• What’s That Hiding in Your Shed?

    What’s That Hiding in Your Shed? Our Top Urban Legends

    Sheds form the perfect setting for urban legends. Most people can instantly relate, as plenty of houses have them in some form. They’re often dark and neglected as well, giving that sense of mystery you’re looking for with these tales.

    These stories never fail to delight and horrify readers. We’re sure you’ll be careful next time you step into your shed!

    The Brown Recluse Spider Bite

    cottage shedsThis one has been going around via email for years, each time with a slight change in details. The result is always horrifying and painful. The following is just one version of the story.

    The email you receive is a warning. The sender pretends he’s doing you a favor by letting you know about a dangerous spider he’s heard about. It’s actually quite a common type, known as the Brown Recluse Spider. It likes darkness and so can usually be found in dark attics and storage sheds.

    The story your �friend’ is sharing is about a regular Joe that was cleaning his storage shed on an average Saturday afternoon. While taking out some old boxes he feels a slight pinch on his hand. Turns out it’s just a spider bite. No problem, right? Not so.

    The email has a couple of images attached. The first image shows a run of the mill bite, nothing to worry about. The last image, on the other hand, shows a graphic image that not many people will be able to handle!

    The bite has turned for the worse, requiring amputation for the poor guy who was bitten. The email ends with a warning, leaving the reader worried considering how common the spider seems to be!

    You’ll be happy to read that while these spiders are real, they don’t cause that much damage. If you get a bite, it’s likely that it won’t be much worse than anything else you’ve experienced from other harmless insects.

    Cougar In the Storage Shed

    You will usually get these stories during the cold winter months. The warning arrives in your email, as most common urban myths are spread these days.

    The radio has been reporting some strange activity lately. Food from garden sheds all over the area has been disappearing, with a huge mess being left behind instead. What’s going on?

    The photo that comes attached explains it all. It shows a cougar that had been living in the area, perhaps spending nights in storage sheds during the cold weather. The cougar is trying to get inside the house, though fortunately the glass window is strong enough to prevent the animal from entering. What will happen the next time the cougar decides to pay a visit?

    This is another one of those stories that is meant to scare people from going out into their backyards and into their storage sheds. Who would want to run into a massive cougar when opening the shed door? We’re pretty sure we know the answer.

    Fortunately, the images that are thrown around are from a single sighting in an area known for frequent visits from cougars. The emails are usually sent around to different counties, ensuring a spread of panic over a large area.

    These stories are just a few where sheds play a central role. They work particularly well when set during the dark winter months, where storage sheds can turn into scary homes for creepy crawlies, huge animals, not to mention ghosts! Watch your step next time.

  • 7 Halloween Superstitions You Don't Really Want to Believe

    You probably shrug them off as Old Wives Tales, silly superstitions, or just coincidental occurrences, but classic Halloween superstitions continue to be passed down through generations. Whatever type of story they may be, there are hundreds of Halloween superstitions and stories that stick with us year after year, and even if we don’t really want to believe them they still make us do a double take now and then. From ringing bells to scare away spirits, to avoiding our own shadow in the moonlight, here are just seven Halloween superstitions and customs that have stuck with us through time; and many that we might not really want to believe:

    Unexplained candle burnouts. If you’re burning candles on Halloween and there’s no breeze or a drafty door to explain it, the only reasonable explanation is there’s a ghost in the house. A disappearing flame on the candle burned on Halloween means there’s a ghost in the house. A welsh Halloween superstition believes that a flame that suddenly turns blue means there’s a ghost nearby.

    Spirit-chasing bells. A medieval superstition that still lingers today, the ringing of bells (or chimes, doorbells, and other sound-making devices) is supposed to chase away evil spirits.

    Flying bats. If you happen to catch sight of bats flying around your house–either inside or outside–this could be a sign of ghosts and spirits nearby. Grab the garlic.

    Black and white cats. In Britain, white cats are a sign of bad luck and may mean evil spirits are lurking close by. Black cats have often been associated with the devil, and even though many black cat owners will insist this is just a superstition, Halloween calls for many witch and black cat duos. Seeing a black cat, or simply crossing paths with one over Halloween, could be a sign of negative things ahead.

    Halloween birthdays. According to Welsh legends, children born on Halloween will have special powers to ward off evil spirits and the ‘gift of second sight.’

    The moonlight shadow. Another Celtic superstition involves the moon; if you catch your shadow in the moonlight, you’re simply doomed to bad luck–and even death.

    Big brother spiders. A European superstition involves seeing spiders on Halloween; if you find a few lurking in your room or house on Halloween night, it means that the spirit of a dead loved one is watching over you. Very comforting, indeed.

    While most of these might make you think twice this year, a strange encounter might lead you to knock on wood and hope for the best. . .

