All posts by ajornlin

252 – Terror In The Skies: Hunting Thunderbirds & Truth With Seth Breedlove

My skeptical take on the Chicagoland Mothman flap has confounded some, but thankfully Seth Breedlove from Small Town Monsters decided to include an interview with me in his new film anyway. Entitled Terror in the Skies, the documentary explores historic and contemporary reports of winged weirdies over Illinois. At the time of this writing, Terror in the Skies has recently become the # 1 documentary film new release on Amazon Prime.

So why did Seth include me in his newest movie? I definitely should have asked him that question! We’ll maybe because he understands that I’m not actually a noisy negativist, as we joke about in this interview. Maybe he understands that I really care about the advancement of the paranormal field and that’s why my expectations are high.

I do expect investigators to check witness statements against basic facts. Far from excluding the incredible, vetting witness reserves an important a place for the truth, above and beyond the everyday muck. If every claim is treated the same and given the same importance, you’ve uncovered nothing but mud. It becomes nearly impossible to tell what is real and what is a hoax.

If something truly incredible has occurred, you better believe those who protect the status quo will try to hide it in plain sight. Just how do they do that? Disinformation.

Authentic phenomena may have occurred during this Chicagoland Mothman flap, but how will we ever know? How will we ever find the proverbial needle in the haystack, if the haystack itself is entirely constructed of momentarily convincing replicas, but ultimately fake needles?

Seeking an authentic needle in a haystack of convincing look-alikes? Good luck! It’s a mess!

That’s how disinformation works. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s effective. And it may be what has occurred here.

Perhaps most telling is that not one supposed witness to the Chicagoland Mothman came forward to be interviewed for Terror in the Skies. Elsewhere in the film witnesses share testimony about Thunderbird sightings. Even so many years later, several witnesses still participated in Small Town Monsters’ Mothman of Point Pleasant, appearing on-camera to contributing their eye-witnesses statements. It bears remembering that over 100 witnesses bravely attested publicly to their encounters during the original 1966-67 flap.

So what could that one true anomaly in this mess of the Lake Michigan Mothman saga have been? What might at least one of the reported witnesses actually have seen?

Nearly 20 years ago I interviewed Wisconsin witnesses reporting encounters with strange creatures with impossibly large wingspans. Is history repeating itself? Might these manifestations follow a cyclical pattern? Is there a migratory route that spans Illinois, Wisconsin, and other states.

This certainly comes up in our conversation with Seth in several instances. For example, we discuss the 1977 Marlon Lowe Lawndale, IL case as well as a very similar newspaper report from 1909 in St. Charles, IL. In both cases, birds of unusual size attempt to carry away unsuspecting children playing just outside their homes.

The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin), May 3, 1909

Another example hits even closer to home. Kevin Walkowski, my very own cousin and Mike’s godfather had his own sighting in 1988. I interviewed him and contributed his story to several books including Weird Wisconsin. Kevin’s description which compared the wingspan of this massive bird to a Piper Cub plane still resonates in my memory and was echoed in a witness statement from the Illinois Big Bird flap of 1948 featured in Terror in the Skies.

Belvidere Daily Republican, April 26, 1948
Kevin Walkowski describes the size of a possible Thunderbird he spotted in the skies over Brookfield, WI in 1988. We recorded his recollections on video in 2015. I plan to make the full video available on at http://www.youtube.com/mothman. Subscribe to get a notification.

In fact, tales of such anomalies extend into the prehistory of the Midwest and can still be seen in petroglyphs and vibrant tribal traditions. Something strange flies in Midwestern skies. Keep your eyes on the skies and those patterns that repeat throughout history and we may just uncover something authentic yet extraordinary.

Watch me and Troy Taylor in Terror in the Skies. Listen to this episode. Then visit me, Mike, and Wendy Lynn at Troy Taylor’s Haunted America Conference this weekend. As usual, Mike and Wendy will be bringing the paranormal rock, and this year I’ll be speaking about Midwestern cases of poltergeists and demonic possession.

The song this week is inspired by Seth’s movie and the fantastic legends of the “Thunderbird”!

From the four winds
I’m flying
in your visions
i’m fighting
From the mountain you’ll hear my voice in the storm
voice of the storm

The battle’s harbinger
The spirit’s messenger
The cloudburst in my eye
To Honor the fallen and punish evil men
I am here to break the sky’

You can crush my bones
and you can pound my head
take me so far from home
and just leave me for dead
But when I spread my wings
with the lightning burn
I am the flood and fire
The Thunderbird

The serpent rises
I’ll attack
Terror in the skies
I’ll be back
On the horizon you might see my wings in the storm
wings of the storm

The battle’s harbinger
The spirit’s messenger
The cloudburst in my eye
To Honor the fallen and punish evil men
I am here to break the sky’

You can crush my bones
and you can pound my head
take me so far from home
and just leave me for dead
But when I spread my wings
with the lightning burn
I am the flood and fire
The Thunderbird

Y is for Yokai: The Japanese Monsters of legend

Japan’s first museum of supernatural monsters opened Friday, April 26, 2019 in Hiroshima. Exhibits at the Miyoshi Mononoke Museum immerse visitors in the strange world of yokai, Japan’s voluminous, colorful bestiary, through historical artifacts and interactive digital installations.

The yokai umbrella covers a legion of legendary creatures including tricksters, phantoms, weird animalistic spirits, and, the unquiet dead known as yurei. Sometimes whimsical and sometimes deadly, these phantasms have a style all their own.

The first reference to Yokai appears in the oldest known work of Japanese literature and the basis of Japanese mythology, the 8th century Kojiki (古事記; Record of Ancient Matters). These spirits embodying the power of place, the ferocity of land and water, and the intensity of human emotion likely grew out of the animism inherent in Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous religion. Although yokai have ancient origins they have inspired many modern media sensations including Yokai Watch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and, of course, Pokemon.

Although the vengeful hungry ghosts of the variety so famous now in cross-over horror hits like The Ring and The Grudge haunt the most fearsome side of the yokai spectrum, my favorites are those monsters that clearly illustrate the often overlooked Japanese sense of humor. Here are my top 3 yokai!

The Kappa

The Kappa (No, it’s not just a sushi roll.) is a predatory, amphibious water spirit, seemingly half man and half turtle. It preys on unwary swimmers in rivers and lakes drowning them for nefarious purposes. Kappas seek to eat your flesh, suck your blood, and then yank your soul out through your anus. However, the heinous villany of the Kappa can be repelled quite effectively by the common fart. Ubiquitous, embarrassing emissions, in my case, so I’ve never felt so safe . . . and empowered by my wonky digestion. So dear companions, in future, remember, I’m not launching my underwater stink bombs at you. I’m valiantly saving us all from a watery grave.

Tofu Boy

Tofu Kozo, which literally translates as “Tofu Boy”, is a treacherous spirit who takes the form of a small child in antiquated, traditional garb who just wants to offer you some fresh tofu. This would be enough to send most modern Westerners running for the hills. The tofu is not even fried. Instead the block is milky white decorated with a simple red maple leaf. Curiously this sounds a lot like the Canadian flag, but I don’t think we can blame Canada for this one. Apparently the Tofu Boy intends to tempt you with his deadly bait. Even one bite of the tofu will infect you with a nightmarish fatal fungus. But just don’t take tofu from strangers and you’ll be fine.

Tanuki

Tanuki is a shape-shifting racoon dog trickster. The Japanese racoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides viverrinus), also called the tanuki, is a real, four-legged animal, but it only slightly resembles this mischievous bipedal creature. The Tanuki of legend is a fun-loving prankster who may impersonate your friends to cheat you, but he usually just wants some free food. The true superpower of the Tanuki is not his trickery or his shape-shifting ability, but his enormous and supernaturally versatile testicles. Yes, Tanuki uses his scrotum in a variety of imaginative ways — playing it like a drum, wearing it like a hat, or brandishing it like a weapon. He’s even been known to fly away by inflating his extraordinary nut-sack like a hot air balloon. Today you will commonly find Tanuki statues all around Japan, which serve as both a good luck charm and a reminder not to take life so seriously.

For further reading, I would recommend these books. If they don’t save your life, at least you’ll die laughing.

Lorraine Warren: MATRIARCH of the Paranormal dies at 92

It’s a rich and storied life that is immortalized in popular film. I would consider myself lucky to one day be essentially sainted by the paranormal community and played onscreen by the likes of Vera Farmiga.

