October 2010

Today in Stupid Human News

Apparently, a man from Essex was so terrified of a spider that he sprayed it with an aerosol can, and then tried to light himself on fire. (His wife called him to deal with the thing, so she was apparently to scared to deal with it either way—aerosol or none.) Whatever happened to the shoe method my husband uses?

In all fairness, the lighting of the fire came after the man sprayed the spider. The light bulb in the room blew out, inspiring him to light a match (and ensure the deadness of the arachnid)—and then blow himself up. He wasn’t blown to pieces, thankfully; just to the point where he suffered severe burns.

Cell Phone Time Traveler? Doubtful!

Stop me if you've heard this one before.  (I'm kidding - this story is everywhere; it just got picked up by CNN, for pity's sake.)  Filmmaker George Clarke was watching an extra on a Charlie Chaplin DVD, and captured what looks like an overweight older woman walking down the street talking on a cell phone.

My favorite thing about this story is everyone who debunks it by pointing out that "it can't be real, because there weren't any cell phone towers in 1928." Sure, because that's the problem with this story!  The lack of cell phone towers.

Point #1 being, anyone who has the technology to travel back in time would presumably be able to construct a device which communicates correctly, even in 1929.  The evidence here is that otherwise, she's spending an awful lot of time talking on a cell phone that isn't working.

"Hello?  Hello, this is Commander Fussyshoes to Time Travel Base, come back please.  OH BLAST, there aren't any cell phone towers!  I forgot!"

Blemmyes: Headless Cannibals

Historically, the Blemmyes were first described by Pliny the Elder.  (That right there should put you on your guard, because old Pliny tended to play fast and loose with what we think of as "facts.")  Pliny the Elder described them as having no heads, with "their mouth and eyes are put in their chests." 

Sketches of the time show exactly that: people without heads, with their facial features embedded in their chests.  While it is theoretically true that a human being's mouth and nose could be hooked up through their chest (imagine the esophagus and trachea being detoured to the front of the chest) one can't help but point out that there is no room for a brain. 

The human brain is a fairly large object, about the size of a football, and weighing about three pounds.  Needless to say, it would be difficult to fit a brain inside a chest cavity.


Grilled Cheese Jesus.  The Face On Mars.  The Man in the Moon.  The ghost head of a Tyrannosaurus rex spotted in a curl of smoke in a picture of Neil Gaiman.  What do all these things have in common?  They are all excellent examples of pareidolia.

Pronounced "pa-ri-DOE-lee-a," pareidolia is an innate quality of the human mind that makes us see things in chaos.  If you have ever seen subtle patterns marching across a television screen of static (do they even have those anymore?) or made shapes out of the clouds in the sky, you have exercised a little pareidolia.

In ghost hunting circles, pareidolia is called "matrixing."  This frequently turns out to be the explanation for ghosts spotted in photographs, and for the results of some EVP sessions.  (Some people argue that almost every piece of EVP evidence is simply the result of matrixing on the part of the listener, perhaps aided by static bursts, or accidentally recorded electronic cross talk from broadcast stations and CB radios.)

The Twins of Brazil: Nazi Work?

A small town in rural Brazil has a birth rate of twins which is 1,000% above the global average.  This small farming community was founded as a German settlement around 1900, but became famous in the 1990s when word of its astonishingly high rate of twins hit the global scene.

According to a National Geographic special, Candido Godoi is currently home to 44 pairs of twins to only 81 families.  In other words, more than half the families in the town have a pair of twins.  Could it be the work of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele?

While at Auschwitz, Mengele had been fascinated by twins.  He ordered twins to be separated from the rest of the incoming prisoners, and housed in a separate barracks.  Mengele, dubbed the "Angel of Death," performed numerous barbaric experiments on twins, including dissecting them while still alive without anesthetic, and sewing together non-twin children in the hopes of creating a conjoined twin. 

Exploding Trees

Is it true that trees can explode if it gets cold enough?  This belief is persistent and can be traced back several hundred years.  However, there is good cause for skepticism here!

As the theory goes, sap - which is a liquid - expands when it freezes.  If it expands far enough, fast enough, the tree would not have time to react, and explodes.  Many people report hearing loud bangs in the forest during cold snaps, said to be the sound of trees exploding.

(Of course, this could all simply be the work of the Splintercat!)


If Sasquatch is the most recognizable American cryptid, then Mothman must surely be a close runner-up.  The peak of Mothman sightings happened in the late 1960s, but the Mothman legend continues to mesmerize readers - and Mothman himself is still spotted in the darkness, from time to time.

Mothman is a tall humanoid creature with gigantic moth wings.  (Why moth wings in particular?  Why not just "wings"?  I have always wondered.)  His eyes glow red, and he has the unsettling habit of chasing people in the darkness. 

Furthermore, Mothman's appearances are said to have foretold various events, leading up to a local catastrophe.  After the last Mothman sighting in 1967, a local bridge collapsed during rush hour.  46 people were killed as the cars tumbled into the Ohio River.

What Do You Need For Ghost Hunting?

It's easy to get discouraged by all the fancy equipment you see on shows like "Paranormal State" and "Ghost Hunters."  But you don't need the latest and greatest toys to investigate the paranormal. Just a few simple items, luck, and an open mind.

1.    Location, Location, Location!
Scouting out potential locations is often the hardest part of ghost hunting.  It requires patience, persistence, and keeping an ear open. 

It also requires permission!  No matter how run-down and abandoned the location seems, someone owns it, and they will likely take a dim view of anyone tramping around there after dark.  Always secure permission from the property owners before investigating a site. 

No one wants to end a session with a ride in the back of a police cruiser, or a trespassing charge!