NTS LogoSkeptical News for 21 November 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, November 21, 2003

Newly found inscription backs biblical references

New Testament verse is reportedly the first found carved onto a Holy Land shrine
07:42 AM CST on Friday, November 21, 2003
Associated Press

JERUSALEM – A barely legible clue – the name "Simon" carved in Greek letters – beckoned from high up on the weather-beaten facade of an ancient burial monument.

Their curiosity piqued, two Jerusalem scholars uncovered six previously invisible lines of inscription: a Gospel verse, Luke 2:25.

Archaeological finds confirming biblical narrative or referring to figures from the Bible are rare, and this is believed to be the first discovery of a New Testament verse carved onto an ancient Holy Land shrine, said inscriptions expert Emile Puech, who deciphered the writing.

A few Old Testament phrases have been found on monuments, and a passage from Paul's Letter to the Romans (3:13) is laid into a floor mosaic into the ancient Roman city of Caesarea.

Jim Strange, a New Testament scholar from the University of South Florida, said the ancients apparently believed chiseling Scripture into monuments debased sacred words. The widespread use of Bible verses on shrines began only around 1,000 A.D., in Europe, said Mr. Strange, who was unconnected with the discovery.

The inscription declares the 60-foot-high monument is the tomb of Simon, a devout Jew who the Bible says cradled the infant Jesus and recognized him as the Messiah.

It's actually unlikely Simon is buried there; the monument is one of several built for Jerusalem's aristocracy at the time of Jesus.

However, the inscription does back up what until now were scant references to a Byzantine-era belief that three biblical figures – Simon, Zachariah and James, the brother of Jesus – shared the same tomb.

Earlier this year, an inscription referring to Zachariah, who was John the Baptist's father, was found on the same facade. Mr. Puech and Joe Zias, a physical anthropologist, continued to study the monument. Applying a "squeeze" – a simple 19th-century technique of spreading a kind of papier mache over a surface – they uncovered the Simon inscription. Now, they hope to complete the trio by finding writing referring to James.

The Simon and Zachariah inscriptions were carved around the 4th century, at a time when Byzantine Christians were searching the Holy Land for sacred sites linked to the Bible and marked them, often relying on local lore, said Mr. Puech.

The monument is in the Kidron Valley, between Jerusalem's walled Old City and the Mount of Olives. The Bible says James was hurled off the Jewish Temple, bludgeoned to death in the Kidron Valley below and buried nearby. The historian Josephus refers to a Temple priest named Zachariah being slain by zealots in the Temple and thrown into the valley. There is no word on Simon's death.

There have been historical references to a Byzantine belief of joint burial of the three, although there is no evidence they were actually buried together.

The six lines in the Simon inscription run vertically. The letters run together, are of different height, a little crooked and relatively shallow.

They were clearly carved by laymen, said Shimon Gibson, of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, who was present when Mr. Puech and Mr. Zias applied the squeeze during the summer but who was not connected with their research.

Referring to the carvers, Mr. Strange said: "These were folks who knew their Greek and their Luke, but didn't know how to be masons."

The inscription says the monument is the tomb of "Simeon who was a very just man and a very devoted old [person] and waiting for the consolation of the people." Simeon is a Greek version of Simon.

The passage is identical to the Gospel verse Luke 2:25, as it appears in a 4th-century version of the Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus, which was later revised extensively.

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dallas/world/stories/112103dnintverse.c248.html



Michael Jackson's friend Uri Geller has said he is "very concerned" for the troubled pop legend in the wake of the latest allegations.

Geller told Sky News the superstar is very "naive" and becomes "fragile" in the face of such claims.

He said: "He is very gullible and he is naive, he is very childlike and I believe he is innocent.

"I as a father I would not associate myself with anyone who I would even remotely suspect would have done something wrong to a child."

Asked if he knew any details of the allegations, Geller said: "I know nothing about these allegations.

"What I do know is that Michael is a very, very wealthy individual and I know that past settlements were done and were very controversial because a lot of people argued, 'Why did Michael pay a family millions of dollars?'

"But that is Michael and I am very, very concerned now for his wellbeing because he is also very fragile.

"He becomes very fragile when such accusations are thrown at him, especially if they are not true."

Geller described the latest allegations as "earth shattering" for Jackson and said the star would be probably be thinking "not again".

"These are the worst allegations that can be thrown at a human being," he said. "It is shattering."

Last Updated: 09:20 UK, Wednesday November 19, 2003

Psychic says Shannon Sherrill is still alive 11/20



Night Editor

Shannon Sherrill is still alive. She's been brainwashed into thinking she is someone else's daughter, and a woman now in custody may have more information than she's revealed.

That was the assessment a nationally-known psychic gave Dorothy Sherrill Wednesday on The Montel Williams Show.

Sylvia Browne told Dorothy Sherrill, Shannon doesn't know she's not the daughter of another family.

However Browne did not reveal a name -- of someone who may be involved in Shannon Sherrill's disappearance -- on the show, although Dorothy Sherrill said Browne gave her names to check out during the taping.

"They cut it all out," Dorothy Sherrill said from her home after the show aired. "I guess they didn't want to release the name."

Sherrill said Browne gave her names of people who may be involved, and she passed those names onto Thorntown Marshal Jeff Woodard. Sherrill said she wanted to check with Woodard before releasing the name to The Lebanon Reporter.

Browne also suggested a family member may be involved.

Shannon Sherrill disappeared from her Thorntown home in 1986. She would be 23 years old today.

She said she was not surprised by Browne's assertion that Donna Walker knows something about Shannon's disappearance.

Walker is in the Boone County Jail, awaiting trial on identity deception and false informing, both felonies.

She is accused of making phone calls to local police and Dorothy Sherrill, allegedly claiming she was Shannon.

"I wasn't shocked. I still feel she knows something. I still feel there are a lot of connections there," Dorothy Sherrill said.

Creationist speaker to give talks next week


Reformer Staff

BRATTLEBORO -- While many scientists maintain that the Earth is hundreds of millions of years old, noted "creationist" speaker Steve Grohman plans to tell a Windham County audience next week that a critical look at geological evidence might lead one to the conclusion that it's a young Earth after all.

"There is lots of evidence that points to an age (of the Earth) of less than millions (of years)," Grohman said. "The problem is, the general public usually never hears about creationism, unless it's from an evolutionist ridiculing it."

Grohman, a Texas native who now resides in Dalton, N.H., said he delivers nearly 500 speeches and interviews each year on his chosen subject, "Young Earth Creationism." Creationism can be defined as the belief that a creator, not random forces from space and chemical interactions, is responsible for the origin of the Earth and the life that exists on it.

Those who advocate the creationist view do not necessarily agree with each other, and creationist thought generally falls into the categories of Old Earth and Young Earth creationism. Old Earth Creationism tends to concur with scientific principles of an Earth and universe that are billions of years old, and that evolution -- the emergence of new species of plants and animals from pre-existing species -- does occur. However, adherents of this theory hold that a supreme creator is behind these forces.

Young Earth creationists, who occasionally use the title "literal creationists," support the view that the Earth and all the life on it was created during the six 24-hour days as recorded in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Both approaches are sometimes classified as falling under the heading of "intelligent design," a belief that some intelligent force is behind the creation of the universe.

But many of the findings Grohman cites contradict each other with regard to a specific "creation date" for the planet.

"Some of the evidence I list is not meant to show that (creationist) ideas are right, but that evolutionary ideas don't hold up," Grohman said.

Providing a counterpoint to Grohman's principles, Robert Carroll, a longtime professor of logic and critical reasoning at California's Sacramento City College and the author of "The Skeptic's Dictionary," said that he doesn't expect to see creationists "turn the tables" on the evolutionary-minded majority.

"The argument that the dating techniques aren't perfect is just not very good," Carroll said. "If you find one mistake made by one lab, does that mean you throw everything out?

"All concepts are fallible," he continued. "Whether that's a plus or a minus, it's still the burden of science to correct errors, whereas dogmatic religions can't."

Grohman will speak at Bethel Chapel on Birge Street Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon and later in the evening from 6 to 8. He will also speak on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the chapel from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information contact Bethel Chapel at 254-6687.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Quackery: Quincy Seeks Bill On Natural Medicine


Vanguard (Lagos)
October 28, 2003
Posted to the web October 28, 2003

By Sola Ogundipe

THE Lagos State House of Assembly has been tasked to hasten to pass the Bill on the practice of natural medicine in the state in order to discourage the menace of quacks in the field and as a way of sanctioning those engaged in spurious claims in media advertisements. Government has also been urged to set up a special fund with which to assist genuine natural medicine practitioners in their research and development programmes.

Making the plea during a courtesy visit to the Lagos headquarters of Quincy Herbal Slimmer's Health Center by members of the Lagos State House of Assembly Health Committee Members, Dr.(Mrs) Quincy Olasumbo Ayodele, MD/CEO of the establishment also requested that natural medicine be integrated into the existing healthcare delivery system of the state.

Her words: "Government needs to be seen to be tackling the issue of quackery with the seriousness it deserves. Once a few offenders have been brought to book, others engaged in the unwholesome business will be forced to close shop and quackery will be eliminated. But government needs to showcase the good side of this practice so as to instill the confidence of the public in it."

Continuing, Quincy, while requesting for a portion of farmland from the state government for cultivation of rare and endangered species of essential herbs for the weight loss programme, asserted that closer ties with government would go a long way in providing subsidized herbal slimming to compliment the primary health delivery system.

She called on Nigerians to endeavor to verify claims of herbal cures made by claimants through media advertisements. "We are all aware that there is no caution or prevention for most swallowed items once in the stomach, therefore I urge the people to watch what they ingest always. Just because herbs are natural substances does not mean that they can be used indiscriminately. Before trying any herbal remedy, be sure that you know what it does, how to use it, and the possible side effects. Never exceed the recommended dose. As a general rule, few medical problems occur from ingesting herbal remedies, but the potential for an allergic or toxic reaction is always there. I find it absurd and totally unacceptable and professionally unethical to mail drugs or herbs to patients whose health condition is unknown. Ask your healthcare provider to show you evidence of the drug or herb and how it will work for you. Everyone is entitled to this piece of information."

In a response, Chairman of the state House of Assembly Health Committee members, Hon. (Dr.) Deji Adejare promised to look into the requests presented and gave assurance that the committee was committed towards tackling the problem of quackery in the medical profession in the state.

"We are partners in progress, and we are ready to collaborate with Quincy Herbal Slimmers. It is hightime we began to work towards attaining the position attained by a country like China where orthodox and traditional medicine has been fused," he stated.

