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Stranger than fiction 1 Talking points Discuss how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements

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The Camera Never Lies

A. Close development. Read the following extract taken from a book about the Titanic, then fill in the blanks. Read the whole passage through first, ignoring the spaces, then go back and consider the missing words.
Of all the accounts of premonitions, one of the most dramatic and most easily verifiable concerns the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. In 1898, author Morgan Robertson wrote a novel called Futility which bore many striking (1) … to the loss of the Titanic 14 years (2) … . Robertson’s ship, the Titan, was the largest ship afloat, and (3) … the most modern equipment and the most highly qualified (4) … members. The only thing that she (5) … was a sufficient (6) … of lifeboats to accommodate everyone (7) … board. However, this did not seem to (8) … as the Titan (9) … believed to be unsinkable.

It was April when the voyage in question took (10) …, and Titan was steaming at (11) … speed. On each of her two masts the crew had hoisted great triangular (12) … to help the ship make a record crossing. So intent on breaking this record (13) … the crew that when they rammed a windjammer they did not stop to pick up anyone who might have (14) … . A curse was shouted by one of the sailors in the water, calling (15) … the wrath of God on the doomed vessel.

Later, on a foggy (16) … moonlit night, Titan encountered an iceberg. She did not strike it squarely, but slid up a gradual slope of ice (17) … she was almost completely out of the water; the severely (18) … ship then slid backwards into the water, after also (19) … her starboard lifeboats smashed in the process. (20) … 3,000 people on board, only 13 survived when Titan sank.

B. Vocabulary. Insert the missing words. Translate the sentences

  1. Although she was well qualified for the job, she had a … that the interview wouldn't go well.

  2. The priest … the hunters for daring to stand on holy ground.

  3. The … prisoner nervously paced in his cell calling down the wrath of God on those who were sending him to death.

  4. The gladiators bravely went to their … .

  5. Despite the fact that the poet achieved great popularity in his lifetime, his poems were … to oblivion after his death.

C. Speaking.

  1. List all similarities between the accident, described in the novel and the real loss of the Titanic.

  2. What makes them striking?

  3. What extra information about the Titanic do you have?

9 Listening

Visions of the future
A. Listen twice and say if the following statements are true or false according to the passage. Support your answer with the facts.

  1. Nostradamus worked as a doctor after leaving university.

  2. Nostradamus' first wife was killed by the Black Death.

  3. Nostradamus was in league with infamous inquisition.

  4. Nostradamus began writing his prophecies before his second marriage.

  5. The prophecies predicted what would happen over the next ten centuries.

  6. Nostradamus' divining technique was based on ancient methods.

  7. Few people were convinced by Nostradamus during his lifetime.

  8. Nostradamus is believed by some people to have predicted the rise of Hitler.

  9. One of the quatrains pinpoints Napoleon's birthplace.

  10. One quatrain is believed to warn of a nuclear war around the year 2000.

  11. Much of Nostradamus' work is vague and open to considerable interpretation.

B. Discussion.

  1. On the evidence of the listening passage, do
    you believe that Nostradamus made accurate predictions?

  2. How seriously do you think you might take some of his other predictions?

  3. Look at two other extracts from Nostradamus' works. They are said to predict modern technological developments. Can you guess what they are said to refer to?

They will think they have seen the sun at night

When they will see the pig half-man
Noise, song, battle in the sky perceived

And one will hear brute beasts talking

  1. Have you ever had an experience of a
    premonition or a dream that has come true?

  2. Have you ever had your fortune told? If so, how, and what predictions were made? If not, would you like to?

C. Vocabulary practice. Suggest the meaning of the words in bold in A and B. Translate these sentences into Russian

  1. His pessimistic prophecy that the crisis would worsen has turned out to be true.

  2. I have some ideas about where to go but I’m open to suggestions.

  3. Detectives are on the trail of the infamous criminal who is thought to be responsible for the train robbery.

  4. Your composition is rather vague in spots; adding a few solid examples would really make it stronger.

  5. Something was bothering him, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was.

D. Translate into English

  1. Его провидческие сны оставляли ему лишь неясное чувство тревоги, прошло время прежде чем он научился точно предсказывать опасность.

  2. Турция печально известна тем, что заманив туристов на экскурсию гиды наверняка провезут их по всем окрестным магазинам; новички не устоят перед ненужными покупками.

  3. Классические произведения являются объектом бесконечных интерпретаций.

