5/1/16  #859
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Hovering high overhead, the UFO and its otherworldly occupants scan the Earths communications -- silently awaiting word that they have finally intercepted the secret information that has eluded them all week. Yes that's right! They are waiting for this weeks exciting issue of the newsletter of conspiracies, secrets, the paranormal and MORE - Conspiracy Journal is here once again to inflame your senses and question your beliefs.

This week Conspiracy Journal brings you such brain-racking stories as:

Polybius, The Mind-Controlling Arcade Game
-  UFOs, MIB, the Occult, and Trevor James Constable -
- Painting in Chicago Church "Weeps" Tears of Oil -
AND: Map Shows Where Iceland's Hidden People Have Been Spotted

All these exciting stories and MORE in this week's issue of

~ And Now, On With The Show! ~


Here is a direct link to Issue # 45

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Incredible Update of A Top Secret Project Gone Berserk!

The Philadelphia Experiment Revelations!

In This New, Updated Edition, Based on The Philadelphia Experiment Chronicles, The Story of a Highly Classified - ABOVE TOP SECRET - Project Conducted By The U.S. Navy, Can Now Be Told!

According to survivor accounts, the Philadelphia Experiment involved the teleportation of the U.S.S. Eldridge a mega-ton Destroyer Escort from its dry dock in the Philadelphia Naval Yard to Norfolk, Virginia - a distance of around 400 miles.

During at least part of the time, the Eldridge was "missing" from the City of Brotherly Love, the destroyer was said to have been transported into another dimension. Upon its return, most of the vessel's hand-picked test crew - all of whom had been left totally unprepared and unprotected - either "caught on fire," became literally frozen into the hull of the ship, went stark, raving mad, or vanished, never to be seen again.

Much has been written on the subject, but this is the only account as told by the retired intelligence operative Commander X who reveals the story of Dr. M.K. Jessup who discovered the incredible truth about the Philadelphia Experiment. Commander X also reveals the story of Alfred Bielek, who claimed to be one of only two survivors of the unholy experiments that breached the very fabric of time and space.

The late Alfred Bielek revealed the further destruction of innocent lives with the Phoenix Project that developed methods of teleportation, as well as mind manipulation and altering the very flow of time itself!

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The Lost Journals of TESLA – Our guest this month is Tim R. Swartz an Emmy-Award winning television producer and videographer. He is also the author of numerous popular books including “The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla”.


Polybius, The Mind-Controlling Arcade Game
By Natalie Zarrelli

In a suburban arcade near Portland, Oregon, in 1981, a dull, digital glow bounced off the faces of teenagers who clutched joysticks, immersed in the game. Tiny lines and dots danced or exploded with high-pitched beeps across them all, but one game cabinet, Polybius, drew the longest lines.

Gamers who tried it couldn’t stop playing, and began acting oddly: they were nauseous, stressed, had horrific nightmares. Others had seizures or attempted suicide, many felt unable to control their own thoughts. It was only later that they recalled how Polybius was serviced more often than other games. Men in black suits opened the machine every week, recorded its data, and left, with no interest in its coins. Soon after it appeared, the mysterious arcade game vanished without warning—taken by the men in black suits, leaving no record of its existence.

That’s the story, at least. This legend is one of the big unsolved mysteries of the gaming world, though most concede that the game never existed. It’s since become an urban legend on gaming and conspiracy websites and the internet horror wiki Creepypasta, and like all good stories, it is kept alive by its fans.

It’s uncertain just how far back the Polybius tale goes, but the earliest known discussion of it is thought to be from 1998, when a mysterious description appeared on the vintage gaming website coinop.org. The current entry for Polybius states that the game “had a very limited release, one or two backwater arcades in a suburb of Portland,” and according to rumors it was “developed by some kind of weird military tech offshoot group” and “used some kind of proprietary behavior modification algorithms developed for the CIA.”  

The 1998 post was shared with others in 2000 on a precursor to internet forums called Usenet, and seemingly sparked further lore about the game; by 2003 it appeared in a list of urban legends in GamePro magazine. In coinop.org’s comment section in 2006, someone by the name of Steven Roach added to the story: it was created by a company he and a few other naive programmers began, called Sinneslöschen, he explained. They were hired by a separate “South American company” to do the work, he claimed; they were merely in over their heads with their advanced, accidentally dangerous graphics.

