; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Friday, November 28, 2014

Daily 2 Cents: Ouija Boards Popular Holiday Gift Item -- Exorcism Used Against 'Mango Demons' -- The Irby Boggle

Ouija Boards Popular Holiday Gift Item

What better time to talk to dead people for fun than the festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Ouija boards are flying themselves off shelves and under trees this Christmas, according to trends data released by Google. The company has recorded a 300 per cent increase in searches for the spirit-bothering devices, fuelled by a terrible movie that was effectively a feature-length ad for a board game, an appearance on The Archers, and the Victorian belief that if the dead could speak, they would use a plank of a wood and the alphabet.

Ouija, released in October in time for Halloween, was, by all accounts, a cliché-ridden turkey about a group of teenage girls who experiment with a board and get scared. It has a disastrous 7 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregating site, but became an occult hit, to the delight of its backers. Hasbro, the toy company behind Monopoly, pushed for the revival of the film, which had stalled in development, and partnered with Universal to make it happen. Its Ouija Game, including a glow-in-the-dark version, is – sure enough – the biggest seller online.

All of which is appropriate, because the Ouija-board trend, circa 1890, was always about selling games. Spirit writing dates back much further. In 12th-century China, it was believed that spirits had the power to guide a "planchette" to write Chinese characters. In the late 19th century, when doubts about God inspired by Darwin's little birds led to a boom in spiritualism, planchettes became a novelty hit in the west. Elijah Bond, an American lawyer and inventor from Baltimore, devised and patented in 1891 "a toy or game by which two or more persons can amuse themselves by asking questions of any kind and having them answered by the device used and operated by the touch of the hand, so that the answers are designated by letters on a board".

Bond's talking board, with its planchette pointer (a small glass is now a popular alternative), was a minor hit in the séances of the time, but it was William Fuld, who had worked with Bond, who made it big. He marketed the board heavily, crushing competitors and copycats. Ouija was a portmanteau of "yes" in French and German, he said (as well as 26 letters, boards include the words "yes" and "no" so that spirits can answer simple questions more quickly). Fuld eventually passed the company to his children who in 1966 sold it to… Hasbro.

Cliché-ridden turkey: Douglas Smith, Olivia Cooke and Ana Coto in Ouija Cliché-ridden turkey: Douglas Smith, Olivia Cooke and Ana Coto in Ouija
If there were any doubt that dead people don't tend to communicate in this way or at all, scientists have been on the case for decades. In the 1850s, Michael Faraday, the electromagnetism guy, devised an experiment to expose a similar spiritual fad. Table tipping required a group of people to rest their hands on a small table, which would then seem to become possessed and move. He created a system of movable cards that would show whether the motion derived from the table or the participants (it was them, of course).

Faraday and other scientists identified the ideomotor effect, which also explains how Ouija boards work (or don't work). Ray Hyman, an American psychologist and early figure in the modern skeptical movement, neatly described it in 1999: "Honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations."

In other words, if the questioner at a Ouija board expects a yes or a no, or a word, their brain guides the hand accordingly without their realising it. Other hands in the group follow. Similar experiments show that looking at an object can further compel the brain to guide a hand in its direction. Sure enough, when the letters on a board are only visible to a "spirit", and not the players, their hands produce nonsensical responses.

Yet the creepiness of the exercise and the imagery of films like Ouija can make them fun, especially during teenage sleepovers. In a Halloween episode of The Archers last month, Kenton hosted a séance a The Bull, with far from spooky results. But those falling for the marketing this Christmas should beware the risks of messing with spirits, or at least one's own mind. Two years ago, a 15-year-old boy from Texas told police he had stabbed his friend in the neck because a Ouija board had told him to.

Reports abound online of players freaking out or even committing suicide after sessions. In 1994, a British judge was forced to order a retrial of a man jailed for life for a double murder after it emerged that jurors had used a Ouija board during a drunken night to guide them towards a verdict. A fresh jury found the accused guilty. That time, board games were banned. - Independent


Exorcism Used Against 'Mango Demons'

Residents of a mountain barangay in Cebu City, in the Philippines, claim that 35 students at their public school were possessed by evil spirits.

According to the report the mother of two of the possessed pupils believes that spirits hit the school after it cut down two mango trees to make way for a two-story building according to local paper Sun Star Cebu.

The 35 students apparently collapsed and started convulsing on Thursday, as around 3 pm.

The school's teachers sought the help of local officials, who called in priests from the Mary Help of Christians Parish in Barangay Buhisan.

Reverend Nicolas Ramos responded by conducting a Catholic rite of exorcism.

Some of the pupils appeared to respond to the priest's prayers, four more started convulsing and screaming just before the school celebrated mass.

While locals believe that this was demonic possession, Cebu's archdiocese cations it may have just been mass hysteria.

Mass hysteria generally occurs in a way that mirrors a given group's concerns. For example a lot of current outbreaks tend to be based around fears of strange smells, food poisoning or allergies.

