Saturday, 12 January 2019

Latest Spooky Blog Post

I recently had a reading from a psychic/spiritualist medium as part of a university project. I’ve written about the experience in a blog post. If you would like access to the article, please contact me on Blogger, Twitter: @ClaireWitchFile or Facebook: The Claire Witch Files. Stay spooky!

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Livin’ the Dream, Not the Nightmare

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here. I’ve now finished my Masters (I got a First!). After 9 years of studying I have my weekends back. I’ve been filling my spare time with both fun and adulting stuff, like moving in with my boyfriend (to a non-haunted house), getting a decent paid job and commuting on the train. Whilst I’m not active in anomalistic psychology research anymore, I’m still interested in the paranormal and continue to explore where I can. Below are some of the highlights of what I’ve been doing over the past year:

I took part in several interviews/discussions with fascinating people who, like me, have an unhealthy obsession with the paranormal. You can watch these at the following links:

The Paranormal Chronicles

The Spooktator

I wrote an article for The Psychologist magazine (British Psychological Society) on my research. You can read my article below:
I gave a talk at QED and Greater Manchester Skeptics (GMSS) on Cryptozoology. I discussed what the belief and spread of this branch of pseudoscience can tell us about our psychology and critical thinking skills. I mainly focused on Bigfoot as (arguably) the first modern popular cultural phenomena of its kind, except for maybe UFOs.

I went on the excellent Manchester and Stockport Ghost walks by Flecky Bennet. I’ve treated myself for the last two birthdays. I hope to go on the Stockport Air Raid Shelter tour next. I won’t be waiting until my birthday this time, can’t wait that long.

The Manchester Ghost Walk

Myself and my colleagues from Ghost Tours UK did a Halloween ghost hunt at Central Library in Manchester. It’s a fantastic location with a great history. Sadly, nothing spooky happened in my sub-team but the Reading Room is well worth a visit for the acoustics alone. 

Ghost Tours UK

I’m being interviewed at Media City next week for a research project about the paranormal by a student at Salford University. They approached Greater Manchester Skeptics as they wanted all sides of the debate. I don’t need to be asked twice to talk about the paranormal! It should be really interesting.
So I’ve been keeping busy. The paranormal is for life, not just for (The Nightmare Before) Christmas! See you in the dark…

Monday, 29 May 2017

The Manchester Bombing: Predicting the Unpredictable

You will all be familiar with the tragic events in Manchester on Mon 22nd May. 22 people died in the worst terror attack my local community has experienced since the IRA bombing in 1996. In 1996, no one lost their lives. In 2017, children, siblings, friends, parents lost those who meant the world to them and others will have their lives affected by the injuries and scenes they encountered that night. The community is grieving but fighting for the love, respect and diversity that makes Manchester the greatest city in the world!

I was in Manchester that night for a meeting that ended up being cancelled so was safely tucked up in bed by 10.30pm. As my train pulled into Piccadilly earlier that evening, I was struck by the feeling that there was going to be a bombing. As I walked through the station I found myself looking at the other commuters more closely. I’m a nervous traveller so these kind of thoughts are not uncommon. After I heard the news that night I dismissed this feeling for what it was: A COINCIDENCE!

The ability to (seemingly) predict the future is a skill that societies and cultures have valued for millennia. Those soothsayers who got it right (or agreed with the actions of those in power) were rewarded and those who got it wrong were dismissed or worse… In these more enlightened times we would like to think we are beyond this. Sadly not. There are still those who claim they can accurately predict future events and that with their help they can be prevented. 

Dr Louis Turi believes he can predict the future via a method called Divine Astrology or Astropsychology (astrology and ESP). Helpfully, this is the method used by Nostradamus. As all good psychics do, he has a backstory involving his grandmother. He claims to have predicted a number of world events such as hurricane Katrina, Columbia shuttle disaster and 9/11. Standard. His prediction for the Manchester bombing, which was included with a number of other statements, seems to have amounted to the following:

         “Ugly face of death drama horror surface”

If you needed further convincing, you can check out his predictions for the TV show Weird or What in January 2012. For the more sceptical among you, you will note there are 6 vaguely worded general statements involving commonly-occurring events (weather, natural events, scientific announcements, explosions in war zones etc.) and a range of dates. Despite this scattergun approach, ‘only’ 4 of the 6 can be linked to real world events. For believers, this is still above chance level. I’ll let you decide.

Rather than Dr Turi’s self-promotion, you can genuinely help those affected by donating to the MEN or Manchester Bee Tattoo Appeal Just Giving pages. Please remember, the small acts of kindness and understanding you show your fellow humans means the terrorists have not won. Love will always win over hate. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

A Sceptic Gets Acupuncture!

