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Skeptical Briefs

Skeptical Briefs is the quarterly newsletter of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. It is available by subscription. A subscription to Skeptical Briefs is independent of your subscription to the Skeptical Inquirer. 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 Spiritualist Ghostbuster’s Crystal Skull

A Spiritualist Ghostbuster’s Crystal Skull

by Benjamin 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.

Return of the Living Dead: The Final Chapter

by Paul DesOrmeaux
Volume 21.2, Summer 2011

Although most of us haven’t had the exhilarating and life-affirming ex­peri­ence of nearly dying, a lucky few have returned from being “living challenged” to report their near-death experiences (NDE).

The Doctor’s Ghostly Visitor: Tracking ‘The Girl in the Snow’

The Doctor’s Ghostly Visitor: Tracking ‘The Girl in the Snow’

by Joe Nickell
Volume 21.2, Summer 2011

Investigative Files

Although skeptics insist ghosts are unreal, there are many ghostly encounters that seem to present startling evidence to the contrary. One such incident is presented in the book The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales by Ruth Ann Musick.

Heralding the End of Discovery?

Heralding the End of Discovery?

by Julia Galef
Volume 21.2, Summer 2011

Book Review

A review of The End of Discovery by Russell Stannard.

The Atlanta Child Murders: Evidence vs. Psychics

The Atlanta Child Murders: Evidence vs. Psychics

by Joe Nickell
Volume 21.1, Spring 2011

Investigative Files

While television often offers pseudoscience and fantasy instead of lessons in critical thinking (consider shows like The Ghost Whisperer), there are noteworthy exceptions. One is Soledad O’Brien’s CNN special Atlanta Child Murders (2010).

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