Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Hoaxes of Space, Air and Land

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NASA totally Photoshopped this.

 

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Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Bring Out Your Dead

A parade of sad, silly people who thought they could resurrect the dead (and/or themselves)

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Returning from the dead is a big thing right now. ABC is airing Resurrection, a series about Missourians spontaneously coming back to life (total ripoff of similar to the excellent French miniseries  Les Revenants). A film adaptation of the bestselling book Heaven is for Real, featuring the near-death experience of a 3-year-old child,  hit theatres on Easter weekend. Filmmaker  Johnny Clark recently released a documentary titled Deadraiser, which chronicles the efforts of people who believe they are capable (with God’s assistance) of bringing the dead back to life. Even as I write this, followers of Hindu guru Ashutosh Maharaj are embroiled in a legal battle with Maharaj’s family members. Maharaj died of a suspected heart attack in late January of this year, and a man claiming to be his son wishes to cremate his remains. But he can’t, because Mararaj’s followers insist he isn’t dead. They say he is actually in a state of deep meditation that has lowered his heart rate to an undetectable level, and have stashed him in a freezer at the ashram in the belief that he will come back to life any minute now. As daffy as that concept sounds, there are a surprising number of folks – past and present – who honestly thought they could trump mortality either through faith or by sheer force of will.

Margaretta Peter, the girl who crucified herself

Margaretta Peter, born into a large Swiss farming family in the late eighteenth century, was a preaching prodigy. In 1800, when Margaretta was just six years old, she enthralled relatives and other residents of a tiny hamlet near Schaffhausen (either Wildisbuch or Wildispuch) with her impromptu sermons, seeming to have a better grasp of the Bible than any minister five times her age.
This was a marvelous quality in a preschooler, but over the years, Margaret began to exert a spiritual dominance over her family that made her pastor uneasy. He noted that when Margaretta was still a teenager, her widowed father and older sisters would obey her every command as though it was the will of God.

Margaretta’s commitment to her faith deepened even more at the age of 20, when she fell in with a group of Pietists and went through a year of self-chastisement for her sins. At the end of that year, she announced she was ready to become a preacher and prophetess. She returned to her home village in the spring of 1817, and quickly established a small following that included her father, sisters, and an epileptic servant named Margaret Jäggli. Jäggli thought her seizures were caused by demons, and hoped that Margaretta could heal her.

In the spring of 1823, Margaretta began talking about the Devil, warning her followers that he was close at hand. Jäggli’s seizures increased and worsened, probably due to stress. This further reinforced the group’s notion that Satan was moving in on them. In March, Margaretta summoned her followers to her father’s house and descended into an ecstatic state, experiencing visions of Satan’s hordes overtaking the planet. She, alone, stood in their way. For days, she uttered prophecies to her breathless disciples. She declared that Napoleon’s son would reveal himself as the anti-Christ, and this cued her older sister Elizabeth and Jäggli to mimic spirit possession by Napoleon and the Duke of Reichstadt; they marched around the room like military men until Margaretta banished the spirits.

The next day, the prophetess led ten of her followers into a small attic bedroom and exhorted them to gird themselves with both prayer and any weaponry they could find, for the final battle between Christ and Satan was imminent. The group included her elderly father, two of her sisters, and a married tailor who may have been Margaretta’s lover. They obeyed Margaretta’s instructions to board up the farmhouse and arm themselves with axes, hammers, clubs – anything they could find. Napoleon’s troops were coming, she said, and the invisible minions of Satan had already besieged the house. Her followers took up their weapons and swung wildly at the air inside the attic room, trying to kill discarnate entities that only Margaretta could see. This madness went on for about three hours, drawing curious neighbours to the yard.

When the attic room was destroyed, the melee moved to a downstairs parlour. There, Margaretta began pummeling Elizabeth with her fists at Elizabeth’s urging. Somehow, the crazed group imagined that inflicting pain on each other would help repel the demonic invaders – much like the French convulsionnaires who tortured one another in the most sadistic ways imaginable in the St. Medard churchyard during the previous century.
They continued punching themselves and each other in a night-long frenzy. The ruckus finally attracted police, who found Margaretta’s followers piled in a heap on the sitting room floor while she beat them senseless. The group was ordered to disband, and local authorities issued an order that both Margaretta and Elizabeth were to be sent to an asylum.

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The disciples paid no attention to these orders. Just one day after their punching fest, a dozen people gathered around Margaretta in the little attic bedroom, prepared to carry out any instructions she issued. The prophetess announced that more blood had to be shed, and proceeded to strike her brother, Caspar, repeatedly with an iron wedge. While she bludgeoned her brother, her followers resumed beating themselves and each other.

Next, Margaretta announced that the ghost of her mother was commanding her to sacrifice herself. Elizabeth immediately offered to take her sister’s place, and Margaretta obliged by striking her with the same iron wedge she had used on Caspar (who was alive, but unconscious). The others followed suit, striking the prone woman with any tools they could find. Elizabeth was soon dead. Only one person, a young woman named Ursula, protested. Margaretta assured her that Elizabeth would be raised from the dead in three days’ time.

Then Margaretta ordered her disciples to crucify her. Reluctantly, they gathered the materials for a wooden cross and assembled it in the attic room. Her sister Susanna provided the nails. Again, Ursula protested and was told that both Margaretta and Elizabeth would rise from the dead in three days.

Margaretta’s followers nailed her hands, elbows, breasts, and feet to the cross. They later told the authorities that Margaretta remained fully conscious throughout this ordeal, coaxing them on. When she was secured to the cross, she demanded to be stabbed through the heart. Ursula attempted this, but was unsuccessful. Another woman and a young man took up a hammer and a crowbar and smashed Margaretta’s head until she fell silent.

Margaretta’s lover, the tailor Jacob Morf, was not present during the murders. He had remained at home with his wife after the beating frenzy. When he returned to the Peters farmhouse and saw the corpses of his beloved prophetess and her sister laid out in a bloodstained room, he was horrified. He reported the murders to a pastor. Meanwhile, the others sat vigil in anticipation of the resurrection. The Peters sisters died on a Saturday, so it was expected they would rise again on Monday. On Sunday night, Ursula removed the nails from Margaretta’s body so that she would not be fastened to a cross when she came back to life. Throughout the night, the group remained with the bodies and prayed.

The sisters remained dead, of course. Their father now had little choice but to report their deaths. In December 1823, eleven of Margaretta’s disciples went on trial for murder in Zürich. All were convicted, and received prison sentences ranging from 6 months to 16 years. None expressed remorse for their actions. On the contrary, they insisted that the murders had been the will of God.

The Peters affair reportedly inspired Hanns Ewers’ 1910 novel The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Source: Historic Oddities and Strange Events by Sabine Baring-Gould

Charles Freeman and the Pocasset Horror

In 1879, Charles and Harriet Freeman were good, upstanding citizens in the Cape Cod Peninsula village of Pocasset. Charles, in particular, was something of a role model in the Seventh Day Adventist church the Freemans attended. But in the spring of that year, Freeman underwent a severe religious mania. He announced to his wife that God wanted him to sacrifice a member of their family – and it couldn’t be Freeman himself. The sacrifice would have to be one of their two daughters, 6-year-old Bessie or 4-year-old Edith. On the night of April 20, in spite of Harriet’s tearful entreaties, Charles crept into the room his girls shared. He woke Bessie, ordering her out of the room. Then he stabbed sleeping Edith to death. He stayed with her corpse throughout the night.

The following day, Freeman sent word  to neighbours and fellow Adventists that he would be announcing a “great revelation” at his home. When about 25 people had gathered, Freeman launched into an hour-long sermon on Christ’s imminent return. Then he led everyone into his daughters’ room and showed them Edith’s bloodied, lifeless body. God had demanded a great sacrifice, he explained, but would offer a great miracle in return: Edith would rise from the dead in three days’ time.

Incredibly, the group seemed to accept this. They returned to their daily chores and told no one what they had seen. Word did spread, though. On April 22, both Freemans were arrested on suspicion of murder. Even in jail, Freeman continued to insist that his daughter would be resurrected.
The charges against Harriet were dropped. Freeman ended up in the State Lunatic Asylum at Danvers. It wasn’t until 1883 that he began to realize he had been insane at the time of his crime. In December 1883 he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was released from the asylum four years later. The details of his life after the asylum are unknown.

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Source: Psycho USA by Harold Schecter

Cyrus Teed, prophet of the Hollow Earth (Koresh #1)

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Cyrus Teed was a New York “eclectic physician” who monkeyed around with alchemy in his spare time. In 1869, at the age of 30, he claimed to have transformed lead into gold in his lab.  That very night, a hermaphroditic deity revealed him/herself to Teed and imparted all the secrets of the universe, the most startling one being that the surface of Earth is actually located on the inside of something like a hollow egg, with the “sky” being the empty space in the middle of the “egg”.  Teed subsequently adopted the name Koresh and introduced a new scientific religion called Koreshanity.
In the 1870s, Koresh founded the Koreshan Unity, a New York commune centred around his teachings. The commune relocated to the small Florida town of Estero in 1894. Estero became less like a commune and more like a community, with its own printing press, a general store, and a power plant. Though there were some clashes with locals, including a pistol-whipping of Koresh himself in 1906, the Koreshians thrived until 1908. That’s when Teed/Koresh died.

Teed had predicted that he and his flock would be resurrected and taken up to Heaven after they died, so his followers expectantly waited beside his body for two days. The corpse had to be confiscated by order of the county health officer after it began to putrefy.

Source: Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science by Martin Gardner

Branch Davidians: George Roden and Vernon Howell (Koresh #2)

In 1987, Lois Roden, the leader of the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel, died. This left her son George in charge of the compound, which was virtually empty after a rival prophet by the name of Vernon Howell declared himself the true leader of the flock.
George Roden soon realized that he was the incarnation of God, and God certainly holds rank against a mere prophet like Howell. It was time to establish his supremacy before the endtimes began. A brute show of strength wouldn’t do, God/George decided; a resurrection contest would be make much more sense. He went to the Mt. Carmel cemetery, exhumed the body of Anna Hughes (a sect member who had been dead for twenty years), and practiced a few resurrection techniques on the corpse.
Howell wisely refused to accept the resurrection challenge. Instead, he reported Roden’s corpse abuse to the Waco police. They told him they wouldn’t press charges without evidence that a body had been exhumed, so Howell and a few of his followers donned gamo gear and crept onto the compound grounds. In the ensuing gun battle, God lost. The eight intruders were acquitted of attempted murder, and Howell quickly laid claim to the compound…which wouldn’t see another gun battle for five whole years.
God/George was never charged with abuse of a corpse, as he insisted he had simply been moving the cemetery to a new location very slowly.

After the deadly conflagration at Mt. Carmel in 1993, the faithful expected all those who had died to be resurrected. They are still waiting. “We, as survivors of 1993, are looking for David and all those that died either in the shootout or in the fire. We believe that God will resurrect this special group,” survivor Clive Doyle recently told NPR.

Source: The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation by Dick Reavis

The Deadraisers of Bethel Church and Beyond

Tyler and Christine Johnson, a young couple living in Wyoming, are the ultimate pro-lifers. Tyler heads the Dead Raising Team, a volunteer group that “is available to come to your city to train you to raise the dead.” Tyler has also published a handy book, How to Raise the Dead. According to the DRT website, the Johnsons “hope to see a DRT started in every city in the world, so that nobody could die without being prayed back to life.” The Deadraisers can even cure leprosy, apparently. That’s neat.
Tyler Johnson was once a student at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which is an actual thing. This Hogwarts for Grownups is an outgrowth of the Bethel Church, a megachurch in Redding, California. Bethel’s pastor, Bill Johnson (no relation to Tyler), has supposedly seen countless “miracles” at his church in recent years. First, feathers drifted down from the ceilings. Parishioners attributed this to birds nesting in the rafters, until feathers began to appear in Johnson’s presence in other public places. Johnson decided they were actually “angel feathers” (ornithologist David H. Ellis declared them to be ordinary bird feathers). Bethel members also say that “gold dust”, diamonds and pieces of jewelry have spontaneously appeared during church services. One video purportedly shows a “glory cloud” of gold dust manifesting in the sanctuary.

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Actual angel.

Johnson claims his flock can heal the most serious ailments. In the church’s healing rooms, members blow a ram’s horn (shofar) to summon the Holy Spirit, then pray for it to heal conditions ranging from arthritis to deafness. In 2010, Johnson told  reporter Amanda Winters, “We just had another brain tumor case of cancer healed. We have a lot of that kind of stuff happen. It’s verified by doctors, they do the tests and the cancer’s gone. We have a lot of that sort of thing – miracles.”
To date, no medical professionals have come forward to confirm that anyone has been healed of anything at Bethel.

Bill Johnson was one of the ministers who “commissioned” Todd Bentley as an evangelist in June 2008, after other Charismatic leaders expressed concerns about Bentley’s methods and claims (more on that below).

Tyler Johnson isn’t the only Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry grad who thinks he might be able to raise the dead. In October 2008, Jason Carlsen tumbled over the edge of a 200-foot cliff in Redding while drinking with two BSSM students. Instead of calling 911, Sarah Koivumaki and Zachary Gudelunas attempted to reach Carlsen (who is now a paraplegic) and pray him back to life, believing he was dead. Unable to get anywhere near their comatose friend, these two compassionate souls proceeded to bicker over whether they should summon help or not. It took them about six hours to decide they were not in a Roadrunner cartoon.

Todd Bentley, Bully for the Lord

Nearly four years ago,  Pastor Stephen Strader of Ignited Church in Lakeland, Florida launched an old-school  revival that was supposed to last for five days. The star attraction of what later became known as the Florida Healing Outpouring was a hip, tattooed preacher in his twenties, Todd Bentley of Fresh Fire Ministries.

Bentley, who was not an ordained minister, rapidly made a name for himself by turning the Lakeland Revival into a spectacle-laden stage show, full of faith healings and mind-boggling miracles. Every night, up to 10,000 Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics flooded the Ignited auditorium to witness Bentley’s gifts of the spirit in action. The five-day revival evolved into a six-month gig for him.

WARNING: May not be funny for all viewers.

The media became interested in Bentley after stories about his bizarre healing techniques surfaced. Bentley often “healed” the elderly by kicking, punching, headbutting, or kneeing them onstage. A Charismatic named Sheldon informed me that God commanded Bentley to smack people around just to test his faith. He believes God prevented actual physical contact from happening, but the numerous YouTube videos of Bentley using his “knee of God” indicate otherwise.
Then things got weird. By the revival’s end, Bentley was declaring that at least 31 people may have been raised from the dead. If you’re keeping count, that’s 30 more than Jesus raised, unless you count Jesus himself.

Some of the resurrected people included an infant that had been dead for 27 hours, another infant that was fished out of a pond, a schoolteacher who died of a massive heart attack, and a man who came back to life at a funeral home during his own wake.  Bentley excitedly announced these resurrections during the revival, but could not provide any details…because he didn’t have them. These were secondhand, unverified reports filtered to him via word of mouth and email. As it turned out, the schoolteacher story was a deliberate email hoax perpetrated by a British Christian who wanted to test Bentley’s honesty.
A Nightline report concluded that none of the Lakeland “miracles” could be verified. When he appeared on Geraldo Rivera’s Fox show, Bentley could not produce any evidence that anyone had been healed or resurrected as a result of the revival.

