You can view this newsletter online at: http://uforeview.tripod.com/conspiracyjournal872.html
- Diminutive UFO Occupants or Elementals? -
- Bang! The Brown Mountain Lights are Back in Business -
AND: What Penis Theft Tells Us About Belief, Culture, and Our Brains
All these exciting stories and MORE in this week's issue of
~ And Now, On With The Show! ~
TRUE PARANORMAL WAR STORIES WANTED FOR NEW BOOK
Visions From the Town Haunted By Flying Saucers
50th Anniversary Collectors Edition
* Disturbing sounds that fill the air with a thunderous roar, shake roof tiles and pin citizens to the ground with tremendous force.
* The unexplained death of small animals and birds which drop from cloudless skies in the laps of those passing by.
* Strange solid-looking craft that materialize in plain view of confused observers, ultimately streaking across the sky at rip-roaring speeds.
* Objects disappearing in the blink of an eye including food baskets, eyeglasses, keys, cameras and jewelry. Most of which ultimately show up in mysterious fashion.
* Time distortions, watches stopping for no technical reason, as well as the appearance of Giants who roam the outskirts of the town, near popular UFO landing spots.
* The appearance of Crop Circles years before they were reported elsewhere.
FOR 50 YEARS “THE THING” MESMERIZED AND OPENED THE MINDS OF THOUSANDS WHO CAME TO SEE FOR THEMSELVES THIS POWERFUL FORCE FROM OFF WORLD
Here is the complete text of UFO PROPHECY, the rare out of print book by Arthur Shuttlewood which included many striking revelations for those concerned about their well being and approaching changes on our earthly landscape. Revelations which are as insightful today as when original published. This incredible NEW edition includes: An update on the many “coincidental” events involving flying dragons, the Men-In-Black and the Nessie lake “monster.
There are also previously unpublished photos of unexplainable aerial craft, a review of the most sensational findings, and how the town “celebrates” its link to the stars, We are additionally proud to present an introduction by Hanna Shuttlewood, the granddaughter of Mr. Shuttlewood who says her granddad “would be honored to be remembered for his UFO interest and writings years on.” Other contributors or researchers involved in putting together this commemorative edition include Tim Beckley, Sean Casteel, Kevin Goodman, Steve Dewey, and Tim R. Swartz.
Those seeking additional information on Warminster we recommend the book “UFOS: Keys To Inner Perfection” by Bryce Bond. This work contains updated material and Bryce’s sensational contact with Nordic type aliens in the fields around the town.
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And as always you can send a check or money order to:
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Chris and Sheree Geo
- SECRET TREASURE TROVES DEPARTMENT -
Dig Set to Solve Poland’s Nazi Gold Train Mystery
TREASURE hunters who unleashed a storm of speculation last year after claiming they had found a lost Nazi armoured train buried in the mountains of Poland will begin their dig this week.
Amateur enthusiasts Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter lodged a claim with the Wroclaw district government in August 2015, seeking to guarantee a 10 per cent cut of any find.
After initially attempting to remain anonymous, the pair went public amid a storm of international speculation that they may have located a Nazi loot train laden with treasures as diverse as Jewish gold and Russia’s lost, dismantled ‘Amber Room’.
“We do not know what is inside the train. Probably military equipment but also possibly jewellery, works of art and archive documents,” Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said. “The fact that it is armoured indicates it has a special cargo.” He didn’t say how he knew it was armoured.
Little is known about Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter. One is said to be German, the other Polish. They say they have been scouring railway sidings in the area after being told of the burial of the loot train by a dying former German soldier. He even handed them a 70-year-old hand-drawn map.
Lawyer Chmielewski told media his clients “are not treasure hunters, attention seekers” but “people who have significant experience in this (area).”
But months of investigations attempting to verify their discovery has so far come up trumps.
There are even allegations that the subsurface radar scans the pair produced as evidence of their find are forgeries.
Despite this, Koper and Richter have obtained government permission to excavate a railway siding that was filled-in during the closing days of World War II.
Rumours have circulated for decades that the Nazis, facing collapse in Poland ahead of an onrushing Russian army, had filled up to three trains with documents, experimental equipment, rare ores and treasure.
