Friday, 31 October 2008

Blessed Be, It's Samhain

No serious post today, just like Buffy used to say no paranormal entity would be seen out on Halloween... it's so uncool!

As someone who only gave up their pagan faith a couple of years ago, I still feel Samhain is a special day. I hope you find it peaceful and relaxing. Don't worry I'm over that fad...

On my other blogs it's sort of a Samhain tradition to show the Hocus Pocus clip of Bette Midler singing "I Put A Spell On You" but I thought I'd subvert that tradition for you, My Dear Constant Reader, and instead place a rather enchanting long version of another song from that movie... "Come Little Children"

Tonight is the night to grab a cheesy horror movie, curl up with someone you love (pets do fine) and scare/laugh yourself silly. I recommend Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Of course they aren't half as scary as Pennywise...

Or, if you're feeling brave, you could spent the night with Jason, Freddy... or Michael...

But don't watch anything after Halloween II (other than Halloween H20) or else you will suffer a face worse than death... you'll have to live with the memories of those terrible movies for the rest of you life. Trust me. I've watched Halloween 6. I know the pain...

Further Reading

It by Stephen King - I have a policy of reading this book once a year. It's like a cross between a really heartwarming tale of a perfect children's summer mixed with the truly horrific events of a bloody serial killer rampage with an added touch of alien mischief. It's the scariest book I've ever read. If you have not read it, I demand you get off the internet this instant and get a copy. You will not regret doing it.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Giants Part One: The Set Up

One of my memories as a child is peeking out my bedroom window one night and seeing a giant red haired man walking across the fence between my garden and the neighbours. Of course I was almost certainly dreaming but it's a memory that has stuck with me anyway... now I, myself, am the giant wandering through the sea of short people. Being 2.03m (6'8") I feel an affinity for those who truly are giants, and maintain an interest in both the mythology and the history of the tall. This post will not cover all the history, mythology or finds about/of giants but is intended merely to set the scene of a series over the next week or so (ok two weeks if we count all the days I skive off posting...)

Now what is a giant? Most people have different ideas but my criteria, for these posts, is simple... anyone who was taller than Robert Wadlow, the tallest man known to have existed, he was a trifing 2.72m (8'11.1") tall. So really we are talking about anyone who was 9 foot tall or above. It's the height above which we know of no one and thus is worthy of special attention. Could anyone have really reached this height in our history? Check out the following documentary on Robert Wadlow so you can really get a feel for just how tall he was.

Across the world's literary traditions, even into the modern day, giants feature widely. Sometimes benevolent, often violent, could these creatures be anything more than fantasy? Reports have been made of extremely large skeletons being found in the Americas, perhaps there is more to the legends than first meets the eye.

For as long as there have been giants, there have been insecure short guys trying to start fights with them.

So tomorrow we'll look at the giants of myth, then after that the giants of history and finally the evidence they just might show us that the giants of the past weren't just figments of the imagination...

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Sorry to say there is again no proper post today. I'm working on a series of posts about a topic close to my heart (as a tall person); giants. I was planning on completing the first today, but now realise I have to go down the pub. Darn it... ;)

But just something to consider: my other half has made me rather jealous by vlogging on Youtube. As the person in our relationship who is meant to be ahead in social media terms I was wondering if I should do a Moonlight Investigation podcast. Most the weird and paranormal orientated podcasts out there are either done by crazy people with no sceptical analysis or stop after just a few episodes. What do you think? I'll try and do a test one by the middle of November and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Anyway... I'm off to drink myself silly whilst answering quiz questions... wish me luck!!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Mongolian Death Worm

The Mongolian Death Worm (known locally as allghoi khorkhoi [intestine worm]) is not very well known outside of cryptozoological circles. The reasons for this are pretty obvious; there's no media friendly pictures, very little hard evidence and it's supposedly based in the Gobi Desert which is not a good place for investigating. But nevertheless, once you've heard about the Mongolian Death Worm, you won't soon forget about it!

It has been described thus:
"Sausage-like worm over half a metre (20 inches) long, and thick as a man’s arm, resembling the intestine of cattle. Its tail is short, as [if] it were cut off, but not tapered. It is difficult to tell its head from its tail because it has no visible eyes, nostrils or mouth. Its colour is dark red, like blood or salami… It moves in odd ways – either it rolls around or squirms sideways, sweeping its way about. It lives in desolate sand dunes and in the hot valleys of the Gobi desert with saxaul plants underground. It is possible to see it only during the hottest months of the year, June and July; later it burrows into the sand and sleeps. It gets out on the ground mainly after the rain, when the ground is wet. It is dangerous, because it can kill people and animals instantly at a range of several metres."
Ivan Mackerle, an explorer from the Czech Republic
What gives it the name "Death Worm" and allows it to kill at a range of "several metres"?

Well three things:

1) it is said to be able to spray an acidic, poisonous substance at it's prey and when threatened.
2) it is also, rather more bizarrely, supposedly able to electrocute others at a distance of several metres like some sort of land based electric eel.
3) if it's failed to stop you with electricity or acid then it has one final trick up it's sleeve... one touch and you'll die instantly.

Whilst any attempts by explorers or researchers to find this creature have ended in failure, local eyewitness testimony is both numerous and consistent, rendering at least some credibility to claims of the existence of this outlandish creature.

Well supposedly, whilst the testimony is consistent and numerous it tends not to be from an eyewitness but from a friend of a friend. I've had a look around and only this third hand account from Dr. Karl Shuker's awesome book "The Beasts That Hide From Man".

"My brother living in Oboto Chajun aimak knew a man who encountered an allghoi khorkhoi. His name was Altan. Once he returned with a friend from a neighbouring camp. They were riding their horses, and it was just after noon, on a day in July. The sun was shining..."

"Suddenly Altan's friend's horse fell down. The rider stood up and went to the horse, but suddenly cried out and fell again. Altan was 5 metres behind and saw a big fat worm slowly crawling away. Altan stood in horror and then ran to his friend. But he was dead, and so too was his horse."

Unnamed herdsman

What could it be?

Richard Freeman who lead a Centre of Fortean Zoology expedition, codenamed Operation Death Worm, says:
"I don't think that it's a worm at all. True worms need moisture. I think it is a limbless, burrowing reptile, probably a giant member of a group of reptiles known as amphisbaenas or worm lizards. These are a primitive group of poorly studied animals. They are not snakes or lizards but are related to both. I think the Death Worm is a giant member of this group."

Personally I find the claims of it's use of electricity to be quite outlandish, the amount of power needed for that without the aid of salty water would be fairly immense. But these of course could be misidentification of some other mechanism so perhaps it might be true. However more depressing is the lack of first hand eyewitness testimony. The quality and nature of the stories take on the feel of a Mongolian "Urban" legend and do not impress me too greatly. But unlike bigfoot or Nessie there is one thing in favour of the existence of this creature; if it truly is as deadly as believed then there might not be that many people who've survived long enough to report an encounter...

Check out the video below for a little look at another expedition in search of the elusive worm...

P.S. Check out this Prague Post interview with Ivan Mackerle, the man who has done the most to research and attempt to find the Mongolian Death Worm.

