Sunday, December 5, 2010

Taking caroling to a new level: The Christmas Food Court Flash Mob delights unsuspecting mall shoppers

The great early American poet Longfellow once wrote: “Where’er a noble deed is wrought, where’er is spoken a noble thought, our hearts in glad surprise, to higher levels rise.”

Well, what Longfellow had in mind took place at a Canadian mall in the days leading up to the Christmas season, when the Christmas Food Court Flash Mob choir delighted unsuspecting mall shoppers.

Popping out of nowhere, mounting tables or stepping forward, one by one, they launched into a professional rendition of Handel’s sacred choral classic, The Hallelujah Chorus. It is the very moving masterpiece and best-known part of Handel’s Messiah that brought King George II to his feet at a performance in 1743. In standing, the king perhaps was acknowledging that he also was a subject of the "King of Kings."

“It seems we've hit everywhere in the world," Robert Cooper, artistic director for Chorus Niagara, told the Canadian media outlet The Tribune. Chorus Niagara’s flash mob video has gone viral on YouTube and been featured on CNN.

The video shows group members spontaneously breaking into song at Seaway Mall's food court in Welland, Ontario, near Niagara Falls.

The video was the most discussed and the top-rated video in November by people and blogs in Canada, according to YouTube statistics. It has received more than 10.8 million views since being posted Nov. 18.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vivid dreams, an intuitive message, and an unexplained urge lead a searcher to a wrecked car, where a 17-year-old miraculously survived for eight days.

Vivid dreams, an intuitive message and an unexplained urge led a volunteer searcher to find the wrecked car of a 17-year-old girl who tumbled 200 feet down a ravine and miraculously survived for eight days, according to The Associated Press.

On Oct. 2, 2004, Laura Hatch had left a party and soon after, her Toyota Camry plunged off a cliff through an open space between two guardrails along a steep, winding two-lane road.

After four days of searching, hope dimmed. "We had already given her up and let her be dead in our hearts," said her mother, Jean Hatch.

But several days later, Sha Nohr said she had dreams about a wooded area. She also heard an intuitive message: "Keep going, keep going."

The following morning, Nohr, accompanied by her daughter, drove to the area where the crash was believed to have occurred, praying as she traveled to the site. "I just thought, 'Let her speak out to us,'" Nohr said in an interview with The Seattle Times.

According to Nohr, something caused her to suddenly stop her car, get out, and climb over a concrete barrier. Nohr clambored down more than 100 feet of a dense thicket along the sharply angled embankment. Soon, she could barely barely make out a wrecked auto among some trees.

Nohr found Hatch in the back seat, badly hurt and severely dehydrated. Hatch was not only alive but conscious.

Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen, chief neurosurgeon at Harborview Medical Center, noted that a blood clot on Hatch's brain resulting from the crash might have killed  her. But it probably did not expand because of her dehydration. Recovering in a medical facility, Hatch even managed to joke with her caregivers.

"It's an extraordinary tale of survival," commented King County sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A deceased father says a final goodbye from beyond the grave to the son he almost lost

Scott Degenhardt was a rebellious youth, living on the streets, searching for something. His father Ron was a workaholic prosecutor struggling with heavy drinking, never having been able to show affection or express it to his son.

Then, on Valentine's Day, the day Ron was born, fate began to change everything. Ron doubled over with pain, and soon received a death sentence from his doctor: virulent and inoperable esophagal cancer. Ron wrote a simple letter to Scott: "I would like to be closer to you..."

That night, penniless and without transportation, Scott responded to the letter by walking 36 miles along a desolate highway to an interstate in Florida, where he could hitchhike home to Tennessee.

Scott immediately noticed a striking change when he met his father. The man who could never express emotions, now was sharing them freely. He exuded a spirituality and a heightened awareness that had been missing -- as if a light had been turned on.

For eight weeks, father and son got to know one another for the first time in their lives. And by the time the end approached -- as hospital personnel were constantly draining fluid out of Ron's lungs while family members and even nurses stood by crying -- the healing of the father-son relationship was complete. The strong-willed Ron, maintaining a stiff upper lip to the last moment of consciousness, slipped into a coma.

"I love you," Scott told his unconscious father.

