Sunday, 1 February 2015

What Sort of People See Fairies?

Belief in fairies, in one form or another, is found all over the world, but is strongest among primitive peoples. It is presumably as old as mankind itself, and in Christian communities is one of the surviving relics of paganism.
     That was a passage I remember well from the 1144-page tome pretentiously entitled, The Great Encyclop√¶dia of Universal Knowledge, apparently published in 1938, and the constant literary companion of my boyhood. Indeed several of the front and rear pages have been seriously damaged from the caresses provided by my childish fingers.
     I was only a little boy at the time. That was the first time I had heard that there were people who genuinely believed in fairies. As I grew older, I discovered that a detailed and complex mythology exists regarding fairies, and that during both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries folklorists recorded people who not only believed in fairies, but claimed to have seen them. Of course, it is assumed that they were making it up. Just the same, the folklorist Katherine Briggs included in her 1967 book, The Fairies in Tradition and Literature a chapter 16 entitled, "Fairy encounters and odd experiences". Interestingly, some of them were by people who did not share the tradition and did not expect it. Then there was Fairies, real encounters with little people (1997), in which Janet Bord culled the literature for exactly that. In this blog I myself have published two posts of such odd encounters from different parts of the world. (See here and here.) And at the back of all this, there were rumours of a mysterious organisation called the Fairy Investigation Society, which I could never discover for itself. Well, at last it has made its appearance. I am, of course, referring to Seeing Fairies by Marjorie T. Johnson (Anomalist Books, 2014)

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Light on the Jungle Trail

     As I have said in the heading, if you keep your eyes and your mind open, you will find that the paranormal, the miraculous, the simply inexplicable, not only happen, but are not even uncommon. Anomalies turn up everywhere, even in bestsellers read by thousands of people.
     For example, many of us in southeast Queensland will have had pleasant memories of O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, set deep in the subtropical rainforest in the rugged mountainous terrain of the Lamington National Park. Back in 1937, the youngest of the O'Reilly brothers, Bernard O'Reilly became an instant celebrity due to an astonishing feat of bushcraft. A Stinson passenger aircraft had disappeared on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. It was generally assumed that it had gone down somewhere near Sydney, but O'Reilly was convinced it had crashed in the Macpherson Ranges. Navigating by dead reckoning through dense, trackless, unmarked rainforest and over four mountain ridges, he discovered the crash and was able to lead a rescue party to the survivors. Repeatedly asked for his own version of the story, he wrote it down and appended a long account of his childhood in the Blue Mountains and the establishment, first of the dairy farms, and then of the guest house, by himself and his siblings. The result was Green Mountains, written in late 1940, before he went off to war. As I said, it has probably been read by thousands of people. I can hardly hope that this post will be so successful, but perhaps my readers will be more likely to take notice of the following instances.

Friday, 5 December 2014

An Early Near Death Experience

     Of course, we all know that it was the publication of Raymond Moody's book, Life After Life in 1975 which kick-started the investigation of near death experiences. I was particularly interested because, as a boy, I had already read an account of such an experience.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

"Australian Poltergeist" : a Review

 Tony Healy and Paul Cropper, Australian Poltergeist,  Strange Nation, 2014

     You can stay overnight in an allegedly haunted house, set up all your equipment and, if you are lucky, the ghost - assuming there are such things - may turn up. Or it may not. Ghosts are fickle and unreliable things. However, there is one paranormal phenomenon which is not at all shy, but is happy to perform, loudly and boisterously, in broad daylight in front of any number of witnesses. I am speaking, of course, of poltergeists.
     The phenomenon definitely exists. Not only that, but it is relatively common - probably the most common of all paranormality. A thing can be relatively common and still remain socially invisible if people don't talk about it. If every poltergeist manifestation were reported in the local press, you would be absolutely amazed at how frequently it occurs.
     More to the point, because of its propensity for high profile performance, it is eminently studiable. So why isn't it being studied by the scientific establishment?
     For a long time it has been noted that poltergeists tend to focus on a particular individual, especially an adolescent, with the result that many people now attribute it, not to discarnate spirits, but to RSPK: recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis. "The truth, of course," stated the arch-debunker, D. H. Rawcliffe in The Psychology of the Occult (1952),  "is that the adolescent girl or boy is solely responsible for the production of poltergeist phenomena; in almost every case which has been completely investigated, the poltergeist activity has ended in the child being caught red-handedly in trickery." He didn't, himself, provide any examples, but nevertheless, we will agree that this is a testable hypothesis. However, a moment's consideration will reveal that, if true, this would simply replace a paranormal mystery with a psychological mystery. Psychological aberrations rarer than this are regularly researched, so why doesn't anybody investigate? "Let's totally ignore the poltergeist phenomenon," seems to be the motto of official science.

Friday, 3 October 2014

They Met the Man Who Wasn't There

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
       Antigonish, by Hughes Mearns (1899)
     You go to the city centre, or to the shopping complex, and you see hundreds of anonymous strangers passing by. You assume they are normal, flesh-and-blood people going about their normal, flesh-and-blood activities, just like you. Indeed, it would be a very strange world if it were not so. But it is a very strange world. So how do you know that every last one of those anonymous strangers is really, physically present?

Monday, 1 September 2014

It Happened to Them!

     Did you hear about the cat called Mandrake which, in four consecutive months - but only at the full moon - brought a mouse into the house and drowned it by holding it down in the dog's water bowl? Friends of the owner suggested that it was offering sacrifices to Diana, or else it was destroying evil witches who had transformed themselves into mice. Or what about the ants which, after having burning paraffin poured down their nest one day, and boiling water a few days later, marched in several lines nine metres to deposit their dead in a heap in front of the home of their destroyers?

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Poltergeist Can Be Fun - Or Else It Stinks

     I can't see how anyone can seriously doubt the existence of the poltergeist phenomenon. Not only has it been extensively documented, but it is not all that uncommon. If you live in a low crime area, your house probably has a better chance of getting a poltergeist infestation than being burgled. And it's no fun at all - at least, not unless your idea of fun is having your sleep disturbed by "things that go bump in the night", and your meals disturbed by flying cutlery and smashing crockery, clocks running backwards, electrical appliances turning off and on, and mysterious objects appearing out of nowhere, and others disappearing into thin air. But at least they hardly ever hurt anybody. In one case the babies were regularly taken from their crib and gently placed on the floor, rather than being thrown. However, I suppose a low level poltergeist infestation might make life a little more interesting.