Contributions

Visiting the Grave of the Last Vampire
February 5, 2018


When we look back at superstitious eras, we should not think our generation too superior. I have visited the graves of supposed witches in Tallahassee, Florida, and Harrison, Rhode Island, the tomb of a voodoo priestess in New Orleans, and the burial sites of vampires in New England, only to find silly superstitious practices at each of them. The most recent was my 2016 visit to the grave of Mercy Lena Brown— whose case supposedly influenced Bram Stoker, author of Dracula (1897).

“The Greatest Showman”: A Nickell-odeon Review
January 23, 2018


Okay, I had read too many reviews of The Greatest Showman –based on the life of P. T. Barnum—before I actually made it to the theater. But I’m not one to fall for the humbug of cynical reviewers, preferring to get mine from the “Prince of Humbugs” himself.

CELERINA: Quackery with Cocaine
January 19, 2018


“Celerina” was a medicine dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, originally of secret formulation, sold as a nerve tonic and cure-all.

RIDDLEculous XVI
January 10, 2018


More funny riddles with a science/critical-thinking angle.

Rare “SANDS’S SARSAPARILLA” Bottle
December 27, 2017


In my continuing study of historical quackery, I recently acquired an antique sarsaparilla bottle that is especially interesting for the clues to its age that have been captured in the glass—analogous to ancient insects preserved in amber.

“Loving Vincent”: A Nickell-odeon Review
December 18, 2017


Loving Vincent is unique: the world’s first animated feature film that was entirely painted in oils! Its storyline begins a year after the death of Vincent Van Gogh and follows Armand (a postman’s son) as he attempts to deliver the painter’s sidetracked last letter to his brother Theo. Along the way Armand is forced to consider whether Vincent’s suicide was in reality a homicide.

“Baby Killer” Nostrums
November 20, 2017


Nothing could have seemed more harmless than the picture of a mother and her baby with the words, “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for Teething Children.” Trouble was, the nineteenth-century pacifying nostrum contained morphine!

Bigshoot: A TV Misadventure with “Bigfoot”
November 14, 2017


As one of several mysteries for the currently airing series on the Science channel, Strange Evidence, CFI video expert Tom Flynn and I were asked to look at a creature videotaped on a deputy sheriff’s dashcam. It was recorded on the night of May 16, 2009, in northern Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Park.

Ghosts at Nevada’s Pioneer Saloon
November 6, 2017


On a Friday night sojourn from the excellent CSI conference in Las Vegas (October 26-29, 2017), three of us visited the “haunted” century-old Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nevada—no doubt the most haunted site in the former mining town, population 229, not counting ghosts.

Houdini’s Halloween Legacy
November 1, 2017


Halloween, the time of would-be goblins, is also celebrated by magicians and magic lovers as National Magic Day (part of National Magic Week, the last seven days in October). First called “Houdini Day,” it was initiated by the Society of American Magicians following the death of the great conjurer, escape artist, and nemesis of fake mediums, Harry Houdini, who died at age 52 on Halloween, 1926.