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Are you afraid of ghosts and monsters? How about aliens flying down in their spacecraft to kidnap you from your bedroom at night?  Do you worry that the government is listening in on your private conversations ready to charge you with dissent and treason? Or that the Men-In-Black are waiting for you just around the corner? Well never fear - Conspiracy Journal is Here!  Yes that's right. Conspiracy Journal, your number one source of conspiracies, UFOs, the paranormal and more, is here once again to protect you from THEM, by keeping you informed on all the news and information that you won't hear on your local 6 o'clock news or read in your hometown newspaper.


This week Conspiracy Journal brings you such paranoia-producing stories as:

Did Russia Help Get Trump Elected? -  
 -  Exploring Mexico’s Zone of Silence -
Was There More Than One Christ? -
AND: Naples "Miracle Chair" Draws Childless Couples

All these exciting stories and MORE in this week's issue of
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- TRUE: NOT A THEORY DEPARTMENT -

Did Russia Help Get Trump Elected?

By Zack Beauchamp

There is basically conclusive evidence that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, and that this interference was designed to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Interfax is reporting that the Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has stated that the Russian government was in contact with the Trump campaign throughout the election.  There is also strong evidence linking Trump’s foreign policy advisers to Russia, and Trump’s stated policy ideas are extremely favorable to Russian interests.

You don’t need to construct poorly evidenced conspiracy theories to explain this. There is a confluence of interests between the Kremlin and Donald Trump, and they are, in effect, helping each other. Russia’s role in the election is plenty worrying without positing any Manchurian Candidate plots. Here’s why.

There used to be some doubt as to whether Russia was behind the hacking of various people and organizations close to Hillary Clinton and the dump of their private emails to WikiLeaks.

No longer. The evidence that Russia is behind the two most significant hacks, of the Democratic National Committee and top Clinton aide John Podesta, is beyond any reasonable doubt.

The hacker who claims to be behind the DNC hack, Guccifer 2.0, is quite clearly a Russian cutout. His name is a reference to Marcel Lazar Lehel — a now-jailed Romanian hacker who famously claimed to have hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Lehel’s nom de plume was, you guessed it, Guccifer.

So what’s the evidence he’s a Russian cutout? For one thing, Guccifer 2.0 doesn’t actually appear to speak Romanian. Vice’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai interviewed him, mostly in English but with a few Romanian questions peppered in. Guccifer tried to dodge chatting in his allegedly native language, and, per Franceschi-Bicchierai, "the few short sentences he sent in Romanian were filled with mistakes."

For another, three cybersecurity firms investigated the hack and found direct evidence that two Russian-linked hacking groups, Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, did the DNC hack.

Perhaps most compellingly, they found that the malware infecting the DNC used an IP address that had previously been used in a hack targeting the German parliament. The German hack was — you guessed it — linked to Russian intelligence. It’s very unlikely that some other hacking group would use such similar code.

The bigger picture here is that Russia under Putin has something of a habit of using information as a weapon in foreign countries. Russian strategic leaders have come to see the internal politics of other countries as a key battlefield. Controlling the information and propaganda environment can inflict serious blows on one’s enemies.

That’s exactly what Russia was doing when it handed over information to WikiLeaks. When you hand stolen information that’s damaging to Hillary Clinton to a radical transparency group that detests Hillary Clinton (mostly because of her relatively hawkish foreign policy), the result is eminently predictable: That information will be published online for the entire world to see.

The disclosures bring to light information that makes it seem like the American democratic process is fundamentally illegitimate. Some of the emails usually show normal behind-the-scenes maneuvering and activity that just looks shady because it happened in private.

Others show shadier stuff, like Democratic National Committee staffers discussing plans to undermine the Bernie Sanders campaign.

The result of either kind of leak, shady-seeming normal activity or actual malfeasance, is embarrassing to the United States and weakens the next likely president (Hillary Clinton) even before she takes office.

So it’s not just that the hack looks traceable back to Russian hackers. It’s that the strategic effect of the leak — releasing information that breeds infighting among American political factions — fits squarely within Russian strategic doctrine.

As the evidence suggesting Russia is behind the leak and the hack mounted, a number of theories cropped up as to why, exactly, Putin would do this. What’s the ultimate endgame of attacking Clinton?

Well, here’s the Occam’s razor explanation: Nothing Russia could do, on its own, would help its foreign policy more than what Trump is proposing. He is literally suggesting the United States transform global politics to make it more favorable to Russian interests.

Trump’s approach to American allies, specifically the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, is the biggest reason. Traditionally, American parties have seen its alliance commitments, NATO in particular, as ironclad guarantees — the core part of America’s global strategy.

Trump doesn’t agree. He thinks that alliances are only useful as tools for extracting money. The US is the strongest power in the world, Trump reasons — why protect tiny NATO allies like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania if they don’t pay up? At the very least, Trump has said, they should spend more on their own defense if they want to expect American protection.

If Trump put his ideas into practice and actually renounced commitments that didn’t do what he wanted, it would destroy NATO. The alliance depends entirely on an ironclad guarantee on behalf of all allies to defend any one of them — that is literally what it does. If the US won’t do that, then NATO is effectively dead.

This is music to Putin’s ears. He sees the NATO alliance (correctly!) as a major bulwark against Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe, and would be thrilled if it fractured. That would make it far easier to install friendly dictators in small nearby countries, like Estonia, or even annex them entirely.

A Trump victory, then, seems like it might allow Putin to fulfill his fundamental foreign policy goal — reviving Russia’s Soviet-era influence over its region — to a degree previously thought impossible.

Trump seems totally oblivious to the fact that he would be throwing US allies under the bus — and, in fact, oblivious to Putin’s hostility toward the United States entirely.

For example, he has effusively praised Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria: "What’s wrong with Russia bombing the hell out of ISIS and these other crazies so we don’t have to spend a million dollars a bomb?" Never mind that Russian bombs have targeted the relatively moderate opposition more than ISIS, and that the point is to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad rather than defeat ISIS.

Trump sees Russia as more of a partner than an adversary — mostly because he doesn’t seem to care about the independence of Eastern Europe or Syria’s freedom from dictatorship.

All Trump cares about, instead, is getting more money for the United States, as he’s said: "My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. … But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money." His theories for how to do that — like spending less on alliances and other foreign commitments — line up exactly with a series of Russian foreign policy objectives.

Moreover, Trump seems to admire Putin personally. "I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he's getting an 'A' and our president is not doing so well," Trump said during the NBC Commander-in-Chief Forum in September.

What it all boils down to is that there has never been a major party candidate in the modern era more friendly to a Russian dictator’s interests than President-elect Donald Trump.

Given the power of the US presidency, Trump could go beyond merely altering American foreign policy. If he’s really serious about it, he could alter the very fundamental fabric of global politics, weakening core institutions like NATO that Russia hates. Hillary Clinton, a solid establishmentarian who’s hated by Russia, would do nothing of the kind.

Those are some pretty high stakes.

Source: Vox
http://www.vox.com/world/2016/11/1/13487322/donald-trump-russia-agent-hack
- MEXICAN "BERMUDA TRIANGLE" DEPARTMENT -

Exploring Mexico’s Zone of Silence
By T.E. Wilson

There’s an area in the Chihuahuan desert in northern Mexico where radio signals don’t work, and compasses spin out of control when placed near stones on the ground. It’s called the Zone of Silence. It measures only 50 kilometers across, and it is located in the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve, a huge, mostly uninhabited expanse of almost 400,000 hectares, where the flat and desolate terrain is interspersed with lonely mountain outcrops.

“The Zone is my passion,” Benjamin Palacios says as we bounce through the area in his 4-wheel drive Suburban, surrounded by mesquite, cactus, and guamis—brilliant yellow flowers resembling buttercups. Palacios, 61, grew up in the village of Escalón, Chihuahua, on the edge of the Zone, and now has his own UFO-themed ranch on the area’s periphery.

As we head into the heart of the Zone, Palacios, a charismatic man with a deep tan and a full beard, veers his truck onto a desert track. Back on the main road, only a few miles away, the radio came in loud and clear. Now, he hits ‘search’ and it endlessly scans. No signal.

The disruption is believed to be caused by subterranean deposits of magnetite, as well as debris from meteorites. The Zone’s overall effects (and even its location) are disputed, but there’s no doubt that the area, which sits on the borders of the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila, has an abundance of celestial activity—including, some say, visits from UFOs and extraterrestrials. 

Throughout the 20th century large meteorites landed in southern Chihuahua near the Zone, with two even falling on the same ranch—one in 1938, and another in 1954. A third fell in 1969 in the Allende Valley, just to the west. “It woke me, and I saw the firmament alight,” Palacios says of that meteorite. “People for miles saw the light and heard the tremendous noise, which broke windows. It attracted the attention of scientists from around the world.”

The name Zone of Silence was not given until 1966 when Pemex, the national oil company, sent an expedition to explore the area. The leader, Augusto Harry de la Peña, was frustrated by the problems he was having with his radio. He christened it the Zone of Silence.

This turned the area into something of a curiosity. However, on July, 11, 1970, the Zone made headlines. That was when an Athena rocket was launched from a U.S. air force base in Green River, Utah, as part of a scientific mission to study the upper atmosphere. The rocket was supposed to come down near White Sands, New Mexico. Instead, it went wildly astray and, at two in the morning, crashed in the heart of the Zone of Silence.

The Zone was now—if only briefly—in the international spotlight, and some locals saw a tourism opportunity. Wernher Von Braun, the famous Nazi rocket scientist who helped the Americans build their space program, came to investigate on behalf of the U.S. He was greeted at the train station by Palacios’ father, who was then the mayor of Escalón. Von Braun took reconnaissance flights in a Cessna to confirm the crash site. With the aid of 300 Mexican workers, a 16 kilometer rail spur was built across the desert to the impact crater. A team of Americans then came and excavated.

