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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.

The New Pope Saints

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.2, March/April 2015

Investigative Files

On April 27, 2014, two former popes—John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli, 1881–1963) and John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla, 1920–2005)—were made saints of the Roman Catholic Church. But how are saints created?

Enfield Haunting: Guy Playfair not a Fair-playing Guy

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
May 7, 2015

I don’t know if Guy Lyon Playfair has ever been scared by his own shadow, but he is most assuredly a True Believer in some scary things that science can’t prove actually exist—poltergeists, for instance. Skeptics have been following Playfair for years—rather like trailing behind an elephant in a parade to clean up after it.

“Woman in Gold”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 28, 2015

Simply put, Woman in Gold is the story of Maria Altmann who—her family’s paintings having been stolen by the Nazis—seeks to reclaim a particularly famous one from the Austrian national art museum that “owns” it.

Fake Turin Shroud Deceives National Geographic Author

April 23, 2015
Fake Turin Shroud Deceives National Geographic Author

Science—and truth—have come under attack by an online article that bears the imprimatur of National Geographic.

The Wizardry of Oz

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 21, 2015
The Wizardry of Oz
 

Monster Catfish: Investigating a Whopper

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.1, January/February 2015

Investigative Files
Monster Catfish: Investigating a Whopper

There are different versions—folklore at work—regarding the origins of both the giant fish and the old photo. Some say the picture is genuine, while others insist that it is not.

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Monster Lookalikes: Reflections of a Paranatural Naturalist

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.3, May/June 2015

Investigative Files

Now a Second “Human Torch” Baby

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 13, 2015

A bizarre case has become even more bizarre as burns from alleged “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC)—inflicted on a baby boy from rural India in 2013—have now been followed by similar burns on his newly born brother!

“Miracle” of “Jesus” in Mud

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
April 9, 2015

Caused by heavy rain, a mudslide on a remote Colombian hillside has revealed an apparent image of a face many believe is that of Jesus. Appearing on Saturday, March 21 (a week and a half before Palm Sunday), the mud Christ drew the attention of media (ah) muckrakers who mostly treated it with amusement.

Poltergeist at Amityville?

Skeptical Briefs Volume 24.3, Fall 2014

Investigative Files

On December 18, 1975, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into a six-bedroom Dutch colonial home in Amityville, New York. But soon they were driven out, they claimed, by horrific supernatural forces. Ghosts? A poltergeist? Demons? Let’s take a look, as new claims continue to surface.

RIDDLEculous VII

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 26, 2015
More funny riddles with a science/critical-thinking angle.

St. Pat’s “Miracle,” 1697

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 16, 2015

On St. Patrick’s Day, 1697, a painting known as the “Irish Madonna of Hungary” began to weep tears and blood—a “miracle” that has remained unexplained, if not unexplainable, to this day more than three centuries later.

CNN’s “Finding Jesus”: Disingenuous Look at Turin “Shroud”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 6, 2015

The ongoing, six-part series Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery— which began on Sunday, March 1—represents CNN’s run-up to Easter. By a coincidence of a financial nature, the series co-appears with a book of the same title by religion writers/filmmakers, David Gibson and Michael McKinley. The first episode of the TV series (but curiously the last chapter of the book) was about the “Shroud” of Turin. Easter after Easter, this alleged burial cloth of Jesus is trotted out like a ghost story at Halloween, typically with the same shoddy standards.

New “Ghost” at Hampton’s Court

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
March 4, 2015
New “Ghost” at Hampton’s Court

At England's Hampton Court Palace, in Middlesex, “ghosts” are always welcome, whatever their true nature. Recently 12-year-old Holly Hampsheir captured a strange figure on her iPhone—as she and her cousin of the same age noticed the following day, while perusing their images. Was it the fabled ghost of the Grey Lady? asked the tabloid Daily Mail. Or was it something else? as I was asked by Alan Boyle of NBC News.

Epilepsy “Cures”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 24, 2015
Epilepsy “Cures”

New York City directories listed Henry Root, Patent Medicines, from as early as 1881 until 1913 or possibly later. Sometimes calling himself “Dr.” Root, he offered a “cure” for epilepsy—only one among many.

