Israel's National Park Authority approved plans for a submerged glass walkway in the Sea of Galilee at Capernaum so that tourists can "walk on water" where Jesus reputedly did 2,000 years ago. Since the walkway will not have a railing, lifeguards in rescue boats will be nearby to save people from drowning. (Associated Press)

        The First Church of the Nazarene offered a free wedding and reception -- including a video of the event, disposable cameras for guests and ham sandwiches -- to any couple wishing to get married on March 14, 1999. Despite promoting the deal in newspapers and on radio, nobody took the church up on the offer. (Associated Press, 3/3/99)

        The Church of England is considering installing cash-dispensing machines to restore rural churches to their medieval status as the center of community and fill the void left by the closure of post offices and banks across the country. (Reuters 9/18/00)

         Two holy men are touring towns along the Cambodian-Thailand border with the corpse of a two-headed calf considered to be a token of prosperity. The men are collecting money to build a shrine for the deformed calf, charging villages up to 1,500 Thai baht ($33 US) to view the decaying animal. "This strange two-headed cow is very holy," one villager told a reporter. "If someone has seen this cow and pays homage, he will have prosperity and win over his enemies." (Reuters 4/4/01)

        The United Kingdom-based Daystar International Ministries installed MessiahCAM, a web-linked camera aimed at Ascension Chapel on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, to record the return of Jesus Christ. "Enjoy the view and meditate on it...in anticipation of the soon coming of the Lord," visitors to the site are told. (www.olivetree.org)

        The roof of the Church of the Universal Kingdom of God in Osasco, Brazil, collapsed while 1,300 worshippers were packed inside, killing 26 people and injuring 500. The collapse was blamed on deterioration of massive wooden support beams by termites, mold and water damage. In addition, police investigators found that the doors were too small for a structure of its size, and that many exits were blocked by obstacles, leading to criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter against evangelical bishop Reinaldo Suico. (Reuters, 11/12/89 and 12/8/98)

         A sheep being raised for sacrificial slaughter pushed its owner to his death from a three-story building in Alexandria, Egypt. Waheed Hamoudah had been fattening the sheep for six weeks and planned to kill it for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice. Many Egyptian city-dwellers keep livestock on rooftops, balconies or basements, particularly leading up to Eid al-Adha. (Reuters 1/2/01)

      Four people were killed and another 40 were injured in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when a tomb collapsed during an All Saints Day ceremony in honor of Guede, the patron spirit of the Day of the Dead. Thousands of people gathered at the Grand Cimetiere to pay their respects for the dead by drumming and dancing atop the raised tombs, some of which are 8 to 10 feet tall. (Reuters 11/2/98)

       Rival groups of usually peaceable and meditative monks of the Chogye Order clashed at a prominent South Korean Buddhist temple in Seoul, as dissident monks demanded that Song Wol-ju renounce his candidacy for Most Venerated Monk and leadership of the order. The 1,000 year-old Chogye Order is South Korea's largest sect. At dawn on Thursday, November 19, 1998, 20 Buddhist monks and 100 hired bodyguards seized control of the Chogye Temple after breaking windows on the first two floors and spraying rival monks with water and flour. On Monday, the 30th, up to 1,000 pro-Song monks from across South Korea gathered to hold a rally and regain control of the temple. Several monks came to blows, as many of them have been trained in martial arts. Song supporters blocked the entrance to the temple with lumber and an overturned truck, then tried to take the temple while shielded by slabs of plywood. Dissident monks inside the temple, calling themselves "The Committee for Purification," sprayed opposition monks with fire extinguishers and water hoses, and pelted them with rocks and Molotov cocktails. (Reuters 11/19/98, 11/30/98)