That night, after Scott drifted off to sleep, he was abruptly awakened by a whitish vapor that shot over his bed.

Dad! The white, misty translucence hovering over Scott was Ron from the waist up, but looking about 10 years younger, and smiling.

Telepathically, Scott felt Ron's ecstasy at being free of his worn-out body. How does it feel? Scott asked. Ron answered by throwing more joyful feelings into Scott's mind. Exhilarating, but that word doesn't really convey it, Ron's mind said to Scott's.

Ron and Scott both seemed to be on a higher mental and intellectual plane, where thinking was much quicker.

Suddenly, the thought came to Scott. Is this real or a dream? He looked around the room and everything seemed normal -- until he looked downward. He saw himself! His body was lying on the bed, eyes shut, asleep. He was half out of his physical body, sitting up in his spiritual body. His arms were misty and translucent like his father's form.

Scott began to hear the voices of different beings, speaking indistinctly among themselves -- higher spiritual beings, he intuited.

"They're calling me now. I have to go," Ron said. Ron's spiritual form swooshed off in the direction of an opening that Scott sensed in a corner of the room. As the connection closed, Scott lost consciousness. The next thing he knew he was sleeping and being awakened by the ringing of a phone, which his mother answered first.

I know what she's going to say, but let her say it, Scott thought to himself. "It was the hospital," she said. "Your father has died."

"I know... He was just here," Scott replied, and the whole story poured out. Later Scott routinely had his sanity questioned by others, although not his mother. But the afterglow and elation of his mystical experience kept him "supercharged" for weeks afterward. And the experience's indelible mark, to this date, has left Scott with a certainty that death is not the end.

"We do resurrect after we die. We do have a better life waiting for us. It is far better than we can imagine," Scott says.

In 1994, I asked Scott to join other experiencers for a panel I formed to be interviewed with me on The Phil Donahue Show. Scott's life-changing encounter with his deceased father, ironically, became the foundation of what has become a lasting 19-year friendship. At first, Scott had sought me out, knowing that I had written on spiritual, metaphysical and paranormal subjects and hoping for some explanations. I was privileged to help him realize that his moment-of-death vision -- what parapsychologists call a "crisis apparition" -- was common, not an hallucination at all.

Later, Scott formed a near-death experiencers group locally and went on to research and publish a book to help people deal with a near-death experience: Surviving Death. The book is now available in a digital Kindle edition from and can be read on a computer or hand-held device after downloading free Kindle software.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Director Clint Eastwood’s latest intelligent exploration, “Hereafter,” asks what happens when death comes calling

Clint Eastwood, the octogenarian five-time Academy Award winner, has built a reputation as a Hollywood director who turns out engrossing, intelligent movies that break new ground. No flaming car chases with the driver zig-zagging to throw off clinging mutants or zombies. No fights on top of construction booms mounted on skyscraper roofs.

In his new Warner Brothers film Hereafter, director Eastwood weaves together the stories of various people who have been shaken by death – a famous Parisian TV newsreader who undergoes a near-death experience that forever alters her life, a London boy who lost his identical twin brother, and a young woman haunted by a traumatic childhood, among others (the young woman played by director Ron Howard’s daughter).

In the midst of them all is factory worker George Lonegan, portrayed by Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, the Bourne series), a reluctant clairvoyant who apparently has the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead. He wants to run away from his gift, but the desperate bereaved keep pursuing him for answers and for contact with their lost loved ones.

The result is what critic Roger Ebert called an “enthralling” movie, which surprised Ebert, who admits he doesn’t believe in “woo-woo.”

Ty Burr chimes in: “Eastwood’s latest is serenely, even masterfully eccentric — the sort of movie that begins with a tsunami and ends with a kiss.”

Besides the movie’s fascinating theme is the fact that Eastwood’s emotional, three-dimensional story makes you truly care about the, shall we say, haunted characters, who are not cardboard cut-outs and clich├ęs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mysterious Stranger Appears out of Nowhere to Help Trapped Woman

NEW YORK CITY -- Donna, 18, made a mistake that can get a person hospitalized or worse in Fun City -- taking the wrong subway and finding yourself alone after riders thin out and melt away to their destinations. Potentially threatening men took notice of her, and her options seemed to be dwindling -- until a mysterious stranger arrived. 

