Scientists Now Believe “Octopuses Are from Outer Space” (from Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, 2019)

093EE0A3-5D4E-4962-ACC8-2A6FC32730CC

(New York Post)

A New Paper Tests The Limits of Science by Claiming Octopuses Came From Space



Click the image below to access the actual scientific paper:

147174CF-2005-4373-B0D8-91EA579DE42E



A summary of decades of research on a rather ‘out-there’ idea involving viruses from space has recently been published, and it’s raising questions on just how scientific we can be when it comes to speculating on the history of life on Earth.

It’s easy to throw around words like crackpot, rogue, and maverick in describing the scientific fringe, but every now and then a paper like this comes along, leaving us blinking owlishly, unsure of where to even begin.

A total of 33 names are listed as authors on this review, which was published by Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. The journal is peer reviewed and fairly well cited. So it’s not exactly small, or a niche pay-for-publish source.

24965F0E-7B0B-4208-AF4A-9376BC6CED27

Science writer Stephen Fleischfresser goes into depth on the background of two of the better known scientists involved: Edward Steele and Chandra Wickramasinghe. It’s well worth a read.

For a tl;dr version, Steele is an immunologist who already has a fringe reputation for his views on evolution that relies on acquiring gene changes determined by the influence of the environment rather than random mutations, in what he calls meta-Lamarckism.

Wickramasinghe, on the other hand, has had a somewhat less controversial career, recognised for empirically confirming Sir Fred Hoyle’s hypothesis describing the production of complex carbon molecules on interstellar dust.

Continue reading

Reblog: “Witchcraft Should Mean Something” by Jason Mankey (+Link)

CAC49A03-B77E-4FF1-A288-5CB2A6091D8A

Artist unknown (threehandspress.com).


When I was a five years old I had three warts on my right hand, and every night for about six months my father applied Compound W to them. After many treatments the warts would burn away into nothing, and then as soon as they were destroyed they would immediately grow back in the same place at the same size.

DB0D3CAE-83C3-4FD2-BCF2-F158AA63B2C1

The Witches’ Sabbat by Frans Francken, II (WikiMedia).


After a year of frustration and disappointment someone at work gave my Dad a copy of what they called “The Moon Trick,” which was guaranteed to get rid of warts (so we were told). I don’t remember all the details of the trick, but it involved exposing my warts to the light of the full moon and reciting an incantation over them. A couple of days later they were gone, and this time they didn’t come back. (Thinking about this today, I can’t help but think how cool it is that my first exposure to magick was in the first grade, and with my Dad!)

Considering how the words “Witch” and “Witchcraft” are used by many people today, I could probably claim that my father was a Witch and used Witchcraft on my warts. However, my father is not a Witch, probably doesn’t believe in magick (even though he’s seen it work at least once!), and didn’t think what we were doing that night was Witchcraft. But more and more I see this strange and growing tendency to label any magickal operation Witchcraft and to label any magickal practitioners Witches.

I came across a comment from a friend online the other day who claimed that members of his family had been practicing Witchcraft for centuries while remaining committed Christians. He mentioned his family was from Central Pennsylvania, and due to that association I’m going to guess his family has a history of brauche or braucherei (sometimes called Pow-Wow), which is a magickal tradition amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch. (If you’ve ever read or heard of the book The Long Lost Friend you’ve been exposed to some of the ideas in this tradition.)

8FB38ACA-0E12-480D-9DCA-53E646455764

Young Witches on Brooms. Artist unknown. (Public Domain)

Continue reading

The Beginning of the New England Vampires Legend? “Therapeutic Exhumation”: Uncovering an Age-Old Therapy from the Grave

1168EFB8-3CF6-46E2-A225-AB938402E444


Long before there were antibiotics, lung-collapsing surgical operations or even mountaintop sanitariums, rural New Englanders may have devised a macabre treatment for people suffering from tuberculosis (TB).

The therapy involved the exhumation of a TB victim’s body and the manipulation — occasionally desecration — of the remains. This, the practitioners believed, would stop transmission of the disease to surviving family members and neighbors, and slow the decline of those already infected.

