Organicism and Psychical Research: Where Mushrooms and Mediums Meet
As much as parapsychologists have employed physics and technological metaphors to understand psychical phenomena (spiritual telegraph, waves, forces, and so on), other researchers have also drawn from organismic and biological models in their efforts to ‘matter the paranormal’ through the language of science. Historical examples include Franz Anton Mesmer’s (1784-1814) notion of ‘animal magnetism’ as a subtle fluid that flows through and connects all lifeforms, and which may be manipulated for all manner of therapeutic purposes. Biologist and psychical researcher Hans Driesch (1867-1941) offered a vitalist interpretation of parapsychological phenomena, and Rupert Sheldrake’s ‘New Science of Life’ (Sheldrake, 2009) is a more recent example of this trend. Even the term ‘ectoplasm’ – referring to a mysterious semi-physical substance exuded from the bodies of entranced mediums in Victorian séances – is derived from cellular biology and the research of the physiologist Charles Richet (1850-1935). Both organicist and mechanist interpretations of psychical phenomena are expressions of the same impulse to fit the paranormal into the established frameworks of the hard sciences. Drawing on examples from my own fieldwork with a mediumship development circle in Bristol, this presentation makes the case that an organismic framework might shed new light on the kind of spirit communication that takes place in mediumship development circles, where the paranormal is ‘mattered’ through the biology of the physical body.
Dr. Jack Hunter is an anthropologist exploring the borderlands of consciousness, religion, ecology and the paranormal. He is a tutor with the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and teaches on the MA in Ecology and Spirituality and the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. He is also an Access to Higher Education lecturer in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Newtown College. He lives in the hills of Mid-Wales with his family.
Toilets and bathrooms are among the most haunted places in buildings. Steve will tell tales of the dead man in the gents’, the phantom groper of Wakefield, his strange experience in Newark and other tales that may make you in need of a bathroom yourself!
Steve founded and runs the Wakefield Pagan Moot, organises the West Yorkshire Pagan Meetup, is the West Yorkshire representative for the CFZ and from 1998 to 2019 was the UK’s only openly pagan magistrate. Steve’s interests include folklore, forteana, paganism and the paranormal. He has appeared on local and national TV and spoken at several fortean events.
The next meeting of the Edinburgh Fortean Society is our traditional Christmas meal / drinking session. Don’t worry, its not a video on Youtube of Gordon drinking and eating! It’s a Zoom meeting so we can all join in – be prepared with a question to test your fellow Forteans with!
Tuesday the 8th of December at 7.30pm (GMT)
Where : Zoom
Starts : Dec 8, 2020 07:30 PM London
Email gordonrutter at gmail.com for the Meeting ID and passcode.
From the Dark Wardie Steps to the Ominous Tally Toor : North Edinburgh Nightmares
“What’s at the bottom of Wardie Steps?” was the question my Grandfather asked me all those years ago.
He was a man with a lifetime of experience at sea who acquired the rank of Chief Petty Officer and would later sail on countless vessels in Scottish waters and afar.
During his years, my Grandfather relayed many tales of local history to me and many ghost stories.
It was here that my curiosity began. The tale of a trawlerman terrorised onboard a cursed voyage only to appear face to face with a ghostly nautical apparition scared me to no end.
After hearing the frightening tale of “Slange Var,” I remained hooked.
My passion for ghost stories commenced at a young age. I discovered many terrifying tales from the boundaries of North Edinburgh. Now so shall you.
Hear the tale of a phantom security guard, who haunts the barren landscape of Leith Docks.
Listen to a terrifying recollection from an ex-employee of the ominous Craigcrook Castle.
Discover the alarming tale of a mysterious bed inside a Granton property and the recently deceased owner who returned to reclaim his prize possession.
Robert Schneck (author of the report which was filmed as The Bye Bye Man) will talk on “Otherwise Inexplicable”, a look at how people explained autoerotic asphyxiation fatalities when they did not know that autoerotic asphyxiation existed. A selection of cases from 1884 to 1953 are used to illustrate explanations that fall into three main categories: suicide, murder, and misadventure.
In other words – an uncommon event, little understood – how have the explanations altered with time, and how can Forteans learn from that?
Explore the weird earth with a look at geological situations, phenomena, and anomalies that are perceived by many laypersons as having a magical, paranormal, or supernatural basis. Spooky Geology is a website and conceptual framework to examine earth mysteries and energies, alternative geological ideas, haunted locations, anomalies, geomythology, and unusual, sometimes dangerous, natural phenomena. Widely-believed folkloric or superstitious concepts that are still popular today include water witching (dowsing), ley lines, entrances to Hell, crystal healing power, and energy vortices. Alternative fringe beliefs about the earth, such as the Flat Earth “theory” and End Times catastrophes appear in mainstream media gaining new attention and proponents. Rounding out the unsetting natural events are accounts of moving, ringing and exploding rocks, sudden ground collapse, and bizarre specimens. Geologist Sharon Hill peers into the (nearly) bottomless pit of abnormal, supranormal and paranormal ideas about our planet.
Sharon Hill is a licensed geologist in Pennsylvania with a life-long interest in anomalous natural phenomena and paranormal belief. A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University Geosciences program, she also obtained a Masters of Education focused on Science and the Public from the State University of New York at Buffalo and works as a manager for the Department of Environmental Resources of Pennsylvania in the Mining bureau. She is a contributor to Fortean Times magazine, has published journal articles about ghosts in popular culture, and authored the book Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers.
Beyond Bigfoot: North America’s Other Mystery Primates
We’re all familiar with bigfoot, the large, cone-headed, hairy giant of the Pacific Northwest. However, there are reports of other primate- like creatures that don’t match this description, and seem to be something else. Join us as we look at reports of devil monkeys, skunk apes and other hairy hominids. Is North America really home to a diversity of undiscovered primates or could there be other explanations?
Video goes live at 7.30pm on Gordon’s Youtube channel :
The Shetland Islands are the most northerly in the British Isles and have a rich folklore tradition descending from their norse roots. The local version of the little people or faerie folk there are the Trows, small humanoids who live under the hills, emerging to cause mischief. They are famous for their love of music and many traditional Shetland folk songs are considered to be “Trowie Tunes”, directly inspired by interactions with the Trows. In this talk I’ll introduce you to the Trows and their music, as well as talking through a few other Shetland myths and monsters.