Earlier, in an address entitled "The Effects of Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Diseases,' presented at the 12th annual conference of the Botanical Society of Nigeria, Quincy had called on government at the Federal and state levels to assist genuine practitioners of natural medicine with financial aid provided through soft loans. This, in her view will hasten rapid development of the natural medicine sector.

She said: "Today, everyone is applauding the level of advancement attained by the Chinese in natural medicine, yet this was possible only because the Chinese government supported the local herbal practitioners. Thus if we must move forward and attain the height that the Chinese have attained, then we must stop paying lip service to development of natural medicine in Nigeria."

Further, she avowed that as long as there is healthy collaboration between plant scientists like botanists and traditional medicine practitioners to ensure the sustainability and development of herbal plants and roots, natural medicine could be be the next biggest foreign exchange earner for the country if properly developed."

Copyright © 2003 Vanguard. All rights reserved. Distributed by
AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

Lousiana Has Historic Gov. Race

[creationist loses]


By Amber Skinner

It was a race to make history.

On Monday, newly elected Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco became the state's first woman governor; but in the heart of the south, in a state with a long history of racism, former governor hopeful Bobby Jindal surprised many by vying to become the first non-white governor in Louisiana history.

When the hotly-contested race ended, Blanco had only 52 percent of the votes. Both campaigns had been criticized as being so similar that they were even confused at times with Blanco and Jindal agreeing on almost all issues. Blanco attempted to distinguish herself to voters by accusing Jindal of making unnecessary budget cuts while he was Louisiana's health care chief.

"Basically, they agree on everything, and it's just, 'I did it better than you did it," Louisiana's Secretary of State Fox McKeithen was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. Blanco, of Cajun descent, was most popular with the state's French-influenced Cajun community and African-American districts in New Orleans. Addressing a crowd of cheering supporters, Blanco signified her win as a new era in Louisiana politics.

Although he ultimately lost the race, as of last Friday polls showed that Republican candidate Jindal, whose parents emigrated from India, was neck-and-neck with Blanco, making Monday's election an extremely close race.

Jindal's success stunned many in both Louisiana and around the nation. A strict conservative, Jindal gained a strong following early on of Indian-Americans and other staunch republicans. Fighting criticism and doubt that he would be successful because of the color of his skin in such a conservative state, Jindal managed 32 percent of votes in the primary run-offs.

Jindal, a former health policy advisor in the Bush administration, classified himself as a hard-right conservative and mirrored those views of his predecessor, Gov. Mike Foster, extolling the Ten Commandments, disagreeing with affirmative action, and seeking to teach "creationism" in public schools.

And while ethnically Jindal is a minority, his ultra-conservative stance made him favorable to supporters of fellow Louisiana politician and Klu Klux Klan leader, David Duke. In a state where more than 30 percent of the population is African-America, Jindal had little to virtually no support from the black community.

"I think Bobby Jindal doesn't get any support in the black community because he's trying to outconservative the conservatives," Sen. Donald Cravins, who is black, told The San Jose Mercury News. "He's trying to move to the far right."

Although he was born Hindu, Jindal converted to Roman-Catholicism in his early teens. Many believe that his devotion to Christianity was Jindal's strongest characteristic as a politician in conservative Louisiana where neither a non-white nor female governor has ever been elected.

No matter how similar their politics were, one of the biggest issues looming on the minds of Louisianans was the slumping economy. Louisiana is one of the poorest states with one of the poorest education systems and a topic of concern that both Jindal and newly elected governor, Kathleen Blanco had to confront in their campaigns.

Doctor 'led girl to believe she was sex abuse victim'


By Richard Alleyne
(Filed: 02/09/2003)

A child psychiatrist yesterday became one of the first British doctors to be accused of serious professional misconduct for leading a teenager into believing she had been sexually abused as a child.

A tribunal heard that John Eastgate, a consultant working mainly with adolescents, used counselling sessions to "lead" a "vulnerable and angry" 13-year-old girl into believing she had been indecently assaulted by a fellow doctor.

He was also alleged to have contacted police and social services about the abuse without properly investigating whether the charges could possibly be true.

His actions acted as a "seed" to a number of further allegations against three other men, including the girl's father, which "pulled the family asunder for years", the tribunal heard.

If found guilty by the General Medical Council's professional conduct committee Mr Eastgate could be struck off or suspended from the medical register.

Joanna Glynn, QC, representing the GMC, said it was "dangerous", when dealing with a girl suffering from "adolescent difficulties", to start from the premise that abuse did occur.

She said: "In this case the child was bright, angry and resentful, and it has to be said, a difficult adolescent, and the imposition of such pre-conceived ideas by the psychiatrist is likely to justify her anger in her own eyes and to colour most of the things she would say afterwards.

"The case concerns the erroneous way it was handled by Mr Eastgate."

She said Mr Eastgate had flouted guidelines imposed after the Cleveland inquiry that doctors use "special caution" when dealing with claims from children of suspect character or mental state.

The hearing in London was told that Mr Eastgate began treating the girl, known only as Miss A, at the Marlborough House adolescent unit in Swindon, Wilts, in April 1996 after she was referred by teachers at her boarding school.

He dismissed their fears that she was suffering from anorexia and claimed her lack of appetite was due to profound depression. He prescribed her anti-depressants.

During a number of counselling sessions in June and July, he allegedly prompted the girl into believing she had been sexually abused by a doctor who had treated her when she was nine.

Professor X, an endocrinologist, had treated her in London for a growth disorder between January 1993 and August 1995 when she was growing unusually tall.

The bone specialist prescribed oestrogen to induce puberty early and limit her growth and, as part of his treatment, had to monitor her breast and pubic hair growth to assess her development.

It was during these sessions that Miss A claimed that Professor X "fondled" her.

Miss Glynn claimed that Mr Eastgate ingrained in her mind that she had been abused by using "leading questions", asking her to identify the person who had "let her down" and also whether "it happened once or on a number of occasions".

Three days later, without informing her parents, he contacted the local child protection team and the police. Miss A, who a month earlier had taken an overdose of anti-depressants, was taken into care.

The case against Professor X was dropped almost immediately after it emerged that her mother or grandmother attended all her visits to him. They did not see anything untoward.

Giving evidence, Miss A's mother described her reaction to the allegations.

"I was completely in shock," she said. "I thought, 'How could anything have happened while I was there?' "

But Miss A was not released from care for three years because during her stay she made further allegations of abuse against three other men, including her father, a businessman.

Those charges were later dropped by Miss A, who is now reconciled with her family.

The hearing heard that she was studying at an Oxbridge college and living at home during holidays.

Mr Eastgate, who is in his fifties, from Swindon, denies four charges of misconduct, including failure to keep adequate notes, which if proved amount to serious professional misconduct.

The case continues.

What's the Harm?


November 10, 2003

Alternative medicine is not everything to gain and nothing to lose

By Michael Shermer

After being poked, scanned, drugged and radiated, your doc tells you nothing more can be done to cure what ails you. Why not try an alternative healing modality? What's the harm? I started thinking about this question in 1991, when my normally intelligent mother presented to a psychiatrist symptoms of cognitive confusion, emotional instability and memory loss. Within an hour it was determined that she was depressed. I didn't buy it. My mom was acting strangely, not depressed. I requested a second opinion from a neurologist.

A CT scan revealed an orange-size meningioma tumor. After its removal, my mom was back to her bright and cheery self-- such a remarkably recuperative and pliable organ is the brain. Unfortunately, within a year my mom had two new tumors in her brain. Three more rounds of this cycle of surgical removal and tumor return, plus two doses of gamma knife radiation (pinpoint-accurate beams that destroy cancer cells), finally led to the dreaded prognosis: there was nothing more to be done.

What is a skeptic to do? An ideological commitment to science is one thing, but this was my mom! I turned to the literature, and with the help of our brilliant and humane oncologist, Avrum Bluming, determined that my mom should try an experimental treatment, mifepristone, a synthetic antiprogestin better known as RU-486, the "morning after" contraception drug. A small-sample study suggested that it might retard the growth of tumors. It didn't work for my mom. She was dying. There was nothing to lose in trying alternative cancer treatments, right? Wrong.

The choice is not between scientific medicine that doesn't work and alternative medicine that might work. Instead there is only scientific medicine that has been tested and everything else ("alternative" or "complementary" medicine) that has not been tested. A few reliable authorities test and review the evidence for some of the claims-- notably Stephen Barrett's Quackwatch (www.quackwatch.org), William Jarvis's National Council against Health Fraud (www.ncahf.org), and Wallace Sampson's journal The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine.

Most alternatives, however, slip under the scientific peer-review radar. This is why it is alarming that, according to the American Medical Association, the number of visits to alternative practitioners exceeds visits to traditional medical doctors; the amount of money spent on herbal medicines and nutrition therapy accounts for more than half of all out-of-pocket expenses to physicians; and, most disturbingly, 60 percent of patients who undergo alternative treatments do not report that information to their physician-- a serious, and even potentially fatal, problem if herbs and medicines are inappropriately mixed.

For example, the September 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported the results of a study on St. John's wort. The herb, derived from a blooming Hypericum perforatum plant and hugely popular as an alternative elixir (to the tune of millions of dollars annually), can significantly impair the effectiveness of dozens of medications, including those used to treat high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, high cholesterol, cancer, pain and depression. The study's authors show that St. John's wort affects the liver enzyme cytochrome P450 3A4, essential to metabolizing at least half of all prescription drugs, thereby speeding up the breakdown process and shortchanging patients of their lifesaving medications.

But there is a deeper problem with the use of alternatives whose benefits have not been proved. All of us are limited to a few score years in which to enjoy meaningful life and love. Time is precious and fleeting. Given the choice of spending the next couple months schlepping my mother around the country on a wild goose chase versus spending the time together, my dad and I decided on the latter. She died a few months later, on September 2, 2000, three years ago to the day I penned this column.

Medicine is miraculous, but in the end, life ultimately turns on the love of the people who matter most. It is for those relationships, especially, that we should apply the ancient medical principle Primum non nocere-- first, do no harm.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Heartbroken Parents



A television psychic is saying what no one else has dared to: that a missing Chisolm girl was killed and buried in a shallow grave. But now the question is how much of her vision is TV theatrics, and how much is legitimate information?

5-year-old Leanna Warner disappeared from her Chisolm neighborhood back in June. Investigators believe she was abducted.

Leanna's parents will appear on the Montel Williams show this Wednesday. It was taped back in October and originally they thought it would be a great way to publicize the case. But psychic Sylvia Brown made them regret their decision.

On-air psychic Sylvia Brown had a dreaded prediction. She says Leanna was killed by someone from the Chisolm area. The person is in his early 20's. Brown even claims she can hone in on certain letters of the name and numbers in the license plate.

But it's no surprise that Sylvia's sixth sense isn't necessarily legitimate. We showed the tape to Carol Watson with 'Missing Children Minnesota.'

