Sunday, 13 October 2013

Pagan Origins of Christmas

Fundamentalist Christians, especially protestant ones, hate Christmas. Some claim it, like Halloween, is a pagan festival and nothing to do with Christianity. And they are right. Realising this Pagans have sought to reclaim “Their” midwinter festival, ignoring the widespread celebration of the mid winter solstice around this time that means Christmas does not belong to any one group, tribe or religion.

Anti Christmas
Father Christmas riding a goat
In 1652 British Puritans made Christmas Illegal for eight years. They hated the pagan parts for being pagan, the christian parts for being catholic and hated any festival because people enjoyed themselves [1] (around this time they also made smiling an offence). In America at about the same time puritans passed a law levying a fine on anyone celebrating Christmas.

In 1989 a Japanese department store made a huge Father Christmas, but made one mistake: Thy put him on the roof and Crucified him. In 1969 an Editorial in L' Oservatore Romano described Father Christmas as a representing a monstrous substition for the Christ Child and offending the faith.

Around 1988 the Truth Tabernacle in Burlington, North Carolina, considered Christmas the work of the devil and talked of Satan Claus, being an impostor. As with most religious nutters they lacked both the education to know that Santa Claus evolved from St Nicholas, and the sense of humour that would have let them call him “old Nick”. They, like the original Calvinists, allowed no Christmas Presents or trees, and an elder of the church noted that 25th December was the birthday of a pagan god, Tammuz, and claimed Jesus was born in September [2]. Had he claimed Jesus was born on September 11th this would have been a powerful synchronicity. His claim would also have surprised early Christians who celebrated the birth in March [1]. In truth if Jesus ever existed there is no indication anywhere of his birthday.

The stalwart religionists held a mock trial accusing Santa of Child Abuse, by urging parents to buy alcohol not clothes, of falsely claiming to be St Nicholas, maing ministers lie about Christ's Birthday, and making churches practice Baal Religion unknowingly. After this kangaroo court had found him, guilty they hung an eight foot dummy in a Santa suit from a tree.

The Significance of the End of the Year.

Calendar endpoints are psychologically significant. There was a panic in 2000 about the millennium bug, and in 2012 about the alleged end of the Mayan calendar. In AD 1000 there was widespread expectation of the second coming of Christ.

Times of change have also been appropriated by non-christians, as anyone who recalls the hype over the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius” can testify. There are at least three times of change in the western year, the Spring and Winter Solstice and New Year. The last two have greater cultural impact and for most people the Winter Solstice is more meaningful (Why the new year is not celebrated on the Winter Solstice is another question).

The Winter solstice, in the Norther Hemisphere, is the time when the days stop getting shorter. After that they get longer. It is when Ullr, god of Winter loses his annual battle with Odin and hos power begins to weaken till midsummer. It is a “weird Space” that has become a time of carnival when normal rules are relaxed in order to reinforce them when normality returns on Plough Monday. And is a very good excuse to forget work, perhaps impossible because of the weather and enjoy life for a while.

Festivals of Light

Pennick [1] notes that in the West December 25th has been celebrated as the birthday of divinities of light, citing the Babylonian Queen of Heaven, Oriris from Egypt, Dionysus and Adonis from Greece and from Scandinavia Baldur, ironically killed by Mistletoe. December 25th is the birthday of Mithra, the Persian solar god[5] originally a servant to Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god of goodness [4].

Mithraism, a mystic cult that developed in Armenia from a local late surviving version of Mazdaysnian, blended Mithra, originally an Indo-Iranian god of contracts and broad pastures with the Babylonian sun god, Shamash and god of seasonal regeneration, Tammuz.

After his introduction to Rome this mixed Mithra, and perhaps his December 25 date of celebration, were again blended with Solis indigeni (a Roman sun god derived from the Pelasgean titan of light - Helios. This resulted in a composite being Solis invicta, the invincible sun. Mithra, the god of the regenerating sun was annually reborn on December 25th.

Aurelian eventually proclaimed Mithraism the official religion of the Roman Empire in A.D. 274 and Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Invincible Sun) became an official holiday. This coincided with the Roman Saturnalia, which flanked the weird space of the solstice, when normal social rules were relaxed and gifts of candles, symbolising lights, were exchanged. There is evidence that a lighting ceremony commemorating the return of light and heat at the winter solstice was transferred to the festival of Mithras.

Christianity took over the Celebrations around the winter solstice, a tactic later to be used in Britain when the incoming missionaries took over pagan temples and places of worship rededicating them to their own religion.

The Wild Hunt
Further north St Nicholas and Odin became confused. Odin is the leader of the Wild Hunt, who travel the autumn skies taking away anyone who gets in their way. Odin is a god with shamanic aspects, riding his horse between worlds. Santa Claus is depicted in a shamanic costume, an animal's hide blooded skin outside and fur inside. Just as Odin leads the wild hunt so Santa drives a reindeer sleigh through the sky. Just as Odin is, in one aspect, the traveller between worlds, Santa is associated with the “weird space” between the worlds of summer and winter just after the solstice.

Of course it is highly unlikely that the people who created the image of Santa Claus for motives ranging from politics to commerce [6] were consciously aware of these correspondences but folk memory lasts a long time and eventually its characters and events border on the archetypal. The Wild Hunt, Odin and the rebirth of the sun in Winter are powerful things, which may have roots going back to the birth of agriculture and beyond. Burned into the collective unconscious these may have surfaced again as Santa Claus.

The Wrap
Christmas as we know it is based on pre-christian traditions from various parts of the world, and these traditions themselves may have been birthed from older traditions and from archetypes of personalities and events in the collective unconscious and collective memory of at least western humanity.


  1. Wierd Space: Pagan Rites of Christmas, Nigel Pennick, Fortean Times 60 December 1991 p.24
  2. Ho Ho Ho A seasonal Portrait: Paul Sieveking, Fortean Times 56, Winter 1990 P.42
  3. Stations of the Sun: Ronald Hutton, +
  4. In search of Zarathustra: Paul Kriwaczek, Weidenfeld and Nocolson 2002
  5. http:// Anerican Christmas Origins
  6. The Politics of Christmas: Coca Cola, Capitalism and Collective Memory

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Anomalous artefacts

When archaeologists find something that looks humanly made they naturally want to know how old it is and usually combine a number of ways to estimate its age. The methods basically fall into two categories, absolute and relative. Neither is totally accurate. Absolute methods include Radio Carbon dating, thermoluminescence and Tree Ring dating. Relative methods include looking at the depth an object was found and provisionally assuming it is older than an object found above it and younger than one found below it. A third category might be called comparative, comparing an object with similar objects found elsewhere.

