Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lights in the NZ sky haunt TV producer for three decades

Thirty years ago today, strange lights were filmed in the night skies over the Kaikoura coast. Theories ranged from squid boat lights to sightings of Mercury and Venus. Former television producer Leonard Lee recalls his involvement in the Kaikoura UFO mystery.
On the morning of December 31, 1978, I received an early-morning call from Neil Miller my chief-of-staff in the newsroom at Channel 0 (now Channel Ten) in Melbourne.
He was babbling, telling me one of our reporters and a freelance film crew had filmed UFOs from a freight plane in the skies over Kaikoura the previous night.
My friend - and fellow Kiwi - Quentin Fogarty was the reporter. I had sent him to recap another apparent encounter by two pilots 10 days earlier.
The objects were also seen by the two pilots, Bill Startup and Bob Guard, Quentin's cameraman, David Crocket, and his wife, Ngaire, the sound recordist.
They were also confirmed on ground radar in Wellington and Christchurch, and further confirmed by the plane's radar.
We also had 16mm film footage of the lights.
As news of the sightings spread through the media, Quentin was holed up in a Christchurch motel with his family, and I knew we had to get him back to Melbourne with the footage as quickly as possible.
I was nervous the film might be confiscated before we could get our hands on it.
It was New Year's Eve and almost all the airline seats had been sold out.
Luckily, I managed to get him a first-class ticket on an Air New Zealand flight into Melbourne that night.
I was very nervous by then, concerned the film might be blank or unusable.
Later, I stood with Quentin in a darkened editing room as the film editor began spooling the footage through his machine.
And there they were: lights dancing and changing shape, lots of them - unidentified flying lights.
None of us slept that night as we worked into New Year's Day trying to pull together for international release a news story we knew nothing about.
Unlike other news stories we had absolutely no reference points for this, most of us having previously believed that UFO sightings were akin to spotting hobgoblins down the back of the garden.
Telephone calls were coming from all over the world.
The BBC asked us to feed them the story, and at one point I spoke with Walter Cronkite from the American CBS News, which was prepared to pay US$5000 for the film.
It was after the screening of a 30-minute documentary on the sightings that the sceptics - numerous scientists among them - started screaming at us from around the globe.
We had, they said, filmed Venus, Mars, Jupiter, squid boat lights, mating mutton birds, everything in fact except UFOs, whatever they were.
The media also seemed to turn on us and began slyly insinuating we had somehow hoaxed the whole thing.
It was then I decided the footage needed to be examined scientifically, so a judgment could be made as to what the objects were - or weren't.

I travelled to the United States where I gave the film to Bruce Maccabee, an optical physicist who specialised in laser technology for the US Navy.
I also persuaded Channel 0 to spend some of the proceeds of the story on flying Dr Maccabee to New Zealand to interview witnesses, check radar equipment and review other material concerning the sightings.
He also came to Melbourne to interview Quentin.
Dr Maccabee returned to the US, releasing his preliminary findings a couple of months later.
He disputed all the various theories put up by the so-called experts, although he later wryly agreed the lights could have come from squid boats, but only if they were "flying squid boats".
He believed the lights were generated by an unknown source, and as such fulfilled the UFO criteria: "unidentifiable, flying solid objects".
Dr Maccabee's interim findings notwithstanding, the "Kaikoura UFO" story has never been fully told.
Further scientific research on the sightings was shut down in April 1979.
For 30 years now the Kaikoura story has lain mainly dormant, only resurrected now and then in segments of sensationalised documentaries produced to cater for the so-called UFO crazies.
I still hold ambitions that one day the complete story will be told.
This was reinforced during a visit to Renwick last week, where producer Paul Davidson has the decommissioned old Argosy Safe Air freighter - the Merchant Enterprise - on show on his front lawn next to the main highway to Nelson.
I spent a lot of time looking out at that old, historic aircraft, reliving the extraordinary events of December 30, 1979.
During my time there I had the pleasure of meeting Captain Bill Startup for the first time and reading his book The Kaikoura UFOs.
It wasn't until I read his book that I realised how courageous the witnesses had been on that night. Not only did they fly south from Wellington to Christchurch, they then flew back through the UFOs to Blenheim.
I would have jumped off in Christchurch and bloody stayed there.
For 30 years I have lived almost every day with this story. The trouble is that no story can ever match it. By Leonard Lee

