Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fortean / Oddball News: Gravity-Defying Stones, Mormon Baptisms and Peruvian Faeries

'Divine power' behind gravity-defying stones draws visitors to remote mountainside

mainichi.jp - "Wow, that's weird." That's how two women in their 30s described the three stones in front of them -- two of them upright like transplants from Stonehenge with a third, cube-shaped rock on top, reminding one of a die held up between two fingers. The women heard of these remarkable stones in mid-October, and set out from Nagoya to see them. After looking at them for a while, they said, "They're like sacred objects. It's like there's a divine power at work here," and joined hands instinctively.

The stones stand on the side of Mt. Gozaisho in Komono, Mie Prefecture, and are called the "Jizo Rocks," after the Jizo bodhisattva. Until recently, the stones were famous among mountain climbers but virtually unknown in broader society. However, a "power spot boom" sweeping Japan also swept up the remote stones after they were featured in advertising for the Gozaisho Ropeway over the summer, and enquiries about the formation began flooding in.

"We usually use shrines and temples, but this time I decided to use natural formations as well," the ropeway company's PR manager says proudly. The way to the stones is no easygoing trek like the walk to an average shrine, however, as they lie about an hour's hike from the beginning of the trail up the mountain.

Among those looking to take advantage of power spots' like the Jizo Rocks newfound popularity is the Yonsen-kai, an organization created by Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), Kintetsu Corp., Nagoya Railroad Co., and the Nagoya city transport department. Every year, Yonsen-kai puts together a joint sightseeing pamphlet, and this year's theme was "power spots you can get to by rail," featuring primarily temples in the Tokai region. Until now, the pamphlet had been targeted at travelers in their 50s looking for good walking courses surrounded by nature. This year, however, Yonsen-kai took aim at young women with an interest in power spots.

The pamphlet is heavy with catch copy like, "They bring good fortune," and "Love will ripen" meant to stir the hearts of potential customers, and Yonsen-kai says interest in the trips is spiking. However, just to be on the safe side, the pamphlets make sure to add "maybe" and punctuation like "!?" to the claims, since there is no hard evidence that the power spots bring any of these things.

"For us in the rail business, with its straight-laced image, to take up something this indefinite is pretty ground-breaking," says a Yonsen-kai representative.

"Who put it up there?" one person wonders while looking at the Jizo Rocks' top stone, which measures about 1.5 meters on a side. Among people who see the stones, there are some who suspect the formation isn't natural at all, but rather something built. This is certainly understandable. If one peruses travel logs from the Edo period, one can see phrases like, "It's so clever I have to think it was built." It seems that surprise at what beauty can be wrought by nature is common to both the past and the present.

These amazing stones have been a draw for students preparing for entrance exams since long before they were labeled a "power spot." It's said the formation cannot be toppled, and through a coincidence of language -- the Japanese word for fall (ochiru) is the same as that for failing a test -- it became a focus of prayers for exam success.

"One day they'll drop with a bang," says one observer. "But it helps out believers, they say."

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Peru: Spirited Away by the Faerie Folk?

Inexplicata - Scott Corrales - During another search of the old hard drive for an entirely unrelated matter, I came across an article from the SAMIZDAT newsletter which preceded INEXPLICATA from 1992 to 1998. It was inspired by the research of our Peruvian correspondent at the time, Dr. Raul Rios Centeno. While copies of it may be floating out in cyberspace somewhere, here it is again, twelve years later.

Abducted by the Fairies?
By Raul Rios Centeno, M.D. (c) 1998
Translated by Scott Corrales

Dr. Raul Rios Centeno is a UFO investigator based in Lima, Peru. His investigative efforts take him to the remote areas of his Andean homeland, where impoverished peasants still speak Quechua rather than Spanish and believe in a hodgepodge of pagan and christian beliefs. Piura is a department of northern Peru, located approximately 873 kms NW of Lima. Its inhabitants are friendly and welcoming and are closely bound with their shamans and "curacas".

There are regions such as Catacaos and Monsefu in which pagan rituals combine with Catholicism to the point of confusion.It is therefore not surprising that this should be the reason why many interested in the paranormal, or merely those who are devotees of faith healing, esoterica or the Taror should visit this Peruvian region if only for "a quick throw of the cards".I had the opportunity, at my own request, to visit the area in order to treat the victims of the atmospheric phenomenon known as "El Niño".

