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STORIES THAT MAY BE CHRISTIAN URBAN LEGENDS

Still more neat stories of events
that may never have happened

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Stories that may be Christian urban legends:

We have run across a number of other stories that have the general feel of Christian urban legend. However, we have little or no evidence that they are in fact only myths:

bulletThe human soul has weight: There is an article which is allegedly a reprint from American Medicine magazine for 1907-APR. 1 It describes a series of tests by Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, MA. in which he measured the weight of individuals as they died. He noted a sudden weight loss of ¾ ounce, and ½ ounce on his first two patients. The third lost ½ ounce at death and an additional loss of one ounce a few minutes later. Another lost about ⅜ ounce. He later performed the experiment on dogs and found no change in weight at the time of death. A search on the Internet for the phrase "American Medicine magazine" turned up seven hits, including one reference to the magazine having existing in 1914. 2

We have been unable to find a definitive reference to any replication of this study by other researchers. There are a few vague suggestions on the Internet, but nothing that gives dates, times and results:
bulletOne physicist wrote us about an experiment done in the 19th century. A large balance was constructed that supported the weight of a dying person on a bed. When he breathed his last, there was a sudden drop of one ounce weight which was attributed to the soul leaving the body. The experiment was repeated on other individuals with similar results.
bulletA 1998-NOV posting to the Neurology WebForum, sponsored by the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, discussed a short article circa 1988 about a similar experiment. It showed that "the body unexplicably [sic] lost a few ounces. I remember this clearly because of the graphic they had with it of a soul leaving a body lying on a bed (similar to the movie "Ghost"). Another posting mentioned that "The study was a turn of the century or thereabouts. If I recall it was reported in one of the Charles Fort ('Fortean' occurances) books or something like that. There was even a drawing of the bed placed up on four sensitive scales. I have seen it several places."
bulletA German magazine Horizon was reported to have published an article about a similar experiment performed at the University of Berlin. Weight measurement of about 200 dying patients showed that the human soul weighs 1/3000th of an ounce, on average. When one considers that an average body may weigh something on the order of 2,000 ounces, then this measurement would have required scales accurate to one part in six million. Scales with such accuracy are extremely improbable. Horizon had no record of having printed the letter. The University of Berlin had no record of the experimenters who were alleged to have been Dr. Becker Martens and Elke Fisher.
bulletA visitor to this web site reports that Sunn Classic Pictures featured a simulated re-enactment of this experiment in its 1978 documentary film "Beyond and Back."

In science, a research finding is considered of little value unless it is replicated by other scientists. We only suspect that this is an urban folk tale. We have no proof that it is. But it certainly "feels" like one.

bulletGod relocates church: The story is about a congregation who wanted to relocate their church building. They had approached the owner of a desirable piece of empty land, but the owner would not sell. Subsequently, a tornado came through the area, picked up the church building and set it down squarely on the previously empty property. This convinced the land owner that God must want the church there. So he gave the property to the congregation.
bulletThe Mormons and Coca Cola ™: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the Mormons, strongly recommend that its believers not drink tea, coffee or any drink containing addictive substances. In an interview with Bob Marshall, Frank Zappa either started or repeated a rumor about the LDS and Coca Cola. He said: "Don't drink coffee". You can't drink Coca Cola or any of that kind of stuff. That was written in the Book until they bought into Coca Cola. And suddenly this one particular form of caffeine was O.K. and now Mormons get high on Coca Cola. That's their big thrill." 3 A similar Pepsi rumor has circulated since 1999 -- perhaps earlier. Neither is true. Mormon leaders have recommended against the consumption of all caffeine drinks for many years. 4 According to one source, 9% of the Coca Cola company is owned by a bank, 15% of the shares are held by past and present executives and the families of those who established the company.  The remaining 76% of the company is owned by a very large number of institutional and individual investors. 5
bulletThe Mormons and web sites: A rumor has been circulating on the Internet that the LDS Church -- often referred to as the Mormons -- is trying to shut down all independent Mormon web sites. This would leave the official LDS web site as the only source of Mormon information on the Internet . There is an element of truth in this rumor. The LDS once strongly encouraged local congregations to temporarily take their web sites off line, until standards could be prepared for them. The Church's concern is that some local web sites might be promoting unofficial doctrine. However, the thousands of web sites that are operated by individual Mormons have not been restricted by the church.
bulletChristian pastor tears up 3 million dollar check: Michael Phillips wrote an article about an alleged gift of $3 million from Christians in the U.S. to Dieder Palacki, a Christian pastor who survived imprisonment and torture behind the Iron Curtain. Palacki allegedly said: "I have spent much time in your countries. I have been in your churches and bookstores. I have witnessed with my own eyes the trappings of your so-called spiritual prosperity, which is really no prosperity at all, but a hollow empty shell."

"Something within me wants to shout and say to you all, ‘Go home to your contented and wealthy homes and communities and churches.' The Good News of Jesus Christ is alive and vibrant and is fully capable of carrying itself abroad into the hearts of hungry men and women without the benefit of your expensive and lavish commercial efforts on its behalf....."

"For thirty years we have smuggled and traveled, taught, preached, gone hungry, organized, yes, and even spoken and written to you of the West as well. Thousands upon thousands of our fellow Poles and Russians and Slavs and East Germans have laid their lives on the line for the sake of their faith and in order to share that faith with others....."

"How many of you listened to us?"

"My brother and friend Alexandr Solzhenitsyn attempted for a decade to be heard, as have so many others. We asked for your prayers, for Bibles, for help in teaching and training our people. And some help did come, for which we were grateful."

"But the rest of you continued to feed your own mammoth religious systems, building yet bigger and bigger transmitting stations and more television stations and publishing more books - all in the name of proclaiming the gospel."

"But did you ever give of yourselves? Did you come help us? Did you pray for us? Did you suffer and die and starve with us? How much did you really care about the people you now so pompously think you will save for the kingdom?"

"Where have you been all this time? We needed your help and prayers and support and Bibles when times were hard! We have been beaten and imprisoned and even killed for the gospel’s sake. Where were you when it counted? We lived our faith behind the Iron Curtain, and now that it is down, who is to say we even want you coming with your pompous egoism and self-reliance?"

He is reported to have then torn up the check into several pieces and let them drop to the floor. 6

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Related essays on this web site:

bulletChristian urban legend menu
bulletChristian urban legend hoaxes exposed by the ICR

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Additional religious urban folktales can be found at:

bulletTruthOrFiction.com at: http://www.truthorfiction.com/

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References used:

  1. Duncan MacDougall, "Hypothesis Concerning Soul Substance Together with Experimental Evidence of The Existence of Such Substance," American Medicine, 1907-APR, at: http://www.artbell.com/
  2. Neal Smith, "Occupied America: A Chronology of Nazi Infiltration and the War On Some Drugs," at: http://www.ka.net/
  3. "Frank Zappa interview," 1998, at: http://www.science.uva.nl/
  4. W.J. Walsh, "Cola Drinks," All About Mormons, at: http://www.mormons.org/ This link is no longer online.
  5. "The Mormons own the Coca-Cola Company," at: http://www.snopes2.com/
  6. Michael Phillips, "Dawn of Liberty," Dr. Chadwick's Church Ministry Site, http://www.webedelic.com/church/dawnf.htm

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Copyright © 1999 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Creation date: 1999-APR-5
Last update: 2005-FEB-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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