In response, coinop.org amended its entry in 2009 with a rebuttal, saying “Steven Roach is full of himself, and knows nothing about this game.” The response claimed staff was planning to sort it all out by flying to the Ukraine; “Stay tuned.”

As with most legends, the details are evasive. No one even has a copy of the original Polybius game file (which are often found and shared by vintage game lovers), so no one can agree on what the game was actually like: was it a puzzle game, or a shooter game? What kind of graphics did it use?

Polybius, or at least the simulations fans have made of the legendary game, was disorienting and confusing. In it colorful geometric shapes bend and fold from a center portal like some sort of digital acid trip. If you’re prone to seizures, the simulation may actually trigger them. According to legend, the intense combination of vector and raster graphics in Polybius—which was supposed to be impossible, at least back in 1981—made the mind susceptible to subliminal messages from the U.S. government.

While details about the game are ambiguous, its story has roots in truth. Just a few decades before Polybius supposedly terrorized Oregon gamers, the government really was secretly testing unwitting subjects. MKUltra, an unethical government-led experimental program of the 1950s involving LSD, was uncovered in 1975 by the Church Committee of U.S. Congress and an investigation of the CIA, whose predecessor controlled the program.  

Many of MKUltra’s subjects did not know they were part of the tests—all designed to explore brainwashing and confession techniques. Despite an attempted cover up, a cache of 20,000 documents were revealed in 1977, and more information was declassified in 2001—showing over 185 researchers and 80 institutions participating in experiments with mind control, resulting in terrible effects on the research subjects.

Reports of injuries from video games actually happened too, though from entirely different (and real) arcade games. A newspaper from the Portland area at the time reports that a 12-year-old boy named Brian Mauro got sick after drinking coca-cola and playing Asteroids for 28 hours (an arcade representative said they were “massaging his hands” to keep the kid going.) Another boy at the same arcade on the same day experienced a seizure from Atari’s game Tempest—a puzzle game with fast-paced, disorienting graphics that Polybius is frequently compared to.

Even the government-video game connection is real; the army and the marines have and still use video games to train soldiers. What’s more, shady arcade owners sometimes dabbled in illegal gambling, so the FBI may have actually been walking around arcades and checking machines for evidence.

Combine all of that with the existence of the short-lived 1985 game Polly Play, an eight-game arcade cabinet that was recalled (possibly, according to Skeptoid, for copyright concerns), and you have a pretty solid foundation for a massive urban legend. The name Polybius could have been a misconstrued version of Polly Play, or an intentional reference to the cyphering system of a Greek historian named Polybius, born around 200 BCE.

Polybius itself may not exist, but that hasn't stopped its story from capturing the imaginations of gamers, writers and artists. The Last Starfighter, a 1984 movie in which a man in black recruits a teen for his epic video game skills, might have been influenced by (or influenced) the legend. A 2006 Simpsons episode called “Please Homer, Don’t Hammer ‘Em” shows Bart next to a Polybius cabinet, with "Property of the U.S. Government" stamped on the front.

A series called Doomsday Arcade by Escapist Magazine is based on it. Blister Declassified, a three-part series that was supposedly focused on Polybius was canceled before the third installment could be released. There’s even a T-shirt, and in 2015 a Kickstarter campaign for a Polybius documentary was in the works, but it unfortunately didn’t get the necessary funding.  

Polybius never seems to completely go away. Some online members of the Vintage Arcade Preservation Society claim to own it; one lists the serial number as “666”. Photos of unknown origin of its screen and cabinet bounce around the internet as “proof” that it exists, and every now and then a supposed sighting of the cabinet shows up.  

A bar in Brooklyn called Barcade created a Polybius cabinet for Halloween in 2012, and it was so convincing that an Instagram post of it attracted believers and instigators; user broyomofo wrote a comment saying: “...please tell me that you didn't activate that machine and it was simply a gag decoration for some sort of party,” and added that they’d played the original game, suffered a seizure, and “became addicted to the point that I kept playing and, for reasons I can't remember, I attempted to commit suicide.”

