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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.

Murder in the U.S. Capitol and the Ghost of William P. Taulbee

Skeptical Briefs Volume 25.3, Fall 2015

Investigative Files
Murder in the U.S. Capitol and the Ghost of William P. Taulbee

After my centennial article on Taulbee’s assassination appeared (Nickell 1990), I learned of a follow-up claim: Taulbee’s unrequited ghost haunts the steps that are still marked with his blood.

RIDDLEculous XI

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 23, 2016

More funny riddles from a skeptical view.

Vancouver’s “Haunted” Old Spaghetti Factory

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 17, 2016
Vancouver’s “Haunted” Old Spaghetti Factory

The Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown—Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood—is reportedly a very haunted place, but you couldn’t prove it by me (see photo). The popular eatery, which opened in 1970 in a former grocery wholesalers at 53 Water Street, houses an old trolley car and assorted other artifacts and antiques. It is also, reportedly, home to no fewer than four ghosts, one that of the old tram conductor himself.

 

Sasquatch! Look Out!

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 8, 2016
Sasquatch! Look Out!

After speaking at the Imagine No Religion Conference in Vancouver (May 20–22, 2016), I was able to spend some time investigating local mysteries. Notably, private investigator Dale Jackaman and I (see Figure 1) went into an area of prime Sasquatch country—the area around Chilliwack, Harrison Hot Springs, and Hope—where the fabled beast has long been reported, and in the future I intend to relate my investigations of specific historical sightings there.

 

“Yeti or Not”—the Bear Facts

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 3, 2016

Tipped by a Huffington Post journalist, I watched Animal Planet’s Yeti or Not world premier, Sunday, May 29, 2016—part of a “Monster Week” lineup.

 

Searching for the Yowie, the Down Under Bigfoot

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.2, March/April 2016

Investigative Files
Searching for the Yowie, the Down Under Bigfoot

The Yowie is becoming increasingly standardized in its appearance. It is sometimes said that it resembles “depictions of the American Bigfoot” or that “America’s Bigfoot would be an identical type”

“The Man Who Knew Infinity”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
May 20, 2016

Buffeted by forces ranging from poverty to romantic estrangement, academic strictures, outright racism, and profound illness, math visionary Srinivasa Ramanujan lived a brief life that has yielded a rich study in perseverance and the triumph of genius. It is titled, The Man Who Knew Infinity.

Dr. Kennedy’s Medical Discovery

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
May 17, 2016
Dr. Kennedy’s Medical Discovery

The embossment, “Dr. Kennedy’s / Medical Discovery / Roxbury, Mass.”—on a bottle in my collection (see photo)—was first used in 1846 by Dr. Donald Kennedy. Or perhaps we should place the “Dr.” in quotation marks, since all of his early advertisements—including one from 1854—omit the title, as in “Manufactured by Donald Kennedy.”

Sir Harry Kroto

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
May 6, 2016

English chemist, Nobel laureate, humanist, CSI Fellow, and all-around admirable human being, Sir Harold Kroto has left those of us who knew him saddened over his death, April 30, 2016, of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Dr. Hawks Universal Stimulant

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
May 4, 2016
Dr. Hawks Universal Stimulant

The bottle shown here is embossed “DR. HAWKS [sic] UNIVERSAL STIMULANT”; the product was advertised at least as early as 1861.

The Cascading House

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 25, 2016
The Cascading House

My three previous blogs—including the last one, “Dispelling a Ghost at Fallingwater,” the stunning accomplishment of architect Frank Lloyd Wright—are the fruits of a long weekend with my wife Diana to Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, celebrating our 2016 anniversary. Here is one more, a poem about Fallingwater written in a style I have developed and call improvisational rhyming. (It is perhaps most effective when read aloud.)

Dispelling a Ghost at Fallingwater

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 22, 2016
Dispelling a Ghost at Fallingwater

Is Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater—built 1936–1939 as the home of Edgar J. Kaufmann, president of Kaufmann’s Department Stores—actually haunted, perhaps by the ghost of his wife Liliane?

Available in the Print Edition. Subscribe Here.

Creators of the Paranormal

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.3, May/June 2016

Feature

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.

Available in the Print Edition. Subscribe Here.

Gallows Ghosts? Mystery at Brisbane’s Tower Mill

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.3, May/June 2016

Investigative Files

The Brown Mountain Lights: Solved! (Again!)

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 40.1, January/February 2016

Investigative Files
The Brown Mountain Lights: Solved! (Again!)

As with UFOs, some lights will remain unidentified—not because they are inherently mysterious but because they are just eyewitness reports or snapshots with so many variable factors.

Bigfoot in the Laurel Highlands?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 11, 2016
Bigfoot in the Laurel Highlands?