Further Reading

Friday, 24 October 2008

Ghosts Of South East Asia

I love South East Asia! For two major reasons:

1) I've spent 2 months in Thailand over the last two years and I'm absolutely head over heels in love with the place and,
2) After the United States and the United Kingdom, Malaysia is the third highest country of origin for readers to this blog.

So I thought I'd do an occasional series on ghost stories from that part of the world. Today's story will be from Thailand...

Thais are, on the whole, an extremely religious people. They practice a form of Buddhism that borrows heavily from Hinduism and spirit worship and this has lead to belief in ghosts and spirits being rather high across the Thai population. Belief in spirits is so well established that it is a common feature of Thai life and little highlights this better than the Thai door threshold.

Every door I've ever encountered in Thailand has a raised threshold which makes it necessary to always watch your step when entering buildings (newbie note: always watch your step in Thailand, their pavements tend to be... uneven)! One reason for this was structural (due to the weird traditional Thai building methods every little bit of support was welcome), and another practical (Thais are, originally, a water people so having a raised threshold helped keep babies from escaping and falling into a body of water). But the third reason is the one I'm interested in; the threshold keeps spirits (especially evil ones!) from getting into or moving around the home (another newbie note: don't step on the threshold, always step over it)

A lot of the idiosyncrasies of Thai life also reflect this, such as every Thai having a nickname (in order to confuse and dissuade the evil spirits, i.e. the Thai baby will be given a nice name but will only be referred to a nickname such as Ling [monkey] so that the spirits will think them unworthy of further attention. Genius!).

But the Thais fear of spirits has had one beneficial effect; the creation of beautiful spirit houses that almost every building in Thailand has. The reason is to give the spirits, who lived on the land before the building was built, a nice place to live! Generally it'll be in the most prime position on the land plot so as to keep those location sensitive spirits happy. I love spirit houses!

Mae Nak of Phra Khanong

A Shrine To Mae Nak on Suhkumvit Road

The tale of Mae (Nang) Naak is a cross between a historical ghost story, an urban legend and a boogieman story used by parents to scare their children into doing things they want them to do (don't you just love boogieman stories, proving once and for all... parents suck).

Thanks to these origins there are probably more versions of this story out there than there are Disney ripoffs of old fashioned fairy tales. And the story is very popular, leading to over 20 hit movies based around the various tales. I'm going to focus on the one I think is most widely known. But be aware it's not the only version out there!!

During the reign of Rama IV in the mid 18th Century, Mae Nak fell in love with, and married, a man named Nai Maak. Their love was deep but whilst Mae was pregnant with their child Maak was called off to war.

He was seriously injured and was forced to stay in Bangkok whilst he recovered. While he is there Mae went into labour, but both she and her unborn baby died during childbirth. Their neighbours in their home village quickly bury the bodies, Mae's spirit is too strong to be held by their hastily arranged grave.

Maak returns home, not knowing the fate of his wife and child, and finds much to his relief nothing amiss. His wife and his newborn child are there waiting for him as though nothing untoward had happened.

He is under a spell and his neighbours attempts to warn him that his wife is dead end in failure. Mae, enraged at their intrusion, slaughters brutally any that try to get Maak to understand the truth.

But even she is unable to hide the truth forever and one day makes a mistake. Whilst cooking in the kitchen she drops a lemon which falls through a hole into the cellar below. In her haste to finish the meal she decides not to go and get it by using the stairs and instead elongates her arm to reach down to the floor below and fetch the lemon. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your viewpoint, Maak sees this and his eyes are opened to the true nature of his wife.

That night Maak hatches a plan. As they lie together in bed, he pretends he needs to relieve himself. He goes outside, grabbing a pot of water on the way and precedes to cut a hole in the pot. As it drains away, creating the illusion of him going about his business, he sneaks away from the house.

It is not long before Mae discovers his deceit and heads off after him through the wilds around their home. Maak attempts to hide from her, including successfully concealing himself inside a Blumea bush (something legends now say Mae is scared of).

She eventually tracks him to Phra Khanong, but he seeks sanctuary in the local temple, Wat Mahabut and she is unable to pursue him onto the holy ground. Instead she unleashes her rage upon the local populace for daring to keep her from her beloved until finally she is exorcised by means of being captured in a pot and unceremoniously dumped into the nearby river.

But the story doesn't end there, for Mae supposedly terrorises people to this day and is still searching for her true love, Maak.

Some stories suggest that after being cast into the pot she escaped to terrorise an elderly couple. Finally Somdet Phra Phutthachan (a rather famous Buddhist monk) defeated her and used part of her skull to make a belt buckle. Rumour has it the belt buckle is currently in the possession of the Thai Royal Family.

Despite her murderous rampages, the Thai people generally like Mae Nak because of her devotion to her husband, hence why there are shrines to her. Just proves the old adage one persons terrifying mass murdering spooks is another persons hero...

You can watch the 1999 movie "Nang Nak" on youtube (Part one is here in Thai) or check out the more recent trailer for the 2005 movie "The Ghost of Mae Nak" below.

Further... Watching

Mammoth Quickie

So... one of my favourite things to do is to read and watch the words and broadcasts of crazy folks. That's why one of my favourite sites is Fundies Say The Darndest Things. In a similar vein there's a few Youtube feeds that I indulge in every so often for kicks and giggles. Below is a very recent video from one of the more insane, but strangely sane sounding, youtubers I watch.

Around about 5 and half minutes in he talks about Mammoths freezing and a little slide comes up saying "Along with all the OTHER dinosaurs" (my capitals added). Mammoths were not dinosaurs!! Sadness... even if you believe in a young Earth, surely you can recognise the difference between the dinosauria and mammalia?

So much bad science in that video my head exploded, and it had only just got itself back together after the time he had suggested the LHC was/is (I don't know his timeframe) actually going to create a wormhole to Hell.

But it did remind me of a good post by Nick Redfern about the possible continued survival of mammoths into the modern age

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Last Dinosaurs

Imagine, you are hiking through the undergrowth of some far distant jungle. As you concentrate on not tripping over or sinking into the mud, you nonchalantly brush aside an oversized leaf in your way and, after regaining your balance as you nearly fall over a cliff, you see there before you a valley that takes your breath away... and it's beauty is not the only thing causing you to gasp... for there rising above the trees is the long, unmistakable neck of a sauropod.

Fantasy? Or could members of the superorder Dinosauria have survived into the modern day to share this world with their successors the mammals and the birds?

Christian Craziness? Erm... yes.

According to our current understanding of natural history the dinosaurs, along with many other orders of animals such as the pterosaurs, died out about 65 million years ago. But some claim that not only did they not die out but that they continued to live through to, at the very least, the "recent" past or even to this day. And a few even claim to have encountered creatures they have identified as dinosaurs.

What's the evidence?

Dragons are often proposed as incorrectly identified dinosaurs. Could our ancestors stories of giant reptilian monsters be based upon early humans encounters with the last remnants of a surviving population of dinosaurs?

It wasn't an asteroid! Did St. George hunt the dinosaurs into extinction?

