Saturday, October 31, 2009

Papal bull.

Oh, here we go again. The Pope has declared Halloween 'dangerous'. He is an idiot and I know the Catholics out there will take great offence but I don't care at all. He is completely off his head.

Halloween is a number of things these days. It used to be one thing. Before that it was nothing at all.

Go back to the time before humans. Use any timescale you want because science and creation both agree there was a time of no humans. Even later creation has a time of humans but no death.

Before humans there was no Halloween. There was also no Tuesday and no February. None of those things can exist before someone thought to give them names. Halloween is not a component of Earth. It is a component of humanity. As is every other festival of every religion. There can be no 'communication with the dead' until someone dies and that can't happen until someone is alive. Someone who can be defined as human. Communication with an ancestor who says 'oook-ook' isn't helpful.

The Celts, and possibly many before them, measured things starting from what we might now consider the end. For us, the day begins when the sun comes up. For the Celts, the new day began when the sun went down. For us, the year begins in spring. For the Celts, it began with the onset of winter. The time when everything died. They preferred to get the bad stuff over first.

Halloween, then called Samheim (spell it how you like. Until Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, there were no fixed spellings in English) was the end and the beginning of the year. The time of renewal. The Celts built a bonfire and leapt through it to cleanse themselves of the demons following them. They believed that at this time of renewal, the barrier between life and death was thin. It was a dangerous time. Not a time of devil worship because nobody did that at all until the Christians invented Satan. A time to beware of demons and the dead. They did not revel in death. Winter was sure to provide as much of that as they could deal with. The Halloween festival was to ward off death and scare away demons.

Christianity took over all the old festivals. The renewal of the sun on December 25th following its 'death' on the 22nd was replaced with the birth of Christ. The tinsel and balls on the trees are a relic of the Druid sacrifice, which was followed by draping entrails over trees. The fairy on top is a Celtic vision of a ghost. The fertility rite became Easter but kept the rabbits and the eggs. Halloween was harder to shift until Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament. That allowed the moving of the bonfire to November 5th and the reclassification of November 1st (the first day of the new year) as all saint's day. All organised religion is scared of Halloween just as they are terrified of the paranormal in general. We aren't supposed to know about this stuff. It messes up the belief and the control.

Halloween went quiet for a long time. In the UK we had ducking for apples and other relics of harvest-end but then America revived the 'guising' aspect of dressing up to scare away the demons. Halloween came back.

The devil-worshippers (who did not exist before Christianity) took Samheim as some kind of Satanic calendar date. It was never about that. It was all about dispelling evil and forming protection for the coming winter. Not about worshipping evil. That would not be a clever move for people about to overwinter in rough huts.

The Pope is wrong. Halloween offers no threat to Christianity and never did. Children in costumes have no idea what they are celebrating, indeed they are not celebrating anything at all. They are having a bit of fun with dress-up and fake blood and free sweets and that is all. They know nothing of Satanism, of witchcraft (NOT the same thing), of communicating with the dead, of protection from demons, of the appropriation of the festival by Christians, none of the history has seeped through and I'll bet there is not a teacher in the world who both knows that history and is willing to tell the children about it. They would not dare.

The barrier betwen the living and the dead is still at its thinnest tonight. Earth didn't do that. Nature didn't do that. Humans did it with collective conviction. A conviction so strong that it's still true today. For a few, Halloween means what it once did. For some, it means they can prance around the woods naked and call up a horned god who isn't Satan but who will probably play along because it's funny. Pan always had a sense of humour and it's not always a gentle humour. For most people it means masks and sweets and nothing more than that.

It's still a time to be very careful but dressing up as Frankenstein or other fictional monsters presents no danger to children at all. They don't come out unless you're looking for them. The dressed-up children are not.

I will be.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mind, matter and mucus.

I've been remiss in not posting here for a while. I thought I had swine flu but it was only human flu, not that that was much comfort because it hurt like hell and left me drained from lack of food and whisky. That'll teach me to socialise with people. Disgusting, diseased creatures. I'll have to keep out of their way for a while because one of them might have swine flu and having ordinary flu offers no immunity to that. Not again, not so soon!

