Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Keef Stalin Tells Press He Has the Same Nickname as Recreational Drug

October 11, 2021

This piece over at Mike’s blog has given me a not inconsiderable amount of amusement, as John Major may have said. Stalin was visiting a Kellogg’s factory when he decided to tell his audience that when he was young he had the nickname ‘Special K’. He was supposedly called it because the ‘K’ stood for ‘Kier’ and he was special. He obviously thought this story would impressed the assembled workers, as it’s the name of one of their breakfast cereals. One which was always being advertised as helping you watch your weight. However, as your super soaraway, poisonous rag, the Scum, reminded their readers, it’s also the nickname for ketamine, a horse tranquilliser also used recreationally by the drugs crowd. I got the impression that its side-effects included nightmares and paranoia. The psychologist John Lilley was on it. Lilley was the scientist, who first researched dolphin intelligence and investigated the use of the sensory isolation tank, going on inward voyages into the contents of his mind in it while also stoned on the drug. The horror film Altered States is based on him. Thanks to the drug, Lilley became paranoid and convinced alien computer civilisations were out in space conspiring against humanity. If Stalin was on the drug, it would explain so much, like the mass purges and the anti-Semitism against the ‘wrong kind of Jews’. You know, the type of Jews who don’t believe that Israel is the crowning achievement of Jewish history and that it’s wrong to persecute the Palestinians. Mind you, it doesn’t seem he would have been so far gone to start getting worried about a personal vendetta against him by all the computers out there.

However, faced with ridicule from Scum’s article, Stalin has doubled back and said he only made it up on the spur of the moment because he was caught off guard. Which is an admission that he lied. Well, it’s small one compared to all those he’s previously told.

The episode should be an object lesson to Starmer. He had a piece published in it last week, clearly trying to ingratiate himself with its readers just as Tony Blair managed to win over Dirty Rupe nearly a quarter of a century ago.

But the Scum is Tory through and through, and it doesn’t matter what you do if you’re on the left, they still aren’t going to respect you, and will turn and bite as soon as they get the opportunity.

Karen Davis on the Woman Challenging a Spa over Biological Male in Women’s Area

June 29, 2021

This is going to be another controversial post, as it’s about women’s right to protest against the inclusion of biological men in women’s spaces on the grounds that they are transwomen, and identify as female. Davis is a Black American feminist, a teacher and musician with a degree in psychology and an absolutely razor sharp mind. She is one of the many voices criticising trans activism and transwomen on the Net, and does so not with prejudice, but with facts, statistics and logic.

Now to make it clear, I do not hate transpeople. I am sure there are some wonderful transmen and -women around, and I recognise that some people genuinely identify as members of the opposite sex and treatment and transitioning has worked for them. I do not wish to see anyone, including transpeople, bullied, abused, denied jobs, assaulted or otherwise persecuted simply for being what they are. As the author of Harry Potter, J.K Rowling said, they should be able to dress how they want, sleep with whoever will have them and live the best life they can. But their rights should not supersede women’s rights to safe, single sex spaces.

This is essentially a practical, real-life enactment of the Staniland Question. Helen Staniland is a Welsh lady, and one of Graham Linehan’s interlocutors with Canadian Arty Morty on his The Mess We’re In YouTube channel. She used to go around asking people if they would be happy, if their mother or daughter went to a women only space, like sports changing rooms, and saw a penis. Of course, most severely normal people privately wouldn’t, and say so privately to her. But the trans rights activists demand complete acceptance as women, and scream and holler prejudice and ‘transphobia’ if this supposed right is questioned. But the TRAs really don’t have an answer to her question, and so have been reduced to misrepresenting her as some kind of pervert or prurient woman obsessed with male genitals.

In this case, Karen Davis looks at a video of an angry woman, unseen, who challenges the staff at a spa because she has seen a naked, biological male in the women’s changing area. She saw a penis. And the staff are unsympathetic, at one point replying to her statement ‘It was a dick!’ with ‘Yes, and you’re being one.’ But this is a real problem with women’s right to their own, single-sex spaces allowing them to feel safe and comfortable.

The transgender individual didn’t have to use the women’s area. The spa contained men’s, women’s and coed spaces. If that person understandably didn’t want to use the men’s, then he could have used the coed, mixed space instead. But his demand to be seen as a woman overrode women’s desire and need not to have a biological male in their space.

Davis is also against transwomen being accepted as women, even if they have transitioned. It’s not a view I fully support, but I can appreciate her reasons for holding such a view. Especially as the medical literature shows that transexuals and transvestites have a higher incidence of other fetishes, including paedophilia and exhibitionism. There have been instances where transwomen, who have undergone gender reassignment, have committed acts of gross exhibitionism in women’s space, such as toilets, for example, and then posted it on the Net.

While Davis is particularly ferocious in her opposition to trans rights and denies that transwomen can ever be women, she and Helen Staniland have a point.

Biological men should have no place in women only spaces, like toilets and changing rooms. To allow them in contradicts the very reason we have them – to protect women from embarrassment and potential sexual harassment.

And women have every right to complain.

Starmer’s Wrong: Transpeople Are Not Marginalised and Self-ID Is a Danger to Women

June 13, 2021

It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for Stonewall. Having put their whole weight behind the campaign for trans rights, they now find themselves facing serious opposition and questioning at last. Various universities and organisations have found that the advice Stonewall has given them is misleading and may actually be illegal. The gay rights activist group was informing its clients that certain types of criticism, which are actually legal and protected, constituted hate speech and was illegal. An increasing number of gays and lesbians are also upset with the organisation’s almost exclusive focus on trans issues. Many lesbians resent the intrusion of biological men into their exclusive spaces – there have been complaints that the majority of lesbian pubs and clubs, at least in Canada, have closed down. There is pressure upon lesbians to have sexual relationships with trans identified men, and if the lesbians turn them down, then they are accused of being ‘transphobic’. There is also particular concern that butch lesbians, and feminine gay men, are being wrongly put under pressure to identify as trans and transition, while in reality they are simply butch lesbians and feminine gay men. As a result, a number of gays and lesbians have left Stonewall and similar organisations for organisations like the LGB Alliance, which concentrates solely on gay rights and excludes trans issues.