That, at least, is the theory propounded by several anthropologists who have employed their analysis of a 19th century grave from Connecticut to interpret tales of “vampires” in early New England.

Most European folk cultures contain stories about people who, though officially dead, periodically rise from the grave and harm the living. In order to protect the latter these “undead” must be killed, immobilized or incapacitated.

The modern idea of the vampire has almost entirely been taken over by the image of Dracula, the ardent, formally dressed nobleman who will undoubtedly make many appearances on Sunday night, Halloween. The vampires of folklore, however, were a far more heterogeneous crew.

58342AC6-7464-4B96-ABC3-DEFDAF4F3B6E

The 19th-century New England “Vampire Panic” resulted from an outbreak of tuberculosis and a fight between burgeoning scientific theories and old-world superstition. Read more here:
New England Vampires

Usually of peasant stock, they had gained their benighted state by having been suicides, alcoholics, the first victims of epidemics, babies born with teeth, or by having any of several other marks of misfortune, which differed from culture to culture. Only some sucked blood. In many cases, the undead drained life from a victim solely through the act of psychological possession.

References from Folklore

[Click here to read more about the Mercy Brown Vampire Legend]

New England folklore contains occasional references to the undead, and the efforts to dispatch them. In one of the better known ones, a pre-Revolution Rhode Island farmer, named Stukeley, had 14 children. The eldest, Sarah, died. In succession five more died, each complaining of visitations by Sarah during their illnesses.

EF2502E4-88A1-4E54-9AD6-43EFB1225FC3

When a seventh child became ill, Stukeley dug up all the bodies. Five were decomposing, but Sarah, the longest dead, lay with her eyes open and had red blood in her heart. She was judged a vampire, and her heart was removed and burned. The ill child died, but the seven remaining Stukeley offspring lived, according to the account.

Though the folk tales call people such as Sarah “vampires,” they may not have been viewed as such by contemporaries. Some researchers believe the idea is largely a dramatic way of describing the effects of a chronic illness whose symptoms resemble those that might be produced by a blood-sucking vampire. Desecration of their bodies was a combination of therapeutics and spiritualism.

“In my eyes, this is really a folk medical practice,” said Michael Bell, an anthropologist with the Rhode Island Heritage Commission, who has studied the tradition. “What the people involved were trying to do was stem the tide of a contagious disease. They were following what was obviously a very ancient practice. The people never called it vampirism.”

CCF34EDC-D5A9-4D92-B4C5-6FA016B87A35

The tuberculosis connection was suggested by the contents of a grave that was exposed by erosion in the town of Griswold, Connecticut in 1990. The bones had been rearranged after death, with the skull separated from the vertebral column and the femurs, or thigh bones, moved up from their anatomical location and crossed on the chest.

Continue reading

“The Maiden-Tree”—A Short Story by Catherynne M. Valente

A1C9D2BF-B6FE-4F8C-A309-639DE28C0569

Art by Hans Zatska.


The Maiden-Tree

Catherynne M. Valente, 2005

********************

It is remarkable how like a syringe a spindle can be.

That explains the attraction, of course. A certain kind of sixteen-year-old girl just cannot say no to this sort of thing, and I was just that measure of girl, the one who looks down on the star-caught point of a midnight needle, sticking awkwardly up into the air like some ridiculous miniature of the Alexandrian Lighthouse and breathe: yes. The one who impales herself eagerly on that beacon, places the spindle against her sternum when a perfumed forefinger would be more than enough to do the job, and waits, panting, sweating through her corset-boning, for a terrible rose to blossom in her brain.

Well, we were all silly children once.

They could not get it out. I lie here with the thing still jutting out of my chest like an adrenaline shot, still wispy with flax fine as ash. Eventually the skin closed around it, flakes of dried blood blew gently away, and it and I were one, as if we had grown in the same queen’s womb, coughed into the world at the same moment, genius and child, and I had spent those sixteen years before we were properly introduced chasing it like a dog her own bedraggled tail. My little lar domestici, my household god, standing over me for all these years, growing out of me, the skin-soil of my prostration, as swollen with my blood as everything else within these moss-clotted walls.

