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Mr. Backster is a polygraph (lie detector) expert who hooked up a houseplant to his instruments and discovered that even thinking about fire caused the graph to “nearly jump off the page.” He even claimed that electrically connecting two containers of yogurt resulted in rudimentary “communication” between the yogurts, but only if the two were from the same original culture.
Backster's basic claim is that plants can communicate with one another, can read the minds of humans, and can experience emotions like fear, joy, and sorrow. This was described in his 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants. Since plants do not have a central nervous system, this seems unlikely to be true.
Inspired by Backster's book, Eldon Byrd, an employee of the U.S. Department of the Navy actually petitioned Congress for funds to conduct experiments with seaweed aimed at training the plant to react to danger, thus warning naval divers.
To date, no one, not even the U.S. Navy — has taken Backster's claims seriously enough to establish a Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Plants, nor has there been any effort to legislate humane methods of chopping broccoli or making applesauce.
(1214-1292 or 1294) The English Franciscan monk Roger Bacon (nicknamed Doctor Mirabilis, “The Admirable Doctor”) was a noted medieval advocate of experimentation and observation as a means to learning, an advanced idea for that time in history. It was said that he built a bronze head that spoke and answered questions, but such canards are often circulated about persons of accomplishment.
Bacon was probably the greatest scientific mind of his time, even before science was delineated and organized, albeit hobbled by the religious restrictions of intellectual exercise under which he necessarily labored.
In about 1240 he also briefly described the tricks of the conjurors of his time and declared them to be harmless amusements. His learned opinion on tricks was largely ignored, and conjurors continued to be persecuted by ignorant secular and ecclesiastic authorities as minions of Satan.
Bacon adopted the prophecies of Joaquim of Flore (see Appendix III, year 1260), but this and his credulous belief in astrology and other forms of mysticism aside, he was a genuine contributor to knowledge.
Bacon, Sir Francis
(1561-1626) Sir Francis is generally given credit for having prepared the intellectuals of his day for the scientific method of investigating. He was a person of remarkably clear perception and observation who refused any sort of emotional acceptance of unproven ideas. He said:
Such is the way of superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgements or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though they happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.
Bacon's work was the direct cause of the establishment of the Royal Society, which was essentially founded to pursue his methods. His major work, among many, was Novum Organum.
See Apollonius of Tyana.
See thumb writer.
(derived from the Celtic bean (pronounced ban) for “woman,” and sighe for “fairy”) A female Irish family ghost. Usually dressed in ratty white robes and with tangled hair over her skinny shoulders, the banshee wails, knocks, and carries on loudly just before the death of one of the family. One can only imagine how she carries on after the death.
The Scottish version is known as a benshie or benshee or the bodach glay, meaning “gray specter.”
In Polynesia, the name for a sorcerer.
Barbour, Nelson H.
See Jehovah's Witnesses.
A relatively harmless flying mammal. Since most varieties are nocturnal, the unfortunate creature has been assigned various evil characteristics and powers. The discovery of the South American vampire bat gave credence among the credulous to the legend of the human vampire.
In Germany, it was once believed that one who wore the left eye of a bat as a talisman would become invisible; since many persons were seen wearing such an object, the belief died out rather quickly.
The Lord of the Flies is represented pictorially as a gigantic fly. He is a prince of demons, and the Canaanites dedicated a large temple to his worship. He was known to the Cyreneans as Achor. Beelzebub is also one of the alternate names of Satan.
(1907-1991) Impressed by the results of a Ouija board session when he was seventeen, Hans Bender became interested in psi and eventually was appointed the first chairman of the Department of Parapsychology at the Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg, Germany. This effectively brought Germany into the world of psi, a mixed blessing. Bender worked with parapsychologist Wilhelm Tenhaeff (1894 -1981), performed experiments with the psychic Gerard Croiset, and certified it all as genuine.
For his unquestioning acceptance of psi, Bender came in for a great deal of criticism from his colleagues in science, who referred to him as der Spukprofessor (“spook professor”). He also accepted the spoon-bending of Uri Geller as a genuine example of psychokinesis.
Shortly before he died, it was discovered that Bender did not have the doctorate that he had claimed all his life and that in his extensive writings on psi, he had ignored very well established evidence against the phenomena and had greatly enhanced the facts and figures in favor of it. It appeared that Bender was requiring his readers to believe that everything of which he himself was convinced was factual. His work and writings are now no longer taken seriously.
