“The tiger that stalked Paris”.Yes that story really appeals to my worldview. The “tiger” that was spotted  running wild outside Paris was a story with legs on it and it was quite prepared to run and run on those striped shanks for another while .Everyone wanted this tiger-hunt to go on and keep the public imagination running with it .There’s that frisson of human -fear to feed . There’s the fear of the wild.There’s that primal race -memory of that big jungle creature out there preying on the frightened humans. Little Red Riding Hood in the dark forest full of fear.  They’re worrying about the encroaching wolves in Paris, remember.They’re  already getting closer to the city, having drifted in from Spain.Now we have a tiger hunt.

There is also the need for that new thrill to upset the everyday banality of life. People love this kind of thing . Of course , there was a fuzzy photograph, seemingly shot at some distance from the “beast”. An indeterminate creature much like the shots taken of the legendary Bigfoot or the Big Black Cats that are sometimes caught in blurred images on the moors in England. The Beast of Bodwin Moor is one of the more famous ones but there are plenty of others and there is also plenty of fuzzy video “evidence” and blurred photographs to go with the stories.Teams of armed policemen were seen looking very businesss-like  but all these marksmen appear to be drawing a blank .Might not the phantom simply be a figment of an over-egged imagination? We’ve had similar scenes of  mass- hypnosis and wishful thinking here in Ireland before now if anyone cares to cast their mind back several years to the Mystery of the Moving Statues.

Summer 1985 wasn’t just the beginning of the universal jukebox that was Live-Aid . It is also remembered  as the era of The Moving Statues . This phenomenon occurred during the summer in Ireland, where, in several different parts of the country, statues of the Virgin Mary were reported to move spontaneously., a well-known icon of the  Christian narrative remade as a blue-eyed , blue-veiled icon. This time , though, it  was not simply standing silently but had been reported to move.

It was initially reported that in Ballinspittle, County Cork  sometime in July , someone claimed to have seen a roadside statue of the Virgin Mary  move in front of his eyes.It wasn’t long before several other mystical seers climbed onto this bandwagon and a similarly perambulating statue was sighted at Mount Melleray in  County Waterford.Suddenly as though a virus had been released, the summer was agleam with several more sightings and had been reported from 30 other locations across the land .

The moment the fuse had been ignited in the imagination  the very idea of seeing something radical and exotic took hold. They were not all sightings of the Virgin Mary, by this time, but now  they usually involved other figures of similar divinity , such as favourite saints which the church had placed on a heavenly plane, sometime in the past. These new  visions took the shape of stains on church walls , much in the way  people saw figures in cloud -shapes or a westernised version of  the biblical “Jesus” on a piece of burnt toast.  These stories entered the imagination to such an extent that soon thousands  of people were gathering at many of the purported  sites out of curiosity to rubberneck  ,to gaze in wonder, or to pray.

It was said that up to 100,000 were said to have visited the Ballinspittle site alone. Stop and think about that figure.That is an extraordinary group  of people, when you think about it. The Catholic Church is funny about this kind of thing,of course,  even though their entire edifice is built on some extraordinary supernatural  claims and constructs of the imagination. On the whole, their preference is to control the esoteric phenomena and to act as custodians to the more  wild imaginings of the human psyche.In that respect , the church took a backseat  while the enthralled population duly percolated  in  a kind of pagan wonder.

One bishop declared offhand  that  the whole phenomenon was  an illusion.Then the Ballinspittle statue was damaged by a gang of hammer-wielding Pentecostalist protesters , railing against  the worshipping of false idols.it was repaired of course.The ” moving statues”  soon ceased to move and gradually faded as a news story, although apparently  a few small ‘cults’ persisted for some years  thereafter. That’s usually what happens when the bloom goes off the rose and the love-affair ends. Curiosity always needs new holes to poke about in.

At the moment in Manchester, Lancashire, at the museum, an ancient Egyptian statue  is currently doing its own version of moving and has sparked whispers of an ancient curse when it was found to be turning on its axis inside its display case. Just give the public an opening and they’ll let their imagination rush in.The ten inch high tall statue of Neb-Sanu, is nearly  4,000 years old was found in a mummy’s tomb. It   has been at the Museum for some  eighty years. Apparently it only does its moving trick during the day so as not to creep-out the night watchmen too much.At the time Campbell Price, an Egyptologist at the museum, suggested the museum may have been struck by ancient curse, telling the Manchester Evening News: “I noticed one day that it had turned around. I thought it was strange because it is in a case and I am the only one who has a key”. Well that’s just the kind of thing to say to get a little publicity going  , isn’t it?

As for our “Tiger stalking Paris”…well the latest news is that …”They say they are now looking for a ‘feline, likely to be a large one’ . It’ll probably turn out to be someone’s lost pet kitty cat but for a moment there , it got the nation’s blood coursing a little faster.

“TIGER, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”………William Blake

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