A few days ago, a Craigslist ad in Los Angeles advertised a Polybius cabinet for sale—this time, though, the culprit was a prop house for Sony Pictures, which made the cabinets for a movie that was never made. The cabinet has an engraved plaque labeling it “Property of the U.S. Government.” In an email, Andreas Kratky, who is listing the prop, told me that the “Polybius machine was dressed up to resemble all aspects of the myth….They clearly took care to satisfy the nerdism of the gamer community regarding the myth of the game.”

Since posting, the listing has gotten multiple emails commenting on its worth and rarity. “The post has become something like a crystallization point for the imaginations about the game,” Kratky adds.

While many believe it to be an urban legend or hoax, the story of Polybus still has people searching for the one thing that keeps it just out of arm’s reach from fact: hard evidence. It is likely they’ll keep looking for years to come.

Source: Atlas Obscura


UFOs, MIB, the Occult, and Trevor James Constable
By Nick Redfern

Over at his Twilight Language blog, Loren Coleman has a new post on the March 31, 2016 death of UFO investigator/author Trevor James Constable. The article is titled “‘Space Critters’ Ufologist Trevor James Constable Has Died. It includes the following from Loren: “Another early researcher and writer in ufology has passed away. Native New Zealander Trevor James Constable, 90, died on March 31, 2016, in California. This news comes after only recently learning of the death of Albert K. Bender, 94. Not too surprising, because Bender and Constable were from a special era, there’s an overlap between their lives.”

There most assuredly was an overlap. Constable was deeply interested in the Albert Bender/Men in Black saga of the early 1950s. As I mentioned to Loren: “Constable contributed a letter to the book Bender Mystery Confirmed. Not many people know of this book. It was a follow-up to Bender’s Flying Saucers and the Three Men. It was published by Gray Barker. The Confirmed book is a collection of about 20 letters from people who had read Bender’s book and who wanted to comment on it.”  

In his 1962 letter (which was mailed to Gray Barker) Constable makes it very clear that he believed Bender encountered something straight out of the world of the occult.

Constable wrote: “Dear Gray, It is difficult indeed for me, as an occultist with some firsthand experience of this field of UFOs, to sort out Bender’s journeys back and forth across the threshold line between the physical and the astral. A biometric examination of Al Bender would probably indicate similar things to what it revealed about certain other researchers – total inability to distinguish between events on two planes of reality.”

He continued to Barker: “Bender’s honesty I do not for a moment doubt. His discrimination I would deem non-existent. It seems almost incredible that the man could relate the full story of the construction of his chamber of horrors in the attic in the way Bender has. This is what convinces me of his honesty. Nothing could be more logical, in an occult way, than that the invisible entities he invited by the preparation of this locale, should indeed manifest to him, and thereafter proceed to obsess him for a protracted period, using hypnotic techniques that brought the man completely under their control.”

Constable had much more to say, too: “As to the nature of the entities involved, it seems that my writings about the ‘imperceptible physical’ as source of many space ships, or so-called space ships, are only too close to the truth. Indeed, if Bender’s experience has any value, I’d like to suggest that it certainly illuminates a re-reading of ‘They Live in the Sky.’ I don’t believe I know of any case quite like Bender’s, where a man seemingly oblivious to the reality and laws of the occult, brought upon himself the energetic attention of aggressive occult forces. Certainly, the man can thank some kind of Divine intervention for the preservation of his sanity – if everything he writes is true.”

We also have the following words from Constable: “Assuming that Bender has been truthful and honest, I would say that the lesson if his experiences is this. For the understanding of the UFOs and all the bewildering phenomena connected in this field, a working knowledge of occult science is indispensable. This lesson, driven home in innumerable ways since saucers came to mankind, is given new force with the Bender book. But few there will be who will heed it.”

To what extent Constable may have further pursued the Bender mystery is an issue that I’m looking into.

Source: Mysterious Universe


Mass Hysteria a Global Problem
By Dr Robert E. Bartholomew

News of the mass hysteria at SMK Pengkalan Chepa 2 in Kota Baru, Kelantan, has made headlines around the world. Social media sites have been abuzz with postings of a shadowy ghost-like figure taken on a mobile phone, which stoked fears and helped trigger the scare. Some foreign journalists and bloggers have used the opportunity to criticise Malaysian society for their widespread belief in ghosts and spirits.

