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Real-Life X-Files

Real-Life X-Files: Investigating the Paranormal

JOE NICKELL
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tv655
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    Real-Life X-Files
    Book Description:

    As a former private investigator and forensic writer, Joe Nickell has spent much of his career identifying forged documents, working undercover to infiltrate theft rings, and investigating questioned deaths. Now he turns his considerable investigative skill toward the paranormal, researching the most well-known and mysterious phenomena all over the world -- spontaneous human combustion, UFO visitations, auras, electronic poltergeists, and many, many more -- with an eye toward solving these mysteries rather than promoting or dismissing them.

    Real-Life X-Files: Investigating the Paranormal examines the cases of over forty paranormal mysteries. Using a hands-on approach, Nickell visits the scene of the so-called unexplainable activity whenever possible and attempts to physically duplicate the miraculous. Whether he's inflicting stigmata on himself or recreating the liquefying blood of Saint Januarius, Nickell does whatever necessary to eliminate the probable before considering the supernatural. What is left is that much more fascinating.

    Nickell reports on familiar legends from American history such as the supernatural events surrounding Abraham Lincoln's death and the supposed crash landing of an alien spacecraft near Roswell, New Mexico. He closely examines claims of the miraculous, from rose petals bearing the likeness of Jesus to photographs of a "golden door" to heaven. Controversial mysteries such as clairvoyance and "spirit painting," haunted places, and freaks of nature are just a few of the many topics covered.

    Suspenseful, engrossing, funny, and grounded in scientific methodology, Real-Life X-Files provides real explanations for the "paranormal" activities that have intrigued human beings for centuries.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7083-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    Strange mysteries—UFO and haunted-house reports, claims of spontaneous human combustion and weeping icons, and even more bizarre enigmas—continue to fascinate. We call themparanormalbecause they are beyond the normal range of nature and human experience. It is a broad term that includes not only the “supernatural” but also such reported anomalies as the Loch Ness monster and extraterrestrials, which—if they exist—could be quite natural creatures.

    I have investigated such alleged phenomena for thirty years. I joke that I’ve been in more haunted houses than Casper and have even caught a few “ghosts.” I have gone...

  5. Chapter 1 The Case of the Petrified Girl
    (pp. 4-9)

    Raised in the hills of eastern Kentucky, I grew up with the legend of the “petrified girl.” Set in the little farming village of Ezel, near my hometown in Morgan County, the story evokes religious accounts of “incorruptible” corpses as well as ghoulish tales of the “undead.”

    Late in the last century—one account says “in 1880,” another “the 1880s,” still another “around 1900”—workmen were moving graves from the old Ezel burying ground to a new cemetery site. In some accounts, the reason for the relocation is not recalled, but most state it was due to a typhoid epidemic...

  6. Chapter 2 The Devil’s Footprints
    (pp. 10-17)

    The case of “The Devil’s Footprints” is a classic of the “unsolved” genre, having been featured in Rupert T. Gould’sOddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts(1928, 1964); Frank Edwards’sStranger than Science(1959); C.B. Colby’sStrangely Enough(1971); Rupert Furneaux’sThe World’s Most Intriguing True Mysteries(1977); Martin Ebon’sThe World’s Greatest Unsolved Mysteries(1981); and many other anthologies and compendia of the unexplained. The fullest account, complete with the original source material, is given by Mike Dash inFortean Studies(1994).

    Colby tells the story in concise form:

    There was no denying the footprints in the snow on...

  7. Chapter 3 Magicians Among the Spirits
    (pp. 18-27)

    They have become legendary in the history of spiritualism and continue to spark interest and controversy. The question persists: were the Davenport Brothers “probably the greatest mediums of their kind that the world has ever seen” as Sherlock Holmes’s creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote (1926, 226), or was magician Harry Houdini (1924, 26) correct in reporting that he had facts “more than sufficient to disprove their having, or even claiming, spiritualistic power”? My research into the recently discovered Davenport scrapbook sheds new light on these claims and the fierce disagreement they provoked between Doyle and Houdini.

