Space Fiends Stole My Baby’s Brain

A sceptical mini-history of the crashed flying saucer saga

Carl Wyant

Sceptics will be amused to hear that the Great Roswell UFO Cover-up has just gained a new lease on life.

Yes, as if the almost infinite number of articles, TV documentaries and at least one full-length book weren’t enough, it is now a movie, “Roswell”, and available on video.

In 1947, so the story goes, a flying saucer crashed and exploded in the New Mexico desert, about 75 miles from Roswell. The scattered wreckage was collected several days later by the Air Force and whisked away to a top secret hangar never to be seen again, its very existence denied by the authorities.

In truth, no amount of fact will ever kill a good rumour. The Roswell incident has been debunked, discredited, explained to death and buried a hundred times over, but it just won’t stay in the grave. Rumour alone keeps it alive.

Like most UFO lore, aliens mishaps are nothing new. The crashed saucer myth has a long and convoluted history that goes back to 1884 when four cowboys witnessed the explosion of a strange flying cylindrical object in Nebraska.

Another phantom airship came cruising out of the blue in 1897, in Aurora, Texas, plowing into a windmill and blowing itself to smithereens, leaving behind a wreckage of metallic foil, paper with indecipherable hieroglyphics and one dead “Martian”, which was duly buried in the Aurora cemetery.

Both of these cases were later proved to be hoaxes, but it was too late; the idea was already embedded in the public mind.

Theosophists and collectors of weird stories, notably Charles Fort, sometimes called “the father of ufology”, also took up the cause, giving even more durability to the growing legend.

It’s worth noting here that the initial report of a sensational event, even if it’s false, always has more impact than the refutation or retraction. Sometimes the refutation strengthens the original claim simply by bringing it up again.

A classic example of this syndrome, crucial to the understanding of Roswell, is the infamous Aztec case, the king of all crash/retrieval stories.

In 1949 a journalist and columnist named Frank Scully began writing rumorous stories about crashed saucers and dead aliens and in 1950 released a book on the subject called Behind the Flying Saucers. It’s referred to as the Aztec case because some of the events took place near Aztec, New (where else?) Mexico. One saucer, he claimed, was ninety-nine feet in diameter and contained sixteen dead aliens, little fellows about three feet tall.

Two years later the story was exposed as a fraud, perpetrated on the apparently not-very-investigative Scully by a couple of notorious confidence shysters, probably angling for a movie deal. The book was a best seller, so I guess Scully died of shame, as it were, all the way to the bank.

Behind the Flying Saucers was the first book to bring the question of crashed saucers to the general public. The idea might have been bandied about by a few cultists and science fiction buffs before, but now the cat was really out of the bag. For two years hundreds of thousands read the book and millions more heard the story: The saucers, and even more spine chilling than than, the aliens, were real.

The Aztec scam effectively drove a wedge into the rapidly growing UFO movement, splitting the ranks into two vaguely distinct factions: “the wide-eyed believers”, who will believe anything; and “the serious investigators”, who will believe almost anything.

“Scully’s book”, says Jerome Clark in The Fringes of Reason, “cast a long shadow: for the next two and a half decades no serious UFO student would pay attention to crashed saucer stories.”

But like unkillable zombies, the stories lived on.

The Roswell, New Mexico, crashed saucer story that’s raising such a ruckus today was actually a non-event that probably would have faded away altogether if it hadn’t been for all the gadzookery created later by the Aztec case.

On June 14, 1947, a rancher named Brazel found what was undoubtedly the remains of a radar target, a reflective device borne aloft by weather balloons for tracking purposes.

Brazel himself described the debris as “large numbers of pieces of paper covered with a foil-like substance and pieced together with small sticks much like a kite”.

The Air Force came and collected the junk and that was it…almost.

Two weeks later on June 24, saucer mania broke out when civilian pilot, Kenneth Arnold, made his historic sighting of nine flying disks in Washington State, marking the official beginning of the modern UFO era. A newspaper reporter dubbed them “flying saucers” and for the next few months saucer fever ran rampant, with unidentified flying objects being reported all over the USA.

It was then, in early July, after the Arnold sighting, that Brazel and cohorts came up with the saucer story. From there it snowballed into a veritable circus of misleading statements and factual errors before finally gelling into a classic UFO cover-up.