Some argue they were destined for a mysterious network of tunnels carved out of the mountains near Walbrzych by thousands of Soviet slave labourers working for the Nazis.
Dubbed Projekt Riese (Project Giant), it has since been associated with everything from a secret attempt to build a nuclear bomb to housing alien spacecraft. What little evidence there is suggests it may have been intended to be a secret hideaway for Adolf Hitler himself.
The dig, scheduled to begin August 16, is set to put the mystery for rest once and for all. A team of some 35 diggers will converge on the embankment between Wroclaw and Walbrzych in Poland’s southwest.
“There will be a live stream,” a spokeswoman for the two men told the German news agency DPA.
He added that updates would also be posted on the project’s website and Facebook page.
Source: News Australia
Diminutive UFO Occupants or Elementals?
By Scott Corrales
Traditional cases involving “close encounters of the third kind” are as rare as hens’ teeth these days. These occurrences – involving contact between alleged non-human entities and ordinary humans – filled magazine articles and news columns in the ‘60s and ‘70s, petering out in the 1980s as UFO research went into a deep sleep, or into a cocoon from which an entirely new thing emerged. A media-savvy ufology, front-loaded with images and situations drawn from television series (“V”) and conspiracy literature. Roadside encounters in the night were replaced by the more convenient non-humans visiting witnesses (now “experiencers”) in their homes. These too would slow down to a trickle, and other pursuits would fill the agendas of a new generation of researchers.
The old-fashioned, quaint encounters did not go away, however. A careful search will show that human lives are still affected by contact with the unknown in remote corners of our planet, and while they may lack the impact of a Travis Walton or Pascagoula-type case, they are compelling in their own right.
One such incident comes to us from Costa Rica’s Exploración OVNI website (www.exploracionovni.com), which presents us with a case that reportedly occurred on May 7, 2012 in the small hours of the morning – 1:30 a.m. to be exact – at a small community known as Bagatzi near Guanacaste in the smallest but loveliest of Central American countries. No names are given, but webmaster Fernando Távara provides a transcript of the report as it was received. It reads thus:
“A friend and I were involved in tourist service business in a community known as Bagatzi, in Bagaces, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The town of Bagatzi is one kilometer distant from the Palo Verde National Park, and we chose this location because I had visited it with my family for 15 years and its vegetation and natural attractions are incredible. I moved to the community and rented somewhat rustic lodgings. There was no glass on the windows, there was a screen to keep bugs from coming in, and some bars [around the window] but from within I could see the surroundings and distant landmarks from the room. Only a few people make up the community, fifty at most, and the school only has two classrooms. There’s a soccer pitch and one store from which essentials can be purchased.”
The author of the report goes on to provide additional details on the area, concerning agricultural production, the vast amount of wildlife, and the fact that the Guanacaste area received the most amount of sunlight during the day while being the darkest location in the country at night. Light pollution is non-existent.
One night, described as excessively hot and dark – so dark that he was unable to see his outstretched hands before him – the witness saw what he believed was the light of a motorcycle headlight reflected against the wall of his room, but was unable to hear the sound of a distant engine. Local dogs started to bark as the light grew nearer, no longer white or light yellow, but orange. “[The light] came through the screen mesh, a tube of powerful orange non-halogen light whose brightness appeared to dim as entered the room.”
Far from being frightened, the witness marveled at the tube of orange light, realizing it had nothing whatsoever to do with a motorcycle headlight. “It measured some fifty centimeters wide and made a fluid, watery motion which I compared to gelatin. It had a life of its own, and it stopped a meter and a half from my head, since I was lying in bed with head to the west and my feet to the east. The thing came in through the window, and I was able to see that the tube of light contained an object in its rounded tip.”
What follows is the most astonishing description. The object contained in the orange shaft of light appeared to protect a small entity standing some forty centimeters tall (15 inches), described by the witness as reptilian, “similar to a manta ray, except it was contained within this substance, its hands and feet outstretched, as if floating within the gelatinous tube, giving it sustenance and protection.” The diminutive creature’s head was described as rhomboidal, with small eyes and mouth, a featureless nose, and no tail.
