In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints ... and gods.

STEVEN PINKER, How the Mind Works

Friday, October 24, 2014

Well it's getting to be that season again. Halloween is in the air and children are preparing their costumes and tricks.

Banff's 'ghost bride' haunts new Canadian coin

A new Canadian coin features the image of a ghost who supposedly haunts the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

The lore of the "Ghost Bride" dates back to the 1930s. According to legend, a bride on her wedding night died at the four-star hotel, falling from a staircase.
The Royal Canadian Mint’s limited edition 25-cent coin uses lenticular technology so it appears that the bride’s eyes open and the candles behind her light up when the coin is tilted. A collector coin made of cupronickel, it costs nearly $30.

The coin, along with a Canada Post stamp showing the same bride, was released Monday at the hotel in Banff.
Bringing intriguing Canadian tales out of the shadows is what stamps continue to do,” said Mike Shearon, a Canada Post spokesperson in a press release. “We are pleased to join the mint to highlight these stories and offer the perfect keepsake for those who revel in this particular type of folklore.” 

CBC News

Study Explores Whether the Dead Can Communicate Through Electronics

The universe is full of mysteries that challenge our current knowledge. In "Beyond Science" Epoch Times collects stories about these strange phenomena to stimulate the imagination and open up previously undreamed of possibilities. Are they true? You decide.

Dr. Imants Barušs at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, has conducted two studies attempting to verify reports that deceased persons have communicated to the living through electronic devices.
In the first study, he was able to reproduce this phenomenon in a weak sense, he said, but not a strong one. This study was published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 2001 and detailed in the Epoch Times article Fascinating Study of Purported ‘Phone Calls From the Dead’ Phenomena: Some Confirmation.” He and his team recorded the static between radio stations under controlled circumstances and while talking to any spirits that may be around; they heard what could be construed as some words or phrases in the recordings. His results hinted that the so-called “electronic voice phenomenon” (EVP) may exist, but the results were not sufficiently anomalous to be considered a replication in a strong sense.
His second study, published in 2007, attempted to address some weaknesses of the first. Instead of using the static between stations, which was more open to interpretation by the listener, he used computer programs that would randomly generate letters and whole words to see if anomalous phrases would appear.
If the researchers saw a pattern or bias that deviated too far from what could be expected to appear by chance, it could indicate that a spirit was influencing the machine to convey a message.
He simultaneously used an EVPmaker, a device that chops sound files and reassembles them randomly. The idea was to see if there was any overlap between the random word generator and the EVPmaker that could make a stronger case for spirits trying to communicate a particular message.
The results were mixed, with at least one significant string of words appearing, but not a wealth of anomalous signals. The most significant result was found in the use of another computer program, one that randomly generated either the word “yes” or the word “no.” The researchers asked 11 verifiable yes-no questions, nine of which were answered correctly by the random generator.
The two questions it answered incorrectly were slightly open to interpretation. It answered incorrectly the question, “Do we live in London?” It said “no,” when the team did live in London, Ontario, Canada.  Barušs noted, however, that the question could be misconstrued to refer to the more famous London, England. It was also asked whether one of the research assistants had five “kids.” It answered “yes.” In fact, the assistant had three children and two dogs. Barušs noted that, if a being were influencing the random yes/no generator, it may have considered the dogs somehow among the “kids.”
Either way, the result of 9 correct answers out of 11 questions was considered by Barušs to be a “statistically rare event.” The program had a 4.2 percent chance of obtaining this result.

ITC (instrumental transcommunication) refers to the random yes/no response generator. It may be noted that the provincial election referred to in the questions was expected to be called on the Wednesday mentioned, but it was actually called on the preceding Tuesday, so the ITC was correct in answering “no.”

Much of the recording and the output by the random generators did not otherwise show a strong indication that spirits may have been trying to communicate. Barušs did, however, highlight a few other events of interest.
A woman who is considered to be a medium was used in the experiment. The idea was that she might be able to detect any spirits trying to communicate through the devices, and she might thus give the researchers advice on how to tweak the experiments for success.
During one of the sessions, the researchers posed the question, “What do we need to know that we don’t understand about this?” The medium immediately heard the EVPmaker produce the word “opportunity.” The random word generator had been activated at the exact same time and produced the phrase “on sharp opportunity are was yes name.” Barušs and another research assistant present did not hear the word “opportunity” immediately, but they did hear it upon playing back the tape.
During another session, the researchers posed the question, “What would you have us do to make this work better?” The answer produced by the random phrase generator was “We ITC dimension fortunate when irreparable continue.” Baruss and the team wondered whether the word “continue” indicated that they should continue. They activated the word generator again, producing the phrase, “Feel acquire light figure logical people continue.” The word “continue” was repeated.
The random letter generator did not produce any results Barušs felt worth highlighting.
The medium said she understood it to be an arduous feat for the dead to impact electronic devices and that few would make the attempt. She said she received some messages from deceased researchers, including Barušs’s late colleague who “discoursed about quantum theoretic mind/matter interactions in what appeared to be much the same style as when he had been alive,” Barušs wrote. Barušs and the medium tried meditating before the tests, as suggested by a spirit via the medium.
“As we experimented with such speculative strategies, the medium and I felt that we entered a zone of uncertainty that was contrary to the clarity required of scientific research,” Barušs wrote. “However, we thought that such uncertainty may be necessary, at least for a while, if these phenomena were to be given a chance to develop so as to be able to manifest in a measurable form.”
He continued: “For instance, during the eleventh session, we decided not to test the yes/no generator since that would take us outside the realm of ambiguity. It was not until the 25th and last session that we deliberately evaluated the output from the yes/no generator with a series of questions to which we could know the answers.”
This is why they had not conducted more of the solid yes/no verifiable line of questioning that produced the strongest results.
Barušs also noted that the computer programs may have been insufficiently random in their word generation. This may have inhibited any beings trying to influence the programs. Another possibility that must be considered, he said, is that the minds of the researchers may have influenced the devices. Testing at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR) at Princeton University has shown the mind may physically affect electronic devices.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Sea Hag of Bell Island