  • 7 Celebrity Diet Secrets

    I always said if I had a personal trainer and personal chef I could look as good as some of these celebrity starlets do everyday (body wise). Celebrities are the epitome of appearance. They are constantly under the spotlight in regards to the bodies, clothes, hairstyle and every other aspect of their lives. We hold celebrities to a much higher standard than we do ourselves, probably because they get paid to look that good.  When celebrities are in the limelight they can’t afford to not look good or else they will get scrutinized publicly. That is why celebrities work so hard to make sure they look good no matter what.

    Just like us celebrities have their lists of dos and don’ts. They have little rituals, secrets, and agendas that keep them up to par everyday. Some celebrities have extreme workouts or well-planned diets. You can follow some of these extreme regimens and look just as good as they do. Take some secrets from the top women in movies (Gwyneth Paltrow), TV (Jennifer Aniston), music (Madonna), fashion (Claudia Schiffer) and talk shows (Oprah). Here are some of the celebrity secrets that everyone wants to know.

    1. Jennifer Aniston-

    Over the years Jennifer Aniston has mesmerized audiences with her charm, her hairstyle and her sexy body. Jennifer has always maintained her trendy style and trim figure. Jennifer stays so fit because she follows the 40:30:30 diet method. The way this diet works is she takes in 40% low glycemic carbohydrates, 30% lean proteins, and 30% essential fats. Low glycemic carbohydrates such as beans, fruits and vegetables and legumes ensure that the body breaks it down and uses the  carbohydrates instead of storing them in the body. Lean protein such as tofu, fish, chicken, turkey, beef and low fat dairy products is a necessary part of her diet to maintain and build muscle. Essential fats are found in nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil. These fats are essential for a healthy overall body function. It is crucial that every meal contain macronutrients from each group. This is to balance the body’s hormones for maximum weight loss.

    1. Kate Hudson-

    Kate Hudson always looks fabulous and fit. After her pregnancy she need to trim down and shape up for her next film. To do this she went back to her previous eating plan, however she switched to a higher protein diet.  She consumed small meals that contained high protein. In conjunction with her diet she added an exercise regime that included weight training and cardio. She regained her fit figure only four months after she gave birth (Something that every mom would like to do after having a baby). Now she looks stunning and even gained much envy for her new tight abdominal muscles.

    1. Oprah Winfrey-

    Oprah has always been one of those celebrities who has struggled with weight through out her career. However after turning 50 she set her goal on trimming up. To do this she combined a regular exercise program with a diet plan. She works out 5 days a week with free weights and cardio on the treadmill. Her diet consists of legumes, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, chicken and low fat dairy. Oprah also boasts that she never eats after 7pm.

    1. Gwyneth Paltrow-

    Gwyneth Paltrow has always been a slim actress, but needless to say she maintains her slim figure through a strict diet. Yes even though she is naturally slim she needs to stay on track to maintain her slim physique.  She avoids sugar and white flour that the body would store as fat. Gwyneth follows a macrobiotic diet. She eats foods such as vegetables, brown rice, and lean meat. She also eliminated dairy from her diet, which can be high in fat. She also stays limber and flexible through yoga.

    1. Madonna-

    Even at Madonna’s age she still has an exquisite body that she flaunts for all her fans to see. Even after having her children she always seems to stay in the perfect physical condition. She keeps her lean figure through Ashtanga Yoga and a strict diet. She adopted the macrobiotic diet, which includes all organic foods rich in lean protein. She is very strict about not eating junk food (something everyone wishes they could do).

    1. Claudia Schiffer-

    So the superstition is that supermodels don’t eat anything. Well that’s not the case for German supermodel Claudia Schiffer. She maintains her supermodel figure through salads and steamed vegetables for dinner and fruit for breakfast and early lunches. While on locations she drinks tomato juice and herbal teas.

    1. Christie Brinkley-

    Christie Brinkley breaks the supermodel superstition again. She actually is a vegetarian. She makes sure she fulfills her nutrients through sweet potatoes and other vegetables. She never keeps junk food in her home or around so to avoid empty calories. When she needs to slim down quick she adopts a liquid juice diet.

    Although, we feel like celebrities are supernatural or out of this world, they are just like you or me. They keep their fit health bodies through old-fashioned exercise and eating regimens. However, for celebrities it is part of their job to maintain their sexy, trim physiques. Although, its not impossible for ordinary people to have fit and health bodies too. Use some tips and tricks from these celebrities to start your transformation. Remember to stick with it just like these celebs do.

  • Garlic: The Mystical Health Food

    Introduction

    I was raised in a garlic-eating family. My mom cooked with it, put it in salads, stews, spaghetti and roasts. We also ate it raw! My dad grew it in our back yard and ate so much of it that his skin had a garlic smell. He’s been dead for many years now but anytime I catch the scent of garlic, thoughts of him manifest in my heart and I become mindful with memories.

