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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.

Ghosts at a Shaker Village

Skeptical Briefs Volume 22.2, Summer 2012

Investigative Files
Ghosts at a Shaker Village

In 1774 a “visionary” named Ann Lee—as charismatic as she was uneducated—sailed from Manchester, England, to New York to spread her new faith. In time “Mother Ann’s” United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming would found nineteen utopian communal villages.

Biblical Revisionism

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 17, 2012

The following is from The Bible According to the Most Modern Apologists for Religion—an as yet unpublished text.

Celebrating Milbourne Christopher

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
December 6, 2012

My good friend William V. Rauscher—magician, Episcopal priest, psychical researcher, and author—has produced yet another excellent book—a long-overdue tribute to American magician Milbourne Christopher. I especially welcome it, because Christopher was one of the greatest influences on my early career as a magician turned paranormal investigator.

“Lincoln” (A Nickell-odeon Review)

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 26, 2012

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a masterful recreation of the Civil War president and the efforts that led to the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ratified December 6, 1865), abolishing slavery.

Bell Witch Cave

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 21, 2012
Bell Witch Cave

As a sidelight to the excellent 2012 CSIcon event in Nashville, I was able to make an excursion on October 27 to Tennessee’s “haunted” Bell Witch Cave with a favorite co-investigator, Vaughn Rees (who drove to the conference from his home in Ensenada, Mexico!).

Old Anti-Catholic Hoax Continues

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 14, 2012

Recently, I bought an intriguing book in an antique shop: Maria Monk: Secrets of the Black Nunnery Revealed. It was undated but was obviously a reprint of an older volume. Purportedly, in the 1830s, the author escaped from a Montreal convent where priests entered through a secret tunnel to have sexual relations with the defenseless nuns. If a child resulted, the infant was baptized, strangled, and thrown into a basement lime pit (Monk n.d., 130–31). Pregnant herself, Monk escaped to have her baby and pen the tell-all tale. Or so she claimed.

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Science and Art: Complementary Disciplines

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.5, September/October 2012

Article

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The ‘Murder’ of Vincent van Gogh

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.5, September/October 2012

Investigative Files

Remembering Paul Kurtz

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 8, 2012
Remembering Paul Kurtz

Here is my elegiac tribute to Paul Kurtz (1925–2012), the founder of the worldwide skeptics movement.

HORROR-SCOPE FOR SKEPTICS

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
November 6, 2012

This incorporates the very latest in astro-illogical forecasting by Nickell-o the Seer.

Montauk Monster and the Raccoon Body Farm

Skeptical Briefs Volume 22.1, Spring 2012

Investigative Files
Montauk Monster and the Raccoon Body Farm

In July 2008, the carcass of a creature soon dubbed the “Montauk Monster” allegedly washed ashore near Montauk, Long Island, New York. It sparked much speculation and controversy, with some suggesting it was a shell-less sea turtle, a dog or other canid, a sheep, or a rodent—or even a latex fake or possible mutation experiment from the nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

Neurologic Illness or Hysteria? A Mysterious Twitching Outbreak

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.4, July/August 2012

Article
Neurologic Illness or Hysteria? A Mysterious Twitching Outbreak

Six cases were reported, then twelve, then fifteen and counting as the story captured attention across the United States and beyond. I twice visited Le Roy on behalf of the Skeptical Inquirer, to talk with parents and others involved, visit relevant sites, and otherwise investigate this strange outbreak.

Skepcook: Grape Tomatoes and Basil Salad

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 23, 2012
Skepcook: Grape Tomatoes and Basil Salad

This healthy, delightful little salad was inspired by Italian pesto, which the Skepcook learned to make on a trip to Genoa, the home of pesto. (Thanks to Massimo Polidoro and the other great skeptics of CICAP, the Comitato Italiano per il Controllo elle Affermazioni sul Paranormale, for inviting me.)

Enfield Poltergeist

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.4, July/August 2012

Investigative Files
Enfield Poltergeist

In August 1977, a series of disturbances that were soon characterized as a case of poltergeist phenomena or even demonic possession began in Enfield, a northern suburb of London.

Visiting a “Miracle” Statue

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 17, 2012

On September 16, 2012, after years of hearing about it, I finally stood before the “miraculous” Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima, which travels worldwide to bring a supposedly supernaturally obtained message of world peace.