"In all my years, 20 years of dealing with this, I've had only one situation where a psychic actually came up with information that would actually find a child."

The psychic's performance is likely just a television stunt, meant mostly for entertainment. But no one told the Warners and you can tell just by watching, their pain is real.

"We didn't even step off the stage and they took the mics from us, there was no one to talk to. You were full of questions because emotionally it just destroys you to hear that."

Not only do they have this devastating news given to them, but now people who saw the show are going to say 'what's the point?' she's dead. Why keep looking?'

The Warners said they hadn't shared Sylvia Brown's information with investigators yet. They want to wait for the episode to air first.

Copyright Fox/UTV Holdings, Inc.

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.shtml which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

In the News

Today's Headlines - November 17, 2003


from The Washington Post

Legislative language quietly submitted Friday for incorporation into a huge appropriations bill could push Congress to abruptly confront this week the contentious question of whether the government should issue patents on human embryos or medical products that come from them.

As a result, what had been a simmering congressional debate over a seemingly arcane detail of patent law is poised to boil over into a political and philosophical battle.

Patents have long been allowed on gene-altered animals and human cells cultured in the laboratory. Until now, however, the legal landscape has been foggy on whether the tiny balls of cells that constitute the earliest stages of human development can be patented by scientists or companies that have manipulated them in novel ways.


from The Boston Globe

To the litany of arguments against prejudice, scientists are now adding a new one: Racism can make you stupid.

That is the message of an unusual and striking new series of experiments conducted at Dartmouth College, with the help of brain-imaging equipment and a crew of undergraduate volunteers.

According to the findings, the more biased people are, the more their brain power is taxed by contact with someone of another race, as they struggle not to say or do anything offensive. The effect is so strong, the team found, that even a five-minute conversation with a black person left some of the white subjects unable to perform well on a test of cognitive ability.

Researchers cannot yet predict how racial bias as measured in the lab will translate into overt racist attitudes or actions. But the new brain- imaging work, reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience, represents the most detailed look yet at the way racial biases function in the brain.


THE MOON: Brilliant mockumentary gives viewers What if TV footage of the Apollo moon landing was faked by a nervous Nixon?

Alex Strachan
CanWest News Service

Saturday, November 15, 2003

VANCOUVER - The Apollo moon landing never happened. Or, if it did, the TV images you saw were falsified, the images faked.

Got your attention? Good.

According to Dark Side of the Moon, the most important film of its kind since Oliver Stone's JFK -- or since Rob Reiner's This is Spinal Tap, at any rate -- images of Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, were shown to the world through the lens of master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and were staged on the very same Borehamwood, U.K., soundstage where Kubrick made his landmark film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Don't believe it? You shouldn't, given that this is a mockumentary that shows how "evidence" and "interviews" can be twisted wildly out of context to support any thesis, no matter how ridiculous.

But what evidence!

Still images taken of the American flag on the moon showed it waving this way and that, but, as Dark Side of the Moon points out, there is no wind on the moon.The moon is affected by extreme temperature changes, which are exacerbated by its lack of atmosphere.

The camera supposedly used to take the lunar stills, a Hasselblad 500, would not operate at temperature extremes that cause chemical changes in film emulsion. Mechanical parts expand and lenses loosen in extreme heat. Exposure meters fail and film shatters like glass in extreme cold.

X-rays from the sun would fog the film, and ultraviolet rays would distort the colours -- yet the colours in the moon landing pictures are perfect.

Gravity on the moon is one-sixth that of the Earth, which means that an astronaut who would weigh 140 kilograms in his space suit on the ground would weigh only about 30 kilos on the moon. And yet the depth of the astronauts' footprints in the sand on the moon suggest they weighed much more than that.

None of the photos taken on the moon showed evidence of a flash. You would have seen a flash, experts in Dark Side of the Moon insist, because the astronaut taking the photograph would have been reflected in the visor of the other astronaut.

Remember now, as they say on CSI: people lie; the evidence doesn't.

Dark Side of the Moon, airing Sunday on Newsworld's Passionate Eye at 8 p.m., was written and directed last year by 63-year-old historical documentary filmmaker William Karel for France's Point du Jour Production and Arte France (the film's original, French title was Operation lune).

It uses documentary evidence, archival footage and extensive interviews with Kubrick's widow, Christiane Kubrick, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and former and present-day U.S. government officials and luminaries such as Henry Kissinger, Lawrence Eagleberger, Al Haig and Donald Rumsfeld, to lay bare the lie.

(The official CBC press release refers to the film's subtle blend of facts, fiction and hypothesis as a navigation through fact and fiction, and asks rhetorically whether "Neal Armstrong's famous walk on the moon" (sic) was another Stanley Kubrick production. I can't tell if the misspelling of Neil Armstrong's name is incompetent or meant to be ironic.)

Dark Side of the Moon suggests that, given the turmoil of the day -- the Vietnam War, civil unrest, a newly elected president warily eying his prospects for a second term -- the Nixon administration understood that it was more important that astronauts be seen to be walking on the moon than actually walk on the moon.

If the astronauts landed safely, but could not televise live images back to Earth because of some unforeseen technical glitch, then the entire expensive enterprise would have been a waste of time, from a public relations standpoint.

The Nixon administration approached Kubrick -- an American expat and avowed recluse, living in seclusion in a palatial estate somewhere in the suburbs of London -- with a mind to stage the moon landing in advance, so that if worse came to worse, the Apollo program would still have pictures to show a doubting public.

The administration knew Kubrick would jump aboard, the film's makers suggest, because it was widely known that Dr. Strangelove, which Kubrick directed five years earlier, in 1964, was one of Nixon's favourite films.

The original idea was to have the CIA stage the event and film it themselves on the same soundstage where Kubrick recreated the lunar surface for 2001: A Space Odyssey. But when Kubrick -- a notorious perfectionist, with a temper to match -- saw how incompetent the CIA camera operators were, he demanded that he be allowed to film the scene himself.

Twisted testimony from Kissinger, the late Vernon Walters (speaking in Russian, and dead, under suspicious circumstances, just hours after conducting his interview for the film), Rumsfeld ("I'm going to tell you a fascinating story"), Eagleberger, Haig and others -- real people in real interviews, not actors playing a role -- brings Dark Side of the Moon to life.

It is a mammoth undertaking. It seeks nothing less than to expose the incongruities between rhetoric and reality, by disclosing how the camera's lens can be manipulated to suit any ends, and it achieves its goal with wit, style and verve. It is a thoroughly entertaining and revealing film, and well worth seeing.

Oh, and one other thing. According to the final credits, any resemblance to actual living persons is purely coincidental.

That's important to know. After all, the camera lies. It's not always easy to tell.

© Copyright 2003 Edmonton Journal


Controversy Over Opus Dei
Some Criticize Group's Methods


By David Ruppe

N E W Y O R K, June 18 — When teenage "Julie" told her spiritual director she was thinking about leaving Opus Dei, she says she was told she would never be happy and would go to the devil if she did.

Tammy DiNicola, as a college student, says she was told she would go to hell if she left Opus Dei.

The two women, now in their 30s, are among an undercurrent of critics of what they say are aggressive recruiting practices toward young people and a culture of control at Opus Dei, a small but growing conservative organization within the Roman Catholic Church.

Opus Dei's central theme is that people can be holy in every day life through prayer, discipline and generosity toward others. The group is unique in the church in that most of its members are lay persons and many of them, called "numeraries" and "associates," make commitments of lifelong chastity.

Numeraries contacted say they lead fulfilled, happy lives. Opus Dei's national spokesman, Brian Finnerty, a numerary member himself, says the group respects the freedom of its members and potential members. He says members are free to choose whether or not to join and remain in Opus Dei, and to submit to its practices, such as having their mail read by superiors and signing over their salaries.

"The whole process involves a recognition of the fact that there's a respect for the freedom of everybody who comes into contact with Opus Dei," he says.

But the group's critics say once a person begins to participate and the restrictions are in place, it can become difficult for him to exercise his free will and leave.

"I think 90 percent of the members of Opus Dei are good devout Catholics," says the Rev. James Martin, an editor of the Jesuit magazine America. "But I think 10 percent of their activities really raise serious questions about their methods, most especially their recruiting, and some of the things that go on inside their houses."

Presence on Campus

With residence centers near many major colleges and universities, Opus Dei seeks to attract young people.

"Youth is a time when people are open to great generosity, when they are trying to think about things, trying to think about the meaning of their lives and their plans for their lives," says Finnerty. "So I think youth can be a tremendous time for a person to grow in their faith, and so that's something Opus Dei tries to help people do."

Opus Dei members are said to have a calling to join the group. Joining involves making annual commitments, beginning as early as 18 years old, in the form of contracts with the group over the course of a 6 ½-year period. At the end, the member chooses whether to make a lifetime commitment. One can apply to join and start living the numerary life as young as 16 ½.

"Opus Dei is recruiting on college campuses young people who are looking for answers to questions about justice, truth, order, eternal life, and so forth, and saying, 'we have the answers, but they're not simply a set of documents, it's a way of life, it's also a commitment to this cause,'" says Professor R. Scott Appleby, an expert on new religious movements at Notre Dame.

A Description of Control

DiNicola joined as a freshman student at Boston College. She moved into the Opus Dei center near the school and began living the life of discipline of an Opus Dei numerary.

She says her daily activities were precisely mapped out, some of her incoming and outgoing mail was read, expenditures were required to be accounted for, reading and television viewing were restricted, and she had to discuss with her spiritual director anytime she wanted to walk outside the center. She says she also was discouraged from confessing her sins to non-Opus Dei priests.

"It wasn't presented as an optional thing, you were told you need to obey your directors in everything." says DiNicola.

Like Julie, who asked that her real name not be used, DiNicola says she thought she was happy with Opus Dei life. But also like Julie, her family was having problems with it.

"Over a long period of time, our daughter's personality changed and we had a feeling whatever she was involved in was not good. She had become withdrawn from the family. That had never happened before," says her mother, Dianne DiNicola, who helped found and runs the nonprofit Opus Dei Awareness Network to inform the public about the group's practices.

"Tammy called Opus Dei her new family," says the mother. "You couldn't reason with her. She'd decided this was her life. When your environment is controlled, you stop thinking critically about things. She was not making free choices."

DiNicola decided to leave Opus Dei after the family staged an intervention, her mother says. "A person told her about all aspects of Opus Dei and she started thinking critically and she decided she wanted to leave."

Dianne DiNicola says her daughter's experiences were similar to those of hundreds of other men and women with whom she has spoken. "We are contacted almost every day, by e-mail, phone, mail, and fax," she says. "We've heard from so many people who say the exact same thing. After nine years of hearing people telling me the same thing, that has a lot of weight."

