Tag Archives: science

216 – The Blood of Bathory: Parabiosis, Vampire Facials, and The World’s Most Evil Woman

When The Bye Bye Man author Robert Damon Schneck told us about how he was surprised that people all the way up until the 19th Century believed in the healing power of blood, the first person I thought of was the infamous “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, a woman allegedly so depraved that she would bathe in the blood of virgins that she killed just because she believed it made her skin look younger. 

Ya gotta admit, she does look like a psycho in this portrait

What a silly idea, I’ve always thought. How primitive and savage, how absolutely barbaric and unscientific. Blood can’t make you feel and look younger and it certainly can’t make you live forever like a vampire. But that’s where I was wrong, and maybe the Blood Countess was right. 

If Kim Kardashian killed people for her beauty, at least she’d be famous for something else besides being famous…

They do have a special skin therapy called a platelet-rich plasma treatment where they use blood plasma and something terrifyingly called “micro-needling” (which operates exactly how it sounds). Kim Kardashian hash tagged hers as a “Vampire Facial” when she did it originally. It works by damaging the skin with the micro-needling and then using the blood, which contains natural healing factors that will supposedly rejuvenate the skin by activating more of its own healing factors all the time. Does it work? Well, the jury is out. But could Bathory have been onto something? 

Well, the whole “bathing in blood” thing is an exaggeration. That didn’t even enter the legend until the mid-Nineteenth Century. Bathory was born in 1560 and was part of one of the most wealthy and powerful families in Hungary. In fact, the family name was so powerful that her husband, who came from the second-most powerful family in Hungary, took her last name instead of making her take his. 

It was claimed that she was the world’s most prolific serial killer, ending the lives of over 650 young girls, whose families had entrusted them to be in the service and protection of the countess. But with a life intertwined with war, politics, intrigue, the everyday cruelty of masters and serfs, the truth behind her crimes is much more complex than I was originally led to believe. While we can’t quite redeem the lady’s reputation (she probably was a sadist and killed some people), we can at least put into doubt her status as the Most Evil Woman in the World. 

That’s some straight up Human Centipede stuff on these mice…

Sure, but is there anything to the idea that young blood can heal an older person? Yeah, there is, it’s actually far less barbaric than I thought. Parabiosis means “living next to each other”. Think about the word symbiosis, it’s a similar idea, but in symbiosis it’s just two creatures with a special relationship that they both get something out of. In parabiosis the two creatures are actually next to each other, sharing blood, and it was explored through research where they connected the bloodstreams by literally stitching together an older mouse and a younger mouse. But what they discovered that young blood helps rejuvenate old tissue. It works!

This showed up in the news because in 2016 Gawker-buster and PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel had mentioned that he was interested in conquering death, on not just fighting aging, but trying to live forever. In one article he’s quoted as mentioning he’s interested in parabiosis. A later article claims that his company might be interested in a  particular startup, Ambrosia Medical, who was leading the way with transfusing young blood to old people.

Ambrosia is the food of the gods in Greek Mythology and we all know that Gods are immortal. Ambrosia is also the name of the chocolate factory where Jeffrey Dahmer used to work and he’s another guy that believed that if you ingested part of another person, that they gave you their power. So, I guess that name is appropriate in more ways than one. 

Fast forward to 2018 and Ambrosia is planning on opening a physical location in New York before the end of the year. Only $8,000 can get you a transfusion of some young blood. It’s a 180-degree turn from our disgust at Elizabeth Bathory. Now we’re not shocked about older people getting transfusions of young blood to reverse the aging process, now we’re going to pay for the privilege.  

So, in this episode we cover:

  • The fate of Elizabeth Bathory and her strange assistants
  • Why Bathory might have been framed for her enemies’ political gain
  • The ancient beliefs in how the blood of someone strong can help the sick
  • The parabiosis experiments that led to the modern Ambrosia Medical facility
  • Why vampire facials might not be a good idea

The story of Elizabeth Bathory puts the situation of a noblewoman and a serf in Sixteenth Century Europe into extreme contrast. The real sick thing about Elizabeth wasn’t that she was given to sadistic proclivities or that she was bathing in blood, it was that she was born into the power over life and death of another human being. That lives were subject to the whims of her capriciousness. Her accomplices were tortured and killed while she was merely sentenced to life imprisonment and walled up in her own castle. The difference between noble and peasant is what really sticks out as the injustice. People didn’t do anything because she was a noblewoman, she was allowed to indulge her sickest instincts because of politics. And when you blame the system, that means everyone involved is a little dirty with “The Blood of Bathory”.

