Friday, January 25, 2013

Were D. D. Home’s Strange Powers Real?

Scottish-born Daniel Dunglas Home was said to be able to levitate at will, put his hand into a burning fire without injury, and to visibly stretch his own body. He did these things in front of credible witnesses and was never caught cheating.

What did Home do and how did he do it? See the full story here

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Gorilla Family Reunited

Once again, humans have underestimated their gorilla cousins, at least in this case.

Zookeepers at Ireland’s Dublin Zoo loaned 11-year-old Kesho to the London Zoo in 2010 in the hope that he would successfully breed with the London Zoo’s female gorillas. Left behind were his little brothers, Alf, then 7, and 4-year-old Evindi.

Kesho proved to be unable to produce offspring, so he was returned to Ireland two years later, where he was placed in a new home at Wiltshire’s Longleat Safari Park, which had just built a new $5 million enclosure to house its gorillas.

Alf was already at the park, but zookeepers were uncertain whether the two animals would get along together. So they built a temporary cage to keep the brothers separated until they could see how the pair would react to one another. Kesho and Alf surprised their keepers.

Even though Kesho had gained about 200 pounds during his absence, it was obvious to the observers that the two gorillas immediately recognized one another. Overcome with obvious joy, the brothers excitedly reached through the cage to touch each other.

Twenty-four hours later, the gorillas were finally allowed to be together. They hugged and squeezed one another, wrestled and slapped one another’s shoulders. Even the most cynical observer could easily see that the two brothers reacted to their reunion after their long separation just like a pair of human brothers would. Silverback gorillas like Kesho are often reserved around other gorillas, but both he and Alf acted like children on a playground. The reunion was captured on camera and can be seen here.

The brothers had another surprise waiting for them. Their younger brother Evindi, now six years old, joined his older siblings at the safari park. The little family is now united, hopefully never to be separated again.

The gorillas’ behavior shows that they are not only emotionally attached to their family members, but that separating them might even cause emotional damage. Should zookeepers think twice about separating gorilla family members? It looks like they should.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Supernatural Church Bells

For most churchgoers today, the ringing of church bells serves only to call them to worship. But in centuries past, these bells were believed to protect parishoners from the ghoulies and ghosties that haunted their daily lives.

In 14th century England, ringing church bells was thought to help protect the people against the devastations of the Black Plague. That belief persisted in certain parts of England. A Dr. Francis Hering wrote in the late 17th century that the bells somehow purified the air.

In the Middle Ages, newly installed bells received gifts when they were inistalled and consecrated, and became the focus of feasting and joyful celebrations.

Not everyone, it seems, celebrated the installation of a new church bell. Witches were said to fear the bells and went to great lengths to steal them. Apparently, ghosts also were affected by the ringing of church bells. Bells rung during a funeral were thought to drive away the ghost of the person being buried.

Even today, there are stories of church bells ringing by themselves just before a catastrophic event took place. The famous French author Alexandre Dumas recorded one such story said to have happened in 1407. According to Dumas, bells were heard to ring just before an ancient Roman bridge collapsed into the Rhone River.

There may be some justification for the spontaneous ringing of church bells just before certain events take place. It is possible that some church bells might be disturbed by the rumblings of an imminent earthquake. The same might be true for awakening volcanoes.

The people of many cultures believed (and some still believe) that loud noises and raucous music drive away evil spirits and malevolent ghosts. It makes some sense, then, that church bells would have replaced the banging of drums and kettles to serve the same purpose when Christianity took over the responsibility of protecting its people from evil.