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  • Beachcombed 26 August 1, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed , trackback

    Dear Readers, it is that time again. The ten-thousand best words on this blog from July are summarized below. A migraine attack means that they still have not all been processed. We’ll get to that in the next few days. One new thing on the blog this month is the list of resources on the bottom right: new contributions very welcome – they have to be anything that would help the independent scholar with his or her studies. On that note you may enjoy history review.

    Then a few cute links that Beach hopes will warm brain pans and undo heart strings. Thanks to all those who sent these in. We start with Larry, a friend of this blog, who has just written an article on SETI. Staying in space, what about those Apollo flags? The defence of British holy ground (kind of). A guide on how to screw up your resume. Learning from science’s mistakes. The National Trust and creationism (sigh). Destroying books in Manchester (aaargh!). Was an earl your ancestor? Beautifully written life of a father: one of Beach’s faves this month.  The future drawn by French visionary (another must see). New York Stone Henge. Best new ghost photo. A book that was published against the odds. Idiot athletes. Food in the future. And how to bring about the end of the world…

    And now the Beachcombed:

    Pixy-Music: DY writes in: ‘Well, something I don’t usually tell people – happened long ago.  I was bought up near the Teign on the edge of Dartmoor (in the National Park, but not on the high moor). So lying in bed in bed when I was about 8/9, windows open, summer night – it was gloaming coming on night I always remember ‘bells’ – well at least that’s how I think of them.  A lovely music, like glass bells – very very beautiful  – and I remember thinking ‘who is playing’. There was no TV on downstairs, no radio outside (it was a big house too) and my bedroom window faced out over a lawn to an uninhabited valley leading to the Teign Gorge – nobody living there at all. Nearest neighboring house on other sides would have been about 300 meters or so. Now I’m of above average intelligence (so say we all!), well read etc.  but, I heard fairy music alright. Auditory hallucination…? Well that claim is based as much on belief as fairies, only without the experience of being there. I won’t belabor this, it’s stuck with me all my life (this happened about ’66/67) and it’s always been a thing of beauty for me’ For more bells on Dartmoor see Bray’s A Peep below. Note that DY suggested (in a subsequent email) that the whole experience lasted about 5-10 minutes (‘Never thought of it. I’d be a bit suspicious of pinning it down after this length of time.) Next up is Wade: In an odd coincidence, I am researching Alasdair Alpin MacGregor and have open The Peat-Fire Flame (1937), when I see today’s Strange History post. MacGregor’s book contains a chapter on Scottish faery music, beginning at page 29. Then Invisible: As a musician, the idea of fairy music is intriguing. I am a little sceptical about its objective reality, having fallen prey to auditory hallucinations myself and knowing too much about tinnitus and similar ailments as well as aural pareidolia. However, I will pipe up with some unearthly musical anecdotes: Fairy Tales, Now First Collected: To which are Prefixed Two Dissertations 1. on Pygmies 2. on Fairies by Joseph Ritson, Joseph Frank TALE XXVI.  FAIRY-MUSIC. An English gentleman, the particular friend of our author, to whom he told the story, was about passing over Duglas-bridge before it was broken.down ; but, the tide being high, he was obliged to take the river; having an excellent horse under him, and one accustomed to swim. As he was in the middle of it, he heard, or imagined he heard, the finest symphony, he would not say in the world, for nothing human ever came up to it. The horse was no less sensible of the harmony than himself, and kept in an immoveable posture all the time it lasted; which, he said, could not be less than three quarters of an hour, according to the most exact calculation he could make, when he arrived at the end of his little journey, and found how long he had been coming. He, who before laughed at all the stories told of fairies, now became a convert, and believed as much as ever a Manks-man of them all*.*Waldron, as before, p. 72. A little beyond a hole In the earth, just at the foot of a mountain, about a league and a half from Barool, which they call The Devils den, “is a small lake, in the midst of which is a large stone, on which, formerly, stood a cross: round this lake the fairies are said to celebrate the obsequies of any good person; and I have heard many people, and those of a considerable share of understanding too, protest, that, in passing that way, they have been saluted with the sound of such musick, as could proceed from no earthly instruments.” p. 137. There is a rather strange book, more in the spiritualist line, called NAD Vol. 2: A psychic study of the “music of the spheres” by D. Scott Rogo, foreword by Raymond Bayless. The cases are roughly arranged by the condition of the witness at the time of the hearing: just waking, having an out-of-body experience, at a deathbed, etc. Although some witnesses describe the music as “heavenly” or “angelic” many of the examples seem to have traits similar to descriptions of fairy music, being described as sounding like water or wind or bells. For example: Case 138 John Huntley related the sensation of being out of his body: “I became conscious of what for want of a better term I must call music; gentle and sweet it was as the tinkling of snapping water in a rocky pool and it seemed to be all about me.” Case 154, at a deathbed overlooking an area of green hills, surrounded by family, was heard “a strain of melody more divinely sweet than any earthly music they had ever heard, rose near at hand. It was the melancholy wail of a woman’s voice, in accents betokening a depth of woe not to be described in words. [banshee?] It lasted several minutes, then appeared to melt away like the ripple of the wave…As the last note became inaudible, the child’s spirit passed away.” Case No. 159, at another deathbed “we both compared them to the striking of a bell which was deficient in melody, but in the reverberation of which there is music…it almost took my breath away…..[the author tells of his sleep being disturbed by the bell music, which would suggest tinnitus or something similar–except his wife could hear it too. Strangely, there are medical reports of noises issuing from ears, which are audible to others. Later in the tale] “The sound of bells had gone and tones of flutes took their place…the tones of the flute had now vanished again, and we could only compare it to the singing of a choir with musical accompaniment.” Case 144 tells of an 8-year-old boy believed to be on his deathbed who said to his sister: Oh, what a beautiful sight! See those little angels.” “What are they doing?” asked the sister. “Oh, they have hold of hands, and wreaths on their heads, and they are dancing in a circle around me. Oh, how happy they look and they are whispering to each other…” “Do they say anything to you?” “Yes, but I can’t tell you as they tell me, for they sing it beautifully. We can’t sing so.” Other cases describe the music as “crooning or humming very sweetly sung, but the words not distinguishable”, and “a swarm of bees around me…I could hear the singing of the hymn ‘O Paradiso’ until it died away in the distance.”. One gentleman (in the “pseudo” cases section) heard a female voice singing a song which he transcribed and recorded. He claims it has the ability to lift depression. The book also has a chapter on mystic music heard in connection with the Welsh Revival and refers to some cases in Phantasms of the Living, by Gurney, Myers, Podmore. Rogo quotes Dr. Wilder Penfield, director of the Montreal Neurological Institute. In 1955 Penfield reported on his experiments placing electrodes on the temporal lobe cortex: “A young woman heard music when a certain point in the superior surfaces of the temporal cortex was stimulated…She was quite sure each time that someone had turned on a gramophone in the operating room.” Perhaps one of your neuroscientist readers can bring us up to date on what has been discovered about the temporal lobe/mystical experiences/music from modern brain mapping. Case No. 142 in NAD Vol. 2 is about music heard at the deathbed of Wolfgang Goethe. It is a long passage and so I’m linking to this page, which quotes bits from it and also has other examples of mysterious music:  I have mentioned it before, but there is a fictional story by Saki, “The Music on the Hill” that uses fairy/panic music to chilling effect: . This comes meanwhile from Bray’s a Peep at the Pixies: On the borders of Dartmoor, in days of yore, there lived a rich old farmer, in one of the fields near whose house, stood a very curious object, a large moor-stone rock, shaped by nature so much like an ancient Gothic church with a tower, that it was known among the country people for miles round by the name of The Pixies’ Church’.  It was also encompassed by a Pixy ring; and many old persons declared that ever since they could remember, if you placed your ear close to the rock on a Sunday, you could hear a small tinkling sound, resembling the church bells at Tavistock, and usually at the very time they were ringing to warn the good people of that town for the morning service. It was said, likewise, that the same sound could be heard when the bells of Tavistock chimed, as they always did at four, and eight, and twelve o’clock. One old woman protested that so long ago as when her great grand-father, who was fond of music, was a little boy, he was frequently seen to place his ear against the rock to listen, as he thought, to the Pixies’ ringing; and although he had never been at Tavistock, he thus learned the tune of the 100th Psalm which the chimes there used to play daily. He declared that he heard the Pixy music best when he put his head in a hole in the portion of the rock which was called the belfry tower. When he grew up to be a man he learned to play on the bass viol with which he led the choir of a neighbouring village; and it was always noticed that there was no tune he played with so much spirit as the 100th Psalm, which he had so often heard at the belfry rock. ‘And, as sure as you are alive’, said the ancient dame, who repeated this story round many a Christmas fire, ‘the Pixies love bell-ringing, and go to church o’ Sundays’. Thanks Invisible, DY and Wade!

