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Ask the Patriarch 140
Please explain these occurrences to me?

from: Glenn

To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments. A further response to the elements of the question that Glenn did not feel were answered to his satisfaction is at Meditation 534. Glenn returned to this in Ask the Patriarch 168.

I would like to ask you some questions as I am quit an easily led person and I'm trying to be less so, as I struggle with mental ill health so as you can appreciate this doesn't help.

  1. Cardiologist and near-death researcher Dr. Maurice Rawlings, who investigates hellish NDEs said that he recorded an interview with a negative NDE experiencer, played it back, then went to play it to a third party and the tape had been erased. He claims that the devil didn't want these stories getting out.
  2. During the making of the film "the Omen" a whole catalogue of unexplained events happened Gregory Peck agreed to be in the movie and his son blew his brains out, one of the people who worked on the film told how their car crashed outside of a Dutch town called "Ommen" and it was "66, 6" Two people died in the accident, one died amazingly like David Warner's character in the film. His character lost his head, the passenger in the car in real life was cut in half. On the remake of the movie "the Omen 666" Peter Postlewate father was dealt a hand of 666 during a card game. He died next day! And Liev Schrieber was chased by dogs. Another incidence that happened on the movies was that the crew were filming different scenes in different locations and the separate film reels all developed the same malfunction in exactly the same place in the separate film reels, further the film maker came in one day and found all the film reels had scratch marks all over them, and no one had access to them. The list of the events in both movies are endless. The film makers have concluded the devil didn't want a film about the Antichrist getting out as it exposed his end-time plans.
  3. During the making of the film the "The Passion of the Christ" the actor playing Christ, Jim Caviezel ,while on the cross was struck by lightening and a glow could be seen around him, the composer of the score told how when picture of Satan came up on the film the picture would freeze, music too and a howling, scream like from a wild animal could be heard come from the equipment. There were witnesses who heard and saw these things too. And like in the film "the Omen" the film reels had scratch makes on them, and no one had had access to them

Yet I am a bit weak-willed but I'm trying to build up my skeptic skills, if you could help me find possible "logical" explanations, it would be appreciated.

Best wishes,


The Patriarch replies:


The human mind works by seeking connections and explanations. This is why human knowledge is continually expanding.

But sometimes, mistaken connections are made. False answers are arrived at. This is why science demands "repeatability" of an experiment before its conclusions are accepted. That is why the supernatural is not currently accepted as validated by science. Events attributed to the supernatural are not repeatable. And the supernatural is frequently resorted to when the correct answer is "I don't know."

When someone presents a supernatural reason for an event, it is up to that person to prove that the supernatural is the most probable reason, and not up to the innocent bystander to disprove it. In all your examples there is no need for the supernatural. And it is the least probable excuse.

Consider your first response. Why did Rawlings blame the Satan for the apparent tape erasure? Because he believes Satan is involved in near death experiences. He is predisposed to believe this.

As the Annotated Skeptic Bibliography says about his book:

Conservative Christians suspect occult and New Age phenomena to be real but inspired by demonic forces. Rawlings, a medical doctor, takes on the popular newagey mythology of near-death experiences, claiming that its often positive, accepting character is a deception. He emphasizes that some NDEs are hellishly negative episodes, and warns that the "being of light" at the end of the tunnel is Lucifer, the angel of light. Apparently Satan is trying to fool us into thinking there is no Hell and that salvation is possible without Christ. The book addresses traditionalist Christians; it gives no real evidence that might have a bite for skeptics.

Should one immediately jump to the conclusion "the devil did it" when a tape thought to have been recorded on turns out to be blank? Of course not. We recognize "the devil did it" as a lame argument in other situations. If the devil did it in this case, why did he not do it with 100% of Rawlings recordings. The excuse presented by Rawlings for the blank tape is patently ridiculous.

I will accept for the purpose of this discussion that Rawlings interviewed someone and when he played the tape back it was blank. What could have caused this?

  1. He forgot to turn the recorder on, and did not follow his customary practice of reviewing the tape. However, because it was his practice, he thought he had. Then the tape was still blank when he played it back for a third party.
  2. Rawlings' description of events is correct, however between his review and playing back for a third party, the tape was accidently erased, possibly by the recorder, possibly by a magnetic field.
  3. Rawlings' description of events is correct, however between his review and playing back for a third party, he mixed up his tapes, labelling a blank one as the interview, and using the recorded tape as a new blank in another interview, overwriting the contents.

It would not take much effort to come up with other logical reasons for the events described, all far more probable than Satan doing the erasure to cover up.

I don't know what caused the tape erasure at this remove from the events. But what I do know is that Satan causing it is highly unlikely. There are numerous other possible reasons for what happened.

Let's take your various incidents which supposedly occurred during the making of a couple of movies. So what? Strange things do happen. Have not strange things happened to you? And they occur randomly. Randomly means sometimes strange things happen closely together, and sometimes they occur far apart.

Consider all the religious-themed movies that have ever been made. Do we have these strange stories about every one of them?

Consider all the horror movies with a satanic theme that have ever been made. Do we have these strange stories about every one of them?

If it is not happening consistently in similar situation, then there is no reason to leap to conclusions about an over-riding cause.

All you are giving me is a handful of coincidences reported by some individuals in two movies out of the thousands that have been made. These coincidences signify nothing. Absolutely nothing - except for one of the incidents.

Caviezel being struck by lightning - there is a message there! Don't climb up on a cross during a thunderstorm. You greatly increase your chances of being hit by lightning. And there is a reasonable consistency to dangerously exposing yourself to lightning and getting hit by it. That is something which most intelligent people are aware of.

In summary, when strange things happen, do not look to the supernatural first. Be skeptical. Be skeptical of the stories themselves. They may not be true, they may be exaggerations, misunderstandings, or outright falsehoods. In the case of a film, they may be pure invention for the purpose of publicity. And even if the story is demonstrably true, look for a rational reason rather than the supernatural. In the end, if you cannot find a rational reason, there is nothing wrong with "I don't know." That is more honest than assigning credit to a supernatural being for which there is no verifiable evidence.