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Poof of Smoke: Paranormal Creatures and Natural Phenomenon by Esther Mitchell

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This next segment is part of what I like to call the paranormal author’s catalogue of natural disasters. These are often overlooked by readers, mostly because as a culture we’ve become programmed to accept this incorrect information, as well as to believe the impossible to be not only possible, but required.

What are these natural disasters? Put simply, they’re things which happen or occur regularly in Nature without ill effect to us, but which, for inexplicable reasons, have been turned into deadly pathogens to paranormal creatures. To illustrate, I've chosen two of the most common ones, though these don't even skim the top of the barrel when it comes to these natural-paranormal pairings.

The first, and most common, of these two cases is that of the vampire's aversion to sunlight. While it is possible (and indeed, seems logical) for a vampire to be wary of sunlight, the idea that when exposed to even a minute trace of sunlight, a vampire will suddenly and horribly spontaneously combust or disintegrate into a pillar of dust, is just ridiculous. Why, you ask?

Natural mechanics alone show the flaw in the sunlight theory of vampire destruction. Nearly every mammal on the face of the planet has some physical requirement for sunlight. Even many nocturnal animals gain some small exposure to sunlight in the course of their lives, if only for minutes at a time. Humans, especially, are programmed to need sunlight. We absorb certain vitamins from sunlight that science has proven are required to promote optimum health and a sense of well-being.

Even a Revenant Vampire, while being risen dead, shares one very important physiological factor with the rest of us – namely, that they still have a human body. If you put a dead body out in the sunlight, what would happen to it? Science says that exposure to sunlight alone would have less effect on the rate of decomposition than other environmental factors, such as water, scavenger and insect activity, wind/sand erosion… the list is lengthy, with sun far at the bottom. Given that, medically, the excessive exposure to sunlight causes dehydration in the human body, the more plausible effect of sunlight on a dead body would be a form of mummification. So, instead of bursting into flames, it would be more plausible that your vampire would suffer extreme dehydration rather rapidly (say hours as compared to days) and expire (again) from an advanced form of heat stroke, unless they somehow obtained the necessary liquids to combat dehydration. They’re certainly not going to explode, burst into flames, or turn into a pile of ash or dust – not any more so than you or I would.

The other paranormal creature which is the victim of over-enthusiastic (and under-researched) natural disaster is the lycanthrope. The second natural myth that's been whole-heartedly (and wrongly) embraced is that of the Full Moon Transformation. This theory, used repeatedly in paranormal fiction and cinema, is a modern creation with little to no supporting references from historical, mythical, or any other format. It states that the Full Moon is the first, and primary, cause of the lycanthropic shift.

In my lectures on theriomorphy, I explain that there is little to no historical evidence to suggest that the phase of the moon has any real effect on a theriomorphic change. In fact, the only evidence to suggest this at all comes from more modern psychiatric writings, which connect the rise in psychiatric activity (relapses, new cases, violent outbursts) to the change of the moon phase. The modern connection of the Full Moon to lycanthropes seems solely to deal with a false perception that wolves only howl with/at the Full Moon. In historical and mythological references to lycanthropy (and, indeed, almost every form of theriomorphy involving a human to animal transformation), everything from potions, to adornments, to magical incantations, to pure choice and meditative states are listed as methods of transformation. But few even make mention of the moon, and I've yet to find any references, in all my years of searching, that directly blame the moon's phase for the transformation of a lycanthrope.

As with all other aspects of the paranormal, it is of great benefit to an author to thoroughly research the chosen creature/being’s culture. The more you know about their history, mythology, and cultural beliefs, the more accurate your portrayal of the creature and what effects it will be.

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