    Kobolds: Amanda suggests these could perhaps be Earthquake or Earthlights. Here’s a few links that might be of interest: cowflipper, fortean-times, pauldevereux, indigogroup, earthlights, inamidst and jimolight. Invisible writes: I sat here, mouth agape, at the Kobolds of Derbyshire. This tale has it all: Spook lights/earth lights/orbs, kobolds/fairies/apparitions, plus classic poltergeist moves in the rappings and household items being thrown/falling. If this was being reported today you’d find investigators trying to communicate with “sentient orbs” and the ghosts of dead miners with perhaps a nod to Michael Persinger’s earth lights/portal areas/temporal lobe epilepsy triggered by magnetic fields in the mines. The truly advanced investigator might suggest hallucinatory gases seeping out of the rock a la Delphi. And, because of the regularity of the phenomena, Dovedale would become a major ghost tourism destination. Thanks Amanda and Invisible!

    Burning Reputations: LTM writes ‘Wilhelm Reich is the first to come to mind, but not quite as fast as Mack. Harvard is full of quacks; I was a student in the late 60s/early 70s and knew several professors who could easily have been certified and institutionalised for the protection of the public.’ KMH nominates Timothy Leary, ‘although never considered for a Nobel prize’  Tacitus from Detritus writes: William Shockley because it is just so hard to find politically correct ways to frame eugenics. Linus Pauling also got a little goofy about Vitamin C and Pacifism, but both are actually good for you in reasonable doses. Ashley over at Sedition has her own take on this. Thanks Ashley, KMH, LTM and Tacitus!

    Island of Cronos: James writes: ‘first point to make is that this text was written a long-half century after the conquest of Britain by the Romans. It is very credible then that this is based on first-hand or second-hand information from that island. Second, I seem to remember the idea that Demetrius in the text (the talker) may have been the same Demetrius who circumnavigated Britain under Nero. Worth a thought.’ Next comes this text sent by JMM via Larry ‘Lots of good information on Kronos (Cronos, Chronos, Cronus) from the (impressive) Greek Mythology Link website: From which: “Note about Cronos and Chronos The name Chronos appears in several authors such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Pindar, Quintus Smyrnaeus, Cicero and Nonnus. He is identified with Time, but some of them say that he is the same as Cronos (Saturn). Chronos is said to be the father of the HORAE, of  Aether and Eros. In this version (Nonnus), the HORAE are regarded as Hours instead of Seasons. Chronos appears as father of Aether (the upper sky) and Eros in the Argonautica Orphica.”  And some vague info on Ogygia from the entry on Calypso: ‘After having drifted for nine days, Odysseus was washed up, in the night of the tenth, on the remote Island of Ogygia, the exact location of which, in the western Mediterranean Sea, has been forgotten.’ Thanks to Larry James and JMM

    Queen of Serpents: RR writes in I’d be willing to wager a small sum that the queen’s crown in the article is one segment of a rattler’s rattle.  Very similar to a crown’s shape. Howard meanwhile writes: Pure speculation, but I think the text may be describing a sclerotic ring, a ring of bones that supports the eye within the orbit, found in birds, reptiles, dinosaurs, etc. (but oddly not crocodiles). The doctor may indeed have said as much, as the sclerotic ring is indeed a bony “excrescence” from the skull of a reptile. Compare this image of a gecko’s skull from wikimedia. A large, well-preserved sclerotic ring, or perhaps a fossilized sclerotic ring, would be exceedingly rare and fragile, which might help explain de Haxthausen’s reluctance to let people handle it. Thanks to Howard and RR!!

    Archaeological Misunderstandings: Judith from Zenobia writes: Every archaeologist working in the Middle East or Egypt has stories of suspicious or resentful locals certain that we were there to dig for treasure or, at the very least, were spies.  One classic story centres on the Treasury (Khasneh) at Petra.  The decorated urns above the round temple-tent near the top of the building are pockmarked by bullet holes; although made solid stone, for years locals took pots-shots at it, believing the vases were hollow and filled with treasure.’ Then Invisible with a superb screw up.  The bold-faced bit is my favorite archaeological misunderstanding. As you can see, there were precedents for mistaking bog bodies for recent victims of crime or accident. “When the teeth of the digger bucket bit into the ditch vegetation at the edge of Croghan bog in County Offaly, Larry Corley noticed something solid sticking out of the cleaned drain. Jumping out of his cab, and bending down, he was shocked to find it was a human arm, ending in a huge thumb (Grice 2006: 19). He reported it immediately to the local Gardaí, and Det. Sgt. Eadaoín Campbell was sent out to photograph the remains and launch a forensic investigation, in the company of Marie Cassidy, the Irish state pathologist. To the modern eye, bogs can be desolate places: bleak landscapes, with dark pools of water, fringed with cotton grass. Both Campbell and Cassidy were aware of the disappearance of several local women from the area, over the last few years (ibid). Bogs were also a favoured place to dispose of bodies during the 1970s and 1980s period of the Troubles (Farrell 2001). Both the atmosphere of the place, and these historical disappearances, gave them to fear they were dealing with a modern murder. What they found, however, when they pulled back the black plastic over the crime scene, was the leather-coloured corpse of a much older victim, who has since become known as ‘Oldcroghan man’ (Grice 2006: 20).  “The circumstances of this discovery were not unique. In 1983, Andy Mould, working on the processing line at Lindow Moss, in Cheshire, identified the partial remains of a human skull amongst the milled peat. Again, the police were called in, since they were concerned about the disappearance of a local woman from the area – Malika Reyn-Bardt – nearly twenty years earlier (Turner 1995b: 13). They had long suspected the husband, and when they confronted him with the remains, he confessed immediately to her murder and burial in the bog at the back of their bungalow: Lindow Moss. It was only after this interview that radiocarbon analysis was conducted on the remains, which dated them to the first or second century AD: Mr Reyn-Bardt had confessed to a murder he couldn’t have possibly committed.  “Human remains from bogs across northern Europe have been dated to periods from later prehistory up to the nineteenth century. For example, when Graubelle Man was found in Denmark, there was debate over whether the remains were those of a local peat-cutter, Red Christian, who had disappeared in the region around 1887. Apparently found of his drink, it had long been assumed he had fallen into the bog, and drowned (Glob 1969: 60).”   Source: BOG BODIES: REPRESENTING THE DEAD’ Thanks Judith and Invisible!

