Canadian Psychic Charged with ‘Witchcraft,’ Media Get the Message Wrong
In October 2018, Dorie Stevenson of Milton, Ontario, who goes by the name Madeena, was arrested by police and formally charged with witchcraft. Stevenson was not arrested for practicing magic per se; charges were laid under Section 365 of Canada’s Criminal Code, “Witchcraft—Fortune Telling,” as a form of fraud: “Every one who pretends to practise …
The Rise and Fall of the ‘Momo Challenge’ Online Suicide Game Conspiracy
In February 2019, kids and their parents around the world were introduced to a new deadly online danger: a mysterious and terrifying online figure known as “Momo,” whose creepy image is that of a bug-eyed woman in the Japanese horror tradition (it’s actually a co-opted, unrelated sculpture titled “Mother Bird,” created in 2016 by artist …
Skeptics’ Sting Delivers High-Profile Hit to Psychic Credibility
The credibility of psychics took a huge hit in February and March of 2019 thanks to skeptical activists. Veteran skeptics Susan Gerbic and Mark Edward went undercover, posing as a couple, to see a psychic named Thomas John. They were given the outlines of a fictional backstory—some details of which they themselves didn’t know but …
Fatima Miracle Claims All Wet
Q: I read your investigation of the Miracle of Fatima and the last appearance of the Virgin. I noticed you dismissed the event based on the perception of the people as some mass delusion. Are you aware that it had been raining all night and into the day? Everyone present was soaked—as was the soil—but …
Embracing Option D: Knowing When You Don’t Know
I am often asked to examine seemingly mysterious and inherently ambiguous photos. Usually the person asking has already settled—sometimes tentatively, more often strongly—on a specific interpretation. They know what the photo shows and want my independent confirmation that their favored interpretation is correct. That shadowy blur in the distant forest is a Bigfoot; that weird …
Bailing in the Mummies
Q: Today I heard a speaker repeat the story that mummies were used as fuel in British trains. I recall this was a classic legend first related by Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad, but the speaker insisted that she thoroughly researched the subject, and it was true. Got anything on this? —B. Dail A: This …
The ‘Momo Challenge’ and the ‘Blue Whale Game’: Online Suicide Game Conspiracies
Kids and their parents around the world apparently have a new deadly online danger to fear: a mysterious and terrifying online figure known as “Momo,”
‘Class A’ Bigfoot Report Reveals Little about the Beast, and Much about the Seekers
Q: I heard about a Bigfoot sighting not far from here. It happened a few years ago. There was a team of firefighters working on the Tres Lagunas fire in northern New Mexico. They saw a Bigfoot not far away, out in the open during the daytime, and it couldn’t have been a deer or …
Channeling Ancient African Wisdom or Not
Q: I’m producing a documentary about channeler Neferatiti Ife; I would like your opinion about her work and on channeling from a historical perspective. What’s your take on what she does? —M. Shabazz A: I received this query from a filmmaker seeking an analysis in early 2018. I explained that time constraints didn’t allow for …
Do 40 Percent of People Think Native Americans Don’t Exist?
Americans have misconceptions about a great many things and a demonstrable blindness to social problems facing Native Americans and others, but misinformation isn’t helpful.
The ‘Secret Hand Signs’ Conspiracy
Things took a turn from the political to the surreal with conspiracy rumors that a lawyer sitting behind Brett Kavanaugh was caught on camera flashing a white nationalism sign with the fingers of one hand.
Caught Between the Possible and the Paranormal
Q: Have you ever come across any research, findings, or reports that have shaken your stance about the validity of skeptical explanations for mysterious claims? In other words, have any cases stumped you? —J. Meuse A: I’ve often been asked if, in the course of my research into myriad mysteries and seemingly paranormal events, whether …
This Is Your Brain on Social Media
Think Before You Like: Social Media’s Effect on the Brain and the Tools You Need to Navigate Your Newsfeed. By Guy P. Harrison. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2017. ISBN: 978-1633883512. 380 pp. Softcover, $18.00. The use of social media has risen dramatically in recent years, but our ability to responsibly handle it has not kept …
The Phantom Menace of UFO Revelation
Q: I heard you on an episode of the StarTalk Radio Show, and host Seth Shostak asked why governments around the world would hide evidence of extraterrestrial life. You mentioned that the reason conspiracy theorists often give—to avoid mass panic—was absurd because polls show that many people (about a third) already think aliens exist. But …
Pink Slime and the Failure of Skepticism
Skeptics typically work hard to reassure the public that their fears of many things are exaggerated or outright fabricated.
Did a New Study Find That Men Think They’re Smarter Than Women? Debunking Sexism Clickbait
You may have seen headlines about a recent study at Arizona State University that found, among other things, that college men think they’re smarter than women.
The Curious Question of Ghost Taxonomy
The nature of ghosts remains unknown despite centuries of collective effort by legions of ghost hunters.
