. Dreams . Amnesia . Deja vu . Reincarnation . And More!
F oreword by J oe N ickell , S enior R esearch F ellow , C ommittee for S keptical I nquiry B y D on R auf
Consciousness Faith Healing Life After Death Mysterious Places Personality Psychic Abilities The Senses
Foreword by Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
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F oreword …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 6 I ntroduction to C onsciousness …….…….…….…….…… 8 1 D reams …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….……. 10 2 S leepwalking …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 18 3 H allucinations …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….……. 24 4 A mnesia …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 32 5 P recognition or S ixth S ense …….…….…….…….…….…….…… 38 S eries G lossary …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….……. 44 F urther R esources …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 47 A bout the A uthor …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…… 47 I ndex …….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….…….……. 48 C ontents
Advice From a Full-Time Professional Investigator of Strange Mysteries
I wish I’d had books like this when I was young. Like other boys and girls, I was intrigued by ghosts, monsters, and other freaky things. I grew up to become a stage magician and private detective, as well as (among other things) a literary and folklore scholar and a forensic-sci- ence writer. By 1995, I was using my varied background as the world’s only full-time professional investigator of strange mysteries. As I travel around the world, lured by its enigmas, I avoid both uncritical belief and outright dismissal. I insist mysteries should be investigated with the intent of solving them.That requires critical thinking , which begins by asking useful questions. I share three such questions here, applied to brief cases from my own files: Is a particular story really true? Consider Louisiana’s Myrtles Plantation, supposedly haunted by the ghost of a murderous slave, Chloe.We are told that, as revenge against a cruel master, she poisoned three mem- bers of his family. Phenomena that ghost hunters attributed to her spirit included a mysteri- ously swinging door and unexplained banging noises. The DiscoveryTV Channel arranged for me to spend a night there alone. I learned from the local historical society that Chloe never existed and her three alleged victims actually died in a yellow fever epidemic. I prowled the house, discovering that the spooky door was simply hung off center, and that banging noises were easily explained by a loose shutter.
Does a claim involve unnecessary assumptions? In Flatwoods,WV, in 1952, some boys saw a fiery UFO streak across the evening sky and
apparently land on a hill. They went looking for it, joined by others. A flashlight soon re- vealed a tall creature with shining eyes and a face shaped like the ace of spades. Suddenly, it swooped at them with “terrible claws,” making a high-pitched hissing sound.The witnesses fled for their lives. Half a century later, I talked with elderly residents, examined old newspaper accounts, and did other research. I learned the UFO had been a meteor. Descriptions of the creature almost perfectly matched a barn owl—seemingly tall because it had perched on a tree limb. In contrast, numerous incredible assumptions would be required to argue for a flying saucer and an alien being. Is the proof as great as the claim? A Canadian woman sometimes exhibited the crucifixion wounds of Jesus—allegedly pro- duced supernaturally. In 2002, I watched blood stream from her hands and feet and from tiny scalp wounds like those from a crown of thorns. However, because her wounds were already bleeding, they could have been self-inflict- ed.The lance wound that pierced Jesus’ side was absent, and the supposed nail wounds did not pass through the hands and feet, being only on one side of each. Getting a closer look, I saw that one hand wound was only a small slit, not a large puncture wound.Therefore, this extraordinary claim lacked the extraordinary proof required. These three questions should prove helpful in approaching claims and tales in Freaky Phe- nomena. I view the progress of science as a continuing series of solved mysteries. Perhaps you too might consider a career as a science detective.You can get started right here.
Joe Nickell Senior Research Fellow, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Amherst, NY
I ntroduction to C onsciousness
T he human brain is a vast and mysterious place. Our brains have an estimated 100 bil- lion neurons (nerve cells) firing 5 to 50 times every second. Brains are wired for intelli- gence, emotion, creativity, and sensation.While scientists have learned a lot about how the brain functions, the gray matter between our ears still holds many secrets. Today, we know that different areas of the brain are responsible for different activities. Even when you’re doing nothing, your brain is active—controlling your heart rate, breathing, and other bodily functions. Many aspects of how the brain works remain unanswered. For instance, how exactly do we store memories? Why are some people smarter than others? Why do we experience emo- tions? Ten percent of the brain is made up of the neurons or nerve cells that do the actual thinking (the gray matter), and about 90 percent of the brain is constructed of glia cells (white matter) that support the neurons. Some say that we have tapped only a small fraction of the brain’s potential. This book looks at some of the more mysterious phenomena related to our consciousness and unconsciousness, along with the science that might explain these phenomena. The con- scious brain processes awareness and rational thought. The unconscious mind holds the feel- ings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of our consciousness. Some scientists and psychoanalysts (followers of Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern psychology) see dreams as a window into the unconscious mind. Dreams have intrigued people since ancient times, and they still do.Why do we sometimes have vivid but unreal dreams? Why do some dreams seem to come true in real life? Did you know that some brains seem to be able to see the future? People have reported having visions predicting future events—from Lincoln foreseeing his as- E xploring T he M ysteries O f T he M ind
sassination to a man haunted by dreams of a plane crash that would eventually come to pass. The resting unconscious brain can actually make you rise from bed and walk around—all while in a deep sleep. Sleepwalkers have found themselves jumping out of windows, wading into the ocean, and even driving cars. Have you ever had a feeling that you’ve experienced something or been somewhere before? It’s called déjà vu (from the French for “already seen”). Others have a distorted conscious- ness—some experience seeing and hearing things that are not there (hal- lucination); others lose memories of their past and think they are someone entirely different from their true selves. The mysteries of the mind are many; read on!