    When my grandmother was a little girl her mother would make her and her brothers wear garlic around their necks when they went to school in winter. The idea was that it would keep them from catching colds. And, as far as superstition is concerned, we had a friend who would set garlic around the house to get rid of unfriendly ghosts. It must have worked, however, because we never saw an unfriendly

  • A History of Western Astrology


    The history of Astrology begins around 2000 BCE, in ancient Babylon.  There, they began to develop a complex system of celestial omens.  The priests used the positions of the planets and the stars to state the desires of the gods.  They would document the movements in the sky and the earthly activities that followed them, and build a list of good and bad omens.  For example, if a full moon and a cloudy sky were followed by a great victory over an enemy the next day, then “full moon with clouds” would be recorded as a good omen.  Over time, this system spread across the ancient world.

    The Egyptians were very focused on astronomy, with good reason.  The Sun and Sirius were used to predict when the Nile would flood.  Traditionally, Rameses II is known for defining several of the signs of the Zodiac.

    Horoscopic Astrology made its first appearance in Alexandrian Egypt.  This new version of Babylonian and Egyptian astrology focused on the positions of the planets and constellations at the time of a person’s birth.  Ptolemy codified the system in his work Tetrabiblos, and very little has changed to this day.

    Through the middle ages, astrology and astronomy were almost interchangeable.  The majority of the early astronomical observations of sun, moon, and planets were all done by astrologers.  Where much of astrology was forgotten in Europe during the dark ages, the Persians kept the knowledge alive, and returned it to Europe with the Renaissance.

    With the Scientific Revolution starting in the 17th century, however, the two began to split apart, with astronomy becoming a science and astrology viewed more as occult superstition.

    In the twentieth century, astrology became popular in the United States around 1900 to 1950.  Astrology writers also tried to simplify some of the more confusing parts, which made astrology more available to the general public.  As a result, today there is a market for astrology books and “sun-sign” predictions.

  • Greater Inflation Is An Extremely, Very Bad Concept


    Lots of economists think that greater inflation and/or a weaker UNITED STATE dollar would increase the economy. It would not. Those economists’ belief amounts to a superstition. Today, we are going to take a deep dive into the numbers to show just why– and exactly how– an unpredictable, decreasing dollar hurts, instead of assists, financial development and jobs.

    A superstition is a psychological design that blinds you to truth. George Washington’s physicians bled him to death because they were in the grip of a superstition: that bleeding clients treatments condition. When physicians began taking a look at the information directly, instead of with the lens of their mental design, they recognized that bleeding clients was based upon a superstition, and they stopped this hazardous practice.

    Keynesian economists believe that larger government deficits increase GDP (financial stimulus) which higher inflation promotes work (monetary stimulus, with a Phillips Curve twist). Both of these beliefs are superstitions.
    Keynesian traffic

    Keynesian traffic jam (Picture credit: alexfiles).

    Exactly how do Keynesian superstitions manage to make it through in the 21st century? Well, obviously, there is an element of self-interest/tribal interest at work here. Keynesians want a centrally planned economy, and it just so takes place that Keynesian policies create effective, distinguished, high-paying positions for economic main planners.

    Nevertheless, the Keynesians have actually also developed analytical techniques that profess to support and justify Keynesian economic policies.

    Keynesians like their preferred policies to be judged based upon “counterfactuals,” which are back determined back determined from the observed outcomes by means of methodologies that assume that Keynesianism works as promoted. Accordingly, no matter exactly how bad the economy gets, the Keynesians’ estimations will always reveal that their policies are working, and that we have to apply even more of them.

    The utmost step of the strength of the dollar is its value in terms of gold, which has kept a reasonably constant genuine value over the centuries. Appropriately, we can divide America’s post-war financial history into four periods, based upon the trend in the gold value of the dollar during each period. We’ll begin with 1951, due to the fact that this is the first year for which Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) fixed possession data is readily available.

    Exactly how the Economy Really Works.

    Plainly, the economy does best with a stable dollar (like we had throughout the heyday of the Bretton Woods gold requirement system), next best with a rising, semi-stable dollar, and worst with a falling dollar. But, Keynesian economists are presently beating the drums for more inflation. This shows the power of superstition.

    OK, however exactly how does an unsteady, falling dollar do the damage it does? Let’s take a look at how the economy really works.

    Keynesians believe that financial growth is driven by “need,” and for that reason the way to buy faster genuine GDP growth is via financial stimulus (having the government spend even more) and monetary stimulus (having the Federal Reserve print even more cash).

    Is this real? No. If it were, Zimbabwe would now be the richest nation on earth, having set the world’s record for Keynesian stimulus during 2000– 2008. Keynesianism fails every time, and everywhere, that it is tried.

    It ends up that commercialism is driven by capital. (Who knew?) RGDP development, jobs, and salaries all depend upon the physical possessions that we have, and exactly how successfully we can make use of those assets. An unpredictable dollar disrupts our economy’s ability to develop and make use of properties to produce RGDP and utilize people.

