Posts from 19th October 2005

19
Oct 05

The FT Top 23 STRANGE PHENOMENA: No.15 Poltergeists

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Alix Campbell writes:

When I was younger I was very keen to read about the supernatural world, even when it scared the living dung out of me. I was particularly worried about things that had the most disturbing pictures in the bumper Usborne Book of the Supernatural, so I spent my formative years wondering whether it would be ball lighting or spontaneous human combustion that would do me in. I was also worried about my comprehensive collection of ceramic owls. I was convinced that as soon as I turned thirteen I would be the victim of a poltergeist, literally hell bent on destroying my precious tat collection. I knew more about poltergeists then than I do now, but something I hadn’t quite grasped at that age was that explanations for poltergeists are not as obvious as I assumed. In my straightforward, Usborne informed world poltergeists were mischievous ghosts, and that was that. Now, years later, reading up on them, it seems that poltergeists are probably less of ghostly origin, but instead are uncontrolled manifestations of psychokinetic energy created by an unwitting individual.

Pretty much everyone knows what a poltergeist is and what one does. Of the German loan words in the average English speaker’s lexicon ‘poltergeist’ is one of the most recognised, coming pretty close behind word like ‘Achtung’ and ‘Hahnlandwirt’ Once translated, ‘noisy spirit’ is self-explanatory. Poltergeists make noises, smells, throw things about, disappear stuff, and make an invisible, unnerving and frightening nuisance of themselves.

What’s interesting is that poltergeist activity tends to affect pubescent girls, particularly those experiencing mental turmoil, or the effects of burgeoning hormones. Studies have suggested that people in these conditions are able, subconsciously to manifest psychological trauma and affect their environment, using a form of psychokinetic energy. They are not aware that they are the cause, and are as alarmed as anyone else, often more so, given that they are the focus of this unnatural barrage. When the individual’s problems are alleviated, (eg through counselling), the poltergeist activity often diminishes and stops. Although psychokinesis is not well understood or entirely accepted by mainstream science its existence is recognised, but needs lots more study before it is properly understood (if it ever will be). If we understood more about this area it might be possible to explain poltergeists as a psychological problem, and although I am tempted to agree with this, it is in no way a foregone conclusion.

There are reports of poltergeists affecting people in good mental health, and these are difficult to explain as psychological in origin. These can be attributed to demonic or other supernatural causes, which are much harder to explain, and proposed explanations are much less on the way to acceptance/ understanding compared to psychokinesis.

In regard to poltergeists, it’s been suggested that certain locations are more prone to supernatural phenomena, which, when combined with a troubled and psychokinetically inclined individual create favourable conditions for poltergeist activity. This makes it confusing for researchers to understand which phenomena are occurring, as hauntings and demonic forces often share features with poltergeists. This suggests that cases of apparent poltergeist activity centred on mentally stable people are probably not true poltergeists at all, but poltergeist-like manifestations of other forces, not of psychological origin, requiring a whole other explanation. That’s not to say that there isn’t some kind of link between people with psychic sensitivities and locations prone to supernatural activity, somehow reacting with each other. The two explanations are not mutually exclusive. It’s pretty hard to differentiate between true poltergeists and poltergeist-like activities caused by demons and ghosties, but true activity seems to be of human origin, and possibly is something that will be better understood in the future.

GEORGIE FAME AND THE BLUE FLAMES – “Get Away”

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#219, 23rd July 1966

Hepper, but less charming rerun of “Summer Holiday” with the intrusive horn arrangement acting as your hustling tour guide and stamping out any moments of excitement. By the coda Georgie Fame sounds awfully bored. Gotta go. Get away. Go. Go. Yeah.

Worst Double Bill Eveh!

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Whilst having quite disjunctive styles, aims and lead characters, Domino and Lord Of War are remarkably similar movies. And not just because both of them are pretty bad. Here is just a quick summary of their similarities.

Both are based around an intriguing lead character. This examination of this character was clearly invented or pitched as the point of the film and both (Knightley’s Domino and Cage in Lord Of War) are larger than life. Both do somewhat unreliable narrations. Both films desperately try to concoct an interesting story around these characters, but both fail. Both are morally dubious leads: Cage’s arms dealers is perhaps likeable but pretty evil really, while Domino seems to claim victimhood via being arsey and wanting to beat people up. This makes them both pretty difficult to emphasize with, and thus you care little about what happens to them. Both have drug related dream sequences: and in both films this is when you end up feeling really bored. Both has slow motion shots of people being shot in the head. And therefore yes, both of them are pretty bad.

Will Oldham, Oldhat

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Every time I listen to Will Oldham these days I have a little less pleasure. I don’t know who said it first, but there was a long discussion of him as class tourism and mobility, and fake authentic, and how all of this was a very bad thing. How if we wanted to listen to Alan Lomax, we should go back to the big red box.

I have no idea why I believed this shit. I Listened to him again today, and his voice was as dark and moving as ever, his feeling was as deep and wide. Whether he is attempting to be poor, or geographicaly different, or stranger is of little consequence.

There is a meme in certain circles, that Lomax deserves less points, because he chose the least commercially available, the weirder music, to make an ideological point.

Maybe Lomax thought that pop would ever always be pop, and we would always have the mainstream stuff, and the work that needed to be preserved was the oddities. Oldham seems the opposite, and I’m glad for it.