a dash of this and a filip of that

In 1972 some Canadian parapsychologists undertook an experiment.

The Experimenters

The members of the experiment attempted to create, through intense and prolonged concentration, a collective thought-form. The group consisted of Iris Owen, a former nurse and wife of the mathematician A. R. G. Owen; Margaret Sparrrows, former chairperson of an organization of individuals with high IQs; Andy H., housewife; Lorne H., industrial designer and husband of Andy H.; Al P., heating engineer; Bernice M., accountant; Dorothy O’ D., housewife and bookkeeper; and Sidney K., sociology student. Dr. A. R. G. Owen or Dr. Joel Whitton, psychologist, attended the group meetings.


The group fabricated the fictitious identity, physical appearance, and personal history of their “Philip Aylesford” who was born in England in 1624.  He had an illustrious role in the Civil War, becoming a personal friend of Charles II and working for him as a secret agent. But Philip brought about his own undoing by having an affair with a Gypsy girl. When his wife found out she accused the girl of witchcraft, and she was burned at the stake. In despair Philip committed suicide in 1654 at the age of thirty.


The Owen group began conducting sittings in September 1972 during which they meditated, visualized, and discussed the details of Philip’s life. After going for months with no communication, the group attempted table-tilting through psychokinesis.


Some weeks after changing to the séance setting the group established communication with “Philip.” He answered questions that were consistent with his fictitious history, but was unable to provide any information beyond that which the group had conceived. However, “Philip” did give other historically accurate information about real events and people. The Owen group theorized that this latter information came from their own collective unconsciousness.

One session was held in front of a live audience of fifty people and was videotaped to be shown on television. In other sessions sounds were heard in various parts of the room and lights blinked on and off. The levitation and movement of a table were recorded on film in 1974. “Philip” seemed to have a special rapport with Iris Owen.

As the group became more comfortable with their encounters with Philip, they began to treat him as just another member of the group. They learned his personality as if he was a good friend. And Philip would play tricks on them. At times, he would move the table around the room, especially to rush up to those arriving late as if to greet them and say “Hi”. Other times, the table would trap certain individuals in corners.


During one especially active night, one of the members jokingly admonished Philip by telling him that he could be sent away and replaced. After that, Philip’s activity began to decrease until it stopped altogether and the experiment was ceased.


Published in: on February 8, 2011 at 7:43 am  Comments (42)  
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Khashoggi’s cosmos

Adnan Khashoggi was once touted as the richest man in the world, which was probably an exaggeration, but he certainly knew how to spend.

High above the clouds, Adnan Khashoggi’s DC-8 is cruising noiselessly toward his estate in Marbella, Spain. His guests, sipping 1961 Chateau Margaux from crystal goblets, lounge on the jet’s cream-colored chamois-and-silk banquettes. His masseur, his valet, his barber and his chiropractor — they accompany him everywhere — are relaxing as well because “A.K.,” as he is known to his employees, is fast asleep on the $200,000 Russian sable spread covering his 10 foot wide bed in one of the plane’s three bedrooms.


In the plane’s fully equipped kitchen, Khashoggi’s chef is preparing hors d’oeuvres. They will be served on white china, embossed in gold with the letters AK, designed, along with the crystal and flatware, at a cost of $750,000. The plane, which Khashoggi bought for $31 million and had reconfigured for an additional $9 million, has the streamlined and futuristic feel of a flying 21st century Las Vegas disco. In the sumptuous lounges, digital panels indicate the time and altitude, and electronic maps chart the jet’s current position. Inside a coffee table, a color monitor shows a view of the ground. Built into the ceiling is an elaborate electronic map of the cosmos, a 50th-birthday gift to Khashoggi, who is fascinated by astronomy. One by one, against a dark background, the outline of the constellations lights up, the tiny stars winking against the blankness. Aquarius . . . Cancer . . . Gemini . . . Then there is Leo, Khashoggi’s birth sign, and as the constellation brightens, a small image of the round-faced, mustachioed Saudi Arabian arms merchant and businessman flashes on and off, on and off.


Fantastic parties are a Khashoggi signature. Christmas was a simple tea compared with his 50th birthday fete in 1985, at which he entertained more than 400 guests at a three day extravaganza. His birthday cake, a model of Louis XIV’s coronation crown, was created by a chef who was flown to the Louvre to study the original.

Moroccan pillow cake found here

Khashoggi’s parties also take place in his 30,000 sq.ft. quarters incorporating the 46th and 47th floors of the Olympic Towers in Manhattan. Created out of 16 separate apartments, the abode has a pool that overlooks the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


His wife Lamia dresses according to the Joan Collins Dynasty handbook, complete with diamonds and decolletage. With her, as with her husband, more is definitely more. Her idea of casual is to wear a one-inch ruby-and-diamond ring with matching ruby earrings. Her 40- carat diamond wedding ring covers the lower half of her ring finger. She asserts that size does not matter. “It’s the sentiment that counts,” she says.

Lovely Lamia found here

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 7:34 am  Comments (43)  
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this is your captain speaking…..

The story of the bogus “Captain of Kopenick” made nearly all of Germany rock with laughter.


Between 1864 and 1891, Wilhelm Voigt was sentenced to prison for a total of 25 years for thefts and forgery. The longest sentence was a conviction for 15 years for theft. He was released on 12 February 1906.

Voigt then hoboed from place to place until he went to live with his sister in Rixdorf near Berlin but police expelled him as undesirable, based solely on the fact that he was a former prisoner. Officially he left for Hamburg, although he remained in Berlin as an unregistered resident.


On 16 October 1906 Voigt was ready for his next caper. Previously he had purchased parts of used captain’s uniforms from different shops and tested their effect on soldiers.  Voigt took the uniform out of baggage storage, put it on and went to the local army barracks, hailed four grenadiers and a sergeant and told them to come with him. Indoctrinated to obey officers without question, they followed. He dismissed the commanding sergeant to report to his superiors and later commandeered 6 more soldiers from a shooting range. Then he took a train to Köpenick, east of Berlin, occupied the local city hall with his soldiers and told them to cover all exits. He told the local police to “care for law and order” and to “prevent calls to Berlin for one hour” at the local post office.


He had the treasurer von Wiltberg and mayor Georg Langerhans arrested, supposedly for suspicions of crooked bookkeeping, and confiscated 4002 marks and 37 pfennigs – with a receipt, of course (he signed it with his former jail director’s name). Then he commandeered two carriages and told the grenadiers to take the arrested men to the Neue Wache in Berlin for interrogation. He told the remaining guards to stand in their places for half an hour and then left for the train station. He later changed into civilian clothes and disappeared.


Voigt was arrested on 26 October and on 1st December sentenced to four years in prison for forgery, impersonating an officer and wrongful imprisonment. However, much of the public opinion was on his side and Kaiser Wilhelm II pardoned him in 1908. There are some claims that even the Kaiser had been amused by the incident, referring to him as an amiable scoundrel, and being pleased with the authority and feelings of reverence that his military obviously commanded in the general population.


The English were also amused, seeing it as provided confirmation of their stereotypes about Germans. In an October 1906 issue, the editors of The Illustrated London News would note gleefully:

For years the Kaiser has been instilling into his people reverence for the omnipotence of militarism, of which the holiest symbol is the German uniform. Offenses against this fetish have incurred condign punishment. Officers who have not considered themselves saluted in due form have drawn their swords with impunity on offending privates.


Miss Alice

I don’t usually write about the documentaries I watch on television but “Lost in Wonderland” was too good to let the opportunity go by.