    Trolls that Tuck You In: Amanda writes in, ‘These might be of interest:  Road Trolls, The Fremont Troll,  Troll Sighting in Tennessee? , FOR WHOM THE BELL TROLLS!Snömannen -the Scandinavian Bigfoot,   Farmers Kill Mexican “Troll” With Machete , Scandinavian Trolls, and best of all, Troll Awareness Society.’ Thanks Amanda!

    Psychic Phenomena: Wade has what is surely the best modern example: I think Street Light Interference (SLI) fits the bill of a recent “new” psychic phenomena. People who do it are called SLIders. I guess I’m one of the them. I started noticing this about twenty years ago to the point that it seemed too regular to be coincidence. Driving along the interstate at night, I would see a vapor light go out then after passing by, pop back on. There is probably a skeptical explanation, but it is eerie to have it happen in random locations with fair regularity.  Patricia has this reference:  Recent investigation by a scientist of the ‘psychic phenomenon’ you mentioned in today’s blogpost is being carried out by Rupert Sheldrake. Much if his work has involved animals, but apparently he’s moved on to humans and whether/how they sense an incoming call/email, and the sensation of being stared at. See especially his book Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home for a lively introduction to his theory of morphic resonance. AB writes in ‘Beach you ought to check out the work of Rupert Sheldrake a scientists who treats seriously anecdotal data and who’s had run-ins with the likes of Randy and French and Wiseman over his studies of Dogs Who Know When Their Owners’re On Their Way Home and People Who’re Aware When They’re Being Stared At.  He’s also big on People Knowing When Someone’s About to Call Them. As for psychic trends I’d give People Who’ve Been Contacted by the Dead Via the Phone and the PC as examples of that…haven’t heard of any mobile incidents so far though I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. As for Foreseeing the Face of Someone Before You Meet Them in the Wrong Part of Town it’s a joke between me and my brother every time he goes into town – even the wrong parts! – somehow he’ll bump into our sister.  The funny thing is she seems oblivious to it and merely explains she suddenly got this idea to head through to such and such a place when by chance she bumped into him and wondered what he was doing there?’ Invisible writes in ‘I’d suggest that hearing the cab before it appears and seeing a person you think you know before you meet them seem to be variants of the Scandinavian Vardøger phenomenon. Here’s the wikipedia definition  and one man’s stories:  I have personal experience of this as my husband is of Swedish descent and frequently “comes home” several times before he actually comes home. I have heard the front door open, golf clubs clank to the floor, and gone to the door, only to see–nothing–until he arrives about a half hour later. Or I hear the garage door go up and I hear his motorcycle pull into the garage (right by my office), but he is not there–until he actually shows up in about 15 minutes. Bizarre and sometimes unsettling, but I’ve finally gotten used to it..’ Thanks to Invisible, Wade, Patricia and AB

    D.D.Home: ‘Speaking as a committed Beachnut I neverthless feel duty bound to defend Daniel Dunglas Home’s honour (which’s not the same thing as saying I think he was genuinely psychic) when it comes to the conditions he needed to work under. The use of darkness as a tool to faciltate ‘states’ goes back at least as far as our caveman days and continued at least until the practises of the Ancient Greek therapeutae. After that it was gradually forgotten such artificially induced temporary blindness isn’t just capable of enhancing our hearing  but also rousing a certain ‘capacity’ which normally becomes dormant while most of us are still children (which might even explain the light source Lindsay mistook for the moon). Ditto exhorting the sitters not to leave their places induces an unnatural restriction on them in the hope this simultaneously childlike but immature ‘capacity’ [Gurdjieff’s Essence  Juan Matus’ Nagual  Jesus’ Holy Ghost] will be stirred to resist (which’s why such severely restrictive measures as i) being interred underground ii) in sarcophagi iii) hung on flesh tearing hooks iv) lopping off fingers and breasts v) wearing animal skins or their descendant bondage suits’ve similarly been utilised since the dawn of time). Again exhortations not to look directly at manifestations serve at least two non-chicanistic purposes: 1) some people’re more easily damaged than others by looking directly into the radiation emitted by ‘spiritual’ suns and 2) perpetually switching between irresistible curiosity and fear of the consequences can also serve to stir that dormant ‘capacity’. Before I’d more fully give DDH the benefit of the doubt though I’d need to be clearer as to his status outside that seance room.  He  mentions a hypothetical policeman witnessing him floating through the air but if he was really famous then it’d much more likely’ve been the Victorian era’s equivalent of the modern tabloid press (which was as scurrilous as anything now) my point being if he was already famous/notorious by this time then the lack of a news report to the effect he was witnessed floating (or climbing!) out his window would seem to strengthen your own take.’ Invisible writes in: ‘On the levitations of D.D. Home, I read that his “ordinary” seance levitations were accomplished using the following method. This was suggested by magician and debunker of mediums Milbourne Christopher, who tried it, although, as spiritualists often say, just because a magician can duplicate a feat does not mean that it did not happen in a paranormal way on another occasion. Christopher writes: How could Home levitate himself in a room with the lights out? One method used then, and later, by mediums is most convincing. In the dark the psychic slips off his shoes as he tells the sitters his body is becoming weightless. The sitter to the medium’s left grasps his left hand, the one to the right puts a hand on the mystic’s shoes, near the toes. Holding his shoes together with his right hand pressing the inner sides, the medium slowly raises them in the air as he first squats then stands on his chair. The man holding his hand reports the medium is ascending; so does the sitter who touches the shoes. Until I tried this myself, it was hard to believe that spectators in the dark room could be convinced an ascension was being made.  I have read (although the reference escapes me, perhaps in the hostile Sorcerer of Kings, by Gordon Stein) that Home and Adare were lovers and that either Adare was blackmailed into boosting Home’s reputation, which sorely needed it after the Lyon affair, or that Adare, out of fondness for Home, colluded in the levitation fraud. The book The Enigma of Daniel Home, Medium or Fraud, Trevor H. Hall, while it is published by the partisan sceptic press, Prometheus, gives an excellent analysis of some of the questions surrounding Home and his “levitation” in front of Adare and the other witnesses. The author concludes that Home had a unique ability to influence his followers, giving examples of Home grooming the young Adare in suggestibility, and that the witnesses were in a “mildly abnormal state” throughout the experience. Heyday of a Wizard by Jean Burton, offers another useful look at Home and his tricks. Historical Mysteries, Andrew Lang (online on Project Gutenberg), has a chapter on Home The First Psychic, Dr Peter Lamont, is written by a magician and historian of magic. Here is a review of his book:  Frank Podmore, who discusses Home in several of his books, is kinder in that he says something to the effect that Home was never caught in fraud so we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.’ Thanks Invisible and AB!

