Sunday, February 7, 2016
History is rife with strange tales of people who have mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth without a trace, but one area that seems to get decidedly less coverage is the various accounts of those who did just the opposite, appearing out of nowhere cloaked in mystery and emanating questions and puzzles around them that have never been satisfactorily answered. Here we have strangers who have stepped out of thin air from another place, perhaps even another time or plane of existence, and have gone on to leave impenetrable mysteries in their wake to this day. Stepping out of blue and into our imagination, these baffling appearances represent a phenomena every bit as perplexing as strange disappearances. Let us journey into the bizarre world of mysterious individuals who seemingly appeared from nowhere.
One of the earliest, most well-known, and indeed bizarre cases of people appearing out of nowhere occurred in the mid-12th century, when two children mysteriously appeared in the sleepy village of Woolpit, in the English county of Suffolk, and went on to become an enduring mystery known as the Green Children of Woolpit. Allegedly one day, two young children, a boy and a girl, suddenly and inexplicably emerged from a deep pit used for trapping the wolves that terrorized the region in those days. If this wasn’t already odd enough, it immediately became apparent that these were no ordinary children, as they both reportedly had skin that was tinted green, and were dressed in strange, unfamiliar clothing made from an unusual fabric that no one recognized. The children seemed to be more or less healthy but somewhat dazed and confused, and when villagers tried to speak to them they spoke a strange, unintelligible language that no one had ever heard before. Not knowing what to do with these enigmatic children, the locals presented them to a wealthy landowner by the name of Sir Richard de Calne, who took them into his care. Things would only get stranger from there.
Throughout history, great leaders have made decisions after consulting with mystics and seers—from the augurs of the Roman Empire to Queen Elizabeth’s court wizard, John Dee. In the modern world, we often assume that this role has been taken by sober-minded analysts and expert advisers. But that isn’t completely accurate.
10. Manly P. Hall
Ronald Reagan captivated America with his lofty, almost mystical rhetoric. But much of it was lifted almost verbatim from the works of occultist Manly P. Hall. In 1944, Hall wrote The Secret Destiny of America, a book that described a hidden philosophical order that was guiding the US toward a great destiny.
According to Hall, the delegates were hesitating to sign the American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, when a mysterious man entered the Philadelphia statehouse through a locked door. He gave a speech to bolster the morale of the delegates.
As he ended his stirring oration with “God has given America to be free,” the delegates rushed forward and signed the Declaration of Independence. But when they turned around, the mysterious man had vanished. Hall wondered if this man had been “one of the agents of the secret order, guarding and directing the destiny of America.”
Hall’s book caught the attention of the young movie star Reagan, who adopted many of its stories and philosophies. As a representative of General Electric, Reagan gave a speech at Eureka College, his alma mater, saying: “This is a land of destiny, and our forefathers found their way here by some divine system of selective service gathered here to fulfill a mission to advance man a further step in his climb from the swamps.” Then Reagan recounted the story of the unknown orator.
In 1974, a now politically active Reagan spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying: “You can call it mysticism if you want to, but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.”
This was a theme to which he would return many times during his presidency. He also recounted the story of the unknown orator in a 1981 article for Parade Magazine.
Interestingly, Hall seems to have based the story on a collection of folktales published in 1847 by George Lippard, a social reformer and close friend of Edgar Allan Poe. Lippard implied that he had made up the story, but neither Hall nor Reagan realized that. Hall had first received a copy of “The Speech of the Unknown” from a member of the Theosophical Society.
9. Joan Quigley
The Gipper wasn’t the only Reagan in the White House with a soft spot for woo. Both Ronald and Nancy Reagan had a history of consulting astrologers. The most prominent was the famous Hollywood astrologer Carroll Righter (aka the “gregarious Aquarius”). In the 1950s, Ronald Reagan and then Nancy Davis consulted Righter for advice on their acting careers.
Righter continued to influence Reagan after he entered politics. However, Righter ultimately annoyed Nancy Reagan when she consulted him regarding Reagan’s planned presidential bid in 1976. Righter told her that it wasn’t a good time. She became angry when he wouldn’t explain why.
Although Righter was correct, Nancy Reagan found a more amenable astrologer in Joan Quigley, who was introduced to her by talk show host Merv Griffin. Quigley was snobbish, though. She would only do readings for certain individuals. “People who are successful or famous always have easier charts to read than the average Joe Blow,” she explained to People magazine in a 1988 interview.