    It serves to divide the country’s “produced assets” into 2 groups, domestic properties (housing) and nonresidential properties (it all else).

    Residential assets produce GDP in the form of “housing services.” This is great, but residential possessions do not support any jobs, and the BEA numbers show that the GDP return on these possessions is low. This return has averaged only 8.12 % over the past 44 years.

    Over the past 44 years, 91.5 % of genuine GDP, and 100.0 % of overall employment, have actually been produced/supported by nonresidential possessions. Yes, the economy requires labor to operate, but without capital (devices), there would be no jobs, and GDP would be no. And, it has actually been the patient build-up of nonresidential possessions that has made it possible to enhance GDP per full-time-equivalent employee by 83.5 % in between 1969 and 2012.

    Over the past 62 years, the GDP yield on nonresidential properties has averaged 44.01 %. Success depends upon building up nonresidential properties and utilizing them efficiently to produce RGDP.

    A steady or rising dollar (vs. gold) causes enhancing asset performance (nonresidential GDP per dollar of nonresidential possessions). A falling dollar causes possession performance to fall with it. The financial impact of this sensation is massive.

    Falling dollar minimizes capital financial investment (and for that reason the rate of possession buildup) somewhat, however its huge effect is on property performance– just how much nonresidential GDP the economy produces per dollar of nonresidential properties.

    Through 2012, gross nonresidential repaired investment as a percent of GDP has actually been below the average of the previous 44 years for 11 successive years. The four years ending with 2012 have actually seen the most affordable such investment rates in America’s entire post-war history. Obviously, America’s stock of nonresidential properties was substantially smaller in 2012 than it would have been if financial policy had actually been more positive to genuine investment.

    Even with our less-than-robust 2012 capital stock, if capital productivity in 2012 had actually been as high as it was in 2000, 2012 RGDP would have been $2.1 trillion higher, and we would have been at complete employment in 2012 ($2.1 trillion in GDP equates to 16.4 million typical tasks).

    An unstable, falling dollar enforces substantial costs on the economy. It interrupts the procedures by which America builds up efficient possessions, and then makes use of those assets to produce GDP and produce jobs.

    It’s time for Keynesians to quit their superstitious belief in the financial equivalent of bleeding clients. The proof is just frustrating. I’m talking with you, Paul Krugman.

    Americans must turn down the Keynesians’ calls for higher inflation, and support a return to a lawfully specified dollar and support a go back to a constitutional dollar, one whose value is legitimately defined. A costs, H.R. 1576, has actually been presented into the 113th Congress in order to accomplish this.

    With a stable currency, capital financial investment would enhance, and asset performance would increase. The U.S. might finally climb out of its slough of Keynesian despond, and into the sunlit uplands of prosperity.

  • Superstition And Politics


    In a number of weeks, we usher in the Lunar Year of the Horse. The superstitious among us have begun searching for the zodiac to see exactly what the Wooden Equine portends.

    Superstition cuts across cultures, races and faiths. It is human nature to yearn for that good luck beauty, to stick to a specific routine if it bodes well, to be wary of omens which warn of pitfalls ahead.

    What about the political arena? Does superstition have a location in the running of a nation?

    It’s amazing the number of Singaporeans who have actually heard the story about Lee Kuan Yew being told by a revered monk that the nation’s fortune would remain to rise only if every citizen were to carry a bagua– the eight-sided fengshui symbol. This sparked off the brainwave of minting an octagonal one-dollar coin so everybody in Singapore will wind up pocketing an eight-sided sign. And to top it off, let’s likewise have octagonal road tax discs so every car needs to spot one.

    There are also tales about the 50-dollar costs, the Merlion and the Singapore Flyer, amongst others. Truth or fiction? Reality or report?

    In the book “Hard Truths,” Lee Kuan Yew brushes off the one about the eight-sided one-dollar coin: “People spin these yarns! It doesn’t bother me.” In fact, he proclaims he is not a believer in any of the things: “Utter rubbish! Utter rubbish! I’m a practical, useful other. I do not think in horoscopes. I do not believe in fengshui.”.

    Incidentally, when the Monetary Authority of Singapore presented the Singapore Third Series coins last year, the one-dollar coin, despite receiving a re-design, still kept its octagonal frame. Strange that it should keep its uncommon shape these previous 30 years. The exact same opts for that road tax disc.

    Even if Lee harbors superstitious beliefs, exists anything unfortunate? If he had Singapore’s finest interests at heart and was willing to go to fantastic lengths to protect the country and protect’s prosperity, there is no wrong, certainly.

    Superstition amongst politicians is not rare. It has actually been widely reported that during the Ronald Reagan presidency, virtually every significant move and decision made in the White Residence was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who prepared horoscopes to make certain the worlds were in positive positioning. Ideas that specific days were bad for the Head of state brought about the cancellation of speeches and interview and the curtailment of travel.