At the time, Roswell was just one more zany story and didn’t make a major splash, and of course after the Aztec scandal no-one wanted to know about crashed saucers, thus it was forgotten.

Not completely forgotten, however. In all probability it was rumours of Roswell that led to the creation of the Aztec case; which in turn led…and so groweth the myth.

Crash/retrievals became fashionable again in the early 1970s and the serious investigators began to take them very seriously. Even the old Aurora case was dusted off, sending a whole wave of UFO hopefuls to the tiny town, combing the countryside with metal detectors and prowling the graveyard for dead Martians.

By the 1980s the story was unstoppable. The public mind had undergone a dramatic change. The wide-eyed believers, serious investigators and the great unwashed had moved closer together. Objective thinking had given way to subjective, inward-looking modes of thought wherein we create our own reality. Science, in fact Western Civilisation as a whole, had become the enemy. Critical analysis was out and wishful thinking was in and all sceptical comment was part of a vast conspiracy to cover up the truth about crystal magic and pickled aliens.

UFO lovers got an extra shot in the arm in 1980 when saucer expert Jenny Randles began to publish stories about a saucer crash near a military base in England. The Rendlesham Forest Affair, as it’s known, later became a book, Sky Crash, a gripping tale of aliens, intrigue, confiscated saucers and top secret secrets, all based, essentially, on un-named sources and hearsay. And so it goes on.

The believers contend that where there’s smoke there’s fire. The evidence itself might be weak, they argue, but there’s so much of it that it proves itself through sheer volume. In other words, if you accumulate enough bad evidence it somehow turns into good evidence. Or to look at it another way, if enough people believe something is true, then it is true.

You don’t have to be H.G. Wells to realise that this is not a healthy outlook. If enough people believe, for instance, that homosexuals are a menace to society, lo and look ye — homosexuals are a menace to society, fully lynchable in the name of Mass Belief. If enough believe in witches with magical powers, “enough” will also believe in burning them. The notion of running society on the basis of information received from invisible sources is a sure-fire recipe for bloodshed.

If my arbitrary example of homophobia seems far fetched and somewhat distant to the flying saucer question, think again. The alien superbeing, Ramtha, channelled by J.Z. Knight, tells us that we should “get rid” of gays, and that AIDS is divine punishment for homosexuals. Other aliens have given us equally ominous advice.

Who knows for sure? Maybe governments do have crashed saucers and dead aliens hidden away in secret underground military installations. Maybe the little grey fiends with the strange black eyes are real too. But considering the next-to-worthless evidence, fraud, fakery, misperception, distortion and money involved, I wouldn’t advise betting your daughter on it.

But the saucers may be on the back burner for a while. Vibrations in the etheric network tell me that angels and devils are making a comeback. Yes, I feel confident in predicting that over the next five years we will see a growing revival of things angelic, building in intensity as the Apocalypse draws nigh. And then, after the world doesn’t end at year 2000, perhaps we can shake off our dark age mentality and start thinking again. Until the next saucer crash, that is.

All the Trouble in the World

All the Trouble in the World, by P.J. O’Rourke; Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd 1994; 340 pages; $20.00 paperback

Everyone will enjoy this book. Well, everyone except paranormalists, ecological alarmists, pseudo-scientists, feminists, left-wingers, the entire New Age community, and of course those eternally doom-ridden types who seem determined to drag everyone else down to their own level of self-imposed suffering.

My only complaint — and it is a grievous one — is that O’Rourke prefaces the book with the exact same H.L. Mencken quote that I was on the brink of using myself. (Call it a coincidence if you want, but the odds of such a thing happening strike me as so slim it’s hard to avoid thinking that some form of telepathy was at play.)

The quote in question appears in one of Mencken’s autobiographical books, Newspaper Days, written in 1941, wherein he refers to a formula he devised way back in the ’20s. He called it Mencken’s Law and it goes like this: “Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretence of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.”

This was Mencken’s way of describing the same political correctness that plagues us today. The same old notion of virtue-on-the-cheap that has been annoying and injuring B since…Adam, probably. In Mencken’s time such nonsense led to Prohibition.

All the Trouble in the World opens with the line “This is a moment of hope in history. Why doesn’t anybody say so?”, which pretty much sums up what the book is about.

