Will The Real Devil’s Tree Please Stand Up
We finally got a chance to revisit Oak Hammock Park, with the goal of finding the ‘real’ Devil’s Tree. Armed with information provided by actual witnesses to the events which took place in the past, we were fairly confident we could locate the actual tree.
From our own research, we knew that the tree was carved with a cross and later a wooden cross was nailed to the tree. Our group was a little surprised that, after setting out on the adventure, it took only about four minutes to find the oak. It was exactly at the location described by our witness. We found a scar in the bark from the original carving and also located nails and remnants of wood from the cross.
Unfortunately, the tree has become a local oddity and has reached true urban legend status, as mentioned in our previous posts. Rumors of occult rituals being held at the tree, a group of clergy performing a blessing on the oak and even a suicide committed underneath its branches have led to an overwhelming number of people attempting to visit the tree after dark. After a prolonged discussion, our group decided that it would be in the best interest of Parks and Recreation (and of the tree) to not reveal the location publicly. Ultimately, the location is where two young women died horrific deaths and later a despondent man took his own life. It is an area that should be treated with a sense of respect and not turned into a circus sideshow.
We can tell you that the many directions posted throughout the internet on forums and even found in books are quite wrong- not one of them will lead you to the correct tree.
Now that G.R.I.M. has the location of the actual Devil’s Tree and permission from Parks & Recreation, we are going to proceed with an overnight investigation of the location.
Things You Don’t Always Think About
Some of the reports of activity at Oak Hammock Park center around the restrooms. Specifically, the women’s restroom. The reports range from people hearing voices and screams to slamming doors. An investigation in a public restroom presents numerous problems- installing camera equipment in a ladies restroom might score G.R.I.M. an interesting rap sheet, but most likely wouldn’t turn up any evidence. While audio equipment might not land us behind bars, we can’t help but wonder if the men on the team really want to monitor the sounds and discussions in a women’s restroom. Probably not.
Those issues to the side, this particular restroom has some interesting things to note. The floor is far from level and there are open screened window cutouts along the roof-line. This could account for nearly all of the phenomenon reported in the location- a stray breeze causing one of the stall doors to slam, voices carrying in through the open windows- even the screams could be rather common place, due to its proximity to the children’s playground.
As we continue to work on the Devil’s Tree Investigation, we will report our findings.
Paranormal posted an interesting comment on our Survey blog page (on I Am Haunted) that led me to this article:
Paranormal beliefs linked to brain chemistry 09:15 27 July 2002
“Whether or not you believe in the paranormal may depend entirely on your brain chemistry. People with high levels of dopamine are more likely to find significance in coincidences, and pick out meaning and patterns where there are none.
Peter Brugger, a neurologist from the University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, has suggested before that people who believe in the paranormal often seem to be more willing to see patterns or relationships between events where sceptics perceive nothing.”
That article in turn led me to another, which was published in The New York Times. Here is a clip:
“They are eerie sensations, more common than one might think: A man describes feeling a shadowy figure standing behind him, then turning around to find no one there. A woman feels herself leaving her body and floating in space, looking down on her corporeal self.
Such experiences are often attributed by those who have them to paranormal forces.
But according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body. In another woman, electrical current delivered to the angular gyrus produced an uncanny feeling that someone was behind her, intent on interfering with her actions.
Dr. Olaf Blanke, a neurologist at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland who carried out the procedures, said that the women had normal psychiatric histories and that they were stunned by the bizarre nature of their experiences.
The Sept. 21 issue of Nature magazine includes an account by Dr. Blanke and his colleagues of the woman who sensed a shadow person behind her. They described the out-of-body experiences in the February 2004 issue of the journal Brain.
There is nothing mystical about these ghostly experiences, said Peter Brugger, a neuroscientist at University Hospital in Zurich, who was not involved in the experiments but is an expert on phantom limbs, the sensation of still feeling a limb that has been amputated, and other mind-bending phenomena.
“The research shows that the self can be detached from the body and can live a phantom existence on its own, as in an out-of-body experience, or it can be felt outside of personal space, as in a sense of a presence,” Dr. Brugger said.”
This leads to some rather interesting questions; do these scientific discoveries make you less of a believer in the paranormal or more? Do you think that what is paranormal to some or most of the population is normal to another percentage, those whose brains act differently? Is this all ‘imaginary,’ just a byproduct of consciousness? If the consciousness can indeed separate itself, is it possible that others can see or interact with it despite its non-physical state?
