Friday, December 30, 2011

The hunt for Mokele-mbembe: Congo's Loch Ness Monster

The search for Scotland's Loch Ness Monster is world famous. Far less well-known is the hunt for a similar creature, Mokele-mbembe, which is reputed to live in the remote north of Congo-Brazzaville. But how strong is the evidence?

"I checked maps, and the data on the maps was white. It said, 'insufficient data to delineate terrain'. Well that got me!" says Dr Roy Mackal, a retired biologist from the University of Chicago.

"It's the end of the world. It gives you a feeling of a surviving prehistoric time."

In the 1980s, Dr Mackal led two expedition teams to the vast Likouala swamp and rainforest area of the Congo which is inhabited by pygmies, on the hunt for this mystery creature - Africa's version of Scotland's Loch Ness Monster.

The Mokele-mbembe is reputed to be a large reptile-like creature, with a long neck, and long tail.

Despite being a herbivore, it is said to roar aggressively if approached by humans. Some say it has a single horn, which it uses to kill elephants.

Many a Western explorer over the years has been gripped by the tantalising possibility that they could discover a creature - a formidable one at that - that has remained, as yet, unknown to science.

Rising 'out the water'
To date, there have been more than 50 expeditions to the region, but no scientific evidence, unless you include the large claw-shaped footprint recorded by a French missionary in 1776, and by a number of others since.

The only photographic images have been so fuzzy, they prove nothing.

But there is no shortage of eyewitness reports.

"I was in a boat on the river when I saw Mokele-mbembe. He began to chase us. Mokele-mbembe rose out of the water," one man told the BBC. "We ran, or he would have killed us."

Paul Ohlin, a community development worker who spent more than 10 years living with the Bayaka in Congo and the Central African Republic, just to the north, says the people who live in the area are in no doubt about the creature's existence.

Lake Tele, 5km across a hotspot for Mokele-mbembe sightings
"When people are sitting around the campfire talking, they talk about the Mokele-mbembe - it's something that's a reality in everyday life," he says.

At the same time he emphasises their "spiritual connection" and "mystical relationship" with it.

"The way they see the world is a little different to the way you and I see it," says Paul.
But their eyewitness reports still need to be taken seriously, in his view.

"Certainly mythology surrounds it," says Adam Davies, a British man who spends his spare time and money travelling the world in search of undocumented species, and has twice gone to Africa on the trail of the Mokele-mbembe.

"But when you put it to people, 'Is this a real creature?' they become quite affronted… and they consistently came out with physical descriptions."

"Never dismiss tribal accounts on the basis that they must be talking tosh because they are tribal - that's not right and it's actually disrespectful," he says.

The field of cryptozoology - the search for large, unproven species - extends well beyond the realms of mainstream science.

But those who believe Mokele-mbembe exists point out that some animals once dismissed by science have turned out to be real.

The most often cited example is the okapi - a cloven-hoofed mammal with zebra-like stripes on its legs, which lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just to the east of Congo-Brazzaville.

In the 19th Century, there was talk among Westerners in Africa of the existence of an "African unicorn" and the explorer Henry Morton Stanley - who had earlier tracked down the missing missionary, Dr David Livingstone - reported seeing a mysterious donkey-like animal on a journey through the Congo in the late 1880s.

It was only in 1901 that the okapi was properly documented and identified as a relative of the giraffe.

"I'd put Mokele-mbembe in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster," says Bill Laurance, professor at James Cook University in Australia, a conservation biologist and an expert in tropical rainforests.

"My gut sense is that the likelihood of the creature actually existing today is small.

"However, one thing you learn early on in science is never say never. We are still discovering new species all the time."

The Likouala region in the north-east of Congo Brazzaville is the kind of place that it is easy to imagine containing hidden mysteries. Congolese government officials say 80% of its 66,000 sq km is uncharted. Much of it is dense, often flooded forest, forming part of the second largest rainforest in the world.

"The idea of a creature which is very rare, living in a very remote area with a vast size to it, is not remotely implausible," argues Adam Davies.

But some wonder about the motivations of the Congolese who promote the existence of the creature.
US writer Rory Nugent who went to Congo in search of the Mokele-mbembe and wrote a book about his experience, Drums Along the Congo, says he saw "an elegant French curve moving through the water".

He believes it might have been the head of the famed creature, but he is also deeply sceptical.
"The guides were screaming about a god beast. Whether it was part of the show, whether there was somebody swimming under the water with flippers pushing a cardboard piece across the lake, I couldn't tell you."

Taking foreigners on expeditions to try to find the Mokele-mbembe is a good "money making operation" for those involved, he adds.

Dr Mackel Science Director at Loch Ness before turning attention to the Congo
Mr Nugent fears that one day a kind of "Disneyland Congo" could be created in the area - similar to the tourist trap around Loch Ness - with scientists and tourists from the world flying in and out.
Those who believe the Mokele-mbembe exists argue that with further dedication of time and resources, one will eventually be tracked down.

But might the discovery of the creature be an anti-climax? Perhaps the mystery is what we enjoy most.

"I think there is a basic need or drive to entertain possibilities just outside of our reach," says psychology professor Jacqueline Woolley of the University of Texas.

"There is the excitement in believing that what seems impossible or improbable could potentially exist."

She says that for belief in creatures like the Mokele-mbembe to take hold, they "can't be too wacky and far out - they must be similar to real entities," but vary in just one or two ways.

"I realise my bias," admits Dr Mackal, who is now in his 80s. "I'm interested in discovering unknown species of animals."

"But I think that Mokele-mbembe still exist, and there isn't just one - they are reproducing," he contends.

"At 86 years old, I would dearly love to be alive if and when the animals are discovered."

Source: BBC UK Magazine

Thursday, December 29, 2011

SETI to Scour the Moon for Alien Footprints?

LRO image Apollo 17 landing site. 1972 Astronaut footprints are preserved.
The most profound question asked by mankind is: are we alone? So the second most profound question must be: where should we look for life if we're not alone?

Now, two prominent scientists have published a paper suggesting that although we have an entire universe to seek out the proverbial alien needle in a haystack, perhaps looking in our own backyard would be a good place to start.

Paul Davies and Robert Wagner of Arizona State University have suggested a crowd-sourcing effort to find artificial structures on the moon. After all, lunar missions like NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are returning some dazzling, high-resolution imagery of the moon's surface. If aliens have been there, perhaps we could spot evidence of their presence.

"Although there is only a tiny probability that alien technology would have left traces on the moon in the form of an artifact or surface modification of lunar features, this location has the virtue of being close, and of preserving traces for an immense duration," Davies and Wagner say in their paper published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

Indeed, due to the moon's pristine environment, any modification of lunar surface features will remain preserved for eons -- the lack of an atmosphere means features are not eroded away. Unless intelligent aliens came, saw and then covered their tracks, perhaps they left something as basic as a footprint for us to find.