“I saw my entire room illuminated,” goes on the witness, “and could not take my eyes off this animal, as it considered it to be such. I felt no fear, and thought that I could easily catch it in my hands, since it was level with my chest. I had the feeling that this creature was a watchman, a monitor of the area, and entered my room out of curiosity in a relaxed, very natural manner.”
Upon realizing that the room was occupied, and its occupant awake and alert, the light became “solid and rigid”, according to the eyewitness’s testimony, contracted and left the room in a split second. “I jumped on my bed and managed to see it turn to the northeast, as if terrified at having been seen. It left the way it came, through the trees and where the dogs had been barking – a 300 meter stretch – in two seconds.” He adds that he was accustomed to making use of Stellarium (software that creates a planetarium effect) to study the stars and follow man-made satellites and one of the lights in the sky was brighter than normal. Despite the absolutely clear night sky, the unusual “star” stopped being visible after a few minutes.
Cases involving diminutive non-humans are nothing new, and the Costa Rican case shares characteristics with others in Latin America and elsewhere around the planet. Although the witness makes a connection between the tiny reptilian creature and the elusive “star”, there is nothing to suggest that it is a craft from another planet.
In May 2008, an Argentinean news wire reported that the citizens of San Carlos in the northwestern part of the country had witnessed a small creature standing no more than 40 centimeters tall – again, 15 inches -- with the uncanny trait of being able to generate a kind of “force field” that kept people from getting to close to it.
The witnesses to the high-strangeness event, whose names are given as Walter Lopez and Omar Ferlatti, reported their sighting to officials, describing the entity as “small, glowing and wearing pants”, and apparently shielded by “a magnetic field”. This apparent close encounter of the third kind took place as the entire valley region (the Valles Chalchaquíes of Salta) was in commotion over a large UFO reported in the area.
“Kids aren’t going out at night out of fear of the strange creature and the UFO,” claimed a resident of San Carlos in a statement to the COPENOA news agency. Ferlatti and Lopez’s account dovetails with the one given by a shepherdess on the hills, who was startled by the strange visitor. Police have stated that both stories coincide and that local residents are indeed frightened. “It hasn’t been seen again. It would be good for it to return, to ascertain that the events were indeed as described,” said deputy sheriff Luis Comenares.
Not all locals were as agitated about the diminutive visitor. Andean peoples have an extensive tradition of small creatures usually lumped under the classification of imps or goblins, and they are purportedly the spirits of children who died unchristened or attacked their parents. Pablo Villarubia, a tireless journalist of the occult, visited the Cafayate Museum in the city of Salta to speak to curator Elga Brabo, who was very forthright in their discussion on the subject of these half-magical, half-real sub-humans.
When asked if imps had ever been reported in Cachi, she replied affirmatively, adding that the creature was even known as “el duende de Toma Colorado” (the Toma Colorado Imp) – an entity that was more playful than perverse, but which hadn’t been seen for years.
One wonders whether these entities could be related to elemental forces of the Earth, nature spirits of a kind. Not the slightest hint of technology is evident. The orange tube of light in the Costa Rican case did not seem to have a generator or controls; the personal force-field used by the Argentinean imp did not appear to be related to a device worn on its body, at least not one that the witnesses were able to see.
Since the early days of ufology, and going even farther back in history, accounts of diminutive intelligent beings have played a crucial role is shaping our perception of the phenomenon. The sizes of these creatures range from a scant twelve inches to a not-so-small four feet in height. They occupy a special position within the study of the unknown, since they straddle the divide that separates folklore from contemporary approaches to enigmatic creatures: every culture on earth has a tradition which involves small beings that can be good or malicious, intelligent or brutish. That accounts of such creatures occur in our highly technological twentieth century, and in relation to the UFO phenomenon, constitutes an enigma in itself.
The brownies, pixies, gnomes and dwarves have their equivalents in the Mexican ikhals, chaneques and aluches. It is extremely odd to find such a variety of names to describe creatures that supposedly do not exist.
