Friday, September 29, 2006

No hiding place (if there's anybody watching).

I wondered, last time, if any of those surveillance cameras had ever captured a ghost.

A quick search on Yahoo (surveillance camera ghost) turned up this as the top hit. It's an impressive one, with no immediately obvious alternative explanation.

There was also a famous story of a ghost caught on video at Hampton Court (UK), in 2003, although that looks like it might have been faked. It's certainly not a particularly convincing image.

A fairly recent camera-capture (which I admit I should have remembered!) took place in a shop in Gloucestershire . This was one of a UK-wide chain of shops, who would not need to set this up to gain publicity. Unfortunately the video is grossly out of focus. Inexcusable! The picture quality wouldn't be good enough to identify a live burglar, never mind a ghost.

There are a few reports available, though I expected more. Most of the links I tried linked to the same reports, and most of those were reports with no pictures. The Gloucestershire film is too fuzzy to be sure of anything. By far the best I've seen is the car lot image (the first link).

There must be more of these snippets of film out there somewhere. Every high street, every railway and bus station, every public building is thoroughly covered by surveillance cameras, inside and out, and they're all active all night long.

Perhaps, as I've often suspected, nobody's actually watching at the other end. Most security systems run unattended and are only examined if there's been a break-in. Why check the tape in the morning, if everything is as you left it the night before? It makes me shudder to wonder how many recorded sightings were never watched, and might even have been taped over by now.

Bring back the nightwatchman. All those cameras represent an enormous potential for study, and it's all going to waste. Someone should be there, all the time.

It'll never happen though, not as long as video recorders are cheaper than guards.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Eyes of Management see all.

It seems God no longer has the monopoly on 'seeing all'.

This article on the New scientist website shows just how much your bosses know about you. (An advert will appear, describing a car no scientist could afford. The close button is at the top right).

They know every Email, every MSN message, every website you visit. It's not restricted to the time you're at work or the use of the company's computers. Your bosses can demand information from newsgroups and fire you if they don't like what you've posted.

For most of the world, you won't be told you're being monitored. You might not even be told why you've been fired.

What I found particularly disturbing was the use of hidden cameras in lavatories. I'm glad I work from home, otherwise I'd have to hold it in all day.

I've never even considered going on one of those reality-TV shows, but it seems reality TV has spilled out into real life. Big Brother really is watching you. Orwell was right.

There is an upside to self employment. Nobody spies on me but me. There are no cameras in my bathroom. Nobody can demand to see the contents of my desk. I don't have to keep records of the websites I've visited. If anyone is upset by anything I say on this blog, tough. I refuse to fire myself or subject myself to disciplinary action, so you'll just have to take your frustrations elsewhere.

I wonder though, with all this surveillance, whether any ghostly manifestation has ever been captured on one of the cameras that document our daily lives? Unfortunately we might never know, because to show such footage would be an admission that they are spying on their employees.

An admission? From the administration? That would never do!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Idiot of the Week

It's good to see the UK is not the only place where official stupidity is rife.

This week's Idiot Award goes to the Australian cricket chiefs, who have decided that 'whingeing Pom' is a racist insult and therefore illegal. The Australian cricket fans can still call us 'Poms' as long as they say it nicely.

Is the world now populated with weak-willed, feeble-minded crybabys? Every day there seems to be a public outcry, even riots, over nothing more than a little name-calling. Shouldn't we all have grown out of running to Mummy's skirts by now?

The Australians have called us 'Whingeing Poms' since their country was formed. The Americans have called us 'Limeys' for centuries. Other countries have their slang names for us, and the UK has slang names for them. It doesn't upset anyone--well, not anyone with any shred of self-esteem.

Infants are allowed to bawl at name calling. Adults who do the same need to be taken aside and sat on the Naughty Step for half an hour, and roundly slapped by all who pass by while they're there.

It's time to grow up. Worry about knives, bombs and guns. Stop throwing childish tantrums over name-calling. For God's sake, stop making it illegal. That just reinforces the childishness.

You don't hear the average American crying and screaming every time someone calls them a 'Yank'. Australians (the sensible ones) can even laugh off the British referring to them as 'convicts'.

I don't care if the rebel colonists across the Atlantic refer to me as 'limey'. I don't care if the spawn of criminals from Down Under call me a 'whingeing Pom'. Call me all the names you want, as long as you don't get upset when you find out I'm better at it than you are.

Children respond to name-calling with their 'Sticks and stones...' chant, and then they forget all about it. More and more adults respond by crying out for public apology and legislation.

Which is the more mature response here?

Monday, September 25, 2006


I can't believe what I've seen on the New Scientist site.

They have pop-up ads. Pop-up ads. On New Scientist. They pop up within the page so the pop-up blocker can't get them.

You click on an article, settle yourself to read, and some damn advert pops up over the text.

I don't care what it's selling. I don't care if they're advertising something I've been looking for all my life. I'm not going to click on that ad. I'm not going to buy from it, because it's annoyed me.

I expect to see this sort of thing on pander-to-the-masses sites like Yahoo, but New Scientist? I thought that was a serious site.

Pop your ads up all you like, but not right over the text I'm trying to read. That is not going to make a sale. That is going to send me one message, and one message only. Your company is populated with idiots and you are best avoided.

If only those things would pop right out of the top of the monitor. Then, at least, we could have some fun shooting them down.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dirty blue genes

Look up ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ and ‘Y-chromosome Adam’.

The mitochondria are cellular structures passed down through the female line of descent. They are present in the egg, but not in the sperm, so all your mitochondria are inherited from your mother. If you track back far enough, by comparing mitochondria from all over the world, they go back to one common female ancestor, far in the past. Science dubbed this woman ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, and has since been at great pains to point out that they don’t believe it was the actual Eve. An unfortunate choice of term, in that case.

The Y chromosome is only found in males. Tracking that chromosome gives the male line of descent, to an individual dubbed by science as ‘Y-chromosome Adam’.

