Monday, April 04, 2011

Authentic Angel Sighting - or Fail?

A reply I offered to a claim of an angel sighting (by an atheist). Below is my answer. I clipped their content, only because several paragraphs were not about this event, but other unrelated stuff. Below, however, is the full content of their text (in red) relating the tale, and my responses:

I checked the e-mail list, and your note didn't show up in regular e-mail or in spam, so no idea what happened to it. I haven't been answering mail for a bit, because I'm horribly busy this summer, but will answer this one for that reason. I've snipped out all the superfluous paragraphs, and I'm putting your story (whether or not you like the show or are an atheist is not relevant to anyone's evaluation of the story below) to the blog where it can receive skeptical feedback.

BRIEFLY--what I'm about to write I experienced with my twin sister, myself, and our friend C in about 1986-1987. Three months ago, I revisited this experience and I called them both. I asked my sister what her memories were of this experience--she remembered it in clear detail...

It may seem like "clear detail"--but research on memory says otherwise. Forgetfulness of events varies widely, but learning method makes a demonstrated difference. In your case, there was no method--and no matter how "clear" it feels, none of us, including her, can know how reliable the recollection of any of the three of you is now.

...which were consistent with my own. When I called our friend C and brought it up she responded with GREAT enthusiasm--she remembered it perfectly and was astonished that I would call her to ask her if she remembered it...she was shocked.

This is not only not a surprise, but unfortunately, we have an issue known as "conformity" with memory that causes a sticky wicket here. When cops come to a crime, they pull the witnesses apart to question them. This is to avoid the witnesses contaminating each others' stories by coloring each others' recollections by hearing what others say they saw. People have been demonstrated to actually change their correct evaluations to incorrect ones when confronted with very small groups (yes, including three people) with different evaluations. And below, you say you were initially mocked for your reaction and that even the one who mocked you thought the event was "amazing." It's unrealistic for me to believe you saw something bizarre and decided not to discuss it among yourselves at the time. And by doing so, you contaminated all three stories/memories for all time. I do get it's natural to talk about a thing like this. But it's an unfortunate reality that it calls all your stories into question now. Are parts that align aligning because of what you all independently saw? Or due to influence between you during your later discussion of the event? We now have no way to know.

Here's what happened.

On a summer day in 1986 or 1987,

Again, far in the past--decades ago.

me and my twin sister S were living in Ft. Mohave Arizona. We went to our friend C's trailer where she lived. We visited, whatever, I don't remember what we did or said. We went outside her trailer. Climbed down her steps. Now before I express what we saw let me state the geography because this is very important. We were looking due west at a mountain range that is just across the Colorado River in extreme Southern Nevada/California right where the three states meet. It was just after dusk and when we looked at the sky

OK. So it's around sunset as you are facing the sun, or it's after sunset, and light has already begun fading. Either option is not the best for clear sight. You are staring toward what is, or was, a huge source of light that is now filtering at an angle through the atmosphere at a point where atmospheric distortion is common.

we saw a multicolored

Stop right there. When I hear "multi-colored" in the sky, it's impossible NOT to think "light refraction." There is a huge list of bizarre light phenomena that cause "multi-colored" phenomena of countless types in the sky when the sun filters through (or other factors are present): rainbows, aurora borealis, halos, coronas, aureoles, and many, many more rare phenomena. Any level of dust or mist can sometimes exaggerate this. So, my first thought is that what you're describing is a huge candidate for one of these.

angelic being

Since nobody knows what an angel is, this is unhelpful. We don't know it was a "being" or an "angel." You give no indication you even tested in any way to see if it was solid and not a mirage of some sort or a light phenomena of some kind.

that can only be measured in size by degrees: It was perhaps if you were to look at the sky 20, perhaps 25 degrees in height/size.

The sky presents size and distance dilemmas that are uniquely problematic. I can cover the entire sun on a summer day in Texas, just with my thumb. That should not be confused with my thumb being as large as the sun. So, I don't know size/distance of what you describe--nobody does, because saying it covered from x-degrees to y-degrees is as unhelpful as saying my thumb blocked out the whole sun.