A Parisian Patent Medicine

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 18, 2015

Recently acquired for my collection of paranormal and pseudoscience artifacts is a rather curious bottle.

Pictures (For Diana)

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 12, 2015
Pictures (For Diana)
 

Science Slams “Supplements”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 10, 2015

Like the snake-oil products of yesteryear, which ran afoul of the 1907 Food and Drug Act, today’s “herbal dietary supplements” were dealt a severe blow in New York state when the attorney general ordered four major, national retailers to stop selling such store-brand products. Concluded the state’s top lawman, Eric T. Schneiderman: “Misbranding, contamination and false advertising are illegal. They also pose unacceptable risk to New York families—especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients.”

RIDDLEculous VI

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 3, 2015
More funny riddles with a science/critical-thinking angle.

Dr. Taft’s “Asthmalene”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 27, 2015

A product with the unique name “Asthmalene” was sold as an asthma “cure” by the Taft Brothers, physicians, who joined forces in 1868 and settled in Rochester, New York, where they formed a medicine company, Dr. Taft Bros.

Available in the Print Edition. Subscribe Here.

Era of the Flying Saucers

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 38.6, November/December 2014

Investigative Files

“Selma”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 21, 2015

My wife Diana and I celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday by seeing the movie Selma. It brought back many memories of our civil rights work in the sixties. She was at the iconic March on Washington, and I marched with Dr. King in Frankfort, Kentucky. I also picketed the Lexington, Kentucky, federal building during the Selma crisis (along with several friends, including famed agrarian writer Wendell Berry), and I became a community organizer in Georgia. In 1968, in Atlanta, wearing a black armband, I stood in a long line and walked past Dr. King’s open casket following his assassination.

Terrorism

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 14, 2015
Terrorism
 

Je Suis Charlie

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 12, 2015
Je Suis Charlie
(on the terroristic assassination of journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, Paris, 1-7-15)

In the Media: 2014 Activities of Joe Nickell

January 12, 2015
In the Media: 2014 Activities of Joe Nickell

In the middle of his fifth decade of investigating the world’s strangest mysteries, CSI’s Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell continued to address paranormal, historical, and forensic mysteries—both in new investigations and media appearances.

The Yukon’s Bigfoot Bears

Skeptical Briefs Volume 24.2, Summer 2014

Investigative Files

Despite a lack of convincing evidence for Bigfoot, belief persists, and Bigfoot buffs are active almost everywhere, including the sparsely populated Yukon.

“The Imitation Game”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 2, 2015

In case the name isn’t familiar, the central figure of The Imitation Game, Alan Turing, was a clandestine codebreaking hero of World War II. He went on to work at Britain’s National Physical Laboratory, where he created one of the first designs for the ACE, a stored-program computer, and he is now widely considered the father of the modern computer as well as a pioneer in artificial intelligence.

Haynes’ Arabian Balsam

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 19, 2014
Haynes’ Arabian Balsam

In patent-medicine parlance, the term balsam, originally describing an aromatic resin, came to apply generally to “an aromatic oily or resinous medicinal preparation, for healing wounds or soothing pain,” according to The Oxford English Dictionary (1971).

“Rosewater”—and Personal Anecdotes of Iran

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 8, 2014
“Rosewater”—and Personal Anecdotes of Iran

Based on the true story of an Iranian-born journalist named Bahari, Rosewater marks Jon Stewart's directorial debut. It is the comedian's stark drama of Bahari’s arrest for his courageous broadcast journalism. In 2009, Iranian president Ahmadinejad declared victory in his election hours before the polls had closed. In response Bahari bravely submitted camera footage to the BBC showing the unfolding street riots. After his arrest by Revolutionary Guard police, an interrogator identified as “Rosewater” tortured and interrogated him for 118 days. Rather than my adding to the many critiques of this film (I do give it a 3 on a 4-point scale), I thought I would instead share impressions of my own experiences in Iran in a contrastingly different time—some incidents showing the more favorable behaviors of many ordinary Iranians.

Seeing “The Theory of Everything”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 5, 2014
Seeing “The Theory of Everything”
This is not one of my Nickell-odeon reviews: Having seen this first-rate movie, I was first speechless, then moved to write the following poem.

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