    The Davenports made...

  8. Chapter 4 The Specter of Spontaneous Human Combustion
    (pp. 28-36)

    Like Count Dracula, the mythical specter of “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC) refuses to die. The latest book to fan the flames of belief, so to speak, isAblaze!by Larry E. Arnold. The dust jacket blurb states that the author “redirected a background in mechanical and electrical engineering to explore the Unconventional.” Indeed, Arnold is a Pennsylvania school bus driver who has written a truly bizarre book—one that takes seriously such pseudoscientific nonsense as poltergeists and ley lines (362–66), and that suggests that the Shroud of Turin’s image was produced by “flash photolysis” from a body transformed by...

  9. Chapter 5 Believe It or ––– ?
    (pp. 37-41)

    One of my old cases—solved twenty years ago—was never published. However, I recently rediscovered a souvenir of the investigation—a strange curio—at the bottom of a stored trunk. It has an interesting link to the “Believe It or Not” empire founded by Robert L. Ripley.

    Ripley (1893–1949) began his career by combining a love of athletics and drawing to produce a series of sports cartoons. One day in 1918, facing a deadline and lacking any other idea, he transformed some notes on unusual sports events into a cartoon panel headed “Champs and Chumps.” His editor at...

  10. Chapter 6 Legend of the “Miraculous Stairway”
    (pp. 42-48)

    The CBS television movie, “The Staircase” (April 12, 1998), told how “a dying nun’s wish to complete her order’s chapel is fulfilled by a mysterious stranger” (Bobbin 1998). Starring Barbara Hershey as the terminally ill mother superior and William Peterson as the enigmatic carpenter, the movie is an embellishment of the legend of the “miraculous stairway” at the Sisters of Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. The wooden, spiral stair is thought to be unique, and some claim its very existence is inexplicable.

    The Loretto legend begins with the founding of a school for females in Santa Fe in 1852. A...

  11. Chapter 7 Flying Saucer “Dogfight”
    (pp. 49-53)

    Did an extraterrestrial craft actually fire on a police helicopter? If not, what was the nature of a UFO that two officers reported attacked them over Louisville, Kentucky, in 1993? Is this the case that proves the reality of alien invaders?

    The modern wave of UFOs began on June 24, 1947, when businessman Kenneth Arnold was flying his private airplane over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Arnold saw what he described as a chain of nine disc-like objects, each flying with a motion like “a saucer skipped across water.” Whether Arnold saw a line of aircraft or mirages caused...

  12. Chapter 8 A Study in Clairvoyance
    (pp. 54-59)

    On March 16, 1992, I appeared onThe Jerry Springer Showwith what were billed as “today’s outrageous psychics.” They included an “aura” photographer, a pet prognosticator, and the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest psychic,” who was introduced as “Mr. B of ESP.” Mr. B, Springer promised, would “use his extraordinary powers” to peer clairvoyantly inside a locked refrigerator. A uniformed security guard, baton in hand, stood dramatically beside the chained-and-padlocked appliance. After engaging in a bit of banter with Springer and boasting further of his psychic prowess, Mr. B approached the refrigerator. He asked “everybody to concentrate on the power of...

  13. Chapter 9 The Kennedy Curse
    (pp. 60-69)

    The tragic death of John F. Kennedy Jr. on July 16, 1999, sparked renewed claims of a “Kennedy curse”—only the latest in a series of alleged popular hexes such as the Hope Diamond jinx and the curse of King Tut’s mummy. During live CBS coverage of the search for Kennedy’s missing airplane, anchorman Dan Rather referred to “the alleged Kennedy curse,” while after the bodies of Kennedy and his wife and sister-in-law were recovered,U.S. News & World Report(July 26, 1999) ran a front-cover story unequivocally titled “The Kennedy Curse.” ABuffalo (New York) Newsheadline spoke more...