Donna's story began when she rode the Metro North train to Grand Central Station and then hopped on a subway headed toward
Third Street. But after 20 minutes, she realized she was going the wrong way. As she switched trains and doubled back, the few remaining riders exited. Soon, she was on a subway platform somewhere in the one-hundreds -- alone except for an apparent derelict propped against a far wall.  At street level, she was astonished to see that she was smack in the middle of one of New York's most dangerous neighborhoods, surrounded by burned out buildings with broken windows. 

"As I stood there amazed," she recalled, "I saw the most ominous sight: two groups of men, some drinking and not more than 100 feet away. All of them stopping their conversation and noticing me. I felt their ill intentions like a brick hitting me. Heart pounding, I ran back down into the dark dirty subway."
Desperately waiting for the next train, she said she felt like "trapped prey about to be devoured." Panicked, she tried to give the appearance of calm and pulled out atrain map.

It was just then that she sensed someone was behind her. Wheeling around, she was startled by a "tall, well-dressed gray-haired man in a black overcoat." 

"You're lost, aren't you?" he asked her, smiling.

She yelped out: "Yes!"

The mysterious stranger immediately pulled a map out of an overcoat pocket, asking her where she needed to go.  

"Third Street..."

"I was so frightened and thanking God for his presence, I didn't question how where the man had come from," Donna recalled.
"Oh, you're nowhere near there; this is where you need to be," the man told Donna, pointing out map details and providing specific directions for changing trains. Then, the man suggested: "You keep this map and I will wait here with you." 

After she thanked him, the two stood together silently, and Donna suddenly noticed that all her fear was gone. Although she heard noises at the top of the subway stairs, no one descended. Fifteen minutes later, a train rumbled up, and the stranger said, "Good Luck," as she got on board. 

A few minutes later, Donna looked down at the stranger's map and was surprised to see that the stranger had given her not a general map of New York City, but a color tourist-like local map of the immediate vicinity of Third Street and the surrounding area of the Village. It was precisely where she needed to be. 

"After getting off the train at the correct stop, I walked by a rough-looking group of bikers, attracting some stares, but I quite oddly continued to feel no fear whatsoever, only peace of mind," Donna noted.
As she took her final steps home that night, she reflected on how oddly the mysterious stranger had popped up out of nowhere. Except for the drifter, no one had been remotely near her in the instant before she sensed the helpful stranger behind her. Even stranger, it had been a hot August day, yet the Good Samatarian had been dressed in an overcoat for brisk fall or winter weather. And he had just happened to have in his pocket the exact localized map she needed. 

"My only conclusion," said Donna, "was that he was my guardian angel. I felt a certain presence about him immediately that told me I was safe. I had never felt that before and never since.  I find myself searching for that man whenever I feel I'm in danger, but have yet to come across him.  The memory is vivid.  I am now 42 and think of it often."

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Baylor University survey says just over half of Americans believe they have a guardian angel

Just over half of Americans think they are watched over by guardian angels, a fifth claim that they have heard God speaking to them and 16 per cent believe they have been miraculously healed, according to a recent survey by Baylor University reported in The Washington Times.

“Mystical experiences are widespread,” declared Rodney Stark, co-director of Baylor’s  Institute for Studies of Religion, which probed the views of 1,648 adults with 350 questions about their religious life.

The survey, with a four-point margin of error, showed that religious liberals are more likely to believe in paranormal phenomena like UFOs and contact with the dead than religious conservatives.

Baylor researchers reported that American atheists have comprised a stable four percent of the population since 1944.

Europe has more atheists than the U.S., according to the survey, but, except for France at 14 per cent, no European country has more than seven percent of its population declaring atheism.  In the east, though, 12 percent of Japanese are atheists and 14 per cent of Chinese. 

The survey reported regular church attendance at a little more than a third of the American population -- at 36 per cent.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A World War II private claims to have toured heaven and hell during one of the most elaborate near-death experiences on record

On December 20, 1943, George G. Ritchie collapsed from pneumonia and allegedly left his physical body behind in a hospital room at Camp Barkeley, Tex. At first, Ritchie didn't realize he was in spirit form until he "passed through" an oblivious orderly in a hospital hallway. Ritchie saw a dead body covered with a sheet, and his fraternity ring on a hand sticking out. Instantly, it struck him that he was looking down on his own body.

