; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Friday, February 03, 2012

Just the Facts?: 'Psychic Sally' Witch Hunt -- Deer Hunters Shoot UFO -- Mass Hysteria is a 'Girl Thing'

The 'Psychic Sally' witch hunt

Once upon a time, the great and the good, usually men of the cloth, hunted and persecuted women who were believed to have mystical powers. Today, the great and the good, usually men of science, go after women who don’t have mystical powers but who claim to. Decent society once hounded witches; now it hounds pseudo-witches.

So it is with Sally Morgan, otherwise known as “Psychic Sally”, former adviser on supernatural matters to Princess Diana, self-styled communicator with the dead, and now hate-figure-in-chief to the rationalist, sceptical set. Judging from the slurry of ridicule dumped on Morgan by certain writers and activists over the past year, you could be forgiven for thinking she was single-handedly responsible for the spread of stupidity in modern Britain. She “preys” on her “vulnerable audiences”, we are told, talking “a load of crystal balls”, making the “gullible” and “lonely” believe in stuff that isn’t true. Some serious science writers even want to institute annual Sally-bashing get-togethers for clever, scientifically minded people, to which Morgan will be invited, so that she can perform her tricks, but obviously she won’t turn up and then she can be mocked even more! What larks!

Morgan has now responded to all this haranguing by taking the very foolish decision to sue Associated Newspapers over an article published in The Daily Mail last September, in which she was accused of being a fraud. This will not end well – either for her (God knows what will come out in the libel trial) or for press freedom (England’s libel laws are a pox on liberty) or possibly for both. However, it is worth asking of the fashion for mauling Morgan: why? Why bother? Why are ostensibly intellectual people devoting so much time and energy to having a pop at a woman who claims to be psychic? What’s the point? Aren’t there more important things to worry about and greater threats to rational thinking to tackle?

The anti-Morgan lobby is motivated by the same impulses as those pointy-hatted witch-hunters of old: first, by a desire to look big and impressive by shouting down an allegedly wicked woman; and second, by a desire to save the little people, who are daft and easily led, from having their minds warped and their lives wrecked by people who believe in things the rest of us don’t believe in. Today, the fashionable secular set seems incapable of asserting itself in any positive way, through explaining what is good about the rationalist outlook, so instead it advertises its virtues in an entirely negative fashion, by posturing against caricatured opponents or cartoon “snake oil salesmen”. And in its patronising depiction of Morgan’s audiences as weak, vulnerable and pathetic, we can glimpse the return of that old idea that it falls to enlightened men and women, those whose brains and souls remain intact, to save the dumb from being led astray by alleged cranks. Only today, the enlightened ones come to save us are scientists rather than priests.

I don’t believe anyone can talk to the dead. I wouldn’t see a psychic if you paid me. But people like Sally Morgan have existed for centuries and they do not cause great harm to society or warp morality. We should be far more worried about the current fashion for trying to hound out of existence any eccentric way of thinking or believing that decent folk don’t like. - telegraph

NOTE: of course this is the writer's opinion. IMO, skepticism has it's place for those qualified to be skeptical...not those who have an axe to grind. Lon


Deer Hunters Shoot at UFO - Aliens Escape Unharmed

Two Minnesota men, presumably deer hunters, reported firing several shots at what they thought was a UFO, but the unidentified flying object flew away, apparently unscathed.

The eyewitness account of the UFO sighting details what happened when the two men spotted what they at first thought was an X-47B military drone hovering in the air over the woods at night.

"We were in fear," one of the unnamed men stated, "and trained a scoped Winchester Sportsman .30-06 deer rifle on the object, and fired three successive shots center mass at the object, with no obvious effect, or ricochet sound. Man with me fired two slugs from a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun center mass, also with no effect."

The OVNI, apparently not damaged, then floated away as the men ran through the woods to escape.

This is a weird report, posted on the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) which is a privately owned and operated website used by witnesses to report unidentifiable aircraft sightings. If they thought it might be a military plane, why did they shoot at it? Weren't they worried they might hurt someone?

In this time of Doomsday 2012 fear it may be that people who were once willing to just observe a UFO in awe are starting to fight back. Apparently, though, UFOs are bulletproof! - gather


Weeeeeee....it's too damn cold!