15 years ago I was diagnosed with suspected endometriosis. I had been having progressive pain and soreness which appeared to be related to my monthly cycles. I was prescribed progesterone and sent on my way. Unfortunately, the hormones give me depression. Once the course ended I resolved to spend the rest of my reproductive life without children, a meaningful sex life and unable to wear tight clothing. 

This was fine (there are worse things!) until I approached the perimenopause. After having a year where my symptoms (vaginismus) seemed to improve following a new relationship, it got significantly worse. The pain became more frequent and intense. I also had a delayed reaction to triggers that were difficult to predict. I sometimes physically shook with the level of discomfort. Instead of looking forward to an end to pain (menopause) I was unable to do activities I used to enjoy. 

After being given the all clear from fungal and bacterial infections I was diagnosed with vulvodynia or vulval pain syndrome. This is essentially the label they give to unexplained vulval pain when there is not obvious cause. It is believed to be the result of overactive nerves which the brain interprets as pain. There is no cure and the condition can last for years. Obviously, I was upset at the diagnosis as I had gone from a condition that would last another 5 ish years to one that could last a lifetime! 

The Vulval Pain Society website is an excellent resource Vulval Pain Society It recommends a range of treatments to alleviate the symptoms including; creams, anaesthetic gels, a low oxalate diet and acupuncture. The scientific evidence for the latter is sketchy at best, but I figured I had nothing to lose. My only other option was the antidepressants my doctor had prescribed. I spent a fortune in Boots on various products and avoided high oxalate foods, e.g. spinach, leeks, dark chocolate, alcohol, carbonated drinks.

I found an acupuncturist in the local area who had previously treated a woman with the condition. I had previously had acupuncture for shoulder pain on the NHS. I was therefore hopeful but sceptical. The process is as you’d expect. You discuss your symptoms and then have pins inserted where the issues are or are connected to (meridians). Some of these pins hurt, others don’t. You then lie there for 20 mins to relax. I went once a week. For the first 3 treatments I had a nice floaty, out-of-body type experience which was probably due to a release of endorphins. Pleasant enough but would it work?

Now I have had 5 treatments I feel in a position to comment on its effectiveness. I started to see a positive effect after 3 sessions but was cautious to accept any improvement at first. Whilst I still have the soreness, the triggers are fewer and periods of intense pain have been limited. I have now also seen an NHS specialist who has diagnosed me with dermagraphism, prescribed antihistamines and sent me for allergy testing. If I get the all clear from this, there’s an excellent clinic in Manchester for vulval pain. 

Whilst I’m not out of the woods yet, this improvement has had a positive impact on my mood and my closest relationship. I now have some hope that I can get the symptoms to a point where they no longer significantly interfere with my life. Acupuncture may not have contributed to this but those who find themselves with conditions with no ‘cure’ need to feel they have some agency in managing it. The placebo effect is well documented but a different mental frame of reference is invaluable to getting you through dark times.

DISCLAIMER: I have made a lot of lifestyle changes during this time so any improvement may be caused by one or more of these things!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

A Clapham Wood Mystery: Jack Upperton’s Gibbet

I was extremely privileged that my friend @Nova_Hycgan shared a paranormal experience with me and has kindly given permission to recount it here…

“This experience happened about 10 years ago. For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by all things fortean. As I got older that became mainly an obsession with Ghosts, UFOs and the Occult.

Not far from where I grew up there is a place called Clapham with the originally titled Clapham Wood next to it. It’s about half way between Chichester and Brighton near Arundel. During the 1970’s it started to get a reputation for UFO’s and there were a number of disappearances that became linked to Black Magic by a chap called Charles Walker who claimed to have been contacted and warned by a member of a dark coven that operated in the woods. Now I don’t mean fluffy-bunny Wiccans here or even Church of Satan types (who tend to be quite enlightened and moral) but more amoral ceremonial Magick.

The whole Clapham thing is another story really but during the late 1980’s teenage me became aware of it, and Charles, as it started getting news coverage again due to the whole satanic panic thing that was gripping the nation at the time and was also featured in several books from the time. I was hooked!!!

With the rise of the Internet I finally began conversing with Charles and his little band of investigators and eventually started accompanying them looking for evidence of Black Magic/ghosts etc around Sussex, which finally leads us to 2007 and the tale I wish to tell.

