“Ectoplasmic residue…It’s the real thing.”

I was sent a picture last night of what some people are claiming to be “ectoplasmic” mist surrounding a females head. 

If you notice in the photo, the individual is wearing a coat and the “ghost” like mist appears to be right by her head.  It doesn’t take much to realize, that this apparition in mid manifestation is actually the woman’s breath.

Being a skeptic and paranormal researcher there are certain things I can’t stand in the field of paranormal research; one of those things is the claim of ectoplasm.  Ectoplasm (from the Greek ektos which means “outside” and plasma which means “something formed”) which was previously called teleplasm, is a term that was coined by French physiologist and noble prize winner Charles Robert Richet. 

Charles Richet

Richet a man with a passion for science and medicine also had a high interest in psychical research; he even served as president of the Society of Psychical Research located in London in 1905.  Initially Richet was close minded and shrugged off claims of psychic phenomena.  But in his book, Thirty Years of Psychical Research, published in 1923 Richet wrote that he was shameful he was one of the many that was among the willfully blind. 

Richet studied the claims of an Italian peasant named Eusapia Palladino, who was producing some very weird phenomena.  This is when Richet coined the term ectoplasm, explaining that is was some type of jellylike protoplasm that emanates from the medium. 

It is important to note that many researchers of the time felt Palladino was nothing more than a charlatan.  But the typical mindset of a scientist, Richet felt he couldn’t be duped, and defend Palladino.  Richet wrote “Even if there were no other medium than Eusapia in the world, her manifestations would suffice to establish scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms.”   Sadly for Richet, this wouldn’t be the case, ectoplasm was never proven authentic, in fact just the opposite.

Lots of ectoplasm cases had been proven to be nothing more than fraud. People using items such as cheese cloth, gauze, chewed paper, egg whites, muslin and even pieces of meat from chicken or cows. 

The way lots of mediums produced this feat was the real work of art, hiding these objects anywhere within reach, even in their own vaginas or rectums.  Some mediums even swallowed these objects and regurgitated them during the séance when the lights were out.

But the thing I find so fascinating is the evolution of this phenomena, how it went from a solid form to a mist.  How it went from protruding out of the orifices of mediums, to a lingering fog floating around alleged haunted locations.

I don’t mean to sound rude but it’s absolutely embarrassing, almost eye rolling to look at some photos that people think is authentic ectoplasmic evidence.  Of course now days ectoplasm only exist in photographs.  Personally, I liked it more when it was cheese cloth. 

Me and ectoplasm

Advertisements

Psychic Crocodiles

How could I have missed this!  I told you all about Paul the psychic octopus and Mani the psychic parakeet; however there seemed to be another psychic creature that was over looked, Harry the psychic crocodile.    Harry correctly chose Spain to win the world cup, but that isn’t the reason for this article.

See it’s not just Harry who is psychic, but another crocodile at the same location, Crocosaurus Cove, picked a winner recently.  Burt supposedly picked Shout Out Loud to win the Darwin Cup, and he chose accurately…GASP!

I love these silly little stories.

References:
http://www.ntnews.com.au/article/2010/08/02/169211_ntnews.html

Is Being Psychic a Mental Disorder?

On Strange Frequencies Radio last Sunday we interviewed self proclaimed “medium” Heathyr Hoffman. Heathyr was a cast member on the first season of Syfy’s original Ghost Hunters Academy, a show in which individuals compete to have a spot on either Ghost Hunters or Ghost Hunters International. Ms. Hoffman is without a doubt very intelligent and beyond respectful. She holds a Masters degree in counseling and works is an advocate in ending domestic violence.

During the show which aired Sunday July 18th 2010, and can be found in the archives on http://www.StrangeFrequenciesRadio.com, Heathyr, Jason and I got into a conversation about psychology. It had to do with whether or not if Heathyr explained her “gift” to a psychiatrist, would she be diagnosable with a possible mental disorder. Heathyr said first of all she doesn’t bring her psychic abilities to work with her, but if she were to get an evaluation and discuss herself being a “medium” no diagnosis would be made based on that ability alone. She went on to further explain that there would have to be some underlining problem or cause of stress that was somehow preventing her from living her day to day life. I made the argument totally against this notion. My thought was if you were to go to a psychiatrist and tell them you were seeing spirits in a physical sense (in other words seeing people who are not there or in existence) and hearing them audibly (again hearing people talk to you or able to have a conversation with someone who isn’t present or even in existence), you would for sure be diagnosable.

Now I will be the first admit, I have no background what so ever in psychology, nor do I pretend that I do. So what I announced on the show is that I would consult with a psychologist, a therapist and a neurologist to see if the abilities that mediums claim to possess could indeed be diagnosed as some type of mental disorder. I was pretty confident in my thought process; let’s see what the professionals had to say.

First is a Psychiatrist who shall remain nameless.

“Bobby: the best advice to this question is the one that supports the facts. According to the dsm-iv, the book we all use to diagnose mental disorders, criteria needs to be met to be able to give a diagnosis. First, severity and course specifiers…a clinician takes into account the number and intensity of the signs and symptoms of a disorder and any resulting impairment in occupational or social functioning, typically mild, moderate, severe. Second, a recurrence of signs/symptoms. Third, reason for visit, are signs/symptoms creating a problem? So while the therapist may be producing signs/symptoms of a disorder, are they enough to cause impairment in her life? Would she need treatment for the disorder, if in fact a disorder existed. From what you are telling me, she is not complaining about the problem and it is not negatively affecting her work or social life so I would have to answer, in my opinion, “no”, she does not have a disorder. Feel free to respond. Take care.”

Second is an answer from a personal hero of mine, neurologist Dr. Steven Novella, host of The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, check it out by going to http://www.theskepticsguide.org.

“Robert,

It depends. In the DSM – the diagnostic manual for mental disorders – belief systems that are part of religious or cultural beliefs do not count toward the diagnosis of psychosis or mental illness. The thinking here is that if someone absorbs a belief from the culture, that is not necessarily a symptoms of mental illness.

This gets tricky, however, as those with schizophrenia or a delusional disorder will often incorporate common cultural beliefs into their delusions – but these have to go beyond the typical beliefs of the culture.

So it would depend on the details. Most people who think they have seen ghosts, or been abducted by aliens, or have psychic power, or speak with spirits are not mentally ill. They just have religious type beliefs.

Hope this is helpful,

Steve”

And third is a correspondence from a psychologist.

“To: Bobby Nelson

Always difficult to answer a hypothetical question, but I don’t hear anything intrinsic to her statements regarding her spiritual beliefs per se that automatically warrants a medical diagnosis.

“Hearing voices” a complex and still poorly understood phenomenon that is clearly related to cultural and spiritual issues as well as biological and mental health issues. If you are interested in reading more, here is a place that you might start.

Wesley A. Bullock, Ph.D.”

So by the looks of it I was wrong and Heathyr was right. From what I can gather in the world of psychology most would consider people who claim to be psychic or possess mediumistic powers would be classified into a belief/religious category, which by itself cannot be diagnosed as a mental illness. Like Ms. Hoffman said it would only be diagnosable when it would interfere and or disable someone from living the normalcy of everyday life. Interesting topic, and I learned some fun stuff.

Mary Knows Best (is the worst)

‘Mary Knows Best’ is a new show on Syfy that follows the life psychic medium Mary Occhino. This show is absolute garbage, its like John and Kate plus 8 meets psychic woo. More or less the show is a Mary sticking her nose in her children’s business, embarrassing them in every scene, showing clips of her walking up to random people and giving them cold readings, showing her behind the mic of her radio show which is on siruis and that is about the gist of the show. Gist? More like all 44-painstaking minutes of it.
 
It is shot and edited in a way where all the misses she makes during her psychic readings are left out. She says the line “I’m a psychic!” about 47 times, as if we were going to forget. Her method is typical cold reading, where she is fishing for answers and verification from innocent individuals that are quick to believe her. The word ‘skeptic’ is thrown around a few times and each time I hear it being used I laugh. For instance, her radio producer says “I was skeptic at first but not anymore, Mary is the real deal.” Mary also claims her son is a ‘skeptic’ but knows she is the real thing and always right. I got news for you Mary…that’s not a real skeptic. A skeptic would find a way to scientifically tests the abilities of the supposed psychic, not hear her lame cold readings and be convinced she is the “real” thing.
 
One of the producers said she believes because a week before she is sick Mary will tell her she is getting ready to come down with something. Those are called symptoms, sweetie. I mean this show isn’t even good for the comedic entertainment, like the kind you get when watching Ghost Adventures. So if you like loud-mouth women pretending to pass of a cool mentalist trick as authentic psychic phenomena around her annoying family and innocent people on the street, maybe you could stomach this show, I have a feeling any self respecting individual won’t tune in to the next episode.
 
I am no psychic, but I predict this show doesn’t even make a whole season, we will see if I am right.

Humans Only Use 100% of their Brain

Working in the paranormal field I talk to a lot of people who hold stock in psychics and/or PSI phenomena. When questioning individuals who hold such beliefs (and I know there are many who believe this and have no interest in the paranormal) on how psychics are performing this paranormal feat, they more often than not respond with:

“Well, perhaps they are using or unlocking parts of the brain others cannot access”.