    Shakespeare: KMH is first up: ‘As an American I feel a little non-relevant to the Shakespeare controversy. My explanation for the intense feelings associated here is that Shakespeare is at the core of English culture, history and tradition. It isn’t possible to be a true Englishman  without an appreciation for Shakespeare and the other English poets and playwrights. Impugning Shakespeare’s authorship perhaps implies a crack or inconsistency in the English experience over a number of centuries. In other words, an unwanted identity crisis over the meaning and value of England and  English culture may ensue, at least among those involved in the controversy.   I believe the truth will ultimately come out, even though it is unwanted.But the appropriate time will be in the future when emotional considerations will be much less important and objectivity more normal than now.’ Kithra chips in with something similar ‘As for the controversy over authorship getting people so hot and bothered I think that one reason is because he’s such a British icon. Let’s face it, people all around the world have heard of him, and that even includes the many semi-educated people here in the UK. I remember loving to study him at school, and when I was in my late teenage years my cousin and I used to often stay up until the early hours just reading his plays aloud – dividing up the parts between us. In many ways the debate about him, and the rage it can produce in some quarters, reminds me of the debate about the Elgin Marbles.’ Beach can’t help wondering whether the authorship question affects Englishness, unless of course ‘Cervantes did it’. In some ways, Englishness would be well served by the idea that a groovy aristocrat had written the whole thing. Mike D writes in ‘I don’t think it’s really a Shakespeare issue, as such. The problem is more likely that you have riled up a specialist nest of conspiracy theorists. As a group, the conspiracy boys seem to be both irrational, and cynically demeaning of anyone who doesn’t share their delusions. Here’s another example. There are a bunch of people who think the most famous Stradivari isn’t one. What they have in common is that they aren’t experts on the topic, they haven’t actually seen the violin, nor could they pick out a real one in a line-up, BUT they are smarter than you because of their Special Powers. No real violin expert of the last 200 years agrees with them, but never mind that.  Read this description from maestronet   which even goes deeper and suggests anonymous questionable ‘experts’ believe that unspeakable things have been done to a violin that they don’t believe is real, anyway, and THAT gets them wound up, too.’ Beach finds the whole connection to conspiracy theories interesting but he has to say that in his experience the authorship types are often (though not always!!) extremely knowledgeable. There is also a rather strange deficit in the field where most of those professionals supporting Shakespeare as author are literature professors rather than historians. In that sense the amateurs often have stronger historical backgrounds than the pros. Still the conspiracy theory idea resonates Southern Man next: Ok this could be really weak but I have the sense that the amateur pro thing really matters here. Those amateurs who identify with the authorship question often (though by no means always!!) identify with the whole renaissance man thing. Shakespeare as such is this God that they themselves measure up to, and (i) Shakespeare has to be as perfect as possible (aristocrat etc) and (ii) their own perceptions and judgements are enhanced. Their identity has moved into this question which means you are treading on their dreams if you question it.’Tony B writes in with this reflection: If you think Shagsperre leads to Acrimony , try the Siege of Drogheda…. According to the Irish position  the whole population were slaughtered. It became a shibboleth of Irish Nationalism as the most Terrible Massacre of All Time , but has now been more or less demolished, even by Irish historians of the Cromwellian invasion, into a rather nasty storming in which some of the garrison were killed , having refused quarter. According to the accepted miltary etiquette of the time , they asked for it. But you still can’t say that without getting into terrible trouble. ‘I think that the greatest “genius” figures like Shakespeare, Leonardo,  Newton, Mozart, and Einstein, (not to mention Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, Augustus, Saladdin, Philip K. Dick,  John Lennon……..)  inspire more than their fair share of emotional pros-and-cons because people wonder, could one person really have done all that, could one individual really see so deeply?  Yes, how inspirational, how hopeful for the human race,…. or, nah, it’s gotta be at least partly a con job.  With Shakespeare, writing 400 years ago, something about the language beautifully introduces the modern period: when I pick up Shakespeare, every 15 years or so, I’m struck by the way the recognizably modern usage includes a subtle touch of earlier forms of language and structure.  What is it?  Some hint of Celtic wordplay, some kind of distant Greek or Roman oratorical thunder?  Another product of the Elizabethan, the King James Bible, is also said to be beautifully written… maybe it had something to do with the times, like the first 20 years of rock music, never equalled since, in the opinion of many. Well, some artists do indeed produce an amazing amount of consistently good work… it’s comforting to think Shakespeare simply sat down alone every day, sharpened the olde quill,  and did Shakespeare. Then comes Radko: In your recent article you pose a question: “did Bohemia have a coast?”  Well, no, Bohemia didn’t have a coast as such but a Bohemian king Premysl Otakar II had holdings reaching from Mediterranean sea up to Baltic so it’s possibly not too far to leap to take a poetic license and declare coastal lands ruled by Bohemian king “the coast of Bohemia”. As far as Shakespeare himself goes, I’m can’t say either way with any authority but it is my personal opinion that all Shakespeare’s works were written by a different man of the same name.’  LTM writes in: Excellent new study on Shakespeare in Italy where the author actually went to every site and carefully researched how it would have been in 1600. David Kathman writes in ‘Most of the anti-Stratfordians I encounter appear to be very intelligent and well-educated people, though their education is typically in some area other than Shakespeare and Elizabethan literature, as in the case of the physicist Sabrina Feldman. Now, I certainly don’t think that only people who are formally educated in Elizabethan literature and/or employed in academia are qualified to talk about Shakespeare, and that’s not just because my own degrees (BA, MA, PhD) are all in linguistics rather than English literature or history. I will take anybody seriously if they do good work and know what they’re doing, and nearly all the academic Shakespeare scholars I know feel the same. I make my living as a mutual fund analyst, not in academia, but I’ve always been treated with the utmost respect by Shakespeare scholars and theater historians, because I do good, careful scholarly work that advances knowledge in the field. The reason that anti-Stratfordians are not taken seriously by those same scholars is that they routinely violate the most basic standards of scholarship used by literary historians, and many of them display shocking ignorance of the literary and historical contexts of Shakespeare’s works. I’ve written about this in many place, including these articles (1, 2) on the Shakespeare Authorship site: There’s plenty more I could say, but those articles have the basics.’ Thanks as always LTM, Chris F, David K, Radko, Tony B, Mike, Southern Man, Kithra and KMH!

