My Descent Into Hell  An incredible interview with Howard Storm (Part I). Now a Protestant minister, Storm recounts his death in 1985 and terrifying journey with demonic entities toward the netherworld. This is the first part of a blockbuster interview by Mary Lou McCall under the direction of Archbishop Philip Hannan.  click here


Witnesses gather, first by the handful (left), and then by the hundreds, as word of exuding substance (right) spreads. 

by Michael H. Brown

Not since the early days has such a mystery arisen at the world-famous site of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina, where six youngsters, now in their thirties, began experiencing apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1981. No one is sure when, but sometime on or just after the apparition's 20th anniversary -- at least by June 28 -- a substance that feels like a cross between saltwater and oil began exuding from a scraped area near the knee of a large bronze corpus of the Crucified Christ, as we reported last week. 

Is it natural or supernatural? Perhaps the issue will be quickly explained once metallurgists are consulted. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, sometimes with zinc added. The question is whether humidity from the hot Bosnian summer is somehow channeling into this part of the statue.

Anything is possible. Can metal so regularly and in such a focused way exude a liquid substance? Throughout last week (June 30-July 6), the corpus, standing about 15 feet, was shedding a droplet about once every minute, possibly every two minutes, as increasingly large crowds gathered to collect the substance with cotton, religious articles, or pieces of cloth. 

It is now a matter of local headlines (it made the newspaper in the city of Split, Croatia), and the publicity has caused a sudden influx of area residents who have lived with the idea of Medjugorje for two decades. While for the first two days we could go right up to the statue and touch the droplets (we were there with pilgrims), by Sunday, July 1, one had to wait in long lines. 

All seers present in the village went to view the corpus for themselves. At the official information office I was told that to the best of their knowledge the corpus -- granted to the parish more than two years ago -- had begun exuding over the weekend, but some pilgrims noted it two days before. On Thursday, June 28 -- three days after the 20th anniversary -- "there were about six people praying around the statue, some crying and hugging the base of the statue," reported two pilgrims, Barb Lane of Philadelphia and Craig McHenry of Massillon, Ohio, in a written statement. "As we stood there observing this phenomenon, in a matter of minutes more people came and also were struck by the strangeness of this occurrence. With excitement we both blessed ourselves with the fluid from the statue. It had an oily feel and a salty taste."

A gentleman at the official information office said he was not aware of the phenomenon happening before the anniversary, although there were some reports that it may have previously occurred and one of our viewers has a photo of the corpus (though not any phenomena) from 1998.

If it's a legitimate phenomenon -- and at the moment that's a big "if" -- the corpus would take its place along other famous phenomena at Medjugorje, such as the spinning sun and rosaries that turn gold. Is it a sign that Medjugorje is coming back into prominence?

We can only say that the crowds were similar to what they were in pre-war times, and that while there were the typical glitches sent as a trial to any pilgrimage, the feeling there during our pilgrimage -- and the graces -- were immense. It was the most powerful pilgrimage I have been on since 1992.

Perhaps the best investigation of the statue, even before bringing in scientists, would be to first see if special graces flow. We note that Jesus fell on the way to the Cross, and that there are knee scrapes on the Shroud of Turin. Studies of the shroud have indicated the flow of both blood and a watery fluid. As one shroud investigator noted, "We learn of the normal wounds associated with crucifixion such as the pierced wrists and feet, as well as lesser details like knee contusions (presumedly from falling)."

More later...

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