The Manneken-Pis, a bronze statue of a young boy urinating that is a symbol of Brussels and a major tourist attraction, has had to stop peeing because of sub-zero temperatures.

Officials turned off the flow of water through the statue, which has stood on a Brussels corner since the 1600s, out of concern the cold might damage its internal mechanism.

Temperatures in the Belgian capital were set to fall to minus 10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) Wednesday night, far below the average minimum for February. "It all depends on the weather, if the temperatures go up again it will work again," a tourist office spokeswoman said.

The statue, which is on the site of a 15th Century drinking fountain, has more than 800 specially made outfits which city officials use to dress it up during the year. It is one of Brussels' most popular attractions.


Mass hysteria is a 'Girl Thing'

Fifteen teenage girls report a mysterious outbreak of spasms, tics and seizures in upstate New York. But tests find nothing physically wrong.

Scores of adults in Northern California report crawling skin sensations and other bizarre symptoms. Government doctors find no physical cause after an extensive study.

The conclusion by experts is that these are just the latest examples of what used to be called mass hysteria. Now known as conversion disorder, sufferers experience real, but psychologically triggered symptoms.

It’s rare, but scores or even hundreds of outbreaks have been recorded through the decades around the world.

It’s a diagnosis that’s often reached after other causes are ruled out, and is usually traced to a stress-causing trigger. Individual cases are common, even the kind involving tics and other movement-related symptoms. On average, the National Institutes of Health gets reports of two such cases each week, said Dr. Mark Hallett, who heads the branch that fields those calls.

Outbreaks, however, are unusual. Most involve females, often teenagers. Why is not clear. Some think it has to do with the way girls are socialized to deal with stress. Others say that females are just more likely to seek medical help – and thus appear in medical reports.

Symptoms seen in outbreaks vary, and cases have included blindness, headaches, nausea, paralysis and inability to speak. As in infectious disease outbreaks, they often seem to begin with one person who gets the symptoms and then it spreads to people she knows. Experts believe that these first “index” cases often are people who have symptoms caused by a physical illness, but subsequent cases are subconscious mimicry.

Recent examples include:

-In the fall of 2007, at least eight girls at a Roanoke, Va., high school developed strange twitching symptoms similar to those in upstate New York. The school district spent $30,000 to check the school, but investigators found no environmental cause.

-Earlier in 2007, a mysterious illness swept through a Catholic boarding school in Chalco, Mexico, causing 600 girls to suffer fever, nausea and buckling knees that left many unable to walk. Batteries of tests found no physical cause.

-In 2002, 10 teenage girls at a small, rural North Carolina high school had epileptic-like seizures and fainting. The school buildings were inspected, but nothing was found to explain the outbreak.

Allegations of fakery sometimes surface, but most experts believe these patients have real symptoms that they can’t consciously control.

One thing they often have in common, is some kind of precipitating stress in their lives.

That was the case in Le Roy, N.Y., the site of the latest example of this disorder. Dr. Jennifer McVige, a pediatric neurologist based in nearby Batavia, has seen 10 of the teens. “All of the kids had something big that happened,” like divorcing parents or some other upsetting situation, McVige said, declining to go into detail.

The Le Roy Central School District paid for an inspection of the school, checking for formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, molds, solvents and other volatile organic compounds and even lighting levels. No environmental cause for the cases was found.

But the belief that there must be a physical cause drew national news attention, and finally, California environmental activist Erin Brockovich. She wanted to investigate whether a 1970 derailed train carrying chemicals may have contaminated groundwater with trichloroethene, or TCE. State health officials say no TCE was found at the school, and on Wednesday they reported no sign of that chemical or other threatening contaminants in the school or village water supply.

The idea that it’s a stress-induced psychological disorder has been hard for some of the girls and their parents to swallow. Some have appeared on national and international TV voicing that view.

On NBC’s Today Show last month, senior Thera Sanchez told how her Tourette-like tics worsened to the point where she couldn’t even attend class. She had some psychological counseling, which she says didn’t resolve her condition. “I want an answer. A straight answer,” she said on the show.

Doctors familiar with the girls’ treatment say the continuing news coverage has slowed progress they were making. They have recommended that all the girls see therapists. But that’s easier said than done. There’s a shortage of pediatric psychologists in that part of the state, McVige said.