Batteries Not Included
For those bent upon an ETH-centered approach, the thought of a civilization sending miniaturized explorers to look over the galaxy isn't far-fetched. Small crewmen would consume fewer resources, and these tiny explorers would more than likely be biological robots (biots, in the parlance of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama) as opposed to shrunken members of the spacefaring society, a concept that brings to mind Gordon Williams' The Micronauts (1979) in which a future society beset by environmental collapse and famine decides that the only way forward lies in Project Arcadia, an initiative at miniaturizing human beings to a size far smaller than the fifteen to twenty inches reported in these cases.
Ufology provides us with a fair number of cases that should remind us of Batteries Not Included, the Matthew Robbins film in which small mechanical life forms render assistance to beleaguered humans. One of these events – a particularly charming one – was researched by Antonio Ribera, the dean of Spanish ufology, and translated by Gordon Creighton, editor of Flying Saucer Review. The case involves a tiny flying saucer that disgorged a crew of uniformed ufonauts in the Spanish town of Villares del Saz, Province of Cuenca (Central Spain) in July 1953. Máximo Herraiz, 14, was tending to the family flock when he heard a “faint, muted, intermittent whistling” sound that caused him to turn around. He was surprised to see what he took for “a big balloon”, in his own words, which glowed with brightness that he was not accustomed to seeing.
Herraiz tried to grab the object, whose diameter he estimated at a meter thirty (four and a quarter feet), but “a door opened and little guys started coming out of it”. The object’s three diminutive occupants had an estimated height of 65 centimeters (25 inches) and addressed him in an unknown language. When the young man was unable to reply, one of the mini-ufonauts slapped him and all three returned to their object. “They went off very fast, like a rocket.”
Corroboration for this unlikely tale came from the boy’s father, who found landing marks on the ground, measuring thirty-six centimeters on either side. The local police chief, Crecencio Atienza, added his own testimony: “When the affair at Villares del Saz occurred, we saw what appeared to be a greyish white object which was stationary in the air, and then vanished shortly afterward. Its shape was very much like a ball. It left no trail, and when it disappeared it went toward the east.”
Riberas’s extraordinary report appears in the anthology The Humanoids (Chicago: Regnery, 1969) and is one of several events involving diminutive occupants from that period in history.
Bang! The Brown Mountain Lights are Back in Business
By Mark Washburn
His patience was rewarded.
When we talked to physicist Daniel Caton last month, the Appalachian State University professor was frustrated. He’d spent years looking into the mysterious phenomenon of the Brown Mountain Lights, those oddball apparitions reported for at least a century in the North Carolina highlands.
He’d mounted an electronic expedition to keep an eye on the rugged Brown Mountain ridge every night. And every day when he spun through the video harvest there was nothing of note.
There were plane lights, campfires, the well-worn tracks of planets and stars trudging across the heavens and the glow of far-off Lenoir. But nothing out of the ordinary.
“I was getting down about it. We haven’t seen anything in all these months.”
Caton’s team decided they’d keep up surveillance for one more summer, then probably call it quits. Research is expensive and getting grants to stalk ghost lights isn’t as easy as you might think.
Then, on July 17, Caton was reviewing the mountain’s slumber from the night before. He was a few minutes before midnight, and bam!
High over the ridge, the Brown Mountain Lights did their stuff. A bright orb suddenly appeared and then vanished. Then it came back, same spot. And then an encore.
Caton, a serious scientist, does not shout “Eureka!” at such times.
“I said, ‘What is that? That’s interesting.’”
He keeps two cameras pointed at the ridge. They’re mounted on a remote $100,000 house with a million-dollar view. He borrows the owners’ internet account to send back the images.
If something shows up on one camera but not the other, then he assumes he’s seeing a lens flare or some other electronic gremlin. He checked the second camera. It caught the same show at the same time. See Video Here.
Then Caton and his colleagues dissected the images and could come up with no earthy reason for the light to be there.
It was the first time the lights had been captured on video by the App State scientific team and it ended a long, dry run. They’d had two cameras working together since February.
“It seemed to be fixed high over the ridge,” Caton says. “That’s the first anomaly I’ve seen. I’m sort of back in the game.”
