Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Krampus

Growing up with the Macy's Department Store idea of Santa Claus, here in the United States many of us have no idea of the variety of folk traditions that were both synthesized and sanitized to create the ubiquitous American icon.

For example, in Austria one of these is the story of Krampus. See, in the old Austrian tradition Saint Nicholas still delivers gifts to good children during the Christmas season, but he is accompanied by the demon-like Krampus who delivers far worse punishments to bad children than a lump of coal in the stocking.

In some towns gangs of young men will dress up as Krampus and roam the streets hitting people with birch branches. Just imagine doing that in an American department store!

Happy holidays, everyone, and don't let Krampus get you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Poltergeist Haunts Former Police Station

The word "poltergeist" means "noisy spirit" in German, but there is a common belief among paranormal researchers that most poltergeists are not spirits at all, but rather the result of latent psychic powers. As evidence, researchers point out that a disproportionate number of these cases involve teenagers who are under some sort of extreme stress and that the activity seems to center on those particular individuals. In such cases once the stress drops down to a more normal level the activity usually ends.

This latest report from Pemberton Wigan, just outside Manchester in the United Kingdom, seems to have the right sort of activity to be classified as a poltergeist, but is atypical in that no troubled teen is present and the activity seems centered on a building rather than a person.

Terrified mother Holly Taylor is calling in an exorcist after fearing she is sharing her home with a poltergeist.

The 22-year-old student midwife and her two-year-old daughter, Willow, refuse to sleep at their home after a series of spooky happenings.

Plates have flown off shelves and smashed on the floor, ornaments have moved while they are out, the flat’s lights have been switched on after they have gone to bed and the front door has been opened despite Holly having the only key.

At 22, Taylor is too old to fit the usual pattern, and at 2, her daughter is far too young. Furthermore, the activity does not seem to have followed the two to any other location. The fact is that I've always been a little suspicious of the "psychic powers" explanation. If those powers are so easy to access that they can be used in an uncontrolled manner without any volition at all, why is it that so few trained magicians can do anything even similar? The explanation may simply be that spirits can haunt people as well as places, and that environmental stress may act as a catalyst for this sort of haunting.

According to the history surrounding Taylor's home, built on the site of a former police station, there is some reason to think that a spirit may have haunted the place for years, starting long before the private residence was built there. Some officers who worked at the station also reported paranormal activity.

An officer who used to work there today confirmed the station was notorious for unexplained footsteps and doors banging, and that the culprit was believed to be the ghost of an inspector who hanged himself in a cell.

Remodeling a structure is thought by paranormal investigators to stir up and intensify activity, and it makes sense to think that if a spirit were to survive the demolition of the building that it inhabits the result could be similar to what Taylor has experienced. Hopefully the exorcism will succeed in driving out the spirit, but if it fails maybe a magician should have a go at it.