Thursday, 5 May 2016

A Witchdoctor Who Really Could Make It Rain

     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 J√≠varo witchdoctor therefore deserves repeating.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Strange Power of the Ant Whisperer

     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.

Friday, 4 March 2016

A Poltergeist on a Goods Train?

     I see Dr Beachcombing has quoted parapsychologist Harry Price (1881-1948) on the preferred environment of poltergeists. I recognized the quote from one of my favourite books from my youth, Poltergeist Over England, and could add a bit more. Price said that he had never heard of a poltergeist infesting a ship (and neither have I). I dare say he never heard of one infesting a goods train either, but it happened just two years after his death.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Hallucinations in Comas

     First of all, I had better tell you what this is not about: near death experiences (NDEs). Despite their variability, NDEs have an overall similarity. They consist of several stages in a specific order, the number of stages depending on the length of the experience: (1) an out-of-body experience, (2) a rapid movement down a dark tunnel, (3) a meeting with a Being of Light, whom most people identify with God in whatever way they conceive of Him, (4) a life review, which appears to be instantaneous, in which the person's life is rated against the criterion of love, and (5) finally, the coming to a barrier, before being sent back to the world. Generally, you have to be fairly near to death to have a near death experience. Dr Melvin Morse (Closer to the Light, 1991) compared 12 children who had required resuscitation with 121 children who had been critically (and I mean critically!) ill, but were never in any danger of dying, and 37 who had taken mind-altering medication. Most of the 12 test children had experienced at least one aspect of an NDE; none of the control groups had.
      However, there appears to be another, much more variable and much rarer phenomenon: having complex visions during periods of unconsciousness which, for want of a better word, I shall call comas, though that might not be the correct medical term. The ones you hear about are those which impact on the person's attitude to life, although they tend to be based on beliefs already held. Here are the few I have come across.

Monday, 14 December 2015

A Few Run-of-the-Mill Miracles

     I have personally never witnessed a miracle, any more than I have seen a ghost. Indeed, why would I? I don't operate in those circles where such things are commonplace, and if miracles were really common, they would no longer be special. Nevertheless, they definitely occur, and can be easily found by those looking for them.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Diagnosis by ESP?

     "Fawlty Towers in Tibet" could have been the alternative name for Alec Le Sueur's 1998 book, Running a Hotel on the Roof of the World. For five years commencing 1988, he had been the sales manager of the Holiday Inn in Lhasa where, to the backwardness of one of the remotest areas of the world was added the incompetence of Communism, and that made a formidable combination. They even used Fawlty Towers videos for training purposes. Even without the author's dry sense of humour, the inevitable clash of cultures would tickle your funny bone. You will discover how the sheets were washed in the river by hand and dried on the grass, while the most advanced laundry unit in western China lay idle because no-one knew how to use it. Thirty vacuum cleaners imported from Hong Kong had their motors burnt out within a month because the maids never emptied the bags, having assumed that the dirt magically disappeared up the electric power cord. Printing was done on an "only slightly more modern version of the Caxton printing press" (but missing the letter "s") because no-one knew how to use the super-duper press provided as a gift from the Australian Government. The hotel typewriter lacked an "a", while their brand new offset printer had never been used because the special oil could be obtained only from an unknown supplier in Hong Kong.
     I could go on and on with such craziness, but this blog was not established as a rival to Good Reads. Its aim is to rescue items of anomalies in danger of being overlooked and lost. Therefore, I shall cut to the chase, and talk about Dr Ga Ma.

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Wolf Children of Midnapore

     Kipling didn't invent the idea of wolf children. His character, Mowgli was inspired by rumours prevalent in his native land, for India - and in particular, the north central state of Awadh (Oudh) - is the home of wolf children legends. From the middle of the nineteenth century right up to the present day, children could be pointed out who had been raised by wolves. It says a lot about the social milieu of India that all these children happen to be boys. The one big exception is the most famous and best documented case of all: Amala and Kamala, the wolf girls of Midnapur.