In reality no one is actually a saint and Lorraine Warren and her husband Ed, who died in 2006, certainly had their detractors. But no one can deny that the Warrens were trailblazers in the field for good or ill, or both, as is usually the view history.

Lorraine Warren died April 18th at her home in Connecticut at the age of 92. In life, she claimed to be both a clairvoyant and a trance medium. She and her husband Ed, a self-described demonologist, founded the New England Society for Psychical Research (N.E.S.P.R.) in 1952.

N.E.S.P.R., in contrast to other societies of psychical research, took a religious approach rather than a scientific one to their alleged 10,000 paranormal investigations. The Warrens believed that the entities responsible for hauntings were not “vaporous, indistinct phantoms”, but forces that “exist for the sheer purpose of opposing the works of God”.

They further claimed, according to their website, to have been repeatedly called in by “religious authorities . . . to control some of the most profane outbreaks of diabolical phenomena in the country”. However, it is unlikely that they actually worked with the Catholic Church, as they often claimed, at least in an official capacity.

Lorraine Warren had recently retired from active investigations and personal appearances. She still consulted for N.E.S.P.R., although she passed the directorship to her son-in-law, Tony Spera.

As paranormal personalities the Warrens undeniably led the way in developing opportunities for psychical researchers on the lecture circuit and in the media. In 1952, in addition to founding N.E.S.P.R., they opened the Warren’s Occult Museum. They went full-time paranormal in 1968. By 1974, the Warrens were employing a booking agent to find them paying gigs and writing a regular column about their adventures for a weekly tabloid, The Tattler.

Many claim that Lorraine and Ed lived to help those besieged by evil forces. Yet there also are many who have called the Warren’s credibility into question including at least one psychical researcher who didn’t appreciate them showing up to assist on his case uninvited. One thing is for certain the Warrens are among the most famous paranormal investigators in the world and how they are viewed influences how all other psychical researchers are perceived.

The Warren’s website advises “The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.” Unfortunately, for most of us in the paranormal, the path to credibility is seldom clear. Hopefully, we in the field, will learn everything there is to learn from both the light and the dark views of the lives of Lorraine and Ed Warren. Perhaps familiarizing ourselves with both sides of the story will lead us to a more balanced perspective and help us to more carefully select only the attributes we wish to emulate in their example.

Listen to our full episode on Ed and Lorraine Warren.
http://www.othersidepodcast.com/blog/2016/06/06/95-ed/

P is for Poltergeist: Not Just For Teenagers Anymore

Although I have respected colleagues in paranormal investigation who immediately dismiss all poltergeists cases as fraud, to a student of history, this approach seems limited and unreasonable. So many poltergeist cases pop up throughout history and across cultures that such casual dismissals don’t make sense. These eerily similar accounts of blatantly nonsensical manifestations are reported by very different populations dating back to antiquity and differ greatly from the usual ghost story narrative. This strongly suggests something is actually happening that goes far beyond mere imagination.

The German word “poltergeist” means “noisy ghost” and refers to the chaotic, cacophonous, house-wrecking phenomena that have been reported for centuries all over the world. These include, but are not limited to mysterious raps and other loud noises, untraceable fires and water damage, and the reckless hurling around of anything not nailed down by unseen forces. The word was first coined to describe such manifestations in 1638. Later Martin Luther would popularize the term in his religious writings. In 1948, the OG ghost hunter Catherine Crowe introduced the term to English usage in her groundbreaking catalog of the strange, The Night-Side of Nature.

The first recorded poltergeist case was in the 4th Century, according to Christopher Laursen, who wrote his PhD dissertation on the history of poltergeist phenomena at the University of British Columbia. Other sources attest such accounts date back to Ancient Greece.

The prevailing hypothesis maintains these violent outbursts may not be due to ghosts or any external forces at all, but to the power of the mind alone. Today poltergeists are mainly viewed as uncontrolled tantrums of telekinesis perpetrated most commonly by adolescent females. The modern study of the unexplained, parapsychology, has largely reclassified poltergeist activity as a human-centric phenomenon with the new label Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK). However, fashionable this current explanation, such activity has not always been blamed on the unconscious psychic machinations of disturbed teenage girls, but to many other monsters including ghosts, demons, fairies, and vampires.

