Revisiting the Alien

Here's an interesting story about a film-maker revisiting a famous 'alien encounter' incident, the Ariel School sighting, fourteen years later:

American film maker Randall Nickerson is currently visiting southern Africa to make a documentary that follows up an incident that happened at the Ariel School in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, in 1994, when 62 children aged between eight and 12 reported seeing a UFO and “strange beings” during their morning break.

Those children are now young adults scattered around the globe. Nickerson is tracking them down and interviewing them about the experience. “Their stories have not changed at all,” he says. “Not what you would expect if they had made it all up.”

The story fills in some details as to the bizarre nature of the incident, but for those interested in learning more I've also posted a short video segment about the sighting, including the involvement of famed 'alien abduction' researcher Dr John Mack. Speaking of the latter, you can also find an article referencing the sighting on the website of the John E. Mack Institute: "Exploring African and Other Alien Encounters", by Dominique Callimanopulos.

Google Video also has footage of African ufologist, the late Cynthia Hind, interviewing some of the children about the details of the sighting. A fascinating case, and a really interesting twist to revisit these witnesses as adults and hear what they have to say now. Thanks Will for the heads up.

News Briefs 25-04-2008

Klaatu barada nikto (just in case)…

Quote of the Day:

“A working prophet is able to see deeper than most of us into the human soul. Orwell in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat, the will to fascism had not gone away… the irresistible human addictions to power were already long in place… the means of surveillance in Winston Smith’s era are primitive next to the wonders of computer technology… most notably the Internet.”

Thomas Pynchon, foreword to ‘1984’

Psychic Regulators, Mount Up!

An interesting development in the UK with the British government announcing that 'spiritual services' will now be included in consumer protection laws, a move which has led to concerns from those who earn their money from such pursuits. Whereas with the previous legislation the onus was on prosecutors to prove fraudulent behaviour, under consumer protection laws psychics and the like may be required to show their abilities are genuine:

The Government says the regulations target "misleading or aggressive" activities and "will not affect the supply of spiritualistic services in themselves".

But many mystics fear they could be sued by customers unhappy with the service they have received, or be forced to prove in court they really have otherworldly powers. Some envision having to make customers sign a waiver before a seance or a sitting. Even more gallingly, they fear they might have to advertise that their services are for entertainment purposes only.

Skeptic Ben Goldacre has additional comment in his most recent Bad Science column, and makes some good points (although I disagree with his summation of psychics in general). Most importantly, how such a law is going to be policed, considering that there currently is no set test for mediumship:

With my tiny brain, I can't see how anyone is going to rationally police this kind of thing, given that the whole industry is, by definition, based on nonsense, and it's plainly undesirable to ban things simply because they're stupid...

...If we're going to be paternalistic about the credulous, you might hope we start with Carol Vorderman's high interest "loan consolidation" adverts before we get to Cilla Black's £1.50 a minute Psychic Hotline service. Although I bet they make a great pair.

The latter point is a good one as well. And if 'psychic' statements are to be considered under consumer protection, what about similar statements (about the future, wellbeing etc) by religious authorities?

All the same, regulation of some description may be just what the doctor ordered - and some psychics agree. It's quite obvious that there are large numbers of outright frauds involved (while skeptics might say "all" rather than "large numbers", I've seen enough in my time to still find some merit in the field). To be really optimistic, perhaps it could even result in more attention being paid to some sort of scientific testing or certification - though in reality I doubt that this new legislation will be policed with much force...rather simply used as necessary for egregious infringements.

Will be interesting to watch in any case. Certainly, it may focus some attention on some very grey areas as to what should constitute 'genuine' psychic ability...

News Briefs 24-04-2008

In some village in La Mancha, whose name I do not care to recall…

Quote of the Day:

“The pen is the tongue of the soul; as are the thoughts engendered there, so will be the things written.”

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Robbie Williams, Ufologist?

The Guardian has an excellent story from Jon Ronson (author of The Men Who Stare At Goats) about pop star Robbie Williams' interest in ufology. After mentions of this story in more 'sensational' form from the British tabloids, it's great to have this detailed account from Ronson, who certainly has credentials in investigating strange topics.

On December 18 2006, Robbie Williams played the last of 59 stadium shows in a row, announced he was going to spend Christmas at his home in Los Angeles, and then basically disappeared. He was hardly seen at all in 2007. He briefly checked into rehab. He spent quite a bit of time hiking and playing football (he owns a football pitch on Mulholland Drive). Then he stopped hiking and playing football. His record company, EMI, announced he had no plans to release an album in 2008. Today he unexpectedly calls me to ask if I want to go with him to the desert in Nevada to meet UFO abductees.