It was a being

You don't ever demonstrate how you determined this.

with wings,

With what appeared to be something shaped like wings.


Again, sounds like light refraction.

with it's face hidden in it's right wing.

If the "face" was "hidden"--then how do you know there was a face?

It was not looking at us.

See above question.

It was hiding or shielding its eyes from us.

Then how do you know it had "eyes"?

It was hovering in the sky,

And yet seemed to have "wings"? And this didn't strike you as evidence that it was potentially illusory rather than real?

just before the mountains but floating if you will in the sky.

Again with the mountains. And again, doesn't "wings," but "floating," seem nonsensical? But let me get back to the mountains. There are specific illusions/mirages that are only observed in/around mountains. Not surprisingly, one is a giant human form encased in a rainbow (multi-colored) halo. It is even sometimes called a "mountain specter." Here is a picture of one that looks like a human figure with wings in a multi-colored background:

I can't help but relate this to your description. For the record, these things can be quite large and appear above the mountains as well:

It was HUGE. It wasn't like an angel that you would see in a painting

Which just goes back to "then what sort of angel was it like? A real one?" I don't know what an angel is, and you're saying it isn't like the I'm back to square one. Or do you just mean it was exactly like religious depictions, but larger? Except I don't recall rainbow angels in any old depictions.

...being a bit larger than a person--ten feet high. It was immense.

Like the mountain specters. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it was a mountain specter. I'm saying that you can see a lot of weird crap in the atmosphere--all of which you discounted in Facebook chat when you said it was supernatural. How you determined it wasn't any sort of atmospheric illusion is beyond me, because you offer no verification or evidence, just a story including that you never verified what it was. So how you rule out a battery of odd atmospheric possibilities is a larger mystery than your story. But, before you write back to insist that a mountain specter isn't the specific phenomena you observed, don't bother. It's never what I suggest to people, and it's always exactly what they've already decided it was--despite the fact it was ages ago and they took no steps to verify any cause (like toss a rock toward it to see if it's at least a stone's throw away? Or try to talk to it--since it's a being?). It may not have been a Broken Spectre (mountain specter), but this is only put forward to suggest there is at least one easy-to-find explanation that matches everything you described so far: multi-colored, winged, large human, no visible face, in the mountains. Bingo. But even if it's not that--it shows the atmosphere can do some pretty bizarro crap--that you aren't considering as possible. (Again, based on the Facebook chat where you told me it could only have been supernatural).

It's size could only be measured in degrees from the top of the mountain to it's top...probably 20, maybe 30 degrees.

Again, is my thumb as big as the sun?

When I saw this angel, at the age of 16 or so, I IMMEDIATELY fell on my face. I prostrated myself onto the ground in sheer horror and fear. I was praying and was in total shock.

Immediate facepalm. You've offered this long, detailed description—and now you say you immediately turned away upon seeing it and laid on the ground praying? Additionally, praying? So, at the time of this sighting you were theistic at some level. This means primed for a vision of an angel in the same way Christians who have NDE seem to always see Jesus.

I don't know what my twin sister S did when she saw it

Clearly, as you were facing the ground. So, there's a lot you didn't see. Additionally, your brain was in a state--you admit you were in "fear"--which releases a lot of odd brain chemistry.

but our friend C mocked me.

Odd reaction, isn't it--for a woman who just saw, like you, a real live angel and not just a cool atmospheric phenomena?

She said to me, "you're just like Shirley MacLaine" know--kinda mocking me about it.

Again, she wasn't saying "Wow--we just saw some weird angel being?!" And that isn't a clue that maybe what she saw was interpreted a bit differently?

For years, I was totally floored that she could react to this experience in such a mocking way.

I'm sure you were--because if she saw what you claim was actually there, her reaction would make no sense, right?

Twenty years or so went by.

Again...big problem with time/distance from the event.

In 2010--don't remember the month--I was thinking about this. I called my sister. I asked her if she remembered this experience. She did.

Recalling the event is not evidence you saw an angel, just fyi. It's evidence she recalls an event. I don't know what her perception of it was--or has become. However, as described above, since you've discussed it (contamination in the form of conformity) and it was 20 years ago or more (memory distorts and fades with time, even if it doesn't feel like to us), her recollection of the event at this point would be little to no help.

