Index to This Site

Sunday 15 December 2013

Of Course, Santa Claus Can Do It!

     All of you will be familiar with Clement Moore's famous Christmas poem, and no doubt most of you call it The Night Before Christmas. However, its correct title is An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas, and that is how the visitor is identified throughout. Perhaps a brief background in linguistics might clarify the situation. In English we shorten 'Nicholas' to 'Nick'. Likewise, the Dutch shorten 'Nicklaas' to 'Klaas'. Thus, 'Sinter Klaas', or St Nick, has been Anglicized as 'Santa Claus'. This is important to remember, because at this time of year a lot of cynical, rationalistic, materialistic people come out and pontificate that Santa Claus could not possibly, in the course of a single extended night, cover the whole of the world - or at least that part which celebrates Christmas.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Even Stranger Visitors

     In last month's post I recounted the Very Strange Visitors received by one ufologist, and promised that the next post would detail even stranger visitors. Indeed, the victim this time was not a ufologist, but she was inflicted a potentially fatal disease by visitors who did not appear to be flesh and blood.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Very Strange Visitors

     "Men in Black" were an unusual feature of the North American UFO scene in the early years, and have not completely disappeared. Dressed in dark suits, and driving black cars, they would descend, usually in pairs, upon UFO witnesses or investigators, making unspecific threats which were never carried out. One suggestion involves investigators/witnesses accidentally crossing paths with government agents undertaking investigations of their own. Add a certain degree of paranoia, and a cultural myth has started. It sounds plausible, but I shall leave it to those more familiar with the subject than I. Nevertheless, once in a while a well documented case turns up which is really, really strange.

Saturday 14 September 2013

A Visit from the Wer-Cassowary

     Fans of the late Morris West may remember his novel, Kundu which involved, among other things, a New Guinea witchdoctor who could turn himself into a large flightless bird known as a cassowary. Rather than being a mere literary invention, this was inspired by actual New Guinea beliefs. Throughout the world, sorcerers claim to be able to control certain dangerous beasts, and it is only a short step to claiming to be able to transform themselves into it. Europe has its werwolves. In Africa the favourite animal is the hyaena, while North and South American Indians prefer the puma or jaguar. New Guinea possesses no such ravening predator, so they have to make do with the ostrich-like cassowary, or else a hornbill or pig.
     Of course, completely transforming the shape and size of the human body, all without the use of advanced technology, represents the nth level of magnitude beyond the usual psychic's tricks of levitation or spoon-bending, so we should not be prepared to accept such claims without rigorous evidence. Nevertheless, we ought to be prepared to record any plausible account of the phenomenon, because one day the whole world will be civilised, and no-one will know that such things once took place.

Friday 9 August 2013

A Spot of Rain for the Queen

     Using any reasonable search engine, you can turn up any number of colourful photographs and videos of Queen Elizabeth's visit to Nigeria in January and February 1956. However, there is one little vignette which you may not have heard about, which deserves to be rescued from oblivion.
At Lagos, where the royal travellers were welcomed on to African soil, the Oba, the hereditary ruler, had ordered his medicine-man to make powerful ju-ju for a short shower to clear the air and lo, rain fell in the dry season for thirty-five minutes.
Reference: Price Philip, by H.M. Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, published by Hodder & Stoughton, 1960. (The author was a cousin of Prince Philip.)
Some more of Prince Philip's early life and adventures can be found here.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

The English Werewolf

     "These days" I've heard it frequently said, "we would see demon possession as a form of mental illness." Well, of course we would! If we are not prepared to accept the reality of possession, then we must call it something else. But what does it mean? A lot of mental illnesses are well established, with recognized symptoms and criteria, causes, and treatment. But when the only symptom of the illness is the very condition under consideration, then "mental illness" is simply a label masquerading as an explanation, a way of saying, "We don't know the cause, but it is assumed to be internal," while "demon possession" means, "We don't know the cause, but it is assumed to be external."
     I could write a long dissertation on the sorts of mental aberrations which might be interpreted as possession by demons. Let me just say, I consider it a false dichotomy. After all, except in cartoons, when we talk about being tempted by the Devil, we don't think of one of the little imps sitting on our shoulder, whispering in our ear. The influence of the forces of evil, like the forces of good, are far more subtle. Likewise, we should abolish the idea of some semi-sensual being somehow inhabiting a body. Ultimately, possession implies the taking over of a person by an evil personality, whether it comes from the dark side of the mind, or the dark side of the spiritual world, or both.
     Is this all a rationalisation - an attempt to retain the concept while emptying it of substance? Then let us examine the case of Bill Ramsey, the English werewolf. Now is the appropriate time, because the latest film, The Conjuring is based on the files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and this is another of their cases.

Tuesday 9 July 2013

An Unusual Cure for a Transsexual

     Transsexualism, said Jan (originally James) Morris in her 1974 memoir, Conundrum "is not a sexual mode or preference. It is not an act of sex at all. It is a passionate, lifelong, ineradicable conviction, and no true trans-sexual has ever been disabused of it."
     Not many psychiatrists would dispute this, least of all the last statement. Although some hope is held out for children suffering from gender identity disorder, no effective treatment has been found, or even proposed, for adult sufferers. Ironically, the option of a sex-change operation has effectively sidetracked any research into a possible cure.
     All this makes the case of "John" even more remarkable.