"I've been spending so much time at home on the internet on sites like AboveTopSecret.com," he says. "I want to do something. I want to go out there and meet these people. I want to be a part of this. I want to do something other than sit in my bed and watch the news. And it starts with the UFO conference in Laughlin, Nevada, on Thursday.

Rather than painting Williams as having descended into some sort of madness (although the beard, seemingly unlimited bank account and enthusiastic embrace of a fringe topic do give off a great Howard Hughes vibe), Ronson instead takes time to get inside the former Take That member's head - and shows instead a genuinely inquisitive (if perhaps slightly credulous) soul who wants to understand more about these strange occurrences, not much different to most TDG readers.

Coming on the back of his recent excellent (and unfavourable) profile of Sylvia Browne, and book about the history of the U.S. Army's "psychic spies" The Men Who Stare At Goats (Amazon US and UK) - see also the documentary based on the book - Jon Ronson is certainly developing into perhaps the public face of journalism into the strange topics we like to cover. Someone to keep an eye on.

News Briefs 23-04-2008

Either I'm stuck in a time loop, or I'm still sick with the 'flu from hell. It's worth it just for the feverish hallucinations.

Thanks Greg.

Quote of the Day:

We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams.

Jeremy Irons, British actor

Exploring the Great Year

I have posted a new video here on TDG, the documentary "The Great Year", narrated by James Earl Jones:

The Great Year is a compelling documentary that explores the possibility that the fall of ancient civilizations around the globe and the rise of modern civilization might be related to our Sun's motion around a companion star. The film examines evidence that ancient civilizations may have known of this celestial cycle and that our Sun may indeed display the characteristics of binary motion.

This documentary (official website here) was produced by the Binary Research Institute, and has a companion book written by our friend Walter Cruttenden, Lost Star of Myth and Time (Amazon US and UK). For those interested in a separate overview, Walter also wrote an article about these topics for Issue 2 of our free PDF magazine Sub Rosa. If you would prefer to watch the documentary in a more comfortable manner, you can pick up the DVD from Amazon US.

The Bloodline Tomb

The Rennes-le-Chateau Research website now have a large number of video clips from the upcoming documentary film Bloodline available for viewing. They give a good feel for the movie, with excerpts of interviews with key players and researchers, as well as visits to locations of interest.

Further to the topic of locations in the film, the producers of Bloodline have been kind enough to offer a pre-release exclusive from the film for Daily Grail readers: apparent confirmation from a Priory of Sion insider that the tomb discovery of 'Ben Hammott'/'The Tomb Man' (see attached picture) is genuine. Here's the entire release, with some of my own comments afterward:

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Priory of Sion confirms Hammott’s tomb: “One of three in the area”

Nicolas Haywood, representing the Priory of Sion, confirmed both by email and in phone conversations to the Bloodline producers, that Ben Hammott’s tomb is real and that it’s one of three tombs in the area near Rennes-Le-Chateau. He said that the three tombs each contain a shrouded corpse, and their locations form a triangle around a larger central ‘repository’, and that at least one the tombs contains a woman. He also said that there are items in all three tombs that come from this larger ‘repository’. He would not be drawn on any specifics about what was in this repository, but according to the producers, the inference was that it had been used to hold both Templar and Cathar relics, archives and treasure since it was first hidden there in the 13th century.

Journal of Scientific Exploration Downloads

My love for the Society for Scientific Exploration is overflowing at the moment, after discovering that they have put Volumes 19 and 20 of the Journal of Scientific Exploration (that's all 8 journal issues from 2005 and 2006!) online as free PDF downloads. Within you'll find all sorts of cutting edge scientific investigations, commentaries and reviews on various 'fringe' topics - contributors include Ian Stevenson, Gary Schwartz, Dean Radin, Robert Jahn...all the usual suspects, the list goes on and on. Seriously, you could download these and be reading for the next few weeks. So I'll see you then.

Don't forget that you can have the latest hardcopy issue of JSE in your hot little hands simply by subscribing to the journal (see the bottom of the page). Also note that joining the SSE means that you get complimentary issues anyhow, so you may find that worthwhile as well. It is *the* journal of choice for anybody interested in 'alternative' science ideas, so definitely money well spent.

Tuesday Blogscan 22-04-2008

A strange assortment to get you through the week...

Enjoy!