Mysteries We All Know But No One Gets - Crescent Hotel conference will explore paranormal, 'Things Unknown'

Friday, August 9, 2013

You've probably heard of dowsing, the art of finding water with a branch. Ditto crop circles, the rings that appear in fields of grain.

But did you know that Harold McCoy of Fayetteville could not only find underground springs with a dowsing rod, but also divert them for irrigation purposes? Or that at least 200 people have died of what appears to be spontaneous combustion, including a man found last February in the kitchen of his home outside of Fort Smith?

Dowsing, crop circles, spontaneous combustion and other phenomena will be explored at the Crescent Hotel's annual Parallel Universe conference August 23- 25. Last year, the conference focused on scientific explanations for the supernatural, according to director Keith Scales. This year, the focus is "Things Unknown," topics that continue to mystify people.

"The purpose of this event is not to reach consensus, but to explore a diversity of opinions, knowledge and experience regarding some of the most enduring mysteries of our time," Scales said.

The featured speaker is Larry Arnold, a Pennsylvania engineer who wrote the definitive book on spontaneous combustion. Arnold will discuss case histories and lead a discussion on possible explanations for the phenomenon, which emergency service personnel sometimes encounter. In the recent case, relatives found the man's body in his kitchen in Muldrow, Okla., 12 miles west of Fort Smith. That nothing else in the room was burned left the Sequoyah County sheriff to conclude that spontaneous combustion was a possibility, news agencies reported.

What else you might not know: that Irish poet William Butler Yeats was a magus, a member of a secret society of magicians. Yeats and spouse Georgie Hyde-Lees held automatic writing sessions at which she channeled John Dee, the court astrologer for Queen Elizabeth I. Dee was a major figure at a time when the practice of alchemy and study of chemistry overlapped, Scales said, and practiced scrying -- seeing visions in a crystal ball-- and automatic writing. For the conference, Scales will give a brief presentation on Dee and Yeats, then set up an automatic writing experiment.

Other hands-on activities at the conference: Gladys McCoy of the Ozark Research Institute will give a demonstration of dowsing and let people try it on the hotel grounds. Larry Flaxman, head of the Arkansas Paranormal and Anomalous Studies Team, will administer a series of scientific tests for psychic potential, including remote viewing and extra-sensory perception.

Scales had hoped to have Justin Easter, a local musician who researches crop circles, at the conference, but he had an out-of town booking. Easter's research will be incorporated into a presentation on the subject by Thomas Stacks, Scales said. Scales will also present an inquiry into the legends of the Dogon, a West Africa tribe that tell of travelers who came from the Sirius star system and contain knowledge of astronomy not visible to the eye.

A legend closer to home: did you known that Ozark parents used to invoke a monster called the Tantrabobus, which would grab children if they looked down a well? The monster, which has roots in old-world bogies, is described by Ed and Karen Underwood in their book, "Tales of Forgotten Arkansas." The authors will be at the conference to present "Bizarrkansas," based on the tales they have collected from the stranger side of the state.

"Bizarrkansas" is one of four live performances offered during the two evenings of the conference. Paul Prater, a Little Rock lawyer who does mind-reading on the side, will present "The Odditorium," in which he performs illusions like driving a nail through his head and mind-over-matter feats. Ozark ghost stories, a one-act mystery and the hotel's ghost tour are part of the evenings' entertainment.

"Parallel Universe: Things Unknown" starts Friday, August 23, and goes through Sunday, August 25. The Crescent Hotel offers a conference package with two-nights lodging, breakfast and admission to all events for $439 per couple.

For people who live in the area, there's a three-day pass without lodging or meals for $125. A day pass for Friday is $75, Saturday $100.

More information: or email

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: