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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?

     These were just two true life stories from volume 2 of It Happened to Me!, a Magbook ie a book designed to be distributed via newsagents with the magazines, published by Fortean Times. Fortean Times, for those who are unaware, is a British magazine chock-a-block full of weirdness. And, like any good Fortean (including the author of this blog) it always provides its sources, which in most cases are newspapers. I must confess, however, that I reluctantly allowed my subscription to lapse more than a decade and a half ago. The first reason was that I was getting overwhelmed with reading matter. The second was that, fascinating as it might be, it was more Ripley's "Believe It Or Not!" than Charles Fort. If  its contents were restricted to genuine Forteana, it would be published quarterly rather than monthly.
     Just the same, that's an awful lot of truly unexplained phenomena, and this book features the pick of the uncanny accounts submitted by their readers. All right, perhaps the ants and the cat called Mandrake are not exactly paranormal in nature, but what about the big black dog that walked into a house, hackles raised, while the family was at dinner, ran into the kitchen - and vanished? What about the phantom cats? And bilocating animals ie pets which, unless their owners were very, very unobservant, must have been in two places at once, ?
     There are strange noises and smells, and strange sights in the sky - including what appeared like an upright man moving across the sky without any visible means of support or propulsion. Phantom aircraft were recorded, but not UFOs, although two correspondents claimed missing time and what sound like screen memories, but denied any abduction. (Well, they would, wouldn't they?)
     And there were hauntings. This phenomenon is just so well attested one wonders why the scientific establishment refuses to even look into it. In one haunted home the daughter of the family used to converse with a mysterious entity called Robber Jones, a visiting couple were disturbed by the spectre of a young woman, and the lady of the house frequently saw the apparition of her own daughter while the same daughter was asleep or otherwise occupied elsewhere. In a basement flat shared with disturbed spirits a group of young people held a séance with a ouija board. Now, in my opinion, no matter how many ghosts there may be present, mucking around with a ouija board or a planchette is merely a good way to communicate with your own subconscious. It is only right to point out, however, that they allegedly contacted a person from the 21st century (this was in 1979) who had died from an illness caused by the fall-out from a vehicular power source, whatever that might be, and limited his contact to the member of the group who was his ancestor.
     Then there was the couple who, in an almost empty car park, watched a middle aged woman with a strange facial expression pushing an empty shopping trolley.
As we tried discreetly to look at her, she just disappeared before our eyes - no fade out, no dissolve, she was just there one second and gone in the next. (p 144)
     But the trolley continued by its own momentum until it crashed.
     Then there was V. A. Martin, the young lady who found herself one cold afternoon with thick snow all about sharing a bus shelter with an old, tired-looking lady. The latter commented about the cold, and asked if she could have some socks. It was then that she noticed that she was bare-footed, so she took off his own socks for her. She thanked him, put them on - and vanished in front of her eyes, taking her socks with her!
     I presume she had died in or near that spot and that other people had seen her; perhaps many pairs of socks were now in her spirit possession. I was glad to help this poor unfortunate lady and maybe ease the pain of this earthbound soul. Throughout the encounter, she looked as real and as solid as a living human being. (p 141)
     However, one of the main purposes of this blog is to collect those isolated jigsaw pieces in case enough can be found to fit into a coherent picture. So what I find really intriguing are those bizarre stories which form no part of any culture or folklore of the occult, and which are so simple and - let's face it - trivial that they are rarely recorded. For example, if you had decided to make up a paranormal story, would you claim to have had a strange image of the seat of a pair of jeans appear on a canvas chair in your kitchen? It turns up on pp 156 -7, with a photograph. What about the man who, living alone and without any pets, leaves a pair of jeans folded up on the spare bed and the next morning finds the crotch and seat ripped so savagely as to render them useless?
     The psychic reseacher, Harry Price described the phenomena of poltergeist infestation in which objects simply vanish, almost while you are looking at them, and others appear out of nowhere, sometimes from the ceiling. He wondered aloud where the former went to and where the latter came from. Well, there is a whole chapter in this book about unusual coins, and sometimes stamps, appearing in places where they couldn't have existed before without being noticed. In one case, about a dozen halfpennies turned up around the house over a period of four months. In the end, the lady of the house thanked "Them", but pointed out that they were no longer legal tender.
     Haven't we all had the experience of some small item going missing, and the turning up again in some place where it couldn't possibly have been overlooked in the original search, or in some place where we couldn't possibly imagine having put it? Usually we assume that there is some conventional explanation, and no doubt there usually is. But sometimes the incident defies any sort of convention. Like the time a woman took off her wedding ring in a caravan, forgot about it until later in the evening, and was unable to locate it after even a massive hunt. But on awakening the next morning, there it was on top  of a book beside her bed - not in the caravan, but in her tent!
     A Yorkshireman called Martyn Renton told of having a horse brass disappear from a nail on the wall. He was alone in the house, so it couldn't have been a prank. Much later, he was so broke he started hunting for loose coins down the back of chairs. And in a chair he regularly used, there was the horse brass! Not only was it in another room, and not only had it recently been searched for another item, but it hadn't even been purchased when the horse brass had vanished. That would tend to rule out any obvious practical joke/absentmindedness/hiding-in-plain-sight explanation. It got to the point where the family took to asking the "Little People" for lost items, which would normally be returned within a few minutes. He then adds:
     While I was writing this letter, the phone rang. I slid the pen into the spiral binding of the notepad and made sure it was clipped in. Pens are a favoured target of the Little People. When I returned, the pen had gone. I lifted the pad and checked the entire desktop to no avail. I asked the Little People to return the pen. I left the room and returned after a few minutes. The pen lay on top of the pad. I am currently the only person in the house. (p 88)
     There is a whole chapter on this sort of "pixilation", as it is labelled. Nothing of any real value goes missing, and lots of people claimed to regularly receive lost items by asking "Them" for them back. In one case, the keys in question were flung across the floor. In another, they fell from the ceiling.
     In the words of one pawnbroker:
     At first, I did this as a fortean jest, not expecting a result; but how often does this approach have to work before the evidence leads to an admittedly unlikely acceptance of the phenomenon? (p 98)
     Gee! I wish I'd thought of this when my logbooks and comb went missing. But I wonder if this isn't some low level manifestation of the same psychological-telekinesis phenomenon which gives us poltergeists.
      I shall leave you with two other stories from the book.