Sometimes an object does not fit. One or more of these methods suggests the object is older than it should be or is somewhere it should not be, if current theories are correct. Such an object is normally called an OOPART standing for Out Of Place Artefact, though the term can also be used for non-manufactured articles, since OOPOBJ is not as easy to say.

A lot of apparent OOPARTs have been found, but most can be explained without assuming they came from Atlantis or an extraterrestrial spacecraft. There are however a small number that pose a problem to conventional theories and are generally ignored because any archaeologist who investigates them is likely to suffer career damage. Even if this is not the case an academic archaeologist will generally have little time to research anomalies. As a result these objects have been appropriated by religious groups and other fringe elements as proof of their pet theories, without real investigation and ignoring the fact that weakening opposing theories does not mean their theory is right.

Ancient Machinery found in Russia
Recently there were claims of an ancient machine part being found in Russia generally [3] being lumped together with other OOPARTs, some of which may be fossils. One geologist considers it is either a natural crystal of Iron Pyrites or, since it was not discovered in the mine itself, a something that had broken off mining machinery. The argument they make that the fact it was not published in a peer reviewed journal is however weak: No journal would publish it until it was verified, and no mainstream scientist will try to verify it until it is published. This is a weak case and can safely be discarded.

The Crystal Skulls

There are a number of model human skulls carved in quartz alleged to be from pre-columbian South America. On investigation the problems with this interpretation seem to multiply. Not one of these skulls has been proven to be pre-columbian, and the best evidence seems to indicate they were carved in the 19th century in Europe. The most famous skull, the Mitchell-Hedges skull was purchased by Mitchell-Hedges from a London Art dealer in 1944, though his daughter claimed have found it during an excavation. The skull seems most likely to be a copy of a 19th century skull in the British Museum. Whether or not they are ancient they are remarkable sculptures doubtless attractive to those who are attracted to skulls.

Regardless of scientific evidence many paranormal claims have been made for the 13 or so known skulls which can kill at a distance or cure cancer. Claims of skull-lore and mythology seem not to have existed in Ancient South America and any ancient South American myths seem to have been spread initially by Mitchell-Hedges and taken up by New-Age writers who considered them as relics of Atlantis.

The fact that the skulls are 19th century does not preclude the possibility they now have some paranormal attributes for belief can do remarkable things.

Criteria for real OOPARTs

William Corliss gave several criteria for an OOPART, as stated on Bad Archeology [1]

    It must :
  • have an unexpected age (too old or too young),
  • be in the wrong place (Roman artefacts from Mexican sites),
  • have an unknown or contested use,
  • be of anomalous size or scale,
  • have a composition impossible with current understanding of ancient technology (aluminium in ancient China),
  • possess a sophistication not commensurate with those models (electric cells in ancient Parthia),
  • or have unexpected possible associations (mylodon bones from Argentinean caves suggestive of domestication by humans).

When evaluating a possible OOPART you should ask at least one question for each criterion, for example

Is the date reliable?
Could it have got their through trade or been moved down by earthworms or earthquakes?
Can you see a possible use for it consistent with the known level of technology?
Could the giant/miniature object have been something else or used for rituals?
Is its composition really anomalous?
Was it really found with the other articles mentioned?
One final criteria not on Corliss' list is:

The trail should not go cold
The object should exist and be potentially open to further study. If it has vanished then the assessment must be made on circumstantial evidence. The fact an object has vanished does not mean it never existed: museums tend to put anomalous objects first in storage then in the rubbish. Even if not deliberately discarded accidents happen. An example where the trail is almost cold is the Dashka Stone [2] which is apparently on exhibition in a museum, but where the original discoverer , who gained points for being a respected physicist, seems first to have become an uncritical believer in ET intervention, then vanished from the face of the earth. A cold trail is a warning sign not an indication the object is not anomalous.

The Wrap

OOPARTS are a fascinating minefield for the explorer of anomalies. The field is riddled with self deception and erroneous interpretations but some mysteries, like the discovery of a stuffed alligator during investigation of a prehistoric site seem destined to remain unresolved for ever. At the same time there is some evidence that the beginnings of human technology stretch further back than generally accepted.

Unfortunately almost all alleged OOPARTS seem either to vanish or be unable to withstand investigation.

[1] Bad Archaeology

[2] The Dashka Stone

[3] Ancient Machinery found in Russia?

[4] Skeptical take on the Ancient Machinery found in Russia

[5] Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age: Richard Rudgley. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Who was St Juttemis?

St Juttemis in Breda
The city of Breda, Netherlands in 2007 when I came statue of St. Juttemis. I was intrigued by the statue and found the local tourist office, just 200 metres away knew nothing about the saint.

Most of the information Mr Google, revealed about him is in Dutch and that he was a fictional saint. To say something would happen on St. Juttemis' day meant it would never happen.

Apparently the saint had been adopted (as a patron?) by the carnival community who descend on Breda every year. It is not clear why the carnival crowd would adopted a fictional saint and why his day was associated with “never”.

Oncyclopedia gives a story of his life that should be true, even though it is probably not.

St Juttemis was a Jutlander, married to a farmer's daughter called Jut, one day he saw a vision of Sophia, who showed him the world was absurd and only made God laugh. Since people had forgotten this fundamental absurdity the was ordered to go forth and spread the word.

His message was received with ridicule and scorn. Especially since he had a sullen and irritable character and could not appreciate a joke. One day be came to a fair and began to rant and rage and destroy with a heavy hammer, that someone had left there. But he fell and got the hammer on his head so that he died. At the same time a bell sounded and all fair goers converted to Sophiasme. They saw their wicked ways and devoted their lives to furthering foolishness. As a tribute every fairground now has a device, which strikes a bell with a hammer to announce the Jutmis.

In 1009 Jutter Hypocritus XVI was canonized by Pope, and one day (February 30) of the year was dedicated to him. On this day the St. Jutte Fair was the main attraction.

In the course of time, however, St. Jutte became so popular that the most extreme forms Sophia Sten threatened the Catholic Church and so Pope III Paedofilius moved his feast to February 29 So so it was only once in four years. When that did not to help it was moved to February 30, which, as everyone knows occurs once every 70 years, and then only if the pigs have wings and the sky is falling, so we all wear blue hats.

With St. Juttemis

all people pay their debts,
politicians do what they promised,
teachers are reasonable,
Industrialists do something for the environment.

