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 …

Spontaneous Human Combustion? Coroner Solves London Mystery
February 15, 2019 by

Under the heading, “Man spontaneously combusts in streets of London,” Fate magazine in late 2018 resurrected the fiery bogeyman of spontaneous human combustion. That is a pseudoscientific term for an unexplained fire injury or death. I have since followed the case to its final resolution at a coroner’s inquest, and have here placed it in …

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. …

“Bigfoot” Is Endangered Species
January 10, 2019 by

A federal judge on August 30, 2018, temporarily blocked the hunting of grizzly bears outside Yellowstone National Park. This was in response to the Trump administration’s removal of those animals’ endangered species protection. I said “grizzly bears” but I was also thinking of Bigfoot, and therein is a story. For more than four decades grizzlies …

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 …

“Playboy” with Joe Nickell et al.: “Having Sex with Spirits”
December 13, 2018 by

What is it with people “having sex with spirits”? And what would Joe Nickell and Chris French know about it? For answers we turn to an article by Mark Hay for playboy.com (July 16, 2018). Of course tales of phantom sex hark back to “ancient Sumerian myths to the Bible to still extant beliefs in …

Seeing Clearly Now: Death of Psychic Bernice Golden
November 30, 2018 by

“International psychic Bernice Golden dies,” reported radio station WKBW of Buffalo on the date of her death, October 8, 2018 (Mason 2018). Although she did promote herself as an “International Psychic,” the label is overblown. Nevertheless, she certainly became, in her day, “Buffalo’s best known psychic” (Evans 2016). On a few occasions, she did get …

Wolf-like Mystery Creature in Montana
November 12, 2018 by

In mid-2018 a strange-looking critter was shot and killed in Central Montana. Armchair monster hunters rushed to opine as to its true nature: possibly a jackal, wolf/dog, coydog, coyote, German Shepherd hybrid, Scottish Deerhound, or even a surviving dire wolf (that became extinct over 10,000 years ago) or a “dogman” (a supposed upright-walking cryptid, at …

Houdini Séances 2018
November 1, 2018 by

Since world-famous magician, escape artist, and spiritualist nemesis Harry Houdini died on Halloween 1926, magicians and admirers have held séances on each anniversary of his death, attempting to contact his spirit. The first were held by his wife Beatrice (“Bess”), but—except for a separate hoax claim otherwise in 1928 by medium/charlatan Arthur Ford—Houdini was always …

Improving the Narrative: Enlightenment and Illusions at CSICon 2018
October 20, 2018 by

I want to believe. Not in UFOs (okay, I want to believe in them a little), but in the power of enlightenment and the better angels of our nature. I want to believe that humans have the power to overcome the limitations of our narrowly focused senses and use our squishy little brains to bring …