Quigley assisted Reagan during his 1980 presidential bid, which she felt was better aligned with the stars than his 1976 attempt. She also did a reading on Jimmy Carter and concluded that Reagan would have no trouble defeating him. However, the Reagans were forced to distance themselves from Quigley after catching heat from the Federation of American Scientists.
But things changed after the 1981 assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. From 1981 to 1988, Nancy Reagan consulted with Quigley regularly to organize her husband’s schedule. Mrs. Reagan marked the president’s calendar with colors that indicated the astrological prospects. Green was good, yellow was iffy, and red was bad.
As a result, Quigley’s astrological readings ultimately influenced the timing of press conferences, debates, foreign negotiations, Congressional requests, and Air Force One departures. In the end, however, the Reagans disavowed their relationship with Quigley, who got her revenge in a scathing memoir.
|Photo via Wikimedia|
We’ve discussed near-death experiences (NDEs) before, concentrating mainly on testimonies from people in modern Western societies. Now we’re going to look at NDEs from earlier times and different cultures. Will these surprising testimonies prove or disprove the reality of NDEs?
We can’t guarantee any answers. After all, you have to die to confirm the truth. But we do believe that these stories will raise intriguing questions for even the most skeptical readers.
10. Black Elk
When he was a young boy, Lakota Sioux medicine man Black Elk (1863–1950) told author John Neihardt about his near-death experience at age nine. He had collapsed due to swelling of the arms, legs, and face. That’s when he saw two men emerge from the clouds, who told him: “Hurry up, your grandfather is calling you.”
Though he was sorry to leave his parents, he rose above the Earth to a rainbow door. There, he saw six elderly grandfathers, whom he described as “older than men can ever be—old like hills, old like stars.” These elders made prophecies and gave him powers of healing and wisdom. After coming back to Earth two weeks later, he was initially reluctant to talk about his experiences. Then he was taken to a medicine man and relived them in a ritual.
As a young man, he joined Buffalo Bill’s traveling show, ultimately performing for Queen Victoria in London. As he continued to tour Europe, he got separated from his troupe in Paris and fell ill.
Near death for 24 hours, he reported a spirit journey across the Atlantic Ocean to his homeland in Dakota before being returned to Europe. Apparently, the French medical establishment was preparing to put him in a coffin when his heart started beating again and he sat up. Eventually, he returned to the reservation, where he became a shaman and prophet.
Black Elk’s experience appeared to have been affected by his cultural upbringing, with visions of heavenly horses, migrating geese, and spotted eagles. Some have questioned why Black Elk would have told a white man about his experience.
According to researcher Steve Straight, this may have been because Neihardt had experienced a similar NDE himself. Allegedly, Black Elk said that he felt someone should tell the world about the experience.
9. Myth Of Er
In The Republic, Plato referenced a speech by Socrates which told the tale of Er, a Pamphylian warrior who was left for dead on a battlefield but later recovered. Although assumed to be dead, Er’s body did not decay and returned to life upon the funeral pyre. Usually seen as an allegorical story by Socrates, some have suggested that it was evidence of an ancient NDE.
Er reported traveling with a large group to a mysterious, dazzling field or plain. Souls traveled upward or downward via twin openings in the Earth, depending on the judgment they received. Er claimed that he saw the tyrant Ardiaeus being bound, flayed, and dragged through thorns before being deposited in Tartarus.
After seven days, Er claimed that he was moved to a new place with a radiant rainbow pillar where the dead drew lots to determine their future lives and drank from a river to erase their memories before moving on. Er himself was stopped from drinking from the river and sent back to the living world.
Many classicists doubt that the story of Er counts as a true NDE. They believe it is more likely to be a fictional story invented by Socrates. However, some NDE researchers take it more seriously because the account includes eight of the 16 most common aspects reported in modern NDEs.
These include movement toward a bright light (the dazzling plain), an otherworldly landscape, a hellish experience, encounters with the deceased, life review (in the form of judgment), experience of a boundary between worlds, and a forced return. This may make Er’s tale the oldest record of an NDE in history.
The worst places to sit on an airplane flight are in the last row, in any middle seat, next to a crying baby or next to someone who won’t stop talking to you even if you pretend to be a crying baby. Here’s a new one you may want to add to your list: Thai Smile Airways is allowing dolls supposedly possessed by the spirits of children to sit in a seat and be treated like a regular passenger … provided the doll’s owner pays for a ticket. Sounds creepy? There’s more.