    Bird Telepathy: AB writes in: I find this remark fascinating: “My view is that they do it, to a great extent, by what we call telepathy, but that they supplement this by signs and sounds.” I’m more and more convinced we ourselves actually communicate much more of what we mean this way than by the pulsations of gas we expel.  This’s especially apparent to me during many telephone conversations where I seem to pick up huge amounts of often subsequently confirmed information from the most idle of mutterings. Then again many a time either me or my brother’ll hear each other say or ask for something before then apologising for responding in completely the ‘wrong’ way only to then learn our response was correct – what was said or asked for was actually a huge slip of the tongue. Saying all that I must say you must read more books than writer Colin Wilson given the obscurity of the stuff you come up with.’ Thanks AB!

    Religious Pictures: LTM writes in with this magnificent photo of the unification church and the famous 20,000 couples get married and Beach has added a picture from the same day of stepford brides and grooms walking forward in their attempt at world domination

    Invisible also has some awesome pictures (plus a correction cut and pasted in the post itself). First Fatima and eyes on the sky waiting for the miracle:

    Next up the sick at Lourdes:

    And a pilgrimage in Ireland at Knock (memories of the Hebrides above)

    Thanks Invisible and LTM!

    Electric Cures: First up is KMH: Electrotherapy  seems to help with healing wounds and  muscle atrophy according to wikipedia. There is much room for further development and improvement in its application. Loes writes: After reading your latest electricity cure and mentioning Emma Hardinge Britten, who was indeed a remarkable woman and medium who left us so much history of early Spiritualism, (one always wonders how some people in the 19th Century managed to write so much without a computer, do so much research and live a busy life besides), I was reminded of the electrical cures of Carl Wickland and his wife, described in ‘Thirty Years among the Dead’. Wickland drove out the invading spirit from a patient with an electrical device, making ‘it’ move to his wife, who was a medium, after which procedure he tried talking to the spirit, to convince it that it was dead and could have more fun somewhere else. This principle is applied in Brazil and in Germany, by Dagobert Göbel and his ( also a medium) Brazilian wife Fernanda Marinho, with good results, using the passes Mesmer used, which is (kind of) electric too. www.alkastar.de I can’t help thinking that maybe the at times good results of electroshock therapy in psychiatry is due to the same principle. Which means that some psychiatric illnesses would be spiritual rather than physical or psychological, a principle that Kardec’s Spiritism in Brazil uses in their many health facilities. Invisible has a couple of great museum links here: Quackery and Roadside. Jim contributed this ‘Apparently, discovered because of a severe personal problem, live bone exhibits piezoelectric phenomena.  That is, mechanical stress applied to the material produces an electrical potential/current. This is a commonly used phenomenon in piezoelectic acoustic speakers, like in your cellphone.  The acoustic side is exhibited by varying electric potentials making the solid material change dimensions.  The reverse is true:  solid material dimensional changes generate electrical potentials, e. g., the transducers in modern weight scales or the microphones in your cellphone.  The orthopedic surgeon explained that a properly applied electrical current/potential across a fractured bone will stimulate that bone to regenerate and heal faster.  That was cool to a rock mechanic/geologic instrumentation guy.’ Andy the Mad Monk writes in with this link for electricity and hay fever! Thanks Jim, KMH, Loes, Andy and Invisible!

    Death-dealer: The great Chris Hale shared this with Beachcombing from an east European contact: The identity of person who is in pictures of Lietūkio garazas is still unknown. The most likely according to of historian A.Anusauskas, who did the best research in many foreign archives) that his name was Juozas Surmas – a gestapo/SD agent in prewar Lithuania, who organised the pogrom together with Stahlecker’s driver and interpreter. They knew each other from prewar time, both where born in Kybartai, Lithuania. Juozas Surmas was convicted after the war for participating in murder of Jews, but not for Lietūkis. Died in Gulag. He is the most probable one of the organisers.’ Thanks Chris!

    Bombing: Southern Man is very quick this morning: ‘‘A couple of thoughts on Bomber Command. First, read Roald Dahl’s excellent short stories on his experience as a bomber. I remember one very vividly that describes how a bomber crew in a bar talks of the sheer randomness of it all. If they press ‘the drop’ button a moment before or later then different families will die. Another thought comes from J.R.R Tolkien. JRRT was once asked whether the Lord of the Rings was a metaphor for the Second World War. He replied no and said that if it had been then Frodo would have used the ring. In other words, by bombing (and let’s not forget the atom bomb) civilians, Britain, the US and their allies had become little better than the enemy they had set out to defeat. Isn’t there a sentence in Nietzsche about those who fight dragons become dragons?’ Wise words from JEC: Dr. B, what strikes me about this issue is that these are questions which plague successive generations of the winners  and cannot be asked unless victory was achieved. The vast majority of those sent…required, compelled…to commit what are so blithely termed atrocities by some today, did not have the luxury of assurance that there would be succeeding generations to whom their actions would possibly need justification. They had to fight and die and win first. Those who demand “How could you?” of the old warrior strike me as graceless, not just because of the whiff of moral certitude which they carry, but because they almost certainly have no personal experience with the subject, and thus no possible true understanding of what it is to live with not just the literal specter of death hovering above, but the very real possibility of the utter end of one’s country and all that makes life worth living. I’m not saying the issue shouldn’t be examined: it must. But there is accusation inherent in so much of this discussion, and great care must be taken.  WWII for Britain was, literally, a war for survival. For some time bombing was the only way in which Britain could strike, and be seen to strike, the Germans. It was not until early 1945 that victory was reasonably assured, the western Allies’ mistaken hubris of late Fall ’44 notwithstanding. To say now the only weapon available at the time should not have been drawn seems unrealistic. And we should never forget WWII was a war of Nazi aggression, which Hitler and the German people who chose him had many chances to avoid. Embarking on a war for territory is asking for the whirlwind to be unleashed, and no one can foresee where it goes. Ultimately I think the dehousing policy of Harris was misguided and even wrong. But, remember, the British made a reasonable decision that daytime bombing was not sustainable – and for them it probably wasn’t. So nighttime bombing, with its inherent inaccuracy, made area bombing the only game in town. Yes, if they could have managed daytime bombing, greater war gains would have been attained if industrial targets alone had been pursued. But that is hindsight, in which things are much more clear than if they are hurtling toward us at infinite speed.      And this from Dr Turkey over at the Medical History Blogspot: Memory is a strange old thing and what can be buried at the time, might not stay buried, particularly in the face of persistant reminders.  Witness victims of post traumatic stress disorder who are often able to bury traumatic memories for years, even decades, only to have them suddenly reemerge at the onset of another seemingly innocuous event.  (The more extreme version of that is disassociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder where the memories are never processed and instead form a unique identiy of their own).  I suspect post war Britain of the Stiff Upper Lip, talking and processing trauma was simply Not Done, particularly when those atrocities needed to be hidden from the public.  In the last few decades many doctors working with the elderly Vets will tell you that there’s been remerging trauma around unresolved WWII issues, particularly as people start experiencing new loss of partners, or simply the onset of dementia which makes it harder to suppress memories.  I remember one particular patient I worked with who would wake the ward up screaming every night, recounting horrible nightmares of what he had seen during the campaign in Europe.  He used to be so embarrassed, because, “love, I haven’t thought about this in years,” but as his own end came closer, so did the thoughts.  In short, I suspect that the guilt and the trauma was always there to an extent – but they had a job to do and a societal expectation to do it, and so they did.  Where we failed them was in expecting that they could do that, live that, and that it would be ok.  (And even worse, we have the audacity to judge them for it)  The more we learn about the human brain is that some people can really only take so much, and then the guilt just gets too much! (Unless you’ve got an antisocial personality disorder.  But that’s another story).’ Here is KMH There is quite a bit to the argument against the bombing, but wars can’t really be fought on a completely logical basis. Governments have no solution to the war problem, although the UN was originally not a bad idea. If we go back  to the middle ages we find the Church rather successfully imposing rules of warfare on participants. Since then as church authority has declined and technology has advanced  the rules have been cast aside. Under Napoleon all men were inducted, not just the  aristocrats. Under Hitler, any and  all civilians became a target of the military. Now in the atomic era there is the problem of leaving targeted areas totally uninhabitable for thousands of years.  Thanks JEC, KMH, SM and DocTurkey!

