Thursday, December 8, 2016
Quick: Pick one of these colours. Just the first one that catches your eye, don’t overthink it. Now pick a number between zero and nine.
If I were a betting man, I’d bet you picked blue and seven.
Not everyone makes those choices, but enough people do that it’s a bona-fide psychological phenomenon. It’s even got its own name: the blue-seven phenomenon (Psychologists are a literal bunch).
Study after study since the 1970s has shown that people across cultures and time tend to disproportionately prefer blue and seven when asked to pick at random.
Red tends to be a second favourite colour, as well as white in East Asia. When people don’t pick seven, they still tend to go with an odd number, like one, three, or five.
There isn’t a good universal explanation for why exactly people tend to choose these colours, but researchers have some guesses.
Fall is a mysterious time of the year around the Bay Area. As the night steadily encroaches on the day, the clouds swirling around the impending storm, and the temperature steadily begins to drop it seems the ghouls come out in force. Some believe this is because of resonant energy thins the veil between our worlds allowing spirits to pass through, others believe the ghosts and spirits have always been there but because of the time of year we, as people, are more attune to their presence but either way fall seems to not only harken the coming winter but also to bring out the supernatural.
It is during this time of year that people tell stories of a slightly creepier vain then normal. Ghost stories morph from the typical something bumping in the night to the scarier or even more profane. Our hearts pounding as we listen intently, and our minds racing as we consider the possibilities – is the story true?
Our story has a long and sorted history for this particular ghoul has been seen numerous times and I have heard whispers of it throughout the years, but this particular story comes to us from Mysterious Universe in a wonderful article written by Jason Offutt and is about Charlotte, a lone traveler on BART who had a brush with the unknown.
Witch trials are amongst some of the cruelest events in European history. Thousands of innocent women were murdered by fake accusations. In England, one of the most famous trials took place in 1612, during the reign of King James (1566 – 1625).
When driven by fear of the unknown, some people have always reacted with irrational and cruel actions. Witches were viewed as dangerous creatures to closed-minded people who identified them with evil spirits. Although they never tried to convert the whole world to one religion, witches were seen as a danger to religious doctrines.
Witchcraft was viewed as fascinating but scary during the reign of the Tudors. When Elizabeth I ruled, witches were punished very harshly. However, one of the most famous English witch trials took place a few years after her death, when the crown was in the hands of King James. The trial is famous not only for what happened, but also because of the thorough descriptions by Thomas Potts. Potts documented the confessions and details of the event. He published that information in “The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster”.
The Power of Gossip
The trials took place near Pendle Hill in Lancashire. They were the result of the mysterious murders of ten people. Uneducated people who were driven by religion wanted to see the power of the devil behind those crimes.
Twelve women were accused of being a group of witches whose magic spells caused the deaths. In 1612, Roger Nowell, the local Justice of the Peace, was hired to compile a list of possible killers and to accuse them. In the meantime, a Halifax peddler named John Law claimed a criminal offense against Alizon Device of Pendle. He accused her of using witchcraft to cause a stroke.
Since the dawn of recorded history there have been persistent stories, myths and legends throughout cultures of people turning into beasts or half-beasts. The most widely known and famous is the werewolf, yet wolves are by no means the only animal to be linked to mysterious stories of shapeshifting. From traditions far and wide we have accounts and tales of those who could transform into a veritable menageries of wild creatures, and at times the werewolf seems absolutely tame in comparison. In the weird world of were-creatures, the wolf may have achieved the most notorious and popular status, but as we will see it is by no means the only such creature out there.
One mighty animal that has perhaps not surprisingly long been connected to shapeshifting is the bear. Like wolves, bears have perhaps understandably entrenched themselves as supremely powerful creatures of lore in many cultures, and it is this rich history of worshipping them and coveting their strength that has also caused them to be featured as objects of shapeshifting. In Finland the bear was long worshipped by pagan religions since from long before Christianity was even a thing, and it was revered as an all powerful supernatural being. The spirit of the bear was said to reside within its skull, and was referred to as kallohonka. If a bear died, its spirit was said to be able to move on to another animal, object, or even a person, where it would wait and bide its time until it was ready to be reborn as another bear. If the new vessel was a human, that person was said to take on the attributes and strength of a bear, and to this end some shamans kept bear skulls for the purpose of inviting the spirit held within into them to gain this immense power. These shamans or witch doctors would also make use of special clothing made of bearskin that could supposedly transform them into a bear. These articles were called ber serkr, from the Norse word ber-, meaning “bear,” and serkr, meaning “shirt,” giving us the modern English word “berserk.”
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
A group of cemetery workers clearing a graveyard in Thailand near the Laos border were shocked to excavate the corpse of a man whose skin had been preserved, as if by magic. In fact, some people have said the skin was preserved by black magic. The skin had black magic tattoos with a spell to make his skin impenetrable. Ironically, experts believe that the man possibly died from appendicitis simply because his skin was too hard to cut through.
Yantra Tattoos: Thai Amulets for the Skin
Thai tattoos, also known as Yantra tattoos, have been popular in that area since ancient times. Like in other native Southeast Asian civilizations, animistic tattooing for luck and protection was common in Tai tribes. Over the years, the tradition expanded across what is now Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.
