These Things Don't Happen Much Anymore

MrRING

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#1
I was watching an episode of Seargent Cribb that involves seances and materialization and got to thinking how certain kinds of paranormal/fortean phenomenon seem to fall out of favor with society.

These days, we don't have many materializations in seances (or even many seances, period). We don't have many people claiming to channel the famous dead and complete various works they left unmade before popping off this mortal coil. We haven't had a good phantom gasser flap for a good while to my knowledge. Mysterious musical night sounds like drummers, trumpets and the like seem to not occur. And certainly the pre-Wright Brothers phantom airship seemed to have been completely knocked out of the sky by the sleek coming of the UFOs.

Other things seem to perpetually persist in terms of being reported, like modern-style UFO sightings overall, ghost sightings, the idea of mysterious creatures living around us, ESP and precognition, reincarnation, life after death (the white light).

So a thought: types of phenomenon that continues to be reported over a long period of time and over many cultures might indicate there is more of a fire beneath the smoke of reports indicating a real something or another is going on beyond the human mind. And if that is a true and interesting thought, maybe the reverse is true, that phenomenon which becomes less popular might indicate that it wasn't really there, or it was tied directly to something very localized and one-of-a-kind.

In any case, an idle thought!
 

Yithian

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#2
Forgive errors in what follows, this is off the cuff.

Somebody or other once asked on the board, "Where have all the Napoleons gone?"

For quite a considerable amount of time--this period being long after Napoleon's actual death--there was a small subset of fervent believers who thought themselves to be modern reincarnations of Bonaparte. Similarly, there were a number of more or less insane people, regularly replaced by reinforcements as temporal attrition took its toll, who would claim to be literally be him.

Most, it seems, were anglophones, but they'd either speak French or adopt a French accent and employ mannerisms that they would imagine Napoleon as having. Some would dress the part. All jolly good fun and a standard trope of comedians and writers.

And now they're gone--or as close as damn it.

With this, as with MrRing's good example, I wonder whether there might be a epistemological issue at hand:

Foucault has:

Each society has its regime of truth, its "general politics” of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true."

Which is to say that each historical/cultural/philosophical epoch has its own set of traditions/rules/hermeneutics/semiotics (Kuhn has 'paradigm') that forms a framework out of which truth can be mediated by discourse: it's a combination of how people get to the truth of phenomena (any phenomena) and how they then speak and act intelligibly about that which they find. Such systems are largely 'closed' inasmuch as it's exceedingly hard to step outside of the framework or, indeed, like the fish in water, even to realise that one is acting within any constricting framework at all. Utterances and gestures generated within one paradigm will appear largely meaningless from without--or, rather, from a perspective of one within a different paradigm.

Could it be that our Napoleons, our physical materialisations, our gassers and phantom airships are fading from view because the systems that infused them with relevancy, the frameworks that classified them as viable and intelligible responses to the world, are now fading (already faded?) or crumbling (already dust?)? You might well be thinking here, "Dressing up like Napoleon doesn't seem very intelligible to me," but in my experience, a careful excavation of anything that seems absurd or irrational usually reveals an underlying logical structure, albeit one based on false belief. Humans are pattern-recognition machines and thrive on repetition--it's our modus operandi. From the primitive whose sympathetic magic requires a winter blaze to call back the sun in spring, to the Aztec who sacrifices innocents to appease a deity and stave-off still worse enormities, we have countless cases of human beings lumbering around in response to forces beyond their ken and doing the best they can to extrapolate from inadequate precedents, but we don't often lumber mindlessly. Throughout history it will be found that outright insanity is not nearly as common as our having laboured under a general miasma of misapprehension, and even the weirdest hysterias can be dissected to reveal a core of crystalline logic, if one can build up a complete enough picture of the cultural context to reveal the forces in play.

As the world is still out there in its baffling complexity, and the human condition with all its absurdity still obtains, ought it not be predicted that--as with the overdue bus--a whole new fleet of fresh oddities should be along shortly? It's probable that they'll be so wonderfully suited to our needs, wants, fears and desires that they'll creep up on us at first--and perhaps they won't seem so very odd as we move towards them tiny step by tiny step--but ultimately they'll end up seeming to both those left behind in the rush and our inevitable successors as incomprehensibly absurd as the Napoleons and the ectoplasm do to most people today.

