Sunday, December 31, 2006

Heads and hands.

Whenever any supernatural story, fictional or true, involves body parts, it's always a skull, or a mummified head or hand. We never hear of the 'Phantom Pelvis' or 'Evil Elbow'. Always a head or a hand. Where is the 'Foot of Fear' or the 'Tibia of Terror'? Whatever happened to the 'Duodenum of Despair'?

No, always a head or a hand. So there must be logical reason for this, surely?

Yes, there is. Starting in 1940, Dr. Wilder Graves Penfield mapped the parts of the brain that deal with various sensory and motor functions of the body. From there, he constructed a diagram, later made into models, of 'Penfield's Homunculus'.

This is a representation of how the brain 'sees' the body. Obviously, the sensory organs around the face are highly represented. Most of the body is ignored by the brain, but it is notable that the hands are enormous.

The whole of the trunk, the lungs, heart, intestines etc play only a small part in the brain's 'body map'. It is mostly concerned with the sensory apparatus of the head, and those useful appendages, the hands.

In that case, a disembodied consciousness is unlikely to pay much attention to its ex-ribcage, but might be deeply concerned about those parts it regarded as important while brain-bound, in life.

There is also the alternative explanation, that we, the living, set more store by those parts of the body and are therefore more likely to consider them the important parts of the corpse. For writers, the decision to use a head or a hand in their story might be an unconscious reflection of their own brain's body image. That works to explain the fiction aspect.

There remains the real-life reports of screaming skulls, and the preoccupation of both the occult and religion with hands, for example here and here. The Lancashire witches used to collect skulls and fingers from corpses, and the hand of a hanged man was allegedly used in witchcraft to create the Hand of Glory. These are hardly scratching the surface of possible examples where, throughout history, heads and hands have been elevated in importance above all other body parts.

It's always been about heads and hands, throughout history. Perhaps Penfield's Homunculus represents more than simply a neurological map.

Perhaps heads and hands are even more important than we think.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ghostly clothing

Most of my information comes from books, which I can't copy here because of copyright issues. So I ferret around the Internet for accessible references.

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall is possibly the most famous ghost photo of all time. It was taken at a time when photography consisted of glass plates; one man removed the lens cap, another fired the flash. In other words, a long, long time before Paint Shop Pro and the like. Yes, there are those who have speculated about 'how it could have been done', but this photo has never been proved to have been faked. The photographers even had witnesses present when the plate was developed.

This lady typically appears in the clothing she wears in a portrait in the hall. So, perhaps it's easier to produce an apparition if the spirit has something to work with. If, as I've postulated, a ghost has to create their image before manifesting, then how much easier would it be if there's a big portrait of themselves to work from? Practising creating a copy is far, far easier than starting from scratch.

There are few pictures of me in existence. One of them is of myself at thirteen, on a holiday in Spain. I was rail-thin, dressed in black and wearing a black sombrero (When you're thirteen you think that looks cool. Trust me, looking back on it, I looked like a carpet tack).

Now, if that was the only picture available to me after my death, I would likely model the appearance of any apparition I formed on the image in that photo (I'd probably leave out the sombrero). If I worked from scratch, I might turn out a grotesque parody of myself.

So we have the basis of an experiment: if you know, or think you know, who the ghost is, leave a photo of them around. Let them use that as a template. If they form an apparition, it would be very interesting to note if they appeared as they do in the photo. Then, provide a different photo. This does rely on the cooperation of the spirit concerned, and does provide any deceptive spirit with a potential 'mask'--although even that does not invalidate the experiment.

The one important thing to remember if you do see an apparition is to stay calm. Think about all those people terrified by flickering lights, noises and images of eyeless heads. If someone, or something, has come all the way from the depths of Hell just to turn the lights on and off, present a Halloween face and make 'booga-booga' noises, then it's not scary. If you're in that frame of mind, sometimes it's hard not to laugh.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Oh, for Pete's sake.

Now, I realise that I have spent most of my life, in university, hob-nobbing with the high-IQ set, most of whom are idiots.

However, I didn't realise things in the the UK were this bad.

There are around sixty million people in this little island (I have found around five of them to be worth knowing), and to quote this article:

About 14.9 million adults in England do not have the maths skills expected of an 11-year old and may have problems working out even basic deals like "20 percent off" or "buy one, get the second half-price", the Department of Education and Skills said.

There's a Department of Education and Skills? What on Earth are we paying them for, if they place the number of illiterate idiots at around a quarter of the current UK population? How many of this department's employees are stupid? Best guess: all of them.

Why not just let teachers do their jobs? Why not let teachers say to some pupils 'You are useless and always will be'. Some, let's face it, are. No, we now have to 'pass' all the morons who drag themselves through school. We have to reduce teaching to the lowest common denominator in the class, so the future nuclear physicist is taught no more than the future supermarket trolley-pusher.

Then we all get upset when our population lacks basic maths skills. No doubt they will work out how to sue the government (ie the taxpayer) when their reality-TV-addled brains finally shift into second gear.

It's not just maths. I have seen essays from students written in phone-text-speak, which to me is not a viable form of communication. I failed them, and was reprimanded.

'We don't say 'fail'. We say 'not achieved''.

They are failures. They are not improved by hiding this fact from them. Failures. They have a place in the world, but it's not in my classes.

Now we are bringing up a world of people who believe they can do anything and are impervious to criticism, because they have been told this is so. Weak, feeble people who will collapse as soon as they are faced with a crisis. Someone's invading our country? Sue them!

The brain is like any other organ of the body. Exercise it, it gets stronger. Ignore it, it turns to useless flab. Schools are set up to promote mental flabbiness these days, and our only ray of hope for the future is that they'll all be too stupid and flaccid even to become lawyers.

Don't blame teachers. They are doing what they can. Blame politicians, and most of all blame the Human Rights, Politically Correct, Brain Dead useless parasitic slugs that infest our current world.

I think some large beer traps are required...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Distraction time

When someone suggests I visit a post on a blog, I usually go there. I'm not obedient. I'm nosey.

That's why I track back through the blog. The excuse is 'to get an impression of the poster's character'. The real reason is just plain noseyness.

Southern Writer suggested this one. An interesting photo showing a light-image, which doesn't seem to be immediately explainable. (Scroll down past the orbs to find it). It's not a lens flare, it's certainly not dust, and since the blog author posts images of the room from several directions, it doesn't look like it's a reflection from anything. The nearest I could come up with as a possible explanation was a camera strap, but you'd have to hold it awkwardly to get that, and straps are usually responsible for dark, not bright images. So it's an unexplained image. Could well be real. The author mentions other sightings, which I have an idea about, but I have to ask a question or two first.

Then, I wandered down the posts. I found a list of dirty jokes I hadn't heard before, and a couple of links to those 'how-clever-are-you' quizzes.

This one:

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

To which I pronounce a deservedly smug 'Ha!'

And this one:

You paid attention during 97% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

To which I pronounce a double-smug 'Ha!' because I didn't go to school in the USA, in fact I've never yet visited. The UK's teaching of American history is, I suspect, a little different from that taught in US schools, since we were the ones they won independence from. So it's not surprising I missed one in there somewhere. I wasn't looking at it from the rebel-colonist point of view.

Anyway, procrastination time has to be limited, and today's stops here. I have to go back and look at those photos again, and ask some questions.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Christmas Humbug

Yes, I'm working on Christmas night. Uncle Ebenezer would be proud of me.

I've been looking for good examples of apports and asports. You know when you have so many books, and you're certain you read a particular passage in one of them, but maybe it was another...

Anyway, I decided to have a rummage on the internet instead. I recalled some instances of apports associated with Daniel Dunglas Home, one of the most famous psychics of his day, but can't find specific references (I've been involved with a bottle of very fine vintage port today, so one blurred screen looks more appealing than several hundred blurred books).

However, I did find an interesting thing, on the stage magician Randi's site. D.D. Home is referenced here. Note that it begins with a disparaging comment on the man's name. Then look at Paracelsus. See a similarity? If you want to turn the public against someone, begin by pointing out they have a made-up name. Reducing the argument to insults just makes you look silly, Mr. R.

Of all the remarkable stories concerning D.D. Home, witnessed by many respectable people, Randi picks out one small item and shows how it could have been faked. On that basis, D.D. Home is denounced as fraud.

Every item on Randi's site is a denunciation. Some are rightly so, others are done just because the magician doesn't like the supernatural and picks out an isolated incident to prove the subject entirely false. Often, as with D.D. Home, the subject is denounced on the basis of a theoretical idea of how one item could have been faked. The word pseudoscience appears in the title of Randi's site. Many of his entries are perfect examples of it. There is no impartial consideration here.

I will not open myself to litigation by quoting from the site. However, if you have a moment, read the last line of this entry. The final sentence, as it references magicians, says it all.