“Von Braun was here for 28 days after the crash,” says Palacios during our extended tour of the area. “The Americans brought temporary dormitories, labs, kitchens, medical facilities, and set them up right here in the desert. They even built a runway to transport cargo directly to Houston. By rail, they hauled away tons of debris.”

It’s all gone now. There is no evidence of the five-story, seven-ton rocket, of the impact crater, of the rail spur, or of any of the structures. However, the rocket crash sparked interest in the area, and a few years later the Mexican government created the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve. The reserve has a research station, and hosts scientists from around the world, many of whom are biologists attracted to the unusual flora and fauna–including North America’s largest land reptile, the threatened Gopherus tortoise.

A larger area extending to the northeast is part of a bolsón, a depression in the desert which, due to the thickness of the soil, retains moisture. At one time, millions of years ago, the Zone was under the Sea of Thetys, the remnants of which can be seen in fossilized sea shells and vast salt deposits. Today, the salt is mined by laborers with shovels and wheelbarrows. It is difficult terrain, and not an area where outsiders should venture alone.

“We can’t go in that direction,” says Palacios, pointing to Tetas de Juana, twin peaks that shoot directly from the desert floor—and behind which the two large Chupadero meteorites fell. “It is riddled with old mine shafts, and there has been some moisture, which can make for hard driving.”

For generations, stories have abounded from in and around the Zone of encounters with strange beings, unusual lights in the sky, and an over-abundance of meteor showers. These usually come from people living on remote ranches, or outsiders who have gotten lost in the desert. People have seen fireballs in the sky and, at times, flames rolling down the sides of mountains like massive, ignited tumbleweeds.

“There are lots of stories of aliens and unidentified flying objects in the Zone,” says Geraldo Rivera, a bespectacled state bureaucrat who is also Chihuahua’s most devoted UFO investigator. “People often get lost in the Zone. When this happens, sometimes tall blond beings appear out of nowhere.”

Those who claim to have encountered the tall, fair haired aliens, say that the individuals speak perfect Spanish, ask only for water, and disappear without so much as a footprint. When asked where they come from, the beings—known as Nordics—say only, “Above”.

Even Benjamin Palacios has a story. “I was 12 years old when a light appeared from above, and completely encircled us,” he says. “I was traveling with my brother in the Zone. We didn’t know what was happening. When we got to back to the ranch, we realized we had lost two hours.”

Palacios’ dream is to capitalize on the supernatural intrigues and turn the Zone of Silence into a “tourist Mecca, with people staying at my ranch, and taking guided tours.” At one time, the area attracted hordes of curious “zoneros” seeking aliens and paranormal experiences, but few tourists come to this part of Mexico now, largely due to the deteriorating security situation. If they ever come back, “I want to build eight small cabanas, each named after a planet in the solar system,” he says. 

It might happen. The area has under-explored delights, such as a hacienda abandoned over a century ago, during the tumult of the Mexican revolution, and thermal springs tucked into a cave. This is a starkly beautiful and compelling part of the world, but it is remote: Escalón has under 1,000 inhabitants, and Ceballos has just over 3,000. Their populations diminished as passenger rail service was abandoned and young people moved to the city or the U.S. Other than a few ranches, the desert itself is essentially empty.

Nonetheless, boosters like Palacios carry on, eager to recount stories of the Zone’s unusual properties. These include abnormally large flora and fauna and, according to Palacios, salutary properties—he tells me that he has never been sick, and this, he believes, is because of the Zone.

“The Zone has been good to our family,” says his wife, Cha Cha Palacios, as we move through the waning light. “Our daughter Alejandra and her husband could not have children. They tried everything, went to all the doctors. Then they came to the Zone, and conceived. Two years later, they returned, and conceived again.”

Is it true? It hardly seems to matter as we trundle across the flat terrain, the sun setting to the west and the moon, directly opposite, rising over a distant mountain range. Out here in the desert the world feels different. It is as if we are on a fulcrum, the earth tilting, with an orange fireball raising a metallic saucer in a quiet, celestial see-saw.

Source: Atlas Obscura
http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/exploring-mexicos-zone-of-silence-where-radio
-signals-fail-and-meteorites-crash

- RELEASE THE DEMOGORGON DEPARTMENT -

Leaked DOE Emails Discuss Human Testing, Parallel Universes
By Brett Tingley

Netflix’s original retro-themed sci-fi series Stranger Things has become a full-on cultural phenomenon. The show’s child-aged characters were a popular choice of Halloween costume this year and fans have taken to the Internet with fan fiction, speculations, and meticulous citations of the show’s numerous references to 1980’s horror and sci-fi films, secret CIA experiments, and urban legends. To make the show even more intriguing, a series of leaked emails from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) that the show’s references to top-secret backroom government experiments might be closer to reality than previously thought.

