The Angle of Mons

I’ve so far refrained from commenting on the ‘Angel of Mons’ story, mostly because this Fortean Times article absolutely nails it, and though I’ve yet to read it, I’m sure the full book on the subject (also by Dr David Clarke) thoroughly pokes its dead husk with a stick.

There is also an earlier and more extensive article by Clarke in Folklore journal, reproduced here, a Skeptoid podcast, and just to give some balance, one of the original sources for the claim of ghostly and/or angelic warriors helping British soldiers at the Battle of Mons is online at archive.org. This includes ‘eyewitness’ testimony all apparently based upon an original work of fiction by author Arthur Machen, and all investigated by Clarke and others over the years. The ‘Angel’ is about as open and shut case as it’s possible to get where eyewitness sources are concerned.

But I recently received a Google alert directing me to this blog, which scoffs at Clarke’s scepticism and asserts that;

The issue in the 21st Century isn’t whether the event actually happened – It is whether such an event Could happen.”

Er, is it? I’m not sure how that follows, but even if angelic apparitions were documented and scientifically verified reality, there would still be reason to believe that this incident never happened. And contrary to another statement from the linked blog post, it isn’t because the ‘Angel’ was really;

“…collective hallucination arising from battle fatigue…”

…as the writer claims others claim. No-one today is seriously suggesting this, least of all Clarke, though he does detail this explanation as part of his research. The author of the blog piece clearly hasn’t properly read the article that he links to, as the consensus explanation for the ‘Angel’ is that it was a fictional story that grew legendary ‘legs’.

The invocation of ‘Ockham’s razor’ is also odd, given that even the most ardent believer must admit that the existence of angels is not scientifically evidenced, nor is it today a mainstream belief in the UK, where this commentator is based. But then, phrases like “paradox ridden fairytale” and “meat grinding existentialism and…no hope materialism” being applied to science gives you an idea of the ‘angle’ the writer is taking here. It’s a licence not only to believe what one likes, which I certainly don’t challenge, but to claim it as falsifiable truth.

Well, sorry chum, but it doesn’t work that way. As for;

“why therefore go to all the trouble to dismiss and destroy the Mons story which is a manifestation of human spiritual hope amongst the dark meat grinder of holocausts such as a world war ?”

You said it yourself. Mythmaking under the pressures of one of the most horrific conflicts humanity has ever known is a fascinating and important area of study, whether or not you believe that the events described actually happened. But at the same time, a proper investigation into such stories will almost certainly have to tackle the question “did it really happen”? Some of us feel that it’s important to separate fact from fiction for the same reason that fictional literature, movies and video games are enjoyable and rewarding, but it wouldn’t be healthy to live our lives as though the events described in them were real – as appealing as that idea might sometimes be.

PS Yes, it’s a lame title. Deal with it.

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Snopes: War Games

Snopes reports on an interesting load of old (as in period) nonsense from the Second World War. It’s a particularly desperate bit of numerology, complete with fudged Christian overtones (‘Il Duce’ instead of ‘Mussolini’, just to contrive the name ‘Christ’?). Can’t blame ’em I suppose, with Western civilisation at stake, but I like to think that I would look for a more rational means to look forward to the end of a conflict. I wonder what the Email forwards of World War 3 might look like?

 

‘sup niggas?

Aaaaaah! Ghost dog!

I trust readers will recognise my title for what it is (an ironic Shaun of the Dead quote), and not go all drama-llama on me. That aside, I had to post about this pathetic piece of ‘news’

Ghost of the Dambusters dog: Picture ‘shows long-dead Labrador’ at memorial to WWII heroes

More in the form of a video from the Beeb (shame!) here.

If it’s a ‘long-dead’ dog, then why the blue blazes is one of the schoolgirls in the grainy photo touching the bloody thing? We don’t even get the usual photographic anomaly – what this ‘story’ boils down to is a real, flesh-and-blood dog wandering over to a group photo (‘appearing from nowhere’) and then wandering off again (disappearing, ‘never to be seen again’). Well, if that’s the photographer being quoted, who was only visiting RAF Scampton, why the hell would he see it again?? If he’s saying that no-one ever saw it again, how the heck does he/anyone know? Black labs are hardly rare, and tend to all look alike (racist black mark #2 against me I fear). I seriously doubt that none have ever visited since.

The idea that you can precisely measure a ‘dog-sized’ area of depressed temperature is hilarious.  I find it odd that despite claiming that the group’s aim is ‘to debunk rather than prove’, it seems that Mr Drake’s mind is made up in this case despite the flimsy evidence, when he’s quoted as saying;

‘There is definitely paranormal activity there.’

Not so much evidence of the paranormal. More evidence that school choirs make field trips and black labradors like people. Newsflash.

This may be great PR for Scampton and may help keep the memory of 617 Sqn alive as the quoted historian says (although the words ‘end’, ‘justifies’ and ‘means’ spring to mind), but let’s not forgot that it also generates more publicity for the ghost hunting group coming up with these claims.

Tis But a Scratch!

Have at you!

As I’m studiously ignoring ‘Deadliest Warrior’ for the time being (though I will say that I thought the Vampire vs Zombie was a much better use of the format) I’ll just comment briefly on a recent UK TV series entitled ‘Back From the Dead’. It’s part of a series on, essentially, Osteoarchaeology (aka bioarcheology), although they employ the services of a less specific Forensic Anthropologist instead.