(also, Devil's Triangle) A huge triangle formed by the islands of Bermuda and Puerto Rico, and the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is said to be an area of profound danger for anyone or anything venturing into it. It was first so designated by a writer for Argosy magazine.
The whole legend began in December 1944 when five Avenger bombers of the U.S. Navy were lost while on a routine training mission out of the Fort Lauderdale air base. A sensational 1974 book by Charles Berlitz, The Bermuda Triangle, brought this supposed mystery to the attention of the public.
The Berlitz book, written thirty years after the loss of the bombers, contained invented details, distorted and exaggerated figures and descriptions, and even fabricated radio conversations that were claimed to have taken place between the naval pilots and the Fort Lauderdale air base. The event was not that unusual, if the invented details are ignored, and as evidence for any sort of mystery in the triangle, the Avenger bombers matter is a very poor example, but it remains as the event most quoted by the believers.
Other ships that are said to have vanished in the area either did not exist, or sank or capsized in other areas — even in the Pacific or Mediterranean — or went down due to perfectly ordinary and well understood causes.
The Bermuda Triangle, an area subject to violent storms and rough seas, does produce problems, but no more than any other similar area anywhere in the world. There is no need to ascribe supernatural or even unusual causes to any losses that occur there. Unless, of course, you want to sell lots and lots of books.
See Soubirous, Bernadette.
See Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna.
A reddish stone found in the entrails of animals, usually a concretion like a kidney stone. It is also said to be extracted from an aged toad's head. Used as a powerful amulet or charm, particularly against poison.
The aetite or aquilaeus is a similar stone found in the stomach of an eagle, a hollow stone formed of iron oxide, and claimed to be able to detect a thief and to heal epilepsy. When bound to a woman's arm, they say, it prevents abortion, and fastened to her thigh, it aids in giving birth. It is actually just as effective when fastened to the father's key chain or, better still, left inside the eagle.
In Shakespeare's play As You Like It, the duke says:
The toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
Which goes to show how much dukes know.
Aside from the spurious magical qualities ascribed to these concretions, the term bezoar is now properly used to designate any sort of antidote to a poison.
See also charms.
The book upon which the Christian religion is based. It is divided into the Old and the New Testaments, the former dealing with events before the time of Christ and the latter — in the four Gospels — with events of the life of Christ and the period following his death, plus events in the history of the many early Christian churches.
Early editions in English were many and varied. The Breeches Bible was so named because Genesis 3:7 refers to Adam and Eve preparing “breeches” from sewed-together “figge-tree leaves” upon discovering that they were naked. In the Vinegar Bible, the “Parable of the Vinegar” was given in Luke 20, rather than the “Parable of the Vineyard.” A 1632 edition had the seventh commandment as “Thou shalt commit adultery.” It earned the title of the “Wicked Bible.”
In the reign of Henry VIII (1491-1547) it was decreed that
. . . no woman (unless she be noble or gentle woman) no artificers [craftsmen], apprentices, journeymen, servingmen, under the degree of yeomen . . . husbandmen or labourers could read any part of the Bible without danger of fines or imprisonment.
The 1611 King James Version of the book is now recognized as the authorized edition. Though in the almost four centuries since its first publication scholars have become aware of many serious discrepancies in that edition, it is still accepted as correct.
The Bible deals with many magical events, aside from the miracles (such as resurrection of dead persons or multiplying food and drink) ascribed to Christ. In the Old Testament are found a number of references to the punishment of sorcerers, and the process of trial by ordeal appears in Numbers 5:11-13. In Jonah 1:7, we find a reference to chance being used for divination:
Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
This process is justified and validated by another biblical passage, Proverbs 16:33, where we read:
The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
This conclusion apparently still stands, despite our present better understanding of the laws of chance and probability.
A witch is found in Exodus 22:18. Immediately following the official amounts established for a virgin bride-price and the money penalty to be paid by the seducer of a not-yet-betrothed virgin is found the rule that:
You shall not allow a witch to live.
The famous witch of Endor was said (1 Samuel 28) to exorcise spirits, and the High Priest of the Israelites carried with him two magical stones called Urim and Thummim that enabled him to prophesy.
In Genesis 20:3, 31:23, and 37:5; Job 33:15; Numbers 12:6; and 1 Kings 3:5, sorcery is referred to, and at least twenty methods of foretelling the future are described in the book.