The thing is, Y-chromosome Adam lived thousands of years later than Mitochondrial Eve. So science nods its sombre head and states that this proves the Bible is wrong.

It does not. In fact, the evidence provided by these findings suggests exactly the opposite conclusion.

The Bible describes the flood at the time of Noah, and states that the human survivors were Noah and his wife, and Noah’s three sons and their wives.

The women were all unrelated. Their mitochondria were of different lines, diverged from the original source. Tracking back the mitochondria would pass through these four women and back to an earlier single source.

The men were Noah and his sons. The three sons all received their Y chromosome from Noah. All other Y-lines were eradicated in the Flood. So Adam is no longer the point-source for the Y chromosome. It’s Noah, who incidentally lived a long, long time later than Eve.

Now this, again, does not have me rushing to church to beg forgiveness for my sins. It does not prove that everything in the Bible is literally true. It does, however, correspond remarkably accurately with the finding that the origin of the male line of descent occurs much later than the origin of the female line of descent.

The story of Noah may or may not be literally true, but something happened to wipe out the male population of the human race to a greater extent than the female population. That is clear from the point-source of 'Y-chromosome Adam', perhaps better renamed as Noah. The story of the Flood might be a recounting of such a catastrophe. It might be literal, it might be a story told in metaphor. I don’t know.

I do know that I do not simply dismiss the information contained in the Bible. There is too much scientific evidence pointing to the accuracy of that information.

Ignoring correspondences between modern scientific findings and ancient written records is not the mark of the scientist. It is the mark of the fundamentalist.

On the other hand, twisting scientific findings to force them to fit a 6000-year-old-Earth theory is not helping the case for religion. It just invites ridicule.

It's Sunday. Bible study time.

I believe in The Source of all creation, but I admit to not having a lot
of faith in the Bible. Where are the dinosaurs?

I studied the Bible, not through choice, in my younger days. That's why I can argue so effectively with the Jehovah's Witnesses when they visit. Maybe they keep coming back because they enjoy the arguments as much as I do. Perhaps it makes a change from the usual 'Clear off'.

Principally because of the blatant hypocrisy I saw in those that attended church, I now have no religion. I am a scientist, but science is not my religion either. Science has taught me to think for myself, and consider all evidence. That includes evidence I might not necessarily be happy to see.

Take the case of the Nephilim (American standard version, referred to as Giants in the King James version). The description is of a race of not-human people who are considered to be the children of fallen angels. The Nephilim were eventually wiped out by humans.

There were other species of humans. One of these was called 'Neanderthal'. We now know they were contemporary with modern humans for a time. There is no evidence of interbreeding; certainly, if it occurred, it was rare. Neanderthals were bigger than humans and were likely to have been just as intelligent. They died out, for reasons so far unknown.

To humans, they would have been giants. Is the Bible account of Nephilim a race memory, or perhaps a tale passed down through human tribes, of these extinct Neanderthals?

That, of course, is not evidence that the Bible is entirely literal truth. It does suggest its potential value as a historical document.

I have met people who interpret references to 'Leviathan' and so on as references to dinosaurs. These people believe dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans. This is patently ridiculous, based on both geological data and plain common sense. We could not have survived in a world populated with such huge carnivores. With no hard outer body-casing, no claws and no teeth to speak of, humans would have been a preferred prey for every meat-eater out there. We still are, occasionally, but nowadays the carnivores are not big enough to lift the roof off a house.

These people insist on the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs for one reason only. They have to fit dinosaurs into their six thousand years. This number is based on adding all the ages of the people detailed in the Bible, assuming there are no gaps, going back to Adam. It adds up to six thousand years or thereabouts.

The flaw in the theory is Adam. From him, they count back seven days to the creation of the universe. Even the Witnesses don't take those seven days literally. How can there be a definition of 'day' before the sun is created, for a start?

Let's concentrate on Adam. Only a few highlights of his life in Eden appear in the Bible. We are told it lies between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Science tells us that man originated in north-east Africa. Not a perfect correlation, but pretty close. We are also told that Adam was created perfect, so he would have been immortal. The same goes for Eve.

Adam's ageing therefore only started when he was expelled from Eden. The six thousand years of the fundamentalist only goes back as far as Adam's expulsion from Eden.

While in Eden, he was immortal. He wouldn't have been counting days. He might have been in there for millions of years.

Eden is only a small part of Earth. While Adam was lounging around in his ivy-leaf outfit, what happened outside Eden? Naturally, there is no record of this since there was nobody to record it. Life could have been left to its own devices. The dinosaurs could have come and gone before the apple-tree incident.

In this scenario, you can have both creation and evolution. I don't 'believe' in creation, but I accept the possibility because I can't prove otherwise. All you need to get rid of is the rigid interpretation of 'seven days', and be flexible over the length of time Adam was in Eden (and remember, this is not specified), and you have a viable theory. It doesn't yet mesh perfectly with the scientific interpretation, but it starts to get close. You'd also need to ditch the six thousand years as a definitive figure. Science changes figures all the time, based on new evidence. Religion needs to be similarly flexible. Besides, the figure was derived by one man, and 'the number of a man' beginning with a six has some pretty negative links.

There is also the interesting matter of the chromosome evidence, but that involves a lot of talking so I'll post that later.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Speak of the Witnesses...

I mentioned their name last night, and today they were at the door.

How do they do that?

Anyway, I'm making progress. I have them admitting that the 6000 years of the strict-Bible-interpretation relates to the point at which Adam left Eden. Until that point, Adam was immortal and was therefore not measuring time.

This 6000 years nonsense, the alleged age of the Earth, was derived by some monk or other in the Middle Ages. Since then, there have been many who are unshakeable in their belief that the Earth was created 6000 years ago.

Well, I like to shake the unshakeable.

The body trade.

They say you can buy anything on the Internet.

I doubted it, until I saw this.

They're expensive, otherwise I'd consider having one sitting in my living-room window the next time the Jehovah's Witnesses visit.

