Friday, August 24, 2007

A psychic parrot?

Sometimes snippets of evidence turn up in the oddest places.

There are 30 videos of this foul-beaked parrot (all of them hilarious) on YouTube. Just search 'X-rated parrot'.

In this one, the parrot starts repeating the name 'Jill'. The owner is baffled, and explains that Jill was his sister, who died years ago. When he tells the parrot 'Jill died', the parrot responds 'Bye-bye' which is a heck of a coincidence for a bird with such an extensive vocabulary.

This particular parrot is an excellent mimic and picks up words quickly.

Coincidence? Well, the world is full of them, but this one clearly sends shivers up the parrot-owner's spine.

Watch the video and decide for yourself - but be warned, that parrot's vocabulary extends deep into the gutter!

Debunking debunkers.

Science claims to have proved that out-of-body experiences are an illusion.

I fail to see how this experiment proves anything of the kind.

Using virtual reality goggles, volunteers get a view of their own body, or of a mannequin made to look like them. They are, in effect, looking at themselves from 'outside' their bodies. Just as described by out-of-body experiencers.

Are these scientists claiming that all out-of-body experiences are due to some sneaky housebreaker slipping virtual reality goggles on sleeping householders? Do surgeons place these goggles on anaesthetised patients in case they wake up, then have a good laugh about it afterwards? Somehow I doubt it.

I haven't had an out-of-body experience myself so I can only speak from the reports of others. Yet what I see in this experiment is a replication, using technology, of the experiences reported by 10% of the population without that technology.

This is a rather poor and desperate attempt at debunking a common and still unexplained phenomenon. It no more disproves the out-of-body experience than Caspar disproves the existence of ghosts.

All it proves is that the effect can be replicated using technology. Just like Caspar.

OK Go - Get Over It

I vote this song for the national anthem of every country in the world. It makes more sense than any of them and it's a great deal better to listen to than most of the miserable dirges out there.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Orbs - ha!

While in Wales, I heard about an old railway station that was, coincidentally, very close to a pub. So I visited both. There was no hint of haunting at either location, but I like to visit old places because they’re fascinating.

The track has long since been lifted and turned into a footpath and cycleway. A crime in itself, but worse was the wanton removal of the old station. There were photos of it in the pub, and it looked like an excellent example of Great Western architecture.

All that’s left is the bridge that carried the track over a tiny, winding road. It’s well over a hundred years old yet there’s not a brick missing from the structure and it shows no sign of recent repairs. They just don’t build like this any more. Modern bridges often show cracks and flaking masonry after a few years. Have we run out of the ‘proper’ cement, or is building a lost art? It’s most likely down to cost-cutting by the empty suits, but that’s not what this is about.

Here’s the bridge in question:

Since I had my infrared filter with me, I used it to take a few photos, including the bridge.
Here’s one of them:

It’s full of orbs. No flash this time, so I’m not lighting up dust in front of the lens. It’s a sunny day, just after lunchtime, and the sun is almost overhead.

Here’s another:

Note the pattern of orbs in the photos. Pretty similar, don’t you think? The pattern was the same on a few other photos. It depended which way I was facing.

In fact, it depended on whether the sun struck the filter at just the right angle to light up the dust specks on it. Yes, it’s dust on the filter, nothing more.

There are no records of anyone ever dying at the station, no accidents, no heart attacks, nothing. Yet if you believe in orbs, you’d assume there must have been a pitched battle here in the past. There wasn’t. Nobody has ever lived here, it’s the site of an old railway line and that’s it. No ancient burial grounds, nothing.

These orbs are dust. Most orbs are dust. I’ve heard of people claiming they can tell when orbs are around. Well, yes, Stomp around a disused building and say to your photographer ‘Take a photo now, you’ll get orbs’. This translates to ‘I should have stirred up enough dust to get you excited by now. Sucker.’

Ghosts are real. Other, non-human, spirits exist. I’ve seen them. There are such things as spirit lights, corpse candles, lights that can’t be passed off as will-o’-the-wisps or other natural phenomena. They are visible to the eye, not just to the error-prone digital camera.