Now, as anyone who's been following this blog for a while will realise, I'm not going to state that D.D. Home was entirely genuine, entirely fake or anything in between. He died in 1886, quite some time before I was born, so all I have to go on are the writings of the time. There are many records, often by people of sincerity and credibility. I don't think it is right to dismiss the man on the basis of 'Oh, I worked out how he might have done one of his tricks even though he was never observed doing so'. Nobody has yet worked out, for example, how Home floated out of one window and in through another, some eighty feet above the ground.

Once a medium such as Home comes to light, they are under pressure to perform. Their abilities are not always easily reproduced. Under such pressure, they might be forced to cheat. The Fox Sisters were caught producing raps by cracking their toe joints. Once this was discovered, they were blasted as frauds. Quite how they produced raps that shook a room by the movement of their toes has never been explained. They must have had impressive toes indeed.

Yes, there are fake mediums. Huge numbers of them. They use cold reading, hidden items that they pretend to apport, assistants, special lighting, etc etc etc. Some can be pretty convincing even when you watch carefully. They won't like you looking under the table, I guarantee, but then neither does any stage magician.

Yes, there are real mediums. A few. Well, there are a lot who report meetings with their individual spirits, but only a few who can, it seems, chat at will with the dead. They do not use any theatrical crap to augment their communications. They don't care whether you believe them or not. When you've seen something that really matters, you stop worrying about trivia. Incidentally, this is one of the things that makes the best mediums hard to find. They are not on TV, on the end of a phone line, on the Internet or in your local paper. They really, really aren't interested in material gain. For a true medium, this life is not the be-all and end-all. This is just the waiting room. An offer of a million dollars to 'prove' themselves evokes nothing but laughter. You really can't take it with you, you know.

There are those between. Real mediums do not--cannot--perform to order. Under pressure, they might cave in and fake something, especially if some 'helpful assistant' wants to give them the suggestion. One faked item, caught, apparently negates all previous and subsequent unexplainable events.

It will come as a surprise to some 'investigators' that mediums are human. They crack under pressure, just like everyone else. Some investigations involve levels of tension that would not be out of place in a Gestapo interrogation room. Investigators, you are dealing with people, not lab rats. In fact, if you subjected any laboratory animal to these stresses, you'd be prosecuted.

Some people will never see beyond their own closed minds. That's fine with me. I'm not here to convince you one way or the other. I'm not going to waste time arguing with those whose position is unmovable. Believe what you like. Speak your opinions. You have that right. Just don't describe opinion as science when it clearly is nothing of the kind.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Apparition definition

I’m going to start with a disclaimer. Everything I say is my opinion. It’s based on what I’ve personally experienced and on the experiences of others, but it’s opinion. I don’t have definitive proof. If I did, I’d be very, very famous.

Nobody has absolute proof of the existence of disembodied spirits. There are many who have seen and heard enough to convince themselves, but nobody can present a physical, testable proof to a sceptic. That’s the problem, and that’s what every paranormal investigator aims for. To produce absolute, incontestable proof. Even if it proves the existence of just one spirit, in one location, then by extrapolation it validates the whole subject. One day…

…but not today. So far all we have to go on are individual experiences, so all we can discuss are individual opinions. This is one of mine, and like all of my opinions it is open to modification as new evidence presents itself.

Ghosts are dead people. That’s one opinion I think we can all agree with. We don’t lose our individuality when we die. Perhaps we discard some things, those trivia such as where we left our car keys, but our essential character survives intact.

Now, living people are individuals. Some are intelligent, some are not. Some are quick to adapt to a new situation, some are not. Some develop new skills very easily, others find it difficult to learn new ways. Some are nice. Some are nasty.

Once we accept that ghosts are dead people, then we can see that all this variation in life also exists in death. We can also assume that, once we die, we are subject to an entirely different form of existence from what we know. No body, no smoking, no drinking, no T-bone steaks – it doesn’t sound all that great, put like that.

However, since we no longer have a body it’s unlikely we’d be affected to any great extent by the absence of those things. Those who are quick to adapt will soon get used to this new way of ‘life’ and will simply discard all those cravings. Some won’t.

The loa of Haitian voodoo are ancestral spirits. They possess a shaman (at his invitation) and impart wisdom in exchange for being allowed to use the shaman’s body to experience, say, a good cigar and a brandy. There are reports of some hauntings associated with the scent of pipe or cigarette smoke. Not all of our departed find it easy to give up the pleasures of the flesh, and will attempt to relive their vices through manifestation of scents or sometimes by hanging around smoky bars. It will be interesting to see what the long-term effects of the UK’s smoking ban will be on such hauntings.

The point is, ghosts are as individual as people. Some will develop their skills, so that they can make their voices record on tape, or produce varying degrees of visible manifestation, or maybe find a way to direct their energy into movement of objects. I think spirits are still bound by some physical constraints, such as the law of conservation of energy (they have to take in energy in some form in order to perform these feats). The reason I think that way is that ghosts don’t seem able to do all these things at once. They don’t seem to have limitless energy reserves.

Let’s try some classification. We have those spirits whose activity results in the chilling of a room, and those whose activity has no such effect. So we can postulate that some use heat-energy, others have a different source, perhaps more than one. Those who might have access to some form of spirit world might be able to bring a supply of energy with them. Perhaps they find the idea of drawing energy from our world—and particularly from the living—distasteful, which is why their visits are of limited duration.

Among the spirits who have not moved on, there exists a whole range of evident abilities, from those who can do nothing at all to those with the skill to move a specified object over long distances. Since this is turning into another long and rambling lecture, I’ll just cover one aspect this time. The production of visible apparitions.

There are some ghosts who can make themselves visible. Some wholly, some in part. I’m going to attempt some definitions, but keep in mind that disclaimer at the top of this post.

1. Visible on film, but not visible to the eye. I suspect the spirit in this case is directly affecting the film or has produced an image in the ultraviolet. I chose ultraviolet over infrared because you need specialized film to record infrared. Normal film is easily affected by ultraviolet. To produce a small image in light, immediately in front of a camera or directly on the film, would be easier than forming a life-sized image. This will work in visible or ultraviolet, and would require little energy but good ‘aim’ to produce the image in the right place.

2. Visible to the eye, but not visible on film. These are the infuriating apparitions who, no matter how fast your camera-work, never appear on the film. These might not be formed from visible light, but could be a direct projection into the mind of the observer. A form of telepathy, perhaps, which can be directed to an individual or a group. Just because everyone sees the same thing, in the same place, doesn’t mean it can’t be a telepathic projection. For the spirit, this would involve less effort than forming and arranging a life-sized, illuminated apparition.

3. Actual, physically-present apparitions. Surely the most energy-intensive form of manifestation, and certainly the rarest. Covering the whole of the visible spectrum of light, these are both visible to the eye and recordable on film. Some are only able to produce blurs, or partial images this way. Very few, I suspect, can direct light energy with sufficient precision to form an entire image, all at once.

None of these requires the actual spirit to be present within the visible manifestation. In fact, it might be easier to produce the image if you’re outside it, looking at it, directing its movement. The spirit forming the image is probably very close. Perhaps even behind the observer.

That’s nothing to be alarmed about though. The effort required to produce any of these images is likely to preclude any other activity by that individual. They can’t make you see them and simultaneously tap you on the shoulder.

Although that’s something I, for one, intend to practice very hard.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A merry bubble-wrapped Christmas

Ah, the good old days. I remember Thomas Salter Toys and Sports, who produced many of the delightful toys of my childhood, most of which have been long since banned.

The chemistry set which contained all the ingredients for gunpowder, along with magnesium ribbon (a magnificent burn!), a methylated spirit burner, a host of chemicals, many of which you'd now be hard pressed to find in a college chemistry lab, and everything - everything, made of glass. No plastic, no safety nonsense.

For plastic lovers there was Plasticraft, which allowed the experimentally-inclined child to embed practically anything in plastic resin. The resin turned out to be highly flammable, or carcinogenic or something. It's gone, anyway.

Were these toys dangerous? Well, yes, but that was obvious before you opened the box. They came with warnings and instructions for safe use. I managed to survive childhood by following those instructions most of the time, and by using common sense when I bypassed them. Neither I nor anyone I knew was ever seriously injured, not even when we outgrew toys and discovered weedkiller-based explosives.

So it was with some nostalgia for those days of risk and excitement that I read this site . Yes, those toys involved risk, Yes, you could get hurt, but they were fun.

Having a device that could accelerate small steel cars to unreasonable speeds was fun. Having a toy gun that fired plastic darts was fun. A penknife with a myriad ways to cut yourself accidentally? Marvellous. Now, even adults can't carry penknives in the UK without risking arrest. All my school friends had one, and the thought of attacking someone with it never crossed our minds.