Control, Freely Given?

Opus Dei spokesman Finnerty, in a series of interviews, confirmed many of the practices described by the DiNicolas. He said, for instance, Opus Dei numeraries do turn over their salaries and eventually are encouraged to sign wills benefiting Opus Dei. They also are discouraged from reading certain literature and are encouraged to share mail with their spiritual directors, he said.

But Finnerty contends such practices do not limit members' freedom. "I think that commitments to serve others or to serve an ideal, which are freely undertaken, are not a limitation on freedom but an exercise of it."

He likens the commitment to marriage: "A person who is married is making all of his income available to his spouse and his children, he's thinking first in terms of the others."

An Opus Dei-published primer, "On the Vocation of Opus Dei," says "numerary members remain celibate to give themselves body and soul for the sake of the apostolate. In this way, they are fully available to carry out tasks for formation and direction within Opus Dei."

Massimo Introvigne, who runs the Center for Studies on New Religions in Italy, says restrictions of freedom have been common in Catholic convents and monasteries throughout the world since the beginning of Catholicism. But he says with church reforms beginning in the 1960s, strict convents have almost totally disappeared in the English- and German-speaking world.

"There may be pressures here and there, but these are not unique to Opus Dei," says Introvigne, adding, "If there are such pressures, they are wrong."

Notre Dame's Appleby says the numerary life actually resembles that of a Catholic seminarian during the 1940s and 1950s.

"Once you grant that, then what you're describing doesn't sound particularly offensive or unusual, if you grant they're using a model from about 40 or 50 years ago, not using celibate seminarians but celibate lay people," he says.

It raises a question, though, he says, about whether or not Opus Dei in its recruiting tactics is "exploiting the uncertainty and insecurity of youth." Religious conversion, he says, should involve "a dialogue between the movement and the individual, a free and autonomous dialogue."

But he observes it's tough from the outside to know whether that dialogue has truly taken place. "You know, you can't really look into the soul of the kid next to you and know whether he's really telling the truth and is truly comfortable with the decision or being coerced."

Cult-Like Practices?

Opus Dei has been accused by critics of having "cult-like" practices. Religious scholars say Opus Dei is not a cult. But many do say it engages in practices that appear cult-like, practices used by many strict religious groups and that used to be common in some Roman Catholic orders.

Though he doesn't believe Opus Dei is a cult, Father James LeBar, who has been the Archdiocese of New York's consultant on cults for some 20 years told ABCNEWS.com that some of Opus Dei's practices resemble those used in cults:

"Yes, because they do use practices that were prevalent in the 1950s in all Catholic orders, [though] many of the orders have done away with them, the close supervision … " he says.

LeBar says Opus Dei's practices are not necessarily wrong: "If someone wishes to follow a very strict way of life, and be very closely supervised, and they willingly go into that, that's fine," he says. "But if the group manipulates people so that this happens to them and they don't know it, I'd have objection to that."

LeBar says he has been in contact with Opus Dei over the years, "hoping to help them see where the line is drawn and where they cross over it."

"What I've disagreed with at times are the methods by which they either invite people in or seek to keep them in when they want to leave," he says, but adds, "I've never found any serious problems, nothing to really raise a ruckus about."

"The main problem to me always seemed not so much between Opus Dei and the individuals but between the parents and Opus Dei, because they wanted to see their children more often," he says.

Opus Dei centers would continue activities during holiday vacations, keeping numerary members away for the holidays, he says. "The idea is to keep them from getting corrupted."

LeBar says he has encountered instances in which members were told by an Opus Dei superior "if your parents don't approve with what you're doing they're the bad ones, they're in error or sin or worse. And that's not good."

So parents complained, he said. "They thought [their children] were too controlled, and I'm convinced in some areas that's very true."

Working for Jesus Christ

LeBar also is the coordinator of an association called the Coalition of Concern About Cults, which includes senior representatives from the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Jewish faith and other religions.

He says whether one thinks Opus Dei displays some cult-like characteristics can depend upon how one looks at them:

"They certainly exhibit a high regard for their leader. They respect the maxims and sayings of it with almost awesome reverence. But if you're an active Yankee fan, aren't you also always eager to hear what the Yankees are going to do?"

"There is no doubt in my mind that some people succumb to the intensive training of Opus Dei into almost a cult-like state of being," he says. "But there are others who saw it and saw what it was worth and could cope with it or leave it alone."

Unlike cults, LeBar says he's found Opus Dei's intentions beyond reproach. "Opus Dei has never veered from working for Jesus Christ and the church. Perhaps their methods are a bit strong, but I certainly would never doubt their intentions."

The "main difference," he says, is that "a cult is really turned inward toward itself, and the leaders are really looking for aggrandizement and that kind of stuff. Opus Dei really isn't doing that, even though they are using methods that may be old-fashioned, and really aren't too much approved in other circles these days."

Protecting the Faith?

Opus Dei members differ from monks and nuns in that they don't take vows, which are made to God. Rather, they make contracts, which are commitments to Opus Dei, according to Finnerty.

Critics say the practice of signing over their salaries and making wills in the organization's favor can make members dependent upon the group and without significant resources if they would like to leave. Finnerty argues such practices should not be considered unusual.

"Living in a spirit of generosity is something everybody is called to do, depending upon what the individual circumstances are. And if someone is a numerary in Opus Dei and he has made that lifetime commitment, that is something in which there is no problem in doing," he says.

Finnerty says Opus Dei directors stopped privately opening the mail of numeraries "a few years ago," though he said he could not specify a date. But he says directors now encourage numeraries to share their mail.

"That custom was changed. I think the spirit is still the same, in that people are encouraged to share it, if people think there is something important that they need to talk to or get advice on, they're encouraged to do that," he says.

Finnerty says numeraries are discouraged from reading certain books because such reading could damage their faith.

"The members of Opus Dei, and for Christians generally, are sort of encouraged to realize that there are certain things, literature that might represent an attack on the faith," he says. "It's a real possibility that if somebody keeps on gorging on nihilistic literature or something like that, it is a real possibility that somebody can read their way out of the Catholic Church."

He says numeraries, who have committed to chastity, are segregated by sex in the residential and work centers "as a measure of prudence that helps to keep it that way."

The regular corporal mortifications practiced by numeraries, using a crop on the buttocks and spiked chains around the thighs, also are intended to help control appetites, as well as to promote virtue and to imitate the sufferings of Christ, according to Opus Dei literature.

And the Opus Dei primer, mentioned above, explains why numeraries may see their families less after joining Opus Dei. "Like young people who have married they are sometimes unable to make it to their parents' home for Thanksgiving or an anniversary or birthday party."

It says joining Opus Dei brings a new set of relationships with other members, "not unlike those they had with other members of their family in their parents' home," and goes on to say, "They celebrate birthdays, anniversaries of important dates in the development of Opus Dei, and secular and religious holidays in the same way as the members of a closely knit Christian family." (Click here for more explanations of Opus Dei practices.)

A Serious Commitment

New members are gradually exposed to Opus Dei practices and restrictions, said Finnerty. But he says they should be fully aware of everything by the time they make their first annual commitment to the group.

Pressed to say whether Opus Dei directors tell numeraries they might go to hell if they break their commitment to Opus Dei and leave, Finnerty would not say yes or no.

"I think it's absolutely impossible for anyone to know if another person is going to hell," he says. "That's decided on another plane."

But he adds, "The promise is viewed as a serious commitment. It's something important, it's not something that someone decides to go back on lightly."

The Opus Dei primer describes the commitment even more soberly. In recognizing a calling to Opus Dei, it says, "a person becomes aware that Jesus addresses to him or her personally his invitation to 'be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.'" Julie's Story

The following describes a former member's critical account of her experience with Opus Dei. She has asked that her real name not be used. Opus Dei has since raised the age of commitment to 18.

When Julie was 12 years old, taking cooking and ceramics classes at a local Catholic center, she says a priest took her aside and said he thought she might have a calling to join Opus Dei.

"He asked me what my plans were for the future, and I said, 'I don't know, get married and have kids,'" she says. "And he said, 'Well, I think God is calling you for something much higher, more important than that.'"

By age 13 ½, Julie had joined as a "numerary," a life that eventually would include turning over all of her future income to the organization and promising a life of chastity, as well as regular prayer, meditation, confession to an Opus Dei priest, and attending Mass in Latin.

For most of the next seven years, she says, she lived a secret life, hiding her new vocation from her family with the encouragement of her Opus Dei spiritual director.

"So, enter the mind-set of a goody-two-shoes Catholic girl: I was told that I had a higher calling from God. I was told that I'd never be happy, that I'd go to hell if I didn't follow this, and that I couldn't tell my parents, that in telling my parents, they would surely oppose my vocation. And, not only could I go to hell, but they could go to hell too," says Julie, who now lives in Washington, D.C.

At age 16, she says, she announced she had joined the group, and told her father she wanted to leave the family to move into an Opus Dei center. Feeling betrayed, her parents disowned her. They dropped her off at the center and told her to never use their last name again, she says. But several days later, they brought her home. She promised she would not continue with the group, but that was a lie.

"I thought, when I was there, that I was a blissful human being," says Julie. And she says she loved and worshipped the Opus Dei people with whom she associated.

But at the same time, she says, the stress of concealing it from her family was making her sick.

"My hair had begun to fall out in patches, I had daily migraine headaches. I would gain 20 pounds and lose 20 pounds. I couldn't sleep for weeks and weeks at a time."

Julie says she left after confiding her experiences to a non-Opus Dei priest. "It was one of the hardest things I ever did," she says. "To this day, I have nightmares about it and I'm 36 years old, married with two kids."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Jonestown survivors recall fateful day


Threat from cults still exists, they say

Tuesday, November 18, 2003 Posted: 7:18 AM EST (1218 GMT)

OAKLAND, California (CNN) -- A memorial service Tuesday at a mass grave will mark the 25th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, in which 913 men, women and children died in the worst mass murder-suicide in recent history.

They had followed their charismatic leader Jim Jones from San Francisco to a jungle settlement in the South American nation of Guyana in 1978, believing he was leading them to a utopia of racial harmony and social justice.

"We really had a structure in place that would make us a successful community, living there with people of all different races and backgrounds, which really would have been a promised land or heaven on Earth," survivor Laura Kohl said Monday.

But on November 18, 1978, that idealistic dream became a hell on Earth.

Jones' followers were ordered or forced to drink cyanide-laced punch.

The 227 children in the "Peoples Temple" were poisoned first. Syringes were used to squirt the poison in the mouths of babies.

Then it was the adults' turn. Some drank willingly. Most of those who protested were shot by armed guards ringing the camp. A few managed to escape into the jungle.