The idea is beguiling, but there is far more evidence of a different understanding of the origins of dragons. For instance the heraldic dragon (i.e. the stereotypical dragon which could easily pass for a badly drawn dinosaur) is NOT what a dragon of British folklore was originally meant to look like. In fact almost all dragon myths were based on giant worm like creatures such as the Lambton worm. It was only later that British dragons were reimagined as having legs and appearing as we now know them. This image was aided by the use of dragon imaginary to symbolise the superiority of Christianity over pagans (dragons) by the Christian authorities in the early years of the Christian church on our islands. But the British Isles were not alone in believing in dragons, dragon myths appear from around the world. Hmm... surely if dinosaurs were so widespread within such recent times would there not be more evidence of their existence? But there are no modern bones, footprints nor any evidence whatsoever of these ancient encounters with dinosaurs.

Perhaps, just perhaps, people finding fossils of dinosaurs may have been so impressed that they invented the dragons to explain these finds. But more likely the dragon was the UFO of it's day. It is known many societies considered the sighting of anything unusual (such as lights in the sky) to be indicative of the presence of dragons.

Kent Hovind, a former evangelist creationist and current inmate of Federal Correctional Institution Edgefield in South Carolina, is a keen proponent of dragons. He suggests they were simply killed off by humans along with all the other megafauna whereever we settled. Hmm... but we have evidence of the other megafauna, why is there no physical evidence of dragons during that same time period? Of course that's not a problem for him, he thinks the whole world is only 6000 years old. He claims that prehistoric paintings and ancient pottery designs are evidence of dinosaur contact. This is a sort of backhanded insult towards our ancestors. Do people really not believe that they had imagination, and creativity equal to our own? Why is it we believe ourselves to be able to comprehend abstract concepts but everything our ancestors did is interpreted literally? Our ancestors were just as intelligent as we are today. That's why we are here. Plus he keeps calling pterosaurs and plesiosaurs "dinosaurs". That annoys me. It's fine to call them dinosaurs for shorthand purposes in casual conversation. But if you are going to have a lecture about dinosaurs and related prehistoric orders it'd be nice to refer to them by their "kinds" as he insists on doing for everything else, using that stupid childish term. Check out one of his lectures on dinosaurs below, for entertainment purposes only!

But despite my quick dismissal of dragons, people still claim to encounter them. There's a couple of pictures here. But whether you believe those sightings or not, a flying dragon is not a dinosaur. A flying dinosaur is called something quite different, which we will come to at the end...

So have there been any sightings of actual dinosaurs? Well of course there's mokele-mbembe. Reports come from western Africa of a large long necked creature whose tracks are round. What could it be? Some believe it to be a dinosaur.

Whilst locals have been talking about mokele-mbembe for a long time the first European to reference it was probably a French missionary working along the Congo river named Abbé Lievain Bonaventure. He reported that he encountered footprints which he says was created by something that ""must have been monstrous: the marks of the claws were noted on the ground, and these formed a print about three feet in circumference."

Other than sightings that were heard about or tracks that were seen by European adventurers the first time someone claimed first hand to have seen the mysterious creature was in 1932. Zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson claimed he observed a creature with a long neck lurch into a river and said it was dark coloured with a head the size of a hippo! That would be a very large animal indeed.

Most reports place it at about 15 to 30 feet (9.1 m) long. That would probably be too small for a long necked animal to have a head the size of a hippo though...

Locals claim several things about the mokele mbembe. They say it eats the flowering liana, that where it lives it clears the area of hippos and crocodiles, and that eating it is a bad idea indeed (thanks to a story of a tribe who killed and ate one and subsequently all died of poisoning).

Many expeditions have been to search for the animal but most have failed either due to not seeing it at all or suffering the usual camera malfunctions.

My problem with identifying mokele-mbembe as a dinosaur is that it stretches credibility too far with little evidence. Could it not just as easily be a member of the Hyracodontidae or some other extinct line? Why do people automatically assume it must be a sauropod dinosaur simply because it has a long neck and tail? Laziness? Giraffes have long necks, and they are mammals. Just because it looks like a sauropod does not a dinosaur make, has no one ever heard of convergent evolution? *Probably not, creationists who are big fans of mokele-mbembe don't believe in evolution after all* Hmm... that of course presumes that the mokele-mbembe exists at all and is not either a made up creature or a misidentified known one.

There are many other African "dinosaurs" such as the chipekwe, the emela-ntouka (elephant killer), Mbielu-Mbielu-Mbielu (the animal with planks growing out of it's back or shorthand for creationists "stegosaurus"), the nguma-monene and the mahamba (supposedly a 50 foot long crocodilian so not really a dinosaur. If anything I've got my fingers crossed for a phobosuchus).

Africa isn't the only place to have remnant dinosaurs... taken from another cryptozoological creationist site

In 1907, British Army officer Major Percy Fawcett was commissioned to settle a dispute between Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil concerning borders. While venturing deep into Amazon jungle he encountered an animal which he called a diplodocus. Major Fawcett was regard as a honest, “meticulous recorder of facts.

I desperately, desperately want there to be real live dinosaurs roaming the Earth still. But I can see no reason to accept there is when 1) there are no modern bones of dinosaurs (megalania is NOT a dinosaur, so don't try that old one on me!), 2) an ancient form of mammal (something more likely than a dinosaur to exist still, even if it's only slightly more likely) might have the same sort of skin as a stereotypical depiction of a dinosaur and look quite similar, 3) most eyewitness accounts are hearsay and many represent native folklore rather than fact and 4) the world is quite a different place now and if dinosaurs did survive past 65 million years they would look quite different...

Speaking of which... there's a brilliant news story today on the evolution of dinosaurs into birds. The theory that evolution seems to have started even earlier than previously thought seems to be proven in the form of Epidexipteryx. Because bird is just another word for "flying dinosaur". They really do still walk the Earth... and sometimes grace our skies too.

Much of the discussion of dinosaurs in the modern world is generated by creationists who form a significant part of the cryptozoological community. Their hope is that the existence of dinosaurs today would help support their belief in a young Earth. How it would is beyond me... the idea of dinosaurs existing today would not damage the theory of evolution. So for now I shake my head in bemusement at their lack of knowledge of what is and isn't a dinosaur (mosasaur... not a dinosaur) and head off to dream of one day encountering a herd of parasaurolophus. Now that'd be something to behold!

Further Reading

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

David Icke

David Icke, leading proponent of a philosophy many call "New Age conspiracism". Some consider him to be an enlightened fighter against the injustice of modern Western society, while others think he is a crackpot, a loon, or, worse still, an attention seeking con artist.

David Icke's beliefs stem, by his own admission, not from the head but from the heart. And I truly do believe he is a good person trying to do what he believes is right. But the things he proposes can at times seem unbelievable and crazy.

By 1990, after a varied career as a football player, reporter and TV presenter, David Icke had become a national spokesperson for the Green Party (England and Wales branch... I vote for them in EU elections but their anti Union and republican ethos means I must withhold my vote at UK elections). It was in that year that he began to express his spiritual side on a national level, and it was the year he became a laughing stock in the United Kingdom. I'll let the Guardian give you an idea of what happened:

In 1990 David Icke was a TV sports reporter/commentator tipped for the top. Then he visited a medium in Brighton called Betty Shine who, having chatted to Socrates (the philosopher not the footballer), was able to pass on the information that he was the Son of God.

Humbled, Icke instructed all his followers to wear turquoise tracksuits and travelled the world making prophesies (e.g Teesside and Kent would shortly be underwater following earthquakes measuring eight on the Richter scale). None of his prophecies came true.

