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16 October, 2012

The BBC’s UFO fiasco

Did anyone see Conspiracy Road Trip – UFOs on BBC3 last night? I never expect much from UFO documentaries, as most of the ones I’ve seen have been pretty one dimensional and disappointing, as they only ever seem to represent the two flip sides of the true believer coin. In other words, the documentary will either be dominated by rabid debunkers, on the one hand, or the tinfoil hat brigade on the other, with little scope for rational inquiry. Perhaps the BBC might take a more balanced and responsible approach, I thought, as I waited for the show to start. Wrong. This one was even more disappointing than usual.

 



The characters taken on the road trip came across as fully paid-up members of the true believer, tinfoil hat brigade, purposefully selected to heap ridicule on the whole subject. Yes, there are undeniably many absurd and laughable aspects to so-called ufology – the whole Billy Meier debacle for instance, with images of supposed intergalactic spacecraft clearly made from everyday items held close to the camera. Or Greer’s CSETI organisation claiming to have an image of an extra-terrestrial, which is clearly a cactus. Such absurdities deserve all the ridicule we can hurl at them. But the fact remains that unknown objects have been tracked on radar, reported by reliable witnesses such as pilots and police officers, and have, on occasions, endangered civilian or military aircraft with their antics. Surely THAT warrants a more serious approach to the subject?

Conspiracy Road Trip took the typical, blinkered ignoramus approach to the whole topic. It promoted the notion that the only people interested in the UFO topic are paranoid conspiracy theorists, extra-terrestrial hypothesis (ETH) enthusiasts, deluded, lonely females with a secret alien lover fantasy, or New Age hippy dippy types seeking to commune with the cosmos. What about those of us who come to the subject with an open mind, who won’t ignore the evidence presented by radar, pilots, police officers, etc, but who equally refuse to blindly subscribe to conspiracy theories or the ETH, who don’t fantasise about sexual liaisons with other-worldly beings or get our chakras in a tizzy every time a light zips across the night sky? What about those of us who say, ‘hang on, there’s SOMETHING going on here, we don’t know what, so we’ll keep an open mind and keep probing?’.  As usual, the film-makers didn’t want to know, and chose the freak-show  option.



I also have to question why they chose to include some of the so-called experts featured in the film. On the pro side, they trotted out John Lear. Like so many so-called UFO experts, he promulgates personal opinions and unsupported narratives as fact, without offering the tiniest bit of concrete proof of anything he says. Why not bring someone on to present radar data confirming the presence of an anomalous object? I’ll tell you why – there would be no giggle factor. They only wanted people who were prepared to make outlandish and unsupported statements in favour of the existence of UFOs. On the anti side, they trotted out Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society and editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine. He seems pretty rational, at a first glance, but his refusal to accept any UFO sighting as potentially anomalous, is just as blinkered as a UFO true believer’s insistence that every light in the sky is an intergalactic mothership. Each stance is equally myopic and untenable.



As the film wound on, it became clear the Conspiracy Road Trip team had no intention of taking an objective approach to the subject matter. They had their own agenda, which was to entertain their audience by mocking the subject matter, and encouraging their unfortunate band of road trippers to make utter pillocks of themselves on camera. It was cheap TV, tackily assembled, without even the promise of a cheap thrill. All in all, the show was a total waste of licence payers’ money, and said more about the warped and condescending agenda of the production team than it did about any of the participants, pro or anti UFO,  or the validity of their respective belief systems.

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02 October, 2012

Out with the old…

It’s been a very long time since I last posted here. Why? A mixture of reasons, including apathy, ennui, and the general need to withdraw from writing about the paranormal, at least on a temporary basis. I’ve met many wonderful online friends and acquaintances through Strange Days, but I’ve also encountered the darker side of paranormal blogging. It is this darker side which made me think twice about continuing.



 

 

I don’t see taking time out as allowing myself to be intimidated by these darker elements – they simply became too tedious to deal with, and life is too short to spend it wading, waist-high, in a mire of bullshit. First of all, I grew tired of the crazies this blog attracted. I received many a rambling comment and email expounding one mad conspiracy theory or another, followed by the usual abuse and accusations when I refused to publish such crap, or allow myself to be converted to their way of thinking. I’m sorry, but I truly believe Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and 9/11 was a terrorist attack. If that offends anyone, tough. And no, I’m not a neo-Nazi, and don’t work for MI5, the CIA, Mossad or any other covert government organisation, anywhere in the world. I’m just someone who sporadically writes a blog about something I’m interested in. That’s the boring truth. Accept it or kindly jog on.