Modern children's toys are safe and sanitised. No sharp edges, no high temperatures, no chemicals, no risk, and very little fun. Children grow up to think the world is a foam-wrapped place in which they can come to no harm.

So it comes as a surprise when they finally emerge into the real world, and find it's not like that at all.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Total agreement is a bad thing.

I like it when people disagree. Stops me becoming complacent, and too fixed in my own ideas. The whole issue of the nature of spirits is open: we have really no idea what it's like for them, nor what's in store for us, but our brains are designed to categorize. So we work out a theory and, if nobody disagrees, it becomes entrenched. Sometimes the categories we form need a damn good shakeup.

So it's good to see Southern Writer contesting the points I made in the last post:

I'm thinking there must be more than one kind of ghost, because I don't always find this to be the case (and was glad to see you said, "it's very common," which does not mean it's an absolute, right?)

No, it's not an absolute. The cold part is not universally reported, it's just frequently reported. As I said, it's all conjecture. Nobody has persuaded a ghost to subject themselves to tests. I wouldn't let myself be used as a lab rat, so why should they? It's not even as if we can offer any reward for their services.

It's certainly possible that different ghosts have found individual energy sources they can tap into. One that can make use of emotional energy might well thrive on fear, and would do things to scare people to get their 'fix'. One that could use sexual energy might be labelled 'succubus'. I don't think they're supposed to take energy from the living, but some seem to have worked out how to do that. It's never good when they do.

There's also the possibility that some might visit from that theoretical place where they have all the energy they need. In that case, there would be no chilling of the room. They are, in effect, well-fed.

Let's say for instance, you're out hunting and find a ghost in an old empty house, and it's dressed in something from a hundred years ago. What has that ghost been existing on? Which reminds me of something else I've been meaning to ask you: why are ghosts always dressed? Do you think they still have the same code of decency and shame that the living have? And are they dressed in their burial clothes, or something they particularly liked when they were living?

Lots of questions, to which I have only theoretical answers :)

Even empty houses contain energy; if the ghost can use heat, they might get enough to keep going from the heat absorbed by the stones of the house during the day and released at night. That's a possibility. Plus, if a place is known to be haunted, you can bet it gets visited a lot by the living. We're naturally curious creatures, and we don't like cold, so we'd bring heaters. And a good dose of emotion.

Why are they dressed? Well, let's assume ghosts have some control over their appearance. Most will try to recreate their living appearance. Now, would you appear in front of strangers naked? Remember, the apparition isn't the spirit, no more than a footprint is a shoe. It's a projection produced by the spirit. It can be wearing whatever they choose to think they're wearing. So far, it appears that any individual ghost always appears in the same clothes (think 'lady in grey/white/red type of haunting). Maybe that's their favourite outfit, maybe it's harder to think up a new outfit than to stick with the one they've already devised. Until one of them tells us, we won't know for sure. It's interesting to note that, as far as I'm aware, no investigation has ever questioned a ghost's choice of fashion. Perhaps that should be added to the list of stock questions.

Here's another thing that worries me. Ghosts seem to remain the same age they were when they died. So if I had any plans to get jiggy with an old boyfriend who died when he was 24, and I don't die until I'm 60 or 80, I'll pretty much be s.o.l., won't I?

They're projections, probably from the spirit's memory (my opinion, remember). Their most recent memory of themselves is just before they died, so it's the easiest one to reproduce. Some can project images of themselves when they were younger. I think it depends on individual skill. If they're exceptionally skilled, they might even be able to appear as something other than human.
Don't worry about the ex-boyfriend; unless you plan on taking the succubus route, getting jiggy won't be an issue ;)

I'm not sure I fully accept that ghosts must live by the same laws of physics that we do,

Quite right. You shouldn't accept any 'definitive' view on the subject, because there isn't one. My feeling is that they are subject to some kinds of physical laws, but I can't say for sure what they are. I think they should be subject to the law of conservation of energy but that's based on what my senses tell me. When I'm dead, I might have a completely different range of senses.

They have the ability to walk through walls and yet, wasn't it interesting in that video of the little girl at the top of the stairs walked through a doorway, like the rest of us (which was the most convincing ghost footage I've ever seen, but why are all his other ones so obviously bad imitations?). Anyway, I'm not sure they have to adhere to the laws of gravity, magnetism, centrifugal force, etc. like we do.

I think they walk through walls that weren't there when they were alive, but are (in most cases) restricted by walls that were there in their lives. Again, it might come down to individual skill. Once you go beyond three dimensions, passing through a wall is no problem, as long as the individual ghost knows how to do it. Some of those that float in the air are walking on floors that existed once, but don't now. Some, I think, are entirely free of our three-dimensional limitations. These are the ones who can bring apports, objects transported over long distances in an instant. Theoretically possible, if you have more than three dimensions to play with.

Thinking about multiple dimensions can make your head hurt. I recommend this little book as a place to start. It explains the concept without frying your brain. The link is Amazon UK: you might get it more quickly from a local supplier.

It is entirely possible that everything we think we know about ghosts is wrong. We work with what our senses let us perceive, and it's likely that the dead have different senses. So argue with me. Every new idea is a good one, until we find some way to set down definitive facts. Every passing thought should be considered.

You never know where those thoughts might have originated.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Do ghosts die?

Something on Southern Writer’s blog, a while ago, set me thinking.

It’s all conjecture, but then everything is conjecture when dealing with the paranormal. I’ve said before that the only way to know for certain what happens after death is to die. For the moment, then, conjecture will do.

The original comment concerned the nature of communication from the dead, and why some come through clearer than others. Now, it seems to me that it must take energy for an incorporeal spirit to manifest as a full, visible apparition. Possibly a great deal of energy. It probably takes far less energy to place a voice on a recording device, whether digital or analogue. Similarly, it would take considerably less effort to affect a small piece of photographic film than to manifest as a full-sized, three-dimensional apparition.

Nonetheless, any effort expended by a ghost must require an input of energy, unless the spirit world is exempt from the laws of physics. Since I believe the ‘spirit world’ to be overlaid on this one, I assume it’s subject to the same physical laws as we are. However, they are obviously not subject to the same biological imperatives: they neither consume food nor reproduce. I have heard of ghost babies, but never of baby ghosts—ghosts are dead people, they are never (to my knowledge) produced by some spiritual union. But I’m straying from the point.

The point is, where do ghosts get the energy they require to perform the feats they do?

It’s very common for a manifestation to be accompanied by a reduction in the local temperature. Sometimes just as a cold spot, sometimes as a chilling of the whole room.

So it seems, at least until someone comes up with a better theory, that a spirit can absorb heat energy and transform it into light (apparition) or sound (EVP) or sometimes even movement of objects (apports and asports). I have never heard of a spirit capable of performing all three at once, or even two of the three simultaneously, so we can assume that it’s not easy to do any of these things.

Now, when we die, are we immediately granted this ability to transform one type of energy into another? Probably. Can we use it to its fullest extent from the moment of death? Probably not.

After all, we are born with vocal chords but take years to learn to speak properly. We are born with legs but cannot walk immediately. These things take practice.

It is reasonable then to suppose that it takes practice to make use of the abilities of our new, unfamiliar spirit bodies when we die.

So why isn’t the world populated with well-practiced spirits grinning at us from every street corner? Why doesn’t every tape recorder pick up a background babble of ghostly conversation?

One possibility is that the religious have it right. Perhaps there is a Heaven and a Hell, and most spirits ‘move on’ rather than hanging around here. Perhaps in those places there is plentiful energy and others to teach the means of its use.

But what of those who stay? They have nobody to teach them how to ‘walk’, so to speak. With practice, many will acquire the skills they need to communicate with the living, but do they all?

What of ghostly sightings that fade into obscurity? Places that were once described as haunted but now are ignored by investigators as silent? Did those spirits finally move on?

Or did they die?

Suppose a newly-released spirit fails to work out how to make use of the surrounding energy? Some, of course, latch on to the easily-available energy around living people and cause all sorts of problems for those people. A few, I suspect, don’t.

If we don’t eat, we become thinner and weaker. If ghosts don’t absorb energy, they too become weaker. Personally, I don’t think a spirit can die, but it is possible they might become so weak that they can no longer act for themselves. Delirium and madness is the lot of the excessively starved among the living. Would it be different for the dead?

Naturally, no matter how deranged these starved spirits become, they can do us no harm. They cannot manifest, they cannot make their voices heard on tapes, they cannot move objects. With no means to make use of the energy around them, they can do nothing. Perhaps they are the howls in the wind, the whispers in the grass, those wordless sounds that surround us.

Perhaps that is, indeed, Hell. Not the abundance of heat-energy described by the Christian version, but rather an absence of energy within the spirit. Then again, the world might feel unbearably hot if your own level of energy is extremely low.

