Let’s get the cards on the table at the outset here—this list comes from a sceptical position. A heavily sceptical position. That is not to say an A priori, entrenched, denialist position. Rather, it is that one should always seek proof, not merely evidence, in order to move away from the doubt that is held when encountering extraordinary claims. With that said, evidence is still evidence, and may indeed lead to proof. So an open mind and a willingness to consider counter-narrative positions (when presented clearly and rationally) is key when faced with such debates and conjectures. We good? Right then.
The entries in this list are comprised of stories, footage and other such circumstantial evidence that rise above the usual ‘friend-of-a-friend’ type gossip, phoney mediums on hokey ghost hunter TV shows or the clearly digitally manipulated videos that pollute the interwebs. Scared? You probably shouldn’t be. Maybe just a little bit.
10 Hell Of A Video
It may be surprising that any case related to famed charlatans the Warrens (of ‘The Conjuring’ fame) would be on a list such as this. But the case of Maurice ‘Frenchy’ Theriault is difficult to easily dismiss as a hoax. Why would this be?
Psychological reasons for odd behaviour, overblown and exaggerated accounts and a general willingness to believe in the supernatural above any rational explanation would usually suffice to sow the seeds of doubt in a story like this.
Then there’s the troubling footage from his exorcism.
As with many supposed victims of demonic possession, Frenchy had a very troubled upbringing. It seems his father was a brutish, violent man, subjecting his son to terrible beatings and, although Frenchy was vague on this, it is assumed some sexual abuse happened also. It was after this terrible event that Frenchy began to notice he had gained preternatural powers—increased strength, hidden knowledge revealed to him and the ability to be in multiple places at once. So far, so Hollywood.
But during an exorcism conducted by Bishop Robert McKenna (with the Warrens close by for, um, moral support?), things get pretty weird, and not in the usual growling and body contorting sort of way. The slow morph of Maurice’s face seen in the video of his exorcism is really freaky. Given that this case occurred in the mid 80s, years before the sophisticated CGI tech we have today, it is hard to believe that anyone involved would have had access to the Hollywood editing required to stage the footage without jump cuts.
There is more than this to the story, however. Frenchy had previously spent time on probation for the rape of a child in 1976, dodged another rape charge in 1985 (charges were dropped when he claimed to be possessed by demons) and his father had killed his mother before killing himself in 1982. So, there’s plenty of precedent beyond the supernatural for what happened next—in 1992, Frenchy succumbed to his violent urges, attempting to murder his estranged wife, shooting her in the arm outside her Massachusetts home with a shotgun. He then turned the gun on himself.
9 Exchanging Tinfoil Hats For Tinfoil Crowns
‘Finally!’ cried all the UFO true believers when this footage was leaked. Hold your horses, though, all this stuff is not proof of the existence of aliens, gang. It is simply proof that US authorities know and study the phenomenon of UFOs (and seem to have no idea what is going on). In and of itself, this is as close to proof that UFO fans and fanatics have ever gotten. You must admit, sceptics, it’s all quite intriguing.
The leaked footage is pretty amazing stuff. This one feels more real. But as compelling as the video is, it’s not proof of the supernatural. Rather, it’s proof that there are phenomena that even the most heavily funded and expert institutions on earth cannot yet explain.
Keep watching the skis… I mean skies (obligatory Simpsons reference complete).
8 The Body In The Billings Reservoir
A body was found near a reservoir outside of the city of Sao Paolo, Brazil in 1988. The man was seemingly tortured to death; facial skin peeled back, eyes pulled out, eyelids cut off, entire muscles had been removed, symmetrically-aligned puncture wounds all over the body with accompanying cauterisation, multiple organs removed (without an obvious incision save a small hole—suggesting the organs had been sucked out). The victim also been castrated and drained of his blood. Furthermore, the man had been probably been conscious during the whole ordeal, given that there was no sign of anaesthetic in his system. There was also a cerebral oedema, suggesting extreme pain. Cause of death—cardiac arrest during extreme agony. Official verdict—Death from natural causes.
It seems that authorities may have (rather poorly) covered up this case. Perhaps it was due to the awful, gruesome details being too alarming for the public. Perhaps there is some darker conspiracy afoot here. Given the similarity between this case and the cattle mutilations often touted as evidence of alien experimentation, it’s hard not to allow the possibility that we humans may be viewed as guinea pigs by some advanced alien species.
7 A Better Way To Look At The ‘Missing 411’ Phenomenon
Author and former police detective David Paulides’ work on collating and examining the many thousands of unexplained missing person cases that occur in the USA’s National Parks is entertaining stuff. Is it convincing? Not really, no. But it is the reason it lacks credibility as a working theory that is interesting here—Paulides and his supporters seem to instinctively try and join up some invisible dots, fashioning a joined-up, all-encompassing conspiracy that will explain each and every case of missing people in the National Parks of the US. We don’t need to do that—scrap the grand narrative approach and take each case on an individual basis and you’ll see that they are far more fascinating, and better evidence of possible explanations beyond our current understanding than Paulides’ loftier claims.
Paulides’ work has brought new life and fresh eyes to some truly baffling cases, cases that may point to something we cannot explain with conventional science. Avoid the web-weaving, and we may find something truly extraordinary.
Here we have a pair of twins separated at birth—some degree of similarity is to be expected, I mean, they are genetically identical. But these coincidences are incredible.
