Abuse of child ‘witches’ on rise

I think we can safely conclude that the belief in witches and witchcraft is alive and well. And just like in times past the methods for determining a witch are not what one might call compelling evidence.

"I beat him severely with canes until they broke, yet he never shed a tear," said Eshiett Nelson Eshiett, 76. "One day, I took a broom to hit him and he started crying. Then I knew he was possessed by demons. … Nigerian witches are terrified of brooms."

Abuse of child ‘witches’ on rise

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Haunted Histories Volume 3


Volume 3 Disc 1
"Bloodlines: The Dracula Family Tree."

A somewhat interesting but for the most part uneventful look at some of the descendants of Dracula, or rather enemies of Dracula. A family traces their blood line back to Dracula’s half brother, who then became his enemy. They comb through old records, buildings and relics of the past to see what their connection is. Kind of interesting, but not really spellbinding. But seriously, how cool would it be to be related to Dracula? They travel the countryside looking into old churches, find the headstones of their ancestors and perhaps even the tomb of Dracula himself. They even make the trek to visit the actual castle, complete with full moon.

It’s certainly interesting that there is a bloodline dating back to that time period and from a character so well known, but not exactly the chilling tale for late night viewing.

Volume 3 Disc 2
"Exorcism: Driving Out the Devil."

Perhaps the most interesting documentary out of this volume, this disc delves into the practice of exorcism. The first exorcist? That’s right, it’s Jesus. Jesus is noted to have performed upwards of 2 dozen exorcisms, the most famous is on the man of Gerasenes. A poor soul has been cast out of the village to be chained and left for dead. Jesus comes across the man and begins to speak to the evil which lurks inside him. When asked who possesses him, the man replies "We are Legion". Jesus casts out the demons into a nearby herd of swine who then throw themselves off a cliff. And so begins the practice of casting out the demons.

In 1565 the idea of exorcism is used for political and spiritual gain as a 16 year old girl falls victim to an evil spirit who originally revealed himself as the girl’s grandfather. There is a split between the Catholics and the Protestants and they use this possession to prove which faith has more power. Ultimately the Catholics gain an upper hand and even have an exorcism in public so all can witness the power of their faith. Casting out demons becomes big business for the Church and they use it as a tool to gain new members.

In 1614 the Catholic Church begins to write down how to identity and perform an exorcism. The Rituale Romanum is created so there are rules and guidelines to follow. This against proves the power of prayer and that the Catholics know how to root out evil.

During this time period there is evidence to support that possession or being in league with the devil is used as a revenge for unkind acts. A nun who’s affections are shunned by a priest begins to cast accusations that he is in league with the devil and that his presence at her church has caused afflictions. It doesn’t take much to prove someone guilty of working for the devil and quickly the priest is convicted and burned at the stake.

The Salem Witch Trial further the idea of demonic possessions for personal gain. The townspeople feel that the devil is close at hand and that they must keep busy and vigilant lest they be taken over. As we all know, the finger pointing begins, blame is cast in every direction and the idea of exorcising the demon by killing the afflicted becomes common practice. Plenty of land changes hands and more people end in court than ever before. It basically turns into a bloodbath.

Modern times also see the belief in the devil and exorcism. In 1949 a boy is believed to be possessed by the devil after he and his Aunt play with a Ouija board to try and contact his recently deceased mother. Soon he hears noises, feels a presence and welts appear on his body. This case becomes the basis for the movie "The Exorcist". And once the book and the movie hit the mainstream the belief in the devil and possession are renewed.

Exorcism has been used as a cure-all through much of history. If something is wrong with you, exorcising the demons will make you better. You have to admit, it’s a step above blood letting. But is this just covering up mental illness? Are the symptoms of demonic possession and schizophrenia too close to be ignored? Are hearing noises and seeing spirits the results of a failing mind? Does demonic possession put people in the limelight and give them the attention they crave? Is exorcism still being used as quick therapy or do the dark forces really take hold of innocent victims?