More prosaically Wikipedia states that Jutte is a short form of Judith and that saint has her day on August 17th and that St Juttemis is mentioned in the Kroniek van Roermond. This appears to be a real series of Chronicles but I have not been able to find the original quote in the chronicle via Google, though there are plenty of references to it. The full form apparently is

“met sint-juttemis, als de kalveren op het ijs dansen”
“on the day of st Juttemis when calves dance on the ice”

Moving Northwards to Scandinavia we find four such saintsaccording to

Juttemis may or may not have existed and may or may not have been female. I have not found any good reason why his (for simplicity) day should be associated with “never” or why the carnival commnity have adopted him. The only story I found that explains everything about him is on Oncyclopedia, a site that declares itself content free and so the story could be made up. I am left with a statue that definitely exists, a load of articles in Dutch citing a real chronicle but have found no transcription of the original citation and know no one in the carnival community.

Perhaps Juttemis' story is an urban legend that took root in Dutch culture like Father Christmas (the Medieval one, who, unlike Santa Claus seems to have been the model for Dickens' Christmas

Saturday, 3 August 2013

A theory on how ghosts are created

Phantoms and poltergeists have appeared throughout history if not before. Skeptics say the reports are all due to mundane causes, self-deception or fraud, and skeptics have a valuable role in filtering out those cases where there seems to be something odd going on. Phantoms and poltergeists seem to be points on a spectrum of paranormal activity ranging from sensing an “atmosphere” to grand pianos dancing in mid air (perhaps the most frustrating poltergeists are those who rain pennies into an empty room: I want to meet one that rains gold sovereigns, guineas, rare stamps and high value bearer bonds, not these cheapskates).

Typically hauntings, which include poltergeists, have a start and a finish. Most poltergeist cases last a few years and vanish. Hauntings tend to last longer and involve recognisably human apparitions. Poltergeist infestations where people are harmed appear to be uncommon but far from unknown. The history of some hauntings suggests that the phenomena are created by the observers and some of these then seem to develop a life of their own. This does not explain everything of course and a unified theory may not be possible. Here are a few cases this hypothesis may fit.

The Mackenzie Poltergeist

In December 1998 a homeless man slipped into the Black Mausoleum in Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. He smashed some coffins and fell into an undiscovered mass grave containing the bodies of plague victims. At this point he ran out as fast as possible, and ran into a security guard and their dog who naturally also ran. Since then there have been reports of something malevolent, christened the Mackenzie Poltergeist, in the churchyard. The next day a woman peering through the grill of the Mausoleum was reportedly knocked down by a cold blast and another was found lying nearby with bruises round her neck. She claimed invisible hands tried to to strangle her.

Edinburgh Council first locked the vault and tried to ignore it. Then they gave a local author permission to run controlled tours to the Mausoleum. Paranormal activity has escalated since then and now the poltergeist attacks two to 4 people a month. Dead animals tend to be found near the vault, electrical equipment tends to malfunction there and victims tend to get home before they realise they have been injured. Occasionally the phenomena follow them home.

The most likely theories are

  • Some form of hysteria that led to people interpreting mundane phenomena as paranormal.
  • The homeless man released a malevolent spirit trapped in the vault.
  • The Man's fear created a malevolent spirit that grew stronger and stronger as the attacks continued.

The first theory seems unlikely, since attacks started the day after the man fell into the pit. The second theory sounds plausible but does not say how the spirit got into the pit and there are no tales of a spirit being trapped there. The third theory again sounds plausible but seems no more likely than the second and both would be anathema to most skeptics. The third theory would have pleased Stan Gooch who believed all spirit phenomena were the result of unusual human powers.

We can discard the notion that the phenomena were fraudulently produced by (say) the tour operators. On its own the Mackenzie Poltergeist seems to be more like a malevolent spirit ( or perhaps a spirit created as a guardian of the pit) than a poltergeist and could have been created at some point.

Edinburgh Vaults
The Niddry Street Vaults are a series of tenements built into the arches of Edinburgh's South Bridge. Poor construction led first to their abandonment, then to population by refugees from the Irish Potato Famine (created because farmers preferred to export potatoes, as they got a higher price abroad than at home) and several generations lived and did in the vaults before they were sealed off in the early 20th century.

The vaults were rediscovered in the 1980s and eventually a company started to offer ours to the vaults. After a while visitors began reporting ghostly experiences and their tales had enough common features to indicate something strange was happening. Visitors have experienced bruises and minor injuries especially when entering a stone circle in which a Wiccan claimed to have trapped an evil presence. Skeptics put all this down to the effects of traffic vibrations and expectation by visitors. These explanations fail to cover the injuries to visitors and the lights apparently being switched off by one ghost.

Again likely theories include the Malevolent Spirit theory and that the spirits were created by visitor expectations perhaps from a feeling the place SHOULD be haunted. If the Wiccan did manage to trap the spirit inside a stone circle the spirit is unlikely to be the Mackenzie Poltergeist, though this possibility cannot be excluded.

Mary Kings Close

Mary Kings Close is a number of former streets of Edinburgh, rat runs between tenements that were effectively sealed off when the tenements there were partially demolished and the Royal Exchange building built on top of them. The tale that the close was sealed off in 1645 when plague hit Edinburgh appears to be an ancient Urban Legend but may have created expectations that led to the notion the close was haunted. Some paranormal phenomena here can be attributed to Marsh Gas from Edinburgh's Nor Loch, and these seem to have been used by a 17th century religious lunatic and scientist who seems to have invented the hauntings in order to further his religious campaign.

The haunting in the close is not malevolent but there seems no historical evidence to support the most famous ghost, a little girl named as Annie. Here the idea that the hauntings resulted from creation of spirits by human expectations seems more plausible than the idea of spirits being around for centuries and not noticed till the close was reopened, though the evidence for a genuine haunting is largely anecdotal and not supported – or disproved- by psychic investigations.

The Philip Experiment

So far we have seen some weak evidence for the spontaneous creation of spirits. Some investigators have gone a step further and tried to create spirits. Perhaps the most famous case was an experiment in Toronto where investigators created a fictional biography of someone who never existed and held seances to try and contact the person. Eventually he came through and started volunteering details of events not in the biography. The investigators wondered whether they had psychically accessed details of a real person but found no evidence such a person ever existed.

Here it seems a deliberate effort to create a spirit succeeded, or almost succeeded, since there is no indication the spirit ever manifested to other circles or outside the séance context. Interestingly the creation of the spirit involved repetitive actions reminiscent of magical rituals and the attempted creation of a god by a group of chaos magicians, possibly used by Frank Herbert in his book The God Makers. The use of ritual and repetition ( for example the repetitive tramping of visitors through Greyfriars Kirk) may be important in this context.

