The "Incorruptible" Corpse of Saint Bernadette

A picture of Saint Bernadette
as a child.
The corpse of Saint Bernadette is currently on display at the Church of St. Gildard in the Nevers, France convent where Bernadette was a nun. It is in a crystal coffin, through which visitors can gaze upon her body. In photos, the saint’s “incorruptible” body appears as if it is relaxed in sleep, when in reality, it has been lifeless for more than 130 years. The supposedly incorruptible nature of her corpse, coupled with certain events in her life, has led to her canonization. The following is a look at the life of Saint Bernadette and the body she left behind.

Saint Bernadette was born Bernadette Soubirous on January 7, 1844. Her family was poor and so she led a simple life. People described her as polite and kind, but not very bright and often ill.

On February 11, 1858, Bernadette’s life changed forever when she said she saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Over the course of the next two weeks she saw the Virgin Mary at a grotto in Lourdes seventeen more times. She claimed Mary told her a secret. She also supposedly found a spring under the direction of the Virgin Mary. Years later, Bernadette joined a convent and began the rest of her life.

Saint Bernadette remained sickly throughout her life. She died at the Nevers convent on April 16, 1879. She was thirty-five-years old. The members of the convent gave her a traditional burial and her body remained at rest for the next thirty years. Her corpse was exhumed in September of 1909 when the investigation into her proposed sainthood began. The coffin was opened in front of several eyewitnesses, all of whom say that the body was in exceptionally good condition. The Catholic church can require that a body be “incorruptible” for the previous occupant of that body to be considered a saint. That is really impossible, but there is no denying that Bernadette’s body was unusually preserved. However, that is possible for anyone, under the right conditions.

After the first exhumation, Saint Bernadette’s rigor mortised and slowly blackening corpse was washed and placed in a new coffin. Her body was reinterred, only to be exhumed again in 1919. During the second inspection, it was noted that some mildew was growing on the skin of Bernadette’s corpse. Also, a layer of salt had accumulated since the last exhumation and the blackening of her skin had continued. Some partial bones, and muscle from her thighs, were removed then for inspection and she was reburied.

In 1925, Saint Bernadette’s body was removed one last time. This time, a wax mask was made to cover her face, so that the changes in her features and skin tone would not repulse visitors. She was then placed into her crystal coffin and put on display where she is today. She was canonized in 1933, under Pope Pius XI. Her so-called incorruptible body played a role in this. However, it is rather obvious that her body has deteriorated over the past century. It has just done so at a slow rate, which can probably be attributed to the conditions in her various coffins.


Biography of Bernadette Soubirous, retrieved 2/28/10,

The Body of St. Bernadette, retrieved 2/28/10,

The Roswell Rods: Cryptid or Bad Photography?

The Roswell Rods are a hybrid cryptid/UFO mystery that seems to have arisen in the 1990's, though some claim the phenomenon dates back much farther. Despite the name, the Roswell Rods have nothing to do with Roswell, New Mexico's famous UFO stories. They are named such because they were first filmed just outside of Roswell and the man who filmed them is from Roswell, New Mexico. Believers in the Roswell Rods will tell you that he has discovered a new life form. Skeptics will tell you there must be something in the water in Roswell.

Jose Escamilla claims to be the first to catch Roswell Rods on film. He is certainly the man who gave them their name. What he filmed are rod or rope-like blurs in the sky. At first glance, this may sound like a UFO story. However, believers do not think of them as unidentified flying objects. They think of them as unidentified flying organisms. These mysterious blurs caught on film are thought by some to be cryptids–creatures that have yet to be seen or studied by scientists.

What appears in these photographs and videos of Roswell Rods are long blurs with propeller-like appendages. Alternatively, they look like strings or ropes that are moving in rapid spiral motions. The size of these "creatures" ranges from 4 inches long to several hundred feet. (These lengths are estimates based on stills.) According to Jose and others, they cannot be seen without photographs or video. They claim that the Roswell Rods move so fast they you need film to capture them. It is true that this is the only way they have ever been seen and there are a great number of Roswell Rod photos.

