Skeptical Investigations
A Journalist Returns

King Richard

Robert here, still too busy with the new encyclopedia to write for the blog, alas, but looking forward to getting back in touch as soon as my new duties permit.

In the meantime I’ve heard from Henry ‘Rabbitdawg’ Brand, who has an interesting tale to tell, and in fact just the kind of thing that should interest Paranormalia readers. Thanks, Dawg.   

This is something I tripped across on an NPR radio show called Snap Judgement. It involved the discovery of the remains of King Richard III in a parking lot in 2012. Being a bit of an Anglophile, I already knew the basic story, but was completely unaware of the strongly documented paranormal aspect of the case. I've seen nothing about it on any of my trusted paranormal blogs or websites. Ironically, the only sources of information I've found for the paranormal side of the story are in the mainstream media. By mainstream, I mean 'respected' media, not the Daily Mail or other tabloids where you would expect to find these sort of things.

Here's a brief overview of the details:

Philippa Langley became obsessed with Richard III in 1992 after she fell ill, and gave up a successful career in advertising. During her recovery, she decided to write a film about him. The more research she did, the more she began to believe the House of Tudor had conducted a massive smear campaign on the good king's name. Too many facts didn't add up, logically or intuitively.

As a side note, I thought of Michael Prescott and his theories questioning the authenticity of Shakespeare's play's, when I read that many members of The Richard III Society believe they have evidence of the Tudor dynasty recruiting Shakespeare (or his surrogate) to write a disparaging play about him. Apparently, dirty political tricks and disinformation isn't anything unique to our era.

But here's the kicker, from a Guardian article:

In 2004, as part of her research, Langley visited Leicester, where it was rumoured the king was buried on the site of the old Greyfriars monastery. Her trip proved fruitless, but then as she was about to leave, she noticed a car park with a private barrier across it and felt "an overwhelming urge" to go inside.

"In the second parking bay, I just felt I was walking on his grave," Langley says calmly in the hotel pub where we meet. "I can't explain it."

A year later, she went back to test her hunch (no pun intended) and the feeling returned. This time, someone had hand-painted the letter "R" over the parking bay to mark it as reserved. For Langley, it was a cosmic sign that "I needed to get on with it".

  Of course, the rest is history (groan). Using private funding, the body was found within four hours of digging in the exact place where she said it would be, and this was documented by a television crew. Many of her intuitions about Richard III have been reasonably verified by respected archeologists, although some are still hotly debated.

I'm sure you know how that feels.   What I really like about this is that the more I dig into the story, the more intriguing and convincing it becomes.

The only skeptical response I can find is that Philippa Langley didn't adequately document her hunch beforehand. Still, this critique doesn't explain how she knew exactly where to find the remains, and I seriously doubt she wanted to go around lobbying archeologists and a city council with stories about a "feeling".  This is just an summary of what happened, but the mainstream sourced information I've found online makes a much better case for the paranormal effect than I possibly can. Here are a few links to pursue, for anyone who's interested.     

The Snap Judgement episode.

This podcast is only about fourteen minutes long, but it's informative and compellingly crafted. Brits like Robert might get a little kick out of hearing the story from an American point of view. Definitely worth a listen.

The Guardian article.

A Macleans Magazine interview.

A lame skeptical response:

Or you can Google it yourself. Information is everywhere, except on the more credible paranormal blogs and websites. Go figure.

Henry Brand


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Fascinating insight, thanks, RD. :)
(And good to learn that you're still here in the land of the Earth dwellers, Robert.) ;)

It gets more fascinating if you follow the links, or better yet, if you do your own search. As I pointed out in the post, this brief description doesn't do the story justice. Reading or hearing how events unfolded in Philippa Langley's own words gives it much more depth.

The Guardian article and Maclean interview go into further detail, placing events into their proper sequence and context, but the NPR-distributed Snap Judgement broadcast/podcast version made the most compelling, yet entertaining case for me. I cannot overstate the quality.
Pure audio can be boring, but the professional production values involved in this eoisode really brings the story to life without sacrificing credibility.
I'll put it like this, If the podcast doesn't have you hooked within three minutes, turn it off. But I doubt you will.

Yes I recall thinking the whole thing, particularly the obviously silly "R" marking, was brushed over in the reports of the discovery as a barely interesting aside about which there was no more to be said. How she is meant to have located the spot by otehr means with such precision doesn't seem to get much analysis or speculation either. It generally seemed to be a case of "they found him and..oh yeah..she said this..but anyway,getting back to the point, they found him."

Very interesting, thanks.

I'm going to follow all the links, RD! Oh yes I am. :)

What a fantastic story. I recalled the story of how his body was found in the parking lot, but had never heard any of these details. Thank you so, so much for sharing this story, RD. I have now shared it far and wide, and I have also ordered Philippa's book.
A question: You mentioned in your post other paranormal sites you respect. Could you recommend some? This is the only one I subscribe to.
Thanks again!!

And by the way, I agree with RD about the Snap Judgment episode about this. It is extremely well done, and I forwarded it to many friends. Philippa is so courageous, and I want to support her!

Sure, here's a list of sites I've visited on a regular basis for several years now. There are a lot paranormal and spirituality blogs and websites out there, but I favor the one's that use a reasonable amount of critical thinking. These are definitely in the minority. The paranormal world is so diverse and full of genuine woo-woo rubbish, I try to gravitate toward sites that won't threaten my boggle threshold. For instance, I'm open to near-death experiences, crisis apparitions, reincarnation and psi, but things like Big Foot and contrails are a waste of time to me.