The dolls are called Luk Thep or Child Angels and, like many strange trends, were made popular when some Thai celebrities started touting their benefits. A DJ (I guess DJs are celebrities in Thailand, as long as it’s an FM station) claimed his doll is the reason for his latest job.
The first day I got him, I took him out shopping for clothes in the baby section. Right after I paid for his clothes, I got a call that my canceled job was back on!
Yes, shopping for clothes (expensive ones, of course – you know how picky those possessed dolls are), going out to eat and taking them on airline trips are part of the care and feeding of these lucky Luk Thep dolls.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Workmen often have to put up with the most bizarre things while they're undertaking their day to day tasks.
But this guy got the fright of his life when he discovered a creepy Ouija board hiding behind a heating vent.
The boards, which have been around since at least 1100 AD in China, and are said to be used to contact the spirit world - are often linked to the occult.
And the discovery of this old fashioned item, believed to be at least 100 years old, certainly caused this workman some concern after it was hidden away behind a wall.
Authorities in a small New Zealand town have been left perplexed by a peculiar series of biting attacks. Three separate incidents in the town of Napier, each involving a person being bitten, have been described by local police this week as 'weird' due to the similarities between them.
One of the attacks, which occurred outside a supermarket, involved a woman whose ear was badly bitten during a fight with two other females. It is understood that her ear was still in one piece but that the injury was bad enough to require hospital treatment.
A second incident, which took place later that same night, involved a different woman who jumped on top of a man who had been fighting with her brother. According to reports, she sunk her teeth in to his neck so forcefully that he ended up having to be treated for blood loss at the local hospital.
|Photo Credit: George M. Groutas|
The history of art is littered with fakes, forgeries, frauds, and hoaxes. Usually, these counterfeits are relatively easy to spot. But sometimes even experts disagree on who really created a particular work. And what are the criteria for “authenticity” in the first place? That question itself has frequently been a matter of controversy, leaving us to ponder the authenticity of numerous paintings, sculptures, and famous books.
10. Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus
Nearly two centuries after its publication, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus continues to fascinate readers. Not only has the novel become a landmark of both the sci-fi and Gothic horror genres, it also established its author as one of the few outstanding female novelists prior to the 20th century.
But what if Mary Shelley wasn’t the true author of Frankenstein? As incredible as it might sound, that’s the claim advanced by author John Lauritsen in his book The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein. Lauritsen argues that the famous novel was actually penned by none other than Mary Shelley’s husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Lauritsen’s case is superficially compelling, despite his flawed credibility. (He has no training as a literary historian and denies a causal link between HIV and AIDS.) He argues that Shelley, a teenager with little education, could not have mustered the literary sophistication and lyrical brilliance on display in Frankenstein. Lauritsen also says the novel is pervaded with themes of male homoeroticism, a subject supposedly more in keeping with Percy Shelley’s psychology than his wife’s.
According to Lauritsen, the truth of Frankenstein‘s authorship has been suppressed by feminists in the academic establishment. Some will no doubt detect misogyny in Lauritsen’s charge. However, the debate took an interesting twist thanks to feminist author Germaine Greer. In her review of The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein, Greer argues that Shelley really was the author of Frankenstein. But Greer insists this is nothing to brag about. After all, in her estimation, Frankenstein is badly written.
9. The Bust Of Nefertiti
“Suddenly we had in our hands the most alive Egyptian artwork. You cannot describe it with words. You must see it.” So wrote the archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt in his diary shortly after his team unearthed the famous bust of Nefertiti.
Borchardt was right. The bust—said to depict the wife of Akhenaten, Egypt’s Sun King—is indeed a revelation. With its strikingly vivid colors and anatomical fidelity, the work manages to convey an aura of majesty that contrasts with its sheer delicacy. It’s almost unbelievable that such an exquisite masterpiece could have survived through the centuries.
Of course, if we listen to Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin, it is unbelievable.
According to Stierlin, the bust’s false reputation began with a duped aristocratic. Sometime in 1912, the story goes, Borchardt commissioned an artist to create a decorative piece on which to display an ancient necklace. Wanting to experiment with ancient materials, Borchardt ordered the bust to be painted with pigments from his archaeological archives. (Hence the reason why it has been able to pass forensic tests.)