See Carrière, Eva.
See Abominable Snowman.
The presence of an individual, object, subject, or definition in two different places at the same moment. Conte Alessandro Cagliostro is said to have displayed this ability to impress his clients. Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) and, in modern times, Padre Pio (1887-1968) are also said to have performed bilocation. The conjuror Pinetti (1750-1800) made a sensation when he apparently drove out of the gates of Paris at two different locations at the same moment.
An absolutely impossible phenomenon.
Beginning in 1968, when an interesting pattern of natural rock was discovered underwater off the coast of Bimini, occultists began claiming that the formation was actually a road built on the site of the lost continent of Atlantis and thus was strong evidence for the existence of this mythological place.
The “road” is actually the now-submerged former coastline of the island and is made of beach rock, a concretion of shells and other debris formed in modern times. This fragile material tends to fracture in more or less straight lines and then at right angles to those fractures, resulting in a pattern of large fragments resembling an area of paving stones. Such natural formations, also referred to as tessellated pavement, are extremely common along the eastern shore of Australia, and almost entirely around Tasmania, where they are plainly exposed to view along the coast. For a hundred miles along the coast of Venezuela there is a similar undersea formation.
Perhaps Atlantis was much, much larger than we'd thought.
A notion originated in the 1890s by German doctor Wilhelm Fliess (1859 -1928), biorhythm theory says that three cyclical influences are set in motion at the moment of birth, and that by charting these cycles it can be determined which days are propitious and which not. Fliess originally postulated only two cycles, but later a third was added.
The three cycles — physical, emotional and intellectual — are respectively 23, 28, and 33 days in length, and a day when any curve crosses the zero line (a node) is a “critical” day. When two nodes coincide, it is said to be an especially dangerous day. As for three nodes, well, don't ask. The triple-critical will occur for everyone at the age of fifty-eight years and sixty-eight days, which should produce a plethora of deaths at this point, but no such actuarial bump has ever been noticed. Then, at the age of just more than 116 years, four months, and a couple of weeks, thesecond triple-critical arrives. If one has lived through the first, this crisis should definitely do one in.
Followers of this modern form of prophecy look assiduously for correlations between the theory and actual fact, and of course are thus able to find many such relationships which they believe support the theory. Such a process is the antithesis of scientific research.
Studies in which control groups were established have shown that there is no value to the theory. It is a form of magic and pseudoscience.
Bishop, Washington (Wellington) Irving
(1856-1889) This American mentalist was famous for his blindfold drive and other astounding feats. A mountebank who learned his trade as an assistant to John Randall Brown, a newspaperman who specialized in “muscle reading,” Bishop flourished in the 1880s.
He started his career working with the famous spiritualist act of Anna Eva Fay, first functioning as her manager. Then in 1876 he chose to expose her methods in the New York Daily Graphic newspaper and at that point he began doing his own show.
At first Bishop denied the existence of any paranormal powers, then apparently decided that the easier path was with the fakers, and he became a “real” psychic overnight.
Bishop is credited with originating the blindfold drive trick (in 1885) in which the performer is able to navigate in a vehicle while his eyes are covered. Bishop used a horse and carriage, while modern practitioners depend on an automobile.
One of Bishop's favorite routines, copied from Brown, was to have a fictitious murderer, a weapon, and a victim chosen from among the audience members while he was out of the area. Upon his return he would identify all three. He performed this and other mysteries in the United States and in Britain, with great success.
In Britain he made great but spurious claims of wealth, even turning over the proceeds of several performances (less “expenses”) to charitable causes. His pretensions of riches were part of his pose, apparently to attract huge fees for specialized projects in which he tried to become involved.
It was also in Britain, however, that he lost a lawsuit brought against him by the famous conjuror J. N. Maskelyne, who objected to his claims of genuine psychic power. This provoked libelous remarks from the American, and J. N. promptly sued him, winning the case and driving Bishop from England to escape paying the £10,000 penalty.
Bishop was fond of claiming that he'd been tested by scientists, but when the conditions for the tests were not of his own making, he failed. When challenged to do specific feats that he claimed he could do with regularity, he either refused to be tested or switched tests or the conditions for the tests, and only then succeeded. His claim was that he did not understand his own powers, but when a newspaper editor named Charles Howard Montague learned to do Bishop's act, successfully duplicating a drawing made by one of his audience, he declared:
Mr. Bishop would have us infer that he does not know how he does it. I know how I do it, and I am rather of the opinion that his self-consciousness [self-awareness] is not a great way behind my own. It is very difficult for me to believe that so expert a student of the sensations of other people should be so poor a pupil in his own case.
