UFO Researchers and Witnesses: The “Mysterious Phone Call” Phenomenon

Now and again we all get weird phone calls.  They’re usually just wrong numbers. On some occasions, though, things are very different. And particularly so in the world of Ufology: there seems to be more and more such cases of “strange calls.” As I’ll share with you now. Claudia Cunningham was christened by long-time UFO researcher and author, Tim Beckley, as the “MIB Lady,” due to her diligent and dedicated research into the phenomenon, as well as being someone who had her very own run in with one of the MIB in 2009, as I detailed in my book The Real Men in Black. In the late 1970s, Claudia experienced something else that many researchers of, and witnesses to, the Men in Black issue experience at least once in their lives: strange and unsettling telephone interference. In the late ‘70s I was married and my husband was a police officer who worked nights. Being alone and bored a lot I was heavily into reading of the paranormal through my massive little library – and I was then reading Phone Calls from the Dead by Scott Rogo. The gist was that when someone died they could call you and the book gave many instances of this happening. One famous person it happened to was the late actress Ida Lupino. Her father, London stage actor Stanley, supposedly called her from beyond the grave. It was eerie reading, believe me.”

(Nick Redfern) UFOs and strange phone calls

Claudia continued: “One night I was in bed reading the book and I snapped on the AM radio on my night table, and the show was WGY’s talk show and they were interviewing UFO abductee Betty Hill. She said she had a lot of phone interference after seeing the UFO with her husband Barney…static, that sort of thing. I was very nervous that night listening to it and imagining my phone would ring. Imagine my shock when it DID ring. This must have been around 9 PM at night…and all I could hear was static!! Like I say, I was heavily into reading anything about UFOs, Bermuda Triangle, etc. and I think my fear triggered the call. I mean, I think fear attracts these entities and they were having, as John Lennon would say, ‘a larf’ on yours truly.”

Moving on to the U.K., there is the story told to me by a good friend in the field of paranormal research, Neil Arnold. A prolific author, Neil’s books include Shadows in the Sky, Monster! and Shadows on the Sea. Neil relayed to me what is an undeniably creepy story and which revolves around a Man in Black and a telephone: “I have a relative who in the ’80s saw a UFO and went to the local phone box to report it to the newspaper. As soon as he entered the phone box a man appeared by the phone box and was staring in rather menacingly. My relative thought the man wanted to use the phone and so he motioned he wouldn’t be long, but the man still stared. The man wore a dark suit. My relative came off the phone and said to the man: ‘You can use it now.’ But he just stood there. My relative told the newspaper that he would go to their offices to tell them of the sighting, but as soon as he got on the bus he got a shocking headache. He thought he was going to pass out but persisted, but when he got to the office no-one working there knew what he was on about and they all said they hadn’t received a call from him.”

(Nick Redfern) Neil Arnold and Nick Redfern – both have had strange phone calls

Here’s another example: On November 9, 2014, the Marshall family of Perth, Australia had a strange encounter after seeing a huge, black, triangular shaped UFO flying completely silently, and at a dangerously low level, as they headed home after a night out on June 3, 1999. Although they did not tell anyone about their experience (at least, not at the time, anyway), late on the following night the phone rang. It was a man with a strange and somewhat European accent who warned them not to talk about the craft they had seen [italics mine]. In this case, the family forgot about the experience until years later when they saw a TV documentary on the Men in Black enigma – which referenced the issue of the MIB making threatening phone calls to UFO witnesses. Today, the family is solidly convinced that what they experienced was full-blown intimidation from a menacing MIB. I had to agree, when I read the facts. Now, onto our final example.

(Nick Redfern) From Mothman to those strange calls

Point Pleasant, West Virginia is – beyond any shadow of doubt – noted most of all for its wave of sightings of the infamous Mothman, between 1966 and 1967. In 2014, however, the town played host to something even stranger. The witness to the weird affair was a local woman named Denise, who emailed me the details on May 23. As Denise explained, she was jolted from her sleep by the sight of a young boy looming over her bed. This was no normal boy, however: it was one of the dreaded Black-Eyed Children – pale-skinned, black-hoodie-wearing kids who are noted for their completely black eyes. Denise tried to scream out, but her vocal-chords were paralyzed, as was her entire body. The eerie boy stared at terrified Denise for a few moments, then retreated into the shadows of the room and vanished. It was a nerve-jangling experience that Denise has not forgotten. Nor has she forgotten a strange wave of hang-up phone calls that occurred across the next three nights, and all around 3:00 a.m. A connection? Denise believed so. As did I [Italics mine].

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You Might be Immortal: The Weird World of Quantum Immortality

Since time unremembered there have been those who have sought immortality, to live forever and to cheat death. This has always been a pursuit involving all manner of ways to try and stop our physical body from dying or to prolong our biological life, but what if all of this is unnecessary and we are already immortal and don’t even know it? As we delve into the mysteries of the universe and our reality we have gone further down a rabbit hole of strange natural phenomena, and chief among these is that of quantum physics. It is a spooky world underlying everything we do and all that we see, where normal, predicted laws of physics don’t seem to really apply and which we know barely anything about. It is a realm of speculation, debate, and few solid answers, and it just might hold the key to you being immortal.

A man sits in a room with a gun pointed at his head. The gun is rigged to a machine that measures the spin of a quantum particle and it is loaded with live rounds, pointed directly at his head in such a way that it will kill him instantly if it goes off. The man takes a deep breath, understandably nervous because there is a loaded gun pointed at his head, but he is determined to go through with the experiment he is involved in. In his trembling hand is a device with a button that he can push to fire the gun, his thumb hovering over it as he contemplates what is about to happen. He takes a deep breath and pushes the button. The gun goes “click.” That’s strange, he thinks, is there something wrong with it or the ammunition? He pushes it again, then again and again. Click, click, click. Nothing. Meanwhile, in the next reality over, his colleagues are watching his head get blown off and he is quite dead. Welcome to the world of quantum immortality.