Kohl, who had been away from the compound buying supplies, said she still doesn't know whether she would have willingly drank the poison.

"I do know that if I had seen my adopted family of 913 -- people all dying around me -- it would have been a very tough decision not to," Kohl said.

Jones was found with a bullet in his brain. It is not known who shot him, or whether he shot himself.

'What could the babies do?'

Jynona Norwood, a California pastor, will lead the memorial service in Oakland.

Norwood had distrusted Jones and didn't follow him to South America. But her family paid an enormous price.

"Twenty-seven people in my family died at Jonestown, including my mother. The youngest person in our family who died was three months old," Norwood said. "What could the babies do?"

Reports of trouble in the jungle utopia prompted U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan to lead a delegation of family members of Jonestown residents and journalists to the compound to investigate claims that followers were being imprisoned and abused.

Ryan and his party were ambushed on the airstrip as they were loading the plane with Jones' followers who wanted to leave.

"The shots rang out," recalled Jackie Speier. "People ran into the brush, some under the plane. I ran under the plane along with congressman Ryan, trying to hide by a wheel and pretend I was dead."

Speier, now a California state senator, was shot five times. Ryan and four others were killed.

Speier believes the likelihood of another Jonestown occurring "is just as great today as it was 25 years ago."

"There are still over 1,000 cults operating in the United States and around the world," she said. "And we -- in terms of the government -- have always looked the other way because of our great appreciation of the First Amendment and freedom of religion we have allowed many of these cults to operate outside the law."

Norwood agrees that the threat still exists.

"I don't think we have really learned anything from the massacre of Jonestown," she said, "because the Wacos are still happening. Heaven's Gate is still happening, September 11th is still happening."

Districts take careful look at biology books


Texarkana Gazette

The process of getting new books in Texas' biology classrooms has been anything but textbook.

The recent flurry has included questions about supplying both the strengths and weaknesses of the theories of evolution as well as correcting numerous factual errors in the high school biology books.

The Texas State Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to adopt biology textbooks from 11 publishers and also voted to require those publishers to correct all remaining errors before the schools adopt them.

Schools throughout the state will adopt both Biology and English as a Second Language textbooks this year. There were other books that had been listed in a 2001 textbook adoption proclamation, but the state is not providing money for books in those subjects.

All school districts will choose this spring which books they will use for the 2003-2004 school year.

Different committees look over the provided list of publishers before presenting their choices for that year's adoptions.

Margaret Davis, superintendent of the Pleasant Grove Independent School District, said the district has two separate committees looking at the different textbooks to make sure they comply at both the state and community levels.

"We have a parent advisory committee and their task is to choose books that reflect the values of the community, the law and the state curriculum. They will let us know if there is material in those books they think is inappropriate," Davis said. "We also have a committee of teachers that will review books approved by the State Board of Education and will recommend a particular text to be used in the district."

Scott Niven, superintendent of Liberty-Eylau ISD, said public input could be called upon if questions are asked locally concerning the biology books.

"I think in a situation where there may be this type of issue, we would certainly open it up for public review and get input from various members of the community," Niven said. "Ultimately we would make the decision of what follows state and local curriculum."

Dr. Larry Sullivan, superintendent of Texarkana ISD, said there has not been any controversy locally concerning biology textbooks. The real concern is whether the books can help teach the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the state-mandated curriculum.

"One of the problems we've had in the past is that textbooks may be 30 to 40 percent aligned in what is tested," Sullivan said. "It is really important that teachers make up in curriculum what they do not have in textbooks for what the students will face on the (TAKS) test."

The study of evolution is currently expected knowledge for all Texas high school students. Since September 1998, all schools in Texas are required by state law to teach students biological evolution.

One of the biggest controversies over evolution this year came from the Discovery Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle. The group lobbied for the inclusion of both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution in biology books.

The other big issue was numerous factual errors in the textbooks that were recently approved for adoption. The errors include false facts such as human embryos with gill slits and the inclusion of research that turned out to be overstated.

Both Sullivan and Davis, who have been in the education business for numerous years, agree mistakes are always an issue with textbooks.

"This has been going on forever. In the 30 years I've been in education, they have always been fighting mistakes in textbooks," Sullivan said. "It is obviously still an ongoing issue, but good teachers correct for those things."

Sullivan said textbooks should not be the central method of teaching anyway.

"We have to move away from textbook-driven curriculum. The textbook should, at best, be a resource. You've got to have other resources besides that," he said. "Masters use a textbook as another reference text because they are teaching from the state curriculum."

The textbook industry means big money for publishers. Because Texas is one of the largest consumers of textbooks, publishers want to be accepted in Texas and other states will follow suit.

Texas, California and Florida account for more than 30 percent of the country's $4 billion public school textbook market.

MINNESOTA SCIENCE STANDARDS: Man denies note to panel is threatening


Posted on Sat, Nov. 15, 2003

Pioneer Press

Members of Minnesota's science standards committee knew their work would include some debate on the questions of evolution vs. creationism.

Still, some were taken aback to hear a grim biblical reminder of what awaits them if they don't provide schoolchildren with both sides of the argument.

Bryce Gaudian, who heads a creationist group in southern Minnesota, recently sent a packet of materials to the 40 members of the committee that's deciding the new academic science standards, which will guide instruction in Minnesota public school classrooms for years to come.

Each member received a packet from Gaudian containing two letters, three books, three videos, two pamphlets and 23 articles. Each member also received a couple of e-mails from Gaudian.

"All I really should have needed to send each of you would have been the book of Genesis," he wrote in one of the e-mails, "where the great truth of 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth' " is found.

Later in that e-mail, the line that upset some committee members appeared.

Gaudian wrote that if members were willing to include only evolution in the science standards, "then I must reiterate to you all once again Scripture's stern warning of grave peril for your offense: 'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea; woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Matthew 18:6-7).'"

Russanne Low, one of the committee members, was taken aback by the threatening language and wrote a letter to Cheri Pierson Yecke, the state's education commissioner.

"The packet of stuff (that Gaudian sent) is harmless, it's the usual inaccurate descriptions of scientific thought," Low said Friday. But when the e-mail with the biblical verse arrived it was hard to determine the exact meaning behind it, and "when we got this we were all pretty nervous."

When Gaudian initially contacted the Department of Education to get the addresses of the members of the science standards committee, he was urged to send the material to the department and let staff mail it out, said Bill Walsh, a department spokesman.

But Gaudian said it was a lot of material and that it would cost the state a lot of money to send out. He said Friday that the retail value of all the material he sent out was almost $6,000.

The state did give him the addresses, which are public data under Minnesota law. The Education Department also gave members a heads-up on what was headed their way. Some members chose to have the packet sent to an alternate address, Walsh said.

This week Yecke sent an e-mail to Gaudian and the science standards' committee members, calling his e-mail "inappropriate." She applauded him for the courage of his convictions, but wrote that the biblical language he used "is not in keeping with the civil tone that permeated all aspects of the debate during our many public hearings."

Gaudian, contacted Friday at his home near Albert Lea, said he was disappointed by Yecke's response.

"It's not a threat from me. It's just God's word that I'm sharing with them," Gaudian said. "I'm not just blowing smoke or dreaming up things to scare people."

He also said he's heard back from about seven committee members, thanking him for the material and saying they'd watch the videos and read the articles. "Hopefully the fruit from that will be a positive thing," he said.

Of the 40 members on the science standards committee, perhaps four to six complained about Gaudian's message, Walsh said.

Participating in the public policy arena, he said, commonly brings people in contact with others who have strong opinions.

"This is a volunteer committee. They're not used to public policy development. This is what legislators deal with," Walsh said. When the committee meets for the last time today, security personnel will be present, he said.

Low, who directs a program at the University of Minnesota that makes faculty resources available to K-12 teachers, said creationism isn't in the standards as they're drafted right now.

The "gray zone," she said, is intelligent design, a theory that argues that the complexity of life on Earth indicates some form of divine intervention. The science committee hasn't picked up that language, either, although it has been discussed.

Physical Phenomena at the David Thompson séance of October 25th 2003


Journalist, agricultural administrator, magazine editor and farmer. A member of the Council of the Society for Psychical Research for 55 years, chairman of its Image and Publicity Committee and secretary of its Survival Research Committee, he was principal investigator of the Scole Group of physical mediums, and author of the Scole Report, published in the Proceedings of the SPR (Vol 54 Pt 220) in 1999 with his co-investigators Professors Arthur Ellison and David Fontana.

THIS IS an account of an unusual séance at which a variety of movements and touches, noises and voices were experienced in circumstances which appeared to preclude fraud. I give in considerable detail the precautions taken before and during the séance and conclude, despite reasonable familiarity with the past history of comparable demonstrations, that the effects were genuine.

The location and set-up

The sitting took place in the home of Denzil Fairbairn (DF) in Chalgrove, Oxfordshire on Saturday October 25th, 2003. My attendance was consequent on a personal introduction, supported by a good personal relationship of trust with Mr Fairbairn, following his important evidential contribution to the Scole Report (Keen et al, 1999). Together with my wife and myself, and DF, it was attended by Paul, the séance leader, David Thompson the medium, his wife Bianca and about ten or twelve others.

The room was in a small block a few feet from DF's bungalow, and was entered via an anteroom where all those attending were asked to leave behind loose jewellery, handbags, watches, pens, wallets, money: indeed anything which could be detached. For this purpose everyone was searched, although I was allowed to bring in a notebook and pen, which was left under the chair of my immediate neighbour, Paul, until he had an opportunity during the séance to ask whether permission would be granted by Spirit for me to use it during the séance (it was duly granted, but the pen could not easily be found in the darkness; so the idea was abandoned). I searched David Thompson and ascertained there was nothing in any trousers pocket or concealed on his singlet, over which he wore a cardigan which I searched separately before he replaced it. I also checked his trainer-type shoes to ascertain that the heels and soles were normal and unified.

There was only one door into the séance room, which had no windows, was perfectly rectangular except for a recess at one end of the room (4'0"x 2'0"x7'0" high) which formed the back half of the cabinet, and was devoid of ornaments or recesses. It measured roughly 15'0"x9'6", and at one end carried a rectangular ceiling rail from which three floor-length black curtains were suspended by Velcro straps of curtaining material, so that the curtains could be opened and closed from both sides. This, along with the recess, constituted the cabinet. The room was seamlessly carpeted throughout. Apart from the entrance door from the anteroom, there were no detectable orifices beyond five small vents in the ceiling and three low-level vents along one wall, vented to the outside. Moulded plastic seats were placed around all the walls save the cabinet end. Two of the seats blocked the entrance door, and that occupied by my wife obstructed the door from being opened.