I feel that if anyone has any doubts that this land -- in which the Moche or Mochica pre-Hispanic culture flourished -- holds a special attraction, all they have to do is pay it a visit. They will not be disappointed.The following account is one of many which I have been able to gather. Many of those with whom I came into contact could not believe that a "man of science" like myself should have any interest in what they term "family stories." The audiotapes I brought with me -- a box of ten 90-minute tapes -- were insufficient for the task, and I had to undertake the painful task of erasing some of my music tapes in order to record what villagers were telling me were inexplicably quotidian events.

Spirited Away?

"I myself never believed in such things, doctor. Even now, I don't know what to think." These were the words with which don Modesto Salas, a Piuran farmer in the town of Catacaos, began his story.His small farm is located some 2 km SE of Catacaos. He lives off his crops and a few animals he raises. The region's heat and its proximity to the Equator -- only some 220 kms away -- causes the well-known algarrobos trees, mangroves and banana plants to grow. Modesto has lived for almost ten years with Ms. Olva Vandilla, with whom he has three children: Manuel José, 9, Olga Luzmila, 7, and the missing Evelyn Rosario, who would have been five years old next April. Despite the strong customs which reign in the Peruvian localities in which the Catholic Church still preserves its predominance -- although there are numerous sects and "new churches" which have attracted followers for reasons we shall not discuss here -- Modesto and Olga never married. They don't believe it necessary to sign a contract that they may someday find has expired. They prefer to live together "for no other reason, doctor."

The aproximately ten-acre farm has at its center the small house in which the family resides. The two eldest children were baptized as soon as they were born, in step with Catholic tradition, but when it came to Evelyn's term, something unexpected happened: the local priest died. For this reason, a priest from the region of Flores, some 25 kms away, would come to Catacaos every Sunday for the eucharist and confession.

"I went to talk to him, doctor. I asked, I begged, but the padrecito didn't want to. He told me that all ceremonies had to be done in Flores. He even pointed out to me that a few couples wished to marry, and he had turned them down, saying he'd only been entrusted with the Sunday masses. A new padrecito would soon arrive, and he would be able [to do these things]."

"I wanted to baptize my Evelyn where she was born, because to baptize her in another place where I don't know anyone, and where I have no friends, doesn't seem right to me." Time went by and the priest never showed up. Evelyn remained unbaptized. "My daughter grew up pretty. She was tall and had grey eyes. At first my friends laughed at me, saying that she wasn't my daughter, and that Olga had certainly deceived me, because how could my daughter have grey eyes, when both me and my wife have brown eyes?"

According to Olga, Evelyn was the most rambunctious of all her children, although she was also the strangest. "There were times when she would sit on the ground and start talking, even shouting and laughing. Other times she'd climb up the tree and would begin talking alone. My wife told me this wasn't normal and told me to take her to a doctor, because the girl was suddenly going insane!"

"The doctor referred me to a young lady who asked Evelyn to draw pictures -- she showed her little figures. The young lady told me Evelyn was a the age in which kids have imaginary friends, and that it would stop once she went to school. Last June, Evelyn climbed onto one of the carob trees; Olga had seen her climbing up and down the carob tree for a number of days. The girl would stay up there for three hours at a time, talking alone." "Evelyn told her mother that she had little friends her own size and that she was the only one that could see them. They would show her their toys and even offered her their food."

When Modesto went to speak to the psychologist, he showed her Evelyn's drawings. He told her that some children may see things, but that his girl had counted the three little figures and given them names. "She would tell me about her little friends, and told me that the food they fed her was transparent and sweet, like gelatin. There were times when she would stop playing with her brothers to climb up the blessed tree." Unlike Olga, Modesto is a strong believer in the occult. On occasion he has consulted seers, sorcerers and shamans. The town shaman told him that when a child remains unbaptized it can communicated with beings from otehr dimensions, which we commonly know as fairies. Westeners speak of fairy treasures, but in this case Evelyn never discussed treasures, only the food and games and pranks they played. The shaman told Modesto the child must be baptized before they "conquered her."

"He told me that he could baptize her, because otherwise she would be with the demons. God did not make fairies; they are envoys of the Evil One, and can often cause problems for the families to whom they appear." When Olga learned that her husband wanted the shaman to baptize Evelyn, she retorted that the shaman wasn't a priest, and that their daughter would only be baptized by a man of the cloth. "I made an agreement with the shaman to come to my house. I would send my wife to visit her mother, and since Evelyn was always up on the tree, I would make her stay." The shaman reached Modesto's home where, according to him, he could feel the devil's presence. He prayed and chased the enemy off. Everything took place as planned: the shaman baptized Evelyn with a special oil he kept in a bottle.

