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Skeptical Inquirer — Investigative Files

Investigative Files

Bigfoot at Mount Rainier?

Bigfoot at Mount Rainier?

by Joe Nickell
Volume 38.5, September/October 2014

Investigative Files

In October 2013, led by a professional guide, I visited Mount Rainier and its vicinity, the locale of numerous alleged sightings, track discoveries, and photographs of the elusive creature.

The ‘Miracles’ of Father Baker

The ‘Miracles’ of Father Baker

by Joe Nickell
Volume 38.4, July/August 2014

Investigative Files

Here we look at a few of the unusual incidents that some have called “miraculous,” although none has been accepted as such by the Catholic Church.

The ‘200 Demons’ House: A Skeptical Demonologist’s Report

The ‘200 Demons’ House: A Skeptical Demonologist’s Report

by Joe Nickell
Volume 38.3, May/June 2014

Investigative Files

Sparking an international media frenzy, a house in Gary, Indiana, was—according to two unnamed “clairvoyants”—besieged by over 200 demons.

The Conjuring: Ghosts? Poltergeist? Demons?

The Conjuring: Ghosts? Poltergeist? Demons?

by Joe Nickell
Volume 38.2, March/April 2014

Investigative Files

The 2013 scary movie The Conjuring was very loosely based on the story of Roger and Carolyn Perron and their five daughters who moved into a “haunted” Rhode Island farmhouse in January 1971. There, hysteria soon reigned, the flames of which were fanned by the infamous paranormal “investigators” Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The ‘Bell Witch’ Poltergeist

The ‘Bell Witch’ Poltergeist

by Joe Nickell
Volume 38.1, January/February 2014

Investigative Files

Called “America’s best-known poltergeist case,” Tennessee’s sensational “Bell Witch” affair of ca. 1817–1821 has gone unexplained, it is said, for two centuries.

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Detective: Uncovering the Mysteries of a Word

by Joe Nickell
Volume 37.6, November/December 2013

Investigative Files

Bigfoot Lookalikes: Tracking Hairy Man-Beasts

Bigfoot Lookalikes: Tracking Hairy Man-Beasts

by Joe Nickell
Volume 37.5, September/October 2013

Investigative Files

Over my years as a skeptical cryptozoologist, I have looked for real, natural lookalikes to explain various reported “monsters.” Are there animals that might be mistaken for Bigfoot?

Mind Over Metal

Mind Over Metal

by Joe Nickell
Volume 37.4, July/August 2013

Investigative Files

Can people move or alter physical objects simply by using a hidden power of the mind called psychokinesis? I have encountered many claims of such powers in the course of my work (since 1969) as a paranormal investigator.

Scotland Mysteries—Part II: Ghosts, Fairies, and Witches

Scotland Mysteries—Part II: Ghosts, Fairies, and Witches

by Joe Nickell
Volume 37.3, May/June 2013

Investigative Files

Joe Nickell continues his investigation of Scottish enigmas—based in part on his excursion following the 2012 skeptics QED conference in England, with intrepid skeptical investigator Hayley Stevens and her father Andy, who is a photographer and professional guide.

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Scotland Mysteries—Part I: The Silly Ness Monster

by Joe Nickell
Volume 37.2, March/April 2013

Investigative Files

Miracle Dirt of Chimayó

Miracle Dirt of Chimayó

by Joe Nickell
Volume 37.1, January/February 2013

Investigative Files

El Santuariò de Chimayó in New Mexico is a place of pilgrimages. Scores visit the little adobe church daily, while thousands walk miles to worship there on Good Friday. Many come seeking a cure for their afflictions, scooping from a small pit in the church floor a reddish soil that they rub on afflicted areas of their bodies or even sprinkle on their food or brew in tea.

States of Mind: Some Perceived ET Encounters

States of Mind: Some Perceived ET Encounters

by Joe Nickell
Volume 36.6, November/December 2012

Investigative Files

Together, as we shall see, these cases illustrate that UFOlogy continues its long tradition of mystery mongering and the implicit reliance on a logical fallacy called “arguing from ignorance”: “We don’t know what was seen in the sky; therefore, it must have been an extraterrestrial craft.”

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The ‘Murder’ of Vincent van Gogh

by Joe Nickell
Volume 36.5, September/October 2012

Investigative Files

Enfield Poltergeist

Enfield Poltergeist

by Joe Nickell
Volume 36.4, July/August 2012

Investigative Files

In August 1977, a series of disturbances that were soon characterized as a case of poltergeist phenomena or even demonic possession began in Enfield, a northern suburb of London.