All this 'catching stuff' started when I stopped smoking. I'm sure there's a connection. When I was pumping myself full of carcinogens and toxins, I felt fine. Healthy living doesn't agree with me. I still have the electric cigar but it's not the same, even though it does produce decent smoke rings with practice and is gentle enough on the throat to be puffed at even when your throat is a pus-filled red mess. Within limits.

The thing in my house has gone. It probably became bored since I've ignored it for a couple of weeks. I have a pretty good idea where it's gone so I'll go after it. There might be some question as to who is haunting who here.

While sitting (or generally lying) mucus-filled and hoping the pulsations in my head weren't some kind of countdown to detonation, I had time to waste on YouTube. I found several series on 'how to do telekinesis' but after trying once and having to lie down until the flashes and pounding subsided, I decided to leave it for a while. It wasn't the best time to concentrate.

The best series I found so far is by this guy. I am not impressed by the spinning of tinfoil. If I'm going to do telekinesis I want to be able to tip over cars and throw things. I don't want to wait until I achieve my ambition to become a poltergeist either. I do like the way the Irish guy in the videos thinks, because he's thinking broadly along the same lines as me and the poltergeist example works in there too. Only a few people show any sign of telekinesis and only a few ghosts show signs of poltergeist-type abilities. Neither are common. It takes practice. Nobody is going to practice something they don't believe exists. So telekinesis and poltergeists are both rare things, which is what you would expect if ghosts are dead people.

He also has a healthily angry attitude towards fakes. I like that.

For me, the jury is still out on telekinesis. I'm willing to give it a try though.

I wish I could do this.

It's not paranormal but it's certainly magical.

I have no artistic ability and definitely don't have the patience to paint a mural using a tiny brush over a period of weeks. I would love to have one of these in my house, but it would mean I'd never move house again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The good, the bad and the weird.

Plants have a long history in medicine - well, in pre-antibiotic medicine. Modern medicine sniffs at such things. If it's not a pill in a bottle, it can't be effective, they say.

Well, the use of mouldy bread poultices to prevent wound infections goes back a long way. Long before the dicovery of penicillin, an antibiotic produced by mould. This discovery was made by accident, by observing the prevention of bacterial growth around a mould on a laboratory Petri dish. It was not discovered by a scientist wondering why his granny used to strap wet mouldy bread to his cuts. The mouldy bread poultice was an old wives' tale and not worthy of the attention of science. Scientific arrogance is not a new phenomenon.

Pity. We could have had antibiotics a lot sooner if scientists had listened to their grannies.

Nowadays, there are scientists looking for plants that might produce potential cures for all sorts of diseases. Still, these scientists are keen not to appear to be herbalists. Instead of using the plant, they take an effective molecule and make synthetic copies of it. Then put it in a pill.

There are many plants that are useful for general ailments. Here are some of the good ones. There are many more. Ask Granny, or these days, perhaps Great-Granny.

You do need to be careful because there are also plants that can kill you very quickly if you eat even a small part of them. So here are some of the bad ones. Some of them are rare, some are common, so watch what you're using for that herbal tea!

And, just because it's interesting, here are some of the weird ones. Not necessarily toxic or medicinal, just very strange.

Plants don't do much. They just sit there being green and are easily ignored. Perhaps we should pay more attention to them.

Copper bracelets.

Science has declared that copper bracelets have no effect on arthritis.

Well, science has declared a lot of things and has had to say 'Whoops' more than once.

I wouldn't be quite so quick to deny the copper bracelet effect. Copper is antibacterial, it's in pig diets to stop them getting the runs, it's been considered as a replacement for door handles in hospitals (ridiculous, it's too soft a metal to be any use. Brass ones would be better, but they've already sold off all the brass fittings for a quick buck).

Add to that the now-prevalent idea that some cases of arthritis, and many other diseases not previously thought contagious, might have a bacterial induction effect. In which case, wearing something that would leach an antibacterial into your body at a low dose rate sounds like a good idea.

'Some' is the key word here. Where you have a set of symptoms (arthritis) with many different causes, it is impossible to say a particular treatment does or does not work unless you can separate the causes. Copper bracelets might not show a significant effect overall in arthritis cases but if it were possible to separate the bacterially-induced cases from others (it isn't, yet) the result might be significant.

