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So for the question, take these things into account.

Up to very recently, the world was exactly as ours. Everyone from angsty teenagers to modern pagans, fraternities to secret societies perform rituals, for tradition, entertainment, and worship.

A few- a small few- of those books were legitimate and functional, but there was no magic for them to draw in so there was no difference.

Suddenly, a supernatural creature pops up. There are a couple witnesses, but the critter is killed and burned thanks to some quick thinking by average people.

Now, people are developing powers. (Psychics, armored skin, magic use). People get them suddenly, but they're exceptionally rare. Spells from the rare forementioned books suddenly work, reliably.

A low-ranking FBI agent observes something undeniably supernatural.

A body is found, with human DNA. Unfortunately, tests also show inconsistencies like missing organs, or organs/parts that humans dont have, like gills, wings, venom glands, fangs.

Humans are found, that seem completely normal- except they have no identification. No history. Nothing verifiable whatsoever.

So far, nothing very the top has happened. No Cthulhu, no fireballs thrown on live TV, etc. Its the beginning.

How do you think the governments would react? How would they treat people with no identity? What about people who seem to be at a disproportionate number of supernatural events, even if witnesses say they were helping people?

Edit: I mean, very very early on. Covert agencies and imprisonment of mages are in the cards, but this is early. Its rumours. First hand-accounts. No evidence yet. Do they just disregard the current laws to contain it, or would they wait for proof? Twist the current laws? For an analogy we're all familiar with, this isn't a Zombie Apocalypse. This is a single zombie, in a vast national forest. A small-scale reaction. The FBI knows something... weird is going on, but no laws have been broken yet. Perhaps they'd hold mages for unrelated crimes and falsify evidence?

I'll also add... This story is the foundation for an RPG. The people getting powers are receiving them as payment for completing missions. Being players, the aforementioned condition that non PC witnesses end up dead is true. However, the players have so far ratted out one player as having powers (a psychic effect, reaching out to a target and extending a purple flame to engulf them which results in incapacitating pain for a few moments.) The other players now have a power, one can throw fireballs (sigh) and the other can mentally connect with wireless networks. So as of now, there are five people in the whole world with powers. 2 are staying silent (and have no ID, no history) and three are from this world, and will probably end up flaunting their gifts in time. One from this world is an FBI hacker. How do you think police/fbi would react to the accusation of powers? What about the 'proof' of them?

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closed as too broad by MichaelK, Secespitus, Mołot, L.Dutch, Frostfyre Oct 24 '17 at 12:19

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ What do the people with no identification remember? Do they think they've been living there (wherever they were found) for their entire lives? Do they think they've come from somewhere else? Do they not remember? $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Oct 15 '15 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ They claim to have been from this Earth. In actuality, they were brought from a similar earth, in another dimension. $\endgroup$ – Redchigh Oct 15 '15 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ Honestly? I wouldn't underestimate government incompetence. Many politicians would completely deny the existence of the supernatural - and a die-hard few would continue to deny it even after the evidence became overwhelming, because some politicians are stupid like that. $\endgroup$ – user867 Feb 2 '16 at 5:21
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    $\begingroup$ Voting to close for the failing "Write A Book" test in a spectacular fashion. :-) You can not only write dozens of books on this, but movies, games, roleplaying settings... this is such a common occurrence in fiction that it not only pre-dates this question, but is a trope on its own. So in short: this is way too broad. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 24 '17 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Which trope do you want? Super Power Lottery? Close related: Randomly Gifted. We also have Magic Genetics. And apparently this is a Mass Super-empowering Event. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 24 '17 at 13:39
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This is a common backstory; elements of what you've said can be found in The X-Files, X-Men, Heroes, Resurrection, and other serials and films.

The normal reaction of the government, who's usually the first to know, is to suppress it, by any means necessary up to and including making the people capable of supernatural feats disappear without a trace. An upset of this scale to the status quo simply cannot be allowed to happen or it would threaten the very existence of the nation.

