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Skeptical Briefs

The Skeptical Briefs newsletter is only available to Associate Members of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. It is published four times per year (in March, June, September, and December), and includes articles; news from skeptical groups across the country and around the world; and regular columnists Joe Nickell ("Investigative Files"), Lewis Jones ("Inklings"), Victor Stenger ("Reality Check"), Henry Huber ("Group News"); and Benjamin Radford ("Briefs Briefs"). It also includes a Hidden Messages puzzle in each issue by New Mexico physicist and skeptic David E. Thomas.

The Gore Orphanage Hauntings

by Josh Hunt
Volume 22.3, Fall 2012

According to legend, a place called Gore Orphanage housed a hundred or so orphans. One night, either by malicious intent or by a tragic accident, the orphanage burned to the ground. I was told this story when I was a kid growing up in Ohio and thought that it was time to find out if there was any truth to it.

The Wisdom of Not Understanding

The Wisdom of Not Understanding

by Ben Radford
Volume 22.3, Fall 2012

When people don’t understand something they are told, there are three possibilities or root causes.

A Fiery Death: Murder or ‘Spontaneous Combustion’?

A Fiery Death: Murder or ‘Spontaneous Combustion’?

by Joe Nickell
Volume 22.3, Fall 2012

Investigative Files

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.

Wisdom from the Origins Conference

by Noah Nez
Volume 22.3, Fall 2012

Native Skeptic

A quick search on the background of some of the speakers and sponsors reveals much of the same brand of pseudoscience that is found permeating through the entire institute, its offered programs, and the Wisdoms of the Origins conference.

Ghosts at a Shaker Village

Ghosts at a Shaker Village

by Joe Nickell
Volume 22.2, Summer 2012

Investigative Files

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.

Ask an Astrobiologist

by David Morrison
Volume 22.2, Summer 2012

Ask an Astrobiologist

What is the history behind Astrobiology? How could we find life on other planets? Why is the U.S. government building bunkers to house the elite in case of a global disaster? Are we headed for another ice age?

Geronimo’s Hair

by Noah Nez
Volume 22.2, Summer 2012

Native Skeptic

While there might be some variability in the details regarding the reasons for long hair from tribe to tribe, there is one major component that has remained consistent: long hair has never been about aesthetics but instead is a religious concern.

Conspiracy Theorist Claims NASA Picnic Photos Were Faked

by J. Goodbody
Volume 22.1, Spring 2012

Humor

Citing irregularities in photographs posted on the About Us page on the official NASA website, Northern Virginia resident Brian Williams is calling the space agency’s employee and family picnic, allegedly held this last summer, a complete hoax.

Montauk Monster and the Raccoon Body Farm

Montauk Monster and the Raccoon Body Farm

by Joe Nickell
Volume 22.1, Spring 2012

Investigative Files

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.

Skinwalkers

by Noah Nez
Volume 22.1, Spring 2012

Native Skeptic

There is little documented information about the details of “witchcraft” among the Najavo—or Diné, as they call themselves. What is relatively well known is their term “Skinwalker,” or “yee naaldlooshii,” which means, “with it, he goes on all fours.” This is a reference to the special ability to transform into a four-legged animal.

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