  14. Chapter 10 Riddle of the Circles
    (pp. 70-83)

    For years a mysterious phenomenon has been plaguing southern English crop fields. Typically producing swirled, circular depressions in cereal crops, it has left in its wake beleaguered farmers and an astonished populace—not to mention befuddled scientists and would-be “investigators”—all struggling to keep apace with the proliferating occurrences and the equally proliferating claims made about them.

    The circles range in diameter from as small as three meters (nearly ten feet) to some twenty-five meters (approximately eighty-two feet) or more. In addition to the simple circles that were first reported, there have appeared circles in formations; circles with rings, spurs,...

  15. Chapter 11 Cult of the “UFO Missionaries”
    (pp. 84-88)

    Marshall Herff Applewhite (1931–1997) and Bonnie Lu Trousdale Nettles (ca. 1927–1985) were styled “UFO missionaries extraordinary” in a 1976 book by that name compiled by ufologist Hayden Hewes and paranormal pulp writer Brad Steiger (Hewes and Steiger 1976). The story of Applewhite and Nettles is a bizarre tale of fantasy that led eventually to psychosis and to the annihilation of an entire cult.

    In their pioneering study of the fantasy-prone personality, Sheryl C. Wilson and Theodore X. Barber (1983) stated that, as suggested by their research data, “individuals manifesting the fantasy-prone syndrome may have been overrepresented among famous...

  16. Chapter 12 The Electronic Poltergeist
    (pp. 89-91)

    In the late 1990s, a strange entity calling himself Sommy harassed an Emeryville, Ontario, family for months, supposedly using “high-tech” means to stalk Debbie and Dwayne Tamai and make their lives miserable. As reported onDateline NBC,the harassment began with the telephone—at first clicks, like someone was on the other extension; then the Tamais’ calls would be disconnected whenever they attempted to phone out. Things got worse when the couple went on a vacation, leaving their fifteen-year-old son Billy in the care of a house sitter and friend, Cheryl McCaulis. Now the power went off and on intermittently,...

  17. Chapter 13 The Silver Lake Serpent
    (pp. 92-104)

    On the night of July 13, 1855, in Wyoming County, New York, two boys and five men were fishing from a boat on Silver Lake near the village of Perry. After several minutes of watching a floating log, one man exclaimed, “Boys, that thing is moving!” Indeed, according to theWyoming Times,after bobbing in and out of sight, suddenly, “the SERPENT, for now there was no mistaking its character, darted from the water about four feet from the stern of the boat, close by the rudder-paddle, the head and forward part of the monster rising above the surface of...

  18. Chapter 14 Miraculous Rose Petals
    (pp. 105-108)

    It has long been common, especially within the Catholic tradition, to discover faces of holy personages in random patterns and to suggest that these are miraculous. In my bookLooking for a Miracle(Nickell 1993), and in a recent article inFree Inquirymagazine (Nickell 1997), I recounted several of these, including the famous image of Jesus discovered in the skillet burns on a New Mexico tortilla in 1978. Usually, these simulacra are the result of the inkblot or picture-in-the-clouds effect: the mind’s tendency to create order out of chaos. On occasion, however, they are faked.

    On Good Friday 1995,...

  19. Chapter 15 Paranormal Lincoln
    (pp. 109-117)

    His guiding of the United States through its greatest crisis and his subsequent martyrdom have caused the shadow of the tall, sixteenth president to loom still larger. Called “the most mythic of all American presidents” (Cohen 1989, 7), Abraham Lincoln has long been credited with supernatural powers. These include an early mirror-vision, prophetic dreams, and spiritualistic phenomena. His ghost, some say, even haunts the White House.⁹

    Many people have portrayed Lincoln as a man given to belief in omens, particularly with respect to his assassination. An incident often cited in this regard occurred at his home in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln...