A pretty interesting documentary with lots of information.

Volume 3 Disc 3
"Witch Hunt"

More information on the infamous Salem Witch Trials. We are presented with the main characters and many explanations as to why the hysteria was spreading, from evil sprits to ergot poisoning. People of the time were so fearful of the devil that when doctors couldn’t come up with any other diagnosis to explain an ailment they were said to be bewitched. Considering the rather primitive treatments and lack of medical understanding of the time, bewitchment was prescribed on a regular basis.

But what really got things going in Salem? What was the spark that ignited it all? Was it the power hungry judges? The lawmakers trying to make a name for themselves? Ill tempered residents who were looking to get revenge against their neighbors? Misbehaving kids looking to relieve some of the boredom and drudgery of their lives?

Yes it was. It all comes to a head when Tituba, the slave of Rev. Parris is found working "magic" right in his own home. After being completely railroaded in court, Tituba says she was visited by a dark figure and says she is in league with several of the townspeople which are already under suspicion. And then the game is on. Blame is leveled at every turn. Accusations fly. Evidence is in short supply. And the body count is on the rise. Exorcising the devil means putting people to death. Satan has a strangle hold on their town and the only way to get rid of him is to kill his agents. Cure a cold by killing the patient.

Quite a bit of this information can be gathered from other sources, but it’s still a good documentary on the hysteria of the time and how the idea of Satan, witchcraft and exorcism go completely out of control and cost the lives of dozens of innocent people.

Volume 3 Disc 4
"Exorcising the Devil."

The word "Exorcism" conjures up the images from the movie, of a young Regan with pasty skin, dark lips and foul mouth as priests gather round to cast the demon out of her body. But is this sort of thing real? Can someone be possessed by evil spirits and if so what can be done to save that soul? There is in fact an exorcism ritual that is part of several different religions from Catholicism to Santeria. The exorcism ritual is still practiced on a regular basis and many people feel the devil or an evil influence has control over them. Some churches have exorcism rituals on a weekly basis, in front of the whole congregation.

What we get is a broad summary of exorcism and how it is used. Exorcism can be traced back to the time of Jesus and his work to free several souls which he feels are being tortured by the devil. There is also mention of the case in 1949 which became the focus of the movie "The Exorcist" as well as a young man who feels he is possessed by multiple evil spirits.

Many decades ago exorcisms were common place and even done in public. While the practice of the exorcism didn’t appear during the Salem Witch Trials, the idea of a devil, evil sprits and even possession were certainly at work. When odd behavior presented itself it was almost immediately considered the work of the devil.

Exorcism is still close at hand and is used to heal when other methods seem to fail. Just tune into an episode of Paranormal State and you’ll be witness to an exorcism of the demonic. And Hollywood capitalizes on the idea each year with movies that show the nature of evil or dark forces that drive people to do the devil’s work.

Participating in the discussion are several priests who have either performed or been part of the exorcism ritual, including one of the priests who was part of the 1949 case. We also get commentary from those in the medical field who believe that demonic possession can be explained through mental illness or other mental/emotional disease. Many feel that demonic episodes can be the result of emotional trauma or even sexual abuse.

While it may be easy to discount the original uses of exorcism and the quick prescription of the devil for when things go wrong or feeling melancholy, what about today? Is the devil a prevalent force that can take over a body and spirit and make it act out? There is little doubt that we have people who act in a bad way and cause harm to others, but is this the work of the devil and someone possessed or at least working under his influence? Or is this untreated mental illness coming to the surface? Does the exorcism actually rid someone of evil spirits or is it merely a "clean start" so to speak to get them to change their behaviors?

Volume 3 Disc 5
"Voodoo Secrets."

The notion of voodoo brings to mind curses, spells and blood sacrifice. And while some of that does play a part in voodoo, many popularly held beliefs about the religion have come from sensationalized books and accounts that really have no basis in the actual religion. Through this documentary we are shown what parts really make up voodoo and what the practices mean. When you peel away the layers many comparisons can be made between the beliefs and practices of this religion and any other religion out there. The sacrifice of the animal is similar to the ritual of Thanksgiving. The use of blood seems similar to communion. And while possession and other aspects seem foreign and unusual they can be compared to other facets where believers try to communicate directly with their God.