I called C. She not only remembered but was like, "Oh my God, that's amazing, I remember it vividly".

Again, "vivid" should not be confused with "accurate," when we're talking about 20+ years ago.

Again--I can't PROVE to you guys that I experienced this. There is no way I can prove to you that this occurred other than to take perhaps a lie detector test...maybe in an ideal world us three could come to Austin, take Sodium Pentathol or lie detector tests, or whatnot to try to prove that this is true.

Here is where perhaps the biggest fallacy occurs. Many people believe they've been abducted by aliens. They tell very similar stories. I don't doubt their sincerity. I doubt their interpretation of events. Here, I only have your interpretation of the event. And two other people recall "something" happened. You did nothing to verify what you saw--so you don't know, and I don't know, and nobody knows what it was. It was 20 years ago, and we can't go back and investigate. I only have you saying "this is what it was" and offering no evidence except contaminated witnesses of 20+ year-old events.

It's lost to the past. And there's nothing in the story--and nothing that could ever be in any testimony-only tale--to confirm whether what you saw was real or illusory--natural or not. However, all verified explanations for all phenomena ever observed that have been explained, have been confirmed as natural events. So, I'm putting my money on "natural event." But if you ever find a way to demonstrate otherwise (not just insist), feel free to provide your evidence.

[Addendum: I shot the first mountain specter link to a skeptic friend on Facebook chat this morning while I was editing the blog. I hadn't told him about this correspondence or what I was blogging. I included no context--just said "cool phenomena" and the link. He posted back immediately "It's an angel!!!"]


  1. The part about falling and praying gives it all away.

    We don't remember events. We remember our perceptions, moods and thoughts during events.

    I've returned to childhood places, such as a field my siblings and I played in, that seemed huge and magical, only to find that it just looks like a small typical field now. It didn't change. My perceptions of it did.

    If that event was so strongly colored the way he/she describes, of course he/she is going to remember it as a religious thing.

  2. Teenagers in Arizona staring at the setting sun see a strange apparition. Hmmm...peyote much? Even if that isn't the case, I agree with hour assessment, Tracie. The fact tha one of the three parties seems to have totally discounted such a "spiritual" event (at the time, at least), should give on pause when remembering or interpreting this event. It's obvious they all saw something, but it is equally as evident that at least one member of the group failed to find anything significant about it.

  3. My only quibble here is that glories like the ones in the photos Tracie provided are seen when one looks away from the sun, not toward it. So that doesn't seem like the correct explanation.

    Perhaps I misread the description. Or perhaps the correspondent omitted a part about someone saying, "Hey, guys! Look behind us!". Or maybe it was some other phenomenon (or even an angel). I'm not an astronomer or meteorologist. I don't know what the atmosphere can do.

  4. I have a memory from when i was about 8-10. My mother and i were hiking in the foothills near where we lived. We emerged from a group of trees, and i vividly remember looking up and seeing a large aircraft flying overhead. In my memory, it was about the size of an oil tanker, and was rectangular in shape, similar to what you would see for a barge. I even remember that the bottom of it was red. It easily obscured 50% of the width of the sky, and yet it effortlessly drifted passed us, until it disappeared out of sight beyond the next mountain.

    My mother, of course remembers none of this. Naturally, the only conclusion i can reach is that a secret government project has gotten its hands on alien technology. In order to keep the project secret, they have fitted the craft with a mind-wiping device, which has a flaw in that it cannot affect young boys. There's no way my memories as a science-fiction-infused pre-teenager 18 years ago could be faulty.

  5. @arensb: I don't know what it can do either. I don't know what a Broken Spectre looks like from the back--how or if it would display. My point is only that it's very easy to find a natural phenomena that includes all the key descriptors of the "angel." To me this should at least be an indication that "supernature" is bit of auto-leap, and ruling out natural possibilities would require a lot more work than has been done above by me or the letter writer.

  6. The certainty with which people claim certain experiences or opinions is staggering. It has been demonstrated so many times that humans are so easily manipulated into whatever you want them to believe, you would think people would get that now.

