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While John Michell has a brief break from this page,another living legend will be taking his place. Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and the author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (Arrow, £7.99). His website is: Jonathan Cainer

Archive for Thursday 8th January 2004 - Unexplained Powers - Intuition by Rupert Sheldrake

When thieves stole Tony Balderstone's Land Rover near his home in Holt, Norfolk, his 10-year old border collie Blake was in the back. They dumped the dog at Downham Market, 40 miles away. Within five days, Blake had found his own way home. There are many stories of dogs and cats that show a remarkable sense of direction. Walt Disney made a film, The Incredible Journey, based on a real-life case in which a cat, an old bull terrier and a young Labrador found their way home over 250 miles of wild terrain in Canada.

Dogs and cats share this homing ability with many other species. In a famous experiment with Manx shearwaters, wild sea birds, one was removed from its nesting burrow on Skokholm island, off the Welsh coast taken by air to Boston, Massachusetts, and released. It was back in its burrow 12 days later, having flown 3000 miles across the Atlantic. Racing pigeons regularly fly home over distances of hundreds of miles. But in spite of a hundred years of research, no one understands how they navigate. It is not a matter of using the positions of the sun or stars, because they can home under cloudy conditions. Nor is it a matter of remembering the twists and turns of the outward journey. They can still home if anaesthetized during the outward journey, and if taken by a devious route.

Magnetism may play a part, but even if pigeons have a compass sense, this would not explain homing. If you were taken to an unknown place and given a compass, you would know where North was, but not where your home was.

Migrating birds are even more remarkable. Swallows, for example, find their way from Britain to South Africa, crossing the Sahara Desert on the way, and then return the next spring, often to the same building where they nested before. We too have a sense of direction, but it is not well developed in most modern people; we use maps, compasses and signposts instead. Traditional peoples, like Australian aborigines, could often find their way without these artificial aids.

I would like to hear from readers about their experiences of sense of direction in animals or people. Email Rupert Sheldrake's researcher, with subject heading: Rupert Sheldrake.

Rupert Sheldrake

John Michell would love to hear about your experience of any unusual or unexplained phenomena.
If you have a favourite mystery subject - from spontaneous human combustion to ancient Celtic ritual sites, write to John, suggesting a theme. And if you have any answers or theories about the mysteries John will be highlighting, he would particularly like to hear from you.

Email mystery@cainer.comwith subject heading: John Michell
Please note, we regret that due to time restrictions personal replies may not be available.

John Michell is a prolific author. Below are just two of John's books which might interest you:

The Rough Guide to Unexplained Phenomena
John Michell and Bob Rickard - A fascinating collection. Look up anything from urban legends to recorded unexplained phenomena - to the existance of ghosts. All presented in an organised, easy to follow manner, in related categories. A complete index and accompanying pictures with each entry. Excellent reference - excellent read.
Who Wrote Shakespeare?
Was the most famous poet and writer of all time a fraud and a plagiarist? Was Shakespeare the "upstart crow" described by Greene as strutting in borrowed feathers, or Jonson's "Poet-Ape" who patched plays together from others' work? John Michell's witty investigation of the theories and claims reads like a series of detective stories. By the end of the book even the most faithful disciples of the Bard will find themselves asking, "Who Wrote Shakespeare?"

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