Both were named James by their respective adoptive parents, and went by Jim. One named his first son James Alan, the other James Allan. Both men married a woman named Linda. After both men divorced their respective Lindas, they both married women named Betty. They both named their dogs ‘Toy’. They both worked as deputy sheriffs. They both liked to vacation on the same beach in Florida. They both developed tension headaches when they were 18. They both smoked. They smoked the same brand of cigarettes.
It could simply be the interplay between nature, nurture and environment. But both marrying a Linda then a Betty? There has to be some degree of ESP going on here, surely?
Probably not, but it’s all very strange.
5 Unexplained Sounds And Mysterious Lights
Mysterious loud hums, ringing sounds, low rumbles and trumpet-like blares are heard the world over, causing wonder and confusion by all who hear them. Strange lights in the sky or floating up from bodies of water or dancing on the horizon also seem to have been an unexplained phenomenon for centuries. What the hell is going on? Well, we don’t really know.
The strange noises have been suggested as coming from heavy industrial machinery, fast-moving air currents shearing against slower currents, bio gasses from decaying vegetation or God heralding the end of days.
Strange lights are suggested as being marsh gasses (again), optical illusions cased by mist and car headlights, missile tests, ball lightning, radon decay from rocks causing plasma bursts or God signalling the end of days via Morse code.
Reports of paranormal activity are often met with derision. It doesn’t help when the individual or family that are being pestered by a poltergeist/demon/vampires/haunted doll/gremlin immediately call the wrong person to help them. They never call the police. They never try to get clear, irrefutable photo or video evidence. Do they ever get in touch with a decent investigative journo to experience the phenomenon for themselves? No. They call a ‘paranormal expert’—a medium, a ghost hunter, a bloody TV crew. One guy who rose above the colossal dung heap that is the ‘paranormal expert’ community, was Canadian academic Ian Stevenson.
Stevenson’s research into re-incarnation in children is thorough- maybe the only peer-reviewed body of work on the paranormal which is taken remotely seriously. Even ardent sceptics like astronomer Carl Sagan respected his work, writing in his seminal work, ‘The Demon Haunted World—”At the time of writing there are…. claims in the ESP field which…. deserve serious study:… that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation.”
However, as compelling as Stevenson’s collected anecdotes are, they’re just that—anecdotes. Not proof. That would require rigorous experimentation. So far, we have nothing else to indicate that reincarnation occurs. We cannot rely on Stevenson’s work as more than just a tasty academic snack, not a fully satiating meal of proven theory.
To illustrate this, Carl Sagan’s next line reads—”I pick [this] claim not because I think it’s likely to be valid (I don’t), but as an example of a contention that might be true”.
3 Strange Objects Out Of Place And Out Of Time
1) The Anitkythera Mechanism. 2) The Baghdad Batteries. 3) The Coso Artefact.
1) An uncommon, but not unheard of invention in Ancient Greece. 2) Two storage jars with some acidic residue that was probably a rotted papyrus scroll. 3) A rusty spark plug.
No mysteries here.
Except that damned hammer. Discovered in 1936 in London, Texas, this modern-looking tool was found encased in a 400 million year old limestone concretion.
Clearly it must’ve been made an ancient race of giants. From Jupiter.
Well, maybe not. The hammer seems to be a miner’s hammer from the era it was discovered. There is also a theory posited as to how the hammer could have become encased in the limestone in a relatively short period—the soluble material found in the limestone could have formed around a dropped hammer in a petrifying well—a natural occurrence that is due to water containing an extremely high mineral content. Ok, plausible. Likely, even.
If so, then where are the thousands of other examples that would have doubtlessly occurred?
2 Terminal Spinal-Tap-Drummer Syndrome
All sorts of animals explode—whether it is a rotting whale on a beach, Vietnamese termites that will rupture themselves to defend their pals from attackers or when bored teenagers strap dynamite onto gerbils, animals can blow up naturally. But what about people? There have been many cases of spontaneous human combustion throughout history, baffling relatives, medical examiners and scientists alike. Why and how does this happen?
Many theories have been floated over the years:
Heart attack + cigarette = slow-burning wick effect and very concentrated burn area.
Ketosis in victims caused by alcoholism or low-carb diets leading to a build-up of highly flammable acetone.
Mistaken ‘spontaneity’: intentional self-immolation in order to commit suicide, unidentified external accelerant, inability to move (e.g. stroke, morbid obesity, demonic possession) during immolation.
Maybe every case is one of the above. Maybe it’s some of the above and there remains some paranormal force that causes these weird cases. Either way, what an awful way to go!
1 Angel Hair And Star Jelly
Wouldn’t it be nice if these odd phenomena were actually the hair of angels and jelly thrown down to earth by the stars? For all we know, they may well be!
Scientists haven’t yet solved these twin mysteries from the natural world conclusively. Theories on ‘Angel Hair’ (thin metallic-looking strands that look like spider’s webs that turn up on tree branches and bushes) range from of accidental littering or industrial by-products finding their way into nature, polarized atmospheric electricity forming filaments out of dust particles or biological matter produced by some insect. Or it’s caused by UFOs taking off.
Star Jelly seems to be a bit easier to explain, just not conclusively. It’s frog puke. Probably. Or caused by UFOs taking off. Different UFOs from the ones that make Angel Hair, of course.
About The Author: C.J. Phillips is a storyteller, actor and writer living in rural West Wales. He is a little obsessed with lists.