His general thesis here is that we are living in great and exciting times, and that humanity is better off now than it has ever been. But thanks to ecological despair mongers, whinging leftists, and the apocalyptic messages of the New Agers and Born Again Armageddonites, who believe that the only road to salvation is to abandon all rational thought and embrace the teachings of the fairy dust queen, we have been bamboozled into thinking that the monsters of ruin and disaster are breathing down our very necks.

The book is subtitled “the lighter side of famine, pestilence, destruction and death”, and to look at the whys and wherefores of all this O’Rourke takes us on a hilarious romp to countries where such things are taking place, including Somalia, former Yugoslavia, Haiti and the Amazon, resulting in a travelogue guaranteed to send the painfully virtuous on a book-burning spree.

Like all of O’Rourke’s writing, the style is garrulous, comical and fun to read; the content well informed and the reporting first-rate. Unfortunately, there is no outright O’Rourkian madness such as we find in Republican Party Reptile — “How to Drive Drunk While Getting Your Wing Wang Squeezed Without Spilling Your Drink”, for instance — but such failings aside, I would not hesitate to put All the Trouble in the World on any skeptic’s reading list.

Demons, Drought and Bullfeathers

Pull up a chair and hearken to the tale of the Great Drought of ’94

“Skeptical?” piped up the old timer. “Of course I’m flaming skeptical, ye addlepated mudfish!

“Aye, but it wasn’t always so. I was a dour and solemn Presbyterian from birth onwards, and bar the whisky, gossip columns, loose floozies and muckraking, a devout one too! But all this changed suddenly in the winter of ’94, twenty years ago, when Auckland was struck by drought.

“It was a fearful time. The people were downcast and grimy, and dirt and dust grew on the city like a blight, until you could scarce tell a regional authority from a whorehouse, resulting in all manner of dire ruction and scandal, driving middle-management to the limits of despair and provoking the wrath of the waterblasting community.

“I sought spiritual comfort during the crisis by moving into the Protestant and Trumpet Pub, where I followed the drought’s progress by radio and word of mouth, buttressing myself against evil with 17 barrels of ale and religious austerities.

“It might have been a straightforward drought, but a gimp appeared in the scenario when the North Shore City Council imported a wizard from the pagan South Island wop wops to perform rain-making ceremonies. A simple measure, you might think, to divert the suffering masses from their woe.

“But plagues from heaven upon me if as soon as the news broke the blasted Christians didn’t arise in a spluttering fit of hellfire and damnation, claiming that such heretical pranks were proof that the country had gone to the Devil, and forthwith raised such an almighty hullaballoo of scriptural vociferation that by the time the wizard landed the Council had already taken heed of the Christian catchcall, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and quelled the pitchfork and torch uprising by cancelling the performance.

“I was flabbergasted, and even the publican, Haggis McDonnagle, was visibly shaken, stating right then and there that he was considering changing the name of the pub to the Secular Humanist, for in all his born days he’d never seen a witch, wizard or soothsayer with any more flair for the miraculous than a card shark, and to ban such blarney was nothing short of idiocy multiplied.

“But the wizard wasn’t unemployed for long. The barbarian villages north of the city thought it madness to let an available wizard slip through their fingers and thereupon hired him, leaving the North Shore City Council looking like a prize-winning jackass.

“By now the Christians were nigh delirious with joyous condemnation. It wasn’t often they got a chance to go rabid over devil worship and they meant to make the most of it.

“For days the talkback lines ran hot with seething Born Agains, witnessing for the Lord and staking their souls on the blood of the Lamb that the whole country was in the grip of Satan, and unless we clung to the True Vine and threw ourselves down at the feet of the Lord, the Deceiver himself would drag us into the black pits of Hell wherein we would rot in unspeakable anguish until the end of time.

“By now it had been raining for several days. I tell you, if the cat wasn’t among the pigeons now it would never get much closer, for lo and behold — both sides claimed responsibility for the miracle!

“The Christians held that the extra energy they had to put in to counteract the forces of darkness brought forth the Mercy of God. And forsooth, the Presence was strong! The halls of the pentecostals were abuzz with the Unknown Tongue, and rumour has it even non-pentecostals were heard to glossolate, and I’d be prepared to bet money — I take that back, Haggis would be prepared to bet money — that the Graph of Visions and Apparitions showed an upward curve through this period.

