Quack Croaks

Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but many experts in non-proven schemes fall on their own swords. For example, Hoxsey died of cancer, and recently a Lower Hutt clairvoyant went bankrupt (due to unforeseen circumstances). Dr Rajko Medenica, the Yugoslavian specialist whose unorthodox treatments created devoted patients and determined enemies, died at the early age of 58 (Bay Of Plenty Times December 3 1997). He practised in South Carolina and drew patients from around the world, including Muhammad Ali, the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran and the late Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia. He served 17 months in a Swiss prison two years ago for fraud, many saying that his unusual methods were not based on science, but that he preyed on those that had lost hope. He obviously didn’t do the three guys mentioned much good either.

Overdose of Spirits

Oxford and Cambridge Universities are the embodiment of educational excellence. Yet even their bosses can make fools of themselves. Peterhouse College (Cambridge) professors are convinced they have a ghost lurking in their midst (Bay Of Plenty Times, December 20 1997).

“I saw absolute terror on the faces (of those) who saw the ghost, so I don’t doubt that something happened,” said dean Graham Ward. “But it’s not the sort of thing that we like to talk about because we’re supposed to be the sort of chaps who have our feet on the ground, and people might think I’m a terrible fruitcake.”

Ward said a requiem mass to exorcise the ghost would be held, requiring all college staff to attend. Perhaps they should put less sherry in the fruitcake.

Royal Horror

Princess Anne should be given honorary membership of NZ Skeptics. She’s so much more in the real world than her peers. No colonic irrigation or iridology for her. Recently, while opening a careers centre, she enquired brightly about what some teenage girls were doing (International Express January 27 1998).

“We’re doing horoscopes,” replied one eager youngster.

“Horoscopes, horoscopes!” exclaimed Anne, her darkened countenance suggesting something deeply unpalatable had been swallowed. “Life’s too short for horoscopes!”

The Duchess Of York makes frequent use of stargazers to bolster her spirit in time of crisis. She recently had several consultations with the unconventional Madame Vasso. Perhaps it was visions of Fergie sitting beneath Vasso’s blue pyramid that prompted Princess Anne’s outburst — this month’s Skepsis special award winner.

Desert Delusion

Dozens of protesting British Gulf War veterans handed in their medals at the Ministry Of Defence last month (International Express January 20 1998). They were angry at alleged Government inaction over Gulf War syndrome, the name given to the wide variety of illnesses suffered by ex-servicemen after the conflict. Some 160 are said to have died since returning, and another 6,000 are sick. Illnesses include fatigue, skin disorders, muscular pains and shortness of breath.

I believe they have yet to prove either that they suffer more illness than the ordinary population, or that there is any link between their symptoms and any aspects of the war environment, which was a brief breeze compared to most conflicts. Many experts believe that it is just another example of mass hysteria.

Fool Britannia

The last woman to be jailed in Britain for witchcraft may be offered a posthumous pardon, more than 40 years after her death (Bay Of Plenty Times, February 2 1998). Helen Duncan was jailed for nine months in 1944 under the 1735 witchcraft act for claiming to have conjured the spirit of a sailor killed on a battleship. The ship’s sinking was a state secret and not publicly known, so it was thought that she might “see” and reveal D-Day landing sites.

The then Prime Minister Winston Churchill was outraged. He dismissed the case as “obsolete tom-foolery to the detriment of the necessary work in the court”. On his return to the premiership in 1951, he helped ensure the act was repealed, and now British officials are considering a pardon for the convicted psychic.

I was also relieved to see that that country’s college of psychiatry has banned the use of recovered memory methods in sexual abuse cases. About time! (NZ Skeptic, last issue.) New Zealand will almost certainly follow suit, and young Peter Ellis, like Helen Duncan, will get his pardon. Hopefully this will occur in his lifetime.

Still in Britain, the health chiefs are returning to institutionalising their violent mentally ill patients. Again, about time. It really is high time the New Zealand’s health service got rid of its plague of advisors and put control back into the hands of the medical profession. It is quite clear that the public is sick of experiments implemented by temporary overpaid quango quacks.

Another Magic Box

A South African Telecom linesman has created what some people are calling a “magic box” for pain relief (GP Weekly, November 19 1997). Gervan Lubbe developed the APS therapy (achon potential simulation) and it’s made him a millionaire.

Using electric currents that simulate the body’s natural nerve impulses, the therapy is used by thousands to relieve anything from arthritis and sports injuries, to migraines and bedsores. The phone book sized device is now available in New Zealand for a mere $3,300.

Mr Lubbe says he is coming back here next year with a team of medical professors to seek ACC approval. He says that he expects some published research to come out within a few months. He has been made South Africa’s Young Businessman Of The Year.

Isn’t it funny how these heroes make a pile and fade into obscurity, always saying that they “expect published research to come out …” etc. The genuine geniuses publish their studies first, and even if they don’t become millionaires, their names live on in history. I wonder where Mr Lubbe’s name will appear in 20 years?

Jesus Christ

Cleaning lady Patricia Cole was polishing a brass banister when something amazing happened. There, on her cleaning cloth, appeared what she and others firmly believe to be the face of Christ (International Express January 20 1998). Now a stream of pilgrims is expected at her semi-detached home to see “the miracle of Pat’s duster,” which is being compared with the Turin Shroud.

“I had been using,” (not drinking), “the council’s metal polish, and the face on the cloth really spooked me out.”

Her priest Monseigneur Anthony Boylan said “I told Patricia to regard this as a blessing. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 34 years in the priesthood.”

From now on, I’m not allowing our cleaning lady at the surgery to throw out any used dusters. I’ve already recognised the haunted features of the American President on one cloth.

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