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This week Conspiracy Journal brings you such Yule-Tide stories as:
- The Pentagon’s Mysterious UFO Program -
- Pentagon UFO Study Catches Attention of Congress -
- People DO See Santa Claus -
AND: The Real Story Behind the “Design” of Christmas
All these exciting stories and MORE in this week's issue of
~ And Now, On With The Show! ~
The Lights in the Sky Are Not Stars
ONE MAN HOLDS THE KEY TO THE SECRETS OF THE FLYING SAUCERS AND HOW THEY ARE ABLE TO PERFORM INCREDIBLE MANEUVERS IN OUR ATMOSPHERE
– – AND HE CLAIMS THEY HAVE ESTABLISHED FACE-TO-FACE AS WELL AS MENTAL CONTACT WITH HUMANS!
– – HERE IS THE COMPLETE TOP-SECRET HISTORY OF UFOS AND HUMANOID SIGHTINGS IN CANADA,
Wilbert B. Smith was a Canadian engineer responsible for the technical aspects of broadcasting between the United States and his country during the late 1940s and Fifties. Because of the number of sightings of unidentified flying objects over Canadian air space, Smith convinced the Canadian government to establish a UFO monitoring system, which eventually did detect anomalous phenomena in the sky which Smith felt certain was of an off-world origin.
Dying of cancer, Smith made arrangements with his wife to hide his “sensitive” files so they would not fall into the hands of those who would use his findings for their own unscrupulous ends. “They will be coming to ransack all my work,” Smith proclaimed. And he was right! As predicted, Canadians, Americans and Soviets approached his widow, requesting she turn over her husband’s work as it would help to further expedite their unprincipled labors.
Smith’s proposal to set up a serious, semi-official UFO study group was accepted by the Canadian government’s Department of Transport and a “station” was set up at Shirley Bay from which observations could be made, recorded and examined to see if there were any repeatable patterns in the reports which were being collected. On one occasion, an unknown aircraft came within close range of the station. Its presence could be felt!
When Smith questioned the Americans about the possibility of UFOs, he was told that the subject was of the uppermost concern in the US and was considered more top secret than the testing of the atomic bomb.
He believe the UFOs were of extraterrestrial origin. “It is my opinion that the people from elsewhere choose all sorts of methods to make contact with us, and their technology and understanding being much better than ours, they can use methods which we find quite incomprehensible" Most of the contacts of whom I have knowledge are ‘mental’ in one form or another, directly or indirectly, but they do seem to range through almost all sorts of means, right down to personal face-to-face contact.” Smith even set up a committee or review board among those who claimed repeated contact, physical or telepathic, with space beings. His intentions were to see if any of the claims made by these individuals could be considered comparable or if there was little or no agreement among them at all. The results proved positive in that many of these “contactees” were having identical experiences. He later in life experienced his own contacts but spoke little about them.
This volume breakthrough includes an “official” historical dossier of Canadian “humanoid and critter” sightings and encounters compiled by amateur astronomer John Musgrave with a $6,000 grant from the Ottawa seat of government.
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- A STUDY IN FRUSTRATION DEPARTMENT -
Pentagon UFO Study Catches Attention of Congress
By George Knapp
Former Nevada Senator Harry Reid thinks it might be time to hold congressional hearings into the mystery surrounding UFOs.
In his only television interview, Reid told the I-Team about the pivotal role he played authorizing a secret Pentagon study of UFOs that ended five years ago.
The project was based in Nevada, carried out by Las Vegas businessman who is no stranger to paranormal investigations. In fact, Robert Bigelow's mysterious Skinwalker ranch played a role in the Pentagon investigation.
A picturesque ranch in northeastern Utah, shunned by its Native American neighbors and long considered a hotbed of UFO sightings and other unexplained phenomena, played a pivotal role in the creation of the once-secret Pentagon study of unknown aerial objects.
In the mid 90s, Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow bought the property and sent in his research team, the National Institute for Discovery Science, or NIDS, to study the ranch and the larger Uintah Basin.
Over the next 10 years, NIDS scientists had dramatic encounters with the unknown, including daylight mutilations of livestock, mysterious aircraft, and discarnate entities.
"The ranch is not just UFOs. Performances of anomalies go back many years," said Robert Bigelow.
The I-Team's 2007 conversation with Bigelow, his first on camera interview on any subject, never aired but he told us that his NIDS team experienced more than 100 baffling encounters, though they had no idea what was behind it.
"And that we don't have to worry about aliens coming and taking us away. That's for somebody else to talk about," said former U.S. Senator Harry Reid.
When Senator Reid and colleagues authorized funding for a Pentagon study, they made a point of saying it was not a search for little green men. The primary aim was to identify, analyze, and eventually duplicate the other worldly technology that had been demonstrated in multiple dramatic encounters involving the U.S. military.
"The phenomenon is real," said Luis Elizondo, former Pentagon official.
The man who ran the Pentagon's study, Luis Elizondo, resigned in October and has since said the technology of these craft is beyond anything known on earth, but he declines to guess where it originates. No one involved wants to mention space aliens, for obvious reasons.
"I'm not into that," Reid said. "I'm interested in science, what's going on in our world."
Investigating the source of the UFOs is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Although Bob Bigelow dissolved his NIDS team and ended the study of the Utah ranch, in 2007, a book written about the property caught the attention of the DIA and Senator Reid.
Bigelow's previous experience in putting together a team to investigate weird phenomena was likely a factor in the decision to award him the contract to study UFOs. And sources familiar with the study say, Pentagon investigators returned to the Utah ranch several times during a three-year period.
When the New York Times broke its story, it reported that Bigelow built a special secure facility at his aerospace plant to store unknown materials supposedly obtained during the UFO study.
"I don't know. I don't know anything about exotic materials, but a lot of talk about it," Reid said.
What he does know is that the explosion of news coverage about the UFO issue has caught the attention of Congress. Reid's phone started ringing immediately, he says, people from Congress and the business community who've always been interested in the subject but were afraid to admit it. Reid thinks the time may be right to re-launch a formal inquiry.
