You’ve heard of MKULTRA in the US, Soviet psychotronics and so on, but the USSR had another program that might surprise you: For several years they searched Mongolia, Tibet and Eurasia for the fabled city of Shambhala.
I’m always fascinated by how the mind works. Check out Apollo Robbins, he’s incredible.
Hailed as the greatest pickpocket in the world, Apollo Robbins studies the quirks of human behavior as he steals your watch. In a hilarious demonstration, Robbins samples the buffet of the TEDGlobal 2013 audience, showing how the flaws in our perception make it possible to swipe a wallet and leave it on its owner’s shoulder while they remain clueless.
Dowsing is the action of a person–called the dowser–using a rod, stick or other device–called a dowsing rod, dowsing stick, doodlebug (when used to locate oil), or divining rod–to locate such things as underground water, hidden metal, buried treasure, oil, lost persons or golf balls, etc. Since dowsing is not based upon any known scientific or empirical laws or forces of nature, it should be considered a type of divination and an example of magical thinking. The dowser tries to locate objects by occult means.
Map dowsers use a dowsing device, usually a pendulum, over maps to locate oil, minerals, persons, water, etc. However, the prototype of a dowser is the field dowser who walks around an area using a forked stick to locate underground water. When above water, the rod points downward. (Some dowsers use two rods. The rods cross when above water.) Various theories have been given as to what causes the rods to move: electromagnetic or other subtle geological forces, suggestion from others or from geophysical observations, ESP and other paranormal explanations, etc. Most skeptics accept the explanation of William Carpenter (1852). The rod moves due to involuntary motor behavior, which Carpenter dubbed ideomotor action.
In the 16th century, Agricola described mining dowsers using a forked twig to find metals (De re metallica). He didn’t think much of the practice. A miner, he wrote:
should not make us of an enchanted twig, because if he is prudent and skilled in the natural signs, he understands that a forked stick is of no use to him, for … there are natural indications of the veins which he can see for himself without the help of twigs. (Quoted in Zusne and Jones 1989: 106)
Despite this sage advice, dowsers continue to dowse, claiming that they have a special power and that what they are dowsing for emanates energy, rays, radiations, vibrations, and the like.
Does dowsing work?
Some people are less interested in why the rods move than in whether dowsing works. Obviously, many people believe it does. Dowsing and other forms of divination have been around for thousands of years. There are large societies of dowsers in America and Europe and dowsers practice their art every day in all parts of the world. There have even been scientists in recent years who have offered proof that dowsing works. There must be something to it, then, or so it seems.
Via randi.org written by JREF Staff
We get mail: a Catholic Priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago recently sent a veritable love letter to Randi for his decades of good work exposing supernatural fraudsters. It ends with an appeal for JREF staff to convert to Catholicism immediately. He included two objects with the letter:
- An “Image of the Divine Mercy” (which we are told Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska in pre-WWII Poland) and
- a medal that he says the Blessed Mother gave to St. Catherine Laboure in LaSallette, France in 1832.
The priest’s big point: “The Lord created the you without your consent, but he will not save you without your consent.”
Especially interesting was the talk of Randi’s age and how right now is surely the best time for him to finally convert: “Mr. Randi, you doubt so much that I know you must want to believe!”
He also provides some helpful instruction: “Go into a nearby Catholic Church, sit before the Tabernacle (which Catholics believe the Risen Lord Jesus IS Truly, Really, Substantially Present in the Eucharist Host) and open your heart, saying “Lord Jesus, if You are real, give me the grace to believe.” Then we are told we can “enter into the Divine Life of the Blessed Trinity!”
Our question is Since when have Catholics become so evangelizing?
We thought you might enjoy reading Randi’s response:
Recently on Facebook I saw a video of a Finnish martial artist named Jukka Lampila who called what he did Empty Force or EFO, and claimed that with it he could control an attacker without touching him. His Facebook page proclaims him the founder of EFO. The video begins with clips of Lampila fending off ‘attacks’ from his students. He waves his arms; sometimes he twitches, and in each case the ‘attacker’ seems to be magically thrown to the mat without ever being touched by Lampila. He also shows an example of ‘controlling’ someone on the ground. He kneels calmly beside a supine student with the back of his hand gently resting on the man’s chest. “I don’t need to use any energy” he asserts as the student appears to try with all his might to regain his feet to no avail. It is a sad display of martial arts charlatanism.
Unfortunately for Mr. Lampila, a group of skeptics were in attendance this day, and several of them volunteered to be ‘controlled’ by Mr. Lampila. His chosen method was to have the volunteer try to push him. He failed in each case to stop them from doing so. The skeptics were admirably polite, giving Mr. Lampila an ample number of opportunities to prove his claims and not demonstrably gloating at his failures. When one of them calmly asked him if he would like to demonstrate his defense against a punching attack Mr. Lampila declined. He later invited everyone to pay for and attend his seminar the next day!
I’ve been involved in the martial arts since 1971. I’ve been teaching martial arts since 1975. In this time, and long before I became aware of formal scientific skepticism I grew to see that a lot of people are drawn to martial arts styles that are based on pseudo-science. The arts that are the biggest culprits by far are the arts that base their claims of effectiveness on developing and manipulating a purported form of internal energy. Whether you label it Chi, Ki, Prana, “The Force”, or Empty Force it has never to my knowledge been proven to exist through robust, double-blind, replicated scientific experiments. If it is energy, where are the scientific instruments that can detect its levels? Is this energy chemical, radiant, nuclear, kinetic, electro-magnetic, mechanical, or ionizing? Is this energy in the form of waves or particles? At the risk of building a straw man, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that practitioners and apologists for these arts would say that science doesn’t know everything, and that “chi power” is as yet unexplained by science. If this were plausible, wouldn’t it follow that a large number of physicists would be pursuing a future Nobel Prize by attempting to prove the existence of this vital energy?
In the last 43 years I’ve seen quite a few ‘demonstrations’ of this power. I have yet to be impressed. Mostly what I’ve seen were sad carnival sideshow tricks, many of which I can easily explain if not reproduce, without resorting to magic. The rest were feckless displays like that of Mr. Lampila.
I assert that on the rare occasions when practitioners of these styles defend themselves effectively it is through properly applied principles of leverage and body mechanics, and not the magical power of Ki.
This phenomenon raises further questions. First, what possesses people to train in such a system of martial arts? Second, what is in the minds of people who already train in such systems and continue to do so after seeing their ‘Master’ embarrassed as Mr. Lampila was in the video?
As for what draws people in the first place, I will cite what scientific skepticism has taught me.
A magician will instantly see the truth behind any colleague’s illusion. But we have a bit of an advantage: We know we are being fooled. Scientists are instinctive doubters who employ a rigorous method to zero in on the truth, but they aren’t necessarily trained to expect deception by subjects and collaborators.
We can’t make magicians out of scientists — we wouldn’t want to — but we can help scientists “think in the groove” — think like a magician. And we should.
For most of my life I’ve pecked away at a certain type of swindler: faith-healers, mystics, mind-readers. Those of a certain age may remember my appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson — a skilled amateur magician himself who introduced my exposure of flummery to a huge television audience.
Mine was a lonely voice back then, but I’m not alone anymore. The immensely talented and popular Penn & Teller long ago joined me as foes of harmful deception, along with other magicians; the president of my foundation, D.J. Grothe, has a background in magic, and many of our associates are professional magicians, as well. They all agree with me that the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magicians should re-establish their once very active investigations of the fakers who claim supernatural powers.
It’s not something that is generally done, or maybe at all – I’d love to see one funding grant that has a line item for the services of a magician, if somebody out there has one. But it is long overdue that my peers in the conjuring profession try to take a more active role in the elimination of nonsense science by joining forces with scientists, and that scientists be open to the proposition.
Please bear with me while I offer you a peek behind the curtain, a cursory glance at what we magicians are — and aren’t. First, we’re entertainers, actors, showbiz people who have as our primary objective the delight of our audiences. We’re deceivers, yes, taking on roles and characters to express our art, just as any actor does.
We are not scientists — with a few rare but important exceptions, like Ray Hyman and Richard Wiseman. But our highly specific expertise comes from knowledge of the ways in which our audiences can be led to quite false conclusions by calculated means — psychological, physical and especially sensory, visual being rather paramount since it has such a range of variety.
By Benjamin Radford via LiveScience
Amazing coincidences happen all the time — but are they simply the product of random chance, or do they convey some hidden meaning? The answer may depend on whether you believe in synchronicity.
The term synchronicity was coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961). Jung had a strong belief in a wide variety of paranormal phenomenon, including psychic powers, astrology, alchemy, predictive dreams, UFOs and telekinesis (moving objects with the mind). He was also obsessed with numerology — the belief that certain numbers have special cosmic significance, and can predict important life events.
Jung’s concept of synchronicity is complicated and poorly defined, but can be boiled down to describing “meaningful coincidences.” The concept of synchronicity came to Jung during a period of mental illness in the early 1900s. Jung became convinced that everything in the universe is intimately connected, and that suggested to him that there must exist a collective unconscious of humankind. This implied to him that events happening all over the world at the same time must be connected in some unknown way.
In his book “137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession,” Arthur I. Miller gives an example of synchronicity; one of his patients “told Jung that when her mother and grandmother died, on each occasion a flock of birds gathered outside the window of the room.” The woman’s husband, who had symptoms of heart problems, went out to see a doctor and “on his way back the man collapsed in the street. Shortly after he had set off to see the specialist a large flock of birds had alighted on the house. His wife immediately recognized this as a sign of her husband’s impending death.”
Is synchronicity real?
There is, of course, a more prosaic explanation for curious coincidence: birds are very common, and simply by random chance a flock will appear near people who are soon to die — just as they appear daily around millions of people who are not soon to die.
The appearance of synchronicity is the result of a well-known psychological phenomenon called confirmation bias (sometimes described as remembering the hits and forgetting the misses); we much more easily notice and remember things that confirm our beliefs than those that do not. The human brain is very good at making connections and seeing designs in ambiguous stimuli and random patterns.
If Jung’s patient came to believe that a flock of birds meant that death was imminent, she would start noticing flocks of birds, and remember the times when they coincided with a loved one’s death. But she would not likely notice or remember the countless times when flocks of birds appeared over people who lived for years or decades longer. Put another way, a person dying when a flock of birds is present is an event; a person not dying when a flock of birds is present is a non-event, and therefore not something anyone pays attention to. This is the result of normal human perceptual and memory biases, not some mysterious cosmic synchronicity.
It’s easy to see why synchronicity has mass appeal; it provides meaning and order in an otherwise random universe. One famous (and more modern) example of synchronicity is . . .
Believe it or not, witch hunts still take place in the modern day — and some countries even have laws about sorcery. Tune in to learn about witchcraft across the globe, from Malawi to Papua New Guinea and more.
In a nutshell: Superstitions are beliefs about the power of things to bring about good or bad when there’s no logical or scientific evidence for the belief.
It seems that everybody is superstitious about something. Ask anyone if they would wear a sweater worn by somebody who has done the worst evil thing you can imagine. Even though there is no rational or logical reason for believing that an evil person’s sweater would feel any different from any other sweater, most people don’t want to even come near the sweater of someone they think is evil.
Even grownups who think they are not superstitious will get chills or a good feeling when they touch something that belonged to someone they greatly admire. There is no logical or scientific reason why anything touched by anyone you admire should have any special effect on you. Yet, people will go to great lengths to get an autograph or to visit the home where someone they think is great was born or used to live.
The world does not divide up into the ones who are superstitious and the ones who are not superstitious. We’re all superstitious, but not always about the same things. We might laugh when we read about people who used to beat their drums to make the moon give back the sun during an eclipse. But they’d probably laugh at us for trying to touch a rock star or for buying clothes with the name of some singer sewed into them.
Many superstitions start by observing some things that happen by coincidence. You forgot to wash your socks before a baseball game and then you hit a home run. From now on you don’t wash your socks before you play a game. You wore your blue sweater to school on the day you aced a test. Now the sweater is your “lucky sweater” and you wear it whenever you have a test. Instead of accepting that things happen by coincidence, we make one the cause of the other. If you stop to think about it, you know there’s no logical reason dirty socks should help a baseball player hit a baseball. Wearing a sweater can’t substitute for studying for a test.