The stated intent of almost every religion is to prepare its followers for the afterlife. Was that, I wonder, the original purpose of what is now, in many cases, a political mechanism for population control? Before anyone shouts, I am aware there are exceptions.

Atheists steadfastly refuse to consider the possibility of an existence after death. All religions pronounce it as fact. I have seen enough evidence to believe there is a continuation of spirit beyond death, although I have not seen evidence to suggest there is any being in overall control. This argument is not about the existence of God, so I will leave that for another time.

However, consider this: Suppose you were conscious before your birth, and refused absolutely to believe that legs were for some abstract concept called ‘walking’. In the womb, legs have no function so you could convince yourself that their purpose is to poke the walls of your little world, and nothing more.

When you’re born, would you easily let go of such a firmly-entrenched belief? If not, it might take you a lot longer to learn to walk than someone who had, say, somehow experienced a meeting with a person ‘outside’ who could walk.

So those who deny any form of afterlife are likely to take longer to accept that they have to derive energy in a new way, and therefore longer to figure out how to do it. Some might never work it out.

I doubt ghosts can die, but they might be able to fade to a non-recoverable level. On that basis alone, assuming the total-denial stance of the atheist is too much of a risk for my liking.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Serious mirth

There are some things we shouldn't laugh at, but sometimes those things contain a coincidence that makes us blurt out a chuckle. It can be embarrassing, when someone is telling us some deadly serious news, to find our minds make connections it finds inappropriately amusing.

Try it for yourself:

This is a very serious matter.

I defy you to keep a straight face throughout.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cry 'Humbug' and let loose the dogs of Christmas.

I don't consider myself Christian, neither am I atheist. I'm firmly in the 'don't care' camp. So Christmas decorations mean nothing to me.

However, I would never dream of complaining about the nativity scenes, trails of lights, dancing Santas and other pointless baubles that everyone seems so keen on at this time of year. I admit I'm partial to Christmas pudding with brandy butter, lemon sauce and cream, so the season isn't all bad news.

However, three-quarters of British firms are banning Christmas decorations in case they get sued.

By who? A raging Santa, a miffed Rudolph, a band of non-union elves?

No, they are terrified of offending non-Christians. These same non-Christians who have never voiced the slightest complaint about Christmas decorations in the past, and who don't care now. They are also scared in case someone falls off a chair while putting up the Terrible Tinsel and sues them for damages. That's easily avoided. Don't employ morons.

Funny, these businesses don't seem in the least bit concerned that they might offend Christians.

The UK has become a very silly place indeed. I have never heard a Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Sikh or anyone else react with anything other than bemusement to claims that they might be offended by Christmas. Once more, it's all in the imagination of the scared-of-shadows politically correct lunatics. Once more, it will result in Christians blaming non-Christians for denying them their festival.

Wrong target, people. Look to the Left.

The whole thing is pitiful. Really.

What makes it all the more ludicrous is that these decorations have nothing at all to do with Christianity. Fir trees, in Palestine? I think not. Fairies and elves, Christian emblems? Nope.

The tinsel harks back to a Druidic festival of the winter solstice. An animal was sacrificed and its intestines draped over the bare tree branches to ensure their gods would make the trees bloom again in spring. Think of that when you're draping those sparkly guts over those branches.

I'll leave you to work out what the other baubles represent.

One thing the Druids would never have done, and which is in no version of the Bible I've ever seen, is to cut down a tree and watch it die in the living-room.

The season of goodwill to all. Unless you're a Christian in the UK.

Or a Norway spruce.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Take a deep breath....

...and press the button.

So, I have changed to Blogger beta. It took a while to change over, which was nerve-wracking, but it seems to have come out the other side more or less exactly as it went in.

Now, let's just wait for all those problems to start...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The science fundies

I don't want to give the impression that I see fundamentalism as a problem that only occurs within religion.

The British Association for the Advancement of Science recently invited some of the UK's top parapsychologists to speak at one of their meetings.

Take a look at what some of our fundamentalist scientists had to say about that.

Yes, science has its blinkered, no-way-but-my-way, close-minded arrogant idiots too.

The Paranormal Review

I've just come across what seems to be a new site.

The Paranormal Review looks interesting. The site does not appear to be biased one way or the other, but looks to give a fair and reasonable view of evidence it finds. It's certainly a good place to find news.

Let's hope it lasts. So many of these sites end up becoming either wholly-sceptic or total-acceptance sites with time. As long as it stays balanced, I'll keep reading it.

Creation in UK science classes

It seems the insidious methods of the fundamentalists have spread to the UK.

Now, I have no objection to children being taught about creation, in line with their religions. I do object when a group with the laughable name 'Truth in Science' distributes unsolicited material to school science departments on the pretext that it's not creationism. It's certainly not science.

Certainly, teach children the creation story. Teach them evolution also. Let them make up their own minds. I have no objection at all when this is done openly.

What gets me wound up is when the creationists sneak around like this, hiding their intentions in the guise of 'science' while simultaneously deriding all aspects of the subject. You are doing yourselves no favours by using these kind of underhanded techniques to force your message on schools.

Should creationism be taught in science classes? Certainly, as long as evolution is taught in church.

Neither side has absolute, irrefutable proof of its position, which is why the argument rages on. They are polar opposites. They cannot be taught in the same place, and certainly not by the same teacher. It is as unreasonable to demand that a science teacher teaches creationism as it is to demand that the church teaches evolution.

If the fundamentalists persist in this venture, they will do far more damage to religion than they will to science.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Pictish beast

I've been wandering to Scotland again. This time to look at carved Pictish stones. The one pictured was part of a stone circle (though not originally: the circle predates the Picts and most of its stones have been removed over time. This stone was moved into the circle to avoid being overrun by building works nearby). The location had recently been the site of an archaeological dig, and they had very conveniently highlighted the markings with dye. That makes them much, much easier to photograph.

This one shows the figure known as the 'Pictish beast' because nobody knows what it's supposed to represent. Looking at other Pictish images, it's clear that these people were capable of representing what they saw. Horses, cattle, fish, eagles, are all instantly recognisable. So what's this thing?

Some say it's meant to represent a dolphin. In that case, where's the dorsal fin? The picts must have come across dolphins at sea, and washed up on the beach. They knew what a dolphin looked like.

This image appears on many stones. It always looks the same. It represents something, but what? A mythical beast? Something the Picts hunted to extinction? Or maybe, just maybe, a species we haven't seen yet. Scotland is sparsely populated, with huge areas of wild land. The image gives no idea of scale: whether they carved eagle, horse or snake, they didn't carve them to correct relative sizes. The Pictish Beast might not be very big.

If it is mythical, it might represent a kelpie. Interesting, then, that they would include this image among their repertoire of mostly real animals. Could the kelpie be derived from a memory of a real creature? Again, not necessarily a large creature. Sizes tend to be flexible in folk tales.

So is this creature wandering around in Scotland somewhere? Most likely in rivers or lochs, since it looks to have fins rather than legs. It would be interesting to search for it (not least because fishing for wild trout is a particularly relaxing pastime) but it'll have to wait. Winter in the remote parts of Scotland is not something to be taken lightly. Best hold off until around May.

Even if it doesn't exist, spending a large part of next summer trout-fishing in Scotland, while legitimately claiming I'm working, is a very tempting prospect.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A gaggle of idiots.

The '419 scam', or the 'Nigerian scam', named for where it originated, is one I first saw about fifteen years ago. It was obviously a scam then, and it's obviously a scam now.

It consists of an Email from a total stranger, who has enormous amounts of cash but can't get it out of their country because of whatever current political issues are in vogue at the moment. This total stranger is willing to give you a large portion of this enormous amount of cash if you help them move it into your country. Naturally, there are expenses, to be reimbursed when the cash is transferred... but of course, it never is.

Oh, come on. Surely nobody falls for this one any more? It's at least fifteen years old and it was an obvious con when it was new.

Yes, they do. Lots of them.

People are still handing over money to the fraudsters. What are such stupid people doing with money in their hands? They clearly can't be trusted with it. To quote the article:

Although the scam has been widely publicised, people still fall for it through a mixture of greed, naivety and a sense of racial superiority, the British study said.

Well, if greed and/or racial superiority are your thing, then you deserve all you get. As for naivety, there's no excuse. If you're intelligent enough to operate a computer you should have sufficient intelligence to spot such an obvious scam. If you don't, then step away from the keyboard. You're likely to hurt yourself.

As long as there are suckers, there'll be scammers. The only way to stop it is to have a form of Internet driving test, with hazard recognition classes for the seriously hard of thinking.

After all, letting these poor saps loose on the internet is like letting your dog drive your car.