Another type of correspondent I attracted was somewhat more sinister. I had several attempts, I suspect by the same person, to convince me I was suffering from a severe psychosis, due to my interest in the paranormal. This person claimed to be a doctor, who wanted to help me. Of course, to get this ‘help’, I was expected to correspond with this so-called medic and confide all my inner thoughts, and so forth. Sorry, sicko,  I’m a step ahead of your game. I know a creep when I smell one.  Big yawn.



I’ve decided to start maintaining this blog again, but have removed all posts which document experiences I had when I was much younger, which could be attributed to some kind of paranormal events. I say ‘could be’ because ultimately, there may well be a totally prosaic explanation for any or all of these events, which my limited knowledge of science fails to explain. I’ve removed them from Strange Days, as they were the posts which drew most attention from the nut-jobs and trolls. Like I said earlier, I can think of better ways to waste my time, than galumphing through a quagmire of bullshit.



To those who have come here with a genuine interest and an open mind – I thank you for your support. I won’t be posting daily, but will try to post at least a couple of times a week. Please bear in mind that Strange Days is aimed at an audience with a general interest in the paranormal, so there will be no in-depth scientific, psychological, sociological, etc, analyses of paranormal phenomena, as these are, quite frankly, beyond my ability,  but there will be an attempt to at least filter out bullshit. Here’s to reconnecting with old friends of Strange Days, and hopefully, making some new ones…

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08 December, 2011

BBC News - 'Witch's cottage' unearthed near Pendle Hill, Lancashire

BBC News - 'Witch's cottage' unearthed near Pendle Hill, Lancashire:

'via Blog this'

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30 September, 2009

My visit to the Skirrid Inn

I recently became fascinated by the haunted history of Skirrid Inn, which lies in the small Monmouthshire village of Llanfihangel Crucorney, in south-east Wales. When I realised a recent day trip would take me very close to the inn, I couldn't resist a detour to the location.

We arrived at sundown, finding  the sleepy, rural village bathed in a pinkish-purple glow.


We drove through an archway into the pub's car park, and settled in the beer garden, as I had my dog with me. Within a minute or so of sitting, I got an overwhelming sense of misery and despair.


I reasoned with myself - I know a lot about the inn's bloody past, and that knowledge was probably clouding what I was sensing. But the feelings of utter despair simply grew more intense, to the point of being oppressive. I felt doomed, and as if I would never leave the place. Intrigued, I left the dog outside with my companion, and decided to explore the interior of the inn.

As I approached the low doorway, obscured in the above picture by a folded parasol, I got the distinct impression that what is now the rear of the inn, was in fact, its original facade. As I entered the doorway, I felt some of the gloom and oppression lifting from me. Within moments, I got my first glimpse of the spot where almost 200 convicts were executed.


After taking the above shot, I paid a visit to the bathroom. This is when things got a little stranger. It suddenly felt icy cold and I had a sense of someone repeating over and over to me, 'I didn't do it, I didn't do it'. Was this my imagination playing tricks? I had a further impression that the person was a young boy, maybe no more than 14 years old. Where the heck was this all coming from? As soon as I left the bathroom, it stopped, although the chill remained.

I returned to the corridor where the hangman's noose was located. The rope isn't the original, but it's suspended from the original beam, which bears impressions from the original rope.


I suspect the original rope may have been somewhat shorter than this one, because the noose is only about a a metre and a half from the floor - unless people were considerably shorter in the days of Hanging Judge Jeffreys than they are today.


Here's a closer look at the original hangman's beam - I wish I could have got a better shot.


I decided to climb part of the way up a flight of stairs to my left, to get a closer look at the hanging rope and beam. I spotted an ancient, wooden door at the top of the stairs, and decided to investigate.


As I drew closer, the temperature began to change, at a spot roughly half way up the stairs. I stood sideways on the stairs, and realised that my left side, facing upwards towards the door, was rapidly warming up. My right side, facing the rope and the bathroom, was still very cold.


I got a sudden sense of benevolence and welcoming, coming from the direction of the upper floor. I also got a sense of fussiness, like someone was bustling around, doing their best to welcome me and put me at my ease. At this point, I decided to leave, because I was a little spooked. This welcoming sense was definitely coming from behind that door. Why was I spooked? Well, this is what the sign on the door said.


The sign may be a recent addition, but it commemorates the fact that condemned prisoners were held in this room, a makeshift cell, prior to being led to the gallows. Was I being welcomed by a benevolent spirit, or  being enticed by the hangman said to stalk the upper floors? Or did my imagination simply go into hyperdrive?

I decided to step outside, and take my dog for a walk around the front of the inn, before we left for the long drive home.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw this character standing at the inn's front entrance, next to the ancient front door.


Fortunately, it was just the publican's idea of a joke. Phew. Before I left, I decided to grab a shot of the mountain which gave the Skirrid Inn its name. I found the Skirrid Mountain, bathed in the last rays of the setting sun, just as eerie as the inn itself.



Despite sensing a number of anomalies at the location, if I'm honest, I cannot be sure if, or how much, my previous knowledge of the Skirrid Inn's haunted history, coloured my experiences. That said, my own experiences don't seem to correspond with reports I've read made by other visitors to the inn, so maybe there was something more than an overactive imagination at play. I will definitely return to the Skirrid at some point, to try to get a better feel of the place.

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14 September, 2009

Skirrid visit planned

I hope to visit the Skirrid Mountain Inn soon. I'll be updating my article about the pub's ghosts with any new information I uncover. I'll also add some personal impressions to the article, especially if I detect anything anomalous.

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06 August, 2009

Changes

I'm in the process of redesigning Strange Days (again), to give it a more professional look, so please excuse the mess at the moment. I've removed all monetized content. Hopefully, this will make Strange Days more attractive to visitors, easier to navigate, and more enjoyable to browse through.

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04 August, 2009

I'm on the radio today

Sorry for the short notice on this. I posted an announcement on Facebook, but forgot all about my poor old blog. My friend, Alison Lenihan, has invited me on her radio show this afternoon, to talk about UFOs and other paranormal topics. If you're in the Penllergaer, Pontarddulais, Gorseinon, Pontlliw and Gowerton areas, you'll be able to listen live, on 106.5 FM, between 2-4 PM. No worries if you're not living locally. You can also listen online. I don't think there will be a downloadable version of the show, though. Hope you can tune in, and once again, sorry for the short notice.

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16 June, 2009

Ghosts of the Skirrid Inn

Introduction

Haunted hostelries are a recurring theme in paranormal lore, their eerie environments often inspiring the works of famous novelists. Cornwall's famous Jamaica Inn inspired the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, whilst across the Atlantic, the Stanley Hotel, located in the Rocky Mountains, served as inspiration for Stephen King's 'The Shining'. The UK seems especially blessed, or cursed, depending on how you look at it, with tales of haunted hostelries, and one of the most notorious of these can be found close to the Welsh-English border, in south east Wales.

History


The ancient Skirrid Inn lies at the foot of the Skirrid Mountain, in the small village of Llanfihangel Crucorney, just off the main road between Abergavenny and Hereford. The Skirrid is believed to be Wales's oldest pub, and is amongst some of the oldest in the UK. It is also reputed to be one of the UK's most haunted locations. According to historical records, the inn has been providing its patrons with hospitality, and no doubt, a few heart-stopping moments, since at least 1104 - the era of the Norman conquest - and possibly, even earlier.


Image: Andy Dolman via Creative Commons Licence

The inn has a fascinating history, and is said to have played host to many historical figures. In the early 1400's, Owain Glyndwr, Wales's most famous opponent of English rule, is believed to have spurred on his rebels at the inn's courtyard, and indeed, numerous English kings are also reputed to have stayed at the inn - but presumably not at the same time.

Much of the inn's ancient construction remains. The building's exposed oak beams are said to have been fashioned from ancient ships' timbers, and many of its wooden window frames are considered to be of original construction, along with one of the inn's wooden doors. The Skirrid's dining room houses some authentic sixteenth century wooden panelling.