Many athletes are superstitious. They’ll wear twisted ropes around their necks or rubber bands with holograms around their wrists. Why? Not because they think they look good in them, but because they think the ropes and rubber bands can improve their playing. Not likely, you might think. But, if the player really believes his necklace or bracelet helps him, it might relax him and put him in a good mood. Maybe he plays better when he’s relaxed and in a good mood. So, magic jewelry might help some people sometimes, but only because of their superstition!
Some superstitions are due to magical thinking. Believing that something evil stays in the sweater of an evil person is type of magical thinking. Thinking that things that look alike share some sort of magical connection is also magical thinking. Just because a plant looks like a kidney doesn’t mean it will be good medicine for kidney problems.
Some people think that if they make a doll to stand for some person they can help or hurt the person by helping or hurting the doll. Some people think you can help a person by doing acupuncture on a doll that stands in for the person. Some think that you can make a person feel it if you stick a pin in a doll that stands in for the person. These are examples of more magical thinking.
Magical thinking seems to be based on a belief that there is some sort of energy or essence that things can magically transfer to other things.
Is Bruno Mars a secret member of the Illuminati? Let’s look at the evidence.
In the “yes, he is” column, we have the fact that Mr. Mars headlined the 2014 Super Bowl Halftime show, which as everyone knows is a showcase for Illuminati members and their teachings, i.e. most of the celebrities. That’s convincing enough, so we’re not even going to bother to look at the arguments against the obvious conclusion that Mars’s performance was full of proof.
The performance, as Mark Dice explained on Infowars, was “one big sex magic promotion.” Sex magic (or “magik”), of course, refers to the Illuminati practice of harnessing the magic(k!) of sexual arousal to ascend to a different plane of reality, where you can then alter how you experience the world. And Mars was full of Magic(k) last night. Double goes for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who released an entire album called Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Plus, former Chili Pepper Dave Navarro also has a bunch of suspicious tattoos, which proves that he’s at least a Freemason. (The two groups are distinct, but basically serve as the basis for the same conspiracy theories at this point, including ideas about lizard-like humanoids running our government. Maybe that’s why he left the band.)
Everyone likes a good paranormal tale. However, often the really interesting stories are not about ghosts and UFOs—they’re about the people who run after them with a notebook in hand.
The world is full of tireless paranormal researchers who spend countless hours in a never-ending attempt to understand the incomprehensible and find the truth behind the legends. These are their stories.
10 • William Hope And Spirit Photography
William Hope (1866-1936) was a famous British medium and paranormal researcher. He gained fame with his amazing “spirit photography,” a seemingly uncanny ability to capture the images of ghosts and spirits on camera. Although this technology is commonplace today (and, more often than not, known as “photoshopping”), Hope was the first man to produce these type of images. As such, his popularity as a medium exploded.
Hope took many precautions with the plate cameras he used in order to rule out any possibility of fraud. However, this itself turned out to be a scam. In reality, the complicated rules he claimed to follow were little more than smoke and mirrors. Hope’s pictures were actually the product of skillful photo manipulation and advanced superimposing techniques. Still, although we can’t respect him as the herald of the supernatural world he liked to present himself as, we can at least give him a nod for his work as a pioneering photography artist.
9 • Independent Investigations Group
The Independent Investigations Group—or IIG for short—is a famous paranormal research organization that was founded in Hollywood, California in 2000, but now operates across America. They’re the largest and best known group of their kind in the US, and their founder, Jim Underdown, is a common sight at panels and discussions around the country.
IIC takes a decidedly skeptical stance in its investigations, but it always strives to give its subjects a fair chance to prove their mystical powers. They have an ongoing offer to pay a large cash prize to anyone who can demonstrate scientifically verifiable paranormal abilities. The sum was originally $50,000, but was recently bumped up to $100,000, possibly thanks to their collaboration with the James Randi Foundation, another famous skeptic organization.
Be warned, though: It’s not easy money. The video above shows the IIC investigating Anita Ikonen, who had claimed to have the power of “medical dowsing” (in this case, telling if someone is missing an internal organ).
It didn’t go well for her.
8 • EMF Meters
EMF (electromagnetic field) meters are one of the most common tools in the working kit of a ghost hunter. There is some confusion as to why they are so important. Some say it’s because ghosts actually emit electromagnetic radiation, others claim they merely disturb the area’s existing electromagnetic field. It doesn’t really matter which of the theories is true—either way, the ghost hunting community often accepts the idea that ghosts and other spirits can be detected with an EMF meter.
Obviously, the use of the device presents many problems. No one really knows how to interpret the readings—whether or not ghosts are right behind them. Certain researchers have even speculated that EMF anomalies might actually cause hauntings, rather than the other way around.
Some of the more enthusiastic paranormal researchers find their way around the problem by creating complicated sets of fine-tuning instructions for their EMF meters. However, it’s pretty safe to assume that most researchers just carry their meters around and if the needle starts moving, grab their cameras and hope for the best.
7 • Viktor Grebennikov
Viktor Grebennikov was a Soviet scientist and naturalist with a very strange interest in supernatural—or, rather, supremely natural—methods of transport. Grebennikov’s day job was as an entymologist (insect researcher), but he liked to dabble in the paranormal. Before his death in 2001, he had amassed a large amount of research on the art of levitation, and even claimed to have built a platform able to levitate a fully-grown man.
Grebennikov’s alleged levitation techniques were based on a specific, arcane geometrical structure he claimed he had built from insect parts. This bug machine was supposedly able to lift him for over 305 meters (1,000 ft) and could easily reach speeds of over 25 kilometers (15.5 mi) per minute. He was protected from these high speeds by an energy grid all around him.
Well, that’s his story anyway. When you actually look at the video material he left behind, it looks a lot like the few bug parts he’s able to move without touching them only do so because he’s creating static electricity by rubbing the surface under them.
6 • Ovilus
The Ovilus is a “ghost box” that has gained notoriety among paranormal investigators in recent years. It’s essentially the ghost hunter’s equivalent of a text-to-speech program. The Ovilus detects the subtle changes ghosts, demons, and other incorporeal entities make in their surroundings, and converts these messages into spoken words. It’s a dowsing rod, EMF meter, and a recording device, all in one machine. Ovilus III, the most recent model, is said to have a vocabulary of 2,000 words, along with a thermal flashlight, multiple operating modes, a recording function, and other neat extras.
As amazing as the Ovilus would be if it really worked, at least one reviewer is certain that the product is actually a fraud. Although it does have all the sensors and functions that it claims to, they do nothing to detect—let alone communicate with—ghosts. The Ovilus merely scans your environment and, when the conditions are right, the machine gives you a preset speech response from its memory.
Nothing conspiratorial in this post . . . just pure fun! Enjoy :)
Via FarlyTeem – YouTube
Do numbers have some sort of intangible, mystical properties? What exactly is numerology, and why do people put so much stock in it, even today? Listen in to learn more about superstition and the origins of numerology.
People who believe in the empty force claim … the ‘Empty Force,’ is the highest martial arts skill in China. This technique claims to harness the power of qi, the “body’s vital energy“, enabling masters of the art to defend themselves against opponents without making physical contact.”
- What is the EFO Empty Force? EFO Empty Force Fail Video Proves Self Defense Method is a Scam (americanlivewire.com)
- Ladies And Gentlemen, The Dumbest Shit In The World: The ‘Empty Force’ Effect (sportsgrid.com)
- Surprise! Magic Is Not A Real Self-Defense Method (EFO Fail) (socialnewsdaily.com)
- After Showing Up to His Live Event, Skeptics Debunk Promoter of ‘Touchless’ Karate (patheos.com)
- Watch this “Master” get exposed as a fraud on video (vigilantemma.com)
I am a HUGE fan of magic, especially slight of hand. This is one of the best card tricks i’ve seen in a long while. :)
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
Bill Malone’s signature trick. One of the most entertaining card tricks of all time!
- Sam the bell hop (oyiabrown.com)
- David Blaine Destroyed the Minds of Your Favorite Famous People on Real or Magic (grantland.com)
- David Blaine’s Card Trick Thoroughly Freaks Out Harrison Ford (businessinsider.com)
- Breaking Bad-gic: David Blaine pulls a card trick on Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul – VIDEO (popwatch.ew.com)
- VIDEO: Harrison Ford’s reaction to this insane card trick by David Blaine is absolutely priceless (deadstate.org)
via Business Insider
Magician David Blaine‘s latest TV special on ABC, “David Blaine: Real or Magic,” had the illusionist hopping from celeb to celeb, dazzling stars like Ricky Gervais, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Kanye with card tricks and other crazy stunts.
But one of the best on-camera reactions came from Harrison Ford.
Ford was speechless when Blaine mysteriously pulled the 71-year-old actor’s card from an orange. He jokingly told Blaine, “Get the f— out of my house!” It’s wonderful.
[END] via Business Insider
- David Blaine’s Card Trick Thoroughly Freaks Out Harrison Ford (businessinsider.com)
- David Blaine is neither real nor magic (popwatch.ew.com)
- David Blaine Destroyed the Minds of Your Favorite Famous People on Real or Magic (grantland.com)
- David Blaine terrifies celebs with horrifying ice pick trick (lfpress.com)
- David Blaine Does Magic, Celebrities React in Shock (thehollywoodgossip.com)
. .. never mind that there is no evidence for these gaussy guys and gals, what would the world be like if people really did generate a noticeable or even intense magnetic field?
Strip club patrons would get quite a show, more so than usual, if people really were magnetic.
Amid the dollar bills and drunk-at-noon businessmen, a magnetic stripper, if she spun fast enough around the poll, would melt it. At the very least she would shock herself before shocking the crowd. When a conductor like metal meets a changing magnetic field, the magic of reality induces an electric current in it. Flip-flop this current around enough, and the metal heats up to the point of melting.
If people really were magnetic, they would be terrible navigators. Taking to their smart phones and computers, their screens would blur out and become unusable. Going back to the old methods, a compass wouldn’t help much either. It would be more likely to find you than Earth’s magnetic north.
Like all interesting human qualities, magnetic people would have a range of field strengths. Perhaps there would even be schools and universities dedicated to harnessing or improving your output. In any case, the strength of the field matters quite a bit. It’s the difference between being a glorified refrigerator magnet and being able to free fall down a metal tube without dying.
Magnetic people with the strength of refrigerator magnets would produce a field 100 times stronger than the Earth’s. But if any fortunate “Magnetos” existed, perhaps with MRI-like output, they would have one million times the field strength of Earth. For the refrigerator-strength people, you wouldn’t have to change much. But a public warning would have to go out whenever those Magnetos were about. Entire houses, entire cities, would have to be shielded; all metal objects not tied down turn into deadly projectiles. In fact, a rogue oxygen tank once proved this danger, killing a patient during an MRI scan after rocketing across the room, drawn by the monstrous amount of teslas. (You can see the incident re-created here.) And at this strength, you better avoid your friend’s stack of old floppy disks and unshielded hard drives, as you could shuffle their bits into blurry oblivion.
But it wouldn’t be all bad. Magnetic craftsmen would find that every part of their body has become a convenient tool and nail holder. Salmon fishermen could experience a huge boom. As salmon navigate their way home according to the Earth’s magnetic fields, a giant magnet in the form of a fisherman could disorient or even attract the fish. Magnetic lifeguards could take to the ocean as shark repellants.
Lovers might find it annoying however, as there is no telling when your poles, so to speak, would line up.
If people really were magnetic, it would eliminate the need for elevators, at least as a way down. A strong enough magnet can . . .
- Sun’s Magnetic Field Poised to Reverse Its Polarity (spacedaily.com)
- SUNS’S MAGNETIC FIELD TO REVERSE: What It Means (michaelaprile.wordpress.com)
- The World’s Most Powerful MRI Takes Shape (spectrum.ieee.org)
- Sun’s Magnetic Field Will Flip Soon (fromthetrenchesworldreport.com)
How you can help a friend or loved one with a potentially harmful pseudoscientific belief
It’s the #1 most common question I get: My wife, my friend, my mom, my boss, is investing their health or their money in some magical or fraudulent product/scheme/belief. What can I do about it?