    I guess it's to much to handle for people to accept that their memory and/or judgement of a situation is far from perfect. Maybe that's why religion is so succesful.

  7. You did a brilliant job concisely identifying where this anecdotal testimony/ hearsay fails as evidence. Where you really hit the nail on the head, in my opinion, was in your emphasis that the issue is with the interpretation of events in question, sincerity notwithstanding.

    As is probably the case with many an atheist who had a religious upbringing, I have many friends and family who regard my skepticism as a perilous vice. Whenever I ask them for some demonstration of the veracity of their beliefs, though, they instead submit as "evidence" subjective emotional experience or else mere accounts of the depth of their convictions. When this fails to win me over, they almost always resort to begging the question. "Well, I gave you evidence, but your heart and mind are closed. If you seek (insert their supernatural presupposition) with your whole heart, you'll find it/him/them." Gee, no kidding? You mean if you fervently pursue what you desire and expect to find you will probably be able to convince yourself you've found it? And this speaks to its *validity* how, exactly?

  8. I'd just like to point out that measuring a visual phenomenon in degrees rather than a linear measurement is actually a good way of solving the problem of being unable to judge distance.

    Yes your thumb can cover the sun, and in that case your thumb covers a larger number of (vertical) degrees of your vision than the sun does. Saying something is "20 to 30 degrees", is saying that it could be miles tall and very far away (i.e. on the horizon), or fractions of an inch and right in front of your eye. It doesn't give you any idea of how tall the "thing" is until/unless you know how far away it is, but nevertheless it is a relevant and useful piece of information towards learning how tall something is.

    Where the person says it was about 10 feet tall is where they make the ungrounded assumption of height, but the two reports of "20 to 25 degrees" and "20 to 30 degrees" are not problematic, except in being subject to the same memory distortions as everything else. You are correct in saying that they are unhelpful in this instance, but having measurement in degrees of the same phenomenon from two different locations would give us a good idea of its actual size and position, so it is not in principle unhelpful.

  9. I have better photographic evidence of the supernatural than that, and even I don't believe it.

  10. Tracie, you are now officially my go-to person whenever someone gives me "miracle" stories...


  11. I am not realy sure if this helps anyone but you can explain a lot of these stuff by analysing it with gestalt psychology.

    When you are watchng a picture of a dog you immidiatly understand a dog in your head, but if there are obstacles on the picture or the dog is not totaly visible then you might understand parts of him indipendently and not associate them with one object (in this case the dog). This is a masking effect (obviously on this a lot of animals base their hiding skills!). Generaly gestalt says that the brain is trying to explain pictures so as to create a "good shape" (law of closure) but not always this interpetation is correct. Very well known are some ilusion tricks that use this kind of laws to trick others into believing something faulty for the sake of the show.

  12. sin( 20 deg )*dist = 10 ft, solving for dist is 30 ft.

    sin( 35 deg )*dist = 10 ft, solving for dist is 24 ft.

    So the person saw a 10 ft being 24-30 feet away and the person of them just stood there instead of taking 10-12 steps toward it?

  13. The thing is that I'm not sure the party positing the supernatural explanation- at least in this case, though I suspect in the vast majority of cases- is *at all* interested in natural explanations, whether they are somewhat complicated/ dependent on a degree of eruditness or whether they are simpler and more obvious to the layman. Okay, that was just a rambly way of accusing them of not caring whether they believe true or false things.

    The adage about extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence applies here, and if you think you're up to that task, you'd better bring more to the table than supernatural presupposition, because otherwise you've failed before you've even begun. I know I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said a million times before here, but it drives me up the wall and down the other side. I want to scream, "Give me a fucking break! You make an extraordinary claim, and your idea of meeting your burden of proof is to submit anecdotal testimony as evidence that something you already believed in is true?" *insert loud, abrasive buzzer sound effect* "Sorry. Thanks for playing. Next!" Thank goodness there are people like Tracie to address this with more respect and patience. ;-)

  14. Spot-on analysis.

    As an aside, when Christians hear that someone saw an "angel with wings", they should immediately discount it. Their own theology and church teachings(at least these days)tell them angels aren't supposed to "really" have wings, they're simply painted that way in representational art to symbolize the great speed with which they supposedly can move from place to place. Or at least that's what I was told as a young, very gullible child by those supposedly "in the know".

  15. I can't think of anything else it could possible be so it must be an angel. You guys just haven't been schooled enough in the Ray Comfort Guide to Common Sense. In bookstores near you.

  16. Didn't we have an all too similar story a few months ago on this blog? About some guy and his friends who'd experienced some wave of happiness in church and he called them after 20 years to corroborate his experiences and it turns out, hey, they conveniently remembered the same thing! or something.

    All of a sudden some other person had the desire to revisit some experience from their youth and/or past not long after the other person and then send his results to the people @ the atheist experience?

    I find it a bit suspicious.

    I just had to comment on that midway. Off to read the rest.

  17. There are two points that make this story just another Jesus on Toast story. That the storyteller immediately falls to the ground and prays shows that they are preconditioned to that type of vision. That someone else mocked them and basically said she didn't see it.
    As far as size which doesn't prove anything one way or another, I thought angels were tiny because so many of them can dance on the head of a pin.

  18. Speaking as someone who had hallucinations of various kinds all throughout childhood, I assure you that utterly sincere "experiences" might not map to physical reality at all.

    Sometimes you just aren't seeing what you see - if you take my meaning.

  19. Great article.

    Maybe it was an angel. Here's what I mean. A thousand or two years ago, nobody knew what an angel was supposed to look like. Some artist was walking around in the mountains at sunset and saw a "mountain specter." Artist says, "Wow, that must be an angel." Went home and drew a picture of what he saw and titled it "angel." That image then entered the culture and became the standard for what an angel looked like.

  20. What I love about stories like these is that, even if you grant that everything occurred exactly as the witness described, and that their interpretation of what they saw was at least marginally accurate, it still doesn't prove anything of substance.

    Let's say it was an "angel." What was it doing? Admiring the sunset? You only saw one; which means you have evidence for one luminescent being. You can't prove it works as a messenger or guardian for some other power. You can't extrapolate that it had any interest in what you or your friends were doing. You can't even prove it did anything else, ever, before or after the event. For all anyone else (that is, anyone who hasn't been indoctrinated with ideas about divine beings) knows, there was a glowy winged being admiring the summer sunset in Arizona over twenty years ago. That's all this story proves.

  21. I loved the photos! I've never seen one "mountain specter" before!

  22. "I loved the photos! I've never seen one "mountain specter" before!"

    I wanted to say that! Those things were amazing! I want one.

  23. I completely fail to understand how an adult person can conclude things like this. I can't be the only person who has experienced "illusions" or seen tricks of light or simply been mistaken. Hundreds of times that's happened in my life, and that's being conservative. Even if I were to see something fairly extraordinary, my kneejerk reaction would be towards thinking I am seeing in wrong. Why would I think, "well this time, unlike all others, my eye/ brain connection is working flawlessly, so it must be a floating 73 buick rocketship driven by one of those curly feathered geese...Bob says so ,too"?

    That's why, these days, I investigate any weird thing like that to the best of my ability. I don't want to assume anything or be the curmudgeonly naysayer. Even though it never winds up being magical or supernatural (yet), what we find can be more interesting, mostly because it's real.

  24. Atmospheric Optics is the place to go for an explanation of this phenomena and many others. I love this website and have it as one of my daily links. Each day, there is a different phenomena and an explanation of how it is formed.
    For the one in Tracie's story go to this link.
    Under 'The Glory' is a submenu regarding Glories. The'Brocken Spectre' explains what it seems these people saw.
    It is rather amusing that they were probably seeing their own shadow projected through the mist.
    There are numerous images of Glories. It is an intriguing phenomena--but completely natural.

  25. I love your post Tracieh! The photos show just how amazing natural phenomenons involving light can be and can be mistaken for any "bright" mystical creature. I'd really like to hear from the one who wrote you the mail.

  26. I was just reading this at work and I clicked on the first image... someone walked past behind me and blurted out: "What is that A GHOST!!!!?"

    Oi vey. The people I work with.