Edit:
MrRing himself started the thread on Napoleons. This is clearly a subject that is eating away at him!
See here:
https://forums.forteana.org/index.p...-the-napoleons-go-who-took-their-place.61725/
 

EnolaGaia

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#3
Maybe it's not so much a result of the phenomenon not happening as witnesses' inclination to describe their observations in terms more suited to the present context (memes, etc.).

This also relates to the notion that older Fortean phenomenon types (as described) are reasonably distinct from their modern analogues and could make a comeback ...

Do Older Fortean Phenomena & Themes Make a Comeback?

https://forums.forteana.org/index.p...rtean-phenomena-themes-make-a-comeback.12312/
 

EnolaGaia

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#4
... Somebody or other once asked on the board, "Where have all the Napoleons gone?"

For quite a considerable amount of time--this period being long after Napoleon's actual death--there was a small subset of fervent believers who thought themselves to be modern reincarnations of Bonaparte. Similarly, there were a number of more or less insane people, regularly replaced by reinforcements as temporal attrition took its toll, who would claim to be literally be him. ...
Isn't the relative extinction of the Napoleon insanity trope an example of replacing specific referents within a meme that still carries on?

The historical context(s) that associated Napoleon with craziness are now too obscure to support conveying much in everyday conversations nowadays.

In the mean time, we've added many more contemporary specimens of bat-shit craziness to substitute for him - e.g., Manson, Amin, Jim Jones, etc., etc.
 

Graylien

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#6
I do have a long answer to your examples, but for now I'll make do with a short one.

The fact that a particular phenomenon was only reported for a short time doesn't necessarily prove the phenomenon was false.

For example, for a couple of years in the mid 1920's The Charleston was a very popular dance. It then fell out of fashion and has rarely been repeated.

Should we therefore conclude that The Charleston never existed and that all reports of it are fake news?

As for UFOs, their appearance is constantly evolving. And the classic NDE is a comparatively recent phenomenon.

On balance, I personally prefer quality of evidence over quantity of evidence.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#7
Ectoplasmic cheese-cloth is a lot less likely to emerge from fannies in a world of DNA testing, I suppose.

There was a Polish/Czech? chap who used to produce ominous birds from his shoulders - a safer exit, maybe.

I wonder where that malodorous, brown bear came from . . . :oops:

I'm sure these were all claims from the sittings of yesteryear, without delving immediately into the literature to refresh my memory.

Those mysterious, inarticulate, animal spirits used to scare me more than anybody's Uncle Walter with a banal message about his lost dentures! :omg:
 

EnolaGaia

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#12
Where has all the ectoplasma gone? Last seen in the movie Ghostbusters in the 80s.
The subject of ectoplasm (and the related notion of ectenic force(s)) hadn't had much currency since the 1920's / 1930's, by which time numerous hoax / fraud debunkings had given these topics a very bad reputation.

The allusion to ectoplasm in Ghostbusters was already circa 40 years out of date, and it doesn't reflect any substantial ongoing support for the concept as of the 1980's.

There are still mediums who allegedly invoke / exude ectoplasm, but such demonstrations seem to have evolved toward viewing its manifestation without any capture, engagement with, or physical examination of the ephemeral substance per se.

My point is that ectoplasm is arguably a special case - an alleged phenomenon that's largely become obsolete / abandoned rather than something that still motivates strong belief though its frequency of occurrence has somehow diminished. Phrased another way ... Ectoplasm hasn't simply become rare - it's simply been discarded.
 

James_H

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#14
Forgive errors in what follows, this is off the cuff.

Somebody or other once asked on the board, "Where have all the Napoleons gone?"

For quite a considerable amount of time--this period being long after Napoleon's actual death--there was a small subset of fervent believers who thought themselves to be modern reincarnations of Bonaparte. Similarly, there were a number of more or less insane people, regularly replaced by reinforcements as temporal attrition took its toll, who would claim to be literally be him.

Most, it seems, were anglophones, but they'd either speak French or adopt a French accent and employ mannerisms that they would imagine Napoleon as having. Some would dress the part. All jolly good fun and a standard trope of comedians and writers.