The above is a thought experiment designed in 1997 by then-Princeton University theorist Max Tegmark in order to explore ideas and navigate the very weird world of quantum mechanics. In this case, the experiment hinged on the idea in quantum mechanics that quantum particles, called quarks, the smallest level of matter we’ve detected so far in the universe, exist in multiple states all at once, called superposition of states, before being measured, when they become a single state. This means that they are existing in all states of matter and spinning clockwise and counterclockwise simultaneously, even in two places at once, only snapping into one variation upon being observed, collapsing all of these possible states down into one, the one that is being measured and observed. It is much more complicated than this, but that is the gist. The idea behind Tegmark’s thought experiment was that while we see only one measurement of the particle, all other possibilities still exist in another universe, so for instance, whereas in this universe the particle is seen spinning clockwise, in another branch of reality it is being observed spinning counterclockwise and so on. Wait, what? Let me explain.

Tegmark was playing with the idea that these quantum states of superposition lead to what is called the Many-worlds interpretation, in which every possibility and every outcome of every decision anyone has ever made splits off to a new reality where that has happened. In one reality you wore a blue shirt today instead of a red one, in another the Germans won World War II, or dinosaurs never went extinct, and so on, with infinite variations. All possibilities become a reality because the universe and reality exists in all states at once, branching out to accommodate all other possibilities, then that is translated from the quantum world to the macro where we live, therefore multiple separate realities exist out there that individually possess all the possibilities. According to the Many-worlds interpretation, every choice you make, every event that happens, every possible outcome splits off into a new branch of reality, with observers unaware of the other realities all around them, only the one they can perceive and consciously bear witness to.

In relation to this particular thought experiment, which is known as the Quantum Suicide experiment, the man in the room pulls the trigger of the gun and there are two possible outcomes. It either goes off and kills him instantly, or it misfires and he lives own to see another day. When the trigger is pulled, both possibilities happen at the same time, creating a branch of two realities, one in which he dies, and one in which he lives. Since the subject must be conscious to perceive the way that things go, he therefore can only consciously exist in the reality in which he has not died. Now to be clear, he has died in one reality, where observers saw the gun shoot him. He will be mourned and he will be gone in that timeline, but the subject himself will not be aware of that. To him the gun simply clicked instead of firing and life goes on in his new branch of reality, because only one of the two experimenter superpositions – the one who lived – is capable of having any sort of conscious experience of it. To him he was just really lucky. In this scenario he will never die in the reality that he is observing, essentially making him immortal without even realizing it. This is quantum immortality in a nutshell.

This version of the Many-worlds theory in relation to immortality goes all the way back to 1957, when the idea was tossed around by a doctoral student at Princeton University named Hugh Everett III, who proposed that consciousness is bound at each branching of realities to follow whatever path does not lead to death. It was this idea that was picked up by Tegmark and made into the Quantum Suicide thought experiment and the notion that we are all essentially immortal. In another example, imagine if you will that you are crossing a street. You look both ways, see that everything is clear, then start to walk across. Out of nowhere a car comes speeding around the corner to come barreling right at you while shocked bystanders stare on. However, you think quick and you are able dodge out of the way just in time, narrowly escaping certain death. However, for those watching in one version of events, they are treated to the horrific sight of you being hit by the car, running you over and killing you. In their observable reality you are dead, but in your branch it was just a scary experience. This will happen no matter how many times death comes for you. There is always a universe where you will narrowly escape death, with any brush with mortality seeing a branching universe, so while in one version one of you dies, another always continues to live on. Hungarian philosopher István Aranyosi would put it succinctly when he said, “Since the number of such increasingly improbable survival branches is infinite, given that the probability of surviving never drops to zero, we should expect to live forever. This is what we call Quantum Immortality.”

This is not much consolation to those you left behind, because for them you are dead, but in your observable universe you are effectively immortal. According to this theory, this applies not only to death, but to anything, any decision you make and anything that happens to you, the universe splitting to accommodate each and every possible outcome. You won the lottery in one and did not in another, in one you ate the beef instead of the chicken, while the other you had the chicken, and so on. The thing is, each branch of you is unaware of the others, all going on through your immortal life without ever realizing that the other possibilities have happened to another you. It is a fun idea to play around with, all sorts of questions and scenarios to turn over in the mind. It could be why some people are considered really lucky, and what if those cases of sole survivors of disasters or those who have seemingly miraculously escaped death are us just being in the one reality where everything happened in just a way that they survived? Maybe in addition to us branching off into new dimensions in which we didn’t die, we are receiving the same sorts of people from others. It really boggles the mind and has infinite possibilities and scenarios.

Of course there are plenty of holes in this hypothesis, and much criticism. Perhaps most obvious is what happens when you grow old and die? Humans have a finite biological lifespan, so how could you just keep branching away from that inevitable fate? The same could be said for any degenerative disease or fatal condition, such as cancer. Also, what if you were only rendered brain dead but yet technically still alive? You likely wouldn’t feel like a survivor in that scenario. And why must we shift over to a reality in which we are unscathed? What if you were hit by that car and died, but brought into a reality just before you died, only to do it again and again, merely shifting to a universe where you are almost dead to repeat dying on an endless loop? After all, if you quickly die bleeding out on the street, how could any sequence of events save you in any reality? This is all tied to another problem with the thought experiment in that death is not always a binary, instantaneous event. Rather, it is usually a progressive process rather than a sudden affair, with a continuum of states of decreasing consciousness that makes the definition of “fully alive” and “fully dead” murky. The quantum suicide thought experiment relies on an abrupt transition between one and another, and so it is only within this one specific imaginary scenario of very exact requirements that a person finds themselves surviving. Of course there is the argument that in your branch of reality something always manages to stave off this gradual decline, be that some medical miracle or miraculous technology, but even Tegmark has acknowledged this criticism, and said:

Our consciousness is not located at one unique point in the brain, but is presumably a kind of emergent or holistic property of a sufficiently large group of neurons. Our consciousness might not be able to go out like a light, but it can dwindle exponentially until it is, for all practical purposes, gone.