Kiwi seas were as hot as spas, scientists say

By RUTH HILL - The Dominion Post
If you lived in New Zealand 50 million years ago, you could have had a warm dip in the sea all year round, scientists say.
The spa-pool-like conditions that existed in the early Eocene period a time of significant global warming suggest scientists may be underestimating the likely effect of climate change.
Using sedimentary rocks from the bed of the Waipara River in North Canterbury, an international research group led by GNS Science palaeontologist Chris Hollis has reconstructed ancient sea temperatures.
They found surface sea water exceeded 30 degrees celsius, and water at the sea floor hovered around 20C during an episode of greenhouse gas-induced global warming that lasted for between two million and three million years.
"These temperatures are at the extreme end of modern tropical water masses," Dr Hollis said. Year-round sea surface temperatures of 25C to 30C are today found only at the equator.
In a study to be published in the international scientific journal Geology next month, scientists have inferred warm conditions in New Zealand for this period from a wide range of fossil evidence showing the country was once covered in lush tropical forest. But, till now, the degree of warmth was uncertain.
Dr Hollis said similar freakishly warm conditions had been reported for this period in high-latitude regions of the northern hemisphere. "It now seems likely that some, as yet unknown, heat-transport mechanism comes into play during times of extreme global warmth."
Co-author Matt Huber, of Purdue University, Indiana, said the new findings were at least 10C higher than previous estimates, which indicated climate models had underestimated past warming episodes. "It is possible that models are also underestimating future warming projections."
Dr Hollis said research into extreme climatic changes in the past would benefit from New Zealand's recent decision to join the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme an international project extracting 2000-metre sediment cores from the ocean floor.
The recent findings, part of an eight-year study, will be presented at an international conference on climate change at Te Papa next month.
Funded by the New Zealand Government through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, the project involves an international team of 12 research scientists and graduate students.

Monday, December 29, 2008

UFO in Texas 2008

Possibly too good to be true, but its a damn cool clip all the same.

3 of 2008's best UFO videos

This year has seen three of the spookiest UFO videos surface, with people in India, Mexico and even in space, spotting things they couldn't explain.

Top Paranormal Events of 2008

By Stephen Wagner, About.com
From ghosts and monsters to psychic phenomena and demonic possession, 2008 was another year with no shortage of paranormal activity and unexplained strangeness. Here is a look back at the news stories that tend to make us wonder just what kind of reality we're living in -- the most unusual, intriguing and fascinating events of 2008. Good ghost photos are hard to come by, and we always have to view them with a skeptical eye since it's so easy to create fakes nowadays. However, there were a few intriguing ghost photos snapped this year that are worthy of attention. The best of them might be the ghost of Tewin Bury Farm, taken by designer Neil Sandbach while trying to get a photo for some wedding stationery. Victoria Iovan may have photographed the ghost of a tall woman in white at the Decebal hotel in Romania. Then in June, at Oxford Castle in the U.K., Keiron Brown captured the image of a dark figure in an underground crypt.

Ghosts and poltergeists made themselves known in various locations around the world. Businessman Anwar Rashid was so spooked by spirits that he abandoned his multi-million-dollar mansion near Nottingham, U.K. Paranormal investigators called it the "most active" place they had ever seen. And near Wollescote, U.K., the ghost of a little girl in Victorian clothes was blamed for distracting drivers and even causing accidents. And back in Romania, police blamed ghosts for vandalism to several homes. One witness said, "The windows started to break one by one. I saw two bicycles moving through the air on their own." Ghosts were attached to celebrities this year, including Joan Crawford, Ted Bundy, Ricky Gervais, and Jessica Alba.

The big Bigfoot story of 2008 was, of course, the ridiculous hoax perpetrated by two dolts in Georgia, who claimed they had a dead creature in a freezer and which turned out to be a costume. Meanwhile, the real Sasquatch stomped all over North America in 2008, triggering sightings: on Mount Cheam in British Columbia; in Northwestern Ontario; at Skiff Lake in Canada; on the Telkwa Highroad, Moricetown, British Columbia; on Highway 101, near Willits, California; and even near Redding in the U.K. And as far as physical evidence goes, researchers found and examined Yeti hair; several footprints, including in Nepal; and a rare fingerprint.

2008 marked the 75th anniversary of the first time the Loch Ness Monster was photographed way back on November 12, 1933 by Hugh Grey. Since then, more than 1,000 sightings have been claimed. As if to show up for the celebration, Nessie appeared in a new video captured in April by father and son David and Graham Garside. It's hard to say what the video actually shows, but it is something in the loch. And of course Nessie wasn't the only lake monster poking its head out of the water this past year. Ogopogo was seen several times since April in British Columbia's Okanagan Lake. And Sweden's lake monster, Storsjoe, was photographed by Gunnar Nilsson with a surveillance camera. A new expedition searched for Champ in Lake Champlain.