In addition to the original article, I came across the book, “Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields” which was published by the National Research Council and has the following description:
“Assesses the effects of electric and magnetic fields on human health. This book examines what is known about three kinds of health effects associated with EMF: cancer, primarily childhood leukemia; reproduction and development; and neurobiological effects. It provides a discussion on hazard identification, and dose-response assessment.”
Their conclusion was that “the current body of evidence does not show that exposure to these fields presents a human health hazard. Specifically, no conclusive and consistent evidence shows that exposures to residential electric and magnetic fields produce cancer, adverse neurobehavioral effects, or reproductive and developmental effects.”
**** This is where I’m going to get a little more technical…this is a bail out point for anyone not interested in the ‘science stuff’! ****
In a June 2006 publication, Jan Bures of the Institute of Physiology Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague, Czech Republic reported the following:
Unlike environmental diseases due to presence of toxic or absence of vitally important substances in food, water or air, electrical and magnetic forces are indispensable for life at levels considerably exceeding the limits considered as harmful by the EHS concept.
One of the underlying misunderstandings is the assumption that EMFs are novel forces introduced by technical development of industrial countries and that living creatures are not prepared to live with them. However, already the first unicellular organisms starting the evolution of life on our planet were marvelous examples of electrical engineering. Their lipid cell membrane is only 5nm thick but separates an electrical potential of 0.1 V, which corresponds to the electrical field of 10-1V/5×10-9m = 2×107 V/m. Electrical phenomena have played an essential role in development of animals and particularly of their brains, the function of which is impossible without electrical signals mediating transmission of information between individual neurons and neural networks, and implementing the highest cognitive functions.
Up to 1011 neurons of the human brain generate a large amount of electrical activity, which in its diversity, intensity and ubiquity exceeds what most alleged sources can produce.”
She further explains:
“The requirement that electrical phenomena generated in the brain tissue by external sources, should not exceed the inherent level of EMF noise of biological origin seems reasonable and is generally strictly followed by hygienic regulations for the use of electrical appliances. But this is not always respected in some medical treatments, when higher stimulation intensity is deliberately used to restore a failing vital function. Thus cardiac flutter blocking blood circulation can be stopped by high intensity electrical pulse applied to the chest, which elicits cardiac arrest usually followed by recovery of normal heart beat.
A less dramatic example is the cardiac pacemaker, implanted stimulator which cures patients with atrio-ventricular blockade by replacing the irregular discharge of the cardiac sinus node by electrical stimuli activating the heart contractions at regular intervals. The same applies to stimulation of various brain centers, which may elicit in animals pleasant feelings, motivating them to press a switch administering a short (0.1 s) electric stimulus (about 40 ?A) to the hypothalamic pleasure centers (Olds and Milner, 1954).
High preference of this artificial activity against other motivated behaviors e.g. (feeding, drinking) shows that the nature of the stimulus does not interfere with its further processing and does not prevent the animal to use the cognitive functions required for access to the rewarding stimulation. Similar desirable effects of brain stimulation were recently demonstrated in Parkinson patients, whose tremor, rigidity, muscle weakness and difficult walking are clearly alleviated by self-administered series of pulses applied through implanted electrodes to their thalamic nuclei (Hashimoto et al., 2003)
Electrical stimulation requires application of higher voltages and currents produced by technical devices, but biological forms of effective stimulators were introduced by the evolutionary process millions years ago. Several classes of electric fish have developed so called electric organs, in which hundreds to thousands cells are connected in series to a column in which the 0.1 V emf of individual cells may lead to the discharge amplitude of 100 V to 700 V, and by parallel connection of such columns to currents of up to 10 A (Grundfest, 1960). While the strongly electric fish (the electric eel, Electrophorus electricus), use their discharge for stunning the prey or for predator defense, the weakly electric fish use it for electrolocation.
In Gnathonemus Petersii the electric organ discharges low rate of 10 V pulses from the tail. Current flows through the electroreceptors on the anterior surface of the body, innervated by the lateral line nerves, which monitor the density of current flow through the surrounding water in the rostrocaudal direction. Any asymmetry of this density shows that the conductivity of the water was influenced by presence of some objects with high or low resistance in the vicinity of the fish. Electro-sensitivity is also used by some non-electric fish like sharks, for
detection of electric current in the environment, e.g. for finding live prey buried under a layer of sand. Sharks can detect electrocardiogram of such fish, remove the covering sand and eat the prey. The development of electrolocation demonstrates, that evolution has tried a variety of available methods to improve the animal’s capacity to locate prey, or avoid obstacles in the environment in which the animal lives, but which cannot be detected with effective use of vision or touch. Limited contact with aquatic environment did not lead to development of an analog of the lateral line system in humans. But the most important lesson we get from electric fishes, is that they were not deterred by the mysterious force and used it ingeniously to their advantage. It is obvious that they do not obey the simplistic recommendations of environmentalists, prohibiting the use of high voltage and current which would make evolution a very safe but rather ineffective process.