  20. Chapter 16 The Roswell Legend
    (pp. 118-121)

    More than a half century ago, in the summer of 1947, the modern UFO craze began. Fed by fantasy, faddishness, and even outright fakery, the mythology has become so well nourished that it has begun to spawn bizarre religious cults like Heaven’s Gate. In 1997, the Roswell controversy reached out to involve U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond and a former aide, Philip J. Corso, in a dispute over a memoir by Corso for which Thurmond wrote the foreword. The book claims that the U.S. government used alien technology to win the Cold War (“Thurmond” 1997). This controversy only intensified the planned...

  21. Chapter 17 Investigating Police Psychics
    (pp. 122-127)

    The subject is nothing if not controversial. On one television show an experienced detective insists that no psychic has ever helped his department solve a crime, while another broadcast features an equally experienced investigator who maintains that psychics are an occasionally valuable resource, citing examples from his own solved cases. Who is right? Is it a matter of science versus mysticism as some assert? Or is it an issue of having an open mind as opposed to a closed one, as others claim? Let’s look at the evidence.

    In ancient times, those who sought missing persons or who attempted to...

  22. Chapter 18 Ghostly Photos
    (pp. 128-132)

    A rash of new “ghost” photographs is plaguing the western world. I first became aware of the mysterious phenomenon when I received a call at my office at the Center for Inquiry. It was from a Lockport, New York, couple who were experiencing some spooky occurrences and were concerned about their young children. The most unusual phenomenon, they said, was found in some of their color snapshots. Although they had seen nothing at the time either of two photos was taken, each contained strange, unusually white shapes the couple could not explain. (See figures 18.1 and 18.2).

    Similar pictures were...

  23. Chapter 19 The Lake Utopia Monster
    (pp. 133-136)

    “Maritimers better lock up their ghosts,” the Canadian Press writer advised residents of the Atlantic provinces. “Professional skeptic Joe Nickell is touring the region” announced the tongue-in-cheek warning in Canadian newspapers, “and not a lake monster, a beloved spectre or even the Oak Island treasure is safe from the penetrating glare of his cold, hard logic” (Morris 1999). The mock advisory was prompted by my June–July 1999 visit to “the Maritimes,” initially by invitation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Fredericton, New Brunswick. There I addressed forensic experts at the annual conference of the Canadian Identification Society and...

  24. Chapter 20 Memory of a Past Life
    (pp. 137-141)

    Perhaps not since the famous “Bridie Murphy” case of the 1950s—when American housewife Virginia Tighe supposedly discovered she was the reincarnation of an Irishwoman—has a single “past-life regression” case received such widespread attention as that of an English resident named Jenny Cockell. Since childhood, Mrs. Cockell relates, she has had constant dream-memories of another Irishwoman, eventually identified as Mary Sutton, who died more than two decades before Cockell was born, leaving behind eight young children. However, investigation shows not only that the reincarnation claims are unconvincing but also that there is quite a different hypothesis that best accounts...

  25. Chapter 21 Photographing the Aura
    (pp. 142-149)

    At psychic fairs and other popular venues, “aura” photographic portraits are all the rage. But are they really what they are claimed to be? According to belief that has persisted since ancient times, the aura is a radiance from the “energy field” that supposedly emanates from and surrounds all living things. It is perceived not by ordinary vision but by clairvoyance. Although “no evidence has been found to prove its existence” (Guiley 1991), the concept has thrived as pseudoscience. For example, in his 1911 book,The Human Atmosphere,Dr. Walter J. Kilner claimed he could not only see the aura...

  26. Chapter 22 Mystery of the Holy Shroud
    (pp. 150-156)

    In whatTimemagazine called “a sort of resurrection,” the Shroud of Turin controversy has risen once again. It was sparked by exhibition of the reputed burial cloth during April and May 1998, the first public showing in two decades. It also marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the first photograph of the cloth’s image—that of a man who appears to have been crucified like Jesus in the Christian gospels (Van Biema, 1998).

    The 1898 photographer’s glass-platenegativesrevealed a startlingly realisticpositiveimage, with the prominences in highlight and the recesses in shadow. Therefore the image on the cloth,...

