Between Kenneth Arnold’s sighting of “flying saucers”, and the Fox Sisters New York paranormal doings in 1847, esoterica has went where scientists feared to tread. After nearly two centuries of plugging away, and even billions of dollars that the CIA and the U.S. military have thrown at everything between E.S.P. to ghosts, what do we know? Not a whole lot. But we are getting closer.
This writer is a big fan of Jason and Grant and the Ghost Hunters series even though week after week we don’t get much more than bumps in the dark and a few flashing K5′s. But what they do bring attention to is matrixing.
Our eyes do not really “see”. The rods and cones detect various electromagnetic patterns and the brain interprets those into patters and three-dimensional objects; the same with the ears and hearing. Therefore, random white noise, and randomized patterns of dots or smudges can become electronic voice phenomenon of ghostly whispers, and spectral images. It is also what makes potato chips look like Elvis, sidewalks look like Jesus, NASA images are faces-on-Mars, and potatoes that look like ducks.
Vincent Price looked out an airplane window one day in the late 1950′s and saw as clear as a bell the words “Tyrone Powers is Dead”. He was shocked at his colleague appearing in such a way. He looked around and no one else noticed it, or said a word. Yet, Tyrone Powers had died that day, and he had no way of knowing it. Was he touched by the dead, or was he matrixing a bizarre quantum mechanical coincidence?
Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of Washington, has spent years with false memories. Subjects looked at a little book of life events; three their own, one not. The fourth event was a little story about when they were little they had been lost in a shopping mall – completely a lie. Relatives were asked to confirm the event. That double whammy created in most people a recalled event with specific details in living color and a logical chronology. Again, it never happened. It was a type of matrixing.
This writer went through the house looking for his glasses, room by room. Suddenly, in exasperation, and wiping my brow, touched my glasses perched upon my head. They had been there the whole time. I had become my parents. Recently, a music student left a priceless instrument behind, and forgot it. This has happened over and over, the most significant when a Stradivarius had been left on the roof of a car only to be relocated at auction decades later. Children are left in hot cars, in taxis, even in hotel rooms. The scientist who spent years locating the Java Man skull left it behind in a restaurant one day – he did get it back. The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers is a by Daniel Schacter, former chair of Harvard University’s Psychology Department. He details these and other very ordinary memory lapses and explains why they happen in the brain.
So between matrixing, false memories, and forgetfulness, how in the world will we ever trust a jury trial again? Because people are phenomenally good at remembering things, they are just very bad at interpretation. In a specialized setting amidst trained professionals – judges, lawyers, police professionals, and psychiatrists, a person can be guided to accurate recollections.
This is why in the 21st century, amateur sleuths have taken the entire eyewitness reporting’s of millions of people who have seen dragons, the Virgin Mary, UFO’s, fairies, and ghosts and have triaged them using sophisticated techniques to discern that there seem to be three things going on.
Some events are as real as touching a table. Many people see and report top secret military objects only to learn years later they were stealth bombers, drones, or helium filled transport ships the size of football fields.
Some events are the fantasies of people who have had traumatic lives. They may or may not have seen Mothman, ghosts, or whatever, but their interpretation was fueled by first rate story telling abilities. In another life they could have been Stephen King or Ray Bradbury.
Finally, there are people who experience thin-boundary events. These people through drugs, stress, sleeplessness, or brain trauma lose the ability to discern dreams or visions from reality. Michael Shermer, a top notch skeptic, recalls that on a long bicycle competition where he did not sleep, suddenly began to see aliens who attempted to kidnap him. The team who followed him in a car saw he was in trouble, tackled him, and waited for paramedics to realign his electrolytes. To this day, he recalls the event perfectly in detail of what the aliens did to him. This may be a real clue to a part of what happened to Betty and Barney Hill. We don’t know.
The brain is totally weird. It can hot wire sexuality and serial killing. It can make Mother Teresas and psychopathic CEO’s.
Phineas P. Gage (1823 – 1860) was an American railroad construction foreman now remembered for his improbable survival of an accident in which a large iron rod was driven completely through his head. IT destroyed much of his brain’s left frontal lobe affecting his personality and behavior. He became a completely different human being. On 21 Jan 2012 in Oak Lawn, IL, Dante Autullo accidentally shot a 3 inch nail in his brain and did not realize it for more than a day. Only a scratch and a drop of blood showed any trace. Autullo felt bad the next day, an after a series of tests was rushed to surgery – and he is recovering.
Muhammad Ali is suffering from Parkinson-like symptoms from his years of boxing. Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane took LSD many times with seemingly no after effects. One shot of crack cocaine and one is hooked for life. Try getting a smoker to stop smoking. Charlie Sheen recently sabotaged a successful career despite the long term support of his family and close friends and a desperate network. It’s all in the brain.
In 1827, a family of Rhode Island farmers felt the only way to cure tuberculosis was to bind up their daughter, Nancy Young, and burn her and inhale the smoke of this “vampire’. The story persisted for two centuries of a “witch’ and ‘vampire’ who, lived in the hamlet of Foster, Rhode Island when folklorist Michael Bell uncovered it. (Food for the Dead). On Coast to Coast AM it was recently revealed by Kenneth Arnold’s daughter that he not only saw ‘flying saucers’ but came to believe they were living beings and saw them frequently, and it was his proof of God. His story helped to fuel other sightings during the Cold War and prompted billions of black budget dollars to see what was really happening to make a mockery of Civil Defense and NORAD efforts. The FBI is still convinced that there has never been a child harmed by a Satanic cult in the continental United States – but try to convince the ordinary citizen. Conversely, who would have suspected a world-wide clandestine cover-up of child molestation by Catholic priests in virtually every Western nation? Conspiracy? Or not?
Ray Garton once stated that in his early writing career he excitedly accepted a contract to tell a ghostly non-fiction story, but through several unsettling events ended up writing a fantasy. In supporting an esoteric illusion, he was disillusioned, and his credulity crushed.
The question is not exactly why do people believe weird things, but why do we experience weird things? And when those weird experiences overwhelm our senses, how do we sort out esoteric stories between reality non-fiction and fantasy fiction?
Shields up! Phasers on full! Boldly go! The world of esoterica is not one for the squeamish.