Each frame on the video lasts 30 seconds, so Caton estimates the lights lasted less than a minute. He doesn’t know what the phenomenon is. He likes a theory that they may be ball lightning, a rare and little-understood miasma known since ancient times.
But he’s a scientist and is more interested in making repeated, measured observations of the lights and perhaps finding a pattern.
“There’s a huge range of atmospheric phenomenon,” Caton says. Some of it is still unfolding.
For decades, pilots reported seeing lights flickering upward from thunderstorms. Nobody paid much attention until 1989 when University of Minnesota researchers captured the waves on a low-light camera by accident.
Now they’re routinely photographed from space and the subject of extensive study. We still don’t know exactly what they are, but we know what they look like. Same thing up on Brown Mountain.
Caton estimates about 95 percent of the observations from people who claim to see the lights are bogus. They’re maybe seeing campfires, meteors, distant towers, aircraft. Maybe 5 percent, he thinks, could be the real thing.
After months of no-shows, he’d wondered whether the lights had petered out.
Welcome home, Brown Mountain Lights. We missed you rascals, whatever you are.
Source: The Charlotte Observer
Once described as a being the spawn of an earwig and a whale, the mystery of Okanagan Lake's Ogopogo is still being debated to this day.
Originally called M-ha-a-i-tk by local First Nations, Ogopogo's home is said to be near Squally Point (also known as Rattlesnake Island).
According to city councillor and local historian Randy Manuel, the natives, out of fear of death by drowning, would sacrifice an animal like a dog when passing Squally Point.
"It's a spot where wind and weather can bring waves up to six or seven feet there. It's a spot where you don't want to get caught in a boat," said Manuel. "It (sacrificing animals) was common practice when they were travelling the length of the lake in canoes."
The local natives weren't the only ones that believed in Ogopogo either.
In 1914 one man found what may have been an Ogopogo carcass.
Author F.M. Buckland of Kelowna described the story of what happened to a group of campers near Greata Ranch in one of his books.
"One of the party who had gone to the lake edge for water was attracted by a strong smell of rotted fish. On investigation he found the badly decomposed body of a strange animal lying at the water's edge ... The body was between five and six feet in length and would weigh about 400 pounds. It had a short, broad, flat tail and a head that stuck out from between shoulders without any sign of a neck. The nose was stubby, sticking out of rounded head with no ears visible. The thick hide was sparsely covered with a silky hair four or five inches in length and of a bluish-grey colour while the teeth resembled those of a dog. It had two ivory-like tusks and claws resembling those of a great bird, on flipper-like arms; claws that showed no signs of wear or use, such as those of a cougar or other land animal."
It is alleged that the shoulder blade, tusks and claws were displayed in private homes by interested parties, but their current whereabouts are unknown.
Attracting more than just interested campers, Ogopogo even has fans in the movie industry.
A movie about Ogopogo is in the planning stages.
Provost Pictures, out of Vancouver, is working on its first film, The Beast of the Bottomless Lake.
"The company was really formed around the idea of making this film," said production director and co-owner of the company Kennedy Goodkey. Goodkey's friend Keith Provost, who grew up in Kelowna, wanted to create a film about Ogopogo.
Provost felt he'd seen Ogopogo in the water as a child and was what Goodkey called a "minutiae of information about Ogopogo."
Tragically, Provost was killed in an accident and the project was put on hold because its emotional impact on those involved was too hard to deal with.
"Last year around this time ... I dusted it off and said 'Let's see if we can't do this now,'" said Goodkey.
Goodkey and his business partner Craig March created a script from memories of Provost's stories and after some research, made what they felt was a relatively accurate script.
The Beast of the Bottomless Lake crew went to Kelowna recently to scout filming locations and are planning on conducting their main casting in the Okanagan.
The movie will be a modern-day Moby Dick as a group of UBC academics go to the Okanagan to prove the existence of Ogopogo, but their individual agendas get in the way.
Goodkey is not completely sure if Ogopogo really exists and he will continue to wait for evidence.
"As long as there's an element of doubt I am one to extend the possibility to hold out my belief," he said. "I have to admit I think there's a lot of circumstantial evidence that doesn't make it look good."
And Goodkey isn't the only one questioning the reality of Ogopogo.