  27. I would be interested to know what her beliefs are in regard to "lie-detectors" and how they function. Many people believe that these devices somehow "know" the truth, or that they have access to the "tape-recorder" that they believe they have in their heads. A common misconception about memory is that "everything you ever experience is recorded." This is part of the "brain is just a big computer" metaphor gone horribly awry.

    She may actually believe that if she submits to a polygraph, and the process affirms her narrative, that it means not only is she telling the truth, but also that the test affirms that the events were real as she asserts they are. This is very common among people who hold the authoritarian worldview... with all its inherent paradoxes.

  28. I recall seeing a ghost. I had just woken up and there was a toddler sitting on the floor near my bed. He made no noise and reacted to an unheard noise. I rolled over and when I looked back he was gone.

    I told my flatmate this after we had moved out and she said she'd have left the next day if I had told her that at the time.

    Now, I don't believe in ghosts so I'm pretty certain it wasn't. And I have evidence it wasn't: the memory has faded, I recall the kid had dungarees, but can't recall the shirt or his hair colour. Exactly as you'd expect of a waking dream. Yet this exact scenario would confirm the existence of ghosts in anyone who already believed.

    Just thought I'd share...

  29. @ Yiab: I agree with you that it is useless without distance. That was my point—esp when he asserted it was 10-ft tall (as you also noted). How would you know without a gage of distance? I know how big a thumb is—but how big are angels? While I didn’t go into the detail you did (and I appreciate your further input), in this case it was useless data.

    @ Arensb: Your point still made me think last night—mainly because it was a critique I’d thought of myself even before I posted. And I wondered two things: (1) were they facing directly into the sun? Were the mountains westward with the sun directly behind them or with the sun at an angle? And (2) could there have been a reflective surface anywhere in the area—either between this group and the mountains, or behind them? This is the problem of “20 years ago”—there is just no way to investigate. In fact, if there had been a metal sandwich truck in the park that day—and it wasn’t there the next day—we’d have the same dilemma. With these events, if causes aren’t determined right away—you lose the opportunity to verify. And going by a description, rather than a photo really kills, because you’re using your own mental approximation to try and decipher what the person _actually_ saw. So, it’s just a cluster-F at this point of guesswork and faded recollections and people who think their memories just can’t fail. (Although I haven’t seen a reply to this yet, so they may yet come back to say maybe they just misremember or weren’t thinking clearly during the event…but why do I think that unlikely?)

    @Stamatis: Even if it wasn’t at work in this case (and who knows?)—your point demonstrates as I keep insisting…we just can’t know what happened, and there is now no way to find the actual cause. It’s lost. And it may be frustrating if you really saw a live angel and nobody believes you—but honestly, even if I saw a real angel, I think that my own reaction would be to think I’d just had a brain fart, and not that I actually really saw an angel. I’d go for “psychosis of some sort” over “angel” any day if there was no way to independently verify.

    @Kim: Exactly. I wish I’d saved the chat message. It was brief, and I recall the “angel” claim was sort of less solid, but the statement that it was supernatural was solid. That’s always what I look for when a person posts such a tale to me: Are you saying you are wondering if there is a natural explanation—or that you know there’s not? And if you know there’s not—please tell me how you’ve determined that—without verifying any cause for what you saw?

    @Farmboy—these stories aren’t rare. They’re pervasive. You’re seeing a sampling. This particular story, I posted because I have little time these days for a back-and-forth correspondence with someone when I’ve been down that road a million times (as you say, even you recall the one I posted previously. And I also did a show on another one about a girl who “predicted” the sex of a child before it was born, and someone who was calling it miraculous; and another show on a “ghost story” where a woman did the same thing with “I saw a ghost”). It’s not suspicious. I assure you we get LOADS of these.
    @Xairo: I know, aren’t they cool?

    @March Hare: As someone who has both had lucid dreams and sleep paralysis—I simply don’t trust ANYTHING that anyone sees either as they’re going to bed or upon waking. Any story that includes “I had just gone to bed…” Or “I was getting ready for bed…” Or “I was suddenly wide awake…” Or “I was awake, because I’d just looked at my clock as I was lying there…” loses automatically.

