Living the Dream

I've recently returned from a holiday to Loch Ness.  Staying in the old Abbey at Fort Augustus no less.  I had a marvellous time, thank you for asking and no I didn't see the monster except, well - more of that later!  Whilst I was there I had the chance to chat to two men who have devoted considerable parts of their lives to Loch Ness and the reality - or otherwise - of its most famous inhabitant.

First up was Dick Raynor.

Dick Raynor

Ghost Photographs wanted

Nothing to do with the CFI but I'm currently in the process of writing a book on ghost photographs and I thought I'd give the opportunity to all our readers to get a ghost photograph they have taken published.  You'll get full credit in the book and a free copy as well.  I've got most of the pictures I need but there are some spaces left.  If you're interested you can email the pictures to me

I can't promise to use every picture but before I use anything I'll be in touch.



Fortean events

Ok folks it's here - a fully fledged Fortean Events page. And there will be a permannet link at the top of all the CFI blogs pages as well.

It's a page rather than a blog entry so it will always be in the same place - bookmark it or use your favourite RSS feed to see when it changes.  Once an event has happened it will be removed and new events will be added when I become aware of them.  

Each event will have the date, what it is and who organises it along with an indication of the location and a link to the parent organisation so you can get the full details. 

Any events you know of pass the details on and we'll put them up.

I hope you find it useful and please contribute - the more information it has on the more useful it will be.



Fortean Lectures and Events

I like going to lectures and listening to things of interest to
those of a Fortean mindset.  But I don't always know when things
are on and I sometimes hear about events after they have finished
which is most frustrating.

To try to help this get around this problem I would like to start
posting a list of forthcoming events - perhaps even have it as a
separate, static pag.  But I need your help - let me know of
things that are happening and I can add them to the list.  You
can email me any events at

To help kick off here are a few events of interest


London College of Spirituality

Cheating the Ferryman

July 9th 19.00 - 21.00

Bloomsbury Baptist Church, London, UK

Lecture by Anthony Peake


Edinburgh Fortean Society

A History of Spirit Photography

July 13th 20.30 - 22.30

The Bongo Club, Edinburgh, UK

Lecture by Gordon Rutter


Society for Psychological Research

An Update on the
Forbidden Science

July 13th
18.35 - 20.00

Latest Fortean Property for Sale...

We've already brought you news of the Cottingley Fairies house and the House on Haunted Hill being for sale but here's a real biggie.  As reported by a number of news outlets the Amityville House is for sale.


Yep, that's the one.   Long Island, New York, the Lutzes, films, books, law suits, DeFeo murders etc.  Amityville, the house on the hill as the song says. 

For a mere (!)  $1.15 million it could be yours.  See if you can stay longer than the Lutzes!

So as an eccentric  Fortean billionaire you're on the way to building up a nice property portfolio - Amityville, Cottingley and the House on Haunted Hill (ok it was only a film but the real house is awsome). 

So what property is next?  And will I be able to afford it?  Or someone could buy it and donate it to the Charles Fort Institute as our headquarters - now that would be cool!


Orbs - it's all a load of erm orbs - and now there's proof.

Orbs.  Love them or hate them there's no getting away from them.  Particularly if you're using a compact digital camera and firing the flash during your photography.

For those who have been out of the loop orbs are light coloured (generally) circular patches on photographs.  Many claim that these are spirits or the first manifestation of a ghost lacking sufficient energy to fully manifest.  When these images have been blown up it is claimed that faces can be seen inside.  Further claims relate to size, distance from camera and orbs allegedly interacting with individuals.  And there are others who claim that orbs are dust particles, water vapour, insects etc. close to the camera and illuminated by the on camera flash, this gives an out of focus highly reflective image.  And the arguments have continued with each side firmly entrenched.  With 35 years of experience of photography and a similar length of interest in Fortean matters I tend to the latter, mechanistic explanation, although as a good Fortean I admit the possibility that orbs may be spirit based but as yet I have seen no evidence to support this latter supposition.

And along comes Steve Parsons of Parascience.