Binding and gagging the medium

The chair (owned by DF) in which the medium sat was an old-fashioned upholstered, heavy, wooden construction which I examined carefully, having regard to a claim by the magician Ian Rowland, when commenting on television on Thompson's reputed feats, that this could be done by illusionists when the ends of the chair arms were not securely connected to the posts, thereby enabling the medium to raise his arms from the post and slip the cable ties off his arms: a suggestion I examine later. I could find no loose connections, and was unable to move the arms or see or feel anything abnormal underneath the chair.

The chair was placed inside the open cabinet, and the medium was strapped into it by means of plastic tree ties. This was effected by Bianca under my close supervision. I was invited to examine the ties which were already permanently fixed to the legs and arms of the chair, both before and after the fixing. The straps were placed through these permanent fixings, and pulled tight, and then secured with thin plastic ties with the ends trimmed off, so that the only way to release the bond was to cut it. The straps were so tightly pulled that I was unable to intrude even a finger. Indeed, the medium subsequently was heard to complain that his wife had been so enthusiastic as to cause him discomfort. Bianca tied a black gag securely round the medium's head through his open mouth, thereby preventing recognisable speech. I examined the gag and the knot behind the head. Finally the several buttons on the front of medium's cardigan were tied into the buttonholes with thin black strips of plastic. These are one-way (self-locking) cable ties, incapable of being untied. They have to be cut before a button can be released.

Instruments and equipment

On the floor a few feet in front of the medium there was a black coated piece of board, about 3'6" by 2'. After I had checked underneath (prompted by Mr. Fairbairn) to satisfy myself that nothing was concealed below it, the following items were placed on it: a cardboard trumpet, the end of which was coated with luminous paint; a mouth organ; a rattle, and two drum sticks, all of which were to play a part in the séance. In addition there was a pair of pliers which were employed by Bianca to cut the ties to release her husband after the sitting, and two wooden rings which were brought into the room from the anteroom at the medium's request by DF after my wife had taken a number of photographs.

A microphone (Optimus 33-3013) was suspended from the wall near the door, the other end being connected to a Sony personal tape recorder located on a small table next to DF. The machine was switched on by him and the cassette tape turned over after it had automatically switched off on reaching the end of one side. Copies of the tape recording were freely available to any participant requesting it by sending a blank tape to DF. The only other equipment was a small flexible table lamp with a red bulb and fixed shade. It was placed on a small table in the corner on the medium's left, outside the curtain, together with a glass of water. In the opposite corner was a large a tape recorder playing music. The light was controlled by Paul who sat alongside me, while the music player was the responsibility of Bianca, who had to make frequent changes in the music played and the volume requested, at the behest of spirit communicators. Both Paul's hands held my right hand throughout the séance, save for about five minutes when they were needed to switch on and manoeuvre the light during the brief period when ectoplasmic extrusions were being shown.

Before the séance, when all participants were seated on cushioned chairs against the three walls, Paul enjoined everyone to remain still, not to grasp at anything unless permission was sought and granted. He explained the dangers to which the medium was exposed should anyone make an unauthorised grab at any ectoplasmic extension, and emphasised the importance of keeping our arms still: advice echoed and amplified by communicators in response to questions later. The lights were then dimmed to disappearance. The light switch knob was removed from the wall-mounted dimmer switch, and the remainder of the box was taped over by DF.

The séance began with a short prayer offered by one of the sitters. This was followed not by normally rousing music but, rather to my surprise, by Pachelbel's canon, to which we were invited to sing along, and then, no less surprisingly, by the distinctly menacing dance of the courtiers from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. Thereafter more popular music was played, but frequently altered in volume at the behest of one or other communicator.

At the end of the sitting, following the withdrawal of the final communicator, DF stripped the sealer tape from the light switch and restored the dimmer switch knob to enable the light to be slowly turned up. It revealed David Thompson still tied to his chair, and gagged, in the middle of the room, some seven or eight feet from its original position inside the cabinet. It had been moved over the top of the black board and its several instruments. When the medium had recovered sufficiently to face the light, and the gag had been removed and retied to shield his eyes from the flashes, my wife took a number of post-sitting photographs. These included one showing the cardigan reversed. Having checked that the ties were still in place, I watched as Bianca used the pliers to cut each of the ties fixing the buttons to the buttonholes, and examined the arm and leg bindings as she cut the ties before the straps could be unfastened.

The main physical phenomena

I now summarise the physical events which I personally experienced, or else witnessed with the rest of the participants:

1. The translocation to a different part of the room of the medium bound in his chair.

2. The reversal of the medium's cardigan, with the plastic ties still unbroken.

3. The appearance some time during the séance of a cut on the lower side of the base of my right thumb. It was made without my knowledge or awareness, and was some 2cm in length with congealed blood along the line of what would have normally been considered to be a scratch. My wife's pre-séance picture shows no sign of any cut on my hand, whereas that taken immediately after the sitting does. My hand was held firmly by my immediate neighbour, Paul, throughout the sitting, normally with both hands, save for the few minutes required for him to adjust the red light. The scar was still faintly visible twelve days later.

4. The trumpet, the luminous large end of which was seen to be performing a variety of patterns and aerobic adornments in the air, was operated at great speed and with considerable precision, and was pressed quite hard against my chest at one stage.

5. My head was tapped sharply several times, apparently by the luminous end of the trumpet during the aerial demonstrations.

6. I was vigorously slapped on both knees as an introduction to the first supposedly materialised entity.

7. My tie was unknotted, ripped off, and thrust with great precision in the narrow space between the chairs on which my wife and I were sitting. It was later found on the carpet beneath the chairs.

8. The two rings of equal dimensions but different woods were found on the left arm of Alan, sitting opposite me and alongside Bianca. Towards the end of the séance he had reported that someone was trying to force the rings over his wrist. When I tried to pull them over his hand to remove them he complained that it was painful, although later succeeded in doing so. He contrasted this with the relatively gentle pressure experienced when the rings had been were pushed over his wrist during the séance.

9. While holding my wife's right hand with my left, leaving my index finger protruding, we were both touched by a warm, soft and seemingly human hand for about fifteen seconds.

10. There was tap dancing of an apparently expert kind, as well as extremely fast drumming on the ceiling during the Irish jig music.

11. A silver tie pin surmounted by a cat was apported as a gift to Bianca, purportedly through the mouth of the medium as he extruded ectoplasm.

12. There were very clear, loud and distinctive series of four voices we heard, all of which answered questions intelligently.

The séance highlights

The evening was notable for the clarity and fluency of the two principal communicators, who introduced themselves as William Charles Cadwell, (died 1897) and Sir William Crookes (OM, FRS) both of whom invited and answered questions. Two other voices familiar to the regular participants also came through: a cockney youth named Timothy Booth, and Louis Armstrong. Both had very distinctive features and claimed to have materialised. Timothy was responsible for the widespread reports of touches and boisterous noises, as well as the delicate management of the ectoplasm and the ordering of the correct degree of red light to enable us to see the medium but not harm him. I produce below an edited account of the entire séance for the record. Despite its necessary length, each virtually verbatim account, based on a tape recording, highlights interesting aspects of mediumship phenomena and ontological issues. I have omitted such phrases as "my dear friends," "of course" and suchlike adornments.

How voices are created

Cadwell, who came through very soon after the introductory music stopped, and who talked in a clear, elderly and precise voice, not dissimilar to that of Crookes (apart from the impediment Cadwell had in rolling his R's) who spoke much later, described himself as a guide and mentor to "young David here" and expressed an interest in me as "some would say, an understanding scientist" (I expressed modest gratification). They (his spirit associates) would "endeavour to prove to you that life exists beyond death". He urged us all to follow Paul's guidelines for the protection of the medium and of the circle itself. He invited questions. When Paul sought permission for me to use my notepad, he gave approval provided I held the notebook neatly against my torso; then he withdrew into the cabinet for a few moments, accompanied by a whooshing sound, and then proceeded to invite questions.

I asked how the voice was produced, and how far it used the medium's larynx, or how far it was direct voice. "Well, I could describe it to you now that I myself am partly materialised. The ectoplasm is exuded from the medium's body by various orifices and is moulded around the young man's voice box to create a larynx effect, but of course I myself am speaking to you with my own voice: placing myself within the ectoplasm exuded from the medium's body by means of coating the etheric body of the ectoplasm, you understand?" [Yes] "And I am then able to speak. There is at some point during the séance when the materialisation of form is not taking place and it is merely that of independent direct voice. You understand?" [Yes] "But I myself partly materialise." [Thank you very much].

Q: Do you feel you have moved into the room, or are you still at your point of departure?

A: I hope that I am in the room; otherwise I'm in the wrong place [laughter].

Q: You feel that you have moved?

A: Yes my friend: I feel as solid as solid can be [Thank you] ... So many people; so few questions...

MK: Well, perhaps I could ask again. You say you feel solid, but you are in fact a creation of your own mind: is that not the case?

A: If I could describe to you this: due to the vibration of young David that is emanating from his physical body, I am able to interpenetrate that of the earth's vibration by means of my etheric body vibration changes. I am then able to coat myself into a physical ectoplasmic form; then I am able to be here within the earth environment; but when the energy depletes it is much more difficult for materialisation and communication to take place, so the need is for the energy to be produced, so often by yourselves, to help the energy of the young man within the chair: to substantiate(1) the energy levels and keep them at such a level that I myself and others are able to commune. You understand?

MK: In so far as any such communication can make sense of our limited capacity to envisage a different world, and a different means of communications, as it does - it is very difficult ...

A: As it is for me to describe absolutely what is taking place: it is quite a process that is more than what I have explained, of course: you understand.

Demonstrating materialisation

The voice then urged us to hold hands for a moment.

A: "I shall show you something. What is your name, sir?

MK: Mine? Montague.

A: Good evening (pause) [I was then slapped vigorously on my right knee].

MK: I was heartily slapped on my ... oh again [on my left knee] with a very solid feeling. Thank you!

A: You may now release hands. Now you see how ... materialisation within the earth's vibration by means of ectoplasm? [Indeed]

Q: Why, when we held hands there, did that make it easier for you to demonstrate that?

A: It helps the energy to be built up to greater levels, but also it is for the safety of the medium and the ectoplasmic structure. Quite often when people are touched they feel the need to touch back or flee from whatever: so it may be safety as well, you understand.

Q: You mentioned the energy being heightened by holding hands. Is that what would have possibly enabled Mr Webber(2) to work without a cabinet during his mediumship, because I think they held hands throughout the whole séance.

A: Yes, that is correct.

Q: So it is possible to work without a cabinet ...?

A: May be in time to come, when young David is more developed in his physical mediumship we aim to dispense with the cabinet, and there have been times in the past when this would have been possible, but you must understand that any emotional or psychological change within the medium has an affect upon the energy levels and also affects that of the physical manifestation. [Right]

Q: So that, therefore, it would be beneficial for those in development to sit within a cabinet rather than ...?

