Water’s ability to cleanse obviously made it a natural choice for ritual washing (such as baptism in Christianity and mikvah in Judaism). And its power to soothe a minor burn, quench a thirst, or provide other relief naturally inspired further medicinal uses. Belief in the supernatural extended the supposed powers of water in various ways—hence …
Credulous Flying Saucer ‘Expert’ Stanton T. Friedman Dead at Eighty-Four
Stanton Terry Friedman (July 29, 1934–May 13, 2019) was one of the world’s best known and most controversial flying saucer proponents. Like some other paranormalists, Friedman would come to parlay a lackluster science career into fringe stardom. Although he constantly referred to himself as a “nuclear physicist,” he held no doctorate, having only bachelor and …
Gloucester Sea-Serpent Mystery: Solved after Two Centuries
A “wonderful sea-snake” was repeatedly seen in the area of Gloucester Bay and Nahant Bay, Massachusetts, in August 1817 and again in 1819. Although attracting “hundreds of curious spectators,” plus a large reward for “his snakeship” alive or dead, the great creature escaped any such fate (Drake 1883, 156–159). The visitations have been reported in …
Lorraine Warren Dead at Ninety-Two
Lorraine Warren—who with her late husband “investigated” alleged demon-possessed houses—died at ninety-two on April 19, 2019. The couple—real names Edward Warren Miney (1926–2006) and Lorraine Rita Warren (1927–2019)—founded New England Society for Psychic Research allegedly as early as 1952. Ed would claim to be a “Demonologist”; his business card with that title appeared to represent …
Premonition! Foreseeing What Cannot Be Seen
An article in the March 4, 2019, New Yorker gave the regrettable impression that some people could do what science—and common sense—say cannot be done: see something (usually a tragedy) before it has occurred. (The magazine followed other outlets that have recently hawked paranormal claims—The New York Times regarding UFOs in 2017 and 2018 [Nickell …
The Trapped Miners’ Holy Visions: Investigating the Sheppton ‘Miracle’
On August 27, 1963, two Pennsylvania coal miners were rescued after two weeks of being trapped underground. The pair would soon relate how, confined in the pitch black, they had witnessed humanoid figures, bathed in strange light, and saw a door that opened onto marble steps leading to a great celestial city with angels playing …
The Saga of Tom Horn: Is the Hanged Man’s Ghost Still at Large?
At the turn of the twentieth century in Wyoming, the “range wars” claimed many victims, among them fourteen-year-old Willie Nickell (yes, one of my distant cousins).1 This is the story of his murder and the hanging of his killer—a legendary lawman and now “ghost.” It begins over a quarter of a century earlier in my …
Kraken: Monster of the Deep
The Kraken—a massive sea monster—legendarily rose out of the ocean to pluck sailors off ship decks or even to grasp whole vessels and carry them to the depths.
UFO Identification Process
There is a wide variety of natural explanations for things we see in the sky that are easy to misinterpret.
Arkansas’s White River Monster: Very Real, but What Was It?
Can we finally solve the mystery?
Outside the Box: Solving Diverse Mysteries
In contrast to mystery mongers, I insist that mysteries should not be fostered but investigated with the intent of solving them. I like them so much I have never really cared whether some case could be pigeonholed into a specific category, let alone what that category might be. “Probing Paranormal, Historical, and Forensic Enigmas,” I …
CBS Sunday Morning Seers Don’t See So Well
On March 18, 2018, CBS Sunday Morning featured an insufficiently skeptical segment, “ESP: Inside the Government’s Secret Program on Psychic Spies.” One of the psychics presented—Angela Ford (formerly Angela Dellafiora)—is described as a former Pentagon Project Stargate “psychic spy.” She recalled one of her best assignments in which, allegedly, she psychically tracked down fugitive drug …
Secrets of ‘The Flying Friar’: Did St. Joseph of Copertino Really Levitate?
Supported by records citing eyewitness testimony, St. Joseph of Copertino was a seventeenth-century religious marvel who laid claim to the power of levitation.
Navy Pilot’s 2004 UFO: A Comedy of Errors
The first I heard about a shadowy UFO research program operated by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 2007–2012 was when I was interviewed by New York Times reporter Helene Cooper on December 12, 2017.
Hawking ‘Ghosts’ in Old Louisville
How could a press that represents all of the universities in the Commonwealth of Kentucky publish such nonsense—even in an age of fake news and fake science?
Tallahassee’s ‘Witch’s Grave’
A Study in Superstition and Ignorance
The Giant Panda: Discovered in the Land of Myth
Its immense popularity today belies the fact that the panda was once among the world’s most obscure creatures, “as mythical and elusive as Bigfoot” (Edwards 2009). Bigfooters are prone to emphasizing such creatures that were only discovered comparatively recently—for example a giraffe relative, the okapi (1901), and a “living fossil” fish, the coelacanth (1938)—because they …
Roswell UFO ‘Strange Metal’ Mystery
The evidence is overwhelming that the supposed “flying saucer” material was—although a novelty at the time—purely of terrestrial origin.