The emails surfaced after Paul Lester, a digital content creator for the DOE, published a blog post discussing how close Stranger Things to depicting actual DOE experiments and technologies. Lester, perhaps at the behest of his superiors, claimed the show’s portrayal of DOE research was nowhere close to reality:

    And while I really enjoyed “Stranger Things” as a mashup of Goonies and X-Files with some amazing 80s music mixed in, the show’s portrayal of the Energy Department was a little less than accurate.

Lester detailed several bullet points in the post including claims that the DOE doesn’t “mess with monsters” or “explore parallel universes.” However, Washington Free Beacon journalist Lachlan Markay used a Freedom of Information Act request to access DOE internal communications – heavily redacted, naturally – that show Lester might have been less than truthful, or at least less than fully informed. According to Markay’s Free Beacon article on the DOE documents, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz states in one of the emails that the DOE does in fact research parallel universes:

    It’s not true that ‘the Energy Department doesn’t explore parallel universe. We support theoretical physicists/cosmologists through the Office of Science High Energy Physics program, some of whom almost certainly are doing a fair amount of research on parallel universes.

In another leaked email, DOE speechwriter John Larue tells the DOE blog author Paul Lester that the DOE and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) have been up to some seriously spooky stuff over the years:

    Also, human experiments: there is some really eyebrow-raising stuff in the history of the atomic energy commission, in which yes, the AEC did do human experiments, or participated with the military (example: soldiers were in trenches near some nuclear tests). Not sure when these ended.

No word on transdimensional monsters yet, though. However, these emails are similar to the recently-leaked WikiLeaks emails that show high-ranking government figures seemingly talking around the fact that they know a lot more about some of the mysteries of the universe than they let on.

Source: Mysterious Universe
http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2016/11/leaked-doe-emails-discuss-human-testing
-parallel-universes/

- HISTORY'S MYSTERIES DEPARTMENT -

Was There More Than One Christ?
By Brian Allan

The linen winding sheet that is the Turin Shroud bears the faint image of a man (both front and back) said to be Jesus Christ and was allegedly used to wrap His body when, after His eventual death on the hill of Calvary, he was washed and laid out in the nearby unoccupied tomb of His uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. The fourteen-foot long piece of new linen cloth was all that remained after his body was found to have mysteriously vanished from the tomb. The morning after his burial, his mother, Mary, and Mary Magdalene went to visit the tomb and found the rock covering the entrance had already been rolled back, and a stranger, who was present in the tomb, told the two women that Christ had returned to God his father.

The women claimed that the stranger was an angel. Whether or not this is true is almost secondary to the existence of the Shroud, it is however a rather neat way to tidy up any loose ends and is one sure way to explain the disappearance of the body. It also created a precedent for notions such as the already mentioned 'Rapture', when true believers and evangelical Christians will be whisked off their feet and lifted bodily into heaven, or possibly even a spaceship Among the many suggestions made is that, the dualist belief aside, Christ did not die on the cross and made his escape with the assistance of friends and the burial was a ruse, or, he did die and the body was simply removed elsewhere.

The reason for its removal would have been entirely pragmatic from the Roman perspective, because as long as the body was accessible then it might be used to foment further unrest. It was for similar reasons that the bodies of Adolph Hitler and also Eva Peron were never allowed to fall into the hands of sympathisers. It has, however, been argued that the story of Jesus' burial is entirely fictitious, because, as a rule, the Romans denied anyone who had been crucified the dignity of a decent and dignified burial. Since crucifixion was, after all, their most severe form of execution reserved for the worst offenders they considered that anyone whose behaviour had, in their view, merited such a punishment did not deserve any respect at all. As a result of this, bodies removed from the cross were normally thrown into a mass grave or pit. If Jesus did escape this fate, then it indicates that either his supporters wielded considerable influence, or he was not dead.

The winding sheet itself first appeared in the public domain when, in 1347, it was displayed in a church in the town of Liray in France. The Shroud had previously been in the charge of the de-Charney family, although there is no explanation of how it came into their possession. Due to the nature of this relic it might be more appropriate to refer to those who possess this artefact as its guardians rather its than owners, this may become relevant as we consider some of the possibilities. A few months after its initial exposition, the bishop of Troyes unequivocally declared it to be a painting and obviously a fake and ordered its destruction. However, for some reason the shroud was not destroyed and stayed hidden with the de-Charney family until circa 1453 when it came under the protection of the Savoy family after being sold, or perhaps bartered would be a better term, for two castles from Duke Louis of Savoy, who, interestingly, was the son of Pope Felix V.

The Savoy's, who still actually retain the legal stewardship/ownership of the shroud, after some consultations and negotiations decided to have it kept in the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Turin where it lies in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud. As most people will be well aware this piece of fabric bears a unique image, both back and front, of the body that it covered, the image is assumed to be that of Jesus Christ. It should be made clear that religions, all religions, like nothing better that relics of their key figures for the purely pragmatic reason that it strengthens belief, and there is no more important a figurehead for Christianity than Jesus Christ.

On the other hand we should keep in mind that at the time when the shroud first appeared superstition was rife and there was a huge and lucrative market in relics and if there was no solid evidence of Christ, then any sliver of wood from the Middle East could be declared as a piece of the 'true cross', or a strand of bramble a part of the crown of thorns. Other than that, and of course multitudes of biblical texts, there is absolutely no remaining physical proof that he ever existed. From this basis it is obvious why the Church should now view the shroud as such a vital element in the canon of evidence offered for public consumption.

Due to the nature of this artefact, proof of its authenticity is vital and there have been no shortage of individuals and organisations eager to, by turns, either prove or disprove its validity. There have been many competing theories and techniques employed in this process, each one making claim and counterclaim as to the authenticity of the cloth and in particular the identity of the image. The tests include microscopic inspection of the cloth, carbon dating and possible DNA profiling of the blood flows from the crucifixion wounds left on the cloth.

Some claim that it is indeed that of the crucified Christ, somehow miraculously imprinted on the virgin material, others aver that it is, in fact, nothing else but a photographic image of Leonardo da Vinci, citing the fact that there is a clear demarcation between the head and the body, then demonstrating that the face is identical to that of certain portraits of Leonardo. I have actually been privileged to witness this technique demonstrated using computers and 'morphing' technology, the match between Leonardo's face and the shroud image is startling. We shall return to the physical appearance of Christ and the issues this raised later.

Although the carbon 14 dating technique employed in 1989 established that the shroud dates from around 1260 to 1380, evidence from the pro-shroud camp has since emerged stating that these tests were flawed and conducted on sections of the shroud that had been repaired in 1534 using material from that era. Although feasible, it sees unlikely that those who took the samples should have done this since they must have been well aware that the repaired sections were of a different date. The only way that this could have happened was if those supervising the removal of the samples had an agenda and wanted it to happen. It is certain that those who are convinced of the shroud's authenticity would have ensured that the main body of the material was sampled.

The image itself has to be contentious since, as we have seen earlier, no one knows with any degree of certainty what Christ actually looked like and the face on The Veil of Veronica looks nothing like the face on the shroud. In fact recent forensic tests using cutting edge techniques which compare points on the eye sockets, nose and lips, indicated that the faces are not of representations of the same person. What is however of supreme importance is how the image on the shroud was produced, and if, as has been suggested in some quarters, the image was produced by a burst of 'radiation', then we are bordering on the edge of a highly advanced technology. Where it becomes problematic is whether this technology was science based or 'miraculous', because in some cases there is no difference except, as always, in the context.

If the image was formed by a mysterious surge of radiation where did it come from? Did it appear due to some miraculous/magical act orchestrated and initiated by God? Because if it did, then if we could determine the source and kind of radiation it was then we are indeed on the way to unravelling at least some of the secrets of the universe, we may even be able to catch a glimpse into God's laboratory. If on the other hand the radiation was not from God, but from a much more earthly, but still remarkable source, then who might have been behind it?

The Knights Templar have been suggested as a possibility and certainly had the money, resources, knowledge and ambition to carry out such a project, but would they have had the patience? We have already seen how modern forensic techniques were used to compare two images ostensibly showing the face of Jesus, but the technology does not stop there. Using computer scanning and imaging techniques a complete three-dimensional image had been created showing a life-like reproduction of the shroud image. So far this is confined to the memory banks of a computer, but it would not be difficult to create a full sized life model of the body.

This, however, brings us back to the physical appearance of Jesus and how he is typically presented to the public both by implication, painted representations and in films and television. He has been portrayed as tall, Aryan, blue eyed, slender, sometimes fair-haired, sometimes dark-haired, but always as physically appealing. In fact there is almost no direct reference to either his stature or his facial appearance. What we do have is an account by the early historian, Josephus Flavius, who was born in 37 AD four years after the crucifixion, and whose version of the life of Christ may be more unbiased than later Christian writers, who, for obvious reasons, would have added their own 'spin' to events. From this it is easy to see that the modern machinations of political spin-doctors an ancient art. According to Josephus, Jesus was long faced, had connate (joined) eyebrows and was 'crooked' i.e. he was a hunchback, and had 'goodly eyes', whatever that means.

This information came from an official document called the 'Acta Pilata' recording the trial of Jesus. The name of this document appears to infer that it gives an account of actions sanctioned by local governor, Pilate, which is typical of the thoroughness of the Roman civil service in keeping records and it was also a trait shared by the Nazi Party during the Second World War. Other accounts of the time add that, not surprisingly since he was of Semitic stock, Jesus had dark skin, was quite small, had his hair in a centre parting, which was a style favoured by the Nazirites, and had sparse beard.

To make matters even more confusing, according to Talmudic sources he was also known as Baalam the Lame. As you can see this is a far cry from the acceptable figure that popular and ecclesiastical culture both portrays and accepts as the norm. In itself this is not surprising since any portrayal of the Son of God would have to be a prefect specimen of humanity, while at the same time being superhuman. When one compares this description with what is depicted on the Shroud and the Veronica, although there are obviously a few similarities it is simply not the same person.