The normal reaction of the population, if news of the developments spreads before the government can lock it down, is usually similar; fear and suspicion. Mob violence and an almost literal "witch hunt" would be rampant, with or without tacit government approval.

One government official, high up to have some clout, might step in, seeing the potential for these supernatural humans in a military situation. Those who cooperate are placed in a unit where their unique abilities are further developed; this both segregates them from the public for mutual protection, and makes them useful to society without the need to hide their true nature. Those who do not cooperate are imprisoned, or forced into hiding, and eventually become a force opposing the government and their super-cronies.

Eventually public opinion might turn once the utility of the super-humans is publicized, and a movement may start to end the government segregation and control of the super-humans, letting them integrate back into normal society, but there will always be people who resist that, and any that never complied with the government will still hold a grudge.

This kind of narrative is fairly well-traveled, as I mentioned, to the point that any major deviation from the basic beats I mentioned are probably going to come off as implausible or unrealistic.

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  • $\begingroup$ I edited my initial post to include more details applicable to your answer. $\endgroup$ – Redchigh Oct 16 '15 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ Why would the government be the first to know? Just because it has a broader range of reports to correlate than social media does? $\endgroup$ – Bobson Oct 18 '15 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ Because they have the resources to gather info from everywhere, and also to squash social media posts when they happen. (e.g. someone uploads a movie of a man lifting a truck bare-handed, moments later the video disappears off the internet, but NSA now have a copy of it). $\endgroup$ – Mirror318 Aug 2 '16 at 4:48
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"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

At this point, the idea that magic and the supernatural are just myths are pretty well drilled into peoples' heads. Skepticism will probably run rampant for a while, until something actually over the top happens, especially because of how easy it is to fake things digitally.

The government would probably pick up on it before the general population does, because it would only take the FBI a few cases to realize there's a connection, then start pulling police records across the country. However, it would still take a while to truly convince the higher-ups, because of the technology/faking possibilities. Once the higher-ups realize that the supernatural is actually a thing, they would probably do whatever they could to keep it quiet -- there's not really a good way to say "Oh, by the way, magic is real and so are monsters," and it would probably cause panic. As cliche as it sounds, they'd probably form a small secretive division that specifically deals with the supernatural, so that even among them there are as few people as possible that have to know what's going on.

Eventually it would probably get out to the public, at which point it becomes more of a social issue than a specifically governmental one.

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John Ringo's Special Circumstances novels (Princess of Wands and Queen of Swords) come to mind. These are set in a modern day Earth where the supernatural exists and is often used for dark purposes. We mostly follow the story from the viewpoint of a Christian soccer mom turned God's warrior. The evil forces of course operate in secret and the good guys (although the primary characters are all female) combating them also keep things under wraps--the very existence of the supernatural is treated as what looks to me like a TS/SCI classification.

Even dramatic showdowns generally can slip by the attention of the press as if things come down to open conflict any civilians nearby generally end up dead--it's easy enough to pass it off as the work of a maniac.

(Admittedly, at the end of the second book the curtain isn't going to be able to keep things in the dark anymore. He doesn't follow up on what happens after the President goes on TV asking for prayers and she directs all that energy against a big baddie.)

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In this situation, I'd think there would be some government organization somewhat like the fictional SCP Foundation. Not as wide blown as the original, but something the government kept just for laughs. They (as understanding they were a joke) take over quickly and efficiently, slowly gaining some recognition within the government for their stealthy and efficient ability in 'capturing' these anomalies and studying them. Even if this went nowhere, they would become renowned for their abilities in handling the situation efficiently.

this entirely depends on the government having some sub-organization for this purpose. Which they probably have in some form.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'll also add... This story is the foundation for an RPG. The people getting powers are receiving them as payment for completing missions. Being players, the aforementioned condition that non PC witnesses end up dead is true. However, the players have so far ratted out one player as having powers (a psychic effect, reaching out to a target and extending a purple flame to engulf them which results in incapacitating pain for a few moments.) $\endgroup$ – Redchigh Oct 16 '15 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ That would have been helpful before I answered. That said, this organization would be a pretty nice adversary. $\endgroup$ – Demisemihemidemisemiquaver Oct 16 '15 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Delta $\endgroup$ – James Oct 16 '15 at 19:08
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If this world were exactly like ours, and diverges only at the incident you describe, then one must take into consideration the possibility that what most consider to be governments, whether themselves or the Men In Black types with the knowledge of some possible supernatural interventions in the past, would already be prepared for these such occurances.