Steve is a ghosthunter and a great fan of the scientific method, as part of this he is currently studying for a PhD in the effects of infrasound and its possible importance in haunted locations.

The Veil of Veronica

Ok it's Easter. I have a Cabinet of Curiosities and one of my prized items in it is a Veil of Veronica.
Those two things together seem like a good enough reason to talk about the Veil.

For those who don't know the Veil of Veronica is supposedly a piece of cloth that was used to wipe the
face of Jesus on his way to his crucifixion. The piece of cloth was then imprinted with the likeness of Jesus. This would make it a first class relic (in the absence of a body of Jesus anything relating to the Passion is a first class relic). The Veronica (as it is commonly known) is an example of acheiropoieta – an image not made by human hand. The Veronica is also know as the Sudarim and the word Veronica can be translated as "true image".

The tale of the imprinting is not in the Biblical Gospel stories but it is represented on the 6th of the
Stations of the Cross. The Veronica is said to be able to cure thirst, blindness and death.

Ghost Girl at Haunted Castle is really a witch

On the 15th of Feb UK Tabloid newspaper The Sun published the following story

A quick precis is that Company boss Kevin Horkin took the photo at Gwrych Castle in Abergele, North
Wales, but only saw the ghostly figure when he downloaded his pictures later.

And today in a follow up story

they ask if the ghost is in fact Winifred, Countess of Dundonald.

Will the real Hand of Glory please stand up?

Whitby Museum have one, Walsall Museum do and so do I and that’s about it as far as I know.  Does anyone else have one?  And is there any conclusive proof that they were actually used as described?
For those who don’t know a hand of glory is the hand of an executed criminal which has been turned into a candle.  When the candle is placed in a house all the occupants will remain asleep whilst the candle burns.  Cue the burglars who come in and make away with everything.  At least that’s one version of the story – variants include it petrifies whoever it is handed to and it has the power to open all locked doors.
Supposedly the use of the Hand of Glory dates from 1440 although the name does not crop up until the 18th century where it appears to have been borrowed from an old description of Mandragora root.  If you’ve not been to Whitby, Walsall or my house you may not have seen one – possibly the easiest one to see is in the good version of the film The Wicker Man – that’s the one with Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee just in case there is any doubt.
Lets have a look at these three Hands of Glory.  The Walsall one is unusual in that it is actually an entire arm.  

Aliens built Woolworths...

Many of us are aware of the subject and theories of Sacred Geometry, ley lines etc and hot on the heels of a new book on the subject (Prehistoric Geometry in Britain: The Discoveries of Tom Brooks) comes startling research from Matt Parker.

Parker, of my alma mater Queen Mary College, University of London, decided to apply the techniques used by Brooks.  As the title of this piece suggests he applied them to the ancient and mystical locations of Woolworths.

“We know so little about the ancient Woolworth stores, but we do still know their locations” explains Parker, “so I thought that if we analysed the sites we could learn more about what life was like in 2008 and how these people went about buying cheap kitchen accessories and discount CDs.”

And aligning to an accuaracy of 0.05% (between 30 and 40 feet off) Parker was able to discern several stores lining up to produce equilateral traingleswith other stores present on lines continued from the triangles.  For 173.8 miles.  Further work yielded more triangles and points of intersection.

Parker concluded that “these incredibly precise geometric patterns mean that the people who founded the Woolworths Empire must have used these store locations as a form of ‘landmark satnav’ to help hunters find their nearest source of cheap sweets that can be purchased in whatever mix they chose to pick".

Paranormal Edinburgh

I've lived in Edinburgh for something like 15 years now and it truly is a beautiful and amazing city.  My most recent book, Paranormal Edinburgh, looks at the Fortean side of Edinburgh.  Here is one of my favourite stories from the book.

Looking at the BVM can make you go blind...

An intersting report surfaces via the Irish Times.  Recent supposed appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) have been following the pattern made famous at Fatima - namely word gets around, lots of people turn up and then they claim to see the sun dancing around in the sky.  October the 31st saw 10 000 people attending and an earlier appearance on the 11th of October also saw large numbers.  At both gatherings people claimed to see the sun shimmering, changing colour and dancing in the sky.