To start, I suggest checking the links I list below. Peruse their archives, and look for links to other blogs and websites embedded in their sidebars:
Check Michael's archives, or do a blog site search for topics. This is one of the most honest paranormal related blogs out there. You also might want to check out some of his essay's here:
Nancy Evans-Bush is a (now retired) near-death experience researcher who all but help found and keep the International Association of Near Death Studies running for thirty years. Her calling card is distressing near-death experiences, but she expands on deep spirituality and paranormal experiences in one of the most sane and accessible styles I've ever seen.
This is a website/blog hybrid. Start by scrolling down to the Daily News Scan. It features links to stories of interest to the paranormal community, and is usually updated Monday through Friday. The rest of the website is interesting, but it has so many features, it may take time to get used to.

I don't want to overwhelm you with links here, but if you want more, the sites I list above also feature links to other useful portals, just like this blog does.
Finding credible information on spirituality and the paranormal is a lot of work, but remind yourself that it's all about the journey, not the destination. Or something like that. :-)
Happy hunting!

RD, thank you very much for these. I am with you on all your criteria. Nancy Bush is a friend, and is the person who alerted me to this website, and I am pleased to see she is on your list. She is indeed an extremely thoughtful, intelligent person who has added a great deal to the conversation about distressing NDEs.
Really appreciate your posts.

RD: did you notice the typically pseudo-skeptic aggressive comments from someone calling themself 'downandout' following on from the Guardian article. What, one wonders, makes such people so angry? It can't possibly be good for their blood pressure.

Such outbursts always remind me of Richard Dawkins in red-faced hysterical rant mode. If such people truly believe that anything to do with psi is nonsense then why not simply shrug it off and move onto the next topic of the day? It's as if fear and obsession lies at the bottom of their attitude towards such phenomena.

There was another book about Richard III and a medium that got some attention a while back:

I've got a copy somewhere it was surprisingly readable.

This is a textbook case that pushes militant skeptics to resort to ad hominem attacks and hand waving in order to direct attention away from the fact that they they've been cornered by the evidence.
So far, I haven't been able to find any serious skeptical counter attacks to this case. The best I could find was on the Mental Floss website, where they tried to shrug it off as dumb luck.
Locate the exact spot of the grave site for a Monarch that's been missing for 500 years without any precise empirical evidence, and you're 'lucky'?

Fanatics not only get angry when their values and world views are threatened, they get kinda stupid. Or as we say in around here, "Full of piss 'n vinegar".

"Fanatics not only get angry when their values and world views are threatened, they get kinda stupid. Or as we say in around here, "Full of piss 'n vinegar"."

Yes, RD, that's the fundamentalist mindset in a nutshell. Never mind, the truth will out. It generally does. :)

You may be interested to know that this isn't the only case of a paranormal locating of a dead leader to have been noted and glossed over on a "there are no such things" assumption.

I posted the following elsewhere in 2011. If there have been factual updates since then I'm simply ignorant of them.

In the 1970s the Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped and murder by the Red Brigade. The full story of which is in the Independent article below, but here's the gist....

During the 55 days he was held in captivity everyone in italy wanted to know where they could possibly be keeping Aldo Moro. At one point something extraordinary happened. Romano Prodi, himself later prime minister and also president of the European Commission, went to the police with a remarkable tip off. He reported how he and a group of university academic friends had spent a Sunday afternoon attempting a seance with a ouija board. They appeared to get responses from what was idenitified as the ghost of another, recently deceased, senior Christian Democrat called Giorgio La Pira. Having established this they asked what everyone wanted to know "where are they holding Aldo Moro?"

The ouija spelled out in turn 3 place names.. Bolsena..Viterbo..Gradoli... The first two were instantly identified as known places, but Gradoli meant nothing to anyone. Until that is they located a village of that name in an Atlas, to their own apparently great surprise. This fact - that a place that existed but no one had heard of had turned up in response to their question pushed Prodi to risk ridicule and inform the police. The village of Gradoli was duly raided and searched and...nothing. Case seemingly closed.

After Moro was murdered and his body disposed of it was determined that he had been kept during most of his captivity in an apartment in a street in Rome called.... Via Gradoli.

Cue twilight zone music.

The gist of the Independent article is that Prodi's political opponents, sceptics and the public at large take it virtually as read that he "obviously" made the whole seance "nonsense" up to cover up for to pass on a tip about Moro's whereabouts without giving his informant away. But nowhere can I find any suggestion of evidence that this is the case ...its an assumption based primarily on the idea that such things are self-evidently impossible so must be untrue.

Prodi has never changed his story.

@Lawrence B,
A telling quote from the article Guardian article: "But they will have to do better than trying to embarrass Prodi by reminding him of a silly old lie."

It's ironic that the Guardian seemed sympathetic toward Romano Prodi in his political campaign against Silvio Berlusconi, yet completely dismissive of the paranormal evidence.
If they didn't believe the paranormal explanation, then they were in effect, supporting a candidate for Prime Minister who once failed to follow through on information in order to protect an 'inside source' that might have saved Aldo Moro's life.
The fact that the police failed to search the luxury block of flats on a street called Via Gradoli after searching the town of Gradoli goes right over the skeptics heads.

I don't know which is more maddening - the elusive, yet spot on accuracy of certain paranormal encounters, or selective bias.

I'd choose, the bias every time there, RD. We don't have much choice re the former. The latter is often just down to laziness and, ironically, a certain amount of gullibility.

@Steve Hume,
Good points, especially when it comes to the irony.

Hello all,

I was not sure where to put this comment where most of you might see it, but I thought this article would be of interest, so I put it here in hopes it will get out there. I am very curious about the connection between what this work discusses and the experiences of those who have had other types of spiritually transformative experiences - whether through NDEs or other forms of mind-expanding events.

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