Intrigued, I shoot them another question and a smirk. “What do you mean?”

They tend to reply something to the effect of “We know humans only use 10 percent of the brain, maybe they are tapping into the other 90percent.”

I have heard this time and time again, from people who believe they possess psychic powers to the people who believe (or are deceived by) it. This ‘10 percent of our brains’ misconception is 100 percent complete bullshit. There is absolutely no scientific data or evidence that supports and or suggests that human beings only use 10 percent of the brain. As a matter of fact, can you guess how much of the brain we do use? All 100 percent of it!

Author (and just an all around amazing fellow) Ben Radford has written on this very topic. Radford states that this argument that psychic powers come from untapped part of the brain is a logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance. In this logical fallacy, something has to be either true or false merely because it has not been proven or refuted. So basically, even if 90 percent of the brain is untapped by most humans, it doesn’t mean that being able to use any of that 90 percent would give anyone psychic powers (or any other paranormal mental powers).

Now although humans may not use 100 percent of their brain at once, it is important to know and understand different actions may require different parts of the brain to react. However, not using all the brain at once and only using 10 percent as a whole are two totally different things. Where did the idea of humans only using 10 percent of the brain come from?

I have been able to find very little information as to where the origins of this myth come from, but there seems to be quite a bit of speculation. One idea that may have fueled this myth is that less than 10 percent of the cells in the brain are nerve cells, called neurons, the rest of these cells are called glial cells. To sum it up, neurons are cells that have the function of receiving and transmitting the neural impulses and glial cells are the cells that support, feed and insulate the neurons. Another possible origin of the myth comes from Albert Einstein when he told a reporter that his brilliance came from using more than 10 percent of his brain.

So we may not know the exact origin of the myth. But just because we don’t know where the myth came from doesn’t refute the fact that humans do use 100 percent of their brain. So please, next time a psychic or person claiming to have any type of PSI powers, tries to use the 10 percent myth as an explanation, be sure to respectfully correct them and ask them to try a different explanation. Take care.

 

References:

http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/10percent.asp

http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/tenper.html

http://home.ix.netcom.com/~suzumi/badmedicine_ch1.pdf

Psychic Predicts Winner of World Cup 2010

In the city of Oberhausen, Germany lives a psychic named Paul who seems to be getting much praise for correctly predicting who would win the World Cup 2010.  However, along with the praise, irate individuals also are blaming Paul for Germany’s loss in the World Cup. Many are sending him death threats. Some are even coming up with ways to cook and eat him. 

Yes you read that correctly, people are actually designing recipes to cook and eat Paul.  Argentine chef Nicolas Bedorrou posted on his Facebook: “We will chase him and put him on some paper. We will then beat him (but correctly!) in order to keep the meat tender and then put it in boiling water.”  Before you scratch your head and think WTF I think it’s time to let you know that Paul is actually an octopus (did I make you say WTF again?). 

Oliver Walenciak, Paul’s owner, said the way he makes predictions is by choosing a container filled with mussels.  2 containers are dropped into his tank one adorned with the German flag and one with that of their opponents.  Whichever container Paul eats from, that team will be victorious.  Unfortunately for Germany, Paul chose Spain to win the World Cup, but for the octopus it just added credence to his psychic credibility because Spain did indeed win 1-0. 

Oliver Walenciak, said before the match: “We know that all octopus have nine brains so we know he has exceptional powers.”  I did some research to see if an octopus really has 9 brains and the only thing I could find was an article from National Geographic titled Octopus Arms Found to Have “Minds” of Their Own, which only suggests that the octopus many inadvertently move its arms. 

“Since octopuses always use the same kind of movement to extend their arms, Hochner and his colleagues wondered if the commands that generate the pattern are stored in the arm itself, not in the central brain. Such a mechanism would further reduce the complexity of controlling a flexible arm.”

I even went as far as checking diagrams on the anatomy of the octopus and to my surprise (not really) it seems that this cephalopod only has, are you ready for this?  Wait for it, wait for it…ONE BRAIN!!! 

So sorry Mr. Walenciak I hate to break it to you, but while your precious Paul may seem rather intelligent, he only has one brain. As far as Paul being psychic, meh, I would say lucky guesses made by a hungry octopus.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/09/0907_octoarm.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup-2010/7878270/Paul-the-psychic-octopus-correctly-predicts-Germany-defeat.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup-2010/teams/germany/7877152/Germany-v-Spain-Psychic-octopus-Paul-unfazed-by-death-threats-says-keeper.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup-2010/7877034/World-Cup-2010-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-Paul-the-psychic-octopus.html