In an interesting side study conducted by Eugene Lyskov, Kjell Hansson Mild and Monica Sandström (from the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research, University of Gävle, Umeå, Sweden; the National Institute for Working Life, Umeå, Sweden and the Department of Natural Science, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden, respectivly) we see that certain people have a varying baseline that affects results:
“We have during several years studied people with perceived electrical hypersensitivity (EHS), both in epidemiological studies and in neurophysiological examinations.
The problem to find a causal connection between the originate of symptoms and electromagnetic fields in provocation tests, have lead us in to new line of thought. How do people with EHS respond to other physical factors in our environment? What are their physiological and neurophysiologic baseline status?
Since amplitude modulated light emitted from the video display units (VDU) was considered as a possible cause of EHS symptoms, the aim of our first study (Sandström et al. 1997) was to make an objective physiological assessment of individual sensitivity to this factor. It is known that brain and retina reactions to flickers, can be recorded far above critical fusion frequency. Therefore, amplitude of electroretinogram (ERG) and visual evoked potentials (VEP) during photo stimulation at frequencies below and above CFF was chosen as markers of the sensitivity. Additionally, heart rate was recorded to control possible activation due to photo stimulation session. We tested 10 people with perceived EHS and an equal number of age and sex matched healthy controls.
The results showed significantly increased amplitude of the VEP at all tested frequencies in the patient group in comparison with a healthy control group, whereas no difference in ERG were revealed. Increased mean heart rate in rest (baseline) period was also found when comparing the patient group with the control group. These preliminary findings indicated an increased sensitivity to flickering light, and possible engagement of the autonomous nervous system in the patients. That motivated further investigations of the baseline neurophysiological characteristics of the central and autonomous regulation, and their reactivity to different functional tests in EHS. Therefore in our second study (Lyskov et al. 2001a), the arsenal of physiological methods, and tests as well as the number of patients was extended.
Twenty patients with prevalence of skin (tingling, redness) and neurasthenic (fatigue, tiredness, headache) symptoms were recruited from the University hospital, age and sex matched with twenty control subjects without health complaints. They were examined in a one day laboratory session, that included recording of electroencephalogram, steadystate visual potentials in response to stroboscope stimulation at frequencies 30-70 Hz, ECG, blood pressure, and electrodermal activity. Subjective measure of sensitivity to flickering light – critical fusion frequency was recorded in response to manually controlled matrix of the red light emitting diodes. Vision acuity and contrast sensitivity were also assessed. After acclimatization in the experimental chamber physiological processes were recorded in baseline conditions and in response to several functional tests: deep breathing test, orthostatic test, audiostimulation. The total duration of the test battery was 25 minutes, with at least 5 minutes pauses between functional tests. Differences between EHS subjects and control were found in several experimental outcomes. The patients had a higher mean value of critical fusion frequency, modest but significantly increased amplitude of the fundamental harmonics of the steady-state VEP in occipital derivations in patients in comparison with control subjects. The overall difference, was detected with all autonomous variables used in the experiments. In rest conditions mean values of heart rate was higher and heart rate variability lower in EHS persons in comparison with control. Decreased 30:15 ratio in response to orthostatic test was detected on the level of statistical trend. Sympathetic skin response to audio clicks showed increased amplitude, decreased latency and relative asymmetry of responses in patients in comparison with control.
The results of this neurophysiological study showed that patients with a perceived electrical hypersensitivity, had a tendency towards increased sympathetic activity during baseline relaxation period, hyper responsiveness to sensor stimulation such as flickering light and audio stimulation, and their physiological profile showed imbalance of autonomic regulation with a trend towards hypersympathotone and increased arousal.”
This does indeed lead one to wonder how these predisposed individuals would react to random waves under less than desirable conditions (such as when alone or in the dark). It could indeed account for the paranormal experiences. However, it is my opinion that it does not seem to address the validity of the experience, only the origin.