  30. "It's unrealistic for me to believe you saw something bizarre and decided not to discuss it among yourselves at the time."

    Thank you for making this point, Tracie. It's always the first thing that comes to mind when people refer to allegedly supernatural events that happened years ago. If they didn't find it so amazing or life-changing back then, why do they think it's so significant now?

  31. Wow, those mountain specters are crazy, especially that last one. If I saw one of those when I was religiously primed I'd probably have an angel-panic too.

  32. Did this person start this with "I'm an atheist, but..."?

    It's amazing how obtuse some people can be when re-examining a past event :P; especially one as fantastical as this.

    I have one for the e-mailer. When I was around eight or nine years old I saw a demon in my room. I remember it vividly, and the thought of it scared me for years! Note, however, that I use the past tense. At some point, years ago, when I started seriously questioning the relevance of supernatural claims I forced myself to re-examine what [i]I[/i] had experienced. When I did so I found myself with some interesting facts. I was very young, extremely imaginative, raised in a somewhat southern baptist home, and asleep. All of these facts together make it far more likely that I dreamed the incident.

    It's stated in the intro that this person is an atheist, but considering the claim I have to wonder.

    P.S. Superb break-down, Tracie! Perfectly articulated why the claim was patently absurd.

  33. Those pictures are amazing. I wonder if that's where the Nordic idea of the rainbow bridge Bifröst fame from?

  34. Now you have me bummed out Tracie. I have never seen an angel but they are not real so that is no big deal. However, now I find out that I have missed out on seeing some incredible natural displays.

    @Lorel I think it safe to say that most adults have little understand of how the brain interprets all sensory input or that memories are so plastic. As part of the mythology of our culture there are beliefs that lie detectors can confirm truth and that eyewitness testimony is a highly reliable form of evidence. This information is still strong out there in TV land where most people get their facts.

  35. I would have said:
    It's an atheist's willingness to continue to wait, explore, demand, debunk, re-evaluate, start over, look further, test, test, test and retest, document, study, devote, test again, wait longer, and continue reaching for Answers that makes him the future of mankind. it is the theist who is told whats what when they are 4 years old and that's that, never breaking, never swaying, never participating, NEVER learning, and worst of all never ACCEPTING the answers when they come. it is the theist who resembles the mankind of a few thousand years ago, the theist who will eventually branch off entirely and be left behind on the doomed planet their God gave them while we move onward to tackle the heavens...
    ...And here we are, alive and witnessing the "gray area," the generations during which past and future overlap; a sort of civil war between those who are to satisfied and comfortable and those to curious and motivated. history will look up...on religion as a near death experience mankind barely survived, an ancient virus of the mind we eventually cured, the unfortunate side effect of intelligence that nearly derailed progress at the very start. children will have the damnedest time even believing what their history teachers tell them we once believed. it will be difficult to believe that you, theist, ever existed.

  36. its possible they saw an alien!

  37. I put my hand to my chin in a contemplative mode and pause for a few seconds. "Concerning the question of Authentic Angel Sighting - or Fail? Mmmmmm . . . . fail."

  38. If you put your hand in front of one of your eyes you can see through your hand. True story!

    ...Just don't dig any deeper, cause that will destroy the magic and make life meaningless.


  39. I just don't understand how she didn't know what her sister did when she saw the angel, when she just called her to talk about it. Her sister stopped at "we saw the angel"? Not with "and then I xxxx"?

    Same goes with the friend who remembered "vividly." She didn't remember exactly how she mocked her?

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  42. A similar visual illusion is the "sun dog": a rainbow circle or a pair of arcs around the sun caused by ice crystals in the air.

    See here:

    Here are other examples of the "broken spectre" phenomena.

    The young person who mistook such a vision for an angel may have interpreted the event differently if they had explored it instead of closing their eyes and praying.

    * They may have noticed that the image moved when they, or one or their companions, moved.

    * They may have noticed that the image changed as they moved to a different place.

    * They may have given some serious thought to why the vision did not actually do anything, but simply hovered uselessly with its "face" under a "wing". Would that be likely if it were in any sense "alive"?


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