“The wizard himself took no credit; the peasants did it for him. He departed secretly, as fast as possible, saying little but to remark that if fools were kiwifruit we could start a new export industry, or something to that effect, for between the jet engines, caterwauling Christians and the Morris dancers it was hard to hear much of anything, and all told the whole dadblanged circus was such an unearthly blaze of flailing sticks and Biblical injunctions that objective observation may not even be applicable in this case.

“Me and Haggis drank a tragic amount of whisky thinking about these things and ten days later resolved, as witnessed by Mrs McDonnagle, to suspend judgement on the Tree of the Unseen until it yielded a visible persimmon; arguing that invisible anti-persimmons didn’t constitute enough evidence to lynch tarot card readers.

“As I say, it was many years ago and the details are hazy; but by crikey, I’ve been on the alert ever since. So hark ye doorknocking gospelizer — if you or any other evangelical hot-air agent ever darkens my front porch again, I’ll flatten your cursed head with a spade.”

Dr Jekyll and Mrs McPherson

Our intrepid correspondent finds himself suffering from that most fashionable of psychological afflictions, Multiple Personality Disorder!

The Jekyll/Hyde character has been used to express duality in human nature for so long it’s become a cliche. And like most cliches, it’s true.

Everyone has at least one extra personality, and usually more. For example, I seem to be the field of activity for three distinct players — the amiable Dr Jekyll, the despicable Mr Hyde and, much to my consternation, Mrs McPherson, apparently a Scottish Presbyterian.

None of these characters have much in common. Jekyll doesn’t like Hyde and views McPherson as an unimaginative busybody. Hyde hates everyone’s guts and thinks Jekyll and McPherson should be dumped in the knacker’s yard. Mrs McPherson considers Jekyll an impractical dreamer and vociferously wants Hyde consigned to the pits of hell.

Actually, I’m thankful for Mrs McPherson. She’s the only one with the gumption to deal with Hyde. Jekyll is too warm and caring and holistic to wrestle with a degenerate bastard like Hyde. But no one argues with Mrs McPherson.

For the most part this unlikely crew bubbles along in inexplicable harmony, doing good and bringing happiness upon the land. But every so often a defection occurs and one or another goes ape.

It doesn’t much matter if Jekyll gets loose. I mean, what harm can he do? Bore someone to death by telling them to be here now? Scare a neighbour with a bean salad? I like Jekyll, but let’s face it — he’s a wuss.

It’s more nerve-wracking when Mrs McPherson gets out. Mrs McPherson does not tolerate horseplay! Hard work, prudence and the fear of God are her mottoes, and you can either like it or have it taken out of your hide with a hickory stick.

But woe upon us when Hyde escapes! You’ve heard the phrase, “…it’s like the devil gets into him,” well, that’s Hyde. Hyde is the devil. The deceiver, the pillager, the glutton. When Hyde appears, disaster and degradation follow.

You can see why I’m thankful for Mrs McPherson. Jekyll doesn’t have a hope in hell of quelling Hyde’s insane rampages. He’d probably suggest breathing exercises or something. Leave it to Jekyll to try stopping Godzilla with a tennis racket.

These insurrections are usually short-lived, and balance and order are soon restored.

But supposing one of these characters got the upper hand, or broke off and declared himself independent. Holy mackerel! What if Mrs McPherson seized control!

Imagine being possessed by a Bible-belting, turn-of-the-century, galleon-shaped, prohibitionist women’s rights activist! The very thought makes me nervous.

Heck, if Hyde staged a coup, most likely I’d just end up dead or in jail. But if McPherson managed a takeover I’d have to do really weird things like dynamite disco joints and drive money-lenders out of the temple and stuff like that. It’s too much to even think about! Thanks to Jekyll’s goofball influence I just don’t think I’m emotionally prepared for demolishing bar-rooms with axes and driving harlots into honest work.

But worse still, spirit mediums and New Age journalists would proclaim me a legitimate case of possession and write books about it and make me talk about sin and redemption and magnetic healing on talkback radio.

It’s like Flash Gordon Versus the Psychic Vampires, except worse. Flash’s foes were little more than mind-draining bat people. Anyone could deal with that. But what in the name of all that is merciful do you do about Mrs McPherson?

The terrible thing is, I know she’s in there. Waiting. Waiting to escape. Waiting to ban tobacco and catch kids chewing gum in class.

First she’ll take my mind, then yours, then the country, the planet, the solar system, the…

Make no mistake; Mrs McPherson must be stopped.

