Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L |M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X Y Z
Cagliostro, Conte Alessandro
(1743?-1795) Cagliostro, referred to by historian Thomas Carlyle as the “Prince of Quacks,” was one of the most infamous characters of the French Revolution. Said to have been born in 1743 at Palermo, Sicily, as Joseph (Giuseppe) Balsamo (a claim that has been seriously questioned, since there is only one source for it, and that a dubious one), he liked to claim that he was a Gypsy, which he might well have been. Since so much of his career was described by himself, it is well to treat it all with some caution. However, some aspects have been well established.
Cagliostro professed to be a count, a magician of the Hermetic school and an alchemist. He claimed to be accompanied by an invisible “master” named Althotas, only one of the many imaginary items invented by the count.
He began his fabulous career in Palermo in a minor way by forging a few theater tickets and a falsified will, then he robbed his uncle and was accused of a murder. At this point he decided upon a much safer way of earning money by pretending that he was able to locate gold and buried treasure for paying clients. The man who was to become Cagliostro would show gullible customers sites where he said he sensed concealed assets.
Marrying very well in Naples, Cagliostro next went into the eternal-youth business in 1780 at Strasbourg. He and his wife, Lorenza Feliciani, traveled Europe selling age-regression potions to wealthy clients, illustrating their point by claiming that Lorenza, then twenty, was actually sixty years old. They offered for sale his “spagiric food” (from the Latin spagiricus, meaning “chemical”) as an “elixir of immortal youth.” About this time Cagliostro assumed the title of Grand Copt and said that he had lived for centuries. He claimed that he had witnessed the crucifixion of Christ, but that he appeared much younger than he was as a result of regularly using his magical elixir.
Cagliostro, the shady figure who haunted pre-revolutionary France.
Paris went wild over him, with Cardinal de Rohan, not noted for his discernment, becoming a prominent fan and supporter of the Sicilian faker. Cagliostro related fanciful stories about his conversations with angels, lurid accounts of his childhood discoveries of his powers, and descriptions of gigantic cities in remote parts of the earth. There were available, of course, the usual number of people who always seem ready to listen to such charlatans and to believe them. For these he made his usual promise to locate gold and jewels, taking a fee, then moving on to other locations before having to make good on his promises.
The fake count lived in high luxury, with estates all through Europe filled with treasures of every sort. He created a very fashionable secret society called the Egyptian Lodge and was consulted by statesmen and philosophers, many of whom declared him to be genuine and possessed of real magical powers. Very much in the manner adopted a century later by H. P. Blavatsky, founder of Theosophy, Cagliostro demonstrated physical marvels such as writing that appeared on slips of paper which seemed to materialize from thin air and were said to have been penned by spirits or beings from other planets.
In Paris, in 1785, Cagliostro became involved in the famous Affair of the Diamond Necklace, a scandalous event that is thought by some historians to have been an important element in precipitating the French Revolution. Cagliostro was brought to trial along with his dupe, Cardinal de Rohan. Though he defended himself cleverly and effectively against those charges, he was imprisoned in the Bastille for other reasons. Eventually released after nine months, he was ordered to leave France.
He went to England, where it seems he was no longer as welcome as before, and he was locked up in Fleet Street Prison. Fleeing through Europe and once more back in Rome, he was denounced by his wife to the Holy Inquisition, charged with heresy, and condemned to death, but old friends intervened. The sentence of the Inquisition was commuted by the pope and Cagliostro was imprisoned at the San Leo Prison in Urbino until his death in 1795.
Alexander Dumas' Memoirs of a Physician and Goethe's Grand Cophta [sic] are based on events in Cagliostro's incredible life.
Cagliostro obviously employed various optical and chemical methods, along with some basic sleight of hand, to produce small tricks as convincing evidence of his powers. His name was even evoked by the famous French conjuror Robert-Houdin to add luster to one of that master's more spectacular feats, and modern conjurors often name certain of their tricks after the Sicilian charlatan who so effectively fleeced his world for so many years.
When Cagliostro died, so effectively died a belief in genuine sorcery, though it peeps from out of its grave occasionally even today. The era of the admitted trickster dawned, in which audiences were no longer asked to believe that those who performed mysterious demonstrations did so with divine or demonic assistance. The real, honest conjuror stepped to the front of the stage and took a bow for skill, originality, and dedication.
The offspring of a succubus and an incubus. Obviously, a bad seed.
In 1857, the editor of the Boston Courier newspaper offered a prize of $500 for the production of spiritualistic phenomena in the presence of three Harvard professors, Benjamin Pierce, Louis S. Agassiz, and E.N. Horsford. On June 25, 26, and 27, séances took place with Leah and Katherine Fox (of the famous Fox sisters), a “writing medium” named Mansfield, “rapping medium” Mrs. Kendrick, a George Redman, and the Davenport brothers. Despite this impressive array of top talent, the tests at what became known as the Cambridge investigation were total failures for the spook artists and victories for the skeptics. The spiritualist movement ascribed it all to “ignorance of the laws of mental and magnetic science” on the part of the Harvard professors.
(circa 1501-1576) An Italian mystic, astrologer, physician, and talented philosopher who believed that particularly virtuous persons could see the future and could be aware of any event in any time or place. He also believed that he was supremely virtuous.
According to legend, Cardan almost failed in his most celebrated prediction, that of his own death. He locked himself up in his home at age seventy-five, depriving himself of food in order to die at that predicted age. This demonstrates a rare dedication to one's art.
(1886-?) Born Marthe Béraud, known in the research literature as “Eva C.,” and extensively examined by several prominent scientists, Carrière was famous for materializing spirit faces (starting in 1911) after having been searched before the séance. The faces that show up on the photographs — taken under conditions that she carefully controlled — are distorted and marred, hardly convincing to anyone even moderately skeptical.
It appears that her “materializations” were crude drawings on crumpled paper, items not too difficult to conceal from the kind of examination that was usually employed by researchers. In 1914, it was found that Carrière's faces closely resembled pictures found in the French fashion magazine Le Miroir. Certain features had been accented or altered, but the resemblance was unmistakable. The scientist/baron Albert Von Schrenck-Notzing came up with the marvelous rationalization that the spirit faces, rather than being the results of trickery, were supernaturally generated by Carrière's memories of having once read the magazine. This, he said, made them “ideoplasts” rather than ectoplasm. (Similar reasoning was recently invoked by Dr. Jule Eisenbud to explain the performances of Ted Serios. See thoughtography.)
In Algiers, Eva many times produced a full-figure materialization of a bearded spirit named Bien Boa, said to be an Indian who had been dead for three hundred years. A fired coachman of the medium, named Areski, was exposed as the actor performing the part of Bien Boa, and Eva's career came close to ending prematurely. However, since the believers were, as usual, willing to overlook such a small peccadillo, she went back into business, this time in Paris.
The Society for Psychical Research investigated Eva C.'s work, obtained a sample of the ectoplasm she produced, and tested it. It turned out to be chewed-up
Long associated with supernatural powers, the cat was first domesticated in ancient Egypt, where is was deified as the “Speaker of Great Words.” In that culture, killing a cat was punishable by death, and an entire city, Bubastis, was built in Lower Egypt to honor cat worship. It is said that some seven hundred thousand pilgrims journeyed to Bubastis annually in May to enjoy a festival in honor of the animal and to have the privilege of feeding the feline population there. Cats were regularly mummified for burial. The cat goddess Ubasti (in Greek, “Aelurus”) is seen in Egyptian religious art as a cat-headed woman.
The cat was also sacred in ancient India, and Freya was the cat goddess in Scandinavia. Cats are said to be the companions of witches, and they are supposed to bring bad luck if they are black.
(1877-1945) A photographer who as a child began to hear voices and see visions. When he was twenty-four he began offering spiritual cures. While he said he was in a trance, Cayce diagnosed illnesses of persons he had never met, performing this task after merely being given the name and location of a patient who had written to him, in a manner similar to that practiced today by the qi gong practitioners in China. He would declare on Atlantis, reincarnation, and other similar subjects while he gave his diagnoses, using what he believed to be clairvoyant powers.
Cayce said he had been through a number of incarnations, which included a warrior of Troy, a disciple of Jesus Christ, an Egyptian priest, a Persian monarch, and a heavenly angel-like being that had been on Earth prior to Adam and Eve.
Though he had the reputation of never directly charging for his mail-order diagnoses, Cayce received large amounts of money in the form of donations. He claimed divine connections by which he was able to “have the body” of the ill person during a “trance state,” a condition that was admittedly indistinguishable from sleep on occasion, sometimes even accompanied by snoring. The more than thirty thousand readings he did that are on file at the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Virginia, call for simple herbs, massage, fasting, and rather strange physical procedures that have doubtful value as remedies.
In common with most of the divinely inspired mystics, Cayce also dabbled in prophecy. In 1934 he declared that Poseidia (which he said was a portion of Atlantis) would be the first part of that fabled continent to rise again from the Atlantic. “Expect it in 1968 or 1969,” he told his fans. Poseidia, his imaginary creation, did not rise, nor have any of his other prophecies been fulfilled.
But there is always hope. In his 1934 predictions, he declared in an “update on earth changes”:
The earth will be broken up in the western portion of America. The greater portion of Japan must go into the sea. The upper portion of Europe will be changed as in the twinkling of an eye. Land will appear off the east coast of America. There will be the upheavals in the Arctic and in the Antarctic that will make for the eruption of volcanoes in the Torrid areas, and there will be the shifting then of the poles — so that where there have been those of a frigid or semi-tropical [sic] will become the more tropical, and moss and fern will grow. And these will begin in those periods in '58 to '98.
As of this date, those events have failed to occur. How could that be?
(1719-1792) In 1788, just a year before the Reign of Terror took hold in France, a mystic named Cazotte was said to have made a prediction that he and his dinner companions would all die on the guillotine or perish by suicide, a grim prophecy that came true. Since Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738 -1814), said to be one of those dinner guests, had not yet invented the device that was to bring him historical recognition, and the “prediction” has been shown to be part of a fiction (Prophétie de Cazotte) written and published in 1806 by author Jean de Laharpe, this fabrication is not now taken seriously by even the most zealous believers.
See crop circles.
In tantric anatomy, one of several “points of power” located in the human body, to and from which psychic forces flow.
The chakras of the human body.
The seven most accepted chakras are the base of the spine, a spot just below the navel, the solar plexus, the heart, the throat, the brow, and the top of the head. There are three others, all located in the lower pelvis; these are not used except in black magic, as might be expected.
See also kundalini yoga.
Beginning in about 1980, jaded celebrities began gravitating to a new notion that was actually spiritualism rewarmed. Instead of sitting in a darkened séance room holding hands and singing hymns, however, channeling consists of buying a $600 seat in a fully lit theater and listening to gurus expounding the wit and wisdom of great personalities who expired as much as thirty-five thousand years ago. One of the most prominent public figures to embrace this idea was the superbly talented actress Shirley MacLaine. She chose, for a while, to support the claims of J.Z. Knight, who spoke as Ramtha, a warrior from thousands of years ago.
There are a number of other channelers in the business, such as Jach Pursel (who channels Lazaris), along with Jane Roberts and Jean Loomis (who did and do Seth), Pat Rodegast (with Emmanuel), and Elwood Babbitt (he does Vishnu — along with Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, William Wordsworth, Jesus Christ, and others!) and dozens of other minor actors. They are or were all essentially amateur thespians speaking in strange, strained voices with very bad impressions of foreign accents and making even stranger faces and gestures, delivering mindless pap to the gullible who can afford them.
There even is published by Barbara Bell, out of San Anselmo, California, a Barbie Channeling Newsletter dealing with a channeler who claims to contact the “archetypical feminine plastic essence who embodies the stereotypical wisdom of the 60s and 70s.” In other words, Ms. Bell is bringing erudition from a polyethylene doll by tapping into the emotional reservoir of countless little girls who have given their devotion to Barbie. This claim seems to fit in well with the other claims made by those who contact folks from Atlantis.
Conjuror Jamy Ian Swiss has an excellent comment on channeling. He refers to it as “just bad ventriloquism. [The channelers] talk funny but their lips move.”
The verbal version of a charm is a short verse or expression offered to confer protection or a wish. “Gesundheit!” (“Good health!”) is a simple form, often said in response to a sneeze, a moment when a demon is said to be able to enter one's body through the nose. Also, “Good luck!” or “Bless you!” are common informal charms. In ancient Greece, the words aski, kataski, and tetrax were charm words used to ward off enchantments. A more involved, formalized charm might be termed a prayer.
As a material thing, a charm can be any sort of an object; a substance such as herbs or medicines contained in a bottle, bag, or vial; beads; medallions; or an amulet (an amulet being more specifically designed to ward off spiritual evil). A crucifix or a bit of hair in a locket, an ankh, or any number of Buddhist symbols represent commonly used charms. In the Buddhist religion, the use of an amulet is pretty well universal.
An amulet (the word derives from the Arabic for “to carry”) is usually an inscribed charm of metal, stone, clay, wood, or bone, worn about the neck or otherwise carried on the person. A “hag-stone” (called a “mare-stone” in Scotland) is a bored stone worn to avert nightmares. The amulet can also be in the form of a gem, colored threads, a ring, a key, or a knot.
“Magic squares,” mathematical matrices that exhibit peculiar qualities when summed, are often inscribed on amulets. An example is:
In this basic square, any line of three figures — vertical, horizontal, or diagonal — adds to fifteen. Such an attribute is thought to confer magical security on the bearer.
The Hebrew mezuza is another example, inscribed with the name of Jehovah, though this charm is usually affixed to a doorpost as a bar to various demons. Amulets can be specially designed as protection from the evil eye, imprisonment, loss of property, or other misfortunes. The figure of a scorpion covered with appropriate symbols is said to protect against nightmares, incubi, and succubi. The Triskelion, a symbol consisting of three legs bent at the knee and joined at the thigh in a circle, is said to protect against the evil eye. The Isle of Man incorporates the Triskelion in its heraldry.
Some amulets are designed to protect only on certain days, their potency being determined by astrological means. Some are merely scraps of paper with magic symbols written on them; they are crumpled up and swallowed. Amulets obtained or made at a crossroads or a burial ground are supposed to be particularly effective.
There is a Yemenite charm against mice. You have the imam write the name of the prophet or some text from theKoran on a piece of parchment, have him say some powerful prayers over it, roll the piece of parchment up very tightly, wrap it and attach it to the collar of a cat. No guarantees.
Roman sorcerers prepared amulets specifically designed to prevent or cure diseases of the eye, headaches, toothache, tumors, fevers, epilepsy, or poisonous bites. In Hindu mythology there is a powerful stone which is made into an amulet called Salagrama. Its powers are almost unlimited.
In the Middle Ages, Carmelite monks were permitted to sell “conception-billets,” which are bits of consecrated paper to be placed at thresholds, attached to domestic articles, or simply swallowed to offer protection against theft or disease. Placed into a child's cradle, such a billet is believed to guard against the child being stolen by a witch; we don't know of any children so protected who have been reported as stolen by a witch.
Feathers from the wings of the angel Gabriel were sold as charms by medieval monks to fend off the plague. No record exists of a customer asking a monk how he obtained the feathers.
In his Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe says of a potent charm:
Within this circle is Jehovah's name
Forward and backward anagrammatized
Then fear not, Faustus, to be resolute
And try the utmost magic can perform.
And we all know what happened to Dr. Faust, don't we? Or do we?
See also abracadabra, angel, and talismans.
(derived from escheator, the term for an official who collects taxes) A process — physical, sensory, or psychological — by which psychics are able to produce for inexperienced observers the effects of genuine psi. When the performers are caught cheating, the officially recognized scientific researchers — known as parapsychologists — conclude that they were forced into doing so because their powers failed them or they did it unknowingly in trance; when the performers are not caught at it, that portion of the research is said to be genuine.
An interesting euphemism adopted by researchers is the use of the term “mixed mediumship” to refer to mediums who are caught at fakery, since the remainder is assumed to be the real stuff.
In his satire Hudibras, author Samuel Butler wrote:
Doubtless the pleasure is as great
Of being cheated as to cheat;
As lookers-on feel most delight
That least perceive a juggler's sleight,
And still the less they understand
The more they admire his sleight of hand.
See Warner, William.
(also, chimaera) A (hopefully) mythical beast that the Greek hero Bellerophon, astride the winged horse Pegasus, is said to have slain. It was a lion up front, a serpent (or dragon) at the rear, and a goat in the middle. It had the three heads belonging to these creatures.
The term is used today to describe an unrealistic goal such as squaring the circle, levitating by Transcendental Meditation, bending a spoon by looking at it, or parapsychology.
The American Medical Association has referred to chiropractic as “an irrational, unscientific approach to disease causation.” Originated in 1895 by one Daniel David Palmer, it was made into a thriving trade by his son, B.J. Palmer. The major claim of the art is that “subluxations” (misalignments of the spinal column) cause illnesses.
The various schools of chiropractic differ in what they claim can be cured by manipulating the spine, some having almost no limit (asthma, bacterial and viral infections, migraine, cancer, AIDS), while others are satisfied to relieve muscle spasms — for which such massage is probably beneficial. Some obviously renegade chiropractors sell their patients on “color therapy” in which applied kinesiology is used to determine the victim's sensitivity to specific colors, and they also use “polarity reversal” in which magnets are used to change the “bioenergy” field of the body. Both systems are perfect examples of expensive quackery, having no basis whatsoever in fact.
Chiropractors have been known to bruise and sometimes more gravely injure their customers, but often these people go right back to receive more at the hands of the operator, seeming not to learn from experience. Chiropractors are fond of pointing out that regular MDs are far from perfect, a fact that in no way validates what they themselves are doing and that appears to be only a method of misdirecting the attention of the detractor.
While there doubtless is some value to chiropractic in respect to massage relief of strains and muscle spasms, statements made by chiropractors include such howlers as specifying that a subluxation of the sixth dorsal vertebra brings about diphtheria. Such a notion is another classic example of quackery.
But having your back rubbed does feel good, and the pops produced by being flexed and stretched do sound impressive.
See also osteomyology.
This is a religion founded by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) in Boston in 1879, based on a theory she said she developed after she believed she was miraculously healed in 1866. She said that she had fallen on the ice and had been given three days to live, but that she healed herself solely through reading the Bible. However, when he was questioned about this, her doctor denied her story and under oath he repudiated the claim. This had no effect at all upon the believers.
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866), a “magnetic healer” whom Mrs. Eddy had studied with, was an originator of the basic idea that disease is all in the mind, a notion that Mrs. Eddy adopted as her own.
The Christian Science church does not record the date of Mrs. Eddy's death.
See also faith healing and malicious animal magnetism.
(1914-1984) Christopher was a magician and a well-known and respected writer on the subjects of conjuring and the paranormal. He also served as president of the Society of American Magicians.
Three of his books, Milbourne Christopher's Illustrated History of Magic, Panorama of Magic, and Search for the Soul, are highly recommended reading.
Christopher was heavily involved in investigations of Lady Wonder, the horse accepted by Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine as genuinely telepathic, and he also looked into the claims of Uri Geller. He was associated with the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
Church of Christ, Scientist
See Christian Science/Scientists.
(from the French for “clear hearing”) The claimed psychic power by which certain persons say they can “hear” information from occult sources such as spirits.
The voices heard by Joan of Arc are examples of either clairaudience or hallucination. The latter is a preferred and parsimonious choice.
See also clairvoyance and Doris Stokes.
(from the French for “clear seeing”) The claimed psychic power by which certain persons say they can “see” information about living beings or even about an insentient object or location without using the ordinary sensory means. Related to clairaudience. A clairvoyant — a person possessing this ability — often uses a scrying device to perform the act. Crystal gazing and even tea leaf reading can be included in this category, and each works equally well.
Clever Hans Phenomenon
In 1900, a German named Wilhelm von Osten displayed to the public his horse, Clever Hans (Kluge Hans), who was apparently able to perform mathematical calculations. The horse was examined in 1904 by a committee headed by professor of philosophy Professor C. Stumpf, who reported that they could find no evidence of direct signaling being done by the handlers, as if that were enough to endorse the wonder. People flocked to see Hans perform. Then Dr. Albert Moll, who had examined the horse the year before — but was subsequently refused permission to see the animal again — declared that Hans was a perfectly ordinary animal who was being unconsciously (?) cued by his owner, as well as by the small movements and sounds made by observers who were standing by.
Clever Hans, a horse apparently able to perform mathematical calculations.
An astute experimenter named Oskar Pfungst, a student of Stumpf, did the really definitive tests of Hans under Stumpf's direction, and the results of those observations gave rise to the discovery of the existence of the process of involuntary/unconscious cuing now known as the Clever Hans phenomenon. Stumpf thereupon retracted his claim of the remarkable ability he believed he'd detected in Hans.
Hans was not the only horse (or other animal) to react to secret and/or unconscious cuing. There have been many such. In 1591, in England, a horse named Morocco became famous and made his owner rich. The horse called the totals on a pair of over-sized dice, added and subtracted, and pointed out letters and persons in the audience. The animal even showed up in Shakespeare's play Love's Labour's Lost, Act 1, Scene 2, as “the dancing horse.”
In 1927, Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine, considered the father of parapsychology, witnessed Lady Wonder, another horse said to have psychic powers, and though he was not convinced that the horse could calculate, he did believe it was telepathic. Lady Wonder's owner used toy alphabet blocks which the horse knocked over to spell out words being thought of by the spectators, but the words were always known to the owner who handled the horse. Rhine believed he had eliminated all possibilities of trickery and error, and reported:
There is left then, only the telepathic explanation, the transference of mental influence by an unknown process.
Nothing was discovered that failed to accord with it, and no other hypothesis proposed seems tenable in view of the results.
Despite an investigation by Milbourne Christopher which indicated that the horse's owner was cuing Lady Wonder with movements of her whip, and a second, better designed set of tests of his own that produced no positive results, Rhine decided to stick with his original conclusion, offering the explanation that while the horse had once possessed ESP powers, it later lost them and trickery was resorted to. Such naivety in a parapsychologist is not at all rare.
The excellent book of Ricky Jay, Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, discusses other animals who were considered miraculous.
See also cheating.
(also, shut-eye medium) A term in opposition to “open medium.” A “closed” medium does not confide in other performers or admit to them any trickery. In some cases, such a medium actually believes in his or her powers, and does not purposely perform trickery. He or she chooses to conduct business in isolation, not making use of advice or information that might be obtained from other mediums.
Among practitioners of the occult arts, there is a technique known as “cold reading.” When the performer is faced with an audience that is entirely strange to him, he uses this tried-and-true method of guessing names, relationships, events, and situations that might relate to audience members.
The technique is differentiated from “hot reading,” which is used when the reader has obtained specific, hard information about a sitter and merely has to reveal it in a convincing manner. U.K. author/historian Ian Wilson looked into the methods of one Doris Stokes, a prominent U.K. clairaudient, and discovered that the people for whom she had produced “evidential” messages were people who had contacted her in advance of the show, had given her information, and had then been invited to attend her meeting. The information she'd received from them was then given back to them and embellished upon. Mrs. Stokes's work serves well as an excellent example of hot reading.
Performing cold reading by throwing out common names and hoping that someone will “link” with one of them, following up by guessing or simply asking the relationship of a name that has been selected out and “accepted” by a sitter, the medium is well on the way to convincing an unwary listener that he or she has contacted the dead.
Here's the way it's done. Suppose that a sitter has accepted the name “Mary.” The medium can now say, “I want to put Mary close to you.” What does this really mean? It's really a question as to whether or not Mary is “close to” the sitter. In the worst-case scenario, where Mary is dead, is buried in another country, was never very fond of the sitter, and was not related to him, we might uncharitably fail to recognize how close that guess was. However, a clever medium can easily rescue this seemingly bad guess by saying, “Ah, but though Mary failed to tell you of her great affection for you while she was here, she has come through tonight to remedy all that.” Though it sounds hard to believe, sitters actually accept such excuses. They are more than willing to accept. And note that the reader did notsay that Mary was close to the sitter; what he said was only a comment, though certainly one that begged a response.
The cold reading routine includes a number of excellent methods for extracting information from the sitter without it appearing as if the medium has actually asked for it. Comments like “Why is this person laughing?” or “She's shaking her head as if to say no” will often elicit a response. As with the “Mary” comment earlier, some questions don't appear to be questions at all: “I get this person in spirit” or “Somehow, I feel Jim was related to you or lived near you” are examples. Even more useful are those modifiers that generalize or fuzz up the statement so that it has a greater chance of being successful or of evoking an answer. Phrases like “I think that . . .” or “I feel as if . . .” or “I want to say . . .” and many other try-ons are used for this purpose.
Other useful techniques: The reader can say “Yes, of course,” and then repeat to the sitter a fact that has just been given him, as if he knew it all along. Or he can say “Of course! I got that very strongly!” when he is given a fact that he didn't get at all. When he hears something from the sitter that appears to “link” up, he might declare “Now we're putting it all together,” even though the sitter is the one who is making it work.
The main facets of the system are
1.Readers use such phrases as “I think . . .” (or “I don't think . . .”). This is a way of “trying on” a guess for acceptance.
2.Readers simply ask for direct, factual information from the sitter which they say is a way to “help along” the process. The sitter is usually very willing to help.
3.Readers often say that they cannot differentiate between past, present, and future events and relationships, so that there are many more possibilities for “hits.”
4.Wide ranging of the sitter's imagination is not only expected by the mediums, but is encouraged. Sitters are told to be creative and try to make the reading fit.
5.There is a willing, eager collusion between the medium and the sitter, even if largely unconscious on the part of the sitter.
Cold reading isn't necessarily learned in a series of lessons. Though classes in “spiritual development” are sometimes offered by mediums and are understood, both by teacher and students, to have been designed to enhance their awareness of the survival-after-death philosophy, the lessons seem also to instruct the learners in how to extract certainties out of ambiguity. For example, trying to guess a word sealed in an envelope, students are encouraged to discover relationships between obscure ramblings and the word itself. A notion about walking down a road, for example, might be said to correctly relate to the concealed word “success” because “everyone seeks a path to success, and a path is a sort of road.” The words used are always general in nature (success, peace, happiness, sadness, longing, searching) rather than more definitive words like cat, hammer, Germany, or coffee.
Most proficiency at cold reading is obtained by observing old masters of the trade and by trial and error. By looking over the reading that is recorded in Appendix I of this encyclopedia, an actual transcript from a tape recording of a thirty-minute professional reading wherein most of the procedures outlined here have been used, the reader can begin to understand the techniques. The methods of probing and backing up, laughing away failures and turning them into forgivable boo-boos, getting around long pauses in which the sitter fails to volunteer needed information, and blaming errors on the “poor spiritual wavelengths” all become clear with a little study.
(1918 - ) A U.K. clairvoyant/clairaudient also famed for her claimed healing powers. In a manner largely indistinguishable from that of her now-deceased colleague Doris Stokes, Ms. Collins uses techniques of cold reading to entertain her audiences, though in a markedly more commanding manner than Ms. Stokes ever managed. Most probably, Doris Collins is the U.K.'s best-known psychic performer.
By means of cold reading, a proficient operator can readily convince a sitter that contact with a departed person has been firmly established. That's what it's really all about. The victims of the process are constantly encouraged to think of something that can “link” the very trite but tried-and-true phrases to any deceased (or living) person or past (or present) situation they can come up with or imagine. The vague language and the inevitable modifiers (possibly, maybe, perhaps) often offer many easy connections that can be arrived at.
In early 1984, newspapers around the world reported that genuine poltergeist phenomena were being experienced in the presence of a fourteen-year-old girl in Columbus, Ohio, named Tina Resch. The Columbus Dispatch newspaper followed the titillating story for a week, during which flying telephones, loud percussive noises, swinging and falling lamps, and other events were troubling Tina's family.
Upon investigation, it was discovered that the girl was an adopted child who wanted to discover her true parents, and she used the media attention to plead for that information. A video camera from a visiting TV crew that was inadvertently left running recorded Tina cheating by surreptitiously pulling over a lamp while unobserved. The other occurrences were shown to be inventions of the press or highly exaggerated descriptions of quite explainable events. Descriptions given by parapsychologist William Roll, who specializes in poltergeist investigations and had examined the situation in person, turned out to be of quite impossible sequences.
The case of the Columbus Poltergeist faded away after a few months and is not now seriously discussed. In 1994 Tina Resch was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of her three-year-old daughter.
Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
(CSICOP) A Buffalo-based organization consisting of professionals in various sciences, journalists, technicians, philosophers, and other specialists such as conjurors, founded in 1976. Its purpose is to examine claims made in support of paranormal powers, to prepare reports on these subjects, to convene conferences and meetings, to publish the Skeptical Inquirer as a journal, and to encourage research on the subjects.
CSICOP is essentially a scientific group, has no religious ties, and has a strong advocacy of truth and investigation of paranormal, occult and supernatural reports. It began with funding from the American Humanist Association, then became totally autonomous. Numerous similar groups in twenty-seven states and in thirty-seven foreign countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela) have sprung up, but are distinctly independent of CSICOP.
As might be expected, committed believers in the occult have chosen to distort the aims and purpose of CSICOP. For example, U.K. author Colin Wilson has described the committee as “a society to combat belief in all forms of occultism,” thereby missing — perhaps purposely — the intent and value of the group.
CSICOP and the Skeptical Inquirer can be contacted at P.O. Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226-0703.
This simple trick, in which a magnetic compass is caused to deflect from its normal north-south orientation, can be traced back in the literature to the seventeenth century, but is obviously much older. It probably was one of the tricks discovered at just about the time the device was first constructed, much prior to Marco Polo's return from Cathay in about 1300.
The trick is accomplished by introducing almost any magnet or sufficiently massive magnetic metal (the metal need not be itself magnetized) into the proximity of the instrument. Conjurors have done this by concealing a magnet on the knee, in a shoe, or in the clothing and bringing it close to the compass. The hands are frequently waved about during such a demonstration, and since the movement of the needle does not correspond directly to such movements, the spectator is led to believe that a magnet is not being palmed. This is known in the trade as misdirection.
Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur
(1859-1930) (Note: the family name is Conan Doyle, not simply Doyle.) Knighted for his defense of Britain's activities in South Africa, Conan Doyle was the creator of the famous fictional detective character, Sherlock Holmes.
Following the death of his son Kingsley in wartime, Sir Arthur became a firm believer in, and supporter of, spirit mediums. He was also a bit of a snob, and it was one reason for his credulity. Post-Victorian society, of which he was a leading product, had cataloged people according to class. Therefore, when he was confronted with the Cottingley fairies photos taken by two young girls, he reasoned that two adolescent females “from the artisan class” could not possibly deceive an aristocrat such as himself, and he convinced himself that the photos were genuine. That, for him, settled the matter. And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not accustomed to being told that he was wrong.
His easy acceptance of such matters as fairies brings into question his declared faith in spirit mediums, especially because his endorsement was very instrumental in bringing legitimacy to their claims, and to spiritualism as a religion.
The uneasy friendship between Sir Arthur and magician Harry Houdini, and their serious mutual respect, was strained when the writer ascribed to Houdini genuine psychic powers. It seemed inconceivable to him that the magician could do what he did without resort to genuine miracles. Houdini knew quite well that what he did was simple conjuring, that any person could thereby be fooled, and was astonished that Sir Arthur could not recognize or admit that fact.
Sir Arthur traveled abroad preaching the claims of spiritualism, showing incredibly naive lantern slides of supposed miracles, including those of the Cottingley fairies. He faithfully continued to support spiritualism and all of its followers until his death in 1930, four years following that of Houdini.
(also, con man) A swindler, cheat, charlatan. A dishonest person who by charm, earnestness, guile and seeming innocence, gains the confidence of his victims and cheats them out of money and goods, or obtains an endorsement or favorable position as a result of lies and general trickery. Usually, the victim is asked to become involved in a little cheating too, during the course of the action and is thus made to look like a fool and/or a deceiver when the game is discovered. The operator of a three-shell game would also come under this label, since the eventual victim here is made to feel that he knows more about the rules of the game than the operator, and thus cannot be deceived himself.
The claimed ability to call up demons and storms. Not a socially admired talent.
The art of seeming to perform genuine magic is known as conjuring, and the artist is known as a conjuror. The art has a written history dating back to a manuscript known as the Westcar Papyrus, after its 1823 discoverer, Henry Westcar. That document is currently in the Berlin State Museum. Written 3,800 to 4,000 years ago, it relates events that are said to have occurred 500 years earlier in the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, more popularly known as Cheops, probably the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza, near Cairo.
The Westcar Papyrus recounts a series of tales told at the court of Cheops to the pharaoh by his sons. One story tells of Webaoner, a court magician/scholar faced with the problem of an adulterous wife who was sending expensive gifts to a townsman who had attracted her. Webaoner, it says, sculpted a small wax crocodile which then became seven cubits (twelve feet) long, dutifully swallowed the erring wife, and was once again a harmless wax model. Next is a story about a magician named Djadjaemonkh, who found a lost amulet by folding a lake!
He placed one side of the water of the lake upon the other, and lying upon a potsherd he found the fish-shaped charm.
The papyrus then relates that a magician known as Dedi was able to reattach the head of a goose that had been cut off. To demonstrate his skills for the pharaoh, a goose was brought and decapitated. The papyrus says:
The goose was placed on the western side of the pillared court, and its head on the eastern side. Dedi said his magic words. The goose arose and waddled and so did its head. The one reached the other and the goose stood up and cackled. Next he caused a waterfowl to be brought, and the like was done with it. Then His Majesty caused that there be brought to him an ox, and its head was felled to the ground. Dedi said his magic words, and the ox stood up behind him with its tether fallen to the ground.