Earlier this week Benjamin Cohen, CEO of Pink News, was interviewed by Radio 4’s Simon Fanshawe about trans rights. He faced polite, but difficult questioning, something Cohen clearly wasn’t used to. All he could do in response was flail about flinging accusations that somehow Fanshawe was homophobic or transphobic or something, and point to his own minority position as a gay, disabled Jew. Which really isn’t relevant to the topic in hand.

The day after, Starmer came out to support trans rights and said he would support self-ID. Trans people were the most discriminated people in the UK, according to him. This is simply wrong. I doubt very much that trans people are any more discriminated against than the rest of the population. A year or so ago the trans lobby was agitating for a ‘trans day of remembrance’ in respect of all the trans people that have been killed. Except no trans people, or nearly no trans people, have been killed in Britain. They stats they use to support the claim of hundreds of trans people being massacred come from Latin America, where most of the victims are sex workers. Furthermore, transpeople, at least in America, aren’t poor and marginalised. Karen Davies, a Black anti-trans activist, posted a video citing a sociological study of the American trans community, which found them to be overwhelmingly White, extremely affluent, and very well educated. 13 per cent of them have Ph.Ds, as compared to one per cent of the general American population.

Where they are arguably discriminated against, there are very good reasons for doing so. Most transwomen – about 70% – 90% – retain their male genitalia, which is clearly an issue when it comes to transwomen being given access to women-only spaces, like toilets, changing rooms, rape crisis centres, women’s shelters and prisons. This issue is exacerbated further by research showing that sexual fetishes, like transvestism, tend to cluster. Transwomen don’t conform to female patterns of criminality, but male, and convicted transwomen may have a number of other paraphilias such as exhibitionism, sado-masochism and paedophilia. There are therefore extremely good scientific, criminological reasons why transwomen should not be housed in women’s prisons. They may constitute a danger to the female inmates. And indeed, despite the lies utter by Stonewall that nothing of the type has happened, women prisoners have been raped by biologically male sex offenders, who have been sent to women’s prisons because they have claimed to identify as women.

Here’s a couple of videos from Karen Davies again as she cites the sociological research into the transwomen and paraphilias/sexual fetishes.

More disturbing is the evidence from psychiatrists and law-enforcers that certain trans identified men have been getting sexual jollies from being in women’s spaces for a very long time. Be warned – this is sexually explicit.

I realise that this will upset some of the readers and commenters on this blog, who will feel that I am spreading hate and prejudice.

This is very definitely not my intention. I am certainly not trying to smear transwomen as a whole as dangerous sexual predators and I condemn utterly any attack or abuse of them simply for being trans. I believe totally that they should have the same respect, employment and educational rights and opportunities as everyone else.

What I don’t believe in is allowing trans ideology to prevail over fact when it comes to the safety of women and girls. And unfortunately this is the case, and will be the case, if self-ID is accepted and predatory and extremely dangerous trans-identified men are allowed into women’s spaces.

Starmer is here, quite simply, wrong. His promotion of self-ID has led many gender-critical women to leave the Labour party and tear up their membership cards. Yes, transpeople should have a place in the Labour party, and their rights should otherwise be guarded and promoted.

But they are not marginalised, they are not poor, and the promotion of the trans ideology is harming women, and vulnerable gays and lesbians.

Bristol South’s Motion Condemning Keira Bell Decision

February 19, 2021

My local constituency Labour party, Bristol South, passed another motion at the monthly meeting last Thursday, to which I am very strongly opposed. This motion was brought by the LGBTQ+ officer and another, long-standing local party officer and activist condemning the judge’s decision on a case brought by a detransitioning transperson, Keira Bell. As I understand it, Bell had been a minor when she decided that she was in the wrong body. This was supported by the medical professionals who treated her, and she was given gender reassignment treatment, transitioning from a girl to a young man. However, she now believes that this was wrong, and that as a child she was unable to make a proper decision on this immensely serious, life-changing process, and therefore sued. The judge has concurred, ruling in her favour.

This has upset the trans rights lobby and very many LGBTQ+ activists. One of the complaints of a number of gays is that the mainstream, established gay rights organisations such as Stonewall have been captured, as they see it, by the trans lobby, and a proper concern for securing the equality and dignity of ordinary gay and bisexual men and women has been ditched in favour of an inflexible, doctrinaire demand for gay rights. It is an immensely controversial issue. Gender critical feminists, who believe in the reality and primacy of biological sex over gender and the idea that someone can be a member of the opposite sex simply by identifying with it mentally, have been abused as ‘Terfs’ (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and worse. They have received threats of death, rape and sexual mutilation by enraged transgender activists. J.K. Rowling, the author of the ‘Harry Potter’ novels, has been accused of hating transpeople and wanting to kill them simply because she posted a tweet stating that ‘transwomen are not women’. Nothing she said was remotely hateful. Far from it. She actually urged transpeople to have the best life they could, dress how they want and sleep with whoever would have them. She just didn’t regard them as real women. That’s it. But because of this she has been mercilessly pilloried and vilified.

The transition of children is of particular concern. The American lawyer and writer Abigail Shrier has argued in her book that the sudden rise in young girls feeling unhappy with their sex and wishing to transition into boys does not come from an authentic confusion or dissatisfaction with their sexual identity. Many of the young people affected have previously shown no unhappiness with it, or any desire to transition. Rather this sudden desire to change sex is a psychological illness created partly by the promotion of gender and trans ideology on the internet acting on deep-seated but common anxieties about sex and their bodies that many girls go through when entering puberty. She compares it to other, pernicious and destructive psychological diseases such as anorexia and bulimia. There have also been concerns that many of the young people, who were persuaded by organisations like the Tavistock institute, that they are transgender are in fact merely autistic, and that the psychological symptoms of that condition have been misinterpreted. Gender critical gays and lesbians have also claimed that many of the children, who are put forward for gender treatment, are in fact not transgender but simply gays, who don’t conform to gender-typical norms. Again, Linehan and his friends and conversationalists in the gay community have expressed concerns that many of the parents of children treated by the Tavistock institute and elsewhere, were homophobic. They were unable to come to terms with the possibility that their child might be gay, finding it easier to believe instead that they were in the wrong body. If this is true, then these gender critical gays are absolutely correct to condemn the transitioning of such children as a form of anti-gay conversion therapy, as nasty as the other forms which enlightened governments around the world are seeking to proscribe.