However, when the bust was seen by the the Prussian prince, Johann Georg, he mistook it for a real artifact. Prince Georg was reportedly so enamored with the work that Borchardt lacked the nerve to tell him the truth. It wasn’t long before the deception took on a life of its own, and today, the world reveres the bust of Nefertiti as a 3,000-year-old treasure . . . when really it’s a 100-year-old fake. (The bust currently resides in the Berlin Museum).
Stierlin’s account remains a minority position. Still, doubters are unlikely to be quieted any time soon. As Stefan Simon, a scientist who specializes in authenticating ancient works, has admitted, “You can prove a fake, but you can’t prove originals.”
The human body is a complex, little understood system of genetics, cells, bone, blood, muscle, and physiological processes which try as we might we have never really been able to truly comprehend. It seems the mysteries of the human body go deeper than we imagine, and throughout history there have been the occasional individuals who have stepped forward from the unknown to demonstrate abilities far beyond what we would call normal, and who have called into question just how much we truly know about the extant of human potential. These are the people who have challenged our notions of what we are capable of, and perhaps offered a peek into the vast, undiscovered and untapped realm of the powers of the human mind and body. In the 1800s, one such exceptional person burst onto the scene; a lady who seemed to be impervious to the effects of not only heat and fire, but even corrosive acid. She is an enigmatic case which has never truly been solved, and which leaves one to wonder if there are perhaps hidden realms of the human form which we have not yet begun to fully understand.
One very common circus act is that of the fire-eater. This persistently crowd pleasing act involves the performers inserting hot, open flames into the mouth, which seems very impressive but is actually possible due to a very simple set of techniques that revolve around the unwavering rule that heat travels upwards. A fire-eater will typically lower the flame from above, its heat traveling upwards rather than down towards the mouth, and the performer will slowly exhale to further ensure that they are not burned. As the fire enter the mouth, the wick, which is usually made of kevlar and is actually quite cool to the touch, is placed against the tongue and the performer will either very quickly engulf the flame with their mouth to put it out through lack of oxygen, or use a powerful, sharp exhale to essentially blow it out. It is all based on rather simple physics, although it can take years to master to the point where it is completely safe while at the same time looking impressive to audiences. And impressive it is, with a good fire-eater able to wow even people who are well aware of the tricks they use.
Friday, February 5, 2016
The hunt for signs of life on Mars has been on for decades, and so far scientists have found only barren dirt and rocks. Now a pair of astronomers thinks that strangely shaped minerals inside a Martian crater could be the clue everyone has been waiting for.
In 2008, scientists announced that NASA’s Spirit rover had discovered deposits of a mineral called opaline silica inside Mars's Gusev crater. That on its own is not as noteworthy as the silica’s shape: Its outer layers are covered in tiny nodules that look like heads of cauliflower sprouting from the red dirt.
No one knows for sure how those shapes—affectionately called “micro-digitate silica protrusions”—formed. But based on recent discoveries in a Chilean desert, Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer, both of Arizona State University in Tempe, think the silica might have been sculpted by microbes. At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in December, they made the case that these weird minerals might be our best targets for identifying evidence of past life on Mars.
If the logic holds, the silica cauliflower could go down in history as arguably the biggest discovery ever in astronomy. But biology is hard to prove, especially from millions of miles away, and Ruff and Farmer aren’t claiming victory yet. All they’re saying is that maybe these enigmatic growths are mineral greetings from ancient aliens, and someone should investigate.
Some things just seem so obvious … but if they’re so obvious, why do we have so many warning labels and signs? Take the idea of flying a drone over Area 51 – one of the most secret and heavily guarded locations in the U.S. Yet the base found it necessary recently to post warning signs along its borders banning the use of drones. Duh!
OK, with the return of “The X-Files” coming so soon after Christmas, there’s a lot of people who want to be like Fox Mulder and try to sneak into Area 51 on their new hoverboards. Of course, this plan flames out quickly so instead they want to use their other cool gift – a drone – to fly over the base and see what Google Maps is blurring out.
If you’ve never made the mistake of scrolling down into the comments section of a NASA video on YouTube, you’d be forgiven for having a shred of optimism left for the future of our world. Around 600 BC, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras started telling people that the Earth was a sphere.
It seemed like a silly notion then. But as we know now, it was the first true step in understanding the nature of planetary behavior in the universe at large. By the Middle Ages, that knowledge was firmly entrenched in the annals of science. They still had to work out that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe, much to Galileo’s dismay, but there was no question that it was a ball.