The Case of the Curious Christmas Light
Even a smart, skeptical person can be fooled by something strange in a photograph
Why ‘They’ Aren’t Calling It ‘Terrorism’: A Primer
The issue is not terribly complicated, but it is nuanced and often counter-intuitive.
Numb and Normal: Phantom Fears of an Indifferent America
The reaction to the latest school shooting in Florida suggests that Americans are anything but numb or indifferent to the violence.
Just Asking Questions
Q: “I enjoyed your recent investigation into the 2016 Mall of America’s black Santa outrage, and I have a question regarding ‘asking questions.’ How do you tell the difference between someone with a genuine inquiry about something and an ideologue attempting to steer the debate in a specific direction?” —Al C. A: I received this …
Critical Thinking Approaches to Confronting Racism
Racism and prejudice are thorny, age-old problems with many origins. There is no single solution, no magic spell that will bring everyone together.
Medical Misinformation in the Media: Is Anorexia on the Rise?
When completing my master’s degree in science and the public (through the Center for Inquiry and SUNY-Buffalo), I chose eating disorder misinformation as the subject of my thesis. This was important to me for several reasons, including that it involved several of my longstanding interests such as myths and misinformation (a typical skeptical subject); eating …
Is Elvis Presley in Home Alone?
I’ve been trying to debunk this for years, but my eyes have convinced me Elvis is in the airport scene in Home Alone. It should be easy to prove but I can’t find the name of the extra in question or any entry online that puts this particular myth to rest. Nothing short of the …
Bringing Levitation Down to Earth
I’m not sure that human levitation exists—much less that it’s attributable to a mind-body connection (or quantum physics)—but overall I enjoyed speaking with Grosso and reviewing his book.
‘Educate Yourself’: The Log in the Critical Eye
As a professional skeptic, I deal with all manner of believer. Some are respectful, some are not, but the one constant is that the believer and I are approaching the topic from different viewpoints.
I was sent a link to your article about the Sandy Hook conspiracies (https://tinyurl.com/y747c2gf), and my question is: Why even give these people the time of day? I unfortunately watched the [pro-conspiracy] YouTube video before realizing what I had done: contributed to helping the creator make money off of YouTube. Why help drive traffic to …
Psychic Roundup: ‘Psychics’ Convicted
The first few months of 2017 have not been good for those who claim to have psychic powers. Between April and August 2015, a Hong Kong taxi driver tricked one of his girlfriend’s daughters into having sex with him, telling her it would help keep evil spirits away from her younger sister. The man, who …
Orbs as Plasma Life
I contacted you about my video evidence over two years ago and have continued to video my orb/plasma life forms. My file contains over fourteen hours of video and pictures. I started a YouTube channel to show some of my video; please look at them and let me know what you think. I got the …
New And Notable
DEAR MARTIN / DEAR MARCELLO: Gardner and Truzzi on Skepticism. Edited by Dana Richards. This book is a major contribution to the history of modern skepticism. It will also be of considerable interest to the history and philosophy of science more generally. Martin Gardner comes back to life in the form of sparkling, never-before-seen correspondence …
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Emmys: An Amelia Earhart Special (Non)Mystery Post-Mortem
Going beyond the evidence is routinely seen on reality television…
The Phoenix Driveway Ghost
Ben Radford explains a strange mist found in a Phoenix woman’s driveway.
A Good Analysis of Bad UFO Information
Robert Sheaffer is one of the—if not the—world’s top experts on the subject of unidentified flying objects and claims of extraterrestrials, and he shares that knowledge in his new book Bad UFOs.
Megyn Kelly, Alex Jones, and Conspiracies
For skeptics it’s often a no-win situation: If we ignore whatever bogus claim (UFO, Bigfoot, ghosts, conspiracies) then what happens is that believers say to themselves: “There must be something to it…
Moral Panic Du Jour: The ‘Blue Whale Game’
“The Blue Whale ‘suicide game’ is believed to be a hidden online social media group which its main aim is to encourage our children to kill themselves…
The Mirror in the Last Haunted House
I sought a pure, genuinely foreign experience, something unmistakably supernatural that could not be the product of a tired mind, a mild hallucination, or a half-forgotten memory of a scary film scene…
The Lore and Lure of the Northern Lights
“I didn’t just want to write a science book… I wanted to celebrate the beauty and magic of the aurora and how captivating it is, and also explore the history of Arctic exploration and the cultures there…”
Los campos electromagnéticos ¿pueden crear fantasmas?
Si usted está seguro de que los fantasmas son reales (y no el producto de alucinaciones inducidas por CMEs), no hay lógica ni razón alguna para usar un dispositivo para detectar dichos CMEs.
Can Electromagnetic Fields Create Ghosts?
If you are sure that ghosts are real (and not the product of EMF-induced hallucinations), there is no logic or point in using a device to detect those EMFs.