For some, it is hard to make the leap from blurry, rod or string-like object in a photograph to heretofore-undocumented creatures. The problem is that many insects and birds move so fast that they create a blur on film. That blur can be interpreted however you like. There is also the fact that it would be difficult for a creature that grows to be several hundred feet to escape notice. Where are all the dead Roswell Rods? Why have they not smacked into aircraft or fallen to the ground?

To believers, there is no doubt that these creatures exist. There are claims that Roswell Rods are from another world and that is why they can move so fast and dead ones escape attention. The fact that photos of them come from all over the world is more evidence in their eyes. However, there simply is not enough proof to document this cryptid. There is no way anyone can make claims that it certainly exists. Photographic evidence simply is not enough.


Roswell Rods, retrieved 11/8/10,

Russell, Davy, Roswell Rods, retrieved 11/8/10,

A Mystery for the Modern Age: The Georgia Guidestones

The Georgia Guidestones
Photo courtesy of Belinda Dobie
The Georgia Guidestones is a unique and peculiar monument. It is a modern structure and yet is a near-complete mystery. The monument is located on a hilltop in Elbert County, Georgia. It has been there for nearly thirty years, confusing scientific minds and angering many Christian groups.

The Georgia Guidestones consist of four tall granite slabs, a centerpiece of equal height and a capstone that sits atop the five stones. The four granite slabs are each 16 feet, 4 inches tall. They are 6 feet, 6 inches wide and 1 foot, 7 inches thick. They each weigh more than 20 tons. The capstone weighs roughly 25,000 pounds. This structure has led to the nickname the "American Stonehenge," which is shared with a native location in New Hampshire.

A man who called himself Richard C. Christian commissioned the Georgia Guidestones. Richard went to the Elberton Granite Finishing Company in 1979 and said that he wanted to build a monument that would send a message to mankind. When the man there heard the scope of the project, he told Richard that he would need some proof that he would be able to pay for it. He could not start on such a job (the largest that the company had ever undertaken) without reassurance. So, Richard C. Christian went to the local bank.

At the bank, Richard spoke with banker Wyatt Martin. He told Martin that Richard C. Christian was a pseudonym and that he and a private group had been planning the construction of the Georgia Guidestones for twenty years. They wished for the entire project to remain strictly anonymous. Wyatt later said that Christian was well dressed and well spoken. He had no reason to believe that the man was not sane or a prankster. Nonetheless, he needed to know Christian’s real name before he could conduct any transactions with him.

Christian agreed, but with a few conditions. After the transactions were complete, the documents with his name on it were to be destroyed. Wyatt would also have to sign a document stating that he would never reveal Christian’s identity to anyone. These terms were met and so Christian set about finding a location for the monument and getting all of the details sorted out. The name of the group that Christian was acting on behalf of was never disclosed, nor was the identity of any other parties involved.

Construction on the Georgia Guidestones began in 1980. Before the stones were even finished being etched there were rumors that they were the work of the devil. There were also rumors that they would become some sort of pagan landmark. The rumors got even worse once the monument was finished. Some people believe that the New World Order commissioned it. Others believe that it sets forth the commandments of the antichrist. Others still believe that it contains guidelines, or advice, for survivors of the apocalypse. Yet another belief is that followers of Thomas Paine commissioned them. This actually may be true, given that there are certain parallels between the guides and Paine’s “The Age of Reason.”

Now, the reason for all the to-do about the Georgia Guidestones is not so much the mysterious stones, but their design and message. Richard C. Christian had a few specifications for the large stones he asked for. They were to be notched and have holes in them that would allow for the structure to act as a compass and a calendar. The sun shines through a hole in the capstone and shows what day it is on the centerpiece everyday at noon. The North Star can be viewed through a slot in the centerstone all of the time. There are also other ways to track the movement of the stars and sun with the Georgia Guidestones.