The Challengers of Christ

Before proceeding further we should pause to briefly examine the reasons for the promotion of the divinity of Christ, because he was not the first, or indeed only claimant for the role as the Jewish messiah. The use of the term, 'Messiah' derives from the Hebrew word, 'mashiah', which simply means 'anointed'; King David was a messiah as indeed was King Solomon. The use of the word was not merely confined to divine beings or Sons of God, although since the church and state were in fact one, then the ruler was a priest-king who carried out Gods laws on Earth.

Towards the end of Christ's ministry there was another leader who rose to lead the Jews against the rule of Rome, however this man did so in a much more robust fashion; his name was Simon bar Kochba. Bar Kochba, the name in Hebrew (????? ?? ?????) means Son of the Star who, like Jesus, was of the royal House of David, took arms to some effect against the occupying Roman army to the point where he and his followers were driven out of Judea. The population hailed him as a Messiah and treated him as a leader. Although bar Kochba was also hailed as 'Prince of Israel' he was also seen as a direct threat to the fledgling church founded by the followers of Christ.

However, like Jesus, bar Kochba also came to a sad end and was killed along with his followers in a final showdown with the Roman army in AD135. He was the antithesis of Christ in that Jesus was the epitome of peace, or a least that is how he is portrayed, and bar Kochba was a warrior. Is it possible that if taken at face value then bar Kochba could be described as an 'Anti-Christ', since, strictly speaking, as we have already seen with what constitutes an Anti-Pope, anyone who either defies, denies or denounces the teachings of Christ is also by definition an Anti-Christ.

It is also something of a shock to realise that although Christianity is a huge religion founded on the teachings of Jesus, his death attracted little or no attention outside Israel where it went largely unreported. The same is not true of Simon bar Kochba whose guerrilla attacks on the occupying Roman garrison in Judea lead to their eventual withdrawal and created sufficient furore outside the Holy Land to require that an army be sent to remove the threat. Although he is remembered for that he is not honoured as a spiritual saviour, why should this be?

As the teachings of Christ continued to thrive in spite of continued suppression by the Romans, the emperor Constantine eventually came to accept their validity and when the basis for the articles of Christian belief was finally set, began to suppress other competing beliefs such as those of Simon Magus, Mithras and Isis. Following the death of Constantine, his successor, Theodosius, made belief in Christianity mandatory and continued with the suppression of the other faiths, effectively reversing the persecution that Christians had endured for decades. Showing remarkable pragmatism and to ease the transfer, the Christian church began to subsume many parts of the suppressed religions into its own rituals. In the case of Isis, who in her own belief system was known as the 'Queen of Heaven', 'Mother of God' and Star of the Sea', these titles were appropriated and bestowed on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Belief in Mithras, which was confined to male worshipers, was slightly different, because this faith also had a form of communion where bread and wine in effect became a Eucharist. This was of course not acceptable and the followers of Jesus decided that communion in the Mithraic tradition was an abomination and invented by the devil to confound and confuse good Christians. Interestingly, these precursors of Christ were rationalised by such eminent writers such as C.S. Lewis, creator of the 'Chronicles of Narnia' books, who argued that they were 'rehearsals' for the arrival of Christ.

Such a paradigm raises some fascinating points; not least being that fact that if they were rehearsals then who orchestrated them? It is also fair to comment that the work of C.S. Lewis has been favourably compared as an allegory of the story of Christ. If one considers the background of two other precursors we find that Krishna was born of a virgin and harried by an evil potentate and the Lord Buddha walked on water, attributes that are found united in Christ.

In addition, the existence of John the Baptist caused serious issues within the church, because among certain factions he was also seen as the Messiah and one who predated Jesus by several years. The reasoning went that if John baptised Jesus, who they regarded a false prophet, then logically he was baptising him into his faith and not the other way round, because surely Christ did not require to be baptised into the faith He himself had created. Although the faith in the Baptist was a heresy, it did not stop many followers attaching themselves to John and leaving the country. They eventually established themselves as the Mandaeans (or the Mandæan heresy, sometimes the Johannite heresy, as it was known) and there are still approximately 100,000 believers in this strand of theology existing around the world. In common with the Freemasons, the Mandaeans employ elaborate handshakes and signs within their ceremonies and it is frequently speculated that there is a connection between the two.

There is still one other puzzle relating to the early Christian church and this was created by the 1947 discovery in Egypt of the Nag Hammadi library, which once again introduced the concept of Gnostic Christianity. Like the aforementioned Cathars and Bogomils, this source of information introduced the concept of dualism into Christianity and insisted that Christ could not have died on the cross. One of the gospels from the Nag Hammadi scrolls states that Christ detached Himself from His body and watched the spiritless corpse being tortured. In other words the separation between the divine and the corporeal, and it is from the same source that the hypothesis that Mary Magdalene and Christ had a physical relationship developed. Apocryphal works such as 'The Gospel of Mary' state that Jesus frequently kissed Mary on the lips and to quote from this source, 'loved her more than the rest of the disciples', and, in addition, hints at other forms of affection. Quite obviously this was an anathema and vigorously denied by the Church and efforts made to suppress this highly controversial and dangerous information; the reasons why are not difficult to see.

