Saturday, October 22, 2016
During the summer, I was back in Nashville exploring some of the city's haunted sites. I collected a number of great reports from people who have encountered some of music city's numerous ghosts.
Susan recently sent me the details of her encounter with the ghost of Belmont University's Adelicia Hayes.
First some background on the site:
At the heart of the sprawling Belmont University is the historic Belmont Mansion, built in 1849. The mansion was the home of Adelicia Hayes and her family. During her time living in the mansion, Adelicia outlived her first husband, a wealthy businessman, and her second husband, who perished in the civil war. But there was other tragedy for Adelicia too. All four of the children from her first marriage died young and twin daughters by her second husband died of scarlet fever.
Although Adelicia moved to Washington D.C. where she died, her body was returned to Nashville for burial. Many people believe her ghost still wanders the halls of the Belmont Mansion, perhaps searching in vain for her lost children.
“Empiricism and idealism alike are faced with a problem to which, so far, philosophy has found no satisfactory solution. This is the problem of showing how we have knowledge of other things than ourself and the operations of our own mind” – Bertrand Russell
William Danmar (1853-1937), a Professor of Architecture at Cooper Union and the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (forerunner of the Brooklyn Museum), civil engineer, and member of the American Society for Psychical Research was unhappy with both spiritualist and materialist explanations for ghosts, after years of hanging out at séances and trying to work out the physics of ghosts. He wanted some hard facts to work with, commenting “A naturalistic theory of the world of death and of ghosts or spirits is to be the outcome of ‘modern spiritism’ if it is to have philosophical value that will hold the people. What is the substance of the spirits, and what its relation to the substances of daily experiences? What is the position of those beings in nature? Where is the location of the ‘spirit world’?” (Danmar, 1917, p39). Danmar was particularly unsatisfied with the answers ghosts were conveying (via psychic mediums) as to where “the ghost world” they inhabited when not rattling chains, breaking plates, or haunting houses actually was. He considered the possibility that the relative proportion of dumb ghosts reflected the proportion of dumb living folks, but he was nonetheless perturbed by the standard spiritualistic interpretations of the geography of the spirit realm.
Spiritualist belief as to the location and structure of the ghost world was by no means uniform, but one commonality was the idea that the afterlife was comprised of hierarchical “spheres” through which the human spirit can progress, rather vaguely located somewhere “above us”. This is of course a major point of contention with the Protestantism that Spiritualism emerged from, which maintained that the soul was assigned to Heaven or Hell based on the quality and character of their mortal existence. As there was no central spiritualist authority, and spiritualist organizations proliferated, variations on the structure of the afterlife similarly emerged, but always within the context of a spatially-oriented hierarchy. For example, while not “mainstream spiritualism”, the Chicago-based spiritualist Order of the Rose (which introduced some Rosicrucian elements into their theology), founded by Jesse Charles Fremont Grumbine (1861-1938) delineated a very specific geography of the spirit world, and was very concerned with its physical and social dynamics.
It is so easy to believe that the earth is flat and that the sun is revolving around the earth because that is what our eyes see. Similarly, it is so easy to believe that we are always conscious of what we are doing and what is happening around us.
Organized religions and our legal system have reinforced the belief that we are all aware of our actions, have willed them, and so, are responsible for them.
According to Harvard University professor Daniel M. Wegner, when we have thoughts that occur just before an action, and when these thoughts are consistent with the action, and when other potential causes of the action are not present, we believe that we have willed our action. If I thought of reading today’s newspaper, picked it up and started reading it, it is a clear example of how my consciousness is in charge of my life and guiding all my actions.
The initial attempts to put forward an alternative theory of human behaviour did not meet with much success. Sigmund Freud, in 1915, put forward the theory that most of human behaviour occurs below consciousness.
However, his explanation of the subconscious being a storehouse of childhood experiences, mostly of a sexual nature, could not stand the test of scientific scrutiny.
Researchers in England are growing small human brains in their laboratories. Even more lab-grown-mind-boggling, they grew the brains out of human skin cells. Are these tiny brains thinking that this is pretty amazing? Not yet, but some scientists are concerned that the day is coming.