         Forty-four Malaysian couples were charged with khalwat, or close proximity, while engaged in Valentine's Day cuddling. Under Islamic law, khalwat is a crime for non-married Muslim couples punishable by up to two years in jail. Religious officers found couples in a variety of compromising positions, including naked in a parked car and hiding in the ceiling of a hotel room. One officer said that only those expressing the "wrong kind of love" were detained. "We found many couples holding hands or sitting together in parks," he said. "We did not arrest them. We told them to go home." Sixty other couples were required to attend counseling, and others were released after producing marriage certificates. (Reuters 2/16/01)

        In March of 1999, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban religious army outlawed leather jackets. Since gaining power in 1996, the Taliban have banned music, videocassette recorders, televisions, and cameras. Also banned are brown paper bags, out of concern that they may be made of recycled copies of the Koran. (Associated Press, 3/3/99)

        The Mormon church prohibited its missionaries from using e-mail and faxes to communicate with family and friends back home. The church controls communication in order to keep missionaries, who are typically between 19 and 22 years old, focused on their work. Missionaries are allowed to phone home twice a year, on Christmas and Mother's Day, and are not supposed to write more than once a week. (Associated Press, 1/10/99)

        The leader of a religious sect in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was arrested after three of his followers had their penises chopped off in a ceremony. Donato Brandao, the 28-year-old spiritual leader of the Mundial sect, explained that "all the angels were chaste and they had to follow the same road," according to Joaquim Nabuco Cunha, the sect's second-ranking official. Two men in their 20s willingly submitted to a kitchen cleaver, in the belief that it would purify them. The third victim was Brandao's adopted 17-year-old son. Doctors were unable to reattach the severed organs.(Reuters 3/4/99)

         A convicted rapist in Brazil sliced off his own penis with a shaving razor and flushed it down the toilet to bring himself closer to God. "It is written in Bible that if a part of your body distances you from God, and makes you commit a sin, you should cut it off," he told wire service Agencia Estado. (Reuters 1/5/01)

        A young mother of two children was killed in a ceremony intended to purify her by members of a sect who covered her with a blanket and sat on her body. According to police investigators, a Belgian woman traveled to Spain to participate in a ritual intended to interrupt breathing. Hypoxia causes seizures and involuntary urination and defecation, which the Paris-based sect values as a life-extending purification of the body. The woman, in her 30s, went into cardiac arrest and died. (Reuters 3/23/99)

       Four children were killed in a fire at Holyland, a religious compound in Alabama founded by Luke Edwards. Many of the commune residents were members of a church in Meridian, MS, formerly pastored by Edwards, who is known locally as "bishop." Holyland is under court order to pay more than $1 million in fines for violating child labor laws and judgments from several lawsuits. In a published account, Edwards' daughter accused him of fathering dozens of children. (Reuters 11/18/99)

        An average of 21 people a month were killed after being accused of witchcraft in Tanzania during the 18-month period ending July 1999. Many of the murdered people, mainly elderly men and women, were attacked by angry villagers after allegedly practicing witchcraft. Some old women whose eyes had turned red after years of cooking in the smoke-filled kitchens of their huts were also accused of being witches and murdered, according to a police report. Witchcraft-related homicide has been linked to trade in human skin, which is believed to protect the home against demons and is used in rituals to increase harvests and lure clients into bars and shops. There were more than 250 homicides attributable to witchcraft and superstition in Tanzania in 1998. (Reuters 8/3/99)

        Three cult members in Indonesia were beaten to death by fellow cultists when the earth failed to end as predicted. Members had been warned to prepare for doomsday, which was to occur at 9 a.m. on 9/9/99. Many people sold their possessions and remained locked in their homes for nine days before the scheduled big event. When September 9 came and went as usual, cult members lost control of their tempers, according to the Jakarta Post. "The members were really mad," said Saadi Arsam, village chief of Sukmajaya in east Java. (Reuters 9/13/99)