Even though voodoo may seem strange its roots go back hundreds if not thousands of years and have tens of millions of followers around the world. While many seek solace and forgiveness in God, the practitioner of voodoo seeks the same spirituality in a variety of gods and has a more tangible connection with the spirit world.

There are several stories about the power of voodoo and how it has been used to defeat armies, to ward off evil, bring prosperity to a village, heal the sick and even influence the legal system. And no, the voodoo doll has nothing to do with voodoo.

Overall this is a much better set than Volume 2 (which I thought was quite bad), with the discs on Exorcism being the most informative and interesting. Still, I think they’re reaching with the use of spine-tingling, but there is a fair bit of entertainment value in this set.

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Ghost Hunters International

The season is almost over and GHI has been to some of the coolest places I can think of. Castles, ruins, forts, monasteries and plenty of other unusual places have all been on the list. Who wouldn’t want to go visit those wonderful castles, let alone the fact they may have a troubled past? I mean going to see the castle Frankenstein, the castle of Dracula or the ruins of the castle occupied by legendary Lady Bathory would be a once in a lifetime experience. And probably one of those trips where you need to make sure you pack an extra set of undies. They are the stuff of legend. But if that wasn’t enough what about a Satanic monastery or a fort that has the spirits of those who died in battle? And one who seems to want to push you over the edge, literally. The places these guys get to go are just unbelievable.

While we started off the season with Donna and Bryan in tow, their time with the group was somewhat limited and soon they both leave for personal reasons. Even Andy has to take his leave as a new edition to his family takes precedence. Justin jumps in to help lead the team with Rob and Barry while other members of the Ghost Hunters team come and go to take up the slack.

Now Barry just cracks me up. He is probably one of the most excitable guys when it comes to the paranormal, but when things start bumping, it seems like he wants to lock the doors and batten down the hatches. It’s all fun and games to chance down the boogey man, but when he bears his teeth, it might be time to take a step back. He seems a little overly jumpy at times. But I do like the full spectrum camera he’s been working with. That’s a pretty cool setup with the two cameras side by side taking pictures at the same time. Strange anomalies in a picture could be nothing more than a camera glitch or improper settings, but you never know, something could be there.

Where Rob came from, I have no idea, but I like him. He seems a pretty down to earth sort of guy. He keeps his cool, is ready to charge down that dark corridor or into that small dark space. And although he does seem a little hit and miss with calling things haunted he does have command of the situation and of the team; even though that teams keeps changing on him.

Trekking across Europe in search of the paranormal has got to be surreal at times. They are going deep into the countries where people have always believed in spirits, even vampires and have plans and rituals for dealing with them should they rise up out of the grave. It’s hard to imagine going to the places that actually inspired the legends of Dracula and Frankenstein. For some of these places a 200 year old castle is a modern dwelling. The fact that Andy will jump up on a rickety ass ladder he just happens to find lying on the ground in a castle cracks me up.

Compelling evidence? I think they’ve found some. Lots of the EVPs sound like they could be anything, especially when they are supposedly in a foreign language. Is it really speaking back in German or Romanian, or does it just sound like something we want to hear? There’s certainly noise in the background, but don’t all abandoned castles that are falling apart make weird noises?

What of the picture evidence? Well, a lot of that could be anything. Shadows, tricks of the light or wishful thinking could make you see just anything you want. Is that a boy in the glass or just an odd reflection? Are those muddy pictures capturing the essence of something in the full spectrum or do we see improper camera settings or even the camera focusing on the wrong thing? Or maybe in the dark someone put their thumb in front of the lens. But again, when you get enough odd pictures and strange sounds, is it just coincidence or do you really have something unusual?