My favorite podcast discussion about poltergeists was with Fortean author Geoff Holder. He spoke with us about his masterpiece of research, Poltergeist Over Scotland for which he examined 134 poltergeist cases documented in the historical record. Many different cultural contexts have been imposed upon poltergeist manifestations over the ages. However, in his opinion, no one explanation applies to all cases, even our modern interpretation. He has found that only 1/4 to 1/3 of poltergeists center on an adolescent human agent. To Holder, poltergeist activity usually has no obvious purpose and may just be the work of feckless entities, essentially the “numpties” of the supernatural.

Whereas most hauntings function as memento mori or cold comfort for mortality, poltergeist activity, on the other hand is often so chaotic it’s more likely to remind us that humans are not the center of the universe. Holder asserts that it may represent a non-human intelligence which is almost entirely indifferent to us.

Although Holder admits hoaxes and pranks do account for some poltergeist cases, as they do for any reported phenomena, he maintains that they cannot explain away the literally thousands of poltergeist cases reported by multitudes of reliable witnesses and the consistency of their accounts over centuries. In his study of 134 cases, he found that only 4.5% involved hoaxing. The analyses of other researchers indicate these numbers are between 3% and 15%.

Holder also hopes that the physical nature of poltergeist cases will open up the possibility for the scientific study of this phenomena. He cites one 2010 study of the unique audio signature of poltergeist raps as a step in the right direction. Conceivably studies such as these could some day lead to the scientific breakthrough for which every psychical researcher has been waiting.

For more fascinating poltergeist cases, listen to the following:

244 – N Is For Notre Dame: Ghosts And Legends of the World’s Most Famous Cathedral

One of Notre Dame’s notorious gargoyles stares into the void.

Although some claim the thoroughly modern French don’t believe in God or ghosts, let’s be real and face the truth.  Everybody believes in something at least bordering on supernatural, even if they don’t readily admit it.  The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, brutally ravaged by fire on April 15th, 2019, is a prime example.  There’s something in the folklore of Notre Dame Cathedral for everyone — ghosts, curses, holy relics, and miracles.

Not saying it was the candles, but they sure do have a lot of candles.

Ghosts

We discuss this ghost photo in our podcast episode above; click here for additional photo info.

Dozens and dozens of people have killed themselves at Notre Dame Cathedral, and many others have tried.  There seem to be two off-ing options repeated over and over — the classic leap off one of the towers or the showy spectacle of off-loading a pistol into your head at the altar in the middle of mass.  Although it’s no match for the Eiffel Tower, where literally hundreds of people have committed suicide, Notre Dame has its fair share of harrowing stories.  Although the gun to the face before a packed house might seem like the most dramatic choice, the leapers of Notre Dame, especially those of the female variety, take the prize for sheer horror and eerie echoes of detail.

The death of Marie Felix in 1882 is probably the most famous because it is the goriest.  The specifics are so graphic that in the week following Marie’s death, 25,000 Parisians visited the morgue per day just for the chance to view her mangled corpse.  Although her name is forgotten by most, her suicide is the reason most cited to explain any paranormal activity in the cathedral. 

Marie is described in the newspapers as a beautiful, young woman with extraordinarily long hair arranged into two thick braids which she wore rolled around her head. She was first noticed by the cathedral’s security staff one October morning as she impatiently paced about the cathedral for about two hours. Some say she was denied access to the towers without a chaperone, so she was most likely desperately seeking someone to accompany her. As it happened, she would finally meet an elderly lady that morning, whom she kindly invited to lunch.  After Marie provided the unnamed lady with a nice lunch at a local restaurant, they returned to the cathedral at 2 p.m., ostensibly to gaze upon Paris from the vantage point of the towers. However, an unexpectedly heavy downpour forced them to take shelter in the watchman’s sentry-box.  Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, Marie made a mad dash, and before anyone could stop her, she climbed the parapet, flinging herself forward. 

Marie immediately fell upon the spikes atop one of the railings, which sliced her body in half at the waist.  The lower half flew backward onto the flags of the porch while the upper half remained impaled.  Her body was broken “completely into pieces by the shock upon the stones of the Place du Paris”, according to another article.  Marie was later identified as the daughter of a local tradesman.  Her family attested that Marie had often threatened suicide and that her actions were not due to any recent disappointments.  The coroner’s post-mortem findings included lesions on the brain which were thought at the time to confirm that Marie suffered from “suicidal monomania” just as her relatives had claimed.