I wonder how many they sell, and if the authorities have a list of their customers?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How not to get mugged by ghosts.

Another long and rambling post, I'm afraid. I won't hold it against you if you don't reach the end.

Inside each of us is a ghost.

What? You hadn’t thought of it that way?

Well, it’s true. We are the future dead. We are ghosts who, for the moment, have physical bodies. The dead remember what it was like to see, feel, hear, smell and taste the physical world. A few of them are resentful that they can’t have that any more. They hang around and try to recapture physical life, instead of moving on or accepting their new way of being.

The Haitian Loa are the ghosts of ancestors. They are permitted to possess a priest's body for a short time, to experience a good cigar and a brandy, in return for ancestral advice. There are others, however, who would never be satisfied with such temporary gratification.

You will have met people who suffer from IASEF syndrome (It’s Always Somebody Else’s Fault). There are a disturbing number of them. These people take no responsibility for their own actions. They are never to blame for anything. They have never done a thing wrong in their lives—in their eyes—and cannot understand why people insist on blaming them for the things they ‘didn’t’ do. This trait often goes hand in hand with things like manipulative behaviour, vindictiveness and wanton cruelty.

When they die, they have a better than average chance of becoming vicious and resentful ghosts. It’s someone else’s fault they can’t see, feel or touch properly. It’s someone else’s fault they died. They don’t see death as a natural process. They don’t see why they should be deprived of physical interaction. They make no attempt to adjust to their new state. They don’t want it. They didn’t ask for it. It’s someone else’s fault.

Ghosts have no physical bodies. They have no eyes, ears, tongue, nose, fingers, no cellular structure at all. The spirit has no form.

They can appear to us as they were in life by projecting an image of themselves. Some are good at this, others can manage only a vague outline or shadow, if that. I suspect, in many cases, the image is placed directly in the minds of those viewing. That might explain why they sometimes don’t appear on film even when the camera is aimed right at them. Photographic images of ghosts are rarely more than outlines. I think that might be the best they can manage to push through into the physical world. What you see is what the spirit can project. The spirit himself has no fixed form.

They perceive our reality without eyes. How that works, well, we might not know until after we die. They pick up vibrations, hear sounds, without ears. I have no idea whether they can smell or touch, although some are able to make tapping sounds and move objects. They can make sounds, occasionally they can form audible words, sometimes they place their thoughts in a living person’s head, and there is a lot of evidence that they can produce sounds on an audio recorder. Digital or analogue, it doesn’t matter. I suspect they can affect the movement of the microphone diaphragm.

So their view of our world might be clear or hazy, depending on how well they have developed their abilities. Older ghosts can appear as whole-form spectres, and interact in a way that suggests they see what’s happening. More recent ghosts rarely appear in full form, and tend to be confused and nervous.

The resentful IASEF ghost won’t attempt to practice with their new senses. They will do all they can to get back to physical reality. When they find they can’t, they will take out their frustration on whoever they can get at. Remember, it’s someone else’s fault, but they have no specific ‘someone else’ in mind. It might as well be you.

Why don’t they run rampage? Why aren’t we continually pinched, slapped and tormented by these petty-minded psychopaths?

Because we are encased in a physical body. The body is surrounded by an electromagnetic field, sometimes referred to as an ‘aura’. Some people claim to see these auras. I have not, but the description of the general shape of the aura agrees with what I would expect an electromagnetic field to look like, and descriptions provided by different ‘aura-seers’ suggest they are all seeing the same thing. The electromagnetic field has been measured, and is definitely there.

It’s not a powerful field by our standards. You’re not going to become a human electric-eel, and you can’t charge your own batteries with it. Pity. You can use it to operate a theremin though.

For a ghost, composed (probably) entirely of electromagnetism, the field around the human body is like the ‘shields’ around the ship in Star Trek. They can’t get at us. They can’t even get near us.

Unless we let them in.

Now, I don’t know how well this has been studied, if at all, but since the electromagnetic field is generated by the body’s own activity, then it follows that adjusting the body’s activity will adjust the field.

It is possible that we can strengthen or weaken the field, either consciously or unconsciously. Perhaps both.

You can currently buy alpha-wave feedback monitors. These are devices which measure brain activity. They are intended to allow you to ‘train’ your brain to relax.

It’s not so easy to measure human electromagnetic fields, particularly since we surround ourselves with mains-powered devices. Measuring only one of the fields among those in the average house is beyond our current instruments. If we could find a way to do it, it should be equally possible to train ourselves to adjust the strength of the field whenever we want. So far, it isn’t possible.

We can’t see this field, we can’t feel it, so we don’t know for sure when it’s strong or weak. I suggest that ‘opening up’ to the spirits corresponds with a weakening of the field, so the spirits can get through. I would like to see a lot more research on this subject: I suspect that we can specify which spirits we let through by adjusting the field around us, and that mediums do exactly that, but unconsciously.

Opening ourselves to a general contact probably involves dropping all defences. We might do this inadvertently through meditation, or through the playful use of things like Ouija boards. We become off-guard and let the bad guys through. Similarly, if we attempt to call a particular spirit, we can be fooled into letting through the wrong one.

It’s my opinion that the electromagnetic field surrounding the body is our defence against the dead. Inside, we are ghosts too, but we have something they don’t. We have a body, with a shield around it.

Many people go through life with their shields on full, all the time. These people never experience the supernatural. They’ve shut it out.

Those of us who go looking for ghosts need to pay attention to this defence. We are deliberately opening our shields, in order to see what others don’t see. We must learn how to close them again. Nobody's going to do it for us.

Our best defence is, and always has been, ourselves.

Finding answers, part 2

The last post started well but I soon strayed from the point, so I've split it into two posts.

That’s the trouble with asking any scientist a question. We answer any and all permutations of the question, including some you didn’t ask but we think should be answered anyway.

The point was, why don’t I give a clear, absolute answer as to the nature of the afterlife?