So if you have arthritis and you're thinking of a copper bracelet, try it. The only side effect is that it might turn your wrist green but that's nothing to worry about. It might not work. If it doesn't, at least you're not full of worthless drugs. It might work, and that's always good.

It might be a placebo effect that makes your pain recede. Would you care, if you were in pain, about the exact mechanism of relief? I wouldn't. If a Voodoo priest waved chicken feathers at me and my pain receded, I'd be happy with that. No, that's not science, but then science ain't what it used to be.

Modern science denies many things with pompous certainty.

Science should never do that. There is no certainty in real science. Everything is open to question. Nothing is ever settled.

That's how I do it. This new science isn't like the old days.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Satan is after your chocolate.

Halloween approaches again. I haven't decided on a good place to take my cameras yet but I'll be trying somewhere. The only nearby location that claims a Halloween-specific ghost is a hotel, and I'm extra-sceptical about hotel ghosts because perpetuating the story is good for business.

Nonetheless, it is an important time of year, paranormally speaking, and has been for a very long time. It really has nothing at all to do with Satanism, but one thing is for sure, Halloween always brings out the fruitcakes.

A local church magazine in the UK has warned parents that their children will be 'siding with the Devil' if they go trick or treating. Beware, people, Satan wants your chocolate!

It is true, as the article states, that if you go to someone's house on any other day of the year and demand a reward for not tricking them, it would be seen as extortion. However, these are children under ten years old we are talking about here, who have dressed up for a bit of fun and hope to fill a small bucket with sweets. In the UK, they usually tell a terrible joke for their treat rather than threaten a trick (and if they really want to go the trick route, I reserve the right to retaliate). Shops are full of plastic severed body parts and polystyrene gravestones and other junk, which serves to occupy space that would otherwise be filled with the tat and tinsel of Commercial Christmas anyway. Yes, the mince pies are on sale already. I find the toy spiders and bats and chocolates shaped like eyeballs and brains much funnier than yet another laughing fat fool in a red suit.

These children are not being indoctrinated into Satanic practices. They are not going to go home and think 'You know, that witch costume really suits me. I think I'll start collecting newt's eyes and mandrake root'. They are not going to wake up the next day with a sudden urge to draw pentagrams. Don't worry, parents. Your children are not going to grow horns and hooves. The worst they will experience is sickness from too many sweets.

Halloween is an ancient Celtic new year festival called Samheim. There were no devils when it began. There was no Satan until the arrival of Christianity. There were lots of different gods, which were not so much worshipped as appeased. Celtic gods didn't like people very much and were prone to make their lives a misery unless the people did things to calm them down. They sound a distinctly unpleasant bunch, although none of them flooded the world or sent angels to kill all the first-born. No, they were much more personal and local gods, much more inclined to one-on-one vendettas and one-on-one rewards.

Christianity ousted the old gods with tales of bringing down city walls by blowing horns, tales of the Ark of the Covenant, the old-time equivalent of the Ultimate Weapon, tales of one God who does everything and can wipe out cities at a stroke. The Christians co-opted the ancient festivals and overwrote them with their own, so that Easter took over the Spring fertility rites, Christmas took over the Winter Solstice, and so on. The bonfires traditional to Halloween were allowed for a while, then banned, then shifted to November Fifth to coincide with Guy Fawkes' gunpowder plot. The tradition of burning the Guy (a stuffed life-size dummy) on the bonfire has nothing to do with the real execution of Guy Fawkes. It's just so the masses can have their bonfires without the Pagan festival associated with it.

The real dates of Easter, the birth of Christ, and so on, are nothing to do with the dates we celebrate them now. Those dates were chosen so that the old Pagan celebrations could be erased by giving the locals something else to do. The eggs and the rabbits remain but the significance of the original Spring fertility rites are lost. If they knew what they were imitating by draping tinsel on a Christmas tre, they might think twice...

Halloween was more difficult. No specific festival existed to take it over so it was eventually simply banned. A few made-up festivals were tried such as All Saint's Day or All Hallows Eve but there's no serious Christian festival to replace it. Halloween came back but because they couldn't kill it, the Christians called it Satanic.