Alien-hunting programs like the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have primarily focused on looking for alien transmissions being beamed around the universe, but the probability of success is extremely low. Other methods of alien hunting are therefore being considered and the moon has just become the logical "intelligent alien hunting ground."

If these hypothetical aliens are advanced enough to traverse the vast distances between the stars, and if they decided to pay the Earth-moon system a visit over the past few million years, they may have used the lunar surface as an ideal observation post. Logical, right?.

The idea that some kind of alien artifact may have been left behind then makes sense. This "artifact" could be a footprint, spacecraft or structure -- the LRO can spot the Apollo landers and astronauts' preserved footprints from orbit (pictured top), so it stands to reason that we have the technology to carry out this proposed lunar hunt.

"Systematic scrutiny of the LRO photographic images is being routinely conducted anyway for planetary science purposes, and this program could readily be expanded and outsourced at little extra cost to accommodate SETI goals, after the fashion of the SETI@home and Galaxy Zoo projects," Davies and Wagner point out.

Although the probability for success is low, building a crowd-sourcing effort like the hugely popular SETI@home and Galaxy Zoo projects could be a very efficient and low-cost means to analyze the lunar surface.

Simply distribute images being beamed back from lunar satellites to participating members of the public -- using PC idle time (like SETI@Home) or asking for voluntary participation (like Galaxy Zoo) -- and see if any strange shapes in the lunar regolith need some follow-up investigation.
With a lot of search time using low cost crowd-sourcing techniques could result in a profound discovery if aliens did decide to camp out on our moon at some point in history. The moon may be keeping a record of their campsite.

Source: Discovery News

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Haunting tales of ghostly pets

The scratch of paws in an empty room, the brush of fur against the legs days after the death of a pet cat, the thundering hooves of a horse seen galloping along a deserted road which vanished before the eyes of astounded motorists. 

Such ghostly experiences are evidence – some believe – it is not only humans whose spirits roam the earth long after they have died. 

Last week, paranormal investigators claimed Scampton, the airfield in Lincolnshire from where the Dambusters squadron attacked the Möhne and Eder dams in 1943, causing flooding of the Ruhr valley, is haunted by a chocolate-brown Labrador. 

The dog is said to be the ghost of Nigger, who belonged to the leader of the Dambusters squadron, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, but was run over and killed just hours before the raid. 

A dog has been heard growling in Gibson’s former office and a brown Labrador showed up in a photo taken of some schoolchildren at the memorial to the Dambusters in 1987, near Gibson’s office. No one could account for its presence. 

Chris Bishop, a pet bereavement counsellor, says hundreds of people have reported seeing or feeling the presence of a much-mourned pet. 

“I believe it is a spiritual presence but even if you just think it’s just a very vivid dream, it’s very comforting,” she says. 

Not all ghostly creatures are so benevolent, however. Tales abound of malevolent creatures whose restless spirits often haunt the places where they were ill-treated in life or met an untimely death.
One such disturbing apparition is said to be that of a maimed and mutilated black cat who appeared to the unfortunate inhabitants of Manor Hall in Oxenby, near Bristol. This cat was thought to have belonged to a boy who lived there more than 500 years ago. 

The boy’s parents died and he was taken into the care of a cruel guardian who tormented and abused him. Once the boy was made to watch as his pet cat was tortured, mutilated and finally boiled. The boy was eventually killed too and the wicked guardian was hanged for his murder. 

Their spirits haunted the place for half a millennium, including the ghastly apparition of the maimed and bleeding cat. 

A subsequent owner of the house erected a monument to the abused child, and carved the figure of a cat on the house. But it was not until the house was knocked down that the hauntings ceased.
Athelhampton Hall in Dorset is said to be home to one of the more exotic animal ghosts in Britain: that of a pet monkey. 

Some centuries ago a family named Martyn lived there and their daughter fell in love with the son of an aristocrat, who brought her a pet monkey from a trip abroad. 

But the love affair turned sour and, heartbroken, the girl shut herself away in a secret staircase behind the long gallery, unaware that the monkey had followed her. 

When the door was finally opened, the bodies of the girl and the monkey were found. People have reported the sound of scrabbling from the staircase and several have claimed to have seen the ghost of “Martyn’s ape”. 

Along with many human ghosts, the spectre of a bear is said to haunt the Tower of London, once home to a menagerie. In 1816, a sentry was horrified to find a bear coming out of the jewel room. He lunged at it with his bayonet but the weapon went straight through it and the bear vanished. The sentry collapsed in shock and died a few days later. 

More common spectral creatures are horses. Many civil war battlegrounds are thought to be haunted by the ghosts of horses slain there. A white horse said to be the charger of the Royalist commander Prince Rupert has been seen at the site of the Battle of Edgehill in Warwickshire. 

At Pendennis Castle in Cornwall the Royalists were besieged for five months by the Parliamentarian forces. They were forced to slaughter their horses for food. The castle’s custodian is regularly kept awake at night by the sounds of hooves but on investigation no horses are found. 

One of the saddest stories is that of the hooves heard in the village of Westonzoyland in Somerset. The legend goes that a young man fighting for the rebel Duke of Monmouth was captured by government soldiers outside the village in 1685. The soldiers promised to spare the young man’s life if he could outrun a horse. 

With his sweetheart watching, he ran for his life and won the race, but the soldiers shot him anyway.
The heartbroken girl drowned herself, and her ghost still returns to haunt the scene of the race, along with that of the runner, whose desperate panting can sometimes be heard, accompanied by the thundering of ghostly hooves. 

Another tragic tale is that of George Nelson, a boy who was killed in 1885 on a road in Lincolnshire, when he was thrown from his horse. In recent decades, several motorists have seen a horse throw its rider on to the road, or braked as it has galloped into their path, but when they stop, neither horse nor rider is to be found. 

Driving on dark nights on lonely roads, motorists seem to be particularly vulnerable to ghostly sightings, such as the phantom horses that gallop across a road in Berkshire near Steventon, startling motorists – only to disappear into the darkness. 

Sometimes these lonely road sightings take the form of spectral hounds. Black dogs are said to haunt crossroads, where gibbets were commonly sited. 

At Tring in Hertfordshire, a large black shaggy dog with flaming eyes has been seen at a crossroads where a chimney sweep was hanged in 1751 for the murder of a woman believed to be a witch.
And in 2001, a woman driving in Yorkshire saw a large black dog run in front of her car. She braked hard, but the hound passed through the bonnet. Her companion also saw it. 