  27. Chapter 23 The Giant Frog
    (pp. 157-159)

    Like the Lake Utopia Monster (see chapter 19), another reputed New Brunswick lake leviathan is the giant amphibian now displayed at the York Sunbury Historical Society Museum in Fredericton (figure 23.1). Dating to the 1880s, the huge bullfrog reportedly lived in Killarney Lake, some eight miles from Fredericton, where Fred B. Coleman operated a lodge. Coleman claimed he had made a pet of the great croaker and that his guests fed it June bugs, whiskey, and buttermilk. It thus grew to a whopping forty-two pounds, Coleman recalled, and was used to tow canoes and race against tomcats. It was killed,...

  28. Chapter 24 The Alien Likeness
    (pp. 160-163)

    In a manner similar to the evolution of Jesus’ features in art (Nickell 1988,41–48), or of the popular likeness of Santa Claus (Flynn 1993) the concept of what alien creatures look like has undergone change over time. In the course of graduate work I did in folklore in 1982 and subsequently published (Nickell 1984), I noted (citing Stringfield 1980) that the descriptions of UFO occupants were tending to become standardized, a process that continues at present.

    Consider, for example, the development beginning with the origin of the modern UFO era in 1947. (Although many alien encounters were also reported...

  29. Chapter 25 In Search of “Snake Oil”
    (pp. 164-169)

    “Snake oil”—the expression has come to be synonymous with a quack remedy. But questions about the origins of the term provide the basis for an interesting investigation. Although considered quintessentially American, patent medicines actually originated in England. The recipient of the first royal patent for a medicinal compound is unknown, but the second was granted to Richard Stoughton’s Elixir in 1712. By mid-eighteenth century, an incomplete list included 202 “proprietary” medicines—those protected by patent or registration. Relatively few of the ready-made medicines were actually patented—which required disclosure of their ingredients—but rather had their brand name registered....

  30. Chapter 26 The Haunted Cathedral
    (pp. 170-173)

    Built between 1845 and 1853, Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton, New Brunswick, is considered “one of the most fascinating ecclesiastical buildings in Canada” (Trueman 1975). Certainly with its imposing spire and lofty interior arches it represents an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture (figure 26.1). Supposedly, the Anglican sanctuary also has a resident spirit.

    Some describe only a vague sense of a presence, while others say a shadowy figure has been sighted—reportedly the ghost of Mrs. John Medley, wife of the first bishop. Just who is alleged to have seen her usually goes unreported, but according to a former...

  31. Chapter 27 Miracle Photographs
    (pp. 174-178)

    On Friday, October 27, 1995, the television programUnsolved Mysteriesaired a segment, “Kentucky Visions,” that included investigative work by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. The popular, prime-time television series had requested CSICOP’s opinion of some “miraculous” photographs taken at a recent Virgin Mary sighting at a hillside spot in central Kentucky. This was my first significant case as Senior Research Fellow—or as the narrator termed me, “Paranormal Investigator” (a “P.I.” nonetheless).

    The photographs were made by a Sunday school teacher who had visited the Valley Hill site (near Bardstown, Kentucky) with eight...

  32. Chapter 28 The Gypsies’ “Great Trick”
    (pp. 179-184)

    Everyone knows what fortune-telling is supposed to be, but sometimes it might best be defined as “the art of absconding with fortunes.” For example, in 1995 a London gypsy who called herself “Mrs. Marina” persuaded a man to hand over his life’s savings, some £3,000. The thirty-five-year-old postman, whom police described as “intelligent but unsophisticated,” contacted the woman about his severe depression. She informed him that his stomach was harboring evil and instructed him to return with a tomato, a photo of his fiancée, and £350 in cash. As theEvening Standard(London) reported: “In the darkened flat, the tomato...