Kenneth Bacheldor
Kenneth Bacheldor was a retired engineer who attempted to recreate the table tipping phenomena of Victorian seances: and seems to have succeeded. He established protocols to prevent cheating, and, to prevent the notion that “it cannot happen” allowed one person to be a “joker” who was allowed to cheat. After a while tables began to move, some of which were hard for two people to move normally. And the phenomenon began to respond to requests from the sitters. Overall the phenomena reported seem hard to explain as fakery, self deception or unconscious muscular action: making a 60 pound table dance on two legs is hard to do unconsciously. Again the procedure had to be repeated and ritualised. Perhaps significantly the sitters only had success when they moved away from trying hard and started relaxing and joking,

Summoning Ghosts of the Civil War

An intriguing experiment involving the reenactment of events from the battle of Antietam resulted in recording of anomalous sounds and some investigators felt they were being gently touched. The results were suggestive of the presence of spirits but are perhaps more consistent with the idea that a spirit was almost created. The experimenters preferred to explain the results in terms of Morphic Resonance, an equally controversial concept.

Alexandra David-Neel
Alexandra David Neel was an intrepid explorer who experimented with creating a thought form, an artificial spirit, using techniques learned from Tibetan Lamas. She initially decided to create a jolly friendly monk and succeeded. But then the monk took on a life of its own and started to change to something more malevolent. When other people began to see it. She decided it was time to reabsorb it. And the thought form resisted. It was harder to absorb it than to create it. The episode is described in her book With mystics and magicians in Tibet along with other strange experiences.

This seems to be the most successful recorded effort at creating a spirit. The entity was seen by others and began to act independently. The lesson the Lamas learned from such experiments is that the world is illusion. It would seem however it is, like time, a very persistent illusion

The Wrap

The examples shown here suggest that some hauntings can be created by percipient expectations, and that a major component of the creation process is repetition of certain actions, for example telling stories to tourists, reenacting events from the Civil War, or holding seances. Prior experiences resulting from mundane causes such as Marsh Gas could serve as trigger events which later expectations could transform first into genuine paranormal phenomena and then into newly created spirits.

Although strictly out of scope here, the anomalous experiences John Keel described as The Phenomenon, and waves of Phantom Clowns could also be explained by this process.

And this theory could explain why the Spirit world bothers with us. We are their nursery, their womb, the place baby spirits are created and grow to maturity.

Further Reading

 The Mackenzie Poltergeist.

The Niddry St Vaults

Mary Kings Close

Soundscape and the Culture of War on an American Civil War Battlefield: An Ethnography of Communication with Past Presences John G. Sabol Paranthropology Volume 3 Number 2 April 2012

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Reincarnation reconsidered skeptically


Many culture have believed in reincarnation. In the East India, China: probably under Indian Influence and Tibet. In the West some Ancient Greeks embraced the idea, The Celts tended to believe in reincarnation with examples in some of their myths, as did the Vikings who believed one would be reincarnated in the same family. I read that early Christianity included a belief in reincarnation, and a verse in the Gospel of John can be read as supporting the reincarnation hypothesis. The value of this evidence can be put into perspective by looking at the medieval belief the world was flat, and the Satanic Ritual Abuse Panic of the late 1980s which recycled anti Jewish myths and atrocity tales originally directed against Christians.

There is some evidence suggestive of reincarnation, mostly from India (assessed by Stevenson) where belief is strongest and evidence most likely to be corrupted by wishful thinking. Evidence from hypnotic regression must be treated with extreme caution, especially when dealing with a reincarnated Cleopatra: it seems unlikely any regression will ever turn up Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot but such a case would be at first glance merit investigation

I recall reading that group of researchers into the spirit world asked a guiding spirit about this and were told reincarnation happens but is uncommon.

And as always I want to know why? If even one person is reincarnated even once that is a paradigm shaking event. The reason why could be a second.

Why Reincarnate?

There are two main schools of thought about the purpose of reincarnation. One school says it is to let us learn and the other says it is to repay “Karmic Debts”.

Imagine your child fail their school exams one year. So you send them back to do the year again. But first you block their memories of that year. But just before you block the memories you say
“I want you to do better this time, if not you will keep going back till you succeed” . Imagine what any child care official or Director of Education would say if you proposed that as a way to educate your child. You would be in prison faster than you can say “care order”. Believers note that spirits tell them remembering past lives would hinder progress in this one. Believe that as you will.

Imagine someone commits a crime. You send them to prison and say “ If you do it again you go back to jail: then block their memories of the crime. Not an effective way of giving feedback. In any case most if not all injustices can be settled with an apology and a drink in the Afterlife

“Sorry I had you castrated and sent to the mines, let me buy you a double whiskey”

“OK, I can laugh about it now, make it a treble”

Of course the education hypothesis may be true, in which case reincarnated souls may be smarter, not necessarily academically: A successful gangster is never stupid, even though they cannot tell you the cube root of 79 ( not even to four and bit), and politicians are very clever, at least at looking after themselves, in a world devoid even of the ethics a gangster needs to survive (skimming the take on a protection racket or sleeping with another gangster's woman tends to result in death: in politics, skilfully done it can result in promotion). If you doubt this note that they tend to retire on full salary.

The Education Hypothesis is thus basically flawed, which means either no one is reincarnated or everyone is or some people are reincarnated. But the reason why remains unclear. Perhaps we are just here to amuse a bored god or set of gods. In which case the least we can do is be amusing no solemn.

Who Reincarnates?

Either nobody is reincarnated, some people are reincarnated, or everyone is reincarnated. The first , given the increase in human population since prehistoric times, suggests a continuous creation of souls to inhabit bodies or that the body is an incubator in which souls develop. For most of human history the time spent in a body was short: up to the 19th century few lived more than 12 months and if nobody is reincarnated there would be lot of undeveloped souls in the afterlife.

The last possibility suggests our consciousness (spirit) needs a body, possibly to be able to experience more keenly, possibly because it cannot survive long without a body: how long can a bodiless spirit survive and why does it need a body. It also indicates that somewhere is a reincarnated Buddha and a reincarnated Jesus (Now who else can I offend?).

In The Journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 411–420, 2000, Bishai contrasts the linear model in which no soul reincarnates with a cyclic model in which each soul spends some time in an afterlife and then reincarnates and shows that the time in the afterlife shortens, as the population grows, from 57,000 years in 50,000 BC to about 106 years in 2000AD assuming a total stock of 10 Billion souls, and from 571,400 years to 712 years for a stock of 100 Billion souls. This may explain why infant mortality was high for so long: new bodies were needed for short term tenancies and had to be vacated because resources like food were scarce, Every infant that died could spend time in the after life and be sure of a body in time to survive.
If as some cultures think, one can be reincarnated as an animal, the pressure would be reduced further. It is of course unclear in this model whether the human state was regarded as superior or inferior, though population growth might suggest the former.