Cosmologist Anthony Aguirre has added to this criticism of quantum immortality by also arguing that not only does death often exist on a spectrum, but also that it would ignore other states that are not death, but which render the subject unconscious to the world. He says:

Perhaps reality actually is this bizarre, and we really do subjectively ‘survive’ any form of death that is both instantaneous and binary. If there are degrees of survival, things are quite different. If loss of consciousness was binary like in the thought experiment, the quantum suicide effect would prevent an observer from subjectively falling asleep or undergoing anesthesia, conditions in which mental activities are greatly diminished but not altogether abolished. Consequently, upon most causes of death, even outwardly sudden, if the quantum suicide effect holds true an observer is more likely to progressively slip into an attenuated state of consciousness, rather than remain fully awake by some very improbable means.

Similarly, there is the conundrum that in certain circumstances when death was not instantaneous there would be the paradox that several versions of you would exist in the same moment, and only one of you would go on. Philosopher of science Charles Sebens has said of this:

It is tempting to think you should expect survival with certainty. If death is indeed immediate on all branches but one, the thought (Quantum Immortality) has some plausibility. But if there is any delay it should be rejected. In such a case, there is a short period of time when there are multiple copies of you, each effectively causally isolated from the others and able to assign a credence to being the one who will live. Only one will survive. Surely rationality does not compel you to be maximally optimistic in such a scenario. Do the copies need to last long enough to have thoughts to cause trouble? I think not. If you survive, you can consider what credences you should have assigned during the short period after splitting when you coexisted with the other copies.

Yet another problem is who is really the real you among all of these copies? If there are so many variants of you, which would become distinct individuals when the reality branched, then how could you pick out some future versions of oneself as “really you” over others? There are numerous other objections and criticism to the idea of quantum immortality, to the point that even proponents of the Many-worlds interpretation find it hard to swallow. However, this is quantum physics we are talking about, a relatively new discipline that we know little about, which has generally freaked out physicists and of which physicist Richard Feynman once said, “I think it’s safe to say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” It is also impossible to even attempt to test much of quantum physics in laboratory conditions with our current technology, relegating most of this to the realm of theorizing, philosophizing, and concocting thought experiments, so who knows? The realm of quantum physics is largely the domain of the unknown, with even quantum physicists arguing and contradicting each other, so it really seems that anything is possible. In this case it seems we may never know, because anyone who was to try the experiment and succeed would be the only one who knew about it, and even they would think it was just a fluke, while to their friends and family they would just be dead. For now the idea of quantum immortality is nothing more than another of the many ideas about quantum physics being thrown at the wall in an effort to see what sticks, another oddity in a sea of weirdness we may never truly unravel and were perhaps not meant to, and so it might be a good idea to hold off on trying this out for yourself.

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Strange Animal Captured in Pennsylvania Resembles Texas Chupacabra

Fans of the cryptid called the Chupacabra know that its name means “goat-sucker” and it originated in Puerto Rico, so they’re often frustrated when Chupacabra stories pop up far from the island with no evidence of the blood of any goats or other animals being sucked. This is especially true in Texas, where unidentified doglike animals are often referred to as Chupacabras. Well, get ready to be frustrated again, folks – a mysterious animal was captured in Pennsylvania that looks a little like a dog or coyote but not enough to be positive, so it’s being called a … all together now … Chupacabra!

“I peeked outside the door, and that’s whenever I noticed the animal on the left hand side. And it was so scared and cold and shivering.”

Fairfield Township resident Christina Eyth told WXPI.com she followed tracks thinking her neighbor’s dog got lost and instead found an unidentifiable creature at her door. (Photos here.) After capturing it in her basement, she called her local animal rescue service TJ’s Rescue Hideaway, which brought in Morgan Barron, a certified wildlife rehabilitator at WildLife Works Mount Pleasant. With all of that wildlife expertise staring at the creature, it should have been quickly identified … right?

“I honestly can’t definitively say what it is, but to err on the side of caution, since they can carry rabies and since it might be a coyote … (we will) get genetic testing done and go from there.”

DNA testing can take two to four weeks, so that leaves plenty of time for the “It’s a Chupacabra” crowd to make their case. It turns out Pennsylvania, which is a recognized Bigfoot hotspot, has had its share of Chupacabra sightings as well. There was one in Dauphin County in 2010 (Dauphin County is near Pittsburgh, while Fairfield Township is 160 miles away near Harrisburg), another in 2014 in Lemoyne, also near Harrisburg, and a strange one in York County (near Pennsylvania’s southern border with Maryland) in 2016 that was descried by a witness as:

“It’s gray colored, looks like patchy kind of hair. Sort of coyote face. Long, long tail. Tall. Long legs. It’s like this size of a greyhound do, maybe a little smaller. But this thing moved like a cat, but had little to no hair. Looks like a cross between a baby deer, cat, dog and kangaroo. I know that sounds crazy but that’s the only way to describe it. Grayish brown in color.”

Those all sound like the Texas variety and are often identified eventually as a fox/coyote/dog/bear with mange … but not always. None of them resemble the scaly, upright-walking lizardish goat-sucker of Puerto Rican fame, and none of the reports include any accounts of dead livestock or pets. Yet the cry of “Chupacabra!” persists as does the fear of any doglike creatures with blotchy fur and a skinny body that makes their teeth look extra long.

Drawing of an alleged Puerto Rico Chupacabra

“There was an animal in need, and I feel like I did the right thing either way.”

Kudos to Christina Eyth for conquering her fear and helping a strange creature that looked like it needed some. If only we felt that way about all creatures … including humans and extraterrestrials.

Perhaps that’s the real message being spread by the doglike version of the Chupacabra.

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Mysterious Space Object is “Unlike Anything” Scientists Have Ever Seen

Astronomers witnessed something incredibly strange in space that is “unlike anything” they have ever seen before. According to information provided by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), a team of experts who were mapping the universe’s radio waves noticed an incredibly odd space object that was emitting massive bursts of energy three times every hour.

