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Joe Nickell

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Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and "Investigative Files" Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC's Today Show. His personal website is at joenickell.com.

Mystery Coin of 
the Yukon

Skeptical Briefs Volume 26.3, Fall 2016

Investigative Files
Mystery Coin of 
the Yukon

According to raconteur Ed Ferrell in his Strange Stories of Alaska and the Yukon (1996, 120), the coin “appeared to have been minted before the Ice Age”

Stagecoach Tavern Ghosts

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 29, 2016
Stagecoach Tavern Ghosts

Where my travels take me, I often have occasion to check out a “haunted” tavern or inn. In several months’ time in 2015–2016, for example, I visited two such places in Australia, others in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, Vancouver’s Gastown, and Niagara Falls, NY, and then in June 2016, the Tavern on Main in Chepachet, RI.

 

Ghosts at New Orleans’ Secret Horror Chamber

Skeptical Briefs Volume 26.2, Summer 2016

Investigative Files
Ghosts at New Orleans’ Secret Horror Chamber

Perhaps such antics will inspire a new generation of ghost hunters.

Old English Black Oil Liniment

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 22, 2016
Old English Black Oil Liniment

“Black Oil” is an old English name for a horse liniment. It eventually came to be sold in America as “a never failing Remedy for Man and Beast.”

 

Mother Gray’s Sweet Powders

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 18, 2016
Mother Gray’s Sweet Powders

LeRoy, New York, has many claims to fame—apart from the mysterious twitching outbreak I investigated for Skeptical Inquirer in 2012. It was the birthplace of Jell-O in 1897 (the museum is well worth seeing) as well as something called Mother Gray’s Sweet Powders for Children, among other products.

 

Jesse James’s ‘Haunts’: Legends, History, and Forensic Science

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.4, July/August 2016

Investigative Files
Jesse James’s ‘Haunts’: Legends, History, and Forensic Science

Before trying to explain something, first be sure that it really occurred.

“Miraculous” Infant Jesus of Prague

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 7, 2016
“Miraculous” Infant Jesus of Prague

The Infant Jesus of Prague is a small (18.5 inches tall) wax-covered wood statue of the child Jesus in a church in Prague, Czech Republic. Many of the faithful believe it to have magical powers.

 

Creators of the Paranormal

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.3, May/June 2016

Feature
Creators of the Paranormal

A handful of twentieth-century figures “created” the modern concept of the paranormal and its leading topics, transporting fantasy, myth, or speculation into a kind of believable “reality.” Most proved to be a chimera.

RIDDLEculous XII

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 26, 2016

More funny riddles from a skeptical view.

Available in the Print Edition. Subscribe Here.

Dispelling Demons: Detective Work at The Conjuring House

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.6, November/December 2016

Investigative Files

‘Harmless’ Homeopathy Horror?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 20, 2016

Skeptics often dramatize the uselessness of homeopathic remedies by taking large doses to prove their point. That may be unwise in light of a recent FDA warning.

 

Gallows Ghosts? Mystery at Brisbane’s Tower Mill

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.3, May/June 2016

Investigative Files
Gallows Ghosts? Mystery at Brisbane’s Tower Mill

Residents in the neighborhood in the mid-twentieth century reported that “sometimes when they looked up at the small window facing the street they could see a faint glow and a figure inside the tower, swinging gently from side to side.”

“Magnetic” Medicines

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 12, 2016
“Magnetic” Medicines

Various “magnetic” balms, oils, and other products were common in America, especially during the nineteenth century and before the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (effective January 1907). I have already discussed Prof. Long’s Magnetic Comb, which allegedly stopped falling hair and cured headaches (Nickell 2016). There were numerous magnetic gadgets, but here we look at “magnetic” medicines.

Poem: Ark Encounter

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 4, 2016
Poem: Ark Encounter

It is, in a word, breathtaking—the replica of an imagined Noah’s Ark built by creationists in northern Kentucky. My wife Diana and I visited the site, called Ark Encounter, August 3, 2016. It prompted the accompanying photo (showing her) and poem (another in the style I call improvisational rhyming).

