Myths about Nutrition
As a PhD student in medical sciences, people often ask me questions about diet and nutrition. The problem is that several bogus claims have spread and are widely believed.
Paul McCartney Really Is Not Dead
Paul McCartney was twenty years old when the Beatles came to fame, and only twenty-four when, as legend has it, he was killed in a car accident in 1966 and replaced with a lookalike.
Fortean Frog Falls: Facts and Fallacies
The most likely explanation for how small frogs get up into the sky in the first place is meteorological: a whirlwind, tornado, or other natural phenomenon.
Dr. Pierce: Medicine for ‘Weak Women’
In the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, alleged cures for “female weakness” were among the nostrums marketed by quacks.
Playing Witch Doctor: Hidden Ethics in Skeptical Ghost Investigation
The drive from my apartment to the haunted house was about twenty minutes, but I found myself wishing it would take longer. I wanted more time to get a handle on what I was going to say, how I was going to tell the family that their house was not haunted by a demon or angry ghost.
The Harper’s Mansion Ghost Study
The building of Harper’s Mansion began in 1834 by James Harper, a wealthy landowner in the town of Berrima, New South Wales. It has had many occupants since then and many claims of paranormal activities.
Poltergeist at Amityville?
On December 18, 1975, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into a six-bedroom Dutch colonial home in Amityville, New York. But soon they were driven out, they claimed, by horrific supernatural forces. Ghosts? A poltergeist? Demons? Let’s take a look, as new claims continue to surface.
To Better Understand Evolution: An Interview with Jerry Coyne
Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago and an important popularizer of evolution and science in general.
The Kaspar Hauser Mystery
On May 26, 1828 (Easter Monday), two men were talking together in the Unschlittplatz near Nuremberg’s New Gate when they were approached by a teenage boy. By all accounts, he was a fresh-complexioned boy of about seventeen years of age dressed like a peasant.
Five Myths about Airport Security
An estimated $57 billion has been spent on airport security since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Yet, since its inception in November 2001, the Transportation Security Administration has neither prevented nor failed to prevent a terrorist from hijacking or taking down a passenger plane.
The Yukon’s Bigfoot Bears
Despite a lack of convincing evidence for Bigfoot, belief persists, and Bigfoot buffs are active almost everywhere, including the sparsely populated Yukon.
Soul Theft through Photography
Consider the notion that taking a photograph of a person “steals his or her soul.” It’s an easy concept to dismiss, as it seems so simplistic and overtly fallacious. But I claim there is value in actually considering this notion more carefully.
The Lake Monster That Predates Nessie
A review of The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America’s Loch Ness Monster, by Robert E. Bartholomew.
Song of a Siren: A Study in Fakelore
Lorelei is described variously as a “sorceress,” “siren,” “water nymph,” “mermaid,” and even, in the plural, “mermaids.” In any case, at least she represents a romantic legend of the Rhine—or does she?
Skeptical Activism Online
The “woo” crowd—the psychics, the charlatans, the “healers” and others—are out there in the public; they are writing the books, setting up conferences, and getting themselves extensive media coverage. We need to match their exposure with our own and be there to give the counterpoints.
Maria Monk: A Nun’s ‘Secrets’ Revealed
It turns out that the fantastic assertions she made were investigated thoroughly at the time by Protestant clergymen who were permitted to inspect the actual convent, discovering that its interior was incompatible with Monk’s descriptions.
He Is Kenny Biddle
Since July of 2012, Kenny Biddle has been releasing episodes of a video blog titled I Am Kenny Biddle. His videos, which range between six and fifty minutes, feature Mr. Biddle’s rants about such topics as paranormal fraud, ghost investigations, orbs, and the ways that people can be fooled.
Fifty Popular Mistaken Beliefs
“Harrison doesn’t use a condescending approach, something skeptics are often accused of using in addressing irrational believers and in challenging and debunking paranormal claims. Instead Harrison humbly acknowledges the cultural universality of unreason. . . .”
Carl Sagan, Cosmos, and Everything
I consider an archive like a dark, still pool. I like to give it a stir and see what pops up to the surface.
Ghost Hunting: Conditioning Phobias
In August of 2009, I was asked to tag along with a ghost-hunting group that was going to do a paranormal investigation of a private residence. Despite the fact that there were simple and very plausible explanations for everything he experienced, the owner was completely convinced he had purchased a haunted house.
Investigating the Rhode Island UFO
With a half a century plus of interest in UFOs, astronomy, and science, I’ve despaired that in all that time I’ve never seen a real UFO. (With emphasis on what the “U” stands for of course.)