"Now that it's out, why shouldn't they do this? Reid said. "You take an airplane, the cost of one military airplane. The cheapest one we have. Give that money to this research. It's more important than one airplane. We have enough bombs and bullets to take care of us for a long time, but not enough to understand the future?"
In all, about $22 million was spent from 2007 through 2012 before the study formally ended.
Robert Bigelow no longer owns the Skinwalker Ranch. He sold it to another party last year.
Source: Las Vegas Now
- HE SEES YOU WHEN YOU ARE SLEEPING DEPARTMENT -
People DO See Santa Claus
By Chris Wright
We live in a very strange world. If the stories zinging around the Internet are anything to go by, people are routinely pestered by beings from other dimensions or distant planets.
Less commonplace, however, are reports like this: “We [were] driving by a lonely McDonald’s and we [saw] something dashing through the clouds. We could all make out Santa’s sleigh and 9 reindeer including Rudolph’s nose.”
This is just one of the many Santa sightings that have recently been spotlighted on a website devoted to true-life tales of the unexplained. The person who compiled them, a veteran paranormal researcher named Stephen Wagner, is of the opinion that these accounts should be afforded the same respect as those concerning, say, Bigfoot or the Lost City of Atlantis, which represents a significant departure in a field that is sensitive about exposure to ridicule.
Wagner, who lives in Little Falls, N.Y., is no lightweight in the world of the paranormal. He has been researching supernatural events for over three decades. He has written a book on the subject—“Touched By a Miracle: True Stories of Ordinary People and Extraordinary Experiences”—and for 14 years has run a popular About.com page titled Paranormal Phenomena. Today, he is fast becoming the world’s leading—and possibly only—expert in Santa-seeing.
In the two years since Wagner started compiling these sightings, he has received “several hundred” submissions, and he is convinced that most of them are genuine in intent, if not verifiable in fact. His hope is that the stories will make people think a little differently about a holiday dream most of us leave behind in childhood. If nothing else, the frequency of these visions, and the sense of absolute certainty apparent in many of the people who have had them, speaks of the power this figure has over the collective imagination.
Sarah, a 41-year-old Californian who contributed to Wagner’s Xmas Files, had her encounter back in 1975. “I felt exhilarated, bewildered and very special,” she recalls, going on to describe the experience in almost mystical terms: “It was the beautiful golden glow around the man in the big red suit that told me it couldn’t possibly be my father. It was glittery like a parade, but the pieces were not falling to the ground.”
And the intervening years have not diminished Sarah’s sense of wonder. “Seeing Santa changed my outlook forever,” she adds, “to the point that I am comfortable with tattooing ol’ Big Red onto my body. It means that much to me.”
Even in the open-minded world that Wagner occupies, these festive visitations are raising eyebrows. While paranormal research doesn’t abide by the same strict rules as, say, nuclear physics, it is not entirely without standards. Proof isn’t particularly important in this world, but possibility is, and researchers perform all manner of conceptual gymnastics to maintain it. For example: Faced with an ongoing and abject failure to find anything remotely monstrous in Loch Ness, some have put forward the idea that Nessie may, in fact, be the ghost of a dinosaur—the key word here being “may.”
With Santa, even this standard falls away. Furthermore, these sightings sound a bit silly, which is something else serious researchers get touchy about. “I’ve never even heard of people seeing Santa,” says Loyd Auerbach, who teaches a course on parapsychology at Atlantic University in Virginia. “The Grim Reaper, yes, but not Santa.” Auerbach goes on to make a passable attempt at finding a maybe—“The only possibility of this being real is if it’s an alien or a ghost pretending to be Santa”—before giving up. “I wouldn’t put that kind of sighting in the paranormal category,” he says finally. “We can’t investigate that. There’s nothing we can do with that.”
Wagner, for his part, is adamant that Santa sightings have a legitimate place in paranormal research. “Paranormal is, by definition, something that’s beyond the norm, unknown, unexplained,” he says. “I have postings on my site about apparitions of the Virgin Mary, and I get the same kinds of reactions—‘That’s not paranormal, that’s religion.’ Well, where do you draw the line? Whether these characters are fictional or real, these are experiences that people have had that have not been explained by science.”
The one thing that seems beyond doubt in all this is that there are a number of adults out there who believe, in some instances many years after the fact, that they have come into direct personal contact with Father Christmas. “He was in full Santa attire,” recalls 51-year-old Missourian Sandra, whose sighting occurred in the mid-1960s. “He was bent over, then he stood up and took a puff from a pipe.” Not surprisingly, Sandra doesn’t share her story with too many people, but she insists that what she saw was real—maybe. “Who is to say what is real in this life?” she says. “Is our reality really real?”
Rebecca Knibb, a reader in psychology at the UK’s University of Derby who analyzes paranormal experiences, is interested in the same question. People who see ghosts, she says, tend to be those who already believe in them—they unconsciously mold reality to fit their beliefs. As for people who see Santa, Knibb speculates that these, too, are likely to be “fantasy prone” individuals whose imaginations have been colored by the season, and who therefore see a fat guy in a red suit rather than an old lady in Victorian garb walking through a wall.
This Santa-as-ghost-substitute theory provides an interesting spin on the creepier sightings people have reported to Wagner, of which there are quite a few. Time and again, we see the stranger lurking in the shadows, peeking around corners, putting his finger to his lips. “He didn’t look jolly or kind or happy,” writes one person. “He looked kind of eerie.” Another describes Santa’s suit as “more distinct than the red of a drop of blood.”
The most remarkable thing about these stories, however, is how matter-of-fact so many of them are, the meticulousness of the observations. “About seven minutes into my pacing, I saw a tall, fat figure scurry away about 20 feet away from me,” writes one observer. Another describes “a man in a red suit with white beard and white fur around his suit with black boots,” adding, “He was around 5’8” or 5’9”.?” While such clarity isn’t evident in all of these reports—one person recalls seeing “9 little shining splodges in the sky as well as a big splodge at the back of them”— the overall tone is of people giving courtroom testimony.