Who’s the most wicked woman to live in this world?
Who bathes in the blood of the all the innocent girls

Get wet.

He turned a blind eye but the King he could see
Murder for pleasure in the family tree

Indulge
the aristocracy
for every hand is wet with
the blood of Bathory

Pins under fingernails or a
a honey roasted feast
you only matter as much
as your ancestry
the tribes will battle
the ruling class will speechify,
we’ll watch the fireworks
as the little people die.

Who’s the wickedest woman to ever live in this world?
Who bathes in the blood of the all the innocent girls

Indulge
the aristocracy
for every hand is wet with
the blood of Bathory

195 – Anthropology and the Paranormal: Engaging The Anomalous with Dr. Jack Hunter

Since the last time we talked with paranthropologist Jack Hunter, he’s become a Doctor. So congratulations  to this hard-working academic! His new book, Engaging the Anomalous: Collected Essays on Anthropology, the Paranormal, Mediumship and Extraordinary Experience is coming out this week and for those of you who are interested in learning about the universality of paranormal experiences across cultures, this is the book you want!

engaging the anomalous

Seeing that there was a lack of academic resources that brought together the anthropological approaches to paranormal beliefs and systems (and indeed what I remember from my university days is that we just talked about it in Folklore class), he came up with Paranthropology which is an awesome (and free so you can read it right now!) online academic journal dealing with it. 

Things we learned from our latest conversation:

  • The world’s most famous anthropologist Margaret Mead was instrumental in getting the Parapsychological Association into the American Association for the Advancement of Science (we mention her in our track “Cannibal”!)
  • Sir E.B. Tylor, thought of as the founder of anthropology, had his own paranormal experience (but was ashamed to admit it, because he was a hardcore evolutionist!)
  • Anthropologists have been reporting paranormal experiences for centuries now but that never seems to come up in the discussion
  • There is many ways to explain supernatural or paranormal occurrences and everyone seems to think their explanation is right, but Jack’s more interested in looking at all of them and how they intersect
  • What we think about paranormal events has more to do with the environment and the planet’s ecology then we often think of. We think of the spirit world as “supernatural” but maybe we can think of it as just another part of nature and our environment.
  • Allison brought up the Kogi people, who raise their Shamen in dark caves for nine years to make their senses more attuned to the spirit world (even that maybe something dramatized for a movie…)
  • There’s lots of talk about the universality of these experiences. What is it about spirituality that makes it so fundamentally human across all cultures?

Jack has also started an educational podcast that you can enjoy on YouTube that connects some of his philosophy on ecology and permaculture (which is the idea of creating agricultural systems that are sustainable and self-sufficient). It’s called “One School One Planet”.

You can also find Doctor Jack Hunter’s latest work, blogposts, and appearances on his website.

Something that really struck me from his book, is having to deal with an academic community that treats the paranormal as hokum. As the forward of Dr. Hunter’s book, Engaging The Anomalous says, there are probably only less than 5 people in the Unites States who make a living as a parapsychological researcher at a university. As someone who dreamed of that as a young man (parapsychology was always my backup plan in case the band didn’t pan out, yeah, guess I was thinking ahead<cough>). the idea that there’s no universities in the United States that are going for parapsychological research while there were several working labs in the 80s shows that we’ve gone backwards when it comes to open minds in our academic communities instead of forwards.

We thought this might be the perfect opportunity to breakout  our song about what it feels like when you go up seemingly immovable objects, sometimes it’s hard to try to be the irresistible force, which we sing about in “Path of Most Resistance”.

I should’ve been an athlete,
but my knees were too weak.
I should’ve been a scholar,
instead of a pubcrawler.
I should’ve moved to California,
like the Chili Peppers said.
I should’ve read more Tony Robbins,
and tried to get ahead.

Every time I try I fail,
I’m Jonah and I’m stuck inside this,
Whale of a time we’ll never have together.
Oh, woe is me.

On the path of most resistance,
Carry on banging my head against the wall.
Keep the world at shouting distance,
There’s no safety net and I’m in freefall.

I should’ve been a rocker,
but never took my chances.
I’m finally on my own now,
like I broke Piggy’s glasses.
Somedays I’m just miserable,
and others I feel boned.
I should’ve been something special,
but instead, I just got pwned.

Every time I try I fail,
I’m Jonah and I’m stuck inside this,
Whale of a time we’ll never have together.
Oh, woe is me.