A similar incident in May of 1890, claimed the life of a lovelorn 21 year-old.  The unidentified woman also leapt from the towers and, according to the account, was “dashed to pieces in the street below”. More recently another pair of suicides claimed additional victims. 

In October of 1964, 21 year-old American tourist Veronica Mcconnell had just arrived at Notre Dame, her first sight-seeing spot of the day, when another woman climbed over the balustrade of the North Tower.  Only moments later she took the plunge, falling directly onto Veronica, killing them both.  An almost identical scenario would transpire in August of 1983.  Veronique Stalla-Bourdillon, 24, plummeted to the pavement killing herself and flattening Johanne Pelletier, 29, of Montreal, who had been standing at the doors to the cathedral unaware of her impending doom.  Perhaps this morbid history explains the most reported ghost experience at Notre Dame — encounters with female apparitions seen pacing among the towers, flitting between the gargoyles. 

Cursed Doors

(Not the actual Devil or the ironwork on the Cursed Doors, but this piece by artist Cyril Colnik still seems apropos.)

During the construction of Notre-Dame, a young artisan called Biscornet was tasked with the creation of elaborate ironwork to decorate the cathedral’s doors.  Biscornet soon realized his ambition has gotten the better of him, so he casually called on the Devil for help, as you do.  While Biscornet took a nap, a masterpiece of intricate ironwork magically materialized.  Once completed, the Devil snatched Biscornet’s soul of course.  Yet the doors could not be opened by normal means until they were christened with holy water.

Holy Relics and Miracles

Although many seem ready to deride relics and the miracles with which they are credited, dismissing such notions as magical thinking, there are many more who believe. Can holy objects bestow healing and grace upon the faithful? In the Catholic Church, there is a strong conviction that anything which has come into contact with Christ or the Saints is imbued with extraordinary powers. During WWI, Germans bombed Paris on October 12, 1914.  As bombs fell on and around the Notre Dame Cathedral for some reason they did not explode and the cathedral was undamaged.  Many might consider this a miracle. 

Notre Dame was home to many relics from the Crucifixion including a piece of the True Cross, a crucifixion nail, and, most notably, the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus.  A particular miracle attributed to the Crown of Thorns is called “The Miracle of the Thorn”.  Once every 70 years, when Good Friday coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation, the Crown of Thorns is said to once again drip with the blood of Christ.  This fragile relic is encased in a crystal ring, held together by clasps of gilded bronze. Jean-Marc Fournier, Chaplain of the Paris Fire Department, assisted by a human chain of volunteers, entered the burning cathedral to rescue the Crown of Thorns from the April 15th fire. The relic is currently being housed at the Louvre for safe keeping.

Here’s Mike’s original photo of the gold cross that survived the fire.
And here’s the iconic image of the cross after the fire.

In addition to the ghost stories and legends explored here, in this podcast episode, we uncover:

  • the real-life inspiration for the fictional Quasimodo
  • the pagan origins of the cathedral site
  • the derivation of the word “gargoyle”.

Plus we analyze the inevitable claim that Nostradamus predicted the blaze!

This is a grotesque, perhaps the most example at Notre Dame named Le Stryge. It’s a scary statue meant to warn away evil. A gargoyle, on the other hand, does double duty, repelling demons while also functioning as a rain gutter.

So many people shared our despair about the destruction of such a famous landmark, we decided to share a Sunspot oldie from our first demo tape, that eventually made on our album. Here’s a track about acceptance, when you just can’t fight anymore; it’s one of our saddest songs, “Defeated”.

Never look directly into the, 
heart of the sun, 
Never leave your battlefield, 
before your fight’s been won, 
and let the ghosts that haunt me, 
come visit me tonight, 
I want to join their midnight dance, 
I want to surrender under the moonlight. 

When will the war inside your heart ever end? 
Why must you fight it all alone? 
Can you fill your empty soul on your own? 

I lay defeated, 
torn and broken at your feet, 
Can I make you happy now? 
I lay defeated, you have brought me to my knees. 
I cannot fight you anymore. 

And I’ll try to hide the bitterness, 
that my heart holds, 
I’ll try to regain the innocence, 
that you bought and sold, 
And I’ll try to pick my broken pieces up off the ground, 
Will you care? 
No, you won’t care, 
when they fall back down. 