    Weird Names: Kate writes in: I can add a few unusual names , although they date from the  late 20 th century, not the 19th. Beals Island is a small island off the coast of Down East Maine. It is fairly remote now and was even more so many years ago. Such isolation leads to a certain amount of inbreeding among the locals, and since just about everyone is related somehow and has the same few last names, people get creative naming their children. I remember meeting three brothers- Napoleon, Roosevelt and Wellington Beal. It should be noted that the Rossevelt so honored was Teddy, not That Man.’ Then Invisible: Oh, golly, I completely forgot some interesting 19th century names from my own ancestors. My Great-Grandmother used to recite these as sort of a litany so I’m spelling some of them phonetically. I have  found several of them online in genealogy sites so they were not some bizarre family legend. My favorite is Pocahontas Rose Dunklebarger (Palatinate immigrants to Pennsylvania, I say defensively about the last name.) Wilhelmina Runningbrook Dunklebarger (Native American lady who married into a branch of the family) [The following all have the Dunklebarger surname] Charles Cuthbert Err, Casibiana Bollingbrook, Casteline Crist, Olga Varinissa, Ona Peridita. I have NO idea what these people were thinking when they named their children. It sounds like they read a lot of 19th century Gothic novels. The rest of the Dunklebargers (and there are at least four variant spellings of that name) all had relatively normal names like Christopher and Peter and Sarah. These triple-barreled names are bad enough by themselves, but to yoke them to a (to American ears) comic surname argues a frivolity of spirit quite out of keeping with the family record. Invisible also has a brilliant link she has sent in if you are looking for Boudicea Basher etc. LTM shows that long names are not dead. Thanks Kate, Invisible and LTM!

    Top Ten: A couple of fascinating replies here. As Beach is ‘guilty’ of not including certain books he’s put his own thoughts in square brackets. First up is Loes: ‘As for books about elves, apart from some very well known you omitted from your Top 10, like Wirt Sikes’ British Goblins, of course Reverend Kirks amazing little book, and ‘The Science of Fairytales’, by Edwin Hartland, there’s this book by Eddie Lenihan, ‘Meeting the Other Crowd’ [perhaps I was concentrating on the 20 cent, however, I now feel bad about leaving Eddie Lenihan off which is a marvellous book] – The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland, which is all about live encounters, sometimes told in the kind of slang that’s difficult reading for foreigners like me, but really interesting. I also like the books by Theosophist Geoffrey Hodson, who confirmed the sightings of those two Conan Doyle Cottingley girls. Or so he said. A charming book is Tanis Helliwell’s ‘Summer with the Leprechaun’ , told as a true story. But true or not, she captures the atmosphere, a joy to read, as is the sequel ‘Pilgrimage with the Leprechauns’. I ‘m sure I’m not telling you anything new, but nevertheless. There are also two (probably more) wonderful documentaries about elves on DVD: a French one ‘Enquête sur le Monde Invisible’, English subtitles, about elfin matters in Iceland (and monsters too), and an American one by John Walker: The Fairy Faith.   I wish you lots of wonderful discoveries! [very excited about the two films]’ Next comes Diane Purkiss who with characteristic kindness has sent in this thought: Have you considered Lizanne Henderson’s book on Scottish Fairy beliefs? [I have it on my shelves but still have not read it: sorry, Lizanne]  She has no time for me, so this is not a logrolling event.  I also like some pretty books… there’s a book of fashions for fairies, very like some Jacobean poetry….’ Then the also kind Janet Bord: ‘At this point I am wondering if you have come across the Spanish-language books by Jesús Callejo?  I have three, but there may be more.  Duendes (1994), Hadas (1995), Gnomos (1996), all with the same sub-title:  Guía de los seres mágicos de España.  All published by Edaf, Madrid.’ [Ignorant, sorry again.] Alaric Hall, very kindly has given some feedback. I was glad to see Jeremy Harte’s work on your list–I think he’s a good thing. You might want to consider looking at Wade, James, Fairies in Medieval Romance (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and I also like Henderson, Lizanne, and Edward J. Cowan, Scottish Fairy Belief: A History (East Linton, 2001).’Thanks to Alaric, Loes, Diane and Janet!

    Crowd Art: Invisible writes: ‘The photograph of the “living image” of Woodrow Wilson’s head was taken in 1918 at Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio. 21,000 men were used to make the image. This link gives some of the statistics. This must have been taken only days or weeks before the influenza hit Camp Sherman in late summer/fall. The camp saw the highest death rate of any military training camp in the United States. The camp held 33,044 men when the influenza arrived. Out of 8,000 people infected, nearly 1,200 died. Corpses were taken to a nearby theatre (now The Majestic), stacked in the dressing rooms under the stage, and embalmed on the stage. Luridly, the overwhelmed embalmers pumped blood into the alley behind the theatre, still known today as “Blood Alley.” So, yes, it is possible that many of these soldiers were dead, not in battle, but in their barracks, by the time this photo was made into a postcard.’ Thanks Invisible!