Bishop chided Montague for failing to recognize that “Almighty God” had given him his abilities, and questioned Montague's belief in a deity, as if that discredited his interference. But Montague was unfazed, proceeding to perform the Bishop act for many large audiences, always denying that any supernatural forces were at work.
After numerous marriages and bouts with alcohol and drugs and almost every excess available to him, Bishop died suddenly in New York at age thirty-three. His demise had a certain macabre mystery about it, since he had said that he was subject to cataleptic fits and might thus be buried alive if not carefully examined after his apparent passing. A dramatic “swoon” following his stage performance was not uncommon for him, and he claimed that several times he'd come close to being sliced up by doctors about to perform autopsies on his still-living body.
His mother, a rather overly dramatic, raving sort of woman who some years earlier had thrown herself into her husband's grave as he was being lowered to his final rest, made wild accusations in the press about her son having been autopsied while not yet dead, but nothing was proven. The event provided journalists with marvelous stories for decades and is still occasionally resurrected.
Black Art Principle
In conjuring this principle is used — for one thing — to produce the illusion of floating objects. It is done by covering supports and personnel in black material and operating against a black backdrop. The idea is said to have been developed and first used by illusionist Max Auzinger about 1875. The luminous trumpets, tambourines, and other objects used by some spiritualists during dark séances similarly appear to be floating due to the same optical effect. Dealers in supplies for spirit mediums sell a variety of devices to be used with this method.
See also Robert Nelson.
See black magic.
See Abrams, Dr. Albert, De la Warr, George, and Drown, Ruth.
Blackburn and Smith
In 1882 the team of Douglas Blackburn and G. A. Smith were authenticated by the Society for Psychical Research for their amazing telepathic demonstrations. Smith, blindfolded and sometimes concealed under a blanket, was able to name words that had only been shown to Blackburn and could also reproduce drawings secretly shown to Blackburn. The “experts” embraced, at last, this most welcome and undeniable evidence that supernatural forces did indeed exist.
In 1908, the investigators all having died, and Blackburn believing that Smith had also died, he revealed the methods the pair had used to perform their trickery, a hoax that had originated in the honest desire of two youths to show how easily men of scientific mind and training could be deceived when seeking for evidence in support of a theory they were wishful to establish.
Smith immediately showed up to complain and denied everything, but Blackburn was intent on telling the story. One example will serve to show how ingenious and original the team was. In the London Daily News of September 1, 1911, Blackburn explained how, with Smith covered in blankets, he had been able to transmit to him a drawing he'd been handed by one of the experimenters. Smith was to draw on a piece of paper he had with him in the dark under the blanket, the impression he'd “telepathically” received from Blackburn, who revealed to the News:
I also drew it, secretly, on a cigarette paper. . . . and had no difficulty while pacing the room collecting “rapport,” in transferring the cigarette paper to the tube of the brass projector on the pencil I was using. I conveyed to Smith the agreed signal that I was ready by stumbling against the edge of the thick rug near his chair.
Next instant he exclaimed: “I have it.” His right hand came from beneath the blanket, and he fumbled about the table, saying, according to arrangement: “Where's my pencil?”
Immediately I placed mine on the table. He took it . . . under the blanket. Smith had concealed up in his waistcoat one of those luminous painted slates which in the dense darkness gave sufficient light to show the figure when the almost transparent cigarette paper was laid flat on the slate. He pushed up the bandage from one eye, and copied the figure . . .
Presently Smith threw back the blanket and excitedly . . . produced the drawing . . .
Without this confession the parapsychologists might have today their prime case for ESP. The single example above shows how scientists can be easily deceived by simple means, having not even recorded in their reports such details as the handing over of the pencil and the stumbling on the rug since such small items seemed not to be important. As one can see, they are.
A form of magic performed for evil purposes, or in the view of religion, any magic that is not of divine origin, whether the intent is evil or not.
Lewis Spence, in his Encyclopaedia of Occultism, writes in reference to this subject in medieval Europe:
In Black Magic human perversity found the means of ministering to its most terrible demands and the possible attainment of its darkest imaginings. To gain limitless power over god, demon and man; for personal aggrandisement and glorification; to cheat, trick and mock; to gratify base appetites; to aid religious bigotry and jealousies; to satisfy public and private enmities; to further political intrigue; to encompass disease, calamity and death — these were the ends and aims of Black Magic and its followers.