Joe Coleman, described as a local visionary, has predicted that the BVM will put in another appearance this Saturday - the 5th of December.  Police have previously asked people to keep away and perhaps some of the locals feel the same way too - as a precaution the pubs are closed and Knock becomes dry.

So what is the problem?  Well people are quite naturally looking at the sun attempting to get their own view of a miracle.  Some are then presenting themselves to University Hospital Galloway with vision problems.  Dr Eamonn O'Donoghue, consultant opthalmologist reports that they have witnessed five recent cases of solar retinopathy (damage to the retina from prolonged exposure to the sun - i.e. from staring at it).  This might not seem like a tidal wave of vision problems but the hospital would normally be suprised if they were presented with one case per year. 

From the Irish Times

“These people came in because they have had a significant reduction
in their vision and they could very well be a smaller representative
sample,” Dr O’Donoghue said, adding that two of those who had presented
to the hospital had also reported that other members of their families
had suffered visual damage.

CFI Joins the 21st Century

Just a quick update to let you know that the CFI now has it's own Facebook page

The blog page and the main website at areof course still the main areas to keep you aware of what is happening but the Facebook page is a more informal location and gives you a chance to comment as well.

This is just one of many changes and projects that we are working on at the moment, so watch any of these spaces!



Imaging the Impossible

From Bob's recent post on indexing the impossible to imaging the impossible - ghost photography.

Earlier on this year I was co-organiser, along with Richard Wiseman and Caroline Watt, of a one day event for the Edinburgn International Science Festival - The Science of Hauntings.  Along with the other other invited speakers on the day I gave a talk on the history of spirit photography - two of my passions combined in a very logical way - photography and organised spiritualism were born at round about the same time and consequently their history is intertwined.  From the desire to talk to the dead their soon arose the need for photographs of spirits (initialy photography was used to take photographs of the recently departed but this was a step beyond that).  From the earliest spirit photographs of William Mumler and others through to the latest orbs the subject is still rich in controversy and unwritten histories.  Over forthcoming blogs I will concentrate on different aspects of this story.  If anyone can't wait and they're in London at Halloween then come along to the British Library where I will be delivering an illustrated lecture on just this topic from 14.30 to 16.00.

And if anyone would like to fund me in a PhD study of this topic just let me know - I'm champing at the bit!

Paranormal Newcastle

The Ghost that came back for its photographs

This is a story from my recent book Paranormal Newcastle and whilst this story is in the book the relevant pictures are not, so here they are.

From left to right we have

Mr Dickinson, a photographer on whom a ghostly client called
The Photographic shop and studio of Mr Dickinson
The Portrait of Mr Thompson which not even the grave would keep him from collecting
Warning in W T Steads book for those about to read the ghost stories within

Here is the relevant section from the book to give you a taste

The House on Haunted Hill is For Sale

For those who failed to purchase the Cottingley Fairy Cottage blogged about on these very pages another home is for the sale.  The house that was used for the filiming of the original House on Haunted Hill is up for grabs at a mere $15 million.  It was also used in Blade Runner.

Good luck.

By Martha Groves

12:40 AM PDT, June 19, 2009

Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, a Los Feliz hilltop masterpiece composed of
patterned and smooth concrete blocks that has been mightily threatened
by man and Mother Nature, is being offered for sale at $15 million by
the private foundation that has been restoring it.

Eric Lloyd Wright, the architect's grandson and a member of the
nonprofit Ennis House Foundation's board, said that, given harsh
economic realities, private ownership would be the best way to save the
house and honor his grandfather's intentions.

He did it the hard way...

In general as time goes by jobs become easier due to for example mechanistation or increased use of computers.  Think how easy it was in the past to build a house and compare that to how easy it is to build a skyscraper today.  Despite this you would think some things would never get any easier, for example the job of being Indiana Jones.  Jones is a tomb raider (lets be honest) and so far in his exploits we have seen him tangle with the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail and many other items.  But quite frankly for these two named pieces he need not have gone to all that trouble.