They take a number of human remains from a given site and period, look at the evidence in the bones in terms of healed and unhealed injuries, as well as the apparent age, sex, status and likely occupation of the original owner. It’s a fascinating subject and does make for an interesting and entertaining – not to mention gory – TV documentary. I have only nitpicks with it, really, although the fight scenes from the ‘Samurai’ episode were pretty poor, with theatre-style hack and slash choreography (including the dreaded static edge-to-edge block move) and even wirework a la ‘Crouching Tiger’. Unnecessary. They’ve have been better going for the classic ‘gunfighter’ style duel, with the fight ended by a single sword stroke. This would still be an oversimplification, but closer to real history (and I need to apologise here for linking to Wikipedia with the phrase ‘real history’ – sorry Wikiers, but I’m still slightly bitter about the ‘original research’ thing!).

Anyway, one of my major nitpicks, if that’s not a contradiction in terms, had to do with the ‘Crusader’ episode (currently still available for UK viewers here). Whilst I enjoyed the ‘300‘ style wide-angle slowmo scenes interpreting the various battle wounds received by the skeletons/people in question (complete with severed limbs reminiscent of Monty Python’s Black Knight), I found one conclusion by the specialist featured to be particularly speculative.

There was a clear cut down through the joint of one humerus – a disabling wound and clearly produced by a sword blade. But as the cut didn’t extend very far into the bone, the conclusion was made that the man must have been wearing ‘chain mail’ that slowed down the blow and limited the damage, and therefore that he must have been a Templar Sergeant (informing the detailed recreation shown shortly afterward).

Firstly, I don’t regard the cut shown as being at all limited – particularly if this man was a warrior and had considerable muscle mass around that joint. If the man was, as seems likely, moving when the blow was struck, this will limit the penetration of the blade. For example, if he had simply stepped back, only the tip of the sword/scimitar would have connected, explaining the wound. The other thing is that the wound from an edged weapon is dependent upon cutting angle and the force applied – if all the attacker’s strength and technique is not brought to bear, the cut will not be as severe. But really, I think a 6″ (or so) cut down through an upper arm bone is quite severe enough for a sword wound!

Had he been wearing mail, there would not be a cut! Or at least, not a clean partition as shown. Period riveted mail armour (NOT ‘chain mail’ please, Channel 4) is quite simply proof against cuts (or thrusts, for that matter) from the swords of the period in question. Have a look at this video. I don’t know whether this was something that the bone specialist had been pressed on, or whether the claim appears in the original research (perhaps someone with access to the article can let me know at bs.historian@yahoo.com), but it should not have been made without reference to an expert in arms and armour. The man in question could not have been wearing armour, and so the conclusion that he was a senior Templar soldier is invalid.

As ever, the subject is (or should be) interesting enough without resorting to making stuff up.

No News is Not Good News

I’m getting a little tired of supposed ‘news’ articles that are effectively just press releases for a new book. Take today’s Daily Telegraph article;

Revealed: sex hormone plan to feminise Hitler

The story is perfectly accurate – there was such a plan, and supposedly an actual attempt to carry it out, unlike other apparently crackpot wartime schemes. However, it has not been ‘revealed’ by this new book. It was actually, for reals, really revealed by the chap who actually did it – Stanley Lovell in his ‘Of Spies & Strategems‘ (1963); nearly fifty bleedin’ years ago.

It’s hardly long-buried either, having appeared many times since in ‘The Search for the Manchurian Candidate‘ (p.16, 1979), ‘HEISENBERG’S WAR: The Secret History of the German Bomb‘ (1993), ‘The Book Of Lists: The Original Compendium of Curious Information‘ (2009), and even earlier this very year in ‘The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage‘ (2011). There’s even an article in the same damn newspaper that mentions it in 2006. These are just the examples I could find in 20mins worth of Googling; something that a journalist ought to be used to.

The headline should actually read;

‘Mentioned in new book – long-known plan to feminise Hitler’.

Needless to say, this wouldn’t sell as many books – or newspapers. I have no bone to pick with the author here – he’s done his job by writing what I’m sure is a very interesting book, and his  publisher is simply doing theirs – to market it. It’s the journalists who need to stop presenting every fact in the world as shiny and new.

No Nazi sex dolls please, we’re British.


Sex dolls are just so much less hassle…


‘Nazi sex dolls – Hitler’s blow-up ‘girls’ for disease-ridden troops

What a cracking headline. Almost too good to be true, in fact. I think you know what’s coming. It took me all of 30 seconds on Google to find good reason to doubt the story, and another two or so to find some even more conclusive evidence from there. This is the original hoax site that started it all back in 2003.

So this is an entirely made up story. How did it end up in the news having already been discredited at its point of origin – the internet? Well, as some stories make clearer than others, this is a promotional story for a new book by this chap.

His new Osprey title is called ‘Mussolini’s Barber’ – another in a series of coffee-table books full of amusing military anecdotes. I have another of his on my shelf. It’s something you’d buy for your Dad’s Christmas present, not academic research – nor is it really presented as such. Yet the newspaper articles talk about how Donald;

‘…uncovered Hitler’s secretive “Borghild Project” while researching the history of Barbie.’

To me, this implies a level of research beyond a superficial furtle on the internet, which is all he seems to have done in this case at least. I imagine things went rather like this: Osprey wishes to promote one of its new books, so contacts The Sun (or possibly issues a press release, though I can’t find one if so) with some of the more outrageous claims made in the book. The Sun, home of family-friendly smut, can’t resist the self-parody opportunity presented by a ‘Nazi Sex Doll’ headline, and runs with it as though it’s a new piece of research, rather than a recycled internet hoax.