When the women reached Leeming Bar, they told a man they met about the dog. He later killed himself. Black dogs were once believed to presage death or disaster. Could the dog have signified his fate, or was it coincidence? 

Certainly the spectre of a black hound has long had the power to terrify. On Dartmoor, a huge black dog with red eyes is believed to run beside a coach made of bones, pulled by spectral horses and driven by the ghost of Lady Mary Howard, a notorious woman who survived four husbands in the 17th century. 

This and other black dogs may have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous ghost story, The Hound of the Baskervilles. 

Other animals, like human ghosts, are believed to be more benevolent spirits which simply wish to remain in the place where they lived. Sian Evans, who wrote Ghosts: Mysterious tales from the National Trust, visited Ham House in Richmond where the ghost of a spaniel is frequently seen. 

“I was filming in one of the rooms in 2007,” she remembers, “when I saw a spaniel through the doorway of the next room, but when I went in there, there was no dog and it was a dead end.” 

The dog was the favourite pet of a woman who lived in the house in the 18th century. He is featured in a portrait, gazing adoringly at his mistress. In the 1990s, workmen found the bones of a spaniel in a casket. The skeleton was reconstructed and placed in a case beneath the portrait. 

“I think he had a very happy life there and that’s perhaps why he remains,” says Evans. – Daily Mail 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Residents Spot Bigfoot In West Virginia

For decades its existence has been debated, thorough searches have found no conclusive evidence, but a pair of Tipp City women reportedly have the definite answer as they claim to have seen…Bigfoot. Terri Bessler and Crystal Krieger were driving through West Virginia when in the clear of day they spotted the behemoth mythical figure. It was walking up a truck ramp, off of the highway, up into the wooded mountains.

“It was huge, there is no way it was a person,” said Bessler, owner of Midwest Memories. The figure was a solid shade of black, and showed no definition of any clothing lines.

Krieger is in agreement that the ever elusive Bigfoot was seen. “If it was a real person, it was the biggest person in the world. And where would they be going? There is nothing up there but woods,” she said.

Unfortunately, Bessler could not tame her anxiety ridden hands enough to get a picture. By the time she maintained enough control of her phone to take one, they were around the curve and out of viewing distance.

The purpose of their excursion was to pick up Krieger’s son Cody, a 2011 graduate of Tippecanoe High School, from North Carolina and bring him home for Thanksgiving. In the U.S Marines, Cody is stationed at Camp Geiger for the School of Infantry.

They were enjoying just a typical drive through the mountains of West Virginia, when Bigfoot was clearly spotted and could not be anything else. The women estimate they were less than half a mile away from the Sasquatch and its size was in no way proportionate to a human. Neither their vision nor judgment was impaired in any way. “We weren’t sleep deprived or juiced up on caffeine,” said Bessler.

They expect that not everyone will believe their story, but they are certain of what they saw and urge everyone to keep an eye out for Bigfoot next time they travel through West Virginia.

Source: The Tippecanoe Gazette

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cloud making UFO brings Russian city to standstill, video

A cloud emitting UFO has brought an entire Russian city to a standstill, overshadowing Christmas and New Year celebrations and leaving residents perplexed and seeking answers from local politicians (see video below). 
The event took place yesterday in the southern city of Trekhgorny, located in the Chelyabinsk region near Russia's border with Khazakstan. Reports are filtering in claiming that nervous community leaders have already relayed messages to Moscow's Science Ministry asking for clarification as to the nature of the UFO witnessed and filmed. 
The event is significant in that Trekhgorny, created under Soviet rule, is a closed city and non-residents are forbidden entry unless in possession of a formal invitation from friends or family, approved by local authorities.
Trekhgorny's status as a closed city is due to the fact that its main industry is the production of nuclear reactors. Consequently some are suggesting that it is possible that alien technology might be currently being reversed engineered in its midst. Ample research has been done on the topic of the high incidence of UFO and alien activity in the vicinity of nuclear reactors. Strong evidence suggests that aliens are extremely concerned with human plans to make use of nuclear energy in space.
Numerous witnesses to UFOs have described these craft's cloud making capabilities. It has also been noted that the use of these "clouds" for the purpose of camouflage by visiting aliens is particularly common in instances where the UFO is seen near military or nuclear facilities.
Some commentators are suggesting that with this very public showing, aliens are sending a very clear message to Moscow regarding their concerns. Alien activity in Russia reached a peak in 2011. Strong evidence suggests that Russia is in communion with a number of alien races and although UFO bases exist in Siberia, relations between Russia and these visitors are shaky.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spirits of Christmas Past Still Live at The Curtis House Inn

Walking through the front door of Woodbury's Curtis House Inn, the evidence of Christmas cheer is everywhere.

One is immediately hit with the Dickensian beauty of the place; the antiques and old portraits, the dark wooden tables, lanterns and candles that decorate the hearth beneath the low beamed ceilings. According to locals and ghost hunters, the charm does not stop there.

Built as a home in 1736, it has continuously been run as an inn since 1754.

It is called the Curtis House Inn because five proprietors of the place were named Curtis, and none were related. Coincidences abound in this charming inn, once named to be among “the top caravansaries in the country” by a long defunct publication entitled Milestones and Memories.
Some would say there are no coincidences at all.

Instead, unusual occurrences are blamed on the spirits of centuries and only decades past. Experts of the paranormal have come to visit and claim it is a highly haunted place.

 “I have been aware of the haunting of the Curtis House for a very long time,” Warren said. “My husband and family have gone there. There is a bedroom upstairs, that first bedroom, that room always seem to very active. Sometimes when people come here from out of state for visits, I always ask them if they want to stay at a real haunted inn.”

The ghosts of many Christmases past are said by regulars and employees to still roam the halls. According to TJ Hardisty-Brennan, the inn's owner has lived at the inn most of her life, there are at least four known spirits who continue to live there.
  • She describes a matronly woman who watches over the dining room.
  • Another is a rider, an elegant confederate gentleman, who is said to be quite loud about removing his boots at night.
  • Then, there's Sally, who Brennan describes as her dear friend, who is believed to be a young woman who seems to prefer one of the bedrooms on the second floor.
  • Joe, a former dishwasher who truly loved the place, asked to be buried on the property and his wishes were honored by Brennan's father.
 TJ gathered her employees around to tell stories of the encounters each have had with the ghosts they speak about in affectionate terms.

 “I've been helping out with the rooms,” Juanita Chappell, a retired waitress, said. “I was looking for TJ the other day and I went to the second floor, and I see the chair rocking back and forth, back and forth. I figured TJ was up there and she must have knocked it as she went by, maybe she was bringing the laundry up. I went upstairs and looked in every room and she was not there. When I came back downstairs, the chair was still rocking back and forth, back and forth.”