Because I’m not dead. In the comments, Southern Phantom made the remark that there are no real experts in paranormal study. He was almost right. There are no living experts. The only ones who really know the subject are the dead, and all we get from them are hints and suggestions. I honestly think that many of them know only their personal circumstances, and can't give an overall view anyway.

I answer to the best of my ability, based on what I know. What I know is subject to change because nobody actually knows very much. It’s like a jigsaw, where you don't have an original image to refer to. Every new piece makes the picture look a little different. So far we haven't fitted very many pieces.

There are an awful lot of corpses buried in the ground, but few ghosts. Where do they go? Are the ghosts we see the privileged few, the only ones to survive death? That is not a logical conclusion, because there are some real dross among those who hang around. So we must conclude that everyone moves on. But where are they all?

Religion suggests the presence of a Heaven and/or Hell. Even the ancient Celts believed in a heaven, although they had no hell. To the Celt, you passed into Heaven if you’d been good enough. Otherwise you were reincarnated and had to go through life on Earth again. And again and again, until you got it right. To them, ghosts were very real and potentially very dangerous, because they represented the failures. Heaven’s rejects.

Maybe there is a heaven. I don’t know. Those ghosts are going somewhere, that’s for sure. Reincarnation is a possibility, and there are several documented cases in the pages of the Journal for Scientific Exploration. Rigorously, properly studied cases, not the ravings of some crank. It does appear that this happens, at least sometimes.

From what I have experienced, and from the reliable sources I have read, I have concluded that ghosts are the same in death as they were in life. Good people become friendly spirits. Vindictive, manipulative people become vindictive, manipulative ghosts. Evil spirits have been written about for many, many centuries. They are nothing more than dead evil people.

If they see an opportunity to cause harm, they will take it. If they can convince themselves you are indebted to them, they will do so. It’s how they conducted themselves in life, and how they continue to behave in death.

To take Southern Writer’s point: If I'm on the street and someone yells, "Hey Fred!" I don't turn around because I'm not Fred. Or if I do turn around out of curiosity, I don't reply because I'm not Fred. I go on about my business.

True. But then you’re not a vicious criminal, intent on getting into someone’s house with the sole intention of causing harm. If you were, and you knew Fred’s friend couldn’t see who you were, you might well answer that call. You could pretend to be Fred. Keep your answers vague and friendly until you’ve attached yourself to the person or to their house, and then turn nasty.

Imagine calling out in the street when you can’t see the faces of anyone in the crowd. Someone answers your call, but you can’t see who it is. You have only their word that they are the one you called. You take them home, and find they’re not who you expected. Then they won’t leave. You called. They answered. As far as they are concerned, you owe them.

I ascribe human qualities to ghosts because I think they are still human. Certainly the ones who hang around seem to be. Maybe those who move on to wherever-they-go become something else. Hard to say, since they don’t seem to want to come back from there to tell us about it.

My current view of the ghosts of this world is a kind of anarchy. I haven’t seen evidence of any organisation, no police force, no government. Since they don’t need food and commodities like we do, they would have no need of organisation. They can’t be stolen from since they don’t appear to own anything. They can’t be murdered because they’re already dead. The ‘good’ ghosts don’t need to control ‘bad’ ones, because the bad ones can’t harm them.

The bad guys have free reign, but they can’t just go where they please. They have to be invited, or already have an attachment to a particular place. I’d go into detail about why I think that is, but this post is already way too long.

If anyone’s read this far, I applaud your persistence.

Finding answers, part 1

Everyone likes to see a definitive, uncontroversial answer backed up by uncontestable evidence. That’s only natural. I like to see that too.

In the sphere of physics, we have gravity. Throw something up, it falls back down. It can be proved as many times as you like.

In chemistry, we can react two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen. The result is water. Always. Every time.

In biology, if two horses mate, the result is another horse. Not a leopard, not a frog, not a vulture. A horse. Every time.

I sometimes wish I worked in one of those sciences.

What I do isn’t even accepted as science by many of the blinkered philistines who beam their hideous, pompous, smug grins while declaring the paranormal to be all a fantasy—but enough of that. I don’t want to get distracted into another rant. Not this time, anyway.

Investigating the paranormal is unlike any other science, in that we have no means to prove, beyond all doubt, that what we study is there.

I’ve seen it. Many others have seen it. So far, it has proved impossible to film it, photograph it, record it, in any way that a fundie sceptic cannot replicate using modern technology. There are ghost photographs, films of moving objects, recordings of EVP’s that are not fake. They could be faked using modern technology, and that’s enough for the sceptics to discount and ignore them.

We cannot catch a ghost in a box—and I would oppose any attempt to do that—nor can we show where this spirit realm lies. We can’t go there unless we die. Then we can’t come back and relate our experiences. Even those who have had near-death experiences have seen them poo-poohed and ridiculed. The nearest things we have to eyewitness accounts are simply ignored.

So far, there has been no way to absolutely prove the existence of ghosts. We might not be using the right instruments, but we don’t know which alternative instruments to use. Suppose I was a physicist and wanted to study a hypothetical particle, such as the Higgs boson. This has not been proved to exist, its presence is inferred from observation. I could then receive vast funding for an enormous particle accelerator which might—or might not—prove the existence of this particle.

The evidence for the possible existence of the Higgs boson is decades old. The evidence for the possible existence of the paranormal spans millennia. One is hailed as a great potential discovery worthy of study. The other is dismissed as superstition, witchcraft, the rantings of diseased minds.

There must be a lot of diseased minds out there. Strange how so many of them hallucinate the same things, isn’t it?

Paranormal investigators are not cranks. Well, okay, there are some, but the cranks don’t usually last long. Those who stick at it will find something. It might take a long time, but it will happen. A voice, an image on film, an object moving on its own, something will show itself if you persist.

Then you’ll know. Then you’ll see how hard it is to convince anyone else. The only way, currently, to be convinced is to see it for yourself. It comes as a shock to realise that. As a former sceptic, I speak from experience.