As the object was spinning in space, a radiation beam was ejected from it which scientists were able to observe. The beam could be seen for one full minute and occurred every twenty minutes. Incredibly, it was one of the brightest radio sources ever witnessed in space.

In the release, astrophysicist and team leader Natasha Hurley-Walker went into further details, “This object was appearing and disappearing over a few hours during our observations, that was completely unexpected. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there is nothing known in the sky that does that,” adding, “And it’s really quite close to us – about 4,000 light-years away. It’s in our galactic backyard.”

Space is a mysterious place.

Scientists have previously documented space objects that “turn on and off” (these are called “transients”). They can occur at different frequencies as slow transients can happen for a few days and disappear within a few months (supernovas do this), while fast transients are extremely quick – some lasting just seconds or even milliseconds (pulsars do this).

However, the space object that was seen turning on for one minute had never been witnessed before. Since it is exceptionally bright, smaller than our sun, and sends out blasts of high-polarized radio waves, it is believed that the object contains a strong magnetic field. As for what it is, experts think that it may possibly be either a neutron star or a white dwarf.

Hurley-Walker went on to say that it could be a previously hypothesized space object known as an “ultra-long period magnetar”. “It’s a type of slowly spinning neutron star that has been predicted to exist theoretically.” “But nobody expected to directly detect one like this because we didn’t expect them to be so bright.” “Somehow it’s converting magnetic energy to radio waves much more effectively than anything we’ve seen before.”

Is it a magnetar?

While it remains a mystery, researchers are keeping a close eye on the object in case it decides to briefly turn back on. And if it does, they will be able to see it with numerous telescopes, such as the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in Western Australia. “If it does, there are telescopes across the Southern Hemisphere and even in orbit that can point straight to it,” said Hurley-Walker. The research has been published in the journal Nature where it can be read in full.

Images showing where the mysterious object is located in space can be viewed here.

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TWO QUEENS FOR A DAY: Ellery Queen Episodes 15 and 16

Two complex puzzles this time around with a double large roster of guest stars, some of whom get ill-served by the crowded plots. I love a good courtroom drama, and I blush at stuck-in-its-time racism; you’ll find both here. 

Just a quick note: this project serves to remind me that binge-watching a series has its ups and downs. It works better for mini-series with a continuous storyline, like one of those Harlan Coben twist-a-minute extravaganzas on Netflix, but shows that are truly episodic – like Ellery Queen – can start to feel formulaic, no matter how clever they may be, after watching an episode or six in a row. 

This has nothing to do with what we’re watching here. Just food for thought . . . 

Courtroom antics for Ellery and the Inspector

EPISODE FIFTEEN: THE ADVENTURE OF THE WARY WITNESS

(Written by Peter S. Fischer; original airdate 1/25/76)

The Cast:

Michael Constantine was a noted character actor on stage, in films and on television (he played the murderer twice on Perry Mason). I will always think of him as Seymour Kaufman, high school principal, on the sitcom Room 222, but it seems most people will remember his comeback role in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, its sequel and a short-lived sitcom based on the film. 

Dwayne Hickman, who we lost just over a week ago, was indelibly connected with the role that made him a star, TV teen Dobie Gillis. This typecasting limited his opportunity for future parts, but he still made a bunch of movies (I saw Ski Party long before I saw Some Like It Hot, upon which the teen movie is loosely based – and loved it!) and he also appeared with his brother Darryl on an episode of Perry Mason (one of them turned out to be the killer). 

Michael Parks lived as hard as he worked, drifting from job to job through his teens until he started acting. In 1963, he worked opposite Bette Davis when she replaced Raymond Burr for one episode on Perry Mason. She played guest attorney Constant Doyle, and – no, dear, Parks played the defendant. He played a biker on the short-lived series Then Came Bronson and then worked steadily in TV and film, often for men like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith. One director described Parks as a “terrific actor in a lot of ways, but weird.”

Sal Mineo was never in Perry Mason (although he did play a suspect on Burke’s Law). The two things he will be remembered most for are his sensitive portrayal of gay teen Plato in Rebel Without a Cause and for his brutal mugging and murder. Despite Hollywood’s antipathy for him, both for having the nerve to grow up and for being fairly openly bisexual, Mineo accumulated a large number of credits on stage and screen before his untimely death. 

Cesar Romero had the most extensive career here, appearing in the 30’s on film as the consummate Latin lover. He played bad guys in The Thin Man and Charlie Chan on Treasure Island, and while he, too, never appeared on Perry Mason, he played a variety of roles on Burke’s Law. Romero also had the distinction of being the first actor to play The Joker, and he was wonderful in the part. 

Dick Sargent appeared in neither Perry Mason nor Burke’s Law but he was the second Darren Stevens on Bewitched, a role he had initially been offered and turned down. He also bravely came out as a gay man to help counter the growing incidence in suicide among LGBTQ people. 

Tricia O’Neil was a stage, film and TV actress who had something that Link and Levinson liked. After her appearance on Ellery Queen, she would go on to guest star in Columbo and in the pilot episode of Murder, She Wrote. She also appeared in Peter S. Fischer’s The Eddie Capra Mysteries, and here’s where our ears should perk up. Fischer developed this modern-day series about a young attorney using the exact same format as Ellery Queen, right down to the roster of guest stars, the classic puzzle mystery, even the challenge to the viewer. Fischer even utilized scripts that would have gone into EQ’s Season 2 – had there been one.  It looks like at least some of the thirteen episodes that were produced can be watched on YouTube. 

I smell a blogging sequel in the air . . . 

