; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just the Facts? - Alien Abduction Snafu, First Cryptid Case and Skeptic vs. Believers

They put me back in the wrong house...

MUFON CMS - Pennsylvania: This is what I can remember: About 7 years old, in a neighbors basement. Home owner comes down the steps, husband right behind her. "When did you come in here?" Questions just kept coming. "How did you get in here?" "Everyone is looking for you!" I look up at basement window. Dark out. Panic! I'm supposed to be home before dark! "Go right home, your mother's very worried!" I never said a word to these people. I just run home as fast as I can. And I'm terrified of the dark! Upon arriving home, I am confronted by my Mom. She is beyond upset. Starts hitting me with a yard stick. Mostly I remember her words: "We've been looking for you for hours!" I was sent straight to bed. A 7 year old little girl, in complete confusion about what had just happened. I don't remember any follow up questions. The events of that evening tucked away in my memory. And life just went on. However, unexplainable experiences and sightings of UFO's continue to this day. Finally needed to get this out. Just telling it now makes me feel shaken inside. I've known they are real since childhood. My question now is "What are their intentions?" You don't need to contact me. Proof doesn't matter anymore. That they have always been in some of our lives is a given. It isn't easy to live with though.


Buzz joins the ‘Dark’ side

What’s up with Buzz Aldrin? Hate to end a sentence with a preposition, but is there anything this guy won’t pimp for?

I hadn’t planned to watch “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” anyway, but godawmighty, after reading a take on this mess from feisty blogger Robbie Graham, Michael Bay’s sci-fi stinker about what the Apollo 11 astronauts really found on the moon is apparently even worse than the trailers let on.

But what renders this one mildly noteworthy is a jack-in-the-box cameo by Aldrin, who tells audiences he and Neil Armstrong found ET robotics up yonder and were sworn to secrecy.

This is a wet dream for the conspiracy freaks who’ve been claiming for 40 years that the moon landings were staged. But to really appreciate the irony of Buzz’s latest move, let’s flash back to 2002, when he was confronted by a screwball accusing him of lying about his Apollo 11 mission. Continue reading at Billy Cox - heraldtribune


Here Be Monsters

I'm not sure who or what is more monstrous: the smug sceptics or the scant cryptids.

Let me explain. Having interviewed Debbie Martyr (research conservationist with Flora and Fauna International) 12 years ago about her apparent sighting of the primate cryptid the orang pendek in Sumatra and more recently interviewing ape expert Ian Redmond on his research into sasquatch/big foot (supported by David Attenborough and Jane Goodall), over the years I have acquired a fascination for primate cryptids. So I was eager to attend a recent lecture at the Zoological Society London entitled "Cryptozoology: science or pseudoscience?".

Henry Gee, a senior editor at Nature looking and behaving like a jovial, off-duty roadie dressed in grubby T shirt and ruby crocs, chaired the event in which Drs Michael Woodley, Charles Paxton and Darren Naish presented their crypto data.

Paxton reminded us that atmospheric electrical disturbances such as sprites, blue jets and elves were only identified in the 1980s and 1990s when they were photographed. Until then, anecdotal reports of flashes of light above the clouds were frequently ignored. Scientists used to dismiss accounts of meteorites as paranormal fantasy and poured scorn on eyewitness descriptions from lucky survivors of rogue waves – until satellite images in the 1990s confirmed their existence. The mountain gorilla wasn't believed to exist by Western science until two were shot dead in 1902, and the bonobo was not credited with being a unique species until 1930. In the past 20 years, 70 species of primate have been newly described, including a Vietnamese gibbon and the Bili ape: a large, sub-species of chimp from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2009, a Papua New Guinean crater yielded up a cat-sized species of woolly rat, among other previously undiscovered creatures.

In an age of satellites and robotic submersibles, it's easy to assume, with a "been there done that" attitude, that we know all there is to know about Earth. Clearly nature is far from being fully understood by science, and yet some sceptics persist in contemptuously sneering at almost everything outside of their immediate knowledge. With their high-systemised inability to tolerate newness, they stymie open scientific debate, bully original thinkers and drive away those with fascinating new data on unknown species.

