Rubbish, utter and absolute nonsense. There are no such things as mysteries or ghosts, they’re just creations of convoluted minds, declared a “moustachiod” retired army colonel recently and glared at me before picking up his whisky and moving to another spot at the club. Are mysteries in general, ghost stories and other world stories real or “rubbish”, simply creations of the mind? It’s true the human mind is programmed in such a way that various forms of stimuli can produce certain impressions, certain experiences which may or may not have occurred but the mind feels are real. Of course, in such cases, the supporting evidence in real witness accounts with minute details is missing, but it does give rise to new questions and plenty of grist for skeptics like the retired army colonel. So where do such denouncements, both new and recurrent, leave one?

 It’s important to bear in mind that in the case of mysteries, scientists are “surmising” and “offering explanations” where the word “probable” is often present. If one can surmise one way of taking certain facts into consideration, one can also surmise another way of taking other facts into consideration. Besides, as new information parameters are established, reference points for scientific study undergo changes. For instance, there was a time not too long ago when “research” revealed that egg yolks being cholesterol rich, were strict “no– no’s” for those with cholesterol problems. Now, it seems that within normal limits of daily consumption they are not bad for the heart. The point is, as new and more information comes in, scientific findings change and that is the way it should be.

But in the case of mysteries, the accounts seem to have remained almost unchanged over long centuries. For the most part, the “explanations” too have remained unchanged, whether of ghost sightings, other world experiences, unidentified flying objects ( UFOs), strange electrical occurrences, so called “atmospheric disturbances” like frogs dropping from the sky, abductions by aliens and so on. By and large, the “explanation” categories too have remained the same: “paranormal” and “supranormal” explanations… imagination and myth… hallucinations and convoluted minds…complex aberrations of perception…

Often, rationalists and the votaries of science either choose to remain silent or dismiss them under broad headings or not worth their attention. When confronted by mysteries, medical science too often takes refuge in offering “we suspect” theories, buying time through the “under investigation or not aware” tag or simply saying “we cannot comment at this stage”.  It has invariably been so, no matter how far back in recorded time one goes, such as the case of the man who refused to hang and many others. In the intriguing case of the man who wouldn’t hang, Joseph Samuels, a small time criminal was sentenced to death way back in 1803 for killing a policeman. Samuels maintained he was not guilty.

Nevertheless, the first time, he was hanged before a large gathering of people–but the rope broke. The hangman prepared a second rope. The noose was again placed on the half-conscious Samuels and he dangled from the rope, but very quickly the rope began to unravel and Samuels’s feet touched the ground, preventing him from being hanged. A third rope was placed round his neck and again Samuels dangled. This time the rope broke just above Samuels’s neck.

Aghast and amazed, the provost Marshall, who was in charge of the hanging rushed to the Governor, who on hearing the details reprieved the condemned man. But the provost Marshall, still skeptical, carefully examined and tested the three ropes. They showed no signs of tampering and the last one used was tested in not one but several simulated drops with a weight of 400 pounds. Even when two of the three strands of this rope were cut, the remaining strand was still able to hold 400 pounds–and yet all the three strands had snapped when the relatively light Samuels was dangling from them. There are no known explanations on record for this incident and many others.

Take the very recent baffling case reported in the Khaleej Times.  “Doctors in India are in utter shock to find sharp objects in a woman’s legs who claims that needles, pins and syringes have been appearing in her limbs since 2012… The woman is now finally admitted to a district government hospital in Fatehpur where doctors were left in shock by X-ray images which showed 70 different kinds of iron needles in her legs below the knees.

“Surgeon Dr Naresh Vishal, at the district government hospital, said: ‘We did a full body scan to see if there were nails in other parts of her body but there was nothing elsewhere. Medically, it is not possible for such needles to just develop in a human’s body. So far we cannot confirm how the needles enter her body; but we suspect the patient has been self-harming’.”

 But Anusuiya Devi, the 35-year-old woman concerned who claims small pimples erupted on her legs which eventually grew bigger before they burst and pushed out a needle or nail, insists she has never ‘self-harmed’. Anusuiya’s brother too denied that his sister harms herself or inserts sharp objects into her legs. Anusuiya was quoted in the Mail Online: “I have had this problem for five years. Needles just come out of my legs. I have no idea how they get in there and I’m fed up of the constant pain now. Doctors say this is some kind of sickness but none of them seem to be aware of it. I just want someone to help me, I am in pain every day.”

It bears repetition that the patterns of paranormal experiences and sightings have remained uniform throughout the ages. For instance, descriptions of ghosts in our information rich and technology driven age are the same as they were in an agrarian or even earlier age. The final analysis: all the theories offer interesting ‘new looks’ into incidents that are mystifying. But mysteries, including supernatural phenomena refuse to go away or be denounced. Instead, they continue to remain inexplicable, continue to agitate disbelievers while fascinating a very large number of people. Most important, for those with open minds, they provide tremendous scope for exciting research to unearth new possibilities. 

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