 “I know who's here,” TJ said, with a cheerful grin. “I have my own little relationship with them. Last March, we dismantled every room upstairs and Sally, which is what we call her, could not stand it.

There is a chair in a room upstairs, and we are the last ones out of here each night, and when we came up in the morning, the chair was twisted to face the wall. The drawers were all pulled out, and she was mad! We laughed and would go up there and say, 'Sally, will you just give us time. If you would just relax, you will like it.' And sure enough, she has calmed down.”

 “There is a matronly figure in the dining room and she just likes everything to be as it should be,” Brennan continued. “ At Thanksgiving, we had a customer call me over, and she asked me, 'Have you been told you have spirits here?' I said, yes, but you don't know how people are going to take it. The woman said, 'She just wants you to know, she is very content, her day is done, and it went very smoothly. She is very happy with the way her day went.' We had a busy day that day and they, the spirits, just like to see how everything went.”

 One of the spirits worked in the kitchen when TJ was a child. “There is a young man who worked here when he was 14-15 years old. I told him to go downstairs and get some firewood for the fireplace in the lobby. He comes running back up the stairs, and he would tell you the exact same story if he was standing next to me, he came up and said, 'I can't go down there, there is a guy sitting on the stairs eating his mashed potatoes!'

 “I just flippantly went, 'Oh, so you saw Joe. Just go get the firewood.' And he said, 'But you just don't understand, he had white pants and a white shirt, and he was not clean shaven, he was sitting there eating his mashed potatoes!' I said, 'James, that's where Joe always went. That's where he always sat and ate his mashed potatoes and had his cigarette.' Joe was actually the dishwasher here when I was just a child. I said, 'James, the only way Joe will cause trouble is if you yelled at him for having a cigarette or tried to take his mashed potatoes away.”

Brennan laughed remembering the shock on the boy's face. “So probably eight years go by, and my sister and her husband took a spatula, because Joe always had a spatula in his hand, and they made a plaque and put Joe's picture on it for Most Valuable Employee kind of thing. So, James comes up at Christmastime and when he saw that, he said, 'Oh my gosh! This is the guy I saw!”

According to TJ, there have been many customers who have no idea the inn is haunted, but there have been some who report incidents that are more humorous than frightening. “Some people don't know a thing about it, some come because of that, some want to stay, but there was one person who was so polite about it.” Brennan laughed again, recalling one woman's reaction.

 “We had a woman who was here for a few days, and she came down one morning and said, 'I cannot stay here. It's absolutely beautiful, everything is wonderful but there are spirits here and I am not comfortable. I wish I could stay here but I am making them uncomfortable because I am uncomfortable.” She said, “I have never seen them, it's never happened to me before, but it happened to me now.”

Employees of the inn are familiar with the comings and goings of the spirits.

Opal Strattman, who works as an assistant to Brennan said, “You go upstairs and the TV will be on, and you know no one has been up there. The beds get messed up.”

 TJ laughed again and reported, “Someone complained that they couldn't sleep because the covers kept getting pulled down in Room 16. The woman came downstairs for dinner the next day and asked if we had ghosts. When we said yes, she nearly fell over.”

Donna Kent, another Connecticut specialist of the paranormal who has been featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, visits the Curtis House frequently and brings students with her to study the energy. She has seen orbs of light in many rooms, including the attic, and has detected energy in rooms where nothing else was going on.

 “TJ has been choosy about letting ghost hunters come in because they can cause more trouble than good,” Kent said.

Brennan agreed. "The spirits are happy unless people are disruptive. Donna said they are very content, and as long as you don't set them off, or stir up trouble, it's fine. But if you come in here like gangbusters, to stir things up, they don't like it."

Kent wrote in her book "Ghost Stories and Legends of Western Connecticut" that The Curtis House has had an incredibly long history filled with mysterious details. “There was a hidden entrance that was used by the masons before they were allowed to practice in their own building. One of the owners, Lucius Foote, was murdered after a big win at a card game. His body was found in a shed behind St. Paul's. The portraits in the house have been known to cause trouble if not placed where they want to be. The Curtis House is actively haunted, but it's because the spirits of those who enjoyed the atmosphere loved it so much they didn't want leave.”

The Curtis House seems to continue its centuries old popularity with the living and the deceased. “I have never had a terrifying feeling at the Curtis House. Like the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, there may be something to learn from these spirits. Life does continue. And the best way to get through the day is to do so in a respectful manner, whether it's with people or those on the other side," Kent said.

Article by Christine Rose

Source: Naugatuck Patch

'Bluestone Betty' Haunts Pine Mountain Cemetery

Lee Mahon and Elaine Peet
WATCH out Casper, Pine Mountain has its own friendly ghost.

Bluestone Betty has been haunting the overgrown pioneers' cemetery and nearby Bluestone Corner on Pine Mountain Rd for more than a century.

Pine Mountain and Districts Historical Society president Len Mahon and secretary Elaine Peet responded to councillor David Pahlke's call for supernatural tales with a story that has haunted them since childhood.

Mr Mahon and Ms Peet recalled all the spooky details about Bluestone Betty on a journey back into the now defunct Pine Mountain Congregational Cemetery.

Picking his way through lantana and thick scrub, Mr Mahon explained the truth behind the urban myth.
"Betty's real name was Elizabeth Cox and she was buried here in 1883," Mr Mahon said.

"She was 76 when she died, and she was the first person laid to rest in the cemetery."

Ms Peet said Betty began haunting the corner and cemetery soon after her burial.

"We know it was her (Elizabeth Cox) because the sightings started soon after she was buried, and people recognised her," Ms Peet said.

"Over the years, many people reported seeing a woman standing on the corner in a long dress."
Ms Peet remembered the stories resurfacing when she was attending the local primary school.

"In my era, Arthur Hill drove around the corner in a truck and saw her standing on the roadside," Ms Peet said.

"We used to ride our horses past here on the way to school, and they always used to shy away and walk sideways, so we had to go the back way.

"They just wouldn't walk past the corner; there was something about it that made them uneasy."
Mr Mahon's sister Christine Ryan said she and her contemporaries never actually saw the ghost "but always felt her presence".

Ms Peet has been frightened by Bluestone Betty on numerous occasions in her adulthood.

"I used to work as a night duty nurse in Ipswich, and I'd be on my way home when I'd run into mist on Bluestone Corner and get the fright of my life," Ms Peet said.

"I've run my car off the road five times on the corner, because the mist rising in tendrils looks exactly like Betty standing there."