Many investigators keep their identities secret to avoid the prejudice of the sceptic. The investigator takes the paranormal seriously, but is aware of the ridicule and possible shunning they will experience if they reveal their vocation.

It’s a thankless job, in many ways.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to get mugged by the dead.

Please explain your statement about necromancy. Why does it end badly?

Necromancy has various definitions these days. One definition is 'a form of divination, where the dead are called and asked questions about the future'. Odd that someone should believe that people who lived in the past should know about the future, but there it is.

It's also used to describe practices like the reanimation of corpses, so those who produce zombies are often referred to as necromancers. In reality, zombies aren't dead, merely drugged, so the term is wrongly applied. I have seen no evidence to suggest that reanimation of a corpse has ever happened, nor that it could happen.

Necromancy, in its broadest sense, refers to any magical practice that involves dealing with the dead.

I don't consider mediumship as necromancy because there's no 'deal' involved. It's just conversation. A spirit happens along and has a chat with someone who can hear him. That's all there is to it. It's just like meeting someone in the street.

Where someone tries to contact a particular spirit, it's a little different. Instead of the 'meeting in the street' analogy, it's more like standing up in a crowded square and shouting 'Come to me. I'll let you in'.

There's no direct-link to an individual spirit. You can only find a particular one by sending out a general call like that, and hoping the right one answers. The problem is, you're open to any and all responses, friendly or otherwise. Friendly spirits might answer for free. Unfriendly ones will want something in return.

They won't necessarily tell you what that 'something' is. Once they've answered your call, they consider their side of the bargain completed. Now it's your turn to pay. You might have just acquired a particularly unpleasant house guest, and one that's difficult to remove because you invited them in.

That's why I consider necromancy dangerous. It's too easy to slip from general chats with the passing dead into trying to reach particular individuals. Once you start sending out general invitations, anyone can answer. It's like having an open-house party; it's inevitable that a few thugs will turn up. The standard call of 'Is anyone there?' has the same effect. You're inviting anyone to answer. Anyone at all.

Some years, hopefully many years, from now I'll be answering those calls. There'll be EVP's recorded saying 'You're an idiot', and less polite remarks.

Chatting with spirits who pass by is harmless. Calling out to spirits is risky. You might not realise it, but you're offering a trade, without specifying a limit to what you're willing to trade.

As in life, there are those who are only too keen to take advantage of that.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dehumanising the dead.

Sometimes I just like to rummage around on the Internet. There are a few interesting things among the general mess of information out there.

I came across a forum where people discuss experiences, and methods of communicating with the dead.

In there, you'll find cases of self-deception, some potentially real events, and a few very convincing ones. I did not find anyone on that forum to be obviously fraudulent, which is a refreshing change.

I didn't join, because I had the impression that more than a few would not welcome a logical discussion, or an alternative explanation for their experiences. I don't have time to play at flame wars, or to soothe bruised egos.

What concerned me were the comments from some who claim to be experienced. One poster mentioned, as though it were a revelation, that 'some spirit entities communicate more easily after repeated visits', and that 'spirit entities seem to have differing personalities'.

Now, aside from the fact that I personally hate the term 'spirit entity' (and if anyone calls me that after I'm dead, I'll spit ectoplasm in their eye), I wondered why the poster seemed surprised to discover this.

Ghosts are dead people. People are different. We don't go through a 'homogenisation machine' at death, that turns us all into standard, sheet-wearing spooks.

This kind of thinking is a direct result of clever-sounding jargon such as 'spirit entity' or 'presence'. That dehumanises the ghost--and yes, he or she is still human. The body dies, but the spirit retains the personality of the original person. Plus a few new feelings, mostly confusion and fear. Some get over that, come to terms with their new condition and actually enjoy life as a ghost. Some don't.

Either way, they will not appreciate being referred to as 'it', the 'entity', or the 'presence'.

That's just insulting. Many ghost hunters report voices telling them to 'get out'. I wonder why? Try barging into my house and referring to me as 'it'. You'll get more than a voice. I still have physical fists.

Anyway, to finish on a less violent note:

There are several methods described on that site for communicating with the dead. All you need, really, is an open mind. Relaxation helps, as does clearing your thoughts of the daily nonsense that clutters them up. If you find that candlelight, staring into a mirror or murmuring a mantra helps with that, then use those things. Eventually you'll find you won't need them.

One piece of advice I'd give is this: Don't attempt to force the connection. If the ghost isn't there, you won't get an answer. They are not omnipresent. Sometimes--probably, most times--there's nobody there. Once in a while, one will happen along who wants a chat. It might not be who you expect.

Calling up specific dead people is called necromancy, and that can only end badly. Stay away from there.

Idiot of the Week

There are those in the UK whose mission in life is to make us, as a nation, look utterly stupid. Unfortunately, these are often people in positions of authority. It's time these idiots were paraded through the streets and publicly humiliated.

So I present the Idiot of the Week award to the Bishop of Bolton, who has declared that Halloween costumes create a climate of fear.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not in the least bit frightened by children dressed up as witches, demons or ghosts. Perhaps I have an unfair advantage in that, but even so. These are little children. They don't even frighten each other with their costumes, and here we have a Bishop who apparently hides under the table when they arrive at his door.

So much for his beliefs. If God can't save him from sweet-demanding miniature ghouls, he's not going to be much use against the real thing.

We have terrorist bombs going off in this country. We've had that for a very long time. Oh, the terrorists are different now, but the bombs go off just the same. We have murderers, muggers, rapists, burglars, and some who are violent just because they're too stupid to act any other way. Town centres are dangerous places after dark. Country roads have drunk-drivers speeding along them.

The Bishop isn't worried about that. He's worried about a five-year-old in a pointy hat and a plastic nose. Who, incidentally, is carrying a little broom, not a flick-knife.