10 Summary skills

A. Read the text and say which of these four titles would be the most suitable.

  1. Optical Illusions

  2. The Dream Detective

  3. Horror Scopes

  4. Spy in the Sky

Everyone knows that towards the end of his presidency Ronald Reagan could hardly make a move without consulting an astrologer. However, the mind boggles at the possibility that the British government might use a hotline to psychic powers. Nevertheless, it has been revealed that British Intelligence is in contact with a self-styled “psychic dreamer” who supplies them with advance information on important crimes that are about to happen.

The man with the premonitory antennae is Chris Robinson, a 44-year-old former television engineer. He seems an unlikely candidate for a real-life version of the X-Files but he has had some startling successes with his predictions.

Dreams provide the key. According to Robinson, it all began in the late 80-s, when his slumbers were interrupted by “conversations” with his dead grandmother. Later his dreams were invaded by a range of symbols, which enabled him to predict specific crimes. Terrorists were represented by dogs, cups signified bodies, meat pies chillingly foreshadowed multiple deaths and images of cats or dogs indicated that fanatical animal liberationists were at work.

Robinson decided to share the messages from his subconscious with the authorities and warned them of a crime that was about to take place. When his predictions came true a few days later, he was rewarded by being detained and interrogated; he claims that his home was bugged, his telephone was tapped, and he was subjected to 24-hour surveillance.

Undaunted by this skepticism, he carried on with his work and warned the authorities of an imminent attack on the Prime Minister with uncanny accuracy. Subsequently he was given a contact in the police and Intelligence Service, and has been handsomely rewarded for his services.

Doubts about Robinson's methods have been raised by the revelations that in the 80s he was an enthusiastic amateur radio fan, and he frequently used equipment that could be used to intercept calls from mobile phones and the emergency services. Indeed, on one occasion, he phoned with a prediction of a crime that had in fact already happened, and details had been broadcast on the radio and TV.

However Dr. Keith Heame, an independent psychologist, has taken a special interest in Robinson's predictions. He has observed the psychic at work as he scribbles down the images he has dreamt for later decoding. Heame believes that Robinson has genuine powers, but admits that he has an understandable tendency to emphasize his successes while evading questions on the ones that got away. Of one thing Heame is certain: Robinson has an impressively accurate record when it comes to terrorist attacks.

While the intelligence services and police forces deny that they have any official links with Robinson, they admit that they have been in touch. It will always be difficult for them to determine whether he has any genuinely paranormal powers as he operates in a grey area where sheer guesswork, intuition and possibly telepathy could all play a part, and his dreams are always symbolic and open to interpretation.

But when he phones again, we can be certain someone will listen.

B. Multiple-choice questions. Choose the best answer. Support your choice by the lines from the text

1. The writer appears to be extremely surprised that

A. Ronald Reagan appeared to believe in horoscopes.

B. the British authorities have links with a psychic.

C. psychics can provide warnings of important crimes.

D. important information has been kept secret from the public.

2. Robinson seems to obtain his detailed predictions by
A. “talking” to his dead grandmother while he dreams.
B. communicating with animals in his dreams.

C. interpreting images in his dreams.

D. analysing the crimes he sees in his dreams.
3. The authorities' initial reaction to Robinson's claims
indicate that they thought he

A. was personally involved with the crimes.

B. had a contact in the intelligence service.

C. had paranormal powers.

D. was obtaining information by tapping phones.
4. The authorities' attitude towards Robinson changed
A. when they began to pay him for his services.

B. when they had examined the methods he was using.

C. after another of his predictions came true.

D. on the orders of the Prime Minister

5. Investigations of Robinsons supposed psychic abilities
have shown that

A. he always makes use of conventional methods to obtain information.

B. his only successful predictions are based on facts that are already known.

C. he dislikes discussing predictions that turn out to be correct.

D. he appears to be really able to foresee some kinds of crime.
6. The writer appears to think that

A Robinson is a genuine psychic.

B the authorities should be more open about their relationship with Robinson.

C. the authorities should take more notice of Robinson.

D. it would be unwise to dismiss Robinson completely.

C. Language study. The phrase without consulting an astrologer appears in the text. Complete the following sentences using one of the words or phrases below.

  • without

  • on

  • between

  • in spite of

  • by

  • apart from

1. … waking. I always write down my dreams so that I don't forget them.

2. I never make an important decision … looking at my horoscope first.

3. … being very skeptical, the authorities agreed to look at the psychic's claims.