Then, in the mid-1800s, Samuel Rowbotham came along and told everyone that they’d been wrong all along—the Earth was flat. Somehow, the idea picked up steam, and after a tumultuous century and a half, it hit the Internet in the form of the Flat Earth Society. And yes, they’re serious.
The modern flat Earth conspiracy theory is much denser than most other theories, mainly because nobody can quite agree on what they believe. It’s a globular web of claims, counterclaims, ad hominem attacks on nonbelievers and believers alike, and denial of the scientific process to an extent that borders on neurosis.
The only unifying belief within the theory is, in fact, belief in the theory. This leaves believers free to paint away from that core tenet in brush strokes wide enough to cover all the gaping cracks.
10. Space Images Are Fake
If nothing else, the mind-set engendered by flat-Earthers is at least admirable. It’s a sense of pioneering, of discovery, of showing the world that there’s always something more to uncover in life. Aristotle, Galileo, and all the great minds of history must have felt the same spark of excitement when faced with the mysteries of their own times.
But some things are just stupid.
One of the more popular flat Earth mantras is: “I don’t know know for sure that the Earth is flat, but until I see proof either way, it makes more sense than a globe Earth.” It’s insanity at its finest, the equivalent of spending your whole life in a house with windows and questioning the existence of your front lawn because you don’t have grass in your living room.
It’s easy to see Earth from space. Just look at any of the countless ISS videos, or spend a few minutes watching a time-lapse video from Japan’s Himawari-8 satellite, which takes a photo of Earth every 10 minutes from 35,000 kilometers (22,000 mi) up.
Check out that gorgeous Earthrise that William Anders snapped from the Moon in 1968 or the humbling perspective offered by the Cassini probe when it glanced back at our little blue dot on its trip past Saturn.
According to the Flat Earth Society, those examples—and the millions like them—aren’t proof because they’re all fake. If you’ve ever wanted a reason to burn your computer, watch some videos like this one. (If you really want to punish yourself, read the comments.)
The idea is that all the videos released by NASA, the ESA, the CNSA, Roscosmos, and all the other space agencies are simply computer graphics. Pictures are photoshopped. Of course, the flat-Earthers disregard the amount of time and money needed to make just one video like that, let alone days’ worth of continuous footage.
Using the flat-Earthers’ conditional logic, if the Earth is flat and space images are fake (as flat-Earthers believe), then the world’s space agencies are lying about the Earth. And if an organization has spent 70 years—from 1946 to the present—creating fake images just to lie to people, they must have some kind of evil agenda. Otherwise, that’s a long joke even by Dane Cook standards.
9. ISS Videos Are Shot In A Zero-G Plane
Even if space pictures are fake, we still have to account for all the videos of weightless astronauts inside the International Space Station (ISS). According to flat Earth theory, these are faked, too.
But this is a different, more blatant form of fakery. Rather than rely on CGI, most of these videos were filmed in parabolic flight, more commonly known as a zero-G airplane. Parabolic flight is real, of course, and it’s often used to train astronauts to deal with movement in microgravity.
Greatly simplified, it’s when a plane enters a controlled descent that allows the people onboard to “float” inside the plane. You can ride one yourself if you have a little extra spending money lying around.
But it takes a heroic leap of logic to assume that simply because it’s possible to do such a thing, NASA has spent more than half a century using it to counterfeit an entire public space program. The sheer number of videos spent picking apart this inane point is breathtaking.
But this wouldn’t be a true flat Earth theory if there weren’t multiple, opposing viewpoints. So it’s also possible or even 100 percent confirmed (depending on whom you talk to) that NASA films their weightless astronauts under the ocean or in front of blue screens with wires that have been “computer graphicked out.”
A sociology student in Japan interviewed taxi drivers for a thesis and found that a number of them reported picking up ghosts after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Where were they going? Are ghosts good tippers?
Have I died?
That’s not the kind of comment taxi drivers expect to hear from a fare but that’s just one of the eerie comments drivers working in Ishinomaki related to Tohoku Gakuin University sociology student Yuka Kudo. About 6,000 Ishinomaki residents died as a result of the 2011 disaster, making it one of the hardest hit areas and the reason why Yuka chose it for her study.
Did you have any unusual experiences after the disaster?
That was the question Yuka asked over 100 drivers during her year of research. She reported responses from indifference to anger. But seven drivers willingly shared their chilling experiences with ghosts.