Mr. Spence did not doubt that these “ends and aims” were attainable. However magic of any hue has not, of itself, in any way altered the history of the world or of any particle in it despite the worst or best intentions of the magi.
Supposed to be a blasphemous version of the Catholic Mass in which the naked body of a woman (preferably a virgin, as one might imagine) is used in place of an altar. Popularly believed to be performed by witches at a sabbat, this ceremony may well be another of the totally fictitious aspects of actual witchcraft.
Sophisticated Parisians of the seventeenth century toyed with the idea as a diversion. It is referred to by the Marquis de Sade (Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, 1740-1814) in his novel Justine and that very description may have given rise to the notion that it was an actual part of witchcraft.
Those fanatics who hunted down witches and hanged or burned them for imaginary crimes of course believed in the Black Mass. They added to the myth by inventing boiled babies, drinking blood in place of sacramental wine, and other improbable aspects. Today similar irrationalities are accepted in courts of law when evidence is given in cases involving Satanism.
Blackmore, Dr. Susan J.
(1951- ) A graduate of Oxford University, Dr. Blackmore earned a Ph.D. in parapsychology at Surrey University. Her work consisted of ESP experiments with Tarot cards, out-of-body experiences (OBEs), ganzfeld tests, and extensive work with children.
Blackmore became disillusioned with parapsychology when she obtained only negative results, sometimes in areas where other researchers had reported significant figures. She differed with some of her colleagues on their protocols, and her three books express some of those disagreements. They are Parapsychology and Out-of-the-Body Experiences (1978), Beyond the Body (1982) and The Adventures of a Parapsychologist (1986).
Dr. Blackmore is affiliated with many organizations in the field of parapsychology, including the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).
Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna
(1831-1891) This woman was born Helena Von Hahn in the Ukraine. Like many psychics, HPB, as she was known to her disciples, claimed that as a child she had been given divine visions and had experienced magical gifts, being able to move objects by psychokinesis.
At seventeen, she was married to a forty-year-old general named Nikifor Blavatsky, but left him after three months and went off to Constantinople. She retained the noble name. Later in her life, she claimed that for the next few years she visited every exotic place known, was initiated into mystical orders, and finally settled in Tibet, where she contacted the “mahatmas,” adepts who lived in caves and taught her the mysteries she was to subsequently teach. All these tales are highly doubtful.
What is known to be true is that she went from being a piano teacher to a circus bareback rider to a spirit medium, and she eventually was employed by the spirit medium Daniel Dunglas Home as an assistant, where she doubtless learned some of the tricks of the trade.
At age forty, while she was operating as a spirit medium in Cairo, where she had started her Société Spirite, a great commotion arose when a long cotton glove stuffed with cotton was discovered in the séance room, and HPB wisely departed hastily for Paris.
Two years later, in 1873, she moved to the United States and began performing séances for wealthy patrons there. In 1875, in partnership with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, a lawyer and writer who dealt with spiritualistic claims, she founded the Theosophical Society.
Spirit medium Helena Petrovna Blavatsky with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott in 1888.
Theosophy became the passion and the profession of the woman who insisted upon being addressed as “Madame.” She claimed to bring messages from two “masters” or “mahatmas” named Koot Hoomi and Morya. These messages were often in the form of small bits of paper that floated down from the ceiling above her. She attracted many prominent persons to the movement by her performance of these effective diversions.
In India, HPB flourished as a cult figure for several years, until a housekeeper who had formerly worked as a magician's assistant exposed the tricks by which Blavatsky had been fooling her followers. Blavatsky blustered a great deal and threatened to sue, but instead chose to leave India, and never went back.
Next in England in 1885, her tricks were exposed by the Society for Psychical Research, when certain pieces of conjuring equipment were shown to be the means by which she produced the written messages from her mahatmas, and it was revealed that she had deceived a disciple by hiring an actor wearing a dummy bearded head and flowing costume to impersonate the mahatma Koot Hoomi. The exposure did little to shake the belief of the faithful of England, who have always been tolerant of those who would take advantage of them.