        The leader of a religious cult deep in Brazil's Amazon jungle said he killed a woman and ordered fathers to beat their children to death in order to eliminate demons from the village. Francisco Bezerra de Morais, head of a 60-member offshoot of the United Pentecostal Church of Brazil, was arrested after six people, including three children, were murdered with fists, clubs and metal chains. Church member Adalberto Taveira de Souza said he murdered his own children, ages 3 and 5, by repeatedly stomping on them. Souza said that after they were dead the children turned into monsters with long fingernails, fat legs and wide faces. (Reuters 12/2/98)

Recent Appearances

        New Mexico resident Mario Rubio discovered the image of Christ in the skillet burns of a tortilla she was rolling into a burrito. Thousands of people traveled to Rubio's small rural home, which was left unlocked so visitors could enter freely and view the tortilla. (Newsweek 8/14/78)

        An image of Jesus appeared on the side of a soybean oil tank in Fostoria, OH. A month after the image was first reported, vandals attacked the tank with paint balloons. (USA Today, 4/12/89)

        The image of Jesus on a cross was discovered in the gnarled bark of a sycamore tree in New Haven, CT. (The Hartford Courant, 9/19/92)

        A patron at Town and Country Bowl, in suburban Chicago, spotted a four-foot-tall image of Christ formed on a rusting metal chimney in the bowling alley, and notified a local television station. Bowling alley owner Irwin Korzen said he and his employees noticed the image months earlier but didn't think it was a big deal. Some bowlers say the image looks like Popeye. (Chicago Tribune 6/24/87)

        Thousands of people flocked to a home in Northeast Harris County (TX) to view a table top that mysteriously reflects the image of Jesus. (Houston Chronicle, 4/12/92)

        An image of a crucified Christ appeared on a garage door in California, drawing 8,000 visitors in one weekend. The image was found to be caused by reflections from two streetlights that merged with shadows of a bush and a real-estate sign. (USA Today, 4/12/89)

        At the dramatic conclusion a sermon equating sin with Russian roulette at Livingway Christian Fellowship Church International (Jacksonville, FL), 35-year-old minister Melvyn Nurse put a .357-caliber pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. The blank cartridge shattered his skull, killing Nurse in front of 250 youth and their parents, as well as his own wife and four daughters ranging from 8 to15 years of age. (Associated Press, 10/3/98)

        An inebriated priest accidentally set off a hand grenade after a christening, injuring himself and the baby's grandmother, in the Russian Yaroslavl region, just north of Moscow. After performing the baptism and joining the family for drinks, the priest accidentally removed the pin from the grenade. It is not clear why a live grenade was at the christening. (Reuters, 1/11/99)

        At least 3 people were killed and 350 injured during New Year's celebrations in the Philippines intended to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. Traditionally, Filipinos set off firecrackers and fire guns at the stroke of midnight. During the 1998 celebration, 12 people were hit by stray bullets and 245 were injured by firecrackers, including a 21-year-old who lost an eye and a 2-year-old boy critically injured when a firecracker struck his abdomen. Twelve people required limbs to be amputated. Also, a church in the central city of Tacloban was destroyed by fire after firecrackers were set off inside. (EmergencyNet News, 1/1/98)

Virgin Visions

        Hundreds of people gather at a remote location in the Mojave Desert in southern California on the 13th of each month to witness sightings of the Virgin Mary. Up to three-quarters of the crowd gathered in the desert report seeing the visions, and some of the faithful see the Virgin Mary on a regular basis. (LA Times, 2/16/97)

        An image of the Virgin Mary appeared on the driver's side rear fender of Dario Mendoza's maroon 1981 Chevrolet Camaro. People flocked to Mendoza's Elsa, TX, home to see the image. The car became a small shrine where people left flowers and small written prayers, forcing Mendoza, who works seasonally picking cotton in Louisiana, to hitchhike to work.

        An image of the Virgin Mary appeared on a road sign at the intersection of Route 241 and Yakima Valley Highway, about 30 miles southeast of Yakima, WA. Within hours, thousands of people arrived to view the image, which was described as a full-body profile of the Virgin Mary. "You can't really make out the face," reported police officer Chico Rodriquez. "It's just all of the collars and stuff there."