"I thought suddenly: This is death... this splitting up of one's self," he recalled in his book Return From Tomorrow.

Next, a being of light flooded the room with brilliance. "It was a presence so comforting, so joyous and all-satisfying that I wanted to lose myself forever in the wonder of it."

Ritchies's life flashed before his eyes, and this spiritual presence asked him: "What did you do with your time on earth?"

The being of light led Ritchie on a tour of different spiritual worlds. Ritchie said he saw a dim spiritual realm co-existing with the physical world. It was filled with deeply unhappy earth-trapped spirits, apparently clinging to earthly obsessioins. "Each grief seemed diffrerent."

At another point, Ritche said he came to a hellsh dimension where arrogant and enraged spirits were in perpetual combat, unaware of angel-like beings of light who were trying to help. As Ritchie "ascended" -- like Dante up from the Inferno to Paradise -- he saw bright light replacing  the dark gloom.

Now, he was in a heavenly world of thinkers and philosophers who studied and invented, a realm filled with universities, libraries and labs 'that surpassed the wildest inventions of science fiction."

Higher still, he glimpsed a city of light "infinitely far off."

After that, the being  of light, he said, escorted him back to his body, and he lost consciousness.

All this time, Ritchie's heart had stopped for around nine minutes. But a ward boy about to prepare Ritchie's body for the morgue noticed slight movement. An adrenalin shot to the heart restarted a heartbeat.

Months later, Ritchie drove through Vicksburg, Mississippi and was startled to realize that this was the unidentified town he had visited as part of his elaborate pre-Christmas out-of-body journey. Although this was his first time -- physically -- in Vicksburg, Ritchie knew the town's layout and had no trouble recognizing the white frame cafe with neon letters and a Pabst sign in the window, where he had earlier seen the spirits of dead alcoholics moving into the bodies of living drinkers for a vicarious pursuit of their cravings.

"My return to life, (the doctor) told me, without brain damage or other lasting effect, was the most baffling circumstance of his career," Ritchie noted.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A think tank that studies goodness gets $50K from the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama has put his money where his heart is.

Doing an end-run around stem cells and gene-splicing, His Holiness has donated $50,000 in research money to a Wisconsin neuroscientist to study – kindness and compassion.

The feel-good largesse goes to the University of Wisconsin’s Richard Davidson, who runs a different kind of think tank – The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at Madison.

Back in the primeval 1970s, Davidson, then a Harvard doctoral student, made the mistake of telling advisers he wanted to study the power of meditation.

“They patted me on the knee and said, 'Richie, this is not a good way to start a scientific career,' " Davidson wryly recalled in an interview with New York Times reporter Dirk Johnson.

Despite that bumpy start, Davidson has been researching whether meditation promotes compassion and kindness.

Currently, he’s teaching meditation techniques to Madison fifth-graders. They’re taught to concentrate on loving thoughts toward family, strangers, and even enemies.

Once the kids reach Middle School, the researchers compare the regular meditators’ behavior with a control group. Davidson, a 58-year-old Brooklyn native, says he focuses on the Middle School years for testing, because that time period is often a crossroads of character development.

Davidson embarked on his mission after a 1992 meeting with the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas, where the Buddhist spiritual leader encouraged Davidson to use sophisticated tools to research spiritual traits.

"It's about changing habits of the heart," Davidson concluded.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A butterfly saves two miners’ lives in Chile; was it a mere insect or an angel?

Copiapo, Chile – A white butterfly saved the lives of two miners caught in the middle of a collapsing mine in Chile. Was it just an insect sucked deep into the mine by a sudden downdraft caused by collapsing rock? Or was it a guardian angel, as the families of the miners believe?

Just before the mine cave-in on August 5, Jorge Galeguillos was riding a pickup truck down into the mine with friend and former soccer star Franklin Lobos.