Ghost Author? The Channeling of ‘Patience Worth’

Ghost Author? The Channeling of ‘Patience Worth’

by Joe Nickell
Volume 36.3, May/June 2012

Investigative Files

Pearl Lenore (Pollard) Curran (1883–1937), wife of John H. Curran of St. Louis, began in 1913 to receive poems and novels, via Ouija board, from a seventeenth-century Puritan english woman named “Patience Worth.”

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Views East and West

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Views East and West

by Joe Nickell
Volume 36.2, March/April 2012

Investigative Files

Perhaps no gulf between the East and the West is more significant than in theories and practices concerning medicine.

The Holy Mandylion: A Déjà-view

The Holy Mandylion: A Déjà-view

by Joe Nickell
Volume 36.1, January/February 2012

Investigative Files

It was like déjà-vu. In 2008, in a traveling exhibition called “Vatican Splendors,” I had seen the Holy Mandylion, also known as the Image of Edessa, which was once held to be the miraculous self-portrait of Christ. Now, in Genoa the following year, I was seeing another such image...

Psychic Connections: 
Investigating in Hungary

Psychic Connections: 
Investigating in Hungary

by Joe Nickell
Volume 35.6, November/December 2011

Investigative Files

While in Hungary from September 16–22, 2010—initially to participate in the fourteenth European Skeptics Congress (held in Budapest September 17–19)—I found time for some interesting investigations.

In Search of the Emerald Grail

In Search of the Emerald Grail

by Joe Nickell
Volume 35.5, September/October 2011

Investigative Files

Il Sacro Catino, “The Holy Basin,” is one of the most famous embodiments of the legendary “Holy Grail,” and I was able to study both it and its legend there in the fall of 2009, attempting to resolve some of the mysteries and controversies concerning it.

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The Séances of ‘Hellish Nell’: Solving the Unexplained

by Joe Nickell
Volume 35.4, July/August 2011

Investigative Files

The Case of the Miracle Oil

The Case of the Miracle Oil

by Joe Nickell
Volume 35.3, May/June 2011

Investigative Files

I was invited to a home in Northern California where myriad icons, statues, and other religious effigies were “miraculously streaming oil”.

Heaven’s Stenographer: The ‘Guided’ Hand of Vassula Ryden

Heaven’s Stenographer: The ‘Guided’ Hand of Vassula Ryden

by Joe Nickell
Volume 35.2, March/April 2011

Investigative Files

She claims to receive communications not only from her guardian angel, “Daniel,” but also from Jesus and even Yahweh himself, who guide her hand ...

‘Pop’ Culture: Patent Medicines Become Soda Drinks

‘Pop’ Culture: Patent Medicines Become Soda Drinks

by Joe Nickell
Volume 35.1, January/February 2011

Investigative Files

Mineral water, including naturally carbonated water, has long been promoted as a curative for various ailments.

The True Cross: Chaucer, Calvin, and the Relic Mongers

The True Cross: Chaucer, Calvin, and the Relic Mongers

by Joe Nickell
Volume 34.6, November/December 2010

Investigative Files

Calvin suggested that "if we were to collect all these pieces of the True Cross exhibited in various parts, they would form a whole ship's cargo."

Nostradamus: A New Look at an Old Seer

by Joe Nickell
Volume 34.5, September/October 2010

Investigative Files

As these examples show, one cannot claim that Nostradamus successfully predicted the future.

The Real ‘Ghost Whisperer’

by Joe Nickell
Volume 34.4, July / August 2010

Investigative Files

Although Winkowski distinguishes herself from both mediums and psychics (she claims no future-telling ability), she nevertheless shares much in common with...

John Edward: Spirit Huckster

by Joe Nickell
Volume 34.2, March / April 2010

Investigative Files

“Psychic medium” John Edward is reemerging from relative obscurity after his popular television show, Crossing Over with John Edward, ended in...

Belgian Miracles

Belgian Miracles

by Joe Nickell
Volume 34.1, January / February 2010

Investigative Files

A member of the European Union, Belgium is located between the Netherlands, Germany, and France. The country takes its name from its first recorded...

The Real Secrets of Fatima

by Joe Nickell
Volume 33.6, November / December 2009

Investigative Files

Among the intriguing mysteries of modern Catholocism are the "miracles" and "secrets" supposedly imparted by the Virgin Mary...

