This week’s haphazard Blather delivers a report on Australian poltergeists, along with a smidgen more calendric controversy.
Reader Brian Miller asks Blather: ‘Isn’t the whole 2000-2001 question further muddled by the fact that our modern calender was set back by plus or minus 4 years at some point in the middle ages? So that in actuality, the second “millennium” passed sometime in 1996, if you’re going by strict “1,000 year periods,” and it’s technically right now about 2,002 years since the birth of Christ’.
Well, yes, and no. In 1650, James Ussher, Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland slogged his way back through the Bible to reach the conclusion that the world was created in 4004 BC. A few years later, Dr. John Lightfoot, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University ‘worked out’ that the world was created on 23 October, 4004 BC.
By straightforward calculations, this would appear to point towards (in Ussher/Lighfoot’s approximation) a millennial change having taken place on 23 October 1996. However, as pointed out last week, in wee Dennis’s Gregorian calender, there was no year zero, so the calendar ran 1BC straight to 1 CE. Thus, according Ussher/Lighfoot, the millennial change took place on 23 October 1997 CE [CE=Christian Era)
The Anniversary of All
The Julian and the Gregorian Calenders
In addition, I heartily recommend those of you unfortunate enough as to be unfamiliar with the works of Robert Anton Wilson to peruse his essay on multicultural calendars, also available as a chapter in ‘Cosmic Trigger III – My Life After Death’:
*How to Live Eleven Days in 24 Hours*
‘Of course, my basic motive in trying to popularize this system lies in the hope that some people will use it and get cured of asking, “But which is the real date?” Then they might start to see the fallacy of all questions in that form. . .’ [Be careful – surrealist content]
And now, a special report from Blather’s Man In Australia, Cheyne D. Conrad:
Polt on aussie TV
Wednesday 22 April 1998
Consecutive reports on ‘Today Tonight’ TVW channel 7 in West Australia, 20th & 21st April, concerning an haunted house in questionably named town of Humpty Doo, near Darwin.
The typical poltergeist activity — objects thrown; everything from spanners to babies’ bottles, steak knives, shards of glass, gravel and live bullets, still in their casings. The objects appear to be apports — shooting from ‘nowhere’ or from obstructed zones, from the ceiling or elsewhere. More than seventeen people have allegedly witnessed these events, including a security guard; all stated the perceived impossibility of hoaxing.
A channel 7 crew spent five days there, setting up cameras from several angles — including the use of a thermal imaging camera to detect heat signatures left on objects — presumably to catch out fakers. A human hand tends to leave a typical uneven blur of heat on an object it has held. Strangely, these objects *did* have heat signatures — but more like a film of quickly dissipating heat spread evenly over the object rather than the tell-tale hand-print one might expect from a human lobber.
The scientific expert on thermal imaging could not explain this feature. I suspect some kind of kinetic energy associated with friction or some-such as the objects are moved by whatever force is doing it. Quantum teleportation?
[The psychic ability of making an object disappear and reappear in another place with almost no passage of time. The actual occurrence of the disappearance/reappearance of an object, term coined by Charles Fort – Blather]
The house is a large timber structure, its age not stated (looked between 20-60 years old, maybe more). The haunting has started only in the last few months, no previous incidents known. There are five people living there – two young couples each with one toddler, and one other friend.
They all appeared to be the typical Aussie pragmatists – the type who resemble bikers but who have the kind of lazy friendliness and down to earth nature so typical to our species. They certainly do not appear to be frauds seeking money or fame from the business — in fact they seem rather irritated by the experiences, if anything. They sat around casually drinking cans of Victoria Bitter on the veranda as spanners and steak knives flew.
Typically enraging here as in other cases, many happenings occurred during the investigation, mostly in the presence of the astounded reporting crew, but NEVER directly on camera, although objects did zoom into shot.
None could have been deliberately thrown, and in one case a live bullet was sent bouncing into a room (caught on film) but did not appear on the camera that covered the area of its linear trajectory. What strange effect of cosmic pranksterism makes weird shit happen when the camera is always off?
