April 19, 2004

Demons Turn Out To Be Stupid Woman With A Knife

Italy: An update on the demon infestation at Canneto di Caronia from James Randi. As expected, from the loony fundie contingent:

The Catholic Church's local exorcist arrived, and — not to anyone's surprise — immediately announced that Satan was at work. I've seen things like this before. Demons occupy a house and appear in electrical goods, he said, urging the parish priest to take action. But the local priest, wiser than the exorcist, in my opinion, decided to let the scientists have a first try at solving the puzzle.

Common sense prevails from Massimo Polidoro, head of the Italian Committee for the Control of Paranormal Claims (CICAP), who went there to observe:

I recently had a chance to visit Caronia thanks to the editor of Focus, a popular Italian science magazine, who asked me to investigate the case. While I was present, there was nothing exceptional happening in the small town. Actually, it's not a town at all, it's about 6 or 7 houses, where the 39 inhabitants are all related to one other.
Various naturalistic hypotheses have been put forward to explain the phenomena happening: electromagnetic fields, ball lightning, geothermic reactions... Some even tried the old poltergeists or demonic possession explanations, but nobody has given credit to them. Canneto di Caronia was promptly evacuated by the civil authorities, and since then, nothing has happened. Only when there's been someone around, did things start to burn, a fact which certainly looks odd, if this was a natural phenomenon. Furthermore, we have talked with a Telecom technician who was called right after the first damage occurred. His opinion was that burns on various electrical cables were generated from an outside source, maybe a small cigarette lighter. He even gave us samples of the cables he got there, and these are now being evaluated by experts. The case, then, is still open.
Interestingly, a few weeks after the fires in Caronia, an odd phenomenon happened in Rome, received big coverage in the media, and was quickly attributed to the same strange happenings. A woman was slicing a piece of cheese with a new knife and the knife suddenly exploded! As an alternative explanation it was also thought that maybe this was another attack of a Unabomber type of terrorist (others had been reported in Italy in recent years) but this was soon ruled out. Since this was not an electric knife, but an ordinary one, it had to be either some mysterious force as in Caronia or — again — a poltergeist phenomenon.
In a couple of days, however, the local police were able to ascertain that the woman had sliced the cheese while it was standing on top of a connected electrical cable. So, what happened is that the knife cut through the cheese and the electrical cable at the same time, and that was what had shocked the woman. Case closed.

Our Italian Connection - Swift, 16th April 2004 (via Neil Gaiman's Journal).

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This page contains a single entry by Red Wolf published on April 19, 2004 11:04 PM.

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