    Barack Obama is likewise superstitious. He plays basketball on every election day since it is said to bring him luck. The only time he failed to do so, he lost the New Hampshire main election. And prior to governmental disputes, he habitually dines on steak and potatoes.

    Superstition is all over in China. The number 8 is considered lucky, so it was no mishap that the Communist Celebration selected 8pm, August 8, 2008 for the launch of the Beijing Olympic Games.

    Back home, you might remember that last November, PM Lee Hsien Loong tweeted that he found a surprise visitor in the Istana through a barn owl “which had flown into the structure overnight, and perched itself easily high up out of reach”. In the native Cherokee culture, along with numerous various other Native American cultures, owls are an extremely bad omen.

    Soon afterward, Singapore’s first riot in 40 years broke out, ending the year on a bitter note. The riot also took the thunder from the ruling PAP, which held a weekend convention to launch its brand-new manifesto. The public interest was focused on the riot, not the PAP manifesto. On hindsight, we can see the owl as indeed a bad omen, or we might still dismiss it as plain coincidence.

    Whatever the case, whether one is superstitious, it’s difficult to disagree with the late Dr Goh Keng Swee who once stated that it is much better to be born fortunate than smart.

  • ACLU Blasts NSA Surveillance With Video Featuring Creepy Santas

    The highly controversial and formerly secret phone data-mining program conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) is likely a violation of the U.S. constitution, a federal judge ruled today.

    In this program, the NSA collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to and from the country, leaving many to question whether it infringes on personal freedoms. And as of today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, it seems that may be the case.

    “I can not imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this high-tech and systematic collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,” Leon wrote in his ruling. The case itself came from a lawsuit filed by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman.

    Leon specifically said the NSA’s phone program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. He also indicated that the Justice Department failed in giving convincing evidence that collecting these phone records successfully helped stop terrorist attacks.

    Previously, the Justice Department argued that collecting metadata from phone calls– length of call, time of call, and numbers dialed– did not violate the Fourth Amendment because this information is routinely gathered by phone companies for billing purposes. That means the department deemed the use of that data outside of billing purposes as fair game, because they weren’t the ones actually doing the searching.

    And if you’re curious about what the NSA can do with all the metadata collected from the nearly 5 billion mobile phone records created every day, check out this rundown by VentureBeat’s Meghan Kelly.

  • See Creepy Clip Of Dead Moth Being Inflated

    Watch as a nature enthusiast pumps this dead creature full of air to see it come out of its shell – literally

    A nature fan posted this eye-opening video of a dead moth being inflated on YouTube.

    The bizarre 22-second footage, uploaded by user AclerisMoth, of the dead moth being pumped full of air has gone viral around the world, attracting more than 438,000 hits.

    The moth enthusiast said in the video description that air was blown into the chest of the Coremata moth, causing the insect’s body, including its reproductive area, to swell and extend.

    Dirty-minded viewers couldn’t help but notice a few of the insect’s body parts enlarging, leading to speculation they could in fact be the moth’s genitals.

    One user called hedgehogzilla wrote: “It is a Japanese Chionarctia nivea moth and that, my friends, is its penis.”.

    While Sean Doherty added: “Actually I believe that is what releases pheromones.”.

    Can you explain the strange phenomenon?

  • The Crusdades: Urban Legends And Truth

    Although many college students today are ignorant concerning the Holocaust from only a generation ago, many seem to think they know enough about the Crusades to use them as an argument for the evil of religion. Like the tired refrain that religion is “anti-science” even though only one example is usually offered (and it is mistaken), the Crusades are often “the” example listed for the equally wearisome complaint that religion causes more wars than any other factor (a laughable falsehood).

    The Crusades are often pictured as a series of bloodthirsty religious wars comparable to modern-day jihad terrorism. While there certainly were misdeeds performed during the Crusades– and these should be remembered and judged accordingly– the larger issue is whether or not the Church in general– or even the Crusades in particular– were at fault for such acts. Hitler and his Nazi state can be properly blamed for the atrocities of the Holocaust, for these vile acts flowed directly from his commands and teachings. But were the Crusades equally to blame for the evil performed while they were enacted, or are they, like other Christian Urban Legends, misunderstood and misrepresented?
    Bad Press and Modern Myths

    Thomas F. Madden, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University, says that,.

    “During the Middle Ages you could not find a Christian in Europe who did not believe that the Crusades were an act of highest good. Even the Muslims respected the ideals of the Crusades and the piety of the men who fought them. That all changed with the Protestant Reformation. For Martin Luther … argued that to fight the Muslims was to fight Christ himself, for it was he who had sent the Turks to punish Christendom for its faithlessness … It was in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century that the current view of the Crusades was born.”.