That's never a good idea.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The hard sell

Every time I log in to Blogger, it presents me with a screen extolling the virtues of Blogger Plus.

I know I'll have to upgrade one day. I'm just working up the courage to hit that button.

My experience of upgrades so far has been to overlay a perfectly working piece of software with some bug-ridden, bloated program filled with features I have no idea how to use.

I hope this one isn't like that.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ghost or Spirit?

There is a current trend attempting to differentiate 'ghost' from 'spirit'.


It seems to be at least partly based on the idea that 'ghost' has become a Hollywood term, and serious investigators should no longer use it. So, even the paranormal is not immune to the Orwellian newspeak of the politically correct brain-cell-sharing crowd.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: A corpse by any other name is just as dead.

Some are now using 'ghost' to refer to visible spectres, and 'spirit' for invisible ones. Well guess what? They're all invisible most of the time. Some are visible some of the time, and not necessarily to everyone at once. So if I see someone, and you don't, what term do we use? Ghirit? Spost? Oh, I really shouldn't give these people ideas.

Ghosts are dead people. Spirits are dead people. They are the same thing, and always have been. Stop arguing over semantics and concentrate on looking for proof that there are dead people among us. Changing the terminology does not constitute proof, it does not imply a 'better scientific approach', and it will not affect a sceptic's view of the paranormal. If you want to mess around with words and definitions, become a politician.

This kind of nonsense achieves nothing more than further division of paranormal groups into 'we're right, you're wrong' cliques. Sceptics love this, because if we don't agree amongst ourselves then they don't have to fight us all. A sceptic can pick on one clique and all the other cliques will side with him against the 'heretics in our midst'.

Paranormal investigation is already more subdivided than Christianity. We have no idea which clique is right, because nobody has absolute proof of an afterlife. It must be obvious that such proof is more likely to be found if paranormal groups work as a coherent team rather than competitive sects.

There are some methods of investigation I don't agree with, such as the use of infrared thermometers and motion sensors, and the reliance on overly sensitive EMF meters. I don't believe the orbs photographed by digital cameras are real. I will, however, look at evidence that could prove me wrong. So far I haven't seen any but I'll still look. I have, for example, recently changed my mind about the use of digital cameras (but not about orbs).

Stop playing with words. Concentrate on your work. That might get us somewhere.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Christmas is coming. Again.

Well, in fact, Christmas has been under way since September as far as the supermarkets are concerned. As always, mince pies and Christmas puddings with expiry dates in November line the shelves.

I'll leave that aside though. It's an annual gripe of mine.

This year, Christmas is heralded by an increase in cold-callers trying to sell undefined crap for unrevealed prices. Those selling stockmarket shares are particularly active at the moment. They have adopted TV stockbroker-type voices and tell you all about this wonderful share they have discovered, which will double in price within minutes after you buy it. They never actually tell you which company this is, nor how much the shares will cost. I assume they will reveal this information after you hand over your credit card number.

Then, no doubt, you will find you are now a majority shareholder in a Patagonian sheep-milk conglomerate that's under investigation for selling watered milk, and the Patagonian Department of Agriculture would like to speak to you.

Two tips here:

1. Never, ever give your credit card or bank details to someone who phones you. You have no idea who they are. If they are legitimate they will give you a number where you can call back.

Don't call back.

2. If I knew of a company whose shares were certain to double in value within days, I wouldn't tell you. I'd be buying as many as I could myself. I might phone you to ask for a loan so I could buy more, but the profits are all mine. If some stranger wants to sell you shares in a hurry, he's offloading junk. There is no other reason.

I expect these calls will increase in the run-up to Christmas. Since they are paying for the call, here are some ways I have entertained myself with them when they call.

1. Say 'Hello'. Wait, ignore everything the caller says. Say 'Hello' again, in a questioning tone. Become more agitated with each 'Hello'. Add in 'Is this some sort of sick joke?' and 'Why are you doing this to me?' Don't sound angry. Sound persecuted. Give the impression that you are constantly hounded by silent calls (remember-ignore everything the caller says). Don't be the one to hang up. Make comments away from the phone such as 'Have you traced this yet?'

The longest a caller has lasted on this one is four minutes, twelve seconds.

2. (in a pathetic voice) 'Will you be my friend?' Ad-lib from there. Sobbing is good. On no account get drawn into any conversation about whatever they're selling. Mention your cat/dog/hamster that died today. Steer the conversation into pets, and how pet shops never tell you that animals have to be fed. Be graphic. If they persist, say you had a child once. None have ever waited to hear about that.

3. I once had a caller try to sell me double-glazed patio doors. I kept him on the line for around half an hour, discussing the various merits of uPVC and wood, then asked how they would cope with the drop between my living-room floor and the garden. He said they could fit steps. I asked how many steps I would need from a fourth-floor flat to the ground. He hung up. I could have taken the easy way out and told him I already have patio doors, but where's the fun in that?

4. For all double glazing salesmen: ask for a written guarantee that their windows will block alien mind-control rays. Say you have been affected by these in the past and they have made you do terrible things. You want the guarantee to include company liability if the double glazing doesn't stop the voices and the blackouts. If you ever manage to get a company to agree to this, let me know.

The aim in all of these is to get your number listed by these callers as 'nut'. It won't stop them all but it does, gradually, reduce their frequency. Unfortunately, every time you move house it starts all over again.

Still, everyone needs a hobby.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I have converted...


I bought a Sony Cyber-shot H5 camera. It looks like no camera I've ever seen but it's capable of exposures up to 30 seconds and gives me almost as much control over the photos as any of my film cameras. It also accepts filter holders so I won't have to hold that infrared filter over the lens by hand.

I had my doubts whether any digital was up to the job, but it can do this:

I've tried to get a good moon photo for years. Even with two tripods, one under the lens and one under the camera, I still had shake because of the motion of the shutter. A digital has no shutter movement.

Okay, I can't enlarge this because it pixellates, but it's not bad. Film could show finer detail but the shutter movement always caused shake.

Now I have to try it with infrared. It occurred to me while playing with this camera that the reason video cameras never do well with non-illuminated IR at night is down to shutter speed. You can't slow a video camera's shutter speed too much or the video becomes jerky. The filter is a 3mm thick block of opaque plastic so a slow shutter speed is essential.

I'll see what the H5 can do with long exposures through that filter at night.

So I'm a partial convert to digital cameras. I'm still taking my film cameras with me, and orbs are still bunk.

On some subjects, I'm unshakeable.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Check your local laws allow you to drink this stuff before trying to buy it:

If you have trouble finding it, you can order it by mail. Remember to add iced water; don't drink it 'raw' or it'll take the skin off your throat! I prefer Parisian absinthe but if you're not a fan of Pernod remember this stuff is twice as strong and with more aniseed flavour. Yes, it does contain wormwood, so control your intake!

Right. That's enough corruption spread for one night...

Monday, November 06, 2006

UK Science in decline

Well, it seems the lunacy continues. Not least at the BBC, whose science program 'Horizon' is now officially an asylum for the most certifiable snake-oil sellers and conspiracy theorists.

Our illustrious Government is concerned that schoolchildren are not taking science subjects, particularly physics. At long last, there seems to be some acceptance that the removal of practical classes (by overzealous health and safety idiots) and the pressure on schools to ensure pupils pass (which leads to a ‘teach to test’ approach) has destroyed school science. I think someone in charge might have woken up a little, although it might be too late.

Meanwhile, Reading University’s physics department is to close.

There are protests and calls to keep it open, but the end is assured for this department. No physicist will apply for a job, and no student will apply for a place, in a department that’s threatened with closure.

The threat alone is enough to ensure the department’s demise. Already, chemistry deparments have closed in the UK, and the trend towards cheap-to-teach subjects continues.

So why bother teaching the UK children science? In a few years, there won’t be any university places for them to graduate into. They might as well spend their time in that refuge of the mindless, ‘media studies’.

We’ll have a whole generation who know how to put together a reality-TV show. Fortunately for the rest of us, none of them will know how to fix their transmitter when it breaks down.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The 'hedge' thing solved.

Here's a new infrared photo of that house, from roughly the same location and at approximately the same time of day. This time I concentrated on the wall in front of the house.

The image is darker because I used a different camera. No central 'blob' with this one.
What's clear here is that there is no 'hedge'. The wall is clear, the gap in the wall contains nothing, and the plants within the garden are not obscured.

So, if I'm right in what I think caused that previous image, can I reproduce it?

I took this one from the other side of the house. If I'm right, the 'hedge' will appear in the same place.

Blogger shrinks these images to a dreadful degree. Here's a close-up:

It's dark, but shows the top of the 'hedge' running at the same height as previously. Foliage behind it is hidden.

So how did I reproduce it?

The cameras used here had no filter ring. I had to concentrate on holding the filter over the lens. The filter, as it is opaque, slows the shutter speed of the camera considerably.