Synopsis:

Linville Hagen (Hickman), a war veteran and air industry businessman, who also happens to be an old college buddy of Ellery’s, is on trial for the St. Patrick’s Day murder of Nick Di Nello, the oldest son of notorious mobster Armand Di Nello (Romero). The D.A. (Sargent) claims that Hagen stormed into Nick’s apartment, angry that the Di Nello family were shaking down Lin’s business in an extortion racket, and that Lin shot Nick in cold blood. Hagen’s attorney, Leo Campbell (Constantine) asserts that Lin is telling a true story when he describes a witness, a woman in green, who with Nick saw a mysterious figure on the fire escape fire at Nick. Lin claims he ran to the window and fired two shots at the figure, and when he turned around, the woman had vanished. 

The story begins as the jury is handed the case and retreats to the jury room. Ellery tries to console Lin’s wife Priscilla (Kate Woodville) and his business partner Terry (Parks), but they seem to be consoling each other just fine. Meanwhile, Armand and his son Jimmy (Mineo) are out for blood if the verdict doesn’t go their way, while Nick’s widow Yvonne (O’Neil) sits in a bar and drinks. This impasse is broken when a woman calls Ellery at home and begs him to meet her at a seedy hotel. He is forced to take Frank Flannigan along with him or the reporter will leak the news to his paper. But when they get to the hotel, a shot rings out, and they find the woman hovering near death. 

It will take all sorts of chicanery and mental agility for Ellery to beat the jury and find the true killer. 

Cesar Romero, Tricia O’Neil and Sal Mineo

My Take:

This is definitely the most serious episode thus far. With the stakes so high, there’s little room for humor, and Flannigan feels particularly wasted here. The idea of a team – the Queens, attorney Campbell and reporter Flannigan – plotting and fretting together put me in mind of The Greek Coffin Mystery, while other elements seemed to echo “The Case Against Carroll,” one of Ellery Queen’s best novellas. There are plenty of strong red herrings here, and the plot twists and turns until it leads us to a surprising and sobering climax that is at once fairly clued and emotionally hard-hitting. 

SPOILERS:

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*     *     *     *     *

Jim Hutton and James Shigeta in “The Adventure of the Judas Tree”

EPISODE SIXTEEN: THE ADVENTURE OF THE JUDAS TREE

(Written by Marty Roth; original airdate 2/1/76)

The Cast: 

Dana Andrews was a genuine movie star and especially of interest to this blog because of his work in film noir. In that genre, he worked with great directors like Otto Preminger (LauraFallen AngelWhere the Sidewalk Ends), Fritz Lang (While the City Sleeps, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt) and Jacques Tourneur (The Fearmakers). He is probably most famous for introducing audiences to the idea of PTSD in The Best Years of Our Lives. He managed to lick a serious bout with alcoholism and a shift from A to B-pictures, from leading man to character actor status. 

Clu Gulager’s trajectory was the opposite of Andrews: he did his most prestigious work on television, including roles on two early Western series, The Tall Man and The Virginian. He made the transition to film in a prestigious way, appearing in movies like The Killers and The Last Picture Show, but it soon devolved into mostly horror films, a great many of them made by his son. He is still with us and was working in films as late as 2016.

I would say that Bill Dana’s greatest contributions to show business came from his writing. Get Smart was a very funny spoof of James Bond, and Dana provided much of Don Adam’s best shticks in that show (“Would you believe . . . ?”) As a comedian, Dana’s persona could best be described as a “shlub” – someone the world happens to rather than him happening to it. Most famous, and most embarrassing in today’s light, was the character he played again and again on shows like Ed Sullivan: a Bolivian shlub named Jose Jimenez. No more need be said about that. 

Jack Kruschen was an engaging character actor who started in radio at the age of 16. He played the sensitive Detective Mugovin in the classic series, Broadway Is My Beat, and often could be heard on one of my favorites, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. He was one of the only good guys in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, which earned him an Academy Award nomination, and he appeared onstage with Barbra Streisand in the musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale. (He also performed in London in Promises, Promises, the musical version of The Apartment.)

I was prepared to mention George Maharis’ shocking death – but he’s still alive, too! He made an early splash on TV in Route 66 (best theme music ever!), famously left that show citing health reasons and then just . . . did his thing: more TV, some stage work, making a few records. He was one of the first male celebrities to pose totally nude for Playgirl magazine. Thank you, sir. 

I developed a big crush on Diana Muldaur when she appeared on Star Trek. She did two guest shots on that show and later Gene Roddenberry made her a regular on The Next Generation, but that didn’t work out and she left after one season. She played a memorable character on L.A. Law as a powerful female attorney who shook up the law firm over a season or two, became something of a monster, and then walked into an elevator shaft – one of the best surprise deaths in TV history. 

James Shigeta was that rarest of things in early film, an Asian heartthrob. The 1959 noir The Crimson Kimono was very much ahead of its time, featuring Shigeta as an Asian detective with no accent who gets involved in an interracial romance with his white partner and a white suspect (he gets the girl and loses his partner’s friendship). Shigeta possessed a fine singing voice and starred in the film version of Flower Drum Song. Oh, and he was on Perry Mason, too!

Synopsis:

Okay, pay attention because this gets complicated . . . 

At the age of 34, George Sherman is fabulously wealthy, living with his beautiful wife Paulette (Muldaur) in a beautiful mansion in the country with vast grounds all around him that are tended by a gardener named Mr. Mercadante (Dana). Sherman collects fine Asian porcelain, an interest he picked up from his days spent in China during the war. Of course, there is a dark backstory here: Sherman made his money as a war profiteer, selling arms to Chinese mercenaries in their battle against the Japanese. At one point, he betrayed a group of these soldiers to the authorities to save his own hide, resulting in the death of a whole battalion of brave fighters. 

This might explain his death at the start of the episode: we see a figure standing over Sherman, who lies dead at his desk; the figure grabs a written note and crumples it up, then drags Sherman’s body outside toward a beautiful Judas tree in the driveway. In the morning, Mr. Mercadante finds Sherman hanging by a noose on this tree, a tree that symbolizes betrayal, with a wreathe made of the tree’s pink flowers on top of his head and a fatal stab wound from a Chinese dagger.