On the path of most resistance,
Carry on banging my head against the wall.
Keep the world at shouting distance,
There’s no safety net and I’m in freefall.

It’s unacceptable.
It’s unreliable,
in@#$%ingcredible,
unjustifiable.
I’m in crisis mode,
and always on the run,
Starbucks to wake up,
pass out to Ketel One.
Have you tasted loco?
Your mind won’t let you go,
you can’t sit still, you can’t think,
worst-case scenario.
I *HEART* MELANCHOLY.
I love to curse my luck.
My finger’s on the button,
that says self-destruct.

Every time I try I fail,
I’m Jonah and I’m stuck inside this,
Whale of a time we’ll never have together.
Oh, woe is me.

On the path of most resistance,
Carry on banging my head against the wall.
Keep the world at shouting distance,
There’s no safety net and I’m in freefall.

I love to flirt with failure,
I love to make it tough.
Take the hardest way,
close but not close enough.

On the path of most resistance,
Carry on banging my head against the wall.
Keep the world at shouting distance,
There’s no safety net and I’m in freefall.

194 – Real Magic: The Secret Power of the Universe with Dean Radin, PhD

When it comes to psi research and bravely holding the torch against the encroaching darkness of materialism, Dean Radin, PhD is the man who has stood at the forefront. His work as a scientist researching psychic phenomena in the lab while being a spokesperson for approaching psychic phenomena from a scientific perspective is inspiring. Since 2001, he has been the chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (founded by Dr. Edgar Mitchell, who we profiled when he passed away in 2016.) His latest book is Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe deserves a spot in your library because it shows how magic might actually work.

real magic
The Audible version of Dean’s new book, Real Magic is narrated by the same guy that does the Dan Brown novels, so it’s about as exciting as non-fiction gets!

In this interview, Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts and I cover these topics with Dean and if you’re interested in any of the following, then you’re going to go bananas about our conversation.

  • What is the best scientific evidence proving psychic powers like psychokinesis and telepathy?
  • Are magic rituals necessary?
  • What is the gnosis state and how do you get there?
  • How can people use magic in their everyday life?
  • What level of data do you think is needed to prove psi to the mainstream scientific community?

In the lab, psychic powers aren’t measured like in The X-Men, it’s tiny things, like influencing a random number generator or being able to change a photon particle that happens. But that’s what really made me think about how magic can be real. Sure, we might not be able to manifest a car out of thin air or with magic words, but we can certainly influence small things every day that will eventually have big results. Our thoughts can have physical effects and we’re not quite sure why that is, yet. So we need to align our thoughts with what we want, because it will have a real affect on us. Roald Dahl might have said it best in The Twits:

“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

One of the most interesting things in our conversation that I found was the discussion of how fragile belief can be. As Dean says when he talks about keeping your magic to yourself, “Just an arched eyebrow can ruin it”.  In a world where nothing feels sacred anymore, we have to create that sense of sanctity on our own, free from ridicule. I mean that’s why religions have heresy and have punished it so severely, because they want to create that sense of sanctity and make it so important that you fear breaking it. What does it mean for things to be sacred and how can we create that in our lives?

We laugh along with Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley character, but why do affirmations work? When you just say the words it just seems silly. It’s more than just the words, it’s the power that you can give them by making them sacred to you. That’s the potential of belief and using the strength of your will, the secret power of the universe, to make real magic happen

That’s the idea behind this week’s song, that just saying some words and just going through the motions isn’t going to cut it. You need to believe, you need to have a sense of the sacred, no matter what it is. You need more than just “Magic Words”.

Sacrifice a virgin
or tear a beast apart
it’s all just a fool’s errand
if you don’t have the heart
Bubble bubble toil and trouble
open sesame
In the lab Abracadab
I create as I speak
Somethings strangeo presto changeo
synchronicity
and the hocus pocus where you focus
is no guarantee
It takes more than magic words to cast a spell on me
It takes more than magic words oh you need to believe
Talk is cheap, promises free
If you want to change reality
It takes more than  magic words to cast a spell on me
Kiss your rabbit’s foot
say the sacred rite
don’t you know it’s just for show
if you don’t trust your mind.
Bubble bubble toil and trouble
open sesame
In the lab Abracadab
I create as I speak
Somethings strangeo presto changeo
synchronicity
and the hocus pocus where you focus
is no guarantee
It takes more than magic words to cast a spell on me
It takes more than magic words oh you need to believe
Talk is cheap, promises free
If you want to change reality
It takes more than magic words to cast a spell on me

132 – Paranthropology: An Interview with Jack Hunter

From Near-Death Experiences to spirit possession, Jack Hunter has been finding the commonalities of paranormal experiences from cultures all over the world. As a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol in Anthropology, Jack has devoted his academic and professional life to understanding how different peoples across the planet use ritual, ceremony, to alter their states of consciousness to interpret the world and their place in it.

jack hunter paranthropology
Fancy a pint with British Jesus?