As a medical sociologist who has spent several years in Malaysia researching supernatural beliefs, nothing could be further from the truth. Studies in the United States consistently show that about one-third of the population believe in ghosts, and significant portions of Americans believe in Bigfoot and alien abductions. Every society has a belief in otherworldly beings. To single out Malaysia is hypocrisy. Shakespeare wrote: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

As a scientist, I require definitive proof of the existence of supernatural beings, but I must admit that there are happenings that 2016 science cannot explain. So who knows, perhaps there are jinn, toyol and hantu. Who am I to say? Certainly, their existence is no less plausible than Western beliefs in similar beings. However, I am confident that outbreaks of mass hysteria are not caused by any of these beings, if they exist.

It is a well-known psychological phenomena caused by pent-up stress and coloured by cultural beliefs. The only way to stop it is to pinpoint the cause and eliminate or reduce the stress. Mass hysteria is more common than most people realise. Western outbreaks are often hidden from view.

Over my career, I have investigated five cases and published the results in scientific journals. Three outbreaks were in the US, one was in Canada; the other happened in Australia. In each instance, there was an effort by authorities to cover up the outbreak and keep it out of the media due to the stigma that is often attached to such episodes. The point is: outbreaks are far more common in Western countries than are reported in the media or journals.

There are two main types of outbreaks. The first is anxiety hysteria, which is common in Western countries where there is a lack of pre-existing tension, and occurs frequently in schools and factories. Most cases are triggered by an unfamiliar odour that is thought to be toxic and pose an immediate health threat. Symptoms include headache, difficulty breathing, dizziness, fainting and fatigue. Victims usually recover within hours.

Symptoms commonly reflect the perceived cause. Incidents of suspected chemical exposure may result in itchy eyes, headache and over-breathing. If there is no odour and food poisoning is suspected, complaints of stomach pain, nausea and diarrhoea are common. Episodes typically persist from a few hours to a day, but may recur in waves if it is believed that authorities have not taken steps to reduce or eliminate the threat. In non-Western countries, motor hysteria is common. The term comes from what doctors refer to as motor function.

Under prolonged stress, the nerves and neurons that send messages to the muscles and the brain, malfunction. The result is twitching, shaking, and convulsions that affect motor skills. Hallucinations reflect cultural beliefs and may take the form of ghostly figures. Occasionally, some students exhibit spirit possession. This age-old phenomenon has been recorded in all parts of the world and in different religious settings.

It is a sign of extreme, long-term anxiety. Outbreaks of motor hysteria build up slowly over time. As a result, they usually take several weeks to subside. Typically, the sight of one girl going hysterical is enough to send many of her classmates over the edge. I cannot stress enough that this is not a conscious process and the girls are not faking it.

These outbreaks signal to the wider community that something is amiss at the school; often it is unhappiness with what the students view as overly strict rules. Summoning bomoh often proves to be effective, especially in small outbreaks. However, if they fail, the effort can backfire because by inviting them in, they legitimise the supernatural origin of the outbreak. Their presence can also undermine the credibility of the medical model.

There are several historical cases in Malaysia that have flared up and persisted for several more weeks or months, when bomoh were unsuccessful. The most notorious outbreak in Malaysian history occurred at a girls’ school in Kedah in 1983, and endured in a waxing, waning fashion for five years until 1987, when former prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman went to the school and saw to it that the girls were transferred to a more liberal school.

The outbreak quickly subsided. Separating the students and closing the school for a few days while emotions cool down, has been the most common and successful strategy in countering cases in different parts of the world. Actions that calm outbreaks include confident, firm reassurance by authorities as to the psychological nature of the episode, and countering rumours by keeping open communication with the affected community through responsible journalism.

In recent years, the use of social media has been influential in spreading fear during several hysteria incidents. This also appears to be the case in Kota Baru. The posting of a vague, shadowy figure on sites like Facebook appears to have stoked fears and led to the rapid spread of panic through the school. The authorities should consider monitoring or temporarily shutting down social media at the school until the outbreak settles down.

Students should be cautioned against posting images of allegedly supernatural figures due to the potential emotional upset that they can cause. In the past, students’ symptoms often subsided once they left the school grounds. Nowadays, in the Internet and mobile phone era, they can access information and images from home.

