Wednesday, 9 November 2022
Once upon a time, on the West Samoan island of Tutuila, by the village of Vaitogi, lived a woman called Fonoea, old and blind, with her little granddaughter. One day, having been neglected during a famine, she announced that she was going to commit suicide. But, she added, if they ever wanted to see her again, they should go to the cliffs and call for her. Of course, they took no notice. However, she got her granddaughter to lead her to the cliff, whence they both jumped in. At that point, he was turned into a large turtle, and the little girl into a small shark. The villagers were horrified, of course, but they remembered her promise, and so they called upon her in song to came back. And she did. Even since then, whenever they summon her, the turtle and shark will return.
That is a famous Samoan legend. You will easily find it if you do a web search, even on the Wikipedia. It was first recorded by a missionary in 1884, who treated it as a pagan superstition. But is it?
Wednesday, 9 February 2022
"If this is 'all in the mind', then all I can say is the mind is a very fertile field." That was a comment made to me by a missionary in Papua New Guinea about some of the bizarre effects of sorcery and folk religions he had noticed in his work. Well, the mind is a very fertile field, and outside the western world it often manifests in strange culture bound syndromes. Koro, for example, is a mental disorder which causes Chinese and Southeast Asian men to imagine that their penises are retracting into their bodies. Malays run amok. In much of the Muslim world women find themselves possessed by what they call zar spirits, but the syndrome in not necessarily seen as pathological, because many of them make quite a bit of money out of it, just like spiritualists over here. Just the same, one wonders how far the 'fertile field' theory can be stressed before we wonder whether something alien has sprouted there.
Monday, 18 October 2021
Recently, I was approached by Wendy Garrett in Kansas, who interviewedme for 40 minutes by telephone about my recent book, Apparitions. You can now access the podcast at https://audioboom.com/posts/7960496-malcolm-smith-10-17-21-aussie-fortean-blogger-writer-researcher-apparitions-paranormal. I hope you find it interesting, if only to listen to the two quite different accents. (I might add, it was a little disturbing to hear myself talking, because you never hear your own voice the way other people do.)
One thing I found interesting was Wendy's account of her own experience at 11.57. She was weeding the garden when she heard an invisible choir chanting something like, "Mother, bring us rain". Then a cloud passed over, there was a short sprinkle of rain, and the voices stopped. I have no explanation for that.
Thursday, 16 September 2021
I started this blog with the aim of collecting reports which were in danger of being forgotten, in the hope that, in the aggregate, they might form a pattern. Well, I have now managed to see some sort of pattern - one of which I wasn't aware initially - so I have now collected it into a book. It is called Apparitions: tulpas, ghosts, fairies, and even stranger things, and it is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle e-book form. Much of it has already been published, but a whole lot more is new: collated from both nineteenth and twentieth century sources. With 213 endnotes, it is fully documented.
Friday, 16 October 2020
There are so many anecdotes of accurate premonitions of danger, either waking or dreaming, that we must accept this form of ESP as one of our evolved survival strategies. A strong premonition of this sort commonly induces the percipient to alter his behaviour in order to avoid the danger. But what if there are serious consequences of such an action? What if cancelling your plane flight at the last moment means losing both the fare and the cost of your holiday? What if your boss insists you make the journey? Worse still, how do you know that attempting to avoid the danger won't make it come true?
Thursday, 17 September 2020
Here's something I'm sure we're all familiar with: an item, usually a small one, inexplicably goes missing. Some time later it turns up in a place where it has no right to be or, even more puzzling, appears staring you in the face in an area which had already been thoroughly searched. Mostly we can put it down to absent mindedness, or some such "rational" explanation, but sometimes it is harder to explain. When we bought a second hand car, I purchased a logbook, which stayed in the glove box when I wasn't writing in it. Two weeks later it disappeared. I bought a replacement, and that one also vanished after six weeks. I wasn't game to tempt fate a third time but, six or seven years later, we collected the car from its twice yearly service, and discovered that the mechanics had left both logbooks, not obviously dirty or damaged, on the front seat. Obviously, they had been discovered in some nook of the car. How did they get there from the glove box? How come it happened twice? And why weren't they found earlier? Just the same, I am not (yet) prepared to invoke a paranormal explanation. It was "just one of those things". However, some other incidents are more difficult to dismiss.
Saturday, 11 July 2020
A wonderful thing, the internet! So many old books and documents are now online. I first read this story in one of Janet Bord's books, and even she had to rely on a secondary source. However, it took me just an hour one night to run the original source to earth. The information this times comes from a highly respectable source: the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould (1834 - 1924), clergyman, archaeologist, folklorist, novelist, short story writer, and father of fifteen. These days he is remembered mostly as the author of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, but in his time he was up there with Andrew Lang, Thomas Carlyle, and other prominent Victorian men of letters. And in 1890 he wrote In Troubadour-Land, a ramble in Provence and Languedoc. The relevant pages are 65 and 66 because he had travelled there both as an adult and as a child, so after describing an area known as the Crau, he introduced a childhood anecdote.