Pirates’ Ghosts: Aar-r-gh!

Pirates’ Ghosts: Aar-r-gh!

by Joe Nickell
Volume 33.5, September / October 2009

Investigative Files

They embody legend: romantic, swashbuckling, heroic figures--enchanting rogues whose ghosts eternally guard their buried...

Quest for the Giant Eel

Quest for the Giant Eel

by Joe Nickell
Volume 33.4, July / August 2009

Investigative Files

On a six-day trip to the Canadian province of Newfoundland in Labrador, I encountered some very large creatures...

Demons in Connecticut

Demons in Connecticut

by Joe Nickell
Volume 33.3, May / June 2009

Investigative Files

Take a house reeking of death, bring in a "demonologist," commission a professional writer to enhance the alleged events...

Searching for Vampire Graves

Searching for Vampire Graves

by Joe Nickell
Volume 33.2, March / April 2009

Investigative Files

It should not be surprising that there have been instances of reputed vampirism in the United States.

Return to Roswell

Return to Roswell

by Joe Nickell
Volume 33.1, January / February 2009

Investigative Files

The crash of a UFO near Roswell, New Mexico has been explained as something much more mundane: a balloon-borne device.

‘Hex’ Signs: Searching for the Magic

‘Hex’ Signs: Searching for the Magic

by Joe Nickell
Volume 32.6, November / December 2008

Investigative Files

My introduction to Pennsylvania Dutch "hex" signs came when I was a teenager running my own sign-painting business...

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Lighthouse Specters

by Joe Nickell
Volume 32.5, September / October 2008

Investigative Files

Remote sentinels on rocky shores, lighthouses have been called "America's castles." Certainly, they are places of scenic...

A Skeleton’s Tale: The Origins of Modern Spiritualism

A Skeleton’s Tale: The Origins of Modern Spiritualism

by Joe Nickell
Volume 32.4, July / August 2008

Investigative Files

At the home of a blacksmith named John Fox, strange rapping noises began to occur in the bedroom of Fox's young daughters...

Eucharistic ‘Miracles’

Eucharistic ‘Miracles’

by Joe Nickell
Volume 32.3, May / June 2008

Investigative Files

Did an incident that reportedly occurred in Turin, Italy, in 1453 offer unimpeachable evidence of the supernatural?

Entombed Alive!

Entombed Alive!

by Joe Nickell
Volume 32.2, March / April 2008

Investigative Files

It is a horrifying concept: being buried—or walled-up—alive. Fears of such possibilities were once rife.

Exciting UFOs Become Bland IFOs

Exciting UFOs Become Bland IFOs

by Joe Nickell
Volume 32.1, January / February 2008

Investigative Files

Most "flying saucers" are eventually identified as planes, balloons, meteors, or other objects, or even as illusions or hoaxes.

The Netherlands: Visions and Revisions

The Netherlands: Visions and Revisions

by Joe Nickell
Volume 31.6, November / December 2007

Investigative Files

Like people everywhere, the Dutch can also be superstitious--hence the conference theme, “the paranormal.”

‘John of God’: Healings by Entities?

‘John of God’: Healings by Entities?

by Joe Nickell
Volume 31.5, September / October 2007

Investigative Files

A Brazilian faith healer claims spirits take control of his body to enable him to perform surgeries without anesthesia.

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Peru’s Ancient Mysteries

by Joe Nickell
Volume 31.4, July / August 2007

Investigative Files

Peru, like all the Americas, was relatively recently settled. A succession of native cultures flourished in various regions...

Deciphering Da Vinci’s Real Codes

Deciphering Da Vinci’s Real Codes

by Joe Nickell
Volume 31.3, May / June 2007

Investigative Files

Leonardo da Vinci was something of a cryptographer, and much attention has been given his various "codes".

Mysterious Entities of the Pacific Northwest, Part II

by Joe Nickell
Volume 31.2, March / April 2007

Investigative Files

Some assume that UFOs are a modern invention, but since ancient times men have reported seeing strange things in the sky.

Mysterious Entities of the Pacific Northwest, Part I

by Joe Nickell
Volume 31.1, January / February 2007

Investigative Files

Mankind's imagination has always been excited by the possibilities of unknown regions.

Siege of ‘Little Green Men’: The 1955 Kelly, Kentucky, Incident

Siege of ‘Little Green Men’: The 1955 Kelly, Kentucky, Incident

by Joe Nickell
Volume 30.6, November / December 2006

Investigative Files

What were the humanoid-like creatures that terrified a family at their farmhouse?

