Thursday, March 27, 2008

Speaking of phantom limbs...

Add up the number of people, multiply by two, subtract one and you have the number of arms here.

And he's better with one arm than I'll ever be with two!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Easter.

Except it's no dream. It's snowing .

The equinox just passed so it's officially Spring but so far, not so much as a daffodil has poked out of the permafrost here. Crocuses are out and I bet they're sorry now. The whiteness is accumulating.

Well, at least I'm not one of the New Age 'witches' so I won't have to dance naked in the moonlight. You know, the original witches never did that. Never. Especially those in Scotland. It was one of the things made up by witch prosecutors in the 17th/18th centuries along with flying on brooms, sailing in sieves, wearing pointy hats and having noses that looked like septic parsnips.

Thirteen to a coven? Made up. Witches worked alone. Worshipping Satan? Made up. Witches weren't Christian, never had been, so had no Satan to worship. The Horned God, The Green Man, all pagan fertility symbols and nothing to do with the Christian devil. Satan didn't even grow horns until he was required to usurp the Pagan god Pan. The tenets practised by many modern 'witches' were derived from the testimonies of those trials and from confessions obtained under torture. Tortures that I guarantee would have made you confess you came from Pluto and that you were single-handedly responsible for tight leggings and codpieces. It was all made up. People were convicted and killed on such testimony!

I doubt any real witch was ever prosecuted. It was all political machination, a means to get rid of those who just didn't fit in with the herd mentality. Rather like the approach many groups take today. Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. Sorry. I don't know how to put in the accents.

The witches were convicted of such things as changing shape and casting spells that killed people. Now, if they could really do that, would they even have been caught? Who would dare catch them or prosecute them? Why didn't they just turn into a sparrow and fly through the prison bars? The witch trials were all about spite and vicious reprisals, about killing for the fun of killing and about removing those who believed in a different god. Again, nothing's changed really.

Still, they left us one worthwhile legacy. The eggs and the rabbits (fertility symbols) are now made of chocolate so tuck in and try to work out where eggs and rabbits fit in with nailing someone to a cross and watching them die.

Sorry to all the Christians out there but at this time of year, the choice is to join in with fertility rites and eat too much chocolate, or listen to a tale of torture and death.

It's not a difficult choice. No wonder the early missionaries never managed to completely eliminate the eggs and rabbits. Even the name, Easter, comes from the Pagan, not the Christian.

Happy Easter, and if you can't finish those eggs, just remember chocolate is toxic to most pets. No sharing!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Value of the Dolls.

Sometimes Ebay throws up interesting stuff. Well, often it throws up interesting stuff. I could bankrupt a small country on that site if I was let loose with their budget.

This came up recently. I hope the link works OK.

It's a haunted doll. A very creepy-looking haunted doll. Well, all dolls look creepy but this one is especially so. I'm not bidding for it. Having seen the 'Chucky' movies I wasn't keen on having such a thing in the house but I would love to visit someone who owns one.

The whole idea of a possessed doll seems odd. How can a spirit inhabit something inanimate? I know there are those who think even rocks have souls, but none have ever been able to explain to me what happens to that soul when the rock gets split in two. Is the rock now dead, do the bits have half a soul each or do both bits have souls? What about when a rock gets worn down over time, into a pile of sand? Does each sand grain have a nano-soul? Do they get annoyed when I walk on the beach or mix them with cement or let my reptiles crap on them?

I can't see any way to accept the notion that an inanimate object can house a soul, a spirit, whatever you want to call it. I can't see why any soul or spirit capable of possession would waste that talent on a doll.

It's said these dolls can move. How? Spirit or no, they have no muscles, no ligaments, no nervous system. Plastic doesn't respond to thought. It does respond to vibration, which is a more likely explanation to the scientific mind. A loose joint can shift, a stand can pivot. Floorboards flex, and can result in something shifting around, even falling off a shelf. Heavy traffic causes a lot of vibration, as do overhead aircraft and distant trains.

Reasonable explanations. To some, excuses. Well maybe. I'm going to need a lot of convincing if I'm going to accept that ghosts can take control of dolls. An awful lot.

Yet if someone out there has one of these haunted dolls, I'd very much like to spend the night in your house. I promise not to drink all your whisky while you sleep. Yes, I'd look into it but I'm not sure I'd find anything.

I still won't buy one. Single men buying dolls? That's a reputation I can do without. I leave that to one Waylon Smithers.

Besides, if there is anything unfriendly attached to one of these dolls, I'd rather not take it home.

Everyone needs some time off work.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The real 'eternal torment'.

Fortean Times currently has an article on ‘most haunted houses’ and ‘most haunted areas of Britain’ in which they treat the proprietors of those places with fully deserved derision.