'My predictions were meant to be wrong on a massive scale because I have always been scared of ridicule,' said Icke. 'Unless you have experienced hot and cold you cannot know what lukewarm is.' In later years he modified some core beliefs: 'Turquoise is an important colour,' he revealed, 'but you don't have to wear it all the time.'

Check out his early nineties appearance on Wogan (good old Wogan!)... this was not long after the Green Party had told him to, erm, step down as a spokesperson.

Following his brush with total ridicule and almost total craziness Icke moved to make things a little more sensible releasing book after book, in which he starts to crystalise his world view.

Icke set out his understanding of the way our world works. Firstly he believes the world to be controlled by a group of elites called the Brotherhood at the top of which stands the "Illuminati" or "Global Elite." They wish to control the entire planet and use many different means to gain power; economic and political control and subtle mind enslaving techniques.

He likes to believe that these people are left side of the brain thinkers, who use their "intellect" too much and don't listen to their "heart". And, being intellectually focused, these elites love structure and rule the world through what he calls a "pyramid of manipulation" with different levels of power running through multiple organisations such as the Governments, banks and corporations of the world. At the top it is lead by the "Prison Warders" who are not human. This is the most famous (or infamous) part of his philosophy.

David Icke believes that many of our worlds leaders and highly power citizens are in fact aliens or alien controlled hybrids. These aliens are reptilian humanoids and that they have been slowly taking over our world and spreading their bloodline throughout since the time of the Sumerians. He believes they moved from Sumeria, through to controlling the Roman Empire and from there spread out with the European colonisation of the planet to seats of power around the world. Their plan, so he says, is set out in the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The members of this Elite are either direct incarnations of the fourth- dimensional Prison Warders or have their minds controlled by them. The aim of the Brotherhood and its interdimensional controllers has been to centralise power in the hands of the few. This process is now very advanced and it is happening on a global scale today thanks to modern technology. The game-plan is known as the Great Work of Ages or the New World Order, and it presently seeks to introduce a world government to which all nations would be colonies; a world central bank and currency; a world army; and a micro-chipped population connected to a global computer. What is happening today is the culmination of the manipulation which has been unfolding for thousands of years.
He believes that people have encountered these creatures in their natural form, sometimes accidentally, and there are plenty of people out there who back this up with their own stories.

But his conspiracy theories aren't all he talks about, he also believes that we are all "infinite consciousness" viewing the world in different ways. He considers this life to be an "experience", not the end game for us but something we should try to enjoy while we can. He hates the Westernisation of other countries, and believes this is a sign of the new world order. He hates "sheeple" (although I doubt he's ever called them that).

I believe that the human race has developed a form of collective schizophrenia in which we are not only the slaves to this imposed thought behavior, but we are also the police force of it. The reason most people don't express their individuality and actually deny it, is not fear of what prime ministers think of us or the head of the federal reserve, It's what their families and their friends down at the bar are going to think of them. Source: Leading Edge Newspaper, July/August 1996

Here I feel he has a point, the capitalist, Western way of living is not natural nor is it very pleasant for many. But I do not believe this is a conspiracy dumped upon us by an alien elite but I believe this is what humanity deserves. We are the ultimate cause of our own unhappiness. We are selfish, unfriendly, mean creatures and thus we have the world we live in. David Icke's message includes pleas for peace and love. You can't really diss him for that. Idealism is a worthy thing.

His theories are, of course, not without controversy. Let's not focus on the truth of his claims. I'll leave that to you to decide upon (and encourage you to check out what the man himself says on his website). Instead take a look at some of the more controversial matters of his association with the far right.

The major problems I have with David Icke are actually nothing to do with the substance of his speeches or books (even if I totally disagree with most of his beliefs!). My problem is with his arrogant confidence. His self assertion that he is absolutely correct, that only his world view can be the right one makes me unable to accept what he says. In the podcast I link to below he laughs at the idea of religion and disses Richard Dawkins for worshiping science (things I agree with him on) but then confidently proclaims his way is the right way in the same blindly arrogant ways those he had just dismissed do theirs. Call me old fashioned but I like humility.

So finally check out a wonderful interview with David Icke on audio where you can appreciate that underneath it all, he's not a bad person... whatever one might think about his beliefs. At heart he wants a better world than the Westernised world we all live in. And that's something I cannot but agree with him on.

Ooo... did you spot the mention of Kent! I don't even need to try slipping them in, Kent is the new Eerie, Indiana. It pops up all the time!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Thank you

Just a break in our normal run of weird posts to say thank you to those who have commented, visited and, hopefully, enjoyed this blog in the last two months. I've been blogging for over 7 years but never had such a positive start to a blog nor have I enjoyed writing one so much.

Special thanks to those who have added Moonlight Investigation to their blogroll, it's much appreciated, and I thought I'd say thank you by just sending a little link loving your way! Please do not take offense if I don't add you to my blogroll here... I'm trying to keep it small and relevant (my personal blogs blogroll has sort of got out of hand... lol).

Link love goes to:

Red Wine and Apples

The OddBlog
- The review given to me on was more than a little appreciated. Mega loving to you.

Spookannie -My first follower, promoting me in Australia ghostly forums and now she links to me. You spoil me! :D

Naveed's Realm

Thank you guys, and if you've linked to me, and want a little link loving, let me know... :D

UFO News

Once upon a time there was a boy, let us call him Moonlight, who loved nothing more than a good UFO story. In fact, it wouldn't be going too far if I was to say UFOs were the centre of his interest in the unusual and the paranormal. Then one day he changed and, whilst his interest in zoology allowed his cryptozoological interests to flourish, his declining interest in the X-Files lead his interest in UFOs to reach rock bottom. Eventually he became cynical and rather uncharitable towards those who continued to believe in UFOs. In fact he thought most of them were a little bit bonkers (Louis Theroux's show was the nail in the coffin when he found himself hunting aliens in the desert in the USA with a mind powered gun...)

To be honest I still recoil at stories of UFOs, alien encounters or any other related phenomena as my brain simply refuses to put up with of the craziness. I was listening to a podcast about star children today and found myself wanting to scream out "YOU ARE ALL INSANE" but thought that as I was on a rather crowded train this might not be the best idea...

But I am being somewhat unfair, I'd much rather share a pint with a ufologist than with a fundamentalist Christian (not to say that if a fundamentalist Christian were to offer me a pint I'd say no, I wouldn't... I'd say yes, hint hint hint...)

Anyway... yesterday brought us more news of UFO sightings over the United Kingdom! Woo, I hear you cry! Don't get too excited, this is just old reports finally being released to the public. But they are quite interesting in themselves. Yahoo has a good report on the story, including this about an encounter involving an Italian jet flying over... Lydd, Kent (did you think I'd go four posts in a row without mentioning Kent! As if!)

Documents show the McDonnell Douglas MD80 aircraft was en route from Milan to Heathrow at 22,000ft with 57 people on board when pilot Achille Zaghetti saw the strange object 1,000ft above him.

He recounted: "At once I said, 'look out, look out,' to my co-pilot, who looked out and saw what I had seen.

"As soon as the object crossed us I asked to the ACC (area control centre) operator if he saw something on his screen and he answered 'I see an unknown target 10nm (nautical miles) behind you'."

It goes on:

The files show that Southern TV broadcast a story about a 14-year-old boy who reported seeing a missile flying at low level before climbing through the cloud and disappearing on the same evening.