There are many people in this world who need a damn good slap. You can add the Bishop of Bolton to that list. Unfortunately, if you slap anyone in this country, you risk going to jail for a very long time. You can't even call him an idiot to his face without risking arrest. Yet child-molesters and the like have been getting away with disgustingly light sentences.

Soon, the only safe place to be in the UK will be in prison.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Relentless - the aftermath

Yesterday's experiment was not a success.

I was still awake at 7 am, but did nothing productive after 3 am. The rest of the time was manic and pointless web browsing.

Side-effects included chest pains, cramps and itching.

The caffeine/taurine combination does not remove the need for sleep, it merely defers it until the effects wear off. So I ended up wasting most of today, asleep.

I conclude that yes - these energy drinks keep you awake, as advertised. They do not allow you to stay focused on your work. They are not going to be useful for investigators who need to stay up all night, since those investigators will be too agitated to concentrate on their investigation.

Higher doses might even cause hallucinations. That's a problem if you're looking for ghosts. If you need to stay up all night, sleep during the day. It's the only safe way.

I understand some people mix this stuff with alcohol. That cannot be a good idea.


I have discovered a drink called 'Relentless'. It's the same as Red Bull, but has twice the volume for the same price. My initial bafflement at the design on the can has resolved--it's an image of a peeled human head. Good thing it's not clear. Somewhere, an advertising executive should be unemployed by now.

This stuff contains 32 mg of caffeine per 100 ml, and 0.4% taurine. I have consumed two cans (500 ml each) so I've just drunk a litre of it. That makes my maths easy. 320 mg caffeine, and 4 grams of taurine. In an hour.

Even though I have been decaffeinated for years, I have noticed no effects besides the smoke coming from my keyboard, the blur where I used to have fingers, the sudden ability to consider fifteen different viewpoints simultaneously, and the lack of sensation in my legs. There is the small issue that it's now 3:45 am and I'm not tired yet, but that's hardly a problem. I'll get more work done. It's going to be a productive night.

Tomorrow might not be so great, but that's the penalty of experimentation.

And this stuff is legal.

Bush's greatest speech ever

If politicians could really do this, I'd have much more respect for them than I have now.

I might even place them above sea-urchins in my list of intelligent beings.

Unfortunately, the video isn't real.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Raising the dead

One of the favourite arguments of the fundamentalist skeptic is that the medium they are testing cannot produce a spirit on demand.

My view is a little different. Any medium who can produce a particular spirit, on demand, is immediately considered 99.9% likely to be a fake.

Real mediums talk to spirits. They do not control spirits. A real medium can only converse with whatever spirit happens to come along, and sometimes there just aren't any around. A real medium does not have a 'psychic cellphone' with which they can call up individual ghosts. I say this a lot, but ghosts are dead people. Sometimes people have other things to do, other places to be, and sometimes they just don't want to talk.

If someone really does summon a particular spirit when they are asked to do so, they should not be considered a medium. They should be considered a necromancer, and summarily burned. Ideally on a bonfire of the fakes.

So a medium, who has been attested as genuine by independent witnesses, and who cannot produce a particular spirit on demand, is likely to be the real thing. Yet these are dismissed by most investigators for the very reason that makes them likely to be genuine. Sometimes science is blinkered. Too often, results are published which allow the fundamentalist skeptic to crow over failure, while ignoring the flaws in the method that produced those results.

Sometimes you just can't win.

On a lighter note, after much fiddling around I have managed to place a link to my small ghost-hunting book on the sidebar. Eventually I will work out how to place a photo of the cover there.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How to be psychic, part 2

I should point out that the tricks employed in this occasional series refer to those who pass themselves off as mediums in order to capitalize on the grief of others. They annoy me because they are parasites, and because they make it extremely difficult to find a genuine medium to study.

The 'memory-man' trick is one of the most convincing. Just before a show, people are excited. Will Uncle Bob come through? Will Grandmother make an appearance? They are all too willing to chat with those who seem to be similarly excited. They will immediately forget what they said to total strangers before the show.

Some of those strangers work for the medium. They collect information and pass it to the memory-man before the show, along with the seat numbers (oh yes, they are that good) of the 'marks'.

All the supposed medium has to do is recall some detail of the information and claim that the spirits are directing him to the person in question. Then our exalted fraud relates what his assistants have told him. It rarely fails.

If you're ever attending one of those shows, and a stranger seems overly interested in what you hope to hear, I have one piece of advice.


Invent the most arrant nonsense you can think of. Let the medium relay it back to you, then drop your bombshell.

'None of that is true, but it's exactly what I told your assistant before we came in here.'

It's worth getting thrown out for.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No more skeletons

About time too!

Fashion show organisers in Madrid, Spain, have at last decided to stop using walking skeletons to show off designer's bizarre creations.

I think the reason designers use these women is so they can put less material into their weird clothes.

This is a step in the right direction, I think. Perhaps, soon, we'll see designs that fit real people, clothes that don't require you to lose half your body weight to wear. Young girls can emulate models whose flesh actually covers most of their bones, instead of starving themselves into an image best placed in a horror film.

I've never watched any of these fashion shows, since I'm not fashionable, but I have been alarmed at the appearance of some of the models who appear on TV and in magazines. They don't look healthy. They look as though they've risen from the grave, and left it too long before doing so.

A round of applause for the fashion organisers of Madrid, please.

Now, if we can get those designers to come up with clothes that are actually practical to wear, we might finally have a use for the whole sorry industry.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What is a sceptic?

A sceptic (or skeptic, depending where you are) is someone who does not automatically believe everything presented to them.

A sceptic is not someone who automatically disbelieves everything told to them. That’s a fundamentalist.

It’s a subtle distinction in words, but a very big difference in practice.

There are those who automatically discount any evidence of the paranormal. They do this before they’ve even seen the evidence. They approach what they call an ‘investigation’ already determined that they will find nothing.

That is not being sceptical. It’s certainly not being scientific.

There are, of course, fundamentalists at the other end of the scale. These are people who investigate a medium, or a haunting, or claims of telekinetic or telepathic ability with the expectation that the event is genuine.