"He told me he carried holy oil blessed in the Huaringas, and that it not only served to have God bless her, but it would also bring my little angel joy and happiness." Evelyn was baptized in strict privacy as per the ritual imposed by the shaman, her father being the only witness. The shaman asked Modesto not to wash the girl's head for two days. He agreed and the shaman departed.

"After the baptism, Evelyn returned to the tree and cried disconsolately. It seemed as if someone was chastising her and she cried as if when her mother reproved her." Olga returned that afternoon, and on that very same day, what they call the kidnapping took place. "I was on my hammock enjoying the air when I saw little Evelyn climb the tree after my wife got home. Now she was talking and laughing, as if drunk. I though she was playing as usual and didn't pay much attention."

At a given moment, everything went quiet and the sky grew cloudy all of a sudden. It seemed as if a massive rainstorm was about to fall. So since there's usually ligthing when it rains that way, I went to the tree where I'd last seen Evelyn, but she was no longer there." Modesto thought that Evelyn had gone into the house, but he was surprised that he hadn't seen her come down. Upon entering the home, which was some 30 meters away from the tree, he asked his wife about the child. "Olga told me she'd seen her go up the tree and that she should still be on the blessed tree because she hadn't seen her come down."

Modesto returned to the tree, checked the adjacent ones, but could see nothing. Olga ran out, shouting desperately, but it was all in vain. At that moment Olga approached the tree and climbed up to find some trace of her daughter, but only found "something like a cobweb on the trunk, which was slightly burned. It appeared freshly burned due to the smell that emanated from the trunk."

At that moment, they thought they heard a howl coming from the doorway to the house. For one moment they thought it was Evelyn, but upon getting closer and opening the door they found nothing at all. "It was a sound like that of a pututo [Andean flute], but it came from the sky."

Modesto and Olga never found their youngest daughter again. The police was notified, word was sent to radio stations and to a television channel in Piura, but the whereabouts of their daughter were never discovered. "Doctor, I feel the fairies took my little angel. Otherwise, how can I explain her disappearance? Not even the dogs barked. Nothing."

The information provided by Modesto leads one to think about an abduction. What is strange about the case is why was the child taken after the alleged baptism? Could it be that they were awaiting her baptism before taking her? If so, what reason could they possibly have to kidnap a not-quite-five year old child?What entities kidnapped the girl? What was the transparent food she was offered? Why was she scolded after her baptism and why was she later intoxicated, drugged, or put to sleep? Why did the parents not notice anything? What was the meaning of the cobweb-like substance and the burned tree-trunk? Was there any radiation involved?

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Parents tell police religion is the reason they hid their children

fox43 - A York Pa. couple told police detectives religion was the reason they hid their five children from the outside world for years.

The youngsters, who range in age from two to 13, lived inside an abandoned home at 734 South Duke Street. The home had no electricity, heat, water or functioning toilet. The children were never taken to any medical, dental or vision appointments, and did not receive any type of education.

Their parents, 45-year old Sinhue Johnson & 33-year old Louann Emma Bowers are each facing five counts of Endangering the Welfare of Children, a third degree felony. That's one count for each child.

"You never even seen any kids playing or nothing, you know what I mean, coming out here, I just thought it was an abandoned house they were going to tear down or something," says June Hughes, who lives next door.

Police say there are also no existing birth certificates or records for any of the children. It's estimated the oldest child was born in June 1996, the youngest in 2008. The lack of information is one reason the York County Office of Children, Youth & Families couldn't pursue any action when tips came in about the family in 2003 and 2007. Sinhue Johnson refused to cooperate & the children simply couldn't be found.

In 2009, another tip led to a court order & authorities located Bowers and the children in an East York hotel room.

"There are cases where it goes beyond the norm, where a child may or may not be provided what they need in the way of health and welfare, those are the cases we get involved with," says Deb Chronister, Director of the York County Office of Children, Youth & Families.

"I never dreamed that anybody was living in that house, I never dreamed, I'm just in shock," Hughes says.

The children are in foster care. Police say they have some health and vision issues & are not on their expected education level. Johnson & Bowers are in prison.