When will the war inside your heart ever end? 
Why must you fight it alone? 
I see the blood that’s on my hands is my own. 

I cannot fight you. 
I will not fight you. 
So why can’t I just walk away? 

Does he do the things I never did? 
Does he make you feel wanted? 
Tell him to make you happy the way I never could. 
Even though you’re standing next to me, 
you’re a million miles away. 

Your indifference has defeated me, 
adding insult to injury. 
Now that you have beaten me, 
now that you have victory, 
now that we are history, 
will you ever be happy? 

I lay defeated.

H Is For Hawaii: Paranormal Paradise

Why Hawaii?  Besides the glorious spectacle of sun, sea, and sand, Hawaii may just be one of the most crucial destinations in the world for the advancement of paranormal knowledge.  The Hawaiian Islands are among the most remote places on the planet geographically. They are not only remote in terms of mileage, but also genetic novelty. For a relatively small archipelago, Hawaii has the highest percentage of species that exist nowhere else on Earth.  Given such unique status, you’d expect far more differences than similarities. However, when it comes to the expression of cryptozoological and paranormal phenomena, I’ve found just the opposite.

Although Hawaii is the only state where Bigfoot has not been reported, many other familiar wonders reprise their proverbial roles albeit with a whole, new cultural context. Such startling cross-cultural connections may be the key to uncovering the truth behind these extraordinary experiences. I examine just a few of these intriguing connections below. Investigating recurrent similarities across time and space may reveal that there is some reality to even the most curious of encounters.

Dogmen & Kupua

The Bray Road Beast has been spotted for decades in Wisconsin.  Dogmen or werewolves have been reported all over the U.S., especially in the Midwest. Accounts of bipedal wolfmen crouching by the roadside eating roadkill is nothing new here as depicted in this illustration sketched from the recollections of the witness by artist, author, and the OG monster researcher, Linda Godfrey. I was shocked when I heard of an identical sighting along a deserted road on Oahu.  In Hawaii such shape-shifting spirits are known as kupua, which can come in many plant, animal, and mineral forms including the form of a dogman. The cultural context in this case is the story of a demigod named Kaupe. But that aside, the witness reports from across thousands of miles of ocean, on the other side of the planet, are remarkably similar to those in Wisconsin and many other Midwestern states of the Mainland — a bipedal creature seemingly half human and half canine.

River Deaths & ‘Uhane Kahea

Another parallel that leapt out and grabbed me on my first trip to Oahu in 2015, involved a far scarier specter called ‘Uhane Kahea or the Calling Spirit.  This is no ordinary ghost, but a murderous creature whose sole purpose seems to be luring eligible, young men to their deaths. The phantom appears as a ravishing, wanton young woman who calls the name of the unsuspecting man, drawing him closer with an alluring smile. She leads him on literally and figuratively and he follows blindly, failing to notice a cliff’s edge, surging water, or another equally deadly hidden pitfall. When I heard the story of one such fatal mishap from Lopaka Kapanui, I saw it as one possible answer to a perplexing question.  What could drive almost 300 young men on the Mainland to drown mysteriously in rivers and other bodies of water miles away from their last known locations? These cases have collectively become known as the work of a shadowy cabal of Smiley Face Killers. But alternative explanations for mysterious drownings abound throughout the histories of different cultures. The Scottish had the deadly water horse known as the Kelpie. The Japanese have the anally obsessed, but fart-repelled Kappa. The Slavic have the soul-stealing Water Man.  Closest to home, the Ojibwe tell tales of the pernicious “Water Panther” also known as Mishipeshu, whose villainy can only be curtailed by the protection of the Thunderbird. Yet are any of these water spooks better suited to ensnare a young man than the irresistible Calling Spirit? 

Fairies & Menehune

An ancient race of people who built sacred structures and who may still live among us playing mischievous tricks and cursing road construction projects on the sacred land they guard so fiercely.  Wait.  Where are we Ireland . . . Iceland? Nope. I’m still talking about Hawaii. However, all of these far-flung cultures seem to harbor the same beliefs just as many native people of the Mainland do. These little people are guardians of nature and must be respected. Some may even be our ancestors. Other fae traditions also appear in a new guise. The Wild Hunt of Germanic and Scandinavian lore, for example, features a threatening procession of fairies or the dead that are an eerie echo of the ancestral Hawaiian warriors called the Nightmarchers. Those unlucky enough to cross the path of either are as good as dead.