  33. Chapter 29 Magnetic Hill
    (pp. 185-187)

    Located in eastern New Brunswick, near Moncton, is Magnetic Hill, Canada’s third most-visited natural tourist attraction (after Niagara Falls and the Canadian Rockies). Nineteenth-century farmers going to market noticed a mysterious stretch of road where a wagon going uphill would run against the hooves of the horse pulling it. In 1933, an ice-cream stand with a gas pump opened at the top of the hill, sparking more interest in the site (then known variously as Fool Hill, Magic Hill, and Mystery Hill). Sightseers were invited to drive down the slope, place their vehicle in neutral, and experience being drawn back...

  34. Chapter 30 Phantom Ship
    (pp. 188-189)

    In 1999, at Nova Scotia’s Mahone Bay, I investigated the twin riddles of the Teazer Light and the Oak Island “Money Pit.” (The latter, one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries, is discussed in “The Secrets of Oak Island” chapter of this book.) The Teazer Light is an example of “ghost lights” or “luminous phenomena” (see Corliss 1995)—in this case, the reputed appearance of a phantom ship in flames. On June 26, 1813, theYoung Teazer,a privateer’s vessel, was cornered in Mahone Bay by British warships. Realizing they were doomed to capture and hanging, the pirates’ commander had...

  35. Chapter 31 The Cryptic Stone
    (pp. 190-193)

    During an investigative tour of Canada’s maritime provinces in 1999 (Morris 1999), my final adventure (before ferrying two hundred miles across the Atlantic to the coast of Maine to begin the drive back to Buffalo) focused on the intriguing case of the Yarmouth Stone, now located in the Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, Museum. This is a four-hundred-pound boulder bearing an inscription that has been variously “translated” since it came to light in 1812 (figure 31.1). In that year, a Dr. Richard Fletcher claimed to have discovered the stone near the head of Yarmouth Harbour.

    The stone began to receive serious...

  36. Chapter 32 Communicating with the Dead?
    (pp. 194-199)

    Thanks to modern mass media, old-fashioned spiritualism is undergoing something of a revival. Witness James Van Praagh’s best-sellingTalking to Heaven(1997) and the talk-show popularity of Van Praagh and other mediums like Rosemary Altea, George Anderson, and John Edward. Like Van Praagh before him, Edward was featured on the June 19, 1998,Larry King Livetelevision show. King promoted Edward’s forthcoming video and book, both titledOne Last Time—“meaning,” King explained, “saying good-bye to someone who is gone.”

    Although purported communication with spirits of the dead is ancient (for example, the biblical Witch of Endor conjured up the...

  37. Chapter 33 Jesus Among the Clouds
    (pp. 200-203)

    According to a Texas newspaper, a Fort Worth woman has obtained a remarkable photograph of Jesus. As reported in theArlington (Texas) Morning News,the woman, a University of Dallas student, took the picture in 1992. She claims she was fleeing an abusive husband, traveling with her two-year-old son on a flight between Albuquerque and Seattle. Soon storm clouds appeared and a voice instructed her to take a photograph through the airplane window. Later, when her film was processed, there was a cloudlike shape of a robed figure. “I knew it was Christ,” declared the religious woman. Curiously, she seems...

  38. Chapter 34 Alien Implants
    (pp. 204-209)

    Science fiction author Whitley Strieber continues to promote the notion of extraterrestrial visitations. HisCommunion: A True Story(1987) told of his own close encounter—actually, what psychologist Robert A. Baker has diagnosed as “a classic, textbook description of a hypnopompic hallucination” (or “waking dream”) (Baker and Nickell 1992). Now, several money-making books later, Strieber offersConfirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens Among Us.The evidence is threefold: UFO sightings(yawn),close encounters(been there, done that),and—the hard evidence, quite literally—alien implants!

    Implants are the latest rage in UFO circles, and Strieber marshals the diagnostic, radiographic, surgical,...

  39. Chapter 35 Sleuthing a Psychic Sleuth
    (pp. 210-213)

    On February 7, 1996, I appeared on theMark Walberg Show,a television program produced in New York City. Among other guests—who included an alien abductee and her hypnotherapist, a UFO conspiracy theorist, and a pair of ghost hunters—there were two “psychics,” one of whom claimed to assist police departments. He was Ron Bard from southern New York State.