One of Charles’ band is a guy called Paul Figg and one evening I get an excited call from him saying I’ve got to come out with them to a place called Jack Upperton’s Gibbet because they’ve been getting all kinds of stuff happening including... YES/NO answers coming through his *EMF meter when asking questions of the supposed spirit they were communicating with. They had established contact through a Ouija board and said spirit was called Evelyn. The area is approx 4 miles away from Clapham Woods by the entrance to the Angmering park estate.

The following Friday night, I meet up with the guys and we head off into the night for our gibbet vigil. I don’t recall the time of year but my memory is it was autumn time, not too cold but dark nights. After poking around for a while someone says that the temperature is going up. Sure enough I can feel a definite warmth coming off the ground and going up my legs. Paul had already told me about this because when ‘Evelyn’ came through previously on the Ouija board and on the EMF this had happened. 

I found this interesting because it kind of flew in the face of the received wisdom that places get colder when a presence manifests. It also lends me too think my autumn memory is correct because of latent warmth in the ground from the day could account for the temperature changes, or of course just suggestion.

At this point Charles begins speaking with Evelyn and sure enough after a couple of questions his EMF starts beeping. I can’t recall whether it was two beeps YES, one beep NO or vice versa but that’s beside the point I guess because they are asking Ouija style questions and getting what appeared to be intelligent responses. Now, while this is happening I am stood next to Charles and my EMF meter is doing absolutely nothing. Zip. I’m like two feet away from him and his is going off and mine isn’t. Straight away I’m thinking this shouldn’t be happening. If his is registering so should mine but nothing. This is where things get stranger again…

Charles asks Evelyn why it’s not communicating through my EMF, is it because I wasn’t here the times before? YES beep. He explains that I’m not a threat, I’m one of them. The second he explains this, my EMF meter comes to life and the two are going in unison. I’m dumbfounded. We even got Evelyn to communicate through one but not the other on demand. This went on for some time and then eventually it died off.

To this day I haven’t got an answer for what happened that night it has always been my biggest paranormal question mark. I’ve had experiences before but not ones that I couldn’t explain in some other way. I appreciate that this is only an anecdote and you only have my word for it, so not very scientific but there is a little twist. On Ian Topham’s @mystbritain Mysterious Britain and Ireland  website there is a large piece written by Paul about the gibbet: Mysterious Britain In it Paul mentions this...

‘Early visits gave us photos of orbs suggesting a strong spiritual presence. We decide to hold more extensive investigations. We bring out an EMF meter. With a mild medium present we get the feeling of a spirit presence, we then get a strong zap on the EMF which goes off the scale. Charles then decides to ask the spirit questions, this is successful we are communicating with a spirit at Upperton’s Gibbet on a YES/NO answer basis. This we managed to capture on camcorder. A few weeks later we return with another member of OAP. Again we contact the same spirit using 2 EMF meters and both going off at different intervals to YES/NO questions’

What he’s referring to here is the time when I went along. Now, I don’t recall a video camera being present when I was with them but he does state that they got the first communication on video! I’ve been out of contact with them since due to the birth of my first daughter. I stopped going on investigations after I had kids. I think I should start getting back out there”

What do you think? Was Evelyn trying to communicate via the EMF readers?

*The EMF readers were Gausmasters 

More detail on the mysteries surrounding Clapham Wood:

Sunday, 15 January 2017

David Icke in Manchester Review: There is No Spoon!

Yesterday I went to the Manchester show of David Icke’s ‘World Wide Wake Up Tour’. As a teenager in 1990’s I remember vividly his interview on Wogan and the fevered tabloid press coverage that followed. Everyone from that generation will know his views on the Royal family, illuminati and lizards. Younger generations will also have been exposed to this once ‘hidden’ knowledge via his prolific YouTube output and spread of conspiricist views online. If nothing else, Icke is a strident articulator of his ideas. From a research point of view, I was interested to see who would be in the audience and how his message would be received. The event was sold out. Luckily, I’d been warned his talks go on all day so brought my sandwiches…

As you would expect there was a lot of detail. I will therefore concentrate on the main themes he covered then discuss my thoughts on the day.

Part 1: Intro and Conspiracy Theories

Icke appeared to start slowly with views many would find acceptable, such as we spend our lives chasing dreams others tell us to aspire to rather than living in the moment. Education is a programming tool to subjugate us into working for the ‘man’ and live the life they want us to. Pink Floyd was referenced here. It stifles creativity and discourages right-hemisphere processing in the brain (linked to whole picture thinking). As a child who was into art I can dig that!

