Columbine School Shooting Myths: 20 Years Later
April 22, 2019 by

A few days ago marked the twentieth anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, in which two senior students in Colorado killed twelve students and one teacher before ultimately killing themselves. The crime received extensive news coverage and inspired many copycats and a Michael Moore film, Bowling for Columbine. Early reportage of high-profile events (and …

‘Malling While Muslim’: Man Falsely Accused of Child Abduction
April 11, 2019 by

Social and news media have unfortunately seen a rise in two distinct toxic phenomena over the past year or so. The first is a steady stream of white women calling police on minorities minding their own business in public spaces, in dozens of cases including a Starbucks, a public park, swimming pools, streetcorners, and the …

Plane Abducted by UFO?
April 2, 2019 by

I recently came across an old (March 1979) issue of Fate magazine, which promised “The World’s Mysteries Explored.” One featured story was headlined: “Did UFO Abduct Aircraft?” As I suspected, that case was one destined to become a classic of UFOlogy, one that I would eventually have a hand in solving—at the request of a …

‘HS Teacher Tells Students to Vote Republican’: Case Study of a Social Media Outrage Cycle
March 1, 2019 by

Last month an indignant Florida mother named Barbara took to Twitter seeking advice for a problem: “I’m really PISSED; my daughter who is in the 12th grade recently registered to vote through her high school. Her teacher told the class that they all must register as Republicans or else they would not be allowed to …

The Prodigy: A Skeptical Film Review
February 18, 2019 by

The new horror film The Prodigy is about an evil child, and therefore follows a fairly predictable formula. The kid starts as a bundle of joy, then bad things happen but no one wants to believe the child did them, then the terror escalates as a parent or caregiver discovers a horrifying secret that leads …

Co-Opting Black History Month with Conspiracy
February 8, 2019 by

Several friends of mine recently posted a meme on social media that read, “Did you know the real LONE RANGER was a BLACK MAN name BASS REEVES and yes he did live among the INDIANS, The Lone Ranger ‘could not be cast in that era as a black man, so he was made into a …

The Tragedy of Jazmine Barnes: Phantom Serial Killers and Eyewitness Errors
January 23, 2019 by

On December 30, 2018, a seven-year-old Houston girl named Jazmine Barnes was killed when a gunman drove up next to the vehicle she was in and opened fire on its occupants. Her mother, LaPorsha Washington, was wounded; Jazmine was struck in the head and died on the way to the hospital. As the New Year’s …

Another Abducted Girl, Another Psychic Fail
January 16, 2019 by

Psychics and fortunetellers are often seen as relatively harmless, dispensing shopworn advice about tall handsome strangers, a brighter future, and reassurances that departed loved ones are indeed watching over us. For $100 or less we can gain a temporary feeling of control over our destinies, armed with the foreknowledge (foreguessing?) of what will (might?) happen. …

Canadian Psychics Arrested While Journalist Fail
December 21, 2018 by

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 …

Stop Misusing Science To Bolster Religious Fables
December 6, 2018 by

Christmas season is upon us. (I recognize I’m late in noting this. For retailers it started immediately after Halloween.) This season brings forth many familiar experiences—familiar because they recur every year: festive decorations, foraging for parking spots, Tom Flynn at work on Christmas Day, and an essay in a newspaper/on the internet attempting to explain …