What I had not noticed in that earlier picture, and what I waited for in this one, was a passing car.

Becuase it was moving it did not register on the film as a car. It passed while the shutter was open, the light reflecting from its roof formed the light 'top' of the 'hedge', and the rest of the car blurred what it passed in front of.

Since hedges at that height were a common feature of the town in the past, I considered it possible that this was some sort of 'recording' apparition, but could not bring myself to believe I was looking at the ghost of a plant. So I considered alternatives. Lens flare was ruled out because the image runs parallel to the house and has a 'semi-solid' darker area below it. Lens flares don't do that.

I checked the filter and lens for marks: both were clean.

A passing car sounded possible and was easy to check. Well, easy once the random British weather allowed it.

The car produced the same image, in the same place, so I put this one down to entirely natural phenomena. Disappointing in one way, but fortunate in another.

I wouldn't want to think all those dried-out houseplants might still be following me around.

Light bulb time

I think I know what that thing is...

If I'm right, I can reproduce it. I'll try tomorrow (weather permitting, as always).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Mysterious Thing

In those photos of the house, I mentioned a strange thing in the infrared image. What appeared to be a square-trimmed hedge overlying the wall. I have not yet been back to get another photograph because the weather has been dreadful.

Here's a clipped-out section of the ordinary photo:

As you can see, it's a very low wall. Consider the distance from the windowsill to the wall. Sorry about that obtrusive date stamp. I've worked out how to turn that off now.

Now, here's the same section from the infrared image:

This isn't a great image, but then I wasn't looking for anything. I was testing a filter. However, compare the distance from the windowsill to the top of whatever-it-is. I took the photos from across the street, and was standing for both.

You can make out the image of the wall (on my screen: whether this will transfer to Blogger I don't know).

Here's that image again with the wall outlined:

See it now? It could be just an artefact. I won't make any definitive claims until I've taken more photos there.

I did visit the library to look for old images of the town. There are many, but I didn't find an image of this particular house, unfortunately. It was connected with the long-since-closed railway works which lie behind it, and which are now used as business premises. Probably a manager's house.

What I did find were several aerial views taken in the 1920's. Again, this particular house is not clearly visible, but every house, every garden is surrounded by a square-clipped low hedge. It was quite the thing at the time, it seems. A photo of the town's mill, in the 1860's, shows it protected by a taller hedge. Later photos show these hedges gradually replaced by walls and railings.

It is therefore possible that such a hedge did exist. Whether this infrared image shows that, or is a coincidental artefact, remains to be established. I am, in any case, encouraged to carry my infrared filter with me at all times, along with at least one digital camera.

What puzzles me is why any spirit would want to display a hedge, instead of showing themselves? I don't believe we can be haunted by dead plants--otherwise I would be surrounded by the wailing spirits of many, many houseplants.

So if it is a hedge... why?

Infrared photography revisited.

I gave up using infrared film a long time ago because of the numerous problems associated with it. It's hard to get the film, harder still to get it developed, difficult to set up for a shot, you need a second camera to take a shot of the same scene for comparison, the film fogs if it gets too warm, infrared reflects from the camera back to produce halos around the images, you can shoot roll after roll of this expensive film and get no results, and many, many more. It's just damn difficult to use, and very expensive. Too much cost, not enough benefit.

I knew about the infrared capabilites of digital cameras but ignored these because of the infuriating proliferation of orbs (dust, in other words). No, I don't disbelieve in ghost lights. Such things have been frequently reported, but they are visible to the naked eye. They do not require a digital camera to see them. Orbs are dust.

However, since I heard about a modification someone made to a camcorder to make it a pure-infrared device (removal of the IR-blocking filter from the optics) I decided to look at the subject again. I am in the process of dismantling some second-hand camcorders to see if I can make the modification. I also bought a new infrared filter.

Since the camcorders aren't ready, I tried the filter with three cheap digital cameras. The first was a Vivitar 3625. The result was awful. It did produce an image, but with a deep purple cast and so dark it was impossible to see any detail.

Next up was a Nisis PocketDV H10. I carry this one everywhere. It's tiny and capable of taking reasonable photos and video. That's the one that took the photos I posted. Not bad, but every shot has a light circle in the middle.

Finally, a Vivitar 3105s. Pretty good images, no light circle. Darker than the Nisis, but workable. A slight purple cast but not as drastic as the 3625. It seems every digital camera produces different results, at least at the cheaper end of the range.

The filter is a square Cokin-style block, 3mm thick and opaque to visible light. None of the cameras listed have filter holders so I had to hold the filter in place over the lens.

The results have made me consider investing in a better digital camera. The Sony H2 looks like a good bet, from what I've read. It's not at the top of the range, but those at the top of the range are far too expensive for an experiment. The H2 can work to 1000 ASA, it can work in monochrome (so no danger of a colour cast) and Sony cameras have a reputation for being particularly useful in low light. I'll obtain one of those cameras and see how it works out.

The H2 has a filter ring. The Cokin filter fits in a holder attached to the ring, and can be slid out of the way to take a non-infrared shot.

With that arrangement, with the camera on a tripod, it's possible to take a 'standard' photo, slide the filter into place and take an infrared photo immediately afterwards. Both photos on the same camera, from exactly the same angle, taken seconds apart.

So far, I have had no success with this filter at night, but that might not be a problem after all.

It's very rare to see ghosts during the day. One possible reason most ghosts are reported at night is that it's much easier to see them with the sensitive rod-cells of the retina. The cone cells, those that give us colour vision, are no use in the dark. The rod cells see only in monochrome, but they are very sensitive to light. They are no use during the day. Sunlight overwhelms them, and also overwhelms the faint light of a manifestation.

What--did you think they all lay in their graves until nightfall? No, they're around, but we can't see them. Not unless they're feeling particularly strong.

I have argued against infrared detectors, and infrared cameras, because infrared equates to emitted heat. Ghost manifestations are associated with cold. They'll absorb infrared, not emit it. A detector looking for infrared emission or reflection can't find them.

In the daytime, something absorbing infrared should show as a dark patch on a photograph taken with a filter. A cold area in an otherwise warm scene. It's likely to be a small difference in temperature but it might be enough.

Therefore, a digital camera with an infrared filter might just be able to detect the infrared absorption caused by a manifestation, even though our eyes will see nothing. I'm not talking about orbs here. I'm talking about human-shaped images. Not dust. I don't expect to find a smiling group of ghosts posing for the camera, I expect to find shadows. Shadows that do not appear on the duplicate image, and which are demonstrably not the shadow of anyone present.

It's a long shot, I know, but it won't cost too much to get this equipment, it won't add a lot of weight to the equipment I carry, and it doesn't involve any difficult-to-find items. Even if it takes a thousand or more shots to find a good one, there's no further cost attached to those photos.

It also means working in daylight, which will make a nice change.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


The limits of my digital cameras are exposed. The filter is too strong to allow them to see through it at night. They do pick up an image when using an infrared light, but they'd need infrared floodlights to cover a whole room. I need to borrow some more sophisticated cameras, so I can decide whether it's worth investing in a better one.

Therefore, I continue to try to remove the IR-blocking filter from a camcorder. Without that, the CCD should be much more sensitive to infrared and might work with the filter in place.

The next challenge will be to do the same with a digital camera - although the small size of these won't make that easy!

I have not yet been back to re-photograph the old house because today is exceptionally wet and windy. On the full-size image, the 'hedge' is clear, with the wall embedded in it. However, I have to take pictures from several different angles to determine whether this was something worth investigating or just a trick of the light. If it doesn't appear again then I'll mark it 'artefact' and leave it at that.

With infrared, of course, it could be a trick of non-visible light.

I am in the process of butchering the Panasonic camcorder, but as I am expected to be sociable tonight I probably won't get the pictures up until tomorrow.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Infrared tinkering.

I have shied away from infrared in the past because of the problems associated with it. Also, I have never obtained particularly convincing results with infrared photography, although others have. For me, the trouble and expense of infrared film far outweighed the flimsy results I obtained. I disposed of all that equipment years ago.

I still don't like infrared motion detectors or thermometers, I am still convinced these are a waste of money for paranormal investigation.

Infrared photography using film is still very expensive, but it seems the advent of the digital camera has changed things to an enormous extent. I hadn't realised quite to what extent until my new infrared filter arrived in the post today. This is not a 'red' filter. It's 3mm thick and completely opaque to visible light, but transparent to infrared in the range 720-1600 nm. In short, you can't see a thing through it, but any digital camera can.

So I did what any sensible scientist does when presented with a new piece of equipment. I went out to play with it.

The digital camera I used is not an expensive one. It has the 'night-shot' facility, but as today was sunny I didn't use that. I took pictures without the filter, then took the same picture with the filter held over the lens. No modifications or setting up with this camera. I wanted to see what it could do.