Donald’s other claim that Barbie is herself based upon a German sex doll is also nonsense. ‘Bild Lilli‘, an 11″ doll based on a vaguely off-colour German comic strip (more here), could hardly be described as a ‘sex doll’. Not unless you have an extremely small penis, at any rate.

I rather think that there are enough genuine reasons to poke fun at the Nazis without resorting to this bullshit. Charlie Chaplin is rolling in his grave.

A Proper Charlie

Or:

‘We’re Gonna Need a Biggar Boat’

 

 

Reincarnation. It’s what you need, if you wanna be a record breaker. Or was that ‘dedication’? I forget. In any case, there are people out there who think they’ve lived before. Unfortunately virtually all of them want to be the same important historical figures, members of royalty, celebrities, noted fighter pilots, and so on. Even employing the logical gymnastics of the past-life believer, or invoking some $cientology-inspired Thetan-based scenario, this is difficult to explain. The reality of course is that there’s little kudos in claiming to be a medieval peasant who died of the plague aged 37.

 

Members of the reincarnation crowd feel the need to go around telling everyone they can about their glorious past life, perhaps to distract from the tediousness of their current one. The age of the internet has made boring and/or amusing people with such tales far easier. One such claimant is Charles Edward Stuart Boden, who claims to be the reincarnation of his namesake Prince Charles Edward Stuart, a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Charlie.

 

Boden has been bouncing around internet forums and discussion lists for years now, and recently blundered into the JREF sceptical forum, with predictable results. Having failed to take in a single suggestion provided by the sceptics, internet drama ensued, involving an entire forum of reincarnated people. Even they weren’t buying what Charles was selling. Literally. The sceptics however, were hooked. We decided to get hold of a copy of Boden’s book, ‘Descendent of Kings’ and see just how deep the crazy-pool was. You can dip a toe in here, if you choose. Besides some substantial comedy potential, I had in mind an exercise in falsifiability. Would it be possible to pro-actively debunk the past-life related claims contained therein? Or would they be so vague, or so directly based on written history as to be unassailable (though by no means automatically true of course).

 

In this regard it was a disappointment, as it is heavily padded with a lot of biographical and historical information rehashed from existing history books and websites. I wonder why someone who was there would need to draw upon such flawed secondary source material. Though not the focus of my interest, I did check out a sample fact-check and much of it, at least, is basically accurate. However, a total lack of referencing as well as slipshod quoting and structure make it rather difficult to fact-check. There’s also no bibliography, index, or even pagination, and there are a good number of spelling and grammatical errors in the book (‘Bannockburn’ has two Ns, Charles, if you’re reading). The author is also a fan of pointless neologisms, “mediumnic” is a key one, as Charles (re)discovered his supposed past life via the world of Spiritualism (or “Spiritism” as he calls it).

 

As Alice Shortcake on the JREF forum (credit to her also for my title and associated picture) has shown, Boden has also made a hash of his genealogical claims to be directly descended from royalty (aside from the reincarnation thing), to the point of some questionable Wikipedia edits.

 

Now, Boden’s lack of scholarship has no direct bearing on the veracity or otherwise of his past-life claims. If he really was there in the 18th century, his experiences ought to in some way reflect the reality of that period and the experiences of Prince Charlie himself. In line with his other claims, Mr Boden does seem to exercise psychic prescience when he writes;

 

“The historical significance of what is contained within this story, rather than a factor that might help to evidence it, will on the contrary most probably be used as an argument against it.”

 

Uncanny, as that is precisely what I am going to do. Boden also tries to head off critical analysis of his efforts by “those who choose to live in disbelief”. Luckily, belief and disbelief are not the only positions to take. The third way is scepticism – critical analysis based on evidence. I had most success with the first three claims dealt with below. These are all linked, and therefore all stand or fall together.

 

1. Charles (as Charlie) first heard the Jacobite song “Charlie He’s My Darling” in 1746.

The problem is that this song almost certainly wasn’t known by anybody until 1796, when the famous poet Robert Burns’ version was published in the ‘Scots Musical Museum’. The page reproduced at that link is from ‘The Songs of Robert Burns’ (1903). Here are a few of the later versions, all early C19th;

See also this comparison of versions. Now, the version Boden gives us in his book (p5 in the preview version) isn’t much like any of them, and I doubt that it’s because his is somehow closer to the original. Though a 1798 mention of the song suggests that it is a traditional air, there’s no real reason to suspect that any version of it existed before Burns. If there was a purely oral folk version, it would certainly have been in the Scots language (or possibly Scots Gaelic) and wouldn’t have resembled Boden’s wholly modern turn of English phrase. In any case it’s clear that he’s put together lines from the later versions.

 

Perhaps he got it so badly wrong because, as Charlie, he wasn’t there at the time. By the time this song was being sung, he had at the least buggered off to Italy, if not been dead for over a decade. Or perhaps he’s remembering only the version he heard in his present life? In any case, it hardly constitutes evidence of any past existence – if anything, it’s evidence against the probability of that.

 

2. He “…’saw’ a pair of army boots resting upon a stool in front of a fireplace, while a minstrel sat playing this same song”.

OK, this is a minor nitpick in the scheme of things, but ‘army boots’ is an oddly modern description. Boots weren’t worn by European infantry until the mid-19th century. Buckled shoes with hose were the order of the day in the C18th, often worn in British service with gaiters (large spats in this context) of varying lengths and styles. See this chap from the 1742 ‘Cloathing Book’. Perhaps he meant cavalry boots? Conceivably Jacobite cavalrymen or mounted gentlemen may have worn these. Depictions of this are lacking, however, and Charlie himself is never shown wearing anything but shoes or brogues. Besides, Boden doesn’t say “cavalry”, “riding”, “long” or other kinds of boots – he says “army boots”.