Madame Blavatsky wrote several mystical books, among them Isis Unveiled (1877), which was shown to have been copied from previous works of other authors, and The Secret Doctrine (1888). A basic part of the mythology given in these books is that mankind is passing through a series of seven “root races.” These are: Astrals (pure spirits), Hyperboreans (from a now-vanished continent), Lemurians (who interbred with animals and thus went bye-bye), Atlanteans (who had psychic powers and secret energy sources, but went under during a cataclysm), and the Race of Hope, the Aryans. This fifth group was seized upon by the Nazi theorists, along with the Rosicrucian ideas, as a basis for their racial superiority notions.
After Blavatsky's death in 1891 from Bright's disease, a disciple named Annie (Wood) Besant (1847/8-1933), a former militant atheist, took over Theosophy along with Charles Webster Leadbeater (1854-1934). The religion, over the ensuing years, split up into several factions, each with its own charismatic guru, and it has never been the same since.
Annie Besant, who took over Theosophy after Blavatsky's death.
Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel, meaning “protection squadron”), was a devoted follower of the racial theories of Blavatsky and based the design of the SS on her teachings and on those of Aleister Crowley and the Templars, the band of 12th-century knights who protected the pilgrims of the crusades.
The parent group of the Theosophists is still a minor religious movement headquartered in Adyar, India, and its activities now concentrate on social welfare.
This is a conjuring trick often done by mentalists. It consists of the performer being blindfolded — often with tape, opaque metal masks, and/or bandages — and then accomplishing various feats such as reading, writing, negotiating an obstacle course, or driving a vehicle, apparently without the use of sight. It has also been called Eyeless Vision, the name given it by Dr. Harlan Tarbell, a well-known writer on conjuring techniques.
The very effective trick has been taken up with great success by the psychics, who of course say that when they do it, it's not a trick.
(Gilles de Rais, or de Retz, also de Laval, circa 1404-1440) A French baron, a marshal of France, and a wealthy landowner, de Rais married into an even wealthier family at age sixteen. He fought alongside Joan of Arc at the Battle of Orléans, then at age twenty-eight he suddenly retired from public life and began the study of alchemy with the intent of finding the philosopher's stone.
He soon gained the reputation of a sorcerer, taking into his service a number of rogues who promised him success in his search for untold wealth. He maintained an outward innocence and gentle attitude at the same time he was slaughtering children as sacrifices to the demons who he was told could satisfy his needs.
As more and more children went missing in the area, the evidence against him mounted, and he was finally arrested. At his trial in 1440 he confessed to the most heinous crimes imaginable, his confession being considerably facilitated by torture, of course. He was put to death by the Holy Inquisition for his crimes, one of the relatively few justified executions performed by this Holy Office. Because of his high position, de Rais was given the privilege of being strangled before he was burned. A nice touch.
He earned the name Bluebeard (Barbe Bleue) from his glossy black beard, and by that name he has come down through history as a character in children's stories.
A privately published, regularly updated directory of names and pertinent information about potential sitters, secretly subscribed to by spirit mediums who wish to have personal data with which to impress clients. Regional versions exist, and the source is carefully guarded. The data are submitted free or sold to the publishers by practicing mediums, who obtain it from each other and from important and wealthy clients.
Individual “spirit camps” or similar communities will often keep their own private lists, formerly on index cards, but now in computer form, of persons who have visited there. Former spirit medium and author Lamar Keene describes the process in his book The Psychic Mafia.
Book of Coming Forth by Day, the
(Pert Em Hru, also known as The Book of the Dead) From about four thousand years ago, the Egyptian document titledThe Book of Coming Forth by Day was placed in the sarcophagus alongside the mummified body of an important person. This guide to the underworld, the text of which was often also drawn or inscribed on the tomb walls, was intended to instruct the ka (spirit) of the deceased in the proper protocol for facing the perils to be encountered after death.
In reality, it contained a long list of formulas that could be recited to ward off the penalties that might be incurred. It was a sort of Egyptian version of a Christian Indulgence, a magical system to defeat the intent of the gods or to placate them.
Before the problem of reading Egyptian hieroglyphics had been solved, a copy of this document on the original papyrus was purchased by the elders of the Mormon Church and was divinely interpreted by them to be a lost book of the Bible that established their religion as orthodox, a claim maintained even after it was clear that the book was no such thing. The explanation now offered by the church spokesmen is that there are really two translations of the book, one mundane and the other divine. To some people, this is not a convincing argument.
Book of the Dead, the
See Book of Coming Forth by Day, The.