Despite all the shocks it caused, the spirit of the 19th century grandmother was apparently a harmless ghost.

"I like to think of her as a protector of the cemetery, and we always respected her," Ms Peet said.
Historical society research reveals Betty had much to protect.

Records show she was joined in the cemetery by three infant grandchildren - a granddaughter who died in 1884, and grandsons who died in 1887 and 1894 - all aged just one year old.

Cr Pahlke said Betty's story was part of local history.

"I'm fascinated by urban myths and I want to preserve these stories for years to come," he said.

Source: Queensland Times

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dutch TV presenters eat each other's flesh w/video

A Dutch television stunt is generating headlines around the world - for all the wrong reasons.

The two presenters of TV show Proefkonijnen (which means guinea pigs or test rabbits) brought reality television to a whole new level when they ate each other's freshly cooked flesh.

Dennis Storm and Valerio Zeno were earlier filmed while they were under local anaesthetic as a surgeon cut a piece of their buttock  muscle at a clinic.

Storm watched as flesh was cut from Zeno's abdomen, and Zeno returned the favour when muscle was cut from Storm's bottom.

A chef was brought in to fry their flesh on their TV show, in front of a studio audience.
Zeno and Storm then sat for a candlelit dinner - complete with wine - to dine on each other's buttocks muscle.

Storm told ABCNews in the United States that the muscle was cooked to medium-rare in sunflower oil without seasoning.

"Nothing is really that special when you're talking about the taste of the meat, but it is weird to look into the eyes of a friend when you are chewing on his belly," Storm told ABCNews.

"The punchline of the show is to get really simple answers on stupid questions, such as can you shave with ketchup or can you drive blind?

"And we wanted to find out how human flesh tasted." Storm said the stunt was worth the pain in his behind.

"It was just a few centimetres of meat," he said.

"And now I have a good story about that scar."

Storm and Zeno said the stunt was legal because both entered into the cannibalistic pact voluntarily, Britain's Daily Mail reported.

"A lawyer advised the program's producers that while cannibalism is not itself against the law, the presenters or the surgeon who operated on them could run in to legal difficulties," The Mail said.

"The presenters also claim that there is no risk of ill health, as long as the human meat is properly cooked."

International news headlines ranged from "Cannibalism on Dutch TV generates world-wide repulsion" to "In the worst possible taste: Sick TV stunt features presenters eating EACH OTHER".

The pre-recorded episode was aired on December 21.

Source: Yahoo News

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2012 End-of-the-World Mayan Countdown Calendar Starts Today

The countdown to the apocalypse is on.

We're one year away from Dec. 21, 2012, the date that the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar allegedly marked as the end of an era that would reset the date to zero and signal the end of humanity.

But will it?
There have been many end of times predictions over the years. Christian radio host Harold Camping faced widespread ridicule when his predictions that the world would end twice this year - on May 21, and then on Oct. 21 - failed to materialize.

But in the flurry of doomsday predictions - there have been similar dire warnings about the world coming to an end from various cultures, including Native Americans, the Chinese, Egyptians and even the Irish - the supposed Mayan prophecy seems to have held the most sway with believers.

The Mayan civilization, which reached its height from 300 A.D. to 900 A.D., had a talent for astronomy. Advanced mathematics and primitive astronomy flourished, creating what many have called the most accurate calendar in the world.

The Mayans predicted a final event that included a solar shift, a Venus transit and violent earthquakes.

Their Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. Thirteen was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas, and they wrote that the 13th Baktun ends on Dec. 21, 2012.

The doomsday theories stem from a stone tablet discovered in the 1960s at the archaeological site of Tortuguero in the Gulf of Mexico state of Tabasco that describes the return of a Mayan god at the end of a 13th period.

"The Maya are viewed by many westerners as exotic folks that were supposed to have had some special, secret knowledge," said Mayan scholar Sven Gronemeyer. "What happens is that our expectations and fears get projected on the Maya calendar."

Gronemeyer, of La Trobe University in Australia, compares the supposed Mayan prophecies to the "Y2K" hype, when people feared all computer systems would crash when the new millennium began on Jan. 1, 2000.

For some reason, Gronemeyer says, people have ignored evidence that dates beyond 2012 were recorded.

The blogosphere exploded with more speculation when Mexico's archaeology institute acknowledged on Nov. 24 a second reference to Dec. 21, 2012, on a brick found at other ruins.

"Human beings seem to be attracted by apocalyptic ideas and always assume the worst," Gronemeyer said.

Believers have taken the end-of-the world fears to the Internet with hundreds of thousands of websites and blogs. Yet others are capitalizing on the heightened interest. Films depicting the end of the world - including the 2009 movie, "2012? - are contributing to the mounting hype as well as to misinformation, experts say.

In southern Mexico, the heart of Maya territory, a yearlong celebration is planned.

Mexico's tourism agency expects to draw 52 million visitors by next year only to the regions of Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Campeche. All of Mexico usually lures about 22 million foreigners in a year.

It's selling the date, the Winter Solstice in the coming year, as a time of renewal. Many archeologists argue that the 2012 reference on a 1,300-year-old stone tablet only marks the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar.

"The world will not end. It is an era," said Yeanet Zaldo, a tourism spokeswoman for the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo, home to Cancun. "For us, it is a message of hope."

For those who are thinking about how to spend what could be their last year on earth, here's another message of hope: According to recent research, the mythological date of the "end of days" may be off by 50 to 100 years.

To convert the ancient Mayan calendar to the Gregorian (or modern) calendar, scholars use a numerical value (called the GMT). But Gerardo Aldana, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has said the data supporting the widely-adopted conversion factor may be invalid.
Aldana isn't the only detractor.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration - yes, that's NASA - has also weighed in on the issue.

The agency's scientists posted answers to the most popular questions about the end-of-times theory associated with the prophecy.

"Remember the Y2K scare? It came and went without much of a whimper because of adequate planning and analysis of the situation. Impressive movie special effects aside, Dec. 21, 2012, won't be the end of the world as we know," the 2009 web page post says.

The answers addressed questions about whether there were any known threats to the Earth and the truth about the calendar.

One of answers posted was to the question of the possible approach of Nibiru (or Planet X or Eris), a supposed wayward planet that is said could pose a threat to Earth. The answer was a definitive rejection of the idea.

"Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax," scientists wrote. "There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist. Eris is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles."