So, in the absence of evidence to the contrary we are still left with the elevation of Christ to the status of a supernatural being; born of a virgin, able to raise the dead, heal the sick, walk on water, change water into wine and all the other magical and miraculous acts ascribed to Him. The requirement for Him to be supernatural is therefore essential, otherwise you are left with the rather more prosaic but understandable practise of the Roman emperors to elevate themselves as a deity to be worshipped by the population of the Roman Empire.

This was all very well, but even if the population was willing to accept a self-proclaimed deity, it did not also confer the ability to produce miracles and wonders. On the other hand, over the centuries certain royal houses, the Merovingian dynasty in France is a good example, have supposedly had the ability to work magic and heal though what was called 'the healing touch' Such a reputation would of course enhance the reputation of any royal house immeasurably.

As far as belief in the deity worshipped by the Christian faith goes, it is one thing to believe that two thousand years ago the populace was able to accept the reality of a creator God and Christ was not only his Son, but a God in his own right and an avatar as well, however, are we now as ready to accept this paradigm without question? In some areas the answer is yes, we still do, and for almost the same reasons except that no one now expects a human being to be divine, but as we have seen in the case of some cults this remains a fact, although these specious 'gods' do appear to have feet of clay and a conspicuous lack of the ability to work miracles on demand. There are of course exceptions in the form of self styled guru's such as Sai Baba and other eastern mystics, but the miracles, wonders and claims attributed to Sai Baba and others like him, when examined closely simply don't hold water, but that, as they say, is another tale.

Brian Allan is the editor of Phenomena Magazine, the world's most recognised e-zine of its kind.

Read the current and back issues of Phenomena Magazine at:
 http://www.phenomenamagazine.co.uk/

- I'M SO DRAWN TO THIS STORY DEPARTMENT -

Strange Attractors
magnetic_man2
Since 1987, one year after the Chernobyl disaster, 76-year-old Russian factory worker Leonid Tenkaev, his wife Galina, their daughter Tanya and grandson Kolya have all been able to make metal objects stick to their bodies. Leonid can hold individual objects weighing up to 23kg on his chest.

Doctors in Russia and Japan appear to have been convinced that the Tenkaevs' abilities are genuine. "There is absolutely no doubt that the objects stick as if their bodies were magnetic," an impressed Dr Atusi Kono told reporters in 1991.

Remarkably, the Tenkaevs are not alone. In 1990, the Superfields conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, attracted 300 such "human magnets" after a young woman, Marinela Brankova, demonstrated her powers on television by supporting a 7kg weight from her vertical palms.

In his book True Life Encounters (1998, p.14), Keith Tutt reports on another ‘magnetic’ man called Miroslaw Magola who was born in Poland in the 1960s. Magola apparently not only has the ability to attract metal, ceramic and wooden objects to his body, but originally claimed that he could also levitate. Tutt claims that Magola appeared on an English television program, called Beyond Belief, in 1996 but was unable to levitate, although his other abilities apparently created strong public interest. Magola claims to have learnt to increase the strength of his ‘magnetic’ abilities so that when he was "investigated by Dr Friedbert Karger of the Max Planck Institute in Germany" in January 1997, he was able to demonstrate the ability "to pick up a cup from the floor without touching it, and to control its suspension in mid-air" (Tutt, 1998, p.15).

Vincent Gaddis describes the 1889 case of Frank McKinstry, from Joplin, Missouri, who was supposedly a good dowser, but whose body was charged with a strange energy. "His charge was so strong in the early morning that he had to keep moving. If he stopped even for a second, he became fixed to the ground and had to wait until a helpful passer-by would pull one of his legs free. There would be a small faint flash and the grip would be broken.

Another famous example was seventeen-year-old Caroline Clare from Ontario in Canada, who in 1877 took to her bed for about two years with what might be described as a Western version of shamanic initiation illness. She lost about a third of her weight, but the doctors could find nothing wrong with her. After a while she started going into trances and would describe distant locations as if she was spontaneously remote viewing. When she eventually recovered, she was a different person. "She seemed now to be supercharged with electricity. She had only to enter a room and everyone in it would feel the influence, which was strong enough for her to give twenty people a shock if all linked hands with her. If she wanted to take up a knife, the blade would leap towards her hand; needles would hang from her fingers.

Jennie Moran, who lived at Sedalia, Missouri, in 1895, was so highly charged at times that one day, when her powers were strongest, she killed the family cat simply by picking it up; an investigator who held her hand for a few seconds was rendered unconscious.

Within the past decade it has been shown that magnetic particles do exist in the human brain, but only in minute quantities. There seems to be no connection with the phenomenon at hand, which, if genuine, appears to be a form of telekinesis. Although people with the gift are usually referred to as magnets, many of them can also hold plastic, glass, wood and paper objects, with some stating preferences for specific materials. Nor does it seem to be an electrostatic phenomenon: subjects at the Superfields conference were able to demonstrate this by attracting items through thick rubber gloves.