Perhaps these strange similarities between Hawaiian tales and Mainland lore are just due to coincidence or the cultural contamination resulting from colonization. The only way to know is to investigate. It’s worth studying if there’s even a small chance that such close connections between cultures separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles point to consistent attributes of authentic phenomena. 

For a closer look and a chance to conduct your own investigation, join us in this curious paranormal paradise for Hawaii ParaCon.  The next conference is July 19-21, 2019.

E Is For Evil Eye: Origin Of A Superstition

It’s not just a staple of low budget horror movies—the Evil Eye is very real. Sort of.

In the 1800s, Italian immigrants brought their hopes, dreams, and superstitions with them to the New World. Among these was the belief in an Evil Eye, the “mal’occhio” (MAL-OAK-EE-OH). According to Italian folklore, stragas(witches) could use this power at will. But even a normal person gripped by jealousy was believed to be capable of cursing you. 

And, where there’s a curse, the Evil Eye also had a cure. Victims of this ocular curse were diagnosed using a basin filled with holy water and a bottle of olive oil. The basin was placed before the afflicted while an incantation was recited. The olive oil was then poured into the water in the form of a cross. If the cross of oil remained, you were fine, but if the oil dispersed, you were cursed!

Of course, if you didn’t want to perform this ceremony yourself, you could always consult an evil-eye doctor. The evil-eye doctors were believed to have cured countless victims through prayer and the laying on of hands, but the exact ritual they used to cure their patients is still unknown. It was only passed down through families once a year, at Midnight on Christmas Eve. At any other time, the ritual would lose its power to cure. Today, the evil eye doctors’ cure is still a secret.

If you’re wondering, the concept of the evil eye was not confined to Italy. In other parts of the world, belief in the evil eye is still strong, and people wear talismans to protect themselves, such as necklaces and bracelets.

While an evil eye curse isn’t a common thing these days, the effects of the belief in mal’occhio can be seen in modern popular culture. It’s likely you’ve seen the hand sign that people use to protect themselves from the evil eye, but probably thought it represented something else like partying or Rock n’ Roll. The late Ronny James Dio a heavy metal musician who once played with Black Sabbath, claims to have popularized the use of this symbol during rock concerts. After Ozzy Ozbourne left Black Sabbath, the rest of the band felt very competitive with him and his solo career. They noticed that Ozzy would often use the double peace sign, more commonly associated with Richard Nixon, during his shows. During their Heaven and Hell tour in 1980, they thought, “We need a hand sign that represents us!” That’s when Dio says he suggested the hand sign taught to him by his Italian grandmother.

Dio believed it was thought to work when the two outstretched fingers served as lightning rods to suck up the negative effect of mal’occhio. However, it is more probable that like the little golden horn so often worn by Italian men, the horn-like hand placement represents the male symbol of the bull. One mal’occhio researcher believes that the fear of the evil eye has its origins all the way back in ancient Mesopotamia. He believes it stems from a change in the way people worshipped the goddess. Originally goddess idols were very rotund, grossly emphasizing the torso. Then suddenly goddess idols drastically changed. They became thin with grossly exaggerated eyes. He believes that mal’occhio represents the all-seeing eyes of this goddess. In that case, using the male symbol of the bull to protect yourself makes more sense. Perhaps the male energy is meant to deflect the female power of mal’occhio.

If you’re not a fan of Rock and Roll, or you don’t ever find yourself at odds with an Italian, you aren’t in the clear. If you have ever been to an optometrist for an eye exam, you have crossed paths with the evil eye. In fact, according to optometrists, we all have an evil eye. More specifically, it’s our left eye, which, in eyeglasses prescriptions, is noted as “OS” (the right eye is noted as “OD”). OS is an abbreviation of the Latin term Oculus Sinister, or “evil eye” (OD is short for oculus dexter, the right eye).

Sinister is literally the Latin term for “left”, but owing to Old World superstitions, left-handed people were considered evil—and thus the term sinister came to mean something bad, or evil.

Remember that the next time you go to pick out a new set of frames.

To learn more about the Evil Eye, check out our episode “CURSES: FROM EVIL EYES TO JINXED BUILDINGS”!