I was recently asked the following question: “You’ve carried out field research on hundreds of paranormal claims. What are your favorite investigations and what made them memorable?”
When you’ve been doing this as long as I have (nearly forever, it seems, though just under two decades), it’s hard to pick your favorites. I’ve got hundreds of investigations under my belt, everything from ghost reports to crop circles to lake monster sightings to UFOs. Many of my columns in Skeptical Inquirer magazine (you are of course a subscriber, I hope!) describe my first-hand investigations.
Some were memorable because they involved doing cable TV shows, with all the pomp and (pseudo)glamor that goes along with that. Others were especially satisfying because they were seemingly impossible to solve, or were touted as the “best case” for a given phenomenon (such as the Nancy Weber psychic detectives case described in chapter 6 of my book Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries). Still others are memorable because I helped ease the minds of fearful families.
That being said, I’d have to say that my top three favorite cases are probably:
1) My chupacabra research, because it was a global mystery and I ended up solving it. It was a very complex case, involving vampire folklore, medical research, rumors, and much more. I traveled to Texas, Puerto Rico, and the jungles of Nicaragua looking for the monster, and in the end I was able to identify the very first sighting of the creature, and definitively link it to the 1995 science fiction film Species. It took me five years, but I solved the mystery, and I’m the one who did it–not because I’m particularly brilliant, but mostly because I put in the time and effort to do the research.
2) My research into the Pokemon mystery illness in 1997, where thousands of Japanese children went to the hospital with seizures after watching the cartoon Pokemon. It’s not a paranormal claim at all, but instead a modern medical mystery. Through careful analysis I figured out what happened, and my research was published in a prestigious medical journal (the Southern Medical Journal, co-authored by my colleague Robert Bartholomew)-can the Ghost Hunters guys say that?
This is the twentieth anniversary of the incident, and I was recently interviewed by Motherboard about it.
3) I also really liked my investigation into the Ogopogo lake monster in British Columbia; it was published in two of my books (Lake Monster Mysteries and Scientific Paranormal Investigation). I collaborated with two other researchers, John Kirk and Joe Nickell, and a crew from the National Geographic TV showIs It Real? We did some field experiments to investigate a famous Ogopogo video, and found that what was recorded could not have been the size it was originally estimated. It was a fun blend of monster hunting and scientific experiment.
Maybe in a future blog or column I’ll touch on a few more!
Illustration by Sara Mayhew.