Despite the tradition originating from indigenous tribal animism, it slowly but surely became tied to the Hindu-Buddhist concept of Yantra, with mystical geometric patterns used during meditation. Such tattoos were thought to have magic powers as well.
“There is a way of being wrong which is also sometimes necessarily right” ― Edward Abbey
I’ve come to the conclusion that the skeptic community as they relate to strange phenomena has trouble listening. Active listening, that is. Like when you’re girlfriend tells you she’s feeling unappreciated, or your boss suggests that you might have a time management problem. One is telling you she’s going to leave you for somebody who plays less videogames, and the other is suggesting you’re likely to fired, sooner rather than later. The modus operandi of the devoted skeptic is to tell you how what you’re pretty sure you just experienced or the theoretical connections you’ve drawn cannot possibly be so. I’m not suggesting that we should validate every experience. Plenty of people are stoned. Plenty of people are crazy. Plenty of people need to put food on the table. The mistake is to take the current paradigm and reconstitute it as the explanation for everything strange that has ever happened in this absurd universe, taking a page from (perish the thought) their favorite whipping boy of Ancient Aliens.
What we refer to monolithically as history is a misnomer. We engage in “historiography”, or more succinctly a method of viewing the past, and historiography is inseparable from the time and culture in which it looks backwards from, much as “science” is actually philosophical empiricism in the context of currently accepted truths. If you think I’m kidding, consider how many articles were published in the last few days that talk about “debunking” Einstein (trust me, do a Google search – it will make your skin crawl). That’s some brass balls if you ask me. In the context of classical physics, Einstein started a revolution, but with a century of development in physics, our perspective on the universe has been continuously refined, and our paradigms are shifting.
Yet the species seem to be enthralled by these “gotcha” moments that highlight the flavor of the month, and not simply empirically disprove, but fundamentally invalidate the knowledge of the past. It’s as if we could have gotten to our current accepted truth, without the accepted truths of the past. Both history and science are exercises in the present despite pretensions towards timelessness and universality, which is what every religion has done for time immemorial. Don’t get all bee’d up in your bonnet. I’m not suggesting science and history are religions, just that we socially construct, and then socially reconstruct our standards for “truth” from generation to generation, which allows us to smugly “debunk” the knowledge of the previous generation, when in fact what we are doing is an exercise in refinement under a new set of axioms. This is the reason we have nice clear divisions between science (what we can prove in a lab), history (what we can discern from documents), and folklore (the shit people say).
Caleb Scharf, an astrophysicist at Columbia University, recently published an article that posits alien life may be so far advanced that we cannot tell it apart from the laws of physics. Is it possible that the universe is potentially teeming with intelligence, it’s just so far ahead of us that it has literally become part of the fabric of space and time?
Scharf provides a few ideas on how this might be the case, so let’s unpack this whopper of a speculative hypothesis. He begins with a logical first step, the machine singularity.
Assuming a civilisation survives long enough, the ability to bridge the gap between a biological brain and an artificial machine brain may be possible. Once an intelligence becomes one with a computer, and the computational power of the brain exponentially increases, the brain/computer could reach a ‘singularity’, a point at which the entire understanding of the universe becomes child’s play.
Dating apps allow like-minded strangers to connect with ease. However, psychopaths and killers lurk in the digital shadows. The number of people who have been murdered as a result of looking for love the 21st-century way is shocking. Beware before you meet online strangers: Your first rendezvous may be your last.
10. Grindr Gorefest
London police were called to investigate a foul smell emanating from the apartment of Stefano Brizzi. When they entered, they discovered the body of Gordon Semple, age 59, partially dissolved in a bathtub full of acid. Brizzi, 50, admitted to dismembering the former police officer while high on methamphetamine. The two met on the dating app Grindr. According to Brizzi, Semple died accidentally during a “sex game gone wrong.” Prosecutors disagreed.
After Semple’s death, Brizzi was filmed on CCTV buying buckets, metal sheets, and cleaning supplies. Brizzi began dismembering the body and stripping the flesh. Six days later, police discovered flesh globules floating in the tub, bags of bones, part of Semple’s head, and even human fat in the oven. Brizzi revealed that he dissolved Semple’s remains because “Satan told me to.” Jurors convicted Brizzi of the brutal murder in November 2016.
9. Gable The Gentleman
In October 2016, the Brisbane Superior Court acquitted Gable Tostee, 30, of murdering a woman he met on the dating app Tinder. According to authorities, Tostee connected with Warriena Wright, 26, before they returned to his Gold Coast apartment. After an argument, Tostee locked Wright on the balcony. Prosecutors alleged that he intimidated her and she felt compelled to climb down from his 14th-floor apartment. Wright fell to her death.
The most important piece of evidence in Tostee’s acquittal was an audio recording he made the night of the murder. On the tape, Wright can be heard crying and pleading to go home. Tostee failed to hear her scream—but saw her fall. Tostee fled the apartment. He indicated that looking over the edge might appear as though he was involved with Wright’s death. His attorneys claimed Tostee merely used “reasonable force” to restrain an “increasingly erratic” woman.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
He was a “space fanatic” as a child and as an adult did years of rigorous training to become an astronaut. But when he finally made it into orbit, Thomas Pesquet was quickly brought back down to earth when one of his first tasks was to fix the toilet on the International Space Station.