    Walberg asked, “Ron, how did you discover this ability?”

    Bard replied, “Well, it’s been in my family for quite a few generations. I’ve solved over 110 murder cases and returned 150 missing children in my career so far,” he...

  40. Chapter 36 Adventure of the Weeping Icon
    (pp. 214-218)

    On Tuesday, September 3, 1996, at the request ofThe Toronto Sun,I headed to Canada to investigate the world’s latest “weeping icon.” I was to meet with reporters at the newspaper’s King Street offices and from there to be escorted to a Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto’s East York district. Church officials had promised theSunthey could examine the icon at 11:00 P.M., and I was enlisted for that purpose. In addition to my overnight bag, I also packed a “weeping icon kit” consisting of a camera and close-up lenses, a stereomicroscope removed from its base, and various...

  41. Chapter 37 The Secrets of Oak Island
    (pp. 219-234)

    It has been the focus of “the world’s longest and most expensive treasure hunt” and “one of the world’s deepest and most costly archaeological digs” (O’Connor 1988, 1,4), as well as being “Canada’s best-known mystery” (Colombo 1988, 33) and indeed one of “the great mysteries of the world.” It may even “represent an ancient artifact created by a past civilization of advanced capability” (Crooker 1978, 7, 190). The subject of these superlatives is a mysterious shaft on Oak Island in Nova Scotia’s Mahone Bay. For some two centuries, greed, folly, and even death have attended the supposed “Money Pit” enigma....

  42. Chapter 38 Enigma of the Crystal Tears
    (pp. 235-239)

    Gosh, I thought, after watching an episode of the then-new Fox TV series,Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal.Those Office of Scientific Investigation and Research (O.S.I.R.) types sure seem cool. “Case file 20168” they would begin. They would make sure their phone calls went out over “secure lines”—real “secret agent-y” stuff! And the equipment O.S.I.R. uses, like Magnetometers—wow! According to thePsi FactorWeb page, these are used because “Fluctuations in the magnetic spectrum are common in coincidence with anomalous activity.” Really? I don’t think there’s evidence that ghosts have magnetic personalities, but I’ve always wanted to...

  43. Chapter 39 Death of the Fire-Breathing Woman
    (pp. 240-245)

    Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) cases continue to spark controversy (so to speak), largely due to the efforts of nonscientist authors and journalists. These include self-styled British paranormal researchers Jenny Randles and Peter Hough(Spontaneous Human Combustion 1992),Pennsylvania school bus driver Larry Arnold(Ablaze!1995), English coal-miner-turned-constable John E. Heymer(The Entrancing Flame 1996),and—more recently—the producers of A & E network’s TV series,The Unexplained.The continued lack of scientific evidence for SHC (Benecke 1998) keeps proponents desperately looking for cases they can attribute to the alleged phenomenon—cases that are often quite disparate. They assign instances...

  44. Chapter 40 Comatose “Miracle Worker”
    (pp. 246-251)

    As we begin the new millennium, the media have been pointing to “millennial madness” as the source for a wide range of divine claims. Yet the faithful have been seeking miracles and finding them—or so they believe—in unlikely forms and places for years. These include apparitions of the Virgin Mary (for example in the Bosnian village of Medjugorje, beginning in 1981), bleeding statues and crucifixes (e.g., in Quebec in 1985), and miraculously appearing images, such as the portrait of Mary seen in a splotch on a tree in Los Angeles in 1992 (Nickell 1993; 1997). More recently, there...

  45. Chapter 41 Extraterrestrial Autopsy
    (pp. 252-258)

    It keeps going and going and.... The Roswell crashed-saucer myth was given renewed impetus by a controversial television program, “Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?” that purported to depict the autopsy of a flying saucer occupant. The “documentary,” promoted by a British marketing agency that formerly handled Walt Disney products, was aired August 28 and September 4, 1995, on the Fox television network. Skeptics, as well as many ufologists, quickly branded the film used in the program a hoax.