While mini-brains have been grown from stem cells for testing drugs or studying the effects of the Zika virus, this is the first time brains have been grown from non-stem cells for the purpose of studying how and why human brains are superior to the brains of other primates even though our DNA is only 1.,2 percent different from the DNA of chimpanzees. That’s according to a recent BBC Future interview with Madeline Lancaster, the research leader at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Medicine in Cambridge, England.
In an effort to better understand human brain development, we have developed a new model system, called cerebral organoids. Cerebral organoids, or mini-brains for short, are 3D tissues generated from human pluripotent stem cells that allow modelling of human brain development in vitro.
Friday, October 21, 2016
SAN JOSE, Calif. --
A new room has been discovered and is open to the public at San Jose's Winchester Mystery House, a Victorian mansion that was home to a widow of the Winchester rifle fortune.
The home's preservation team recently opened the new room, which is an attic space that has been boarded up since Sarah Winchester died in 1922.
Winchester boarded up the room after the 1906 earthquake because she was trapped in the room and she thought evil spirits were responsible for the quake.
An unusual condition called sleep paralysis has been frightening people for centuries, and now a new review sums up the many creepy stories from different cultures that try to explain the episodes of waking up and being unable to move.
Cultural explanations that try to account for the terrifying experience of waking up feeling paralyzed range from alien abductions to strange demons creeping into people's bedrooms and sitting on their chests, according to the review, published in September in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
Together, the stories show how a single biological phenomenon can be interpreted differently by societies, the researchers, led by José F. R. de Sá of the Jungian Institute of Bahia in Brazil, wrote in their review.
|Photo credit: George Cruikshank|
It’s no secret that clowns are absolutely terrifying. Even people who might not admit to being outright afraid of them usually concede that there is something unsettling about them, no matter what form they take. A look at history’s most important clowns shows us that there has always been two sides to this particular figure.
10. The White Fool
Many Native American tribes had their own types of clowns. The “white fool“—or white crazy man—of the Arapaho isn’t just terrifying in hindsight. He was feared by his own people.
He was called the white fool because he painted himself in white clay, and he was said to have access to a special sort of medicinal magic. That made him powerful, and it was also understood that the white fool enjoyed complete and absolute sexual freedom during ceremonies. That meant anything went with anyone he wanted, and he was one of the most dreaded figures in ritual.
Even in myths, the white fool was a figure in opposition to the heroic, selfless figure of Big Chief, who plotted to rid himself of the fool even though they were brothers.
9. Joseph Grimaldi And Grim-All-Day
The familiar figure of the modern clown and the idea of pantomime were largely developed by British performer Joseph Grimaldi. He was introduced to the theater by his father, a mad performer known as the Signor or Grim-All-Day.
The Signor claimed that the Devil had once told him that he was going to die on the first Friday of the month. Every time that day rolled around, the Signor locked himself in a room full of clocks and stayed awake all night. To train future stage performers, the Signor subjected them to bizarre tortures like hanging them above the stage in stocks.
Biographers suspect that his upbringing by an unpredictable madman allowed Joseph Grimaldi to create an onstage character that was just as unpredictable and mad. His 19th-century countenance was described as “part-child, part-nightmare,” with a mouth colored the blood red of a gaping wound. He was also cursed with a split personality that wavered between depression and mania.
Picture a future, perhaps not-so-distant, where people plod about their days working mentally perilous jobs, in a consumer-driven techno-corporatocracy. People’s reliance on machinery, and their awareness of an ever-looming eye behind the long arm of the law, have relegated society to a mass of scattered prawns, drifting about in a sea of subservience and bureaucracy, in which the only “big fish” are the overlords of the state. Many dwell in small apartments, and while not particularly advanced, there is something distinctly futuristic about all of this; shades of things to come, perhaps? Or merely that which, somewhere, might already have been?
To some, the dystopian vision outlined here might resemble George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. However, the world it describes is actually that which appears in Terry Giliam’s cult 1985 film, Brazil, in which the protagonist, Sam Lowry, is in search of the literal “woman of his dreams”, who repeatedly appears to him in visions while sleeping. By day, Lowry exists in a satirical world in which Orwell’s control-state is parodied with environments that make use of futuristic, yet strangely whimsical and anachronistic machines.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
A group of scientists, engineers, businessmen, and lawyers has unveiled plans for the “first nation state in space” in an ambitious bid to become the guardians of Earth.