This is a tough situation to be in. Whether it’s a loved one who’s ill and is being taken advantage of by a charlatan selling a magical cure with no hope of treating the illness, or a friend who’s out of work and is going into deeper debt to buy into a hopeless multilevel marketing plan, it’s really hard to watch. The hardest is when they have a real problem and are expending their limited resources trying to solve it with a medieval, magic-based system that you know can’t possibly help. But all too often, they think it’s helping. Cognitive biases, anecdotal thinking, placebo effects and cognitive dissonance combine to build a powerful illusion that our brains are hardwired to believe in. At some point, it falls to a caring friend to try and rescue them with a candle of reason.
You’re up against a foe who’s far more formidable than you might think. This isn’t like settling a bet with a friend where you can look up the answer on Wikipedia, see who’s right, then buy each other a beer. You’re going after someone’s religion. You’re setting out to talk someone out of believing something that they know to be true, for a fact, from their personal experience. That right there makes your task nearly impossible, but it’s worse. Their belief has spiritual underpinnings that make it deeply moral and virtuous. Imagine if someone came to you and flashed a magazine article that said it’s best to turn your children out into the street and never talk to them again. It’s not only unconvincing, it’s laughable. Your effort to talk someone out of their belief in their sacred cow is likely to be just as laughable.
So what should you do, give up? You may be surprised to hear it from me, but I advise you to do just that, in many cases. Know which battles to fight. Weigh the risks. Consider the context of your friend’s belief: Is he in imminent danger of harming himself or others? Probably not; and if not, this may not be the time to take what might be your only shot. So I want to make this a rule: Before you decide what to do, consider the risks and the context. How terrible are the consequences of your friend’s belief? Think that through comprehensively. Make sure you have a good understanding of the risks to your friend if you do nothing, and the risks to your relationship if you attack their beliefs and (in all probability) fail to convince them. It may well be that this first strategy I’m going to present is the safest.
Strategy #1: Do Nothing
Doing nothing now doesn’t mean giving up. When you choose not to confront your friend’s current weird belief, there’s still an effective strategy for helping him out that you can follow. By accepting and tolerating your friend’s weird belief, you’re actually setting yourself up to be in a position of great influence the next time something weird comes down the line. Your friend likely knows that you’re a skeptical person, and eventually he’ll recognize that you’ve been putting up with his weird belief and saying nothing. In fact he may someday ask you, “Hey, you know I believe in this weird thing, how come Mr. Cynical Skeptic has never tried to talk me out of it?”
Ask “Is it important to you?”
“You’re important to me.”
Think what a powerful message that sends. It may sound corny, but it’s a statement that your friend will always remember. You’ve just communicated that your friendship is more important than your “evil debunking hobby”. You’ve made it clear, unequivocably, that you don’t want such differences to come between you.
And now look at the position you’re in. You’re trusted. You’re an ally at the most important and fundamental level. This is exactly where you need to be if you want to be influential on someone. You can now begin to introduce critical thinking using topics that are more about exploration than confrontation, and this is a journey you should take together. Next time you’re in the car together, play a few Skeptoid episodes. Play episodes like The Baigong Pipes, Is He Real or Is He Fictional, The Missing Cosmonauts, and When People Talk Backwards. Topics such as these do not attack or challenge anyone, they instill an appreciation and a passion for the value of critical thinking. Once introduced, I find that most people want more.
Gather every bit of skeptical material you can find that you know will interest your friend, and that does not attack or challenge his belief. So long as you remain a trustworthy friend and not an irrational adversary, you’re in a position to introduce him to the fundamentals of critical thinking, and to the value and tangible rewards of reality. Don’t underestimate the value of seeds that are well planted in a good environment. If your friend comes around on his own, his growth is far more complete than any that’s forced upon him.
Always remember the story of the little boy who couldn’t get his pet turtle to come out of his shell. He tried to pull on its head, he shook it, he squirted water, he did everything he could think of. But the turtle wouldn’t come out. Then his grandfather took the turtle and placed it on the warm hearth, and within a minute the turtle was out of his shell. The little boy never forgot that lesson.
Strategy #2: The Intervention
Sometimes the situation is urgent and you don’t have time to do things the easy way. There might be a medical crisis, an emotional crisis, or a financial crisis, and an immediate intervention is needed. Sometimes a friend’s situation is dire enough that helping him is worth the loss of the personal relationship. In these cases, and probably only in these cases, would I suggest a confrontational approach. And to do this effectively, draw on the established principals of the counseling intervention.
First you want to gather a group of friends or family, and you need to meet with them separately. Try to get a group, but even if there are only two of you, it’s worlds better than just you by yourself. Your next task is to present your evidence to the group that the magical system your friend is relying on is pseudoscientific and cannot help him. Do not expect them to accept what you say at face value, and do expect that some of them might buy into the magical system as well. Be prepared. Show your work. Print out pages from the web. Use the Science Based Medicine blog, use Skeptoid, use Quackwatch, use Swift. Search the best sources and have all your ducks in a row. The most important thing you need to do at this stage is to be certain that everyone in the group is united in their understanding of the useless, pseudoscientific nature of the magical sacred cow.
On a related note . . .
Susan Blackmore is a psychologist and writer researching consciousness, memes, and anomalous experiences, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. She is the is author of a number of books, including The Meme Machine and Zen and the Art of Consciousness.
- Confronting The Woo-Woos Head-On… (illuminutti.com)
- What’s Right with Skepticism? (skepticalhumanities.com)
- Confronting The Woo-Woos Head-On… (randi.org)
- Yet Another Sylvia Browne Fiasco (randi.org)
- James Randi, The Amazing Meeting, and the Bullshit Police – Newsweek and The Daily Beast (richarddawkins.net)
This video is about 34 minutes long. I was hesitant to post it because it’s not the most captivating video. But the information is very good. Judge for yourself.
Karen Stollznow is a linguist, author of God Bless America and the Bad Language columnist for Skeptic magazine, and author of the forthcoming books Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic, and Red, White and (True) Blue. She is a long-term investigator of paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs and practices, a co-host of Monster Talk, and is a Research Fellow for the James Randi Educational Foundation.
- Karen Stollznow has a new book coming out soon (freethoughtblogs.com)
- TAM 2013 Recap… (skepticalhumanities.com)
- Author Explores Odd Beliefs & Peculiar Religious Practices (richarddawkins.net)
If we accidentally cut someone off in traffic, we may get a scowl or menacing glare in return. For most of us it is soon shrugged off, but in many places the evil eye is taken very seriously.
The evil eye is a human look believed to cause harm to someone or something else. The supernatural harm may come in the form of anything from a minor misfortune to disease, injury or even death. Folklorist Alan Dundes, in his edited volume “The Evil Eye: A Casebook,” notes that “the victim’s good fortune, good health, or good looks — or unguarded comments about them — invite or provoke an attack by someone with the evil eye. If the object attacked is animate, it may fall ill. … Symptoms of illness caused by the evil eye include loss of appetite, excessive yawning, hiccups, vomiting, and fever. If the object attacked is a cow, its milk may dry up; if a plant or fruit tree, it may suddenly wither and die.”
It can even affect objects and buildings: The evil eye cast upon a vehicle may cause it to break down irreparably, while a house so cursed may soon develop a leaky roof or an insect infestation. Just about anything that goes wrong (for any reason, or no reason at all) may be blamed on the power of the evil eye.
Eye in history
The evil eye is well known throughout history. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts, as well as in many famous literary works, including the Bible (Proverbs 23:6: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats”), the Koran and Shakespeare.
The evil eye is essentially a specific type of magical curse, and has its roots in magical thinking and superstition.
- The Evil Eye: Meaning of the Curse & Protection Against It (livescience.com)
- The Evil Eye (euzicasa.wordpress.com)
- What is the evil eye? (epages.wordpress.com)
James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Randi has pursued “psychic” spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water “with a memory,” and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in the name of the supernatural. He is the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam!, and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural.
- James Randi – Secrets of the Psychics (Full) (illuminutti.com)
- Psychic Secrets (illuminutti.com)
- Secrets of the Psychics (illuminutti.com)
- The Amazing Randi – Penn is BAD, BAD, BAD (randi.org)
- October News & Updates (randi.org)
- James Randi – Investigating Pseudoscientific and Paranormal Claims (disclose.tv)
- Skeptics Like James Randi Are a Necessary Evil (mysteriousuniverse.org)
- Meet the Amazing TAMers: James Randi- Part 2 (secularnewsdaily.com)
- James Randi exposes Uri Geller and Peter Popoff (ritholtz.com)
- Meet the Amazing TAMers: James Randi- Part 1 (secularnewsdaily.com)
OKAY . . . You only THINK you’ve seen the best prank ever . . . WATCH THIS!
What if telekinesis was real? How would you react? Our hidden camera experiment captures the reactions of unsuspecting customers at a New York City coffee shop as they witness a telekinetic event.
- Prank Video Shows How People Would React if Carrie and Her Telekinetic Powers Were Real–Watch Now! (eonline.com)
- Prank Video Shows How People Would React if Carrie and Her Telekinetic … – E! Online (topbreakingnews.info)
- Holy Sh*T! Telekinetic Coffee Shop Prank Might Be The Craziest Video You’ll See All Day (elitedaily.com)
- Watch This Girl With Telekinetic Powers Freak Out Coffee Shop Patrons (gizmodo.com)
- Carrie Coffee Shop Prank Video: People Freak Out When Girl Uses “Telekinetic Powers” (gossipcop.com)
- Believing in the paranormal is actually more normal than you might think and may be growing more common.
- Contrary to common stereotypes, there is no single profile of a person who accepts the paranormal.
- It might be in our nature to look for patterns and meaning in strange and random events.
It’s that time of year again. Ghosts, goblins and other spooky characters come out from the shadows and into our everyday lives.
For most people, the thrill lasts for a few weeks each October. But for true believers, the paranormal is an everyday fact, not just a holiday joke.
To understand what drives some people to truly believe, two sociologists visited psychic fairs, spent nights in haunted houses, trekked with Bigfoot hunters, sat in on support groups for people who had been abducted by aliens, and conducted two nationwide surveys.
Contrary to common stereotypes, the research revealed no single profile of a person who accepts the paranormal. Believers ranged from free-spirited types with low incomes and little education to high-powered businessmen. Some were drifters; others were brain surgeons.
For some, the paranormal served as just another way of explaining the world. For others, extraordinary phenomena offered opportunities to chase mysteries, experience thrills and even achieve celebrity status, if they could actually find proof.
“It’s almost like an adult way to get that kidlike need for adventure and exploration,” said co-author Christopher Bader, of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “Other people are sitting at home and renting videos, but you’re sitting in a haunted house that is infested with demons.”
“These guys who are hunting Bigfoot are out chasing a monster,” he added. “I could see the real appeal in going out for weekend and never knowing what you might find.”
There is no hard data on how common it is to believe in the paranormal, which Bader and co-author Carson Mencken define as beliefs or experiences that are not fully accepted by science or religion.
But trends in television programming offer a sense that there is a widespread interest in . . .
- Judging Paranormal Claims: Group-think Is Not a Good Thing (illuminutti.com)
- Who you gonna call? Belief in ghosts is rising (telegraph.co.uk)
- Why Paranormal Investigators need Skeptics (and the other way around!) (yankeeskeptic.com)
- Unmasking the Paranormal: Exposing the truth of Haunted Houses, Ghosts and the Paranormal (endtimeheadlines.wordpress.com)
- Do Animals Have Spiritual Experiences? (lunaticoutpost.com)
If you can demonstrate a power unknown to science, there are people looking to write you a check.