This can cause outbreaks to persist. Studies of mass hysteria show that those affected are normal and mentally healthy, but under extraordinary stress. Authorities should try to identify any underlying pre-existing tension that so often incubate outbreaks. Once the anxiety-generating stimulus has been addressed, and their concerns and fears have been reduced, life should slowly return to normal.

Above all, Malaysians should not have to feel that outbreaks somehow reflect negatively on the government or society. Malaysia is a developed, 21st-century country. Mass hysteria is not a Malaysian issue, it is a global problem. Outbreaks cannot be eliminated, but through education, we can make people aware that the answer to these outbreaks lies not in the supernatural world, but in the human mind.

Source: New Strait Times

Don't be so Quick to Dismiss the Unexplainable

It is interesting to note the polemics on hysteria brought to the limelight by the incident of mass hysteria at SMK Pengkalan Chepa 2 in Kota Baru, Kelantan.

Anthropologists, medical psychologists and medical sociologists have advanced theories concerning this occurrence. They contend that stress causes hysteria. They cited the students’ inability to cope with the burden of school work, which caused them to become emotionally unstable. This caused behavioural changes in the form of hysteria, which serves as an avenue to release pent-up cerebral tensions.

They attributed the paranormal visualisations to anxiety and fear of the students (women) and are sceptical of the role of beings (spirits) of the nether world causing the hysteria. To them, these beings, such as jinn, ghosts and jembalang, are subconscious figments of one’s inner anxiety and fear.

Perhaps, to scientifically-inclined professionals, it is the brain that gives shape and form to inner trepidations as a means to rationalise predicaments. Scientists believe that all our thought patterns and mental experiences are the result of electrical impulses in the brain.

One of them wrongly suggested that makyong, a traditional theatre form, main puteri and main bageh, which are ritualistic healing ceremonies, are channels for women to vent their anger. In fact, main puteri and main bageh are actually part of anthropological medicine that address psychosomatic ailments caused by spirit possessions and infestations as well as to activate the internal healing energy called angin.

Contrary to the belief of these scientifically-inclined professionals who are sceptical of paranormal occurrences, spirit manifestations in the form of apparitions and possessions do exist in traditional healing. Spirits, such as jinn, are mentioned in the Quran.

There is a chapter (Surah 72) specifically on jinn as well as 39 references to jinn in the Quran. Islam acknowledges their existence and their involvement with humans in the real world. In fact, Islamic healing called ruqyah, addresses cerebral and bodily ailments caused by jinn and other ethereal beings.

Research by Universiti Sains Malaysia on traditional performance healing under the Long Range Grant Scheme (LRGS) to ascertain the veracity of traditional and ruqyah faith/spiritual healing and spirit possession, provides a platform for interaction between the esoteric and the scientific perception of human maladies.

There are phenomena that science cannot explain and yet are dismissed as chimeras of the imagination. But in reality, our existence is a complex conundrum of scientifically proven and esoteric phenomena. We should not simply discount those that cannot be scientifically verified.

We should accept the possibility that hysteria is not mainly due to stress but may also be caused by spiritual possession and infestation. n Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin, Universiti Sains Malaysia,Penang

Source: New Straits Times


Canary Islands: Remembering A Vanished Race

The prehispanic inhabitants of these islands remain an enigma, for all the investigations of recent years. The animal skin-clad aboriginals arrived in the Canary Islands, most likely from north Africa, nobody knows how long ago and their mummified remains now constitute the most popular exhibits in local museums.

But for all their time in the islands before the Spanish arrived, there is relatively little to show for that presence apart from those grisly remains, some rather unsophisticated pottery, some (disputed) pyramids, a number of tumble-down shelters and some indecipherable symbols scratched on rocks and boulders.

Respectful of their natural surroundings, they left their islands pretty much as they found them, with no monuments and above all no written records. Sun worshippers or tree huggers, they remain as much of a mystery as their crude rock carvings.

But the story of their end is better known, thanks to the chronicles of their conquerors. The bloody battles were the beginning of the end for the Guanches. Many were slaughtered, others committed suicide, more were enslaved. Wiped out by the Spanish settlers, theirs is one of the earliest cases of ethnic cleansing of the modern era, pre-dating the extermination of the natives in the New World and has uncomfortable resonances even in the 21st century. The disappearance of the surviving islanders was a slow, painful and humiliating process made up of thousands of individual human tragedies.