The Skirrid Inn has a fascinating, though very bloody history. Between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries, it served as a court room. During this era of British history, harsh sentences, including the death penalty, were meted out to murderers and petty criminals alike. More than 180 individuals are believed to have been executed by hanging at the Skirrid Inn, during its days as a courtroom. The inn's first floor is believed to have housed the courtroom, and a holding cell for prisoners was located half way up the stairs. The former cell is now a store room.


Image: Andy Dolman via Creative Commons Licence

In 1685, during an exceptionally bloody period in the inn's history, 180 insurgents from the Monmouth Rebellion were hanged at the Skirrid. The hangings were ordered by the notorious George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, more popularly known as 'Hanging' Judge Jeffreys.

George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem - William Wolfgang Claret

The Catholic King James II sent the judge to Wales to mete out harsh punishment to supporters of the Duke of Monmouth's failed Protestant rebellion. The rebels were executed by hanging from a beam beneath the Skirrid's staircase. The rope marks are said to be preserved in the wood of the beam.


Many believe that the Skirrid's bloody history has left the inn with a whole host of non-paying guests, none of which show any signs of wanting to leave.

The Ghosts

Although there is no documentary evidence that he ever sat in person at the Skirrid's courtroom, Hanging Judge Jeffreys is rumoured to stalk the upper floors of the Skirrid Inn, no doubt looking for felons to condemn to death. One such felon, a sheep rustler named John Crowther, has reportedly put in many appearances throughout the inn. The malevolent presence of Judge Jeffreys' hangman has also been reported, along with those of several other hanged felons.

Not all the Skirrid's reported spirits are criminal or malevolent in nature. They include a local clergyman, Father Henry Vaughn, whose presence has been reported as friendly and harmless. Fanny Price, who worked at the inn during the 18th century, is said to be very active throughout the Skirrid. It is believed Fanny died of consumption in 1873, aged just 35. She is reportedly most active in Room 3. Other ghostly occurrences include sightings of a spirit dubbed the White Lady, the sound of soldiers in the courtyard, the rustling of an unseen lady's dress, a powerful scent of perfume, and glasses flying off the bar unaided by human hands. An estimated ten to fifteen glasses are broken in this way every week. In fact, glasses began to fly around the bar as a former landlady, Heather Grant, negotiated a potential sale of the inn.

Visitors, often totally unaware of the inn's haunted history, have reported a variety of disturbing phenomena. On more than one occasion, guests have complained of feeling as if they were being strangled, shortly before the appearance of welts on their necks, resembling rope burns. Other guests have become overwhelmed with dizziness, nausea or fear on the stairs, or complained of a palpable but invisible presence passing them at the same spot.

In recent times, eight late night drinkers at the bar reportedly witnessed a bizarre phenomenon, flying money. Some paper notes, weighted down by coins, levitated and drifted around the whole bar. The notes allegedly hovered briefly in mid-air, before crashing to the floor.

The inn also experiences peculiar knocking sounds, with doors either slamming shut spontaneously, or shaking violently before flying open unaided. Unexplained footsteps have been heard all over the Skirrid, and numerous cold spots felt, for which no logical cause has been found.

Conclusion

Are there rational, conventional explanations for the strange events experienced at the Skirrid Inn? Has the hostelry's bloody history somehow permanently imprinted itself on the building, to be spontaneously replayed over the years, by means and for reasons unknown? Sadly, these are questions none of us can answer with any certainty. All that can be said for sure, is that no-one has suffered serious or permanent injury at the ghostly hands of the spirits said to reside at the Skirrid. In fact, its ghostly residents seem to be one of the inn's biggest attractions.
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28 May, 2009

Apologies

My apologies to anyone who has recently been trying to view this site. It was hit by technical glitches which have now been resolved - something to do with DNS, hosting and other such nightmares. Hopefully, the problems won't be repeated. Once again, my apologies for any inconvenience caused.

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13 May, 2009

The Gosford UFO incident

I've come across a YouTube clip which detail a fascinating Australian UFO case. Known as the Gosford incident, its multiple witnesses included professionals, police officers, and dozens of other reliable individuals. The witnesses related almost identical accounts of an object hovering over a lake, and apparently sucking up, then ejecting water.

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