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Mormons agree to stop baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims

denverpost - It's never too late for a soul to be Mormon.

Since 1840, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been encouraged to perform baptisms in temples for their deceased relatives.

However, the Mormon baptism of hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust victims created a 15-year controversy for the Salt Lake City-based church. On Sept. 1, the church made an agreement with Jewish leaders, acknowledging that the practice had "unintentionally caused pain," with an LDS pledge to American Jewish leaders to stop the practice.

Yet church critics say it's easier said than done, and the Holocaust exception doesn't stop the secret proxy baptisms of people of all faiths without their closest family members' consent or knowledge.

Genealogical researcher and ex-Mormon Helen Radkey, who helped uncover the baptisms of Holocaust victims, said she doubts that the agreement, which promised more computer-system controls, will be the end of the problem.

"Members can still put in the name of non-relatives," Radkey said.

Church spokeswoman Kim Farah acknowledged: "The system will never be perfect, but we feel we have achieved balance and respect."

The LDS system is vast, reliant on complete obedience by members and apparently too unwieldy for officials to monitor, Radkey said, given the many strange submissions she has uncovered.

The pope and Mickey

Overzealous Mormons and some pranksters have caused the church considerable embarrassment by baptizing — often without their families' permission — the famous and the infamous, such as Pope John Paul II, serial killer Ted Bundy, cartoon character Mickey Mouse and very recently, "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin.

Radkey, a Salt Lake City resident, has long bedeviled church authorities by gaining access to its "members-only" computer system and reporting on some of the stranger personages baptized by proxy in LDS temples.

"Every famous person goes in the system eventually. The fictional characters like Mickey Mouse are just graffiti," she said.

Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Ernest Hemingway, Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun are just a few of the names Radkey said she's found.

LDS church defenders have criticized Radkey's motives, which they say include a grudge against the church, but she has been credited by others, including Gary Mokotoff, past president of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, as a capable researcher and spiritual whistle-blower.

For entry into heaven

Despite the publicity, rebaptizing people who chose other faiths during their lifetimes is one of the Mormons' "most sacred expressions of faith," Elder T. Todd Christofferson, a member of the LDS Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in a written statement.

The LDS church teaches that its sacrament of baptism is required for entry into the kingdom of heaven.

For those souls who lived before Joseph Smith founded the LDS church in 1830, and for those who lived after Smith but weren't baptized Mormon, the church provides temple baptism of the dead by proxy.

The church doesn't recognize other denominations' baptisms because it believes that, after Jesus Christ was crucified and the Apostles martyred, a time of darkness ensued until Prophet Joseph Smith restored true Christianity on earth.

The church holds that temple baptisms must eventually be performed for everyone who was not baptized into the faith in this life.

"We believe that families are eternal, and baptizing our ancestors means our families can be together forever. It's one of the biggest blessings we could ever give anyone," said Mormon Jen Frandsen.

Church authorities ask the 13.5 million members around the world, and 137,000 in Colorado, to voluntarily comply with the policy that they stick to their own family members, however distantly related, rather than perform the ceremony for celebrities and historical figures.

Before performing baptisms for a dead family member born within the last 95 years, members are instructed to get permission from the person's closest living relative, church policy states. Many do not.

"Church members are getting a mixed message," Radkey said. "They're told: 'Here are the rules.' But, on the other hand, 'Every soul must be offered salvation.' "

The only exception

In the case of Jewish Holocaust victims, Mormons cannot perform temple baptisms unless the church member is an immediate family member or has the permission of all living immediate family members (or the closest living relative if there is no one else).

The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants expressed gratitude.

"Out of all the humans who ever lived, the church has carved out Jewish Holocaust victims as the only exception to a universal doctrine," former New York state attorney Bob Abrams told The Jewish Week. Abrams called the special consideration "an enormous concession."

The church has removed a few hundred thousand names of Jewish Holocaust victims from its International Genealogical Index

"Because of the enormity of the Holocaust in human memory, the church will continue to address the issue of improper submission of Holocaust names when it arises. However, the church cannot accept restrictions on its doctrines or freedoms imposed by another group," says a church statement recently given to The Post by LDS headquarters.

The church holds there is nothing coercive about its offering of baptism.

"A departed soul in the afterlife is completely free to accept or reject such baptism," according to LDS church statements. "The church has never claimed the power to force deceased persons to become church members."

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