An unnamed Whitehall official wrote: "It is our intention to treat this sighting like that of any other Unidentified Flying Object and therefore we will not be undertaking any further investigation."

There were a number of other similar incidents recorded in the same year.

On June 17, 1991 four passengers onboard a Dan Air Boeing 737 saw a "wingless projectile" pass beneath the aircraft as it climbed from Gatwick Airport headed for Hamburg.

And on July 15 the pilot of a Britannia Airways 737 reported seeing a "small black lozenge-shaped object" travelling at speed as they approached Gatwick.

Included in the released files are some pictures detailing peoples sightings. One finally explains what is happening with a picture subtly labeled "solar-power geostationary satellite"...

That's no satellite!! That's a Tie-Fighter! No doubt the Emperor's advanced guard. Oh all those fools who labeled themselves Jedi's in all those censuses are going to feel mighty stupid when the purges begin... Ok this is unfair, let's see what the man who submitted this picture in 1986 says...

"I am subjected to mysterious happenings which can only occur with the use of an electromagnetic device," he wrote, enclosing this drawing. "By using high technological equipment I have been deliberately introduced to form of radio communication by which I am able to receive messages.”
Far more sane....

Anyway it is some quite interesting stuff, what are your thoughts on aliens, ufos and the like?

Monday, 20 October 2008

Just A Little Bit Of History Repeating

Ever thought you've had another life before this one? Many people not only think that but truly believe in reincarnation. Entire religions are based around that idea. But where's the evidence?

Jenny Cockell grew up in Britain in the 1950s and from a very young age she began to experience extremely vivid dreams. In these dreams she imagined herself as as a lady named Mary dying away from home of a fever, and ended up waking up crying feeling guilty about leaving her six children to fend for themselves. She felt Mary has lived in Ireland some time in the early 20th Century and started writing things down, drawing maps and pictures of what she felt she was experiencing. Her story, even at a young age, remained quite consistent and her reaction to her death as Mary was surprisingly matter of fact.

Wishing to find out whether what she was feeling was true, and reconnect with the life she felt she had lost, Jenny set out as an adult to finally find out what was going on. Her investigations led her to believe she was Mary Sutton of a small town in Ireland and, stranger still, led her find Mary Sutton's children (who were now over 50!). Some of the children have now accepted her as the reincarnation of their mother, and confirm that the memories she has shared with them are true to what happened to their mother including some details no one outside the family could have known.

I find it highly implausible that Jenny was being intentionally dishonest, and I'm sure her and her new family found comfort in her adoption of her life as Mary Sutton. But it's hardly compelling evidence.

In Thailand, my second favourite place in the world after Kent so expect more Thai stories soon..., another similar story appears. Bongkuck Promsin began relating his experiences in a past life from an incredibly young age. He was able to state his previous name, Chamrat, the names of his parents, the details of objects and cattle his family owned, the name of the village he came from and, far more grimly, the details of Chamrat's murder 10 years previous to his birth. The village was not far from his own and it was one to which his father sometimes traveled. Chamrat's family got word of Bongkuck's past life story and went to visit him (when he was just two and half years old!) and found his details were almost exactly correct.

The names Bongkuck gave for his murderers were confirmed by police to be the main suspects in the case when Dr Ian Stevenson began investigation the details. He was a medical doctor whose investigations into reincarnation have been among the most extensive and rigoursly scientific.

Now one interesting thing from the Bongkuck/Chamrat incident is that Chamrat was Laotian and Bongkuck was Thai. Now to any outsider differences between the two cultures might seem minimal but, let me tell you, to a Thai person they are worlds apart! And Bongkuck seemed to display Laotian cultural habits in terms of eating and cleanliness, alien to his Thai families life style. Stranger still he sometimes used Laotian words, which even his own family couldn't understand.

The downside to all this are:

1) Thais and Laotians are Buddhists and are already predisposed to believe in reincarnation
2) He lived in a village next to the one he supposedly lived in previously. It is far more likely than some other past lives cases to be a case of him picking details up subconsciously from his surroundings at some point.

But still it's an interesting case.

For every bit of proof for reincarnation we have, there is something to refute. Derren Brown has shown us that the ability of people to believe in what someone is saying will often fill in the gaps in a story or completely ignore them. Every thing that refutes the power of psychics can be used to refute the stories of reincarnation.

If you wish to see what you'll be reincarnated as in a future life check out the Reincarnation Station. It said I was going to be a cat in my future life, and said 50% of people were going to be reincarnated as higher form of life. Higher than a cat??? Angels perhaps? Domestic cats are the highest form of life known to man: they spend 16 hours a day sleeping, they do not have to work for their food, they can hunt for pleasure, they can use humans as sources of warmth when cold thus saving on energy bills and they are intrinsically better than dogs. SCORE! I look forward to curling up in front of a warm fire after a days hard sleeping.

Further Reading

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Mega Sharks!!!

The megamouth shark is one of the largest sharks currently known to exist. Many of those interested in cryptozoology like to remind people this shark was only discovered on the 15th November 1976, proving once again we really do still have a lot to learn about what lies out there in the oceans.

But before I get onto the topic of giant sharks, I'd like to make a little correction to many of the sources I've been reading up on; a lot state the megamouth shark was identified by cryptozoologists. This is absolutely not true, and I hate it when someone's hard work is ignored simply to big up the case for someone else's beliefs. Let's get clear about this; the megamouth shark was discovered by accident by a U.S. Navy vessel and was identified as a new species by the very well respected ichthyologist Dr. Leighton Taylor. I've spent this morning getting increasingly more grumpy with those who keep stating "this was one of cryptozoology's greatest finds!!"

I love cryptozoology dearly but if other supporters of cryptozoology keep stealing scientists hard earned research and labelling it the work of "cryptozoology" then they leave the entire idea of research into undiscovered animals open to well deserved ridicule and disgust. If we go down this route every animal discovered since the dawn of time is the work of cryptozoology!!

Anyway, rant over, back to the story. The megamouth shark can grow to sizes of up to 5.5 m in length. This is nothing compared to the whale shark, the largest fish living today, which can grow to lengths up to 12.2m long. But do not worry because, as you almost certainly know, both these sharks are filter feeders and are not the sort of things that are going to give anyone who lives and works near the sea sleepless nights. The whale shark in particular is a creature of great beauty and one I hope I am lucky enough to see one day (in an ecologically non disruptive way of course!!).

However could something larger, and perhaps more stereotypically "shark like", lurk in the great depths of our planets oceans?