The middle hypothesis, that some people reincarnate, is the most intriguing of all. Why would people reincarnate given a choice? One British academic said he hoped reincarnation was false since having drawn an eel from a barrel of snakes he was unwilling to put his hand in the barrel again. Perhaps those who reincarnate have a mission to fulfil, or are just masochistic.

The Wrap

No one knows for sure if Reincarnation occurs. If it does no one knows why. If it occurs no one knows how it is decided who reincarnates and as what. That is a whole load of ignorance to investigate. And if it turns out reincarnation is impossible the question of what produced the evidence we have becomes important in the study of mass deception.

Right now I favour the idea that life on earth is a tourist trip with a lot of dodgy operators who put you up in a resort with half finished hotels and salmonella ridden food, with some offering misery trips, like a survival holiday or the theme camp in Eastern Europe that recreated the experience of a concentration camp. Add in a few secret agents on a mission, some independent travellers and a few misfits in the after life and the world begins to look like fun instead of all the grimly serious puritanism the religions of the book ( and others) try to foist on us.

I remain convinced however that all the theories above may be partly or wholly wrong. The world is never that simple.


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Poltergeists Ghosts and Morphic Resonance

Poltergeists (noisy ghosts) have been reported for thousands of years in almost every country in the world.They can be highly distressing and investigators have sometimes had to alter their focus from finding out what is going on to stopping it. If they cannot stop the phenomenon the victims may move, but sometimes the phenomena may move with them.

Poltergeist infestations are hauntings that include physical phenomena: objects may fly through the air, furniture may move on its own, electrical devices may fail, fires may start spontaneously and pools of water may appear. If fraud (always a possibility but may occur together with a genuine infestation), and mundane explanations have been investigated and ruled out, some hauntings behave like malevolent spirits and some just seem mischievous. A lot of cases are associated with a teenager, though almost all households with teenagers are poltergeist free. Other cases occur in dysfunctional households and certain forms of stress may result in Poltergeist Phenomena. There are also suggestions that electrical fields may give rise to poltergeist like phenomena.

The Poltergeist Phenomenon

A poltergeist is more than an apparition, more than a multi-sensory hallucination involving sight, sound, touch, hearing and even taste. A poltergeist is not purely subjective. Clearly if only one person is involved distinguishing a poltergeist from a convincing hallucination will be hard. If two people agree that something moved spontaneously this can be taken as a suggestion it really moved although the case of the moving Statues of Ballinspittle where hundreds of people saw a statue move but there was no evidence of actual movement, means that observation by more than one person can only be a hint.

Poltergeist phenomena have parallels in physical mediumship, common in the 19th century but rare now, and recorded cases of ecstatic levitation for example by St Joseph of Copertino and certain miracles attributed to saints of all religions. Folklore gives stories of people beaten by fairies or other inhabitants of the spirit world and Batcheldor's experiments in induced Psychokinesis [5].

Genuine poltergeist Phenomena have to involve some form of Psychokinesis, either by a spirit, or a human agent unconsciously causing the manifestation. In the latter case there is usually some form of stress involved, and it seems likely that stress can result in the uncontrolled release of psychic powers in the minority of people who are open to this possibility and have such powers.

A genuine poltergeist manifestation that cannot be attributed to mundane causes, fraud or other non-paranormal causes will either involve a “spirit” or the unconscious use of psychic abilities by someone involved.In either case the energy needed to move objects must come from somewhere, though where it comes from is not certain.

Poltergeists versus Ghosts

Ghosts often behaves like video recordings giving no indication of awareness of the observer, A poltergeist differs from such a ghost in that an element of choice as to when and where something happens seems to be present: pools of water and spontaneous fires do not seem to occur together, but can happen anywhere in an infected house, and poltergeists sometimes respond to the words or actions of the people involved, like the pair of floating gloves that responded to a skeptic singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” by beating time to the tune [1].

An experiment reported in Paranthropology raised the intriguing possibility ghosts and poltergeists can be created by ritual activity and reeneactment and that this can be explained by the controversial notion of Morphic resonance [6].

Mundane Explanations

Any candidate poltergeist infestation needs to pass a few hurdles. One is physical causes. Vibrations from say underground trains or passing traffic can cause things to move unexpectedly and slow movement of a poorly balanced pile of paper may cause it to topple over. Some cases are explained by static electricity, fraud, or even Ball Lightning. Physicist John Hutchinson claimed to have observed poltergeist like effects when generating intense magnetic fields, and this may account for some cases [7], though this has not apparently been repeated, and some researchers have postulated the quantum mechanical zero point field as the origin of poltergeist activity.

Autosuggestion is another common cause of misinterpretation: people who enter a house knowing it is alleged to be haunted will attribute strange sounds from plumbing or neighbours as paranormal and a shadow will be interpreted as a ghost. On the other hand the possibilities of Morphic Resonance creating the phenomenon leave the possibility that the expectation creates genuine phenomena.

All these explanations are speculative, need more research and do not account for the cases where the phenomenon apparently responds to events in the vicinity, where voices are heard and recorded and conversations with an apparent spirit as in the case of the Enfield Poltergeist. [8].

Dealing with poltergeists

If you are (un)fortunate enough to experience poltergeist phenomena DONT PANIC. The notion that poltergeists do not harm people is a myth but cases of poltergeists harming people are not all that common. In any case step up safety measures like checking whether the gas and electricity are off though with a serious manifestation this will not be enough

Eliminate mundane causes like the neighbours drumming practice as far as possible. If you find no mundane cause look at the household or, if the case occurs on business premises, staff, and possible interpersonal tensions. Try and check whether any one person is the focus of the disturbances and to resolve their problems.

Next contact a good psychic investigation group. In the UK this would be a branch of ASSAP, the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena. If they find no mundane explanation they may be able to advise on how to contact the authorities, insurance companies etc without being labelled insane. In a recent case builders tools kept vanishing but the victim made the mistake of mentioning ghosts to the Insurance company and had their claim refused. Equally some claimants have managed to get paid despite mentioning ghosts. It is best to mention a mundane cause however.

If the manifestation is likely to prove dangerous or over stressful the investigators may be able to recommend measures to take. These could include getting a priest to bless the house though this usually brings only temporary relief calling in a medium to talk to the spirits or, if the problem is limited to a single room, repurposing that room for storage.