The above functions obviously give the monument a decidedly ancient pagan feel. However, that is not the contention of many modern Christians regarding the Georgia Guidestones. The problem seems to be the “commandments” that were etched into either side of each of the four slabs and, what could be a sort of title that was etched into the capstone. On the capstone, the words “Let these be guidestones to an age of reason” were etched in classical Greek, Sanscrit, Egyptian hieroglyphs and Babylonian cuneiform. On the stones were ten “rules,” “guides,” or “commandments,” depending on how you look at them. They were written in English, Swahili, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, Arabic,
Chinese and Hindi.

This is what they read in English:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature
  2. Guide reproduction wisely-improving fitness and diversity
  3. United humanity with a living language
  4. Rule passion-faith-tradition-and all things with tempered reason
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and courts
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties
  9. Prize truth-beauty-love-seeking harmony with the infinite
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth-Leave room for nature-Leave room for nature

The meaning of the guidestones is relatively clear. A group of people wanted to set forth their beliefs on a monument that the rest of humanity could read. It is obvious that their hope is that these beliefs are viewable for quite some time. Are these statements simply ideals that these people hoped the world would understand and some day abide by? Are they ideals that these people hoped would help guide humanity after an apocalypse? Or, are they the commandments of the antichrist or the beliefs of the New World Order? We may never know. The only man who knew the identity of the only individual known to be connected to the text on the Georgia Guidestones has sworn to carry his secret to the grave.


Sullivan, Randall, American Stonehenge: Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse, retrieved 1/25/10,

Glacier Girl and the Lost Squadron

Glacier Girl in Flight
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States became involved in World War II. One of the first Operations that the U.S. participated in was named Operation Bolero. Operation Bolero was essentially the planned movement of Allied aircraft from the U.S. to the United Kingdom for use in the European theater of war. One of these aircraft movements resulted in one of the most intriguing cases of missing planes in history. Pilots had been forced to abandon eight fighter planes in Greenland and despite all efforts at relocating the planes, none were found until fifty years later. They became known as the Lost Squadron.

During the early summer of 1942, eight P-38 fighter planes and two B-17 bombers departed the U.S. en route to the United Kingdom. The flight plan for the squadron required three refuelings before the final landing in Europe. After refueling in Greenland, the squadron took to the skies to complete the leg of their journey that would take them to Iceland for refueling there. Two of the P-38s were left behind because of mechanical problems that prevented them from finishing the journey. Along the way to Iceland, the eight remaining planes’ pilots were forced to bring the aircrafts up to roughly fourteen thousand feet in order to remain above some dense storm clouds that they had encountered along the way.

The crewmembers aboard the fighter planes were now faced with -10 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. They did their best to keep their minds off of the cold and stay warm in whatever way possible. While they were up in the air in the horrible cold, they were also attempting to find a way out of the bad weather. However, this seemed impossible, as it appeared to be no better in any direction. They decided to attempt a trip back to the base that they had come from, but their situation didn’t get any better with a change of direction. At this point, fuel was running low and it became necessary to find a safe place to land the squadron.

The place chosen for the landing was an ice cap on eastern Greenland. All eight planes were able to land successfully though at least one crash landed. None of the twenty-five men that were on board the planes were injured. They were in a rather tight spot, though. It was necessary to immediately construct heating devices out of parts that were taken out of or off of the squadron’s planes. It was three days before two C-47 transport planes were able to drop off supplies for the men. It was another eight days before they were rescued from the icy wilderness. The planes were abandoned.

Several years after the rescue of the crew of the Lost Squadron, thirteen searches were conducted for the abandoned planes. The searches turned up nothing until August of 1992, when one of the P-38s was removed from beneath 268 feet of ice. That particular P-38 became known as “Glacier Girl.” Over time, the heavy snowfall in the area had trapped the squadron under the ice and the planes were engulfed in the glacier.

The only plane from the Lost Squadron that was removed from the ice was the “Glacier Girl.” The pieces of the plane were eventually moved to Middlesboro, Kentucky, where experts pieced the plane back together. Amazingly, the aircraft flew again in October of 2002. It can be viewed at the Lost Squadron Museum in Middlesboro, KY.

The Legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine

Weaver's Needle
Photo by Ihelewa

The Lost Dutchman Mine is a legendary location that might be located outside of Phoenix, Arizona–in the Superstition Mountains. The mine is supposed to be chock full o' gold, but no one is sure of its precise location or if it truly exists. It is certain that a number of people have gone into the Superstitions and come out with a significant quantity of gold ore. It is also certain that a number of people have vanished in search of the mine or have been found dead after having gone to the mountain. More than that is speculation.

The first prospectors ever to go in search of the Lost Dutchman Mine were told of its existence by the local Apache Native American tribesman. The Apache seem to have known of gold in the mountains for a long time before white men came in search of it. However, the Apache believed that their Thunder God resided in the mountains and would punish anyone who looked for gold there, so they refused to tell anyone where the gold was located.

In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came to Arizona from Mexico in search of the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. The Apache told him of the gold in the Superstition Mountains, so he decided to look for it. He and a group of men went to the mountains in search of the gold but were waylaid by horrific tragedies. The men of the party kept vanishing, some were found dead with their heads removed from their bodies, while others simply disappeared. Those who survived would not venture near the mountains again. They never found the gold.

In 1845, Don Miguel Peralta left Mexico specifically to find the gold in the Superstitions. (At this time the Lost Dutchman Mine did not exist, even in legend.) He evidently found a very rich goldmine. He marked the location by carving his name into Weavers Needle and returned home for some mining supplies and workers. Soon after he returned to Arizona with his equipment and men, he began sending large quantities of gold home to Mexico.

Things did not turn out well for Miguel, despite his having apparently found the Lost Dutchman Mine. The Apache became restless because of the group’s presence in the mountains and so they planned to attack the mine. Peralta heard of this and closed the mine, hiding the entrance. The Apache killed him and all of his men as they attempted to leave the area. Their remains and the gold they had carried with them were reportedly found throughout the area for years to come.

Further evidence that there was gold in the mountains came in 1870, when an army doctor by the name of Abraham Thorne was brought to the mountain by a group of Apache who respected the help that the doctor had given them on their newly formed reservation. They blindfolded the man and brought him to a canyon where they removed the blindfold. The doctor said later that he found gold piled up there for him, but that he did not see a mine.

Not long after the Apache led the doctor to gold, the eponymous Dutchman came to the Superstition Mountains. The Dutchman was actually a German man by the name of Jacob Walz who came to the mountain in search of gold with his partner Jacob Weiser. Not long after the duo went to the mountain, they came out and began spending gold nuggets in Phoenix. There is much speculation regarding whether the men actually found their Lost Dutchman Mine, if they actually stole the gold or if they had found a hidden cache from the Peralta party. The speculation continues to this day.

During the following twenty years, Jacob Walz was seen spending gold nuggets intermittently, but always after a trip to the Superstitions. Jacob Weiser was not as lucky. At some point during those twenty years, he disappeared. There are many stories about what happened to the second Jacob, but the manner of his disappearance has never been proven. Waltz dropped hints about his having found a mine, but he never showed anyone the location. He claimed to have hidden it completely before his death in 1891. Following his death, the Dutchman and the Lost Dutchman Mine passed into legend.

Many people have gone in search of the Lost Dutchman Mine since that time, but to this day, no one has proven it exists. In fact, people seem to meet their doom rather than find gold when they go prospecting at the Superstition Mountains. A surprising number of people have been found in the mountains with fatal bullet wounds, but what is even worse is the number of people that have been decapitated there and the period of time over which the decapitations happened. These horrific deaths obviously lend to the mystery of the Lost Dutchman Mine because people still go to the Superstitions in search of gold to this day.

The Mysterious Mekong River Lights

The Mekong River is one of the longest rivers in the world. It starts in the mountains of Tibet and flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. The section of the Mekong River that is located near Nong Khai, Thailand is home to an odd phenomenon that has some scratching their heads while others cry hoax. This phenomenon is known as the Mekong River Lights, the Naga Lights and the Nekha Lights.

The Mekong River Lights are red balls of light that appear on the surface of the Mekong River near Nong Khai, Thailand during the October full moon ever year. The lights appear to dance for a moment before shooting up into the sky and vanishing. Some eyewitnesses say that the lights originate at the bottom of the riverbed and that they burst forth when they reach the surface. The lights reportedly happen at other times of year too. The October full moon is just the most popular time to view them.