Dimming the Paulding Light

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 28, 2016

Having investigated on site in North Carolina the famous Brown Mountain Lights mystery (Nickell 2016), I have learned more about another example of the ghost lights phenomenon (of which there are several): The Paulding Light of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Another Whopper

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 23, 2016
Another Whopper

In an earlier article, I detailed my examination—conducted for National Geographic Wild’s TV show, Monster Fish—of an old photograph of a humongous catfish. It proved not to be a fake photo, but rather a genuine photo of a faked scene. (See the Jan./Feb. 2015 Skeptical Inquirer for my “Monster Catfish,” pp. 20–22.). Here is another whopper, from a vintage postcard I am just adding to my collection. Take a look.

Fink’s Magic Oil: Secret of the Magic

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 14, 2016
Fink’s Magic Oil: Secret of the Magic

Fink’s Magic Oil was a supposed cure for rheumatism, cholera, and numerous other ills, developed by Ohioan Henry George Greatrake Fink, an erstwhile Methodist minister who moved to Pittsburgh to reap a worldly fortune in the patent medicine business.

“Magnetic” Comb Cured Headache?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 8, 2016
“Magnetic” Comb Cured Headache?

Wow! A “Prof. Long’s Magnetic Comb” not only removed dandruff and stopped falling hair but cured headaches—or so it was claimed at the turn of the last century (see photo—author’s collection).

“Captain Fantastic”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 31, 2016

Captain Fantastic is a unique movie without a boring moment. It tells the story of a family of back-to-nature fanatics—not from the political right (which would only have been scary), but from the Sixties left. They have foregone Christmas but added “Noam Chomsky Day,” which apparently can be held whenever father Ben (Viggo Mortensen) deems appropriate.

The School Auditorium Ghost

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 24, 2016

Sometimes a ghostbusting skeptic just gets lucky. So it was, following my luncheon speech at a CFI conference, when an attendee told me she knew the true facts behind the “haunting” of Pembroke Middle School in Corfu, N.Y.

New Tests: Dawson Was Piltdown Forger

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 18, 2016

After an eight-year examination, a team of researchers has concluded that the infamous Piltdown Skull hoax—consisting of human skull fragments together with an ape-like jaw having two teeth—was the work of a single forger: the “discoverer” and original suspect Charles Dawson. The study clears other suspects touted over the years, including the French priest Teilhard de Chardin, English paleontologist Arthur Smith Woodward, Scottish anatomist Arthur Keith, and, among others, famed Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle.

Available in the Print Edition. Subscribe Here.

Ley Lines: Investigating on Site

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.5, September/October 2016

Investigative Files

Otherwordly: Mysteries of Newfoundland and Labrador

Skeptical Briefs Volume 26.1, Spring 2016

Investigative Files
Otherwordly: Mysteries of Newfoundland and Labrador

According to the tale, if one were driving at night from Deer Lake toward the city of Corner Brook one might encounter “a woman in a white dress.”

In the Stars? Personal Investigations of Astrology

Skeptical Briefs Volume 25.4, Winter 2015/16

Investigative Files
In the Stars? Personal Investigations of Astrology

Something wonderful happened to me in 2003 that I never saw coming. Had it been foreseen by stargazers in their forecasts for me in that year?

Dr. Hartshorn’s Medicines

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 10, 2016
Dr. Hartshorn’s Medicines

Dr. Edward Hartshorn (1817–1887) was a physician who marketed various cure-alls during the patent medicine era.

 

The Dreamed Visit

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 28, 2016
The Dreamed Visit




This is about the reality of an illusional experience. Philosopher Paul Kurtz was founder of The Center for Inquiry. (Written in the style I’ve developed, called Improvisational Rhyming, the poem is probably more effective read aloud.)

La búsqueda de evidencia negativa

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.6, November/December 2015

Online Extra

A todo el mundo le gustan los misterios. Resuelva uno en el campo científico y enseguida vendrán los elogios.

W.T. Rawleigh Company

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 22, 2016
W.T. Rawleigh Company

William Thomas “Will” Rawleigh (1870–1951) was an American medicine peddler, who eventually parlayed his early success (beginning in 1889) into an international manufacturing enterprise.

 

The Memory Keeper

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 13, 2016
The Memory Keeper

This is a poem dedicated to Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who died July 2, 2016. His numerous books included Night, based on his memories of imprisonment at the concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

 

“The Conjuring 2”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 5, 2016

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On the heels of the 2013 The Conjuring comes another James Wan-directed horror film, The Conjuring 2, but it is a bit of a stretch to call it a sequel. It does not continue the case of the Perron family hysterics in Rhode Island, but rather presents another one, that of the Enfield Poltergeist in England, 1977 to 1979.

 

 

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