Here's a sample.

The house has been abandoned for many years. Behind it is a new office block, and they use this house for storage. I took this one, then immediately took the following using the filter:

I need to use this with a tripod. The image is a little blurred due to the increased exposure time. No visible light passes the filter: the image is composed entirely of infrared. The light circle in the middle is an artefact: it's in all the pictures I took today and it's a consequence of using a cheap camera to try this out. I also have to work out how to turn off that annoying date-stamp. However, it's an impressive image from a cheap digital camera.

The point here is that all you now need to add infrared photography to your array of equipment is a small digital camera and a filter. This combination is unlikely to work well at night (I'll try it later) but works well during the day. The filter isn't cheap at £18 (roughly 35 dollars, I think), but good filters aren't cheap, and if you're going to try this, get a good one.

There was something in this particular photo that caught my eye, something that means I'll be visiting this location again.

Now, it could be an artefact, but if so it's a big one. The infared image appears to show a neatly-clipped hedge where the wall should be, and it's twice the height of the wall.

The obvious thing to do here is to go back, in daylight, and repeat the photograph. I'll do that tomorrow - weather permitting - and see if I can get the same result. If I do, it'll be a night-visit for sure. Getting access to this place won't be easy, but it might well be worth a try.

The first victim...

First up for butchery is a Toshiba AI-420p, bought for £1.50 (about three dollars). It works, but does not record properly. It can still be used by putting its record signal out to a separate VCR, but is no use in its current state as a portable camera. I think the record heads are worn out.

Some superficial damage, but nothing serious. It's the least-likely of the three cameras I obtained to be returned to service, so I'll start with this one.

Using a miniature screwdriver and many bad words I eventually arrived at this point:

I still have a working camera, but I also have a problem. The optics are encased in metal shielding, which is soldered together. I'd have to cut or desolder to take it apart further, and reassembly would be extremely difficult. So I will put this one aside until I can get hold of a service manual. Otherwise I can still use it, although as a mains-only camera fitted to a VCR. That limits the locations it can be used in, but I'm not going to destroy it unless I have no other choice.

So, I'll move on to the next in line. A Panasonic NV-S20B. The butchery continues!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gadget time

I have acquired three old video cameras, of the VHS-C type. I intend to take them all to bits over the weekend and hope to put at least one back together.

These old cameras have some advantages over using modern digital devices for this experiment.

They are cheap, especially when advertised with dead rechargeable batteries. I will rig a power supply for them, and if they survive, I'll buy new batteries.

They are much bigger than modern cameras. This gives me a fighting chance of reassembling them.

Their battery chargers are separate units. My modern camera has to have the battery charged on the camera itself. So the camera is out of action when charging and I can't charge a second battery while using the camera. Please, manufacturers, go back to separate chargers.

I'll post photos of progress over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Idiot of the Week

An international idiot this week. The UK idiots have been quiet for a while, but I expect stupidity will surface here again soon.

This week's winner is poached from a link on Miss Snark's blog to this article.

And the winner is... Gerald Allen, a lawmaker in Alabama who wants to remove all books from circulation that are either written by gay authors or which include even the slightest hint of gayness.

I have no direct axe to grind here. I'm not gay. Never have been, never will be. I make no claim to having 'loads of gay friends'. I have no idea whether any of my friends or associates are gay. It's none of my business. I don't have a questionnaire for potential friends. I either like people or I don't. Mostly I don't.

This degree of censorship, and the paranoia of this lunatic, is what qualifies him as Idiot of the Week. Here's a quote:

"It's not healthy for America, it doesn't fit what we stand for," says Allen. "And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal."

What on Earth is 'their goal'? What does this man think the world's gay people have in mind? An entirely gay world? Oh, sure, that's going to do well, isn't it?

As far as I can see, gay people care even less about me than I do about them. I am not remotely interested in 'converting' them to my way of life, and I do not for a moment believe they are interested in converting me to theirs.

If this floating detritus from the shallow end of the gene pool has his way, he will ban, among others, Clive Barker. One of my favourite authors. Where will he turn his attention next? Anyone who does not fit his denomination is going to be a target. Orson Scott Card was (is?) a Mormon, so he'll be on the list. Mickey Spillane, I recently learned, was a Jehovah's Witness. So wave goodbye to Sam Spade and all those Bogart movies. Give in to Allen on this point and eventually every library shelf in Alabama will be stocked with many, many copies of the Bible. Nothing else.

I know that both the Mormons and the Witnesses, and indeed almost all religious denominations, denounce homosexuality as 'against the way of God'. So they'll be in at least partial agreement with this part of Allen's scheme. I hope they will disagree with his implementation of his potential dictatorship.

It's the thin end of the wedge, guys. You'll be next.

When I read a book, I read it because it's a good book. I don't care if the author has deep religious feelings. I don't care if the author is gay. I don't care if the author is green and has two heads. I don't care if the author is a gay Buddhist fish from Pluto who dictates everything to a schizophrenic drug-addict Nazi armadillo who spends his weekends in a rubber suit slapping badgers because they can't make up their minds whether their faces are black or white.

I'm not likely to ever meet the author. I don't even want to meet the author. I just want to read the book. I do not want anyone telling me which books I can and cannot read.

Well... maybe I should admit I'm not entirely impartial here. If he can ban anyone whose work goes against his chosen way of life, then parapsychology is going to be pretty high on his list.

I suppose I'd better strike Alabama from my list of Places I Must Visit.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Watching movies.

I've been rummaging on the Internet again.

Over on YouTube, I ran a search for 'infrared ghost' and came up with quite a few results. Now, there's no way to check back on what YouTube put up, so I can't vouch for the authenticity of any of the images there.

Many were films of orbs, and as everyone knows, orbs filmed with infrared digital cameras are bunk. Ignore them all.

A few other 'light anomalies', which are bits of hair or dust.

Some obvious fakes, some clearly done for a laugh rather than to attempt any kind of deception.

Some not-so-obvious fakes, and some suspect ones. One in particular appears to show a partial apparition but they were filming a tree sticking out of the pavement. Why would anyone do that?

And among all this, as I hoped, there were a couple that looked genuine. The child at the top of the stairs was one such. It's obviously from an investigation somewhere.

Yes, it's possible to fake it, but if this one is a fake, it's a really, really good one.

A few days up North.

I like to visit Scotland, because they have a lot of these:

This one is difficult to photograph in its entirety. I did take a lot of photos with my 'normal' camera, which allows me to vary the focal length of the lens and so cover a wider-angle, but they're not processed yet. I hope to have a good one of the large recumbent in this circle.

What's interesting with this particular circle, and is not mentioned in any of the literature available, is the small stone set in the middle of this picture, on the far side of the circle. It looks out of place. It's a lot smaller than the other stones and its spacing is wrong. The large stones are evenly spaced: this small one looks like an afterthought, added between two originals.

Could be just a piece of junk, of course, but there's a reason I don't think it is. Within this circle (unfortunately not clear in this photo) is a small, square slab, about a foot to a side. It looks like a marker, somewhere a priest might stand to watch the moon rise over the recumbent. The trouble is, it's offset from the centre of the circle.

The slab, the small rock and the peak of the distant mountain in the background are in perfect alignment.

Now I wonder, was this an original alignment or some later addition? The main stone, the recumbent, is certainly aligned to moonrise. Yet this small rock aligns with the mountain. Two sects, perhaps, one of moon worship and one of mountain worship? Perhaps the moon-worship religion was overtaken later by mountain-worship? Maybe we'll never know. It's always good to find things like this that aren't in the literature though. Perhaps I'll write it up one day. It's not really my field, just an interest, but what the hell.

While engrossed in this circle, I just happened to turn around.

The circle is on a hilltop above the town I stayed in. When I drove out of town that morning, it was very foggy. I was relieved to find the fog cleared before I reached the circle.

It hadn't cleared. I had driven out of it. What I saw when I looked back over the valley was this:

This is another digital-camera pic, and it's not a particularly expensive digital camera. Just one I carry as a backup. I hope the real-film ones come out better than this but I was shooting straight into the sun so I can't be sure.

Somewhere down there is a medium-sized town. It's no more than 100 metres above sea level. I just hope my film-photos can do better justice to this view.

It's easy to see why ancient people chose this place for their worship circle. It has an ethereal quality, even now.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An infrared camcorder

There are a few camcorders out there that have an infrared facility, but it's never perfect. Leaving the detector open to infrared all the time causes blurring of the image because the IR image overlays the visible image and it's out of focus.

I came across a site describing how to convert a digital camcorder to run as a purely infrared-sensitive camera. You need an IR filter for the lens, and you have to remove the blue-green filter in the camera optics, which means you need to disassemble the camera.