The unusual "creature" that received the widest viewing in 2008, thanks to YouTube and similar viral video outlets, was the so-called "Creepy Gnome", videoed in Salta, Argentina. It was most likely just a small person in a costume, but its weird side-stepping movement freaked out a lot of people. Creatures took to the air, as well. In the early hours of February 23, a driver in Pennsylvania was startled by a huge, bird-like thing that hovered above his vehicle. Living dinosaurs made appearances, too. In August, it was reported that a large, reptilian creature had been seen on several occasions in the 1990s and 2000s on Umbungi Island in West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. There were chupacabras sightings as well, in Michigan and Brazil.

Many of the top news stories concerning ESP, telepathy and psychokinesis focused on the research into these phenomena. We found out that the U.S. Army gave University of California researchers $4 million to look into computer-assisted "synthetic telepathy," and the Journal of Scientific Exploration examined connections between ESP and geomagnetic activity. There were interesting successes and failures by psychics: the Prophet Yahweh predicted that alien spaceships would appear on Oct. 31st (they didn't), and remote viewer Ed Dames said that aviator Steve Fossett's crashed airplane would be found in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California (it was). Other psychic masters claimed feats in telekinesis and cooking with brainwaves.

If reincarnation is a reality, would it be helpful to know who our new president was in a past life? Dr Walter Semkiw claimed that Barack Obama is the reincarnation of Lyman Trumbull, a Democratic Illinois Democratic senator and the principal author of the Thirteenth Amendment, which put an end to slavery in U.S. The Human Consciousness Project of the University of Southampton announced the AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study, the largest ever examination of the near-death experience (NDE), while doctors in the U.S. and Britain began a joint study of the out-of-body experience.
As for human enigmas, meet the girl who
spontaneously bleeds without being cut, and keep a heads up for those flying humanoids of Mexico.

The biggest story in the realm of religion and the paranormal broke when the Vatican said it was ok to believe in aliens. The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, The Vatican's chief astronomer, told the faithful that believing in aliens does not contradict faith in God. In August it was announced that a new scientific examination of the Shroud of Turin would try again to verify its age and place of origin. Meanwhile, the Devil reared his ugly head when a board-certified psychiatrist and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College claimed to document an authentic case of demonic possession.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Did an Angel Save Girl from Dying in Hospital?

Did an Angel Save Girl from Dying in Hospital? MSNBC
Did an angel provide the gift of life for a 14-year-old girl dying of pneumonia in a Charlotte, NC, hospital in September? The girl's mother thinks so, and there is video footage the mother thinks proves the presence of a supernatural being. There's more in
Photo Captures Image of an 'Angel' in Charlotte Hosptal.
Meanwhile, in other video anomaly news, a witness has made a MUFON Sighting Report: 'Alien' in Indiana - Photo

Sunday, December 21, 2008

There is a Bridge Connected to Infrastructure on Mars [Christian Mace]
Do these photos taken last year by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a bridge and adjacent "infrastructure" in the vicinity of Hellas Montes on the Martian surface? Is this evidence of artificial construction, or are the images showing natural formations?
Journalist Presents Evidence U.S. Shot Down ET Craft in 1947 [Superlife]
In a two-part video Linda Moulton Howe explains the research of former New Mexico State Representative Andrew Kissner into the 1947 Roswell event and subsequent UFO events involving the US military. The documentary states President Truman ordered military strikes against the unidentified craft and that the extraterrestrials aboard the craft retaliated. The presentation is a Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) documentation filmed in 2005. Has anything further been done with Andrew Kissner's investigation?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Otago: Eerie episodes haunt Kiwi castle