Ghost Hunters

Ghost Hunters

by Joe Nickell
Volume 30.5, September / October 2006

Investigative Files

Belief that spirits of the dead exist and can appear to the living is both ancient and widespread.

Riddle of the Crystal Skulls

Riddle of the Crystal Skulls

by Joe Nickell
Volume 30.4, July / August 2006

Investigative Files

Around the world are found mysterious artifacts, crystal skulls that many New Age enthusiasts believe possess mystical powers.

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The ‘New’ Idolatry

by Joe Nickell
Volume 30.3, May / June 2006

Investigative Files

For a live, prime-time television program, I was asked to evaluate claims that a statue in Sacramento streamed tears of blood.

Argentina Mysteries

Argentina Mysteries

by Joe Nickell
Volume 30.2, March / April 2006

Investigative Files

While visiting Argentina, I was also able to take a look at some local mysteries with which I already had some familiarity.

Legends of Castles and Keeps

by Joe Nickell
Volume 29.6, November / December 2005

Investigative Files

During the Middle Ages, the castle arose as the private fortress of a monarch or nobleman.

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Italy’s ‘Miracle’ Relics

by Joe Nickell
Volume 29.5, September / October 2005

Investigative Files

In October 2004, after participating in the Fifth World Skeptics Congress in Abano Terme, Italy—near Padua, where Galileo...

The Case of the ‘Psychic Detectives’

by Joe Nickell
Volume 29.4, July / August 2005

Investigative Files

Although mainstream science has never validated any psychic ability, mediums continue to sell their fantasies to the public.

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Second Sight: The Phenomenon of Eyeless Vision

by Joe Nickell
Volume 29.3, May / June 2005

Investigative Files

Natasha Demkina claims a special ability: She can supposedly peer inside people's bodies, observe their organs, and diagnose...

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Intuition: The Case of the Unknown Daughter

by Joe Nickell
Volume 29.2, March / April 2005

Investigative Files

In the fall of 2003, my life was transformed by the news that I was the father of a beautiful, thirty-six-year-old daughter.

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Mystery Painting: ‘The Shadow of the Cross’

by Joe Nickell
Volume 29.1, January / February 2005

Investigative Files

An enigmatic painting is exhibited at the church of San Francisco de Asis (St. Francis of Assisi) at Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico

Rorschach Icons

Rorschach Icons

by Joe Nickell
Volume 28.6, November / December 2004

Investigative Files

People arrive in droves to view them: holy images that appear—many believe miraculously—in the most unlikely places.

The Stigmata of Lilian Bernas

The Stigmata of Lilian Bernas

by Joe Nickell
Volume 28.2, March / April 2004

Investigative Files

Canadian Lilian Bernas claims to exhibit-"in a supernatural state"-the wounds of Christ.

The Curse of Bodie: Legacy of Ghost-Town Ghosts?

The Curse of Bodie: Legacy of Ghost-Town Ghosts?

by Joe Nickell
Volume 27.6, November / December 2003

Investigative Files

Today, the ghost town of Bodie, California, is one of the most authentic abandoned gold- mining towns of the Old West.

Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster

Legend of the Lake Champlain Monster

by Joe Nickell
Volume 27.4, July / August 2003

Investigative Files

Termed "North America's Loch Ness Monster", "Champ," reportedly haunts the waters of its namesake.

Amityville: The Horror of It All

Amityville: The Horror of It All

by Joe Nickell
Volume 27.1, January / February 2003

Investigative Files

Although the original event proved to be a hoax, that fact does not seem well known to the general public.

Psychic Pets and Pet Psychics

Psychic Pets and Pet Psychics

by Joe Nickell
Volume 26.6, November / December 2002

Investigative Files

Many believe that the bond between man and animals, known from great antiquity, includes extrasensory perception (ESP).

Benny Hinn: Healer or Hypnotist?

Benny Hinn: Healer or Hypnotist?

by Joe Nickell
Volume 26.3, May / June 2002

Investigative Files

Hinn's selection process is-- perhaps not surprisingly--virutally identical to that employed by professional stage hypnotists

Voodoo in New Orleans

Voodoo in New Orleans

by Joe Nickell
Volume 26.1, January / February 2002

Investigative Files

New Orleans has been declared America's most haunted city, and tour guides-following the imaginative lead of Anne Rice...