Dubbed Asgardia after a mythical city in the sky ruled by Odin in Norse mythology, the country will consist of at least one satellite launched into orbit as early as next year, according to those aiming to create the world’s newest member.
The project’s website states the floating nation “will offer an independent platform free from the constraint of a land-based country’s laws.”
The project is led by Russian nanoscientist and businessman Igor Ashurbeyli who believes the celestial state will one day join the United Nations.
He founded the Aerospace International Research Center in Vienna and is currently the chairman of UNESCO’s Science of Space committee — credentials that no doubt go a long way to allay understandable scepticism of the project, which even he admits sounds a little kooky.
A conspiracy theorist, who was found dead in Poland, had texted his mum to say 'If anything happens to me, investigate' just days before his death.
Max Spiers, 39, was found dead on a couch, where he had gone to give a talk about conspiracy theories and UFOs in July, according to The Sun.
The father of two was ruled to have died of natural causes, however his mother claims there was no post-mortem examination carried out on his body in Poland.
A post-mortem was later conducted carried out by a pathologist in east Kent.
Spiers had launched investigations into UFOs and government cover-ups, which is mother believes could have made him enemies who wanted him dead.
|Photo credit: The Telegraph|
The approach of Halloween always gets us in the mood for scary stories. It takes us back to when we were children, huddled around a campfire or staring mesmerized at some forbidden movie, allowing ourselves to wonder if perhaps there were such things as ghosts, demons, and zombies.
But if ghost stories aren’t enough to raise goose bumps or make your blood run cold, allow the wonderful world of science to remind you that real life can be even stranger—and creepier—than fiction.
10. Space Madness
Much has been made of the need for humans to reach and even colonize Mars. President Obama recently announced that the government is working with private aerospace firms to make it a reality by the 2030s. But one study, in which lab mice were bombarded with the type of highly charged particles to which astronauts will be exposed in deep space, reached a troubling conclusion.
The exposure led to brain inflammation which resulted in dementia, loss of cognitive ability, and a deficit in “fear extinction”—a process by which fearful associations are minimized by the brain over time. The lack of fear extinction would lead to a state of constant anxiety.
This “space madness” was still present in the rodent test subjects six months after exposure to the particles. At this time, there is no known method of completely shielding human astronauts from these particles.
9. The Spider Virus
The WO virus has a very specific target—bacteria that live inside spiders and insects. When it suits their mutative purposes, bacterial viruses are known to steal bits of DNA code from the bacteria they infect.
But WO was recently found to have stolen a gene from a place that few viruses of its type ever do—from its host, the black widow spider. Specifically, the virus steals the gene that codes the spider’s famously robust venom.
It is thought that this assists WO in punching through the cell walls of its bacterial victims. The sneaky virus was also found to have co-opted other genes that help it to evade its host’s immune system.
In sum, we have a rapidly mutating, immune system–resistant virus with the recipe for black widow venom and the fact that it isn’t targeting humans yet does not make us feel much better.
There are an entire host of conspiracy theories that involve the Third Reich, particularly toward the end of World War II, and the supposed technologies the Nazis may have been designing at that time. Ranging from nascent physics and aeronautics innovations capable of producing flying saucers and elaborate underground bases, to the possibility that the Nazis had been planning their own design for a WMD on par with the Manhattan Project, there appears to be a mixture of fact and fiction regarding what, precisely, Hitler and his minions may have had in the works.
In 2010, the Daily Mail reported on the alleged sighting of a “mysterious flying disc” seen in 1944, observed as it flew at low altitude over the River Thames. The incident was reported in numerous credible sources that included the New York Times, though perhaps most tantalyzinf of all had been that there were said to be photographs that accompanied the Times story, detailing the craft’s path as it proceeded “at high speeds over the city’s high-rise buildings.”
Arguably, it wouldn’t be very difficult to recover such images from the Times own archives, if such images did exist. The fact that they haven’t surfaced yet is, perhaps, the best evidence that the story may be based entirely in rumor. But could such strange technologies really have been utilized by the Nazis prior to the end of the War?