When science and spirituality battle it out, sometimes there’s no clear winner. In the case of most Fortean or paranormal subjects, the scientific establishment simply labels their opponents with the blanket term ‘pseudo-science’, and the counter argument is usually that critics are closed minded. It’s not always the case, but often these two pillars of popular culture mix like oil and water, or perhaps…gas and water.
Sometimes the debate goes beyond polite discourse too, and in such cases believers in whatever phenomena can get outright nasty. Such was the case in 2002, following the airing of a Thailand TV show titled Code Crackers, wherein a team was sent by the Thai TV network iTV to investigate the famed Naga Fireballs.
A little background first. The Naga Fireballs are much as their name suggests. They are the focal point of a phenomenon that occurs in late October every year, on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. They are little fireballs that silently rise up out of the river, burning red in colour. They shoot up from the river’s surface quickly, to about a hundred meters, where they silently burn out and disappear. They can occur in the thousands, though some years have recorded as few as 30.
The fireballs are widely known in Asia and are revered in Thailand as a part of the observance of the Buddhist (Thai/Laos) Lenten season. Specifically Wan Ok Phansa, which is the final day of the celebration. In modern day Thailand, the celebration involves huge gatherings of people on the bank of the river, all to watch the fireballs rise and disappear in the heavens. The celebration commemorates the return of Buddha in Naga form, and it is widely believed by Buddhists and others that the Naga Fireballs are actually the breath of a giant sea serpent, a Naga or Phaya Naga, that lives in the riverbed and awakes every year at this time to honour the conclusion of vassa (The three month long season of Rain Retreat or Buddhist Lent).
The Naga, as history buffs and perhaps gamers will find familiar, is the name of a mythical creature, said to be a giant sea serpent or snake (or sometimes a dragon). They have some political significance, as Laotian culture considers them to be protectors of Vientaine (the capital of Laos) and by extension, Laos State, but they are revered by most in the Makong river area of Thailand as powerful magical beasts. Most in the skeptical camp believe that a species of oarfish is responsible for this myth.
This spiritual significance is what, ultimately, led to the unrest among revelers in 2002. The show, Code Crackers, offered a not so traditional view of the Naga Fireballs. Their expose suggested that the fireballs are not the breath of the great Naga, but are in fact tracer rounds being fired into the sky by Laos guards on the opposite shore of the nearly half-mile-wide river. This offended the spiritual beliefs of some several hundreds of thousands of believers, and protests and lawsuits ensued. The TV show was followed by a feature length movie titled Mekhong Full Moon Party, which portrayed the phenomenon and the celebration in a less than flattering light as well.
The notion that the fireballs are not what the devout believe they are isn’t, as you may imagine, without its merits, however.
Scientists, according to many who’ve blogged on this topic, readily attribute the phenomenon to that old stand-by explanation for all things weird and unexplained – Swamp Gas. Though, in this case, they may be right.
To anyone unfamiliar with UFO phenomenon and its culture, the swamp gas explanation says that in marshy areas, organic material decomposes underground producing deposits of methane. Said methane eventually finds its way to the surface, and upon coming into contact with oxygen, it spontaneously ignites providing a brief little light show for anyone who happens to be nearby. Fairly simple chemistry actually.
According to Brian Dunning of Skeptoid, one Dr. Manos Kanoksilp, a pediatrician, theorises that the Naga Fireball phenomenon requires a precise alignment of the sun, moon and Earth, and that the Makong River provides a perfect storm of conditions, regarding methane and oxygen levels combined with ambient temperature, to bring about the fireballs every year at the same time. The Thai Science Ministry apparently concurs, citing an experiment headed by the ministry’s Deputy Secretary, Saksit Tridech. Tridech and his team used equipment to measure conditions during the celebration and apparently determined that the fireballs were the result of built up phosphine gas. Phosphine is manufactured for industrial purposes through a defined chemical process, and it’s not clear how it is generated in nature. Though most believe, similar to methane, it is the product of bacterial reduction of phosphate in decomposing organic material.
Brian Dunning disagrees with the swamp gas theory, however. The swamp gas process described above, based on methane gas, requires highly specific conditions. The right concentrations of methane and oxygen and certain environmental conditions are necessary for spontaneous combustion. Dunning believes it’s unlikely that those conditions can be found consistently on the same date at the same place, year after year. It may come as no surprise that he favours the Laotian guards firing into the sky theory, and suggests that they may be paid to do so by local officials.
Phosphine however, is a touch more volatile than methane, and could account for the Naga Fireball phenomenon, but it too would require special circumstances to be consistent over time.
So we’re left with three apparent possibilities: a giant magical serpent breathing tiny bubbles of fire, swamp gas, or a sort of unintentional hoax (or perhaps intentional).