  1. The police believe that Simon committed the crime …leaving the office and arriving home.

  2. The gypsy claimed she could predict the future …
    reading the lines in my palm.

6 … giving the police general details of what was about to happen, he could not provide any useful information.
D. Vocabulary work. The words on the left were all used in the text; match them to their definitions on the right.


Be a sign or symbol of something


Surprising or valuable information that is newly disclosed


Too strange or unlikely to seem merely natural or human


A statement of what someone thinks will happen in the future


To find direct meaning of cryptic or indirect language


Mentally overwhelming because of great size or complexity


About to happen or threatening to happen

E. Synonym search. Match these words to their synonyms from the exercise above.






F. Summary. In 60-80 words, summarize the differing reactions to Robinson's powers.
11 Expressing opinions
Possibility and probability. Look at the table showing different ways of expressing probability and the example sentences below. Notice the different sentence structures.

Make examples using suggested patterns expressing your opinions about Nostradamus, Chris Robinson, other psychics you happened to have heard of and their predictions.

Pattern A
Pattern B

Pattern C

Pattern D

It’s probable that Manchester United will win the cup.

Manchester United are likely to win the cup.

In all probability Manchester United will win the cup.

I imagine that Manchester United will win the cup.

Pattern A

a foregone conclusion



quite possible


just possible




Pattern B






Pattern C

There's no doubt that

The chances are that

There's little chance that

There's little likelihood that

There's no chance that

In all probability



Pattern D

I'm quite convinced that

I'm certain that

I imagine that

I wouldn't have thought that

I shouldn't think that

I doubt very much whether

12 Summary skills

Good and Evil

A. Pre-reading. What kind of things do you consider to be good/evil? In small groups make two lists of items under good and evil then compare your lists with those of another group.
Read the passage about our perceptions of the devil and summarize each paragraph briefly.
The Paranormal

Suddenly, a normally well-mannered, quiet and devout individual begins to jerk and twitch and, to his own and everyone else's horror, starts to curse and swear uncontrollably, using foul language he would ordinarily never even consider using in public. Another individual, following a sensation of profound dread and terror, appears to be thrown violently to the ground where he begins to writhe and thrash about, sometimes severely enough to break bones or even to cause death. A third individual is overcome by a shimmering, brilliant vision of a bright light, when no light is actually present. The vision may contain various shapes and structures.

In all these cases, the individual is not in control of the behaviors he or she is exhibiting and believes, correctly, that he or she has absolutely no ability to control them. This being the case, it is easy to understand how control of the behaviors would be attributed to some malign and external force, such as the devil or demons. This would be especially likely to be the explanation of the behaviors in the first two cases, where the foul language, self-injurious behaviors, and lack of control all would be easy to interpret as the work of demons. In the final case, the experience could equally well be attributed to some type of divine inspiration or message.

In fact, the three cases described above are examples, not of demonic possession or inspired visions, but of three different neurological diseases that have for centuries been taken as

evidence for paranormal experiences.

Beyerstein (1987-88) has traced the relationship between these three diseases and belief in demonic possession and inspired visions in an excellent paper. The first case is one of Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome, a rare disease that has become the focus of considerable interest in neurology recently because of its strange

symptoms, including uncontrollable twitches and in severe cases, uncontrolled swearing and use of racial and ethnic epithets. An entire monograph (Friedhoff and Chase, 1982) has been devoted to the symptoms, possible neurochemical causes, and treatments of this disease.

It is clear from the work reported in that volume that Tourette's syndrome is a neurological disease, not a psychological disorder. Shapiro and Shapiro (1982) have noted that the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, published in 1489 as a “manual” for the witch hunters of the Inquisition, contains descriptions of behaviors said to be demonstrative of having consorted with the devil; these are similar to those seen in Tourette's syndrome.

The behavior of the little girl in The Exorcist (Blatty, 1971) is very similar to what is seen in severe cases of Tourette's syndrome. Such gross misdiagnoses of the syndrome are not, then, limited to the Middle Ages, but can still occur. Shapiro and Shapiro (1982) note that twenty-four of their Tourette's syndrome patients had undergone exorcism for their disorder, but none had been helped by the process. Drug treatment may provide some benefit, but the pharmacology of the disorder is not yet well understood (Friedhoff and Chase, 1982).

The second case described above is one of epilepsy, a neurological disorder much more common and well-known than Tourette's syndrome. The symptoms of epilepsy vary greatly from individual to individual. At one end of the scale are the "absence spells" where the individual is simply unresponsive to external stimuli for a minute or so and appears to be staring off into space. At the other end of the spectrum is the much more dramatic and dangerous grand mal seizure, as in the case described.