"In the year 1918 I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the "outside" crayfish men at Port Stephens, when, for several days, they refused to go to sea to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island. The men had been at work on the fishing grounds---which lie in deep water---when an immense shark of almost unbelievable proportions put in an appearance, lifting pot after pot containing many crayfishes, and taking, as the men said, "pots, mooring lines and all". These crayfish pots, it should be mentioned, were about 3 feet 6 inches [1.06 m] in diameter and frequently contained from two to three dozen good-sized crayfish each weighing several pounds. The men were all unanimous that this shark was something the like of which they had never dreamed of. In company with the local Fisheries Inspector I questioned many of the men very closely and they all agreed as to the gigantic stature of the beast. But the lengths they gave were, on the whole, absurd. I mention them, however, as a indication of the state of mind which this unusual giant had thrown them into. And bear in mind that these were men who were used to the sea and all sorts of weather, and all sorts of sharks as well. One of the crew said the shark was "three hundred feet [90 m] long at least"! Others said it was as long as the wharf on which we stood---about 115 feet [35 m]! They affirmed that the water "boiled" over a large space when the fish swam past. They were all familiar with whales, which they had often seen passing at sea, but this was a vast shark. They had seen its terrible head which was "at least as long as the roof on the wharf shed at Nelson's Bay." Impossible, of course! But these were prosaic and rather stolid men, not given to 'fish stories' nor even to talking about their catches. Further, they knew that the person they were talking to (myself) had heard all the fish stories years before! One of the things that impressed me was that they all agreed as to the ghostly whitish color of the vast fish. The local Fisheries Inspector of the time, Mr Paton, agreed with me that it must have been something really gigantic to put these experienced men into such a state of fear and panic."
Taken from Sharks and Rays of Australian Seas - David George Stead

A 35m long shark? Impossible? It certainly is quite an awesome size, for even the infamous extinct megalodon only reached sizes of less than 20m. I think the following picture showing a megalodon, a great white and human gives you an idea of just how big that would be:

Let's be clear, if you saw a 35m long shark, you would not be going back on a boat for quite some time. Interestingly there is another eyewitness report of a giant white coloured shark in the waters of northern Australia:

In the 1960’s along the outer edge of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, an 85 foot [26 m] ship experienced engine trouble which forced it to weigh anchor for repairs. Although the men subsequently refused to openly report what they had seen for fear of public ridicule, the captain and his crew later told friends of sighting an immense shark as it moved slowly past their ship. Whitish in color, they were awed by its size. It was as long if not longer than their boat! Experienced men of the sea, they too were certain the creature was not a whale.
Let’s Go Fossil Shark Tooth Hunting - Clay Cartmel

These supposed sightings (and both really wouldn't hold water as evidence in a court of law let alone) are far too big simply to be large specimens of the great white shark (who despite it's name would also not match up with the description of the shark being white). So if the sightings are to be believed they are of either a completely new species of shark or perhaps of a species thought extinct such as the megalodon.

My example stories come from No Megalodon Survival, a web page both expertly refuting the existence of giant sharks (specifically the concept of them being relict megalodon populations) and providing interesting data on that great extinct creature.

One compelling piece of evidence for the existence of a extra large shark species are globsters. Globsters are a mainstay of any marine cryptozoological study, but most tend to be either decomposing whales or basking sharks. Interestingly a decomposing basking shark can often look like the corpse of a plesiosaur, perhaps part of the reason for continued belief that such creatures still exist. Anyway, some of these globsters can be of immense sizes, up to 30 odd metres long. Perhaps, just perhaps, these might in fact be the remains of some majestic giant shark that still remains unknown to science.

The picture above shows just how large a great white is capable of getting. Sadly, for those of us who love sharks (and I truly think sharks are some of the greatest creatures known to man), it's unlikely such large sharks will ever be seen by human eyes again. Thanks to increased human predation of these beautiful creatures few will stand much chance of living long enough to reach such amazing sizes. If a large predatory shark does still exist, it's days are almost certainly numbered. Such a shark would need such large quantities of food, almost certainly mammalian, and with the ever decreasing population of whales and other marine mammals it's food source would be rapidly depleting. So thankfully for the hydrophobic, the likelihood of encountering a shark of prehistoric sizes is too tiny to really worry about.

But don't let that stop us from continuing to explore the ocean depths, for no doubt there is much still to find out there.

Further Reading

Sure it's fictional, but it's also highly entertaining. Plus it is likely to soon be a movie, so if you buy it now you'll have the kudos of being able to laugh at your ill informed friends when going to see the movie and can then complain post-movie about how the film "wasn't as good as the book".

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Thunderbirds Are Go!!!

My kingdom for a photo!!!! For decades cryptozoologists have desperately searched for proof that one picture exists; that of a giant bird in a barn surrounded by the men who supposedly captured it. The one pictured is not THE picture.

The story goes that in April 1890 two cowboys in Arizona/Texas (sources conflict) killed a giant flying creature, whose description was more like that of a pterodactyl. They dragged it to a barn, pinned it's wings along a wall and took a picture of them and friends with it. This picture, supposedly, appeared in the Tombstone Epitaph (a newspaper title that I just love! Why can't all newspaper titles be so evocative? The Sun just doesn't cut it with me). And then it disappeared. But many claim to have seen it, lent it out to friends and never gotten back and been taught about it in school textbooks. But despite all this, no one has found it. More information on the search for the picture can be found here. I think there are people out there who'd give their right arms just to get their hand(s) on a copy of that picture.

But the Thunderbird, for that is the name given to giant bird like creatures in North America, has origins well before the 19th Century. In fact well before any of those troublesome Old Worlders landed in North America. Some Native American tribes have myths relating to these giants of the sky, dating back hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. There are two different meanings behind the name, dependent on which legend you read. Some say that the Thunderbird is a creature that creatures thunderstorms. Others suggest that the thunderbird is usually seen during a storm and that is how the name came about. More about that in a second. There's a really good source of Native American counts of the Thunderbird. But the stories didn't disappear with the invasion of Europeans.

I take the following modern account from here:

July 25, 1977 Lawndale Illinois it was around 8:30 p.m. when Marlon Lowe a 10 year old boy was running for his life. He was playing with two friends in his family back yard when suddenly out of no where two huge black birds came out of the sky and began pursuing one of Marlons friends Travis Goodwin happily, Travis managed to escape by jumping into the swimming pool. Then the two switched there attention to Marlon. Marlon ran away as fast as he could but it was not fast enough. As he w as running he felt the talons of one of the birds grip the shoulder straps of his sleeveless shirt. Next the boy weighing 65 lb. was lifted of the ground 10 ft. Screaming and shouting at the top of his lungs as the bird easily carried him 40 ft. through the air from the back yard to the front yard. His parents Ruth and Jake Lowe heard the screaming and ran out side so did two family friends working near by Ruth was the first to see this horrific sight that would froze her blood. There her son was being abducted by a huge black bird resembling a Condor, punching up at its legs with all his might as his feathered kidnapper carried him aloft. Seconds later however, one of his punches must have hit home, because the bird suddenly opened his talons and dropped him to the ground before souring away with its mate. The four adults ran to the boy and discovered to there relief that except for a frayed shirt where the bird had grabbed him Marlon was physically ok. This is just one of the many bizarre accounts on file featuring encounters in North America with giant birds. Birds that should be impossible but yet seem to exist. In the case of Marlon Lowe he and his parents said the bird most closely resembled a Andean Condor, a black vulture like species with a wing span up to 10 ft. this species however is not native to North America. There is however a smaller version called the California condor which was once widely distributed across North America but by 1977 was virtually extinct in either case the structure of the condors feet in incapable of lifting and transporting anything as heavy as a ten year old boy.
Other stories taken from here include:

In the early 1940s, writer Robert R. Lyman spotted a Thunderbird sitting on a road near Coudersport, Pennsylvania. It soon took to the sky, spreading its 20-foot wingspan

In 1969, the wife of a Clinton County, Pa. sheriff saw an enormous bird over Little Pine Creek. She said its wingspan appeared to be about as long as the creek was wide - about 75 feet!

