Thursday, July 30, 2015
DETROIT (AP) - Several hundred people attended a Mass at a Detroit Catholic church to protest an 8½-foot-tall bronze statue of Satan that crowds of people also lined up to see.
Satanic Temple had said it would unveil the statue Saturday at a Detroit location that only people with tickets would know. Hundreds lined up Saturday evening to get the tickets as Christian protesters rallied nearby.
Earlier Saturday, The Detroit News says 200-250 people attended Mass at St. Joseph Church in a protest against the Satanic event.
The group had hoped to place the statue at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City until Oklahoma's Supreme Court banned religious displays on Capitol grounds.
The Satanic Temple now says it wants to erect it outside Arkansas' statehouse, where a Ten Commandments monument also is planned.
The "largest public satanic ceremony in history"
A little before midnight on Saturday, a crowd of around 700 gathered in an old industrial warehouse a few blocks from the Detroit River for what they’d been told was the “largest public satanic ceremony in history.” Most of them professed to be adherents of Satanism, that loosely organized squad of the occult that defines itself as a religious group. Others came simply because they were curious. After all, Satanists exist in the popular psyche as those who casually sacrifice goats and impregnate Mia Farrow with Lucifer’s child; if this ceremony was indeed unprecedentedly big, who knew what could be in store?
The reality of the event — and of the contemporary Satanic movement at large — was tamer, and, if the Facebook pictures speak the truth, harmlessly festive: a cross between an underground rave and a meticulously planned Halloween party. They were there to publicly unveil a colossal bronze statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed wraith who, after centuries of various appropriations, is now the totem of contemporary Satanism. The pentagram, that familiar logo of both orthodox Satanists and disaffected teens, originated as a rough outline of Baphomet’s head.
The statue itself is impressive: almost nine feet tall, and weighing in at around a ton. The horned idol sits on a throne adorned with a pentagram, but it is the idol’s wings, and not his chair, that curiously evoke the Iron Throne from a certain celebrated HBO fantasy series. He has the jarring horns of a virile ram but the biceps of a guy who lifts four or five times a week. His legs, which are crossed, end not in feet but in hooves. It might seem more menacing if not for the two bronze-statue children standing on either side of him — a girl on his left; a boy on his right; both are looking up at him earnestly.
“Baphomet contains binary elements symbolizing a reconciliation of opposites, emblematic of the willingness to embrace, and even celebrate differences,” Jex Blackmore, who organized the unveiling, told TIME late Sunday night. In a sense, the statue is a stress test of American plurality: at what point does religious freedom make the people uncomfortable?
Forensic movies and TV shows are awesome, but they are often so very wrong about so many things. As a crime scene investigator myself, I hope this list clears things up for everyone.
10. DNA Testing Takes Time
DNA takes a long time. One of the newest technologies in DNA analysis is called RapidDNA and can reportedly give you results in 90 minutes, but it’s a newfangled innovation that isn’t widely used yet. It isn’t even approved by the FBI or compatible with their database.
The amount of time it takes to get DNA results isn’t as much about the speed of the instruments as it is about the backlog. Let’s say at one department there are 50 cases in one month, each with five DNA samples to be analyzed. That’s 250 DNA samples. Now let’s say this department has a RapidDNA instrument. While they are quick, these instruments can only process five samples at a time. So in a 24-hour period, the department can run the machine 16 times, meaning that even if someone is constantly at the machine, only 80 samples can be analyzed each day. Even after three days, this theoretical department still hasn’t gotten to all the samples that are waiting in line.
Now let’s say there’s a homicide and the lead detective has collected 30 DNA samples to be analyzed. He first has to wait in line for a few days. You might say, “Well, why don’t you get a machine that can analyze more samples at a time?” That’s very clever of you! But there is again a problem. The bigger machines have bigger plates that can run hundreds of samples at a time, but they can only be used once. Also, these larger machines are not RapidDNA systems, so it usually takes about three days for the samples to go through all the required steps even without backlog. So again, we have 250 DNA samples to run and use three plates with 100 slots. Two of those plates are full, and one of them is only half full. The analyst is not going to run that third plate when it’s only half full! That’s like throwing away money! So the investigation is going to have to wait until more crime is committed and more samples are collected to fill up that plate. No matter which system is used, DNA testing is going to take at least a few days. And that’s being optimistic!