This makes sense. People with improbable stories often litter them with mundane detail, as if doing so might help root them in reality, and it doesn’t get much more improbable than nine shining splodges in the sky. Reading these accounts, you feel that these are people who are desperate to be taken seriously, and who see Wagner’s site as a chance to present their case.
“I told my mom what happened many years later and she insisted that I was dreaming or that it was my dad,” writes a New Yorker who claims to have seen Santa in 1969. “That wasn’t possible....I’m African American, and during that time the tenants in our building were all African American, so Santa stood out!”
You may not be convinced by this argument, and in the end this may not really matter. For Sandra, the woman who occasionally finds herself wondering if our reality is really real, just knowing that there are other people like her is enough. “It confirms I’m not insane,” she says.
Source: The Boston Globe
- HE KNOWS WHEN YOU'RE AWAKE DEPARTMENT -
Real Sightings of Santa
By Stephen Wagner
Does Santa Claus really exist? Some would say that the question is silly because of course Santa Claus is a myth. Others would say the question is ridiculous because of course, he is real! How can we doubt it?
Over the years, children all over the world have reported sightings of the real Santa Claus—not department store Santas or bell-ringing Salvation Army charity collectors, but the real thing. Some even claim they saw Saint Nick's sleigh and reindeer.
Are these simply illusions seen through the eyes of a child's Christmas excitement and expectation? Here are some of the stories adults and children tell of mysterious Christmas Eve sightings gone by.
I am 14 now, but this happened back in 2000 in my old house in Bristol, England. I was with my mum and dad and my sister. It was about midnight on Christmas Eve and I was the only one awake because I was really excited. I could hear these big footsteps in my living room. I was quite scared, and I could also hear bells tingling above me. So I wanted to see what was going on.
I walked down the stairs very slowly and I could see this big man putting presents around my living room. I wanted to say something, but I was too scared to do it because I thought he would be angry. I ran back upstairs and went back to sleep. I was so convinced I saw the real Santa and told everyone in the morning: but no one believed me.—Alex H.
New York City—2002, 2004 and 2007
It was Christmas Eve of 2002 in New York City. My parents had invited some friends and relatives over for dinner, sort of like a Christmas Eve celebration. After that, I decided to go to my room to watch some television, but there was nothing good to watch. I then found myself pacing back and forth in the hallway.
My house is big, so there was no one with me. Everyone was in the living room watching a movie I wasn't interested in.
About seven minutes into my pacing, I saw a tall, fat figure scurry away about 20 feet away from me. It was crouched down, too. It was even wearing some sort of Santa Claus suit. I didn't believe in Santa, but this just freaked me out. There was a strange man in my house!
I quickly ran to where my parents were and told them all about it. They grinned at me and said jokingly, "Maybe it was Santa Claus." I didn't believe that, so I just sat down in the living room with my family and everybody else.
Then it occurred again on Christmas Eve, 2004. I remember it more vividly than the last one. I was lying on the couch in the living room. My parents were in the kitchen having a conversation about a business blog or something. Suddenly, I saw a huge man, about seven or eight feet tall, crawl underneath the tree and just vanish. Before it disappeared, it looked at me and said, "Shh." Very strange, so I went into the kitchen and sat with my parents.
Similar happenings occurred the following Christmases. I recall one in 2007, it was daylight this time and I just happened to see another tall figure with a Santa hat trudge by me for two seconds, then it was gone.
This really happened!—Claxton Kalmbach
I had an experience when I was three years old and still young enough to wear footed pajamas. The year was maybe 1969, Christmas Eve. I wanted to see what Santa had brought me, so I quietly walked down the hallway and looked around the corner to our living room. I saw my parents and someone I didn't know hanging around our Christmas tree. The stranger was an old guy with a white beard and hair with a red suit. I quickly went back to my room as fast as I could with footed pajamas and slid into bed.
I told my mom what happened many years later and she insisted that I was dreaming or that it was my dad. That wasn't possible because my dad was sitting in a chair behind the stranger and my mom was standing right next to my dad! I'm African American, and during that time the tenants in our building were all African American, so Santa stood out!—Joanne
One Christmas Eve about 35 years ago, while I was in my teens, I was in a car with my parents, returning home very late at night. We were talking the whole way about Santa Claus and how great it would be if he really did exist. As we pulled into the driveway of our house—there he was, tiptoeing in the snow in-between two houses across the street! We all laughed when we saw this and remembered the incident for many Christmases thereafter. P.S.: No robberies were reported.—Del
I am 13 now, but I saw something when I was seven. It was dark, nighttime around midnight [on Christmas Eve]. I was in bed, but I wasn't asleep (who could be?). All of a sudden, I saw a red light beaming down into my window. It was so bright, and somehow I knew it was him.
I looked up in the sky, but all I could see was the bright light coming from a small object. I didn't hear a helicopter or anything, but I did hear the unique sound of bells and, of course, the sound of hooves tapping on the roof. These sounds lasted for a few seconds after the light had disappeared, then they were gone.—Jade
I was about 7 and I was looking outside my second-story window, just waiting to see him. I saw something approaching in the distance: it was a huge sleigh and it was flying right over my house! I don't remember seeing any reindeer, but I did see a man dressed in red with a beard. I was so startled, but I kept looking, even sticking my head and half my body outside of the window!
I told my family, but I knew they really didn't believe me. I swear on my life to this day I saw something. I don't know if it was really Santa Claus, but I did see what I described!—Drew
An old friend came to see me a couple of weeks ago. We lost touch years ago, but he managed to trace me and he brought me a Christmas card. After a few minutes, I asked him if he remembered the Christmas Eve about 30 years ago when we were outside our houses. We grew up next to each other.
It must have been around 7.30 p.m. on a clear night when we suddenly heard a bell or bells in the distance getting closer real fast. As we both looked up, there was the reindeer, the sleigh, and Santa flying very fast and low over my house. It was brief, but we both ran to tell our families. Of course, everyone laughed, but I tell you it was real!
