Fun_People Archive
22 Sep
Milk-Drinking Statues & The Amazing One

Date: Fri, 22 Sep 95 23:48:49 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: Milk-Drinking Statues & The Amazing One

From: James Randi --- Wizard <>

Milk-drinking statues.

I've been inundated within the past 12 hours by phone and fax messages from
Finland, Germany, the UK, Canada, and all over the USA. Eager media folks
want to get my opinions on the current ooh-and-aah wonder, Hindu statues
that drink milk.  Sigh.

Faced with an obviously slow day, Reuters News Service flashed out the news
from New Delhi that Crowds swamped temples across India and neighboring
Nepal yesterday after rumors that idols of Hindu gods were drinking milk
poured as a sacred offering.

Well! A newspaper report from Toronto, Canada, said that in a Hindu temple
there, "Milk is being slurped up by the idols." The picture presented by
that wording is one of plaster idols bending over dishes of milk like

What's really happening is that teaspoons of milk are being absorbed; it's
called capillary action. A small amount of milk touched to the mouth of a
plaster figure, according to the press, just "disappeared." I think not.
The milk didn't "disappear"; it was simply soaked up by the plaster.

A chap from the Toronto temple also said, seeing the truth without
recognizing it, that "It was as if someone had siphoned it off [the milk]
with a straw." That's right! He gets ten points for solving the miracle,
but minus twenty for ignoring the fact.

Note that, as Reuters reported, the whole thing started as a "rumor" -- the
media is now gleefully promoting it, and now that the Canadian media are
snapping it up, I'm sure that every statue in the Dominion will be trotted
out to the wonderment of the naive.

I believe that a plaster statue of Lyndon Johnson will do exactly the same
thing, perhaps with a pint of beer -- now, is that, too, a miracle? Maybe
in Texas....

I'm a very practical soul, so I propose a test of this wondrous curiosity:
offer the statue a teaspoonful of ink. If that, too, is "slurped up," Hindu
gods are either incredibly stupid, or have poorly-developed taste buds. No
one will do such a test, of course, because we have here a perfectly good
and attractive farce going full-steam, and enough naive people to meet our
most ambitious needs. The media is lapping up (pun intended) each new
absurdity as it's presented, everyone is getting in on the act, and for six
weeks or so we'll have Silly Season going for us.

Bottom line: Do otherwise sensible folks really believe that plaster statues
of elephant gods are drinking milk? If so, they might well want to elect an
elephant to a position of political power. Would that, in the USA, be a
Republican? Probably.

I'm sure they'll call me again in December when the ghosts of Scrooge and
Marley are seen wandering the aisles of some famous toy store. It wouldn't
surprise me in the least.

James Randi.


From: James Randi --- Wizard <>


I've now seen several video news items on this latest "drinking" statues
brouhaha.  The ones I'd been previously told of, were plaster and ceramic.
Some, I now find, are also "marble," though that term covers many different
kinds of stone, some porous and absorbent, some not.  But with the input of
Wendy Grossman and Michael Hutchinson, who offered good observations (as
usual) I can now put a more accurate picture before you.

As with all such matters of mass delusion, there are bound to be different
modes whereby the wonder takes place.  One film clip I saw had a small white
figure, well below eye-level, that was believed to have sipped up the
teaspoonful of milk.  In all probability, it merely was picked up by
surface- effect capillary action, and ran down the front of the figure.
I'm told that Sanal Edamaraku, a prominent skeptic in India, used colored
liquid and was able to show that this is clearly what's happening, in the
cases he examined.  I'd suggested using ink, which would also indicate other
modes.  And remember that everyone who gets to "feed" a statue wants to be
a winner, so accepts any taking of the milk to be a personal miracle.
Wouldn't do to go home and say that the god refused to drink....

The metal statues that "drink" are another matter.  One woman in the U.K.
claims that her figure drank several liters of milk.  It was metal.  Either
the milk is just being poured inside, or the lady doth exaggerate somewhat.
I wouldn't be surprised to find that some clever religious folks have put
tiny tubes into their statues and are draining the milk that way.  But
disrespectful folks like me don't get the chance to take a close look.
Spoiled miracles are no fun at all.

Not to my great surprise, Uri Geller was summoned from his vast estate
outside London by Sky Television to enlighten England concerning this series
of global miracles.  He declared, "Miracles are very strange....almost
paranormal!"  Thank you, Mr. G., for this intellectual coup.  Now we can
all relax, the phenomenon having been validated and explained so thoroughly.

Just for the record, I don't believe that statues can drink milk.  But I'm
obsessed with reality, as an audience member once told me.  Guilty as
						James Randi.


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[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []