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(Italian: San Gennaro, A.D.?-305) Bishop of Benevento, a town thirty-five miles northeast of Naples, Italy, Saint Januarius is the patron saint of Naples. It is said that he was martyred by beheading and an enterprising local salvaged some of his blood.
Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples.
Beginning in 1389, a ceremony has been performed during May, September, and December in which this dried blood, in a glass reliquary, is carried about by an archbishop and at a proper moment it is shaken. If all is well, the blood liquifies and the audience is reassured. If not, it portends evil.
Along with a colleague, Dr. Luigi Garlaschelli of the Department of Organic Chemistry at the University of Pavia has concocted a mixture of volcanic earth (Vesuvius is a few miles from Benevento) and other simple substances that were available in medieval times, to form a gel that is thixotropic, which means that it liquifies when jarred or shaken. It very much resembles blood in color. Since no one is allowed to examine or test the “blood” of Saint Januarius, it is not difficult to believe that it is a similar mixture.
(1898-1902) A prolific author/mathematician/philosopher born in rural Nebra-Ska who investigated every sort of unusual claim involving supernatural, occult, and paranormal aspects.
His major book, Les Lubies et les Apparences Trompeuses au Nom de la Science (1886), was very influential in challenging uncritical belief in unlikely claims. Jardinier wrote a popular feature in the journal L'Américain de la Science and was designated Sceptique Principal avec Feuille de Figuier by the government of Nebra-Ska. His present home in Carolina du Nord is a shrine to skeptics from around the world.
As with Elvis Presley, reports abound of the ghost of Jardinier being seen in libraries and bookstores. However, such stories are vigorously denied by the skeptical community.
Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) founded the religious sect now known as the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1872. While at that time there was much support for a theory by one Nelson H. Barbour that called for the end of the world to occur in 1874, Russell didn't come to accept that chronology until Barbour convinced him — after the dreaded date had already come and gone — that Jesus had actually returned — invisibly — at the named date. Barbour was the one who had made the false prediction, and he tried to justify it with a “spiritual” fulfillment.
One of Russell's strange preoccupations was inventing correlations between historical events and the measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza. In common with Flinders Petrie and many other fans of Great Pyramid lore, Russell “discovered” hundreds of seeming links that he said showed the divine nature of the Pyramid as a history book and prophetic document which could only be properly understood by an adept.
His analysis, published in 1891, called for the resurrection of all mankind and the end of the world — again — to take place in 1914. Though there were some defections from the Jehovah's Witnesses sect when 1914 arrived and passed, the religion has survived and now prefers not to discuss their founder's odd Pyramid notions. Their most recent calculation called for the world to end in 1975.
As the millennium approached, the Witnesses were busily knocking on doors, trying to convince prospective converts that world conditions were getting worse and that obviously the End Time was approaching.
A fully accredited university in the United States which, until recently, offered a masters of science degree in parapsychology.
Joan of Arc
(Jeanne d'Arc or Jeanne la Pucelle [“virgin”], 1412-1431) At the age of sixteen, inspired by voices that she believed were those of angels, this illiterate young girl led the French army against the English at the siege of Orléans in 1428. Winning that battle, she saw the Dauphin crowned as French King Charles VII as a result.
The English, highly embarrassed at being bested by the Maid of Orléans, paid rebellious French soldiers from Burgundy to capture her, and they put her on trial as a sorceress. In 1431 she was burned alive.
Not surprisingly, all sorts of miraculous stories began to be told about Joan, culminating in the play of George Bernard Shaw. She is said to have levitated, to have spoken to God directly, to have had visions of the future, and several other wonders. Some parapsychologists have chosen to accept these tales and have written scholarly scientific explanations of events that probably just originated around fireplaces of French families amid the fumes of some fine cognac.
An equally incredible — though not impossible — tale is told that Joan was not burned, but moved to Metz, married Robert des Armoise, and raised a family. The immolation, it is claimed, was invented by the French to discredit the English.
Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920, becoming Saint Joan.
Johnson, Dr. Martin
(1930 - ) Born in Sweden, Johnson was the first professor of parapsychology at the University of Utrecht, Holland (1953), then headed the parapsychology laboratory there from 1973 until his retirement. The lab closed in 1988.
Dr. Johnson's reputation among skeptics has always been very high as a doubter of the proven reality of psi, and the believers often expressed their own suspicions that he was secretly doubtful about the phenomena. In his writings, Johnson expressed his opinion that though there was not a single set of data that established the case for psi, he nonetheless held a personal conviction that there was “something there” and that it would someday be discovered. He was determined to systematically search for it. As a direct result of his efforts, the parapsychology lab at Utrecht was very prestigious and respected.
To emphasize his frequent assertion that parapsychologists in general can be excessively credulous, Johnson introduced a “psychic” named Ulf Mörling to the 1967 parapsychology conference at Utrecht. Mörling proceeded to convince the assemblage that he did indeed have paranormal powers, and even when the attendees had been told that he was a conjuror and was cheating, they still believed. The prime endorser of the supernormality of the Mörling performance was a claimed undeludable “expert” and prominent member of the Parapsychological Association named William (Ed) Cox, who also accepted Uri Geller, Masuaki Kiyota, and many, many more performers as genuine.
In his prime opus, Parapsychologie (1982), Johnson went to work personally debunking “miracle men,” from Uri Geller to Sai Baba.