Anyway, on to the juicy stuff…

 

3. Charles was able to recognise the skyline of a town he’d seen 250 years previously

Forgive me, I got a bit carried away with this one…

Boden tells us that he heard said song and saw said boots in a specific Scottish town on the retreat from the Jacobite incursion into England in 1746. When Charles visited Scotland in 1997 he drove through Biggar in Lanarkshire and felt that he had seen it before. In his words;

 

“The sight of the entrance to this small town, from the road that we were on as we approached it, hit me like a blow in the stomach. The vision of its row of houses, forming a curve into the main street, was literally the same as the vision of the town which had been in my memory ever since childhood.”

 

Having confirmed with his father that he had never before visited the town, the historical source that he turns to to confirm this as evidence of his past life is… a “tourist brochure” he’s given in a pub.

 

The screamingly obvious alternate explanation is a glitch in the Matrix de ja vu. If you’ve convinced yourself that you’re the reincarnation of a famous 18th century wannabe-Scots noble, and you’re visiting the land of his exploits, then chances are you’re going to read some significance into this de ja vu. If Boden had been reading up on Charlie, he would likely have come across the name of the town. Another explanation, for the same reasons, is simple imagination. Boden may not have known that Charlie rested with his army at Biggar, but it was a pretty good bet that he at least passed this way, since Biggar lies on one of the only thoroughfares to/from Scotland (then in particular).

 

Boden states that the approach into Biggar in 1997 was “literally the same” as his 1746 “vision” of it. But what did Biggar actually look like in 1746? Thanks to British military mapping and to National Library of Scotland’s digitisation programme, we can get a good idea. To cover my bases, I also reviewed maps of the same area from 1832.

 

I’ve compiled these together with Ordnance Survey coverage of the town from the present day:

 

 

 

Despite a near-tripling in population between the first two maps, the town remained nonetheless nuclear, in the sense that it had yet to grow outwards along the roads radiating from the marketplace around which it had been established in the medieval period. Though there are little blobs alongside the road on the 1832 map, when zoomed right in, these are clearly trees and not buildings. Since that time however, Biggar (like virtually all UK towns) has changed substantially, creating the “…row of houses, forming a curve into the main street” that Boden describes in 1997. This was nothing but fields until the late 19th century.

 

Could it be the wrong road? Unlikely, as the main road through the town today (now the A702) follows the same route as it has since Roman times.  The only other realistic possibilities are Boghall Road, also empty of structures, and what is now John’s Road, which takes you straight into the heart of the town but again lacks any roadside buildings outwith the main street. Even if Charlie approached not from the south at all, but from the east via Peebles, or the west via Cormiston and Langlees (which would then have taken an even more westerly direction), there is still no curved “entrance” to the town.

 

This is the “curve” that I think Boden is talking about – just after the meeting of the roads into the town from the south-west. Even this far into the modern town, none of the buildings visible in Street View appear on those old maps, and none show any visible architecture older than perhaps the 1840s.

 

Now, there is an even Biggar (ha) issue with Boden’s claim than some discrepancies in mapping (as he might argue). That is, Prince Charles never actually stayed at Biggar.

 

That’s right, I’ve just wasted your time and my own. I’m sorry about that. I fear that Mr Boden has been the victim of the tourist trade. Every vaguely historic residence or town in the country claims to have played host to royalty or celebrity, regardless of any supporting evidence or lack of it. Even places just down the road from each other. It’s rather like past-life people always wanting to be the famous dead people.

 

Note that Charles also swallows the story that William Wallace was also at Biggar, from the same source. This “Battle of Biggar”, like much of what we think we know about Wallace, is actually an invention by the chronicler/story-teller ‘Blind Harry’.

 

But I digress. The fact is that the movement of the Jacobite army and of the Prince in particular was well documented – we know where he stayed and when. Biggar features in historical sources on the ‘45 only as a muster point for Jacobite recruits in and around Lanarkshire; never, so far as I’m aware, as a camp-site for Charles and the forces under his direct command.

 

Not only that, but it’s even highly unlikely that an unrecorded stay was made there, since the closest to Biggar that the Prince’s route to Hamilton Palace took him was Douglas Castle. Biggar lay ten miles in the wrong direction (due east). Even if nearby Carluke’s claim were to turn out to be valid, that’s even further away (15 miles). I’m aware that Google Maps uses modern roads, so for the really keen I checked the actual route onward from Dumfries. This was roughly that of the present-day B7078, from Leadhills to Douglas Castle (where he really did lodge) Hamilton Palace (likewise) and Glasgow (check for yourself here). It’s essentially a straight line, which makes sense given the exigent circumstances. What makes no sense whatever is a detour to Biggar. Unless it was for the excellent fish and chips (which I can vouch for).

 

Phew. Thanks for staying with me through that. We have Charlie’s Skye Boat pretty well sunk by my estimation (shame the same can’t be said of the Corries). But for the sake of completeness, here are the other, less falsifiable claims from the book.

 

4. The ‘Golden Bridge’

Boden has a vision of making a ‘bridge’ in the mud with a gold necklace (as the young Prince), and promising the real thing to a young girl when they grow up. This has no historical parallel that I’m aware of. It’s therefore either secret knowledge from the Akashic Record, or he’s making stuff up.

