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Psychics Harrass Father Of Disappeared Claremont Girl

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on August 31, 2008


Yes, I’m still at Dragon*Con, actually missing Phil Plait’s speech all about his new book. Just got back from manning the table at the other hotel, for Skepticality.

Since I’ve seen enough of Plait around the conference already (even observed him giving Michael Stackpole a copy of his ’still got a few edits’ new book!) – meh. I’ll ask Richard Saunders for the rundown, as he’s attending. I need a coffee more.

Especially after reading this. I used to work in the same town where the serial killer operated – many thanks to Andy D for the tip – From The Western Australian Newspaper:

The father of Claremont serial killer victim Sarah Spiers has described how he fell into chronic depression because of harassment by clairvoyants who demanded money to help find his daughter.

Don Spiers detailed his harrowing experience yesterday as police continued to field phone calls from the public after the release on Thursday of security footage of another victim, Jane Rimmer, speaking to an unidentified man moments before she disappeared.

Mr Spiers, who has long been reluctant to speak to the media, was candid yesterday about his emotional and mental trauma.

He said up to 400 psychics and clairvoyants from across the world had contacted him since Sarah disappeared on January 27, 1996.

He said they were offering false information and “looking to make a name for themselves or get money”.

He had been so desperate to find his daughter in the first six months after she disappeared that he had listened to the “shysters” and often followed their instructions.

“They hounded me to death,” Mr Spiers said.

“I’d be getting it every day. It was just an onslaught.

“They were sending me to certain locations, just running me around. They were telling me all sorts of things. They’d give me cryptic clues.

“They had my emotions on a rollercoaster. You’d be full of hope and you’d be out (searching) and there’d be nothing and then you’d go down (in emotion) again.

“I can’t understand why anyone would do this to someone in my situation. Why would they want to make it worse for me?

“They probably all wanted to be recognised as being high-profile clairvoyants. They are shysters, there’s no question about it.”

He said the relentless approaches from clairvoyants and the false hope they created had led him to have a breakdown late in 1996, when he found himself sitting in an armchair at his home ripping chunks of hair from his scalp.

…As he struggled with depression, he continued to fend off clairvoyants and psychics and was even abused over the phone by members of the public. “We had phone calls from people saying we are the perpetrators or saying that we deserve it,” he said.

If people wish to know more about the case, I highly recommend the book ‘Devil’s Garden: The Claremont Serial Killings’, which features an excellent interview that emphasises the media and the police force stance, refusing to engage psychics in the cases.


The strange case of the crucified frog

Posted in Rationally Speaking by Skepdude on August 29, 2008


The Pope is angry. Benedict XVI has written a letter to the President of the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy (in the northeast, above Venice), Mr. Franz Pahl, to complain about an art exhibit at the local city museum. Pahl already had a problem with that same exhibit, and he went on a hunger strike during the summer, threatening not to seek reelection (oh boy!) if a particular statue was not removed by the museum curators.

The statue in question is entitled “Zuerst die Fuesse,” German for “First the Feet.” It is by artist Martin Kippenberger, who died in 1997 at age 43, and it represents a crucified frog holding an egg and a beer mug. Well, one can see how that might be offensive to the Pope and to Catholics in general, despite the museum’s reassurances that the sculpture has nothing to do with religion, and is instead an ironic self-portrait of the artist’s expression of angst.

Now, the frog may have been meant to represent Kippenberger (after all, he was German, and the frog holds a beer), but I don’t believe for a second that the sculpture has nothing to do with a criticism of religion. It is hard to imagine that Kippenberger was not thinking of Jesus when he crucified his frog and put a loincloth around its waist, or that he was simply not aware of Christian iconography.

But of course the point is that being offensive is no reason at all to censor art. Indeed, one could argue that the point of art is to challenge people’s perspectives, thereby carrying a high risk of being offensive. If the Pope and his Catholic flock don’t like it, they are by no means forced to go to the museum to see it. If Mr. Pahl doesn’t like it — just like then Major Giuliani of New York didn’t appreciate the “Virgin with Elephant Dunk” exhibited by the Brooklyn Museum a few years ago — he is most welcome to stop eating pasta and resign.

All of this should not, however, put the museum’s director in any kind of defensive position, trying to make up ridiculous explanations for why the art piece should not be offensive to one religious sect or another. I personally find the very existence of the Vatican state in the center of Italy and its seating (as an observer) at the United Nations offensive, but I am not calling for the thing to be shut down. I’m just waiting for a more enlightened world to come about, one where we don’t need sanctimonious “holy men” to tell us what to think, what art we can enjoy and how precisely we are supposed to have sex.

How would I feel if someone made an offensive caricature of whatever I hold sacred? Ah, but therein lies the difference between a religionist and an atheist: I don’t hold anything sacred. I do hold some things important, people I love and ideas I cherish, and I surely get upset when those people or ideas are under attack — especially unfair attack. But one of the foremost principles I do cherish is precisely the right of anyone, anywhere, at any time, to speak her mind, regardless of how offensive it may be to others. Being offensive to people may not be nice, and it is certainly something that can easily be abused even in the name of a good cause. But it is a fundamental right in a democracy, without which the very concept of freedom of speech goes out the window. And once that happens, fascism is not far behind.