So when my friend turned up I asked him if he remembered, and he said of course he did... but he didn't like telling people about it now. You can imagine why!—Jimmy
Up On The Roof—2006
Three Christmases ago, I was coming home from my aunt's, where we have a party. I was crying because one of my cousins told me that Santa wasn't real. Then we came around the corner of my street and there it was—a big red sleigh and reindeer sitting on my roof! And then Santa popped out of my chimney!
I told everyone the next morning to see if they could remember, but they couldn't. But a couple of days ago, my dad went up to the roof to fix the leak... and there were long, straight lines going across the roof.
I took a picture and showed it to my baby cousins and told them always believe.—Anonymous
Airport Parking Lot
A few years ago I worked at the airport parking lot in a booth collecting parking fees. On Christmas Eve, a car pulled up to the window, the passenger was a very happy, chubby, white-bearded guy wearing red pants with red suspenders and a white turtleneck covered in red and green Christmas characters. He sure looked like Santa to me. The rest of the evening I told all my customers that Santa had just flown in.—SKIttySKat
This happened long ago when I was about ten years old. Our house was in the suburbs. I swear that on one Christmas Eve, I was sleeping in my room when I heard my backyard door open, then close, and then a minute later it opened and closed again another three times each, about a minute apart. I thought it must have been my parents bringing in our presents from our garage, although, I don't recall seeing them go past my bedroom to their room. I was hiding under the covers at the time.
On another Christmas Eve, I tried to sneak down to the living room to try and catch Santa, but I chickened out and left. As I was walking back to my bedroom, I passed our front door and the light came on from outside, and I thought I could see the shadow of someone outside. Of course, now that I think about it, it could have just been a passerby or a cat or something. Or maybe—just maybe—it could have been Santa.—Nick
I was five years old, and I was in my room when I heard shuffling in the living room. I got up and peered around the doorway, where I saw a man in a Santa suit standing in front of the Christmas tree. He must have felt my presence because he turned around and looked at me. He didn't look jolly or kind and happy like you would expect Santa Claus to look. He looked kind of eerie like he was staring into my soul.
Automatically, I ran into my parents' room and hid under the covers. I don't know why I was so scared at the time, but I wrote it off as a dream for a while before I forgot about it completely.
Years later, I remembered it. I thought it could have been a burglar, but when I asked my parents, nothing was ever missing from that apartment. The only time we were ever robbed was when we moved later on. The only explanation I have now is that it was some kind of apparition.—Ana
Memphis, Tennessee—1980s and 2009
I grew up in a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee. In the 1980s, I was 8 or 9 years old. My parents and I were coming home from a Christmas party on Christmas Eve. When we pulled up in the driveway, we saw Santa Claus in a sleigh hovering above our house. All we could hear were sleigh bells. The sleigh was illuminated so that we could see Santa (in full outfit) in the sleigh. I remember seeing reindeer, but I don't know how many there were. Santa waved at us and flew off in the sleigh.
I'll never forget it, and I'll never forget my dad's face of total shock. He was an air traffic controller and when he went back to work after the holidays he asked about it and nothing came up.
In another bizarre twist, on Black Friday in 2009, I was waiting in line at a local Target store and broke out into conversation with another lady in line. We were talking about Christmas shopping, and all of a sudden out of nowhere she mentioned that her brother had seen Santa Claus in his sleigh two years before. I stood with my mouth wide open because I couldn't believe it. Every Christmas Eve I still think about him and look outside to try to get a glimpse.—Mrs. Wages
I was probably around 8 years old when on Christmas Eve around 12 a.m., I had been lying awake in bed for about 30 minutes. I was extremely excited, thinking about the morning and opening presents. Anyway, I start to hear these very faint footsteps approaching. Slowly, a man in boots, carrying a sack looked into my room, my parents' room and then my brother's room. I'm absolutely 100% positive I was awake, too. I could see him fairly well because we had a nightlight on across the hall in our bathroom. I remember hiding my entire face under the covers with a small portion of my eyes to see. He then walked away quietly and he was gone.
Of course I told my parents and brother in the morning about my sighting and, of course, they thought I was crazy. To this day (I'm 28 now), I ask my parents if they had anything to do with this, and they still deny it and say I was dreaming. I strongly believe I saw a spirit or some kind of entity of Santa.—Richard
Definitely Not Santa
I heard this story from my husband years ago. He was small, probably around six years old. His family was spending Christmas at the old family homestead. He was in bed when he heard a noise outside and ran to the window to see what it was. What should he see, but a fat, white-bearded man walking through the swirling snow toward the house. He crept downstairs to get a good look at Santa.
How disappointed he was when he discovered it was only his grandfather in his red "union suit" on his way back from the outhouse.—K. Stuart
Source: Thought Co.
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- CHILLING TALES OF YULE TIME TERROR DEPARTMENT -
Bring Back the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories
By Colin Dickey
For the last hundred years, Americans have kept ghosts in their place, letting them out only in October, in the run-up to our only real haunted holiday, Halloween. But it wasn’t always this way, and it’s no coincidence that the most famous ghost story is a Christmas story—or, put another way, that the most famous Christmas story is a ghost story. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, and its story about a man tormented by a series of ghosts the night before Christmas belonged to a once-rich, now mostly forgotten tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Dickens’ supernatural yuletide terror was no outlier, since for much of the 19th century, was the holiday indisputably associated with ghosts and the specters.
“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”
Telling ghost stories during winter is a hallowed tradition, a folk custom stretches back centuries, when families would wile away the winter nights with tales of spooks and monsters. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Mamillius proclaims in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And the titular Jew of Malta in Christopher Marlowe’s play at one point muses, “Now I remember those old women’s words, Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.”
