Help at Hand for Mobile Phone Users
I would’ve thought the main hazard from mobile phones was the increased risk of accident when using one in the car. No-one seems to worry about this, however, instead many are deeply concerned that a few milliwatts of radio waves are going to fry their brains. This has opened tremendous opportunities for the enterprising.
Last issue we reported on the Personal Harmoniser, which minimised radiation effects by strengthening and protecting the body’s immune system. But new on the market is the BioChip, which attacks the root of the problem. It fits into the battery of a mobile phone, from where it emits a signal which disrupts the strong, regular electrical impulse which experts say can damage the cells of the brain. The chip raises the cost of a battery by around a third. Which sounds okay until you remember that with the connection deals now available, the batteries are often the most expensive part of the phone.
(Christchurch Press, 6 January)
Pikachu or Pikajew?
If you’ve felt vaguely uneasy about Pokemon and its possible adverse effects on children, but couldn’t quite put your finger on the precise nature of the problem, Saudi Arabia’s most senior Islamic clerics have figured it out: Pokemon is too Jewish. According to a fatwa issued by Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheik, all Muslims should beware of this game and prevent their children from playing it so as to protect their religion and manners.
The clerics said the concept of the game’s characters appeared to be based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and most of the cards figure six-pointed stars, a symbol of international Zionism and the state of Israel.
(Evening Post, 26 March)
Wedding bells for Uri
Everyone’s favourite spoon-bender renewed his vows to wife of ten years, Hanna, in March. The event probably would have been overlooked by the world’s media if it hadn’t been for his choice of Best Man-Michael Jackson!
(Dominion, 6 March)
High profile sceptical parapsychologist Richard Wiseman has been a busy boy. First he was making headlines around the world with his investigations of the ghost of Henry VIII’s wife Catherine Howard, who was beheaded in 1540, but is said to still stalk the corridors of London’s Hampton Court Palace. Just bodies of cold air and some unusual draughts, he said on that occasion.
But things in Edinburgh seem, at this stage, rather more interesting. Wiseman has sent 240 volunteers into the cells of Edinburgh Castle, and cellars in the bowels of the mediaeval “Old Town”.
Nearly half the guinea pigs reported ghostly goings-on, although most were (again) no more dramatic than a sudden drop in temperature, an uncomfortable draught or a feeling of being watched. But one person reported a burning sensation on the arm, and another was nearly reduced to tears by breathing noises in the corner of the room.
Wiseman says the reports are much more extreme than expected, and, importantly, the highest number of experiences came in vaults already reputed to be haunted. But he won’t be a believer until he gets something on film. Meanwhile, local tourist guides are said to be “delighted” at the findings.
(Waikato Times, 19 April)
Rope Trick Mystery Tied Up
You probably knew this anyway, but the Indian Rope Trick is a hoax, it’s never been performed.
Peter Lamont, a former president of the Magic Circle in Edinburgh (that place again!) and now a researcher at the city’s university, found that the story was invented by the Chicago Tribune 111 years ago as part of a subscription drive. Little notice was taken of a short note the paper published four months later admitting the article had been a publicity stunt. It was assumed readers would realise it was a hoax because the story was bylined Fred S Ellmore.
Supposedly, the trick involves a boy climbing an unsupported rope and disappearing at the top. He is followed up the rope by a man with a sword who also disappears, before parts of the boy’s body fall from the sky into a basket. The man reappears and tips out the basket, revealing the boy to be in perfect health. Various attempts at explaining the trick have been made, including the involvement of twin boys, one of whom would actually be murdered.
(Evening Post, 16 April)
Another Psychic Scam
Mailboxes around the country have been bombarded with letters from a self-proclaimed “highly-regarded psychic” offering information about how to win more than $300 000. A reader has sent one in here, and a columnist at the Waikato Times received two, each talking about different amounts of money, and involving different dates. Now the Commerce Commission has released a statement urging recipients to throw the letters away.
The psychic, going under the name Antoinette de Ville (no relation of Cruella?) claims to have dreamed of the recipients winning a large amount of money, which usually varies from letter to letter. While she would normally charge $1000-2000 for such a service (her clients include many celebrities and movie stars, apparently), the dream was so powerful she felt compelled to contact the recipient directly, and would only charge a “handling fee” of $59 on this occasion for providing the information necessary to make the winnings a reality. A money back guarantee is offered.
Whangarei police Detective Senior Sergeant Marty Ruth says there was nothing police could do unless a deliberate intent to defraud could be proved. You have to wonder what level of evidence is necessary.
(Evening Post, 9 April)
Hogwarts it Isn’t
Harry Potter fans who want to enrol in a real school for witches and wizards can now do so at the Isle of Avalon Foundation, near Glastonbury Tor in the west of England. Avalon coordinator Colette Barnard says the foundation has taught 350 people Goddess skills and Wicca traditions since 1995, and currently has 185 students. Now, they are offering a part-time course on witchcraft for the 21st century.
(Evening Post, 7 April)
No Money, No Corpse
The corpse of former Nigerian soccer captain Sam “Zagallo” Opone, who died last November, is being held by a witch doctor until he has recovered money owed to him for the player’s treatment. Opone was being treated by the witch doctor who discontinued treatment claiming unpaid bills. When he died (must have been the treatments that were keeping him alive) the witch doctor refused to give up the corpse to the family until he had been paid about US$1200.
(Dominion, 17 April)
Death Takes a Holiday
Not many cruise passengers want to talk about death on their vacation, but the Intuitive Vision Network has just conducted a week-long Psychic and Spiritual Healing Cruise on the liner Norwegian Sky for those who want to combine a cruise with life-transforming experiences. Clairvoyants, channellers and “intuitives” offer the chance to speak with the departed and explore the metaphysical.
The ship sails a round trip from Miami to Nassau, San Juan, St Thomas and Great Stirrup Cay. Hmm, that’s along the southern edge of the Bermuda Triangle…
(Dominion, 27 February)
Skeptics Chair-Entity Vicki Hyde and her family were recently involved in a car accident near Timaru. While the rest of the Hydes escaped with minor scrapes and bruises, Vicki has a broken leg and has spent several days in Timaru Hospital. Opinions are divided as to whether this was an Act of God in retribution for sins unspecified, or an instance of divine protection, without which things would have been much worse. No word has yet been heard as to whether the Hyde family has been offered counselling, or, if so, whether it has been accepted.
The Christchurch Press noted the event in their Diary section (21 April), observing that a skeptical colleague was quick to spot an opportunity. Why not offer her leg as a test for people claiming to be able to heal at a distance? However, for a properly conducted scientific experiment, both of Ms Hyde’s legs would have had to be broken, to provide a control. Keen though she was to test paranormal claims, she says she had to draw the line somewhere.