Known as “the most haunted house in England,” this very substantial residence of the parish rector, Reverend Henry Bull, was built in 1863. The first occupants of the house began reporting seeing the ghost of a nun, then a phantom coach and two black horses. Subsequent residents were frightened by strange whispering noises, creaks on the staircase, ringing bells, and a light that was periodically seen, from the outside, in the window of an empty upper room.
In July 1929, when the fourth resident rector moved in, he reported that in addition to the usual ghosts encountered on stairways and in hallways, spirit writing had appeared on the walls and pebbles were raining down on the house. He managed to bear all this for six years, then moved out. He had children.
Borley Rectory lay empty for more than a year, until the celebrated ghost hunter Harry Price took up residence in 1937 and arranged for colleagues to live there in shifts. The phenomena began increasing dramatically in scope and magnitude, dishes being smashed, sleepers being thrown out of bed, and strange artifacts such as a ring and an old coat “materializing” in unused rooms.
In February 1939, an upset oil lamp ignited the old home (a poltergeist event, perhaps?) and it was reduced to ashes. Price's investigations and reports continued, even over the ruins of the building, for several years afterward.
In 1955, the London Society for Psychical Research (SPR) issued a 180-page report following an extensive investigation of the Borley phenomena and concluded that there were no related events that could not have had rational explanations. More importantly, the report concluded that the most impressive phenomena had been produced by Harry Price himself.
One event, the light seen periodically in the upper window, was explained by the fact that it coincided with the approach of a regularly scheduled train nearby. The locomotive headlight was reflected, for a few seconds, in that window.
Still a favorite haunted house story in England, the site is visited regularly by curiosity seekers, and current phenomena are still reported to be connected with the nearby Borley Abbey.
See also poltergeist.
British National Association of Spiritualists
See Society for Psychical Research.
This U.K. mystic claims to compose and play music under the direct spiritual contact of the ghosts of Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, and other major composers. This has been referred to as composing after decomposing.
Though it has been claimed that Ms. Brown is musically “naive,” she worked as a teacher of piano for years before the shades of the greats of music began to guide her fingers. Judging from the results she has demonstrated, it appears that these departed persons have, not unexpectedly, lost most of their musical skills as a result of death.
A witch/demon of medieval times that could change shape and read the future. It flew at night and drank human blood like a vampire.
In Australian aboriginal lore, a roaring, hairy monster known for jumping out of water holes to terrify passers-by. Also known as the yaa-loo and the wowee-wowee, names possibly derived from the reactions of a person encountering one at a quiet water-hole. It must be remembered that Australians tend to invent things (such things as the quite impossible duck-billed platypus) just to amuse themselves at the expense of gullible tourists.
Burt, Sir Cyril
(1883-1971) A British psychologist who was interested in heredity and, eventually, in parapsychology. He was at one time an assistant to parapsychologist Samuel G. Soal.
It was discovered, after Burt's death, that the work on heredity for which he had been knighted was spurious, many of his sources and references having been invented to satisfy the needs of his conclusions, and it was found that he had also appropriated the work of other researchers as his own.
Burt was very supportive of parapsychological claims, and it is interesting to note that the man he first worked for, Soal, was also revealed as a cheat after his death.
(1905-1981) A Kashmiri mentalist with dark, deep-set eyes and heavy eyebrows, Kuda Bux was known as “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.” He earned this title by means of his blindfold act. While such an act is and was commonly done by many others, Bux had a version which involved large wads of cotton placed over bread dough that filled his eye sockets and the whole thing was then bound in place with multiple layers of bandages until his head appeared to be a huge ball of cloth. He would then drive a car, duplicate handwriting or drawings, and even fire a rifle at targets indicated by a volunteer. Once, he bicycled on New York's Broadway while blindfolded, a dangerous feat even when fully sighted.
Kuda Bux first attracted international attention in 1935 by performing one of the most famous “fakir” stunts, walking on burning embers. He did a carefully observed fire walk in England and subsequently duplicated the performance in the United States outside Radio City Music Hall. It was a stunt that he was familiar with from his early days in India and Pakistan, since it was frequently executed as part of religious ceremonies in that continent.
Ironically enough, in the last years of his life Kuda Bux suffered a gradual loss of his eyesight due to glaucoma. Though his performance methods were and are well understood in the trade, he has been made into one of the Unexplained Mysteries so needed by the paranormalists to bolster their beliefs.