After about an hour it went up a notch and we got on to conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories have a bad reputation. In of themselves they are not ‘bad’ or display irrational thinking, particularly if they are true! Some would argue it displays critical thinking to appraise the information you are given. There are many examples where questioning the status quo and investigating leads has led to the exposure of appalling behaviour by those in positions of power. For example, the exploitation of vulnerable children by paedophile rings. Icke has been making such claims for years and has taken credit for exposing these.

Icke’s main argument in this section was a small elite control the political and economic system. If they want to change it they create both the chaos and solution to fix it. He terms this: Problem–Reaction–Solution that creates a ‘Hunger Games Society’. This has led to a series of crises others would call standard conspiracy theories:

9/11 – Perpetrated by the US government to justify the war on terror and bring about regime change.

World War Three – Russia is not being aggressive. Stories created by Western societies to start a war and increase influence in Russia, China and Iran. If we win of course! ISIS is controlled by the world order but they don’t realise it, lol!

European Union – Migrant crisis to engineer civil war in Europe.

Banking Crisis – Make us dependent on electronic money (credit) that does not exist and take our real assets when we cannot pay the debt. The cost of homes becomes too high so have to live in small houses in condensed cities under their surveillance.  

Climate Change – Not really happening. Designed to change the economic model of where we live and how we grow food. We are unable to be self-sufficient and live off the land. See Agenda 21, 2030.

Energy Crisis – Energy is freely available (Tesla) but we are not allowed to access it. Fracking is allowed by governments despite its environmental impact but other energy sources are curtailed for the same reason.  

Vaccines – 74 vaccines before the age of 17! Make us susceptible to diseases we wouldn’t normally be prone to. Criminalisation of health, sanctions imposed if you don’t conform and alternative medicine is demonised or banned. 

Homeopathy - Water has a memory.

News/Social media – Controlled by elites but any dissent is classed as ‘fake’ news. Tyranny of language: newspeak. Cannot say what we want to. Social justice agenda creates safe spaces that are creating a Generation Jelly where young people are not exposed to or can argue against unpalatable views.

Antisemitism – To criticise Israel is to be anti-Semitic. Argues he is not anti-Semitic, against Zionism not Jews. Despite this I noted the Star of David appeared on many slides.

Identity Politics – I AM A… define ourselves with labels. We are all one. Perception controls reality!

Part 2: Reality is an Illusion

This is where we take the red pill…

Postage stamp consensus – Our reality is based on a small percentage of what exists. Our perception has been controlled so we cannot see the whole. We are locked into our 5 senses. Infinite awareness is the true reality. Everything is conscious, we are one. Revealed in near death experiences. Mystics can see this but are labelled ‘mad’.

World is a Holographic Illusion – We only see a small frequency range in our prison of perception. Universe is a quantum computer. Oh, and the world isn’t solid BTW. Pineal gland is the third eye that just happens to be calcified by floride in water.  

Paranormal – Ghosts are frequencies not sharp enough to be in focus, are interference.  Psychics tune into other frequencies of reality. Tarot cards - each picture has a frequency you are drawn to. Paranormal activity relates to electricity as it carries information. Entities are electromagnetic. Cannot impact on our frequency in other ways.

Astrology – New book coming out! Is a science. Planets are waveforms of information that affect our fields.

Numerology – Reveals the underlying digital code of our universe, e.g. Fibonacci sequences and fractal patterns.

Conclusion - We are living in a simulation controlled by aliens. Cannot see its borders as at the speed of light time stops. If you control perception you control reality!

Part 3: Alien Lizards?

Part 3 was going to be on who controls the simulation but I was too tired to stay. I had already been there 6 hours! The lizards will have to wait until next time.

There were a lot of references to the work of Dr Richard Day (1969) and Bill Hicks so I suggest you check these out.

My Thoughts

The audience itself mainly seemed to consist of the demographic age 20-40. I saw very few really young or old people and have to say they were overwhelmingly white. There was great affection for Icke and many points were met with a ripple of applause, although the more extreme views had fewer hands clapping. There was a fair amount of humour which broke up the dense subject matter. It was a long day and the couple in front of me had brought a picnic!

Despite this I really enjoyed it, particularly Part 1. This had more information (3 hours’ worth) and for me was internally consistent in a conspiracy world view. The second part was too Matrix-y for me. As a materialist I find it difficult to engage with even basic assumptions of spiritualty so this was outside my comfort zone. By the law of probability something of what he said will be true. If you cast your net wide enough you will get a ‘hit’.

Whether you accept any of his premises or not he is an engaging speaker. He came across as reasonable and happy to be ridiculed for his views. You’ll note there was no Q and A however. Unsurprising, I was unconvinced by his arguments but would recommend seeing him for the experience. If he is right you can’t say you weren’t warned…