The Queen and Alice by Leibovitz

The Times of London cited barrister Rob Moodie for the most outrageous behaviour by a lawyer in 2006 after he represented himself in the New Zealand High Court dressed as Alice in Wonderland. He’s a straight bloke who likes to wear dresses. Moodie’s extraordinary life, career and personality are examined in a documentary that’s as colourful as its subject matter. The story begins in early childhood, at the moment when young Rob, aged 7, sat in the back of a courtroom and listened as a judge made him and his older brother Bill wards of the state.

Rob Moodie as Alice outside the High Court

He suffered a profound sense of dislocation that left him struggling to find identity and questioning gender roles from a very young age. Rob Moodie’s battles against conformity and unfairness form the narrative of the movie, moving from his early days as a crime busting police detective, to his training as a lawyer, then years of national prominence as the head of the police union. The police were one of the most conservative groups in the country. Moodie dragged them kicking and screaming into the 20th century. And he did it wearing a kaftan and his wife’s pearls. After a few years of semi-retirement, Moodie returned to the law after a plea for help from a senior police friend whose life and career had been ruined by a bogus fraud charge. Moodie not only rehabilitated his friend’s reputation, he won a huge action for compensation.


The legal case at the heart of this film is another story, and one which pitted Moodie against the combined forces of the New Zealand Army, the Government, and the entire justice system, all of which seemed to close ranks in a remarkably sustained display of injustice. His clients, a farming couple, had been found guilty of negligence by a Coroners court after a bridge built on their land by the army collapsed, killing a man. The couple lost everything trying to defend themselves. After he took their case, Moodie discovered a secret document which proved the army knew the bridge was deficient in design and materials, yet they had given evidence to the coroner that nothing related to the structure’s construction had contributed to its failure. Moodie was unable to table the document in court because of laws forbidding public disclosure of any army courts of inquiry reportsUnable to live with repressing the truth, he leaked the document on the internet. He was charged in the High Court with contempt. It was a charge that could have potentially ended his long career. At times of greatest stress in his life, Moodie says he always feels stronger when dressed as a woman. How appropriate then, that he faced the greatest crisis in his life dressed as Alice in Wonderland. As he later said, “Alice was trapped in a world of madness, and so was I”. The outcome of this case proved uplifting, and provided the final clues to Moodie’s nature, and the reasons why he is the way he is.

Member of New Zealand Army**

**I’m a kiwi so I’m allowed to make sheep jokes.

catching herpes at the zoo

Henry Molt started out his working life as a Kraft salesman.


When Molt’s workdays of counting mayonnaise jars and issuing credits for moldy cheese ended, he would retreat to his parents’ house and write letters to foreign animal dealers. Molt wanted only the rare animals, reptiles even the zoos couldn’t get, so he sought out dealers in countries that restricted, or banned, the export of wildlife to the United States.

Albino Echidna found here

His heroes were men like Ditmars and Frank “Bring ’em back Alive” Buck. “Frank Buck was going to get rhinos or elephants ninety fucking years ago, when there was no treatment for malaria, just some gin and tonics when you got a chance. Overcoming these odds like they were nothing.”


Molt quit Kraft Foods and with his mother-in-law’s money, he bought a pet store in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia. He quickly gained repute as a boutique dealer, someone with excellent taste in reptiles. In the mid 1960s, little thought was given to regulating the animal trade; a middle-class family could still return from Florida in those years with a baby alligator.

Baby Alligator found here

Molt saw little cause for restraint. A zookeeper in Australia scheduled big shipments of snakes and lizards for around Christmas, when postal and cargo workers were overwhelmed. If a shipment contained venomous snakes, the package was mislabeled on the outside. Inside was a warning sticker, “in case the guy got bit,” Molt said. “If they opened it that much we were fucked anyway.”

read about two stupid Australians and a snake here

With the exception of a woman wrestler who slept with snakes in her bed, his big customers were all zoos. Another Australian, Henry Szoke, began shipping endangered species to Molt. When shipments were large, Szoke sent them in red shipping crates labeled “art.” Molt paid him cash, which he mailed in Hallmark cards.