That’s not scientific either.

Scepticism is a necessary part of science. When I approach an investigation of a haunting, I do not start from the premise that there is definitely a ghost present. As I’ve said before, and often, ghosts are rare. I do not start from the premise that someone is faking it, either.

My starting point is this: Someone has reported an unusual event. Is it a ghost, or can it be explained by natural means?

Most of the time, there is a natural explanation. Once in a while, there is not. Where there is no natural explanation, there remains the possibility of a genuine haunting. Finding such an event is not too difficult. Discounting all possible natural explanations is not too difficult. Getting the ghost to come out and provide proof of its existence has so far proved extremely difficult.

Where do I stand on the paranormal?

I have seen enough to convince myself that there are real, active ghosts. I have not managed to obtain proof that would convince anyone else, because such proof is very hard to obtain. I have pointed cameras at manifestations, and they did not show on the film. I have recorded voices—as have many others—but these can be so easily faked, they will not turn the tide of anti-paranormal ‘sceptics’.

Ghost photos can be faked. With modern technology, convincing ghost photos can be very easily faked by anyone with a home computer. This makes it even more difficult to present photographic evidence of a manifestation, although this is not a new problem.

When I was a child, in the 1970’s, I had a simple camera that had no lock on the shutter release. It was easy to take a double-exposure photograph. I used this camera to make a ‘ghost’ photo of one of my friends. If I can find it, I’ll post it here.

With the production of fakes so easy to achieve, it becomes incredibly difficult to find genuine evidence. That’s why it’s necessary to be a sceptic. If you call yourself a paranormal investigator, then trumpet ‘evidence’ that can be easily replicated by a faker, your career is over. Whether your evidence was real or not becomes irrelevant. It could have been faked, and that’s enough.

Unfortunately it’s extremely easy to set yourself up as a fake medium. This results in a massive number of fakes, and makes it difficult to spot the real ones. Real mediums often don’t want to be investigated. So you’re not just looking for a needle in a haystack. You’re looking for a mobile needle that’s avoiding you.

I have heard the fundamentalist sceptic say ‘There are no real mediums. If there were, we’d have found them’.

Really? Why would a real medium submit to investigation by someone determined to call them a liar? Look at one of the tests they produce.

The medium is presented with someone they’ve never met before and asked to call up the spirit of one of this unknown person’s dead relatives.

That’s not a test of mediumship. It’s a test of necromancy.

Ghosts are rare. The chances of someone’s dead relative hanging around with them are small. Taking a random person and expecting the appropriate spirit to pop up is ridiculous. It doesn’t work like that.

The ghost comes first, not the sitter. The ghost contacts the medium, because they want to get a message to someone living. The medium then has to decide whether to go to that person and deliver the message. Most times, they don’t.

Would you?

Would you turn up at someone’s home with a message from dead Uncle Jack? What reception would you expect? Having been thrown into the street, would you do it again?

Most genuine mediums have experienced this. That’s why they keep quiet about their abilities. That’s why they’re very hard to find. They may pass on messages to friends and family, people they trust and who know of their ability. They are not going to walk up to strangers in the street and tell them about the ghostly grandmother who’s following them.

For the genuine medium, ghosts are just another group of people. As with live people, you can’t always decide who you’re going to meet and when. A medium can’t ‘phone up’ a ghost and say ‘Hey, your son is here and wants a word. Can you come over?’

A medium who always makes contact with a ghost, no matter who they speak to, is most likely a fake. A medium who, most times, says ‘Sorry, there’s nobody around’, is more likely to be genuine. That’s a starting point—if you can persuade a genuine medium to talk to you in the first place.

Many mediums have been locked up or shunned because they are seen ‘talking to themselves’. These days there’s an easy way to avoid that. Just get a mobile phone with an earpiece. Everyone assumes you’re on the phone and they leave you alone. Naturally, that makes the medium even more difficult to find.

It’s okay to be sceptical of ghosts, and of mediums. There are so many fakes to wade through, scepticism is a necessary part of any investigator’s character. You have to consider what will be used to shoot down your evidence before you present it.

Look from the other side for a moment, though. If you’re determined to believe that no medium is ever real, why would any real medium allow you to investigate them? You’re ‘sceptical’ of their abilities to speak to ghosts.

They’re equally sceptical of your ability to give them a fair hearing.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

How to be psychic, part 1

I had planned to write an article on cold reading - one of the methods used by fraudulent mediums to convince an awful lot of people of their 'abilities'.

However, in researching the subject, I found several authors who have written very detailed articles already. So I'm not going to bother.

This link goes to an excellent article on the subject,

and so does this one.

What's particularly hilarious about the second one is the presence of those auto-adverts at the top right. This type of advert links the subject matter of the web page to what it considers relevant pages of services. Read the article first, then take a look at the ads. How much business will they get, I wonder?

Well, that's saved me some time. I can work on another of the false-medium's tricks for next time.

Remember, a real medium is as rare as a real ghost. A real medium will never ask you for payment. They don't need your money.

They know which shares to buy.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Another note from ‘anonymous’ (this is like listening to ghosts):

Know you don't believe in most supernatural phenom, but where do you stand on curses, Romulus.Seems to me, at least where your internet connection is concerned, you may want to double check that you haven't recently angered any curse flinging sorts.

If I believed in curses, I’d be using them. My copy of ‘Spells, Curses and Magical Recipes’ would be falling apart. In case anyone wants to try, the author of that book is Leonard Ashley, and it’s published by Souvenir Press, London.

I don’t believe in curses. That’s why I don’t use them, and it’s also why they don’t work on me.

Many magical practitioners (aka charlatans) will tell you that it is not necessary for the victim to believe. They will tell you the curse is effective if the caster believes. They tell you this for a reason: they want you to pay them.

You will read of many instances where curses ‘work’. Where the witchdoctor/shaman/priest or whatever tells a victim he will die, and he dies. They tell another he will recover from a disease, and he recovers. Lo and behold, the disease is cured without antibiotics! How can this be?