I base that on the two–pronged premise that the folklore of every single ancestor to our contemporary cultures has some belief in the supernatural, and that this is either

  • a human predilection
  • evidence of a prior condition

Regardless of the fact that many people nowadays do not, or say that they do not, believe in the existence of some forms of Being beyond what they consider to be natural, almost everyone knows that belief in a supernatural has been popular at various times in the past.

Indeed, it's not like such belief is on a steady decrease, either, but seems to rise and fall in waves like much else does with some relation to mortality of populations.

So, whether the government or its Cancer Man actually believe that elves or UFOs or djinn exist, it seems very likely that they'd want to be prepared for such a possibility. Those people got to where they are by being conniving, clever, and ruthless.

Now, what you need to consider is whether or not your world has any such people. And, if so, one would expect that such portentous incidences of the supernatural would be exactly why they have those agencies, kept laughable so as to hide them from serious scrutiny. If not, then you need to consider why they wouldn't be prepared.

I also would suggest that hiding such information from the populi is resultant less from a desire to prevent a panic — that's what the peonic bureaucrats are told — than from the simple aphorism that Knowledge Is Power.

So, in conclusion, I would recommend that these people with magical powers very soon become very powerful or very visible, if you don't want them snatched up and absorbed in some Ministry of Magic or what–have–you.

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"Humans are found, that seem completely normal- except they have no identification. No history. Nothing verifiable whatsoever."

Dealing with them is quite easy. Detain them as illegal immigrants and start a long bureaucratic procedure of their deportation. (yes, it would take time... it's a realistic, bureaucratic solution...)

Being realistic? Judging from recent govs behavior? In democratic countries secret services would be sniffing, but not much above it. NSA would get traced big share of them through metadata. TSA would molest those of supernaturals who show some weird deformities. European Commission would classify such supernatural features as disability that requires some special protection against discrimination, but the directive about it would still be negotiated. A few cults would bloom. There would be presumably some less nice things done in some regimes or by organized crime.

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I think that all of these events are going to quickly get a lot of attention, both from the government and from the public. The government's response is going to depend a lot on how people are reacting to this.

people are developing powers

Unless the powers also cause an inherent shame that causes the people to want to hide it, knowledge that this is happening is going to spread very quickly. The government won't be able to do anything to prevent that, even if it wanted to. Someone is going to make a youtube video of their new powers, and it's going to go viral - not because people believe it, but because of course the person is going to do something dumb with their new powers that makes for a funny video. People aren't going to believe it at first because they'll just think they did a good job with special effects. Then when a local news agency goes to investigate the person's insistent claims that the powers are real, they'll be presented to a nice demonstration of that reality. That news segment is going to be shown again and again and again.

By this point, the government has no capability to cover this up (unless they get someone who can perform mass memory wipes). If the number of people with powers didn't reach into the thousands, then pretty much anyone with powers would be offered quite a lot of money to let scientists attempt to understand what is going on. With more people than that, there's a good chance some scientist will develop powers and be super excited to try to understand them. This isn't going to be some shady government agency attempting to dissect them to learn the secret of their powers - this is going to be one of the best research facilities in the world.

Also, dissecting someone is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Doctors can do x-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans to get a good picture of what their insides look like. Blood samples and DNA samples (i.e swabbing the inside of their cheek) provide more information about what might make the individual different. They'll also want to see what happens as the powers are used - what (if any) kinds of radiation are given off and see if there are any indications as to how it is happening.