We all know from the work of Graham Hancock (The Sign and the Seal) that the Ark is at Axum in Ethiopia (I still think this is Hancock's best piece of work).  It's in a church not open to anyone and it is guarded by a single monk who is the only person allowed to see the Ark.  At least that is how the story has been told (if you're wondering why it's there Solomon had an illegitamte son with the Queen of Sheba and he took the Ark back home to Ethiopia - that's why it appears to vanish from the Bible). But news reaches our ears which has some bits of excitement in it. 

Cottingley Cottage Update

Recently I reported that the cottage at the centre of the Cottingley Fairies case was up for sale.  I did get frequent emails asking if I was still interested in a house in the area for a few months after!  However I can confirm that the house has now sold and the good news is that it has a sympathetic owner!

Actor Dominic Brunt (Emmerdale) has bought the house.  According to the editiorial in Fortean Times 248 Dominc, co-organiser of theLeeds Zombie Festival,

"Dominic, it turns out, is not just an obsessive zombie buff but also a long-time FT reader (“to my wife’s dismay I never throw a copy away”)"

So it's pleasing to know that the place is in safe hands.  I wonder if he'll be seeing Zombie Fairies whilst he's there?

Sir David Attenborough and the Yeti and Jonathan Ross

The Yeti has always been a poor cousin of the Bigfoot. It never gets the column inches its more famous North American cousin does but I guess that's the price you pay for living in such a remote and out of the way area as the Himalayan regions of Nepal and Tibet. But could that be about to change? Britain's elder statesman naturalist Sir David Attenborough, whilst appearing on the Friday Night With Jonathan Ross show 27th Feb 2009, made a pronouncement on the Yeti.

I'm baffled by the Abominable Snowman - very convincing footprints have been found at 19,000ft.”

No-one does that for a joke. I think it's unanswered.”

Edinburgh Hauntings - The Science of Ghosts

Edinburgh is of course the place to be and if further proof were needed...

As part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival we have

Of Vampire Rabbits...

Some of you UK readers of a certain age may remember a Vampire Duck - Count Duckula no less, and of course we all know the goat sucker El Chupacabras, but how about a vampire rabbit?

In a corner of Newcastle in the North East of England there has long lurked such a thing.  It's behind the St Nicholas Cathedral in an area known as Amen Corner.

Above the entrance to a firm of lawyers lurks this cunning beast.  A creature of the night but proud to show itself to all during the day.  The vampire rabbit.

Vampire rabbit

Nobody knows its origins, but there is a rumour that after a bit of damage the ears were replaced the wrong way round changing it from a vampire hare to the current rabbit.  A recent paint job has changed it to a menacing black but still its teeth and claws are blood red.  The building it guards was built in the early twentieth century so it's a relatively modern innovation, but even though it's modern its still a mystery.  Just one of many mysteries to be found in Newcastle (I won't mention that many are covered in my forthcoming book- Paranormal Newcastle, available for preorder at Amazon).

If you do know anything about the vampire rabbit then please get in tocuh it would be great to know its origins and purpose.

Basis of disbelief discovered

In the world of the Fortean many events happen where people doubt the evidence of their own eyes.  We often see events that don't add up when initially perceived and now it appears that there are specific parts of the brain that flag up these anomalies.

The Skull of Doom

For Brits of a certain age Arthur C Clarke has a lot to answer for - and I'm not just talking 2001 A Space Odyssey.  In 1980 ITV in the UK started to broadcast Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World, a 13 part series looking at unexplained Phenomena.  By this point in my life I was already hooked on Forteana and had already read all of the relevant books in my local library and I had started to build up my own library.  I was however still on my own.  No internet to chat to people, no UnConvention to meet up with like minded folk and I am afraid that at that point I had not even heard of Fortean Times.  So one of my only outlets of Forteana was Arthur and his tremendous show.  The opening credits showed a beautiful skull made of crystal.  I'd read about it and seen still pictures but thiswas a movingimage - it was far more beautiful than I had ever realised.  And then on September the 16th 1980 in an episode entitled Ancient Wisdom there was a whole lot of information on the Skull.  I lapped it up.  It was fantastic.  For me this was rapidly to become one of my three all time favourite Fortean objects (Shroud of Turin and Nessie being the other two). 