Orbs, however, are dust. That’s all they are. They are not ‘the first attempt at manifestation of a spirit’. First visual attempts are usually hands, or feet and legs. The head and face are generally the final touch because they’re hardest to visualise. Nobody visualises themselves as a semitransparent disc. Nobody. Orbs are not ghosts. They are the worst thing that could happen to a serious investigation because they are easily proved to be photographic errors. Ammunition for sceptics.

Forget the orbs. If you want to be taken seriously, then don’t ever present an orb photo as ‘proof’.

It’s like loading the guns for your own firing squad.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The clown that turned.

I heard about a rotating clown a few weeks back and wandered along to take a look. I was invited. I don’t just turn up at your door and demand to see your spooky happenings. So far, I have never seen the inside of either a prison cell or a padded room and I’m happy with that. So I arrive by invitation only.

The clown was blown glass, in a glass-fronted cabinet set against, but not fixed to, a wall. I’ve opened the glass door for the photos because of reflections, but it’s normally closed.

The room is one of those little-used ‘best rooms’ to be found in most older British houses. The young don’t keep up this tradition because modern houses are too small to swing a cat in. You can tell this by the cat-shaped dents in the walls. There aren’t enough rooms in new houses to designate one as ‘best’.

Anyway, the ‘best’ room is used for guests, dinner parties, that sort of thing. It’s left alone most of the time, apart from dusting and polishing. Nobody in the house disturbed the clown overnight, yet in the morning it had turned almost ninety degrees to the right. The homeowner turned it back. Overnight, it turned itself around again.

There was no history of strange happenings in the house, and the clown had been in the family for many years. In that time it had always behaved itself, facing the direction it was set in and showing no rotatory impulse whatsoever. It has a twin, in the same cabinet, that seems content to remain in place.

Overnight, the house creaked and groaned a lot. Nothing supernatural in that, but it did give a clue. Behind the wall, behind the clown’s cabinet, was a staircase leading to a lower floor (the house is built into the side of a hill: after entering the front door, the second level is down, not up). So the cabinet is on a wooden floor with a room below.

An inspection of the clown showed that its base was uneven. It pivoted easily on a bulge in the glass of its feet. Combined with movement on the floor and the staircase, I concluded that simple vibration was sufficient to cause it to turn. I found no evidence of any spirit involvement in this case.

The one thing that puzzled me, and still does, is why the clown’s rotation has only occurred in recent months. It has been in that cabinet, in the same place on the same shelf for well over a decade.

It might be worth a second visit.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How to poison a child.

Our children have now to live in terror of the despicable Foreign Toymaker, who is coating all toys with lead and magnets.

I have no idea why magnets are now dangerous. I had several as a child, most from toy sets. Now I have some from defunct hard disks which are powerful enough to not only stop a pacemaker, but to rip it from the victim's chest. There must be some reason why we are suddenly terrified of magnetism. Does anyone know?

Lead has long been known to be toxic, which is why I recall a childhood incident where all the water pipes in my parent's house had to be replaced with copper ones. The latest pipes, in an extension I had built a few years ago, are plastic. This means I can't find them with a pipe detector, but that's progress for you.

We had lead water pipes. Their removal was a good idea. Green paint in very old houses is coloured with arsenic. It's best not to scrape that off - just paint or paper over it. It's safe until you turn it into airborne dust. Asbestos roofs still exist. If you want to remove one, it's a specialist job. It was probably put up as a DIY job, but now it's deadly.

The world is full of dangerous things. There are, however, degrees of danger.

I had lead toy soldiers as a boy. Pity I didn't keep them, they're worth money now. I had (still have) soldering equipment and dabbled (still dabble) with electronics. Lead-free solder is now available but when I was a child, a whiff of solder vapour was considered trivial. Dripping it onto your hand wasn't. I learned, very quickly, to treat hot solder with respect.

School physics lessons included the art of soldering, the construction of a mercury thermometer and other things that make the bubble-wrap brigade tremble with fear. I'm not even going to start on chemistry lessons. Let's just say the school had a small stock of pure sodium and pure potassium for class purposes. Physics and chemistry were fun subjects, as was biology which involved dead rats and scalpels. Nowadays, children aren't interested in those subjects and the Institute of Incompetence, previously known as the Government, wonders why.