This is not a trivial modification. There is a better than average chance of starting with a working camera and ending up with a pile of worthless junk.

If you get it right, the camcorder becomes a pure-infrared device, that is, it only reacts to infrared light. Note that changing it back to a visible-light camera involves taking it all to bits again. It's a permanent modification so don't do it to your only camera!

The author of this modification describes using the camera in daylight, but it should also work at night with IR illumination or perhaps without the IR filter over the lens.

I intend to try, as soon as I can locate a cheap, but working, second-hand camera.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Could it be...

I have just deleted a spam mail entitled 'Urine remover'.

Then I wondered--has someone actually invented a device for taking the piss?

Perhaps I should have opened that one.

Fiction inspires science?

It seems we are eventually to divide into two genetic groups of humans.

According to Dr. Oliver Curry, we will form two races: one of tall, slender giants and another of squat, ugly goblins. I don't think we get to choose.

That's nothing to worry about just yet, it's 100,000 years in the future, after we've been wiped out by the global warming many people think isn't already happening, or the nuclear war we are constantly assured will never start.

It puts me in mind of H.G. Wells' old story, 'The Time Machine'. The hero travels into the far distant future, where humanity has split into two distinct subspecies, the Eloi and the Morlock.

The Eloi are tall, slender, gentle and innocent. The Morlock are hideous goblins who live underground - and eat the Eloi. So turning out as one of the good-looking species isn't necessarily a great move.

Science has inspired science fiction many times, but here the fiction predates the science by many decades.

I wonder if Dr. Curry ever read that book?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Oh no, not again.

Back to less politically sensitive subjects, but continuing the theme of scientifically highly contentious subjects...

The essential idea behind reincarnation is that when you die, you are reborn in a new body. it's not quite that simple, but that's the basic premise.

Some people think it's an immediate thing: you die, then you immediately move into a new home. Others think you might hang around a while until a suitable new body comes up. It's clear that some wait around for a very long time, if they ever get reincarnated at all.

The old British religions were based on a serial transition. First life (a soul) is created, then it goes to Earth and is born in a physical body. If that soul does everything right, it moves on to Heaven.

If not, it has to come back, be reborn, and try again.

However, the soul has no memory of its previous life. This is why I am convinced the Old British god was a woman.

You live your life with no clue as to what 'getting it right' means. You die, you are told you didn't get it right and you have to go back and do it all again. At this point you'd expect to be told what you did wrong the first time.

Not only are you not told what you did wrong, your memory of what you did last time is removed. So you're doomed to run through life at random, hoping you've done what you're supposed to do but knowing that, as long as the rules aren't defined, they can change.

That's definitely the creation of a female mind. It's an unbeatable system.

I have no indication that I was ever reincarnated. By that I mean I have no memory of any previous lives, but since we're not supposed to, that proves nothing.

Sometimes people recount memories of past experience and sometimes they can be tested. The Society for Scientific Exploration have reported many studies suggesting that there is something worth looking at in the reincarnation issue, and Fortean Times this month carries the story of a woman who claims to be Marylin Monroe reborn. It's not a subject that can be easily dismissed.

I hear sceptics say things like 'Ah, but these people always claim to have been someone famous in a previous life. There must be fifty Napoleons walking the Earth at any one time.'

Sure, not all accounts are true. Many are the ravings of the deranged. A few can be shown to have some actual evidence behind them, though.

In fact, most credible reports do not involve a famous past life. Those that do, make it into the national press. Everyone wants to read about a reincarnation of Marylin Monroe. Nobody wants to read about a reincarnation of Joe Bloggs, a fat, string-vested fish packer from Hull who died when a crate of spaghetti fell on him.

Claims of fame make the tabloids. The reports in the Society's journal do not involve famous people. They are reincarnation claims made by ordinary people, who claim to have been ordinary people in their previous lives.

That's what makes them convincing. It's easy to research the lives of the dead famous and come up with a plausible story to say you're that person reborn. It's much more difficult to give family details of an everyday person, who has never made that information public.

The religions that are based on reincarnation usually have no Hell for sinners. Sinners just get sent back here. I'm not sure there's really a difference.

Maybe that's why there are so many people these days.

Idiots en masse.

I usually stay away from political issues since any attempt to discuss them meets with hysteria.

However, the lunacy has reached a level that is, frankly, dangerous.

So, this weeks Idiots of the Week are the entire politically correct brigade. All of them. No exceptions. Every one of those addle-brained morons who scream 'racist', 'fascist', etc at anyone who so much as looks at them the wrong way.

And guess what? They're all middle-class white people.

All of the problems related to race issues in this country can be traced to pompous, over-excited white people who spend every waking minute trying to fix a problem that wasn't there until they decided to do something about it.

The British population includes people of all religions and all races. So it should. It proves we're not a racist, discriminatory nation. If we were, we'd be a single-race, single-religion country. We have Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Druids and many flavours of Christians. Many more religions I can't name because I don't know them all. Oh yes, we even have Satanists. Some people don't like that but it's in the nature of the country that they are entitled to practise their religion here without being persecuted for it. Everyone is entitled to do that, as long as they break no laws.

None of these groups have ever voiced a complaint about the British Christian celebration of Christmas, yet an increasing number of towns are now putting up 'Winter Lights' and refusing to use the word 'Christmas' in case it offends people of other religions.

Who decided this? White, middle-aged, halfwitted, hysterical morons.

The non-Christian religions look on in bemusement at the antics of these idiots, but later it's the non-Christians who bear the backlash from the politically correct, IQ-challenged agitators' actions.

The average Christian is not aware that there has been no complaint, no attempt by any religious group to remove their festive season. They blame their neighbours, who, they are told, are offended. They don't know that the offence is imaginary, that it has been dreamed up by some hyperactive left-wing lunatic who has no idea of the damage they are doing to their community, nor of how patronising their attitude is to the non-Christian.

Policies like this are a root cause of inter-religious strife. They are in no way a solution.

So why, you are wondering, have I decided to rant about this now? There have been many ridiculous actions perpetrated by our increasingly unstable left-wing, tweed-clad lunatic fringe, but today's news has reached a point I never thought to see.

A ten-year-old boy has been arrested and taken to court for calling another boy names in a playground. Seriously. Ten years old. Arrested for calling someone a name. What is he going to grow into now? What have our politically correct madmen just created within this young boy's mind, I wonder?

A girl was arrested for racism because she asked to be moved to another group in her science class. Was she calling them racist names? Did she object to their religious affiliation?

No. The other students in the group did not speak English and she couldn't understand them. The teacher took this to mean that she refused to work with people of another race and became, predictably, hysterical. The girl had made no objection on the grounds of race or religion. She had made the entirely reasonable point that she could not work effectively in a group who spoke a language she could not speak.

The other students in the group had made no complaint about the girl at all. Could that be because she had done nothing to offend them?

The girl was released without charge, but only after spending several hours in a police cell and now carries the social stigma of being branded 'racist' by these PC harpies.

In the case of the boy, the judge he was brought to face pointed out the stupidity of the charges. As a result of that statement he was "...fiercely attacked by teaching union leaders for "feeding a pernicious agenda" that aided the BNP."

(For those who don't know, the BNP is an extreme right-wing party in the UK, who are just as nuts as the extreme Left and should be shipped out on the same leaking boat.)

I disagree. The judge's comments promote a reasonable attitude. Children calling each other names in the playground should not be an arrestable offence. It's utterly stupid.

As for aiding the BNP, well, they are getting all the support they could wish for from the actions of the Politically Correct, who are doing more to divide those of different races and religions in the UK than the BNP could ever hope to achieve on their own.

If you are one of these highly-strung cretins, I hope reading the above has caused you to burst several important blood vessels. No doubt you will be chanting your 'Racist' mantra under your breath. Am I racist?

If the characteristics 'White, middle-class, hysterical, stupid, politically correct' can be said to constitute a race, then you can call me racist, because I hate those people with a passion.

We would have far fewer race-related or religion-related problems in this country (and others) if the politically correct were told to shut up and just let us all get along. Yes, we will argue sometimes. Yes, we will disagree sometimes. Yes, we will call each other names sometimes. Yes, we will fight sometimes. People do that when they first meet. Race and religion are not relevant.

If you leave us alone, we'll work it out.

If you constantly interfere, you're going to make things an awful lot worse.


I won't make a habit of bringing up political points. This isn't going to become a political blog. It's just that I wanted to point out something important here.

The psychological impact these people have on the children of the UK is profound. Imagine being arrested and taken to court for name-calling at ten years old. Imagine being told that you are a fascist and a racist at that age. Apply ten-year-old reasoning to the events happening to you, and see where it gets you. Imagine how you would develop, starting from that point.

Unless they are stopped, they are likely to create the next Hitler.