9. Fingerprints Are Hard To Find
Fingerprints are not everywhere you look, and there are many ways that fingerprints can be ruined. Let’s look at a gun, for example. Guns are generally held by the grip, which is an area that’s all bumpy and textured so that it doesn’t slip in a person’s hand. This is very good for not dropping guns, but it’s terrible for leaving fingerprints. That person’s sebaceous oils will not be evenly applied onto the surface because the ridges of his fingerprints don’t touch the surface evenly. This leads to no visible print on the gun.
Now you ask, “What about the trigger? That’s not bumpy!” Again, you are quite the clever one, but there’s still a problem. Have you ever had your fingerprints taken? It’s a fairly delicate process. You must carefully touch your fingers to the paper without letting them slip so that the fingerprint doesn’t smudge. When someone pulls the trigger to the gun, it is very unlikely that their finger is going to stay so perfectly put that the oils deposited by their fingerprints aren’t smudged.
“Okay, wise guy. What if they touch the barrel?” You don’t have to be rude, I was getting to that. The barrel is the best hope for finding fingerprints. If fingerprints are to be found, that is generally where they are. But it’s still a little rare because an officer is not going to hand a fingerprint analyst a gun that is locked and loaded. They will first remove the magazine and empty the chamber. How do they do this? By handling the gun and touching it all over. Are they wearing gloves? Yes. Can delicate fingerprints survive being assaulted by gloved hands? Nope.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Part 1 of this article introduced you to two issues: (a) the 1967-1968 ABC show, The Invaders, which starred Roy Thinnes as a man doing his very best to thwart an alien invasion of the Earth; and (b) the matter of Mothman and a certain Indrid Cold – the latter being an alleged alien who changed the life of a West Virginian man, Woody Derenberger, in 1966. But that’s only the start of things.
I also mentioned in Part 1 how, in 1967, a certain episode of The Invaders was aired. Its title: “Panic.” It dealt with an alien (played by Robert Walker, Jr.) who is infected with a deadly virus. Anyone and everyone he touches is literally frozen to death in mere moments. It’s up to Vincent to try and bring the alien’s murderous reign to an end – which he does.
There are, however, some intriguing aspects of “Panic” that parallel the saga of Indrid Cold. A case of reality being stranger than fiction? Or vice versa? Of one influencing the other? Or something else? Well, let’s take a look.
As I noted in Part 1, “Panic” – broadcast on April 11, 1967 – is set in rural West Virginia. Few people with a knowledge of the Mothman/Indrid Cold saga will need telling that the vast majority of the mid-1960s events described in John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies, and in Gray Barker’s The Silver Bridge, occurred in rural parts of West Virginia.
It’s not long at all before the police are on the trail of the killer from the stars. They put out an alert for a young man dressed in a plaid shirt, the latter point being stressed more than once in the episode. It’s interesting to note that mysterious characters in plaid/checkered shirts pop up regularly in cases of the paranormal variety. And particularly so in cases involving a downright menacing entity that has become known as the “Grinning Man,” a character best avoided by one and all.
In January 1967, a new sci-fi series was launched on ABC. The brainchild of Larry Cohen and brought to life by QM Productions, it was titled The Invaders. It starred actor Roy Thinnes as a man named David Vincent. He finds himself plunged into a nightmarish, paranoia-filled world in which hostile aliens are secretly attempting to take over the Earth. Over the course of two seasons and 43 episodes, we see Vincent doing his utmost to thwart the invasion and warn the public, the media, the military, and the government of the growing extraterrestrial threat amongst us.
Although I’m not much of a fan of sci-fi (horror and mystery movies are more my thing), I do like The Invaders, which comes across like a combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Fugitive, and with more than a few Cold War fears thrown in, for good measure. Plus, it’s clear to see how the show inspired the likes of The X-Files and the short-lived 1990s series, Dark Skies.
About ten years ago I had the good fortune to meet Roy Thinnes, and I also conducted a very extensive interview with him about a year or so ago (which has not yet seen the light of day, but which hopefully will soon). And, every now and again, I’ll dig into my DVD collection of the show and watch a couple of episodes, which is what I did a few nights ago. In doing so, I noted something very intriguing.
One of the episodes I watched was titled “Panic.” It was first broadcast on April 11, 1967. The guest-star is Robert Walker, Jr., who plays an alien who uses the alias of Nick Baxter. There is, however, something very wrong with Baxter. He is infected with a deadly virus, one which has a bizarre effect on anyone he touches. The virus literally freezes them to death. It isn’t long before David Vincent is on the trail of the infected alien, who is causing havoc and death in rural West Virginia.