 

5. Flora MacDonald hid Charlie’s face from prying eyes with her big, floppy, green hat.

We’re lucky enough to have MacDonald’s own narrative of events, which Charles himself appears to draw from for his book. It isn’t short on detail, yet there is  nothing about a hat. Charles himself admits that he hasn’t been able to validate the story. So again, he must either really have been there, or is imagining it. Which is more likely?

 

I would just point out that in the 1891 G.W. Joy painting of Flora, she’s wearing a big green hat…
6. Reincarnation: a game for all the family.

Like all good fictional stories, there’s a big twist at the end of this book. Boden is told by a psychic that his wife is the reincarnation of Flora MacDonald, and perhaps even more extraordinarily, that his son was his arch-enemy the Duke of Cumberland! There’s no historical evidence offered for the son – an apology for bad behaviour that Charles can’t otherwise explain is taken as validation of this new level of dysfunctional family life. But Charles confirms the Flora link by comparing a picture of this painting to his wife. You can see for yourself whether Charles’ missus bears a resemblance to George William Joy’s rendering of Flora in the painting.

 

She actually looks more like this painting, which is actually contemporary and less romanticised than the Joy painting. It doesn’t look entirely UNLIKE her. But why would one reincarnated person resemble their past self, and another not? Because Charles sure as heck doesn’t look anything like his namesake. Charles’ “Spiritist” contact also gives him her psychic impression that Charles’ past-life-wife was “extending her hand to (him) in order to help (him)”. Charles is convinced by Joy’s depiction of Flora extending her hand to Charlie – yet as I’ve said, the work wasn’t painted until 1891; making this an irrelevant coincidence at best.

 

That’s it. Six claims, none of which are remotely convincing by any objective standard. But then like all who fall in love with an idea, it’s clear that Charles’ past life is not something that he’s able to be objective about. We can see that he’s willing to read an awful lot into these dreams, ‘visions’ or outright flights of fancy in order to make them fit his need to believe “until proven otherwise” that he was once someone of international importance and influence. For me, it’s been an interesting exercise in active debunking of “past lives”. For although the onus should always be on the claimant, by their very nature such people don’t see why that should be the case. Of course, if they did, I’d be out of a blog.

 

I hereby dedicate this post to the crazy people of the JREF Forum who stumped up the cash to purchase what may well be the only copy of ‘Descendant of Kings’ ever sold. Thanks to all who contributed to the cause!

Nazi Flying Saucers – “New” Evidence?

“ZOMFG!!!!11” – Oberleutnant Hans Gullibal, July 1944

Just a quick reality check on the recent stories claiming new evidence for the tired old Nazi flying saucer schtick. All of the articles reference a piece in the Nov 2010 issue of German popular science magazine ‘P.M.’.  Unfortunately no-one seems to have read the actual article properly. It’s also behind a paywall. Luckily the text is out there online. The article is headed by a piece of concept art for the new alternate history/sci-fi movie “Iron Sky”, which seems to be the impetus behind this press interest in the whole idea. I’ve reproduced a Google Translate version of the actual text below. It is nothing more than a summary of what’s claimed and known about WW2 and later attempts to build saucer-shaped aircraft. Contrary to the claims that P.M. have reported Nazi breakthroughs in anti-gravity technology, of new eyewitness testimony, and of the Canadians recreating a flying example of such a saucer*, none of this is in the actual article. It’s just a rehash timed to coincide with a movie, nothing more.

*actually the conventionally-powered, well-documented, and none-too-successful VTOL Avrocar for which there is no evidence of Nazi inspiration (only claims online, as the P.M. piece says).

The lesson here is to ALWAYS go back to the source. DO NOT trust the mainstream media to accurately report anything, but particularly anything esoteric. They rarely get it right. I expect this kind of thing from the tabloids, but the Daily Telegraph ought to know better – particularly as they quote the phrase “strong evidence” from the P.M. piece, which as far as I can tell, is a total misrepresentation. See what you think (in the original German here):

 

PM world of knowledge
The mystery of the ‘kingdom’ flying disc
It was called V7, and spread terror across the world: this wonder weapon the Nazis wanted the threat of defeat in World War II averted. It did not work – but the myth still lives V7
New York, December 1944: In the canyons of Manhattan flower speculation as to whether a German attack is imminent in the metropolis – was flown by nuclear slices. The New York Times has a “mysterious floating ball” reported and taken photos of blurred objects, which seem to race away at high speed. London panicked want those discs have observed in the low-level flight under the Thames bridges. 

The Allies were half a year before landing in Normandy, the German world front was on the verge of collapse – and yet even had the Americans fear that it could succeed with the German secret wonder weapons, prevent their imminent defeat yet. Goebbels propaganda machine of its own people conjured up in the end the tale of the “final victory” was also the enemy action. Hitler had not developed by Werner von Braun legendary V-2 rocket fire since September 1944 on the British capital? A deadly missile, which achieved bypassing enemy radar screens in just 320 seconds you target – without any warning.
The V in V 2 was in the Nazi propaganda for “retaliation”. Even if the so-called V-weapons in the war ends were not yet mature technology: some of them had great potential, so that the United States and the Soviet Union were able to further develop intercontinental ballistic missiles or cruise missiles. Others were from the outset only the satisfaction of wishful thinking in his headquarters. A special role here was the “V7” too, also known as the “kingdom of flying disc.”

Since the lost Battle of Britain was the German air force struck and Air Minister Goring under pressure. Therefore, he called out to 1941, all experts and invited them on to new, bold developments in order to secure the German air superiority. But the Nazis turned on all the money taps. An important role played in planning the model of a vertically strartenden circular disc, the young designer Andreas Epp and his supporters, the legendary World War I fighter pilot Ernst Udet had Goering presented shortly before. With a dual strategy, the idea can be realized: In the Breslau and Dresden, the German aircraft factories were aircraft engineer Richard Miethe and Italian turbine expert Giuseppe Belluzzo prepare the testing, at the Skoda works in Prague and their colleagues Otto Habermohl Rudolf Schriever.