    Archangel in Naples: Invisible writes in with a universe: ‘Oh dear, where to start with seance-room fraud! Low-hanging fruit: you have Mina Crandon—“Margery”, a Boston medium who extruded “ectoplasm” (some of which seemed to be animal lung tissue) from intimate places; Eusapia Palladino, an Italian medium, who frankly admitted that she would cheat if given a chance; and spirit photographer William Mumler who was put on trial for faking spirit photos. Critics are divided about Daniel Dunglas Home, who was said to be able to levitate, move heavy furniture and other objects, produce mystical music and voices, and pick up hot coals in his bare hands. Closer to home, there was Joseph Jonson of Toledo,Ohio, a materialization medium visited by Arthur Conan Doyle, who was much taken by his performance. In one of his books about his Spiritualist travels, with perfect innocence Conan Doyle comments how much some of the materialized spirits resemble the medium. Another of Ohio’s notable “mediums” was Anna Eva Fay. She did a mind-reading act either sitting under a sheet (with a confederate feeding her answers through a tube) or standing on the stage in a gorgeous, long-trained dress that covered the wire leading to an earpiece. She used a method developed by another Ohio native, Samri S. Baldwin, “The White Mahatma,” Baldwin presented a show exposing the tricks of mediums, but also claimed that his wife had “somnomistic” visions. His assistants passed out pads of paper to the audience—each second sheet was coated with wax which left an impression on the third sheet when written on. The pads were coded for location, then, backstage, assistants rubbed lampblack on the third sheets, bringing up the questions. The questions and the location of the writer were passed to Anna through the tube or the earpiece. Sometimes confederates were placed in the audience to “verify” her most amazing revelations and an associate once paid two men to steal an automobile and park it in a place where Anna could reveal it to the owner. After she retired, she was a friend of Houdini’s, admitting her impostures (which she viewed as stage magic) and swapping trade secrets. Anna had been tested by the Grand Old Man of British psychic research: Sir William Crookes.  She explained to Houdini how she had defeated one of Crookes’ electronic tests by gripping one handle of the circuit against the bare flesh of her knee, leaving her a free hand for rappings. Speaking of archangels, a mediumistic lady named Mrs. Berry had a band of seventy archangels watching out for her. One evening they prompted her to stir some arrowroot which had curdled. They also guided her steps to an archangel-approved house in Paddington where the Heavenly messengers then chose the wallpapers and carpets and oversaw the hanging of the pictures.  [Modern Spiritualism, Vol. 2, Frank Podmore, p. 77] This reminds me of a recent visionary lady in Arizona who says that Jesus walks with her in the grocery store, alerting her to sales on laundry detergent and other products. Mediums often had quick-witted explanations for difficulties: The Decatur Republican, 3-30-1876 p. 8, Illinois FULLY EXPLAINED. Recently five men at a materializing séance in Terre Haute smirched their hands with lamp black, shook hands with an apparition and found when the lights were turned up the medium bore the marks. This was generally regarded as the exposure of a fraud; but the Banner of Light corrects the error as follows: “Now every experience investigator into the phenomena is aware that the spirit hand on touching any coloring substance, will, in the recoil of the transitional atoms, or as some call it, the nerve aura, carry back that foreign substance to the corresponding member of the medium’s frame.” Certainly. But at other times, no explanation would serve: NY Times 5-7-1889, A DEMORALIZED MEDIUM., Kicked Out of Doors with His Ghosts and Cabinet. Covington, Ohio, May 6. Dr. Francis Buckner was in court his morning to answer to a charge of an assault on Dr. Warner, a spiritualist medium. Some weeks ago Warner took rooms at Buckner’s, and before the latter knew what was going on had gained complete control over Mrs. Buckner and the children so far as Spiritualism was concerned. Buckner ordered Warner to leave the house, but the wife interfered and he remained. Last evening Buckner came in from a professional visit and found Warner holding a séance in his parlor, assisted by two women named Hughes and Shaw of Chicago. Several neighbors were present, and the disembodied were making frequent visits to the room. A white something that claimed to be a dead sister of Mrs. Buckner was sliding about the room. It was too much for the doctor, and before anybody realized what was going on he had the something in his arms. It yelled, but it was useless, and Buckner, dragging it to the hall door, threw it forcibly down the steps, when after the wraps were removed it proved to be Mrs. Shaw, with cut and bleeding face. Rushing back Buckner caught Mrs. Hughes and threw her out of a window and then gave his attention to Dr. Warner, first warning the people in the room not to interfere. Warner was knocked down and kicked, thrown against the wall, and rolled under the piano. He was mauled on the head and pummelled on the body. His nose bled, blood came from his mouth, one eye was closed, and his clothing was remarkable for the variety of rents it displayed. Finally Buckner stood the medium up and kicked him out of doors down the walk into the street. Returning to the house, Buckner smashed the cabinet and tossed Warner’s personal effect into the street, where a great crowd had gathered and cheered the doctor as he made Spiritualism a wreck in the Buckner household. The two ejected women had returned to the house, but Buckner drove them out, throwing their effects after them. Warner this morning had Buckner arrested for assault and battery and malicious destruction of property. Warner presented a doleful appearance. One eye is closed, an arm is in a sling, and his face is disfigured. The two women who appeared as witnesses looked little better. After hearing Buckner’s story, the Judge dismissed him, and told Warner he thought he got off easily. Warner claims Buckner destroyed $100 worth of his property. A truly dreadful case of a medium who feared exposure: A young woman, Almira Bezely (there are variations on both names in the newspapers and other records), who was a rapping medium of Providence, R.I., predicted the death of her infant brother through her rappings. To make her prophecy come true, she bought arsenic and poisoned the child.  She was arrested and confessed to the crime. On her trial for murder, Samuel B. Holliday testified as follows: ” She only gave me one reason for the commission of the crime. She said there had been a gradual change coming over her. It had not come on in a moment, but in a month or weeks. The cause of this was the deception she had practiced, in regard to these rappings.”—Providence Journal, Oct . 22, 1851. “It was in evidence before the [coroner’s] jury, that the death of the child was predicted at these rappings. My impression is that the child died at about the time predicted.”—Ibid. ” I do not think she could have committed this crime without this influence [that of spirit-rapping]. I suppose the deception and fraud practiced had weakened her moral principle, and prepared the way to crime.”—Ibid. Source: Spirit Rapping Unveiled, Hiram Mattison, p. 164 Waterloo Evening Courier 3-25-1920 p. 17 Iowa MEDIUMS HOODWINKED HER, GOT $200, WOMAN CHARGES Kansas City, Mo. Charges that she was hoodwinked into becoming a student in an “occult college” of local mediums and “spirits,” who were material enough to filch more than $200 from her, were made by Mrs. W. A. Poffenberg, 911 Holmes street , to Will Guinotte, a deputy prosecutor. In all good faith, and seeking truth, she paid her money to learn the ethereal secrets “behind the beyond,” Mrs. Poffenberg said, only to learn it was all trickery and chicanery. Mrs. Poffenberg said she was initiated into all the mysteries of the medium’s craft in séances here in which the mediums reaped harvests of fees from poor and credulous persons, including students. She said she was taught to use the “spirit trumpet,” thru which “spirit controls” communicate, and that she learned to change her voice, so anything from the bass of “Hiawatha” to the treble of “Little May-flowers” would issue from the dark. Her personal spirit control was labelled “Mary Gardner,” she said. It conversed in a rich soprano. Mrs. Poffenberg her 6-year-old daughter was placed in a cabinet by the charlatans, who hid behind the child in the folds of a curtain. Then the “spirit trumpeted” thru the child until she believed she was full of spooks. ‘Spirit messages,” Mrs. Poffenberg revealed, were taken in duplicate, when written down, on soft cardboard and slipped to the medium. The medium had read them and hidden them in her stocking long before she was chained in the mystic cabinet, Mrs. Poffenberg said. But most incriminating, the “spirits” have got all “hard boiled” since Mrs. Poffenberg threatened to expose them. She asserted they left clothespins in her home with this threat: Add chloroform. Wear on the nose. In case of accident, call the undertaker. The mediums have driven persons out of town who threatened to expose them, Mrs. Poffenberg said. The prosecutor’s office and the police are investigating. And another…  There were rumors that Florence Cook and Sir William Crookes were having an affair. There were other rumors that Florence had a sister who was very like her, who helped flesh out the seance effects.  I like the story of how Sir George Sitwell seized the figure flitting around the darkened room and found it was the medium in her underclothes. Glancing very quickly at my bookshelves I find the following spiritualist exposes: Behind the Scenes With the Mediums, David Abbott, Beware Familiar Spirits, John Mulholland, Facts, Frauds and Phantasms, Georgess McHargue, Heyday of a Wizard: Daniel Home The Medium, Jean Burton, Mediums, Mystics & The Occult, Milbourne Christopher, Spook Crooks, Julien J.Proskauer, (also by the same author The Dead Do Not Talk), Spiritism and Kindred Beguilements, B.H. Shadduck, Ph.D., Spiritism, Facts and Frauds, Simon A. Blackmore, S.J., The Psychic Mafia, LaMar Keene, normally I avoid books published by Prometheus, but this is a fascinating “as-told-to” expose of the tricks of modern spiritualism by a former Spiritualist minister. And Houdini, of course: A Magician Among the Spirits and Inside the Medium’s Cabinet.’ Wow, Invisible. Thanks!!!!