Local fisherman and owner of Lakestream Flies and Supplies Chris Cousins said he believes the lake monster is really just a big fish.
"I believe that people have seen something out there but I don't believe it is a prehistoric monster," said Cousins. "I do believe that what they've seen is a sturgeon or a group of sturgeons."
B.C. Fisheries describes sturgeons as a long and cylindrical fish that can grow up to six metres long and weigh 1,323 pounds. They range in colour from greenish-grey on their backs to light grey on their bellies and they're covered in bony plates instead of scales.
The sturgeon is a bottom feeder and its mouth is on the underside of its body, that way it can swim along the bottom of the lake and suck up prey.
But every once in a while they make an appearance, said Cousins.
"They definitely come to the surface, it's called breaching - it means they roll on the surface ... They jump and leap out of the water at times," he said.
It's thought that sturgeons, which can be found in the Columbia and Fraser rivers, made it to Okanagan Lake through the Columbia River system before it was dammed up in 1953.
In 1958 divers working the Okanagan floating bridge reported seeing the sturgeon, which frightened them.
Since then there have been hundreds of sightings of Ogopogo - most often during the summer months when tourists and locals are hitting the beach and the lake.
Kelowna author Arlene Gaal, who is considered an Ogopogo expert by some, said she has recorded sightings from the 1800s to today.
"I basically have the best records of Ogopogo of anyone in the world," said Gaal adding she has 99.9 per cent of all photos ever taken of the beast as well as about 90 per cent of recorded sightings in her library of information.
In addition to keeping records, Gaal has had her own Ogopogo experiences.
While investigating a sighting in 1978 she felt she saw him for the first time.
"I had no intent of seeing anything but a beautiful mirror-calm lake," she recalled. "I was going back to my car and I suddenly saw a shadow moving in two parts toward the bridge ... Something broke the water and waves rolled off the back of this thing."
Gaal took five sequential shots and took the film back to the Kelowna Daily Courier office where she worked to have it developed. She had captured pictures of something she said was large enough to create a backlash of waves on the shoreline.
Since then Gaal has had more sightings but none as memorable as her first.
In response to the sturgeon theory, Gaal said the Okanagan Mainline Basin Water Board and the fisheries department both have reported no sturgeons in Okanagan Lake.
While Cousins does believe the giant fish is in the lake, he admitted he found it a little disconcerting that he's never seen a picture of someone catching a sturgeon in Okanagan Lake.
While Cousins may be assured there is no lake monster, it will be a mystery to the rest of us.
Source: Penticton Western News
Spooky footage of a Jesus statue opening its eyes has left some believers claiming it is a miracle.
Paranormal investigators have scoured over the video which appears to show the figure quickly open its eyes at a church in Mexico's state of Coahuila de Zaragoza.
While a church service appears to continue in the background, the effigy then seems to slam its eyes shut in the eerie clip.
While many believe the footage proves the statue in the Chapel of Saltillo came to life, others say it was merely an optical illusion or the video was doctored.
According to Elancasti.com.ar , the footage was shot last June, but it quickly went viral after it was posted on Adimensional this week - a web portal that researches unusual and paranormal cases.
Site manager and paranormal activity expert Ivan Escamilla has quashed rumours there is anything "unusual" about the footage.
He said more than 20 paranormal specialists, as well as priests, sculptors, editors and special effects designers had spent weeks analysing the clip.
He said the footage was real and they found no proof it had been doctored.
However, authorities under the Diocese of Saltillo dismissed the footage and refused to watch it. Watch Video Here.
Source: Mirror http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/statue-jesus-opens-eyes-church-8596216
What Penis Theft Tells Us About Belief, Culture, and Our BrainsBy Vlad Chituc
An early scene in Frank Bures’s "The Geography of Madness" describes the author wandering through the crowded streets of Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, bumping from person to person to see if anyone showed signs that his penis had been stolen.
Bures had traveled to Nigeria to research “genital retraction syndrome,” or koro. He had heard stories of men swearing that their penises had shrunk into their bodies. A few years before his arrival, 12 alleged penis thieves had been burned alive by a fearful mob.