Antibiotics were discovered sometime around 1940, I’m not certain of the exact date, by a fellow called Fleming. How do you think we survived for millions of years before that? We just lay in bed and waited for the illness to go away. You don’t need antibiotics for every illness. You don’t need spells either. Mostly, what you need is a positive attitude and the will to get better.

That works. Really. You’d be amazed at the effect a positive attitude can have on your real, physical well-being. People have convinced themselves they’re ill, and manifested all the symptoms. Others have refused to accept the inevitable when faced with a terminal illness, and have made ‘miraculous’ recoveries. A positive mental attitude produces tangible, measurable effects on immune system efficiency and general health. If you believe you’re in good health, you will be.

There are diseases that no amount of positive attitude can overcome. On balance though, if you believe you’ll get better, you will. If two people catch the same disease at the same time, the one who thinks positively will recover faster than the one who just lies around feeling sorry for themselves.

It all comes down to belief. That’s how curses work.

Consider this. Most people were brought up to believe in something. Some God or other. Santa. The Easter bunny. The bogeyman. There is a time in a child’s life when they cannot be convinced that the creatures of their stories are not real. Some are convinced there is a monster under the bed, or in a closet, and experience real terror when they ‘see’ or ‘hear’ it move.

Of course, almost everyone grows out of belief in Santa or the Bogeyman. By some logic which I have not been able to determine, many people retain, or even intensify, their religious convictions. Within a society, these beliefs can be absolute.

The Celts were a formidable enemy because of their absolute belief in reincarnation and in predestination. They wore no armour to fight. Their belief can be summed up as ‘If today is your day to die, no amount of armour will prevent it. If today is not your day to die, you don’t need armour’. Armour was superfluous either way. This gave them a massive advantage in agility over an armoured foe.

Their belief in reincarnation was so strong, they would lend each other money, to be repaid in the next life. Nobody, it seems, questioned why there were no instances of repayments in this life for debts incurred in the previous ones.

The effect of their belief was that they didn’t care if you killed them. They would not retreat, or surrender. All because of the beliefs instilled in them by their priests.

Insular or remote societies still hold definitive beliefs. The power of the shaman is unquestioned. If the shaman says you’ll die, then you die. It would be impolite not to.

People can, and do, manifest physical symptoms if they believe themselves ill or injured. These are psychosomatic effects. Try looking up stigmata, for a start.

People can, and do, convince themselves they are going to die and promptly do just that.

The shaman, the witchdoctor, the priest, all play upon the people’s conviction that they represent the Word of God, or some other spirit entity. Some might be doing this deliberately, as a form of vicious manipulation. Others, most likely, convince themselves they are, indeed, messengers from the other side. After all, if you tell someone to die, and they do, aren’t you going to wonder if maybe you have The Power? In a small village, you’d soon convince everyone else of this.

It only has to work once. If it doesn’t, you claim your intended victim employed a rival magician to deflect your curse. One success, and everyone will believe. Tell a villager you’ll curse them, and they’ll do whatever you say. Tell a stranger the same thing, and he’ll shrug it off.

The Aztecs were amazed that the Conquistadores were impervious to their shaman’s power. Okay, that’s mostly because the conquistadores had no idea what the shaman was saying, but to the Aztecs, these steel-plated men were a marvel. Belief in the apparent godly status of the Conquistadores was their downfall.

Curses work only on those who have absolute faith in the power of the curse. Words, especially words you don’t understand, are harmless.

Calling up a demon and setting it on your enemy is rather more effective.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Broadband blues... again.

I thought I had escaped from the debacle that was E7Even and signed up with a reputable company that knew what it was doing. I was wrong.

If you're thinking of signing up to tiscali unlimited* broadband, best take a look at what their own users have to say about the service first:

Currently my connection is no better than a slow dial-up. Customer services is in India, and they are as interested as you would be in the connection problems experienced by someone on the other side of the planet.

*Unlimited - as long as you don't use it for more than web browsing and Email.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Debunking: the only subject as old as magic.

There are few things more enjoyable than a good debunking, particulary when it's a debunking carried out long ago, and since forgotten.

There are many reports of apparently frail and slender women who can overcome the best efforts of strongly built men. Women who can move a large man in a chair, even when he is determined to keep it still, and when two other men are trying to hold the chair down. Women who hold a stick with their thumbs only, and nobody can take it from them. Actions that should be impossible, given the relative musculature of the slight woman and the large man, yet they are performed on stage for all to see.

It was with a certain delight that I noted the correspondences in Fortean Times under the title 'Human Magnets' (Issue 214, page 72-73) which gave this link.

The text is freely available, because it's out of copyright.

This particular piece of 'paranormal evidence' was effectively debunked by Nelson W. Perry.

In 1895.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Orwell should have titled it '2014'.

I could be wrong about this...

...but I thought we employed firemen to put out fires?

Nine firemen have just been severely reprimanded, one has been demoted, and all have to undergo intensive re-training.

Why? Because they failed to put out a fire? Did someone die?

No. They are in trouble because they refused to hand out leaflets at a Gay Pride march.

They objected to being ordered to do this and were reprimanded for 'disobeying orders'. I note none of those giving the orders attended this event to spend time handing out bits of paper. Then again, none of those giving the orders attend fires either.

So the Big Brothers of the fire service see fit to waste their employee's time at marches, when we are already short of firemen to cover real emergencies. The firemen's objections were brushed aside as 'prejudice', an increasingly one-sided term in our modern world, and one so overused as to have little meaning any more.

Worse, the employer's response when faced with this trivial rebellion was 'Off to Room 101 with them, for re-education.' It's called 'diversity training', which, if you look into it, involves the unquestioning acceptance that everyone is better than you are.

I urge everyone to read George Orwell's '1984'. Once hailed as a great work of fiction, it is rapidly becoming an essential manual for survival in the UK.