Source: Yahoo News

The Dixie "Beer Drinking" Ghostbusters of South Carolina

Chris Grady, a Twisted Dixie ghost hunter scans, for paranormal activity
Except for the eerie flickering of our flashlights, we batted away low branches and overgrown shrubs of the old cotton plantation in total darkness. There was no moonlight. It was, Grady Carter noted, “a perfect night for ghosts.” At that point his nephew Andy held up a hand and pointed into the woods. “I heard voices,” Andy said. We all stopped. Chris Carter, his cousin, whispered, “I see a red light.” “The spirits of dead slaves,” Grady confirmed. “A demonic orb.”

Grady, 66, is the winner of three purple hearts in Vietnam; his son, Chris, 41, is a former long-haul trucker; and Andy, 46, is a former bodyguard. Now all three Carter men are Twisted Dixie, a team of paranormal investigators — or, to use their less preferred term, ghostbusters. For fees upward of $2,000 per demonic possession, they camp out at night in clients’ houses, barns, businesses or woods and “document paranormal activity,” Andy explains, referring to “ghosts, demons, poltergeists.”

Twisted Dixie grosses a little more than $50,000 a year, sometimes charging fees for long investigations and sometimes working on spec at famous sites like Fort Sumter and the Burt-Stark Mansion in Abbe­ville, S.C. — often called the birthplace and the deathbed of the Confederacy, and the home of Twisted Dixie. No matter the job, they always work at night because, they say, that’s when ghosts tend to whisper.

On this night, Twisted Dixie was investigating a supposedly haunted 1820s plantation house and its cotton gin, located deep in the woods around Antreville, S.C. Cotton plantations are good places to find ghosts, Chris explains, because they house a lot of the tortured souls of dead slaves. “We got a call from this woman four weeks ago,” Andy said. “She’s home alone with three young ’uns ’cause her husband’s away a lot. She heard a lot of screaming coming from the cotton gin, and she swears it was running again. In 2005, the former owner bulldozed some old slaves’ quarters in the woods, and we think the slave spirits are furious.”

not a ghost
The cotton gin took up almost the entire barn. It was a monstrous machine, all gears, levers, belts, funnels, steam boilers and bits of cotton caught in its jagged teeth. At that point, the investigation officially began: Chris opened a cooler and passed out 24-ounce cans of beer; everyone lighted cigarettes; Andy unfolded aluminum deck chairs. Then we all stood around in a circle, heads bowed, while Chris recited a prayer to St. Michael the archangel, “to deliver us in battle from malice and the snares of the devil.” Chris explained that ghosts manifest themselves to mortals because they’re looking for help from their torment. “So we say the prayer so they won’t follow us home,” Chris said. “Sometimes they will, because let’s face it, if you were a ghost, would you rather hang out in an empty house with other ghosts, or with people and have a good time?”

Grady and I sat in the low deck chairs, while Chris and Andy fanned out around the gin, depositing small cameras and tape recorders here and there. Most of their equipment was purchased from Radio Shack and not necessarily as sophisticated as the “discount paranormal research equipment” for sale on Not like the Lutron EMF/ELF Electromagnetic Field Tester ($79.99), or the FLIR ThermaCam B2 Thermal Imaging Camera ($8,949.99). Andy said that device is “bull,” but he’d take it if someone gave him one.

Grady and I watched Chris and Andy until we could see only the glowing ends of their cigarettes. Grady popped another beer and told me about his own ghosts. “I had 83 confirmed kills,” he said. “I can’t sleep at night. The terrible things I done haunt me. I see them over and over.” Chris and Andy returned from deploying the equipment, grabbed two more beers from the cooler and lighted new cigarettes. We hung around for an hour or two, talking softly, looking, listening. The conversation inevitably turned to the origins of the paranormal-activity trade. “All the slaves come from Africa, where they were into all kinds of spirituality,” Andy said. “That’s where you get voodoo, things like that.”

Before leaving, Andy called on one last trick. He tried to bring out the ghosts by imitating a 19th-century slave overseer cracking his whip. “You can’t hide from me,” he screamed into the dark barn. “Get your asses back to work. When’s the last time you talked to someone? So why don’t you communicate with us?”

But the ghosts, it appeared, would have none of it. So Andy and Chris collected their cameras (one of which, they claimed, caught a bluish gray orb) and tape recorders (it picked up a hissing noise, they said). They packed up their gear, popped more beers, lighted cigarettes and trudged back through the woods to the old house, disappointed. Andy, who was part angry, part empathetic, could understand why the ghost wouldn’t reveal himself. “We’re disturbing him,” he said.

Source: New York Times

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mother Sees Face of an Angel in Pregnancy Scan

Watching over: 'Face of an angel' seen above baby Leo
When Dee Lazarou went into labour early at home, she knew the risks of having a home delivery.

There was no midwife present as baby Leo made his way into the world as she gave birth on their bathroom floor, helped only by her family.

But she knew that no harm could come to him - as they had already been given a sign that he was being looked over in the womb. 

Amazingly in the scan picture taken of her son Leo when she was 12 weeks pregnant, Mrs Lazarou could clearly make out a face resembling an angel.

She and her husband were convinced he was looking over their unborn child, to see him born safely.

Mrs Lazarou, 31, an team leader for the police force communications emergency room, said: ‘It was such a comfort to think that someone was looking after our son.

‘When I gave birth on our bathroom floor, there was no midwife to help us and my husband had to deliver Leo.

‘His cord was wrapped around his neck and it was my mother who pulled the cord free. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but I’m sure that a guardian angel was looking over him to make sure he was delivered safely.’

Mrs Lazarou was just 12 weeks into her pregnancy when they spotted the remarkable image in the scan picture taken at Lister Hospital in Stevenage.

Mrs Lazarou and baby Leo
Mrs Lazarou, who lives with husband Thomas, 34, a policeman, and their son Oliver, three, in Stevenage, said: ‘I didn’t look at the scan picture until we got home. I was looking at it with Oliver, telling him that it was a picture of his little brother or sister, when I noticed something odd in the corner of the picture.

‘I could see clearly that it was a face. I showed it to my husband when he got home from work.

‘We were stunned to see it - as it was such a clear image. It was such a comfort to me during the rest of my pregnancy, knowing that we had someone looking over our baby in the womb.’

When Mrs Lazarou was a week past her due date she started with contractions. 

She said: ‘I decided to have a bath to ease the pain as I thought I would have several hours before I would have to get to hospital, and the pains were mild so I wasn’t even sure at first that they were proper labour pains.’

But the pains quickly got worse. Mrs Lazarou called both her mother Marie and her husband to come home.

She said: ‘I knew that there was no time to get to hospital. I was in the bathroom and I felt the urge to push. Tom helped me lie down on the floor and paramedics gave him instructions over the phone as he delivered our baby.

‘I was worried because there was no midwife and I had always been adamant that I wanted to have a hospital birth as I knew that home births could be risky. So to be giving birth to my son at home was terrifying. I just had to hope and pray that he would be alright.’