A: Yes, of course, in the early stages. The cabinet is used to allow us to keep the energy close to the medium, but also for the ectoplasm to be manipulated far more easily for materialisation to take place.

Q: Is it going to be possible for the medium here to actually produce physical phenomena in some sort of light?

A: Recently photographs of ectoplasm have been taken in red light. We don't wish to disappoint Mr Fairbairn, but we do understand that may there is a little concern with him (?) regarding the use of other venues in the area, so Denzil can you hear me? [I can] We shall endeavour this evening to produce ectoplasm that can be seen in red light. This will be the first time it has been done outside the environment where the home circle is normally conducted(3). So it will be a first: it will be your sanctuary where we wish to do this.

DF: An honour and a privilege, William; thank you.

Use of infra-red photography [top]

MK: May I ask another question: this anticipates some of the inevitable queries by my more sceptical colleagues who are always insistent that, despite the elaborate precautions taken to avoid any form of deception, they would still like to have infra-red photography through a video: we have never quite understood what the technical objections are to this. Would you be prepared to elaborate?

A: I understand: any form of electrical equipment that is used for infra-red photographic images of any sort does exude a type of ray, I believe the right word is, but of what consistency I do not know, but this type of ray that is exuded from the photographical equipment has a burning sensation upon the ectoplasm. It is a little like placing the hand in sulphuric acid. But as mediumship progresses in time there will be no need for infra-red photography because all will be seen in spirit-induced light or that of red light if possible so that, as sceptical as your colleagues may be, they cannot be sceptical when the medium is firmly strapped in the chair and a materialised form is seen to be standing in the room.

MK: If I may say so, with great respect, you'd be surprised how far scepticism is sometimes taken.

A: Of course, there will always be those whom you cannot prove to them no matter what you do. Within your field you will always have those who believe or wish to believe, and those who do not. This is a fact of life.

A: Unfortunately this is too true.

Fear of death [top]

[Veronica then asked whether there was anything she could tell her sister to help her when she was so frightened of dying.]

A: Convey to her this: to pass into the spirit vibration is a glorious reunion of souls that have passed before. It is nothing for your sister to be frightened of: it is a changing of vibrations - that from the earth to those of the spirit vibrations. Quite often people are retarded because of their religious belief that they are going to some place of eternal sleep but, of course, in the initial stages of entering that of the spirit dimension they themselves might feel the necessity to sleep, and quite often these people wake up and wonder what they are doing when they have no physical body to sustain them any more; and when this occurs it is quite often that clergyman of their chosen religion will go visit them and speak to them and explain that there was certainly [...?] eternal sleep. Now if I remember right Mr Leslie Flint, who was a direct voice medium, there was a tape produced by Dr Cosmo Lang who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, and who returned and said, 'Of course life goes on, and I was wrong in my assumptions whilst I was here upon the physical plane'. My great friend Dr Theobald Slawinsky who is a cardio-vascular surgeon and works with young David in the state of trance for the purpose of healing and psychic surgery, would be more than happy to visit your dear sister, and if he is able to help, of course he will [Thank you very much]. Be assured there is nothing to fear.

The reincarnation issue

Q: There some schools of thought who say that the earth plane is a plane of individualisation. I was trying to sort out in my mind whether this individuality once established on the earth plane: does it remain in the person's consciousness once they are in spirit?

A: It depends whether you believe in reincarnation, and David is open-minded as you may know. I myself wholeheartedly believe in the fact of reincarnation. I believe this: this is just my interpretation, that when we pass to the world of spirit we obviously still retain our personality, and upon the transition through the spheres of living within the world of spirit you start to lose that identity of the earth's environment and the consciousness that you had, but it cannot be totally eradicated, and when the time of reincarnation takes place, there is always an essence of that of what you were, and this is quite often how, when some people are regressed, they are able to bring forward that of past memories. It would be, and it is, quite foolhardy of me to say this: that all thoughts are eradicated, but you must understand that like young David, who is open-minded about the fact of reincarnation, he himself would find it very difficult under a state of hypnosis to bring forward that of any past life experience. This is due to himself being open-minded, but more so of the fact of being disbelieving of the fact of reincarnation. So it could be firmly embedded in his sub-conscious mind that it would be detrimental to his thoughts and his emotions - if you can imagine: quite often people who have had difficult-like childhoods - they hide from every fact within the recesses of the subconscious mind, do they not? So much for past life experiences. No matter how hard you try, you are unable to bring forward that what it is. I hope that answers your question. [Thank you, chorus] I must go now. A pleasure to have been speaking to you; may be I'll speak to some more people at another time. Good evening to you. [Good evening]

Energetic spirit dancing

Music: all join in singing "Jerusalem" after a squeaky voice was heard. This was followed by an Irish jig, accompanied by clapping sticks in strict time to the music; then a more vigorous jig to which something appeared to be dancing and clapping materialised hands. "Banging on the ceiling" said my wife, amid much noise. The trumpet's luminous tip was flashing around the room and periodically touching sitters. When the music ceased, amid cries of "well done", another less energetic tune followed, and a small voice said "Turn it off", at which point Bianca switched the music off, and Tim introduced himself. After some light-hearted badinage with DF, Tim explained in a high pitched, artificially baby-like voice that it was his job to make the ectoplasm come out(4). He asked whether he should materialise, which he was encouraged to do. Then he said he needed a bit more ectoplasm, and urged us to hold on. There was a whooshing sound of a strangulated type, and a sudden scream of childish laughter. DF said he had missed the board [with his jump from the cabinet]. Tim complained that it had been put a long way away [from the medium](5). Paul commented, "Just testing you". DF: mind you don't twist your ankle! Tim: No need to test me, Buzzy Boy(5).

DF: Timothy, when you had the trumpet up, it would seem that separate from that - I don't know whether anyone else noticed - but I did see quite a few sort of flashes. Is that something you were experimenting with?

Tim: They were spirit lights we were hoping to bring, eventually. Did everybody see them? [No]. You must be blind, then! [General laughter accompanied by a high-pitched cackle from Tim.]

DF: It was very, very quick and subtle, rather like a glow of energy rather than a pinpoint of light, but it was definitely separate from the trumpet.

Tim: D'you know what we're going to do tonight? You've got choices. If you want to see ectoplasm in red light we won't be able to bring in any loved ones. We haven't quite mastered doing both. [The consensus of opinion was sought by Paul. Tim assured us that he could always come again and bring through loved ones. Red light had it.] Tim commented: "We can do most things but we can't work miracles" - another cackle. He asked whether anyone was frightened. Was my companion my wife? I confirmed this, and said she was nervous only when he laughed. He urged her not to be frightened and assured her she would not be hurt - may be a little bit [more laughter]. He then asked everyone to listen because he had fully materialised. There were sounds of something walking about; Veronica let out a short scream as she was touched on the knee. Then both her right and my left hand, holding one another, were fondled for several seconds by what seemed to be a small hand, quite soft and warm. Paul, on my left, said that both his hands were holding my right hand, and the man on Veronica's left confirmed that he had been holding her left hand throughout, all the more tightly because she was clearly nervous. Tim asked whether we had heard his footsteps: "You see, I materialised partly, then". When he complained that we were a very quiet lot tonight, I commented that we were awestruck, and Tim remarked that oars were used for boats [cackle]. He appeared to require more ectoplasm and said we could release hands for the moment. DF said he could see a fairly bright light in front of him, but it seemed to have gone. It stayed in the same place even when he moved his head. Tim explained that they were creating an energy field around the room.

Tim then addressed "Mrs Monty" and asked whether she had a camera - a new-fangled one. Veronica said she had, and Tim confirmed that, at the end of the sitting but before the medium was cut out of the chair, she could take a couple of photographs, if that was all right with Paul. Paul sought further guidance and suggested it would be better if the pictures were taken when the medium had been released and had been given some water, but Tim said it ought to be done when he was still bound. The medium would say when he was awake.

Origin of a purloined apport

Tim then announced that he would bring an apport for Bianca. She promised she would wear it all the time. Veronica asked where he got the apport from. He said he would have to seek permission to tell her. There was a short pause, then he announced that he had been given permission. He said there was a stall half way down the Portobello Road(6) that sold curios: he thought it was called Jan or Jane's Curios - or something like that. "We borrowed it off of her" [laughter]. "We asked her mum in the spirit world if she would mind and she said she won't even miss it - but she did, you know: she was looking for it to try and find it!" [cackle] "And just to make it more interesting, when we switch the red light on, we'll try and materialise it: we'll apport it out of his mouth, shall we?" [Chorus of assent]. "We'll materialise it in the ectoplasm and try bringing it out of his mouth." When DF pointed out that David had a gag in his mouth, and implied that this might make things difficult, Tim said: "You'd be surprised. He's got a big mouth" [laughter and cackle]. He said they might need music to enable them to do what they had to do. He would let us know when he was ready.

After a brief interrogation about the curtains and lights, and whether the music should be played throughout, Tim promised to make a bang when they were ready. He didn't want the red light too low or too high because they (the spirits) had never attempted this before... They might see the medium's face contorted a little. He was asked whether he could knock three times to ensure that we knew when he was ready, to which he responded, amid laughter by singing Knock three Times on the Ceiling if you Want me. Music was re-started. We joined in singing An Alien in New York. Paul then asked for the music to stop and everyone to remain absolutely quiet. I was asked to turn on the wall switch governing the red lamp. There followed much manoeuvring while the curtain on my side was opened and the light, pointing downwards to avoid shining in the medium's face, was adjusted. Bianca checked to ensure everyone could then see the medium. We then saw a white substance stretching from the medium's face and across his chest to his lap. After about half a minute Tim asked for the light to be turned off at the main. The music resumed. Tim explained that the music and singing were needed to generate the energy, a lot of which was needed for this sort of demonstration. He asked DF when was the last time he had seen ectoplasm. DF replied that it was about three years ago in a sitting with Stewart Alexander. Since then there had been some 300 people attending his séances.

Addressing me as "Uncle Monty" Tim asked for my reactions. I wondered what had become of the ectoplasm. Tim said it had been dematerialised: it was dangerous when the ectoplasm was out of the medium. He had kept a little bit for himself to enable him to talk to us. This was the first time they had brought through an apport via the ectoplasm with the red light on: it was dangerous. Veronica described a light she saw in front of her. DF said it was the same as the light he saw. Tim asked me whether my wife usually saw such things. I said she did, but I did not. Tim observed amid laughter that if "your missus sees things it's got to be true" - followed by another cackle. He called for music. It was switched on. I did not see the apport being produced, but it was on the floor near Bianca when the séance ended.