At the moment children confused about their gender identity are given puberty blockers to stave off the onset of physical adulthood. This is intended to give them time to consider properly whether they really want to go through with transition. The drugs are supposed to be safe and fully reversible.

The drugs’ opponents are convinced they are not. In interview on Newsnight, the writer, comedian and broadcaster Graham Linehan stated that the drug used, Lupron, was developed to treat men with terminal prostate cancer. Its effects on teenage girls is unknown.

See: Father Ted creator Graham Linehan on trans rights – BBC Newsnight – YouTube

He and others, who share his concerns, argue that the drugs are not reversible and may have serious physical side effects, such as lower bone density leading to a greater vulnerability to osteoporosis. It is also claimed that 80 to 90 per cent of children, who identify as members of the opposite sex, actually grow out of it once they become adults. They mature into either straight or gay members of their sex. On the other hand, according to one study, the overwhelming majority of children put on puberty blockers go on to cross-sex hormones and then gender reassignment surgery. If this is also true, then the use of puberty blockers as treatment is leading to the transition of children, who don’t need it. Especially as cross section hormones seem to have very serious effects.

I tried to raise these issues with the LGBTQ+ officer in the time allowed for us to ask questions regarding the motion she had proposed. I am not a medical person, and admit that in this matter I am merely an ordinary member of the British public who is influenced by what he sees and reads on the Net. The LGTBQ+ officer’s motion was impressive. She clearly laid out her case and it was supported by footnotes. It was also clear that she was acting from a position of genuine concern with the potential harm done by the judicial decision.

She replied that the drugs are fully reversible, that the loss of bone density was not a danger and that children were not being wrongly transitioned. One of the objections to transgender therapy is that it demands that the patient’s trans identity should also be reinforced and supported. Hence medical professionals may be wrongly convincing confused people that they are transgender. The young woman responded instead that this was not the case, but it had been found that patients responded better if their trans identity was supported. But if the patients decided transitioning was not for them, that would be supported too. She was also worried that the judge’s decision would undermine Gillick, which provides for children to receive contraceptive or abortion advice and assistance without the knowledge or consent of their parents. She dismissed the objections to the use of puberty blockers as misinformation. It was bad science, like climate change denial, especially as much of it came from the religious right.

I strongly disagree. I believe instead that the bad science is that embraced by those supporting the use of puberty blocker and trans ideology. For example, according to the website, Transgender Trend, Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on June 30th 2020, reported that NHS England was no longer saying that puberty blockers were fully reversible. The NHS’ website states that GIDS, an organisation closely associated with the Tavistock Institute, advises that puberty blockers are fully reversible if stopped. But it also says that their long-term psychological effects are not known. It also states that the possible side effects of puberty blockers are hot flushes, fatigue and mood changes. The website also removes the previous claim that without such treatment, trans children are vulnerable to self-harm and suicide. I believe this was a claim made by the LGBTQ+ officer, but my memory may well be playing tricks. Instead the NHS simply states that they may suffer from depression, anxiety and distress.

The World.wng.org website also cites a report by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust of December 2nd, 2020, that all but one of a group of children put on puberty blockers then went on to cross sex hormones. This also noted changes in children’s bone density and that their normal growth flatlined. There was also no improvement in their psychological wellbeing. The website also cited Michael Laidlaw, and endocrinologist of Rocklin, California, that there was also a loss of bone density which put such children at risk of stunted height and osteoporosis.

See: Are puberty blockers reversible? The NHS no longer says so (transgendertrend.com)

Study: Effects of puberty-blockers can last a lifetime – Sexuality – WORLD (wng.org)

It may well be that these sites are aligned with the right. The WORLD site seems to be. But their articles are properly referenced with links to their sources, which includes NHS England and the Beeb’s Woman’s Hour. I therefore believe that objections to this information because of the overall political bias of the sites are false, and trust the information they provide. Which supports what Linehan and others have been saying, as well as the American endocrinology Dr. William Malone in his interview with YouTuber Benjamin Boyce.

As for the objection that the Keira Bell judgement undermines Gillick, I do not believe that the two are entirely comparable. Transgender treatment leads to profound, permanent physical changes that affect a person for the rest of their life. It also has to be said that the children coming for such treatment are too young that in law they are barred from seeing certain types of film, buying alcohol and tobacco and so on. The fact the law deems them incapable of purchasing those items in the views of the gender critical movement supports the idea that children are not capable of deciding whether or not they wish to change gender.

I say here that I certainly do not hate transpeople. I have every sympathy with those who are confused about their gender. I do not wish them, nor anyone else, to be harmed or victimised in any way. But I think the current transgender ideology, and particularly as it is applied to children, is doing immense unintended harm.

I therefore believe that while Bristol South’s motion was proposed and passed in entirely good faith and from the very best motives, it is utterly and profoundly wrong and mistaken. I therefore fully support the Keira Bell judgement.

Trailer for HBO Series on Heaven’s Gate Suicide Cult

January 12, 2021

The ’90s were a decade marred by the mass deaths of cult members. There was the Order of the Solar Temple, the horrific immolation of the Branch Davidians in their conflict with the FBI and Heaven’s Gate. HBO Max started screening a documentary series about the latter on December 3rd last year. I found this trailer for it on YouTube. Although it’s just over 2 minutes long, it shows the cult’s main beliefs and the background to the tragedy.