    Seventeenth century dragons: Ozzie writes: Except for size, this sounds like a pretty good description of a neotenous amphibian.  The only problem (other than size) is that all the examples I am aware of are in the Americas, but that is probably ignorance rather than absence.Take a look at the mudpuppy.  The most famous of these neotenous salamanders (neoteny just means they retain immature characteristics into adulthood) is the axolotl, at least in the USA, probably because it became a catchword Mad Magazine.   As you can see, it’s a bit too cute to be confused with a dragon. Come to think of it, even the size may not be a problem.  Take a look at the Chinese giant salamander which can reach six feet long.  If one of those showed up in Essex it would be time to put on the old spiked armour and join the heroes.  So maybe these two “events” are examples of cryptozoology rather than myth.  Or maybe not.’ Thanks Ozzie!

    Old Madam: Invisible has come up with a brilliant few lines here: ‘Unfortunately I can’t give you documentation of earlier White Ladies in the Lewtrenchard area, but William Henderson, in his Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and Their Border, quotes the story of Old Madame from his correspondence with Dr Baring-Gould. It concluded with this bit, which may have not been in your source: [again, quoting Dr Baring-Gould] ” There is a stone shown on the ‘ ramps ‘ of Lew Slate Quarry where seven parsons met to lay the old Madame. Opinions differ as to what took place whether she was laid in part or not at all. Some say that the white owl, which nightly flits to and fro in front of Lew House, is the spirit of the lady conjured by the pardons into a bird ; others doubt this ; but I believe all agree that the parsons failed because one of the number was ‘ a bit fresh ‘ when he came, and had forgotten the right words to be used. ” I have not the smallest doubt in my own mind that this history is in its essentials of very great antiquity ; that the apparition is really an ancient white lady, who has suffered anthropomorphosis, and become Madame Gould ; the same stories and the same superstitions having been rife ages before the birth of  the lady to whom they have now been applied. ” In many points Madame Gould strongly resembles the German Dame Holle: such as her connection with water and her silver comb, as well as the appearance to the apple-picker. Holle or Holdar, in Germany, is a very beautiful white lady with long flowing hair of a golden hue ; she haunts fountains and streams, and is often engaged in washing. She is well disposed, and rebukes bad children, punishing theft and other faults. Her dress is white with a golden girdle, and she is radiant with light. She is an ancient Teutonic goddess. Curiously enough, also, she lives in mountains, and issues luminous from the mouth of caves, just as Madame Gould appeared to the man from the old mine-shaft. In one account of the apparition which I obtained, Madame Gould was expressly said to have appeared with golden hair; whereas her portrait represents her as a very beautiful woman, with long brown hair floating down her back. ” I have given these stories of the old Madame with some fulness because I believe her to be unquestionably an ancient Saxon goddess, who has fallen from her pedestal, and undergone anthropomorphosis and localization; and such instances, though not uncommon in Norway or Germany, are rare in England.” Invisible writes: Google Books is being fussy this morning so I could not cut and paste from it as I’d like, but you can read on p. 274 of Henderson’s book about the spectral “two white sows yoked together with a silver chain which ran down the church lane” at Lew Trenchard church. There is also a passage about a painting (described by Baring-Gould as hanging in his house at Lew Trenchard) of the merry-making of pixies and elves “dressed in the costume of  the period of William of Orange”, which sounds like a Victorian fairy painting although Henderson says the painting is from the period of W of O. I wonder if the painting is still there? The website for the luxury Lewtrenchard Manor Hotel mentions “historic paintings”. Henderson’s book also says that there is a “gallitrap” in the parish of Lew Trenchard. A gallitrap is a field or piece of ground where a person becomes trapped—pixie-led—and cannot be extracted without clerical intervention.  So some fairy traditions (often associated with White Ladies) around the parish of Lew Trenchard as well as ghostly pigs (remnants of a foundation sacrifice? Celtic Boar deities?)’ Thanks Invisible!

    Epitaphs for Children: Two heart-sinkers from Invisible. Olivia Susan Clemens (1866-1890): [Daughter of Mark Twain] Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;/ Warm southern wind, blow softly here;/ Green sod above, lie light, lie light –/ Good-night, dear heart, good-night, good-night. And Anne de Gaulle (1928-1948) who had Downs, her father on her death: ‘Now she is like all others’. Chris writes in with Ben Johnson: Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;/ My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy./ Seven years tho’ wert lent to me, and I thee pay,/ Exacted by thy fate, on the just day./ O, could I lose all father now! For why/ Will man lament the state he should envy?/ To have so soon ‘scap’d world’s and flesh’s rage,/ And if no other misery, yet age?/ Rest in soft peace, and, ask’d, say, “Here doth lie/ Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.”/ For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such,/ As what he loves may never like too much.’ Thanks Chris and Invisible!