    Even after the Reformation / Enlightenment period, the Crusades were not looked upon in a negative light. Even Muslims showed little interest in the Crusades before it became politically expedient after “the West” declared Israel a nation once again. Only in the last couple generations have the Crusades became the “whipping wars” in anti-religion propaganda.
    Crusade History.

    “The Crusades” generally refers to the set of seven distinct campaigns over a 150 year period (A.D. 1099 to 1254) that were enacted to liberate the Holy Land from Muslim control. Since the birth of Islam under Muhammad, Muslims had fought to bring the world under their control. Islam got off to a weak start under Muhammad until violence became the modus operandi. After a few centuries of conquest, though, Islam had spread to North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor, and into Spain. By the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks had taken control of Palestine and closed Jerusalem to both Jews and Christians. The Muslim invaders attacked Constantinople (the capitol of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Eastern Church), and were headed into Europe, before the first Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1095 to defend the Christian West.

    The word “Crusade” was not actually used during this time, now was “war” since these campaigns were considered more of a religious pilgrimage. After the 12th century, the word was used to designate those fighting on “croisade”– a French term meaning “the way of the cross.” During the First Crusade, Jerusalem was successfully recaptured. Crusader territories were established that the Second Crusade (1147-1149) was called to reinforce. By 1191, Jerusalem and many of these Crusader territories had fallen back into Muslim hands, so a Third Crusade was called to attempt recovery. This led to the famous clash between the Muslim leader Saladin and Richard the Lionhearted (who was not able to regain Jerusalem from the Muslim forces).

    The Fourth Crusade was launched in 1202, but, for various reasons, ended up coming against Constantinople itself. This divided both Empire and Church, and the East would never forgive the West for the atrocities that occurred (which sadly mirrored previous atrocities from the East). The Fifth Crusade started in 1217 in Egypt– largely going nowhere. The Sixth Crusade in 1228 was directed back toward Palestine. It was successful, but short-lived. The and Seventh Crusade lasted from 1248-1254, with Islamic forces destroying the remnants of the Crusader territories. Crusading came to an end shortly thereafter.
    Urban Legends.

    When they can cite any at all) often involve some of the urban legends surrounding them, the major issues people cite concerning the Crusades (. It is thought that Muslims were the innocent party and the Crusades instigated their hatred of the West, that Crusaders massacred innocent Jews and even other Christians, that children were sent to war, and that all of this was done to get rich. Perhaps worst of all, the Crusaders thought they would get away with it because the Pope promised them forgiveness of any sin committed while on Crusade. Like most urban legends, these falsehoods are based on only barely true, mostly misunderstood or misrepresented grounds.
    Aggression.

    The Crusades were not simply unprovoked aggression– as noted above, they were defensive moves to protect Christendom from Muslim invasion. Muslims had been attacking Christians for more than 450 years before the First Crusade. Further, the idea that the Crusades also sparked Muslim hatred of the West is a historical falsehood. the Crusades did not do much damage to the Islamic forces, and not much notice was given to the Crusades by Muslims for several centuries. Muslims did not even seem to take active interest in the Crusades until the early 20th Century.
    Massacres.

    It has been said that when the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 they massacred every man, woman, and child in the city until “the streets ran ankle deep with the blood.” History and science show this to be poetic hyperbole. A contemporary Muslim source has been discovered that puts the number of the slain at three thousand. Was there violence? Absolutely. In that time, a city that had to be taken by force belonged to the victorious invaders– including people. When this goes wrong) and so served something of a cultural purpose, this barbaric idea actually helped lessen damaging resistance (read Josephus for what happens. Thus, while it was a tragedy by today’s standards (although one might wonder at what people in that time might think of our war tactics today), it was not uncommon back then. Further, Muslim cities that surrendered to the Crusaders were left untouched, the people retained their property, and they were allowed to worship freely.
    Anti-Semitism.

    No Crusade was ever called against the Jewish people. Sadly, there were unprovoked attacks on Jewish settlements by some rogue Crusaders, but the Church actually spoke out against them and some local bishops, clergy, and laity attempted to defend the Jews against them. Again, this is comparable to modern warfare– sometimes soldiers go off and commit horrible acts during war– but that is not an indictment on the legitimacy of the war itself, nor of the ruling authority (provided it did not command nor overlook such acts).
    Riches.

    Christians did not go on crusade in order to plunder Muslims or get rich. Becoming a soldier was extremely expensive, and claiming an enemy’s treasure was the usual way of financing war in that day. Many crusading knights ended in bankruptcy. The failure of the Fourth Crusade is often claimed to have been caused by lack of funds. The Seventh Crusade cost more than six times the annual revenue of the crown. Moreover, the casualty rate for crusaders were very high– some say as high as 75 percent. The prospects for survival were low, much less getting wealthy.
    Children.

    Ironically, the so-called “Children’s Crusade” of 1212 was neither a crusade nor was it made up of children. Due to religious enthusiasm, some German youth (most what 20th Century westerners would call “adolescents”) proclaimed themselves “Crusaders” and began a march to the Mediterranean sea. For them, the sea failed to miraculously dry up to allow them to cross over to the Holy Land for free. The Pope responded that he did not call this “Crusade,” and told them to go back home.
    Indulgences.

    Another famous urban legend surrounding the Crusades is even found among Christians. Evangelical scholar Ergun Caner criticizes the Pope for promising, “If you go and kill the infidel, you will be forgiven immediately– Paradise,” and concludes that, “There is fundamentally, no difference between bin Laden, in that case, and the Crusades.” This is a gross misrepresentation.

    A Bull of the Crusade granted indulgences to those who took part in the crusades for “all penitential practices incurred by the crusaders provided they confess their sins.” These indulgences were similar to those that had historically been granted to the faithful for helping to build churches, orphanages, hospitals, and monasteries. Unlike the Muslim’s guaranteed “ticket to Paradise” for dying in jihad, an indulgence is “not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be granted by any power. Indulgences can not get anyone out of Hell. It is not the forgiveness of the guilt of sin; it supposes that the sin has already been forgiven.”\* Rather, indulgences are given for the remission of the temporal punishment due for sin that has been forgiven but not yet expunged by penance. Thus it was the temporal penances associated with forgiveness that were to be remitted.

    The promise of ultimate forgiveness of sins required a contrite heart and was offered ahead of time as an assurance that should a faithful Crusader die while on Crusade, his final absolution (“last rites”) was already in place. The characterization of the remission of temporary, purgatorial sufferings of a heaven-bound and already-forgiven Christian to the singular guarantee of Islamic Paradise for a Muslim assassin who dies in Jihad is fundamentally flawed. The Crusades were presented as penitential acts of devotion, not “get-out-of-hell-free cards.
    Holy War?

    To even tacitly admit that the Crusades were actions motivated by loyalty to Christianity, rewarded by papal indulgences, and sometimes led by the Church, may seem incredible to our modern Western mindset, but it was not unusual at the time. The Church at that time had the political authority and responsibility to protect the West. By the time of the first Crusade, Muslims had already been attacking the Christian West for many centuries. Something eventually was going to be done.

    But were the Crusades really “religious wars”? Clearly not all battles between religious groups are over religion, any more than they are battles over language. Much like the Catholic-Protestant battles in Ireland, it simply is the case that some territories are nearly coextensive with certain faith groups (or linguistic groups, or racial groups, or political groups). If the Muslims had invaded India, perhaps we ‘d be discussing the “Hindu Crusades”– but they invaded the Holy Land and had their sites set on Christian Europe. Religious motivation was involved in a big way, of course, but the Crusades were not violent means of spreading religion– they were responses to Islam’s actions. Further, not all battles are “wars.” If a city gets attacked by invaders, the people can protect themselves and their city, or help may be sent from another city, without a formal declaration of war.
    Just War?

    The Crusades are often simply lumped in with “religious wars” and treated according to whatever standard one uses to judge such events. Ergun Caner compares the Christian Crusades to Islamic Jihads. He believes that there was “a fundamental quantum shift that took place at the calling of the Crusades. Up until the Crusades, we had operated under a ‘just war criteria.’” Caner complains that, unlike the Iraq conflict for example, “Pope Urban [II] crossed the line from a ‘just war’, in Latin ‘bellum iustum’ to ‘holy war’, or ‘bellum sacrum.’” Caner goes on to criticize the Crusades for not being called by a secular authority, not distinguishing between combatants (he gives no justification for this claim), and for desring to “kill the infidel instead of convert the infidel.” This seems to be a flawed analogy though, as the Crusades were a defensive act against an aggressor– not a formal war.

    But even if one considers the Crusades wars, Just War Theory would not necessarily rule against them. Augustine’s criteria for a just war are that it be called by a right authority (Jus ad Bellum) and conducted in the right way (Jus in Bello). These criteria were commented on by Thomas Aquinas, who said the following:.

    “First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war …(Romans 13:4)… and for this reason Augustine says, “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”.

    There is nothing here requiring a “secular” authority. Further, it should be noted that the Pope, at this time in history, was not simply a “religious leader” of some sect (like Osama bin Laden). The Pope sat at the head of the Christian world– a world that had been under attack for centuries– and the Crusade he called was to come to the defense of the Christian world (not simply to attack infidels whom he happened to disagree with).

    “Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. Wherefore Augustine says, “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished, for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what it has seized unjustly.”.

    It was appropriate for Christians to defend against attacks, and to try to regain lands which their enemy had seized and desecrated. The Muslims were the cause of this problem, and had been for centuries, and defense of oneself or one’s brothers is certainly just.

    “Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Augustine says, “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.”.