There are those who say that the Mekong River Lights are a hoax; however, they have been occurring for so long that they have spawned their own legend. Local believers say that the Serpent King Naga lives in the river. Some say that the lights are the eggs of Naga's wife being ejected into the world. Other locals, those who call them the Nekha Lights, believe that the large Nekha fish that dwell in Mekong River cause them. The latter seems more likely, but still unlikely.

Those who claim that the Mekong River Lights are a hoax say that locals set off some sort of rockets or flares to attract tourists. There are a few problems with this theory, though it still may be true. Firstly, why would they spend the money to do this outside of the October full moon? That is when tourists are drawn to the site. Secondly, the Mekong River Lights are not accompanied by the bangs, hisses or whistles that would be a dead giveaway. Lastly, the Mekong River Lights have been around for at least a hundred years, likely longer. How would this hoax be carried on and kept secret for so long?

Dr. Manas Kanoskin of Nong Khai, Thailand believes that methane pockets, which are pulled to the surface by the full moon, cause the Mekong River Lights. An engineer who recently built a bridge in the area says that there is no way. The bed of the Mekong is too rocky near Nong Khai to have methane build up like that. Other experts disagree with Kanoskin as well. However, unless there are tests done in the area, no one can say for sure one way or the other. The locals will continue believing it is the Serpent King and the scientists will continue arguing over the issue or ignoring it altogether until then.

The fact of the matter is that the Mekong River Lights are certainly real. Thousands upon thousands of people have witnessed them. They have been written about, photographed and made legend. There is no denying their existence. There is just the small matter of what they are exactly.

Sokushinbutsu: The Art of Self-Mummification

Many cultures on Earth mummify the dead. There are even cultures that made mummies inadvertently by burying them under the right conditions. Therefore, mummies are relatively common. However, it is nearly unheard of for people to mummify themselves, but it has happened. In Japan there are more than two-dozen mummies, known as the Sokushinbutsu. These Sokushinbutsu were very dedicated monks who committed suicide for the sake of mummifying themselves and achieving holiness.

The monks who performed Sokushinbutsu were followers of an ancient form of Buddhism known as Shugendo. For Shugendo monks, performing self-mummification was not suicide.  It was the ultimate act of self-denial and a way to separate themselves from the material world. Of course, that didn’t change the fact that it was suicide to the rest of the world and so, the gruesome practice was made illegal in Japan in the late 1800's.

Sokushinbutsu began with the monk drastically changing his diet. Most sources say that the monk would go for three years on a diet of nuts and seeds. He would also begin exercising vigorously, in order to shed any excess body fat that might hinder the mummification process. After three years of this diet, the monk would then change his diet to one of bark and roots for another three years. After a time, the monk would also begin ingesting a poisonous tea made from sap or arsenic-laced water. The amount of poison in these drinks was presumably nonlethal. The drinks were meant to aid in the loss of fat in life and to deter insects after the monk’s death. The time frame of this diet and its progression differ from source to source, but the contents are certain.

At the end of the second three-year period, the monk would then place himself in a small coffin-like box (seemingly of brick, stone or wood), in which he could do nothing but sit in the lotus position. A breathing tube was introduced into the chamber and the monk given a bell before the box was closed. The monk would then ring the bell every day until he starved to death. When the bell no longer rang, his fellow monks knew he was dead. After a period of one thousand days, they would open the box and determine whether the monk had achieved Sokushinbutsu. If the body had begun to decay, the box was permanently sealed and buried. If the body had not, the monk had achieved Sokushinbutsu and he was reverently put on display and worshiped as Buddha.

Today, there are a little more than two-dozen Sokushinbutsu in Japan. Eight of these mummified monks are on display in the Dainichi and Churenji temples. They are still thought of as Buddha by their brethren. To the rest of us, they are either testaments to the amazing power the mind can have over the body, or they are proof of how horribly far a person’s beliefs can take them. Either way, it is hard not to be amazed at the ability of Sokushinbutsu to carry out their very own mummification.