John Edward: Hustling the Bereaved

John Edward: Hustling the Bereaved

by Joe Nickell
Volume 25.6, November / December 2001

Investigative Files

I was asked by television newsmagazine Dateline NBC to study Edward's act: was he really talking to the dead?

Tracking the Swamp Monsters

Tracking the Swamp Monsters

by Joe Nickell
Volume 25.4, July / August 2001

Investigative Files

Do mysterious and presumably endangered manlike creatures inhabit swamplands of the southern United States?

In Search of Fisher’s Ghost

In Search of Fisher’s Ghost

by Joe Nickell
Volume 25.3, May / June 2001

Investigative Files

Joe Nickell investigates Australia's most famous ghhost

Mysterious Australia

by Joe Nickell
Volume 25.2, March / April 2001

Investigative Files

Joe Nickell investigates paranormal claims in Australia

Exorcism! Driving Out the Nonsense

Exorcism! Driving Out the Nonsense

by Joe Nickell
Volume 25.1, January / February 2001

Investigative Files

Belief in demonic possession is getting a new propaganda boost.

The Flatwoods UFO Monster

The Flatwoods UFO Monster

by Joe Nickell
Volume 24.6, November / December 2000

Investigative Files

Joe Nickell investigates the Flatwoods UFO Monster of West Virginia

Haunted Inns: Tales of Spectral Guest

Haunted Inns: Tales of Spectral Guest

by Joe Nickell
Volume 24.5, September / October 2000

Investigative Files

Joe Nickell investigates the resident ghosts of various hotels

Aura Photography: A Candid Shot

Aura Photography: A Candid Shot

by Joe Nickell
Volume 24.3, May / June 2000

Investigative Files

At psychic fairs and other popular venues, "aura" photographic portraits are all the rage.

The Secrets of Oak Island

The Secrets of Oak Island

by Joe Nickell
Volume 24.2, March / April 2000

Investigative Files

Joe Nickell on Canada's best-known mystery

Miracles or Deception? The Pathetic Case of Audrey Santo

by Joe Nickell
Volume 23.5, September / October 1999

Investigative Files

As we near the millennium, the media have been pointing to "millennial madness" as the source for a wide range of divine claims.

Paranormal Lincoln

Paranormal Lincoln

by Joe Nickell
Volume 23.3, May / June 1999

Investigative Files

Guiding the United States through its greatest crisis has caused the shadow of the sixteenth president to loom still larger.

The Silver Lake Serpent: Inflated Monster or Inflated Tale?

The Silver Lake Serpent: Inflated Monster or Inflated Tale?

by Joe Nickell
Volume 23.2, March / April 1999

Investigative Files

On July 13, 1855, in Wyoming County, New York, two boys and five men were fishing from a boat on Silver Lake.

Helix to Heaven

Helix to Heaven

by Joe Nickell
Volume 22.6, November / December 1998

Investigative Files

The Staircase Stands but the Myth Falls

Fiery Tales That Spontaneously Destruct

Fiery Tales That Spontaneously Destruct

by Joe Nickell
Volume 22.2, March / April 1998

Investigative Files

Spontaneous human combustion cases continue to spark controversy, largely due to the efforts of nonscientist journalists.

A Case of ‘SHC’ Demystified

A Case of ‘SHC’ Demystified

by Joe Nickell
Volume 22.2, March / April 1998

Investigative Files

Sidebar to this month's article on spontaneous human combustion

Not-So-Spontaneous Human Combustion

Not-So-Spontaneous Human Combustion

by Joe Nickell
Volume 20.6, November / December 1996

Investigative Files

Like Count Dracula, the mythical specter of "spontaneous human combustion" (SHC) refuses to die.

Ghostly Photos

Ghostly Photos

by Joe Nickell
Volume 20.4, July / August 1996

Investigative Files

A rash of new “ghost” photographs is plaguing the Western world.

A Study of Fantasy Proneness in the Thirteen Cases of Alleged Encounters in John Mack’s Abduction

by Joe Nickell
Volume 20.3, May / June 1996

Investigative Files

Since Robert A. Baker's article appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer, a controversy has raged over his suggestion...

Miracle Photographs

Miracle Photographs

by Joe Nickell
Volume 20.2, March / April 1996

Investigative Files

October 27, 1995, the television program "Unsolved Mysteries" aired a segment that included investigative work by CSICOP.

“Alien Autopsy” Hoax

“Alien Autopsy” Hoax

by Joe Nickell
Volume 19.6, November / December 1995

Investigative Files

It keeps going and going and...