Well, it's Friday, and TGIF, which I am allowed to say even though technically, I don't believe in G. Be that as it may, we're going to end the work week with three stories we're carefully following here at Skeptophilia's main offices, nestled in the lovely hills of upstate New York.
The first story comes from the nearby state of West Virginia, where a Pentecostal pastor famous for handling poisonous snakes during his sermons as evidence that god was looking over him has died from a bite from a poisonous snake. (Source)
Pastor Mark Wolford, 44, was a popular preacher on the revival circuit, drawing large crowds to his outdoor services. Shortly before what was to be his last Hallelujah, Wolford posted on his Facebook page, "I am looking for a great time this Sunday. It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good 'ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers."
Wolford's trademark was handling live rattlesnakes during his sermons, because of Mark 16:17-18: "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
"Anybody can do it that believes it," Wolford said, in an interview in The Washington Post in 2011. "Jesus said, 'These signs shall follow them which believe.' This is a sign to show people that God has the power."
Well, I'm thinking that the rattlesnake might have had a say in the matter, too, because at a service last week, he put one of his snakes down, and it bit him on the leg. Recalling the part about "they shall recover" from the bible passage quoted above, Wolford refused medical treatment, but was taken to a family member's house, where he died shortly afterwards.
Interestingly, Wolford's father, who was also a Pentecostal preacher, died at the age of 39 of snakebite in exactly the same circumstances.
"(H)e died for what he believed in," the younger Wolford said about his father's death in the interview in The Washington Post. "I know it's real; it is the power of God. If I didn't do it, if I'd never gotten back involved, it'd be the same as denying the power and saying it was not real."
Mmmm, okay. We'll just leave that last statement as is, and move on to our next story.
We next have a story from far-away Zimbabwe, where two witches failed at flying their brooms under the radar. (Source)
In Shackleton compound, a small mining village near Chinhoyi, a ruckus was raised when two women, Rosemary Kamanga and Esnath Madoza, were found dancing around naked after informing a neighbor that they needed some human flesh for a ritual.
The neighbor, Eneresi Mufunga, was awakened at 4 AM from a sound sleep, and got up to investigate. She found Kamanga and Madoza running about without any clothes on, and (according to the article) "quizzed them on their mission."
I suspect this latter is just a quaint Zimbabwean way of saying, "what the hell is wrong with you two?", or some stronger variant, but in any case Kamanga and Madoza informed them that they were trying to find some human flesh, and wondered if Mufunga might have any she'd be willing to part with. "It's a subtle, cunning approach," they were heard to say, earlier. "It might just work!"
Understandably, Mufunga informed them that, as missions go, this one was a non-starter, and proceeded to raise the camp. A crowd gathered, including the two unsuccessful witches' husbands, who "whisked them away home" where they were later found by the police. At that point, they had decided to put on clothes, but they did confess to being witches, so they were then whisked away to a different place, namely jail, and charged with breaking Section 98, Chapter 9:23 of the Zimbabwean Criminal Law Code, wherein it is declared that it is illegal to practice witchcraft, caper about naked, and ask your neighbors for some human flesh.
Our last story hails from New Brunswick, where a farmer named Werner Bock has been charged with animal neglect after losing nearly 250 cattle over the past ten years. (Source)
Police claim that Bock failed to feed the cattle, so they died of the effects of malnutrition. Bock, on the other hand, says that the cattle were killed by "alien death rays."
"At least 250 head of cattle have died from what we call a death beam," Bock said on a YouTube video posted in May 2011. "Where the atmospheric air is manipulated into a death beam, focused on the noses of the animals." The animals "breathe in the death beam" and then slowly die.
Veterinarians in the case have said that there are no signs of burns on the cattle, but that Bock might have been a little more successful with his ranching enterprise had he taken the step of providing his livestock with food. Bock, who intends to be his own legal defense in the case, has already subpoenaed three veterinarians and one police officer to provide evidence.
Besides the general rule of "animals need to be fed," someone might want to explain to Bock about the concept that a subpoena for the defense only works if the people being subpoenaed can actually provide information that supports the accused's claims. All three veterinarians have stated that they saw no evidence of "death beams," and the police officer, who was supposed to verify Bock's claims of seeing UFOs hovering over the farm, has said that he knows about no such thing.
So Bock might want to reconsider his legal strategy. And also find a new career that doesn't involve anything that's alive.
And that's our end-of-the-week wrap-up, here at Skeptophilia. We'll wish you a lovely Friday, and hope that your weekend is pleasant, and free from snakebite, naked witches after your flesh, or alien cow-killing death beams. Because all three of those could put a damper on things.