On a 3-day trip (for our April 1, 2016 anniversary), my wife Diana and I stayed in a small log cabin in southwestern Pennsylvania. This was in the rugged Laurel Highlands—the area of Farmington (with its “haunted” historic Stone House Inn) and Bear Run (the stream where America’s most famous house, Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, is cantilevered over its waterfall).

Ghosts at Stone House Inn?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 8, 2016

To celebrate our tenth anniversary (or our fiftieth, if you know our story), my wife Diana and I made a three-day trip to visit American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater. We stayed in a small log cabin in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands (keeping a sharp lookout as we drove the back roads, since this is a habitat for the Bigfoot Bear—see next blog).  

Kendall’s Spavin Cure

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 1, 2016

Benjamin J. Kendall marketed his Spavin Cure in Vermont in 1876, intended as a liniment for medical and veterinary use.

Historic “Gold Cure” for Addiction

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 18, 2016
Historic “Gold Cure” for Addiction

In the latter nineteenth century, as temperance and prohibitionist sentiment flourished, quack cures for alcoholism began to be offered, beginning with the Keeley Double Gold Cure in 1890.

Holey Shroud Theory

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 14, 2016
Holey Shroud Theory
Here’s a limerick I wrote about the Turin Shroud (at approximately the time I was writing my book, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin):

“Newsweek”: In Flagrante

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 11, 2016

The once-respectable Newsweek has been caught in flagrante. Between the covers, so to speak, we find an editor not only shamelessly touting a notorious Brazilian “healer” but also promoting one of his arch shills, a “psychic” who had a lengthy earlier career as a pornography queen.

RIDDLEculous X

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 29, 2016
RIDDLEculous X

Reverend Peter Popoff: Still Unrepentant

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 23, 2016

I chanced upon an infomercial for the notorious Peter Popoff, televangelist and roving healer, on TLC (January 21, 2016), featuring a “Toronto Miracle Crusade.” For me it was dèjá vu once again.

Death of Cynthia Dwyer

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 18, 2016

Cynthia Dwyer is a name you probably will not recognize, but it caught my attention when it appeared in a Buffalo News headline, February 16, 2016, announcing her death at 84. She had been the “53rd hostage” from the Iranian crisis that began in 1979. She was also, subsequently, the editor of my first book, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin.

Poem: “The Bigfoot Bear”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 10, 2016
Poem: “The Bigfoot Bear”

For the past few years, I have been intensely studying what I call “The Bigfoot Bear”—that is, any bear, especially if standing and even walking upright, that may be mistaken for a Bigfoot. Here I offer a poem on that subject (rather than an investigative report). It is written in a style I have developed, that I call improvisational rhyming. It is perhaps best appreciated when read aloud.

Rev. Downs’ Elixir

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 5, 2016
Rev. Downs’ Elixir

Shown in the accompanying photograph, this 12-paneled aqua bottle (hand blown in a two-piece mold and measuring about 5 38’’ tall by  1 1316’’ diameter) is embossed “REV. N. H. DOWNS’ / VEGETABLE / BALSAMIC / ELIXIR.”

Poltergeist Scribbler: The Bizarre Case of Matthew Manning

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.6, November/December 2015

Investigative Files
Poltergeist Scribbler: The Bizarre Case of Matthew Manning

What has been called “one of the most extraordinary outbreaks of poltergeist phenomena” of the twentieth century began with an English schoolboy, aged eleven and a half years, Matthew Manning.

Solving the 1932 Bladenboro Fire-poltergeist Case

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 26, 2016

In 1932, several mysterious fires erupted in a house on Elm Street in the small town of Bladenboro, North Carolina. Police, fire experts, and others were baffled by the outbreaks that occurred over three days in the home of elderly residents Council H. Williamson and his wife Lydia. Beginning on January 30 with a burning curtain and window shade in the dining room, and continuing the next day with a set of bedclothes, a stack of papers stored in a closet, and a hanging pair of trousers, the rash of twenty mysterious fires ended about noon on February 1. Soon, however, the fiery case went cold and, according to an article by AtlasObscura.com, remains unsolved to this day (Tomlin 2016). But that has now changed.

The Bigfoot Obsession

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 25, 2016

With Joe Gisondi’s Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot (2016), the subtitle says it all. Gisondi, an outsider, traveled with Bigfooters, those credulous folk motivated to search for the fabled creature despite zero scientific evidence for its existence. At times he sounds like a skeptic: “How could creatures presumed to be so large remain so elusive?” (77). At other times he seems a believer: “. . . I felt something watching me” (37). He is, in fact, a journalist trying to be objective and show both sides: “As always I straddle the world of what could be and what is” (42).

See “The Real ‘X-Files’”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 11, 2016

By now you have perhaps learned of the online video by Vice Media, The Real “X-Files?” in which I star as “the real-life Scully” (as in Agent Dana Scully from the popular TV series and film).

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