The cult was led by a man and woman, here identified as ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’. They died wearing badges announcing that they were an ‘away team’, and believed that after they left their bodies, they would ascend to become aliens of a superior species and take their seats in a spacecraft in or following a visiting comment. Several of the men had been castrated. Their bodies were discovered covered in purple sheets.

The blurb for the series on its YouTube page gives a bit more information. It says

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and loved ones. What started in 1975 with the disappearance of 20 people from a small town in Oregon ended in 1997 with the largest suicide on US soil and changed the face of modern new age religion forever. This four-part docuseries uses never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts to explore the infamous UFO cult that shocked the nation with their out-of-this-world beliefs.

“Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” is a Max Original produced by CNN and Campfire. Directed and executive produced by Clay Tweel (“Gleason”), the docuseries is also executive produced by Campfire CEO Ross Dinerstein (“The Innocent Man”) and Shannon Riggs, with Chris Bannon, Eric Spiegelman, Peter Clowney and Erik Diehn executive producing for the digital media company Stitcher (“Heaven’s Gate” podcast, “Sold in America” podcast).

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults | Official Trailer | HBO Max – YouTube

The Fortean Times did a piece about the cult. As the TV series’ blurb says, the two cult leaders had been knocking around the UFO world for years. I can’t remember their real names, except that they had a couple of nicknames. Apart from ‘Do’ and ‘Ti’, they were also called ‘Him’ and ‘Her’. I think their message had started off claiming that they end was nigh, but that the Space Brothers were coming to help us. It’s a message shared by several UFO religions and Contactees. In the 1950s a Chicago psychic had claimed she had received similar messages telepathically from alien telling her that the world was going to end, but she was to assemble as many followers as she could. These would then be saved by the aliens, who would take them aboard their spacecraft. The psychic and her followers duly assembled on the date of the predicted arrival of the aliens, but the world didn’t end and the aliens didn’t show up. The group had, however, been joined by a group of sociologists from Chicago University, who were studying them. They were particularly interested in how the cult’s members continued to believe in its central message even after it had failed to come true. One of the sociologist’s published a book about it, entitled, When Prophecy Fails, which I think is now a classic of academic studies on UFOs and their believers. The psychic’s group differed from Heaven’s Gate in that none of them, I believe, committed suicide.

The aliens in which Heaven’s Gate believed were bald and asexual, and look very much like one of the stereotypes of UFO aliens taken from SF ‘B’ movies. The bald heads and large craniums show that the aliens are super-intelligent. It ultimately comes from a 19th century evolutionary theory, which held that as humanity evolved, the brain would expand at the expense of the body, and the sensual aspects of humanity would similarly wither. As a result, humans would become smaller, with larger heads and brains. The ultimate endpoint of this evolution are H.G. Wells’ Martians from The War of the Worlds. Astronomers at the time believed that Mars was an older world than Earth, and so Wells’ Martians are similarly far more advanced in their evolution than terrestrial humanity. They consist of large heads with tentacles. As their brains have expanded, their digestive systems have atrophied so that they feed by injecting themselves with blood.

It’s because their supposed aliens were asexual that some of the men in the group had travelled to Mexico to be castrated. It’s also been suggested that it may also have been because the group’s male leader was gay. If he was, and the group’s rejection of gender and sexuality stemmed from his failure to come to terms with his sexuality, then it’s a powerful argument for the acceptance of homosexuality. It’s far better for a gay person to be comfortable with their sexuality than to feel such shame and confusion that they mutilate themselves. This aspect of the Heaven’s Gate ideology also seems to me to be similar to the reason for some families referring their children for treatment as transgender. Opponents of the contemporary transgender movement have claimed that the majority of children referred to clinics like the Tavistock Clinic come from extremely homophobic backgrounds. They’ve argued that they’re seen as transgender by their parents, who have convinced the children of this, because it’s the only way the parents can cope with the child’s sexuality. They can’t accept that their son or daughter is gay, and prefer to believe that they have instead been born in the wrong body. Gay critics of the trans movement and their allies thus see the transitioning of such vulnerable children as a form of gay conversion therapy. That’s certainly how Iran views it. Homosexuality is illegal there, carrying the death penalty. However, gender reassignment surgery is paid for by the state. I got the impression that Iranians gays were offered the choice between death and having a sex change.

The cult’s description of themselves as an ‘Away Team’ was taken from the Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9 then on television. The ‘Away Team’ were what had been called in the Original Series the ‘landing party’ – the group that would beam down from the Enterprise to explore that episode’s planet. One of the cult’s members and victims was the brother of actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in the Original Series and subsequent films.

Their belief that the world was about to be visited by an alien spaceship was the unfortunate consequence of a misidentification of a known star by a pair of German amateur astronomers. They had been out looking for a comet that was due to come close to Earth. They found it, but with it was an object they couldn’t find on their star maps. They therefore went on the web to inquire what it might be, and the myth developed that it was some kind of alien spacecraft many times bigger than Earth, which was following said comet. Of course, it was no such thing. It was a star that didn’t appear on the maps the pair were using because it was too dim to be visible to the naked eye. It was, however, bright enough for them to see it using binoculars. The Cult’s leaders took the appearance of this supposed alien spacecraft to be the spaceship they had long expected to take them all to a higher plane with tragic consequences. Although the world was shocked by this disaster and the cult’s apparently weird beliefs, folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand pointed out that their idea of being taken to heaven in a ship actually came from a strand of American Christianity. There have been a number of hymns written describing Christian believers going to heaven in just such a vessel.

The trailer for the series also says that the cult’s members were intelligent and came from good families. I don’t doubt this. I’ve heard that members of new religious movements are often of above average intelligence. Perhaps it’s because such people are more intellectually curious and less satisfied with conventional religion. However, it also seems, at least according to the Fortean Times article, that many of the cult’s members also had problems functioning independently. They apparently were always contacting somebody to help them solve ordinary, every day problems like how to peel an apple correctly. I wonder if they suffered from a psychological or neurological condition like autism, which left them unable to cope with ordinary life and so vulnerable to being dominated by a charismatic personality with a message that appeared to solve all their problems.