After one song, the music played a Louis Armstrong song, Wonderful World. Armstrong's voice was heard on the music, and then a voice apparently identical to Armstrong's accompanied it. It was quite clear. This was followed by the voice introducing himself thus: "How are all you fine people here this evening? May I introduce myself? My name is Louis Armstrong" [expressions of welcome], "known by many as Satchmo. I've got to say this is very difficult speaking through this here voice box" [murmurs of sympathy and encouragement]. Bianca sought permission to pose a question, "Yes you can ask me a question if you wish, my dear." She said she had lost a tape with Satchmo singing with a lady, and she could not find it. "Well my dear you've got the record at home". Bianca expressed gratification. "So you didn't have to look that far did you?" (pause) "I'm just going to materialise." There followed a whooshing noise followed by the sound of a minor collision. I commented that he'd tripped over something. "No I haven't my frien'. I'm just showing you I've materialised." There followed several knocks and bangs, and it became clear it was some sort of soft shoe shuffle. "There you are my friends, and I bid you good night". The voice was loud, clear and highly idiosyncratic, immediately recognisable as Satchmo's uniquely guttural pronunciation.

After a pause, we heard some heavy breathing sounds, and a very croaky voice, which shortly became firmer, addressed us: We welcomed him. We were asked to keep talking to help the vibrations. Paul greeted him, and the voice asked everyone to sit still. "I wish to fully materialise..." He introduced himself as Sir William Crookes. "Some of you may know me from my scientific research, but some of you by means of my communication and friendship with the physical medium Florence Cook. At no time was there any doubt in my mind of any fraud or of Miss Cook. [Comment from DF: There are quite a few photographs showing Florence and Katie (King) separately.] "There are two reasons why I came to this gathering this evening. One was purely to make my presence felt here and to commune with people of like minds. One was also because of my interest in this young man's mediumship. As you have seen this evening, ectoplasm was exuded from this young man in red light and seen, and as you know I myself witnessed full materialisation in light, that of the materialised form of Kate King. Are you all familiar with this [general assent]? I shall endeavour to move further into the room. Now I am sure there are those amongst you who may have questions of me. Please feel free to ask and I shall endeavour to answer."

I asked whether those guilty of unfair opposition and criticism during his lifetime had now recanted in the afterlife. He replied: "I would not say they have recanted. I would say their minds have been firmly changed." He asked my name, and I told him "Ah, so you're Keen are you? I have heard words of you, I can tell you, dear boy. I understand you are going to endeavour to continue some of the work that I started". [We are] "Well carry on the good work, dear boy". I commented: "Your work was an inspiration to us and many others". He replied: "I was not swayed, dear friend, by any means." I then quoted his words "I did not say that it was possible; I simply said that it happened."

At this point I felt my tie being unknotted. I commented on this, saying that the hands unknotting it were firm. "My tie is now being pulled out and I think undone by firm hands. Thank you. Both my hands are being held and - ah! My tie is being taken off! I hope it won't dematerialise". "As you can see, my friend, anything is possible", the voice resumed. "Let me explain something in regard to external energies being brought into the séance room. Some of you may know I myself was a party to developing vacuum tubes which were part of X-ray tubes, you understand. Do you know of this Keen?" [I do, sir] "Well you will know that X-ray is something which exudes energy, does it not, which can sometimes be detrimental to that of the patient in large degrees. Well, within the séance room the energy is in heightened state, and bringing into the séance room any form of electricity other than that that is compensated for, which sometimes proves to be quite difficult to work with, can have a disastrous effect on the mediumship of the individual within the chair. When I witnessed the materialisation of Katie King, that was the most thought-provoking change in my life. It was at that time that the reality of life after death really touched my soul. Then there was no going back. Then I had to bring to the world the truth of the continuity of life. Now I would say this to you: put away your electrical equipment of infra-red status for this young man and other physical mediums, manifestations will be seen again in that sort of light produced either by the spirit vibrations or by that of your own means, if we allow it in the séance room. That is all I have to say."

Q: When working with the medium you worked with, did you witness her materialise from nothing, or from scratch basically to full form, or did you just witness her coming out of the cabinet?

A: At one time I was privileged to see ectoplasm exuding from the medium's body by means of the mouth and solar plexus, and from this even what seemed to be ectoplasm on the floor in front of the medium the materialised form began to arise until there was a full form materialisation before my very eyes.

Q: How long did the process take?

A: About five minutes from nothing to full materialisation.

Q: Do you have a laboratory of some sort now?

A: There is not necessarily a need for a laboratory where I am in the spirit dimension, but I do quite often visit chemists and such that work in laboratory environments on this earth vibration to learn new skills. I must go now. It has been a pleasurable experience to be able to speak to you good people.

Something fell or was pushed between my left arm and Veronica's right. Veronica also said she felt it. Music followed, accompanied by bangs, clashes, rattle-swinging, drumsticks etc without relevance to the music, and amid a good deal of reports of touches, interspersed with the occasional mild scream from Veronica. Almost everyone appeared to report touches or minor knocks. Immediately the music stopped, Alan reported that two rings were over his wrists. Tim asked for the music to be changed: a nice uplifting one - the energy was becoming a bit thin.

Bianca expressed renewed gratitude for her apport. There followed a reprise of I'm an Englishman and a loud farewell from Tim. Then another song, unaccompanied this time. The music faded out, and the séance ended as the red light was slowly restored amid some heavy breathing. The sound of sealing tape being ripped off the light switch was accompanied by instructions from Paul to remain completely quiet while Veronica retrieved her camera from the anteroom. The medium's eyes were protected from the flashlight for the four or five pictures taken by Veronica, showing the medium strapped to his chair in the centre of the room. When the medium's blindfold, which had been used as a gag was removed Paul drew attention to the remnants of ectoplasm still on the material.

Assessment and comments

It is almost an article of faith among many psychical researchers that unless physical phenomena are capable of being clearly witnessed, or alternatively that infra-red video recording is available, no persuasive evidence of anything paranormal is possible. Although the spirit portrayed as Sir William Crookes explained why an infra-red video camera might be damaging to the medium at his present stage of development, the general rule of evidentiality may be broken if the other security measures justify an unambiguous assertion that deception on the part of the medium was impossible. The nature of the ties would have prevented the medium, no matter how strong or agile, from escaping his bonds without first managing to cut the ties. Even had he been able to do so, he could not have regained his seat and retied the knots unaided, employing a new set of uncut ties, unless he had been helped by someone able to work deftly, accurately and swiftly in pitch dark. No-one in the séance room could have attempted that without ready detection. Moreover my careful examination of the chair showed no sign of any movable join. Finally, the reversal of the medium's cardigan while he was still bonded to his seat defies normal explanation. The precautions here were superior even to those employed by Schrenck-Notzing on Eva C, who was sewn into a single garment, or on the physical medium Jack Webber, where less sophisticated tying methods, and materials, were used.

During the brief time when the red light was switched on, we could all see, the medium draped with a white cloth-like foam substance, presumably ectoplasm, albeit not with great clarity in some cases. It corresponded in appearance with many of the photographs showing ectoplasmic emissions from past mediums; but the facilities for overt examination of it contrasted rather strikingly with these available to Harry Edwards in his supervision of Webber, who was extensively photographed by flashlight in various stages of ectoplasmic production, apparently without injury to the medium (Edwards, 1961). For this apparent anomaly I was given two reasons: Webber may well have been more strongly developed as a medium; the photographs were all taken with the consent of the spirit guardians, who had an opportunity to withdraw the vulnerable animation spirit from the ectoplasm before photographs were taken. There are also the very large number of flashlight photographs taken by or on behalf of Schrenck-Notzing, and reproduced, albeit poorly, in The Phenomena of Materialization (Schrenck-Notzing, 1923).

The voices themselves could not have come from the gagged medium. The only other "regulars" on whom suspicion might rest were Bianca, his wife, Paul the leader who was seated next to me, and whose voice and location would have clearly identified him, and DF, the host, who was seated at the opposite end of the room from the medium. Any of these possibilities would have easily and immediately detectable by those present, as well as likely to be defeated by listening to the tape recording. While the communications did not contain anything which could be regarded as convincingly evidential, the information was consistent with what is known of Crookes, and the answers to all questions were unhesitating, coherent and sensible.

The remaining physical phenomena did not appear to me to be susceptible to any normal explanation, considering that hand-holding (despite Eusapia Palladino's purported skill in hand-substitution) effectively ruled out those closely associated with the medium: Bianca and Paul, as well as DF.

Feasibility of deception

Although much of what occurred was expected, save for the use (for the first time, we were told, in a non-domestic circle setting) of red light to enable ectoplasmic extrusion to be seen, and in accordance with reports which had appeared in the Spiritualist press (e.g. Alexander, 2003, Eccles, 2002, Fairbairn, 2002, Fairbairn, 2003 Hunt, 2000 (and Pearman, 2002), I have listed above some other remarkable physical phenomena which have little or no dependence on the frailties of memory or the defects of observation.


1."Substantiate" is used in a strictly accurate, but today unaccustomed, sense here.

2. Jack Webber, who died aged 32 in 1940, was a prominent physical medium who was befriended by the celebrated healer Harry Edwards. He published many photographed showing Webber, without a cabinet, and with apparent ectoplasmic emissions from and around him.

3. This was a semi-public séance as distinct from one where regular sitters meet privately in a domestic or home circle.

4. It is not unknown for ostensible children to perform quite adult functions in séances. Mrs Osborne Leonard's principal control was Feda, whose childish mispronunciation and temperament was allied to considerable intelligence, as here.

5. Paul's nick-name.

6. A popular street market in West London.

7. There appears to be a direct relationship between the "strength" or vitality of the ectoplasm and its distance from the medium.


Alexander, S. 2003. A David Thompson séance reported by renowned physical medium Stewart Alexander. Psychic News, January 4.

Eccles. V. 2002. David Thompson gives a séance at Tumbetin in Australia. Psychic News, Sept 21.

Edwards, H. 1961. The Mediumship of Jack Webber, The Healer Publishing Co.

Fairbairn, D. 2002. A physical Séance Report. Psychic News. May 11

Fairbairn, D., 2003. Description of fifth and final séance promoted by the newspaper. Psychic News, July 12

Hunt, H. and C. 2001. Report on a physical séance held at Crawley. Psychic News. October 6.

Keen, M. Fontana D and Ellison A 1999, The Scole Report, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol.58, pt 220.

Pearman, R. 2002. A Star-studied Evening with Physical Medium David Thompson, Psychic News, Dec 21-28.

Schrenck-Notzing, B. von , 1923. The Phenomena of Materialisation, tr. Fournier d'Albe 1st English Edition, Kegan Paul, Trubner.

© The International Survivalist Society 2003

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