Rare Spiritualists Photo Discovered

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
October 11, 2012
Rare Spiritualists Photo Discovered

I often spend weekends searching area antique stores and malls for treasures for my paranormal and pseudoscience collection (a small amount of which is online at www.skeptiseum.org). So it was that I came across the old stereoscopic card pictured here. (Placed in an antique viewer called a stereoscope—one of which is included in my collection—such a double picture appears in 3-D.)

“The Master”  (A Nickell-odeon Review)

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 26, 2012

Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role, is a stunning, must-see movie.

Famous Alien Abduction in Pascagoula: Reinvestigating a Cold Case

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.3, May/June 2012

Special Report
Famous Alien Abduction in Pascagoula: Reinvestigating a Cold Case

Among reports of extraterrestrial encounters, the 1973 claim of two Mississippi men to have been taken aboard a flying saucer remains controversial. Was it a real encounter or a hoax? Or is that a false dichotomy?

Ghost Author? The Channeling of ‘Patience Worth’

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.3, May/June 2012

Investigative Files
Ghost Author? The Channeling of ‘Patience Worth’

Pearl Lenore (Pollard) Curran (1883–1937), wife of John H. Curran of St. Louis, began in 1913 to receive poems and novels, via Ouija board, from a seventeenth-century Puritan english woman named “Patience Worth.”

Trump Card

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 9, 2012
Trump Card

“The Science of Ghosts”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
September 4, 2012

I announce my latest book, The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead, from Prometheus Books. (It is the first of what I hope to make a series, the next being The Science of Miracles.)

To the Future

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 30, 2012

To my descendants in the twenty-second century:

I thought I would post this brief sketch of the time in which I live, which otherwise will seem quite unfamiliar, perhaps incomprehensible, to you so far in the future. I wanted you to hear things from me, rather than from recordings of what we now call “the media,” lest you suspect that they were just kidding.

“ParaNorman”  (A Nickell-odeon Review)

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 28, 2012
“ParaNorman”  (A Nickell-odeon Review)

The new animated movie, ParaNorman, is rated PG, meaning “Parental Guidance suggested.” However, I would recommend a different rating: RIP.

UFO Buzzes Balloonists!

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 15, 2012
UFO Buzzes Balloonists!

On Sunday, July 29, 2012, three intrepid balloonists went aloft over Genesee Country Village (one of the largest living history museums in the United States) located in Monroe County, New York. I should actually say Intrepid balloonists, because that was the name of the replica Civil War gas balloon the trio were dangling from.

Doomsday—Yet Again!

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
August 2, 2012
Doomsday—Yet Again!

As we approach the proclaimed end of the world—actually, just the end of the Mayan calendar, December 21—many credulous people are in distress. But I am reminded of a folk song (“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”), whose refrain asks sadly, “Oh when will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

Mermaid Body Found?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 24, 2012
Mermaid Body Found?

Has the body of an actual mermaid been discovered? Well, no, but that very idea was launched by an Animal Planet “documentary” that proved to be a crockumentary—in this case a fictional story offered in the realistic style of The Blair Witch Project (1999).

Chinese Ape-Men: In Science and Myth

Skeptical Briefs Volume 21.4, Winter 2011-2012

Investigative Files
Chinese Ape-Men: In Science and Myth

The term ape-man is used in two major ways. As CFI’s visiting scholar in China during October 2010, I encountered—so to speak—an example of each of these two types of ape man, which some believe are related. As we shall see, each has proved elusive in its own way.

High-Wire King Claims the Falls

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 18, 2012
High-Wire King Claims the Falls

During the night of June 15, 2012, I watched Nik Wallenda, of the famous Wallenda acrobatic family, become the only person ever to walk a high-wire across Niagara Falls. (Other funambulists, beginning with the Great Blondin in 1859, traversed the gorge a mile or so downstream.) Wallenda—a man of impressive daring and discipline—is a fascination to me, especially since I have acrophobia. (I don’t even like being this tall!)

Will ETs Invade During the Olympics?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
July 9, 2012

The extraterrestrials may have finally done it: zapped Nick Pope’s brain!

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (A Nickell-odeon Review)

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
June 29, 2012

Is nothing sacred? Ask that of the novelist (Seth Grahame-Smith) and the subsequent moviemakers behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. How else does one explain their cra$$ exploitation of the sixteenth president, who was martyred for emancipating the slaves and saving the Union at the cost of a bloody war? Bloody? Humor here, with fake blood by the barrelful. Ha, ha!

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