Fortean London

Things have been a bit quiet of late so I thought I'd tell you a bit about my proposed Summer Holiday trip to London.

Me being me there are two things that are quite important - firstly I want to pack as much into my time there as possible and secondly I want there to be a strong Fortean theme running throughout.

There was one item in the calendar I wanted to see - I'm a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) so I thought I'd better try and get to one of their lectures so that was a fixed point in terms of dates, everything else could potentially be fitted in around it. So I started looking around at what is on in London that I could fit in.

Firstly I was delighted to find that I could take in a lecture by Benjamin Creme - emissary for Maitreya (basically the second coming and he's already here - apparently he lives somewhere in the East End of London - I wonder if I could pop round for a cup of tea?). I know the basic Maitreya story having been to a couple of Edinburgh based lectures - the lecturer was inspired to join the movement after hearing Creme talk. So he must be inspirational! Oh and he's in his 80's so best to get him whilst I still can!

Next up is a talk and walk by Scott Wood of the South East London Folklore Society (SELFS). Part of the London Magtastic series of events Scott will "take a short tour around London Bridge which will
feature ghostly, monstrous and magical sites. See the sites of a magical
battle with a ghost, the legend of Mary Overy, a wife's ghostly onslaught,
the wizard-artist's studio and much more
". Sounds good to me.

Cottingley Fairies for Sale

Fancy owning a piece of Fortean history? Well I can't quite offer it I'm afraid but I can literally offer the next best thing! <Having checked a few things I take it all back - I can offer it - it is indeed number 31 the house of the Wrights that is for sale>

Cottingley is forever in our minds courtesy of Arthur Conan Doyle and the fairy photographs of Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths from 1917 and 1920. There are so many Fortean aspects and indeed cliches in this case that I shall not rehash them here. Cottingley is currently experiencing a bit of a building boom and new streets are being added, streets with names such as Oberon Way, Lysander Way and Goodfellow Close. There is already a Fairy Dell there. But Main Street survives. This is the street where the girls were staying at the time, specifcially in number 31.

Number 31 was sold in July of 2000, for £57 000. But it now appears that next door is up for sale.

Estate Agent advert

A mere snip at £154 995

The estate agent description inlcudes mention of the fairies:

We've never had it so good...

It's always good to start the new year with a look back at things past - it's a chance for us to make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes if nothing else! And if we look back to Charles Fort we can see how much things have changed.

Whilst working on his collection of data of the damned Fort had to travel to major library collections and fortunately he had a bequest which meant he could devote the necessary time to his researches. Availability and ease of access were major issues for Fort and for many who followed in his footsteps, but look at the situation now in 2008. We have the internet - communication with fellow researchers of any of our Fortean interests is a lot quicker than good old snail mail - we can even carry out real time conversations through the net without the previously prohibitive phone call charges of the past. The net itself is a vast and ever changing resource - we can check and recheck facts to our hearts content. Ok anyone can put up a web page and say anything they want but looking at one source isn't research - it's plagarism! Cross checking of information is so much easier now, what would have taken months in the past can be accomplished in days if not hours.

Many reports of interest are originally published in newspapers and journals - many of which have online archives which are searchable. I popped the phrase "mermaid" into the online archive section of The Scotsman newspaper and produced a range of hits from 1817 onwards. And each one was accompanied by a pdf of the original article - how long would it have taken me to search all edtions of the paper - either paper copies (if I could get hold of them) or on microfiche? And how many mistakes would I have made? Being realistic the online search engine may have made mistakes but there are probably less than I would have made! This makes research of articles so much easier - it's a godsend, it really is.

