Time again to gossip over the back fence about what all the skeptics are doing. I’d like to thank those of you who contacted me directly on a number of issues. For instance, I heard from a skeptic in Baltimore who is sending material to the Rush Limbaugh radio show, to correct an inaccurate report about rocket technology. I also got several CompuServe notes from a doctor in South Carolina who was hunting for skeptical computer bulletin boards. I told him of the ones I knew in Georgia and D.C., but if you know of any BBSs in South Carolina, please tell me, and I’ll pass them along).
In addition, Charles V. Moore of Alvin, Texas, sent me an interesting item from the Religion page of the July 6 Alvin Journal, in which the Rev. Don Willis recounts a story “from a most reliable source.” It seems that a couple of local residents were driving to the high school stadium for the Alvin March for Jesus when they stopped to give a ride to an elderly man. As they drove along, their passenger said, “The trumpet of the Lord is to His lips.” They turned to the back seat, no doubt to inquire, “Huh?” ... and he had vanished! Was this ... an ANGEL?! Seems to me that if he were, he would have been marching for Jesus, instead of trying to bum a ride. Still, angels are swarming like crickets these days. You can’t turn on the TV or go to a bookstore or gift shop without confronting them. The movies inform us that they're even in the outfield at Major League baseball games, although at this writing, they're the only thing out there.
Moore suggests that if the car’s occupants had been Catholic, their back seat would've been declared a shrine by now. But I suspect that since they're Baptists and, like me, live in a small Texas town, the back seat will just end up as a porch swing.
Speaking of miracles, REALL (the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land) is excited to announce that Illinois now has an official miracle, and I’m not referring to the Democrats deciding to hold their convention in Chicago again. No, it’s a genuine weeping statue of Mary at the St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cicero! REALL’s David Bloomberg notes that the only attempt to authenticate its genuineness came from Bishop Basil, who gave it a “cursory physical exam” (he must've studied medicine under space aliens) and performed an exorcism to make sure it wasn’t just crocodile tears from Satan. Bloomberg questions why neither the local media, who covered the story, nor any of the followers who have flocked to see the miracle have demanded any more testing than that. Hey, would a guy named Basil lie to you?
REALL’s Martin Kottmeyer has done some excellent work tracking down the roots of some of our more fanciful UFO stories. (See Kottmeyer’s article in this issue.) He discovered some startling similarities between an alien “nasal probe” illustration in John Mack’s new book Abduction and a device rammed up Arnold Schwarzenegger’s schnozz in Total Recall (so “up your nose!” Dr. Mack!). He also noticed that Betty Hill’s description of her alien abductors’ small features and wraparound eyes closely matches the look of aliens who appeared on an “Outer Limits” episode broadcast just 12 days before her first hypnosis session in 1964 ... yet when Betty first began dreaming of aliens, long before the “Outer Limits” episode aired, she described them as having “Jimmy Durante noses.” Perhaps she fell asleep during the Kraft Music Hall. I guess we should be glad she didn’t watch the late movie, or else they'd all have Bette Davis eyes.
Another group operating from a smaller base but doing very important work is the Indian Skeptics. Not only does it have its hands full investigating the claims of various yogis, but it is also involved in efforts to dismantle the caste system and free women from second-class citizenship. Its magazine, Indian Skeptic, is in English (mostly) and is quite interesting. U.S. subscriptions are just $12 a year (address: 10 Chettipalayam Road, Podanur 641 023, Tamilnadu, India). And they need bucks so badly, they accept American checks ... even mine!
I’ll sign off with a report from my group, the North Texas Skeptics. Last week, we sponsored a free lecture by Ole Anthony, a local minister who runs a homeless shelter and acts as a televangelist watchdog. You might remember how he helped with ABC’s “20/20” exposé of the Revs. Robert Tilton, W. V. Grant, and Larry Lea (all from Dallas—we're so proud!).
Ole’s latest media splash came a couple of weeks ago, when he worked with KDFW-TV News in Dallas to expose a fund-raising mailer from W. V. Grant, who can apparently stretch the truth almost as far as he can stretch a bad leg. The mailer allegedly (Ha! Take that, you lawyers!) included a phony mock-up of the front page of the Dallas Morning News, reputedly showing the Rev. Grant standing, downcast, amid some rubble and appealing for donations to repair the damage his house purportedly suffered during the recent devastating tornado that wiped much of the town of Lancaster off the map.
Problem is, the Rev. Grant wasn’t standing in front of his demolished house. His house is an alleged $840,000 mansion in DeSoto, miles away from the nearest serious tornado damage. It’s in fine condition, I hear.
So far, we haven't had a very good explanation from the Rev. Grant as to why donations to tornado victims should be sent to him. So I’ll suggest one: he can tell people, “God was probably aiming that tornado at me, and He just missed.” That I could believe.