; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: Kid's Imaginary Friends, Drunk Birds and WikiLeaks UFO Revelation Fizzles

Researcher Investigates 'Imaginary' Friends

BBC - It used to be thought that children with imaginary friends were in the minority. It has sometimes been assumed that children had imaginary friends because they were lonely and lacked real friends.

Perhaps this is why some parents and others may show concern when a child has an imaginary friend, particularly once they have started school, and older children and adolescents tend to keep their imaginary friends a secret.

Imaginary companions or friends have certainly been a misunderstood phenomenon. There has been surprisingly little research about imaginary friends.

Consequently there has been little information about how many children have imaginary friends, what the imaginary friends are like and why children have them.

Recent research has been providing some surprising answers to some of these questions. Firstly, there is now clear evidence that imaginary friends are a common feature in childhood development.

It is now recognised that imaginary friends are often part of normal development.

A good example comes from the United States, where pre-school children and their parents took part in a 2004 study looking at different aspects of development, including imaginary companions.

The children were then followed up after starting school, when they were aged seven years. The researchers were very surprised to find that 65% of children up to age seven currently or previously had had imaginary friends.

Like other research, imaginary friends which were based on a special toy were included. In a study in the United Kingdom, 1,800 children completed a questionnaire about imaginary friends. Forty six per cent of them reported past or current imaginary friends, including nine per cent of 12-year-olds.

There is a need for more research about which children have imaginary friends and why they have them. We do know that children with imaginary friends are not a homogeneous group.

Certainly, it is now recognised that imaginary friends are often part of normal development. Young children with imaginary friends are often described as sociable, imaginative children who love stories and pretend play. They enjoy playing with friends and at times when friends are not available, they call on their imaginary friends for entertainment.

Children also call on their imaginary friends when they feel upset about something that has happened or about what some one has said to them.

Little girl playing on a pebble beach
One report indicated that nearly half of UK children have had imaginary friends

Some children will talk to their friend about the problem, others will play with their imaginary friend, which takes their mind off the problem and the unhappy feelings disappear. We also know that some children who have endured traumatic life events may also draw on their imaginary companions for support.

The imaginary friends of older children and adolescents are a much more private affair. Often unknown to parents and others, although a best friend might know about their existence. Older children are aware that parents, friends and others may show disapproval.

As part of my research I interviewed school aged children aged five to eleven years and the parents of the younger children. All the children said that their imaginary friends were important and why they were special to them. I have concluded that imaginary friends are often a very positive feature in a child's life.

They provide fun, entertainment, adventures and games. They are often good, kind and helpful friends, good at listening and always available. Some imaginary friends are not always co-operative or friendly, this however seems to make them more real and interesting to the child and sometimes helps them to express their feelings when there has been a problem.

This was a small study and we do need more research.


Romanian Birds Die From Drinking Too Much

BBC - Birds that were thought to have died from avian flu in Romania instead apparently drank themselves to death.

Residents of Constanta in eastern Romania found dozens of dead starlings on the outskirts of the city on Saturday. They alerted authorities, fearing the birds had died from avian flu.

But local veterinary officials decided the starlings had died after eating grape 'marc' - the leftovers from the wine-making process.

The head of the local sanitary and veterinary authority, Dvsva, said that analysis of the starlings' gizzards showed they had died from alcohol poisoning.


Superhero? Not Quite...

sky - A self-styled superhero who patrols the streets of Seattle has been injured while fighting crime. Phoenix Jones, who dons a mask and costumed body armour to thwart criminals and keep his US city safe, has suffered a broken nose while trying to break up a fight.

Speaking to a television station, Jones explained how after witnessing the scuffle he called police and put one of the men in a headlock. The other man then pulled out a gun, forcing Jones to release the man he was holding. That man then kicked him in the face and broke his nose.

But Jones remains undeterred, saying his injury is part of a superhero's job. "I endanger my life with a reason and purpose," he said. However Seattle Police have urged the wannabe superhero to hang up his tights before he gets seriously hurt.

Speaking of vigilantes like Jones, Detective Mark Jamieson said: "They insert themselves into a potentially volatile situation and they end up being victimised as well." The detective urged people not to involve themselves in dangerous situations unnecessarily and said they should report any crimes to police.


WikiLeaks UFO Revelation Fizzles

diatribemedia - Anyone who even slightly believes there may be more life in the universe than just planet Earth perked their ears slightly when Wikileak’s founder Julian Assange said in an interview with the Guardian “it is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs.” More speculative parts of the internet believed that the Cablegate archives could contain the smoking gun in a UFO coverup. The New Zealand Defense Force even got a little spooked and released thousands of files on reported UFO sightings.

Unfortunately, the first UFO Wikileak fell short of anything remotely interesting or even unknown. In a 2007 diplomatic cable from Minsk, an official is asked why his department no longer “investigates paranormal phenomena.” He responds: “Unlike during the USSR, the department is not engaged in studying paranormal phenomena. [Back then], we had greater means and opportunities which we could spend on anything and everything. Today the situation is different. Then, when society was excited by something, it entered our sphere of interest. But when it comes to healers, UFOs and such, we just can’t deal with them any more.” In other words, the biggest revelation so far on UFOs and other paranormal activity is that the Russians ran out of money to spend on hunting Aliens sometime after the Cold War.

While plenty more documents that reference UFO’s probably exist in the Cablegate archives, it’s more than likely they’re about as big a let down as when Geraldo opened Al Capone’s vault. Still, it’s well known governments fired wads of cash to study all different sorts of “paranormal phenomena.” The U.S. spent untold amounts on Project Blue Book. Americans still have no idea what goes on in any number of secret or so-secret-they-technically-don’t-exist facilities-around-the-globe. Even Julius Levinson knew the Pentagon didn’t spend thousands of dollars on a toilet seat. It’s more likely the real secrets will still stay buried for quite some time, since Proxima Centauri has no embassies. Yet, anyway.


New Mammoth Cloning Scheme

telegraph - Previous efforts in the 1990s to recover nuclei in cells from the skin and muscle tissue from mammoths found in the Siberian permafrost failed because they had been too badly damaged by the extreme cold.

But a technique pioneered in 2008 by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama, of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, was successful in cloning a mouse from the cells of another mouse that had been frozen for 16 years.

Now that hurdle has been overcome, Akira Iritani, a professor at Kyoto University, is reactivating his campaign to resurrect the species that died out 5,000 years ago.

"Now the technical problems have been overcome, all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth," he told The Daily Telegraph.

He intends to use Dr Wakayama's technique to identify the nuclei of viable mammoth cells before extracting the healthy ones.

The nuclei will then be inserted into the egg cells of an African elephant, which will act as the surrogate mother for the mammoth.

Professor Iritani said he estimates that another two years will be needed before the elephant can be impregnated, followed by the approximately 600-day gestation period.

He has announced plans to travel to Siberia in the summer to search for mammoths in the permafrost and to recover a sample of skin or tissue that can be as small as 3cm square. If he is unsuccessful, the professor said, he will ask Russian scientists to provide a sample from one of their finds.

"The success rate in the cloning of cattle was poor until recently but now stands at about 30 per cent," he said. "I think we have a reasonable chance of success and a healthy mammoth could be born in four or five years."