Tuesday, 25 October 2016
I normally disregard stories of weeping/sweating/bleeding religious paintings/sculptures. In the first place, they should theoretically be easy to fake. I say "theoretically" because I don't know of any case proved to have been faked (although I know of one which had a naturalistic explanation). And that is my second reason: I don't know of any having been proved spurious or genuine because they never seem to get investigated; even the debunkers aren't interested in them. Also - and this might be intellectual snobbery on my part - they sound like rather pathetic miracles, as if God were playing parlour tricks to impress simple people. Just the same, we need to keep an open mind. Some years ago I reported on a carved stone which regularly oozed water and changed colour over a period of 153 years. So I therefore think that the the account of the events in Houston, Texas in 1991 deserve repetition.
Friday, 2 September 2016
In 1998, Tony Healy and my friend, Paul Cropper descended on the small Northern Territory town of Humpty Doo to investigate a poltergeist infested house. They didn't have long to wait. While Paul was talking to two of the occupants, there came a clatter, like hail on the corrugated iron roof and, as he looked upwards, a dozen grey pebbles fell to the floor from the ceiling. As it turned out, this was not to be an isolated experience for them. Trickery, they soon discovered, was out of the question. However, it was pretty easy to deduce that the pebbles came from the driveway outside but how did they get to the ceiling? No-one ever saw them move from the driveway into the house, or onto the roof, or even hover below the ceiling. Paul got the impression that they had simply passed through both the roof and ceiling without leaving any holes. It is not clear from their reports whether the clatter was heard on each occasion, so did they simply materialise under the ceiling? And why, when the ground was saturated outside, did they remain dry, if not warm? And this phenomenon is not limited to Humpty Doo. Harry Price, the psychic researcher, said that he had heard of many objects falling from ceilings, but never anyone ever seeing anything go up to the ceiling.
Thursday, 11 August 2016
[T]he Brownies stole the philibeg off me, along with sark, jacket, and vest, and left me naked except for hose and brogan. (Marjorie T. Johnson, 2014, Seeing Fairies, Anomalist Books, p 268).That was the experience of Adam Campbell Hunter at Glen Oykel in 1938. He had gone for a long walk, taken off most of his clothes to sunbathe, and placed a stone on them to keep them from being blown away. After a while, he walked 50 yards to the top of the hill, came down, and found his clothes had disappeared! The boulders used to as landmarks were still very obvious, the rest of the landscape was empty. Then follows the amusing story of his coming home nearly naked, and of the search party's valiant attempts to discover the clothes until they suddenly turned up right where he had left them, visible from a distance of 200 yards, despite the whole area having been gone over with a fine tooth comb immediately before.
Mr Hunter had just suffered an extreme example of something I'm sure we've all experienced. An object, usually small, disappears, only to turn up in the last place you would expect it or, more baffling, in plain sight in a place which had already been searched several times. No doubt there is a conventional explanation in the vast majority of these cases. Nevertheless, some of them appear to defy any rational explanation. I sometimes joke that the world is hard to understand for people who don't believe in gremlins, but ... what if it's not a joke?
Sunday, 3 July 2016
He had enjoyed his present life but his principal regret to leave it would be that he must pass through that strange barrier which blots out all but the vaguest intuitive memories of earlier experiences before a soul is born again. (Dennis Wheatley, They Found Atlantis)It is hard to know how many people in the Western world believe in reincarnation. One survey said 24% of Americans, but even that statistic is meaningless unless you inquire about the strength of the belief. For every person who is certain of reincarnation, there will be many more who consider it probable or merely possible. Rather like belief in God or flying saucers, in fact. As far as I can ascertain, such beliefs were not common in the west prior to contact with eastern religions. But the believers are not, by and large, Buddhists or Hindus; experience with other cultures has merely raised a possibility not previously considered. If you ask them for a reason, you may not get a very coherent reply. A friend of mine said that reincarnation made the universe "fairer", as if there were some unwritten law that the universe must be fair. So, what exactly is the evidence for reincarnation?
Tuesday, 14 June 2016
In the movie, Ghost Patrick Schwayze, deceased was shown by a more experienced ghost how to move small objects by psychokinesis. It figures; a ghost has no flesh and bones, so how can it pick up items? For that matter, how can you even see one, since it has no body to bounce light off? Terry White (The Sceptical Occultist) suggested an apparition may be a psychic manifestation, given that occasionally it is visible to one person but not another. But how do they make sounds? To my knowledge - I may need correction - ghostly footsteps are not audible to one person but inaudible to another. What is pounding the floor? And what if you could make a ghost involuntarily collide with something?
Thursday, 5 May 2016
If you asked a typical member of a traditional society what three powers would be most desirable in a witchdoctor, he would probably say curing diseases, predicting the future, and making rain. And the last is the most difficult. After all, diseases often get better by themselves, or are improved by suggestion, and some people really do have tenuous psychic powers, or can fake it with cold reading, but how do you control the clouds? One anthropologist claimed that North American rainmakers just keep on dancing till the rain comes. Whether he validated that claim with personal investigation was not recorded. According to other experts, rainmaking is something the average witchdoctor leaves alone, because he knows it can destroy his reputation. But what happens if a person really does summon up just the right amount of rain in the time frame he nominated? I have previously recorded how the Queen and Prince Philip were the beneficiaries of one such sorcerer. The tale of the Jívaro witchdoctor therefore deserves repeating.
Thursday, 14 April 2016
When I visited Papua New Guinea in 1984 a missionary told me some second hand stories of sorcery which, on the face of it, were difficult to explain. One of these days, I thought, the whole world will be civilised, and nobody will know that such things ever happened. This is why I have recounted stories under the label of "sorcery". With a lot of tall tales "out there", my criteria have been that they are first hand reports by people who appear honest and objective, and which do not appear explicable by such obvious means as cold reading or sleight of hand. This does not, of course, mean that the witnesses' observations were perfect, and missed nothing important. With this in mind, let us examine the account of the ant whisperer.