Tuesday 27 November 2012

Life drawing 26/11/2012

Eleven post in one month. Woo hoo! No wonder I've got a headache.

The search for Sandy Island continues

Recently, it was discovered (or undiscovered) that an island that had been included on maps for years did not exist. The story broke recently and even made it onto the BBC web site, and since then people have been trying to track down the history of this fictional island.

The blog at Auckland Museum has a chart that places its discovery in 1876 to a ship called Velocity, but the blog notes that the map came with a disclaimer warning readers of the accuracy of the positions of low-lying islands in that part of the ocean.

As a member of the army or armchair experts created by the internet, I set off on a voyage of discovery to find traces of this island for myself. It didn't take long to realise I was already walking in other people's footsteps as I found little new on the subject. I did, however, find on Google Books a volume dated 1851 that listed Sandy Island (New Caledonia) in its index.

So I was all excited that I'd found something that everyone else had missed, until I looked at the entry in closer detail. Unfortunately, this refers to a smaller Sandy Island which is much nearer the coast of New Caledonia and does, to my knowledge, really exist.

But, anyway, this is a beautiful story and it's a useful reminder that however important and established an authority may be on a subject, it doesn't hurt to check the basics.

Perhaps the fake Sandy Island kept itself in reference books simply by being in a place where no one would check, and by having a name identical to another island not so far away. You know, when I was growing up in Hertfordshire, I would sometimes see signs to a village called Ireland. I wished I'd checked if it was really there, and not some cartographer's quirk.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Psychic Archaeology in Egypt

Leading on from my post about psychics and archaeology, I now turn to an example where the psychics' knowledge of the subject in question is so limited that it can't be considered a potential source of information.

In 1978 Stephan Schwartz arranged for some remote viewers to concentrate on the bay of Alexandria, before sending a team of divers along to check their findings. The bay was chosen because, despite it's obvious importance in the history of Egypt, it had not been extensively investigated by archaeologists.

At first the remote viewers were sent a map of the area (with names and identifiers removed) and asked to indicate locations relating to history. The example they give in the paper concerns questions about Cleopatra, which makes me wonder why they removed the names and identifiers from the map if they're going to include such overt references to Egypt. It appears that the remote viewers are unaware of the nature of the search, since most of the locations marked are on dry land.

After this, two remote viewers were also taken to Egypt in order that more accurate viewings could be carried out. And lastly, a new set of remote viewing was done with all viewers using maps as before. It's worth noting that between the first and second map sessions, some fieldwork was completed (in the Spring of 1979).

In the paper, A Preliminary Survey Of The Eastern Harbor, Alexandria, Egypt Including a Comparison of Side Scan Sonar and Remote Viewing, the abstract explains the aims of the experiment: "The location of the ancientshore line; the location and predictive description of several sites including: the island ofAntirrhodus and the Emporium/Poseidium/Timonium complex; a palace complex associatedwith Cleopatra; and, a further elaboration, both in terms of location and predictive description, ofthe Pharos lighthouse area." And it goes on to conclude that:

"This paper describes the probable location of the Emporium, the Poseidium, and the Timonium, the palace complex of Cleopatra, the island of Antirrhodus, a site at the tip of Fort Sisila (known previously as Point Lochias), new discoveries pertaining to the lighthouse, and an associated temple. The most important discovery though is the identification and location of the ancient seawall which extends some 65 meters further out into the harbor than was previously suspected, and whose location resolves a key piece in the puzzle of the ancient city’s layout. The discoveries reported were principally the result of Remote Viewing."

Because the area has been much more thoroughly examined since the paper was written in 1980, I thought I'd take a look to see how well their conclusions stood up to subsequent research.

With regards to the location of the Timonium and the island of Antirrhodus, a site of a palace connected to Cleopatra, and the Poseidium the results aren't good. Overlaying Schwartz's map with a more recent one detailing the findings, one can see that the targets fall outside the areas indicated by the remote viewers (site 8). Another remote viewer placed Cleopatra's palace in site 9, which ran along the eastern shore of the harbour. Below two maps from Schwartz's paper and another archaeological site are overlaid. (It should be noted that a little adjusting needed to be done to make the harbour outlines in the two maps coincide.)

Remote viewing results overlaid with later archaeological findings

It could be said that some of the areas chosen were very close to the eventual findings, but it is probably useful at this point to compare the areas chosen in session one with session two (see below, areas highlighted). After the initial results from the first dive in area 4, the main attention seems to have switched over to that side of the Eastern Harbour, and the areas are much larger in size.