Poltergeists have been around for a long time and are unlikely to go away. It is likely there are classes of poltergeists, each with a different origin. If you suffer a poltergeist eliminat mundane explanations and contact a psychic investigation group.

Further Reading

[1] Poltergeist: Colin Wilson , New English Library Ltd; First Edition edition (1 Nov 1981) ISBN-10: 0450048802 ISBN-13: 978-0450048807

[5] Kenneth Batcheldor  conducted experiments in inducing psyhokiniesis by recreating the table tipping common in 19th century spiritualist seances.

[6] [2] Soundscape and the Culture of War on an American Civil War Battlefield: An Ethnography of Communication with Past Presences John G. Sabol Paranthropology Volume 3 Number 2 April 2012

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Ritual, reenactment, morphic resonance hauntings, anomalous sounds and creating spirits.

There is evidence spirits can be created [1] consciously or unconsciously, by groups or individuals, but there is little or no theory behind what is essentially a trial and error technology with a few proven hard to master techniques.

An intriguing experiment [2] in the use of reenactment to contacting presences from the past produced some anomalous results but these results and the theory behind the experiment do not clearly show that they were produced by non physical entities.

Ghost Armies, Battles and Morphogenetic fields

Ghost Armies and battles are encountered from the British Civil War and other conflicts. Some seem to be virtual replays of the conflict ( but may be imaginative recreations triggered in the minds while the individual is in an altered State of Consciousness) and are seen by a people who are not “psychic”. Others are restricted to sounds. In some ways sounds are easier to investigate scientifically than full replays: Anomalous sounds have been recorded in a number of contexts and may be harder to fake than photographs.

Remembrance of wars and battles often takes the form of annual or occasional rituals, from Remembrance Day in the UK to reenactments and individual offerings. These rituals may have created a cognitive signature, what Sheldrake calls a morphogenetic field, which can be imagined as a rut in reality formed by a wheel (ritual) repeatedly running over the same space, forming an “attractor” that drags perception into that rut and makes it harder to avoid the rut.

If this theory is correct in even a few cases it would mean that a morphogenetic field created by semi-repetitive activity focussed on an event could be perceived as a haunting or a visit from a deity or demon. Or the activity involved could actually be produced by some entity that was “allowed” to manifest by the ritual. In plainer terms the activity could have produced a piece of theatre based on collective imagination of how the past event proceeded, could be a replay on the “akashic record” of the event, could be one or more spirits created by the ritual activity, could be the spirits of people involved in the event, or could be some other entity play acting, as seems to happen in the case of UFOS [4] and Phantom Clowns [5] and Poltergeists [6].

In brief the hypothesis is that past memory and presence can be reconstructed, or “unearthed” via morphic resonance (itself a controversial theory) and that this is framed by soundmarks and production of these allows tuning in to the past event.

Reenactment and Recreation

The experiment involved carefully directed reenactment of events that produced sounds associated with the Civil War battle of Antietam, the sounds reenacted being those related to different parts of the battle field. The rationale of the experiment was to get away from the standard technology related forms of investigation that demand a sign from a ghost and instead attempt to manifest what the author calls contextual memories of the event, a contextual memory being something that could be triggered by one of the reenacted sounds, just as a trivial event such as the smell of bread can bring back total and indeed immersive recall of an associated event. Typical soundmarks included Bugle Calls, Drums, A role call, and period music. Actions involved also included female volunteers playing the role of women searching for the bodies of relatives. Care was taken to avoid using technology that would have appeared totally alien to any ghosts in the area and the experiments were performed at times tourists were unlikely to be in the area, for example at night.

Various anomalous sounds were recorded words, sentences and singing for example. More intriguingly during the roll call in response to the call 'Private Lewis Dayton,’ someone answered ‘Dayton Present.’ Some of the investigators felt as if they were being gently touched. At least one response was repeated in a later repeat of the reenactment lending support to the video-replay and morphic resonance theories, though not inconsistent with the notion of a real presence.

Can Morphic Resonance and Ritual create spirits?

If temporarily we accept the idea of morphic resonance we can theorise that the original event in this case the battle, created a “scar” in the universe that subsequent activity reinforced and that reenactment both tuned into and reinforced the resonance.

Extending beyond this investigation leads to the possibility that ritual works at least partly by morphic resonance. Reenacting a battle causes the manifestation of phenomena associated with the battle, a prayer meeting creates a field that tends to bring about the desired effect ( though competing prayers may nullify this), visualising a parking space may create it and half formed negative thoughts (much easier to generate than positive ones after being burned a few times) may tend to bring about bad luck, as may dwelling on possible negative futures. On a larger scale ceremonies such as Remembrance Day may make wars more likely, even though no one consciously wants them to happen, except those who profit from them so conscious reframing of the ritual as not just remembering the dead but preventing future wars may be a good idea, even if this is only something in the minds of those attending – for any effort to change the form of the ceremony will meet with resistance.

The repetition involved in the Toronto Group's creation of Philip of Diddington may have initially created a morphic resonance which then became something like an entity. This type of process may be repeated daily in spiritualist churches. Mainstream religions may create such resonances through their rituals and in the more intolerant religions and cults these resonances may act like malevolent entities.


The experiment described here shows that ritual and reenactment may allow tuning into a past event and that anomalous sounds related to that event may be captured. Ritual may create and tune into such resonances but can also conceivably allow communication from the dead and the creation of conscious non-physical entities. However much of this is speculation and must be tested experimentally.

Further reading

[2] Soundscape and the Culture of War on an American Civil War Battlefield: An Ethnography of Communication with Past Presences John G. Sabol Paranthropology Volume 3 Number 2 April 2012

[3] Colin Wilson cites historian Arnold Toynbee as experiencing spontaneous visions of battles that occurred while he was visiting the sites where the battles occurred. He also notes that while Toynbee had studied these battles there were some details that puzzled him and took some research to resolve.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Creating Spirits

Many Worlds quantum theory suggests there are an infinite number of possible universes but does not rule out the possibility that some universes can communicate with each other and that our universe can communicate with others. There is also the possibility that our universe is full of normally undetectable sentient beings, the ones of interest being those normally regarded as “paraphysical” and may be called Terrestrial Aliens or TAs for short (“spirits” carries too much baggage).

Skeptics, even those who are aware of Many Worlds Theory, dismiss any evidence for alternative universes or normally inaccessible realms of existence in our universe as fraud or self deception - not always without reason. Unfortunately many skeptics seem to be driven by a desire to disbelieve as strong as the desire of believers to believe.

