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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.

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.

A Spiritualist Ghostbuster’s Crystal Skull

A Spiritualist Ghostbuster’s Crystal Skull

by Ben Radford
Volume 21.4, Winter 2011-2012

A Canadian spiritualist ghostbusting actor walks into a bar wearing New Age crystals and a crystal skull around his neck, goes up to the bartender, and orders a vodka. . . . No, this weird mashup is not the setup to a joke (certainly not a funny one) but instead more or less describes one of the strangest intersections of Hollywood, New Age paranormal belief, ghost hunting, and alcohol.

Chinese Ape-Men: In Science and Myth

Chinese Ape-Men: In Science and Myth

by Joe Nickell
Volume 21.4, Winter 2011-2012

Investigative Files

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.

Thunderbirds

Thunderbirds

by Noah Nez
Volume 21.4, Winter 2011-2012

Native Skeptic

Some attempt to correlate the various stories from different tribes of indigenous people into modern Thunderbird sightings. However, when one looks a little more critically at these legends, it is clear they serve a much different purpose.

Cryptozoology and Pseudoscience

Cryptozoology and Pseudoscience

by Sharon Hill
Volume 21.3, Fall 2011

When I was a kid, cryptozoology books repeatedly advocated the existence of creatures such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster using the same dramatic stories. At first, I was swayed by these stories, but eventually I got bored with them. Something was missing. Stories only got me so far. . .

Psychic Mary Occhino Doesn’t Know Best

by Ryan Shaffer
Volume 21.3, Fall 2011

Over the years, Occhino has claimed to assist in missing persons cases, talk to the dead, and peer into the futures of celebrity lives. This article delves into Occhino’s predictions and activities, revealing that while Occhino is short on claims, her claims are short on independent proof. . .

On a Wing and a Prayer: The Search for Guardian Angels

On a Wing and a Prayer: The Search for Guardian Angels

by Joe Nickell
Volume 21.3, Fall 2011

Investigative Files

Are these experiences really supernatural? Or are they only natural, the result of misperceptions and even misreporting? A look into the phenomenon of claimed guardian-angel encounters is illuminating.

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