In February 1944, led the Prague developers through the first successful test of the disk. On the maiden flight of different reports are circulating. Some projects the disc can be shot with more than 2000 km / h through the air, for others they just made a few lame jumping movement. But certainly played up the propaganda ministry, the event and claimed a breakthrough in the development of new wonder weapons. Most documents have been destroyed over the window in the turmoil of the last year of the war or were lost, but the fifteen months from the test flight until the armistice was sufficient to put the immortal myth of the super fast flying disks in the world.
For the aviation historian Peter Pletschacher, the evolution of the flying disc has studied, it is a matter of “psychological warfare at its best”. The speeds indicated were “impossible and then complete rubbish” was. The disc research could not have as often claimed, had priority because it is mentioned in the reference works of this period only in passing. The sensational effect on the enemy Pletschacher leads to the fact that the Allies would have had the greatest respect from the Germans and especially in the technical field they were confident everything. For example, the French seized 1945 jet engines from BMW, which were cited as the world’s most powerful, and built it into their own military machine.

After the war, the legend began operating independently of the legendary kingdom of flying disc and became increasingly bizarre forms. Probably because so many Nazi bigwigs were in hiding in South America, could be heard soon, Hitler and his followers had settled with their discs in the Antarctic and in tunnels under the ice waiting for her return to Germany. You have to understand that 1938das German research vessel “Swabia” was leaked on the then abandoned Antarctic in order to claim territories for Germany. The supporters of the theory of Hitler’s escape call our territory therefore “Neuschwabenland.
to test U.S. maneuvers with the aim of the cold war, new fitness equipment in the ice, gave the legend of 1946, more food. Did the Americans track down their old nemesis in his icy bunker? The high point of the absurd Mythenstrickerei, when it was finally, Hitler had withdrawn his wheels on the moon and waiting there on the day of his revenge. The trip into space would have allowed a new sensational drive technology, the “Vril” was called and was supposed to accelerate to 40,000 mph.

Fantasy and hysteria were no limits. Seasoned U.S. pilots gave sworn statements from 1947 through encounters in the air with unknown flying objects, UFOs shortly. The Air Force would even have been involved in a fight with a disk. Now also had a comic artist and Hollywood film makers their material. Martians in flying races visited the planet Earth, of course, just as philanthropists. Fearing that was when the media reported the same year by a UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico.
Like nearly all other incidents of this kind, it turned out well as the optical illusion in Roswell.There only a weather balloon had fallen. The UFO-believers did not care and declared the city a place of pilgrimage. He has remained until today. This year were 150 000 visitors came to Roswell. Recently, word of the foundation stone for a “global Ufology Congress Centre” set.
The UFO paranoia of the 1940s had a twin, namely the fear of UFOs (Unidentified Submarine Objects): amphibious flying discs, which start in water, the water surface in the sky to shoot and then return back into the sea. The mystery investigator Lars A. Fischinger has investigated the phenomenon. Dozens of such phenomena from the past 50 years he has taken under the microscope. In Antarctica, for example, wanted an icebreaker crew have watched as UFOs broke through seven meter thick ice layers. Other windows have disappeared without trace in 8000 meters. Many of these incidents occurred during the Cold War in the waters between the Soviet Union and the Scandinavian countries. The suspect was brought low, Fischinger, that was like at the end of World War II from the tense international situation resulting psychological stress, people made vulnerable to hallucinations and hysterical reactions.
The UFO craze after the Second World War, not least been fueled by the developers of the flying disc itself. “The engineers wanted to make important,” says expert Pletschacher. Said Rudolf Schriever was allowed in the 1950s, the “mirror” contradicted his attempts to explain in Prague, where he claimed boastfully: “Flying saucers are not a gimmick. They are of greatest importance, the development of aviation technology. “By contrast the much more qualified professionally Giuseppe Belluzzo from Breslauer test group in 1944 warned that disk-shaped missiles were unstable due to their high center of gravity, particularly with increasing size.
From the shady promises Schriever and other engineers who were in the construction of the flying disc, and personal blogs pretended at least to let Canadian military researchers impress so they decided to be a replica, which they called “Avro Canada VZ-9AV”, short “Avrocar”, missed. In the years 1960 and 1961, the Canadian disc was tested 75 hours. The propeller pushes the air down and away backwards, allowing the construction and excavation were taken. Instead of the expected 480 km / h reached the plane to just pace 50, where he stumbled drunk out how and forth – probably just like his predecessor, Prague in 1944.

This result expected cost Canadian taxpayers five million dollars. The Smithsonian Museum today in the U.S. capital of Washington issued Avrocar model was not built for nothing: it is the evidence for all the doubters and deniers, that the kingdom flying disc was a technological dud. As a propaganda tool they struck the other hand like a nuclear bomb. Their impact, we must even 65 years after the war, marvel at, while the disc is more powerful myth. Not even the Reich Propaganda Minister would be the dream.

Shot Down In Flames

shot down

Well, by skeptics actually, but the effect is much the same*…

Having the misfortune to watch GMTV this morning, I spotted what turned out to be this load of old bollocks, recycled for a UK audience – no doubt because the UK edition of the book they’re hawking was published today (August 3). It relates the story of a young boy who is claimed to have had a past life as a Second World War fighter pilot. This sort of thing (i.e. ‘evidence’ of reincarnated minors) is usually the result of a form of facilitated communication – concerned parents and/or psychologists or social workers who over-interpret a child’s statements and together create an entirely false reality – sometimes to explain some behavioural problem, sometimes just because they want their child to be somehow special.