Ellery determines that it would have taken two killers to handle the 200 pound Sherman after death, and the long list of suspects includes the widow and Dr. Bender, Sherman’s personal physician, with whom Priscilla is carrying on an affair, as well as Sherman’s business partner, Gunther Starr (Kruschen) and his attorney, Lewis Marshall (Andrews). However, all four of these people seem to have unbreakable alibis. One important fact that the Queens learn from Dr. Bender is that Sherman was dying from an advanced lymphatic condition. And yet, the good doctor had given his patient a clean bill of health eleven months previously when Sherman applied for life insurance. 

Ellery then turns to Father Terence Devlin (Gulager), whom Sherman had contacted to bestow a large donation to his Asian charities. But a military file and a check of fingerprints prove that Devlin is actually an Army captain named Wharton who assumed Devlin’s identity when the good priest died in order to finalize Sherman’s donation. And then there’s Steven Yang (Shigeta), a mysterious visitor from China whose life is inextricably intertwined with Sherman’s. And let’s not forget the taciturn Mr. Mercadante, who recently received a check from Sherman for $1200 for no discernible reason.

A large portrait in the study of Sherman in fencing attire shows that he is right-handed, and Ellery uses this fact, along with the placement of a cup and an inkstain on the victim’s middle finger to put together a complex solution. 

Diana Muldaur, Hutton, and George Maharis

My Take:

I spent some time on the synopsis because I wanted to make sure, to myself as much as to you, that this plot was a finely tuned machine. I say this because it all comes together nicely in a strong solution, but for much of the time, I wasn’t particularly enjoying myself. This is a country house mystery with a large cast of suspects, all of whom serve the plot well but most of whom aren’t particularly interesting. (The priest and Mr. Yang are the exceptions.) The humor found here – Ellery attempts to fix the kitchen sink; Ellery and Mr. Mercadante have various exchanges, including a car crash, in the driveway – aren’t funny. 

The treatment of Shigeta here is downright weird. The opening teaser describes him as “the Oriental visitor,” and every time he appears, the score kicks into that weird samisen music which countless old movies used to indicate the presence of a Japanese person (except Shigeta plays a Chinese man.) On the other hand, Shigeta plays the role perfectly and is allowed moments where he stares at Ellery and says things that catch the sleuth in an embarrassing moment of, perhaps unintentional, racism. Yang scolds Ellery for accusing him of the crime simply because the dagger was of Asian origin, to which Ellery doubles down by saying that there must be dozens of Asian suspects out there representing all the men whose lives were lost due to Sherman’s betrayal. Yang responds with a twinkle, “And yet there can only be one Chinese suspect.” This seems like such a powerful meta-comment on the treatment of characters of color in Ellery Queen and other authors. Hutton’s Queen has the decency to blush, stammer, and back off. 

SPOILERS:

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Last Roman Amphitheater, Regrowing Frog Legs, Mechanical Trees and More Mysterious News Briefly — January 27, 2022

Mysterious News Briefly — January 27, 2022

They’re called “earthquakes” but a new paper proposes that the shifting of tectonic plates that makes them is not caused by heat from underneath them but from a gravitational ménage à trois between Earth, the Sun and the Moon that is the result of the non-circular orbits of Earth and Moon. Does this mean that song about the moon hitting your eye like a big pizza pie is actually a documentary?

Archaeologists in Switzerland have uncovered the ruins of what is likely the last Roman amphitheater ever built, where citizens watched gladiator battles in the fourth century CE. In Switzerland? Did they fight with army knives?

Researchers at Arizona State University have invented mechanical trees made with layers of discs designed to “soak up carbon dioxide” and they claim forests of these ‘trees’ — each about 5 feet in diameter and spaced two inches apart – could slow down or even eliminate climate change. Get ready to provide free therapy to birds, squirrels, bears other forest creatures.

Hundreds of bumpy, transparent, bioluminescent sea pickles or pyrosomes are mysteriously washing ashore on Oregon beaches and biologists have no idea why these weird tropical creatures have swum north for the winter. Glow-in-the-dark pickles sounds like the perfect addition to midnight barbecues.

A new law in the city of Brighton & Hove, England calls for new buildings to include special hollow bricks with holes that provide nests for solitary bees to help increase biodiversity and save these bees that lose their homes in crumbling brick and mortar when new buildings replace old ones. We saw Solitary Bees open for Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

While Oregon deals with sea pickles (see above), the state of Washington is dealing with an infestation of invasive European green crabs which prey on clams, young oysters and native crabs – affecting the seafood industry that depends on them and the other marine creatures that eat them. “We feel your pain,” said every indigenous culture.

A frog that lost a leg grew a new one thanks to scientists at Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute who triggered the growth of the replacement leg with a five-drug cocktail applied in a silicone wearable bioreactor dome that sealed it over the stump for just 24 hours, resulting in a brand-new functional leg 18 months later. It’s not ready for humans yet, but frog leg restaurants are probably salivating.

A team of Johns Hopkins University researchers successfully demonstrated the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) robot by having it perform laparoscopic surgery on a pig without any assistance from a human surgeon – it’s designed for intestinal anastomosis, a procedure that requires a high level of repetitive motion and precision to connect two ends of an intestine where one missed stitch can cause a leak that could be fatal to the patient. Get ready for ‘Grey Robot’s Anatomy’.

Humans aren’t the only lovers of mix tapes and song shuffling — a new study found that male sparrows deliberately shuffle and mix their song repertoire … possibly as a way to keep it interesting to attract females. Are the most popular sparrows the one who lean heavily on John Legend tunes?

Researchers are warning people to beware of Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface startup Neuralink and its goal of connecting human brains to computers, calling it an “uncomfortable marriage between a company that is for-profit” where people with genuine needs “are being exploited and used in risky research for someone else’s commercial gain.” Are they implying every chip contains an “urge to buy a Tesla” algorithm?

 

The post Last Roman Amphitheater, Regrowing Frog Legs, Mechanical Trees and More Mysterious News Briefly — January 27, 2022 first appeared on Mysterious Universe.