According to a paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry, religious mass hysteria was quite common during the renaissance, "between the 15th and 19th centuries, exceedingly strict Christian religious orders appeared in some European convents.

"Coupled with a popular belief in witches and demons, this situation triggered dozens of epidemic motor hysteria outbreaks among nuns, who were widely believed to have been demonically possessed."

The Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has debriefed the teachers, teaching them what to do in case of another mass hysteria outbreak. - Times Live


The Irby Boggle

This story, which was originally printed in the Grimsby Telegraph in 1954, delves into the history of the village of Irby in the Lincolnshire Wolds.

On a clear day they can just see the grey waters of the Humber many miles away for Irby actually stands on the foothills of the Lincolnshire Wolds and they may wonder how it got its name.

There are two villages of that name in the county and to avoid confusion one was called Irby-upon-Humber and the other one, some five miles from Spilsby, was called Irby-on-the-Marsh.

In the distant past before the Humber marsh was drained, Irby was the last settlement between the high ground and the coast.

Within one mile the neighbouring village of Laceby is really a part of Grimsby's suburbia, but Irby is truly rural and is entirely devoted to farming.

The history of Irby goes back to the Normans and earlier to the invasions up the Humber of the Danes, Jutes and Saxons, to Roman Britain and before that to the settlement of Neolithic man living in stone caves on the hills.

There was once a colourful character as Lord of the Manor in those days – one Sir William Holles, who was described by his grandson Gervase as "happy in his bed, happy in his children and happy in his neighbours".

Relatives were worried that he might dissipate his fortune in riotous living.

He took a retinue of 50 stalwarts in "blue coats and badges" to the Coronation of Edward VI and made a habit of taking an escort of 30 to the assizes at Retford.

Sir William, who died in 1590 at the ripe old age of 83 despite his dissipation, also kept a jester for his amusement who frequently got into very hot water indeed.

One day the fool – John Oatesborne of Riby – overheard a man trying to sell his master a falcon for hunting.

It was described as "the sweetest, delicatest and best-conditioned bird" but the jester was next seen bursting into the dining room at lunchtime covered in blood and feathers and shouting that the hawk was "cursed for the worst meat he ever did eat in his life."

Another time the fool was bade by his master who was leaving for a visit to "have a care no one kissed his lady till he returned".

The first man of note to arrive was one George, Earl of Shrewsbury, who got hit on the head with a stave by the jester before he had time to enter the house.

Sir William planned to build a splendid manor house and divert the water from the Welbeck springs near Barton Street at Irby.

He had the foundations dug and intended using stone from the church of St Mary's in Grimsby, which was demolished during the Reformation.

He did not get much further before he died, and his family were pleased because the stones from the same church had been used at Healing and Hatcliffe and "had brought a curse on the owners".

Away from the moat up the winding farm lane past scattered farms is the village pump, the centre of life and gossip in the old days.

Its 108-ft deep well provided water for inhabitants and livestock. The oldest resident in Irby, Mr Herbert Taylor, who can still do a day's farm work at the age of 79, recalls a young girl who set up in business delivering buckets of water to the outskirts of the village at one penny a time.

From the pump and across the busy main road is a muddy lane through the fields which continues, so local legend has it, into haunted country.

Suddenly, the flat fields give way to a hidden valley of woods and stream called Irby Dale.

It is a delightful retreat in the daytime with its glades and its trees.

At night it is the haunt of the Irby Boggle, the ghost of a lovely young damsel who strolls through the glade by moonlight.

It is difficult to trace the story, but apparently she was murdered by her plough-boy sweetheart.

There is an old tree in the wood which is covered with initials carved into the bark and residents say that the swain and his lover put their initials there entwined in the time-honoured way.

Mention the "Boggle" to local people and the younger generation howls with laughter but the older ones say nothing. - Grimsby Telegraph


Malevolent 'captain' said to haunt NC house

MAYSVILLE | The deteriorating house in the 100 block of Belgrade Extension Road is occupied, according to medium Natalie Kauftheil.

It's just not occupied by the living.

And the spirit of a malevolent, mean drunk will let you know it.

“Animals don't even like this place,” Kauftheil said, noticing the lack of birds or woodland creatures on the property, roughly a third of an acre.

Purported to be haunted, some former residents of the house admit to witnessing paranormal activity, a finding corroborated by a Jacksonville Daily News investigation in 2005.

Kauftheil, who accompanied The Free Press on a return to the property Thursday, said she sensed a Native American chief from a village that once was nearby, two children from the 1800s who played outside and six spirits inside the house.

The most active of these, and negative, is that of a man thought to have earned his living on the river sometime before World War I.

The house dates from 1901.

He was married with a daughter and two sons. Standing behind the residence, Kauftheil picked up first on his wife.

“There's a female, but she's got the longer dresses, like early 19(00s),” Kauftheil said. “She's real quiet. Husband is abusive, loud, drunk. Three kids. … None of them really grew up, because, the little girl looks like 8 (years old). To me, they had to have had some money because she's dressed really nice. Pretty shoes. Continue reading at Star News Online



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