Take, for instance, the sad story of a Guanche woman of the sixteenth century whose will has survived in official archives. An interpreter puts her last words into Spanish. She states her belief in the Blessed Trinity and her desire to leave her worldly possessions (which seem to consist of little more than a few items of clothing) to her daughters. She has three. They were taken to Castilla to be converted. But she has no notion of where they are, or whether they are alive or dead. She doesn’t even know what they will be called now, since they have been given Christian names.

That poor woman’s situation was far from being unique. It reflects the drama of the impact of the Spanish conquest on the islands and their subsequent colonisation. Aboriginals who survived by and large weren’t even regarded as third class citizens, never mind second-class ones. They were viewed by the settlers with open hostility but were nevertheless expected to integrate into the new order imposed on them by an alien race.

It has been calculated that by the beginning of the sixteenth century the indigenous people made up just over a quarter of the total population of Gran Canaria with a further quarter comprised of mixed blood inhabitants, the result, more often than not, of rape or extra marital relations on the part of the conquering heroes.

From the outset the Spanish imposed not just their lusts but their language and their religion on the islanders. They were made to adopt European dress and live in villages and towns rather than their preferred choice of caves.
As the years passed, the natives became ever more marginalised. The conquest opened the doors to mass immigration and within fifty years or so most of the islands – the best and most fertile areas, at least – had been colonised.

The aboriginals were relegated to a subservient lower order, at best scratching a living from what land was left to them, at worst surviving as servants or even slaves. Almost none of the Guanche nobility found a niche in Spanish society, though a shining exception was Fernando Guanarteme.

His real name was Thenesor Semidan. The last king (or guanarteme) of his native Galdár in Gran Canaria, he was captured and then apparently won over by the conquering forces to the extent of taking up arms for them and forming a fighting force of native soldiers. He was baptised by a cardinal in Toledo and presented to the Reyes Católicos Ferdinand and Isabela. He and his native troop took part in the conquest of Granada in 1492 and later that of Tenerife where he died.  He was buried with military honour in the church of San Cristóbal in La Laguna.

Over time the majority of natives inevitably entered into what might be called a process of racial fusion with the poorest of the European newcomers and with slaves, mostly Berbers, whom the Spanish brought over from Africa.
As might be expected, the Guanches who became “urbanised” by living at close quarters with their Spanish masters, gradually learnt and adopted their alien habits and customs, though whether out of willingness or a sense of self-preservation is an open question.

The more marginalised who took to the hills and a life of rural hardship, continued to practice the old ways, caring for their herds in the least accessible parts of the islands and defying the ban on speaking their own language.
The legacy of aboriginal society is limited to those elements that posed no challenge to that of their conquerors: their goats, their pottery, their gofio … Physical activities which had been essential to their early way of life such as the juego del palo and salto del pastor in time became local sports.

As with all peoples subject to an occupying force, in whatever period of history, the natives found that the best means of survival was to keep a low profile. Concealing their true origin became second nature to them and those origins subsequently became, no doubt, a matter of shame. An inquisitor as late as the 1670s admitted it was extremely difficult to carry out a census in the islands because “the natives and their descendants conceal their origins with the utmost care”.

A modern historian who trawled through contemporary records took a sample of 1,000 aboriginals in the sixteenth century and found that only 74 had retained any trace of their prehispanic name in their adopted Christian ones. About 170 maintained one relating to their tribal territories (such as Adeje or Agüimes). But the rest retained no vestige of their aboriginal name. These had taken on – or more likely had forced upon them – strictly Christian names and surnames, thus erasing at the stroke of a quill and a trickle of baptismal water, any nominal link with their ancestral past.

The suppression of a people’s cultural identity is a cruel process. In the case of the original Canary Islanders it was brutal, it was effective, and it was done as is so often the case in the name of God and empire. It was, moreover, a dress rehearsal for what was to happen, on a much larger scale, to millions more natives across the Atlantic in the New World not so many years later.

Source: Tenerife News


Painting in Chicago Church "Weeps" Tears of Oil
By Manya Brachear Pashman

Thousands of people across the Chicago area are flocking to a southwest suburban parish to see what they believe to be a  miracle. Since July, tiny droplets of fragrant oil have trickled down an icon of St. John the Baptist in front of the altar at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Homer Glen. Parishioners believe the oil has healing properties and that its origins are a blessing from God.