The totality of the evidence suggests either that TAs exist or that the unconscious mind can exercise psychic powers vastly greater than those observed either in the laboratory or in daily life.

Here I want to look very briefly at some evidence that TAs can be created, and that once created they can take a life of their own, I then try to classify createdTAs and speculate on why the TA world bothers with us

Theory and Experiment

Reports of created TAs are found throughout the world. In Magic and Mystery in Tibet Alexandra David Neel describes her experiment in creating a thought form and in Magical Use of Thought forms Ashcroft-Nowicki describes the process of creating a Yidam or deity and notes the Tibetan belief that even the most powerful deities are creations of the human mind. Or, as is popularly said, “Man created God in his own image”

From Toronto comes the creation of Philip of Diddington, an imaginary character created by the Toronto Society of Psychical Research, and their later creation of a second character called Lilith.

In all cases a being seems to have been created and then developed an independent life of its own. Apparently a few of these, including Alexandra David Neel's creation were able to manifest independently of their creators.

Redfern (Paranormal Magazine 30 December 2008) notes creation of TAs was discussed by Helen Blavatsky and discussed in a 1901 book Thought Forms by Besant and Leadbetter that notes that the matter of the Astral plane is very susceptible to the influence of human thought. Ashcroft-Nowicki and Brennan (Magical Use of Thought Forms) say the Astral plane is an old term for the world of the imagination, and of course the world of the imagination can be moulded by the imagination.

It seems likely that this world of the imagination overlaps the world where Jungian Archetypes live and also ( this is speculation, at this point) the world where the TAs that Shamans contact live: Rabbit, Raven, Eagle, Monkey and so forth. In fact Rabbit, Raven and their like seem like unrecognised Jungian Archetypes.

Classifying Created TEs
The Old Testament says JHWH created the universe and humanity but not WHY. Moreover the author knows of no creation myth that says WHY we were created. The possibility humans create TAs is a possible answer to this question and to the question “Why do they bother with us?”, for if we can create TAs then TAs have an incentive to deal with us. Again this is speculation and may not be the the answer or only be part of the answer.

We can classify TAs along various dimensions, one of which is the degree of reality they possess. At one end are beings, very like psychological complexes, that live in a single human mind but are not controlled by their host. Multiple Personality Disorder may involve beings of this type. Further along the scale are beings that live in the common imagination of humanity, a sort of pool of consciousness to which all humans have access. Jung's archetypes may be examples .

Then there are creature like Philip and Lilith with a life of their own and a limited ability to manifest in this universe. Next come creatures like David-Neel's Tulpa which was seen by people who did not previously know it existed or the alleged guardians of ancient sites. And then there are poltergeists who have strong powers of manifestation. It is even possible there are some TEs that can manifest in the world so strongly that they pass for normal humans. At the high end of this spectrum would be deities and demons for whom this world might be as unreal as a dream. In Terry Pratchett's book Mort, Death's apprentice Mort becomes so real he can walk through solid matter: just because we are real it does not follow that we are the most real things in the multiverse.

Another axis is the degree to which the TA was deliberately created. Some poltergeists may be unconsciously created TAs, but sometimes groups of low order TEs may use the psychic energy of a dysfunctional family or original to create psychic phenomena.

A TA may have many attributes and two important ones are their power and their attitude to Humanity. Some will like us and some hate us. There will be a most powerful one that hates us and a most powerful one that likes us. If you are a Christian you can if you wish identify these with God and Satan but it is unlikely they are anything like the beings the Bible describes. The TA we create may be benign or malevolent and which it is is largely beyond conscious control. If you hate yourself any TA you create may well hate you. Especially if you try to destroy it

The Wrap

To summarise there is evidence TAs can be created, once created can take on a life of their own and can influence our world to varying degrees. The ability to create TAs may be the reason the TAs bother with humanity. The nature of a createdTA seems to be controlled by the intent, as in the case of Philip and Lilith, and influences from the creator's unconscious or the collective action of groups of people, such as co-religionists. We have to remember our creations may have wills of our own and bear in mind the Science Fiction story of the super computer that was asked “Is there a God” and replies “Yes there is........ Now” at which point a bolt of lightning melts the off switch.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Medieval Werewolves, Skeptics, Believers and how they thought

Like Vampires Werewolves have, thanks to Hollywood movies - starting with The Wolf Man in 1941 - come to be seen in a romantic light: something perhaps missed by those torn to pieces and eaten by humans who considered themselves were-animals or perhaps were  even real were-animals.

Modern Science and Medieval Scholarship both considered physical transformation of humans impossible, though for vastly different reasons. The skeptics in the West in the Middle ages were faced with a well attested phenomenon that needed explanation and produced explanations that seem plausible, though hard, if not impossible to test, especially given their belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.

The cases here are presented to help make sense of the phenomenon and try to distinguish between various theories. Since more than one theory may be correct it is necessary to look at recorded cases involving transformation into an animal, not necessarily a wolf

Quick Looks at some cases

In 1581 a shepherd called Petronio, tried at Dalheim in Germany, was said to have changed himself into a wolf by means of various incantations in order to mutilate sheep owned by neighbours against whom he had a grudge.

In 1598 a court in Paris ordered records of a werewolf trial to be burned because the details were so grisly.

In 1589 Peter Stumpf of Bedburg in Germany confessed to killing children in the form of a wolf “With eyes great and large” . He sounds like the Peter Stubb who, according to Keel [4] terrorised the German countryside for 25 years in the 16th Century by donning a wolfskin belt given him by the Devil. When the monstrous wolf was tracked down the hunters saw Peter appear miraculously before them. His head was mounted on a pole outside the village but the wolfskin belt was never recovered.

Nine years later a French beggar called Jacques Roulet was executed for the same crime. He confessed he and his companions: his brother and a cousin, had a salve that let them take the form of wolves. Again he had killed and eaten children in various parts of the country. Although there were no eye witnesses of his transformation hunters had chased a wolf that was eating the body of a fifteen year old boy and tracked down a human with fresh blood on his hands and red human flesh under his nails.

Gilles Garnier was burned as a werewolf at Lyon ( another source says it was in Dole, about 100 km away) after freely confessing his crimes. In 1573 he killed a young girl with his “paw like hands and his teeth” on St Michael's day, eating some of the body and taking some home to his wife. A month after that he killed another girl but three people prevented him eating her. Then he killed a child of ten and ate part of their thighs, legs and abdomen. Later, in human form, he killed a boy about 12 years old but was prevented from eating him.