Based in folklore and the supernatural, it was a tradition the Puritans frowned on, so it never gained much traction in America. Washington Irving helped resurrect a number of forgotten Christmas traditions in the early 19th century, but it really was Dickens who popularized the notion of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. The Christmas issues of the magazines he edited, Household Words and (after 1859) All the Year Round, regularly included ghost stories—not just A Christmas Carol but also works like The Chimes and The Haunted Man, both of which also feature an unhappy man who changes his ways after visitation by a ghost. Dickens’ publications, which were not just winter-themed but explicitly linked to Christmas, helped forge a bond between the holiday and ghost stories; Christmas Eve, he would claim in “The Seven Poor Travellers” (1854), is the “witching time for Story-telling.”
Dickens discontinued the Christmas publications in 1868, complaining to his friend Charles Fechter that he felt “as if I had murdered a Christmas number years ago (perhaps I did!) and its ghost perpetually haunted me.” But by then the ghost of Christmas ghost stories had taken on an afterlife of its own, and other writers rushed to fill the void that Dickens had left. By the time of Jerome’s 1891 Told After Supper, he could casually joke about a tradition long ensconced in Victorian culture.
If some of these later ghost stories haven’t entered the Christmas canon as Dickens’ work did, there’s perhaps a reason. As William Dean Howells would lament in a Harper’s editorial in 1886, the Christmas ghost tradition suffered from the gradual loss of Dickens’ sentimental morality: “the ethical intention which gave dignity to Dickens’ Christmas stories of still earlier date has almost wholly disappeared.”
While readers could suspend their disbelief for the supernatural, believing that such terrors could turn a man like Scrooge good overnight was a harder sell. “People always knew that character is not changed by a dream in a series of tableaux; that a ghost cannot do much towards reforming an inordinately selfish person; that a life cannot be turned white, like a head of hair, in a single night, but the most allegorical apparition; …. and gradually they ceased to make believe that there was virtue in these devices and appliances.”
Dickens’ genius was to wed the gothic with the sentimental, using stories of ghosts and goblins to reaffirm basic bourgeois values; as the tradition evolved, however, other writers were less wedded to this social vision, preferring the simply scary. In Henry James’s famous gothic novella, The Turn of the Screw, the frame story involves a group of men sitting around the fire telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve—setting off a story of pure terror, without any pretension to charity or sentimentality.
At the same time that the tradition of Christmas ghosts had begun to ossify, losing the initial spiritual charge that drove its popularity, a new tradition was being imported from across the Atlantic, carried by the huge wave of Scottish and Irish immigrants coming to America: Halloween.
The holiday as we now know it is an odd hybrid of Celtic and Catholic traditions. It borrows heavily from the ancient pagan holiday Samhain, which celebrates the end of the harvest season and the onset of winter. As with numerous other pagan holidays, Samhain was in time merged with the Catholic festival of All Souls’ Day, which could also be tinged towards obsessions with the dead, into Halloween—a time when the dead were revered, the boundaries between this life and the afterlife were thinnest, and when ghosts and goblins ruled the night.
Carried by Scottish and Irish immigrants to America, Halloween did not immediately displace Christmas as the preeminent holiday for ghosts—partly because for several decades it was a holiday for Scots. Scottish immigrants (and to a lesser extent Irish immigrants as well) tried to dissociate Halloween from its ghostly implications, trying unsuccessfully to make it about Scottish heritage, as Nicholas Rogers notes in his Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night: “There were efforts, in fact, to recast Halloween as a day of decorous ethnic celebration.” Organizations such as the Caledonian Society in Canada observed Halloween with Scottish dances and music and the poetry of Robbie Burns, while in New York the Gaelic Society commemorated Halloween with a seannches: an evening of Irish poetry and music.
Americans’ hunger for ghosts and nightmares, however, outweighed their hunger for Irish and Scottish culture, and Americans seized on Halloween’s supernatural, rather than cultural, aspects—we all know now how this turned out.
The transition from Christmas to Halloween as the preeminent holiday for ghosts was an uneven one. Even as late as 1915, Christmas annuals of magazines were still dominated by ghost stories, and Florence Kingsland’s 1904 Book of Indoor and Outdoor Games still lists ghost stories as fine fare for a Christmas celebration: “The realm of spirits was always thought to be nearer to that of mortals on Christmas than at any other time,” she writes.
For decades, these two celebrations of the oncoming winter bookended a time when ghosts were in the air, and we kept the dead close to us. My own family has for years invited friends over around the holidays to tell ghost stories. Instead of exchanging gifts, we exchange stories—true or invented, it doesn’t matter. People are inevitably sheepish at first, but once the stories start flowing, it isn’t long before everyone has something to offer. It’s a refreshing alternative to the oft-forced yuletide joy and commercialization; resurrecting the dead tradition of ghost stories as another way to celebrate Christmas.
In his Harper’s editorial, Howells laments the loss of the Dickensian ghost story, waxing nostalgic for a return to scary stories with a firm set of morals:
“It was well once a year, if not oftener, to remind men by parable of the old, simple truths; to teach them that forgiveness, and charity, and the endeavor for life better and purer than each has lived, are the principles upon which alone the world holds together and gets forward. It was well for the comfortable and the refined to be put in mind of the savagery and suffering all round them, and to be taught, as Dickens was always teaching, that certain feelings which grace human nature, as tenderness for the sick and helpless, self-sacrifice and generosity, self-respect and manliness and womanliness, are the common heritage of the race, the direct gift of Heaven, shared equally by the rich and poor.”
As the nights darken and we head towards the new year, filled with anxiety and hope, what better emissaries are there to bring such a message than the dead?
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
- CHRISTMAS EVE GHOSTS AND GHOULS DEPARTMENT -
Five True Christmas Ghost Stories
By Linda Sharps
Christmas and ghost stories may not immediately seem like two great tastes that taste great together, but they're actually a perfectly natural fit. Although it's largely forgotten now, the practice of gathering around the fire to tell spooky stories was a popular Victorian Christmas tradition for years, as evidenced in this line from “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year": There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago ...
The Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" is probably the only remaining tale of a haunting that most of us associate with the holidays. But why let the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come have all the fun? Here for your festively creepy pleasure are five Christmas ghost stories that may send chills down your spine -- or even, oddly enough, warm your heart.
The Bright Light and the Calm Watchdog:
I had an unusual visitor on Christmas Day, 2008 and I'm pretty sure it wasn't Santa Claus passing by my house in Bloomington, Indiana. The day started in typical fashion with the opening of gifts around the Christmas tree. I served an early Christmas dinner for family and friends, and everybody departed by 5 p.m., except my sister and brother-in-law who live with me. They were sleeping in a bedroom at the end of the hall with the door open.
I went into my bedroom with my dog, Toby, and shut the door securely. I was just dozing off when I heard the latch on my bedroom door open. I waited several seconds for my sister or brother-in-law to ask me whatever they came to say, but there was no other sound. It was almost 7 p.m., so my bedroom was pitch black. I had left lights on in the kitchen and the bathroom, and there were lots of Christmas lights in the living room, so the hallway would have been well lit. I would be able to see whoever was at the door just by lifting my head.
I pushed the blankets down and lifted my head from the pillow, but just as I would have been able to see who was in the doorway, an extremely bright light hit me right in the eyes. I shielded my eyes and yelled, "Turn out that @#%$ light! You're blinding me!" The light immediately disappeared and I heard the bedroom door latch closed. My bedside light is a touch lamp, so I tapped it on and looked around the bedroom. There was no one in the bedroom except me and Toby. Toby jumped off the bed and went to the door without showing any signs of alarm. At first I wasn't frightened because Toby is a Dutch shepherd -- well trained to be an excellent watchdog and proven personal protection dog.
Since Toby was already up, I decided to go let him outside and see what Sis or brother-in-law needed. When I went into the hallway, I could see both of them still in bed. I took Toby to the living room to let him outside, and there was nobody there either.
So who opened my bedroom door and turned a spotlight on my face?
Like most people, the thoughts of loved ones are always close at hand during the holiday season. When I first went to lie down, I was thinking how happy I was that my small family had enjoyed a pleasant Christmas, but it would have been so much better if my mother and brother had still been alive to share it with us. I would like to think it was my brother's spirit stopping by to say "Merry Christmas. I still think of you, too."
I haven't been able to debunk this strange event or find any kind of rational explanation. I'm half afraid that my heart stopped during my sleep and the light I saw was the bright light people report after near-death experiences. Leave it to me to see the Stairway to Heaven and ruin my chance at eternal paradise by saying "Turn out that #$%@ light!" I've made a mental note that if I ever see another bright light to clean up my language ... just in case. - Scarlet
The Returned Relative:
It was Christmas time of 1995 or '96 at my aunt's house on a reservation in North Dakota. Some of my family was in the living room watching television, the kids were playing in the rooms or sleeping, and my uncle, aunt, and I were sitting at the table putting a puzzle together. My cousin, who worked at a casino, would come home around midnight or 1 a.m.
This night, as she pulled up and was walking toward the house, she looked in the window and saw me sitting at the table, my uncle sitting across from me, and someone standing to the left of me and someone standing in the corner, so she continued to walk in the house thinking nothing of it. As we were sitting there talking, she looked at me and asked who was standing next to me a few minutes ago and who was in the corner. I told her no one and she said, "Yeah, there was someone standing next to you. It looked like your mom and she was playing with your hair." (I have long hair, which I used to wear down all the time.) She said this person was running her hand on my hair, like a mother does to a child.
It kinda freaked me out, being I was probably only 12 or 13 at the time. My cousin swears up and down that someone was standing over me rubbing my head and watching me put the puzzle together with my aunt and uncle, and that there was another person standing behind this person. We got around to thinking it was probably her mom she saw. (She passed away on her birthday a week before Christmas back in 1992.)
In my family we consider our aunts and uncles to be just like our moms and dads. After thinking that it could have been her, it didn't scare me so much. However, we couldn't figure out who the person was standing in the corner. And always around Christmas time something strange always happens ... and we just think it's her visiting us. - V. Page
The Haunted Tree:
My parents and I lived in a small home that was around 90 years old. The year would have been 1996. We lived there from the time I was seven years old to the time I was 19. From the very day that we moved in, I felt that I was not alone. One year around Christmas time, I was having a friend spend the night. The heat had just shut off briefly and she and I were sitting in the living room watching television when the temperature dropped substantially. As I rose to turn up the heat, the Christmas tree began to shake violently. Ornaments were falling off right and left and she and I were terrified! We ran upstairs and lay down on my bed. My white cat curled up with us and my door was open slightly. When I gazed out at the dark hallway, I was horrified to see a tall white figure run down the hall. I turned to my friend and she acknowledged that she had seen the exact same thing. She never spent the night ever again. - Caitlin Williams
The Figure in the Recliner:
My mother, to whom I was very close, passed away in 1964 when I was 17 years old. I left home that year and moved to Ontario from Nova Scotia. In 1969 I met a girl whom I will call Karen and we got married in March of 1970. In December of 1971 we were expecting our first child. We were living in a small 1-1/2 bedroom bungalow. There was a fireplace in the living room. My wife and I loved the fireplace and we had it lit every night.
It was Christmas Eve, 1971, and we had just finished putting the gifts under the tree and a nice fire gave off a beautiful glow. On the tree, one string of lights, which was supposed to flash, had stopped several days before. It was five minutes to midnight when the fireplace suddenly just about went out, and the string of lights started to flash -- and the other lights stopped flashing! My wife and I were sitting on the floor and it had become very chilly in the room.
I looked over to my Lazyboy chair ... and a figure was sitting there -- my mother with a big beautiful smile on her face! My wife, who had never met my mother, said she could see the same thing. This "ghost" never spoke, but just kept looking at me and my wife and smiling.
At 12 midnight, the fire in the fireplace started up again and the lights on the tree stopped flashing and the others started flashing again. I looked over in the chair and the ghost was gone. No matter what I did to those Christmas lights, they never flashed again. - Arthur H.