One of the problems with the above theorising, is that there isn’t a lot known about the fireball phenomenon’s history. Locals claim that it’s been going on for centuries, but there is no record of it. There are whisperings of the Mekong Lights (as they’re sometimes called) being mentioned in sacred writings at the Wat Luang Buddhist temple in Phon Phasai, Wat Pho Luang Phra Sai, and of written accounts of the lights from British forces in the 1960’s but there’s nothing solid to cite. The festival itself is eons old, but it’s not clear if the fireballs have always been associated with it. As such it’s not certain if the Naga Fireballs really do happen every year at the same time. Today, and as a result of a huge boom in Naga Fireball related tourism in the area, the festival is overrun by fireworks, which completely negates anyone actually seeing the fireballs in person, unless one happens to erupt right in front of them.
Nonetheless, there are many videos of the fireballs on YouTube, like the one below – so ultimately, you can make up your own mind.
 Brian Dunning. The Naga Fireballs: What is the source of the glowing balls that rise from the Mekong river each October? December 2009 Skeptoid.com http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4183
Haunted Eddy Brothers House: Séances and Bizarre Phenomena
In 1874, uncanny events were happening in the home of William and Horatio Eddy, two middle-aged illiterate brothers, and their sister, Mary.
According to newspaper and Spiritualist accounts in 1874, mysterious incidents were happening in a small Vermont farmhouse near Chittenden where the Eddy’s lived. They resided in a two-story building that was reported to be infested with supernatural entities.
People came from all over the world to experience them in the house that Spiritualists dubbed the “Spirit Capital of the Universe.” Prominent attorney Henry Steel Olcott was a skeptic until he experienced the paranormal incidents.
The Eddy Brothers’ Early Years
William and Horatio were descended from a long line of psychics. Mary Bradbury, a distant relative, was convicted of witchcraft in Salem in 1692. Their grandmother had second sight and often went into trances and spoke to entities that no one else saw.
Their mother, Julia, was known for scaring neighbors with predictions and visions although her husband, Zepaniah, condemned her powers as the work of the Devil. She learned to hide her gifts from the cruel and abusive man.
When the couple had children, strange poundings began shaking the house, disembodied voices were heard in empty rooms, and, allegedly, babies vanished from their cribs. They were discovered in the house and outside.
As William and Horatio grew older, their paranormal powers strengthened. Zepaniah beat them with a rawhide whip. He tried everything he could to stop the paranormal incidents by abusing them. The events continued. He doused the boys with boiling water, on the advice of a “Christian” friend.
When this didn’t work, he allowed this friend to drop a hot coal into William’s hand to exorcize the devils. When he realized that he couldn’t stop them, he was furious.
The boys couldn’t attend school. The strange events, including invisible hands throwing books, levitating desks and objects flying about the room, kept happening.
Zepaniah realized they had money-making potential, so he sold them to a traveling showman, who, for the next fourteen years, took them all over America, Canada and Europe. He challenged audience members to try to awaken the boys from their trances, as part of their performance.
The Eddy’s were locked into small wooden boxes to see if they could escape. Hot wax was poured into their mouths to see if they could produce spirit voices when they were unable to talk. Skeptics poked, prodded and punched the entranced brothers. On several occasions, they were stoned and shot at by angry crowds.
The brothers moved home after their father died. They and Mary opened the farmhouse as an inn, the Green Tavern.
Eddy Brothers’ Validity Challenged
Were they genuine or a hoax? Henry Steel Olcott challenged the authenticity of the events at Eddy House. He had no interest in the paranormal before he read about the brothers in the Spiritualist newspaper, the Banner of Light. Although skeptical, he knew that if the stories were true, they were important in physical science.
Olcott traveled to Vermont, accompanied by newspaper artist Alfred Kappes. They planned to investigate the weird events in the Eddy farmhouse. If the stories were a hoax, they would expose the Eddy’s in the Daily Graphic newspaper as charlatans. If they were genuine, Olcott would confirm the validity of Spiritualism. He was determined to be fair and unbiased.
Olcott’s first impression was that the brothers were belligerent and unfriendly. They weren’t the scamsters he expected. He attended an outdoor séance. A group of ten participants gathered in front of Honto’s Cave, named in honor of the Native American spirit who often appeared there. Olcott investigated the cave and found no other egress. Horatio was the medium for the séance.
He sat on a stool in the cave’s opening and was draped in a makeshift spirit cabinet formed by shawls and branches. As Horatio sat there, a gigantic man, in AmerIndian clothing emerged from the cave. While Horatio spoke to the spirit, someone cried and pointed toward the top of the cave.
There was another enormous AmerIndian. A spectral female materialized on a ledge. Ten specters appeared during the séance. After the séance ended, Olcott and Kappes carefully searched the cave and the surrounding area for footprints. They found none. Olcott found the séance convincing but wanted to try to detect fraud in the farmhouse.
Kappes and he carefully examined the large séance room. Olcott drew maps, charts and diagrams and took numerous measurements because he was sure he would find false panels, secret doors and/or hidden passages. He found nothing. He convinced the newspaper to hire experts to examine the house. Carpenters and engineers were the consultants. They found nothing unusual.