It can sometimes be quite mind-boggling to hear a friend or family member reveal that they have some kind of supernatural ability. Often they feel an empathetic connection to others, sometimes the ability to perform minor healings, or to predict future events. Many times, these are abilities for which “supernatural” seems too strong a word; they are more spiritual or metaphysical, or based on some sensing of an energy. It’s more than likely that you yourself believe you have such an ability, or perhaps did at one time. Nearly all of us have. But whether the ability is energetic or spiritual, supernatural truly is the best word that applies. A supernatural ability could almost be seen as a superpower, something a fictional superhero might be able to do. And we all want superpowers. We all want your supernatural ability to be proven true. And we want it so much that a large number of groups around the world will pay you to prove it.
Such prizes have been available at least since Houdini, who had a standing $10,000 offer for anyone who could create a paranormal manifestation that he could not duplicate. The granddaddy of today’s challenges is the James Randi Educational Foundation‘s Million Dollar Challenge, which will pay anyone who can prove an ability unknown to science one million dollars, and Chinese journalist Sima Nan will kick in a million Yuan (about $150,000) on top of it. It’s not the only big prize out there: the Belgian group SKEPP offers the Sisyphus Prize for one million Euros, which at current exchange rates, is about a quarter million dollars more than the Million Dollar Challenge. The Independent Investigation Group, with affiliates throughout the United States, offers a $100,000 prize. Puzzling World in New Zealand has long offered the $100,000 Pyschic Challenge, and just across the pond, the Australian Skeptics offer a $100,000 prize. The Science and Rationalists’ Association of India offers a INπ 2 million Miracle Challenge, worth about $50,000. These are most of the largest prizes, but many, many smaller prizes are offered all around the world. If you have a supernatural ability of any kind, you owe it to yourself – or at least to your favorite charity – to prove it and use the reward however you see fit.
It’s easy to dismiss the groups who run these challenges as cynics who just want to gloat over someone’s failure, and for sure, such people are found in those groups. But many members of the groups joined because they, too, have always dreamed of having a superpower. Should you win the money and prove that a supernatural ability is possible, you’ll not only turn the world on its head, you’ll be handed money by people who have never been happier to sign a check.
I truly do encourage you to go for it. Here are three big pieces of advice, based on the experiences of the many previous claimants:
1. Be able to succinctly describe a testable ability.
The biggest headache for the people who offer these prizes is that the claimant can almost never provide a simple, clear description of their ability. For example, if you believe you have the power to influence a cat telepathically, you have to give a specific and testable example. Most claimants usually write in with a great lengthy email, telling about the many examples they’ve experienced of a cat doing whatever they wanted it to do; or perhaps with long rambling experiences of sharing the cat’s feelings or of their history of owning cats with whom they felt empathetic.
The challengers have no use for a long letter. You truly must be able to describe one specific ability in a single sentence. If you have many, then pick exactly one, one that you are most confident you can consistently prove.
Nobody is going to give you a cash prize for the length of your letter, or for the number of cats you’ve felt empathetic toward. You must be able to provide a clear, testable ability. If your ability is broad-reaching and vague, it will not be possible to construct a test protocol, and you will not be able to prove it. You must be able to select, within the scope of your broad-reaching abilities, something specific that’s testable and repeatable. For example, “I can make my cat jump onto its perch, within five seconds of giving it a mental command, when the cat neither see me nor hear me, and I can do it 8 out of 10 times.”
It has to be something concise, specific, and unmistakable. If you feel that your ability is too broad to be fairly represented by such a precise example, then you are unlikely to convince anyone, and will certainly be unable to prove your ability to the satisfaction of whatever criteria are agreed upon.
Many claimants report that they feel it’s unfair to try and represent their ability with a single demonstration that’s so much more specific than what they generally do. If you feel the same way and can’t agree to a simple test protocol, then you’re likely to leave the impression that your abilities are really just your own misinterpretation of ordinary coincidences. It’s something the psychologists call confirmation bias – you happen to notice when your cat jumps onto his perch while you were thinking of him, but you failed to weigh it against the far larger number of times your cat jumped onto the perch when you weren’t around and had nothing to do with it.
2. Be aware of why previous claimants failed.
Many people have taken such tests, and so far, all have failed. However, they’ve almost always cited an excuse or some external reason out of their control that the test failed. You must be aware of why previous claimants have failed, and be prepared not to suffer their same fate. This means preparation and anticipation of the problems.
Claimants are generally required to . . .
- Skeptoid #372: Prove Your Supernatural Power and Get Rich (skeptoid.com)
- Wang Li: Qigong “Master” a Conjurer of Cheap Tricks? (thediplomat.com)
- Testing the supernatural (ieet.org)
By COLLEEN LONG via The Huffington Post
NEW YORK — One woman was told by a fortune teller that her son was possessed by demons. Another was approached on a Chinatown street by a stranger who eerily claimed her daughter would die in two days. A third was informed that her dead husband was communicating from the grave, telling her to hand over thousands in cash.
“Your son will die in a car accident – he is cursed,” a 65-year-old was told.
In each instance, the women bundled up cash and jewelry in a bag and gave it to strangers they’d just met – self-proclaimed spiritual healers. They were told the contents would be blessed in an effort to ward off evil spirits, bring good luck to the family or heal a sick child – they just have to wait a period of time to re-open it.
When they do, they find water bottles, cough drops and beans. But no valuables.
Detectives say there has been a rash in New York of what’s known as an evil spirit or blessing scam, where older immigrant women, mostly Chinese, are swindled out of their valuables by clever scammers arriving from China who prey on superstition and fear. In the past six months, two dozen victims have reported valuables stolen – in some cases more than $10,000 in cash and $13,000 in jewelry, according to police reports. A total of more than $1.8 million has been stolen.
“They know the culture, they know how to talk to these victims to get them to listen,” chief New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said of the grifts. “One person’s spirituality is another’s superstition, and they prey on that distinction.”
The scam itself has many permutations, but the basic principle is the same: A woman, usually in her 50s or older, is approached by a stranger, usually a younger woman, who asks the woman if she knows where to find a particular healer or fortune teller. Another seeming stranger joins the conversation, says she knows where the healer is located, and convinces the older woman to come along. The healer convinces the victim that in order to ward off some evil, she must hand over valuables in a bag to be blessed. And then they switch the bag.
Similar scams occur in other places in the U.S. with large Asian communities, such as . . .
- ‘Evil Spirit’ Scam Plagues Asian Immigrants in NYC (abcnews.go.com)
- ‘Evil spirit’ scam plagues Asian immigrants in NYC (bostonherald.com)
- ‘Evil spirit’ scam plagues Asian immigrants in NYC (sacbee.com)
- ‘Evil spirit’ scam plagues Asian immigrants in NYC (sfgate.com)
- ‘Evil spirit’ scam plagues Asian immigrants in NYC (utsandiego.com)
- ‘Evil spirit’ scam plagues Asian immigrants in NYC (newsday.com)
A woman sued her former psychic reader Wednesday, alleging the soothsayer conned her out of nearly $11,000 with false promises that she could lift a curse on the plaintiff’s love life.
Klarissa Castro of North Hollywood filed her suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Jennifer Williams and her company, Psychic Readings By Yana, located at 2201 S. Bundy Drive in Los Angeles.
Williams could not be immediately reached for comment on the complaint, which alleges fraud and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
According to the suit, Castro first met with Williams in August 2010.
“Upon the initial consultation, Williams informed (Castro) that there was a curse placed on her,” the suit states. “However, Williams assured her that she was able to lift the curse, but that she would require plaintiff to start a series of psychic sessions with Williams.”
Castro says she was “emotionally vulnerable” at the time and Williams convinced her that “without lifting this curse, (she) would be unable to have true, meaningful, loving relationships in her life.”
The initial consultation cost Castro $500, according to her complaint.
Castro says she saw Williams during the next two years, spending $4,025 for the psychic’s services. Williams also told Castro to buy special candles blessed by the psychic, to write special love letters and perform other acts in order to have the curse removed, the suit says.
- After Spending $11,000, Woman Sues Psychic For Not Lifting Curse On Her Love Life (laist.com)
- Woman Sues Psychic Reader After Paying Almost $11K To Lift Love Curse (losangeles.cbslocal.com)
The law of attraction is the name given to the belief that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from pure energy, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy. One example used by a proponent of the law of attraction is that if a person opened an envelope expecting to see a bill, then the law of attraction would “confirm” those thoughts and contain a bill when opened. A person who decided to instead expect a cheque might, under the same law, find a cheque instead of a bill.
In B.Y.T.H. Busters: The Secret Law of Attraction, Adam Average and Jamie Imtheman put the “Law of Attraction” to the test. This is the second in a series of videos that promote science and critical thinking through the use of humor, wit, and satire. If you missed our first video, The Con Academy, watch it now: http://youtu.be/eR_HlRDhUxY
- Doubt and About for last week in May (illuminutti.com)
- New Skeptics Society Video:B.Y.T.H. Busters: The Secret Law of Attraction (skepticblog.org)
- What’s the Law of Attraction? (laylaw.byethost16.com)
- How to Get Law Of Attraction Free! | The Secret of Deliberate Creation (lacgm7si.wordpress.com)
- Dr. Maya Angelou speaks on the tremendous power of words! (Law of Attraction) (harounkola.com)
- “law of attractions” and leadership (malinavalon.wordpress.com)
- The Illusion we call “Life”… (harounkola.com)
- Hold a thought for 17 Sec & it starts to Manifest! (Law of Attraction) (harounkola.com)
- A More Attractive Law of Attraction (consciouslifenews.com)
- law of attraction (juliamatheson.wordpress.com)
We all like magic and more importantly we all like to think we can work out magic tricks if we really want to. But as it turns out, even a simple card trick utilizes neuro-scientific principles to trick our brain in ways that we usually can’t consciously control. So what exactly is wrong with our brain? Well nothing really, but years of evolution has left it with traits that leave it wide open to be duped by magic. For example . . .
10 • Focus
Multi tasking is a myth, the human brain simply wasn’t designed to focus on two things at once and magicians take full advantage. Our attention is pulled to one thing in particular due to the ‘moving-spotlight‘ theory. In short, the theory says that our attention is like a spotlight, highlighting one thing while leaving what surrounds it in the dark. When an item or action is within the spotlight the parts of the brain involved in processing it work more efficiently, but anything beyond the spotlight is barely processed at all, at least not by our conscious mind. This allows magicians to pull a sleight of hand right under our noses, as long as something else is drawing our spotlight what happens beyond it, to our brain isn’t happening at all.
9 • Made Up Memories
The ‘misinformation effect’ occurs when information we are given after an event alters our memory of it. For example, a magician asks you to choose a card from the left side of the deck and return it without telling him. Before the razzle-dazzle where he guesses your card he may say something like ‘Now you chose any card you wanted, correct?’ And in the heat of the moment you will say you did. The truth is you were only given the option of the left side of the deck, but the ambiguous comments from the magician alters how you remember the trick, leaving you with a false memory making the trick seem perhaps more incredible than it was.
8 • Predicted Wrong Future
When you see a ball get thrown in the air, it comes back down. You’ve a seen it a million times. You know that what comes up must come down and so does your brain. In fact because of something called the ‘Memory-prediction framework’ our brain sometimes remembers certain actions so well, it stops paying close attention because it predicts how they will end. When a ball gets thrown in the air our brain instantaneously recalls memories of similar events and produces an idea of what’s going to happen next, but sometimes it’s wrong. When a magician puts a ball in a cup only to have it disappear when the cup is lifted, we are shocked because what our brain predicted didn’t come true. Our brains often feed us a prediction and convinces us we saw it happen, which leaves us even more shocked when the predicted action didn’t happen at all.
7 • Free Will
When we ‘pick a card, any card’ we are very rarely picking at random, no matter what it seems. It is usually the magician choosing for us, only without our knowledge. In many card tricks the card we apparently choose is ‘forced’ meaning the magician did something, mental or physical, to make us choose exactly what they wanted us to. But our brain will often over look or deny this as an option, in favor of free choice. Our brain simply does not want to believe it was forced and will often omit facts that may indicate that it was, instead jumping fully into the false idea that all choices were all our own.