It’s rather like Cold Reading as used (sometimes cynically, sometimes unknowingly) by ‘psychics’ – you start with something vague and general and whittle it down into a specific, plausible story that could just about fit the facts. This case is no different – as a poster on the JREF forum pointed out several years ago now – the kid had a) very basic awareness of WW2 planes (which many toddlers and journalists have) and b) frightening nightmares about dying in an aeroplane. Everything else, culminating in his ID as a specific individual – Lieutenant (JG) James M. Huston, US Navy – came from his facilitators. And even that information is all public domain stuff – no new historical revelation was made that could have helped validate the claim.

As for the much-vaunted drawings – do we see anything beyond typical toddler-level drawing skills, or a hint of the fighter-pilot knowledge that Gross and the others insist is there? No. We see scrawls – attempts at aeroplanes advanced for his age perhaps, but showing no real detail that might show familiarity with flying the things. And we see tanks – there weren’t many of those involved in Pacific dogfights. All of this ignored to focus on one vague but simple concept – the original dream involving death, fire, and a plane – which can then have the facts forced to fit it later on. The get-out that ‘he was only young’ doesn’t wash – either he’s privy to special knowledge over and above that available to a toddler, or he isn’t.

It’s interesting to note that in the GMTV interview, the boy is emphatic about no longer having the nightmares, and in fact, being unable to remember them. Either reincarnation curses the very young with traumatic memories of their own deaths, only to then take them away, or the nightmares were simply an anxious phase in the boy’s early development, since got over (perhaps even via this ‘unconventional’ therapy, but I doubt it).

Thanks to the international lag in the publishing and publicity of the book over here, some fellow sceptics have already blown the story out of the water. Amazingly, despite claims that the kid had no exposure to aviation or military history before his dreams, it seems that the kid was actually taken to an air museum well beforehand – as mentioned above the excellent Skeptico has a whole blog post about this which, actually, makes my own rather redundant – as it covers pretty much every angle. Even those historical details that have made it through the facilitation process and should therefore be watertight – dependent upon good research – don’t all hold up.

Take the type of fighter flown by Huston – JREFer ‘Gumboot’ has (amongst other things) pointed out that the original claim was for the distinctive gull-winged Corsair fighter – only when the father read that Huston was not flying that type at the time when he died did it change to the radically different Wildcat. The book’s authors address this, pointing out that James Huston’s sister sent them a photograph of him in front of a Corsair – he did fly them at one point. But note that they are modifying the claim – which was specifically that James had died in a Corsair. Whether he flew one at some point (actually pretty likely) is neither here nor there. He wasn’t flying them from the carrier identified by the facilitators, and he didn’t die in one.

Skeptico also details what I’m calling the ‘facilitators’ involved – from the doting father who reinforces what would otherwise be healthy roleplay by buying toys and books, to the published reincarnation proponent who brings the sort of leading questions that can be fitted after the fact to tidbits of historical research. It was only when the child was taken to a therapist that ‘evidence’ of his dreams being related to a past life first emerged, and then snowballed. The same thing has happened many times before, including in the much more serious creation of false memories of sexual abuse. The very young child aspect we have seen recently in the Cold Reading of babies by arch-scumbag and million-dollar challenge loser Derek Ogilvie – his victims were too young to talk at all, yet by focussing on the parents he could convince them that he was reading their child. The same might apply here – the hopes, fears and thoughts of James parents driving the narrative just as much as his own half-formed expressions. For example – the claim that James said his fighter was brought down by a ‘direct hit to the engine’. A toddler would not – could not – have articulated that phrase as written. An alternative explanation is that he was asked by a facilitator how or where the plane was hit, and he gestured vaguely at the front part of his drawing, or of a toy. One follow-up question of ‘was it the engine?’, and a child’s imagination or conception of air-combat (head-on attacks being relatively rare in reality) suddenly becomes an uncanny past-life memory of his own death.

One thing I thought it worth expanding upon is what amounts to the usual schtick in selling paranormal cases to the world-weary punter – the idea that hardcore sceptics have been swayed by James’ story – in this case they’ve not looked further than one of their fellow co-authors, who despite claiming to be a ‘rationalist secular skeptic‘, is iobviously not familiar with the relevant literature and has developed a ‘blindspot’ for this case. This can happen to any of us, particularly if we become emotionally invested in a story – but his disbelief about other fanciful ideas does not validate this one. For example;

“I’ve heard people say, oh, he must have been coached, or influenced by watching TV. But this was a child in his diapers, still sucking on a bottle. How could he be coached to know the flight characteristics of World War II era fighter planes? How could he know the names of the ships and the sailors who had taken part in a certain battle at a certain time?”