        Much to the delight of thousands of Hispanic agricultural workers in the region, images of Our Lady of Guadeloupe reportedly appeared on the back of highway signs throughout central Washington State. Some Christians were baffled until they learned that Our Lady of Guadeloupe is the manifestation of the Virgin Mary in Hispanic cultures. Thousands of people have traveled to view the highway signs. Road engineers say the discoloration of the signs is due to oxidation. (Seattle Times, 4/11/97)

        Nearly 2,000 people an hour flocked to the Hidalgo metro station in downtown Mexico City to view the "Subway Virgin" -- a 10-inch long image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe that appeared in the stain left by a dried-up puddle of water. (Reuters, 97)

         More than 40 people were poisoned by carbon monoxide while attending midnight mass on Christmas Eve, 1998, in the small village of Saverdun, in southwestern France. Fifteen people were hospitalized for treatment. Rescue officials blame the poisoning on a faulty heating system and inadequate ventilation in the church, where 300 people attended the mass. (Reuters, 12/28/98)

        Fire broke out at the 100-year-old St. Barnabas United Methodist Church in South Philadelphia during a special Valentine's Day marriage celebration. The blaze began in the basement, where members were cooking lunch, as church members gathered to renew their marriage vows. (Reuters 2/15/99)

        A fire destroyed the Grapevine Fellowship Church in Las Vegas, NV, as church members were setting up a stage for a concert for the congregation's youth. The fire reportedly began in an air conditioning unit, and rapidly spread while  church members gathered in the parking lot and prayed. (Las Vegas Review-Journal 8/30/98)

        An electrical fire started during the Vigil Mass at All Saints Church in Atlanta, GA. The pastor was informed of smoke coming from a light fixture while the congregation was singing the Gloria. (The Georgia Bulletin, 10/9/97)

        The Camden Baptist Church in Camden, OH, was destroyed by fire caused by a lightning strike. (NewsNet5 7/22/98)

        Lightning sparked a fire that destroyed the historic First Congregational Church in Beloit, WI. Built in 1859, the church was the city's second-oldest building. (WISC-TV, 8/25/98)

        Volunteer firefighter Kennan Loy Williams, 27, was killed on New Years Eve while battling a blaze at the historic New Salem United Methodist Church in Cornelia, GA. Four other firefighters were injured. Williams, a district captain with the Banks County Volunteer Fire Department, left a wife and 9-year-old daughter. (FHnews 1/2/99)

The Name of Allah

        Just before the Feast of Ramadan, a farmer in Taiba-Ndiassana, Senegal, discovered a watermelon which appeared to have the name of Allah on its green mottled rind. The phenomenon was confirmed by the Islamic Institute in Dakar, which discovered another word next to the name of Allah; Hamdoulillah, which means "Praise be to God." (Share International, July-August 96)

        Salim and Ruksana Patel discovered the Muslim symbol "Ya-Allah," meaning "Allah exists," spelled out in the seeds of an aubergine purchased near their home in Bolton, England. About 50 people a day visited the aubergine before it was divided into small pieces to be shared among the faithful. (Daily Mail, 6/96)

        Fourteen-year-old schoolgirl Shaista Javed sliced a tomato in half and discovered miraculous messages spelled out in the fruit's veins. One side said "There is only one God," while the other side said "Mohammed is the messenger." About 200 people have visited Javed's household to view the tomato, which was wrapped in plastic to keep it fresh. A shopkeeper in her Huttersfield, England, neighborhood reported that demand for tomatoes had surged. (Reuters 6/97)

        A riot was provoked by four Americans and one Singaporean who handed out bibles in a staunchly Muslim region of Indonesia. The foreigners were attacked by an angry mob of hundreds of people who threatened and pelted them with rocks. The mob chased the foreigners, who ran to a police station for refuge, then stoned the police station and burned a vehicle. (Reuters 3/17/99)