The End Is Nigh – Or Thereabouts

Are the End Times drawing nigh? Are fires and floods from heaven on the brink of seething down in wrathful purge, damning the damned and raising the faithful? Is God’s finger poised on the panic button?

It could be, but I wouldn’t cancel the beach party on the evidence. Doom forecasters have been striking out with almost miraculous regularity since the dawn of time.

Putting the history of the end of the world into a fast 400 words isn’t easy. In fact it borders on madness. It’s like stuffing the entire Labour Party into a phone booth, except weirder. I mean, you can always push a Labour-packed phone booth off a cliff; but who’s going to push 400 words off a cliff? It doesn’t make sense. Armageddon does this to you after a while.

Disaster merchants have always been around, but it was the Christians who really put death and destruction on a pedestal when they gave us the Book of Revelation.

No one knows what this book means, but it’s so horrifically spectacular it doesn’t matter. More importantly, it doesn’t give any dates, thus giving open slather to soothsayers and paving the way for twenty centuries of inaccurate predictions.

Methods of prediction vary. For some it’s a case of creative arithmetic. Dates with big simple numbers, like 500, are good too. Anything goes in number juggling.

Christians, for instance, were driven to a near frenzy of ecstatic fear as year 1000 approached. Signs and portents were sought and found. The tension grew. Sinners repented in droves and fled to the hilltops. The time was nigh! But…

No worries! The Apocalypse should have been dated from the death of Christ instead of the birth. But…

In the early 1800s a New York farmer named William Miller made a two-year study of the Bible and was astonished to discover that the world would end in 1843! He gathered a sizable flock who put up with three false-alarms before losing interest. Refugees from Miller’s movement evolved into Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists, both doomsday fanciers.

The Witnesses maintained a healthy zero batting average by striking out in 1874, 1914 and 1975. Surprisingly, few left the church, which shows you how integral reason is to religion.

Hearing voices is another popular method of predicting doomsday. This process is known as channeling. Here the “prophet”, or channel, gets “the word” first-hand from angels or devils, or nowadays, mysterious space aliens. But in either case, the amount of reliable information received adds up the same — nilch!

Objective investigators are more inclined to explain channeling in terms of multiple-personality-disorders and related mental problems, rather than invisible space lizards… but try telling that to the faithful.

Little has changed over the years. The methods are eternally the same and the results are eternally wrong.

As the year 2000 approaches I predict many predictions.

The Wyant Heavy-Weight Motor

It may interest skeptics to know that I have solved the world’s energy problems. The concept is surprisingly simple… but then works of great brilliance often are.

Our methods employ what we call “The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back Technologies.” I won’t mind however, if future generations call them “Carl Systems.”

As etheric physicists know, all objects on Earth inherently “want” to leave the planet. But they can’t, because gravity holds them down. We call this syndrome “weight frustration.” Thus, metals like gold or lead are “extremely frustrated,” whereas subjects such as feathers and dry leaves are only “mildly neurotic.”

The Wyant Heavy-Weight Motor — simply called by the boys and girls at the lab the “Wymo” — works according to ancient cosmic principles.

The fuel, already desperate to fly forth from the Earth, but held back by the forces of gravity, is subjected to further “annoyance” by way of a powerful screw-driven press. This “further annoyance” is The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back, known as “strack” among professionals.

Basically, Wymos and other strack devices increase “annoyance” until the fuel “freaks out” and discharges its “frustration.”

So far we have found lead to be the best fuel for strack machines. Forty pounds of lead will drive a six-foot turbine at 190 RPM for five hours, producing ten times as much energy as it takes to drive the press.

Granite and other hard rocks are also proving to be good sources of frustration. And with the current development of strack amplification units we expect major breakthroughs with alarm clocks and bulk copies of the Listener any day now.

Some alternative fuels, unfortunately, have not shown favourable graphs. For example, repeated stracking trials using glossy magazine editors and cow-shooting journalists for fuel have failed to turn over our smallest turbines, much less “over produce.”

We have hopes of explaining this anomaly in the near future. But for now, why 20 pounds of granite yields more energy than 150 pounds of journalist remains a hotly debated issue at the Wymo lab.

In the meantime, we persist with our work. We are confident the patent office will soon recognise the importance of the Heavy-Weight Motor.

The Skeptical Hairdresser

“Mind my left ear.” cautioned Mrs X, “there’s a needle in it.”