The series looks like a fascinating insight into one of the decade’s apocalyptic, extreme religions with its roots in the UFO milieu. However, the series will be over by now, and if it was on HBO Max, it’s doubtful that very many people will have seen it. But perhaps it’ll be repeated sometime on one of the more popular TV channels. And I hope that events and the landscape of religious and paranormal belief have changed in the meantime, so that there will never be another tragedy like it.

‘I’ Review of Book on the Alma Fielding Poltergeist Case

October 12, 2020

Last Friday, 9th October 2020, the ‘I’ published a review by Fiona Sturges of the book, The Haunting of Alma Fielding, by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury, £18.99). Fielding was a woman from Croydon, who in 1938 found herself and her husband haunted by a poltergeist, the type of spirit which supposedly throws objects around and generally makes itself unpleasant. The review states that she was investigated by the Society for Psychical Research, in particular Nandor Fodor. Summerscale came across the case while going through the Society’s files.

I’m putting up Sturges’ review as I’ve friends, who are members of the Society and very involved in paranormal research, as are a few of the great peeps, who comment on this blog. Ghost hunting is also very big at the moment, and there are any number of programmes on the satellite and cable channels, as well as a multitude of ghost hunting groups across the UK, America and other countries. Despite its popularity, there’s a big difference between serious paranormal investigation of the type done by the SPR and ASSAP and the majority of ghost hunting groups. The SPR and ASSAP contain professional scientists as well as ordinary peeps from more mundane professions, and try to investigate the paranormal using strict scientific methodology. They contain sceptics as well as believers, and are interested in finding the truth about specific events, whether they are really paranormal or have a rational explanation. They look down on some of the ghost-hunting groups, because these tend to be composed entirely of believers seeking to confirm their belief in the paranormal and collect what they see as evidence. If someone points out that the evidence they show on their videos actually is no such thing – for example, most researchers believe orbs aren’t the souls of the dead, but lens artefacts created by floating dust moats – then the die-hard ghost hunters tend to react by decrying their critics as ‘haters’. Many of the accounts of their encounters with the supernatural by the ghost hunters are extremely dramatic. They’ll describe how members got possessed or were chased by the spirits on their home. I’m not saying such events don’t happen at all. I do know people, who have apparently been possessed by spirits during investigations. But the stories of such supernatural events put up by the ghost-hunters seem more likely the result of powerful imaginations and hysteria than genuine manifestations by the dead.

Academic historians are also interested in spiritualism and supernatural belief in the past because of what they reveal about our ancestors worldview and the profound changes this underwent during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Psychical research emerged in the 19th century at the same time as spiritualism, and was founded partly to investigate the latter. Both can be seen as attempts to provide concrete, scientifically valid proof of the survival of the soul after death at the time science was itself just taking shape and religious belief was under attack from scientific materialism. As the review says, spiritualism and psychic research were particularly popular in the aftermath of the First World War, as bereaved relatives turned to it for comfort that their loved ones still lived on in a blessed afterlife. One famous example of this is Conan Doyle, the creator of the arch-rationalist detective, Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was a spiritualist, who helped, amongst other things, popularise the Cottingley Fairies in his book, The Coming of the Fairies. Another of his books in this area was Raymond, an account of his contact with the spirit of his son, who was one of those killed in that terrible conflict.

But the history of spiritualism is also interesting because of what it also reveals about gender roles and sexuality, topics also touched on in the review. Mediums stereotypically tend to be women or gay men. At the same time, historians have also suggested that there was an erotic element to seances and investigations. More intimate physical contact between the sexes was permitted in the darkness of the séance room that may otherwise have been permitted in strictly respectable Victorian society. At the same time, there is to modern viewers a perverse aspect to the investigation of the mediums themselves. In order to rule out fraud, particularly with the physical mediums who claimed to produce ectoplasm from their bodies, mediums were tied up, stripped naked and examined physically, including in their intimate parts. Emetics could be administered to make sure that their stomachs were empty and not containing material, like cheesecloth, which could be used to fake ectoplasm.

The review, ‘Strange but true?’, runs

In February 1938, there was a commotion at a terraced house in Croydon. Alma and Les Fielding were asleep when tumblers began launching themselves at walls; a wind whipped up in their bedroom, lifting their eiderdown into the air; and a pot of face cream flew across the room. The next morning, as Alma prepared breakfast, eggs exploded and saucers snapped.

Over the next few days, visiting journalists witnessed lumps of coal rising from the fireplace and barrelling through the air, glasses escaping from locked cabinets and a capsizing wardrobe. As far as they could tell, the Fieldings were not responsible for the phenomena. One report told of a “malevolent, ghostly force”. The problem, it was decided, was a poltergeist.

Fast-forward to 2017 and the writer Kate Summerscale, best known for the award-winning The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, was in the Society for Psychical Research Archive in Cambridge looking for references to Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian émigré and pioneer of supernatural study, who investigated the fielding case.

She found a dossier of papers related to Alma, compiled by Fodor, containing interviews, séance transcripts, X-rays, lab reports, scribbled notes and photographs. The file was, says Summerscale, “a documentary account of fictional and magical events, a historical record of the imagination.”

The Haunting of Alma Fielding is a detective novel, a ghost yarn and a historical record rolled into one. Blending fact and fiction it is an electrifying reconstruction of the reported events surrounding the Fieldings, all the while placing them in a wider context.

The narrative centres of Fodor, who at the time was losing faith in spiritualism – the mediums he had met were all fakes, and the hauntings he had investigated were obvious hoaxes. He was increasing convinced that supernatural occurrences were caused “not by the shades of the dead but by the unconscious minds of the living”.

But he was intrigued by Alma, who now experiencing “apports” – the transference of objects from one place to another. Rare stones and fossils would appear in her hands and flowers under her arms. Beetles started to scuttle out from her clothes and a terrapin appeared in her lap. She would later claim to be able to astrally project herself and give herself over to possession by spirits.