It's because they took all the fun out. For children, things that go bang, things that burn, things that smell, are the stuff of dreams. Dusty textbooks and long equations are not. We learned the equations only because they showed us how to make things like nitrogen triiodide and weedkiller bombs. Without the class demonstrations of those things (and some self-imposed homework) those equations would have held no interest at all. Before you ask, the particular weedkiller required is no longer on sale.

Children don't want to spend time in a class of clean white lab coats and clear solutions. They want lab coats with stains, and with holes from 'accidental' alkali spillage. They want to have to leave the room teary-eyed because someone's experiment 'accidentally' produced sulphur dioxide. They want something to go bang, something to stink, something gory and something poisonous. They want the dangerous stuff.

Lead soldiers were never dangerous unless you bit chunks off them. If you're the sort of person who finds lead tasty, then natural selection will deal with you. Lead in paint on children's toys is less dangerous than those soldiers. It's at a much lower concentration and will only affect a child who's daft enough to eat it.

They say lead makes you stupid. I say if you're actively eating these things, you can't get any more stupid.

Lead is bad for you, there's no doubt about that. It's the same lead that's in vehicle exhaust emissions. That's bad for you too. If you have fillings, the amalgam used by dentists contains mercury. In the UK, we are at low risk from this because it's impossible to register with a dentist. Even so, having your teeth filled with mercury without being told makes no news. A little lead-based paint causes utter terror. What a world.

It's not the metals in our household products that's responsible for rising levels of illiteracy among university students. Lead doesn't cause chavs or any of the other congregations of brainlessness that litter our streets at dusk. Children are not unruly and idiotic because of the traces of mildly harmful things the twee little ladies of Political Correctness haven't mopped up yet.

They are unruly because the Politically Correct will not allow anyone, parent, teacher, police, courts, to discipline them.

They are stupid because the Bubble-Wrap Brigade won't let teachers teach them anything.

There is little need to be concerned about the physical poisoning a child might pick up from its toys. It can happen, but it's very unlikely in today's world.

There is every need to be concerned about the more insidious, mental and psychological poisoning of every child's thought processes by the madmen who currently run the country.

That's why I make no plans for the future. The human race will coddle itself to death in a couple of generations.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Think deep.

Where is Heaven, and where is Hell? Those who have faith in such things generally regard Heaven as being somewhere in the sky, and Hell as being in the bowels of the Earth. This is, however, a recent development and, I suspect, has its roots in the observation that upwards means moving towards light—the sun—while underground is dark and gloomy.

The ancient peoples had one thing in common, despite widely differing beliefs. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Celts, Picts, the Maori, all believed (many still believe) that the paths souls travelled after death were underground.

Consider: in all the studied cases of reincarnation or past-life regression, nobody has ever reported a previous incarnation on another world. Always this one. There are no reincarnated Martians or Alpha Centaurians among us.

Air travellers, astronauts, cameras and other sensors sent to the moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and other floating rocks report no paranormal activity at all. I’m not one to study UFO’s but if they are real then I don’t think they have any spirit connection.

Mines have long had reports of kobolds (Germany) tommyknockers (America) coblynau (Wales). Knocking spirits infest mines all over the world. Goblins and demons are generally regarded to come from underground. Fairies—originally souls of the dead from Celtic lore—live in hills, in underground caverns. Haunted caves abound, while every tale from folklore describing things like vampires and ghouls describe them rising from the soil, not falling from the sky.

It seems we are tied to this particular ball of soil for the long haul.

Why? Is there some gravitational effect on spirits, just as on the living? Is it because this is where we were born, and where we choose to stay after death, or do spirits have no ability to leave this world? I’ll be disappointed if that turns out to be the case since I was hoping to travel extensively.

There is only one way to test this, and that’s to die on another planet. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone (well, not on many people) but it’s certain to happen one day. Especially if plans to set up permanent colonies on the moon or Mars ever come to fruition. One day, through accident or old age, someone will die on another world.

Will they travel subterranean passageways on their new home planet, or will they return to this one? Will the mines of Mars one day have kobolds of their own, directing miners away from the highways of the dead? Or will they all come home to the crowded underworld of Earth?

I doubt I’ll see the answer to that. Not with living eyes, anyway.