In 1970, several people saw the gigantic bird "soaring toward Jersey Shore [Pa.]. It was dark colored, and its wingspread was almost like [that of] an airplane."

In 1948, several witnesses along the Illinois-Missouri border sighted a condor-like bird about the size of a Piper Club airplane.
Could a bird the size of a plane really be alive today? Other large flying birds didn't survive human contact. I hold a deep seated grudge against the Maori people for the disappearance of Haast's Eagle, a bird with the wing span of up to 3 metres!! And it was still alive in the times of Geoffrey Chaucer! In human terms that's a while ago, but in real terms that's practically last week! I am most grumpy it died out so recently. I can get over not seeing a dinosaur but when something so beautiful was alive within the time period I've traced my own family tree back to it's a darn shame. America megafauna suffered a similar fate when the ancestors of the Native Americans first arrived. Is it possible that such a large creature, probably a competitor to human hunters and a risk surely to their lives, could survive into the modern age? There is some evidence that a giant flying bird did once exist in North America. Perhaps the Native Americans myths scared them so greatly that they left the birds alone out of respect and fear. Such a thing helped the Aye-aye survive human inhabitation of Madagascar.

It's interesting that the myths reflect that the birds were often seen with storms as I said earlier. Could these creatures be using the winds to help them travel as many known species do today?

Or could this perhaps be a mixture of everyone's favourite illusion; perspective. A bird in the sky is a hard thing to size up. The lack of anything to relate the bird to means a large bird might appear gigantic. Other sightings on the West Coast could be sightings of rather lost Steller's Sea Eagles. These birds are huge and for the non-ornithological average American might appear, especially with the help of poor perspective, to be a Thunderbird. I sure wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of Steller's Sea Eagle!

Whislt some suggest the Thunderbird is some undiscovered or relic species of giant bird, others have a slightly more... unusual idea. One word: Pterodactyls. From Wisconsin to South Carolina reports of giant flying reptiles have been recorded.

North America is a rather large landmass and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that hidden in untraversed mountain passes and deep in forested areas a giant bird could, perhaps, have a nest out of harms way. But surely such a large creature would show up on radar sometimes? Wouldn't it have been seen by aircraft? Would there not be more stories of children being taken? Hmm... I don't know, anything is possible.

You can watch the Birdzilla episode of Monster Quest on Youtube, Part One is here. Features some supposed footage of these giant birds.

Further Reading

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Anne Boleyn And Her Many Afterlifes

King Henry VIII accused his second wife Anne Boleyn of infidelity, although the truth in that accusation is disputed as Henry probably got rid of her so he could move on to his next prospect, and those accusations began the process that ended in Anne losing her head. Whether or not she put herself around in real life is open to debate, but in the afterlife she seems to be living up to expectations.

On the 19th of May 1536 Anne was put to death (sorry... hacked to death by a sword) on Tower Green by the Tower of London. But such a trifling incident was, it would seem, not going to get in the way of Anne Boleyn living her afterlife to the fullest.

In 1817 a sentry at the Tower encountered Anne's ghost. So shocked was he at her appearance, that he shortly afterward suffered a heart attack and died. She next made her appearance in 1864 when:

"a soldier encountered Anne and fainted, he was then court-martialled for being found asleep on duty. The soldier at his post near the Lieutenant's Lodgings was met by a white figure, and made the appropriate challenge, "who goes there?". When he received no response he trust his fixed bayonet into it. He recalled a piercing shock when a "fiery flash" ran through his weapon, dropping his rifle and then no more. At his trial the sentry described the spirit, "It was the figure of a woman wearing a queer-looking bonnet, but there wasn't no head inside the bonnet." Many witnesses came forward with testimony of having seen a headless spirit that evening near the Lieutenant's Lodgings. The most sensational testimony was that of an officer who had been in his room in the Bloody Tower. Having heard the challenge he went to his window and saw the whole scene exactly as the sentry had described and added that the headless spectre walked through the bayonet and then the sentry who collapsed. The court-martial found the soldier not guilty and he was acquitted."
A similar incident occurred in 1933 when she was again challenged by a guard, and promptly walked straight on to his bayonet. He made a "tactical withdrawal" and fled screaming to seek help.

If the stories are to be believed she is most likely to be encountered in the corridors of the White Tower, which is in fact not a tower as popularly known but the large white square building many refer to as the Tower of London. As an aside that is quite wrong, the Tower of London is in fact a complex of buildings surrounded by walls and a moat.

Others say you're more likely to find her proceeding from the Queen's House to the Chapel of Saint Peter ad Vincula and then up the aisle to her grave.

But don't worry if you miss her there. Head down to St. James Palace and to the Chapel Royal. Here's an account of a Captain of the Guard who having seen a light burning in the locked Chapel in the night, found a ladder and saw this scene:

Slowly down the aisle moved a stately procession of Knights and Ladies, attired in ancient costumes; and in front walked an elegant female whose face was averted from him, but whose figure greatly resembled the one he had seen in reputed portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having repeatedly paced the chapel, the entire procession together with the light disappeared.

From Ghostly Visitors: A Series of Authentic Narratives By Spectre Stricken,

Now should you suffer the extreme misfortune of missing out on any Royal Ghostly activity here, don't despair! Head down to Kent and visit Hever Castle. Here you'll find Anne Boleyn in an even more sombre guise. Supposedly, a black coach can sometimes be seen racing up the avenue towards the castle pulled by six, large black headless horses.

Hever Castle was the seat of the Boleyn family and Anne spent some time here in her youth. An oak, beneath which Anne and Henry courted, still stands in the grounds and her ghost is said to appear beneath it at Christmas time and can also sometimes be seen walking the bridge that crosses over the River Eden within the castle grounds.

If you've missed this spectacle there's nothing to worry about, she often puts on a repeat performance at the place of her birth; Blickling Hall in Norfolk. Here the same coach and headless horses (although only four this time) can be seen once a year dropping Anne off at the entrance to the building, through which she then wanders until dawn.

Anne Boleyn also spent some time at Rochford Hall in Essex and the locals report a headless female ghost.

Rumours persist she haunts Hampton Court, also supposedly haunted by Henry's favourite Jane Seymour and the headless Katherine Howard. I can only imagine the ghostly bitchfights the three of them might be having in that place (or perhaps they've formed the Second, Third And Fifth Wives Club), no wonder Anne feels the need to spread her wings a little and travel around a bit.

Why is Anne Boleyn's ghost so widely reported? There is somewhat of a cult of Anne Boleyn in this country, and she is definitively the most well known of Henry VIII's wives. It's hardly surprising her name is brought up when anything out of the ordinary is spotted. I'd love to know how so many made the positive identification of Anne? There are, obviously, no photographs and the pictures of her are all in that Tudor style which renders her looking exactly like every other Tudor era woman. How on Earth can they be so sure it's a the ghost of Anne Boleyn??

I don't know... isn't it somewhat a coincidence that the most well known Queen of Henry the VIII also happens to the be the most prolific ghost? Sure her life ended in tragedy, but I feel not so tragic as many a fair maiden met back then, after all she'd played the game and knew what to expect, unlike others who have met far more gruesome deaths. Why should they be any different to her? Why aren't they cavorting around the country enjoying their afterlife? Hmm.. suspicious...

