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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.

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Book of Seasons: An Elegy, for Paul Kurtz

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 37.1, January/February 2013

Paul Kurtz In Memoriam

Return of “Spontaneous Human Combustion”

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 21, 2013

Here we go again! In 2011 it was an elderly Irishman who allegedly perished by “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC). Now it is an elderly Oklahoman—according to the Sequoyah County sheriff—who supposedly died by SHC.

A Ni¢kell’s Worth

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 20, 2013

Some musings from one who is now well into his fifth decade as a skeptic, humanist, and paranormal investigator:

Shaker Digestive Cordial

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 14, 2013

My collection of pseudoscience and paranormal artifacts—online at http://www.skeptiseum.org—has received a new addition: a bottle embossed “Shaker Digestive Cordial/A.J. White New York.” It arrived as a gift from a thoughtful skeptic, Alan Harris of a La Cañada, California, who had queried me about it a couple of years ago. (Thanks Alan!)

“Dr.” McLean’s Nostrums

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 8, 2013
“Dr.” McLean’s Nostrums

While my wife Diana and I visited an aunt in Kentucky during the holidays, from the winter solstice to New Year’s, I paid a visit to Georgetown, where I saw—for the first time in 17 years—my old friend Jerome Redfearn, proprietor of Central Kentucky Antique Mall. As we talked and I browsed, looking for items for my Skeptiseum collection, something caught my eye—a quack medicine item of more than a century ago (pictured here). The price proved to be perfect: Jerome presented it to me as a gift!

A Fiery Death: Murder or ‘Spontaneous Combustion’?

Skeptical Briefs Volume 22.3, Fall 2012

Investigative Files
A Fiery Death: Murder or ‘Spontaneous Combustion’?

This is the story of a fiery death that became a cold case—a mystery unsolved since 1847. It begins with an elderly Frenchman, whose badly burned body suggested to authorities that it may have been set afire to conceal evidence of foul play.

Photographing Sasquatch

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
February 4, 2013
Photographing Sasquatch

Here is an unaltered photograph I made of a Sasquatch my wife and I encountered on December 22, 2012, in rural Pennsylvania. Take a good look: They don’t get much more real than this.

HORROR-SCOPE FOR SKEPTICS II

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 23, 2013

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

Personas: 1000 and Counting

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 17, 2013

As will likely be known by those who have visited my website, I have spent my life in a hands-on search for knowledge—part of it relevant to my career of “paranormal investigator,” but much more of it, I think, applicable to my being a “secular humanist.”

In the Media: 2012 Activities of Joe Nickell

January 16, 2013
In the Media: 2012 Activities of Joe Nickell

CSI’s Senior Research Fellow, Joe Nickell, continued his work investigating the world’s strangest mysteries.

Religabouts

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 14, 2013

On December 9, 2012, my wife Diana and I escorted an elderly friend to an annual Polish Wigilia—an event featuring the traditional meal that a Polish family would have on Christmas Eve, followed by the singing of Polish Christmas carols. It was a delight to immerse ourselves in this old tradition.

NRA: Answer or Problem?

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 7, 2013

Regarding the recent mass shooting at a Connecticut school, the NRA, at its press conference of December 21, 2012, equated problem mental states with such shootings involving assault-style weapons. Indeed, NRA head Wayne La Pierre brought his own problem mental states to the issue by suggesting that the solution was to place armed guards at all schools. Let me take this opportunity to make some additional suggestions—each in the La-La Pierre vein.

Top Ten Uses for Assault Weapons

Free Thinking (centerforinquiry.net)
January 2, 2013

In light of continued mass shootings using assault weapons, and the argument of some (including many espousing “humanist values”) that such weapons have no purpose other than mass killings, I have provided this helpful top-ten list of uses:

States of Mind: Some Perceived ET Encounters

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 36.6, November/December 2012

Investigative Files
States of Mind: Some Perceived ET Encounters

Together, as we shall see, these cases illustrate that UFOlogy continues its long tradition of mystery mongering and the implicit reliance on a logical fallacy called “arguing from ignorance”: “We don’t know what was seen in the sky; therefore, it must have been an extraterrestrial craft.”

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.)

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