        An abbot whose body has not decomposed since his death 11 years ago is now revered as a saint by monks at a small Orthodox monastery in Cyprus. Monks at the Panayia Galaktrophousa monastery have refused orders from their skeptical superiors to rebury the body. The abbot, Chrysostomos, was buried immediately after his death in 1988 at the age of 79, but disinterred in 1991 to place his remains in an ossuary. The monks were impressed with the degree to which the body has been preserved. "His body, apart from the head, remained virtually intact," reported the current abbot, Agapios. "It did not have a sweet smell but did not have a stench either. That means sainthood." (Reuters 9/28/99)

        Cardinals present when the coffin of Pope John Paul XXII was opened after 38 years said the body was remarkably preserved despite the reported lack of embalming. "It was as if he died yesterday," said Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the high priest of St. Peter's Basilica, who is overseeing relocation and renovation of the tomb. "His mouth was open, but he was certainly tranquil." Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, said that the preservation of Pope John Paul XXII's body could be the result of a miracle, but it would be up to experts to decide. (Reuters 3/27/01)

His Porcelain Throne

        About 3,000 people lined up outside an upper Manhattan apartment building to see an image of Jesus on the frosted-glass window of a 5th floor bathroom. Rev. Jose Aquilar, a Catholic priest from nearby St. Judes Church said that the apparition is due to a dirt and moisture in a double-pane window. At Aquilar's suggestion, police removed the window and had it taken to a hardware store to be cleaned with steel wool, an act some residents called sacrilegious. (Newsday 8/7/93)

        More than 3,500 viewed a cross appearing in the bathroom window in a El Monte, CA, home. People started arriving at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 26, 1988. Police barricaded the street to prevent congestion of cars. Visitors were allowed through the front gate in small numbers and directed to the proper place for viewing the cross. By 9 p.m. that evening, hundreds of people remained outside the home. (Pasadena Star News 5/27/88)

        An enormous crowd of people, many armed with cameras and video recorders, lined up to view crosses that appeared in the bathroom window of a home in Montecito, CA. (LA Times, 8/17/90)

        Hundreds of people walked through the home of Rev. P.G. Pierce in Altadena, CA, to view the image of a cross that appeared in his bathroom window. (Pasadena Star News)

        Four-foot-tall crosses of white and gold suddenly appeared in the bathroom window of a 61-year-old pipefitter in suburban New Orleans, LA, who had been praying to St. Jude for help with his failing eyesight. The man and his wife set up evening hours to accommodate the hundreds who came to view the miracle. The man reportedly regained part of his sight after the crosses appeared, although agrees that his doctor's injection also helped. (Share International, Jan-Feb 1991)

        Joann Noriega, of Montclair, CA, discovered a large cross created by the light of the moon passing through her bathroom window. Noriega reported that the cross appeared after midnight for a week, then went away. The image returns every month during the full moon. Many people make a pilgrimage to Noriega's house, where she holds prayer meetings every Friday night. (Daily Bulletin, 12/92)

        An image of a cross appeared in the bathroom window of Ida Rollins' home in Riviera Beach, FL. So many people flocked to see the cross that police barricaded Rollins' street. (Miami Herald, 1994)

        Hundreds of people have visited the home of Carlos and Ines Alvarez in Bakersfield, CA, to view a cross that appeared in their bathroom window. The Alvarez' say that the cross is most visible between 5 and 8 p.m., and at night when the neighbor's lights are on. As word of the cross spread, people lined up to see. While viewing the cross, many people kneel and pray, recite the rosary, cry and even faint. (Bakersfield Californian 3/7/96)

        A constant stream of people visit the home of Maria Ortega in Orange County, CA, to stand in her bathtub and view a cross that appears in her bathroom window. Three to four hundred people a day visited the cross. Since the cross appeared, Ortega reports that her 21-year-old son stopped drinking. (Orange County Register, 5/94)

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