Summerscale resists the temptation to mine the more comic aspects of the story. She weaves in analysis on class, female emancipation and sexuality, and the collective angst of a nation. At the time, spiritualism was big business in Britain, which was still suffering the shocks of mass death from the First World War and Spanish flu. Seances to reach the departed were as common as cocktail parties. There was dread in the air, too, as another conflict in Europe loomed.

Alma became a local celebrity, released from domestic dreariness into the gaze of mostly male journalists, mediums and psychiatrists. Chaperoned by Fodor, she made frequent visits to the Institute of Psychical Research, where she submitted to lengthy and often invasive examinations.

We come to understand how Fodor stood to benefit from the cases, both in furthering his career and restoring his faith in the possibility of an afterlife. You feel his pain, along with Alma’s, as the true story is revealed.

It sounds very much from that last paragraph that the haunting was a hoax. There have been, unfortunately, all too many fake mediums and hoaxers keen to exploit those seeking the comfort of making contact once again with deceased relatives and friends. There was even a company selling a catalogue of gadgets to allow someone to take a séance. But I don’t believe for a single moment that all mediums are frauds. There is a psychological explanation, based on anthropologists study of the zar spirit possession cult of one of the African peoples. This is a very patriarchal culture, but possession by the zar spirits allows women to circumvent some of the restrictions of women. For example, they may be given rings and other objects while possessed through the spirits asking, or apparently asking, through them. It’s been suggested that zar possessions are a form of hysteria, in which women, who are frustrated by societal restrictions, are able to get around them. The same explanation has also been suggested for western mediumship and alien abductions. Many of the women, who became mediums and who experience abductions by aliens, may do so subconsciously as these offer an escape from stifling normal reality.

I also believe that some supernatural events may well be genuine. This view was staunchly defended by the late Brian Inglis in his history of ghosts and psychical research, Natural and Supernatural, in the 1990s. As an Anglican, I would also caution anyone considering getting involved in psychical research to take care. There’s fraud and hoaxing, of course, as well as misperception, while some paranormal phenomena may be the result of poorly understood fringe mental states. But I also believe that some of the supposed entities contacting us from the astral realms, if they exist, are deliberately trying to mislead us. The great UFO researchers, John Keel and Jacques Vallee, came to the same conclusion about the UFO entities. One of Keel’s books was entitled, Messengers of Deception. There’s also the book, Hungry Ghosts, again written from a non-Christian perspective, which also argues that some of the spirits contacting people are malevolent and trying to deceive humanity for their own purposes.

If you are interested in psychical research, therefore do it properly using scientific methodology. And be aware of the possibility of deception, both natural and supernatural.

‘I’ Article on ‘Bardcore’ – Postmodern Fusion of Medieval Music and Modern Pop

August 5, 2020

I’m a fan of early music, which is the name that’s been given to music from the ancient period through medieval to baroque. It partly comes from having studied medieval history at ‘A’ level, and then being in a medieval re-enactment group for several years. Bardcore is, as this article explains, a strange fusion of modern pop and rock with medieval music, played on medieval instruments and with a medieval vocal arrangement. I’ve been finding a good deal of it on my YouTube page at the moment, which means that there are a good many people out there listening to it. On Monday the I’s Gillian Fisher published a piece about this strange new genre of pop music, ‘Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1199’, with the subtitle ‘Bardcare reimagines modern pop with a medieval slant. Hark, says Gillian Fisher’. The article ran

“Hadst thou need to stoop so low? To send a wagon for thy minstrel and refuse my letters, I need no longer write them though. Now thou art somebody whom I used to know.”

If you can’t quite place this verse, let me help – it’s the chorus from the 2011 number one Somebody That I Used to Know, by Gotye. It might seem different to how you remember it, which is no surprise – this is the 2020 Bardcore version. Sometimes known as Tavernwave, Bardcore gives modern hits a medieval makeover with crumhorns a plenty and lashings of lute. Sometimes lyrics are also rejigged as per Hildegard von Blingin’s offering above.

Algal (41-year-old Alvaro Galan) has been creating medieval covers since 2016, a notable example being his 2017 version of System of a Down’s Toxicity. Largely overlooked at the time, the video now boasts over 4.4 million views. Full-time musician Alvaro explains that “making the right song at the right moment” is key, and believes that Bardcore offers absolute escapism.

Alvaro says: “What I enjoy most about Bardcore is that I can close my eyes and imagine being in a medieval tavern playing for a drunk public waiting to dance! But from a more realistic perspective , I love to investigate the sounds of the past.”

In these precarious times, switching off Zoom calls and apocalyptic headlines to kick back with a flagon of mead offers a break from the shambles of 2020. Looking back on simpler times during periods of unrest is a common coping mechanism, as Krystine Batcho, professor of psychology at New York’ Le Moyne College explained in her paper on nostalgia: “Nostalgic yearning for the past is especially likely to occur during periods of transition, like maturing into adulthood or aging into retirement. Dislocation or alienation can also elicit nostalgia.”

The fact that Bardcore is also pretty funny also offers light relief. The juxtaposition of ancient sound with 21st-century sentiment is epitomised in Stantough’s medieval oeuvre, such as his cover of Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. Originally from Singapore, Stantough (Stanley Yong), 35 says: “I really like the fact we don’t really take it very seriously. We’re all aware what we’re making isn’t really medieval but the idea of modern songs being “medievalised” is just too funny.”

One of Bardcore’s greatest hits, is Astronomia by Cornelius Link, which features trilling flutes and archaic vocal by Hildegard. It’s a tune that has been enjoyed by 5.3 million listeners. Silver-tongued Hildegard presides over the Bardcore realm, with her cover of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance clocking up 5 million views. Canadian illustrator Hildegard, 28, fits Bardcore around work and describes herself as “an absolute beginner” with the Celtic harp and “enthusiastically mediocre” with the recorder. Her lyric adaptations have produced some humdingers such as “All ye bully-rooks with your buskin boots which she sings in rich, resonant tones.

HIldegard, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes the Bardcore boom can be “chalked up to luck, boredom and a collective desire to connect and laugh.”