Eddy Brothers’ Validity Established
Each séance was basically the same. Guests sat on wooden benches in the room. A platform was lit by a kerosene lamp, in a barrel. William, the primary medium, got on the platform and entered a small cabinet. Soft voices whispered in the distance.
Often, it was singing, accompanied by phantom music. Musical instruments soared over the heads of the audience, disembodied hands appeared, waving and touching spectators, odd lights and unexplained noises appeared. The first spirit emerged from the cabinet. They materialized, alone or in groups. Some seemed solid; others, transparent and otherworldly.
Olcott examined the spirit cabinet and platform and found no trap doors or hidden passages. There was no room in the cabinet for anyone other than the medium. Olcott was familiar with the work of stage magicians and fake mediums, but couldn’t find any of their trickery in the Eddy house.
The apparitions sang and chatted with the sitters. Phenomena included rappings, moving physical items, spirit paintings, automatic writing, prophecies and levitations.
Olcott concluded that such a show would have required actors, costumes and would have cost a fortune. The brothers were nearly penniless. Olcott believed that fraud would have been physically and financially impossible.
Olcott documented the paranormal events in the newspaper and wrote a book, People from Other Worlds. The book contains meticulous drawings of the apparitions, the grounds, the house and blueprints of its construction that proved there were no hidden passages.
He collected hundreds of affidavits and testimonies to the events and reproduced dozens of statements from respected tradesmen and carpenters who examined the house for trickery.
The Eddy Brothers: Post Script
The Eddy brothers and Mary went their separate ways. Horatio died on September 8, 1922; William on October 25, 1932. Some people are inclined to dismiss the events as fiction; however Olcott’s extensive documentation and investigations imply the events weren’t a hoax.
He was skeptical and analytical during his ten-week stay at the farmhouse and he became a believer.
Sources: Dennis William Hauck, Haunted Places, Penguin Books, 2002., Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, FactsOnFile, 1992., Troy Taylor, “The Strange Mystery of the Eddy Brothers,” www.prairieghosts.com/eddy.html Accessed on October 20, 2011. By Jill Stefko
This story is from a few years ago but I have only just heard about it recently.
A video shared on Facebook from the Philippines shows a mother crying inconsolably at her sons funeral when all of a sudden a white balloon floats from his coffin and towards the mother.
The video was shared by grieving mother Joy Ganda Viber-Alambers.
Witnesses at the funeral believe that the balloon was moved by the spirit of the seven year old boy Trebby who died.
Joy commented next to the video on Facebook “I would like to believe that this was his last mission”
In the video you can see the balloon floating from the coffin and towards the mother. When she looks at the balloon it changes course and moves towards her and around her. She talks to the balloon and hugs it. It hangs around her for a few seconds before floating away.
What do you think of it? Was it the spirit of the child saying goodbye to his mother?
Being Respectful Of Spirits, Helps Someone To Communicate With Them
For quite some time, people have attempted to communicate with spirits. They seek out answers to questions never answered before. Most of the time, people want to communicate with a lost relative or friend.
Séances are one way to talk with spirits from the other realm. Most of the time, one person might initiate the process, before others join in. This person is usually psychic or attuned to everything around them, more so than many others are.
Back in 2015, a team known as Hope Paranormal White Light decided to put together a video, they fabricated materials together to create a ghost box. Some of the responses they received were rather extraordinary.
If this was real evidence, then it was amazing to listen to the spirits trying to communicate with the living. The equipment the team used then, was the Portal Geo Box, SCD-1, GB Rift, Jensen hacked radio and Frank’s Box #78. One of the items even resembles a guitar pedal. Through the use of this gear, they called forth any kind of good spirits they were able to. However, for a few moments, something sinister made its way towards them as heard in the video.
Spirits sometimes act as guides for people, to show them the way to the light or into the darkness. People who are highly attuned to everything around them, are likely more inclined to see or even communicate with a spirit. Certainly individuals are naturally radiate with paranormal presences.
While attempting to communicate with spirits, pay attention to the little things. Quite possibly, the smallest thing could be a moment of communication from a ghostly type presence. Dreams are another gateway to communication.
Just because someone isn’t attuned to psychic abilities, doesn’t mean they cannot reach for understanding in some sense. Ideally, most people find they want to discover spirits on their own. Maybe even one of these spirits is a guide to help someone. They might be a lost loved one from their lifetime.
If someone is skilled at divination, they can try different divination methods for themselves. Someone doesn’t necessarily have to hire a psychic to help them discover a spirit presence around them. It is commonly believed that spirits can be seen by young children and animals. Perhaps due to them not being tainted by the ways of the world yet.
Their spirit is believed to be pure along with their thoughts. Spirits might resonate with this and reach out to make contact with them. The next time you hear a child say they have an imaginary friend, they might just be communicating with a spirit of some kind. Hopefully this is a good spirit and not something evil.