"The first thing out of my mouth was 'What do I do?' " said the Rev. Sotirios "Sam" Dimitriou, the parish priest. "You don't expect anything like this. It's breathtaking. It's so powerful to see such an act of God before your eyes."

Whether it's an act of God or a chemical reaction, no one really knows. And frankly, few in the Greek Orthodox community care. A rational explanation is irrelevant if what seems to be a supernatural event draws people toward God, clergy say.

"We don't necessarily make official pronouncements on these things," said Bishop Demetrios, auxiliary bishop of Mokissos of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago. "We let the faithful believe it if they wish. … If it brings you closer to God that's wonderful. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

The oil, which parishioners believe to be myrrh, exudes from the icon's halo, wings, hands and beard. Collected every week by a reservoir of cotton at the base of the icon, Dimitriou regularly extracts the oil into a pitcher, then saturates cotton balls, which he seals in plastic bags for parishioners to take home and share with their loved ones. So far, he has handed out more than 5,000 samples — a handy way to track the flow of pilgrims.

While Dimitriou certainly does not mind sharing the oil, he has been reluctant to broadcast its origins. Instead, news of the icon has spread by word of mouth.

Reports of the oil's healing effects have made their way to Dimitriou. One man reportedly went to the doctor concerning a blockage in his artery, but it had disappeared. Another reports being cancer free after touching the oil.

The painter of the icon, Peter Mihalopoulos, said he believed the oil was the reason why he was in his garage painting two days after a hip replacement.

Dimitriou himself, who before the oil began to flow, frequently passed out at the altar or in his office because of nerve damage, said he has not been hospitalized for his nerve condition since September and he stopped taking his medication in January.

This is not the first time unexplained streaks of moisture have been spotted on an icon in the Chicago area.

A weeping icon of Mary has drawn huge crowds to St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church several separate times since it began to emit moisture in December 1986. In 1994, parishioners at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cicero said they witnessed tears streaming from the eyes of Mary in an icon of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus.

Unlike those weeping icons, Dimitriou said the oil on St. John the Baptist appears to come from everywhere but his eyes. He has been told that means the icon offers a sign of joy, not sadness.

The fact that it's an icon of St. John the Baptist, also sets it apart. John Price, a 20-year-old altar server, noticed the droplets of oil on the icon, as he held a flickering candle during a Sunday service in July.

Sitting in the front chair that morning, his mother Miki noticed her son transfixed. When he told her later what he had witnessed, she immediately went back to the church to see for herself. "That's my son's saint, and my son wants to be a priest," Miki Price said. "It totally blesses me that John was the first to see it."

James Skedros, dean of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Mass., said that although icons don't exude oil every day, similar episodes have taken place across the U.S. There is no formal process in the Orthodox church of authenticating such incidents as miracles, he said, but they are believed to hold significance.

Just as Christians believe God broke into the physical world with his incarnation 2,000 years ago, Orthodox Christians believe that matter can be a conveyor of sanctity, he said.

"We have a very different understanding of matter as a vehicle of holiness so we treat icons in that matter," Skedros said. "We put them on walls, burn candles in front of them, light incense in front of them because they're images of what they represent — the holy person or image of Christ or the saint."

Could the phenomenon be attributed to a reaction to the church's environment? Of course, Skedros said. But why go there? What bishop wants to question the congregation, discredit a priest or doubt God?

Indeed, Bishop Demetrios sees the rivulets of oil and powerful perfume emanating from the icon as a blessing for a wounded congregation.

In 2007, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese suspended a former priest over allegations he sexually abused minors in the early 1970s while he was a priest at Assumption, when it was located in Olympia Fields.The parish eventually moved to Homer Glen in 2013.

"God through this icon is somehow healing this parish from some serious hurt in its past," Bishop Demetrios said.

Helen Conits, who joined the parish this week, said the icon has offered her comfort and peace of mind. On Wednesday, she came to the church to be anointed with oil in the sacrament of holy unction and to pick up a cotton ball for her ailing father and her daughter.

