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Saturday 10 December 2016

The Man Who Could Summons Porpoises

     When I wrote my post on the ant whisperer, I explained that the reason I recount stories under the label of "sorcery" is that a lot of reliable eye-witness reports on the subject are being lost as the world becomes more civilised. I ended up with the comment;
     On New Ireland, in Papua New Guinea, there exists a practice known as shark calling, or summoning mako sharks. You can find a number of videos of it on YouTube, but it is apparently dying out. I watched a documentary about it on Australian TV in the 1980s, and was amazed by the results, but when the same team returned ten years later the success, although confirmed, was not spectacular, and the narrator commented that their power was obviously fading.
     So  I shouldn't have been surprised when, upon going back through one of my favourite travel books, I discovered a report on the summoning of porpoises a hundred years ago in what was then the Gilbert Islands, but is now called Kiribati.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

An Unusual Miracle in Houston

     I normally disregard stories of weeping/sweating/bleeding religious paintings/sculptures. In the first place, they should theoretically be easy to fake. I say "theoretically" because I don't know of any case proved to have been faked (although I know of one which had a naturalistic explanation). And that is my second reason: I don't know of any having been proved spurious or genuine because they never seem to get investigated; even the debunkers aren't interested in them. Also - and this might be intellectual snobbery on my part - they sound like rather pathetic miracles, as if God were playing parlour tricks to impress simple people. Just the same, we need to keep an open mind. Some years ago I reported on a carved stone which regularly oozed water and changed colour over a period of 153 years. So I therefore think that the account of the events in Houston, Texas in 1991 deserve repetition.

Friday 2 September 2016

How Can Solid Objects Appear Out of Thin Air?

     In 1998, Tony Healy and my friend, Paul Cropper descended on the small Northern Territory town of Humpty Doo to investigate a poltergeist infested house. They didn't have long to wait. While Paul was talking to two of the occupants, there came a clatter, like hail on the corrugated iron roof and, as he looked upwards, a dozen grey pebbles fell to the floor from the ceiling. As it turned out, this was not to be an isolated experience for them. Trickery, they soon discovered, was out of the question. However, it was pretty easy to deduce that the pebbles came from the driveway outside but how did they get to the ceiling? No-one ever saw them move from the driveway into the house, or onto the roof, or even hover below the ceiling. Paul got the impression that they had simply passed through both the roof and ceiling without leaving any holes. It is not clear from their reports whether the clatter was heard on each occasion, so did they simply materialise under the ceiling? And why, when the ground was saturated outside, did they remain dry, if not warm? And this phenomenon is not limited to Humpty Doo. Harry Price, the psychic researcher, said that he had heard of many objects falling from ceilings, but never anyone ever seeing anything go up to the ceiling.

Thursday 11 August 2016

On Pixilation and Poltergeists

[T]he Brownies stole the philibeg off me, along with sark, jacket, and vest, and left me naked except for hose and brogan. (Marjorie T. Johnson, 2014, Seeing Fairies, Anomalist Books, p 268).
     That was the experience of Adam Campbell Hunter at Glen Oykel in 1938. He had gone for a long walk, taken off most of his clothes to sunbathe, and placed a stone on them to keep them from being blown away. After a while, he walked 50 yards to the top of the hill, came down, and found his clothes had disappeared! The boulders used as landmarks were still very obvious, the rest of the landscape was empty. Then follows the amusing story of his coming home nearly naked, and of the search party's valiant attempts to discover the clothes until they suddenly turned up right where he had left them, visible from a distance of 200 yards, despite the whole area having been gone over with a fine tooth comb immediately before.
     Mr Hunter had just suffered an extreme example of something I'm sure we've all experienced. An object, usually small, disappears, only to turn up in the last place you would expect it or, more baffling, in plain sight in a place which had already been searched several times. No doubt there is a conventional explanation in the vast majority of these cases. Nevertheless, some of them appear to defy any rational explanation. I sometimes joke that the world is hard to understand for people who don't believe in gremlins, but ... what if it's not a joke?

Sunday 3 July 2016

Memories of Recycled Souls?

He had enjoyed his present life but his principal regret to leave it would be that he must pass through that strange barrier which blots out all but the vaguest intuitive memories of earlier experiences before a soul is born again. (Dennis Wheatley, They Found Atlantis)
     It is hard to know how many people in the Western world believe in reincarnation. One survey said 24% of Americans, but even that statistic is meaningless unless you inquire about the strength of the belief. For every person who is certain of reincarnation, there will be many more who consider it probable or merely possible. Rather like belief in God or flying saucers, in fact. As far as I can ascertain, such beliefs were not common in the west prior to contact with eastern religions. But the believers are not, by and large, Buddhists or Hindus; experience with other cultures has merely raised a possibility not previously considered. If you ask them for a reason, you may not get a very coherent reply. A friend of mine said that reincarnation made the universe "fairer", as if there were some unwritten law that the universe must be fair. So, what exactly is the evidence for reincarnation?

Tuesday 14 June 2016

The Ghost That Stumbled

     In the movie, Ghost Patrick Schwayze, deceased was shown by a more experienced ghost how to move small objects by psychokinesis. It figures; a ghost has no flesh and bones, so how can it pick up items? For that matter, how can you even see one, since it has no body to bounce light off? Terry White (The Sceptical Occultist) suggested an apparition may be a psychic manifestation, given that occasionally it is visible to one person but not another. But how do they make sounds? To my knowledge - I may need correction - ghostly footsteps are not audible to one person but inaudible to another. What is pounding the floor? And what if you could make a ghost involuntarily collide with something?

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 1983 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.