And on the matter of aliens roaming around West Virginia in the 1960s, it’s time to take a look at the next aspect of the curious story I present to you. Most people with an interest in UFOs, paranormal phenomena, and downright weirdness will know that West Virginia, in the mid to late 1960s, was an absolute hotbed of strange goings-on. And much of it was focused upon the town of Point Pleasant.
Almost anywhere you go, there are towns, streets, and locations with unusual names telling long-forgotten stories. That’s certainly the case with a rural road, hollow, abandoned railroad tunnel, and vanished whistle-stop in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, all sharing the same seemingly random name: Post Boy. If you believe the creepy local legend, the name comes from a young mail carrier who was murdered there long ago and now haunts the area. But this isn’t a simple case of a colorful urban legend overshadowing a mundane truth.
This time, the tale is a true story.
Back when Ohio was a new state and still nothing more than a sprawling wilderness on the frontier, small towns dotted the landscape, connected by old Indian trails turned into simple roads and stagecoach routes. The employees of the US Post Office–often young men with riding experience–delivered daily mail on foot and horseback along the network of crude roads; upon arriving in town, they would blow a horn to announce the mail’s arrival. This particular part of Ohio was serviced by the Coshocton-Freeport mail service route spanning approximately 40 miles.
Returning from Freeport on horseback with a saddle-bag of mail, 20-year-old William Cartmill was completely unaware that anything dangerous awaited him at the county line on September 9, 1825. Lying in wait behind the bushes there was John Funston, a 21-year-old, farmer carrying a rifle for “hunting”. William Johnston, a traveler who had kept pace with Cartmill, stopped just before that point to refill his canteen in the nearby creek when he suddenly heard a shot ring out, followed by a horrible scream. He ran to the scene only to find Cartmill shot in the back and bleeding from his mouth, dead. Funston approached him, feigning ignorance, and suggested they split up to alert any nearby neighbors.
From time to time, we have the sudden, inexplicable disappearances of people who have seemingly vanished off of the face of the earth. For whatever reasons, these people have seemed to be almost erased, as if swallowed up by the universe itself. Yet although these strange occurrences happen across the globe in various far flung locales, there sometimes comes an area in which these vanishings happen to an unsettling degree. These are places that seem to be in a way black holes that open up to draw in unfortunate souls and to essentially negate their existence, leaving a trail of enigmas in their wake. Once such hotspot of strange disappearances is a picturesque area in Vermont that for all appearances seems to be a pristine nature spot, yet has over the years has snatched away innocent souls who have never been heard from again. There is a dark underbelly to this place, and it has accrued a reputation as a place not only dripping with high strangeness, but also as a place from where some don’t return.
What has come to be known as the Bennington Triangle, also sometimes known rather ominously as the “Triangle of Doom,” lies within a quaint area of southwestern Vermont, within the Taconics and the Green Mountains, that is well known as an idyllic, scenic locale favored by fishermen, hunters, and hikers. This region was so named in a public radio broadcast in 1992 by New England paranormal author Joseph A. Citro to describe the locale of a number of mysterious disappearances that occurred there during a timeframe between 1945 and 1950. The borders of the Bennington Triangle are amorphous and ill-defined, but are are largely thought to be centered at Glastenbury Mountain and its surrounding towns, which include Bennington, Woodford, Shaftsbury, and Somerset. It is a beautiful and historic area, with the town of Bennington being one of the oldest chartered towns of colonial America and it holds various historical landmarks such as Vermont’s first church, the “Old First Church,” and numerous old logging settlements.
The Bennington Triangle has long been a hotspot for a wide range of paranormal phenomena, such as UFO sightings, Bigfoot, anomalous sounds, lights, shadow people, and various other inexplicable happenings since at least the 19th century. Native peoples of the area considered it a cursed region, and were said to shun venturing there, only daring to use it as a burial ground. Early loggers and settlers were startled by strange lights in the skies and many instances of “wild men” lurking within the dark woods, as well as enormous Thunderbirds and various specters. Stories also abounded of people venturing into the area to never come back, suffer miserable hardships, disease, or go stark raving insane. Yet for all of this high strangeness perhaps the most notorious and spooky stories to emerge from the so-called Bennington Triangle are its long history of unexplained, bizarre disappearances.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
I've been working a new UFO case for MUFON this week, and it has some interesting similarities to the fascinating 1980 Fort McCoy mass sighting report about which I've written so much lately.
This new case is also historical -- it took place in 1976, when the witness was about 11 years old. Like the Fort McCoy case, it involved multiple witnesses. And, like the Fort McCoy case, the witness' experience of the event is one of the most interesting parts of the story.