But I guess that’s why we watch, to find that evidence and judge for ourselves. Apart from the paranormal aspect I like GHI because they go to some of the most remarkable places. I would love to have that kind of opportunity. It’s like a tour of Europe visiting famous castles, all in the dark.

I was a bit nervous about this spin-off show, but so far GHI is showing they have plenty of places to visit and their own personality to keep people watching. We’ll have to see how things turn out for next year. They have some drastic crew changes so we’ll see who comes back for the next season and where they plan to go. And I’d be curious to see if they will be allowed to investigate any actual homes. It’s all been castles and massive structures, I wonder if they will get the chance to investigate some personal residences as time goes on…

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Ghost Hunters Season 4

Just as the new season of Ghost Hunters gets underway, I finished the episodes of season 4. Once again, they been all over the place and covered a massive amount of ground. Homeowners aren’t the only ones calling on Ghost Hunters to explain noises and shadows, they’ve been to Forts, an Air Force base, asylums, a lighthouse and even some investigations on a set of boats. Of course the big event of the year was the multi-hour live investigation which did ultimately have a few moments that seemed a little unusual.

I did find the episode with Tango and his dad to be pretty entertaining. It was more for the fact that they both can be involved in such an off beat line of work. Plus we get to see Tango boss his Dad around, but still have a good time trying to figure out what’s going on.

While the locations are certainly entertaining not all of them turn out to be the real deal. I’m still amused by the disappointment people show when they find out their site isn’t haunted. It’s like Jason and Grant just took away the cool factor and left them with some run down old building. As equally amusing are the people who just don’t want to believe the place isn’t haunted. If the team doesn’t find anything that just means the spirits didn’t want to come out and play. They might be able to explain all the events away with perfectly logical explanations and even make some of the problem go away, but yet some people are just convinced other worldly figures reside in their homes. Some times people want that unique identity and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Also, we see some new pieces of equipment coming into place, specifically the K2 meter. It’s hard to say whether this is the real deal or not. I remember first seeing this when they investigated the site of the Manson Family murders and Sharon Tate. It has shown up more and more in recent investigations, but is there any validity to it? Is it really responding to the energy of the spirit world? It is the electronic representation of the cold spot? Or is this crazy gizmo just picking up interference from anything and everything in the room? Is this a clever debunking tool or grasping at straws?

When it comes to EVPs the quality seems to have gone down over time. During the first two seasons the EVPs were pretty clear and it wasn’t too hard to tell what was being said, or at least justify to yourself. But now they seem to be so faint that I can’t hear anything anymore. Even when they put up the subtitles I don’t hear anything but a hiss. If they’re still picking them up I’m not following along. Maybe their process is different these days or maybe the spirit world needs some better mics but I’m not hearing anything.

And speaking of not hearing things, why is there always some dramatic music or drum pulse right when a knock, bang or door creak is supposedly heard. I don’t know why they have to do that, but it’s really distracting. I know it’s added for dramatic effect but it’s going beyond that to completely mask any noise which might be there. Combine that with the poor quality audio during the reveal and I think they might just be trying to make more out of what they find than there really is.

But overall, Ghost Hunters is still fun and entertaining. Steve, Tango and Kris have become staples of the show and offer a certain level of predictability to the show and how things will run. Was there any true stand out evidence for this year? The Halloween episode had some interesting moments. Some of the noises and voices were interesting when you could actually hear them. It’s all still good fun to see the places they go and the experiences they have. Walking through the dark recesses of abandoned buildings in the wee hours of the morning, or trying to wake the spirits on a site where strange and bizarre events have occurred certainly seems like a fun way to make some money.

I’m looking forward to Season 5, I’m already a couple of episodes behind. Seriously, trying to talk to Betsy Ross?

Ghost Hunters: Season Four, Part 1 (Amazon)
Ghost Hunters: Season Four, Part 2 (Amazon)

Ghost Hunters: Season 4 Part 1 (Netflix)
Ghost Hunters: Season 4 Part 2 (Netflix)

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