Jack Hunter’s journal, Paranthropology has been publishing since 2010  and it’s a free online academic journal that features articles written by researchers  interested in exploring the paranormal through  a social science lens.

In this interview where Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts once again joins us, we discuss the importance of ritual in many societies, how we’re missing out on a lot of those rituals and ceremonies in modern Western Civilization, and how those rituals can help induce psychic and paranormal experiences (and also, how psychedelic substances from Magic Mushrooms to LSD to Ayahuasca can accelerate or shortcut the process.)

Jack even takes us through a modern psychic medium experience that he wrote about for his original dissertation and how the present-day Spiritualist experience is alike to the classic Victorian and Edwardian seances that we envision from TV and movies.

jack hunter paraanthropology
Jack Hunter doing the academic thing and giving a presentation!

A big concepts of this episode is about feeling connected to a place. In Wales where Jack lives, he talks about the folk tales of a dragon in every valley or just how so much of the small towns have so much history and folklore. For example, a modern geologist will talk about a rock formation that was left by a glacier,  the folk tale might be that giants left the rocks there. They’re two different ways of trying to understand why your environment is the way it is, and while they’re very different explanations, they’re also two different ways of reaching a truth that you feel comfortable with.

Jack has edited and written several books on the subject as well, and with titles like The Paranormal: Why People Believe in Spirits, Gods, and Magic and Talking With The Spirits, and of course, Paranthropology: Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal, if you enjoy the interview, you’re going to want to check those books out to learn more.

One of the intriguing concepts that Jack discusses in this episode is “Ontological Flooding” which is the concept that when you are exploring a phenomena or even just your relationship to your environment around you, to embrace all possibilities. Consider the materialist aspect (the physicality of it), the spiritual aspect (how it affects you emotionally), the mythic aspect (what is the story of the place you’re at) , and how those things all contribute to understanding it.

Ontology is the “study of being” and ontological flooding is the idea that you will let all the information in and not judging the information as “crazy” or “magical thinking” but synthesizing all of it to find a way of living that excites you and a way of finding and accepting your place in not only the ecological system, but of the story, of a big world. This episode’s Sunspot song  is called “The Flood”.

A subtle change and your head spins
flip of the switch, it all makes sense
an arrogance you can pretend,
To reduce it to just elements.

Synapses fire
with chemistry
But we can break up
reality
to share far more
Than flesh and blood
A new way of knowing
Here comes the flood

When you’re in the space that’s in between
You can redefine what you believe
No time to waste
no place to judge
Better get ready for the flood.

Look for who’s pulling your strings,
Are you just defined by your things?
Embrace what this knowledge brings,
And this is where the balance swings.

Synapses fire
with chemistry
But we can break up
reality
to share far more
Than flesh and blood
New way of knowing
Here comes the flood

When you’re in the space that’s in between
You can redefine what you believe
No time to waste
No place to judge
Better get ready for the flood.
Better get ready for the flood.

52 – Music and The Brain: How Sound Affects the Mind and Body

The episode starts with our trip to Bray Road near Delavan, Wisconsin which is where the legendary “Beast of Bray Road” was seen. We talked about the beast in Episode 51 – American Monsters: An Interview with Linda Godfrey and since we were in Delavan, Wisconsin performing with our band, Sunspot on Friday, we thought that this was our golden opportunity.

It was right around 10pm when we got there and it is a dark, dark place and it’s a pretty isolated road with only a few houses and surrounded by woods and cornfields.  There wasn’t a moon and it was super dark out. It was just the usual rural Wisconsin sounds of crickets, a couple of well-placed moos, and what sounded like a screaming bird (that was kinda scary).

Bray and Plank Road, Wisconsin

We took a stop at the intersection and wandered to the sign to get a picture. I saw some tail lights in the distance and I can see how someone might mistake them for the red glowing eyes of a wild beast, but really they were just tail lights. Either way, it was a fun little trip and it was nice to go “on location” after interviewing Linda less than a week beforehand.

