Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Who is that shadowy black figure stalking Fox news and the Mail? Gasp... Reality!

Sometimes you find the stupidest paranormal stories in the most unexpected places: On 15th May WOW! FM's "Rick" reported on an alleged rise in exorcisms in Idaho, stating:
"Some may laugh… some may scoff… but facts are facts. Exorcism calls are on the rise here in Idaho."
I do indeed laugh and scoff, but if you're stating something is a fact you'd normally provide a source to back this up. Rick fails to do this, we aren't told where he's pulled the year-by-year figures for exorcisms from. He continues:
"It’s a common practice in third world countries. Here in the United States we seem to take a more scientific approach when the unexplained can’t be explained."
When the unexplained can't be explained? Surely the unexplained can't ever be explained as then by definition it wouldn't be unexplained. Also, I question why Rich isn't absolutely terrified and embarrassed that Idaho is following the example of third world countries. So where did Rick find this story to comment on it in the first place, tracking it down should at least lead to a citation of the source stating a rise in Exorcism in Idaho, right?

The story was first featured on Fox 9 news on, you may see this coming, Friday 13th. The piece cites two sources that allege exorcism is on the rise, "exorcism expert" and founder of Apparitions Paranormal Investigations Jeff Mason and Pastor Mike Freeman. It's Mason who seems to be making the claim that exorcisms are on the rise, not based on any actual figures or anything, just the fact that he's being asked to perform them more...

But Mason is a credible source, after all, he is a doctor.... erm... of clinical hypnosis. which isn't an accredited degree in the US or anywhere else, essentially it's a mail order qualification. It's hard to understand how this team actually came to Fox's attention, the team only has three members and their Facebook page has only ten likes!

Meanwhile, pastor Freeman discusses the popularity of exorcism in the Third World, a point that clearly resonates with Rick at least:
“You step into the Third World and it’s definitely a ‘We’re not in Kansas’ anymore moment. To assume our way of viewing reality as the only way is to limit ourselves.”
Is it me, or does this backwards idiot sound like he actually admires the third world for continuing to adhere to stone age superstitions? The pastor may be correct in stating there are many ways to view reality, to the left is how South Park view it, but those views don't alter it. Demons aren't real, possession isn't real. On the other hand mental illnesses and physical ailments which may cause stereotypical "possession like behaviour" are.


Of course, it's clear what's happened here: the news channel has gone out looking for a spooky story for Friday 13th and stumbled across Mason and his claims. Paranormal fluff aside there are serious implications here.

As always it's firmly my stance that publicizing nonsense like exorcism hurts the vulnerable, especially children and those with mental illness. This problem is, frankly, more worrying and pressing in Idaho, a state in which backward religious attitudes are killing children. An article published in the Guardian also on Friday 13th, shows the harm caused by protecting and propagating dark age superstition.

Alongside some stark and quite upsetting tales of abuse and neglect told by survivors of throwback religious cults, the article tells us Idaho is one of only six states in the US that offer a faith-based shield for felony crimes such as manslaughter.

The legislature states:
[N]o child whose parent or guardian chooses  for such child treatment by prayers through spiritual means alone in lieu of medical treat­ment, shall be deemed for that reason alone to be neglected or lack parental care necessary for his health and well being. . . .
           Idaho Code, Section 16-1602(28)(a)
In making its order under subsection (a) of this sec­tion, the court shall take into consideration any treatment being given the child by prayer through spiritual means alone, if the child or his parent, guardian or legal custodian are adherents of a bona fide religious denomination that relies exclusively on this form of treatment in lieu of medical treatment.
           Idaho Code, Section 16-1627(3) in Authorization of emergency medical treatment 

Peaceful Valley cemetery is Idaho burial ground of the  religious sect The Followers of Christ, which is full of the graves of young children and infants, many of whom died as a result of their parent's backward superstitious avoidance of medical intervention. Those parents are protected by this law.

A 2015 inquiry found the rate of mortality of children in Followers of Christ families from 2002 to 2011 was ten times greater than that of Idaho as a whole. This may only be the tip of the iceberg as Idaho law also allows religious sects to bury children on private land.

Critics of the faith-shield legislation, first adopted in the 1960's during the Nixon administration, fear that it may at some point also extend to deaths caused as a result of exorcism, although there is no president for this at the current time. It's easy to see how this could be extrapolated. Suddenly exorcism doesn't seem like harmless fluff, does it Rick?

There was more possession related bullshit featured in the good ol' Daily Fail today (18/05/16) which reports on a supposed "mass possession" in a school in Peru.
The following video accompanies the report, it is quite disturbing:

The paper reports:
"Disturbing footage has emerged of up to 80 students convulsing, screaming and fainting at Elsa Perea Flores School in northern Peru's Tarapoto. Experts are struggling to explain the hysteria that broke out at the school, which was reportedly built on a Mafia graveyard.... Franklin Steiner, a parapsychologist who investigates paranormal and psychic phenomena - said: 'It is known that years ago there were many victims of terrorism here. When this school was built, some say bones and dead bodies were found.' 
Locals believe this is a case of demonic interference, saying some children must have played games that invoke demons such as using a Ouija board. A Ouija board is marked with letters and numbers and some use it in the belief that they will be abe to communicate with souls of the dead.

As of yet, there has been no rational or official explanation for the phenomenon."
I'll offer a rational explanation, and it doesn't involve demons, tall dark figures or Mafia graveyards. How about mass hysteria? The phenomenon is explainable and fairly well understood, it's described here as "also known as mass psychogenic illness (MPI), is characterised by more than one person spontaneously developing hysterical physical and emotional symptoms, manifested out of false or exaggerated beliefs within their group." in relation to a similar outbreak in a Malaysian school, SMK Pengkalan Chepa 2.

Simon Wessley, a psychiatrist at Kings College describes the onset of the phenomena:
"Fainting, collapsing, funny neurological symptoms, but also more culturally bound conducts like possession, with djinns and spirits... schools are a natural habitat for mass outbreaks of conversion disorder, as they’re a fairly closed environment, populated by close-knit cliques. It usually begins with one person collapsing or exhibiting unusual physical symptoms, from there rumours spread and anxiety mushroom clouds itself through the hallways."
 Mass hysteria is more common and pronounced in communities within strong superstitious and supernatural beliefs, Robert Bartholomew, a sociologist who has also researched mass hysteria in Malaysia describes the phenomena further:
"Mass hysteria or collective delusions are defined as the spontaneous and rapid spread of false or exaggerated beliefs within a population.... Outbreaks usually occur in small, tight-knit groups in enclosed surrounding such as schools, orphanages and factories."
Easy to see all those criteria met here, plus the concept of exaggerated or false beliefs which puts the Mails quotes from "locals"into some contrast, clearly the belief in demons and spirits is rife here and the speculation about Mafia burial grounds and the like is only going to fuel this ongoing outbreak.

Hey wait.... what did one of the girls say was stalking them?

"It was a tall man all dressed in black..."

Shit! That may be the first time any form of reality has featured in The Daily Mail.

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