The lake-folding and wax crocodile stories are certainly not accounts of conjuring but tales of sorcery. However, the bird's-head-off-and-back-on-again trick and the method for doing it are well known to conjurors, though not donequite as described here. Where the papyrus relates that the same feat was performed with an ox, it may be simply a bit of hyperbole — not entirely unheard of in descriptions of conjuring — and quite likely to creep into the story. It must be pointed out that this document was written by a scribe from secondhand reports nearly five hundred years after the events are supposed to have taken place.
There is a continuous history of the conjuring art from the Westcar Papyrus down to the present day. Such superstars as Harry Houdini, John Nevil Maskelyne, Blackstone (père et fils), Joaquin Ayala, David Copperfield, and Siegfried & Roy have kept audiences enthralled with their skills. But conjuring is not magic and should not be mistaken for a supernatural performance, even when the conjuror chooses to misrepresent his abilities, as occasionally happens.
The art of conjuring uses sleight of hand, special equipment, secret technology, carefully learned psychological methods, and various illusionary techniques to present to the spectator — for purposes of entertainment — the same effect that would be experienced if magic were actually possible.
In the United States, the word “conjuring” is interchangeable with “magic,” and conjurors are referred to as “magicians.”
See spirit guide.
Cook, Florence Eliza
(1856?-1904) Miss Cook was dismissed from a teaching job at age sixteen, then worked with several different professional spirit mediums who were later exposed as frauds, as she herself was when she took up the profession.
Cook's spirit guide was known as Katie King (a character who was to reemerge a generation later as a guide to medium Eusapia Palladino), and Cook was able to produce full-size, full-form materializations of this character, who, strangely enough, in all photographs appears to be an exact double for Cook. Never were the medium herself and Katie both seen at one time. Also, if the materialized form was not really a spirit, the part of Katie King may have been created and played by Cook's look-alike sister, also named Katie.
Sir William Crookes (which see) was closely associated with Cook and wrote copiously on her mediumship. Though he and other investigators employed overly intricate and cosmetically scientific systems to control Cook, and superficial accounts of their research state that such instrumentation showed no sign of trickery, the actual records disagree with such reports. Cook actually failed to satisfy the controls, and yet her supporters glossed over major problems and ignored quite positive evidence of trickery. Her sister Katie failed entirely to pass controlled tests, even to the very loose standards of those who tested her.
Eventually, following a séance given on May 21, 1874, Crookes seems to have abandoned his belief in Cook, though he never publicly retracted his support of her.
See also Mary Showers.
In 1917, two little Yorkshire girls in Bradford, England, Elsie Wright and her cousin Frances, told everyone that they had seen fairies in a place called Cottingley Glen, and they said that they had even taken photographs of the entities as proof of their stories. They produced five rather amateurish “fairy” photos that were widely celebrated at the time.
Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an otherwise often levelheaded man except when it came to the supernatural, chose to accept and endorse the story told by the girls, probably because it fit in well with his belief system. Conan Doyle, even before he saw the photographs — and he never did meet the girls — accepted the whole tale and set about promoting the existence of fairies, elves, and other wee creatures who he firmly believed were flitting about in the woods.
The Cottingley fairy photographs were staged using cutouts prepared from illustrations in a children's book. Yet this photograph fooled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the great detective hero, Sherlock Holmes.
Sir Arthur even took lantern slides made from the Cottingley photos abroad to America with him, as part of his lecture tour. The rights to the photos themselves were given by Elsie's mother to the Theosophy movement, which embraced belief in wood sprites and such beings. Years later, when Elsie saw a photograph of a huge church the Theosophists had built with the proceeds of sales of the photos, she grumbled that she and Frances hadn't seen a penny for their labors, while millions of pounds had been raised from their work.
Only a few years ago, the two who had perpetrated this rather delicious hoax on Conan Doyle — and, through him, on the whole world — died. They had not ever been willing to openly admit that their photos were fakes, but along the way they dropped tantalizing hints. Elsie, the elder, admitted in 1978 that their “little joke fell flat on its face right away” and explained that, had it not been for the hopelessly unrealistic Conan Doyle seizing upon the opportunity to discover and champion yet another supernatural discovery, their photographs would have just remained “out of sight in a drawer” where her father had thrown them.
Elsie was amazed that people accepted their hoax. She wrote, “Surely you know that there can not be more than one grown up person in every five million who would take our fairies seriously.” Elsie's dad, she wrote, was dismayed by it all. He asked his wife, “How could a brilliant man like Conan Doyle believe such a thing?”
The photos were prepared simply by photographing cutouts of fairies drawn by Elsie from a popular children's book,Princess Mary's Gift Book. Frances and Elsie thus created a hugely successful monster that lives on even today — despite the proof of trickery — in the pages of sensational journals and in books.
The great puzzle is why the Cottingley Fairy photographs were ever accepted in the first place. They are very obviously fakes, and it can easily be proven that they are. The first, and the most famous, of the five photographs shows Frances with four tiny fairies in full flight. What is often ignored is the image of a small waterfall in the background behind Frances, which Mr. Brian Coe, curator of the Kodak Museum in Harrow, England, says was registered on the film of that era only by a lengthy time exposure. However, the fairies themselves, and their fluttering butterfly wings, are very sharp and clear. That rapid motion would have required a shutter speed that was far beyond the capabilities of the camera that was used to take the picture, particularly in view of the subdued light that was present, and sufficient film speed was similarly not available. The four other photos are subject to the same kind of detection.
The British Society for Psychical Research (SPR) — already well organized when these photos began being publicized — took a quarter century before they examined the evidence, and in 1945 — to their credit — they decided that they were now “skeptical of the reality of fairies in general and of the Cottingley Fairies in particular.” Science marches on.
The British Journal of Photography understandably took until 1975 to even mention these photos, then in 1982 ran a series of quite devastating articles that should have effectively ended the controversy. Despite such in-depth investigative research and the very strong negative evidence it has produced, the fact is that articles still appear which support the fairy photographs as genuine.
See also Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and fairies.
A word (said to be derived from covent or convent) meaning a group of witches, usually thirteen. Or there are twelve witches, the invisible thirteenth member of the coven being Satan. The choice of number may be a matter of budget, since Satan probably gets big fees for such personal appearances. Covens are independent from one another, but associated with one another through a Grand Master.
(née Stinson, 1888-1941) A Boston medium who was examined by magician Harry Houdini and put through several rather inconclusive tests by him. At one point, during a séance, she produced a thumbprint in dental wax that she swore was made by her spirit guide, Walter. This was heralded by the press as definitive proof of her validity and of the genuine nature of spiritualism. Unfortunately for this breakthrough in human knowledge, the print turned out to be that of her dentist, who was very much alive. This pretty well discredited her with all but the most ardent believers, and Margery slowly went out of business. She died an alcoholic.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other prominent supporters of spiritualism never gave up their trust or belief in her.
See also ectoplasm.
An adjective originated by author L. Sprague de Camp to describe a mind
that gets positive pleasure from belief and pain from doubt . . . The credophile collects beliefs the way a jackdaw does nest ornaments: not for utility but for glitter. And, once having embraced a belief, it takes something more than mere disproof to make him let go.