I was sad to witness this and their non-reflective guffawing at ZSL? Paxton and Naish seemed particularly conscious of this spiked criticism and made a point of distancing themselves from misleading and bad science. Nothing wrong with that, but they were so ardent in this respect that the friend I was with mistakenly thought the panel were themselves anti-cryptozoology.

The three speakers focused their statistical analysis on sea monsters, Paxton saying that he prefers the term monster to cryptid. He also wanted to assure the audience that, "taxpayers have no fear, your money is not spent on crypto research, scientists do this in their spare time." Paxton's talk underscored the fact that anomalies should be actively pursued and science should be about wonderment.

But how should science deal with low-frequency phenomena that might well be real? One approach is to break witness reports down and analyse interesting properties. To illustrate, Paxon used his data of "initial reported distance" from sea monsters given by witnesses aboard boats. Significantly, initial sighting are usually reported close to the boat. Paxton wasn't sure why this might be. I would suggest that it is because witnesses do not know what they do not know – they have to see it close-up to be confident they are witnessing something unexpected. An unknown creature seen at a distance could be dismissed as a dolphin or a piece of wood. Initial sightings of terrestrial cryptids also tend to be at close proximity, and again the same factor may well apply.

Naish addressed the "prehistoric survivor paradigm". Some 65m years ago, during the late cretaceous, the coelacanth, the plesiosaur and many other species disappeared from the fossil record during a mass extinction. But in 1938 and again in 1999 two species of coelacanth were discovered. This Lazarus-like survival of the coelacanth gives confidence to those who suggest a long-necked surviving plesiosaur swims in our lochs and oceans. As a palaeontologist Naish was able to explain how the vertebrae of plesiosaurs could not move in the flexible, swan-like motion often described in reported sightings. But he believes this is a case of wrong classification rather than an indication that sea monsters do not exist. We were reminded of the new Indonesian species of ray and shark and the two recently identified (1991/2002) species of beaked whale, inhabiting a deep-sea niche: the deep sea and its inhabitants are barely understood.

During the Q&A an elderly sceptic quipped: "Some people say they've seen aliens and have even talked to them!" The panel trod an uneasy path as they attempted to accommodate these sorts of jibes while keeping on track.

The three speakers confirmed that their modelling indicates there are between 10 and 50 large species of marine animals yet to be described. They were also in agreement that marine sampling methods for cryptids must be established and remain constant.

For those readers left wanting more, the Weird Weekend is the biggest gathering of cryptozoologists in the world, held in Devon in August. Naish will again be speaking. - Carole Jahme - guardian


Cryptozoology: The First Documented Case?

By Javier Resines - Any discipline worth its salt has a more or less well defined point of departure, based upon a specific event or the presence of a given researcher or any other reason. This situation can be hard to pin down at times, as can be the case with cryptozoology, where there is no definite date that marks the start of this science. The first photo of Nessie, perhaps? Or the publication of the first book by Heuvelmans? Each individual probably has a starting point in his or her own head.

It is not our intention to kick off a debate on the subject, which we find absurd. What we want to show is that if there has indeed been a starting point with regard to the study of unknown animals, it occurred in an earlier age. A cryptozoological prehistory, so to speak, in which spectacular cases involving strange animals occurred, even if there were no researchers to disseminate the phenomenon explicitly.

And apropos of this, we have perhaps come across what may be the first documented cryptozoological case in the history of Spain. Our reporter of the age is none other than Roman author and scientist Gaius Plinius Cecilius Secundus (23-79 B.C.E.) better known as Pliny the Elder. His vast work Historia Naturalis, which collects all of the knowledge of his age with regard to zoology, botany and other sciences in 37 volumes, mentions the case of a “polyp” that killed off all the fish in the wells of Carteia, a city adjacent to modern San Roque, in Cadiz, where the salted meat and fish works of the time were housed.