Baby Leo arrived on the bathroom floor in August weighing 8Ibs, but then a drama unfolded as he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.

Mrs Lazarou said: ‘It was terrifying. When Tom caught him in his arms as he was delivered, we saw that the cord was wrapped around his neck which could have been lifethreatening to him.

‘Mum luckily was able to unwrap it from around his neck and free him. And moments later he uttered a cry, which was such a relief. It was the most amazing sound as we knew that he was alright.’

The paramedics arrived just after the birth and took Mrs Lazarou to hospital for a check up.

She said: ‘Luckily we were both fine and we were allowed home, which was such a relief.

‘When we saw the face of someone in the scan picture we were stunned, but now we know that it was for a reason.
‘He was watching over Leo to make sure he was delivered safely. The face in the scan picture was such a comfort to us all.

‘I’ve put it in a keepsake box to show Leo when he was older, to be able to tell him the story of his remarkable birth.’


Monday, December 19, 2011

16 Signs that your House is Haunted

How do you know if that persistent rapping on your walls is bad plumbing or a mischievous spirit? Here are some of the signs of a haunting

You hear heavy footsteps in the upstairs hallway when you know no one is up there. Doors slam unaccountably. Commonly used items disappear and reappear without cause. The kitchen light turns on by itself. There's the unmistakable scent of a strange perfume in the air.

These may be indications that your house is haunted. True hauntings are rare occurrences, and it may be difficult to determine whether or not any strange phenomena you are experiencing in your home might be due to a haunting. For one thing, no one really knows what a "real" haunting is - what causes it or why it starts. There are many theories, of course, which we have discussed in this space in the article "Ghosts: What Are They?" But if you think your house may really be haunted, what can you do about it?


The first step is to determine, as best you can, whether or not you truly have a legitimate case of a haunting. Not all hauntings are alike, and they may exhibit a variety of phenomena. Some hauntings feature a single phenomenon - such as a particular door slamming shut that occurs repeatedly - while others consist of many different phenomena, ranging from odd noises to full-blown apparitions.
Here's a partial list of phenomena that might indicate that your house is haunted:
  • Unexplained noises - footsteps; knocks, banging, rapping; scratching sounds; sounds of something being dropped. Sometimes these noises can be subtle and other times they can be quite loud.
  • Doors, cabinets and cupboards opening and closing - most often, these phenomena are not seen directly. The experiencer either hears the distinct sounds of the doors opening and closing (homeowners get to know quite well the distinctive sounds their houses make) or the experiencer will return to a room to find a door open or closed when they are certain that it was left in the opposite position. Sometimes furniture, like kitchen chairs, are perceived to have been moved. Very rarely will the experiencer actually witness the phenomenon taking place.
  • Lights turning off and on - likewise, these events are seldom seen actually occurring, but the lights are switched on or off when the experiencer knows they were not left that way. This can also happen with TVs, radios and other electrically powered items.
  • Items disappearing and reappearing - this phenomenon, which we have dubbed "the DOPler Effect" (DOP = Disappearing Object Phenomenon), has been examined in the article "The DOPler Effect." Others have called this "the borrowers" phenomenon, and it's the familiar experience of not being able to find a regularly used item - say, your set of car keys - which you believe you placed in a spot you routinely place them. But they're gone and you look high and low for them with no success. Some time later, the keys are found - in exactly the place you normally put them. It's as if the object was borrowed by someone or something for a short time, then returned. Sometimes they are not returned for days or even weeks, but when they are, it's in an obvious place that could not have been missed by even a casual search.
  • Unexplained shadows - the sighting of fleeting shapes and shadows, usually seen out of the corner of the eye. This phenomenon has also been discussed in some detail in "Shadow People." Many times, the shadows have vaguely human forms, while other times they are less distinguishable or smaller.
  • Strange animal behavior - a dog, cat or other pet behaves strangely. Dogs may bark at something unseen, cower without apparent reason or refuse to enter a room they normally do. Cats may seem to be "watching" something cross a room. Animals have sharper senses than humans, and many researchers think their psychic abilities might be more finely tuned also. 
  • Feelings of being watched - this is not an uncommon feeling and can be attributed to many things, but it could have a paranormal source if the feeling consistently occurs in a particular part of the house at a particular time.
Those are some of the most common experiences of those who think their houses are haunted. Yet even stranger things can happen...

The following phenomena are more rare, but could be stronger evidence of a haunting:
  • Mild psychokinetic phenomena - hearing a door open or close is one thing. Actually seeing it happen is quite another. Similarly, actually seeing a light go on or off by itself is greater proof that something unexplained is happening. Do you see the TV or radio turn on? Or perhaps you're present when a child's powered toy begins to operate on its own. Doors and windows are locked or unlocked. Some people report that when they are in bed they can feel and/or hear something sitting on the bed.
  • Feelings of being touched - the feeling of being watched is one thing, and actually feeling like you are being touched is quite another. Some people feel something brush past them, something touching their hair or "a hand" on the shoulder. Some feel a gentle poke, push or nudge.
  • Cries and whispers - on occasion, muffled voices, whispering and crying can be heard. Sometimes it's music from some unknown source. People hear their names being said. This phenomenon, as is true for the one above, gains more credibility if more than one person hears or sees the same thing at the same time.
  • Cold or hot spots - cold spots are classic haunting symptoms, but any instance of a noticeable variance in temperature without a discernable cause could be evidence.
  • Unexplained smells - the distinct fragrance of a perfume or cologne that you do not have in your house. This phenomenon comes and goes without any apparent cause and may accompany other phenomena, such as shadows, voices or psychokinetic phenomena. Foul odors can happen in the same way.
Rarer still are more extreme phenomena, some of which have been called poltergeist phenomena, and can be quite strong evidence of a true haunting:
  • Moving or levitating objects (severe psychokinetic phenomena) - dinner plates sliding across the table; pictures flying off walls; doors slamming shut with great force; furniture sliding across the floor.
  • Physical assault - scratches, slaps and hard shoves. This kind of personal assault is extremely rare, but obviously highly disturbing.
  • Other physical evidence - unexplained writing on paper or walls; handprints and footprints.
  • Apparitions - physical manifestation of a spirit or entity. These phenomena are also very rare and can take many forms: human-shaped mists or forming mists of some indistinguishable shape; transparent human forms that disappear quickly; and most rarely, human forms that look as real and solid as any living person, but that disappear into a room or even while being viewed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Horror for the Holiday: Meet the Anti-Santa

For generations the Christmas season has been infused with sweetness, but some families in Philadelphia are adding a dash of horror.

