in a decent spot in the paranormal niche. It’s been linked to by Coast to Coast AM, and I’ve had articles mentioned by websites like AV Club, and even some newspapers. Art Bell himself read one of my articles aloud during his run of Dark Matter (still probably my personal highlight). Stranger Dimensions even briefly cameo’d in an episode of the Angry Video Game Nerd, of all things.

I’m not saying Stranger Dimensions is perfect, or that the articles are always great, or anything like that. I’m just a guy with a blog. This isn’t the most “professional” thing in the world, no. Still, we’ve reached some pretty high highs in the past.

But it hasn’t all been fun and games, let me tell you.

In May 2020, not long after the exciting lockdowns began, I thought maybe the virtual world, at least, would remain stable. It did not. In order to do something (I’m not sure what), Google changed their search engine in a way that dramatically impacted smaller websites, and from what I could tell, especially smaller websites focused on more unusual topics, like the paranormal.

A graph showing a huge fall of traffic

Through no change of my own, this website lost 90% of its usual number of visitors. Wiped completely out overnight. May 4, 2020. I looked around, and the same had happened to other paranormal websites, as well. Bigger ones, too, that you may know about.

I can’t say that everyone in this niche was affected, but it sure seemed like it.

(Update 2/29/2024: Here’s an example of other websites facing the same issues more recently. Bottom line: It’s not a fair situation for any independent publications).

The fall was devastating, because at that time, I was approaching a full decade of working on Stranger Dimensions. And that work felt as though it had suddenly melted like the Wicked Witch of the West, and Google was holding the bucket. Stranger Dimensions had already experienced some difficult ups and downs, but that truly felt like the final blow.

And it kind of still remains that way today, because not much has improved. In fact, it hasn’t improved at all. Everything’s pretty much been in stasis since then.

So, around 2021 I started to slow down, and then last year I thought, well, it’s time for a break. However, the simple issue of website traffic isn’t exactly the only reason I became demotivated with writing here. It was a long time coming.

The Paranormal & You

I’ll try to keep this as short as possible, and I won’t mention any names, because it’s been so long and most of the villainous websites of this story are either dead themselves or dying, or just not especially relevant.

There are only so many paranormal topics out there. It’s expected that, if you go on long enough, you’re going to talk about the same stuff. Tulpas, Bigfoot, Ouija Boards, UFOs, all the good paranormal stuff. And that’s great, because we each have our own unique voices and ideas to share.

That’s not how some people do things.

Right now, I’m dealing with a literal tabloid in the Philippines that decided to republish several of my articles word-for-word without permission over the last couple years. At the very least, they added my name in the byline as they copied things, but they’ve been unresponsive to requests to just, you know, not do that.

Likewise, it does not feel good to have your words repeated verbatim in a successful YouTube video that receives millions of views, while your original articles are punished for reasons you’re never told. That’s how Google has worked for many years. Multiple “big” YouTube channels have done this in the past, to me and others. One has pretty much faded away, as its owner instead runs around gobbling up food at restaurants for some review channel. Others have fallen off, too, so again, it’s not worth naming names.

The entire Internet has changed, and the way things work is different now, anyway.

That’s not to mention, though, the numerous other paranormal websites that just view this niche as some kind of buffet. Ones you’ve probably visited, too. I know plagiarism happens literally everywhere, but there’s something so seedy about the paranormal field in particular. It’s already so nebulous to begin with that they shouldn’t have such a hard time writing something of their own.

What actually happens, or used to, is that these websites or YouTube “creators” (I say, sarcastically) pay freelance “writers” very cheaply for content. They don’t edit it or check that it’s original, they just pay pennies per word and then publish it or read it out loud to their audiences. That’s it. That’s how most of these places work.

I found out recently that some “psychic” group rewrote one of my articles and basically paid a fellow website owner to publish it as part of some promotion for their services.

That’s about as low as it gets.

I contacted the owner about that, and they were amenable and added a link back to my article and so on. But it’s still the case that the owner did not perform due diligence in making sure the content they were putting their name on was actually of even the lowest bar of quality.

These are your paranormal experts. Just trust me, if someone in this niche is trying to sell you something, run away as fast and as far as you can. Or at the very least, double check what you’re getting into.

Several years ago, I even had an alleged “author” use one of my articles, in full, in one of their Kindle ebooks, along with other articles pilfered from various other websites. This person had appeared as a guest, a paranormal expert, on radio shows.

Look, it’s hard enough to pass yourself off as an expert on something as amorphous and usually unscientific as the “paranormal.” If you’re not even sharing your own words or thoughts, that’s even worse, somehow. That’s what really bothers me.

But in any case, the de-motivation from all of this kind of stuck. What’s the point of spending time writing something for your own website if someone’s just going to come along, steal it, regurgitate it, and somehow reach a wider audience? And then, on top of that, your own work gets punished and pushed down? One of those things, I can deal with. Both at the same time? That’s difficult to get around, at least for me.

(I don’t want to sound like an absolute fiend when it comes to people sharing my posts, though. I love when people share my articles. Just not when they’re shared in full, or vaguely rewritten, without a link or my name, by bigger publications using them for profit. That’s not fair at all.)

A Changing Internet

You may have noticed that several paranormal websites have introduced subscriptions or other things. Five free articles a month. Exclusive subscriber content! I’m seeing it more and more, and that should be evidence enough that many places no longer see writing as viable on its own. The quality hasn’t improved, it’s just the same old stuff with a new extra price tag. Woo hoo.

Many of the paranormal websites that were around when I began Stranger Dimensions flat out do not even exist, anymore. You can’t just publish anything and hope for the best. That’s how it worked back in 2012, not now.

Beyond that, we also have to deal with the looming specter of generative AI services that crawl and spin existing content in seconds. Meaning that the very articles deemed inadequate by search engines are still used to fuel their own services for their own benefits.

Most of those paranormal websites I mentioned that were affected by algorithm updates have not recovered in the three years since. One, maybe. Some have “gotten better.” But the main point is, if you’re not already an established gigantic corporate entity, your website no longer really has a voice on search platforms. And if you own a small paranormal website and things are going okay at the moment…just you wait.

YouTube videos, social media, and podcasts are basically the way of things now, whether we like it or not.

So What?

Still, none of this really matters. What’s done is done, and it’s been almost four years since anything of note happened here. Leaving it alone for so long probably hasn’t helped, either.

This year, I’ve been slowly getting back into things, but it’s mostly been in the background, updating old posts, digging Stranger Dimensions out of the muck, and making sure certain accounts don’t fall inactive. I’m far from finished, but I needed the break to get away for a while.

So here is the deal (mostly as a note for myself):

I am going to start posting again, soon. I’m going to post whatever I feel like, long or short, good or bad. I want to write again, so I’m going to have some fun with it. And we’ll see what happens. The Internet has changed, but as Slartibartfast might put it, the only thing to do is say “hang the sense of it” and keep yourself busy.

For now, Happy Holidays.

If you’ve made it this far through my rant, thank you for reading. If you’re a regular reader of Stranger Dimensions, thank you for sticking with me this long, despite the absences. I am sorry for vanishing on and off.

Next up, I don’t know, tulpas or something!

Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.