Westerners tend to attribute stories like this to superstition, but Bures was not convinced. We in the “civilized” West are not free from superstition, mob violence, or diseases like koro; we have a culture all our own, as easy as it is to forget sometimes, and cultural pathologies come part and parcel with that.
Traveling from Nigeria to Thailand and from Borneo to Hong Kong, Bures investigated various “culture-bound syndromes”—mental illnesses unique to a specific society or culture—to see what they might reveal about human culture and beliefs more broadly.
Though our bones don’t break any differently in the United States than in Nigeria, it seems like our minds do. I spoke with Bures to help understand why.
Vlad Chituc: When I think of culture, I tend to think of things like food or fashion or religion—basically everything but penis theft. How does penis theft help to fill in our picture of culture in a way that more typical things don’t?
Frank Bures: Culture is a complicated word, and everybody uses it but nobody tends to say exactly what it is. To me, looking at penis stealing seemed like the biggest doorway into that question, because what seemed obvious to me is that nobody in Nigeria doubted that this thing is true.
It’s easy to see from the outside somebody else’s culture, but it’s much harder to see your own and the things that we all just agree are true. I was interested in looking in. I wanted to take that route through the stories of penis stealing to look at how culture is created through shared narrative, and then to turn that back on our own culture.
Your book is critical of the idea that culture-bound diseases like koro are just primitive superstition, and all we need to do is educate the ignorant people who think that penises can magically get stolen. You suggest that there’s something deeper and more universal going on.
Yeah, when people say, “If they just will see things like we do, these things will go away,” I think that misses the point. It’s possible they’ll go away, but is that correcting their views, or just replacing their narratives and assumptions and beliefs with our own? To recognize that we also do the same thing is important.
We’re narrative creatures. We hear these stories and we believe, and the more stories you hear about something, the harder it is not to believe it, especially from people who you respect, because that’s the core of social learning: looking toward people who have the accumulated knowledge in a culture and trying to get it from them. When people who we respect or who have status are sharing these same stories, it becomes even harder to doubt them.
You told this great story of a 2004 outbreak of the disease in a Chinese school.
In a little village called Fuhu in southern China, they call it suo yang or suk yang, depending on the language. One of the students was playing Ping-Pong and he felt his penis shrinking. He began to panic and went home to tell his parents. His mother held on to his penis while the dad called the local healer. She was an 80-year-old woman, and she remembered other panics. She believed it was caused by an evil wind that was coming through the village. She treated the boy and then the boy went back to school.
Then the headmaster of the school heard about this and called all 680 students, boys and girls, together in the courtyard. He described the incident in detail and said, “This is dangerous. Watch out for this.” Then sure enough, the next day several boys felt their penises shrinking and ran home to get help. The day after that 60 more students were struck with it.
I like that story because it’s a good microcosm of how these things work. We hear these causal chains of events and we perceive what the cause is, and then we sort of internalize that. It manifests and becomes real.
That reminds me of suicide epidemics that sometimes happen in the West. After Marilyn Monroe killed herself, there was a 12% increase in suicides in the next month—300 more people.
Yeah, totally similar. These things are contagious. Being human is learning from other people around [you]. It’s social learning.
What exactly is going on in cases like that? In cases like koro or mass suicides or voodoo death, on the surface it just looks like something spooky is going on. There are a few cases you discuss where even people in the United States who are convinced they are going to die get so anxious that they actually end up dying. How does that happen?
How does the belief translate into dying?
I don’t really know. Nobody knows that exactly. The psychiatrist George Engel looked at 170 cases of people who died suddenly or unexpectedly, which is similar to voodoo death, when you just die even though you’re not unhealthy or anything. He found there were various circumstances that precipitated it, like the loss of a spouse or a child or a sibling or a friend, the denial of a promotion or the loss of a job. One man died after the demolition of a hotel where he’d worked for 30 years.
Another guy was diagnosed with lung cancer, but it was a misdiagnosis. There was no lung cancer, but he died two weeks later. It functioned almost like a curse. It’s tempting to overstate the power of these things, but you also don’t want to understate the power of them either. It’s hard to know what the parameters of it are, exactly.