C hapter 1
Although you may not remember them, you may have as many as seven dreams in a single night.
E veryone dreams—whether we remember our dreams or not. Since the dawn of humankind, people have been fascinated by these stories that appear before us in our sleep. Ancient Egyptian rulers turned to their dreams to make decisions about how to cure illness, where to construct temples, and when to wage war. During China’s Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1046 BCE), court officials had the job of interpreting the dreams of royalty and aristocracy.The ancient Greeks thought that dreams could foretell the future. In the fifth century BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about King Croesus dreaming that his son died from a spear wound. Although the king did everything to protect his son, one day his son went on a hunt and was accidentally killed by a spear held by the bodyguard assigned to protect him. Throughout history, leaders have turned to their dreams for guidance. Hannibal, the great lead- er of Carthage in the second century BCE, said he used his dreams to develop war tactics. Oliver Cromwell, a leader of England in the 17th century, said he dreamed of a gigantic female figure who approached his bed, drew back the curtains, and informed him that he would one day be the “greatest man in England.”Adolf Hitler, who would become the German Nazi dictator, had a dream to thank for saving his life as a young soldier inWorldWar I. Sleeping in his trench with his fellow soldiers, he saw them all destroyed by earth and liquid metal. Awakened by this disturbing image, he went for a walk, and during that time, a bomb hit the trench, killing his comrades. On April 4, 1865, President Abraham
Lincoln went to bed and saw visions of people mourning around a corpse in theWhite House. Lincoln asked a guard who had died. In the dream, the guard said that it was the president— killed by an assassin.Ten days later, JohnWilkes Booth would shoot President Lincoln.
Sifting through Life According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is no clear explanation as to why we dream.How- ever, Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, professor and chairman in the Department of Psychology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and other researchers say that dreams are essential for incorporating memories, solv- ing problems, and handling emotions. The ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle theorized that dreams were a way that people could safely act out un- conscious desires, and many psychoanalysts of the 19th and 20th centuries believed in this notion as well. A lot of these scientists, such as Freud, thought that objects and events in dreams might symbolize wak- ing concerns. For instance, being chased in a dream might represent some real-life worry. There are said to be 5,000 dream symbols that can be translated in such a
President Abraham Lincoln is said to have foreseen his own death in a dream 10 days before he was assassinated.
way. Examples include food, which is said to symbolize knowledge; and being naked, which may represent a concern about showing your true self to others. Scientists have found that our brains are very active during sleep, and that dreams seem to occur during the REM (rapid-eye movement) portion of the sleep cycle. Through ex- periments using an electroencephalogram (EEG) , researchers discovered REM and other stages of sleep. During REM sleep, breathing and heart rate quicken, brain activity intensifies, and eye movement increases. In the 1960s, studies showed that the stage of sleep when we dream is vital to mental and emotional health. Patients deprived of this sleep lost concentration, gained weight, were clumsy, felt depressed, and tended to hallucinate. So to sleep deeply and dream is good for our health. Breakthroughs in Dreamland Many believe that we work out problems in our sleep, and for some of the world’s great scien- tists, this certainly seems to be the case. Albert Einstein said that his theory of relativity (which explains gravity as a distortion of space and time) started in a dream he had as a teenager. In his sleep, Einstein was riding on a sled that kept going faster and faster until it reached the speed of Lucid Dreaming The concept behind so-called lucid dreaming is that a person is aware that they are asleep and has some control about what happens in their dreams.These dreams can be much more vivid than ordinary dreams.You can have the possibility of tasting food, seeing exact landscapes, and feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin. Studies have shown that people can practice and induce these dreams. Peter Maich of New Zea- land says that he is a practicing lucid dreamer. He can will himself to do many things in his dreams— including fly. He has said that the impressions from these dreams can be stronger than anything in real life. Some say that to induce lucid dreaming you need to get into the practice of remembering your dreams—so keeping a dream journal can help. Others say that you can will yourself to “lucid dream”—as you drift off, try telling yourself that you plan to be aware that you are dreaming.
light.At this point, the stars began to distort, and young Einstein saw amazing colors and patterns. He later said that his entire scientific career was related to that dream. The chemist Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz is said to have come up with the ring-shaped structure of benzene (an industrial chemical used to make plastics, synthetic fibers, detergents, drugs, and pesticides) when dream- ing of a snake eating its own tail. A dream of a day at the races led physicist Niels Bohr to come up with the structure of the atom. Larry Page, one of Google’s founders, said the idea for the search engine came to him in a dream he had in college. As he snoozed, Page pictured himself downloading the entire Internet into computers that were lying around. When he awoke, he stayed up a few hours, jot- ting down his concept. The dream eventually became the search engine Google.
Learn more about why we dream.
Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) with wires taped to a sleeping person’s head, researchers were able to identify the various stages of sleep.
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