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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.

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.

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.

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