In three months, the Bardcore trend has evolved with some minstrels covering Disney anthems, while others croon Nirvana hits in classical Latin. While slightly absurd, this fusion genre has ostensibly provided a sense of unity and catharsis.

The humming harps and rhythmic tabor beats evoke a sense of connection with our feudal ancestors and their own grim experience of battening down the hatches against the latest outbreak. Alongside appealing to the global sense of pandemic ennui, connecting to our forbears through music is predicated upon the fact that they survived their darkest hours. And so shall we.

While Bardcore’s a recent phenomenon, I think it’s been drawing on trends in pop music that have happening for quite long time. For example, I noticed in the 1990s when I went to a performance of the early music vocal group, the Hilliard Ensemble, when they performed at Brandon Hill in Bristol that the audience also included a number of Goths. And long-haired hippy types also formed part of the audience for Benjamin Bagley when he gave his performance of what the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf probably sounded like on Anglo-Saxon lyre at the Barbican centre in the same decade.

Bardcore also seems connected to other forms of postmodern music. There’s the group the Postmodern Jukebox, whose tunes can also be found on YouTube, who specialise in different 20th century arrangements of modern pop songs. Like doing a rock anthem as a piece of New Orleans Jazz, for example. And then there’s Orkestra Obsolete, who’ve arranged New Order’s Blue Monday using the instruments of the early 20th century, including musical saws and Theremin. There’s definitely a sense of fun with all these musical experiments, and behind the postmodern laughter it is good music. An as this article points out, we need this in these grim times.

Here’s an example of the type of music we’re talking about: It’s Samuel Kim’s medieval arrangement of Star Wars’ Imperial March from his channel on YouTube.

And here’s Orkestra Obsolete’s Blue Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radio 4 Serialising New Version of ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’

May 21, 2020

Interesting news for fans of the Horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Radio 4 begins a new version of his short story, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’ on Monday, 25th May 2020. It’s split into ten parts, and is being broadcast on weekdays at the same time of 7.45 pm. It’s been updated by the show’s writer, Julian Simpson, so that the the pair investigating Ward’s disappearance from a secure psychiatric hospital are a couple of podcasters, Matthew Heawood and Kennedy Fisher. In several of Lovecraft’s short stories, the main characters’ final act is to write down their adventures for others to find just before they’re finally killed or captured by whatever nameless cosmic horrors are pursuing them. ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, in which a sailor, who has narrowly survived an encounter with the malign elder god in his sunken island of R’lyeh, and writes down his account of the experience shortly before his own death, is one classic example of this. However, as it’s now 2020 instead of the 1920s, and it’s for the radio, Friday’s edition of the show, according to the Radio Times, has the pair uncovering his audio files.

This could be good. The Beeb has broadcast some of Lovecraft’s works before. Radio 4 Extra a few years ago serialised ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, which was read by a narrator. That seemed to stick faithfully to Lovecraft’s text. While this obviously takes a few liberties, it could still be worth listening to. On the other hand, it could be like the BBC 1’s version of the War of the Worlds last year, which diverged so much from Wells’ book that it was ultimately disappointing. Let’s hope it isn’t.

After Only Three Days on the Job, Boris Is Off On Paternity Leave

April 30, 2020

So much for Boris’ big return to work which was greeted with so much loud hullabaloo by the Tories on Monday. Now with the birth of his latest child – no. 6, but that’s only an approximate figure, as he doesn’t know how many he has – Boris has decided to leave work to take paternity leave. That means he’s spent a grand total of three days back at work, if that.

Mike in his article about this points out that if count backwards, it seems that he begat the child around the time he won the Tory election last year. It was what he did to celebrate, no doubt. Mike goes on to speculate that he may have done so knowing full well that it would arrive at about this time, and he’d have a reasonable excuse to go back on holiday.

How many holidays has he had since became prime minister, Mike asks rhetorically. Is he trying to get the record for the prime minister who spent the least amount of work in the role? Mike states that some might say it’s churlish to criticise the PM to take even more time off, but Mike’s reply is that it’s irresponsible of him to abandon his duties yet again.

Indeed. I realise that feminists have been campaigning for men to be given paternity leave for a very long time. I can remember the women’s column in the Absurder publishing articles demanding it in 1984/5. I’m also aware of the new research showing how profoundly a new baby affects the father’s mood and psychology as well as the mother. But I am also aware that Johnson is the head of this country’s government during an unprecedented health crisis. A crisis that is putting the NHS and its heroic staff under stress, and killing people. And it’s a crisis that Johnson has made immensely worse through his incompetence, complacency, his callous decision to put the economy before human lives, and sheer idleness. Mike says

‘We will remember him as the prime minister who created a catastrophe, waved his fist at it, and then ran away.’

Exactly. He also remembers an old comment about people making such a fuss and noise about being in charge, that nobody realises that they aren’t.

But in Johnson’s case, who is?

I think the answer to that one is probably Dominic Cummings, the eminence gristly who’s the real power behind Johnson. An abusive manipulator who demands total obedience from the press and media.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s compare the media’s reaction to the arrival of Johnson’s baby with the way they treated Tony Blair at the birth of his latest child when he was in office. Johnson has been greeted with a torrent of messages wishing him well, and very loud celebrations from the Tory press. While I don’t doubt Blair also enjoyed the public and the media also celebrating his new arrival, certain papers also indulged in a bit of coarse speculation. They published pieces wondering where he and Cherie were when the baby was conceived. I notice that Johnson has not been subjected to similar lese majeste.

Johnson seems to be aiming to be the Prime Minister, who has spent the least time actually governing the country, leaving the job to other people. Perhaps that’s no bad thing, considering the utter mess he’s made of it so far. A few days ago one of the left wing internet news sites reported that Dr Kailash Chand, a fierce critic of the government, stated that Johnson was so negligent and culpable that he should resign.

I’d say he’s right, except that all the members of his government are as incompetent and corrupt as he.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/04/29/so-much-for-boris-johnsons-big-return-to-work-now-hes-off-on-paternity-leave/

Is This the Most Insulting Comment Aliens Have Said to an Abductee?