And these are the thoughts of a sleeping woman as she breathes in and out in a haze no less impenetrable than if it had been opiate-bred; these are the thoughts of a corpse kept roseate by the rough symbiosis of spindle and maiden, a possibility never whispered of in all the biology texts she ever knew, or hinted at by the alchemists who whittled sixteen years away burning spinning wheels to lead and ash.

I have been arranged here as lovingly as the best morticians could manage, my hair treated with gold dust so that it would lose none of its luster, even as it tangled and grew wild across the linen, and the parquet floor, up to the window-frames and dove-bare eaves. My lips were painted with the self-same dyes that blush the seraphs’ cheeks in chapel frescoes, and injected with linseed oil so that my kiss would remain both scarlet and soft. My skin was varnished to the perfection of milk-pink virginity, violet petals placed beneath my tongue to keep the breath, no matter how thin it might become, fresh. From scalp to arch, I have been tenderly stroked with peacock-feather brushes dipped in formaldehyde (specially treated so as not to offend the nose of any future visitor, of course). The place where my breast joins the spindle has been daubed with witch-hazel and clover-tincture, cleaned as best as could be managed—all this was done with such love, devotion, even, before the briar sprouted beneath the first tower, and the roses put everyone else to sleep with me.

But they were not prepared, and this has become a tomb with but one living Juliet clutching her nosegay of peonies and chrysanthemums against her clavicle, her back aching on a cold stone slab.

Continue reading

From my new story “The Testament of Harriet Tubman”—Would you want to read this? Share your comments!

70153C54-20BB-4F09-B315-AFFB43581263

“I’ll help those men and women and children. I’ll help them with or without you. Make no mistake. It’ll be me at the front of that line, not some white man’s hero made of shadows. I’ll get on my hands and knees and lay every bit of that moaning track, piece by piece, as the line moves along, till my knees bleed and my back breaks, if that’s what I got to do. I will be there, candle glowing, right up front. A long line of candles, burning like the devil’s footprints in the blackest night. It ain’t about the destination, see, or what someone told you needs to be done to save your soul. It’s about what your heart screams out, from the pit of hopelessness. You can go for the love of God with a clean conscience. You can go with vengeance laying on your skin red and hot as a brand. Don’t make no difference to me. Just so long as you start walking. Light up the whole of the night with a glowing line; walk on; walk on; think only about the walking—it’ll lead you to freedom, one way or another.”

The rocker creaked against the rotting green boards of the porch. Back and forth. Like time.

She diverted her eyes upward and appeared to be staring into the oaks that lined each side of a long rutted path that led to the creek; their branches, waist-thick in places, seemed to curl before his eyes like something from a fairy tale. Moss hung from them in places; swayed in the warm air. It made him think of the unkempt hair of old women in storybooks, snagged while night-flying on crooked sticks through the trees.

The moon went behind a wisp of cloud. Crickets sung.

The wind picked up. A cluster of moss landed on the porch step. He watched her lift the skirt of her white dress, kneel on the ground and lift a delicate gray tendril with one slender finger. He thought he heard her whisper something, but that could have been the leaves.

The moon reappeared, full and white and unblinking as the eye of God. It Illuminated strands of gray that ran like silver threads through her coal-black hair, pulled smooth and tight across the top of her head.

Could he, too, hear the moss sighing from the ground? “It’s whispering its surprise at so sudden a freedom— after a lifetime of hanging from them trees.”

She looked up at him. Her milky eyes haunting his. “Best thing for you to do, if you ain’t helping, is to forget you ever laid eyes on me. Forget; and be mindful that you stay out of my way.”

She stood slowly, bent to brush something from her dress. Closed her eyes. Her nostrils quivered at the smell of nightime; moist air and rotting leaves; and the smoke from hidden fires.

It was time.

—from “The Testament of Harriet Tubman” (c)2019 by Sanguine Woods. All rights reserved.