“A needle?” I said, combing up a section of hair on the side of her head to check it out.

“An acupuncture needle,” she said.

Sure enough, there it was, just up from a normal earring hole, a tiny needle with a wee piece of tape over it to hold it in place.

“Fascinating,” I said.

She produced a small metallic rod and held it against the needle. “It’s a magnet,” she explained. “I’m supposed to keep it magnetised.”

I racked my mind for information on magnetism and came up with nothing except a vague recollection that therapeutic use fizzled out around the time of Mesmer. But of course, this is the very hallmark of New Age ideas — they’re always old.

“What’s the treatment for?” I inquired.

“Tennis elbow.”

I deemed it wisest to move on to a new subject. But in one of my rare instances of foreseeing the future, I suddenly knew that it was going to be one of those days.

It was one of those days. Next I got a woman with two sniffly, whinging kids. She assured me that as soon as she got home she’d put them on the colour machine for a good hour.

I didn’t even ask. I’d seen variations of these things before. Of all the New Age gadgets (NAGs) I’ve run into, these may rank among the most exasperating. Most NAGs at least seem to be doing something; they hum or strobe, make pink noise, cause meters to flicker, hurt, relax or irritate… but the colour machine does absolutely nothing whatsoever. It’s just a small black box with a lightbulb of the selected colour on the outside. The box plugs into an ordinary wall socket and the patient is attached by means of a wire with a sort of bracelet on the end. Sometimes an alligator clip is used instead of the bracelet, and is simply clipped onto the patient’s clothes or hair.

The machine supposedly generates a flow of the patient’s own personal colour vibration (determined by the therapist who prescribes the machine) and thus augments the healing process. Call it an irrational fear of the unknown, but I hate them.

After she left I made a desperate attempt to slip out for a cigarette, but I wasn’t fast enough. A brisk young chap requiring a precision flat-top bustled in. He seemed innocuous enough at first, but by the time he left he had not only examined my eyes but had written out a list of at least a hundred and fifty dollars worth of vitamins I urgently needed. He was an iridologist.

Described by some as “living fossils,” iridologists just won’t go away. Iridology appeared on the scene in the 1880s, though undoubtedly variations on the theme go way back. It died a natural death not long after the turn of the century because of its failure to diagnose with any more accuracy than chance.

I was reaching for a pack of cigarettes when Slasher, a guy I met years ago during a lengthy investigation into the Hare Krishna movement, sauntered in to get his sides buzzed. Slasher left the movement during the great guru scandles of the late 1980s, when many of the top dogs were dumped for corruption and drastic disregard for the precepts, but like most Hare defectors, he had never fully readjusted to earth life.

Slasher was deeply concerned about the Alien Menace; in particular the small, grey, paranormal fiends known in the trade as Greys, famous for abducting human beings and performing bizarre experiments on them.

“It’s these damned surgical cattle mutilations,” he said seriously. “It’s intense man.”

“Yes; its…it’s…”

“It’s the Greys,” he said.

The alien menace people believe that mankind is caught in the middle of an invisible war between the sinister Greys and the blond, beautiful Space Brothers. It all boils down to an updated version of the old angels and devils gambit, and as always, is ancient history.

“Four of us saw it. It was a good sighting,” Slasher was saying as I whisked the cape off him.

“Yeah; I heard about it,” I said.

“Maybe you should write up a report,” he suggested.

“I thought about it… but the fact that you were all on acid at the time kind of throws a spanner in the works.”

“Mushrooms, actually,” he pointed out.

“Whatever,” I said.

By sundown I was on the brink of madness. It was as though the sky had opened up and rained dingbats. “It’s the Dark Ages all over again,” I moaned, glancing forlornly at the unattainable cigarettes hardly an arm’s-length away. “Investigative thinking has proved too tough for poor homo sap. It’s the end…”

I said little as I attended my last client. I was sure she was into Reichian orgone accumulators and I just didn’t want to know about it. But my fears were unjustified — she was clean.

It wasn’t until she was about to leave, she turned and said: “Carl, do you know that Jesus loves you…”

I was last seen running screaming down Wyndham Street, apparently stark staring mad…

When Faith-Healing Works

Sometimes feeling better isn’t a good sign at all… Carl Wyant recalls an occasion when faith healing showed itself better at handling symptoms than causes.