Pliny mentions an item found by another Roman naturalist from the previous century – Trebius Niger in the third volume of his Natural History, in which he writes:

[...] for he affirmed, that at Carteia there was one of these Polypi, which used commonly to go forth of the sea, and enter into some of their open cesterns and vauts among their ponds and stewes; wherein they kept great sea-fishes, and otherwhiles would rob them of their salt-fish, and so go his waies againe: which hee practised so long, that in the end he gat himselfe the anger and displeasure of the masters and keepers of the said ponds and cesterns, with his continuall and immeasurable filching: wherupon they staked up the place and empalled it round about, to stop all passage thither. But this thiefe gave not over his accustomed haunt for all that, but made meanes by a certaine tree to clamber over and get to the fore-said salt-fish; and never could he be taken in the manner nor discovered, but that the dogges by their quicke sent found him out and bayed at him: for as he returned one night toward the sea, they assailed and set upon him on all sides, and thereiwth raised the foresaid keepers, who were affrighted at this so sodaine an alarme, but more at the straunge sight which they saw. For first and foremost this Polype fish was of an unmeasurable and incredible bignesse: and besides, hee was besmeared and beraied all over with the brine and pickle of the foresaid salt-fish, which made him both hideous to see to, and also to stinke withall most strongly. Who would ever have looked for a Polype there, or taken knowledge of him by such markes as these? Surely they thought no other, but that they had to deale and encounter with some monster: for with his terrible blowing and breathing that he kept, he drave away the dogges, and otherwhiles with the ends of his long stringed winding feet, he would lash and whip them; somtimes with his stronger clawes like arms he rapped and knocked them well and surely, as it were with clubs. In summe, he made such good shift for himselfe, that hardly and with much adoe they could kill him, albeit he received many a wound by trout-speares which they launced at him. Well, in the end his head was brought and shewed to Lucullus for a wonder, and as bigge it was a good round hogshead or barrell that would take and containe 15 Amphores: and his beards (for so Trebius tearmed his clawes and long-stringed feet) carried such a thicknes and bulke with them, that hardly a man could fathom one of them about with both his armes, such knockers they were, knobbed and knotted like clubs, and withall 30 foot long. The concavities within them, and hollow vessels like great basons, would hold four or five gallons apeece; and his teeth were answerable in proportion to the bignes of his bodie. The rest was saved for a wonder to be seen, and waighed 700 pound weight. (Translation of the 9th Book of Pliny by Philemon Holland, 1601)

The description given to us by Roman chroniclers suggest that the animal could have been a giant squid more than any other species of Cephalopod. The large tentacles, supposedly in excess of nine meters long, and the monster’s morphological characteristics, appear to suggest this.

Of what there can be no doubt whatsoever is the particular commotion caused by this event among spectators and citizens alike, who were later able to see this remains of this authentic predecessor of the mythic Kraken. - Scott Corrales - Inexplicata


Humans programmed to believe the supernatural

Forty separate studies (both analytical and empirical) conducted in 20 countries conclude that humans are predisposed to believe in gods and in afterlife.

Both theology and atheism are reasoned responses to what is a basic impulse of the human mind, the studies suggest.

Fiftyseven researchers, led by Oxford University experts, carried out the studies for three years, representing a diverse range of cultures.

They wanted to ascertain if concepts such as gods and an afterlife are entirely taught or are basic expressions of human nature, according to an Oxford statement.

The theology project led by Justin Barrett, from the Centre for Anthropology and Mind, drew on a range of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and theology.

The findings are to be published in two separate books by psychologist Barrett in "Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology" and "Born Believers: The Science of Childhood Religion".

Studies by Emily Reed Burdett and Justin Barrett, suggest that children below five years find it easier to believe in some superhuman properties than to understand similar human limitations.

Children aged three believe that their mother and god would always know the contents, but by the age of four, they start understanding that their mothers are not all-seeing and all-knowing. However, they may continue to believe in all-seeing, all-knowing supernatural agents.

Experiments involving adults, conducted by Jing Zhu from Tsinghua University (China), and Natalie Emmons and Jesse Bering from The Queen's University, Belfast, suggest that people across many different cultures instinctively believe that some part of their mind, soul or spirit lives on after death. - IBN