Bentley turned out to have a colourful history. His past exploits included sexually assaulting a 7-year-old boy when he was in his teens. In this regard, he was quite similar to one of his brothers in Christ, the incarcerated preacher Tony Alamo. Alamo, a businessman turned messiah figure, used his position as an evangelist to “marry” girls as young as 8. He became a preacher upon the death of his first wife, Susan, in 1982. He got off to a shaky start by proclaiming that Susan would be resurrected. Thirteen years later, her lifeless body was still enshrined in his ministry compound, and Susan’s daughter had to sue Alamo to get it back for proper burial.

Other Back From the Dead Cases

  • Two days ago, numerous media outlets reported that a 2- or 3-year-old girl named Sydney came back to life at her own funeral in the Philippines.
    Sadly, the reports were wrong. The child’s grandmother had scooped Sydney out of her coffin and carried her out of the church in the mistaken belief that had she had moved her head. Doctors declared her dead a short time later, and a second funeral has been arranged.
  • A popular video about a newborn coming back to life in his mother’s arms is actually 5 years old. In 2010, twins Jamie and Emily Ogg were born prematurely in an Australian hospital. Jamie did not survive long after birth, and mother Katie Ogg was reluctant to part with him. For two hours, she and her husband held and caressed Jamie’s lifeless body…and were stunned when he began to move and breathe.
    This really did happen. Jamie Ogg is now as healthy as his sister.
  • Cardiologist Dr. Chauncey Crandall claims that only his prayers revived clinically dead patient Jeff Markin in 2006. He gives no credit to the medical procedures that were applied to Mr. Markin. Crandall is one of the stars of Deadraiser.

Somaly Mam and the Dark Side of Charity

Since 1996, a non-governmental organization known as AFESIP (from the French, Acting for Women in Distressing Situations) has been working to rescue and aid young female victims of human trafficking, operating three centres in Cambodia where the young women are housed and educated.
The guiding light of this effort is co-founder Somaly Mam, a Cambodian-born woman who claims to have been a child prostitute in the ’80s. She has become one of the world’s most prominent anti-trafficking activists, racking up prestigious awards and honours. According to Mam, over 4000 girls and women have been rescued from forced prostitution thanks to AFESIP’s efforts. AFESIP’s fundraising arm, the Somaly Mam Foundation, has raised millions since its inception in 2007.
So it came as a nasty surprise to many supporters when Mam stepped down as the head of her own foundation in May, amid allegations that she fabricated not only the stories of two of her spokespeople, but also her own life story. To hear other media outlets tell it, Mam’s downfall was brought about by a single Newsweek cover story penned by Simon Marks.

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A Distressing Situation

The Newsweek article is shocking, but here’s something even more shocking: Nothing in the Newsweek story is breaking news. Not one thing.

Back in October 2012, Simon Marks, along with Khy Sovuthy, published a piece in Cambodia Daily, “Questions Raised Over Symbol’s Slavery Story“, probing the accuracy of the horrifc story of sexual slavery and mutilation told by Mam’s most high-profile spokesperson, Long Pros (AKA Somana Long). This was just one of several articles Marks has written about Mam and AFESIP over the past two years.

Also in 2012, Cat Barton wrote several articles like this one, questioning the wisdom of the high-profile brothel raids engineered by Somaly Mam.  AFESIP has received a considerable amount of criticism from other anti-trafficking orgs for allowing journalist Nicholas Kristof to “live-tweet” a brothel raid in the northern Cambodian town of Anlong Veng in November 2011, as this violated the privacy of the young women removed from the brothel.
Barton also reported concerns that not all of the women and girls housed by AFESIP centres were there voluntarily; some had been dropped off by police following raids.

In November 2013, Lindsay Murdoch raised further questions about Somana Long’s  account and the integrity of Somaly Mam in a Sydney Morning Herald article, “Dark Truths or Fiction?

Another Marks article, published in El Mundo last year, exposed the same lies that Marks revealed in the Newsweek piece. In fact, there are few significant differences between the two articles. It’s disappointing that the world’s major media outlets ignored such an important investigative piece published by one of the largest newspapers in Spain.

In March, AFESIP launched an inquiry into the allegations raised by journalists over the years. Staffers knew that Marks was working on the Newsweek piece, and apparently realized it was time to deal with the issue head-on. The details of the independent, third-party investigation conducted by Goodwin Proctor LLP have not been divulged, but a statement posted on the website of the Somaly Mam Foundation makes it clear that the investigation results were the direct cause of Mam’s resignation. In other words, Goodwin Proctor discovered that aspects of her story were fraudulent.

With so many people raising the alarm about her, why has Somaly Mam been bulletproof for all these years?

The Long Con

One reason is the compelling stories told by young women she has rescued.

The first of these “pretty victims”, as Daily Beast* writer Amanda Marcotte has dubbed them, was Meas Ratha. Ratha, 14 years old at the time, appeared with Mam on the French TV programme Envoyé Spécial in 1998, only a couple of years after AFESIP was formed. This broadcast drew international attention to Mam’s work, winning Mam the endorsement of Queen Sofia of Spain and the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. She was subsequently able to gain some U.S. government funding, and donations began to flow into AFESIP.

Ratha spoke of being imprisoned in a Phnom Penh brothel, lured there by traffickers who promised her a job as a waitress. She said her father had abandoned his large family, leaving her mother destitute.
Last year, however, she admitted that she and her sister, Meas Sokha, were sent to the AFESIP center in 1997 by both of their parents, not because she had been a child prostitute, but because the couple was unable to provide for all eight of their children. Meas Sokha confirmed this, as did Marie Christine Uguen, a woman who was caring for Ratha at the time of her Envoyé Spécial appearance. Ratha confessed to Uguen, shortly after the TV show aired, that Somaly Mam had selected her to tell a scripted story on television.
Prior to their TV appearance, Mam told Ratha that the trafficking story had really happened to another AFESIP resident, Sokha, who was too traumatized to discuss the events publicly. Ratha was stunned to discover, last year, that Sokha had been featured on the same Envoyé Spécial broadcast, relating a completely different story of forced prostitution.

It was Ratha’s story that won the world’s interest in Somaly Mam’s work, but the young woman known as Long Pros became her most visible success story, and a haunting symbol of human trafficking in Cambodia.

When she first spoke out about her ordeal in a Phnom Penh brothel, Long Pros (Somana Long) said she was 13 in 2005, the year a young woman kidnapped her and sold her to the brothel. The teenager was twice impregnated by rapists and subjected to home abortions. She refused to service the brothel’s clients on the day of her second abortion, and this so angered the brothel owner that the woman seized a chunk of jagged metal and gouged out Long’s eye. She threw the girl out into the streets when the infected, oozing eye socket began to displease customers. Her own parents refused to take her in. Somana was then rescued by Mam’s organization.

An entirely different account appears in Traffik, a 2008 book by photographer Norman Jean Roy. In this version of the story, Somana’s eye became infected after she was kicked in the face by a pimp, and it was surgically removed in hospital. Roy has worked closely with Somaly Mam, photographing girls at AFESIP centres.
Long herself told Josephine Lim, in a 2012 interview for the Australian website Our World Today, that people at the brothel had taken out her eye with a piece of steel and that she was rescued by a police raid.
Asking if Mam had perhaps exaggerated the stories of survivors, Lindsay Murdoch pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald that Somana’s story changed over time, becoming increasingly gruesome and awful.

Two years ago, Cambodia Daily reported that Somana actually had her eye removed by surgeon Dr. Pok Thorn at the Takeo Eye Hospital in November 2005, because of a benign tumour that had been growing for years. Her parents, Long Hon and Sok Hang, confirmed this. They have since refused to discuss the surgery, worried that their daughter could lose her job if they do (she worked for an Australian nonprofit program affiliated with Somaly Mam’s organization).
Te Sereybonn, who was the director of the Takeo Eye Hospital in 2005, says his staff was responsible for Long’s placement in the AFESIP centre. She was not an abused child or a prostitute, but the staffers could see that her family was in financial straits, so they contacted AFESIP to see if she could be enrolled in one of their vocational training programs.
Goodwin Proctor also investigated Somana Long’s story, and it seems they found it to be untrue. The Somaly Mam Foundation has announced it is breaking all ties with her.

The pressing question is, why did Mam fabricate sex-trafficking tales? If her organization has, indeed, saved thousands of girls from forced prostitution, then surely a few of them would be willing to share their true stories. Even if the stories Ratha and Long told were 100% true, though, Mam’s use of these young women as spokespeople for her organization would be questionable. Having to relive their trauma over and over again in front of strangers could delay their own healing.

The Star Factor

Mam would not be where she is today – disgraced and unemployed – without the support of powerful people in business, entertainment, and journalism. She carefully courted these people, going to red-carpet and black-tie events in lovely gowns. She received endorsements from Queen Sofia of Spain, Ban Ki-moon, Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and Meg Ryan. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Susan Sarandon are advisory members of the Somaly Mam Foundation board of directors. Mam worked closely with Pulitzer-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof and his wife. Her 2005 memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence, received dustjacket endorsements from Mariane Pearl and Ayann Hirsi Ali, two women who have survived very real hardship and tragedy.

These people are not fools. Who among us, looking into the earnest, anguished faces of young girls as they recount abduction, rape, and torture, would ask questions like, “Is she putting me on?” In the end, journalists like Marks were the ones to ask the hard questions and dig up the hard, disappointing answers.
One of these journalists should have been Nicholas Kristof. He had observed the sex trafficking situation in Cambodia up close. In 2004, he spent $350 to buy two young girls out of a Cambodian brothel. Kristof is a good journalist, but even the best journalists are human. His emotional response to the plight of women in the Third World blinded him to the reality of the NGOs working with those women. In a 2009 New York Times article, he expressed admiration for the work of Greg Mortenson, the author of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson founded a nonprofit to educate girls in Middle Eastern countries, achieving worldwide renown for his efforts, but a 2012 investigation concluded that he had misspent $6 million that should have gone to his charity, and Mortenson agreed to repay $1 million. Like Somaly Mam, Mortenson had also fabricated portions of his life story to help promote his organization. When his lies were exposed by 60 Minutes, Mortenson hit back with angry denials; today, he thanks his detractors for putting him back on the straight and narrow. Sadly, his remorse came far too late to save the life of his co-author, David Oliver Relin. Relin committed suicide when the veracity of Three Cups of Tea was challenged.

Kristof embraced Somaly Mam’s work in the same manner that people had approached Mortenson’s accomplishments – with an uncritical eye and a deep willingness to believe in the strength of the human spirit. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, co-wrote the 2009 bestseller Half the Sky, a passionate call to justice for women in developing countries. This became a PBS documentary of the same name in 2012. Both book and film featured Somana Long telling her story in her own words. She subsequently appeared on Oprah, and her story is still posted on Oprah.com.
It would be difficult to underestimate the amount of credibility that Mam gained by her affiliation with Kristof. His New York Times pieces, his book, and the PBS doc boosted her already thriving NGO into the upper echelons of nonprofit stardom.

Based on a Lie

The fake trafficking victims are bad enough. Then there is the issue of Mam’s own distortions.

On December 7, 2004, police and AFESIP raided a Phnom Penh hotel called the Chai Hour II, removing 83 women and girls to the local AFESIP center. The next day, a group of about 30 men forced their way into the center and removed the females.
In a speech she gave before the UN General Assembly in April 2012, Mam stated that the Cambodian army had killed eight of these girls. This bizarre claim was immediately challenged, and Mam had to  admit that she did not have any firsthand knowledge of events following the raid; she had relied upon secondhand information (from a “reliable source) that eight girls and women had died after the raid in a “series of accidents that may have had something to do with their pimps and traffickers.”

That could be chalked up to a mistaken assumption, but the story of her daughter’s abduction is not so ambiguous. In The Road of Lost Innocence, Mam wrote that in 2006 her 14-year-old adopted daughter, Ning, was kidnapped and gang-raped by traffickers in retaliation for the Chai Hour II raid. When the police found Ning, she was in the company of a “boy she knew”, who acted as a lure for the traffickers.
Mariane Pearl wrote about Ning’s abduction in a piece for Glamour.
However, Mam’s ex-husband and Ning’s father, Pierre Legros, told Lindsay Murdoch that Ning was not kidnapped. She ran away with her then boyfriend. Legros’ version of the story is supported by Aarti Kapoor, who worked as a legal adviser to AFESIP from 2003 to 2006. No police report was ever filed in connection with Ning’s “abduction”.
The creation of false enemies and phony “brushes with death” is something we’ve seen over and over on this blog, among “former Satanists“, conspiracy peddlers, and fraudsters. If you have powerful foes, you must have a powerful message, right? Disturbingly, Kapoor told Simon Marks that other AFESIP employees knew the story was a fabrication, yet elected to remain silent.

Finally, there is Mam’s own chilling tale of survival.
As she tells it in her memoir, Mam was essentially a feral child, living out her earliest years in the forests of northeastern Cambodia with no one to look after her. Her parents and maternal grandmother abandoned her in the village of Bou Sra sometime in the late ’70s, when she was not yet 10 years old. As she repeatedly laments, she grew up without a mother.
Bou Sra was in a remote, forested area that had not been heavily affected by Vietnam or the Pol Pot regime, and Mam was sheltered from modern life. By the time she left the village around 1980, she had never seen a car, hot running water, or a pair of shoes. She had to forage for food and sleep in the open.
Around age 10 she was taken away to a far-off village, Thloc Chhroy, by a man who called himself her grandfather. She was subjected to daily beatings and forced to work in the rice fields. The Khmer villagers treated her like a slave, with the exception of a schoolteacher named Mam Khon and his wife, Pen Navy. This couple took her in, though they had six children of their own. Khon told her he was her paternal uncle, but Mam didn’t believe this. She was just grateful to be unofficially adopted by the family. “Grandfather” exploited Mam until she was approximately 14, then forced her to marry an abusive soldier. Without any medical training, she worked as a nurse in the military hospital at Chup, watching helplessly as soldiers and villagers died terrible deaths at the hands of untrained medical workers.
When her husband failed to return to Chup, Grandfather sold her to a brothel in Phnom Penh, where she was forced to have sex with half a dozen clients per day. She was “about 16 years old.” She remained captive there for about 3 years. She witnessed a brothel owner fatally shoot her best friend. She was subjected to brutal beatings, rape, and electric shocks.

By the time she was in her late teens, however, the brothel owners no longer held Mam captive. She admits she worked for them voluntarily, on and off, up until she decided to leave prostitution in 1991, having met future husband Pierre Legros, a young French biologist working in Phnom Penh.

At least, that’s one version of her story. Speaking at the White House in February 2012, Mam said she was trafficked at age 9 or 10 and spent a decade in the brothel. Sitting beside Susan Sarandon on the Tyra Banks Show in 2008, she said she was sold to the brothel at 13 or 14 and remained there for 4 or 5 years. Legros has stated that when he met his ex-wife in 1991, she was working freely as a prostitute, not in a brothel but in an upscale hotel bar. Some biographies of Mam, such as this one at Women’s Conference.org, would lead you to believe that she met Legros in France.