A new chapter: Twitter introduces verified NFT profile pictures for Twitter Blue users!

Since the lockdown periods of 2020, the non-fungible market has exponentially grown across the world, capturing the attention of the mainstream media, celebrities, athletes, the ordinary person alike. These assets have allowed crypto enthusiasts and art enthusiasts to showcase their art across digital platfoirms while retaining full ownership of the NFT. Since the start of the NFT craze, owners have been using their NFTs as profile pictures on Twitter, despite the raising concerns about the durability of ownership of the digital art pieces (whether a CryptoPunk, Bored Ape, or any other NFT). 

While ownership of the digital asset posted as your profile picture (pfp) can be easily tracked to your Ethereum-based address, on an immutable blockchain, there has been a rising number of Twitter users who simply right click on the image, save it, and use it as their own. In an effort to reduce the duplication and thieving in the NFT space, Twitter (a crypto-friendly social media platform) introduced NFT verification on profile pictures last week. 

According to the statement, the NFT verification service will be available to users with the premier Twitter Blue, the firm’s $2.99-a-month subscription service. Verification is available for Ethereum-based NFT projects and iOS users, for now, with Twitter confirming more blockchains will be added alongside a web and Android version.  

A clearer vision for the NFT market

While Twitter has kept tabs with the crypto market for the past three or four years, the social media firm is yet to fully integrate a blockchain sector in the company. Quicknode, a Miami-based blockchain firm, provided the infrastructure needed to assist Twitter with the integration of NFT verification of profile pictures. 

The partnership between Twitter and Quicknode marked a monumental moment for the NFT and Web 3 communities, a tweet from the Quicknode team read. With the introduction of NFT verification on Twitter pfps changes the game completely, as users will not easily steal NFTs and parade them as their own. This brings sanity to the industry while promoting crypto enthusiasts to participate more within the community. 

In a statement on the latest achievement by Twitter, Quicknode stated their excitement on the partnership with Twitter with an aim “to deliver support for features for the recently launched NFT Profile Pictures”. 

“While demand for QuickNode’s platform as a provider of blockchain infrastructure continues to take off as more companies look to adopt blockchain as part of their product strategy,” the statement reads. “Through this new feature, we’ll help provide a means in which people on Twitter can show off the NFTs they own and be a part of its thriving community.”

Apart from providing blockchain infrastructure, Quicknode also collects NFT metadata to provide an easy-to-use search engine, making NFTs easily searchable and universally accessible. Via the Quicknode NFT API Add-On, the collected data is normalized to make it easily searchable, letting anyone query across various NFT projects, collections, and blockchains, saving time and money.  Additionally, the platform provides verification services for NFTs on Ethereum, allowing users to track how the NFT has changed hands and which crypto wallet currently holds the NFT. Webhooks built into QuickNode’s NFT API Add-On allow applications to receive updates and transfer events automatically.

As the number of NFT projects and collections grows by the day, finding the correct details, rare properties, past transaction history, and other valuable details is key to determining what to pay for the NFT. Quicknode provides this feature making it easy for users to access this information and compare NFT collections and projects. Finally, the platform also allows you to find notable creators with  multiple collections, which could be beneficial to adding to your NFT collections. 

Final words

With the rise of NFT verification on Twitter, experts expect the effect to brush off other social media platform in time. Nonetheless, the proces sis yet to be complete as truly committed ‘NFT thieves’ could still save the verified NFT and mint an identical NFT to use on their profile picture, complete with a hexagonal frame (signature to owning an NFT as your Twitter profile picture). 

In the future, Quicknode aims to find ways to completely kill off the right clicking and saving of NFTs to ensure the owner of the NFT is the only one able to use the NFT as their profile picture. 

Der Beitrag A new chapter: Twitter introduces verified NFT profile pictures for Twitter Blue users! erschien zuerst auf Crypto News Flash.

GPS Brings The Metaverse To The Mainstream Through Triffic and GeoMorfs in 2022

Unlocking real-world use cases for the Metaverse is a tall order. GPS, a platform built on Ardor, has a 2022 roadmap filled with upcoming developments to achieve this goal. There is a lot more to the Metaverse than blockchain games, as existing applications will be the catalyst to bringing in mainstream users.

GPS Merges Metaverse And Real World

While most people focus their attention on play-to-earn gaming and collectible NFTs for the Metaverse, the GPS team explores other options. The ecosystem benefits from being built on Ardor, a multi-chain infrastructure where child chains can serve dedicated use cases. Moreover, it has two dedicated solutions on its blockchain that already blur the line between the Metaverse and the real world.

The first solution is Triffic, an easy way to earn crypto and acquire NFT collectibles. For example, you can collect augmented reality beacons, including token airdrops, and earn “Miles” if you move about. It is an excellent way to incentivize people to become more active and explore new locations they may not have visited before. In addition, it is a fun concept for people of all ages, which is always priceless. 

The second solution, which is still in the works – although it is tied to Triffic – is GeoMorfs. These assets will ultimately turn into revenue-generating NFTs earning daily revenue on behalf of their holders. The GPS roadmap for 2022 includes some exciting details on how Geomorfs will be used and their role in the future ecosystem. 

At its core, GPS is a location-based gamification layer for app developers and service providers to leverage. Anyone can build native play-to-earn worlds and experiences to reward customers and users for participation. This approach will help bring mainstream users into the Metaverse through blockchain technology. 

The GPS Ecosystem In 2022

It seems 2022 will be a great year for gamification and Metaverse experiences with the help of GPS. There are partnerships on the horizon, a CoinMarketCap listing, and even a mystery project no one knows anything about just yet. However, the team is also focusing on the crucial quality of life updates, including:

Using Triffic on devices with no augmented reality capabilities to let more people earn rewards.
A better way to secure the native GPS wallet, as the current process is a bit clunky.
A Beta release for the GPS NFT wallet, featuring a built-in NFT exchange for GeoMorfs and other character brands, will be announced soon. A public release will happen in Q3 2022.
GeoMorfs App to complement the GeoMorfs token on the GPS blockchain. Moreover, the app will feed into the staking system of the GPS Eco Wallet, creating new synergies. 