It's not. It never was. It's the time of the change of year, the time of the start of winter, the time when everything is dying. It's the time when death was always foremost in people's minds - did they have enough food for the winter? How cold would it be this time? Would the snow be enough to make travel impossible? Did they have enough fuel for their fires? How many would freeze to death or starve to death this winter? Would the wolves get hungry enough to attack the villages? And so on.

Now, it's not so powerful. When everyone was thinking about death, the dead found it easier to communicate. These days, while there are still far too many people worried about the same things people worried about thousands of years ago, most people just go inside their insulated homes and turn up the central heating. They wait for the snow ploughs to come through so they can drive to the supermarket. Winter is an inconvenience these days, where it used to be a deadly foe that killed many, every year.

There is still an increase in ghostly activity at this time of year but the pressure of doom-laden thought is far less than it was. Where most people accepted spiritual contact as normal, now most people scoff at the very notion. The ghosts can't get through as easily.

Still, it has nothing to do with Satan. Those children in costumes will not attract demons or ghosts because they are just wearing costumes. They are not casting spells. They are not concerned about the looming cold. They are playing and laughing and joking.

Fear not, parents. I was kidding. Satan won't get your chocolate this Halloween.

He won't get your children either.

Another rant against fakery.

Still very tired. It's the random nature of sleep at the moment, while I try to catch this thing on camera. It's started making noises that sound like something's fallen in another room. Nothing ever has. Just auditory illusions. Now I'm getting seriously annoyed with it.

If only I had an easy job, like pretending to be able to contact celebrities. Because there's so little information to look up beforehand when hunting down dead celebrities, isn't there? It actually took longer than I expected, but now there is to be a (no doubt vague but 'successful') attempt to speak with the Moonwalking Dead.

Making contact with celebrity ghosts is futile even if it were true (and if it's on TV, it's not). Every minute detail of their lives is documented. It is easy to hunt down some obscure facts that even the most ardent fan didn't know about and spout them as if they were some great revelation, conveniently discovered later in a footnote in a little-known book of which only five copies survive, but luckily one of them is in the back pocket of the 'psychic'. Nothing will ever be proved with celebrity ghosthunting. Not a thing. For two very good reasons.

Any part-time sceptic can tear apart any information provided by such an investigation. Five minutes on the internet will provide any and all information you might need to fake the investigation and ten seconds is enough for a sceptic to prove that what you claimed as 'previously unknown' is actually easy to find. It's not like relaying information from Doris O'Flaherty, a 17th century seamstress who appears in no history books, regarding a hollow wall where her husband hid their few coins from robbers and which is still there now. That would be strong evidence but you never see that on the TV. All they ever get are the standard, well-known facts that anyone could have learned in much less time than it would take me to prepare a lecture.

The other reason is that ghosts don't come to order. Calling up specific dead people is not mediumship, it's necromancy and that's nasty. Real mediums (oh yes there are, for any sceptics reading) never make any money from their ability because it cannot be done. You can't go to a real medium and talk to Granny or Uncle Tobias or Aunt Edna. Real mediums never know who might happen by. Or where. Or when. There is no way to make a buck from it, and it's nearly impossible to test under laboratory conditions.

It is very easy to test a fake under laboratory conditions. It is often not so easy to prove they are faking but a good rule of thumb is that if they start with names like 'John' or 'James', they are 99% likely to be fishing for a cold reading session. Those are very common names and okay, they'll be common among ghosts too but even so, when every reading starts with those names, you've ticked the first 'fake' box. The second box gets ticked when they move on to more and more random names.

Those fakes leave themselves open to ridicule and that's fair enough, but then the assumption is made that there are no real mediums because of the fakes, which is not logic and not science. That same logic would dictate that, since I've seen a few fake Rolexes but never seen a real one, then all Rolexes are fakes and there are no real ones. Someone who's seen a real Rolex might tell me about them but I could just scoff and refuse to listen. A photo? Faked. A recording of it ticking? Faked. Show me a real one? Nah, it's done with holograms, mirrors, hypnosis, suggestion and mass hysteria. I could hold the 'there are no Rolexes' line indefinitely. It's very, very easy to take the full sceptic stance.