"I do believe in miracles," she said. "I don't necessarily have to see it but it's nice. At a time when everything seems to be falling apart in the world and for us personally, it's nice to see."

Dimitriou said the potential for crowds does make him nervous but it's stories like Conits' that remind him what a blessing the icon offers to the world.

"When people see this, it's just a reminder that God is still alive and still working through us and it's a reminder that there's still hope in the world for us," he said.

Pamela Arvanetes, a parishioner at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Palos Hills, brought her five children to venerate the icon Wednesday.

"I wanted them to witness it," she said, "an extra blessing, the symbol of our faith, a miracle."

Source: The Chicago Tribune


Map Shows Where Iceland's Hidden People Have Been Spotted

It’s an oft-reported, can-you-even-believe-it fact that many people in Iceland still believe in the possible existence of elves. This myth from the country’s folk traditions has persisted, and the niggling suspicion that the Good Folk may still be out there among the rocks has even led to Icelandic road and housing plans being altered to avoid sites associated with them. Now, there’s an incredibly detailed map that shows you exactly where such sites can be found.

Iceland’s Saga Foundation compiled and published the map last fall, linking traditional folk tales featuring so-called Huldufólk (“hidden people”) with locations all across the island. While deciphering the attached stories can be a challenge for those who don’t speak Icelandic, what’s striking is the mind-blowing volume of tales mapped.

Zoom into any corner of the map and you will find an incredibly dense scattering of sightings, stories, and legends about the hidden people, sprinkling almost all of the island’s under-populated landscape with an intricate network of tales and supposed elf sightings. This past winter, a large portion of this unpopulated zone was back in the (Icelandic) news, as campaigners, including Björk and her union leader father, have lobbied to have the region protected by a new national park.

If created, the park would cover 40 percent of the entire country. If this scope seems huge, rest assured that most of the area is empty—at least of humans. The Icelandic Highlands are largely barren, dominated by glaciers and volcanic desert peppered with small oases but almost no inhabitants. Having this stark, ominously beautiful landscape in their backyards could help to explain why Icelanders’ belief in nature spirits has persisted. It’s not that Icelanders are inherently any more witchy or suggestible that people from other nations. (In fact, when it comes to religion, a recent poll suggested that no young Icelanders even believe that a god had created the world.)

Rather, Icelanders have long lived spread thinly across a far-flung island whose natural extremes and emptiness somehow make the perception of a non-human presence more palpable. I would personally challenge anyone to visit the highlands and not feel a little spooked.

The folk tales mapped across this terrain are, by contrast, entirely human in their concerns. Icelandic stories told about elves were, like all folk tales, vehicles for ordinary people to explore their own day-to-day concerns—hunger, sex, jealousy—through supernatural proxies whose form and stature was still similar to their own. As Terry Gunnell, one of the map’s co-creators, commented in the introduction to an Icelandic folk tale collection, elves are:

[N]ear mirror-images of those humans who told stories about them—except they were beautiful, powerful, alluring, and free from care, while the Icelanders were often starving and struggling for existence. The huldufólk seem in many ways to represent the Icelander's dreams of a more perfect and happy existence.

The other overwhelming impression to be gained from the tales listed on the map is of people trying to live in harmony, or at least come to terms with difficult natural surroundings. Often said to live under rocks, Icelandic elves have a backstory: They’re supposed to be descendants of children Eve hid from god because they hadn’t been washed. They nonetheless come across as embodiments of the landscape itself.

In one tale, for example, an elf man treats a fisherman to a feast in thanks for preventing his crew from throwing stones at a rock—thus saving the life of the elf’s son, who was sleeping underneath it. Another has a woman who scrubs clothes on a rock being rewarded by an elf with a glass of buttermilk. In scrubbing the stone, she has also inadvertently been cleaning the elf’s house. It’s not hard to read such stories as exhortations to treat the landscape with respect.

It’s this idea that lives on in the drive to cover almost half the country with a new national park. Iceland’s interior may be inhospitable and almost lunar in appearance, but for centuries it’s been a stomping ground for the imagination—an imagination that sees the volatile volcanic landscape as full of life. Re-routing a road to bypass a reputed fairy stone might seem somewhat ludicrous, but the spirit behind the move—of respect, forbearance and a need to balance human needs with those of others—is one we should all hold on to.

Source: CityLab

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