Friday, 10 July 2015


What with The X-Files on the way back to our screens, there may be a surge in interest in 'unexplained' phenomena. Of course, if you don't look for an explanation you will be forever baffled by cattle mutilation, ley lines, the toaster, pencils...

As this list shows, a lot of things that pop up in those by-the-numbers TV series with titles like 'Totally the World's Most Amazing Mysteries And, Like, Really Awesome Weird Stuff' are not quite so baffling as some like to claim. For instance, note the way a humble sheriff, fed up with reports of aliens/Satanists mutilating cattle, conducted a very simple experiment to find out what really happens when a cow drops dead in a field. Don't read any of that bit at tea-time, though.

The obvious outlier in this list is the humble ghost. Whether all supernatural experiences can be explained by unusual brain activity is open to question, because it's impossible - for practical purposes - for scientists to explore every haunted house etc. And, by definition, a uniquely personal experience at a particular time and place can't be reproduced perfectly under laboratory conditions. My position, most of the time, is the familiar one: I don't believe in ghosts, but I'm afraid of them.

The list I've linked to at is also notable for the absence of certain 'mysteries'. Erich Von Daniken's ancient astronauts seem to be a busted flush, despite his books spawning dozens of imitators back in the Seventies. To my shame, my younger (I was about twelve, I think) self believed in old Erich's claims right up to the point where I saw a TV documentary that took apart his essentially dishonest approach.

We are all vulnerable to being conned. But that doesn't the world is devoid of mystery. Merely that we should be careful who we listen to, and who we believe.

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