New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle is a fortress of Scottish baronial and Gothic revival-style architecture. Photo / Dean Purcell
by Sarah Lang
When the crew of TV2 series Ghost Hunt filmed at Larnach Castle in 2005, the ghostbusters captured what looked like a spectre on camera. And when fellow Kiwi show Spookers holed up in the "haunted stables" one night in June, they got so scared they moved sleeping quarters in the small hours. You could put these eerie experiences down to a bunch of overexcited TV personalities and a trick of the light, but there's a few other encounters to explain.
There's been close to 30 reported sightings of cranky spirits, not to mention touches, pushing and other odd occurrences at the castle. Tasty bait for US show Ghost Hunters International, whose paranormal investigators filmed there in March as part of an attempt to debunk claims of supernatural activity in the world's most notorious haunted spots. The camera zoomed in on what sure looked like a ghost in the ballroom.
William Larnach, I presume. Given the tragic history of Larnach and his family (the castle's original inhabitants), if anywhere in our juvenile country was going to be haunted, this would be it.
In 1871 bank bigwig William Larnach moved from Australia to Dunedin with wife Eliza, their four children and Eliza's sister Mary. His choice of a remote hilltop for their new home didn't please the grim-faced Eliza (while the castle is just 20 minutes' drive from Dunedin now, it was utterly isolated in the pre-road colonial era).
After producing two more children, Eliza died suddenly of a stroke at 38 - whereupon William promptly married her younger, prettier sister, Mary, who also died at 38 of blood poisoning. By now a merchant baron and MP, William married for a third time aged 57: this time to pretty Constance, who at 35 was his children's contemporary.
Five years on in 1898, William wasn't a happy chap. Already teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and inconsolable after the death of favourite daughter Kate, he opened a letter which contained news of his adored wife's affair with his son Douglas. William promptly shot himself in a parliament chamber, aged 62. After scrapping over his unsigned will, the family disbanded, selling off the castle which was used as a home for shell-shocked soldiers and as a mental hospital. In 1967 the Barker family bought it and restored the building, grounds and old furniture and have cared for the castle ever since.
The Barkers don't dismiss rumours of a ghostly presence. Apparently William keeps an eye on the lower floor - he's particularly fond of the ballroom and the billiards room - while Eliza keeps mournful watch upstairs.
Whatever your take on the supernatural, there's many more reasons to visit New Zealand's only castle. Guarded by massive stone lions and carved eagles, it's a magnificent blend of Scottish-baronial and Gothic revival-style architecture, combining Italian marble, Venetian glass, Welsh slate, English tiles and native New Zealand rimu and kauri. Slanted by the weight of the central hanging-spiral staircase, the four-floor castle is so vast and sprawling that we were glad of our map and tour guide, who filled us in on the history of the family. The elaborate dining room with its antique furniture, heavy chandeliers and waiter's mirror (he couldn't, of course, watch the diners directly) is still used for guest dinners. And its ornate ceiling is so intricately carved with cherubs and the like that they seem wasted in a room where you're not lying down looking up.
William and his wives slept in separate bedrooms, where the seemingly child-size beds are testament to how much smaller people used to be. They were also much smellier - each room had a chamber pot and dips in the one-tonne marble bath were few and far between (by the time the maid had lugged up enough pots of water, the bath would be cold).
By tour's end, I could almost see the Larnachs disappearing into their respective rooms after dinner: the women to the chaise lounge in the drawing room, the men to the library. But we're told we can't leave without checking out the tower, which is as medieval-looking as it sounds.
The incredibly-narrow, winding staircase is well worth the squeeze: up top we're greeted by a sweeping panorama of ocean, harbour and coastline, all the way from the environs of Dunedin to the peninsula's lighthouse-capped tip. In the foreground are Larnach Castle's 14ha grounds with their south seas, rock and heather gardens, native plant trail, fern walk, wishing well and boutique-lodge accommodation.
The glorious views don't end there. Driving northwards away from the castle on the harbour-hugging road, it's tempting to glance away from the wheel to the aquamarine sea, sweep of beaches and hills shading from green to purple. At intervals along the road, sleepy villages huddle in sheltered bays.
Just a kilometre or so down the road from the wee settlement of Portobello is the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre and Aquarium, an underexposed gem where we took a virtual submarine ride and marvelled at sea creatures like the Pinocchio-nosed bellowfish which changes colour at whim.
At the peninsula's end is Taiaroa Head, a former Maori pa turned military fort (established in the 1880s to counter the perceived threat of a Tsarist Russian invasion). Nowadays it's a museum where you can stroll through old tunnels and check out the Armstrong Disappearing Gun, which can be fired from underground.
But it's wildlife, not weapons, that is the main attraction on this small headland. The peninsula is home to a colony of yellow-eyed penguins at Penguin Place and seals and sea lions can be spotted sleeping in the sun on eastern clifftops. Also, check out the Royal Albatross Centre, a bastion of New Zealand's only mainland breeding colony. Plenty of tours, on land and water, offer a close-up gander.
Driving south along the harbour mouth back to Dunedin, I realise I have a whole different perspective on where the city slots into its landscape: at the nape of a peninsula with some spectacular views and wondrous wildlife. Jury's still out on the ghosts.
Further information: Larnach Castle has its own website at
www.larnachcastle.co.nz. You can get information about the Otago Peninsula at www.otago-peninsula.co.nz and about visiting Dunedin at www.dunedinnz.com