Friday 17 August 2007

Apes Obey! Vague dread of the supernatural

Rotten reporting
When I read the 2 versions of the stories in first in the online versions the Nigerian Tribune and then This Day, I knew there was much more to the story that the journalists had not bothered to investigate further.
Usually, when such sensationalist tripe is published there is someone from some foreign media ascertaining what I would call the Veracity Index of the story such that the objective might replace the incredible.
It took a review by Ijebuman, a fellow blogger to see the real truth behind the whole story with a perspective from Reuters/Yahoo. But it highlights how even professional journalists in Nigeria can get carried away with outrageous rumours and print those as truth, but also a reflection on society that accepts such sloppiness without protest – really appalling.
The haunted house
This however is my first instalment in the Apes Obey! Series; dealing with the vague dread of the supernatural.
A man had apparently built himself a haunted house [Source: Nigerian Tribune], read into that what you may, for all sorts of reasons, after completion of the building he refused to move his family into the house because he believed it was haunted [Source: ThisDay Online].
A night vigil was organised, comprised of members of one of those ever pervasive gatherings of people calling themselves a church, with a Pentecostal persuasion to conduct an exorcism to make the house habitable.
Smoke, wind and dwarves
The story then grows legs, they prayed into the night and when it ended one witness went to the toilet and lost consciousness after first seeing a lot of smoke and mysterious dwarf figure in human form.
Another source said after the prayers, a mighty wind blew through the house and sent people crashing on the floor with many losing their lives.
Somehow, some of the bodies ended up badly burnt and in the space of 2 days the bodies were already infested with maggots – there was a time lapse between the event and the discovery.
Perceptions of great evil
However, this is where the story would have taken off – the vague dread of the supernatural had compelled people to gather to deal with a situation through fervent prayer. It would appear they were up against something they had no clue of and it overpowered them.
Meanwhile, observers would consider the house was evil, the builder was probably a crook and that the church might have been involved in other activities rather than pure Christianly service.
17 lives were lost in this incident and though there might be clear indications as to why this happened, any natural or logical explanation would be ditched for some sign, miracle, paranormal or supernatural context making the whole event more mysterious than it should ever be.
Unfounded attributions
It is interesting that the phrase “mighty wind” was used in the context of this story because it could well refer to an event in the Bible where the Apostles were gathered on the day of Pentecost – a number of versions of the Bible use rushing mighty wind [Source: Parallel Bible] in the Book of Act Chapter 2 verse 2 – allowing for another vague dread of the supernatural.
People might question how within two days bodies were infested with maggots but further on in the Book of Acts someone died and was immediately infested with maggots [Source: Parallel Bible] – supernatural or natural?
A more plausible explanation
The Reuters news agency picks up the story [Source: Generator fumes kill 17 at Nigeria prayer meeting - Yahoo! News] and highlights the fact that we have a power crisis in Nigeria that forces people to install portable generators.
The security situation in Nigeria also means that people would sometimes fail to follow a basic safety rule; such generators should not be used indoors.
As it happens, this group of people ran the generator indoors where the likelihood is that they were overcome by exhaust fumes and consequently died.
Considering they closed themselves up in the house, the meeting place was probably not properly ventilated and having been through an exhausting session of fervent prayer they would have been very vulnerable.
Fervently religious but stupid people
An apparently stupid human act that cost lives has however been attributed to forces of darkness.
As for the man who went to the toilet – some of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning [Source: Canada Safety Council] would be vision impairment, mental confusion and collapse on exertion – the kind of exertion which might have allowed for the seeming high concentrations of carbon monoxide to overwhelm a group of people almost at the same time as to have looked like a being hit by a mighty wind to a confused mind.
Probably, someone fell on the generator and got burnt as the generator ran till it was out of fuel.
When people die, they begin to rot and attract flies, those flies lay eggs which hatch in maggots [Source: WikiAnswers - How do maggots get into a dead body] between 2-5 days of being laid – there might be extenuating circumstances for humid and tropical regions.
I can only thank Ijebuman again for this information about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Haunted Houses - Case Closed! [Source - Wikipedia]
Despite all this
Despite this clear explanation of events, it is amazing how the vague dread of the supernatural holds sway over people that they fail to realise the obvious.
Could the haunting have been a badly placed roof tile allowing for wind instrument dynamics; a creaking door or something really benign?
This is not to discount the possibility of haunted house, but in a new house? Except if it was built over an old disused cemetery, but then?
I would wager that a good number of Nigerians would take convincing of the fact that the large loss of life was due more to crass stupidity than some vague supernatural activity – Lord Lugard must have been a rather keen observer and somehow you have to agree he was right there.
And back to that quote corroborated from another source too “through the ages the African appears to have evolved no organized religious creed, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural” [Source: Google Book Search - Nigerian History, Politics and Affairs: The Collected Essays of Adiele Afigbo (Classic Authors and Texts on Africa) (Paperback) Page 456 – ISBN-13 978-1592213245 (].

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