But I leave you with two pictures to dwell upon, taken by CCTV at Hampton Court. I don't think it's Anne but it sure looks like something I wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. More details here.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Kent Resources

I am a very proud Man of Kent, and just wanted to point out some of the excellent paranormal, weird and interesting resources and stories out there devoted to my favourite county.

View Larger Map

Historic Kent has a really good section on some of the outlandish stories from around the Garden of England... including an excellent article on a story from Folkestone, the town I consider home. It's all about a case of Spontaneous Human Combustion, and it's very in depth for such a small story.

Then there is Haunted Kent whose title is pretty self explanatory! Then there's the Essex and Kent Paranormal Research Society. All very interesting. We have plenty of ghost of ghost stories but none quite as famous as the Blue Bell Hill ghost.

Kent Big Cat Research is our source for news and information on the hunt for the big cats in Kent and around the country.

Neil Arnold writes about other mystery Kentish creatures here. The infamous Mothman may have put in an appearance not more than a couple of miles from my parents house and of course there are stories of Black Dogs haunting the county...

Kent has plenty of other curious tales such as that of Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst who were conjoined twins from Biddenden. A great many of my ancestors hail from that small village and I can remember my Mum mentioning the story whenever we happened to pass through on one of her shopping trips to Tunbridge Wells. They were conjoined at the hip but even though they were born in the 12th Century managed to live until the age of 34. Legend says that Mary was taken ill in 1134 and when she passed away mention was made of attempting to separate Eliza. Eliza was having none of it and said:

"As we came together we will also go together"

She passed away 6 hours later. There are a few ghosts story associated with the Maids of Biddenden but I think their story is interesting even without a ghostly connection.

Then we have the Countless Stones and Kit's Coty House. I remember visiting the Countless Stones when I was very young and sadly am unable to verify exactly how many are there... that's the point I suppose. Got to love living in a country that has megaliths...

Then we have the giants... no not members of my rather tall family (I myself am 6'8")... but the East Kent Giants of which you can find out more on this web page.

Many tales have been told in Europe of Englishmen having tails... but I love the following quote taken from History of British Folklore (originally from A Collection of English Proverbs published in 1670) about the Kentish long-tails:

Those are mistaken who found this Proverb on a miracle of Austin the Monk; who preached in an English village, and being himself and his associates beat and abused by the Pagans there, who opprobriously tied Fish-tails to their backsides; in revenge thereof such appendants grew to the hind-parts of all that generation. For the scene of this lying wonder was not laid in any part of Kent, but pretended many miles off, nigh Cerne in Dorsetshire. I conceive it first of outlandish extraction, and cast by forreigners as a note of disgrace on all English men, though it chanceth to stick onely on the Kentish at this day.

I have no doubt this was a popular idea among our French friends, whose proximity to Kent has meant a close, if sometimes sarcastic, relationship. They say we have tails and we say they are frogs. It all works out in the end. Although nowadays they like to call us Ros Bofs. Hilarious. NOT.

So that's just a taste of Kent for you, and I'll probably expand upon some of these stories and others in the future.

Further Reading

Ghosts of Kent - Peter Underwood

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Romans Never Left

Emperor Hadrian, who built Hadrian's Wall, Britain's most famous Roman landmark

One thing it's easy to forget is that we here in southern Britain live in one of the former Roman provinces, Britannia (although over the course of the Empire's history the province was split apart and rejoined in various ways and under various names). Once upon a time we were the north western outpost of that once mighty empire and the evidence is all around us. The village my parents live in, Lympne, was once a major Roman port called Portus Lemanis (although the sea is now nowhere to be seen!). Not far away is the fort at Richborough (Rutupiæ) and even here in London (Londinium) you need only go visit Tower Hill station and right outside is part of the old London Wall... with the bottom part being Roman (you can tell by the brick work, don't say Time Team never taught me anything!).

Of course the Romans never truly left us, by the time communication with the Empire was lost the Romans and the native population had pretty much become one culture... the Romano-British. They would eventually escape to the west and north as other waves of (violent) immigration took over the south and east of our island. The Welsh, Scottish and Cornish nations are, in effect, descendants of the Romano-British. But did our Roman forebears leave a little more of themselves behind than just their genes?

Lympne Castle is supposedly haunted by many ghosts, including a Roman. The story goes that a Roman soldier was on watch in the east tower when he fell to his death. His footsteps are often heard going up, but strangely never heard coming down.

Greenwich, my adopted home, is also home to some Roman ghostly goings on (and plenty more, I'm working on that post!). In fact here we have the classic Roman haunting.... the Roman legion.That's according to the Greenwich Phantom anyway:

The Roman Legion. Greenwich had a Roman encampment in the days before Ye Olden Days as it was on the route to Dover (there is, of course, what is assumed to be a temple in Greenwich Park) but it was with great surprise that two workmen removing an old boiler from underneath the Royal Naval College's Jacobean Undercroft a few years ago witnessed an entire legion of Roman soldiers in full uniform appear through a wall, march across the room, then disappear through the opposite wall. The boiler had been placed well under the original ground level, which accounts for the fact that their feet did not touch the ground.

An extremely similar story is told on, appropriately, about York in which a workman was happily working underground when a group of Romans walked past... but this time the old Roman road was beneath ground level so the ghosts appeared to be walking on their knees...

There's a rather amusing video on this BBC News story about the strange apparition of a Roman caught on video my a local film club (supposedly although if anything I'd say he looked more Elizabethan to me). This was obviously a tongue in cheek segment on the local BBC news show but still the video, whether of a ghost or of sun flare, is pretty cool.


Chester also seems to be a hotspot for Roman ghost activity with centurions being seen individually and en masse marching off to points unknown.

Back in Kent and at Richborough fort there have been reports of some Roman activity. During World War II the area was used for coastal defence, and those on duty reported seeing large legions of Roman soldiers marching around the area. Some have reported vague lights and orbs in the area but none have reported such large scale activity since the end of the war. Forgive me for taking some liberties but I like to think that perhaps the legions were readying themselves just in case they were called upon to defend our coasts once more against the descendants of their ancient enemies, the Germanic tribes. Once the war ended, they could rest in peace again. Hey I don't claim to believe in ghosts, but I do like to believe in romantic notions sometimes or perhaps I've just watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks once too many times...

To be honest I've found it hard not to find a Roman ghost story in pretty much every town that was in existence during Roman times, and even in many that weren't!

The Romans themselves were also ghost story lovers. The Roman poet Lucretius proposed a:

theory, commonly known as Lucretius's shell, which ghosts were a kind of shell, which diffused or splintered from the body of a dying person and lingered in the atmosphere after death, moving at will.

Just goes to show how little our ideas on ghosts have changed over the millenia.

The Roman part of our history is something we all learn about at primary school and maybe this accounts for Britons, renowned for their love of ghosts, recounting stories of Roman ghosts haunting every corner of the country from the Antonine Wall to the Kent coast.

I've used the term legion rather liberally in this post, and to pedants I apologise; I understand it's correct usage but now the term is used for pretty much any sized gathering of Roman soldiers so please don't hate me!

If you want to learn more about the very real history of Roman Britain check out

Further Reading

Roman Britain: A New History - Guy de la Bedoyere