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.
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