Beyond these new additions, Triffic will undergo some prominent changes too. In-game Power-Ups will get a make-over to enhance reliability and introduce new ones. Additionally, the Triffic UI will get a redesign based on player feedback and suggestions, with a beta release expected in Q2 2022. Dropping Google Maps in favor of an immersive world is one of the things to look forward to. The Beacon notifications will also be appreciated by many

That redesign will help Triffic transition into the Metaverse, with GeoMorfs serving as revenue-generating NFTs, virtual land acquisition, and much more. Acquiring the GeoMorfs will occur through collecting hatchlings. Those who find the most will receive one of the 50 GeoMorfs, which will generate daily revenue but can also be sold. The quest mechanics for GeoMorfs will e enhanced later on to accommodate new activities. Last but not least, users can expect a solution to earn tokens faster.

Conclusion

Although the GPS ecosystem doesn’t generate many mainstream media headlines, the ecosystem is thriving. Combining the real world and Metaverse through augmented reality and gamification is a solid approach to appease both crypto enthusiasts and those not involved in blockchain. Moreover, getting people to move about more has numerous health benefits too, an aspect no one should overlook. 

 

Der Beitrag GPS Brings The Metaverse To The Mainstream Through Triffic and GeoMorfs in 2022 erschien zuerst auf Crypto News Flash.

5 Things You Need To Do If You Want To Play At An Unlicensed Online Casino

It’s safe to say that the online casino industry has lived through a sort of a renaissance during the last few years. This is mostly because the sites have improved their offer and the game providers have come up with some of the best games. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also been kind to online casinos.

People who were stuck at home used their opportunity to try something new to kill the time and a lot of them chose online casinos. If you’re one of those folks, you might be looking for a perfect casino. You might also be asking yourself are unlicensed casinos safe? Well, yes and no. If you know what you’re doing, they’re safe. Therefore, let us be your gambling guru and tell you the 5 things you need to do if you want to play at an unlicensed online casino.

Avoid Sites That Look Suspicious

The fact that you are willing to play games at unlicensed casinos means that you are aware of the risks involved. There is a chance that you might stumble upon scammers and hackers on an unlicensed site, therefore, try your best to avoid sites that look suspicious. If you see a poor design or some features other online casinos don’t have, make sure to be careful.

Create A Special Email Address

If you plan on playing at unlicensed online casinos, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to use a special email address that is not connected to your bank accounts or other sensitive accounts. Simply create an email address only for your online casino purposes. This way, even if someone hacks you, they won’t be able to steal your personal information.

Read Terms And Conditions Carefully

When you play at licensed casinos, in most cases you don’t have to worry about the fairness of games. However, if you would like to play at a site that doesn’t have a license, you simply must read the terms and conditions section carefully. This is basically the only way to prevent the site from cheating you, if they have that intent. Read the rules carefully and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Have A Separate Bank Account

The principle here is pretty much the same as with the email address. If you plan on visiting an unlicensed online casino, make sure to create a separate bank account before you make a deposit. This way, if there are scammers and hackers lurking on the site, they won’t be able to get to your savings or family money.

Conclusion

Playing online casino games is a lot of fun. The safest thing to do is to play on licensed sites, but if you really like an online casino that doesn’t have a license, feel free to play there, just take the precautions we talked about in this post. Also, try your best to be careful and play responsibly.

Der Beitrag 5 Things You Need To Do If You Want To Play At An Unlicensed Online Casino erschien zuerst auf Crypto News Flash.

BitMEX Academy Launches with Vision to Raise the Bar for Crypto Education

MAHE, Seychelles, 27th January, 2022, Chainwire

Crypto investment platform BitMEX today announced the launch of BitMEX Academy, a multimedia crypto education platform which will offer a new way to learn about crypto for beginner and expert traders alike. 

BitMEX Academy will bring together the greatest minds in the industry to share knowledge on cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, trading fundamentals, and other topics essential to success in the crypto markets. 

In the coming weeks and months, BitMEX Academy will launch:

Distinguished Lectures: inspiring talks from the leading minds in crypto, starting with legendary crypto market maker Justin Chow (formerly of Cumberland DRW)
Interactive Courses: covering everything from blockchain to how to trade derivatives on BitMEX, these courses will set a new standard for crypto education
Guest Speakers: casual conversations with the most notable innovators in the world of crypto in video blogs and our podcast series on YouTube.
The Library: a rich educational database with everything you need to dive into any crypto topic, featuring a way for the community to also contribute to articles or create new ones
Community: a way to connect, support, and level up your knowledge with like-minded individuals starting with the Academy Discord channel

The Academy’s full curriculum will be going live throughout Q1 and Q2, and users will be able to sign up for courses, check out and contribute to articles in the library, and sit in on exclusive distinguished lectures from many of the top names in the industry. 

Lawrence Linker, Provost of BitMEX Academy, said: “Crypto adoption has the potential to grow from a few hundred million to over a billion users in the next few years, but we will never get there without establishing ways for people to deepen their knowledge with world-class educational resources. BitMEX is investing in the Academy to help address this, and we are creating an open, welcoming community space dedicated to learning about the future of finance.”

Alexander Höptner, CEO of BitMEX, said: “Those of us who are already immersed in crypto often forget that there are many others who are clamoring to learn more, but are unsure of where to turn and intimidated by the sheer amount of information out there. BitMEX Academy will evolve into a central gathering place for people, no matter their level of knowledge, to come together and build practical crypto knowledge.”

Start learning now on the BitMEX Academy website, and join the Academy community on Discord here.

Contacts

Taylor Bossung
press@bitmex.com

Der Beitrag BitMEX Academy Launches with Vision to Raise the Bar for Crypto Education erschien zuerst auf Crypto News Flash.