Sunday 23 June 2013

She Saw Dead People

     So called "sensitives", who can detect ghosts, are not much use in psychical research. The reason is not that it is unlikely (if you are prepared to believe in ghosts), but simply that it is normally impossible to confirm their evidence. After all, if everybody in the room sees a particular apparition, there is a rebuttable assumption that it has an objective existence. However, if only one person claims to have seen it, it may indicate that he is "psychic", but it may also mean that he is (a) lying, (b) self-deluded, or (c) crazy. The situation becomes even more nebulous when it concerns, not seeing the ghost, but merely "sensing" it.
     Just the same, there do appear to have been good cases where an apparition was seen by one person, but not another. (Here, for example.) I have recorded a couple in my posts of May 2012 and February 2012. In the latter case, you may recall, a visitor saw the apparition while the owner saw nothing, but the alleged psychics were more or less ineffective. If ghosts are psychic manifestations, then it may well be that one person, because of his or her frame of mind at the time, may be more attuned to it than others (particularly when they are children), and perhaps some people are permanently in that condition.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Phantom Leopards and Collective Hallucinations

     If several people see the same thing, the assumption is that it has an objective reality. Since every mind is independent, a collective hallucination is virtually a contradiction in terms. The closest thing to it would be group hypnosis: as in one of those performances in which members of the audience are hypnotised together and told to visualise a given scenario. Just the same, I dare say that it would work only at the overall level - that if you interviewed the subjects after the event, you would find that they saw what the hypnotist told them to see in general, but that the details would vary according to each individual's imagination.
     Nevertheless, it appears there are times when an entire group can get themselves "psyched up" to have the same visual hallucination, provided it is simple, and this should be factored into any investigation of the alleged paranormal. We shall look at a few examples, starting with the most dramatic.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Haunted - But Not By Ghosts

     As I pointed out once before, people who experience various shades of weirdness tend to contact ufologists, even when there is no apparent connection with UFOs. Take, for instance, this bizarre haunting which was reported to the Mutual UFO Network in 2011. Of course, there is no way to confirm its authenticity, but at least it lacks some of the normal features of made-up stories, such as a beginning, middle, and end. For obvious reasons, the publisher suppressed the informant's name.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Sometimes You Need a Good Witchdoctor

     Readers of my vintage might remember a program called On Safari, by a husband-and-wife film team, Armand and Michaela Denis. In the mid-1950s they decided to settle in Kenya, residing in a Nairobi hotel while their house was being built at Langata, 11 miles out of town. That was how the trouble started. Michaela had been so engrossed in watching the Sikh carpenters and Kikuyu workmen, that she casually left a certain heavy biscuit tin in the dressing room. Only when they had returned to the hotel did she realise she had forgotten it. Feebly, she agreed to her husband's suggestion to wait until the morning to go back.
     Their friend, Tom Stobart in fact returned by half past nine the next day, and phoned to announce that the box had gone. "What was in it?" he asked.
     "Thousands of pounds worth of jewellery, that's all," she replied. She always carried it around with her.

Sunday 17 February 2013

What Happened to Their Planet?

     Don't believe anything until it is confirmed, but don't throw away any information. That is the philosophy of this blog, and the reason I use it to rescue items which might otherwise be overlooked. Whether it is the paranormal, or something mundane, like an accusation of spousal infidelity, in day to day life we tend to balance the credibility of the witness with the probability of the story. If a story is really fantastic, we tend to reject it, even if the reporter would otherwise be considered reliable.
     But there is a catch. Occasionally, the really fantastic happens to be part of a rare, but genuine phenomenon. If we throw away the stories every time we hear them, the data will never accumulate, and we will never discover that they form a pattern. So, even the fantastic deserves its day in court. Put it in your file. If the story is false, it will lie there, and eventually die of loneliness. But if it happens to be true, bit by bit, its relatives will drift in to keep it company.
     And nowhere is this more important than with alien abductions, where high strangeness is par for the course, but there are legitimate concerns that the data is contaminated with confabulations.

Monday 28 January 2013

This is NOT an Aeroplane

     Have a look at this. It is a pretty good representation of an aeroplane, wouldn't you say? There are the wings and the tailfins, vertical and horizontal, and even what appears to be an open cockpit. It was made by the Tolima Indians, southwest of Bogotá, Colombia, and it more than 500 years old - a superb example of pre-Columbian Indian goldwork, one of the very few which survived the melting-down mania of the marauding Spanish conquistadores.
     This, or something very like it, was celebrated by Erich von Däniken in his 1968 best seller, Chariots of the Gods?, and taken up by lots of band-wagoners on the theme that ancient astronauts had introduced aeroplanes to South America - perhaps to land them on the Nazca Lines, hundreds of miles to the south, some of which have the appearance of airstrips.