Simon Marks probed these discrepancies by interviewing villagers in Thloc Chhroy who had known Mam as a child. These people say that Mam was not an abandoned child. She was the biological daughter of the kindly couple she mentions in her memoir, Mam Khon and Pen Navy.
According to residents who were there at the time, the family arrived in the village in 1981 from a nearby community. Prior to that, Mam Khon had been assigned to teach in a remote part of northeastern Cambodia – the same area where Mam supposedly lived as an urchin of the forest for the first 10 years of her life. Furthermore, she attended school in the village from 1981 right up to graduation from Khchao High School in 1987, the period when she was supposedly being prostituted in Phnom Penh. After graduation, she and a friend both sat for a teachers’ exam in Kompong Cham. Then, around 1987, Mam left her family home voluntarily. Never, at any time prior to age 18 or 19, was she homeless or abandoned. She was not married off at the age of 14. She was not pushed out into the streets to sell herself. There was no abusive old man posing as her grandfather. She did not sleep beside the body of a dead mother in the military hospital. There simply wasn’t time for Mam to have been prostituted as a child. Again, this “not enough time” issue is a problem we’ve seen many times in Satanic ritual abuse accounts and self-glorifying autobiographies.

Many of the other stories in Mam’s memoir have yet to be verified, like soldiers decapitating a small boy in Thloc Chhroy, and another little boy being fatally wounded by a hand grenade during military training in the schoolyard, and another little boy (Mam’s best friend) being torn apart in an accidental rocket blast.

But She’s Helping Trafficked Girls, Right?

At this point, an estimated 150 women and girls are living in AFESIP centres. We have no way of knowing how many of them were trafficking victims, and how many are simply young women seeking an education because their families cannot provide for them.

As mentioned, AFESIP has been criticized for taking in sex workers picked up in police raids. One former prostitute told Simon Marks she was taken to an AFESIP center by police on two separate occasions, and fled both times because the centre insisted she learn to sew.
This raises the question of what, exactly, the centres do to help women overcome their tough financial circumstances. In the interview below, Mam enthused that her girls may be doctors and lawyers in 10 years. In reality, the young women in her facilities are taught sewing, hairdressing, weaving, and other traditionally female skills that will allow them to eke out only the smallest incomes. Last fall, Estee Lauder announced it will be training sex trafficking survivors at a Somaly Mam beauty salon in Siem Reap.

It would not be out of line to call Mam’s behaviour predatory. She has been exploiting and manipulating vulnerable Cambodian girls to promote her cause. She has brazenly, outrageously lied to millions of people about ordeals that never occurred, which undermines real victims of trafficking and sexual assault. She has collected millions from donors under false pretenses. She has seized a heroine status that isn’t hers to claim. In a 2013 Daily Beast article, she actually likened herself to the protagonist of 12 Years a Slave. I think we’ve gone well past exaggeration, here. This is cold-blooded deception on a frightening scale. We could be dealing with a sociopath.

Most NGOs struggle. It isn’t easy to raise funds and effectively operate a charitable organization at the same time, especially if that organization is anchored in a remote area of a developing country. So when a relatively tiny operation like AFESIP achieves dazzling success and brings in millions, attracting some of the most influential people on the planet to its cause, one has to wonder if the money and prestige have become more important than the cause. AFESIP seems to have a lot of both; the SMF regularly ran full-colour, full-page ads in TIME. The ads didn’t show trafficking victims, but a glamour shot of Mam herself.

Sex tourism has long been a problem in Southeast Asia, but now sex trafficking survivors are drawing in tourist money. Last November, U.S. travel company OmLuxe took 20 people to Cambodia to meet with Mam. They were promised they would be able to spend time with sex-trafficking victims. What if anti-trafficking is becoming the new trafficking? This year’s trip, scheduled for November, includes a lunch with Mam.

The Problem Doesn’t End Here

The Somaly Mam debacle is not an isolated incident. Charity-related fraud is widespread, and it’s very easy to be taken in by slick, professional-looking campaigns that want your donations. A few of the problems in the NGO world include:

  1. Fake Charities/Charities that aren’t actually charitable
    One example of a bogus charity is Pink Pagoda, an organization that claims to have rescued 50,000 Chinese girls from infanticide and is trying to raise $1 billion to rescue a million more. While it has the outward appearance of an NGO, a legal disclaimer in teeny-tiny print on the bottom of its website states that it is not a charitable organization. It is a for-profit enterprise, and an extremely dodgy one. Its founder/director, Jim Garrow, appears to be engaged in the buying and selling of babies. I’ve covered Pink Pagoda in a recent post about Garrow at Leaving Alex Jonestown.
  2. NGOs that aren’t actually doing anything
    Many orgs have good intentions, yet suffer from mismanagement, poor planning, or misguided goals.  NGOs dedicated to ending malaria in Africa (Roll Back Malaria, Malaria No More, etc.) tout mosquito netting treated with chrysanthemum-derived insecticides as the most effective method of stopping the disease. Unfortunately, a 2003 study found that an average of 55% of African households given treated bed nets actually used them over sleeping children. This amounts to roughly 20 million children – an impressive number, but far from enough to make an impact.
  3. Trafficking Activists who may be mistaken or lying
    In Argentina, Susana Trimarco is receiving the same accolades Somaly Mam did. Trimarco became an anti-trafficking activist after the disappearance of her 23-year-old daughter, Marita, in 2002. She insists her daughter was abducted and sold into prostitution, though the evidence seems thin, and has implicated everyone from hospital staffers to the governor of her province. She began to disguise herself as a prostitute to infiltrate brothels, piecing together stray bits of gossip in an attempt to track down her daughter. By some accounts, she has now rescued about 150 South American and Spanish girls from sexual slavery. She has millions convinced that some of the highest officials in South America are complicit in human trafficking, but how much of her story is accurate?
  4. The crying wolf effect
    Charity frauds like Mam and Garrow harden people, making them less likely to donate time or volunteer hours to worthy causes.

* It should be noted that Daily Beast made Mam one of its “Women of the World” just three years ago. Last November, it published Mam’s firsthand account of her time as a child prostitute, in which she likened herself to the protagonist of 12 Years a Slave.

The Top 5 Silliest Chicken Franchise Myths

chicken too

Now that the heartbreaking/enraging viral story about a disfigured 3-year-old being turfed from a KFC for “scaring the other customers” has turned out to be a likely sham, let’s review some of the other kooky hoaxes and urban myths involving fast food chicken joints…

5. Clones and Chickenblobs/KFC name change

Beginning in the late ’90s, scare emails claimed that Kentucky Fried Chicken was forced to change its name to KFC, because it was no longer selling actual chicken. It was farming genetically modified chickens with more than two legs, or chicken clones, or beakless, legless chickenblobs that had liquid nutrients transfused directly into their veins. The story was sometimes accompanied by this picture:

chickenblob

Needless to say, there wasn’t much truth to any of this.

  • KFC doesn’t even raise its own chickens; the chain buys from numerous suppliers that sell chicken to many other restaurants, supermarkets, and fast food chains.
  • No one forced Kentucky Fried Chicken to change its name. The common wisdom is that the name change was part of an early ’90s rebranding effort designed to downplay the word “fried” (and possibly the word “Kentucky”).
  • The word “chicken” still appeared on the KFC menu, so obviously they were still using chicken.
  • Genetically modified chickens are still chickens.
  • No one has yet figured out how to produce legless/beakless poultry.
  • Meat from clones is reportedly on the market. However, cloning animals is prohibitively expensive and risky, so it’s not going to appeal to fast food suppliers that need a steady, reliable flow of cheap animals.

Silly as the chickenblob legends are, factory farmed chickens can live in some pretty dismal conditions. A less-silly rumour, included in Super Size Me, is that chickens are being bred to have enormous breasts that make them so top-heavy they are barely able to walk. The ASPCA website even asserts that most chickens have to lie flat on the ground throughout their lives.

There is some truth to this one. In general, chickens bred for meat have disproportionately large chests and low bone density. Many of them have trouble supporting their own weight on those skinny legs.  I don’t know that the average broiler chicken has this problem, but it is a concern. In overcrowded poultry operations, birds can’t walk around, anyway, because they’re squished together like foam packing peanuts.

foghorn leghorn

 

4. The Kentucky Fried Rat

This is a golden oldie of an urban legend that I’ve been hearing my entire life. It seems to date from the mid-’70s. There are variations of it, but the most popular one is that a woman was nibbling a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken when she suddenly realized it was actually a fried rat. In some versions of the tale, she died from a heart attack and her family sued the franchise. According to snopes, this story has never been traced to a single source, and it’s rarely connected to a specific location. It is incredibly unlikely that it really happened.

However, people now frequently share Guess What I Found in My Chicken photos and stories. In 2000, Katherine Ortega of Newport News, Virginia, produced a deep-fried rooster head that she claimed to have discovered in a box of McDonald’s chicken wings (which were being test-marketed in the area at the time). She threatened to sue, but apparently never did. It was not confirmed that the head came from McDonald’s.
In 2003, Baltimore pastor Tony Hill claimed he was served a mouse at a Popeye’s chicken outlet. He, too, never pursued the matter.
Last year, a Colchester man complained of finding a “brain” in his KFC meal. He chucked it in the trash, but KFC tentatively identified the object in his photo as a kidney. Two identical discoveries also received press attention.
Just this week, a woman in New Castle, England, released a photo of a piece of KFC chicken that was actually a battered and deepfried paper towel.

3. Church’s Chicken KKK Sterilization

In 1986, folklorist Patricia Turner was teaching an Introduction to Black Literature course at the University of Massachusetts. For some reason, she told her students the Kentucky Fried Rat story, and was intrigued when one of the students informed her that the Church’s Chicken chain was owned by the KKK, and was putting something in its food to chemically sterilize men – mostly black men, since Church’s Chicken franchises existed in predominantly black neighbourhoods.
A nearly identical KKK “stealth sterilization” rumour was attached to a new brand of cheap soda, Tropical Fantasy, in 1991, leading to a steep plunge in sales and a frantic PR campaign. Anonymous fliers posted in Harlem implicated the Tropical Fantasy, Top Pop, and Treat brand sodas as part of a genocide-by-beverage campaign. There were reports of attacks on delivery drivers by outraged youths.
Turner thoroughly investigated both stories and wrote about them in her 1993 book I Heard It Through the Grapevine. Though racist chicken joints were definitely a thing, she couldn’t find any KKK connection to either Church’s Chicken or the Brooklyn Bottling Corp. (which, ironically, employed a large percentage of minorities). Though there are chemicals believed to decrease fertility in men, there is no substance capable of permanently rendering a man sterile that could be introduced into food or liquid.

2. Silicone in chicken nuggets

I covered this one several years ago at Leaving Alex Jonestown, when Natural News was twigging out over it. Yes, dimethylpolysiloxane, a type of silicone, is an ingredient in the coating of some chicken nuggets. It is added to many foods and drink mixes to prevent sticking, clumping, and foaming. It’s simply a synthetic version of silica, which occurs naturally in most grains, water, and meats because it’s one of the most common minerals on the planet. Like silica, dimethylpolysiloxane is perfectly safe to ingest.

nugget mcbuddies

Forget the silicone…why does this McNugget Buddy have hair?!

1. Mechanically Separated Meat Is Bad for You

There is widespread suspicion that we are still living in Upton Sinclair’s Jungle, where hooves and a**holes end up in our processed meats on a regular basis.

In Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock takes umbrage at the very idea of chicken nuggets. “What part of the chicken does a nugget come from?” he asks, wrinkling up his Mario ‘stache in a convincing simulacrum of disgust. In an article on nuggets published by NBC last year, a medical doctor is quoted as saying that chicken parts aren’t really chicken.
The notion behind chicken nuggets is exactly the same as meatloaf, liver pâté, or fishsticks, but for some reason, finely chopped chicken has become the new hot dog of the fast food world – always suspect, always derided, forever ghetto. It has to be the worst parts of the chicken that end up in Nuggetville, right?
Not really. The quality of the chicken is the same as you’ll find in other chicken products, since it comes from the same chickens. There is some skin in, say, McDonald’s nuggets – but most people eat the skin from roasted and fried chickens without a second thought.
Western consumers have developed a horror of mechanically separated meat (MSM), particularly after Jamie Oliver’s demonstration of how finely textured beef is processed went viral. In the aftermath of the “pink slime” revelations, certain facts were neglected:

  • Oliver drenched a tub of meat in liquid ammonia to show how it is sanitized, but “pink slime” does not contain ammonia. Ammonia fumes are used.
  • Using less-than-perfect parts of an animal means less waste. The less-than-perfect parts aren’t going to hurt you. In Eastern countries, all parts of an animal are used or consumed. Think of Filipino blood pudding, or Vietnamese fatty flank steak. Jamie Oliver is a wealthy white man, schooled in the European culinary tradition, who does not understand how most of the world eats. MSM is an efficient, cost-effective use of animal products that would otherwise be discarded.
  • It is a filler product only. You won’t find any meat products in the fast food market that contain just pink slime or MSM.

Bonus Urban Legend: The Colonel’s Curse

This one really doesn’t have anything to do with chicken, but it’s too fun to ignore. In 1985, the Hanshin Tigers won the Japanese baseball championship with a 4-2 defeat against the Seibu Lions. Triumphant fans got carried away that night, stealing a Colonel Sanders statue and hurling it into the Dōtonbori River.
The Tigers didn’t win another championship. In the great tradition of sports curses, the vengeful spirit of the Colonel was blamed…though he didn’t actually die until 1990, and the Tigers had always sucked. Every so often, TV personalities would make a big show of trying to find the statue. but it wasn’t recovered until 2009.
The Tigers continue to suck.
The curse-KFC link has become so entrenched in Japanese culture that it pops up in the very first episode of the anime horror series When They Cry, which is set in 1984.