I would go further. I would like to express my unreserved contempt for all organisers of ghost hunts that have, as their primary function, entertainment of the public.

These places are not running serious research projects. They are not researching at all. They are, and there is no other way to put this, cashing in on public interest and gullibility.

Further, they are hindering any serious research into the subject. How would a physicist get any work done if his cyclotron was open to the public? Fancy a tour of the deadly bacteria containment lab anyone? How about the radiation suite? Come along, the scientists won’t mind you getting in the way and totally screwing up their work. Just follow the guide. We even have people dressed as subatomic particles and bacteria for your enjoyment.

Okay, it’s not a perfect comparison. A haunted building isn’t my property, it’s not my personal lab. But that’s how it feels. It feels like trying to run a serious research project when anyone can come into the lab at any time and poke around at anything they like. Further, the cashing-in extends to serious research too. You have to pay for a night in many places now. How would you feel about paying to go to work? Especially when you’re not getting paid in return? If you do pay for a night in one of these money-grabbing locations you can be fairly sure there’s somebody around who’s planning to make it ‘worth your while’ so you’ll come back and pay again.

The fakery risk is close to 100% in such places. Don’t waste your time.

The worst part of this is the attitude to the ghosts. There was a time when ancestors were revered, then this slowly morphed into respect for the dead. That’s gone too. The dead are performers in someone’s private circus now. I can’t be the only one who finds the entire concept disgusting.

Ghosts are dead people. I’ll rephrase that in pure scientific terms. On the basis of the data so far available to me, it appears that many, if not most, ghosts are dead people. Some are not.

These ghosts are usually lost, confused and scared. Imagine this. You’re locked in a room, gagged and partially blindfolded. You can make out the shapes of the people who come into the room but you can’t speak to them. You can’t ask for help. These people laugh at you, taunt you, demand that you perform for them. Then they leave. You’re left alone in the dark until the next lot of tormentors come round.

Imagine it well, because if you die and your spirit gets lost somewhere, that could well be what you have to look forward to for a very long time.

Somewhere along the line, humans moved through reverence for the dead, respect for the dead, ignoring the dead and now we’re into taunting the dead. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, surely you’d find that attitude reprehensible? Yet so many now regard spirits as playthings, to be teased and tormented at every opportunity. If you did that to a dog you’d be locked up. If you went to a zoo and poked sticks through the bars you’d be arrested.

Recently, some teenagers taunted a tiger in a zoo. The tiger took exception and did something about it. Something involving teeth and claws. Ghosts aren’t tigers and for the most part, they’re pretty timid. They are not, however, totally defenceless.

I mentioned above that not all spirits are dead people. I don’t know what the others are. From a scientific standpoint they are ‘undefined’. You can call them demons if you want. They’ve been called that for a long time. These are not timid and some are very nasty indeed.

Oh, they won’t kill you. Reports of pinches and bruising sometimes appear, objects are often reported thrown but rarely hit anyone, spontaneous fires have, as far as I can find out, never killed anyone. Nobody gets serious physical damage from encounters with the malevolent spirits, human or otherwise.

The psychological damage they can do is rather more of a concern. They can attach themselves to you and follow you home. They can drive you nuts, literally. They will try to drive you to harm yourself since they can’t do it directly.

Those who go around poking at ghosts deserve all they get, but those around them will be affected also. Once you set off one of these vicious spirits they won’t stop with one victim. Whether human or not, if the spirit has been repeatedly tortured by so-called ‘ghosthunting trips’ then they won’t be easily placated. As far as they’re concerned it’s payback time.

Ghosts are not toys. They are nobody’s pets. They are not there for entertainment, they are not just flies you can legitimately pull the wings off. They are not caged animals, in fact they are not caged at all. Poke them at your peril. No ghost is really trapped in one location. They only think they are. Any one of them is capable of going home with you and if you get them angry enough, they might just realise that.

Treat them with some respect. One day, the ghost might be you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Psychic vegetables.


I've put forward some views in the past that some see as lunacy.

They'll be relieved, no doubt, to find that I'm not quite the believe-everything gullible fool they think I am.

I won't be investigating this.

There are limits.

Monday, March 10, 2008

God's administrators and New Sin.

Organised religions often do things that make me raise my eyebrows or shake my head in disbelief. Once in a while they do something that has me rolling on the floor laughing.

The Catholic Church just did one of those things.

I'll look for a more permanent link because Yahoo news links disappear after a while.

Edit: a more stable source, I think.

The gist of it is this: The Catholics have just made up a whole slew of new mortal sins. They don't even pretend to have received these from God. All these new sins are things the Catholic Church doesn't like. Drugs, genetic experimentation, pollution and so on. They include 'excessive wealth' as a sin.

