2005 was another banner year for the unknown. Here are 10 of the top paranormal events.
1. Animals' Sixth Sense
After the devastating tsunami struck the coastlines of the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, reports began to filter in that although many human bodies were recovered, virtually no animal carcasses were found. Why? Did the animals sense the impending disaster? A full hour before the waves struck, it was reported, elephants became agitated and began to wail. As the disaster neared, many broke their chains and headed for higher ground. Flamingos left their breeding grounds and flew to the safety of the forests. Leopards, tigers, wild boar, deer, water buffalo, monkeys and smaller mammals and reptiles all escaped unharmed. All this suggested that animals might possess a "sixth sense" or "sense of doom" - a heightened instinct - that saved their lives. French zoologists, seeking a scientific explanation, suggested that it was a more advanced acoustic system that allowed the animals to hear the approaching giant surges of water.
- As further evidence that dogs, at least, have remarkably keen senses, CBS News reported on certain canines that have the uncanny ability to sniff out cancer in people.
2. Paranormal TV
The abundance of television shows with paranormal themes in the 2005-06 season was itself news. The public, it seems, is craving entertainment with overtones of the unknown. Series such as Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer, Invasion and Night Stalker all made their debut, with Ghost Hunters and Most Haunted returning for loyal viewers. The breakaway hit, however, was the well-written and acted Medium, based on the real-life psychic medium Allison Dubois. The show's popularity helped turn the media spotlight on other mediums and psychics, such as Janna Excell and Jo'Ann Ruhl, Nancy Myer and Mary Ann Winkowski, who is said to have inspired Ghost Whisperer.
- Kelsey Grammer, former star of Frasier and current producer of Medium, claims to have his own contact with the dead, including a 2,000-year-old ghost he knows as Alex. And he's not the only one in Hollywood to admit that ability in 2005. Pop singer Olivia Newton-John says she received signs from her deceased mother, and in February Keanu Reeves told reporters he has seen ghosts on at least two occasions.
3. Technology and the Paranormal
Believing in ghosts, the afterlife and other things unseen is one thing, proving their existence is quite another. While ghost investigators around the world continued to experiment with electronic voice phenomena (EVP) - alleged voices of the dead - inventors were busy creating gadgets that they claimed could detect or even contact the dearly departed. In January, a German inventor unveiled his Phone Angel, a cell phone device he said would allow the mourning to contact the recently deceased. Meanwhile, Japanese manufacturer SolidAlliance presented GhostRadar, which they said blinked its lights and beeped its tones in the presence of the unseen. And in December, mechanical engineer Steve Watson announced his spirit sensor that similarly flashes and chimes when ghosts are near, he says.
But the top story, in a more serious vein perhaps, was that mainstream scientists continued to experiment with how the mind alone can affect machines - essentially proving that psi exists. In July, a new article reported on the 26-year-old project at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) program, which has measured the effects of human consciousness on random number generators. And a black box in the basement of Edinburgh University in Scotland, as well as other locations around the world, are part of the Global Consciousness Project, a network of machines that has shown how human consciousness has reacted to such events as the Sept. 11 attack. (Also see "The Consciousness of the World".) Other scientists were proving that blind people can "see" with a sixth sense, that people can subconsciously sense trouble, and that certain stimuli to the brain can trigger (or mimic) what some people have reported as supernatural religious experiences and out-of-body experiences.
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