A supernatural Sea-Hag haunts a Bell Island's Dobbin's Gardens marsh.

Newfoundland's Bell Island is a place steeped in mysteries and legends. These are legends not merely passed down through the generations, but encountered first hand. They mainly revolve around Dobbin's Garden and the nearby marshes. They are stories of an Irish legend, the Banshee, a female spirit appointed to inform families of impending death. She comes in two forms: a beautiful woman in white, and a deformed old hag. Most encounters circle around the latter. Men have been known to walk through the small marshes, only to come out days later, not knowing where they are, or where they had been. They can only remember a putrid smell, and a grotesque old woman, in ragged clothes, crawling towards them from the bushes, forcing them to the ground with the smell of death.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Brief History Of The Ouija Board

As a method of supposed communication with the spirit world, the Ouija board has terrified countless slumber partying children and served as a plot vehicle in a number of Hollywood films. Here’s where it came from.


Ouija boards have their roots in Spiritualism, which began in the United States in the late 1840s. (Claims that ancient Ouija boards existed are unfounded.) The new movement was led by mediums, who claimed to be intermediaries between the living and the dead.
There were a number of ways mediums made followers believe that they were communicating messages from those who had passed. One, table turning, involved the table moving or knocking on the floor in response to letters called out from the alphabet. Another method used planchettes, heart-shaped devices with two wheels at one end and a pencil at the point; users would place their fingers on the device, which would then be guided by spirits who would “write” messages.
Both methods were problematic. Table turning took too long, and planchette writing was hard to decipher. According to the Museum of Talking Boards, some mediums got rid of these methods altogether, preferring to channel while in a trance, while others built complicated tables, dials, and tables painted with letters that required people to use a planchette as a pointer. This method became the most popular—and paved the way for the Ouija board.


In 1886, the New York Daily Tribune reported on a new talking board being used in Ohio. It was 18 by 20 inches and featured the alphabet, numbers, and the words yes, no, good evening, and goodnight; the only other necessary object was a “little table three or four inches high … with four legs” that the spirits could use to identify letters. The brilliance of the board was that anyone could make it—the tools suggested in the article are “a jack-knife and a marking brush."
Operating the board was similarly easy:
You take the board in your lap, another person sitting down with you. You each grasp the little table with the thumb and forefinger at each corner next to you. Then the question is asked, ‘Are there any communications?’ Pretty soon you think the other person is pushing the table. He thinks you are doing the same. But the table moves around to ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Then you go on asking question and the answers are spelled out by the legs on the table resting on the letters one after the other.
(Of course, any messages generated probably weren't from spirits; instead, they were likely a result of the Ideomotor effect. This psychological phenomenon was first described in 1852 by William Benjamin Carpenter who, in a scientific paper analyzing how talking boards worked, theorized that muscular movement can be independent of conscious desires.)


These types of talking boards became very popular, and in 1890, Elijah Bond, Charles Kennard and William H.A. Maupin had the idea to turn the board into a toy. They filed the first patent for a game they called the Ouija board, which looked and operated much like the talking boards in Ohio; the patent was granted in 1891. The name, according to Kennard, came from using the board, and was an ancient Egyptian word meaning “good luck.” The Kennard Novelty Company manufactured the boards, which were made of five pieces of wood across the face braced by two vertical slats on the back; they retailed for $1.50.
Kennard left the company in 1891, and the Kennard Novelty Company became the Ouija Novelty Company.William Fuld, an employee there, eventually took over production of the boards; in 1901, he began making his own boards under the name Ouija, which Fuld said came from a combination of the French and German words for “yes”—the etymology that is accepted today.
Fuld would go on to design many different versions of the board (he holds more Ouija patents and copyrights than anyone else in history—a grand total of 21 registrations in three countries—including the design for the modern planchette). Because of the board’s huge success, a number of competitors to tried their hands at creating their own Ouija-like devices. Fuld sued many of those copycats, right up until his death in 1927.
In 1966, Fuld’s estate sold the family business—which included more than just Ouija boards—to Parker Brothers, which manufactured the modern boards as we know them today. In 1991, Parker Brothers was sold to Hasbro, which now holds all the Ouija rights and patents (and might even make a movie based on the game).