Spanners in paranormal works: The truth may be hard to swallow

If there is one capacity I have that I can not live without, it’s my memory. I can get by without sight and hearing, but without the ability to access what I already have stored in my head to make sense of the information I receive right now, any new input is useless. My memory is not good at storing and retrieving even very interesting tidbits I come across daily. So I use EverNote as a database to store notes I take from books and articles, even podcasts I hear. If I write them down, I’m more apt to remember them. If I label them, I can retrieve them if I’m writing an article or need a rundown of what I’ve previously come across.

It seems uptight but I do make notes from magazine issues. While reading articles, I invariably come across some quote or reference or idea that I’d not heard before or is so good I need to document. Interesting bits are always found in Fortean Times, one of my favorite reads. When I find these amazing snippets that change my perception of a bigger subject, I feel compelled to want to share them. So, I’m sharing some in this post with the hope you will find them interesting too.

Capgras syndrome, also knows as “imposters delusion”, is a real psychiatric disorder where people think that their loved one (or even pet) has been replaced by an imposter. This real condition is almost certainly at play in at least some cases of people who believe that other people are not who they say they are. Examples include the beliefs that children were abducted by fairies and replaced with a changeling, a person can be possessed by a demon, there are aliens in the form of humans roaming about and that evil doppelgangers exist. I’m sure I’ve heard of this before as it’s not new, but this is the first time I’ve made the deliberate connection that a named psychiatric condition might be at the bottom of these claims often categorized as paranormal. I’ll remember this from now on. (FT352 April 2017)

The Lighthouse Men of Eilean Mor. So many sources repeat this story the same way every time: the keepers disappeared in 1900. The log book entries showed that something bizarre was happening in the days leading up to the last entry. What happened there? It is portrayed as a paranormal mystery. Their disappearance is still unsolved after 117 years. The location is now said to be haunted as the legend continues. One of my favorite Fortean writers, Mike Dash, writes in the April 2017 edition of Fortean Times that many of these tales are based on faked stories. And this appears to be one of them. It’s true that the three men were lost and we don’t know how. But there may be nothing supernatural about it. Dash finds glaring issues with the story including questionable sources and possible embellishment to make the case more mysterious than it really is. Vincent Gaddis — who had an annoying habit of embellishing stories and inventing mysterious where there are none, then popularizing them — is involved. This spin on the story prompted me to look up Dash’s more extensive article on the tale which is available here. (It’s also in Fortean Studies but I haven’t gotten through those volumes yet.) This Fortean Times contains an update to that article since Dash now has additional information that suggests that Gaddis repeated the log book reports from True Strange Stories magazine. This TSS piece was, very likely, faked by the author, “Ernest Fallon” since these “true” strange stories were not factual but exaggerated to appeal to the audience. The piece outlines why these log book entries are not credible. (FT352 April 2017)

Golgatha. No one really knows the physical location of where Jesus Christ was crucified and buried (and supposedly rose from the dead). The most popular site is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that was discovered by St. Helena. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine supposedly found the sites based on the guidance of a dream. It is said she found pieces of three wooden crosses that she declared to be those of Jesus and the two thieves. In the process, the remains of Hadrian’s temple was destroyed. Terrible archaeology, that. The legends of miracles, etc. followed from there. The Scriptures contain only vague clues to the location and there are disputes that remain. I always held vague suspicions when mention of the Church was brought up. How did they know THIS was the place? Well, the evidence is rather slim and highly questionable. But if you believe the story, then the location very conveniently serves as a sacred place, no matter what dispute arises about it. (FT352 April 2017)

If you were anticipating an alien or Bigfoot (and not a cow), this might very well freak you out.

Cow mistaken for an alien. Often, skeptics of paranormal claims are accused of stretching credibility in our potential explanations for the claims. There’s the old “swamp gas” idea of UFOs or the “otters swimming in a row” excuse for water monsters. Sure, it sounds silly, but the truth is that strange situations involving normal factors are far more likely to be the cause than otherworldly entities. Like it or not, weird shit happens. We can’t even imagine all the strange possibilities so it’s a logical mistake for an investigator to say there is “no natural explanation”, therefore, it’s paranormal. Wrongety-wrong-wrong. Here is a case where a cow and a muddy dog were mistaken for aliens. Jenny Randle, a very seasoned UFO researcher, points to two cases where an unlikely situation was interpreted by witnesses as “aliens”. In 1975, a cow was seen in a field by a witness who described it as an alien occupant of a craft that he or she had seen as a light in the sky. And later in 1975, a bizarre creature on two legs with rough fur was seen marching near a Yorkshire village. It turned out to be a dog trained to walk on two legs for a traveling fair. Yes, really. And people continue to insist the mysterious light they saw was not Venus or the moon but something mysterious. They underestimate their capacity to misinterpret. These are not concocted excuses, but ones documented by actual UFO researchers as genuine. (FT353 May 2017)

Strange, aren’t they? * These are curious additions to the standard narratives put out by paranormalists. They will downplay or deny them. But the truth is, there really are more things in the heavens and on earth than are dreamt of.

Hey, if cows and muddy dogs can be aliens, maybe I should check out swamp gas…

* Sadly, FT articles are not online. Subscriptions are expensive but, I think, worth it.