The following story is true; the names have been changed to protect the lame-brained. It’s not a terribly dramatic story of its type — that is, no one died — but it illustrates an important point. Over the years I have found, as a general rule of thumb, that most “natural healers” know hardly anything about the human body.

Once upon a time there was an attractive, young married couple, Jack and Jill, and Jack’s mother, a charming, vivacious 50-ish woman, with a growing reputation as a “spiritual healer.” I was deep into my Zen phase at the time, and too caught-up in the mysteries of the void and the unfathomable wisdom of one hand clapping to remember every last detail of the case, but here’s the basic gist.

Stomach Ache

Jack and Jill were around at our place, when late in the day Jill began to complain of a bad lower stomach pain. Being an occasional pancreatitis sufferer, I tend to take bad stomach pains seriously, so I suggested she see a doctor. But of course, being budding New Agers, they said, “we’ll see what mom says”; which is what I figured they’d say. I forgot about it.

When I saw Jack a couple of days later I asked him how Jill was. “She’s fine,” he said. “She had a few sessions with mom and it just went away. Tension, apparently, from a block in her sexual energies.”

Jack’s mom specialised in blockages of the “life airs” or vapours, ethers, chi, or whatever term is popular at the time. She was able to determine where these alleged blockages were by studying the client’s aura and then healed them by focusing her energy on the trouble spots.

Admittedly, I’m not a doctor, but somehow the kind of pain Jill had been describing, to my uncultured, insensitive, skeptical ear at least, didn’t sound like an everyday, run-of-the-mill type of pain, and for a minute I was almost disappointed that my more fearful diagnosis was so far off the mark.

More Than a Stomach Ache

Some days later I was informed that Jill was in the hospital recuperating from an operation to remove a burst appendix. Jack’s mom had miraculously stopped the pain sure enough, but not the progression of the appendicitis.

One would think that if a person was genuinely interested in healing people they would endeavour to learn as much about the body and its problems as possible. But most occult and natural healers don’t do this. For them, the main premise of New Age healing is that modern western science is all hogwash because it lacks the “spiritual” dimension. It’s not worth knowing.

This “no need to know” theme is a common one among paranormalists. Indeed, most religions would burn every book on Earth right now if they had the chance. Throughout history, religions have always hit the libraries.

It would behoove us to remember that despite the alleged “spiritual” dimension, the body is still a machine of sorts, and just as we take our cars to people who know a lot about cars, rather than, say, windmill systems, we should take our bodies to people who know a lot about bodies rather than, say, ritualistic superstition and fairytales.

Luckily there are people available who do try and find out as much as they can about the body; they’re called doctors.

Angelic Sexism and the Politically Correct

Are Skeptics pussy-footing around by not attacking the major source of superstition and pseudoscience — religion?

With the reintroduction of serious Islam in Afghanistan, women are now required by law to cover themselves from head to foot.

“Yeah? So what?” you may ask. Well, supposing it read like this: “Intergalactic messengers impose harsh dress-code on Afghani sheilas”.

Some months ago, I wrote a letter of genuine inquiry to the Skeptic. My question revolved around NZCSICOP’s apparent lack of interest in religion and big-time superstition. I figured it was a mundane question and would no doubt bring me a pre-written blurb on the subject in the return mail. Little did I know that when I mailed that accursed letter I was blundering into a csicopian missile-testing range.

To correct any possible misunderstanding, I should first explain that far from trying to “destroy belief” or run an anti-God show, my interest in this caper is to protect people’s right to believe whatever they want. As far as I’m concerned, if you want to charge psychic batteries with the AEtherius Society, astral travel to Jupiter with Ankar 22, or even embrace the “satanic manifestations” of NZCSICOP, go for it. Furthermore, I happen to believe in, dare I say it, God. But when it comes to putting a gun to someone’s head and saying “believe or die”, call me a spoil-sport, but this is where I have to draw the line.

God and religion are totally different issues. God is so far out of the human ball-park it’s practically pointless to even speculate on it. Religion, on the other hand, is available for investigation and the claim that “religious beliefs are untestable” is not altogether true.

Religion doesn’t have anything to do with God, but it has everything to do with channeling. And I strongly suspect that the channeling syndrome can be explained in terms of divided consciousness or multiple-personality disorders.