Now, get a little closer to your screen, because I’m going to reveal a few of the real dirty little secrets of fast food chicken franchises…

Harlan Sanders only served three months in the U.S. Army. He used the name “Colonel” just to sell chicken.
In the ’60s, the “Colonel” made cameo appearances in cheesy exploitation flicks like Hell’s Bloody Devils and Hershel Gordon Lewis’s Blast Off Girls, hawking his chicken.
In the ’70s, long after he had sold his franchise, the Colonel described Kentucky Fried Chicken gravy as “sludge”.
After a 2010 survey of  Americans ages 18-25 found that 52% of them believed Colonel Sanders was a fictional part of KFC’s branding, KFC launched an intensive PR campaign to prove Sanders had been a real person.
Chick-fil-A has sent cease-and-desist letters to at least 30 businesses to demand they stop using slogans that begin with the phrase “Eat more…”

 

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Stolen Imaginary Friends, Bigfoot Bears, & The Clinton Chronicles Redux

imaginary friend

  • With the recent passing of British comedian Rik Myall, you might have had nightmarish flashbacks to one of the most astoundingly awful films of recent decades: Drop Dead Fred. Or maybe you had fond flashbacks, because you were one of the people who cherished that movie. But did you know that the movie’s title character was stolen?
    Sometime in the late ’90s, I read the fantasy short story “Mr. Fiddlehead”, by Jonathan Carroll, in a 1990 collection of the year’s best fantasy and horror. In the story, a woman falls in love with her BFF’s imaginary childhood friend after he materializes as a carroty-haired, freckled, impish man. He appears only when the woman who created him is in emotional distress. He delights the two women with his practical jokes, childish sense of humour, and magical powers.
    I was appalled that Mr. Carroll had recycled the plot of a terrible movie.
    What I didn’t bother to notice at the time was that “Mr. Fiddlehead ” had already appeared in Carroll’s 1989 book A Child Across the Skytwo years before Drop Dead Fred was released. Somebody had recycled a plot, but it clearly wasn’t Carroll.
    The IMDB page for Drop Dead Fred credits one Elizabeth Livingston for the story. It is her only listed story credit. The script was written by Anthony Fingleton and Carlos Davis. Davis’s only other screenwriting credit is a TV children’s movie  from the early ’80s. What is he doing these days? Possibly working on the long-rumoured remake of Drop Dead Fred, his one and only big-screen effort.
    Are we dealing with out-and-out theft, or with the sort of “inspiration” that Yann Martel used to refashion Moacyr Scliar’s Max and the Cats into a slightly different (but infinitely more famous) story? That’s a judgment call. But I would absolutely love to hear Ms. Livingston, Mr. Fingleton, or Mr. Davis explain how their shitty movie somehow ended up with the central character from a story they didn’t create.
    UPDATE: After additional research, I have found that Elizabeth Livingston is a freelance writer/editor who was a book editor with Reader’s Digest for many years. She co-authored two children’s books.
    In a 1991 interview with Fantazia magazine (reproduced here), Rik Myall said of the screenwriters, “They’d been talking with a mutual friend, Elizabeth Livingston, who was writing a story based on her little daughter’s imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred. They decided it would make a better film than series and approached me.”
    This doesn’t clear up the mystery, of course. It just establishes that Livingston was not simply the pseudonym of a writer who didn’t want to be connected to the movie.
  • Happy World UFO Day! International Business Times has a fun piece about a video hoax that involved both the secret space program and yet another alien corpse.
  • Two years after Melba Ketchum released the profoundly weird results of her Bigfoot DNA study, the group of UK researchers that was conducting a parallel study has announced its findings. Researchers at Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology, led by Bryan Sykes, have spent the past two years analyzing 30 hair samples suspected to be from Bigfoot, Almas, and the Yeti. The upshot? Not a single hair came from an unknown animal. Most were from bears. The rest came from horses, deer, wolves, raccoon, sheep, cows, a porcupine, a human, and a tapir. Curiously, a hair sample from the Himalayas turned out to be a match for a prehistoric polar bear.
  • Mother Jones has compiled one of the largest lists of Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories ever. We’ll be seeing lots of these in the run-up to the 2016 elections. One of the latest, crafted by a JFK researcher who loves boobies, is that Chelsea Clinton is actually Webster Hubbell’s daughter. Morrow also asserts that Bill Clinton is a serial rapist, and claims that a large number of U.S. presidents (including, um, Nixon) were secretly bisexual.
chelsea

Oh my glob, a morphing .gif. HOW MUCH MORE EVIDENCE DO YOU NEED?!

 

The Top 10 Stupidest/Weirdest Theories About Flight MH370

lost numbers

We all know the first part of the story: Early in the morning on March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, just one hour into its flight, lost radio contact with air traffic controllers. After going silent in the Gulf of Thailand, the plane unexpectedly veered west and flew back across Malaysia, heading into the Strait of Malacca. As indicated by primary radar returns, it was last charted heading northwest towards a navigational waypoint called IGREX, near the Andaman Coast of Phuket. However, ACARS reports indicate that Flight 370 remained in the air for at least 4 hours after losing radio contact, and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch collaborated with the satellite company Inmarsat to track the plane as far as the Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia – meaning the plane was airborne for at least 8 hours after losing radio contact. As there are no potential landing sites anywhere near this location, it is assumed that Flight 370 crashed into the ocean. Despite extensive searches, not a single piece of debris has been found. Another search is scheduled for August. There were 277 passengers and 12 crew members aboard, making Flight MH370 the largest aerial disappearance in history.

mh370 map

Flight MH370’s last known movements (Daily Mail)

Contradictory and false information given by Malaysian authorities led many people to suspect that Malaysia knew exactly what had happened to its plane, and was suppressing the truth for reasons unknown. In Beijing, victims’ family members have protested and staged vigils outside the Malaysian Embassy, demanding the truth. One of the first Western conspiranoids to contribute a theory was Rupert Murdoch, who tweeted that jihadists had hijacked the plane to “make trouble for China.” Rush Limbaugh chimed in that the plane may have been shot down by some “hostile little country.” Then the professional conspiranoids took over. Here, in no particular order, are ten of the goofiest narratives they came up with to explain the disappearance of Flight 370.

10.   Scientific Sabotage

Retired Delta Air Lines Captain Field McConnell believes Flight 370 was hijacked to obtain information about pending technology patents from some of the passengers, Chinese employees of Freescale Semiconductor, an Austin-based microchip company. According to McConnell, Freescale has developed a classified technology that uses paint and electronics to turn regular jets into stealth aircraft. He points out that a patent (#8671381) related to integrated circuits and semiconductor wafers was approved just days after the plane vanished. McConnell and others have claimed that the rights to this patent were supposed to have been split five ways: 20% to Freescale Semiconductor, and 20% each to four employees who were on the plane. 

This theory isn’t completely out in left field, since rashes of odd scientist deaths related to innovative or secret technology have occurred a few times. In the ’80s, over a dozen British scientists involved in defense research died rather weird, untimely deaths; several of them worked for Marconi. But there have also been red herring Dead Scientist memes floating around in the conspiracy world for years, including the Dead Microbiologists meme that began shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The list of dead microbiologists thought to have some knowledge of U.S. and/or Iraqi bioweapons became so absurdly long that even community college biology teachers ended up on it.

Field McConnell’s theory crumbles under scrutiny. Not one of the names listed on patent #8671381 appears on the passenger manifest released by Malaysian authorities. To date, there is no evidence that any of the people listed on the patent worked for Freescale or that the patent has anything to do with Freescale.

It must also be noted that McConnell and co-researcher David Hawkins have one of the most batshit insane, least coherent websites on the entire Internets: Abel Danger. Don’t believe me? Try reading whatever the hell this is. The entire website is like that – lesbian assassins taking over the world, word salad, Floyd Cramer videos. Field McConnell is also the author of the self-published tome Lesbian Cults, Pedophile Oaths and the Guild of Patented Hits. I challenge you to read more than two pages of it on Amazon without getting annoyed. Can’t be done.

The Scientific Sabotage theory has been embraced by Henry “Lesbian Candy Bars” Makow, though he awkwardly grafts the Diego Garcia abduction theory (below) onto it. Needless to say, Makow also found a way to drop a Rothschild into the mix, repeating the snopes-debunked factoid that Jacob Rothschild owns Freescale. Rothschild is a member of the Blackstone Group’s International Advisory Board, and the Blackstone Group owns more 196 million shares in Freescale, but the Carlyle Group and TPG Group Holdings both own the same number of Freescale shares as the Blackstone Group does. Then Makow got bored with missing planes and returned to his usual gay-bashing and theories like “Jesse James Killed John Wilkes Booth by order of the Freemasons.”

9.   The U.S. is hiding the plane at Diego Garcia (AKA the Assphone Scenario)

This theory holds that either the plane was hijacked by agents of the U.S. government, then flown to the U.S. military base on the island of Diego Garcia, or the plane made an emergency landing at this base and was captured on arrival. 

 Here’s how it started: Shortly after the flight’s disappearance, a message and a photo were posted to 4chan by a man claiming to be a passenger. The message read, “I have been held hostage by unknown military personal after my flight was hijacked (blindfolded). I work for IBM and I have managed to hide my cellphone in my ass during the hijack. I have been separated from the rest of the passengers and I am in a cell. My name is Philip Wood. I think I have been drugged as well and cannot think clearly.”

The photo was just a black screen, but its Exif data identified the iPhone user, a time consistent with the plane’s last known movements, and GPS coordinates of a building on Diego Garcia.

Philip Wood, a 50-year-old IBM engineer living in Asia, actually was a passenger on the plane. Wood’s girlfriend, Sarah Bajc, has appeared on CNN and a few radio shows to air her belief that he and his fellow passengers are being held hostage at a secret facility. She hasn’t mentioned the Assphone message, but one has to wonder if she accepts it as genuine. I doubt that she does, because she seems like a smart lady.  And to accept the Assphone Scenario, one has to accept a shit-tonne of dodgy things:

  • that the abductors remembered to dose everybody with drugs, but forgot to confiscate phones from all of their super-secret hostages, on a military base that has wi-fi
  • that a successful, industrious adult man, caught in a situation that would make Jack Bauer twig out, decided not to email a loved one or post a message to Facebook or notify the FBI or send a message to his Congressman
  • instead, he chose 4chan, because credibility
  • he relied on 4chan for his salvation
  • srsly, people, fucking 4chan

8.   Accidental Shootdown and Cover-up (AKA the Whoops Scenario)

Whether Limbaugh really believed his shootdown theory or not is unclear. Let’s face it, most of the time he just says words on the air. If he believes his theory, then he thinks Malaysians accidentally shot down their own plane in blind panic.

Nigel Cawthorne has a different shootdown theory. His book Flight MH370: The Mystery, released in May, argues that a joint US-Thai fighter jet training drill accidentally shot down the plane. Fearing an international incident (or maybe just epic embarrassment), Thailand and the U.S. collaborated on a cover-up that would put Charles Widmore to shame.

Cawthorne is a freelance journalist and prolific author. His specialties are the sexual peccadilloes of English gentlemen and Hollywood starlets, historical military battles, ’60s celebrities, and true crime. His titles include The Mammoth Book of Football Hooligans and Takin’ Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner. A review of Flight MH370: The Mystery by David Free of The Australian might confirm your suspicions about Cawthorne’s level of expertise in this area. The book contains many typos, factoids, and speculative scenarios, but no new evidence that would support the War Games/Whoops scenario.

7.   Black Hole, Wormhole, Portal from Donnie Darko

A poll posted on CNN‘s website reported that 9% of respondents thought it was either very or somewhat likely that the plane was abducted by aliens, “time travelers or beings from another dimension.” To date, CNN has not conducted a poll to determine how many people like to screw with CNN polls.

The notion that a “miniature” black hole swallowed the plane shouldn’t have gone anywhere, but CNN Newsroom host Don Lemon briefly entertained it on-air. Panelist Mary Schiavo gently informed him that black holes don’t work like that.

If it seems unbelievable that anyone could believe time travel made a jet vanish, keep in mind that people still buy into the Philadelphia Experiment and Montauk Project hoaxes.

6.   Reptilians or Whatever

Alexandra Bruce, a conspiracy writer who specializes in stories about reptoid aliens and New Age flim-flam, became the first person to throw out the obligatory “ALIENS” theory. Her evidence consisted of a YouTube video of a computer simulation of the plane departing from Kuala Lumpur,  in which the simulated plane seems to vanish in the presence of an aircraft Bruce identifies as a UFO.  Boston.com journalist Jack Pickell, in his own rundown of silly Flight 370 theories, pointed out that the “UFO” was clearly marked as Korean Airlines Flight 672.

5.   Predictive Programming

“Predictive programming”, which I have written about here and at Leaving Alex Jonestown, is the profoundly dumb notion that the baddies who run everything can’t do terrible things to us without asking our permission first (a common theme in the folklore of vampires, demons, and other supernatural entities). But they can’t just ask, “Mind if we kill several hundred of you today?”, so they resort to seeding clues about their plans into episodes of The Simpsons. As reported by the Independent, predictive programming experts agree that the 2012 Pitbull/Shakira song “Get It Started” betrays prior knowledge of Flight 370’s disappearance, containing lines such as, “Now it’s off to Malaysia” and “Two passports, three cities, two countries, one day.” The lyrics “No Ali, No Frazier, but for now off to Malaysia” refer to the shady character known as Mr. Ali (no word yet on who the hell Frazier is), and the “two passports” are clearly a reference to the stolen Austrian and Italian ones Mr. Ali provided to two mystery passengers. The song also mentions Times Square, Tom Cruise, and Manila. I think this means that Tom Cruise is going to marry a Filipino ladyboy on New Year’s Eve.

No fewer than eight people share the writing credits for “Get It Started.” In addition to making me fearful about the future of pop music in general, this makes me doubtful that the Illuminati was involved. I could see letting Shakira in on a secret plan to kidnap a planeful of people – she could never become an effective whistleblower, because people are so busy staring at her that they rarely hear a word she’s saying. But seven other people? That’s just silly. Besides, if Morrissey didn’t predict MH370, then no one did.

4.   A Scary-Ass Machine or Something

Mike “Health Ranger” Adams, who was recently featured on Dr. Oz’s TV show, ponders the fate of the plane in this article at his Natural News site. He dismisses the conventional explanations,  one by one, before telling us that an “entirely new, mysterious and powerful” weapon can make airplanes vanish without trace.  Whoever controls this Aircraft-Disappearing Machine clearly has the capability to dominate the whole planet. Elsewhere on his website, however, Adams opines that a rogue nation has commandeered the plane and will soon be using it as a “stealth nuclear weapon.”

langoliers

Maybe it was these guys.

3.    China

This theory, first proposed by Reddit user Dark_Spectre, also revolves around Philip Wood, who was an IBM Technical Storage Executive for Malaysia. Since IBM was one of the companies implicated by Edward Snowden as helping the NSA spy on China, maybe the Chinese hijacked the flight to abduct and interrogate Wood. And maybe the U.S. found out about it, located the plane, and killed all the passengers to prevent the Chinese from learning anything. Or maybe, in bloody retaliation for NSA algorithms, China patiently waited nearly a year after Snowden’s IBM revelations to off Philip Wood in a manner that looks totally accidental. Makes sense.

Eric-Snowden1

Fail.

2.    Israel

Israel framed Iran. Without actually framing Iran. Yoichi Shimatsu aired this theory during an interview with conspiranoid radio host Jeff Rense (below). Citing alleged eyewitness reports from anonymous sources, “Jews did 9/11” researcher Christopher Bollyn reported that a lookalike of MH370 is being stored in a hangar at Tel Aviv Airport, possibly for use in a future false flag attack by Israel.

1.    Distraction

No matter what you talk about, some dickhole is going to inform you that there’s something more important to talk about. In Conspiracyland, this is taken to the nth extreme, creating elaborate Russian nesting dolls of derp. For example, after mentally disturbed mother Miriam Carey was gunned down for driving through a barricade in D.C., Jones declared that her death was simply a distraction from the government shutdown, while the shutdown was “political theater billed as a government shutdown”, while the political theatre was just globalists reinforcing a false left/right paradigm. Is everything a distraction? Just where do distractions stop and real events begin, guy?

In the case of Flight 370, people opined that it was a distraction from the Ukraine, One of these people was David Hawkins, of the aforementioned Abel Danger website.

Technically, everything on this planet distracts you from something else on this planet. No one has to deliberately engineer distractions in an age of commercial-free television, beer pong, and breastaurants.

Perhaps we shouldn’t judge any of these wonky theories too harshly, though. Reporter and CNN commentator Jeff Wise has candidly admitted in a piece for Canada’s National Post that he poured feverish enthusiasm and plenty of money into pursuing a theory that turned out to be flat-out wrong. Unlike a lot of the other MH370 armchair detectives, who will defend their discredited theories to the death, Wise has admitted his error, and he explains just how easy it is to fill in the blanks or craft wildly imaginative scenarios when there are so many unanswered questions, so many red herrings, so many unknowns.
Like Flight 19, Flight 370 seems destined to become one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time…and that means we’ll be seeing scores more wacky theories in years to come.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Detroit Bigfoot & a Possessed Mongoose

mongoose

“Your mother sucks c***s in hell!”

