Welcome to Jourdemayne for commentary on the supernatural, folklore and skepticism.
If you’d like to root around for stuff on Monsters & Folklore, Modern Witch Beliefs, Politics & Religion and more, go to previous posts. It may surprise you how much our human capacity to believe in the supernatural remains as relevant today as it ever was.
|Vampire Origins: Fact or Fiction?Come and join me on May 2nd as I discuss the origins vampire folklore in London at a Funzing event. There’s blood to drink, and history to uncover. Use the code ‘vampire10′ for your special discount.|
|The Enfield ‘Poltergeist’ – the latest for The GuardianA couple of years ago I was asked to appear on ITV’s This Morning to discuss the Enfield ‘poltergeist’. It’s not an unusual request per se: as editor of The Skeptic I get to be the freethinker-du-jour in various media from time to time.But there were two things that made this one odd. The first was that the focus of the famous 1977-79 ‘poltergeist’ case – Janet Hodgson – was making a rare public appearance. (She has appeared in a documentary or two and had been filmed heavily in shadow for Jane Goldman Investigates but doesn’t make a habit of it.
Secondly, I was asked by the producers to be very gentle with her, to try to keep to the principles of how people can come to believe in the supernatural when ghosts – in all probability – don’t exist … more
|Latest: Porn in depth … or maybe notAbout ten years ago I was making a composite Photoshop graphic and wanted the naked torso of a woman to start. Lucky old me – my other half is a sculptor with loads of photographic reference. “I need a picture of a woman’s breasts, this sort of shape, this sort of angle” I said to him, confused by his slackening jaw. “Deb” he replied, “you must be the only person I know with an internet connection who doesn’t know how to find tits.”Fair enough … I’ve got better at it. I think we can agree the internet has boobs aplenty, although accurately measuring porn traffic and content is problematic. So all that bandwidth isn’t devoted to watching kittens after all.|
|Numinous Neuroses?Is your religious style related to your mental health?The British Journal of Psychiatry published an interesting paper on their website in November but, to judge by the recent coverage, the PR has only just hit the newsrooms.
Professor Michael King and his team looked at people with differing supernatural beliefs – no beliefs; conventional religious and ‘spiritual’ – to see whether there were any correlations between these states of belief and mental illness in Religion, spirituality and mental health: results from a national study of English households. They found that: “Spiritual people were more likely than those who were neither religious nor spiritual … to have abnormal eating attitudes … generalised anxiety disorder … any phobia … or any neurotic disorder … They were also more likely to be taking psychotropic medication”.
Not good for the ‘spiritual’ people then. … more
|What’s the Harm?It is very hard not to feel the deepest sympathy for everybody involved in the Neon Roberts case. Neon’s story hit the headlines earlier this month when a judge took the highly unusual step of identifying him publicly to help him to be located after his mother had taken him to prevent radiotherapy following surgery.Neon has medulloblastoma. I’m not a cancer-specialist but you can search for information on it easily enough. It’s a serious condition, which seems to have a serious chance of a cure … provided the help gets to you before the rapidly developing tumour does. It’s a metastatic cancer which means that it can spread easily, in this case, through the rest of the brain and spine, which is presumably why it is necessary to deliver radiotherapy to the whole brain rather than just the operation site … more|
|Latest piece for The Guardian – Vampire legends that refuse to dieLast week the Daily Mail informed us that the notorious Serbian vampire Sava Savanović was reportedly on the loose again after the old mill he haunts in Zarožje, Bajina Bašta, had collapsed.Savanović isn’t well known outside his own country – I only know of him as a pre-Dracula, 19th century literary character – but according to the Mail the local council has advised people to use the traditional repellents of garlic and crucifixes, just in case.
A piece in the Austrian Times pre-dates the Mail’s, and may be the conduit westwards. If so, it’s a curious echo of the vampire motif’s first journey into English in the 1720s and ’30s, courtesy of the Austrian Empire’s military successes against the Turkish Empire in the Balkans … more
|The Guardian – Skeptics, nerds and atheists are on the march across the USEvents for skeptics such as this weekend’s Skepticon are a sign of growing resistance to the power of religion in AmericaIf I were inclined to perceive and react to divine signs I would probably have got the message by now: someone would rather I stayed away from this atheist convention. I’m in New York City, en route to Skepticon, the annual skeptics convention now in its fifth year, which is held on the campus of Missouri State University … more|
|SFX Special Edition ‘The A to Z of Horror’I’m on pages 86 to 91 of this lovely SFX Special Editionon the A to Z of Horror. Vicar Carolyn Simcox and I discuss religion in films, and we don’t disagree as might as you might think.I got to discuss ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Wicker Man’, and included ‘Scobby Doo’ for good skeptical measure. This one was a lot fo fun for me, as I got to talk about both my love of horror and my love of the rational approach.
Available at all good newsagents.
|Latest Blogpost: ‘Setting Own Goals?’An only half-serious memoir of flailing, derision, ostracism and black-eyes …At school I was OK at maths and English, so it didn’t bother me much that I turned into a prototype dodo during PE. My parents, friends and especially netball team-mates totally accepted that I just wasn’t a sporty type. Chief among the unbagsied, I was usually inflicted upon whichever team complained least loudly, and my impotent flailing confined to the back of the gym/pitch/court read more …|
|Previous Blogpost: ‘Psychics and Princes’My great-grandmother was psychic.
Everybody knew it. If a member of her extended family paid an impromptu visit from even a great distance, like London, they were greeted with a friendly smile and a dinner that was already virtually at the table. “I knew you were coming”, she’d say. She was known for having ‘a way’ with animals, to the extent that she could pick up and offer comfort to a dog who had been fatally injured in the street, without getting bitten.
She was never subject to rigorous testing for her gift, and that was a blessing really. To have had it revealed that meals cooked for large families inconspicuously subdivide to accommodate unexpected guests, or that … more
|Previous Blogpost: ‘High Stakes’I couldn’t let the discovery of staked corpses by archeologists in Bulgaria pass without commenting why staking was thought to be so effective:The more observant of you will have noticed that vampires have been in the news. No, not bankers. Although the droll current-affairs metaphor does apply, Voltaire got there first: describing the vampires he had seen in London and Paris in his Dictionaire Philosophique, he wrote “there were stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business, who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable places.”
Archeologists in Sozopol, Bulgaria have excavated … more