The Ghostly Christmas Choir:
On Christmas Eve night, 1978 at about 3:00 a.m. in Klamath Falls, Oregon, I was suddenly awakened by a choir singing. The house was new construction, miles from the nearest church. I strained to hear any words that I could understand or a tune that I could identify, but I could not understand the language or tune. I did get a feeling of "angelic" exaltation, reverence, and gladness of heart. This was truly a heavenly choir lifting their voices on high, singing hosanna in the highest, in an unknown tongue, without accompaniment of instruments.
I examined the television, but it was turned off, as was the radio. I explored outside, but the singing was not heard outdoors. The way the countless male, female and children's voices entwined together, the tonals going from operatic highs to the deepest bass voices in perfect harmony. It must have lasted about 10 minutes, but it was touching for an eternity. - Mel
Source: Cafe Mom
- WATCH YOUR BACK SANTA DEPARTMENT -
The Not So Friendly Elves and Fairies of Old
Fairies have become an intrinsic part of the Christmas spirit. Many families place a fairy on top of the Christmas tree. Fairy lights are everywhere in December. Then, there are Santa’s elves, the stars of so many Christmas films and stories on our televisions and in our children’s books.
But is it really safe to invite British fairies into your home? This is the question I found myself asking, upon recently while writing Magical Folk, a history of fairy sightings in Britain from Roman times to the present.
While some are benevolent, many of the magical folk Brits have encountered over the centuries are nothing like Hollywood’s tutu-clad, butterfly-winged miniature Marilyn Monroes meet J.M. Barrie’s Tinker Bells we commonly associate with them. As Shakespeare has Falstaff say centuries ago: ‘They are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die.’
For one, let’s start with the wings. The first British fairies with wings turn up only at the end of the 18th century in paintings. It was artists who imagined them rather than ordinary folk who saw them.
More importantly, many of those who over the past centuries have encountered British fairies report that they are a scary lot. British fairies have a particularly long history of pilfering food from the natives. If they were to get into your home they would likely feast on your Christmas goodies. They are also known to be accomplished thieves, mainly of cattle. But I still wouldn’t count on them leaving any gifts left under the tree as they will have ransacked them.
In fact, a British fairy would probably take a very dim view of your Christmas tree in any case. Fairies have for centuries, been associated with trees in the UK, particularly oaks, which fairies loved to dance around.
The guardian of the tree
But they did not stand on top of them to pirouette. They guarded them against humans and walloped those who damaged their charges. Some farmers who sawed branches off a fairy oak near London in the 1600s had their limbs by the oak’s irate fairy. It doesn’t bear thinking what they might do when they find not just a branch but a whole tree in your living room.
If you heard all these goings in the middle of the night and were to come downstairs and protest as they revel around your Christmas tree, they might shoot you with an elf bolt. There are many reports of humans being punished harshly by them for interrupting or even watching fairy knees-ups. They don’t like to be seen by humans.
Kidnapping and bed-hopping
Can it get any scarier? Yes it can. British fairies very possibly would kidnap your children as historical sightings regularly report they flew off with the souls of the young and replaced them with changelings. The history of British fairies reads like a thriller.
Nor would your spouse necessarily be safe. In 1894 in Tipperary, a 26-year-old wife was replaced by a fairy changeling. At least, that is what her husband and his family claimed. Before I forget, did I mention their habit of bed-hopping?
You may well wonder, how did this lively lot become part of our Christmas traditions?
The magic of Christmas
The answer is from the theatre and through the arts. British fairy madness kicked off the best part of two centuries ago on the stage when the grand urban houses ran pantomimes with large numbers of “fairies”: troupes of dancing and sometimes flying girls.
These actresses and dancers were winged, dressed in white and occasionally had portable battery-powered electric bulbs attached to their heads or skirts.
The theatre had picked up on the millennium-old association of fairies with glowing lights. Though these fairy lights, as opposed to their electric cousins, mislead humans at night. The fairies sometimes tricked their terrified victims into mires and swamps around Britain’s moors and wetlands.
In the theatre the electric lights illuminated thighs rather than trickery. With an unusual amount of innocent Christmas flesh showing theatre-goers took increasing pleasure in watching human perform as fairies. And this branded the fairy image into the minds of future generations of excitable theatre-goers. So much so that there was much concern in the press about fairy immorality.
Santa’s elves are another set of wolves in sheeps’ clothes. They are the perfumed, jollified version of the terrifying soul-stealing trolls the Vikings talked about. Needless to say, the Viking originals were more likely to eat children, than spend their time wrapping presents “for good boys and girls”.
Writers started bowdlerizing this rowdy lot of Scandinavian tourists around the same time as electrical lights turned up. Santa and his elves began to appear tapping away with hammer in poems, stories. Then, later they turned up in paintings and, by 1932, in cartoons and performances with fairy ballerinas.
So yes, why not put a harmless Hollywood fairy on your tree; drape those electric lights around the house. But if you do see a British fairy near your home close the shutters, stay inside and avoid a nightmare.
- SANTA AND THE SHROOMS DEPARTMENT -
The Real Story Behind the “Design” of Christmas
By Holly McWhorter
Most people think of Santa Claus and the cheery red and white we decorate with at Christmas as little more than lighthearted fun and pretty colors. But the real story behind that Christmas look that takes over the Western world at this time of year is a bit… shall we say, darker. Or at least way, way more tripped-out. Read on to find out about the psychedelic and mystical roots of the Santa Claus myth and the traditional Christmas decorating scheme!
When we think of Christmas in the United States, we invariably think of Santa Claus — a man in a red suit and pointy hat with white furry trim and tall black boots, and his accessories, a bag of goodies in a sleigh pulled through the sky by a team of eight flying reindeer. And it’s a clear case of the clothes making the man, for a Santa in any other outfit would most definitely not still be Santa. (Does a fat, bearded, white-haired guy in cargo shorts and a Metallica t-shirt make you think of Christmas?)