The apartment upstairs from Molt’s pet shop was occupied by an ex-convict named BobUdell, a bearish young man in and out of mental institutions and jail, who would set police cars on fire, or shoplift large quantities of meat. Udell decorated his apartment with bead curtains and a naked mannequin lying in a coffin. “Udell had a talent with the animals. He could walk by a cage and see a snake not lying right, and sure enough the animal was dehydrated,” Molt said. “Plus you couldn’t make him go away—he would burn your house to the ground.”


A peculiar man phoned the pet shop one day. He sounded like a hillbilly, and yet he was on his way to Madagascar, he told Molt, “to get some lemurs.” He was thinking of picking up some snakes while he was there. “The problem is,” the man said, “I can’t tell one from the other.”


The hillbilly turned out to be a towering, freckled, elfin eared man named Leon Leopard. He lived in Waco, Texas, on a street called Parrot Street. For a yokelish Texan who owned gas stations and spoke no French, Madagascar was not an easy trip but he returned from there with the rarest of the rare—lemurs, boas, plow-share tortoises….

For more on the fascinating characters who smuggled rare animals around the world (often because legitimate enterprises like museums and zoos were willing to turn a blind eye to how the animals were obtained), read Stolen World by Jennie Erin Smith

Published in: on February 2, 2011 at 10:48 am  Comments (44)  
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the bewitching brokers

***Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was a celebrated and liberal preacher who advocated womens’ rights.


When Lucy Bowen, the 38 year old wife of a friend, was on her deathbed, she confessed to her husband that she had been committing adultery with the popular preacher. Henry Bowen was convulsed by jealousy and resentment but did not confront Beecher at the time.

Then the beautiful Libby Tilton, married to Theodore who was yet another of Beecher’s unsuspecting friends, also confessed to her husband that she had fallen under the preacher’s spell. When this news reached the ears of  Henry Bowen he saw a way to get his own back by pitting Theodore and Beecham against each other.


Around the same time, suffragette Victoria Woodhull became aware of the story. Victoria was a remarkable character who believed herself to be a clairvoyant and spirit medium. She and her sister Tennessee Claflin were the first women to have their own brokerage business and published a magazine espousing free love.


Victoria sent Theodore Tilton a message asking him to come and see her. With a shared dislike of Beecher, their attraction to each other was mutual and they became lovers. It did Tilton’s reputation no good at all to be associated with “Mrs Satan” and her scandalous doctrines especially when she announced she was running for president with a Negro reform leader as her running mate.


Victoria published the story of Beecher’s affair with Libby Tilton in her magazine. Suddenly everyone wanted to know whether Tilton was a cuckold and Beecher was a seducer. On 24 August 1874, Tilton swore out a complaint against Beecher, charging him with wilfully alienating his wife’s affections.

cartoon found at Bearskin Rug

The trial lasted 6 months and the whole nation was agog at the scandal. It was soon revealed that Beecher was accused of seducing Lucy Bowen as well as Libby Tilton. A newspaper cartoon at the time showed a Brooklyn businessman locking his wife in a huge safe with a notice on the door “Proof Against Fire and Clergymen” while another showed the latest style in mens hats – complete with cuckold’s horns.

“Magnificent Cuckold” poster found here

The court also learned that the wronged husband was not entirely innocent. He was alleged to have seduced the 17 year old daughter of a congressman in Connecticut and to have made an unsuccessful attempt to do the same to a maid in his own household. The story of his affair with Victoria Woodhull was also raked up.

The jury was out for 8 days; unable to reach a unanimous verdict they voted 9 to 3 against Tilton. Beecher went on a lecture tour and although he was booed in several places, he never failed to draw enormous crowds.

Theodore Tilton settled in Paris where he wrote romantic poetry and played chess. Libby, deserted by her husband and her lover, became a schoolteacher while the Woodhull sisters both married rich men and lived to a ripe old age.


*** from World Famous Scandals by Colin Wilson

Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 7:46 am  Comments (33)  
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