6 • Filling in The Blanks
The ‘woman sawed in half trick’ is old enough that most people know the secret. The head we see in one end of the box doesn’t belong to the legs we see at the other. But our brain insists and assumes it does, why? Because our brain is a sucker for continuity. When it sees a head in rough alignment with a set of legs it uses past experience to fill in the blank and tell us that obviously a torso exists between those two body parts. In many magic tricks an object is partially covered, and our brain uses what it CAN see to continue the image and fill in the blank, of course that is exactly what the magician wants.
- 10 Ways Magic Tricks Your Brain (listverse.com)
- Who will apply the art of “diverting your attention” on you today? (eagleman6788.wordpress.com)
- Really, Really, Really, Interactive Magic Trick (theinteractivemagician.wordpress.com)
- Geometrical magic trick (meangreenmath.com)
- Magic Tricks Benefit Children With Autism? (kidzedge.com)
The 10-inch tall relic, which dates back to 1800 BC, was found in a mummy’s tomb and has been at the Manchester Museum for 80 years.
An ancient Egyptian statue has spooked museum bosses – after it mysteriously started to spin round in a display case.
The 10-inch tall relic, which dates back to 1800 BC, was found in a mummy’s tomb and has been at the Manchester Museum for 80 years.
But in recent weeks, curators have been left scratching their heads after they kept finding it facing the wrong way. Experts decided to monitor the room on time-lapse video and were astonished to see it clearly show the statuette spinning 180 degrees – with nobody going near it.
The statue of a man named Neb-Senu is seen to remain still at night but slowly rotate round during the day.
Now scientists are trying to explain the phenomenon, with TV boffin Brian Cox among the experts being consulted.
Scientists who explored the Egyptian tombs in the 1920s were popularly believed to be struck by a ‘curse of the Pharaohs’ – and Campbell Price, a curator at the museum on Oxford Road, said he believes there may be a spiritual explanation to the spinning statue.
Watch the time-lapse video as the statue spookily moves all by itself…
Egyptologist Mr Price, 29, said: “I noticed one day that it had turned around. I thought it was strange because it is in a case and I am the only one who has a key.
“I put it back but then the next day it had moved again. We set up a time-lapse video and, although the naked eye can’t see it, you can clearly see it rotate on the film. The statuette is something that used to go in the tomb along with the mummy.
“Mourners would lay offerings at its feet. The hieroglyphics on the back ask for ‘bread, beer and beef’.
“In Ancient Egypt they believed that if the mummy is destroyed then the statuette can act as an alternative vessel for the spirit. Maybe that is what is causing the movement.”
- The mystery of the Manchester museum moving mummy statuette (doubtfulnews.com)
- Ancient Egyptian statue appears to move on its own at Manchester Museum (metro.co.uk)
- SPIN CONTROL?Enclosed Museum Statue Appears to Turn by Itself (foxnews.com)
- Scientists Baffled: 4,000 Years-Old Egyptian Statue Suddenly Starts Rotating At Museum (aworldchaos.wordpress.com)
Can you figure out how this is done? I have my thoughts (clue to my solution: “FA”). What are yours? Leave a comment.
Though this prank video is an obvious attempt at force inducing viral-ity by Pepsi Max, it’s still a pretty fun watch. The magician Dynamo tricks people into thinking he can levitate by ‘magically’ following a bus around as it moves across London. Watch people freak out when they see him float.
- How Does He Do It? Magician Dynamo Stuns Onlookers As He Levitates From The Roof Of A London Bus (modernghana.com)
- Magician Dynamo Levitates From The Roof Of A London Bus (akan2011.wordpress.com)
- Dynamo ‘levitates’ next to London bus (thescottishsun.co.uk)
- Magician Dynamo stuns onlookers as he levitates from the roof of a London bus (themaytimes.com)
- dynamo pepsi max (thesun.co.uk)
In a nutshell: ESP stands for extrasensory perception. If you had ESP, you could see, feel, or hear things without using your eyes, hands, or ears. There are some scientists who say they have proof of ESP, but most scientists think the proof is weak and does not support a belief in ESP.
ESP stands for extrasensory perception.
Sensory perception is seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, or tasting. Extrasensory perception is when you see or hear something that can’t be seen or heard with your eyes and ears. Such experiences happen outside the normal range of the senses and are said to be paranormal or psychic. Most scientists don’t think paranormal events actually happen or that anyone is actually psychic.
If you had ESP, you could see, feel, or hear things without using your eyes, hands, or ears. Somehow your brain would get messages and images from distant places and distant times. If your brain confused you with perceptions from the past and from places far away while you were trying to get dressed, eat breakfast, get on the school bus, pay attention in class, or do your homework, you would have a very hard time making it through the day. As far as we know, this has never happened to anybody.
mind reading or telepathy
Mind reading is a type of ESP where a person “sees” what is in another person’s mind. Mind reading is also called telepathy. The scientific study of telepathy began over one hundred twenty years ago when it was called psychical research. Today, scientists who study ESP are called parapsychologists and their science is called parapsychology. (Psychical comes from the Greek word for spirit. Many parapsychologists say the mind is a spirit.)
The first scientific test of telepathy was done in England in 1882. Scientists at the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) tested several young girls who said that they could tell what each other was thinking. The scientists put the girls in different rooms and asked those in one room about a card or name of a person that a girl in the other room was thinking of. Many tests were given over a period of six years. The scientists said there was no way the girls could have got as many right answers as they did just by guessing. The scientists also said they were sure the girls weren’t cheating. The scientists agreed that the girls were reading each other’s minds. The scientists were right about one thing. The girls couldn’t have gotten as many right answers as they did just by guessing. But the scientists were wrong about the cheating. The girls—the Creery sisters and their servant Jane Dean—admitted they cheated by using secret signals. This wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time, that children would fool scientists.
In 1848 two sisters, Kate Fox (age 12) and Margaretta Fox (15), said they heard strange rapping noises in their bedroom. They got people to believe that they were getting messages from spirits. Soon they went on tour with their big sister Leah who was in her mid-30s. They did séances, which became the rage in both the U.S. and Europe. In 1871, the Fox sisters fooled Sir William Crookes (1832-1919), an important scientist who attended a Fox-girls séance in London. Sir William said he tested the girls “in every way that I could devise” and was sure they were not producing the rapping noises “by trickery or mechanical means.” In 1888 the sisters confessed that they made the raps by cracking their toe-joints. They made bumping noises by fastening an apple to a string under their petticoats and bouncing it off the floor.
From 1979-1983, two teenagers tricked scientist Peter Phillips into thinking they were able to move and bend objects by their thoughts, a power known as psychokinesis. (Psychokinesis comes from two Greek words meaning mind or spirit and movement. Psychokinesis, when it involves moving an object with mental power alone, is called telekinesis, literally distant-movement.) Steve Shaw (18) and Mike Edwards (17) fooled the scientist for four years through more than 160 hours of tests. One of their favorite tricks was to pretend to bend a spoon or fork with thoughts, a trick made popular by Uri Geller. Geller, however, claimed that he had psychokinetic powers. At one time, he claimed he got his powers from the planet “Hoova” in another star system and a UFO called “IS” or “Intelligence in the Sky.”
Skeptics don’t think there is good evidence that anyone has moved even a pencil across a table using only the power of thought. Psychokinesis nearly always involves trickery, though we might occasionally think we caused something to happen when it happens right after we thought about it happening. If you point to the sky during a rain storm and say “let there be lightning” and then a lightning bolt shoots across the sky, you might think you caused it. You’d probably be wrong.
Here he is exposed as a fraud by none other than James Randi:
It was soon after this appearance on That’s My Line Hydrick confessed the fraud to an investigative reporter.
Uri Geller’s Tonight Show failure (courtesy of James Randi):
Also see: Top 10 Psychic Debunkings
- Remote Viewing (illuminutti.com)
- Why the Power of Mind Over Matter is Important (secretsofthefed.com)
- Remote Viewing Pioneer Russell Targ Describes The Origins Of ESP Powers (disinfo.com)
- Uri Geller Psychic Spy? (zen-haven.com)
- Is TELEPATHY Still Considered a Fiction? (joseasanoj.wordpress.com)
- Types of Psychic Abilities (psychicwebinfo.wordpress.com)
- Proof of Psychic Ability and ESP with Physicist Dr. Russell Targ (truthfrequencyradio.com)
- Uri Geller was CIA spy, documentary says (jta.org)
People tell me I should be more open-minded.
There is a clichéd saying regarding open-mindedness: “Keep an open mind — but not so open that your brain falls out”.
This piece of advice is most often said to come from physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), but also a slew of other more or less famous people, most of them from the field of science: Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, James Oberg, Bertrand Russell, J. Robert Oppenheimer. It’s plausible that they all certainly said it at one time or another because it applies every time one is presented with a fringe or alternative explanation for something. It’s well worth remembering as a rule of thumb.
Because I peruse paranormal-themed sites and various “water-cooler” forums on the web, I frequently see ideas thrown out there that would qualify as amazing and paradigm-shifting. So, what do I think about this latest crazy thing, people ask?
Here’s a recent example. With all the recent speculation about “alien” remains, someone on Facebook mentioned Lloyd Pye who contends (for almost 15 years now) that a curiously-shaped skull he has is that of an alien-human hybrid. Called the “star child” skull, Pye promotes the story that this is proof that humans descended from extraterrestrial beings.
The plausibility of this idea is practically nil. There is no decent evidence in support of it except a nifty story. To accept it, we’d have to throw out all of what we know about human history, evolution, and a good bit of well-established physics. Just because of one odd-looking skull? No, thank you. That would be stupid. Thus, to consider such an idea takes me about a minute before I realize that would be unreasonable. It’s an imaginative idea, just like mermaids and remote viewing and time travelers. But in order to accept it, I’d have to discard too much (e.g., my brain and society’s accumulated knowledge). The evidence clearly suggests another more down-to-earth explanation. Since the skull DNA tested as human, and we know that certain genetic conditions can cause the enlargement of the skull in just this way, I’m going to accept the obvious and not some far-fetched story just for kicks.
Calling skeptics closed-minded because we discard wacky ideas is a common ploy. It’s often used as a personal insult because the skeptic has rejected a baseless idea that the promoters fancy. When you don’t have evidence to support your idea, observe that the proponent resorts to derogatory tactics.
It’s not about actually being open-minded towards new ideas. Instead, the proponent is accusing the skeptic of being stubborn, undemocratic and unfair. They see it as the skeptical person, being overly rational, ignoring a possibly worthwhile option to be considered. But all ideas are not equal. Not all ideas are worthy of consideration.
Let’s take another example: energy healing. I should be open-minded, reiki practitioners say, and try these forms of energy medicine where healing energy gets channeled or manipulated for better health. If someone offers these treatments to me and I just say “OK! Sounds good!” (and hand over my money) is that actually being open-minded? No. It’s swallowing what I’m being fed without a thought. The same would apply to . . .
- Weird Word Salad: The Terminology of the Unexplained (illuminutti.com)
- The Internet: A Superhighway of Paranormal Hoaxes and Fakelore (illuminutti.com)
- Foiled Again: Lake Monster, Bigfoot Body and Alien Humanoid All in One Week (illuminutti.com)
- Yet Another Sylvia Browne Fiasco (randi.org)
- Sharon A. Hill (en.wikipedia.org)
- Join Us for Sharon Hill’s Workshop: “I Doubt That: The Media Guide to Skepticism” (randi.org)
In many countries throughout the world belief in witches is common, and black magic is considered part of everyday life. A 2010 poll of 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa found that over half of the population believe in magic. Witch doctors are consulted not only for healing diseases, but also for placing, or removing, curses or bringing luck.
One human rights activist in the small African country of Malawi, Seodi White, has been fighting for years to stem many traditional beliefs that help spread HIV, especially among poor and underprivileged women.
According to a CNN story, widows in some parts of southern Africa are expected to engage in unprotected sex in order to “cleanse” them. The belief is that the husband’s spirit will return otherwise, cursing the family.
“It’s a mindset issue,” White told CNN. “Even the widows, they’ve told me, ‘I don’t want to die, I don’t want a curse to come to my husband.’ They cry to be cleansed.”