Session one, left. Session two, right.

Perhaps the one success was the ancient sea wall, but that was found in a circular area that went from the modern sea wall into the bay by about 120 metres. In the paper's abstract, Schwartz says that "the ancient seawall which extends some 65 meters further out into the harbor than was previously suspected" but does not give any reference for previous estimates of the position of the seawall.

Comparing the reports of subsequent underwater archaeology from the Eastern Harbour, I have grave doubts about Schwartz's assertion that they had found "the location of [...] the Emporium and the Timonium, Mark Antony’s palace in Alexandria, the Ptolemaic Palace Complex of Cleopatra" (Schwartz's own website, Nov 2012). Other data from the paper remain difficult to judge, since I've not been able to find any further papers on those topics.

The success of remote viewing as a tool of archaeology can perhaps best be illustrated by returning to the initial areas marked out by the remote viewers when they had the least amount of information about the targets. You can see many places circled on land and, of the four areas marked in the Eastern Harbour, only one returned any decent results.


Schwartz, S. "A Preliminary Survey Of The Eastern Harbor, Alexandria, Egypt Including A Comparison Of Side Scan Sonar And Remote Viewing"
Jean-Daniel Stanley, "Submergence and burial of ancient coastal sites on the subsiding Nile delta margin, Egypt",
Méditerranée [En ligne], 104 | 2005, mis en ligne le 02 février 2009, consulté le 10 octobre 2012. URL : http://

Wednesday 21 November 2012

No Wedding for the Dead

I've been writing a lot about Spiritualism recently, since I find these reports fascinating. Whenever possible, I try to avoid second or third hand reports written decades after the event, and stick to contemporary writings.

Nevertheless, I'm aware that I have to read any newspaper articles with half an eye on a journalist's desire to please his audience/make a good story. For example, I've seen the following story in several papers (and in a few websites too, proving that you can't keep a good story down).

The story, titled “Most Shocking Affair in Bordentown” (or in other papers recounting the same story “Married With A Corpse”) describes a Spiritualist ceremony in which a woman is wed to her recently deceased fiancée. The story explains how the young lady “acted at the grave like one really possessed with an evil spirit; she raved and flung herself into the grave and was with difficulty borne from the spot to the residence of the madman whom she regards as her father-in-law.” It adds that at the dinner afterwards, a place was set at the table for him.

However, a couple of months later, a letter appeared in the Daily News explaining that the event was entirely fictional. While there had been a deceased young man and a bereaved fiancée, there was no marriage, no boy medium, no raving and no meal. Just a simple funeral service. And it was a bit of luck that I found this article, since no other newspaper published anything like a retraction of the original story that I can find.

As the letter-writer, John Jones, says “it is a sad pity that the astounding phenomena of spirit manifestations, so general in America and not scarce in England, cannot be opposed by a keener weapon than that of "false witness against thy neighbour".” As it is, I am often doubtful of some of the more colourful descriptions of Spiritualist meetings published in newspapers of the day.

“Most Shocking Affair in Bordentown”, New York Times, August 9, 1856
“Married with a corpse”, Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, August 31, 1856
“Spiritualsim: to the editor of the Daily News”, Daily News (London, England), Tuesday, September 2, 1856

Monday 19 November 2012

Life drawing 19/11/2012

The thing about the eyes is if you get them wrong, the whole drawing is wrong. So I chickened out of doing them in the sketch above.

Spiritualist search for balloonist

In my random wanderings through newspaper archives, I recently saw a report about a missing balloonist whose body had recently been discovered, and it mentioned that spiritualists had also contributed to the search.

The story begins in the state of Michigan on the 16th of September 1858 when, during a Sunday School celebration, a hot-air balloon was being packed away after a successful flight, when it broke free and ascended into the air taking one of the pilots, Mr Thurston, with it.

“In this perfectly hapless condition, the ill-fated man sped straight into the sky in full sight of companions more helpless than himself. So far as is known, there was no possible means for him to secure his descent, whether safe or otherwise. The part of the balloon filled with gas was full twelve feet above him, so that there was no chance for him to cut its sides and allow the gas to escape. He could only cling to his precarious hold and go withsoever the currents of air should take him.”
New York Times, Thursday 23rd September 1858

Eyewitness accounts said it began by going south-east, but it was later seen over the town of Blissfield to the north-west, and later still in Catham much further north.