Alice, Emily, Kathleen, Mary, and Maud, daughters of the Reverend A.M. Creery, who performed effective mental phenomena such as telepathy for several panels of investigators from the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). The investigators declared them absolutely genuine. Then they were found cheating — using a verbal code — by another special committee of the SPR in 1888.
It is not recorded how, or if, the Reverend Creery chastised his daughters.
(1909-1980) Known mostly as a police psychic, Croiset received more media coverage than most psychics of his day. One case for which he was famous took place in Japan. He claimed all sorts of success discovering a body in a murder case there, but confirmation of his services was not forthcoming from the Japanese police. This alerted journalist Piet Hein Hoebens, and he began investigating Wilhelm Tenhaeff, Croiset's mentor. The resulting scandal was a huge embarrassment for parapsychology.
See also Wilhem Tenhaeff.
Crookes, Sir William
(1832-1919) This very prominent scientist was one of sixteen children of a wealthy tailor. His contributions to science were numerous, involving radioactive devices (the Crookes tube was named after him) and he is credited with discovering the element thallium. He was knighted in 1897 for his scientific work.
His beloved brother Philip died at sea in 1867 at an untimely age, and Sir William did what many another intellectual has done: He embraced an unlikely but satisfying set of beliefs that removed from him the pain of the loss; he became dedicated to spiritualism. That also appears to have been the reason that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose son Kingsley and brother Innes also both died at early ages, avidly adopted spiritualism and in fact devoted the rest of his life to promoting it among the public. American Episcopalian Bishop James A. Pike, whose son Jim was a suicide at age twenty, went through a similar process in 1966.
Sir William was a member of the Society for Psychical Research from its founding in 1883 and served as president of the society from 1896 to 1899. During his investigations, Crookes discovered that a very successful spirit medium, Mary Rosina Showers, was a fraud, but said nothing and reported nothing about his discovery.
He and spirit medium Daniel Dunglas Home were on a very close personal basis, and his endorsement of Home's powers has always been a strong point made by the spiritualists to support their claims about Home. However, Crookes has been shown to be a dupe of such other mediums as Florence Cook and others exposed or confessed as fakes, so his validation of Home is highly suspect.
Crookes was a devoted follower of Éliphas Lévi, as well as a Theosophist.
(In the U.K., often called “corn circles,” since in that area of the world, corn refers to any grain crop, while what Americans know as corn is known there as “maize.”)
In 1979, mysterious diagrams began to be noticed in the U.K., patterns formed by flattening out grain crops. Immediately, UFO fans declared that space aliens were communicating with Earth by this means, and as years went by, the shapes evolved from simple circles into Mandelbrot figures and complicated networks, as if extraterrestrial kids were competing with one another in an intergalactic drawing contest. The concept is not far from the actuality.
This is a schoolboy stunt that, coincidentally, begins to be noticed annually immediately after school lets out in the U.K., though few have made any connection between the two matters. Farmers eventually notice the patterns, sometimes prompted by the media. A new group of paranormalists known as “cereologists” (seriously!) are convinced that these are extraterrestrial messages of some sort and of great import to humankind. That space people would choose to sketch figures in farm crops seems not at all incongruous to the believers.
When, in 1992, two retired gentlemen in England (“Doug and Dave”) admitted that they had started the prank and it had been picked up by the schoolchildren in the area and eventually all over the country, the believers were quick to point out that those circles were not identical to the “real” circles in every respect. However, a newspaper in the U.K. asked these two hoaxers secretly to create a typical pattern, then called in the “experts,” who confidently declared it to be the genuine article. So much for experts.
In Hungary, too, there was great excitement in June 1992 when a helicopter pilot passing over a farming area near the town of Székesfehérvár, about forty miles west of Budapest, reported sighting below him a “crop circle” of rather substantial dimensions. The media went crazy about it, celebrating the fact that, at last, the extraterrestrials had recognized their country by conferring on them this singular honor.
There was no lack of eyewitnesses who claimed they'd seen little green folks in that field and UFOs hovering overhead. They fought to get in front of the TV cameras that were focused on vast crowds from all over Europe, milling about on the grounds of the Aranybulla collective farm where this 120-foot-diameter wonder was to be viewed. A number of “experts” came in and measured levels of known and unknown radiations that they said were loose in the area, and warned of the deadly nature of the phenomenon.
UFOlogist Károly Hargitai and “time-scientist” György Kisfaludy solemnly declared the circle to have been made by extraterrestrials and impossible of fabrication by humans. Kisfaludy averred that by looking at the crop circle “in six dimensions,” he had been able to solve the coded message it conveyed, a message available only to a savant such as himself.
In September, on one of the popular but low-level TV talk shows on Channel 1, Budapest, both Hargitai and Kisfaludy appeared before the nation to solemnly restate and verify their pseudoscientific opinions on the matter. Then, to their dismay, the host of the show, Sándor Friderikusz, introduced two seventeen-year-old students who produced photographic and video proof that they themselves had made the crop circle, using very simple methods. The effect of this disclosure was rather strong, and the expressions on the faces of the “experts,” who were not prepared for such a confrontation, left the studio audience as well as the TV audience amused.
The two hoaxers were Róbert Dallos and Gábor Takács. They were high school students who had read about crop circles in the newspapers and decided to make their very own. As students of agriculture, they knew that wet grass can be bent without breaking it, and they had noted heavy rains just before the night of June 8, when they created the figure. That was two weeks before the helicopter pilot discovered it.
The two youngsters had waited until a local drive-in movie closed down, then went about their business of hoaxing. They also were wise enough to take photographic records of the area, before and after, in the correct scientific tradition.
Following the TV program, the inevitable alibis were produced by the die-hard believers. The one who had solved the coded message from the stars declared that he had surveyed the area around Székesfehérvár just previous to the discovery of the artifact and had found no trace of the circle at that time. That seems quite strange, since the gentleman offered no reason why he chose to look at that specific site in advance of the wonder that the UFOs were about to create there.
The collective farm, Aranybulla, chose not to be amused by all this. A lawsuit was brought against the boys demanding compensation for the widespread damage done to the crops as a result of the crowds who moved in, camping overnight in some cases. The court's decision was that the boys were responsible only for the circle area itself and that the farm's lawyers should pursue the media who had promoted the hoax as a genuine phenomenon.
The boys were defended free by their admirers in the skeptical community and were not required to pay the legal penalty for their very clever and appropriate hoax in the name of science. Early in 1993, they were awarded a prize given each year in Hungary for the best essay or project produced by a young person, dealing with the supernatural, paranormal, or occult. It was presented to them by Gyula Bencze, a physicist with the Central Research Institute for Physics in Budapest. Dr. Bencze is a leading figure in the Hungarian skeptics movement.