But when you think about it, it’s a pretty special outfit, no? Santa’s pretty much the only one who wears anything like it — a baggy suit with fur trim isn’t exactly stylish these days, and it wasn’t when Santa made his first appearance, either. His last known precursor, Father Christmas, wore a long red robe, sometimes with trim and sometimes without, like a cardinal — reflecting the link drawn between him and the historic Saint Nicholas, a Turkish cardinal in the 14th century who was known for his kindness to children. But the pants? And the hat? And the boots? They’re nowhere to be found on him.
Popular legend has it that Santa himself, not to mention his outfit, was designed by Coca Cola, making his first appearance in their early-20th century ads and defining him for the ages by sheer force of commercial might. There’s a grain of truth in this: His generous shape and rosy cheeks came at the whimsy of Haddon Sundblom, the illustrator of so many of Coke’s well-loved ads from that period. Before Sundblom’s illustrations, Santa was commonly depicted as more of a gnome-like little man (editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast drew some of the best-known early dedications of him), often skinny and a little scary — but even then, wearing the same clothes he wears now. So the question is, where did that outfit come from? Where did Santa get such a unique sense of sartorial élan?
The answer, according to anthropological research from recent decades, lies way further back than even Coke can be found. The roots of Santa’s style, and his bag of goodies, sleigh, reindeer, bizarre midnight flight, distinctive chimney-based means of entry into the home, and even the way we decorate our houses at Christmas, seem to lead all the way back to the ancestral traditions of a number of indigenous arctic circle dwellers — the Kamchadales and the Koryaks of Siberia, specifically. (So it’s true — Santa really does come from the North Pole!)
And like so many other fantastical tales, it all originated with some really intense ‘shrooms. On the night of the winter solstice, a Koryak shaman would gather several hallucinogenic mushrooms called amanita muscaria, or fly agaric in English, and them to launch himself into a spiritual journey to the tree of life (a large pine), which lived by the North Star and held the answer to all the village’s problems from the previous year.
Fly agaric is the red mushroom with white spots that we see in fairy tale illustrations, old Disney movies, and (if you’re old enough to remember) Super Mario Brothers video games and all the Smurfs cartoons. They are seriously toxic, but they become less lethal when dried out. Conveniently, they grow most commonly under pine trees (because their spores travel exclusively on pine seeds), so the shaman would often hang them on lower branches of the pine they were growing under to dry out before taking them back to the village. As an alternative, he would put them in a sock and hang them over his fire to dry. Is this starting to sound familiar?
Another way to remove the fatal toxins from the ‘shrooms was to feed them to reindeer, who would only get high from them — and then pee, with their digestive systems having filtered out most of the toxins, making their urine safe for humans to drink and get a safer high that way. Reindeer happen to love fly agarics and eat them whenever they can, so a good supply of magic pee was usually ready and waiting all winter. In fact, the reindeer like fly agarics so much that they would eat any snow where a human who had drank ‘shroom-laced urine had relieved himself, and thus the circle would continue.
When the shaman went out to gather the mushrooms, he would wear an red outfit with either white trim or white dots, in honor of the mushroom’s colors. And because at that time of year the whole region was usually covered in deep snow, he, like everyone, wore tall boots of reindeer skin that would by then be blackened from exposure. He’d gather the tree-dried fly agarics and some reindeer urine in a large sack, then return home to his yurt (the traditional form of housing for people of this region at that time), where some of the higher-ups of the village would have gathered to join in the solstice ceremony.
But how would he get into a yurt whose door was blocked by several feet of snow? He’d climb up to the roof with his bag of goodies, go to the hole in the center of the roof that acted as a chimney, and slide down the central pole that held the yurt up over the fireplace. Then he’d pass out a few ‘shrooms to each guest, and some might even partake of some of the ones that had been hung over the fire. Clearly, this idea of using the chimney to get in and pass out the magic mushrooms (and other goodies) had sticking power. Interestingly, even as late as Victorian times in England, the traditional symbol of chimney sweeps was a fly agaric mushroom — and many early Christmas cards featured chimney sweeps with fly agarics, though no explanation of why was offered.
Interestingly, in addition to inducing hallucinations, the mushrooms stimulate the muscular system so strongly that those who eat them take on temporarily superhuman strength, in the same way we might be affected by a surge of adrenaline in a life-or-death situation. And the effect is the same for animals. So any reindeer who’d had a tasty mushroom snack or a little yellow snow would become literally high and mighty, prancing around and often jumping so high they looked like they were flying. And at the same time, the high would make humans feel like they were flying, too, and the reindeer were flying through space. So by now you can see where this is going: The legend had it that the shaman and the reindeer would fly to the north star (which sits directly over the north pole) to retrieve the gifts of knowledge, which they would then distribute to the rest of the village.
It seems that these traditions were carried down into Great Britain by way of the ancient druids, whose spiritual practices had taken on elements that had originated much farther north. Then, in the inevitable way that different cultures influence one another due to migration and intermarriage, these stories got mixed with certain Germanic and Nordic myths involving Wotan (the most powerful Germanic god), Odin (his Nordic counterpart) or another great god going on a midnight winter solstice ride, chased by devils, on an eight-legged horse. The exertion of the chase would make flecks of red and white blood and foam fall from the horse’s mouth to the ground, where the next year amanita mushrooms would appear. Apparently over time, this European story of a horse with eight legs, united with the ancient Arctic circle story of reindeer prancing and flying around on the same night, melted together into eight prancing, flying reindeer.
That story then crossed the pond to the New World with the early English settlers, and got an injection of Dutch traditions involving the Turkish St. Nicholas (who came to be called Sinterklaas by small Dutch children) from the Dutch colonialists — and found immortality in its current form in early 20th-century America, with Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Before this poem hit the press, different immigrant groups around the U.S. each had their own different versions of the Santa Claus legend. Then in the 1930s, Coca Cola’s ad campaign gave Santa his sizable girth and sent him back around the world. And so in that spirit, a merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!
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