Riga (B), the point of ascent and Chatham (A), the last sighting of the balloon
Nothing more is seen of either the balloon or the balloonist, but in January 1859 a band of local Spiritualists set out from Riga under the guidance of the spirit of Mr Thurston. Their attempts at digging into marsh land was thwarted by the ice, but they drove a pole into the ground and recovered what was apparently human hair.

Their choice of swamp land is interesting because in November 1858 a news report explains that previous searches of swamps recovered two bodies, neither of which were Mr Thurston.

In the end, the body was discovered in March 1859, in a disused lot about a mile north of Sylvania. The state of the body was such that it was the clothing that gave away his identity, and he must've fallen quite soon after the balloon took off, and he ended up in quite the opposite direction that the Spiritualists predicted.

In the above map Riga is marked with a B (Blissfield is visible to its north-west) and A marks the approximate location where the Spritualists said that Thurston's body lay. The red cross marks the approximate location where the body of Mr Thurston was found.

“Terrible Adventure of an Aeronaut”, New York Times, Thursday September 23, 1858
“The Lost Aeronaut of Canada”, Liverpool Mercury, Saturday, November 13, 1858
“Spiritualist search for a lost Balloonist”, Cheshire Observer and General Advertiser, Saturday, January 15, 1859
“Lost balloonist discovered”, Manchester Times, Saturday, April 2, 1859

Friday 16 November 2012

Prediction of the fate of John Franklin 1855

Leading on from my last post about a psychic prediction regarding John Franklin, I have found another example from the pages of Scientific American.

John Franklin was an explorer searching for the North West Passage in the Canadian Arctic, but had not been seen since 1845. In the issue of Scientific American dated 28th August 1855 is a letter from someone who witnessed a seance on the 23rd June concerning the fates of John Franklin and Dr Kane, whose own expedition to the Arctic had gone missing two years previously.

"Sir John Franklin is not in the Spiritual world, he still lives upon the earth with seven more of his original party [...] Dr Kane has lost about thirty of his men and is at present near Sir John Franklin."

In a further session, the psychic describes a terrible storm and informs us that John Franklin and Dr Kane are within site of each other. The Scientific American points out that Dr Kane set out with a crew of twelve and concludes "After losing thirteen more men than comprised the whole expedition, according to the spiritual letter, it is really refreshing to find that Dr Kane has still some more left."

The article further adds that the New Spiritualist journal records a communication dated the 30th June that states that Dr Kane has recently passed away, while John Franklin remains alive.

In the issue dated 20th October 1855, the Scientific American ran an article that describes Dr Kane's return from the Artic, and it ends with "In connection with this gratifying announcement of Dr Kane's return we will make a dash at that superlative humbug of the 19th century called "Spiritualism"," and it reminds its readers of the previous article describing the sad loss of Dr Kane.

Note: The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research vol 7, p.51 includes a paragraph which also describes a psychic attempt to locate John Franklin. Apparently, this account was published in the Aberdeen Herald on May 18th 1850, but I do not have access to that paper to check for myself. The excerpt reads:

"On the evening of April 22nd I put John Park, tailor, aged 22, into a state of clairvoyance, in presence of twelve respectable inhabitants of this town. ' (Here follows a description of certain statements regarding the fate of J Franklin's expedition and the ships Erebus and Terror, which the light of information subsequently received proved to have been inaccurate.) 'He {the clairvoyant) then visited Old Greenland, as was desired, and having gone on board the Hamilton Ross, a whale-ship belonging to this port, saw David Cardno, second mate, getting his hand bandaged up by the doctor in the cabin, having got it injured while sealing. He was then told by the captain that they had upwards of 100 tons of oil. I again, on the evening of the 23rd, put him into a clairvoyant state.' (Here follow some further particulars regarding Sir John Franklin's expedition, which also are proved to have been inaccurate.) Ί again directed him to Old Greenland, and he again visited the Hamilton Ross, and found Captain Gray, of the Eclipse, conversing with the captain about the seal fishing being up."
(Signed) 'WILLIAM REID.' "

Scientific American, "Sir John Franklin and Dr Kane - A Spiritual Communication", 28th August 1855
Scientific American, "Return of the Kane Artcic Expeditions", 20th October 1855
Sidgwick, H., "On the Evidence for Clairvoyance", The Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research vol 7, 1891-92, p.51

Monday 12 November 2012

The Gate of Remembrance

Further to my blog entry about subconsciously remembering, this may be another (slightly more famous) example.

In 1907 the current owner of the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey sold the land in an auction. The eventual winner was Mr Jardine, a Conservative MP, who planned to sell it on to the Church of England once they had raised the money (which they couldn't possibly have done in time for the auction).

Until that time, it had passed from owner to owner with varying amounts of care lavished upon it. Despite it's high standing in English culture, the ruins had not always been carefully preserved. A letter in the 1794 volume of The Gentleman's Magazine complains that stone from the ruins was being taken in order to repair the roads.

Once Mr Jardine had completed the purchase and it looked like only a matter of time before it passed into the hands of the CoE, a new series of archaeological digs was arranged for the site, and the architect Frederick Bligh Bond was put in charge. It was, by all accounts, very successful and in the Times in 1912 they list the findings of the dig.

What was most impressive were the discoveries of three chapels: Edgar's, Dunstan's and the Loretto Chapel (discovered in 1919, so not listed above) whose locations had eluded antiquarians until that date.

In 1919, just as the first traces of the Loretto Chapel had recently come to light, Frederick Bligh Bond held a public lecture in which he confirmed that the source of his information came from a series of psychic experiments, as detailed in his 1918 publication “The Gates of Remembrance” which describes a series of communications with deceased monks who'd lived in the Abbey. In these seances, he was assisted by Mr Bartlett, and their chosen method of communication was automatic writing. In this, the receiver holds a pen lightly on a piece of paper and, in a trance-like state, writes down messages from the departed.

But Messers Bond and Bartlett had both fully researched the history of Glastonbury Abbey, and H.J. Wilkins puts forth the theory that their communications were the result of subconsciously extrapolating guesses and theories based on the information they already knew. Wilkin's points out several obvious clues in previous texts placing the Edgar Chapel at the East end of the Abbey, which is where it was found.

Even the Loretto Chapel, which was barely mentioned in previous literature and is in some ways Bond's most impressive finding, was found in a place illustrated in an old sketch (and also the gardener of the Abbey grounds swore that a previous owner had taken stonework from the ground in that area for building work). Additionally, the spirits only suggested digging in this area after extensive digging along the whole north wall had found nothing. Basically, they said to look in the one place Bond hadn't looked yet.

Given the extensive research that both men had undertaken, and considering the fact that the psychic communications continued after the dig had begun and findings were coming to light, I do wonder if their knowledge of the subject matter was being subconsciously fed back to them through the medium (pardon the pun) of automatic writing.

Gentleman's Magazine, 1794, p305
"Glastonbury Abbey", The Times (London, England), Friday, Nov 22, 1912; pg. 10
Wilkins, H.J., “A Further Criticism of the Psychical Claims concerning Glastonbury Abbey and of the Recent Excavations”, J.W.Arrowsmith Ltd, Bristol, 1923
Bond, F.B., “The Gate of Remembrance”, B.H.Blackwell, Oxford, 1918

Life Drawing 12/11/12

Today was a good day.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Friday 2 November 2012

A nice case of subconscious recall

During my holiday in Japan, I've been watching the Japan Series of baseball, where the winners of the two baseball leagues compete in a number of World Series style matches. This year it's between the Yomiuri Giants and the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

I've always liked baseball, ever since I was able to piece together the rules from reading and rereading Peanuts comic strips, but this was the first time I've been able to watch entire games of baseball on TV. My previous knowledge of the actual game was little more than being able to recall a few team names, and that's it. The only baseball players whose names I recognise are Babe Ruth, Joe diMaggio and Joe Shlabotnik, the fictional player who was Charlie Brown's hero.

But one night I dreamt I was talking to a couple of Americans (one of who was John Goodman, by the way) about baseball and they said that the Giants had won the series, no problems, and the other guys never even got close. I said that the series was still going on and that the Fighters had actually won the last game to bring the series to 2-1 (which, at the time, was true).

They started getting very sarcastic, saying I knew nothing and should shut up about baseball and I started to get angry that they were offended by being corrected by an Englishman on their national sport.

Then I woke up and thought, I should've asked if they meant the World Series. I had seen, on the BBC, a headline "San Francisco win World Series"but I hadn't clicked through to the story. I had to check, so I went online, read the story and, sure enough, it was the San Francisco Giants who'd won the World Series (but the score was 4-3, so the other guys did get close).

Well, I was quite impressed with myself. Either I had already known that, somewhere deep inside my brain, or I had overheard a news story/conversation recently (which would've been in Japanese) which had sunk into my sub-consciousness.

Anyway, I wish I could go back to John Goodman and explain the confusion. I'm sure he'd see the funny side.