    “The Roswell Incident,” as it is known, is described in several controversial books, including one of that title by Charles Berlitz and...

  46. Chapter 42 Spirit Paintings
    (pp. 259-266)

    During the heyday of spiritualism, among the “physical phenomena” commonly manifested were so-called spirit paintings. These were portraits and other artworks, done in various media and produced under a variety of conditions but always ascribed to spirit entities. During 1998 and 1999, I was able to examine several of these at Lily Dale, the western New York spiritualist colony, and to thereby shed light on some century-old mysteries.

    Full-fledged spirit paintings, often portraits of the dearly departed, were typically rather elaborate renderings in oils or pastels. Although looking for all the world like artworks done by professionals, they were produced...

  47. Chapter 43 Watching the Spirits Paint
    (pp. 267-275)

    In addition to the Campbell “brothers” (the subject of the previous chapter), the other major spiritualists whose mediumship produced “spirit” paintings were the Bangs sisters of Chicago. Sitters watched portraits of their deceased loved ones gradually appear before their eyes.

    Misses Elizabeth S. and May E. Bangs were reportedly mediums since childhood, but their “gift” of spirit painting did not appear until the fall of 1894 (Chesterfield1986). They offered clairvoyance, séance trumpet effects and spirit “materializations,” “direct” (or so-called automatic) writing, spirit typewriting, and slate effects. But they were most famous for their allegedly ghost-rendered paintings. Their business card...

  48. Chapter 44 Stigmata
    (pp. 276-288)

    Of reputed miraculous powers, perhaps none is more popularly equated with saintliness than stigmata, the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion allegedly duplicated spontaneously upon the body of a Christian. Indeed one historical survey indicated that about a fifth of all stigmatics are eventually beatified or canonized (Biot 1962, 23). The year 1999 brought renewed interest in the alleged phenomenon. Among the offerings were the movieStigmata(which even contained a brief shot of my book,Looking for a Miracle[Radford 1999]); a Fox television pseudodocumentary,Signs from God,which featured a major segment on stigmata (Willesee 1999); and the Vatican’s beatification...

  49. Chapter 45 Haunted Inns
    (pp. 289-300)

    If testimonials in countless books and articles are to be believed, spending the night in a quaint old hotel might provide an encounter with an extra, ethereal visitor. In the course of thirty years of paranormal investigation, I have had the opportunity to experience many “haunted” sites. These have included burial places, like England’s West Kennet Long Barrow (where I failed to see the specter of a “Druid priest” that allegedly attends the ancient tomb); religious sanctuaries, such as Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada (where the apparition of the first bishop’s wife did not materialize); theaters, including...

  50. Chapter 46 The Flatwoods UFO Monster
    (pp. 301-311)

    In modem police parlance, a long-unsolved homicide or other crime may be known as a “cold case,” a term we might borrow for such paranormal mysteries as that of the Flatwoods Monster, which was launched on September 12, 1952, and never completely explained.

    About 7:15 p.m. on that day, at Flatwoods, a little village in the hills of West Virginia, some youngsters were playing football on the school playground. Suddenly they saw a fiery UFO streak across the sky and apparently land on a hilltop of the nearby Bailey Fisher farm. The youths ran to the home of Mrs. Kathleen...

  51. Chapter 47 Milk-Drinking Idols
    (pp. 312-315)

    Throughout the Hindu world on September 21, 1995, statues of Indian deities sipped spoonfuls of milk in supposed fulfillment of a devotee’s dream.

    As the phenomenon progressed, it spread from the deity Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed, multihanded, Hindu god, to other idols, including Nandi the Bull, and statues of Lord Shiva, who is often depicted in human form with a serpent around his neck. Spreading across India, the milk-sipping phenomenon soon extended to other parts of the Asian continent as well as to Europe and North America where it was duly noted on television and in newspapers.

    An Indian psychiatrist...

  52. Notes
    (pp. 316-318)
  53. Index
    (pp. 319-327)