Seizures are often preceded by an aura that is sometimes a feeling of impending terror and revulsion. When, immediately following this, some mysterious outside force seemingly takes over one's body and causes it to behave in self-injurious ways, the inference that demons or the devil are responsible is an easy one to make.
B. Vocabulary. Find words and phrases in the passage which mean the same as the following explanations. They are all in the order in which they appeared in the passage.

  1. very religious, pious

  2. intense fear

  3. twist and move violently

  4. ascribed to

  5. inflicted by oneself

  6. out of the ordinary

  7. descriptions relating to one (national) group of people

  8. a scholarly piece of writing

  9. notorious

  10. flagrant misinterpretations

  11. to give another example of an extreme case

  12. imminent fear and loathing

C. Now explain these words and phrases according to how they are used in the passage. The questions will help you to give a more precise explanation.

  1. is actually present. Does actually mean momentarily, nowadays or really?

  2. some malign and external force. Does malign mean hostile, rejected or unknown?

  3. divine inspiration. Does divine mean intuitive, sacred or imagined?

  4. the witch hunters of the Inquisition. Why does Inquisition have a capital letter?

  5. unresponsive to external stimuli. Why does stimuli end in i?

  6. preceded by an aura. Does aura mean halo, something golden or atmosphere?

D. Reference devices. The writer links the information in this article in various ways.

For example, in the first paragraph he uses Another individual …, A third individual.

Go through the passage again and underline the devices used to link the information given to the reader. You should look for devices such as pronouns to replace noun, the use of do/did to replace verbs, another noun used to replace one already mentioned, eg scale, spectrum, case, disease.
E. Look at the following questions and the 60-word summary that relate to the first case mentioned in the passage.

    1. What type of behaviour is exhibited?

    2. What interpretation could we give of this behaviour?

    3. What scientific explanation can we give for this behaviour?

The first case illustrates a usually docile, well-behaved person, who unexpectedly exhibits jerky body movements and uses bad language in a reckless manner. This lack of control could be put down to some evil influence. A more likely explanation, however, is that the person is suffering from the rare Tourette's syndrome, which is a disease of the brain.

F. Now answer the same questions about the other two cases and write a summary of your own. Each summary should be 60 to 70 words long.

Use the expressions: attribute something to something, be demonstrative of something, to be overcome by something, to undergo something, divine/ demonic, be in league with devil, visions, infamous, paranormal, gross misdiagnosis.

13 Listening and Speaking

The Magic Kingdom

A. Talking points.

  1. Describe briefly some or the main mythical or legendary creatures from your own ancient culture or from another culture with which you are familiar.

  2. In what ways are these creatures similar to humans and how do they differ?

  3. What place do you think ancient myths, folk-tales and fairy stories should have in the education of a modern child?

B. Listening. Listen to the tape. A writer and researcher are discussing a book the writer has recently completed on fairies. Choose the best answer to the questions below.
1. Peter Wilson wrote a book about fairies because he
A wanted to clarify the mass of information about them.

B had seen fairies on a number of occasions.

C greatly enjoyed traditional fairy stories.

D wanted to persuade people of the existence of fairies.

2. The writer says that many people
A are unaware that fairies depend on humans.

B are afraid of the power that the fairies have.

C overestimate the similarities between humans and fairies.

D are jealous of the lives that fairies lead.

3 During the talk, the interviewer is accused of being

A skeptical.

B sentimental.

C illogical.

D simplistic.

4 According to the writer, Knockers

A are unusual Goblins.

B are a considerable nuisance to miners.

C can be relied on to be helpful.

D are very fond of fruit.

5 Peter Wilson says that a changeling is

A a human baby that has been stolen.

B a fairy with a short life expectancy.

C an unusually sick child.

D a replacement for a baby.
6 The writer says that looking for fairies

A is always a dangerous pastime.

B will not greatly increase one's chances of seeing them.

C is most profitably done in woods and gardens.

D can be a very frustrating experience.

C. Listening and note-taking. Listen to the tape again and complete the following notes using these words and phrases.
alien capricious churlish favourably disposed inimical

magical malicious mischievous spiteful troublesome

The fairy kingdom represents (1) … power, and it is

(2) … to humans because it is incomprehensible to us. Although the fairy kingdom is largely dependent on humans, fairies are very different from us; they are (3) … creatures whose ethics and values have very little in common with ours. In general Goblins look extremely ugly and are intensely (4) … creatures. However, the Goblins in Devon and Cornwall, known as Knockers, are generally more (5) … to miners, yet even they are capable of being extremely (6) ….

