A very interesting article and not to mention, several intriguing points brought up in this article as well.
THE FIRST THING that struck me when I picked up J. Gordon Melton’s book The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena was one of the pictures on the cover. It depicts a statue of the Mahayana Buddhist goddess Kuan Yin (see photos at right), and I immediately thought of the artist renderings of the Flatwoods Monster reportedly encountered during a 1952 UFO sighting in Braxton County, West Virginia. It has the same flowing gown and distinctive spade-shaped hood, collar, cowling (or whatever it is) behind the head. In my search for other images of Kuan Yin, only a few others include the spade shape; most do not, indicating that this is not a feature that is necessarily associated with her. So I concluded to my satisfaction that the similarities in the images of the goddess and the Flatwoods “alien” were mere coincidence. I don’t think the Buddhist goddess was making a Fatima-like appearance to the three children of Braxton County. (Although other similarities to Fatima include the sighting of lights in association with the apparitions, and that the being initially appeared to three children, two of which, in both cases, were brother and sister. Other researchers have noted the parallels between the Fatima phenomena and some UFO experiences.)
That is not the most interesting thing about The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena, however. Aside from its detailed entries on the phenomena you expect it to cover, it also has a good deal of information on phenomena, events, and people you may never have heard of. Yes, it includes the Shroud of Turin, stigmata, the Marian apparitions at Fatima and other locations, and many more familiar mysteries (although the book inexplicably omits the allegedly incorruptible bodies of various saints), but there are also quite a few that are not so familiar.
Several saints are credited with the power of bilocation – the ability to appear in two places at once – during their lifetimes. Melton’s book provides the example of Martin de Porres, who in the 17th century was reportedly seen in places as distant as Mexico, northern Africa, China, and Japan, although he never left his home country of Peru. He made this claim of bilocation himself, often able to provide detailed descriptions of the places he visited in his other body.
THE STATUE OF CARTAGO, COSTA RICA
Here’s an account of a Marian miracle I never heard of. While walking along a footpath one day in 1635, young Juanita Pereira found a small statue of a woman bearing a small child in her arms. She took it home as a toy. The next day, she found what she thought was an identical statue in the same place. She took that home, too, but was puzzled by the fact that the first statue had disappeared. This happened again when she found the three-inch statue for a third time at the very same spot along the footpath. She took the statue to a local priest, who immediately recognized the statue as depicting the Madonna and Child. He stored it safely away in a chest… from which it soon disappeared. Of course, they found it back at the spot where Juanita had found it those other times. The priest took this “miracle” as a sign that a shrine to the Virgin should be built on that spot, which it was. The statue is still on display at the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, which replaced the original shrine.
THE DAVENPORT BROTHERS
The Spiritualist movement is generally credited to have begun with the spirit rappings demonstrated by the famous Fox sisters in Hydesville, New York in 1848. Ira and William Davenport of Buffalo, New York, claimed, however, that their spirit rappings began two years previous to the Fox sisters’ experiences. Although Wikipedia calls them magicians, the Davenport Brothers became two of the most widely known Spiritualist mediums of their day, even though they began their careers in their teens. Their demonstrations included the manifestation of floating hands that would pick up musical instruments and play them. Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed their marvels to be genuine, but Harry Houdini suspected that that were indeed just clever magicians. Houdini claimed that Ira Davenport confessed their trickery to him shortly before his (Ira’s) death.
For those wondering why this story is in a book on religious phenomena, it’s worth a reminder that Spiritualism is a religion, the center of which is the Lily Dale community in southwestern New York State. (Oddly, there are no entries for Lily Dale or the Fox Sisters – except under the heading “Rappings” – in Melton’s book either.)
We’ve all heard of people being cured of blindness, cancer, and other severe afflictions by miraculous healings… but tooth decay? Hey, why not? An infected tooth is downright agonizing. Louisiana-born Willard Fuller became famous for his paranormal dentistry in the 1940s through to the 1970s. Beginning as a Baptist minister, he later began his own Pentecostal theology and founded the Lively Stones Fellowship. Some people claiming dental healings by Fuller testified that they miraculously found gold fillings in their teeth, where there were none before. Similar gold fillings were attributed to the blessings of the Toronto Airport Fellowship in 1999.
HOLY COAT OF TRIER
The Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Veronica are well-known relics said to be personally related to Jesus of Nazareth. Less well-known is the Holy Coat of Trier. Currently protected in a Catholic cathedral in Trier, Germany, this seamless, plain brown cloth is claimed to be the coat that Jesus wore during his arrest, scourging, and crucifixion – the very coat that the Roman soldiers gambled for, as told in the Gospel of John. Most religious scholars are skeptical of the garment’s authenticity, and it has never been scientifically scrutinized in the way that the shroud has, for example. The earliest it can be traced back to is the 12th century, but is thought by some to date back to the 4th century when it was brought back from the Holy Land by Empress Helena (mother of Constantine) with a number of other questionable relics.
Many of the encyclopedia’s entries are quite entertaining. The one for Hélène Smith is a case in point. Smith was another prominent medium of the 19th century’s Spiritualist movement. The pretty, Swiss-born medium was nothing if not outrageous in her claims and proclamations. She announced, for example, that she was the reincarnation of Marie Antoinette, and was also able to channel Simandini, the daughter of a 6th century Arab sheik. More fun, though, was her claim that she had astrally traveled to Mars. She described the planet as being astonishingly similar to Europe of the 1890s, but with bizarre Marsisms, including horseless and wheel-less vehicles, and citizens of Mars who wore unisex clothing. In a trance, Smith could even speak in Martian… which later turned out to be mostly French.
Despite certain deficiencies – the legendary rose miracles of St. Theresa are not mentioned, yet the silly grilled cheese sandwich image of the Virgin Mary gets an entry with photo – The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena does cover a lot of interesting ground. And it does not feel overly biased toward Christian phenomena, but includes entries for many other faiths, from Islam to New Age. It’s well worth a place on your paranormal bookshelf.