Interestingly, another flying object was filmed by a ‘freelance cameraman’ sent to the house, a small ball or other plastic object bouncing off the top of a cabinet with glass doors. In a freeze-frame an indistinct reflection appeared in the glass near to the cameraman — apparently not corresponding to any physical presence — it appeared to be a face!
The ghostly culprit caught on film? It looked a bit like a monkey or a guy with a mask.
Barry Williams of the Australian Sceptics Association, who resembles Santa with a slightly nicotine stained beard, commented, “I’m not saying the people living there are doing this. . . I don’t know, so I can’t say.”
Continuing to state the bloody obvious, he expressed the need to study the phenomena in a completely scientific manner, isolating the occupants and the locale in a manner that had pretty much already been achieved by the film crew and their array of cameras, whilst himself being unsure which of Newton’s laws governed the effects of force applied to an object to affect motion. Thanks, Barry.
A Catholic priest, Father Tom English, performed an exorcism, to no avail. When asked, on camera, what he thought was causing the activity, he paused and quietly muttered “Don’t ask me.”
Apparently he has been more forthcoming with personal views off camera, commenting that “It perhaps happens more .. in non-Christian countries, and as Australia rejects Christianity more, these sorts of things will happen more and more.”
Yes, we are a pagan lot, to be sure, and in dire need of a new batch of missionaries, post haste! This of course flies in the face of the facts that:
a) fundamentalist Christianity is on a meteoric rise here as it is everywhere else, and
b) poltergeist activity appears to have been pretty much as common throughout history as it is now, irrespective of religious belief.
A security guard and a maintenance man have also independently reported strange incidents at the house, including the phantom chucking of gravel, glass and the more frightening live bullets. Thankfully this poltergeist doesn’t know how to load a gun properly.
Amusingly, a so-called clairvoyant declared the house ‘clear’ to the obvious disgust of one of the women occupants as yet another steak knife crashed in the background.
Now the tenants are moving, though more because of publicity than the poltergeist, which again is another reflection of the manner in which such things are dealt with in our society. An interesting and no doubt important case. Add it to the files, Forteans.
[On 22 April, Cheyne sent this update:]
News just to hand on that ‘haunted’ house in good old Humpty Doo.
While many of the witnesses, including local priest Father Tom English, swear that objects were thrown from rooms with no human occupants, and even the initially sceptical journalists still maintain that the phenomena they witnessed were truly unexplainable; it now appears that at least one occurrence was caused by something more prosaic than a poltergeist.
On 21 April broadcast, ‘Today Tonight’ showed footage taken after their investigation had ended which appeared to show a reflection in glass of a possible culprit as a plastic bottle top was thrown. Enhancement of these images shown on 22nd show the reflection jolting as it throws the object, and the white plastic thingy itself is visible faintly as it arcs over the head of the cameraman.
Confronted with this damning evidence, one of the occupants, Kirsty Aggis, has apparently owned up to this particular lobbing, but she claims that she did it because she was ‘desperate’ to convince people that something was really there, which they all still claim is true. Shades of the Cottingley Fairies?
Well, this sort of thing has happened before, and it still in no way explains how gravel can cascade from a solid ceiling above fans, or how bottles and steak knives can be thrown out of unoccupied rooms.
How can you fake a live bullet that was caught on film bouncing off furniture, when another camera covering the room from which it was thrown showed nothing, not even the object in flight ? And what of the strange heat patterns on objects revealed by thermal imagery ?
Don’t tell me these folks stuck bullets and knives in microwaves, then used tongs to throw them in a far-sighted attempt to confound the experts. Bear in mind that during the five-day investigation, no less than seven cameras were set up covering many angles in the rooms whilst this stuff was going down.
Unfortunately, even though the rest of the evidence looked promising, this stupid little incident will no doubt be used to bury the whole affair, as has happened time and time again.
Cheyne D. Conrad, 22 April 1998
Blather is out early this week, as this Blatherskite is away to London town for the weekend, for the Fortean Times UnConvention 98 (http://www.forteantimes.com/uncon/default.htm), and hopefully I’ll have some comments to make on it in next weeks outburst.
Dave (daev) Walsh
23 April 1998 (Fnord)