The adhesive force seems predominantly to affect the upper body - the chest, arms and hands. Practitioners say it can be fortified through practice and increased concentration: some people, while supporting several objects at once, can release specific items to order. One Bulgarian woman, Victoria Petrova, entertained delegates by making objects move about her body in time to music.

Some human magnets also claim other abilities, such as x-ray vision similar to that claimed recently by the young Russian, Natalia Demkina. Curiously, there does seem to be a preponderance of - or perhaps interest in - such powers in Russia, Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries, leading some researchers to connect it to radiation leakages. However, reports of human magnets from at least the mid-19th century would suggest that its origins lie elsewhere.

Source: The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/farout/story/0,13028,1205167,00.html


- WATCH WHERE YOU SIT DEPARTMENT -

Naples "Miracle Chair" Draws Childless Couples

An ordinary old armchair under a worn blanket in a three-room flat in Naples, Italy draws thousands of hopeful pilgrims. Pasted all over the walls around it are birth announcements: pink for girls, blue for boys.

Childless women from all over the world flock to the "miracle" chair -- close to Speranzella street whose name suggests hope -- in the picturesque Spanish Quarter of Naples. There they ask Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus for a miracle.

With her "miracles" reported on Weblogs, the saint's shrine has become a main stop on the religious tourism circuit in Naples, a city which in Italy is almost as well known for veneration of saints as for the Camorra crime syndicate.

"The saint is waiting for you," Sister Elisa, an energetic 65-year-old nun from the order that has guarded the shrine for two centuries, tells hundreds of men and women of all ages gathered for morning prayer at the nearby church.

After the Mass, worshippers are led up a steep staircase and along a narrow corridor into the flat where the saint, born Anna Maria Rosa Nicoletta Gallo, spent half her life in chastity and mystical suffering until her death in 1791 at the age of 76.

Hair shirts and a whip hanging from the walls remind pilgrims of the grim "voluntary penance" the saint adopted after joining the strict order of Saint Peter of Alcantara.

As the religious name she took suggests, she was believed to carry the "stigmata" or wounds of Jesus. She was the first woman saint born in Naples, but there is no hint in her life story as to why her help is sought by childless women in particular.

"Are you married?" Sister Maria Giuliana whispers to a young woman sitting on the armchair, before touching the visitor's breast and belly with a "monstrance" or reliquiary containing a vertebra and a lock of hair from the saint.

As the nun prays, the group waits in silence.

"I am here to pray for everybody's sake, not only for myself," one young woman, who declined to give her name, whispered to Reuters in the hushed room.

CITY OF CHURCHES

Later, Sister Elisa shows a picture of a 5-month-old baby and a letter from his parents.

"We came to Naples to visit Saint Mary Frances on January 21, 2006," reads the letter signed by Dejan and Jasmina Bogdanovic, a Serbian couple living in Germany.

Evidence of Saint Mary Frances' miracles is anecdotal, but the groundswell of devotion for the "saint of the family" -- who escaped a forced marriage and an oppressive father -- has spread by word of mouth and, more recently, through blogs like caffenews.wordpress.com.

Roman Catholic Italy is rich in relics, which may be all or part of a saint's body or a belonging such as clothing. The most famous example in Naples is a glass phial believed to contain the dried blood of Saint Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples who was beheaded by pagan Romans in 305 A.D.

Each year pilgrims crowd the cathedral to witness the "miracle" of Saint Gennaro's blood, whose liquefaction is seen as a good omen for the city. On his feast day, a statue of Saint Mary Frances is carried behind his along the streets of Naples.

But nobody appears to know exactly how many relics have been preserved over the centuries in the churches of Naples.

"It is not even possible to say how many churches there are in Naples," Don Luigi Merluzzo, head of public relations at the Archdiocese of Naples, told Reuters.

"There are 287 churches listed in our Archdiocese's website, but many others, which are either closed or privately owned, are still kept out of the public eye," he said.

BLESSED FROM AFAR

Back at Saint Mary Frances' shrine, when the morning visits are over the nuns spend few hours each day answering hundreds of letters from Italy and abroad.

"Hi, I'm Francesca Rosa Limongelli. I was born in London on January 22, 2007, but, even though we are far away, my mum and dad have been feeling the presence of Saint Mary Frances with them," reads a letter published on the congregation's brand new 2008 calendar.

"Even if we don't have an email address yet, we receive many prayer requests by mail or by phone," Sister Elisa said. "Our followers often send us an item of clothing asking us to intercede with the saint by placing their objects on the chair.

"We have a lot of work to do. But the saint has a prayer for everyone," she added in a reassuring tone.

In a city where saints play a role in everyday life for many believers, the saint's work goes beyond reproduction.

"Some days ago a man came to us," Sister Maria Aurora said. "He wanted a house, a job and children. We told him to be patient but, thanks to Saint Mary Frances, his prayers have been fulfilled."

Source: Yahoo News
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071203/wl_nm/italy_religion_chair_dc

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