Suddenly, a rock slab caved in just behind them. Immediately ahead, Galeguillos wrote later in a letter to his brother, “I saw a white butterfly." Despite the rock falling behind them, the two men slowed their truck momentarily out of curiosity over the insect.

Then, within seconds of that braking of the truck came a furious, blinding avalanche as the tunnel began collapsing.

Immediately, a gigantic slab of rock fell down and blocked the way back up the shaft. That also set off other cave-ins below them.

When the dust cleared, Lobos and Galeguillos, fighting for their lives, resumed their downward drive through what was left of the crumbling shaft, dodging fallen rocks. Eventually they were able to reach 31 fellow miners who had fled to a 50-square-meter refuge on Level 100, more than a half-mile underground.

The surviving miners remain entombed to this day as rescuers seek to construct a new shaft to free them. Meanwhile, anxious loved ones wait on the surface in a makeshift tent city called “Camp Hope.”

From his subterranean refuge, Jorge eventually wrote a letter about the butterfly and his harrowing escape from death, a letter that was hoisted up to the surface to his brother, Eleodoro, who is at a loss to explain how a tiny white butterfly managed to get about 1,500 feet below the surface.

"In the countryside, our grandfathers, who were peasant farmers, knew it was a good omen to come across a white animal in the dark of night," Eleodoro was quoted by CNN as saying.

"Down in the mine, I don't really know what that butterfly was. Maybe it was a little angel passing in front of them, or a little god saying, 'Hurry up, there's danger down here.

“They were saved by the skin of their teeth. The cave-in was going on above and below them. It was already burying things all along the tunnel," explained Galleguillos, who is certain that the butterfly protected the desperate pair as they fled for their lives toward the refuge where other miners had taken shelter.

Mining consultant and rescue expert Miguel Fortt explained that small white butterflies do  flutter around certain purple flowers blooming for only few hours in the Atacama desert at certain times of year. But the nearest patch of such flowers is more than a mile from the mine. And Fortt adds that it would be extremely unlikely that a butterfly would flit its way 1,500 feet deep into a mine.

Searching for logic to explain the butterfly, Fortt allowed that it could have been sucked into the mine's ventilation chimney in a downdraft induced by the sudden collapse. However, he didn’t appear convinced by this theory to his interviewer.

Whether it was help from the beyond or a logical coincidence, Fort said the butterfly did in fact save the two miners’ lives, because they slowed their truck to get a better look at it. And that hesitation prevented them from being under the first extensive rockslide a few seconds later.

Galeguillos' letter about the butterfly has brought tears to the eyes of the miners’ loved ones who are still waiting anxiously on the surface as a weeks-long rescue operation seeks to free the workers from their rock prison almost a half mile underground.

Warming themselves around campfires, the families continue to pass along the story of white butterfly that they believe is really a guardian angel.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Norwegian bishops and royals clash over princess's remarks

Princess Martha Louise ruffled feathers among some of Norway's bishops and other leaders of the state Lutheran Church when she told reporters she can communicate with the dead. Before that, she claimed to be able to get in touch with angels.

The princess and co-author Elisabeth Samnoy have a book out on how people can find their guardian angels.

The princess, daughter of King Harald V and Queen Sonja, told the newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad that “it’s not difficult to come in contact with the dead, in the same way with angels. We can also make contact whenever we want, when we want to.”

Things heated up when bishops approached Norway's media, upset that Princess Martha Louise's comments about contacting the dead allegedly went against the doctrines of Norway's state church.

Laila Rikaasen Dahl, a Norwegian bishop speaking on behalf of other bishops, complained to NRK: “...(the dead) belong to God and should be allowed to rest in peace," adding that  they should be remembered, not contacted, and trying to communicate with them might "open up for the powers of the occult..."

For her part, the princess said her remarks were taken out of context: "We operate with personal development... not with conjuring up the spirits."

On Sept. 8, Crown Prince Haakon stepped into the fray to defend his sister. Criticizing what he referred to as backbiting, he said obliquely: "I have a very good sister,” he said. “She is caring and genuinely concerned with taking care of other people. I won’t go into more details about that, because you know what I’m talking about.”

Princess Martha Louise remains fourth in line as an heir to the throne.

Views and News from Norway

Views and News from Norway