In 1993, four skeptics — some of whom had already created several very convincing crop circles in the U.K. — in the company of investigator Ian Rowland, used planks and ropes to make two excellent figures near Winchester, where “authentic” figures had been found in the past. There was an almost-full moon while they worked, and several times during their early-morning task, they were illuminated by the headlights of oncoming automobiles, but no one stopped to investigate. They used similar methods to those used by “Doug and Dave” and had no problem at all getting away with the prank. They discovered that simply walking through the crop with a certain amount of care does not leave any traces, thus demolishing another claim of the cereologists. One of their figures was so convincing that an entrepreneur put up a sign and charged visitors a fee to view the phenomenon.
Paul Vigay, a popular U.K. writer on the subject of crop circles, ran diagrams of these productions in his booklet Crop Circle Surveys of 1993 and featured one of them on the cover. He also discovered marvelous ways of folding one of the two figures into a three-dimensional shape, as if to imply that the UFO people had created it just for that purpose. This would appear to be another example of discovering meaning where there is none.
The fact that these figures are so easily made and have deceived the experts reduces the matter of the crop circles to whether or not one chooses to believe in a capricious and rather juvenile action performed by a highly advanced extraterrestrial civilization, or what amounts to little more than an involved schoolboy prank carried out by quite ordinary folks.
(1875-1947) Described in his time as “the most evil man alive” and “the wickedest man in the world,” Crowley was a British magician who was violently opposed to Christianity. He founded his own religion based on himself as a holy figure and loved every nasty thing the public said about him.
He liked to be known as “The Beast 666,” from the biblical reference in Revelation to that magical number, and also liked to believe that he was a reincarnation of Edward Kelley, the rascally associate of Dr. John Dee.
In common with other gurus, Crowley liked to create his own nomenclature, referring to magic as “magick” and defining it as the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
The definition, though wishful, does not differ substantially from others.
Crowley reportedly had a powerful effect on women and separated many widows, spinsters and bored dilettantes from their cash in order to support his chosen lifestyle. He fascinated his followers with lavish costumes, animal sacrifices, other weird rituals which were often sexually oriented, and the use of powerful hallucinogenic drugs. This supreme egotist, manipulator, ruthless swindler, and genius of showmanship died a pauper at the age of seventy-two.
A specifically Christian amulet, in the form of a Latin cross, properly with a modeled figure of Jesus Christ, crucified.
See also charms.
A psychological phenomenon (“hidden memory”) in which the subject unconsciously recalls seemingly forgotten memories and incorporates them into the present as if they are new and original thoughts and impressions. Related to the déjà vu phenomenon.
There is an alarming derivation of this genuine phenomenon which is known as “false memory syndrome.” By means of prolonged and insistent questioning, coaching, and leading of the subject, an operator can elicit almost any “memory” required, and that becomes a firm part of the subject's experience, regarded as representing an actuality. It has given rise to extensive belief in Satanist rituals and horrid sexual abuses performed upon children, who appear to recall these events only decades later. So strong is the belief in the inanity that laws have been written to accommodate this newest form of witch-hunt.
See also Bridey Murphy.
Crystal Ball Gazing
The enchantment with crystals is understandable. People are fascinated with the wonderful organization and symmetry observed in these attractive natural formations. Even common salt assumes quite square shapes when it is given the opportunity, and more esoteric substances produce intricate forms that are typical of their composition. Water, in the form of snowflakes, is one of the most beautiful expressions of this phenomenon.
Mystics have taken up this expression of nature as further proof of their claims, and they now ascribe to crystals various powers of healing, influences to bring about financial gain, precognitive ability, and other potentials. They point to recognized attributes of crystals, long recognized and used by science and technology, as support for their own notions. One of these is the piezoelectric effect, which simply means that when certain crystals such as quartz are squeezed, a small electrical signal is given out. When, conversely, an electrical signal is applied to the crystal, it expands or contracts in response. There is nothing at all mysterious about this phenomenon, and it is fully explained within the parameters of basic physics, but it has been pressed to serve the theories that amateurs publish in the literature asserting that therefore crystals give out some sort of vibrations that psychics can detect.
Simple tests of the claim have been designed and carried out. In every case, it has been shown that the claim is spurious.
In shops that cater to the need for supernatural guidance and benefits one can now pay fifty times the former price for what was once only an attractive addition to a mineral collection but is now touted as a magical remedy for many problems and afflictions as well as a key to infinite wisdom and power.
Crystals are pretty rocks; they are not keys to psychic powers or healing modalities.
See Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
Curse of Princess Amen-Ra
In 1968, a startling story began to be picked up by the popular press. It involved a dead Egyptian princess, an ancient curse and lots of disaster, all the ingredients needed to attract attention. Author John Macklin wrote:
The Princess of Amen-Ra lived some 1,500 years before the birth of Christ. When she died, she was lain in an ornate wooden coffin and buried deep in a vault at Luxor, Egypt, on the banks of the Nile.
Macklin went on to describe how in the early 1900s “four rich young Englishmen” bought the mummy of the princess in Egypt, whereupon one of them promptly walked out into the desert and vanished. Another of the buyers had his arm shot off, yet another had his bank fail, and the last one went broke and “was reduced to selling matches in the street.”
But, according to Macklin, the curse was only getting started. The next owner had three of his family injured in an accident and his house caught fire. He wisely gave the boxed princess to the British Museum.
Things went wrong from the very first minute that the museum took possession. The vehicle delivering the mummy backed up and pinned a pedestrian. One of the two porters carrying the sarcophagus fell down the stairs and broke a leg; the other died mysteriously two days later of unknown causes. Exhibits in the room where the princess was displayed, once they got her through the door, were thrown about at night. A spirit from the coffin tried to throw a night watchman down a delivery chute. The child of a worker who showed disrespect to the princess died of measles.
There's much more. Macklin related that one worker who had delivered the princess to the museum fell seriously ill and another was found dead at his desk. A photographer sent to record the artifact found that the face painted on the sarcophagus registered on film as a “human — and horrific — face.” Apparently overcome by this repulsive result, he promptly locked himself up in his darkroom and shot himself.
Then, according to Macklin, the British Museum offered to sell this very awkward object to anyone who dared to buy it. It was now 1912. As we might expect, a brash, wealthy and enterprising American came upon the scene, heedlessly offered to buy the princess, snapped her up for a good price, and decided to ship her to New York. Macklin concluded his tale:
The mummy case was placed in the cargo hold aboard a sparkling new White Star liner about to make its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to New York.
On the night of April 14, amid scenes of unprecedented horror, the Princess Amen-Ra accompanied 1,500 passengers to their deaths at the bottom of the Atlantic. The name of the ship was the Titanic.
Though this story has been circulated and recirculated, rewritten and enthusiastically enhanced, it is still just a story. The mummy never existed and the entire tale is a journalistic exercise in bad writing and witless sensationalism, a story that the British Museum is often called upon to deny. The museum even publishes an official denial which is sent to those who inquire. But the story will show up again, count on it.
And it will be believed.
See also Tut, curse of King.
Curse of the Pharaoh
See Tut, curse of King.