Most fairies are capable of being (7) … and (8) ….

Brownies are generally thought of as being helpful, but if they are teased or angered, they can turn into Boggarts, who are (9) … and (10) … .

D. Vocabulary practice. Translate into Russian

  1. The noisy atmosphere of the busy office was inimical to getting any work done.

  2. Hard work was alien concept to the lazy student.

  3. She's a malicious, jealous person who does not have a nice bone in her body.

  4. He's the most capricious child I've ever minded; you never know what he is going to get up to next.

  5. Judging from the mischievous grin on his face, she knew he had done something she wouldn't approve of.

  6. Although she was terribly hurt when her husband divorced her, she never said a spiteful thing about him in front of the children.

  7. He was difficult at the best of times, but after a few drinks he be­came absolutely churlish.

  8. She was favorably disposed towards working overtime, as she has had a lot of expenses recently.

E. Vocabulary practice. Translate into English

  1. Однажды столкнувшись с враждебным отношением к себе, он стал скрытным и подозрительным.

  2. Его феноменальная способность внушать расположение к себе начальству породила немало зависти и злобных сплетен среди персонала.

  3. Ребенок стал грубым и непослушным. Родители могли объяснить это только вредным влиянием улицы.

  4. Она очень шаловливый ребенок и делает все, что приходит ей в голову. Это объясняется лишь тем, что она единственная в семье.

  5. Его злобность и язвительность можно объяснить лишь его собственным комплексом неполноценности.

  6. Несмотря на то, что все были к нему доброжелательны, он все равно чувствовал себя чужаком.

  7. Нас совсем не радует, что наш сторожевой пёс добродушно встречает всех чужих людей.

14 Vocabulary brush-up.

A. Insert the prepositions

  1. It was clear that someone tampered ... the photographs.

  2. Jim attributes his success … hard work.

  3. This charcoal sketch has been attributed ... Vincent Van Gogh.

  4. He has an uncanny talent ... predicting the ups and downs of the stock market.

  5. She is a very capricious woman who does whatever comes ... her head.

  6. The boy had an almost incomprehensible feeling ... the language. It was as if he knew things before we covered them in class.

  7. ... first she was fascinated by anything related ... the paranormal. She dabbled ... researching the topic ... a while, but her enthusiasm soon died ....

  8. The story ... question bears an amazing similarity ... the actual events surrounding the sinking of the TITANIC. I especially like the part where the drowning sailor from the rammed windjammer calls ... the wrath ... God ... the doomed vessel.

  9. There is nothing surprising or remarkable ... his condition. The doctor attributes it ... stress and overwork. ... other words, there is nothing seriously wrong ... him.

  10. It was wrong ... you to be so jealous ... Mary. You need to be more ... control ... your emotions when you're around her so she will be more favourably disposed ... you.

  11. ... my horror, the boss has asked me to speak ... public at a major trade convention next month. I have never thought ... myself ... a public speaker and the very idea of speaking ... all those people turned my stomach upside ...

  12. It came ... a real shock to me when I saw a burglar climbing ... my window. Talk about being ... the right place ... the wrong time! I tried to phone the police, but I couldn't get ...

  13. This witness's information did not tie … … the facts.

B. Similar but different. In pairs decide which noun matches each of the following definitions. In some cases more than one answer is possible. Suggest Russian translation for the active words in each context.
Noun mastery

Prediction Vision Estimate Revelation Premonition Prophesy

  1. An image or series of images seen in a dream or trance, often interpreted as having religious, revelatory, or prophetic significance.

  2. An assessment of the likely price of something, such as an item to be bought or a job to be done.

  3. Information that is newly disclosed, especially surprising or valuable information.

  4. The making of a statement or forming of an opinion about what will happen in the future.

  5. An image or concept in the imagination.

  6. An approximate calculation.

  7. An advance warning about a future event.

  8. Prediction that something will occur in the future.

  9. The ability to anticipate possible future events and developments.

  10. The revealing of something previously hidden or secret.

  11. A showing or revealing of divine will or truth.

  12. Strong feeling, without a rational basis, that a particular usually unpleasant thing is going to happen.

  13. A prediction of a future event that reveals a divine will.

  14. A surprisingly good or valuable experience.

  15. A statement of what someone thinks will happen in the future.

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