I think there’s an interesting bigger picture question: What does it even mean for a curse or a mental illness to be “real”? People’s penises aren’t actually disappearing but these beliefs seem to affect the real world.
When we use that kind of terminology, people in our culture usually mean that it’s physical or that you can find some neurological reason for it. I would disagree with that. I think there are two levels of realness. There’s one where the person is really experiencing these things and really suffering, and to that extent it’s real. Then there’s another level where it gets a name or a diagnosis and the society agrees that this is a real thing. That can be very powerful to the person to feel that everybody agrees that this thing is really happening, and this is the chain of events that they’re part of, and this is what’s causing their suffering.
That’s what everybody kind of craves, and that’s one of the reasons people don’t like you to suggest that their syndromes are partly cultural, because they interpret that as you saying it’s not real or not physical. You’re kind of taking that away.
I don’t think that’s true. I think penis theft is real to the person it’s happening to, even if you can’t measure it. But it doesn’t really matter. The psychiatrist’s job is to help the person who’s suffering, however you have to deal with that, whatever terms you have to meet the person on to help them [with their] suffering is where you come in to meet them.
Is there a way to discuss culturally constructed diseases without stigmatizing or delegitimizing the experiences of the people who are being afflicted? One example I can think of is Dissociative Identity Disorder. There were only a few hundred cases a few decades ago, and now there are tens of thousands. People used to have only one alter ego on average, and now it’s dozens, with some saying they have hundreds or even thousands. It’s not fake in the sense that they’re lying or pretending, but I don’t think it’s real that there are literally hundreds of people living in one person’s body.
Not many people reading your book have experienced penis theft, but you could imagine a similar study on Dissociative Identity Disorder—and then I think things would get thornier.
It’s a really difficult issue. One of the steps is to recognize, I think, that all mental illness and even a lot of the stuff that we think of as just purely physical have a degree of both physical and mental things going on. Then it’s a question of to what extent is the psychology or the biology causing the suffering of the person? Then the next step is, how do you address that?
For example, if you’re talking to somebody whose penis has disappeared, do you just tell them they’re wrong? You don’t do that to a person who’s anorexic and say, “You’re not fat, you’re skinny. Just get over it.”
I’m not educated in the ways that you should approach people about this, but I think we need to recognize that our mind is an active biological agent in these things. I have not yet gotten as much active pushback as I thought I would. People seem ready for this more complex model of health and the body.
Is there any mental illness that won’t have this kind of interplay between psychology and biology? Do you think there are any mental illnesses that aren’t culture bound?
There’s no biological test for any mental illness that we know of or that I can think of. To say that any mental illness is purely biological seems premature at best, because we don’t know the physiology of these things. There’s none that I can think of that wouldn’t have a cultural element to it, or an element of belief or narrative. How much, I don’t know. It’s a tough question and it would depend on the individuals.
Schizophrenia is the one that seems like it should be the clearest, just something broken in your head. But you have that 1992 study from the WHO showing that big variation between industrialized and non-industrialized countries, where the non-industrialized countries have a less severe form of it and a better recovery rate. So it partly depends not just on the ill person but on how all the people around them are interpreting the illness, too.
Are there other cases where we see this sort of variation in Western, industrialized nations?
There are a lot of other mass-psychogenic illnesses that are just feeling nausea or dizziness and abdominal pain or something like that. I love these stories, and they happen in schools a lot. It happened once in Belgium in 1999. People got headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and trembling, and they thought it was from drinking Coca-Cola. It spread to five other schools and 147 students total. There were 943 calls to the poison center. It ended up costing Coca-Cola somewhere between $100 to $250 million dollars to try to deal with it.
There’s a fantastic book called "Outbreak", edited by Robert Bartholomew. It’s like 700 pages of stories like this, going on and on and on. He has written recently about some girls in New York who had a psychogenic motor-movement disorder. Those didn’t use to happen in Western society quite as much. To catch that from somebody, you have to see it. Bartholomew thinks people are seeing it on social media and that’s how it’s spreading.
These things are all around us in some ways. That’s why people shouldn’t get too smug about penis stealing.
Source: Religion Dispatches
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