Apart from the sudden appearances of the humans when the wolf was pursued, there is little evidence of anythinf supernatural in these cases

Wolf Like Humans

In 1610 Pierre De Lancre, a judge in Bordeaux, visited Jean Grenier, a 21 year old werewolf who had been confined to a monastery cell for seven years. In his book L'inconstance published in 1610 De Lancre noted that Grenier had viciously attacked several victims and eyewitnesses swore he was in the form of a wolf when he carried out the attack. Grenier claimed he had a magic coat that could turn him into a wolf.

De Lancre said Grenier had glittering deep set eyes, long black fingernails and sharp protruding teeth. He walked on all fours much more easily than he could walk upright. He told the judge he craved the flesh of little girls. In this way he was like American serial killer, child rapist and cannibal Albert Fish [3], though Fish never claimed to change into an animal. It is possible, but not stated, that Grenier had been a feral child of the type occasionally reported today that is raised by animals, though generally they cannot talk coherently.

In 1584 a werewolf attacked a girl in a small village in the Jura mountains, and when her brother tried to rescue her it killed him. Enraged bystanders clubbed the werewolf to death and saw the dead wolf turn into the nude corpse of a young woman called Perenette Gandillon. An official enquiry resulted in the arrest of her whole family. Steiger says they seem to have brought about a werewolf psychosis by means of self hypnosis. In a book entitled Discourse Des Sourciers a well known Jurist called Boguet described his examination of the family: they acted as if possessed, losing all resemblance to humanity, their eyes turned red and gleamed, their hair sprouted, their teeth became long and sharp and their fingernails turned horny and clawlike. A bit like the people in the January Sales.

Medieval Werewolf theories

Instead of being seen as driven by bestial impulses we all have (be honest with yourself here) the Medieval Werewolf was associated with magic and the Devil. Those who believed a man could become a wolf and those who did not both proceeded from a worldview totally alien to modern man.

Medieval people were not stupid, though academic learning, and indeed literacy, was restricted to a small elite, indeed the general harshness of life may have made them more street smart than most people today. In Christendom the supreme authority was the Bible and the Christian worldview dominated theories about the world. The situation was almost certainly similar in the lands and peoples of the other Abrahamic religions, but the Christian case is well documented in English and is the only one considered here, though one must bear in mind that large groups of people are similar everywhere, though cultural differences may hide the similarities: take away the religions and a muslim and christian fundamentalist are almost identical.

In the Middle Ages there was a widespread belief that humans could transform into animals. The arguments for and against believing this centred on the limits of the power of the Devil. The believers' case centred on the power of the Devil to transform himself, and they argued it was no harder for him to transform a human. The skeptics, as represented by Henri Boguet argued that while animals were not made to have souls their brains were too small to hold a human intellect and that the witch would have to lose their soul at the moment of transformation and get it back later. Since the soul normally left the body at the moment of death and Satan could not resurrect people, the transformation was impossible.

Having rejected the reality of the transformation the skeptics had to explain the case reports. Some attributed the werewolf confessions to insanity, though others worried that this explanation would let self confessed werewolves off the hook. Others considered the transformation a glamour or illusion produced by Satan, or that Satan created false bodies from thin air, which the werewolf used. However they then had to explain why werewolves gained so many of the abilities of real wolves: fleetness of foot, ferocity and the love of howling. They also had to explain why the werewolves left tracks that could not have been left by a human being, and teeth marks on their victims.

They concluded that these feats were done by Satan or his demons who made them possible through their supernatural powers. Of course no one asked why the demon needed a human being on these expeditions.

This left the need to explain how wounds inflicted on the werewolf appeared on the human body when the transformation back to human form took place ( a feature also reported in some non-European cases). They supposed that the witch never left their home or base, and that the attack was a delusion with Satan inflicting wounds on the body paralleling that inflicted on the air-constructed body used by the demon carrying out the attack. If so Satan would seem to have been rather wasteful with his people.

At this point it seems to me it would have been more parsimonious to assume the transformations were real. Similar mental convolutions seem to characterise the way some skeptics dismiss anomalous phenomena today.

Other Theories

Brad Steiger [1] notes that in the middle ages bands of thieves and beggars would wonder the countryside at night often dressed in Wolfskins and howling like animals. The nearest modern equivalent would be Football Hooligans or young City Traders. It is easy to think such groups explain some werewolf legends. However Steiger does not mention his sources and in the next sentence mentions Hitler's werewolf regiment which, apart from the name appears to have had nothing to do with werewolves. As always in this type of investigation check what you can and his theory needs to be checked.

Another explanation is the lycanthrope psychosis, the belief that one changes into a wolf at full moon (or alternatively that a wolf becomes human at other times). Given the changes observed in mediums at Spiritualist seances, it is possible that at this time the person's appearance changes enough that a victim, unable to spare the time to examine their attacker closely, would think they were seeing a real wolf. This is unlikely to cover all cases though.

An off the wall theory might be that a werewolf is actually the spirit of a wolf that has somehow ended up in a human body. Given the nature of the field it seems extremely difficult to test or asses this idea, and as a theory it does not explain the observed transformations or unusual footprints.

A final possibility is that the transformations were real, though the theoretical background of the Middle Ages may have influenced the reporting of the events. It is also interesting to note that there seem to be few modern cases though there is one from about 1820 involving a wolf strap, possibly a strap cut from the back of a hanged man [5]. Reports of apparent shapeshifters are almost non-existent today so perhaps if the werewolf exists it should be a protected species, like the vampire.

The Wrap

The cases here are only the tip of a worldwide iceberg of werewolf cases. We cannot dismiss the eyewitness reports out of hand: there are too many of them.

It seems simplest to assume that some at least of these cases are genuine transformations, though this conclusion can only be tentative and the author's inner skeptic does not like it. However there are common features to all these cases and where eyewitnesses see a transformation taking place in so many cases the idea of hallucination becomes hard to maintain.

It is also possible that many are explained by the lycanthropy psychosis with physical changes similar to those seen in Spiritualist Seances and the phenomenon of Transfiguration accepted by mainstream religions. This does not explain the cases where the beast left prints a human could not make.

Some commentators on an earlier version of this article noted that it might be easier to "possess" an animal than to become one and that demonic possession could also explain some cases

As always more research is needed.

[1] Monsters among us, Brad Steiger, Para Research 1982, ISBN 0-9149-18-38-9
[2] Strange Histories, Darren Oldridge, Routledge 2005, ISBN 0-415-28860-6
[4] Strange Creatures from Time and Space, John Keel, Sphere Books 1975 ISBN 0-7221-5147-0