That's where I lost it. I laughed until it hurt.

The Catholic Church condemns excessive wealth as a sin. One of the richest organisations on the planet. The organisation that has just accepted Tony Blair, whose income can only be described as obscene. Is he going to give it all away? Excuse me, I feel another bout of mirth coming on.

It gets better.

The only way to avoid the fiery lakes is to confess all to a priest, who will decide whether you can be forgiven. Again, God doesn't get a say in this. It's up to a man in a dress to decide whether you float on clouds or burning sulphur when you die.

Now, I've never been religiously inclined, but it's always been my understanding that, in most religions, God doesn't delegate. If he says you burn, then you burn. The administrators of his work don't have executive power. Even the Pope doesn't have final say. Watch out guys, the Boss might be around here somewhere.

Does this list of new sins sway me towards a religious life? Well, I haven't committed any of them although I'd quite like to try out the 'excessive wealth' one. Not permanently, of course. Only until I die.

All the same, adding random new restrictions to life isn't going to win any converts. Neither is the obvious implication that the members of this church are going to be subjected to new and changing rules on the whim of their leaders, at any time and for no reason. It definitely puts me off ever joining Catholicism and it's going to make any current Catholic wonder for a moment.

Where does God come into it? In this case, he doesn't. None of this makes even a pretence at being 'the word of God'. It's the prejudices of man, nothing more. Nobody is going to rush out and join a religion that does things like this.

In fact, it's going to make their existing congregations think 'Well, if they've just made up this part of it...'

The end is...postponed.

For the last few days, the UK's weathermen have been flailing their arms and predicting doom and destruction. The worst storm of the winter is coming on Sunday night, they said. Millions of pounds' worth of damage. Floods, gales, woe and despair await us all. The whole country will be hit. None shall escape.

A tirade worthy of those sandwich-board 'The End is Nigh' guys who used to be common on the streets. I wonder what happened to them? Perhaps their world did indeed end. Nobody else's did.

Anyway, it's now nearly 1 am on Monday morning, and outside is flat calm. Hardly a breeze. The wind is far less active than it has been for weeks.

Perhaps the weather is sentient, and enjoys making life difficult for meteorologists.

Or maybe the storm decided there was nothing worth breaking in the North.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Not fade away.

Bad blood is like an egg stain on your chin,
You can lick it but it still won't go away.

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band; Bad Blood.

Apologies for the confusion of song titles. The Rolling Stones could have been singing about Tony Blair, and so could the Bonzos.

This hideous sycophant, thrice Prime Minister of a country full of morons who can't read voting forms, has just been honoured by Yale university.

He's useless, and has more faces than a dodecahedron, but he will not go away. This is the man-shaped thing who approved gay marriage, approved abortion, set up an idiot as the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury and then became Catholic saying he wanted to be one all along. How can the Catholic church accept someone who defies their basic tenets? Well, I suspect money talks louder and faster than God. He couldn't play religion while in office because Cromwell made sure no Catholic could be Prime Minister. Pity he didn't include an IQ minimum rating in his definitions, rather than worrying about religion.

The grinning weasel then took the job of bringing peace to the Middle East. Great idea. Let's send the man who has done most to irritate the Arabs, and who has just joined the Crusader religion, to talk about how they can arrange peace. I'm surprised he still has his head. A little disappointed, too, I have to say. There's been no improvement in that part of the world, I note. If anything it's getting worse. Sounds like Tony's been busy and working true to form.

Now he is going to teach the American youth. To those students who might have to suffer the glare of light from his teeth, I say 'Don't listen. Look away. This is not a free man, this is a number.'

I think he's a lizard in a skin. Where's David Icke when he's needed?

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Shadow Knows.

Anonymous left this comment on the previous post:

Speaking of finding a ghost...

Last night my son and some buddies were out in the woods hunting each other in teams with Airsoft rifles. They're teenage boys. They think shooting each other is great fun. They'd been playing for about seven hours and it had grown quite dark. They were using moonlight and stealth to sneak up on each other, and then turning on flashlights at the last moment to spotlight their target and shoot.

Imagine three paths in the woods coming together in the shape of an arrow. My son and his buddy had just come up the shaft of the arrow and were standing at its point. They looked down the two paths to either side of them that formed the arrow head. Two very dark shapes were moving up the paths, one from each side. My son said the movement looked human and he estimated the dark shadows were between 5 and 6 feet tall. Too tall to be an animal, though predators like bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions are still common in this area.

Since they were both moving at roughly the same speed, the boys assumed they were members of the opposing team coming at them. The boys stood hip to hip, each with a weapon trained on one of the two shapes of approaching darkness. They clicked on their flashlights right before firing, expecting to see other players. There was nothing. The flashlights illuminated nothing but empty paths. They clicked off the flashlights and the dense black human-like shadows were moving toward them still. They ran.

The other players had been nowhere near that section of the woods. The boys came home sure the woods are haunted.

Possible explanations?

Ah, the shooting-each-other game was common in the UK wherever there were a group of teenage boys and some woodland. That was before everyone became ultra-paranoid about the public having any form of weaponry. The guns are still legal but using them is more difficult now. Any teenager found with a weapon in public is immediately assumed to be a reincarnated Kray twin. To think, every one of us carried penknives and never so much as showed them to anyone, yet now no child can learn the responsibility of carrying and handling something sharp. No wonder they're rebelling.

The weapon of choice here was an air rifle with either .22 or .177 lead pellets. The .22 were safer, they were less likely to penetrate but they’d leave a big red mark. The only thing to watch for was the eyes: these guns could easily take out an eye. They were, and are, powerful enough for rabbit hunting. I still have mine, but it’s probably rusted up by now. I never progressed to live-round guns because I couldn’t see any reason to, although I’ve had a go at paintball-shooting a few times. A good way to release excess aggression, and if it could be made to catch on, a much more civilized way to conduct a war.

Anyway, the shadows.

If this was one person seeing one shadow, once, I’d say it was most likely the effects of light and shade in the woods at night. The fine-detail ‘cone’ cells of the eye, the ones that see colour and enable us to read print, don’t work in poor light. The much more light-sensitive ‘rod’ cells work in very low light, but see only in black and white and give a grainy image. In dim lighting, it’s common for shadows to appear as solid shapes.

However, this is two boys seeing two shadows while looking in different directions. I assume they each saw both of the shadows? That rules out imagery formed inside the eye since both seeing the same thing at the same time indicates that there were real shadows on the paths. The shadows disappeared when illuminated and reappeared when the lights went off.

Okay. They’re in the woods. These paths are, I’d guess, all surrounded by trees on both sides. You mention there was moonlight, but was there cloud?

A cloud advancing over the moon would produce a dark patch on the ground which would, in the scenario you describe, appear as an advancing shadow. It would appear on both paths simultaneously and would seem to be localized on those paths because the advancing cloud-shadow would not be as noticeable among the trees. How fast it moved would depend on wind speed.

That darkness would dissipate when they turned on the lights and immediately return, still advancing at the same rate, when they turned off the lights.

That’s a possible explanation, off the top of my head. It’s not, by any means, a definite explanation because there are a few flaws in it.

One, there is no reason for the shadow to appear human-sized or shaped. How much detail are we talking about? A vague human-sized blob, or discernible arms and legs?

Two, and this is the big one, if it was a cloud moving over the moon, there should have been a third shadow on the centre path. It would have been the same as the shadow on the two outer paths and would have moved at the same rate. The only way a cloud could do this without affecting the centre path is if the moon is directly above and in line with that centre path. Its illumination over the edge of the cloud might be enough to obliterate the shadow effect. That’s a long shot.

Three, they had been out for seven hours. Their eyes were well adjusted to the dark. Shadows can still fool adjusted eyes, but not so easily.

I can’t reach a conclusion on this amount of information but I’d be very interested to hear if they experience anything like this again. Also, if there have been any hunting accidents in those woods, or any reason for a potential ghost or two to want to join in the game. That’s if they can be persuaded to go back.

Could there be ghosts, even if nobody ever died in the woods? Yes, it’s possible. Some ghosts don’t haunt where they died, they return to favourite places. Pubs and bars in the UK are frequently haunted by people who didn’t die there but who spent many a night boozing there. If these are ghosts, they might be people who once played that same game, who died elsewhere and for unconnected reasons, but who now return to their favourite spot to play on.

There’s not enough to say ‘no, it was just a shadow and not a ghost’ but there’s no compelling reason at this stage to say ‘likely ghost’.

Can they replicate the time and place of the sighting, and if there are a few clouds about, can they get the shadows when a cloud crosses the moon? The other thing to do is to take a camera and take a few photos around the woods. You will get orbs because stomping around in the woods stirs up insects, spores and dust. Ignore orbs—they are bunk—you’re looking for human-sized shapes. Try using a tripod and no flash, if you can get a windless, moonlit night.

I see no reason to be scared here. If these turn out to be cloud-shadows, or some other natural explanation, there’s nothing to be frightened of at all. If they are ghosts, I suspect they wanted to join in. They don’t have ghost guns so they can’t shoot anyone and a flashlight makes them vanish.

Let the games continue, and don’t worry if there sometimes seems to be a third team.