Quake wakes up spooks
A Christchurch para-normal investigator says Canterbury’s September 4 earthquake has more than doubled the number of reported supernatural events in the province (The Press, 8 November).
Anton Heyrick says his team, Christchurch Paranormal Investigators, had received an “interesting influx” of phone calls and emails. “People are calling us, saying that they had always felt like there was something in the house, but since the earthquake it had become more intense,” he said. He attributed this to the “sheer strength and power” of the earthquake.
Heyrick said it was well known among investigators that renovations tended to wake up dormant spirits in old buildings.
“With the earthquake, it literally smashed walls apart, and knocked down floors and ceilings, so you can imagine the effect that would have had.”
The team, which did not charge for its services, had conducted two full investigations, and was planning to do more.
NZ Skeptics chairman Gold (whose own residence was damaged in the quake) said the reports may have been due to “people’s minds playing tricks on them in the post-quake environment”.
“You may not feel an aftershock, but it will still make things rattle. People’s minds fill in the blanks, and they tend to fill in the blanks with fairytales, unfortunately.”
UFO files released
The NZ Defence Force did a huge favour for newspaper editors all over the country by releasing 2000 pages of formerly secret reports on UFOs just in time for the silly season.
Though some have tried to talk the reports up, it’s clear there’s very little in them. Says the Southland Times in an editorial (29 December), “the case most likely to attract attention – and we say this with all due respect to the Christchurch man who submitted 300 pages outlining two decades of contact with aliens – are the Kaikoura lights of 1978”.
The Kaikoura Star (29 December) noted that the air force report at the time concluded almost all the sightings could be accounted for by natural phenomena, but also recounted other UFO incidents in the area. On 13 July 1959, for example, Blenheim farmer Eileen Moreland was getting the cows in when she noticed a green light above her in the clouds. Soon an oval- shaped UFO with two green beams of light and “fiery orange jets” settled above her, enveloping her in a “peculiar green glow”. She claims to have seen two men inside the craft, dressed in “silvery, shiny suits from the waist upwards” and with headgear “like divers’ helmets which glittered very brightly”. In a separate Kaikoura Star item the same day, local butcher Alan Hickey relates how he often travelled the coast road in 1978, and noted the bright squid boat lights on the horizon. “It made me laugh (when it was reported). I thought, ah, it’s those squid boats.”
Psychic ‘predicts’ Lotto win
A psychic’s prediction that “something great” was going to happen in November has supposedly been “proved accurate” after a Napier family’s big Lotto win (Otago Daily Times, 17 November).
“We had no idea that it would be a $2 million Lotto win,” said a family member. No, and neither did the psychic.
Hunt on for yeti remains
An Air New Zealand pilot and mountaineer is leading a different kind of yeti hunt (Sunday News, 5 December).
Mike Allsop hopes to track down a “skull” and skeletal hand, said to be from a yeti, stolen from the Pangboche monastery in the 1990s. Weta Workshop has produced replicas of the missing items which he plans to hand-deliver to the monastery in April to help searchers find the originals.
“I am hoping that the person who has them wants to give them back … I will go anywhere in the world in person, free of charge, no questions asked and I will also buy them a beer.”
The article says the material came to international prominence when Texan oil magnate Tom Slick (a case of nominative determinism?) photographed them in 1957. Two years later one of his team returned to the monastery and reportedly stole bone fragments from the hand. These were allegedly smuggled back to the US by “a Hollywood star” – named as James Stewart by Wikipedia. The remaining items were stolen in 1999.
Left unsaid is that the “skull” – more commonly referred to as a scalp – was allowed out of Nepal in 1957 and examined at the British Museum, where it was determined to be moulded from the shoulder skin of a serow, a species of Himalayan goat-antelope. Photos of the hand look equally dubious – it seems to have kneecap-like bones at the knuckles, and to lack any wristbones.
Acupuncture good for lazy eyes?
A trial of acupuncture to treat lazy eye has offered cautious support to the traditional Chinese medical practice (Reuters, 18 December).
Dr Robert Ritch of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and Chinese colleagues studied 18 Chinese children with lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, aged between seven and 12. They randomly assigned about half of them to wear a patch over their good eye for two hours every day, and the rest to attend five acupuncture sessions weekly; both treatments continued for up to 25 weeks. All children were also given new glasses and asked to perform an hour of daily near-vision activities.
At the end of the 25 weeks at least seven out of 10 children in each group had their lazy eye’s sight improve by at least two lines on an eye chart. Forty-two percent of children receiving acupuncture overcame the condition compared to 17 percent of those who wore eye patches.
The University of Rochester’s Dr Matthew Gearinger, however, cautions that the number of children studied was small. And “it is a lot to ask parents to drive to a local acupuncturist five days a week, rather than just using drops or a patch at home.”
Michigan internist Dr Peter Lipson noted that everyone knew who got what treatment, and that without an untreated group the study couldn’t rule out the possibility that not doing anything, or simply using corrective glasses and performing daily exercises, would work just as well.
“This is not, in my opinion, evidence toward acupuncture being as good as standard care, only that in this particular study children did about the same if they received standard care or non-standard care. It says nothing at all about acupuncture.”
Roman Catholic bishops have held a special training workshop in Baltimore to help alleviate a serious shortage of exorcists (Reuters, 14 November).
The church currently has only five or six American exorcists on its books, but signed up 56 bishops and 66 priests for the two-day event. “There’s this small group of priests who say they get requests from all over the continental US,” said Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois. “Actually, each diocese should have its own [exorcist].”
He did not say why there was increased demand for exorcisms, which he noted were rarely performed.
Possible signs of demonic possession referred to in the article include scratching, cutting, or biting of the skin; profound displays of strength; and a strong or violent reaction to holy water. Nothing about projectile vomiting or heads turning 360 degrees.
Another Kentucky creationist theme park
Just when you thought Kentucky couldn’t make itself more of a laughing stock comes word that plans are afoot to build (or rebuild, according to Ken Ham of the nearby Creation Museum) a full-sized replica of Noah’s Ark in the state (Dominion Post, 11 December).
The ark is to be the centrepiece of a $150 million park, to be known as Ark Encounter. Due to open in 2014, it will also feature live stage shows, a petting zoo and a Tower of Babel.
Despite claims the park will further tarnish the state’s reputation, Governor Steve Beshear has promised $40 million in tax breaks for the project. “Bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority,” he said.