Tracking Florida’s Skunk Ape
Combining myths of the American Sasquatch—better known since 1958 as “Bigfoot”—and various swamp monsters, Florida’s “Skunk Ape” is reportedly a large, shaggy, man-beast that haunts, especially, Florida’s wilderness areas.
The Monster That Never Sleeps—An Investigation into the Latest Loch Ness Monster Photo
I turned my attention to those on the ground at Loch Ness that I had met during my trip there in March thinking that they might know something that the rest of the world didn’t. They didn’t disappoint.
A Book Not for the Faint of Heart
A review of Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium, by Mark Edward.
‘Miracle’ Statue of Fatima
After years of crossing paths with it, I finally met up with the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima, which has been traveling the world to relate the “message” of the Lady of Fatima—that of world peace.
Messages from ‘Star Families’—in the ET Language
Cassandra Vanzant’s claims are legion. At one time or another she has acted as a tarot-card reader and instructor, ghost hunter, spiritualist medium, angel communicant, ordained minister, professional psychic, and of course, telepathic “Master Alien Communicator.”
The Ketchum Project: What to Believe about Bigfoot DNA ‘Science’
Science by press release is an unprofessional form and often is a bust upon peer review. Melba Ketchum asked the public directly to buy into an extraordinary claim: that she has categorized Bigfoot DNA and understands its origin, proposing not one but two unknowns—Sasquatch and an unknown ancestor of Sasquatch.
The Myth of the Rain Dance
There are many myths and misconceptions found in every culture around the world. Some are more fanciful and colorful than others.
Uncovering Secret Messages
Among my many interests as a boy was cryptography—the study of codes, ciphers, and other secret writings. I sent and received nighttime Morse code messages by flashlight between neighbors’ houses and mine, made and solved cryptograms, used my forensic chemistry lab to make various invisible inks and developers, and even compiled a treatise on the subject.
The Gore Orphanage Hauntings
According to legend, a place called Gore Orphanage housed a hundred or so orphans. One night, either by malicious intent or by a tragic accident, the orphanage burned to the ground. I was told this story when I was a kid growing up in Ohio and thought that it was time to find out if there was any truth to it.
The Wisdom of Not Understanding
When people don’t understand something they are told, there are three possibilities or root causes.
A Fiery Death: Murder or ‘Spontaneous Combustion’?
This is the story of a fiery death that became a cold case—a mystery unsolved since 1847. It begins with an elderly Frenchman, whose badly burned body suggested to authorities that it may have been set afire to conceal evidence of foul play.
Wisdom from the Origins Conference
A quick search on the background of some of the speakers and sponsors reveals much of the same brand of pseudoscience that is found permeating through the entire institute, its offered programs, and the Wisdoms of the Origins conference.
Ghosts at a Shaker Village
In 1774 a “visionary” named Ann Lee—as charismatic as she was uneducated—sailed from Manchester, England, to New York to spread her new faith. In time “Mother Ann’s” United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming would found nineteen utopian communal villages.
Ask an Astrobiologist
What is the history behind Astrobiology? How could we find life on other planets? Why is the U.S. government building bunkers to house the elite in case of a global disaster? Are we headed for another ice age?
While there might be some variability in the details regarding the reasons for long hair from tribe to tribe, there is one major component that has remained consistent: long hair has never been about aesthetics but instead is a religious concern.
Conspiracy Theorist Claims NASA Picnic Photos Were Faked
Citing irregularities in photographs posted on the About Us page on the official NASA website, Northern Virginia resident Brian Williams is calling the space agency’s employee and family picnic, allegedly held this last summer, a complete hoax.
Montauk Monster and the Raccoon Body Farm
In July 2008, the carcass of a creature soon dubbed the “Montauk Monster” allegedly washed ashore near Montauk, Long Island, New York. It sparked much speculation and controversy, with some suggesting it was a shell-less sea turtle, a dog or other canid, a sheep, or a rodent—or even a latex fake or possible mutation experiment from the nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center.
There is little documented information about the details of “witchcraft” among the Najavo—or Diné, as they call themselves. What is relatively well known is their term “Skinwalker,” or “yee naaldlooshii,” which means, “with it, he goes on all fours.” This is a reference to the special ability to transform into a four-legged animal.
A Spiritualist Ghostbuster’s Crystal Skull
A Canadian spiritualist ghostbusting actor walks into a bar wearing New Age crystals and a crystal skull around his neck, goes up to the bartender, and orders a vodka. . . . No, this weird mashup is not the setup to a joke (certainly not a funny one) but instead more or less describes one of the strangest intersections of Hollywood, New Age paranormal belief, ghost hunting, and alcohol.