If you follow the link to the ridicule you'll see that he fails, but not the way a real psychic would fail. A real psychic 'fails' by finding no contact at all. A fake psychic fails by finding loads of contact, none of which is real.

Amateur cold readers are easily caught out. You lead them into a fictitious series of people and events, none of which ever existed or happened, and let them assert their confidence in their cold reading skills. The more professional readers might catch on to what you're up to and try to divert. Let them. Go with the diversion and make that a fictitious line too.

You'll know you might have a real psychic when you set up everything, start the experiment, wait a while and they say 'I'm really sorry but I'm afraid it's not going to work. Nobody's here'. A fake will always find someone and it will always be someone related to you or someone else in the room. Real psychics sometimes - often, fortunately for their sanity - get nothing. Fakes never fail.

I doubt any laboratory experiment will ever prove a psychic except by chance. Since it depends on the appearance of an agent outside the control of either the experimenter or the subject - a ghost - it will never be reproducible to scientific requirements.

The best way to obtain proof would be to find a way to capture a ghost. I've always been against any attempt to do that since, if ghosts are dead people, it's the same as kidnapping.

However, the thing in my house is slowly changing my mind. It's not human and it's earning itself a prison cell night by night.

I'll have to start wondering about how to make one.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Slow time.

I worked out how to download my Email from the old version of the upgraded account. Unfortunately it downloaded everything including every mail I'd already read but hadn't deleted. I have around 200 mails to deal with, most of which are duplicates but some might not be.

I'd go back to paper post but ours are planning strike action. Some days you just can't win.

The ghost in my house continues to elude my cameras. I have nothing at the lab either but the days are shortening and activity is increasing there. Maybe I'll get lucky.

I'm tired a lot at the moment. It's too easy to blame the ghost-chasing. I'm used to irregular hours so it's not that. Perhaps I should consider getting this thing out of my house rather than chasing it.

Hunting for ghosts on YouTube usually pulls up a lot of nonsense. I've lost patience with the 'boo' type of videos and the blatant fakes. Once in a while it does pull up something that, while providing no advance for me, does at least give me a laugh.

Such as this:

As for now, nothing much is happening. I seem to spend far too long asleep. I'll have to fix that.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Here's a first attempt at posting the Thing. I have no idea whether this was an appearance by my uninvited guest or something non-paranormal. I don't have a non-paranormal explanation as yet so it's still a 'maybe'. My guest has gone very quiet and shy since I brought out the cameras. That happens a lot.

The camera took one frame per second. This clip has 24 frames, and at normal playback speed that means it lasts about one second. In real life, it covers 24 seconds of time. There is no sound on this clip. I used a separate digital sound recorder because it gives good quality and records for hours at a stretch without any tape-changing nonsense. There were no sounds worth hearing on the recording at the time of the Thing (or indeed the whole night). So this is a silent movie.

The quality level is MPEG-3 but unfortunately it's a small box so you'll have to peer at the screen. I'm still trying to get decent quality stills - JPEG files from screenshots are not proving useful so far. If I can get them to work I'll post before, during and after shots for comparison.

The Thing appears on two consecutive frames and you don't see much of it because... well, I won't say which frames it's on, where in the picture you'll find it or what it looks like. The whole film only lasts a second so if you don't see anything, you won't have wasted much time.

So what, if anything, do you see?

Don't blink- it's quick!

If anyone wants to download this and play with it, that's fine with me. Although the quality looks less good on here than it does on my screen and might degrade further on download.

There must be a way around that.

ADDENDUM: I've checked and I can see it but I already know where it is. It's hard to spot on this tiny insert. I'll keep working on those stills - and keep trying for a better shot!


Cluetime. Between frames 8-10, look at the top/back of the white chair - is someone sitting there?

It's not good on the computer copy but then I don't consider this a good capture anyway. It's the only thing I have on this particular beast and it's nothing close to an absolute result. I really need a full-body image. Well, all I can do is keep trying.


Over the last few days, the Email service I use has been upgrading their system. Which means I'm not sure what mail is going where, and if I don't respond, it might be that I haven't found it yet. It should settle down soon.

Our postal service is plagued with random strikes too. Can't get paper mail either!