April 29, 2020

I’ve just finished reading Dr. David Clarke’s The UFO Files, a history of UFOs in Britain from the phantom airship scares of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the abduction experiences from the 60s onwards, the 70’s craze created by Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, right up to the years immediately preceding the book’s publication in 2009. The book was written to accompany the release of the government’s files on UFOs by the National Archives, and is naturally based on the records compiled by the MOD, the Air Ministry, RAF and armed forces, and the Airmiss inquiry group, which investigates near misses between aircraft.

It’s a fascinating book that shows that UFOs have been around for over a century and that the government and the British military don’t really know any more about them than anyone else. The aliens haven’t established secret bases in Britain, and neither to the RAF or anyone else for that matter have alien bodies stashed away in a secret hangar somewhere. The official government line, repeated over and again, is that UFOs or of ‘no defence significance’, and they really don’t want to get involved unless it’s absolutely necessary. They’ve therefore investigate UFO sightings and encounters when it affects national security, such as if the UFOs may actually be foreign planes. The last government report on the phenomenon concluded that most of them were generated by people wrongly identifying a variety of artificial objects and natural phenomena. Those that couldn’t be properly identified, were probably poorly understood meteorological phenomena, electromagnetic plasmas, which could also create hallucinations through interfering with the brains of witnesses. This part of the report was, however, attacked by scientists on its release as pseudoscience.

But very many of the UFOs reported over the years have been people mistaking a variety of normal objects and phenomena for alien craft. During the First World War, an anti-aircraft crew at an army base in Cumbria fired at what they honestly believed was a German Zeppelin. Except that an officer, arriving at the scene, reported that he saw them staring at a star. It was discovered during the Second World War that flocks of migrating birds could make radar trails very much like approaching enemy aircraft, although the airmen sent up to intercept them would find no-one except themselves up there. During the Cold War, UFO reports were generated by the Americans releasing the Mogul spy balloons from their base in Scotland, as well as later flights by spy planes like the U2 and SR-71. These were so secret, the Americans didn’t inform their NATO allies in the countries across which the planes and balloons traveled on their way to the USSR. As a result, RAF jets were scrambled to intercept these unidentified aircraft, while there was a spate of UFO reports along the German border.

Some UFO sightings were also caused by particularly spectacular fireball meteors burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. One of these was responsible for the Berwyn mountain crash, dubbed by some ‘the Welsh Roswell’. A series of meteors were seen over England, followed by an earthquake measuring 4-5 on the Richter scale centred in Bala. It was feared that a military plane had crashed on the mountain, as several had done so previously. The RAF therefore sent up a mountain rescue squad, which found nothing and came back down again. This was subsequently inflated into stories of the RAF’s retrieval of a crashed UFO and alien bodies.

Other sightings were caused by the re-entry of Soviet spacecraft burning up in the atmosphere. This is believed to be the cause of the Rendlesham Forest incident, ‘the British Roswell’, in which a group of American squaddies from a USAF base entered the forest to encounter a triangular UFO in 1980. It seems that the Americans seen the rocket for a Soviet Cosmos spy satellite re-entering, and then the lights from a nearby lighthouse, believing they came from an alien spacecraft.

One MOD scientific/intelligence officer believed that most UFO reports could be satisfactorily explained if they had been investigated immediately they occurred, rather than sometime afterwards. Nevertheless, there are encounters that are still genuinely perplexing. Such as the report a trucker driving through Devon in the ’70s made at a local police station. He had been driving along the main road there when a craft shaped like a mushroom descended, landing on the road ahead, out of which came six short figures wearing uniforms. After gesturing at him, the creatures eventually got in their spacecraft, which lifted up into the air and flew on, leaving the trucker shaken by the experience.

And then there’s the encounter reported by a gent in Basingstoke in 1968. The fellow had been walking down by the canal one morning when a UFO descended and he was taken aboard by their occupants. They examined him, before telling the poor chap, “You can go. You are too old and infirm for our purposes.” Popular SF, which seems to have strongly influenced the content of UFO encounters, has been full of tales of evil aliens coming to other to conquer and enslaved humanity, and carry off people off for breeding purposes. It’s usually females, as in the SF B-movie Mars Needs Women, but sometimes men as in the 1949 Hammer flick, Devil Girl from Mars. This episode occurred around about the time of the Villas Boas encounter, when a Brazilian farmer of that name had been abducted by aliens and forced to have sex with a red-headed alien woman. Possibly the crew of the Basingstoke UFO also had something similar in mind. If so, both they and the poor bloke they abducted were out of luck. Or perhaps they had in mind something far more unpleasant, in which case their intended victim was lucky. The Contactees, who met peaceful aliens in the 1950s, and the abductees from the 1980s onwards, were given messages by humanity by the aliens they encountered. These tend to moralistic sermons preaching international and intergalactic brotherhood, peace, an end to nuclear weapons and concern for the environment. Sometimes they include descriptions of the aliens’ own planets and their societies. Sometimes they’re even whisked away on journeys to these distant worlds. This poor fellow didn’t get any of that, just the blunt statement that he was too old and infirm for them. He was spared the horror and humiliation of being examined and experimented upon, but their comments still seem just a tiny bit insulting. They could have put it a bit more tactfully.

My own feeling is that UFOs, when they aren’t misidentified normal objects or phenomena, are internal visionary experiences drawing on the imagery of Science Fiction, but expressing deep-seated human fears and needs. I don’t know what generates them. I think some are probably the result of poorly understood psychological states, such as sleep paralysis. But I also wonder if others are genuine encounters with something paranormal, something that in previous centuries took the form of fairies and other supernatural beings, and now takes the form of aliens and spaceships as images more suitable for our technological society.

While David Clarke’s done excellent work researching the government’s UFO archives, and has shown that very many of them have entirely rational explanations, there may still be something genuinely paranormal out there. But it didn’t want the man from Basingstoke it encountered on that day in 1968.