  • There's an epidemic of canine gastritis, so a lady calls a vet. The receptionist tells her that their caseload is full, but she might be able to arrange a visit. At 7.30 pm in comes a vet, curt to the point of rudeness, examines the dog, and gives her some pills. Next morning the dog is much improved, so the grateful owner rings the surgery. Sorry, she was told; they had no such vet, and no record of the visit. She rings every other vet surgery in the area. No such vet. No records. No bill. No explanation.
  • Hungry British workmen driving through Iran, stop at a roadside teashop expecting nothing more than the usual glass of weak tea strained through a lump of sugar. Instead, they find a restaurant where the Armenian owner provides them with the most delicious meal the writer had ever tasted. He describes it in detail. It is unimaginable how they make a living in that area. The site is noted well. Three months later, the writer returns to the site. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the site was correct. But this time not only is there no teashop, but no indication that any such building had ever existed. A man from the village told them there had never been any teashop there in the whole 40 years of his residence.
     As I said in the heading of this blog: if you keep your eyes and your mind open, you will find that the paranormal, the miraculous, the simply inexplicable, not only happen, they are not even uncommon. So you may ask: has anything mysterious happened to me? Yes! I have seen lights-in-the-sky UFOs three times, and described them in my very first post. However, there is one other, very minor mystery which has been puzzling me all my life.
     As a little boy, I used to read a Little Golden Book about Noah's Ark. At one point there was a double page spread of all the animals walking up to the ark, listed in alphabetical order from aardvarks to zebras. One day, I happened to glance down towards the bottom of the page, and saw a strange little figure. It was probably only about a centimetre high, and I think it was green. The only way I can describe it was that it was something like a New Zealand tiki, although I had never seen one prior to then, with a large head and legs tucked cross-legged under it. It appeared to have two small things like horns or cylindrical ears protruding from its head. I looked away, and it was gone. I could never find that figure anywhere on that page or in that book again. A few years later, I was at my aunt's place reading the comics on the back page of the newspaper. I idly turned back a couple of pages, glancing at the boring columns of classified ads when suddenly ... there was a similar figure! Again, it vanished as soon as I glanced away, like a fairy which can be observed only between two blinks.
     I cannot believe there was anything paranormal about this. All I can think of was that my mind was playing ticks on me. But why?
     I have read only the second volume of It Happened to Me! There are, as of now, at least five volumes. They each contain 160 pages of glossy A5 size paper, and can be obtained from Amazon or Magbooks. You may also be able to order them through your newsagent, especially if you live in Britain. Fortean Times also has a forum where readers can contribute their own experiences.

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