There are no Christmas lights up at Janet Finegar's house in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. She does not deck her halls with boughs of holly. Instead, hundreds of rib bones leftover from a neighborhood barbecue hang on a clothesline strung across her backyard. They're bleaching in the sun.

"They have been scraped, boiled, scraped again, bleached and are now strung on strands and hanging out to dry," she says. "They smell. Rib bones, as it turns out, are incredibly nasty."

She will drape the bones over herself and wear them like a grisly tunic. It's her Krampus costume.
The Krampus is a character from European Alpine folklore, common in Austria and Switzerland. The creature stands on two hooves and has horns growing out of its skull. An extremely long tongue hangs out of its mouth, and it carries a basket to haul away naughty children.

For hundreds of years, the Krampus and Saint Nicholas have worked a kind of good cop-bad cop routine. Saint Nick rewards the good children; Krampus terrorizes the bad.

For Finegar, it's the perfect antidote for Christmas.

"If everything is sweet and beautiful and lovely and the most wonderful time of the year, some people, like me, start to get a little nauseated, want a little salt to go with the sugar," she says. "I think there [are] a lot of people out there who enjoy the idea of having a little salt."

Around the country, there are Krampus parties and club nights in December, where people dress in leftover Halloween costumes to drink and dance.
Janet Finegar shows off her costume of rib bones prepared for the Krampuslauf in Philadelphia. She'll be one among many parade participants dressed as the mythical Christmas demon Krampus.

Janet Finegar shows off her costume of rib bones
Janet Finegar will  be one among many parade participants dressed as the mythical Christmas demon Krampus.

Finegar is helping to organize a traditional Krampuslauf: a procession of people dressed as Krampus, walking through the streets with noisemakers. The idea for the Krampuslauf in Philadelphia came from Amber Dorko Stopper, a mother of two.

"Spooky and scary has had a place in Christmas historically — A Christmas Carol is a ghost story with scary things in it," she says. "I hate to see everything get watered down because I remember how much fun those things are."

Krampus parades are rare in the United Sates. Last year, Joseph Ragan organized one in Portland, Ore., as a reaction to the way Christmas dominates the winter season.

"Of all the 10,000 holidays that can be celebrated, we just have this one particular version of this one particular holiday really shoved down our throats for months at a time — in the most saccharine form," he says.

Consider that Christmas muzak you hear in grocery stores before Thanksgiving. That really annoys Stopper. She's a fan of horror movies, and enjoys the folk tales of Krampus stealing children, throwing them into icy rivers or eating them alive.

"I realized really quickly how that was not popular in this time period. As a parent of small children that was seen as suspicious behavior almost immediately," she says. "Everything is so soft-pedaled these days with kids to the point where you're not showing any kind of conflict to your kids, much less folklore."

But even Stopper admits there are limits.

"Since both of our children are adopted, we're a little extra sensitive to talking about being taken away," Stopper says. "But we did tell them that, 'He'll take you to his house, you'll have to eat spicy vegetables and watch boring adult television — and then he'll bring you home.' "

The horror. The horror.

Source; NPR (Listen to Story)

Mysterious "white web" found growing on nuclear waste

Mysterious "white web" found growing on nuclear waste

This is as fascinating as it is unsettling. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site — a nuclear reservation in South Carolina — have identified a strange, cob-web like "growth" (their word, not ours) on the racks of the facility's spent nuclear fuel assemblies.

According to a report filed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, "the growth, which resembles a spider web, has yet to be characterized, but may be biological in nature."

The Augusta Chronicle reported today that the "white, string-like" material was discovered amidst thousands of the spent fuel assemblies, which are submerged in deep nuclear storage pools within SRS's L Area Complex. (The image up top is of a similar nuclear storage pool at Italy's Caorso Nuclear Power Plant, which was decommissioned in 1990.)

The safety board's report claimed that the initial sample of the growth was too small to characterize, and that "further evaluation still needs to be completed."

I don't know what's more intriguing — the fact that the "growth" resembles a spider web, the fact that it may be biological in nature, or the fact that (even after collecting a sample of the stuff) we still don't know what it is or where it came from.

We've already tried getting in touch with both the Savannah River Site as well as the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, but so far have been unable to speak with anybody to ask additional questions about the growth and where it's occurring specifically.

Could we be dealing with an unknown species of extremophile? It's possible — the Savannah River Site's storage facility (The L Area Complex mentioned above) stores spent nuclear waste in pools that are anywhere from 17-30 feet deep, and while that water is enough to protect the site's workers from radiation, the growth was reportedly found underwater on the submerged fuel assemblies themselves.

Having said that, we're still not clear on how much, if any, radiation this growth has actually been exposed to. Organisms with a natural resistance to radiation are said to be "radioresistant," and certainly do exist; Deinococcus radiodurans, for example (pictured right) is not only one of the most naturally radioresistant organisms on Earth, we've actually genetically engineered Deinococcus that can be used in the treatment of radioactive waste.

Source: i09

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Creepy Krampus: 10 Terrifying Images of Santa's Scary Alter Ego

Just two buds,...chillin'

Did you hear about the kerfuffle this weekend over the Travel Channel's decision not to air an animated short penned by Anthony Bourdain about Saint Nick's BFF, the child-eating demon Krampus?

Who is Krampus, you ask? Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you you'd be getting coal for the holidays instead of gifts if you were naughty. Well, Krampus is kind of like that, only way, way more terrifying.

In parts of Northern Europe, especially the Nordic countries, where the holiday traditions celebrate the real Saint Nicholas, many families also celebrate Krampusnacht during the first week of December. While Saint Nick gives gifts to the good kids, the demon Krampus hunts down the bad ones, stuffs them in a barrel and devours them for dinner. Remember, this is the same region that gave us stories like Hansel and Gretel.

The Bourdain cartoon, which harkens back to old Claymation Christmas classics like Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, was pulled from the Travel Channel just before No Reservations aired by network execs who found it a little too...vulgar. It's not that bad until about 1:45, when it gets oddly violent. See for yourself.

And you thought Santa was all elves and cuddly flying reindeer. Nope. Krampus has been haunting the sugarplum dreams of Alpine children for decades. In fact, most Krampus imagery comes from vintage postcards and trick photos. Here are ten haunting images, and a bonus video at the bottom, of the nightmare before Christmas. Why do you think Santa is an anagram for Satan, hmmm?




Notice how many of the naughty "kids" in these images are girls or women?

In Austria, people throw Krampus parties complete with creepy masks and costumes to remind kids to be good all year long. I would NOT want to see this after stumbling out of a bar at night.


This is some odd Japanese amalgam of Santa and Krampus combined, I guess?

And one more, a bonus video. Sweet dreams!