Gross (a fiction author and automotive writer) clearly doesn’t understand how this works – it’s not that the child himself is expounding upon such complex topics – the original statement could be as simple as ‘Airplane crash on fire, little man can’t get out’ (one of James’ actual comments). The facilitator then shows the child a picture of a certain aeroplane (as we know the father actually did), and the child nods or otherwise indicates agreement or disagreement. Then (say) a picture of a particular pilot. Again, agreement. The facilitator, without lying (or necessarily even intending to deceive) can then legitimately claim that a toddler knows about a specific incident in history. The exact method of arriving at a given final claim won’t be accessible to the rest of us unless the facilitator makes logs of each session or the father writes meticulous diary notes. Even then, what James actually said on a given occassion, and how that might otherwise have been interpreted by someone not invested in a pre-determined outcome (in this case making a child appear to be a reincarnated fighter jock). Then there’s this ‘evidence’;

“There were other odd things — when she sent James Leininger a drawing that her mother made of James Huston — the child asked where was the other picture? The other picture — buried up in the attic for sixty years — was a drawing of Ann. Her mother had made two drawings when they were children. How could James Leininger have known that? Ann was stunned. No one knew about that other picture. Except her dead brother.”

So like Cold Reading, it’s not even funny. The kid says something like ‘where’s the other picture?’ – he could have been referring to almost anything. The sister, filling the role of the sitter in my psychic analogy, seeks the meaning of this, discounts all other interpretations, and goes straight for the least likely – that the child somehow knows about a hidden second drawing of the sister. She supplies the meaning. If she had asked ‘what picture?’ and the child had said ‘you’, that would be more like it. Or if she had taken him to the house and he had made a beeline for the attic. Or any number of confirmatory things beyond blind faith that when he says ‘other picture’, he means what she imagines he means.

Reading Gross’s heartfelt testimony, it’s also apparent in his use of the words ‘cynical’ and ‘nay-sayer’ that he takes the word ‘skeptic’ to mean closed-minded, just as the believers do. This one exception has slipped through his scoff-net, therefore he stands by it. That’s not what scepticism is (read ‘should be’ – I’m as guilty of it as any!). The idea is to form a provisional conclusion based upon the available evidence and the nature of the claim – to keep that open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out. Gross continues to disbelieve reincarnation despite having “no reasonable explanation for James Leininger/Huston”. If this is true, how is he a sceptic? If I had come to the same conclusion, I would no longer be sceptical about reincarnation – I would (provisionally) be convinced of its veracity. Or at least have a burning desire to try to confirm or debunk that conviction – what issue could be more important than life after death, if we had anything like evidence that it might be true?

The saddest part of all this for me is that relatives and colleagues of the dead pilot have been taken in along with everyone else. It’s easy to see why people in their 80s would on some level want to believe that their long-dead loved-one had a fresh start in a new body – and that they might live to experience the same thing. So they buy into the same fantasy as thousands of others, because it brings quick-fix comfort and hope. Isn’t it enough to simply pay our respects to the dead? To grow up and live our lives with some of them as role models? To keep fiction in the ‘fiction’ isle?

*With apologies to Blackadder II.

Wee Gordie McNazi

No, not that one – step away from that Daily Mail. If you’re into aviation history, you may well have come across this guy – Austrian Luftwaffe officer Gordon Gollob – high-scoring ace and all-around Nazi tool. Comment has been made online and in books about his supposed Scots ancestry – perhaps just for the novelty value, or because we enjoy the thrill/scare of fascism brought close to home. If a Scotsman or other Briton could fight for the Nazis, so could we have. Anyway, before veering off into pop psychology, what interests me about Gollob is that to reinforce this pedigree, he’s claimed to have a Scottish name, as I read whilst lurking on the militaryphotos.net forum recently. The name, if not the genetics, struck me immediately as unlikely.

nazi ronald mcdonaldRonald wasn’t the only one…

Starting with the ‘Gordon’ – this is emphatically a Scots name, and if his father really were a Scot as has been claimed, he could have chosen it for him. In this source, I take “nice Scottish name” to refer to this rather than the improbable surname that set me investigoogling. ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’ Gollob sounds like no Scots name I’ve ever heard or seen. For this to hold true, ‘Gollob’ would also have to have been a Scots or Scots Gaelic name (Mc or Mac meaning of course ‘son of’). No matter how you check using Google (or Google books), Gollob or McGollob or MacGollob doesn’t come up in association with Scots or Scotland. It does however feature in pages about Germans, Austrians, Poles, and other continental/central Europeans. This should not surprise us, since Gollob and both of his parents (including his ‘Scottish’ father) were actually born and bred in Austria.

I was becoming convinced that the ‘Mc’ was just a nickname, perhaps bestowed by his fighter pilot pals, intended to riff on his Scots Christian name in a more obvious and stereotypical way. An exaggeration for comedic effect, maybe even to take the piss out of his mixed ancestry. But it seems that there may well be more to it. Supported by the bio in my previous link, this book claims that;

“The ‘Mc’ in McGollob was not part of a Caledonian family name, but a highly unusual Christian name bestowed upon the young Gollob by his parents. They were both Austrian artists who named their son after an American friend, Gordon Mallet Mc Couch [sic – should be ‘McCouch‘]”

So not only is the ‘Mc’ spurious, the whole name was made up – and not by a Scottish father, nor even (as far as I can tell) in honour of any Scots ancestor!

It’s not that there weren’t any Nazis with verifiable Scottish heritage – there were. Well, at least one. Douglas Pitcairn was another Nazi officer with an undeniable (if relatively distant) Scottish heritage. He just doesn’t attract the same level of interest as ‘Mc’ – perhaps because he wasn’t even an ‘ace’, having just 4 victories to Gollob’s 150. In any case, what does ancestry actually tell us about these people? In what meaningful sense would they be ‘Scottish nazis’?Does it reflect upon Scotland, or the UK in any way? Does it (or, say, the Indian Waffen-SS) make the Nazis fans of cultural diversity, or otherwise less nasty? No. All it really tells us is that hate, prejudice, snappy dressing and mad air-gunnery skillz are no respecters of heredity.