Experts elsewhere have looked on curiously at the Le Roy story. One piece of footage prompted laughter this week among a group of physicians. They were watching a BBC report on the cases, which showed one girl with a jerking arm that suddenly became very controlled as she applied eyeliner and then jerked around again when she was done.

“It’s almost impossible to conceive of a true neurological disorder that can allow for that complexity of switching back and forth,” said Dr. Jose Maldonado, chief of psychosomatic medicine at Stanford University, who mentioned the group’s reaction. “It also looks very purposeful. I’m not saying she’s making it up. I’m just saying that it doesn’t look neurological.”

The AP was unable to reach the girl or her mother.

McVige acknowledged the other doctors’ reaction. She recalled one examination in which the tic in one girl’s arm stopped when a doctor forcefully held it, but then the other arm started moving. That also is not something generally seen in neurological disorders.

She said the Le Roy outbreak, at its core, is no hoax. But “now I think there’s an overlay of some of the girls trying to prove `there’s something wrong with me,’” she added.

Calls from the AP to three of the girls were not returned. Brockovich did not respond to an email request for an interview, either.

Last week, while those cases were in the news, government doctors coincidentally released a long-awaited report on their investigation into an illness known as Morgellons (mor-GELL-uns).

The condition is marked by some bizarre symptoms, including sores, crawling sensations on the skin and – perhaps worst of all – mysterious fibers that the patients believe sprout from their skin. Anecdotal and media reports about cases six years ago led to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency found no environmental or physical cause for the cases; tests showed the fibers came from fabric, like clothing or blankets. Psychological evaluations suggested conversion disorder, said a neurologist who worked on the study.

Some specialists argue it doesn’t fit in that category. Some believe Morgellons is a form of psychosis. Others insist these patients are not psychotic, but suffer from a less severe kind of psychological disorder which isn’t well understood yet.

Also, at least some of the Morgellons patients probably don’t have a psychological problem at all, said Dr. J. Michael Bostwick, a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic who has studied delusions of infestation.

It turned out one woman had itchy skin that was caused by high calcium levels that developed from parathyroid tumors.

In past outbreaks, the symptoms of conversion disorder have tended to disappear in a matter of weeks or a few months. In Le Roy, many of the cases appeared around the beginning of the school year and were improving, but about half of the girls got worse after the wave of media attention and disputes about the cause of the illness.

Indeed, McVige said she has stopped forwarding media requests to her patients.

Anxiety and suspicion are continuing, fueled by YouTube, Facebook and other social media that weren’t prevalent in earlier outbreaks, observed Robert Bartholomew, a sociologist who has studied mass hysteria for many years.

“There is a good chance that symptoms could spread to other students and last for several more months – even years,” Bartholomew said in an email from New Zealand, where he teaches at a university. - longislandpress


Farmer attacked by rabid cow

As it was happening, Raymond Parks didn't think he'd be around later to tell the story. He was rushed and attacked by a 900 pound animal three weeks ago. The cow put a gash on his head and threw him into a barbed wire fence.

"I thought she would kill me before she'd leave me alone," Parks said.

As the cow head-butted him and broke some of his ribs, Parks went for his shotgun. He landed three blasts on the animal, but it didn't die. Instead, it slowly walked away and laid down, where a vet arrived several days later to put it down.

Tests have now proved the animal had rabies, a rarity in cattle. Most rabies cases are seen in meat-eaters, or smaller animals like raccoons. Parks' Maysville farm is just down the road from where a rabid bobcat was discovered a few days ago. Jackson County has now seen three cases of rabies in January, a month that didn't see one case in 2011.

This week Parks was told 19 animals in his cattle herd will have to be quarantined for six months. If they don't show any signs of rabies after that time, they're clear. If they do, they'll have to be killed. It's a tough judgment for Parks, who was hoping to sell some of the cattle while prices were high. Now he's not sure he wants to continue.

"It's probably about time for me to retire, since I almost got killed," said Parks, who's in his early seventies.

But Pauline, his wife of more than 50 years, said he isn't likely to stop working.

"He'll never quit," she said. "He'll never retire."

Georgia Health Department officials say it's vitally important for animal lovers to vaccinate their pets. The shots are inexpensive, and can save pets from death and their owners from contact with the disease. - 11alive

NOTE: I have been around cattle and livestock most of my life...1st I've heard of bovine rabies. Lon