    The Crusades might not have been called for the “conversion of the infidel,” but they need not have been to be just. Defending one’s life or land is reason enough to fight– and to the degree that that was intended by the Crusaders, they were in the.
    Conclusion.

    Many bad things happened during the Crusades, these were not called for by the governing authority. Nor, as it is commonly claimed, were sins committed while on crusade simply forgiven by virtue of their being committed while on crusade. Evil acts were committed during the Crusades because the Crusades were battles fought by fallen humans, and bad things happen in such circumstances. The evil of misdeeds done in a “religious” campaign might be more critically accounted, but they are not necessarily more unusual.

    Finally, no misdeeds can be properly blamed on religion unless, of course, a given religion approves of such things.

    While there certainly were misdeeds performed during the Crusades– and these should be remembered and judged accordingly– the larger issue is whether or not the Church in general– or even the Crusades in particular– were at fault for such acts. It is thought that Muslims were the innocent party and the Crusades instigated their hatred of the West, that Crusaders massacred innocent Jews and even other Christians, that children were sent to war, and that all of this was done to get rich. The Crusades are often simply lumped in with “religious wars” and treated according to whatever standard one uses to judge such events. Even if one considers the Crusades wars, Just War Theory would not necessarily rule against them. Evil acts were committed during the Crusades because the Crusades were battles fought by fallen humans, and bad things happen in such circumstances.

  • Friday The 13th: N.Y.C.’s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked

    N.Y.C. is full of modern myths and hidden oddities. From alligators in the sewer system to ghosts as dinner guests at fancy restaurants, the metropolis offers freaky fun for the whole family on Friday the 13th.

    With over 52 million tourists visiting the Big Apple each year (and a peak during the holiday season), now’s the time to explore the city’s most prevalent urban legends– and the unique tourist attractions they uncover. Happy travels!

    1. Pennies Thrown From the Top of the Empire State Building Can Kill
    FALSE. Tests have shown that air resistance wouldn’t allow for a tiny, flat penny to travel beyond its max velocity, which is a non-lethal speed. The coin could give someone below a bit of a shock, but it certainly wouldn’t lead to anyone’s demise.

    Tourist Attraction: The Empire State Building is a top tourist destination for a reason; the view from 102 floors up is worth the elevator ride. And you can get one degree closer to Kevin Bacon by going on the SkyRide simulator, narrated by the actor.

    2. Alligators Live in the City Sewers
    FALSE. According to legend, someone dumped a pet alligator into the city’s sewer system and the animal started a colony of underground reptiles. While alligators have indeed been found in the city, none have made their home in the pipes. Experts say this feat would be hard for the animals, as they thrive in warm conditions.

    3. There’s a Secret Train Platform Beneath the Waldorf-AstoriaTRUE It’s not all heresy, this classic hotel used to have a private train platform and entrance for VIP guests coming through Grand Central. This feature allowed visitors like President Franklin D. Roosevelt to arrive in secret. The mysterious Track 61 is no longer in use, but the train car and elevator lie in wait for surprise passengers.

    The train from this secret spot leads to to another New York oddity. Grand Central’s Whisper Gallery is situated in the middle of the bustling travel hub, but most pass right by it. The nondescript archway near the Oyster Bar is shaped to provide the perfect acoustics for amplifying whispers, allowing visitors to softly speak to their friends on the other side of the room.

    4. Because Babe Ruth Wanted to Look Slimmer, the Yankees Wear Pinstripes
    FALSE. Does Babe Ruth strike you as vain? This New York hero had nothing to do with the team’s signature look. True fans should know that the Yankees started sporting stripes well before the Bambino started hitting them out of the park.

    5. The Restaurant One if by Land, Two if by Sea is Haunted
    TRUE. Staff and patrons of the restaurant both agree that something spooky is going on here. The building is the former carriage house of Alexander Hamilton and his daughter Theodosia. New Yorkers believe this pair is responsible for the restaurant’s flickering lights– and even for stealing earrings off the ladies at the bar!

    6. The City’s Gargoyles Come to Life at Night
    FALSE. You may have been prepared for this one. While the TV series Gargoyles and the movie Ghostbusters show the statues springing to life, in reality, the gargoyles stay put 24/7.

    7. The Poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” was Inspired by N.Y.C.
    TRUE. Poet Clement Clarke Moore composed the epic poem after a nighttime sleigh ride thorough Greenwich Village. The trek, as well as Moore’s elf-like driver, inspired the wordsmith to craft the beloved poem about the night before Christmas.

    8. There Are Ghosts in Central Park
    PROBABLY FALSE. There are numerous tales of two Victorian-era girls floating around Central Park’s Wollman Rink. They are said to be the Van der Voort sisters of the 1800s, who adored skating in the park and haven’t lost their love for it even in death. The only problem with this tale is the first Central Park skating rink was constructed in the 1940s.