The biggest thing is going to be the people who can do magic. It will be pretty easy to determine that something is violating the laws of physics as we know them - most magics as shown in fiction clearly violate the conservation of mass and energy. This alone will cause quite a bit of excitement, both in and out of the scientific world. Scientists will be excited for more people to develop powers and hope that they'll be able to explore a brand new field. Gamers in particular are going to be incredibly excited - finally all of their fantasies might be able to come true in real life!

Now, how can a government react to this? They're going to have to admit that this is actually happening. They can, however, do their best to prevent people from panicking:

By now, most of you have probably seen or heard about the Youtube video of the man with a superpower, as well as the news report that the video was not faked. After preliminary tests, we can confirm that at least 99% of scientists are very disappointed that they are not the ones who gained a superpower.

Jokes aside, we've conferred with other world leaders and can confirm that this appears to be a widespread, if rare, occurrence. At this point, we do not know what is causing this to happen. We have at least one case where the laws of physics as we know them are clearly being violated. This is good news for everyone who has been disappointed by scientists saying that their favorite part of science fiction is impossible - there might be a way to make it happen now.

We do have one report of an attack by a previously unknown creature, though fortunately the people attacked were able to kill the creature without anyone being seriously injured. We do not know where the creature came from, or how it got here, just as we don't know why people have started to develop powers.

Faced with these unknowns, we recommend an extra degree of caution from everyone. Avoid being outside alone, and have a way to defend yourself when possible.

For anyone who develops a power, please go to the nearest hospital as soon as it is convenient - we do not know the long-term health implications of these powers that have been showing up. Prior to these recent events, mutations never caused X-men-like powers, only cancer. We still don't know if these are some kind of mutation or something else. The more data that we have, the better we will be able to understand what is going on and why.

Additionally, we will be looking into creating a superhero team to help us handle any further developments. If you're interested in applying, please send us a video at (some email address) demonstrating your new powers.


A note about the critter:

the critter is killed and burned

Even in the case of the critter being burned, there's still going to be enough of the remains to attempt an analysis. Whatever they can collect will be sent off to a lab to analyzed. Unless the critter's remains appear identical to that of a known large wild animal (which could be the case if it's a bear infected in some way by magic), this is immediately going to be something many people start following - it's not uncommon for attack by wild animals to get attention from the news, and unless the people who were attacked have something to hide they are likely to enjoy the 5 minutes of fame from telling the story to some news agency. When the lab reports that the remains are not from any known animal, the story is going to go viral quite quickly.

Combined with people developing powers, this will just make even more people convinced that something big is happening.

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Check out a movie called "Cast A Deadly Spell". This movie is a cross between a "hard boiled" detective story and a horror story. It takes place in 1948 were almost everyone uses magic for minor to major things like lighting a cigarette and erecting buildings. The exception is the detective, who prefers not to use magic. The movie addresses some of the elements of the story you outlined, including the investigation of a murder.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi, Howard. This is what we call a link-only answer, meaning that there is no information provided about the link it references. This is probably what's attracting downvotes. Could you provide an explanation as to the relevance of the movie in question, or instead make this answer a comment? Thanks. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Oct 15 '15 at 23:49
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Shadow1024 is pretty on point.

The government would be slow to believe that anything is happening but different portions of the huge bureaucratic beast that is the government would figure it out faster than others. The official policy would likely be be to deny it publicly while trying to get ahead of the situation. Getting ahead of the situation involves controlling it by recruiting/eliminating/incarcerating those with abilities in secret. Different branches of the government may have different strategies and may or may not know that other branches also know about the supernaturals.

Once things hit the press, it all depends on what story hits the press. The story of a person flying into a burning building and rescuing people will cause a different reaction than a story about a person using powers to set fire to a building with people in it. I picked this examples because they both may have happened in the same incident. It just depends on what got caught on camera.

The government's reaction will be what makes the population happy.

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