  • The tale of Gef, the talking mongoose, is by far one of the weirdest and stupidest incidents in the history of the paranormal. In the summer of 1931, a remote farmhouse on the Isle of Man was invaded by what initially seemed to be a pest animal. James Irving, who lived in the farmhouse with his wife and precocious 13-year-old daughter, Voirrey, took to sleeping with a shotgun in the hopes of killing the creature that wandered around in his walls and hissed at the family. But then the activity escalated to poltergeist-like incidents, and the animal in the walls began talking to James and Voirrey. It sang songs and answered questions in a high voice, speaking perfect English.
    At some point, this talking critter darted into view long enough to be identified as a mongoose. The Irvings named him “Gef”. Gef claimed he had been born in India 78 years earlier, indicating that he was some kind of spirit possessing the form of a mongoose. He could supposedly see things occurring at a distance, and knew things about people without being told. He was antagonistic much of the time, hiding in the walls of the farmhouse to taunt and threaten visitors. At other times he was almost kind, leaving dead rabbits and other tokens of affection for the Irvings.
    This ridiculous local spectacle caught the attention of the era’s most renowned ghosthunter, Harry Price, who wrote a book about Gef (The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap: A Modern “Miracle” Investigated, 1936) even though he didn’t witness any of Gef’s alleged psychic gifts.
    The solution to the mystery almost certainly lies with Voirrey. She was a bright, curious girl who just happened to be transitioning into womanhood – a common element in poltergeist cases. She enjoyed rabbit-hunting. Evidently a skilled ventriloquist, she could make people believe the insults they heard from the walls weren’t coming from her.
    The only remarkable thing about the Gef affair is how long it lasted: Over 14 years, a very long time for a poltergeist hoax. It ended abruptly in 1945, when James Irving died and Voirrey left Cashen’s Gap with her mother. Gef was never seen (or heard) again.
    Now, 83 years after his squeaky voice first issued from the walls, Gef is the focus of a symposium that will be held later this year at Senate House Library in London.
  • Is the beleaguered bitcoin a failed virtual currency…or a cult fetish? Maybe a little of both?
  • Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around Gothic children’s TV series made in Britain: The Moondial, The Haunting of Barney Palmer, Into the Labyrinth. They all had a “this room is surrounded by film” quality, but who wouldn’t be creeped out by the intro for Children of the Stones? Fangoria has a fabulous rundown of other gems of British folk horror  on TV and film.
  • A Sasquatch squatting in a house in Detroit? Seems legit.

Following the Chemtrails IV: A Timeline of Significant Chemtrail Events

Part IV of Following the Chemtrails

Where did it all begin?

In researching chemtrail sightings and theories, I was stunned to learn that this phenomenon didn’t begin with people noticing persistent contrails in the sky, wondering what they could be, and searching for explanations. Chemtrail theories actually began as a horror story about deliberate world depopulation, crafted and spread by a small network of Christian Patriot conspiracy researchers – including one rather infamous anti-Semite.
There are strong indications that at least some of these guys were trying to create a contrail cash cow for themselves, which has forced me to rethink the entire chemtrail phenomenon. It was my original view that the chemtrail issue is not, as the U.S. Air Force contends, a hoax. I believed that like most conspiracy theories, chemtrail theories evolved in organic fashion from various anecdotes and incidents.
That’s not to say there haven’t been hoaxes. Photos have been altered, then distributed among chemtrail researchers. Less than credible “whistleblowers” have told bizarre stories that can’t be verified. Clearly, anyone who engages in this sort of fraud isn’t searching for the truth. In my experience, the average chemtrail-watcher is searching for the truth. He is concerned about the potential effects of chemtrails, and he wants answers.
Now, after looking into the history of the phenomenon, I suspect the hoax allegation has some merit, after all. I still believe the average chemtrail-watcher is a genuinely concerned citizen who honestly believes he is seeing strange, unexplained vapour trails, and doing what he thinks is right. But I do not trust the motives of those who started the rumours of death-by-contrail.

To see why I reached this conclusion, let’s examine the history of chemtrails.

Early 1980s

Farmers, environmentalists, and others in the eastern U.S. report that ground water is contaminated with ethylene dibromide (EDB), a carcinogenic chemical used as a pesticide and as an anti-knocking agent in leaded aviation fuel (“avgas”). EDB has been never a component of jet fuel, because jet fuel does not contain lead.

1984

EDB is banned for pesticide use in some places, phased out in others (in remains in use to this day in some areas).

Late 1980s

EDB use in avgas is phased out.

1994

HAARP installation begins in Gakona, Alaska.

1995

Concerns about EDB contamination resume among some Christian Patriots. They suspect that the newly-introduced military jet fuel JP-8 contains some contaminant, or combination of contaminants, that are intended to kill us. The prime suspect is – guess what? – EDB. These concerns rapidly spread throughout the country via online message boards and mass emails.

The Contrail Science website contains links to what appear to be some of the earliest known online references to unusual contrails, which would later be called chemtrails. This material was originally published on The Patriot Page (the now-defunct website of Clarence Napier, still accessible via the Wayback Machine).
In emails distributed through BIOWAR-L (an email list service dealing with biological weapons), people exchanged information about “mysterious” persistent vapour trails left by military jets throughout the U.S., the health effects of EDB, and the depopulation conspiracy theory.
A few people submitted soil and water samples for lab testing, which confirmed the presence of EDB (not surprising, as it is known to persist in ground water). They concluded that EDB was coming from the sky. These test results, if they ever existed, were never actually reproduced.

Acting on information he allegedly received in 1993, Larry Wayne Harris of Lancaster, Ohio begins selling a self-published booklet (Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America), warning that Iraqi sleeper cells will launch anthrax attacks against multiple cities in the U.S., aiming to reduce the U.S. population to 50 million by 2025. He conducted research for this booklet at the library of the Aryan Nations compound. He was a card-carrying member of Aryan Nations, which is not only America’s largest white supremacist organization, but also the nation’s largest and most violent prison gang.

dafuqreally

I’m sure we can trust their impeccable research skills.

At the time, Harris believed Jews controlled the world and had to be opposed (according to the Anti-defamation League, he later renounced these views).

Harris claims the information about impending anthrax attacks was given to him by the daughter of a former Iraqi president. She allegedly told him that Iraqi women were smuggling massive amounts of weaponized anthrax into the U.S. in their vaginas, preparing for synchronized biological assaults on numerous U.S. cities that would reduce the nation’s population to just 50 million souls by the year 2025.
In the spirit of goofy FBI code-names, let’s call this plan VAGTHRAX.

Harris makes some cash selling his booklet about VAGTHRAX at gun shows and conspiracy conventions, scaring the hell out of his fellow Patriots and Aryan brethren.
Though Harris was supposedly teaching people how to defend themselves against terrorist attacks, it has been noted that his booklet appeared to double as an instruction manual for terrorism. For instance, it laid out in considerable detail how to sabotage power lines and launch large-scale biological attacks. Not exactly information the average American would need.

toxic virgins by Doug Brinkman

Coming not-so-soon

Harris is arrested and charged with mail fraud after posing as a research microbiologist to obtain bubonic plague from the American Type Culture Collection. He had stolen some stationery bearing the letterhead of the Ohio lab where he was employed as a water inspector to do this. Convicted of mail fraud, Harris is placed on probation.
Harris claims to be a CIA asset and a licensed microbiologist throughout most of the ’80s and early ’90s. He also boasts that he has scientifically proven the existence of God. None of these claims are true.
He continues to warn about impending Iraqi bioattacks for the next three years.

Most of the early Internet communications about poisonous contrails mention Harris as a good source of information on the topic. Christian Patriots are advised to submit soil and fuel samples to him for testing. At least one EDB/JP-8 researcher, radio evangelist Bill Brumbaugh, submitted a JP-8 sample to Harris for analysis in the late ’90s. Harris, without supplying any documentation, reported that the jet fuel contained EDB. Questionable results like these were trumpeted throughout the Patriot/conspiracy community, adding literal fuel to the fire.

1996

The Defense Department publishes a study, Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025. This paper will become central to the weather control/geonengineering theories about persistent spreading contrails, which gradually overshadow the EDB/depopulation theory.

September 17, 1997

Richard Finke of Ohio distributes an email with the heading “Lines in the Sky Identified!”. This may be the first mass email on the subject of “deadly” contrails. In it, Finke declares that lab testing of samples from “JP-8 contaminated fields” in Maryland and Pennsylvania have revealed the presence of ethylene dibromide (again, not surprising, as EDB has been used as an agricultural pesticide for years). The testing was conducted by Aqua-tech Environmental. Finke wrote of contrails, “The lines are dispersed and may linger for hours, slowly filtering down to unsuspecting pests, and I guess we’re the PESTS.”

1998

Richard Finke and Larry Harris set up a “defensive biowar and disaster recovery” consulting firm called LWH Consulting. They promote their services by sending out mass emails warning that a biological attack on the U.S. is imminent, and posting information about poisonous contrails on message boards.
LWH Consulting was legally incorporated under the name of Harris’ attorney, Curt Griffith, who was suspended from practicing law in the state of Ohio in 2004 for ripping off two of his clients. Griffith also defended Harris in court.

Just as the biowarfare threat helped Harris sell his VAGTHRAX booklet, the EDB contamination scare may have helped Patriot radio broadcasters sell colloidal silver. You can’t read any of the early chemtrail reports without running into mention of colloidal silver as a defense against contrail-created illnesses. Later, chemtrail researcher Will Thomas began selling USANA brand vitamins and mineral supplements on his website, writing, “You don’t have to be a Gulf War veteran to be suffering daily effects from Chemical Warfare (CW) exposure. As a frequent writer on environment and health, while researching a major article on chemical sensitivities, I learned that Multiple Chemical Sensitivity can be triggered by massive repeated low level exposure to oil and other chemical releases…”
In 2000 and 2001, Larry Harris hawked a line of Solutions-4-You® anti-microbial products and a lichen-based herb called Lechenya Meera that could supposedly protect you from anthrax and other biochem warfare agents. He claimed a Ph.D at that time, though I can’t find any confirmation that he has one, and billed himself as “one of 17 registered microbiologists in the US” (I rather doubt this, as the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists certifies dozens of registrants each year).
Because chemtrail information is so closely tied to product placement and dishonest self-promotion like this, we should not eliminate the possibility that chemtrail theories are driven – at least in part – by profit motives.

February 18, 1998

Harris and a cohort, William Leavitt, are arrested in Vegas for possessing anthrax. When the anthrax turns out to be an avirulent strain, Harris is charged only with probation violation and receives a longer, more restrictive probation for impersonating a CIA agent.
After the hearing, Curt Griffith reportedly warned him, “Don’t let the word ‘CIA’ come out of your mouth.”
Though Harris wasn’t in possession of any dangerous biological agents this time, the Vegas anthrax arrest scared the hell out of people and made national headlines. It was alleged that Harris wasn’t just warning the world about impending biological attack – he was planning one himself. A cohort had reported to authorities that Harris boasted about possessing enough anthrax to poison a U.S. city.

After Harris’ second arrest, the speculation about persistent contrails gradually shifted from EDB to other toxic ingredients (mostly metals). But the legend of EDB-contaminated jet fuel lives on. Joseph E. Mario, in his Anti-Aging Manual (1998), declared that EDB was being dispersed over the U.S. via JP-8 jet fuel exhaust (contrails) for the purpose of indiscriminate population reduction. As “evidence”, Mario noted that EDB had been detected in Cape Cod cranberry ponds, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Again, this can be explained by agricultural fumigation. There was no need to bring aircraft into the equation at all.

February 1998  

Tommy Farmer collects samples of what he calls “angel hair”, a fibrous material presumably deposited by aircraft on six occasions between February, 1998 and January, 1999. The term might be familiar to UFO buffs, as “angel hair” was a common feature of early close encounter reports. Farmer claims he fell ill after his first contact with the “angel hair” (today, sticky filaments known as “chemwebs” are still being reported).

After the initial hubbub of 1997 and early 1998, the poisonous contrail theories went sub rosa for several
months, kept alive by only a handful of conspiracy researchers like Clarence Napier, John Hammell, Chip Tatum, Dot Bibbee, and Joe Burton.

1999, on the other hand, would be the Year of the Contrail.

January 1999

Canadian journalist Will Thomas publishes his first two articles about the dangers of contrails, “Mystery Contrails May Be Modifying Weather” and “Contrails: Poison From the Sky”. In these two short pieces, Thomas laid out a number of suppositions that have since become entrenched as chemtrail factoids:

  • The “poisonous” contrails are sprayed by “fleets” of aircraft flying in gridlike patterns.
  • The “spraying” is done by military jets. Thomas described the work of Tommy Farmer, a former engineering technician with Raytheon Missile Systems who had been tracking the patterns of jet contrails for more than a year. Farmer “positively identified” two of the aircraft most often involved in aerial spraying as the Boeing KC-135 and the Boeing KC-10, both used by the U.S. Air Force for air-to-air refueling.
  • The “spraying” is also done by unmarked military jets.
  • Contrails may be part of HAARP-related experiments.
  • Contrails may contain substances that facilitate weather modification, and substances that are harmful to us, such as bacteria.
  • Contrails may cause a variety of ailments, ranging from respiratory difficulty to lupus. No direct evidence of a link between contrails and these ailments is provided by Thomas; he is content to rely upon anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is a great place to start. It is not a great place to finish.

Thomas also rehashes the EDB-in-jet-fuel theory, and mentions public concerns about fuel dumping (discussed in Part III.5 of this series).

January 25, 1999

Art Bell discusses contrails on the popular paranormal-themed radio show Coast to Coast AM for the first time, with guest Will Thomas.

February 10, 1999

Will Thomas sends an email to John Hammell, warning that people throughout the U.S. and the U.K. are falling ill with flu because of contrails. He speculates that a virus may be in the jet fuel along with EDB, and strongly urges people to stay indoors when jets are flying overhead. The email is widely distributed. It is so hysterical in tone that I reproduce it here in its entirety to show you how speculation and misinformation were disseminated in the early days of the chemtrail phenomenon:

“Tell everyone to STAY INDOORS when contrails are being woven overhead. I’ve got a BBC photo of a freezer-semi filled with dead bodies in England – all from sudden respiratory ailments. We’re talking (according to the BBC) 6,000 deaths from respiratory failure in two weeks. People are VERY SICK here. And spraying continues, after heavy spraying last Friday over Asheville, Knoxville, Dallas and other US centers. I have this morning received reports of ‘many deaths’ from a ‘cough that never leaves’ in Louisiana. This is big. This is real. I have positively verified that Emergency Rooms are overflowing with acute respiratory cases from coast to coast. Doctors are telling the New York Times that this is NOT the flu. The only lab test I have shows JP8 present in soil samples after spraying. The ethylene dibromide in JP8 is banned by the EPA as a known carcinogen and an extremely toxic substance that attacks the respiratory system at very low doses of exposure. There may be a viral component to the spraying, as well. I am tracking this and will get back to… STOP PRESSES! I have just this minute received a call that confirms my worst fears. According to a source within the Canadian Intelligence Service, heavy spraying taking place over Victoria, BC (near me) and other population centers throughout North America are classified ‘tests’. I now know what the ‘tests’ are aimed at achieving. And it is not pretty. This is a MAXIUMUM RED ALERT for everyone on your list, John. TAKE COVER! Stay indoors during spraying. This is NOT ‘woo-woo’. This is NOT a drill.”

The most astonishing thing about this email is that the epidemic Thomas describes didn’t exist. There were no reports of a “mystery” respiratory illness published by the New York Times or the BBC in 1998 or 1999. Rather, there was one article in the Times about a well-known virus that affects infants and young children (respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV). If 6000 people in England alone had perished from the same illness in two weeks, this would have been an epidemic on par with the influenza outbreak of 1918. Yet I could not find a single 1998 or 1999 article (BBC or otherwise) that included information about 6000 sudden deaths in the UK. There were plenty of media releases concerning outbreaks of respiratory illnesses that occurred that year (see this one on an illness in Afghanistan or this one about  Nipah virus in Singapore and Malaysia, for instance). In these cases, dozens or even a few hundred people fell ill. But 6000, in a single country? No, nothing on that scale happened in 1998-1999.  If Thomas did, indeed, see a “BBC photo” of a truckload of corpses, it was either unpublished or misrepresented to him. As for the “many” coughing-related deaths in Louisiana, Thomas provides no verifying information. My own search for a ’99 Louisiana outbreak of respiratory illness came up empty. In short, this terrifying email does not contain any verified information.  In the winter of 1998-1999, neither the flu nor respiratory illnesses other than RSV were particularly serious. In 2000, the CDC reported the “numbers and types of circulating influenza viruses are similar to the previous two seasons (1997-98 and 1998-99). These findings suggest that this year’s flu season has not been unusually severe.” Even if the flu or respiratory illnesses had been worse than usual in 1998-1999, the connection to contrails would not be a given. Such outbreaks are not uncommon.
In another post, we’ll look more closely at Will Thomas’s chemtrail research and some of the other bizarre misinformation he has been disseminating. It will be obvious that his scientific knowledge is extremely limited. This is not an insult; it is a statement of fact. Ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of, because it does not have to be a permanent condition. Mr. Thomas can brush up on his science skills anytime he chooses.

March 30, 1999

Clarence Napier, a Christian Patriot conspiracist, claims to have located the “hidden” HQ for the death-spraying “United Nations” planes in Arizona. He declares that Arizona is the epicentre of contrail-poisoning activity (to this day, Pheonix remains a central hub of chemtrail-watching and activism). In the last post, we explored how firefighting planes (particularly Everygreen Aviation’s Supertanker) have been repeatedly mistaken for “chemtrail-spraying” planes.
In his email, Napier wrote:

“To every one in the Phoenix, Tucson, and Chandler, Arizona area, should try to check this  location out. I’m shure [sic] I have located the airfield were [sic] the planes spraying the contrails  are based in Arizona. If you get on my Web Page you will see a photo of the planes in the field,  William Thomas said people have reported to him that they looked at these planes through  telescopes, and reported that they are painted all white with no markings, and that is how I spotted this field, and the entrance to it is well hidden.”

Napier postulated that these unmarked planes were United Nations aircraft, and that the purpose of the spraying was to sicken and kill people all over the world. He posted photos of the “hidden” airfield on his website without identifying it.
One diligent researcher investigated and learned the airfield was Chandler Memorial Airport, an airfield owned by the area’s Pima and Maricopa Indian Nations. Since 1978, the airfield has been leased to International Air Response, an aviation outfit that had been contracting with the U.S. Forest Service to fight forest fires since the late ’60s. The entrance to the Chandler Memorial airfield was not hidden, and its operations were not secret.

March 1999

The word “chemtrail” begins appearing online. A portmanteau of the words “chemical(s)” and “contrail”, its exact provenance is unknown (I have been told by many chemtrail-watchers that Will Thomas coined the word. This may be true, but all I know for certain is that the word didn’t emerge until the spring of 1999. I have found no appearances of the word prior to March of that year). Jay Reynolds, who has been researching the contrail-related conspiracies since the late ’90s, has stated the word was coined by former USAF captain John Grace, who used the pseudonym “Val Valerian”.
In the early days, when the contrail theories revolved around a chemical pesticide, “chemical contrail” made sense. But today, when the theories are focused on metal oxides, “nanobots”, and fibers, “chemtrail” is a bit of a misnomer.

November 20, 1999

Art Bell again discusses chemtrails on Coast to Coast AM, with guest Clifford Carnicom.

1999

The white supremacist/conspiracy publication The Spotlight begins publishing stories about contrails, promoting the theory that they are part of a secret military operation.

Clifford Carnicom sets up his first website about chemtrails.
When it comes to chemtrails, I don’t think it would even be possible to overestimate the work Clifford Carnicom. He is, quite simply, the leader in the field of chemtrail research. Will Thomas and others are certainly influential, but it is Carnicom who has introduced each new “discovery” about chemtrails. Carnicom was the first person to produce a documentary about chemtrails (Aerosol Crimes, 2004). His was the first major website devoted to chemtrails. He was the first person to publish articles on the alleged links between chemtrails and Morgellons disease. He was the first to document what he believes are “nanotech devices” in Morgellons sufferers. It’s safe to say that whatever theory Carnicom comes up with next, the majority of chemtrail-watchers will accept as probable.

2001

Chemtrails are mentioned under the heading of “exotic weapons systems” in a bill sponsored by Dennis Kucinich, H.R. 2977 (107th): Space Preservation Act of 2001. They are removed from subsequent versions of the bill.

2002

On Coast to Coast AM, guest Will Thomas discusses the theory that the military is using jets to spray aluminum oxide and/or barium stearate into the air for weather modification and advanced radar/HAARP experiments.

2003

The biowarfare theory of chemtrails, introduced to the public by Will Thomas in ’99, becomes much more popular in 2003. It is reinforced by the claims of Clifford Carnicom, who says he heard important information from another researcher, who heard it from a military source.
According to Carnicom’s source, airplanes are dispersing polymer filaments with freeze-dried bacteria or viruses and metals (barium, aluminum) attached. The metals heat up from the sun, allowing the pathogens to survive in the cool air.
The ultimate goal of the spraying, Carnicom states, is the “control of all populations through directed and accurate spraying of drugs, diseases”. He declares that people who have “tried to reveal the truth have been imprisoned and killed”, but does not provide any names for verification.

2004

The incredibly weird “sylph” sightings begin. Chemtrail watchers report seeing cloudlike forms absorbing chemtrails, then vanishing. Some believe the sylphs are living creatures. Others suspect they are supernatural entities along the lines of angels, or nanobot swarms that can be manipulated remotely (like the Smoke Monster in Lost).

Clifford Carnicom releases his self-produced documentary Aerosol Crimes, the first feature-length film about chemtrails.
As with any conspiracy theory that gains some traction, infighting and suspicion among researchers soon surfaces. Chemtrail-fighter Don Croft declares that Carnicom’s Aerosol Crimes is disinformation. Croft tries to eliminate chemtrails with Reichian orgone devices (bits of metal).

2007

Lydia Mancini starts the website Barium Blues to document the “barium chemtrails” she has been seeing since about 2003.

Will Thomas publishes his book Chemtrails Confirmed.

August 2007

The Discovery Channel program Best Evidence airs a show on chemtrails.

2008

The Carnicom Institute becomes a registered non-profit organization

Toxic Skies, a fictional movie dealing with chemtrails, is released in Australia. The second film from Canadian thriller/horror director Andrew C. Erin is a medical thriller, starring Anne Heche as a virologist struggling to identify a mysterious disease.
As a medical thriller, the film is deeply uminpressive (at one point Heche’s character declares, “We don’t know if it’s Avian Flu or bubonic plague”). The film receives attention in the conspiracy community for three reasons: It explicity mentions chemtrails, the context is profoundly negative, and it was “banned” in North America.
Spoilers: The virus is being spread via pellets that have been mixed into jet fuel (must be one tough virus to survive not only the temperatures of a jet’s fuel system, but the cold temperatures of high altitude). The virologist develops a vaccine to inoculate people against the virus, and must race against the clock – and the bad guys-  to deliver it.
The film was shot in Spokane by a mostly Canadian crew, but premiered in Australia, causing some chemtrail researchers to cry out that it had been “banned” in the U.S. In reality, the film was simply picked up by a foreign distributor. The highest bidder gets distribution rights, and the American distributors evidently weren’t impressed. After being screened in Australia, Toxic Skies began showing up everywhere else. It is available in the U.S. and Canada. It’s even on Netflix.
Then there were those who believed Americans were supposed to see the movie. You see, many conspiracy researchers believe in something they call “predictive programming”. In essence, they contend that the world’s elite (the Illuminati, the globalists, the lizards, etc.) are required by some ancient code of conduct to have willing victims (I mentioned this briefly in a Wednesday Weirdness Roundup, in relation to Beavis and Butthead “predicting” 9/11). In other words, They have to tell us what They’re going to do to us before They do it. So They seed clues into TV commercials, cartoons, magazine articles and even low-budget medical thrillers. Chemtrail researchers who look for predictive programming would probably point to the vaccine in Toxic Skies as just another ploy. First, the Illuminati poisons you with a chemtrail virus, then they dupe you into taking a vaccine that will also kill you.
To my knowledge, no one has asked the director himself how he feels about chemtrails. Perhaps Mr. Erin just picked an interesting conspiracy theory to hang a thriller on, as so many screenwriters do. I challenge you to scan the list of conspiracy theories at Wikipedia  and find a single one that hasn’t become fodder for entertainment. FEMA camps? X-files. Fluoride? Dr. Strangelove. Morgellons? Bugs.

January 2008

Local news station KSLA in Shreveport, Louisiana broadcasts a report on chemtrails. Producers sent water samples collected in August 2007, in Stamps, Arkansas to a lab. The man who collected the samples suspected that jets flying over his property were spewing chemicals or metals. The results showed the water to contain 68.8 parts per billion (68.8 µg/L) of barium. The EPA limit is 2 ppm (2000 µg/L), and the tests found 0.0688 ppm (68.8 µg/L), just 3.4% of the allowable limit. But the KSLA reporter misread 68.8 µg/L as 6.8 parts per million, over three times the EPA level.
When the mistake was pointed out, KSLA issued a correction to its report.

October 2008

The chemical depopulation theory persists. MythicShadow posts the following on an online forum:

“STRANGE DAYS STRANGE SKIES YOU ARE NOW BREATHING ETHYLENE DIBROMIDE, NANO-PARTICULATES OF ALUMINUM AND BARIUM AND CATIONIC POLYMER FIBERS WITH UNIDENTIFIED BIOACTIVE MATERIAL: “We the people have not been warned, advised or consulted but are certainly vulnerable to the outcomes.” Lightwatcher.com “Biologic components have been reported in airborne samples that include: modified molds, desiccated red blood cells and exotic strains of bacteria” Additionally, award winning investigative reporter, Will Thomas, has reported findings of over 300 types of virally mutated fungi in the chemtrail fall out. The Idaho Observer has reported findings of 26 metals including barium, aluminum and uranium, a variety of infectious pathogens and chemicals and drugs including sedatives in chemtrail fallout. Dr.R. Michael Castle reports the finding of cationic polymer fibers. Others have reported findings of tiny parasitic nematode eggs of some type encased in the fibers. Welcome to the brave new world of toxic barium skies, weather control, mind control and population control through the use of chemtrails modulated with electromagnetic frequencies generated by HAARP. Our health is under attack as evidenced by the skyrocketing rates of chemtrail induced lung cancer, asthma and pulmonary/respiratory problems as well as the emergence of a new plague, Morgellons Disease, an infection with a new and unknown pathogen that is seriously disabling and disfiguring. Over 12,000 families in the U.S. are now infected with Morgellons. I am one of the infected. Our skies are increasingly hazed over with fake barium/ aluminum particulate, ethylene dibromide chemtrail clouds. Whether in the atmosphere or in the Ocean this added particulate matter is a hazard to the health of every living thing on this planet. My health and the health of my family has already been drastically affected. There is a main-stream media blackout on this subject so the only way to get the word out is by word of mouth. People are already dying because of the chemtrails. Life expectancy is down. This situation presents an immediate and serious threat to you, your family and loved ones. We must join together to stop this insane program of chemtrail spraying now. Please do what you can to help.”

2010

The first professionally produced, feature-length documentary about chemtrails is released. What in the World Are They Spraying?, directed by Michael J. Murphy, draws more attention to chemtrails than anything to date. The film centres on the geoengineering theory of chemtrails, though depopulation and a few other theories are mentioned.

Once again, a racist connection to chemtrail theories rears its ugly head: The executive producer of WITWATS is G. Edward Griffin. A disciple of Hitler-adoring conspiranoid Eustace Mullins, Griffin was a speechwriter for George Wallace’s presidential campaign. Like Mullins, he has made a career out of promoting a broad array of conspiracy theories and quacky medical “cures” while warning about the Commie menace.

WALLACE

George Wallace wasn’t a racist. He just didn’t like black people, that’s all.

Next to the work of Clifford Carnicom, the release and distribution of WITWATS is probably the single most important event in the history of the chemtrail phenomena. We’ll examine it in detail in a another post.

2012

Paul Wittenberger, co-director of What in the World Are They Spraying?, releases a documentary about depopulation, The Great Culling. It is promoted as a follow-up to WITWATS, but Michael J. Murphy and his Truth Media Productions distance themselves from it. Other chemtrail researchers, like Rosalind Peterson, ask not to be included in the film. Francis Mangels, a retiree who threatened to shoot down jets to preserve his veggie garden during a county meeting, also distances himself from the “culling” theory of chemtrails and the Wittenberger documentary.

 

Top 10 Stupidest/Weirdest Jack the Ripper theories

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125 years ago yesterday, the last known victim of an unknown serial killer was found stabbed and eviscerated in her dismal rented room in London’s East End Whitechapel district. Over the previous two months and ten days, this man had murdered at least four other area prostitutes, desperate and impoverished women in their forties. At 24 or 25, Mary Kelly was the youngest victim of the Whitechapel killer.

The killer had seemingly made a name for himself, quite literally, by writing letters to news agencies and professionals associated with the investigation. One of these missives was signed “Jack the Ripper”.  It is now believed, by former FBI profiler John Douglas and others, that this particular letter was a hoax sent by someone other than the killer. (Douglas and Olshaker, 2000)

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So it’s unlikely we’ll ever know what the killer really called himself, or what his name was. Nonetheless, theories about his identity continue to abound, even after countless other serial killers have come and gone. There’s something about the events of that dingy time and place that smear the public imagination like a mysterious, fascinating stain. At least once a year, some new theory about the killer finds its way into a mass market paperback or the pages of the Daily Mail. A few are worthy of consideration, but then there are the theories that are so tragicomically absurd you have to wonder if the writer is any saner than “Jack” was. Leaving out the obvious hoaxes (such as the James Maybrick and James Carnac “diaries”), here are my Top 10 Stupidest/Weirdest Jack the Ripper theories:

10. A “Satanist” named Robert Donston (or D’Onston) Stephenson

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Donston entered the Whitechapel saga by way of Aleister Crowley. In an essay penned about half a century after the murders, Crowley relates the story of lovely authoress Mabel Collins, a devotee of Theosophy who became estranged from her male lover (Donston) by a treacherous female lover (Baroness Vittoria Cremers). The Whitechapel murders had already begun by the time this domestic drama was playing out.
Crowley believed that “Jack” was a cannibal, consuming parts of his victims’ bodies right at the scenes of his crimes. So did Miss Collins and the baroness. One day, as they were discussing how it could be possible for Jack to do such a thing without getting blood on his shirtfront, Captain Donston donned his opera cape for them and showed them how easy it would be for a man to protect his shirt with the dark, heavy fabric. Cremers thought little of this until she crept into Donston’s room, hoping to retrieve a packet of Mabel’s love letters to save the woman from any blackmail or embarrassment. In a trunk beneath his bed, she discovered five dress ties stained with blood.
On December 1, 1888, the Pall Mall Gazette published an article (here) in which the anonymous author postulated that the murders were black magic ceremonies designed to imbue the killer with power, in accordance with instructions in the writings of Eliphas Levi. The locations of the murders, Anonymous explained, would form a cross (Crowley changed this to a five-pointed star). Crowley dismissed this theory, believing (as many did) that there were seven “Ripper” murders in Whitechapel, but wondered if Donston had written the article, and if the killer had been following some astrological pattern in his selection of crime scenes (an idea brought to his attention by crime reporter Bernard O’Donnell).  After conducting his own research, Crowley concluded that at the time of each murder, either Saturn of Mercury was precisely on the Eastern horizon.
The interesting story of Captain Donston is exactly that: An interesting story. Donston was known to Crowley only as “Captain Donston”, and it’s unlikely he ever met the man in person. It seems all his information about him came from old Vittoria Cremers, a member of his O.T.O. lodge. Later writers discovered that an alcoholic confabulist named Robert “Roslyn” D’Onston (or Donston) Stephenson had lived in London at the time of the murders, and he was deemed a prime suspect by some Ripperologists (notably, the late Melvin Harris).
In a 2003 book, Jack the Ripper’s Black Magic Rituals, career criminal Ivor Edwards resurrected the black magick/Donston theory, positing that the Whitechapel killer really did plot out the five murders to form a giant shape (a vesica piscis). The snag in this theory is that D’Onston Stephenson was a patient at London Hospital at the time, being treated for neurasthenia. He checked himself into the hospital in late July, one month before the first murder, and checked out on December 7, one month after the last murder. Edwards gets around this by pointing out that the hospital was in the Whitechapel area. Security was so lax, he maintains, that curiosity-seekers regularly snuck onto hospital grounds to catch glimpses of John Merrick, the Elephant Man….so isn’t it plausible that Stephenson could sneak out, slay prostitutes, then sneak back in without being observed? Four times?
The evidence here is ridiculously thin, and Edwards pushes the envelope even further by insisting that Stephenson murdered his wife, Anne Deary, in 1887 (it isn’t even known if she died at this time). The only real, discernible connection D’Onston Stephenson has to the Whitechapel killings is that he had his own suspect in mind; Dr. Morgan Davies, one of the physicians at London Hospital. He reported his suspicions to the police, and gave a statement to Inspector Thomas Roots of Scotland Yard after his release. Other than this, and the secondhand tales of an old girlfriend, there doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit of evidence against Mr. Stephenson. Note that among three people who championed the black magic theory of the crimes, there were three different designs attributed to the killer (a cross, a star, and a vesica piscis).

9. Crowley

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before his Telly Savalis phase

Aleister Crowley was not known to be a violent man, despite rumours that he sexually tortured at least one of his wives. Yet the notion persists in some quarters that if you’re an occultist, you probably kill people. Crowley was portrayed as a pedophile serial killer in the web series lonelygirl15, and more recently has been called out as a Jack the Ripper copycat by historian Mark Beynon and blamed for six of the deaths linked to the bogus Curse of King Tut.
And, since he lived in London during the 1880s, why not make him Jack the Ripper as well? After all, he expressed interest in the murders, and had a theory about the killer. Good enough.
Crowley has never become a mainstream suspect (that is, no Ripperologists have written books about him), but he has been mentioned by fringe conspiranoids who dabble in true crime.

8. Lewis Carroll

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In 1996, an elusive character named Richard Wallace published Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend. It consisted almost entirely of anagrams formed from passages of a preschool version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Sylvie and Bruno. These scrambled, barely coherent verses were supposed to prove that Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was one sick bastard, and probably slaughtered prostitutes alongside his friend Thomas Vere Bayne when he wasn’t doing math. This makes for some pretty hilarious reading, as this review shows. Of course, if you rearrange words in Jack the Ripper, Light-Hearted Friend, you can probably prove that Richard Wallace is actually Donald Trump.
Sadly, this hot mess was taken halfway-seriously at the time of publication. Harper’s excerpted it, Ripperologists and anagram enthusiasts went out of their way to refute it, and Lewis Carroll fans facepalmed themselves into concussions.
This was not Wallace’s first book about Carroll. In The Agony of Lewis Carroll (1990), he exposed “hidden smut” in Carroll’s books in an attempt to prove that Carroll was gay, which rather works against the idea that he murdered female prostitutes. 

Another writer, Thomas Toughill, sussed out clues to the Ripper’s identity in Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray, concluding that portraitist Frank Miles was the killer. He published his findings as The Ripper Code in 2008 (remember, kids, adding the word “code” to your title adds credibility).
Even if the passages Toughill highlights pointed unambiguously to Miles, though, wouldn’t this merely show that Wilde thought Miles was a good suspect? He was a playwright, not freaking Inspector Maigret.

7. The Demon of the Belfry

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In April 1895, nearly seven years after the Whitechapel murders ended, two young women in San Francisco were raped and strangled inside  Emanuel Baptist Church. Blanche Lamont, 20, disappeared first. Nine days later, 21-year-old Minnie Williams vanished. On Easter Sunday, one of the church ladies opened a cabinet where teacups were usually stored and discovered Minnie’s body. Blanche’s body was soon found in the church belfry.
Because he was seen with both young women shortly before they went missing, a 23-year-old medical student named Theo Durrant was charged with the murders. He was the assistant superintendent of the church Sunday school.
At trial, Durrant’s defense attorney argued that the real killer could have been the church minister, John George Gibson. Gibson had been a pastor in Scotland until resigning from his post in 1887. Between that time and his arrival in the U.S. in December 1888, Gibson’s whereabouts are unknown.
Durrant went to the gallows in 1898, and few doubt that he was the “demon of the belfry”, as reporters dubbed him. But Robert Graysmith, author of Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked, took note of that gap in John Gibson’s resumé. It matches up perfectly with the dates of the Whitechapel murders; Gibson left his post at least 8 months before they began, and arrived in America one month after they stopped. Coincidence?
Well, yeah, probably. First of all, the Emanuel Church murders – while certainly gruesome – were considerably less vicious than the Whitechapel murders. It would be essentially unheard-of for a serial killer to de-escalate in such dramatic fashion. Secondly, Durrant’s behaviour before and after the murders was peculiar. He offered outlandish theories about white slave trafficking to the aunt of Blanche Lamont, and was seen arguing with Minnie Williams the day she vanished. Gibson, on the other hand, isn’t known to have said or done anything unusual at the time of the murders. (McConnell, 2005)
An intriguing footnote to all this is the sensational Salome trial that occurred in London twenty years after Durrant’s execution. In the wake of the murders, Durrant’s sister, Maud, had turned to dance. Though she had no professional training, she was able to establish herself as a performer in England, specializing in “Salome dances”. In 1918, she staged Oscar Wilde’s Salome in London, and came under attack from a right-wing publication. The editor accused her of being a lesbian “honey trap” and a German spy, sent to undermine the morals of British patriots. Maud Allan sued for libel, but the unfortunate fact that her brother had raped and killed two women worked against her. She lost the suit.

6. A mad doctor

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Doctors came under heavy suspicion in the Whitechapel case because it was assumed, at the time, that anyone who could mutilate a body and remove organs in a short amount of time must have some degree of surgical skill. This is not the case, but that hasn’t stopped Ripperologists from implicating physicians and surgeons by the dozen. A few of the most notable:

Dr. Stanley
In the 1920s, Australian journalist and MP Leonard Matters introduced a bizarre theory: That a late physician he identified only as “Dr. Stanley” had gone on a prostitute-killing rampage because a prostitute had given his son an STD. He was searching for one prostitute (out of roughly 800 in the district), so he simply murdered each one he questioned until he found his real target – Mary Kelly. Supposedly, Matters had read the doctor’s deathbed confession in a South American newspaper, but he never produced the article.
Sadly, this lame theory was the subject of the first full-length treatment of the case, Matters’ The Mystery of Jack the Ripper (1929), and became the basis for the 1959 film Jack the Ripper.

Sir William Gull, Royal physician
Though he was elderly and partially disabled by a stroke at the time of the murders, Stephen Knight selected Dr. Gull as the central figure in his Freemason theory (see #3).

Sir John Williams, Royal gynecologist
In what has to be one of the weirdest Ripper theories of all time, Tony Williams implicated his own ancestor in his 2005 book Uncle Jack, proposing that the royal OB-GYN killed prostitutes and harvested their uteri as part of a research project aimed at curing his wife’s infertility. This had something to do with being a Freemason.
This September, an equally ridiculous book was put out by a woman who claims to be Mary Kelly’s great-great-granddaughter. Antonia Alexander claims Mary Kelly had an affair with Williams. He then killed her for some reason or other. The proof? His blurry photo is in a locket that supposedly belonged to Kelly.
You can find details of the Williams allegations in this Daily Mail article. 

Dr. Thomas Barnardo
Dr. Barnardo was not actually a doctor, but he identified himself as one throughout his life. He established a string of children’s charity homes between 1870 and his death in 1905.
Aside from pretending to be a doctor, Barnardo had a more-or-less unblemished reputation as a philanthropist right into the 1970s, when the late historian Donald McCormick suddenly decided he would make a decent Ripper suspect for his book The Identity of Jack the Ripper (though his suspect of choice remained the cross-dressing Russian assassin Pedachenko – one of the silliest Ripper hoaxes ever). Gary Rowlands, in his chapter of The Mammoth Book Of Jack The Ripper, expands on McCormick’s theoryBarnardo’s lonely childhood in Ireland, combined with religious zealotry, caused him to go on an anti-prostitute murder crusade. He only stopped killing because a swimming accident deafened him.
I don’t know about Rowlands, but McCormick was a notoriously shoddy historian; one of my favourite bloggers, Dr. Beachcombing, calls him Baron Munchausen, and accuses him of fabricating a creepy poem that “Jack” supposedly wrote.
It’s true that Barnardo worked in the slums, and claimed to have met victim Elizabeth Stride shortly before her murder. Other than this, how much evidence links Barnardo to the Whitechapel murders? None. Seriously. None.

Dr. Morgan Davies
Robert D’Onston Stephenson suspected Dr. Davies merely because Davies routinely discussed the murders with another patient at London Hospital, acting them out in some detail and opining that the killer was a sexual sadist. As a man familiar with mental illness, it wouldn’t surprise me if Davies had a better grasp of criminal behaviour than the people around him.

Francis Tumblety
Tumblety was not a real medical doctor, and in my opinion could still be a viable suspect. He also had an odd connection to the assassination of Lincoln.

5. Famous painters.

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Walter Sickert.

Sickert, like Crowley, is another person who apparently came under suspicion because of his interest in the case. Most people know of this from Patricia Cornwell’s 2002 book Portrait of a Killer, but Cornwell was not actually the first to suggest Sickert’s involvement. That dubious honour would go to Donald McCormick, who mentioned Sickert in his 1970 book The Identity of Jack the Ripper. Also in the 1970s, a man claiming to be Sickert’s son (Sickert had no known children) declared his dad had been chummy with the heir to the throne, Prince Alfred Victor (the Duke of Clarence, himself a Ripper suspect). According to Joseph Gorman, AKA “Hobo” Sickert, the duke knocked up a poor Catholic girl named Annie Crook around 1885. When the Queen and the Prime Minister discovered this, they were horrified, and arranged for Miss Crook to be abducted and “lobotomized” by the royal physician, Sir William Gull. Someone connected to the royal family then murdered the illegitimate child’s nanny, Mary Kelly. The illegitimate daughter of Annie and the duke, Alice, later became one of Sickert’s mistresses….and Hobo Sickert’s mother. Therefore, he could be considered an heir to the throne. All of these details proved to be false, and Joseph Gorman/Hobo Sickert admitted as such to the Sunday Times (June 18, 1978), though he continued to insist he was Sickert’s son.
The late Stephen Knight, whom we’ll meet shortly, incorporated the Annie Crooks story into his conspiracy theory about Freemasons and royals, asserting that Sickert had been part of a plot to murder prostitutes on behalf of the royal family.
In 1990, Jean Overton Fuller published Sickert and the Ripper Crimes, in which she laid out a theory that Sickert was the one and only Jack (incidentally, she was friends with Crowley associate Victor Neuberg, and was quite familiar with the D’Onston Stephenson story).
Then Patricia Cornwell took on the case. Thanks to her popularity as a crime novelist, Portrait of a Killer became a bestseller and unleashed a fresh flood of interest in Sickert-as-Ripper. In 2012, the Royal Opera House even parlayed Sickert’s fascination with Jack into a moody ballet, Sweet Violets
Cornwell’s theory rests heavily on Sickert’s supposedly deformed genitalia, alleged DNA matches between genetic material found on “Ripper” envelopes and on envelopes mailed by Sickert, and what she considers telling imagery in some of Sickert’s portraits. She points to the blurred or distorted faces of women, arguing that they represent the mutilation of the Ripper’s victims. Sickert was, unquestionably, inspired or intrigued by infamous London crimes involving prostitutes, though he didn’t begin to express this until nearly 30 years after the Whitechapel murders. In 1907 he painted Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom (below), and the following year he did a series on the Camden Town murder.

Walter Sickert Jack the Ripper's Bedroom

While it’s true that some of Sickert’s paintings are murky and vaguely disturbing, he also painted delightful street scenes and whimsical caricatures of ballet-goers. Furthermore, his Camden Town series was meant to be enigmatic, even baffling, in the style of Victorian problem pictures. And while the DNA evidence seems compelling, it should be noted that the envelopes and stamps from which DNA was extracted belonged to letters widely believed to be hoaxes (e.g., the “Openshaw letter“). There’s a good discussion of this evidence at the Casebook: Jack the Ripper site.
There is nothing in Sickert’s background to suggest that he was prone to violence. At the time of the murders, he may have been living and painting in France.

And speaking of painting in France…

Vincent Van Gogh

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Van Gogh is a recent addition to the suspect pool. Painter and writer David Larner spent five years (2006 – 2011) compiling research for his unpublished manuscript, Vincent Alias Jack.
Larner first suspected Van Gogh while trying to recreate Irises; the face of Mary Kelly simply jumped out at him from within the folds of a flower. You can see Larner’s side-by-side comparison of the Kelly crime scene photo and the painting here (WARNING: graphic imagery). Hello, pareidolia.

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“When you see it, you’ll shit bricks,”

But the painting isn’t the only “proof”. Apparently, Van Gogh is a good Ripper candidate because he consorted with prostitutes, hacked off part of his own ear (Catherine Eddowes’ ear was hacked off), and might have been in London at the right time. Larner also believes – with no solid evidence to back him up – that Van Gogh was responsible for the 1887-’88 Thames torso murders, which are only seldom linked to the Ripper. That’s about it.

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Besides, serial killers can’t paint.

4. Jill

A surprisingly popular theory at the time of the murders was that “Jack” was actually a woman, possibly a midwife who worked in the area, or a wife so enraged by her husband’s fondness for prostitutes that she decided to slaughter as many of them as she could. Possible “Jills” include murderess Mary Pearcy, who killed her lover’s wife and child in 1890 (the only female Ripper suspect to be named close to the time of the murders), and Lizzie Williams, wife of suspect Sir John Williams (according to this theory, she was driven insane by her infertility and began ripping the uteri out of prostitutes). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle favoured the theory that “Jack” was a lady, and his fans continue to put forward female suspects. For example, Constance Kent, who admitted (perhaps falsely) to killing her 4-year-old half-brother in 1865, has been named by E.J. Wagner in The Science of Sherlock Holmes.