The 38-year-old Frenchman landed at the ISS last Saturday alongside NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson - who at 56 became the oldest woman in space - and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy.
Pesquet has become a national hero in the French press in recent weeks as this is the first French space mission in nearly a decade.
He played with a floating globe as he spoke via video link to journalists back home on Wednesday about his about his first few days aboard the ISS and how one of his first jobs there was to repair the loo.
Do you believe there are humans among us with superhuman powers? Would you believe the Chinese government has conducted extensive research on such humans? Are you surprised the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S. has been aware of this and kept secret files on the results? Would you be interested in finding out what’s in them? Do you know anyone who can read inside sealed envelopes?
Information about a document declassified through a Freedom of Information Act request has been circulating around the Internet recently. It’s entitled “Chronology of Recent Interest in Exceptional Functions of The Human Body in the People’s Republic of China” and seem to reveal (in summary only) that the Chinese government and other agencies in China conducted studies and experiments on children and adults who allegedly had abilities such as telepathy, psychokenisis and others.
While the title is bold, the revelations are less so. The brief document reveals that formal interest in parapsychology kicked of in 1979 when the Chinese science journal Ziran Zachi published verified accounts of “non-visual pattern recognition” – that’s usually people describing pictures inside sealed envelopes. That apparently prompted the Chinese Human Body Science Association to hold a parapsychology conference in Shanghai in 1980 and a second in Chongqing in 1981. Another study – a documentary purported to show hundreds of children with psychokinetic abilities – allegedly prompted the government to set up hundreds of centers to test for them.
The 1950s and 1960s were a great time to meet little green men. At the very least, it was a darn good time to read about them in the newspapers. Almost every day, there were accounts of flying saucer sightings and incidents with little green men (who were not always green).
10. Letters From Space Beings
The UFO sightings drew out all sorts of crazy. One woman in Newtown, NSW, claimed that she was getting letters from the space beings and that the aliens were now permanent residents in Australia. The letters were written on parchment and contained “a mass of gold symbols and drawings which, as she explained to a skeptical television audience in Sydney, reveal amazing predictions for Australia’s future.”
The woman’s neighbor became alarmed when she learned that space aliens were delivering letters next door. She immediately called up her insurance company to find out what would happen if one of the spaceships crashed into her home.
The insurance company assured the distressed neighbor that her insurance would indeed cover an alien spaceship crash. She was covered against any damage that might be caused by “aerial devices, or articles dropped therefrom.”
9. Green Space Dwarfs Attack Farm
Out of Kentucky came a not-so-epic tale of alien invaders visiting a farm for goodness knows what. It was summer 1955, and the Sutton family got an unexpected visit from “space invaders.” The family described these invaders as “little green men with saucer eyes.”
The family was immediately upset by these strange visitors and decided to defend themselves. Pa Sutton, his immediate family, and several other relatives stayed up all night battling the green men, which were 1 meter (3 ft) tall.
The family said that the little men “glowed with an inner illumination” and were all over the farm. There was so much light all over the place that the only way they could spot one is if it stepped into the darkness.
The next day, people from town heard the news and trampled their way to the farm. Police came but could find no evidence of “space visitors.”
Whether for the ghosts, the history, or the architecture, it’s hard not to love big, abandoned mansions, but when it comes to combining the three, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky’s T.B. Ripy house takes things to a whole different level. Not only is the massive manor house abandoned, it’s haunted by a handful oh ghosts, including one who might even be the founder of Wild Turkey Bourbon. Week In Weird had the chance to visit the Ripy House for a private tour of the grounds and property, and let me tell you, it’s like walking into a real episode of Scooby-Doo.
The incredible estate was built in 1888 by Wild Turkey tycoon Thomas B. Ripy, who had recently inherited the family bourbon business. Thomas proved himself to be a savvy business man, and when he died in 1902, he left the mansion to his 10 children and wife. For awhile, life was good for the wealthy Ripys, but then Prohibition put the breaks on the sale of booze and, consequently, the family cashflow. The Ripy family wasn’t going to let a silly little thing like a federal law get in the way of their legacy, and set out to combat the new law by having their mansion Scooby Doo-afied.
Over the course of several months, the Ripy’s paid contractors on the sly to construct secret compartments, trap doors, hidden staircases to secret rooms, and a massive labyrinth-like basement, which proved to be perfect for hiding a few hundred barrels of Kentucky Wild Turkey. Many of these secret booze hideaways are still located in the house today, and some local historians believe that more have yet to be discovered, possibly in the damp, dark basement straight out of a horror movie.
Immediately after the end of Prohibition, the Ripy family resumed work at their distilleries (legally, anyway), and continued to produce bourbon in Lawrencebeurg until 1952, when the Ripys were bought out by the Gould Brothers. Shortly thereafter, the family sold the Ripy House, and by the mid-1960s, it had a new tenant, one who made Miss Havisham look like a social butterfly.