And now they're gone--or as close as damn it.
But did they ever really exist or was this just a meme started in and perpetuated by fiction? Can anyone find any reference to a crazy person truly believing they were Napoleon? 'TV Tropes' reckons this particular cliché took off because "possibly because the unusual hat and hand-in-jacket pose are a strong visual that immediately identifies the delusion for the audience". (We still have a lot of people claiming to be the messiah).
 

bugmum

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#18
Is there also an element of less phantom drummers etc because people are now permanently attached to their headphones? It's very difficult to notice the world around you when you're submerged in a phone screen. Weird stuff could be going on right under their noses and they'd carry on texting... (As the mother of three screen-fixated anklebiters1)
 

Gloucestrian

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#20
I have suffered from insomnia for years and have often been wide awake in the early hours of the morning when I would have preferred not to be. At such times I have fairly often heard strange noises.

A few days ago at around 3am I heard what seemed to be a drum, a bodhrán specifically, being played what seemed to be some little distance away. I have a wide open public space in front of my house, it was coming from that direction. I heard this for about 15 minutes before it faded away entirely.

I probably wouldn't have mentioned it to anyone as although I found it odd, it could just have been someone out for a walk and playing something on their phone. The drum might have carried further than anyone would have expected, and my hearing is pretty good anyway.

The original post makes reference to mysterious musical night sounds having stopped happening, I suggest that rather than these no longer happening there are simply more plausible explanations than there used to be and so such experiences are less likely to be reported.
 

catseye

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#21
Can it be that technology and modern life has spelled the death of some phenomina in other ways?

Anyone now proclaiming that they are Napoleon is likely to be plied with drugs and therapy in order to help them live a life that fits better with other people. Maybe there are those who truly believe that they are reincarnations of some famous ancient, but they are medicated sufficiently for these ideas to be less prominent that they may otherwise have been.

And so many of the claims of manifestations, ectoplasm, etc are likely to be met with cries of 'cool story, bro.' Now we can test substances pretty easily and cheaply, anyone pulling out a pot of cottage cheese and claiming that it was left behind by the resident ghost is going to be met with a pretty thorough debunking.
 

Schrodinger's Zebra

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#22
To my mind, people aren't going around purporting to be Napoleon simply because he's not "current"... I mean, do the yooth of today even know who Napoleon was?


And certainly the pre-Wright Brothers phantom airship seemed to have been completely knocked out of the sky by the sleek coming of the UFOs.
Is this not the same phenomena, just 'updated' to fit with the times? When airships were a thing, people tended to see UFOs as them. When we got all the hoo-ha about flying discs etc, that's what people began seeing. And in much earlier times, people described "lights" or perhaps even "angels" because they had no concept of anything (other than birds) that could take to the sky.

I tend to think that they are still seeing the same phenomena - whatever that phenomena turns out to be - but cloaked or disguised to look like things that people of the time will recognise.

UFO - and a lot of YouTube videos seem to forget this - means Unidentified Flying Object. It doesn't mean "spaceship", necessarily. An airship can be just as unidentified.


Side note: How cool would it be if we still had airships, nowadays? I'd love to see one floating overhead.
 

Mythopoeika

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#23

Gloucestrian

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#24
I mean, do the yooth of today even know who Napoleon was?
He was a pig wasn't he? Some kind of animal socialist justice warrior. :)

I tend to think that they are still seeing the same phenomena - whatever that phenomena turns out to be - but cloaked or disguised to look like things that people of the time will recognise.
I tend to agree. People are seeing something, whether it is a natural phenomenon or a physical object. I am not sure it is necessary for cloaking or disguise to enter into it. We all interpret what we see through our own perceptual lens. Just as there are brainteasers and mind warping images that are difficult for people to resolve into an image that makes sense, and even pictures that are easy to understand but that different people perceive differently such as the blue/gold dress. Seeing a very strange phenomenon might cause similar difficulty in processing the image, and the cultural aspects kick in so in medieval times a fantastic vision of angels, in the 20s an airship, in the 2000s an alien craft. All potentially caused by seeing something that could scarcely be processed by the human eye.
 
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#25
Astral travel has definitely fallen out of favour. I spent years following the advice of Ophiel in order to escape my body and explore the big wide world. I never even got close to our front door!
I managed to get the 'little system' to work in a weird way, and ironically I did project to my front door and then back to my bed because that was the route I practised. That was it though. There seems to be more interest in lucid dreaming nowadays, possibly because it works well for some people. Again, not for me though.
 
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#26
On the subject of reincarnation I was reading about some person on Reddit claiming to be the reincarnation of Michael Jackson.
 
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