3. Freemasons

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This theory was the brainchild of a young British writer named Stephen Knight, published in 1976 as Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, but the elements of it were culled from a variety of sources:

  • Retired doctor Thomas E.A. Stowell‘s article “Jack the Ripper – A Solution?”. This piece, published in the November 1970 issue of The Criminologist, proposed that the Ripper was an aristocrat who stalked, killed and eviscerated Whitechapel prostitutes in much the same way the aristocracy stalked, killed, and gutted deer. This young man was suffering insanity from the latter stages of syphilis, so he might have harboured great resentment against prostitutes for giving him the disease, which ultimately killed him. Stowell  hinted that this aristocrat was none other than an heir to the throne, Prince Albert Victor (the Duke of Clarence).  Stowell claimed this information came from personal notes of Dr. Gull (Stowell knew Gull’s daughter) – but Gull died two years before the duke.
  • The tales of Joseph Gorman Sickert
  • Conspiracy theories about English Freemasons
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The Duke of Clarence

Knight somewhat elegantly stitched together these loose threads to create the mother of all weird Jack the Ripper narratives: The Duke of Clarence impregnated a poor Catholic girl, Annie Crooks, and entrusted the care of his illegitimate child to Mary Kelly. Kelly and four of her friends unwisely decided to blackmail the royal family, and in retaliation Queen Victoria dispatched Dr. Gull and a gang of other prominent Freemasons to silence the women. One by one, they were lured to their deaths. The men kept their pact of silence for the rest of their lives because…well, because they were Freemasons. Bros before hos, yo.
As it turned out, this was all a complete waste of everyone’s time. The duke died of influenza just four years later.
The idea that a stroke-paralyzed physician would drag himself around the East End just to shut up a handful of prostitutes who wouldn’t be believed, anyway, makes for a good comic book and very little else. Over the years, however, people have grafted more Freemasonic suspects onto the theory, including Churchill’s dad.
Walter Sickert, incidentally, gave painting lessons to Winston Churchill.

2. The author of My Secret Life

This theory is weak for several reasons, but the first and foremost one is that we don’t know who wrote the book. My Secret Life was an erotic novel released in serialized form, beginning around the same time as the Whitechapel murders (the exact date of publication isn’t known). The author was listed simply as “Walter”. Hey, maybe it was Walter Sickert!

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In their 2010 book Jack the Ripper’s Secret Confession, David Monaghan and Nigel Cawthorne propose that “Walter” left clues about his identity as the Whitechapel killer throughout his book. Monaghan came up with this theory after noting the resemblance between passages of My Secret Life and the 1894 confession of Chicago serial killer Herman Mudgett (“H. H. Holmes”), particularly Walter’s description of a corpse floating in the Thames. Never mind that all of the Whitechapel victims were found on dry land.
Even if “Walter” truly had violent tendencies, there just isn’t enough here to draw a link between him and the murders. Weirdly enough, though, Holmes himself was named as a suspect by one of his descendants.

1. Hitler

I used to think this was a theory of my own invention, but it turns out some other lunatic already put the pieces together.
Bear with me, here. This is bulletproof. All you have to do is take the Stowell/Sickert/Knight theory that the Duke of Clarence had a role in the Whitechapel murders, and combine it with a fringe theory that the duke faked his death to begin a new life in Germany as one Adolph Hitler. Sure, the duke would have been considerably older than the man we know as Hitler, but didn’t Eva Braun describe Adolph as an “elderly gentleman” when she first met him?

But seriously, folks, any theory of the Whitechapel killings should take into account John Douglas’s profile of the killer. Based on victimology, the locations of the crime scenes, and especially the manner of the murders and mutilations, Douglas concludes the sole perpetrator was an asocial malcontent who might have worked for a butcher or a mortician, if he was able to hold a job at all. He lived or worked in the area. (Douglas and Olshaker, 2000, pp. 67-70)

In 2006, police affirmed that if they were looking for the suspect today, they would be knocking on doors in and around Whitechapel, rather than searching far afield for artists, dilettantes and Freemasons. They even issued a composite sketch of the Whitechapel killer.

Police_composite_of_Jack_the_Ripper

It was Freddy Mercury all along.

Sources:

Douglas, J. and Olshaker, M. The cases that haunt us. (2000). New York, NY: Scribner.

McConnell, V.A. (2005). Sympathy for the devil: The emmanuel baptist murders of old san francisco. Lincoln, NE: Bison Books.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: The Bogus Christian Memoir Hall of Shame

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Literary fraud is an important topic at Swallowing the Camel. Whether it’s middle-aged women pretending to be teen boys afflicted with HIV/AIDS (here and here), or James Cameron’s BFF letting himself be snowjobbed by a lying WWII vet, or fake Holocaust memoirists, no one gets a free pass when it comes to literary misdeeds. So why should Christians be any different? This week’s Weirdness Roundup covers some of the most egregious frauds involving inspirational Christian nonfiction, starting with the most recent case:

  • A year after diligent readers expressed their concerns, UK Christian publishing house Authentic Media has withdrawn a popular preacher’s autobiography from the market. Tony Anthony’s Taming the Tiger (2004) told the awesome story of how Jesus transformed him from an angry young criminal to the person he is today (I’ll let you decide if that was an improvement or not).
    Taming the Tiger describes how 4-year-old Tony learned Kung Fu from his grandfather. As the book’s cover reminds us, he ultimately became a “3 times Kung Fu World Champion”. His professional debut was in 1984. The following year, he went to work as a bodyguard for international VIPs, including the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Italy, and Cyprus. In 1988 or ’89, his world fell apart when his girlfriend of three years, Aiya, was killed in a car accident. He turned his back on everything good in his life and become an enforcer for his boss, threatening and beating and even killing people who posed the slightest danger to the ambassador. He then became a burglar to raise money for an expensive medical procedure his father needed, and started getting into confrontations with police in Cyprus, where he was then living. He landed himself in jail in Christmas 1989, and it was there that an Irish missionary introduced him to Jesus Christ.
    Upon release in 1992, Anthony returned to the UK and settled down to have a family. He considered himself a good Christian, but after he was arrested for killing a woman in a hit and run (and lying to police about it) in 2001, he realized he still needed a lot of work. His second awakening as a Christian spurred him to write the memoir, which has sold more than a million copies in 25 languages. Its success gave him the opportunity to preach all over the world, and he established an Essex-based international evangelism organization called Avanti Ministries.
    The whole thing imploded when skeptical readers decided to look into Anthony’s actual background. One of the first things they discovered was that he was born in 1971…meaning he would have been just 13 years old when he became a Kung Fu grand master, and 14 when he was supposedly protecting an ambassador. He would still have been a teenager when he ended up in Nicosia prison. Also, the Saudi ambassador to the UK from 1980-1992, Nasser Almanqour, was never sent to Italy or Cyprus.
    It wasn’t just readers who were skeptical. One director of Avanti Ministries, Mike Hancock, resigned because Anthony seemed reluctant to verify the stories in his book. Hancock joined forces with another former Avanti director and a few concerned Christian ministers to investigate Anthony’s claims. Last year, they submitted a summary of their findings to the board of Avanti, the UK’s Evangelical Alliance, and Authentic Media, resulting in Authentic’s decision to pull the book.
    Tony Anthony has issued a statement saying he “wholeheartedly” defends everything he wrote in Taming the Tiger, with the exception of some details that he claims he wasn’t aware of at the time he wrote it. He admits that some names, places, etc., were altered to protect the privacy of certain people. He also claims he recently tried to publish an updated autobiography, but was blocked from doing so by unnamed persons “intent on discrediting” his ministry. Hilariously, he seems astonished that anyone would be interested in the historical veracity of his work (which is categorized as a nonfiction martial arts book in libraries and bookstores).
    Anthony’s statement includes the announcement that Avanti Ministries will no longer be in charge of its outreach programs.
  • The story of “Lauren Stratford” is by far the weirdest, most convoluted bogus Christian memoir tale of the past several decades. In 1988, her book Satan’s Underground was published by one of the top Christian publishers in America, Harvest House. In it, Stratford described a nightmarish existence as an abused child prostitute, handed over to child pornographers and pedophile rapists by her own mother (a schoolteacher). As a teen, she became a virtual sex slave to a Satan-worshiping porno kingpin known only as “Victor”. Victor’s cult engaged in everything from infanticide to cannibalism, and Lauren was forced to participate in their hellish rites. She was the first former Satanist to claim status as a “breeder”, a woman forced to bear children for ritual sacrifice, and I doubt it’s a coincidence that within months of the release of Satan’s Underground, breeders were popping out of the woodwork to appear on Geraldo and Sally Jesse Raphael. Stratford herself was invited to appear on Oprah and Geraldo as a victim of Satanic ritual abuse. Her book became very popular with recovered memory advocates and Christian therapists, and other ritual abuse survivors credited Stratford’s book with helping them retrieve their own “repressed memories”.
    Then, in 1991, the Christian magazine Cornerstone investigated Stratford’s background. The reporters couldn’t find a shred of evidence that Laurel Wilson had ever been abused by Satanists or anyone else, but they did uncover evidence indicating that Wilson/Stratford suffered a factitious disorder.
    Toward the end of her life, Stratford re-emerged as a Holocaust survivor named “Laura Grabowski”. She said she had been one of Josef Mengele’s victims, and even had a touching reunion with a fellow child survivor of Auschwitz, Binjamin Wilkomirski. The problem was, Wilkomirski had never been in Auschwitz, either.
    You can read more about the peculiar Wilson/Stratford/Grabowski saga in Part IX of my series The Prodigal Witch.
  • In 1986, Christian pamphleteer Jack Chick published a bizarre book titled He Came to Set the Captives Free, by one “Rebecca Brown, M.D.” It told the story of a crusading Christian doctor (Brown herself) who was engaged in a life-or-death struggle against evil forces in Indiana. Satanists were dogging her every step because she had rescued a young woman named Elaine from their clutches. Elaine had been brainwashed by the Satanists from childhood, and as an adult was forced to literally marry Satan in his human form.
    Having divorced Satan and her second husband too, Elaine helped Dr. Brown foil Satanic assassins and rescue other cult victims. The duo claimed to have saved about 1000 witches from dangerous covens in the first half of the ’80s alone. Brown published a second book about her battles with darkness, Prepare for War, in 1987. That same year, she and Elaine appeared on one of Geraldo Rivera’s shows about Satanism.
    In 1989, writers G. Richard Risher, Paul R. Blizard, and M. Kurt Goedelman delved into the backgrounds of Rebecca Brown and Elaine for the Personal Freedom Outreach Newsletter. What they found was deeply disturbing. Brown was really Ruth Bailey, and she had been stripped of her medical license five years earlier, after colleagues discovered she had been giving massive (potentially fatal) doses of prescription painkillers to one of her patients, Edna Moses. Edna Moses was “Elaine”. The two women had been living together in a filthy house for years, telling neighbours they were sisters. Bailey was known for her violent, unstable, paranoid behaviour. Edna/Elaine died in 2005.
    Bailey/Brown left Edna in 1989 to marry an ex-con who claimed he was tortured by Swiss rabbis as a boy, and the couple now runs a small ministry called Harvest Warriors.
    Though many Christians recognize Brown’s books for what they are (pure batshit insanity), they remain in print and continue to captivate the more gullible members of the Christian community.  In 2010, a sixth-grade science teacher in Brooklyn was mildly reprimanded for distributing and selling copies of They Came to Set the Captives Free to some of his students.
    The full story of Ruth Bailey and Edna Moses can be read in Part VIII of my Prodigal Witch series.
  • In the early ’70s, a roly-poly young Californian named Mike Warnke took the evangelical world by storm. He was loved for his Christian stand-up comedy (yes, that’s a thing, I guess), but it was his truly sinister background that drew the most attention to him. As he detailed in his 1973 memoir The Satan Seller, Warnke had dropped out of college to lead one branch of a nationwide Satanic cult that practiced blasphemous rites, lured teenagers into their ranks with the promise of sex and drugs, and occasionally raped and dismembered innocents in the name of the Devil. You know, typical frat stuff.
    Just like Tony Anthony, Warnke founded a successful ministry on the strength of his testimony. It wasn’t until 1992, nearly 20 years after The Satan Seller was printed, that a group of Christians published an exhaustive refutation of Warnke’s claims in a Cornerstone magazine article. As writers Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein revealed, Warnke hadn’t been a Devil-worshiping drug addict in college; he had already become a Christian by that time, and spent most of his time doing ridiculously wholesome things that other square kids did in the late ’60s: Bowling, going out for ice cream, double-dating with his devoutly Catholic girlfriend, etc.
    Confronted with his make-believe past, Warnke weakly explained that his Satanic following may have been a bit smaller than he originally stated (around a dozen people, rather than 1500). He would not back down from anything else in his book. A few years ago, though, he admitted to Jim Bakker that he had felt compelled to present a dramatic conversion testimony to impress the evangelical community, and made a joke about “evangelasticity”.
    You can read more about Warnke in
    Part II of the Prodigal Witch series.
  • The same year The Satan Seller was published, Doreen Irvine’s autobiography From Witchcraft to Christ was released in the UK. A prim-looking older lady, Irvine claimed to have been a teen prostitute who was inducted into Satanism in London around 1950. Over the next 12 years, she developed the abilities to levitate several feet off the ground, read minds, render herself invisible, manifest apports, and kill birds in midflight just by looking at them. She was crowned Queen of the Black Witches of Europe. Then she walked into a church on a whim and was instantly converted to Christianity. After a grueling exorcism removed 47 demons from her body, she traveled to churches all over the world, sharing her story of redemption.
    No one has ever extensively refuted the claims in From Witchcraft to Christ, probably because they are too absurd to take seriously in the first place. But the book, and Doreen’s preaching, had a profound and lasting impact that has left at least one young woman dead. You can read more about her influence in Part I of The Prodigal Witch.

There are a number of other Christian memoirs that definitely set off my BS alarm, but the claims made in these books are so unverifiable that there is really no way to refute them. These include:

  • A Divine Revelation of Hell (1997) and A Divine Revelation of Heaven (1998) by Mary K. Baxter. Baxter, a Pentacostal preacher from Michigan, claims she was given walking tours of both Heaven and Hell by Jesus himself, so that she could bear witness to their physical reality. She says Hell is located near the planet’s core, is shaped like a human body, and contains many homosexuals. In Heaven, angels collect the tears of everyone on Earth and store them away in jars.
  • Blood Secrets by Isaiah Oke, as told to Joe Wright (1989). Oke is a Nigerian Christian who claims he was once a ju-ju shaman, and that he witnessed a brutal human sacrifice carried out by his mentor. The person who commissioned this sacrifice is described as a powerful colonel, and it’s quite obvious that Oke wants us to think he was Idi Amin.
    Oke became a Christian while studying accounting at college. As he and Wright tell it, a young American co-ed had annoyed him one day, but Oke was unable to “hex” her even after numerous attempts. Finally, he asked her why she was resistant to his magical powers, and she told him she was a Christian. He promptly converted, and continues to talk smack about Nigerian spirituality to the present day.