Because this spiritual cleansing involves unprotected sex — just as sex with the deceased husband was assumed to have been — the widows are placed at increased risk of contracting HIV, which is endemic on the continent. There are even professional “cleansers” who charge high prices for their services, which the widows are often eager to pay to avoid a curse on their families.
- Unprotected Sex Still The Number One Cause of HIV/AIDS Transmission (hngn.com)
- HIV/AIDS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA-Keeping one’s dream Alive (yanickmulumba.wordpress.com)
- Unprotected sex accounts for 80 per cent of HIV/AIDS infection (ghananewsagency.org)
- Francophone Africa fights AIDS (mondediplo.com)
- HIV in Africa: Five strategies reversing the epidemic (guardianlv.com)
- HIV ‘can stop within a generation’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Unprotected sex accounts for 80% of HIV/AIDS infection – Coordinator (ghanabusinessnews.com)
Everyone has heard of the Bermuda Triangle and the mysteries that surround it. Theories about this area range from reasonable to just plain ridiculous, but whether you believe it’s the site of time warps, alien abductions, or just plain paranoia, it certainly abounds with strangeness. It’s not the only place you can find creepy things happening, however—here are 10 other places on Earth with their fair share of mysteries:
The Superstition Mountains are a mountain range located east of Phoenix, Arizona. Already it’s off to a great start with the name.
According to legend, sometime in the 1800s a man named Jacob Waltz discovered a huge goldmine within the mountains that has since been dubbed the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine (because Waltz was German, and eh, close enough). He kept the location a secret until his deathbed, upon which he may or may not (depending on which version of the story you’re reading) have told a single person the secret. Regardless, the mine has never been found, in spite of many expeditions. Some say the spirits of people who’ve lost their lives in search of the gold still haunt the mountains.
One reportedly Native American legend goes that the treasures of the mountains are guarded by creatures called Tuar-Tums (“Little People”) that live below the mountains in caves and tunnels. Some Apaches believe that the entrance to hell is located in the mountains. This is, of course, ridiculous, as we all know the entrance to hell is in Sunnydale.
Did you ever wonder if there was a Bermuda Triangle in Space? No? Well you’re probably wondering it now, and you’re in luck! Because there totally is, and it’s called the South Atlantic Anomaly. The SAA is the area where the band of radiation known as Earth’s inner Van Allen belt comes closest to the Earth’s surface.
It’s an area centered just a bit off the coast of Brazil, and it’s responsible for numerous problems with satellites and spacecraft, from messing up their programs to actually shutting down their function. The Hubble Telescope is actually turned off from taking observations when passing through the Anomaly, and the International Space Station avoids scheduling spacewalks when passing through it (which happens up to 5 times a day). It’s not just technical problems, either—some astronauts report seeing “shooting stars” in their visual field as they pass through.
The cause of all these problems isn’t fully understood. The main suspect is the high levels of radiation that accumulate at the anomaly, but scientists aren’t sure exactly how or why the effects occur. So let’s just pin this one on aliens.
8 • Lake Anjikuni
Not content with just a few individuals disappearing, Lake Anjikuni decided to take things to the next level and provide the locale for the disappearance of an entire village. It all happened in November 1930, when a trapper named Joe Labelle was looking for shelter for the night. Labelle was familiar with the Inuit village, whose population ranges from 30-2000, depending on who you believe. He made his way there and found quite an eerie scene—the villagers were nowhere to be found. Everything else, including food and rifles, had been left behind.
Labelle telegraphed the RCMP and an investigation began. In the Village Burial Ground it was discovered that at least one (sources vary) grave had been opened, clearly not by animals, and emptied. Furthermore, about 300 feet from the village, the bodies of around 7 sled dogs were found, having starved to death despite open stores of food at the village. Some versions of the story even report strange lights being seen above the lake around the time of the disappearance.
So what really happened? There have been all sorts of claims about the cause for the disappearance, including aliens (of course), ghosts, and even vampires. The RCMP’s own website disregards the story as an urban legend, but with so many versions of it floating around from so many years ago, it’s hard to be certain. Except about the vampires, I think we can be certain it wasn’t vampires.
7 • The Devil’s Sea
The Devil’s Sea (or Dragon’s Triangle, take your pick of which sounds more ominous) is an area of the Pacific Ocean as riddled with strange happenings as its Atlantic counterpart near Bermuda. Located off the coast of Japan, it’s been the site of countless claims of unexplained phenomena including magnetic anomalies, inexplicable lights and objects, and of course, mysterious disappearances. The area is even considered a danger by Japanese fishing authorities.
One story has it that in 1952 the Japanese government sent out a research vessel, the Kaio Maru No. 5, to investigate the mysteries of the Devil’s Sea. Naturally, of course, the Kaio Maru No. 5 and its crew of 31 people were never seen again. Another story tells of Kublai Khan’s disastrous attempts to invade Japan by crossing the Devil’s Sea, losing at least 40 000 men in the process.
The usual theories abound for what’s really going on: from aliens, to gates to parallel universes, even to Atlantis (because why not). Some suggest that high volcanic activity in the region is responsible for some of the disappearances (the Kaio Maru No. 5 may have been caught in an eruption). Our advice? Just stay out of the ocean, period.
6 • Bigelow Ranch
Bigelow Ranch (formerly known as Skinwalker Ranch and Sherman Ranch) is a 480-acre property in northwest Utah that is home to countless UFO sightings, animal mutilations, and other strange occurrences. Though mysterious happenings have been documented since the 50’s, some of the most bizarre stories happened to a pair of ranchers named Terry and Gwen Sherman after they bought it in 1994.
The first day they moved on to the property, they saw a large wolf out in the pasture. They even went to pet the wolf as it seemed tame (to the curious reader, yes, this is always a good idea). It was docile with the Shermans, but ended up grabbing a calf by the snout through the bars of its enclosure. When Terry shot at the wolf with a pistol, the bullets had no effect. It finally left after Terry brought out the shotgun, though even that didn’t do any actual damage. The Shermans tried tracking the wolf, but it’s tracks stopped abruptly as if it had vanished.
And that wasn’t the end of things. The Shermans were constantly plagued by such events as UFO sightings, intelligent floating orbs (reputed to have incinerated three of their dogs), inexplicable cryptids, and gruesome cattle mutilations. It got so bad that the Shermans actually sold their ranch to Robert Bigelow in 1996, the founder of the National Institute for Discovery Science, who wanted to study the mysteries surrounding the ranch. Bigelow owns the ranch to this day and NIDS keeps a tight lid on their findings.
- 10 Places As Mysterious As The Bermuda Triangle (listverse.com)
- The Bermuda Triangle (amairgin.wordpress.com)
- Story behind Bermuda Triangle (archiabyssina.com)
- Mystery, Mayhem, and Quantum Physics: The Bermuda Triangle and the Hutchinson Effect (authorandrewkincaid.com)
So-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is largely philosophy-based medicine rather than science based. There are a few core concepts that are endlessly recycled in various forms, but it is mythology and culture, not grounded in the rigorous methods of science that allow us to tell the difference between our satisfying fantasies and hard reality. Sometimes proponents of such philosophies try to cloak their beliefs in the appearance of science, resulting in what we simply call pseudoscience.
Harriet Hall coined an excellent term to refer to such pseudoscience -” Tooth Fairy science.” In her metaphor, pseudoscientists sometimes act like scientists by describing the details and statistics of their claimed phenomenon (such as examining all the details of the Tooth Fairy phenomenon) without ever testing the reality of the phenomenon itself. The fundamental concept at the core of their belief is never challenged, or only superficially so, and they proceed prematurely from their faulty premise.
Another term that I find extremely apt is “Cargo Cult science,” a term coined by Richard Feynman. This is a reference to the cargo cults of New Guinea – the pre-industrial tribes were observed building straw mock-ups of control towers, planes, and runways in hopes that the planes they observed flying over head would deliver their cargo to them. In other words – the cargo cults mimicked the superficial appearance of an aviation infrastructure but had none of the real essence or function (because of lack of understanding). This is a perfect analogy to much of what passes for science within the world of CAM.
Not that we need another analogy, but I have often described such pseudoscience as being lost in the noise. In any endeavor to detect something there is the issue of the signal to noise ratio. Often the core challenge of scientific research is pulling the signal out from the background noise, or (more to the point) deciding if there is a signal in the noise, or if the information represents pure noise. In this analogy “noise” refers to any randomness in the data or interference from effects other than the alleged signal of interest. What I find is that pseudoscientific investigations of tooth fairy phenomena are completely lost in the noise of data, seeing whatever phantom “signals” support their philosophy. Elaborate but entirely illusory constructs are often crafted (or retrofitted to) these phantom signals.
Energy medicine is a perfect example of cargo-cult, Tooth Fairy, noise-based pseudoscience.
Energy medicine began its life as a philosophy-based notion, and is still philosophy-based, but many of its modern practitioners are desperate for the respectability that science has to offer. Some have therefore erected a pseudoscientific facade for this pre-scientific superstition.
One example I was recently asked to investigate is the Heartmath institute., which promotes an energy-medicine based claim that the heart sends out “energy” waves that regulate the body, including the brain.
There are several claimed types of psychic powers, including precognition (knowing future events before they happen); pyrokinesis (creating fire with the mind, popularized in Stephen King’s novel and film “Firestarter”); and telepathy (describing things at a remote location). Among the most dramatic of these is telekinesis (also called psychokinesis, or PK), the ability to move objects through mind power. Though many Americans believe in psychic ability (about 15 percent of us, according to a 2005 Baylor Religion Survey), scientific evidence for its existence remains elusive.
History of telekinesis
The idea of people being able to move objects through mind power alone has intrigued people for centuries, though only in the late 1800s was it seen as an ability that might be scientifically demonstrated. This occurred during the heyday of the early religion Spiritualism, when psychic mediums claimed to contact the dead during séances, and objects would suddenly and mysteriously move, float, or fly by themselves across the darkened room, seemingly untouched by human hands. Sometimes small tables would tip or levitate, disturbed either by unseen spirits or the psychic’s mind.
Though many people were convinced — including, ironically, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes — it was all a hoax. Fraudulent psychics resorted to trickery, using everything from hidden wires to black-clad accomplices to make objects appear to move untouched. Magician Harry Houdini investigated and exposed many fake mediums, and even wrote a book about it titled “Miracle Mongers and Their Methods.”
As the public slowly grew wise to the faked telekinesis, the phenomenon faded from view. It was revived again in the 1930s and 1940s, when a researcher at Duke University named J.B. Rhine became interested in the idea that people could affect the outcome of random events using their minds. Rhine began with tests of dice rolls, asking subjects to influence the outcome through the power of their minds.
Though his results were mixed and the effects were small, they were enough to convince him that there was something mysterious going on. Unfortunately for Rhine, other researchers failed to duplicate his findings, and many errors were found in his methods.
A few decades later, in the 1970s, a man named Uri Geller became the world’s best-known psychic and made millions traveling the world demonstrating his claimed psychokinetic abilities including starting broken watches and bending spoons. Though he denied using magic tricks, many skeptical researchers observed that all of Geller’s amazing feats could be — and have been — duplicated by magicians. In 1976, several children who claimed to be able to bend spoons with their minds were tested in controlled experiments at the University of Bath in England. At first the results seemed promising, and experimenters believed they might finally have found real scientific evidence of psychokinesis. However the children were caught cheating on hidden cameras, physically bending spoons with their hands when they thought no one was watching.
Anyone who has sat through a course on medieval history knows that there was once a time when people believed in the power of magic, as a tool that could be used to crush their enemies. Eventually people realized how silly such ideas were—and ultimately, magic on the battlefield became limited to nerds LARPing around a local park, the only real magic employed being a powerful anti-coitus charm.
Or so at least you would think. Here are ten real cases of modern governments that tried to harness magic in order to win real wars.
• 10 – John Mulholland and the CIA
Sleight of hand is cool and all, but you would never expect anyone to employ a guy like Penn Jillette as an advisor to one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Of course, when we are talking about the Central Intelligence Agency, anything is possible. That’s why during the Cold War, the CIA hired illusionist John Mulholland to write an official manual that would teach its operatives the same sort of sleight of hand he used in his shows.