Seven Fortean Wonders of the World Results

Thanks to everyone who voted - here are the results of the CFI Seven Fortean Wonders of the World (in no particular order)

Bigfoot / Yeti

Shroud of Turin

Piri Reis Map



Oak Island

Crop Circles




And that's it - that's our list of the Seven Fortean Wonders of the World. If you want to discuss any of these why not pop along to the forums area?

The Seven Fortean Wonders of the World - Round 3.

Well that's the second round now closed and the third starting. Some last minute rallying of groups led to a surge in numbers of votes cast for certain categories - nothing wrong with that - the important thing is that peoples voices are heard and that people vote. If you want to argue about the inclusion or non-inclusion of things from the list please feel free to use the forum area - that's what it's there for.

The final 20, which can be voted on on the right hand side of this page or on the round three dedicated page, are an interesting list. They've all earned their place - firstly one or more people took the time to nominate them and then they've successfully come through two rounds of voting. But what will make it? What will be in the final list of Seven Fortean Wonders? It's down to you - if you want something there vote for it and persuade others to do so via the forum. The final list will be available at the start of 2008 and it will be a list of seven with no rank or ordering - they're in the list or they're not, it's as simple as that.

Seven Fortean Wonders Round Two voting open

The first round of voting for the Seven Fortean Wonders has now closed.

Thanks to everyone who took part we now have a smaller list for the second round. Again you will be able to nominate your choice and the twenty with the highest number of votes will go through to the next round and after the third round we’ll have our list of seven. You can vote from the side bar or at the Round Two web page.

You can see the final 38 here.

Don't forget, you can also discuss the candidates (and a few other things) over at the CFI Forums.

A project such as this relies on your participation so thank you very much for the voting so far and stick with it! Some people have announced that they were finding it too tough to vote in the first round as the choice was too wide – hopefully this will make it easier although I suspect not – it’s still a mighty impressive list of Forteana. If you know someone who didn’t vote first them round give them a shout – it’s definitely not too late. The more people who take part the more representative the poll will be.

Like you we here at the CFI have no idea who will win – we all have our favourites and we hope they’ll make it through to the end – but we’ll have to wait until January 1st 2008 for the announcement. If you don’t vote they might not be there and then you only have yourself to blame! One thing you can do to make sure your personal choice gets through is to use the forums and argue your case – we already have some discussion there from round one – lets have some more.

I know some people have expressed some dissatisfaction with the voting system – well I’m sorry about that but a system had to be chosen and whatever method we went for there would always be some dissent. This is the system we’ve got and this is what we’re going with – if you have any views you’d like to express again please feel free to use the forums as an area of debate we can then take on board ideas for future polls.

In conclusion – many thanks for everyone who has voted so far and thanks in advance for the votes that are about to come in in the future rounds. I know the final list of seven will be a strong guide for some future holidays for me – I hope it will inspire you too. Many thanks.

Seven Fortean Wonders of the World - Voting Open

After a slightly longer than anticipated gestation period (computer problems which took the CFI blogs down) the voting for the Charles Fort Institute Seven Fortean Wonders of the World is finally here.

On the Seven Wonders web page you can see a list of all 79 nominations. Each is linked to a paragraph giving more details and there are further links to more information so you can find out as much as you like about each candidate before you vote. We've also set up a forum for discussion - just log in and champion your favourites.

The voting is split into three rounds, initially from 79 down to 40, then 40 to 20 and finally 20 to the all important 7. The final result will be anounced on the 1st of January 2008 - be sure to log onto the Blogs to check how you favourites have done, the result will also be on the original voting page.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the trouble to put forward their nominations, thanks to everyone who votes, thanks to Dino for setting things up, thanks to Loren Coleman and all at The Anomalist and thanks for all who have helped to spread the word including the Russian UFO magazine (click image for big version).

Russian UFO Magazine

and a fantastic two page spread in The Sunday Sport!
(click image for big version)

Sunday Sport

We want this poll to be as representative as possible so the more voting we have the better - spread the word, tell all your friends, get them to vote and get them to tell their friends as well. vote. Vote. VOTE


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