Supernatural forces on the increase
Spirits are increasingly making their presence felt in New Zealand, spurred on by celebrity ghost whisperers, says the Manawatu Standard (12 April).
A recent survey by Massey University revealed that the proportion of respondents who say they have felt a spiritual force rose from 33 percent in 1991, to 40 percent. Half the respondents said they are interested in spiritual forces, while a quarter believed the dead had supernatural powers.
Massey University senior lecturer Heather Kavan said the entertainment industry has fuelled the spirit market.
“Programmes like Sensing Murder and Ghost Whisperer have popularised psychic experiences that in previous times would have been dismissed as symptoms of psychosis. The Sensing Murder psychics have almost become spiritual celebrities.”
Our own Vicki Hyde said spiritual crazes come in waves, depending on media programmes. Angels and vampires are the latest fads. She warned of the “morally reprehensible” behaviour of shows such as Sensing Murder. Psychic shows exploit vulnerable families who have lost loved ones in the name of entertainment, she said.
If the clippings for Newsfront are anything to go by, there are indeed more ghostly appearances going on out there. There’s definitely a ghost theme this issue.
The daily bread rises despite ghostly visit
Things are going bump, shadows are creeping and mysterious voices are bothering Maurice Piner at Phil’s Baker, in Greymouth. The Press (5 May) says the poor baker is seeing shadows moving around and hearing banging and crashing when he’s working alone.
“…sometimes you can hear whispering and talking in the bakery. You look around to see if there’s anyone there, and you can’t.”
Tourist operator Paul Schramm thinks he knows what’s what. While researching a new tourist attraction, he has learned about Ah Shing, a Chinese miner, who hanged himself in 1891 in the boarding house that used to stand on the site.
Piner said it was interesting to have a theory to explain the whispers and shadows, but it would not put him off working alone.
Hotel ghost to be checked out
Christchurch’s old Jailhouse hotel has a ghostly infestation but the ghosthunters are on to it (The Press, 6 May 2010.)
Ghost Hunters Christchurch lead investigator Anton Heyrick has offered to check out the ghostly reports of an apparition in the kitchen and of a man with a white jacket, but wants three extra paranormal investigators to help.
“There have been things moving. There have been voices, and backpackers have said they’ve felt like they were being watched.”
Reminds me of stopping at an old hotel, turned into a backpackers, on the way to last year’s Skeptics Conference. On the walls was a sepia picture of the daughter of a former hotel owner, who died tragically and now haunts the place. When we commented on this to the manager, he said to the best of his knowledge there wasn’t a ghost; it was something the previous owners did to add to the feel of the place. Yet, later that night, the door to the shower block mysteriously slammed shut, with no one near. Coincidence? We think so.
Return of the cat ghost
Hawera’s ghost cat, caught on security camera last year, is not alone (Taranaki Daily News, 2 June).
Ross and Donna Sowerby hoped to catch a bike thief, and instead caught a ghostly image. To this viewer, it looked like a small spider or booklouse wandering over the lens but to some, it looked more like a big, fluffy, but very blurry cat.
The media loved it, and it was on TV and reported in many newspapers. But paranormal experts fell silent, and for months, says Mrs Sowerby, there was no definitive answer. Until television psychic Sue Nicholson appeared on TV One’s Good Morning show and offered an explanation, following a letter from Mrs Sowerby. She said the apparition was of a ginger cat and added that there were more ghosts in the couple’s house.
Luckily, one of these spirits, a man, is a friendly ghost, with a “lovely energy”. The best thing about the cat ghost, she said, was that it didn’t need to be fed. Mrs Sowerby was happy with the explanation. “We have closure now and we can move on.”
The article ran on the Stuff website and attracted about 80 comments. Many agreed it looked like a bug on the lens. But the Sowerbys were not satisfied with these theories. Why look for zebras when you can manifest a phantom feline?
But back to the Manawatu Standard. The article on Massey University’s survey also answers a long-standing mystery. “An extraordinarily high proportion of New Zealanders have no religion – almost double the proportion in other Western countries – but we’ve never known who these people are,” Dr Kavan said.
The survey showed many of them are privately spiritual, but don’t relate to organised religions. And the internet has opened up a huge range of possibilities, for believers and non-believers alike.
The Facebook group Sensing Murder has almost 4000 fans,whereas Sensing Bullshit has 95 members. Sigh.
Recovered memories again
Although the recovered memory panic seems to be on the wane, a recent case of a couple acquitted on all charges of rape and inducing their daughter to do indecent acts, shows the idea still has its supporters.
In an NZPA story (9 June) the man’s lawyer, Chris Wilkinson-Smith said the case had been pursued by West Auckland police, despite Gisborne police recommending the prosecution should not proceed.
The couple, who have name suppression, live in a small town near Gisborne. “It was only the efforts of private investigator Michael Rhodes who was able to locate many witnesses who completely contradicted the complainant’s evidence. A more thorough police investigation could have avoided three years of misery.”
The mother’s lawyer, Adam Simperingham, told reporters the charges should never have been laid, and that the parents had been through a very traumatic experience.
The charges related to alleged incidents between January 23 1978 and January 23 1981.
Their daughter, now 39, gave evidence during the trial. The Crown prosecutor, Soana Moala, alleged a series of sexual assaults occurred at the family home when the girl was aged between seven and 10.
Ms Moala told the jury that the complainant did not tell anyone at the time. She did not remember the incidents until 2006.
‘Witch children’ in living hell
And from the We Think We’ve Got It Bad Here Department comes a story in the Waikato Times (15 May) on the ‘Witch Children’ of Nigeria.
A Salem-style witch-hunt has swept the south of the West African nation in recent years. Though the area has always been a centre for the occult and voodoo, in the last 10 years pastors from revivalist churches have been arriving there. They accuse vulnerable children (many of them Aids orphans) of being witches, and then offer to drive out the demons. With growing populations and mounting poverty, some aunts and uncles have been quick to accept any excuse not to feed another mouth.
Seven-year-old Godwin Okon was accused, with his grandmother, of causing his mother’s death by witchcraft. Sam Ikpe-Itauma of the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), said Godwin’s uncle had locked them in a room with the dead woman. The grandmother escaped, but Godwin was ordered by a pastor to eat his mother’s corpse, under the belief that if a demon eats its victim it will also die. When he refused his uncle forced his head into his mother’s body. When he still refused to eat he was beaten and burnt.
Passers-by kept him alive by feeding him through cracks in the wall, until other villagers notified the police, who took him to CRARN. He is slowly recovering along with more than 200 other children with similar experiences.