Bray Road, Wisconsin
Mike and Wendy take a selfie with the Beast!

So, this week’s topic however, is music and the brain and specifically, how music and sound can actually have a physical effect on you. We start the conversation with the obvious, how music can assist you with athletic performance. Wendy talks about how she likes to listen to techno while she runs and I agree (my man, Deekron – The Fitness DJ has gotten me through plenty of runs!) But then we remember Jazzercise and if you don’t know what you’re talking about, then this little piece of the 80s is gonna hit you like a runaway train…

There’s research that shows music can enhance mood, but I think we all kind of believe in that. After all, we’re always listening to certain songs to increase our athletic performance or when we want to get really pumped up about something. But also that people who are frustrated in life tend to find music that amplifies their frustration. I had a roommate in my last year of college who was an ex-convict that hated his job but he loved Limp Bizkit. Coincidence? I think not!

Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit
Sorry about making radio suck for a couple years there…

I recalled something from the late 90s called “The Mozart Effect”, which was research that showed listening to classical music could make you smarter and the reason that it was in the news was because Georgia governor, Zell Miller, thought it’d be a good idea to actually put an item in the state budget for giving free classical music CDs to infants – yeah, that was a thing. But the research shows that listening to classical music right before taking a standard IQ test can actually help with some of the questions. So, while that was ridiculous, they might be onto something.

The Mozart Effect
No, Mom! Mozart makes you smart, Kanye makes you dumb!

We also talk about the healing effects of music and how it has been shown to help people control pain, stimulate antibody production, assist with the release of endorphins, and the research shows that music helps slow breathing and heartbeat. In fact, it doesn’t matter what the genre of music is (unless you’re a picky bastard like me), it’s the tempo that determines how fast your breathing and heartbeat adapts, it could be any genre from heavy metal to polka, it’s the tempo that counts.

They’re currently working on something called vibroacoustic therapy as well, to help people with Parkinson’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, and depression. They liken the therapy to sitting on the best studio subwoofer ever (but all I could think about was the subwoofer scene from Howard Stern’s movie, Private Parts, which I’m not linking to here because while it’s pretty funny, it’s definitely NSFW!)

One of the most powerful viral videos of the past couple of years was watching an elderly Alzheimer’s video listening to music of his youth and going from virtually comatose to alive and excited. It shows that music can stimulate brains that we can’t reach through speech and even medication. It was a beautiful thing to see and they even made a movie about the phenomena called Alive Inside about research into using music to help Alzheimer’s patients.

While music can be used as medicine, it doesn’t even have tom be melody to affect the brain, simple frequencies can certainly do it as well.  For example, binaural beats occur when you play two slightly different frequencies at the same time (one into each ear) and the brain actually processes it as like one sound and it produces a strobing effect. It was discovered back in the mid-19th Century but serious research wasn’t really done on them until the 1970s.  Now, some people say that they can simulate the effects of drugs, help people diet or quit smoking, assist in memorization, etc… but the evidence there is a little flimsy.

A few years  back teenagers were said to be getting “high” on listening to binaural beats and they’d post their exploits online, it was all pretty silly, but one thing we know for sure is that binaural beats can help with something called “brainwave entrainment”. That’s when you listen to a stimulus with a frequency, the brainwaves tend to go towards that frequency themselves so it helps put people’s minds into different states from Gamma wave production (like when we’re active and doing things) all the way down to Delta (the deepest sleep and meditation, where you forget your body). Binaural beats can help induce those states (and more on that when we get to our song.)

And speaking of brainwaves the Netflix/Wachowski (and J. Michael Straczynski from Babylon 5 and The Real Ghostbusters!) TV show, Sense8, debuted this summer. It’s about people across the globe telepathically connected and they made a song out of the frequencies produced by the brainwaves of eight people who had binge watched the program. It’s not the catchiest song in the world, but it’s still pretty sweet!

 

And for the coup de grace for this episode, Wendy reminded me of the greatest pop culture example of music affecting the brain called The Brown Note, where the characters discovered a certain frequency that could make people involuntarily poop their pants. I can’t believe I forgot about that one, it’s a classic!

This week’s song is an ambient track with binaural beats, every 8 measures of the song moves the binaural beats frequencies to try and entrain your brain from Gamma (>40 HZ), Beta (13-39 Hz), Alpha (7-13 Hz), Theta (4-7 Hz), and all the way down to Delta (<3 Hz), and then slowly back out. Take a listen and let us know what you think!