Traditionally, religious channels receive telepathic messages from angels, The resulting revelations rarely, if ever, contain information beyond the general knowledge of the day. When the “prophet” dies, the chief followers promptly introduce legislation declaring that “the truth” has been revealed and further revelation is unnecessary and will henceforth be regarded as blasphemy; thus guarding their own interests against spiritual interlopers. Consequently religions start out as revolutionary movements, but quickly turn into oppressive, reactionary regimes.

Today the tradition continues, but instead of angels we get “the word” from extraterrestrial Space Brothers. Uri Geller, for example, gets his power from the supernatural intelligence Hoova. And like the forefathers, he is not partial to being examined on the subject. You must simply believe.

If religions were the warm fuzzy creations New Zealanders seem to think they are, there wouldn’t be a problem. But religions are not cute and cuddly. It’s noteworthy that every time issues like the death penalty or corporal punishment appear in the news, New Zealand’s own sanitised, user-friendly brand of Christianity is the first one out there, in a near paroxysm of blood lust, fully endorsing them.

One respondent’s suggestion that “those challenging religious beliefs [can] do so elsewhere as atheistic or political groups” is a moot point; it could likewise be said that skeptical time is wasted on pseudoscience because the information is already covered by the scientific community.

Could some Skeptics possibly be suffering from the weird new-age malady known as political correctness? Holy smoke! Islam doesn’t just sue its critics, it kills them. I have a whole file of writers who have been snuffed or jailed by the fun-loving followers of The Prophet. Yet, mysteriously, it is not politically correct to say anything about it.

The invariable reply to all this is, “but that’s what those people believe. It’s OK for them to enslave women, kill writers and practice zany medicine.”

Great! But why don’t the “beliefs” of Europeans and Americans command the same “respect”?

I fully support the notion of freedom of belief and have never advocated a “crusade against organised religion”. I do feel, however, that the components of religion at least, fall easily within the scope of NZCSICOP. But no worries! I have promised The Editor that I’ll never mention the subject again. La illah il-Allah!

The Devil and Mrs Smith

It’s a mindbending situation, but I guess you’d have to call me a skeptical believer. Like parapsychologist Susan Blackmore, personal experience inclined me towards the idea that supernatural events really happen.

Blackmore’s approach to the problem was carefully designed ESP experiments. My approach was to go boldly forth among the space-cadets themselves, expanding my consciousness, grooving, absorbing the mind-enhancing rays of the Melchizdek Messengers and basking in the all-embracing super-soul of the Maha Vishnu.

My consciousness expanded all right. It expanded so much my brains nearly fell out.

It’s a jungle out there. If the fundamentaist super-cults don’t get you, the communist descendants of the Abominable Snowman will.

You don’t know what the third kind is until you discuss doomsday with the under-cover Pleiadean alien over a sanctified lunch in a Rama/Krishna boutique.

Ten or fifteen years later (time loses meaning in the Etheric world) I was back where I started. I still think there are grains of truth among claims of the paranormal, and from these tiny grains huge empires of hogwash are built.

If every religion on earth miraculously vanished today, they’d be springing up like toadstools again tomorrow. It is bound to happen, because underneath it all, people keep having experiences.

The hypothetical perceiver, Mrs Smith, knows she saw a ghostly entity float through her room last night, so when her scientifically trained doctor says it was just her imagination she goes away thinking, “What do these clowns know anyway?” The next time it happens she goes to a Mayan channeller and seeks advice from the lost ancestors of Mu.

To some extent “psi events” are undoubtably in the mind. Maybe it’s completely “in the mind”. Maybe. But while the wand-like utterance “hallucination” may mean something to someone, it gives me the screaming-jeebies.

Hallucinations are devilishly tricky things. It could be said that the brain mechanism behind the hallucination allows some aspect of the subconscious mind to come into play. Or, it could be said that the “mechannism” allows the mind of the perceiver access to actual external things not otherwise perceivable.

The whole problem with these damnable, luciferic happenings is that they look like real, external events. They are not inside our heads. Until I get a better idea of how this mental process works, I have to remain a little skeptical of the “all in the mind” theory.

Still, whether it’s all in the mind or not, the only way to get at it is through mind research. The paranormal itself has never given us any genuine information on the subject.

One only has to look at the conflicting literature to realise something’s rotten in Denmark.

Of course, the super-cults have an every-ready explanation for all this confusion — demon activity.