Called “The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception,” the manual taught agents to use misdirection and hidden compartments, and also to use seemingly hidden signals—such as the way a shoe was tied—when working in the field. Of course, the CIA was not interested so much in earning the “oohs” and “ahhs” of a crowd, but something more along the lines of drugging people by discreetly slipping something into their drink. Bear in mind that this is the same CIA which attempted to use LSD for the purposes of mind control; apparently, everything was fair game for these nut-cases.
• 9 – Mexico, Drugs, and Voodoo
This one is a bit different because it’s not about a war in the traditional sense, but rather the so-called “war on drugs”. There have been a tremendous number of casualties in that particular war, at least partially because the battlefield is Mexico. The battle being waged along the US/Mexico border is one of the bloodiest ongoing “war” efforts in the world, with the drug cartels taking lives at an alarming rate. That’s why Mexican officials decided that they could do with a little outside-the-box thinking.
Specifically, they turned to voodoo. In 2010, police in Tijuana were at such a loss as to how they might combat the cartels—and so afraid for the safety of their officers—that they actually turned to ritualistic animal sacrifice in order to turn the tide. As a part of this attempt at harnessing voodoo magic, priests killed chickens under a full moon and proceeded to smear the blood on the police as a sort of protection spell. Some of the police believe it worked, too—claiming that while guns and body armor are ineffective, faith never fails. Even if it’s faith in cutting the heads off chickens and invoking spirits.
• 8 – Houdini the Spy
While the other entries on this list are all well-documented, we will say up front that there are no official records that Harry Houdini ever worked as a spy. However, in 2006 a biography was released claiming to have been written with the help of over 700,000 pages of information collected over the years, with all signs pointing to the alleged fact that history’s most famous magician did spy for Scotland Yard and the American government from time to time.
The book claims that Houdini worked closely with William Melville, a British spy who worked at Scotland Yard at the same time Houdini is said to have aided them. Apparently, Houdini would use his act as a cover to travel the world collecting secret information for law enforcement officials, including secret service agencies in both Britain and the US.
• 7 – Britain and the Fake Horoscopes
World War II, it would seem, was a wacky time for military strategy. Considering how many schemes involving magical shenanigans took place, it feels in retrospect like those Indiana Jones movies might have been onto something after all. Part of that is due to the fact that Hitler and the Nazis were obsessed with the occult, and that they held a strong belief in the validity of astrological charts.
The British knew this very well, and employed an astrologer named Louis de Wohl to concoct false horoscopes in order to try to throw off the Nazis and get a glimpse into their mindsets. Churchill himself sent de Wohl to America with the aim of convincing the US to join the war effort, but after Pearl Harbor his services were rendered unnecessary.
Declassified documents show that MI5 later came to regret his involvement in any of their efforts, because apparently they figured out that he was full of crap. Considering that’s precisely what they hired him to invent in the first place—crap—it’s a little shocking that Britain’s top spies took so long to sort that out for themselves.
• 6 – Britain’s Psychic Defense
When you think about it, it makes sense that the British would partake in supernatural dealings, considering it has access to the Ministry of Magic and a school of wizards. Or was that Harry Potter?
Well, it turns out that the British government takes the whole “magic” thing more seriously than you’d expect. In 2002, the Ministry of Defense conducted a study to determine whether or not soldiers could be trained to become psychics. The goal was to have psychic soldiers working to find WMDs or even Bin Laden himself. If you’re from the UK, keep this in mind that you were probably paying taxes right around that time.
Following the attack on the World Trade Center and the rise of Osama Bin Laden as public enemy number one, the Ministry tried to hire “real” psychics to participate in the tests. Perhaps not wanting to be exposed as the frauds they most likely are, they declined—so some regular people decided to take advantage of the scheme, and get some easy money by partaking in the research. They quickly proved what we all could have guessed: that none of them were any more “psychic” than a rusty doorknob.
- 10 Attempts to Use Magic and the Supernatural to Win Wars (listverse.com)
- Houdini treasure trove (dailytelegraph.com.au)
- 11 Years Later, Senate Wakes Up to War on Terror’s ‘Battlefield America’ (rubinoworld.com)
- For He’s A Skeptical Fellow (randi.org)
- 8 Examples of Precognition in Literature (illuminutti.com)
- Top 10 Psychic Debunkings (illuminutti.com)
- 10 Mythical Things that Actually Existed (listverse.com)
via The Soap Box
I’ve made some observations about people in the New Age Movement, and that there are certain things that tend to be a common trend amongst New Agers.
Here are five things that I’ve noticed about the New Age Movement:
5. They love energy.
New Agers tend to believe that energy (in one form or another) is all around them, and that somehow they can somehow control this energy, and that they can somehow convert it and use it for their own personal means (such as healing, or some type of food source), or that they can use it to gain knowledge, rather than gaining knowledge the old fashion way, by reading.
Some New Agers even believe that you don’t even need food, that all you need is to absorb sun light, or breathing clean air.
It should noted that last one is very dangerous and has resulted in the deaths of several people.
4. They’re obsessed with crystals.
Most New Agers seriously believe that crystals are more then just pretty objects that make for nice coffee table or mantle decorations. Apparently they believe that crystals can be used for dowsing (which has not been proven to work), healing, and warding off negative energy, which apparently a small crystal being in your pocket, or hanging around your neck, is suppose to protect your entire body from all sides from negative energy that’s suppose to be bombarding you from everywhere…
3. They believe they don’t have to do much to alter their lives.
Apparently New Agers believe that if you just do a few good things, or if you rearrange the furniture in your house in a certain way, or you carry around some good luck charms, or if you put some plants in your house, or even if you have just positive thoughts, that you can dramatically alter your life for the better, rather than actually working hard and putting some real effort into changing their lives, which has been proven to be much more effective.
- Crystal Skulls: Legend, Vodka & Indiana Jones (illuminutti.com)
- The question is here – Can you speak more about the New Age Movement? (lionessblog.com)
- Hollywood Insider Writes Expose on the New Age Movement (lunaticoutpost.com)
- The Death of the New Age Movement and the Birth of the Now Age Movement (watapama.wordpress.com)
via CBS Denver
DENVER (CBS4) – One Denver psychic has been convicted of theft, a second was arrested this month in California and Denver prosecutors are still seeking to arrest a third psychic accused of convincing clients she was a “witch doctor.”
Ralph Stevenson, an investigator with the Denver District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Unit, said victims have described the psychics as being akin to “witch doctors,” making grapefruits bleed, tomatoes taste like salt and cracking eggs open and producing gooey black yolks.
“In these cases, where after they’ve paid money for services rendered, they take additional money, I believe through theft and deception, through magic and things like that and then don’t give money back to the victims … that’s when we get involved,” said Stevenson.
Denver psychic Cathy Ann Russo is currently on probation after being pleading guilty last August to felony theft and misdemeanor theft. Over the course of five years, beginning in 2007, Russo conned a Hispanic man out of $35,250. according to court records.
She told him his money had “evil spirits” and that she needed to pray on his money to rid the cash of its evil spirits. She promised the man she would return the money to him as soon as his cash was cleansed. At one point, she told the man she had buried his money in a graveyard.
MORE . . .
- Psychic arrested; Didn’t see it coming (illuminutti.com)
- Secrets of the Psychics – James Randi (illuminutti.com)
- 2 Psychics Arrested, 3rd Sought (denver.cbslocal.com)
- Denver DA arrests two psychics for fraud, going for hattrick (doubtfulnews.com)
- Philosophy – Re: What Am I thinking Of ??? – Psychic Test - (disclose.tv)
- Crestline Psychic Accused Of Embezzlement (losangeles.cbslocal.com)
- KLEE: Psychic says – Ravens scary, but Broncos win Super Bowl (gazette.com)
By Teller via Smithsonian Magazine
In the last half decade, magic—normally deemed entertainment fit only for children and tourists in Las Vegas—has become shockingly respectable in the scientific world. Even I—not exactly renowned as a public speaker—have been invited to address conferences on neuroscience and perception. I asked a scientist friend (whose identity I must protect) why the sudden interest. He replied that those who fund science research find magicians “sexier than lab rats.”
I’m all for helping science. But after I share what I know, my neuroscientist friends thank me by showing me eye-tracking and MRI equipment, and promising that someday such machinery will help make me a better magician.
I have my doubts. Neuroscientists are novices at deception. Magicians have done controlled testing in human perception for thousands of years.
I remember an experiment I did at the age of 11. My test subjects were Cub Scouts. My hypothesis (that nobody would see me sneak a fishbowl under a shawl) proved false and the Scouts pelted me with hard candy. If I could have avoided those welts by visiting an MRI lab, I surely would have.
But magic’s not easy to pick apart with machines, because it’s not really about the mechanics of your senses. Magic’s about understanding—and then manipulating—how viewers digest the sensory information.
I think you’ll see what I mean if I teach you a few principles magicians employ when they want to alter your perceptions.
1. Exploit pattern recognition. I magically produce four silver dollars, one at a time, with the back of my hand toward you. Then I allow you to see the palm of my hand empty before a fifth coin appears. As Homo sapiens, you grasp the pattern, and take away the impression that I produced all five coins from a hand whose palm was empty.
2. Make the secret a lot more trouble than the trick seems worth. You will be fooled by a trick if it involves more time, money and practice than you (or any other sane onlooker) would be willing to invest. My partner, Penn, and I once produced 500 live cockroaches from a top hat on the desk of talk-show host David Letterman. To prepare this took weeks. We hired an entomologist who provided slow-moving, camera-friendly cockroaches (the kind from under your stove don’t hang around for close-ups) and taught us to pick the bugs up without screaming like preadolescent girls. Then we built a secret compartment out of foam-core (one of the few materials cockroaches can’t cling to) and worked out a devious routine for sneaking the compartment into the hat. More trouble than the trick was worth? To you, probably. But not to magicians.
3. It’s hard to think critically if you’re laughing. We often follow a secret move immediately with a joke. A viewer has only so much attention to give, and if he’s laughing, his mind is too busy with the joke to backtrack rationally.
4. Keep the trickery outside the frame. I take off my jacket and toss it aside. Then I reach into your pocket and pull out a tarantula. Getting rid of the jacket was just for my comfort, right? Not exactly. As I doffed the jacket, I copped the spider.
- Magic Meets Neuroscience in Sleight of Hand Experiment (abcnews.go.com)
- A New Article On the Teller Copyright Infringement Lawsuit (lpcprof.typepad.com)
- Sleights of Mind: the secrets of neuromagic (boingboing.net)
- The Spectacular Thefts of Apollo Robbins, Pickpocket (illuminutti.com)
James Randi is one of my heroes.
I’ve just added a new series of James Randi videos from the “James Randi: Psychic Investigator” series from 1991. There were 6 episodes, Randi investigated Mediums, Astrology, Psychic Surgery, Dowsing, New Age, and Psychometry/Graphology – all in front of a live audience.
These video links are now permanently located above, in the pulldown menu links just below the iLLumiNuTTi banner. Enjoy!!! :)
Who is James Randi?
James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.
Randi has pursued “psychic” spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water “with a memory,” and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in the name of the supernatural.
He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including a Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1986.
On October 19, 1993, the PBS-TV “NOVA” program broadcast a one-hour special dealing with Randi’s life work, particularly with his investigations of Uri Geller and various occult and healing claims being made by scientists in Russia.
He is the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam!, and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. His lectures and television appearances have delighted — and vexed — audiences around the world.
In 1996, the James Randi Education Foundation was established to further Randi’s work. Randi’s long-standing challenge to psychics now stands as a $1,000,000 prize administered by the Foundation. It remains unclaimed.
*From the official James Randi FaceBook page.
- Top 10 Psychic Debunkings (illuminutti.com)
- Uri Geller (illuminutti.com)
- James Randi exposes Uri Geller and Peter Popoff (ritholtz.com)
- Interviews: Ask James Randi About Investigating the Truth (features.slashdot.org)
- Thoughtography (illuminutti.com)
- “An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi” Kickstarter Campaign (skepticalteacher.wordpress.com)
Here Be Dragons is a 40 minute video introduction to critical thinking. This video is on my “must watch” list for skeptics and critical thinkers :)
Most people fully accept paranormal and pseudoscientific claims without critique as they are promoted by the mass media. Here Be Dragons offers a toolbox for recognizing and understanding the dangers of pseudoscience, and appreciation for the reality-based benefits offered by real science.