Mystery of Mollie Fancher, ‘The Fasting Girl’, and Others Who Lived without Eating
Can people live for years without food? Some have claimed to, including certain holy persons. One nineteenth-century marvel in Brooklyn alleged not only to have lived without sustenance but to have experienced a nine-year trance state, possessed clairvoyant abilities, and recovered from paralysis and blindness. She was Mollie Fancher, a woman whose well-nourished body made …
Loch Ness Solved – Even More Fully!
The Loch Ness Mystery Reloaded. By Ronald Binns. Zoilus Press, London, UK, 2017. ISBN 9781999735906. 222 pp. Paperback, £12. With his new book, The Loch Ness Mystery Reloaded, Ronald Binns takes another bow as the man who cast the net and drew up from the depths the ultimate truth about the fabled creature, Nessie. Binns …
Australia’s Storied Ghosts
Whenever someone relates his or her ghost encounter, a story is born. And, as folklorists know well, stories tend to evolve in the retelling—changing and becoming embellished by others over time. Thus are created variants, evidence of the folklore process at work. When a writer creates an imitation tale, the product is called “fakelore,” but, …
Bigfoot as Big Myth: Seven Phases of Mythmaking
The hairy man-beast known as the “Sasquatch” or “Bigfoot” is now ever present in North American culture. Supposedly a throwback to our evolutionary past, it is an “ape-man” version of us just as the little-bodied, big-headed, humanoid extraterrestrial is a futuristic one.
Murder by Darkness: Does Mammoth Cave’s Specter Harbor a Secret?
Joe Nickell solves the case of an unlikely ghost, hidden in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave
JonBenet Murder Mystery Solved? (Not by Psychics)
The death of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey went unsolved for two decades. Psychics were worse than useless, but the author’s proposed solution resulted from evaluating the best evidence.
The Bigfoot Obsession
Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot. By Joe Gisondi. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0-8032-4994-3. 278 pp. Softcover, $18.95. With Joe Gisondi’s Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot, the subtitle says it all. Gisondi, an outsider, traveled with Bigfooters—those credulous folk motivated to search for the fabled creature despite zero scientific …
The New Zealand Moa: From Extinct Bird to Cryptid
Cryptids are of two types: either (1) unknown species, such as Bigfoot or at one time the Mountain Gorilla; or (2) known species that supposedly become extinct but may have survived and could be rediscovered.
Some Queensland Mysteries
Strange mysteries may be found almost anywhere, but they seem especially plentiful and interesting in Australia.
Steller’s Sea Ape: Identifying an Eighteenth-Century Cryptid
Since its appearance in 1741, a mysterious creature has remained controversial—a so-called “sea monkey” that puzzled naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller.
Miracle Tableau: Knock, Ireland, 1879
The ability to see pictures in random forms—as in clouds, tea leaves, and inkblots—is known as pareidolia… Some publicized examples I have made pilgrimages to examine include the face of Jesus in the skillet burns of a tortilla…
Dispelling Demons: Detective Work at The Conjuring House
I analyzed the Perrons’ claims of demonic activity and showed that they were consistent with the effects of strong winds, misperceptions, schoolgirl pranks, vivid dreams, simple suggestion, role-playing, and other factors.
Cómo superar a un Maestro de Tai Chi
Tai chi es una abreviatura de taiji quan, “boxeo máximo supremo”. Concebido hace siglos como un arte marcial, ahora también se practica —“Tai chi taoísta”— como técnica de ejercicios.
Claims of Chi: Besting a Tai Chi Master
Tai chi is a shortened form of taiji quan, “Supreme ultimate boxing.” Conceived centuries ago as a martial art, it is now also practiced—as “Taoist tai chi”—as an exercise technique…
Mystery Coin of the Yukon
According to raconteur Ed Ferrell in his Strange Stories of Alaska and the Yukon (1996, 120), the coin “appeared to have been minted before the Ice Age”
Ghosts at New Orleans’ Secret Horror Chamber
Perhaps such antics will inspire a new generation of ghost hunters.
Jesse James’s ‘Haunts’: Legends, History, and Forensic Science
Before trying to explain something, first be sure that it really occurred.
Creators of the Paranormal
A handful of twentieth-century figures “created” the modern concept of the paranormal and its leading topics, transporting fantasy, myth, or speculation into a kind of believable “reality.” Most proved to be a chimera.
Gallows Ghosts? Mystery at Brisbane’s Tower Mill
Residents in the neighborhood in the mid-twentieth century reported that “sometimes when they looked up at the small window facing the street they could see a faint glow and a figure inside the tower, swinging gently from side to side.”
Otherwordly: Mysteries of Newfoundland and Labrador
According to the tale, if one were driving at night from Deer Lake toward the city of Corner Brook one might encounter “a woman in a white dress.”