Oh, and it just happened to take place about 10 miles from Fort McCoy...
The witness was camping out with friends on the shore of Perch Lake in the middle of Sparta, WI. He saw a strange "star" that was zipping back and forth in the night sky, so he decided to signal to it by flashing his flashlight. One of his friends thought this was quite stupid and begged him to stop, but he, being a bit of a jerk, kept doing it until the "star" disappeared.
A few moments later, the 30-50' tree under which the 4 boys were sitting started to sway and twist as if a violent wind had hit it. Strangely, none of the other trees were affected. As the boys watched, brilliant beams of colored light shot out of something above the tree. The witness described the beams as seeming to be "shot from a cannon." The lights continued for just a minute or two, then stopped abruptly.
The boys gathered their gear and high-tailed it home. The witness' big brother and the brother's friend calmed the younger boys down and called the police. An officer came out to talk to the boys, and, although he couldn't confirm anything they told him, he at least didn't make the boys feel foolish for calling in a report.
The dangers of false memories induced through faulty memory enhancing techniques drew warranted attention this week. A well written piece by Christopher French, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, was published at 'The Conversation'. His article, 'The legacy of implanted Satanic abuse 'memories' is still causing damage today', explored the manners such false memories can damage the lives of those who experience them, and deeply effect the standings of relationships with family and friends. Calling for stories based on so-called recovered memories to receive the skepticism they deserve, the professor additionally wrote:
Experimental psychologists have repeatedly demonstrated the ease with which false memories can be implanted in a sizeable proportion of the population under well-controlled laboratory conditions. But it is also undoubtedly the case that such false memories can arise spontaneously...
One of the techniques that has been shown to result in false memories is asking people to imagine events that never actually took place. It appears that, eventually and especially in people with good imaginations, the memory of the imagined event is misinterpreted as a memory for a real event. The use of hypnotic regression is a particularly powerful means to implant false memories.
Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council and one of the most senior officials in the country, has given an interesting interview to Kommersant.
Among other things, he said that America is jealous of Russia’s great natural resources, and believes that “we control them illegally and undeservedly because, in their view, we do not use them as they ought to be used”. He substantiated this by saying: “you surely remember ex-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s claim that neither the Far East nor Siberia belong to Russia”.
This phrase, “you surely remember”, is misleading and you cannot blame the interviewer for not interrupting Patrushev and asking him for a source. It is one of those claims we have heard somewhere before. Upon hearing it again, we are liable to nod absent-mindedly and think “yes, yes, I remember”. But therein lies the trap.
A number of pithy foreign quotes circulate in the Russian political language as common currency. But turn to the original language and no one can find them. There is the Dulles Doctrine (a supposed plan by the CIA to destroy the Soviet Union) and Churchill’s apparent claim that “Stalin came to power when Russia had only a wooden plow, and left it in possession of atomic weapons”. There’s Margaret Thatcher allegedly saying that the Russian population could happily be cut in three, and there is Albright’s quote about Siberia and the Far East not lawfully belonging to Russia.
When these quotes are wheeled out by Russian “patriots”, they attract the attention only of uncritical acolytes. Patrushev, on the other hand, is an important figure and his words were picked up on by journalists who all rushed to discover the origin of the Albright quote. They found it.
In 2006, the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta published a lengthy interview with a retired Russian general, Boris Ratnikov, about the security service’s occult and parapsychological activities.
Murder is easily one of the most terrifying crimes that one human can commit against another. So it’s understandable that murderers should be securely locked away in prison. Yet sometimes these people do get out. And while not all of them were serial killers before they broke out, they certainly were by the time they were recaptured.
10. Richard Caputo
In 1971, Richard Caputo stabbed his girlfriend, Natalie Brown, to death. After he was arrested, it was ruled that he wasn’t mentally competent to stand trial. He was committed to a mental institution where he started a relationship with one of his psychologists, a woman named Judith Becker. Eventually, Caputo was transferred to a minimum-security mental institution where he was given furloughs. On one of those furloughs in October 1974, he strangled Becker and left New York City.
In 1975, Caputo found a new lover in San Francisco. But sadly, her battered body was found later in her apartment. After that, he fled to Mexico City, where he killed his fourth victim in 1977.
Over the next 20 years, Caputo avoided capture, going back and forth from the US to Mexico three times. One time, just before the murder of his fourth victim, he was held at the El Paso border but managed to escape. Eventually, he married a woman and had children with her. He left that family and married another woman, with whom he also had children. Meanwhile, the search for him continued. He was even featured on America’s Most Wanted.
Then, on January 18, 1994, Caputo turned himself in because he was racked with guilt. He confessed to four murders, and police believe that he was responsible for two additional kills as well. Caputo’s lawyers argued that he suffered from multiple personalities, so he wasn’t responsible for the murders. The judge didn’t buy it. Caputo was found guilty and sentenced to 8.5 to 25 years in prison. He died about two years into his sentence in October 1997.
9. Donald Leroy Evans
In 1991, avowed white supremacist Donald Leroy Evans was arrested for the rape and murder of a 10-year-old homeless girl, whom he had kidnapped from Mississippi. Once in custody, Evans bragged about other murders he had committed over the years. He claimed he had killed over 70 people in a number of states, so task forces were started to look for the bodies. In the end, Evans was probably responsible for three murders, that of the 10-year-old girl and two prostitutes in Florida in 1985. Out of those crimes, he was charged with two murders.
On June 13, 1993, while awaiting trial, Evans and three other inmates overpowered a guard at the Harrison County Jail in Mississippi. By threatening the guard with a shank, the four men were able to flee from the prison.
Immediately, authorities set up roadblocks and brought out dogs to search for the fugitives. They worried that New Orleans wasn’t far from the jail, and Evans might be able to hide out in the large tourist city. Luckily for everyone, Evans was found after only about 24 hours on the lam. He was hiding in a shed in a lumber yard about 800 meters (0.5 mi) from the prison.
Just months after being recaptured, Evans pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to death. In 1999, Evans was stabbed to death in prison by a fellow death row inmate as he was being led back from the showers.
Monday, July 27, 2015
“The days followed one another patiently. Right back at the beginning of the multiverse they had tried all passing at the same time, and it hadn’t worked” – Terry Pratchett
If Hugh Everett’s relatively mainstream “Many Worlds Interpretation” of quantum mechanics has any merit, that is, that our inability to absolutely predict certain observations results from the fact that for every observation there are a range of possibilities, each with a different probability, and each probability corresponds to a different universe, the layman’s version of such a probabilistic monstrosity is that with every decision we make, a parallel universe forks off where we made a different decision. Given my general lack of judgment, this suggests that there are a whole lot of universes out there that are pretty screwy. Don’t worry, that’s just me. Your many universes are wonderful. Filled with rainbows, inhabited by friendly unicorns, and smelling of roses. I’m nonetheless warmed by the thought that there is a universe out there where I’m a handsome and talented rock star. Perhaps the probabilities are a little too low on that one, given my decision trees. At any rate, ever since we started getting all hot and bothered about quantum mechanics, physicists have been speculating about the existence of multiple or parallel universes, and patting themselves on the back for their theoretical wackiness. As it turns out, a few savvy Classical philosophers, acutely aware that reality was not always what it seemed, came to the same conclusion without the help of supercolliders and brain-bending mathematics. They merely looked around and observed that we live in a messed up universe, where inexplicable phenomena routinely occur and strange creatures slip in and out for a visit, as if our physical laws just didn’t apply to them. It’s not that you shouldn’t hug the nearest quantum physicist and declare, “Look at the big brains on Brad”, rather as you’re giving them a little love squeeze, whisper in their ears that the classical Greeks and Romans kind of already figured out that we live in a multiverse. You never know what turns people on.
Anaximander (610-546 B.C.) was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher kicking it old school in Ionia (modern Turkey) getting tutored by Thales (who many, including Aristotle regarded as the first philosopher of the Greek Tradition) and rapping snot-nosed Pythagoras on the knuckles for talking too much in class. Anaximander wasn’t much inclined to attribute the mechanics of the universe to those hard-partying Greek gods, which largely differentiated him from the philosopher-scientists that preceded him. Unfortunately, temporal fame is eventually trumped by entropy, so all but one fragment of Anaximander’s works have been lost to history, and what we have ended up with are little citations here and there by other scholars writing hundreds of years later. The Byzantine philosopher Simplicius (490-560 A.D.) was a pretty prolific writer and researcher, and if not for him, much that we know about pre-Socratic philosophy might have been obliterated by the sands of time. Luckily, he was a big fan of Anaximander, thus we know that Anaximander elaborated an ingenious theory of the multiverse, hinting at a belief that there are innumerable co-existent realities, a reading of which is frequently debated given that we have almost nothing written by Anaximader himself, and relying heavily on his explicit use of plurals.