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Posted on Tuesday, July 25 - 2006

Call it "The Passion of the Maya": Mel Gibson is quietly filming a movie in a Mexican jungle about the collapsed civilization. Given Gibson's cinematic history, experts on the ancient Maya are looking forward to his upcoming epic, "Apocalypto," with a mixture of curiosity and dread. They're pleased that Hollywood will feature a period of world history still little understood but worry that once again a movie may sacrifice historical accuracy for the sake of a good story."A lot depends on how well they depict the Maya. It may serve as a really good springboard into a lecture," saysarchaeologist Lisa Lucero of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

"Or it may be something we have to nip in the bud in that first lecture."Gibson wasn't available for comment, and the public relations firm for his Icon Productions declined to offer any details on the film's plot.But according to the film's website, "Apocalypto" promises "a heart-stopping mythic action-adventure set against the turbulent end-times of the once-great Mayan civilization." The story centers on a kidnapped hero's bid to escape a mass sacrifice at one Maya center. According to another description of the plot in Time magazine's March preview, a ruler orders the mass sacrifice of hapless captives toappease the gods and avert a drought.The only problem, and big cause for worry among archaeologists, is "the classic Maya really didn't go in for mass sacrifice," Lucero says. "That was the Aztecs." Other concerns: the modern-day Mayan Yucatec language spoken in the film is not the language of the ancient Maya, and the film's Mexican shooting locale is not the classic Maya homeland, says Penn State archaeologist David Webster.

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Posted on Monday, April 27 - 2009

The Spirit of Dr. Bindelof: the Enigma of Séance Phenomena, by Dr. Rosemarie Pilkington features the story of a little known episode of physical mediumship that took place among a group of teenage boys in New York City in the 1930’s. Dr. Pilkington is a musician, writer, and educator with a PhD in psychology from Saybrook Institute. She befriended one of the members of this sitter group, Gilbert Roller, later in his life and presents his autobiographical account of the boys’ experimentation with séance phenomena, and their contact with an alleged spirit named Dr. Bindelof.Gilbert recalled his childhood home life as “monstrous and terrible” (p. 7). Early in the story, we learn that he was the focus of an outbreak of poltergeist activity in his home. Gil’s mother was absent much of the time, and she and her husband (Gil’s stepfather) fought often. When Gil was about 12 or 13, the family heard sounds from his mother’s bedroom and found hairpins that had apparently flown from the dresser and hit the door. Wooden knobs from her shoe tree came off and were flung across the room. As the phenomena progressed, dishes would come crashing off the counters, and the words ‘GO GO’ were found crayoned in huge letters on the wall. These and other events prompted Gil’s father to call in the well known psychical researcher, Howard Carrington, to investigate. Later, Gil joined his mother in evening séances in which minor events occurred in his presence. Eventually, he started his own sitter group along with some of his teenage friends, including the late Montague Ullman, who later became a psychiatrist and parapsychologist and founder of the Dream Laboratory at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, New York (whose own account of the sittings can be found here). The boys were dedicated to the task of facilitating paranormal phenomena and met regularly on Saturday nights for several years. Among the phenomena they reported were table levitations, raps, direct voice phenomena, direct writing, and communications with a ‘spirit’ by the name of Dr. Bindelof, who provided healing and medical advice. On the front of the book is a portrait of Dr. Bindelof, taken under the very specific guidance of the communicator. Gilbert and Pilkington seem to agree that.

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Posted on Sunday, June 29 - 2008


Copyright © The Boston Globe

All of a sudden, late on a moonlit June night, the assault began. Flying rocks - hundreds of them. Some the size of apples; some weighing as much as 8 pounds; others blazing hot, as if retrieved from a fire. During the four-hour onslaught, launched by invisible attackers, stones pummeled the tavern walls, coming in like a horizontal rain. They plummeted down the chimney. They seemed to clatter out of nowhere on the ceiling. They shattered windows.The attack ceased at dawn, but others spontaneously erupted - always rocks, always thrown by unseen hands - over the summer of 1682 on Great Island, a boxy, 512-acre spot of land nowknown as New Castle, N.H. As far as witchcraft cases go, this siege is nowhere near the most notorious - nothing seems to be able to rival the stamina of the Salem Witch Trials - and in fact, it's become little more than a historical footnote.Still, to Salem State College history professor Emerson Baker, who has written a book on the incident, it is a perfect petri dish from which to analyze witchcraft hysteria in early New England. "I did something no one in Salem has done before: I wrote a book about witchcraft that isn't about Salem," 49-year-old Baker said, sitting on a patio behind his 200-year-old white colonial in York, Maine.

"Witchcraft is a timeless crime."
But it is also, in many cases, fueled by much more than fears of spirits or the wrath of Lucifer. As Bakerexplains in his 207-page tome, "The Devil of Great Island," although people firmly believed in witchcraft, incidents linked to it were most often the result of a swirl of politics, religion, and property disputes. For starters, let us describe the "victim," 67-year-old George Walton. He was: A Quaker - a group that always raised suspicion because, although they worshiped God, they didn't follow strict Puritan beliefs. A royalist - he supported England, bristling other colonists. A rowdy tavern owner - drunken, boisterous sailors from all over the world populated his salty establishment. Most of all, a contentious man. He was "a graspy, greedy neighbor" involved in all kinds of land quibbles, explained Baker. With allthese affronts,&q......

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Posted on Tuesday, December 11 - 2007

The Golden Compass

Copyright © Times Online

The religious furore surrounding the new film The Golden Compass has moved to the US where Christian groups are again up in arms about the content of the dark fantasy which is released in America this Friday. The Catholic League, which has already called for people to boycott the film in the UK, has been sending out leaflets denouncing the movie, which is based on the book Northern Lights, from Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy.The League’s president, William Donohue, has criticised The Golden Compass, which stars Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and Dakota Blue Richards, as being anti-religious.Thebooks are a fantasy trilogy which trace the fate of a young girl, Lyra, as she becomes drawn into an apocalyptic battle of good against evil.

Evil in Pullman’s books is represented by the church, called the Magisterium, whose acolytes kidnap orphans across England to subject them to horrible experiments in the frozen northern wastelands.
“The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books,” said Mr Donohue. “Unsuspecting parents who take their children to see the movie may be impelled to buy the three books as a Christmas present. And no parent who wants to bring their children up in the faith will want any part of these books.” In a review of The Golden Compass, the US Conference of CatholicBishops warned of the movie’s “anti-clerical subtext, standard genre occult elements, character born out of wedlock, a whisky-guzzling bear". But it also said that “taken purely on its own cinematic terms, [it] can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism." The Golden Compass opens in the UK tomorrow, and the US on Friday. In the US the film will be released in some 3,000 cinemas and according to the US film industry magazine Variety, only 60 have so far refused to screen it. Last week Pullman described his detractors as “nitwits”. “To regard it as this Donohue man has said - that I'm a militant atheist, and my intention is to convert people - how the hell does heknow t......

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