Source: Here Be Dragons – YouTube.
- Skeptoid Wins Stitcher’s Best Science Podcast (doubtfulnews.com)
- The Trouble with Pseudoscience – It Can Be a Catastrophe (illuminutti.com)
James Randi is a stage magician and scientific skeptic best known as a challenger of paranormal claims and pseudoscience. In this list we see 10 of his best psychic debunking (and have a bonus clip of a lecture of his). These are all extremely damning to the practitioners of these magic arts and Randi makes no apologies for his tough approach; in fact he is offering a reward of $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event, under test conditions agreed to by both parties. As of this time, no one has claimed this prize.
10 • Graphology
According to Randi, a large number of European businesses uses graphology (the ability to determine a person’s traits by their handwriting) to help in their hiring process. In this clip, Randi tests a professional graphologist to determine whether they actually do have the ability to recognize certain traits, or whether their results are determined entirely by chance.
9 • Astrology
Astrology is the ability to forecast a person’s life based upon the positions of the stars and other heavenly bodies. In this clip we see a very prolific astrologer giving a reading for a selected person in the audience. The best part of this clip is the series of witty comments at the end made by Stephen Fry. Excuse the sound quality at the start – it does improve.
8 • Psychometry
Psychometry is the ability to determine information about a person through their personal possessions. In the clip above, James Randi sets up a test for a woman claiming to have psychometry abilities. Unfortunately for her, the test did not go well.
7 • Crystal Power
Crystal power is the idea that certain crystals effect a person in a particular way. For this reason they are used for healing and psychic readings. In the test above, a professional crystal healer was tested. This is definitely one of the best clips. Despite the result, the “psychic” took it all very well.
6 • Aura Reading
Aura reading is the ability to see the aura (a field of color that radiates from an object) around people. In this clever test, James Randi has the reader see the auras of 5 people and then has them stand behind a thin wall. The reader then determines where each person is standing behind the wall based on their auras.
5 • Telekenesis
Telekenesis is when a person is able to move objects with the mind. In the 1980s, James Hydrick developed a cult like following due to his abilities. In this clip, we see James Randi debunk him on television. Some years later Hydrick was exposed as a criminal and he confessed his psychic fraud. He admitted that he learnt his trick whilst in jail. I am not sure what he spent time in jail for, but it may well have been crimes against fashion.
- James Randi exposes Uri Geller and Peter Popoff (ritholtz.com)
- Uri Geller (illuminutti.com)
- Thoughtography (illuminutti.com)
- Debunked: Astrology and Horoscopes (illuminutti.com)
- The Oddness: Want to make a Million Dollars? (justathoughtblog.wordpress.com)
- Interviews: Ask James Randi About Investigating the Truth (features.slashdot.org)
- Psychic Skill: Psychometry (thesensiblepsychic.wordpress.com)
- Psychic healers rob victims of their valuables (doubtfulnews.com)
The question has been asked for decades: why haven’t psychic powers been proven yet? Psychics have been studied for decades, both in and out of the laboratory, yet the scientific community (and the public at large) remains unconvinced.
In a recent book, “Science & Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics,” author Chris Carter insists that the reason that psychic powers have not been proven is because scientists are unaware of the research or refuse to take it seriously because “Clearly many scientists find the claims of parapsychology disturbing.”
This is a common charge leveled against skeptics and scientists: that they refuse to acknowledge the existence of paranormal phenomenon (psychic abilities, ghosts, etc.) because it would somehow challenge or “disturb” their worldview.
Skeptics and scientists, they say, are deeply personally and professional invested in defending the scientific status quo and cannot psychologically tolerate the idea that they could be wrong. This results in a closed-minded refusal to accept, or even seriously examine, the evidence.
But is this really true? Do scientists ignore and dismiss claims and evidence that challenge dominant scientific ideas? Let’s examine some recent examples.
A study published in 2011 in a scientific journal claimed to have found strong evidence for the existence of psychic powers such as ESP. The paper, written by Cornell professor Daryl J. Bem, was published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and quickly made headlines around the world for its implication: that psychic powers had been scientifically proven.
Bem’s claim of evidence for ESP wasn’t ridiculed or ignored; instead it was taken seriously and tested by scientific researchers.
Replication is of course the hallmark of valid scientific research — if the findings are true and accurate, they should be able to be replicated by others. Otherwise the results may simply be due to normal and expected statistical variations and errors. If other experimenters cannot get the same result using the same techniques, it’s usually a sign that the original study was flawed in one or more ways.
A team of researchers collaborated to accurately replicate Bem’s final experiment, and found no evidence for any psychic powers. Their results were published in the journal PLoS ONE. Bem — explicitly contradicting Carter’s suggestion that skeptics set out to discredit his work or refused to look at it — acknowledged that the findings did not support his claims and wrote that the researchers had “made a competent, good-faith effort to replicate the results of one of my experiments on precognition.”
The following year a second group of scientists also tried to replicate Bem’s ESP experiments, and once again found no evidence for psychic power. The article, “Correcting the Past: Failures to Replicate Psi,” was published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and is available on the web page of the Social Science Research Network.
In September 2011, news shot around the world that Italian physicists had measured particles traveling faster than light. The neutrino in the experiment only exceeded the speed of light by a little tiny bit — 60 nanoseconds — but if validated would violate the fundamental laws of physics.
Questions swirled: Would the findings hold up under repeated experiments? Could this team have proven Einstein wrong about the speed of light?
What was the reaction from the scientific community to the news of this fundamentals-of-physics-challenging finding? They didn’t ignore the results, hoping the inconvenient truth would go away; they didn’t brand the scientists liars or hoaxers; they didn’t shout, “Burn the witch, this is heresy and cannot be true!”
Instead, they did what all scientists do when confronted with such anomalous evidence: they took a closer look at the experiment to make sure the results were valid, and tried to replicate the research. It later turned out that the anomaly was caused by at least two measurement errors, possibly including a loose cable: the experiment was flawed.
The scientists were not skeptical because accepting that Einstein was wrong about something would lead to a nervous breakdown, or that their whole worldview would crumble beneath them, or that they would have to accept that science doesn’t know everything.
The reason scientists were skeptical is because the new study contradicted all previous experiments. That’s what good science does: When you do a study or experiment — especially one whose results conflict with earlier conclusions, you study it closely and question it before accepting the results.
In science, those who disprove dominant theories are rewarded, not punished. Disproving one of Einstein’s best-known predictions (or proving the existence of psychic powers) would earn the dissenting scientists a place in the history books, if not a Nobel Prize.
The same pattern exists in other areas of the unexplained. For example . . . (READ MORE) . . .
- Are Ghosts Real? (illuminutti.com)
- A review of the top paranormal events of 2012 (illuminutti.com)
- Do Scientists Fear the Paranormal? (news.discovery.com)
- Hunting for Unicorns – Skeptic Challenges & the Illusion of Scientific Inquiry (disinfo.com)
- Question – Are you familar with ways psychics claim they can predict future events? (mclark.wordpress.com)
- Are Ghosts Real? Science Says No-o-o-o (livescience.com)
- Remote Viewing Pioneer Ingo Swann Dies (disinfo.com)
This is some pretty funny stuff. Are you familiar with a periodic table? Well, this is the periodic table of irrational nonsense courtesy of Crispian Jago’s blog Science, Reason and Critical Thinking.
How does it work? Simply click on the image to be taken to the interactive page. At the interactive page you simply move your mouse over an element to view a short description.
CAUTION: SOME OF THE DESCRIPTIONS CONTAIN SOME VERY SPICY LANGUAGE!
- Periodic Table of the Elements (livescience.com)
“If Uri Geller bends spoons with divine powers, then he’s doing it the hard way.” —James Randi
“Because a good magician can do something shouldn’t make you right away jump to the conclusion that it’s a real phenomenon.” —Richard Feynman
“Geller is at his ingenious best in laboratories where he is being observed by scientists who believe he has extraordinary ESP ability and think—without justification—that they have ruled out every possibility of fraud.” —Milbourne Christopher
Uri Geller is most famous for his claim to be able to bend spoons and keys with his mind. An international star in the psychic circuit, Geller is a Hungarian/Austrian who was born in Israel and lives in England. He claims he’s had visions for many years and may get his powers from extraterrestrials. He calls himself a psychic and has sued several people for millions of dollars for saying otherwise. His psychic powers were not sufficient to reveal to him, however, that he would lose all the lawsuits against his critics. His arch critic has been James “The Amazing” Randi, who has written a book and numerous articles aimed at demonstrating that Geller is a fraud, that he has no psychic powers, and that what Geller does amounts to no more than the parlor tricks of a conjurer.
Geller has been performing for many years. The first time I saw him was in 1973 when he appeared on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show. He was supposed to demonstrate his ability to bend spoons with his thoughts and identify hidden objects, but he failed to even try. He squirmed around and said something about how his power can’t be turned on and off, and that he didn’t feel strong right then. Randi had worked with Carson’s producer to change the spoons and metal items Geller planned to use, as there was a suspicion that Geller likes to work (i.e., soften) his metals before his demonstrations, as would any careful conjurer.
View Geller’s Tonight Show lack of performance (courtesy of James Randi):
I have always been fascinated and puzzled by the attraction of Uri Geller. I suppose this is because nearly every one of our household spoons is bent and what I would like to see is someone who can straighten them, with his mind or with anything for that matter. Likewise with stopped watches. I have several of those and I would love for someone to use his powers, psychic or otherwise, to make them start running again. Of course, even I can get my stopped watches to run again for a short while by shaking or tapping them, but a permanent fix would be appreciated. There is something mysterious, however, about a person who has built a career out of breaking things.
MORE . . .
Images of angels surround us all the time, and especially during the holidays. They appear in paintings, figurines,T-shirts, and just about everything else. Angels appear in several religions; in Islam angels are said to be made of light. Early versions of angels had no gender, though later Christian angels were tall, slender males with soft features, often dressed in flowing robes specially tailored around their large white wings.
The word “angel” can be traced back to the Greek word “anglos,” which means “messenger” in Hebrew. Angels can take many forms, usually appearing as human or a glowing light or aura. Often—especially in cases of averted tragedy or disaster—angels will not be seen at all, but instead recognized by their actions. If something good, unexpected, and seemingly inexplicable happens, it’s often assumed to be the result of angelic intervention. [Pareidolia: Seeing Faces in Unusual Places]
The angels most people are familiar with today are the Christian angels, which originated from the Hebrew Testaments. The Catholic Church has devoted considerable effort to describing and developing an extensive hierarchy of angels. There are nine different types of angels within three groups or choirs — seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels — with an official census of 496,000 angels.
In Christianity and Islam, angels function mainly as God’s messengers (mostly announcing births and deaths), but in modern times they function more as guardians. Indeed, the word “angel” has come to describe any hero or benefactor. Angels are said to appear to people in times of need; other times they are sensed as comforting but unseen presences.
Despite centuries of theological speculation about angels — from their number to their duties to how many can dance on the head of a pin — no one knows if they exist outside of stories and legends. Many people believe they do: Polls suggest that nearly 70 percent of Americans think angels exist. In their book “Paranormal America,” sociologists Christopher Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph Baker note that “Angels pervade popular culture in books, television shows, and movies…. Believers exchange informal testimonials in newsletters and interpersonal conversations about the potential power of angels to influence the world, and more than half of Americans (53 percent) believe that they have personally been saved from harm by a guardian angel.” [Senator Claims Angels Visited Him in Hospital]
A 2007 Baylor Religion Survey found that 57 percent of Catholics, 81 percent of Black Protestants, 66 percent of Evangelical Protestants, and 10 percent of Jews reported having a personal experience with a guardian angel. Curiously, 20 percent of those who identified themselves as having no religion also claimed having encountered an angel.
In one famous 2008 angel encounter, a North Carolina woman . . . more . . .