“Baby Killer” Nostrums

November 20, 2017

Nothing could have seemed more harmless than the picture of a mother and her baby with the words, “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for Teething Children.” Trouble was, the nineteenth-century pacifying nostrum contained morphine!

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Bigshoot: A TV Misadventure with “Bigfoot”

November 14, 2017

As one of several mysteries for the currently airing series on the Science channel, Strange Evidence, CFI video expert Tom Flynn and I were asked to look at a creature videotaped on a deputy sheriff’s dashcam. It was recorded on the night of May 16, 2009, in northern Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Park.

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Ghosts at Nevada’s Pioneer Saloon

November 06, 2017

On a Friday night sojourn from the excellent CSI conference in Las Vegas (October 26-29, 2017), three of us visited the “haunted” century-old Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nevada—no doubt the most haunted site in the former mining town, population 229, not counting ghosts.

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Houdini’s Halloween Legacy

November 01, 2017

Halloween, the time of would-be goblins, is also celebrated by magicians and magic lovers as National Magic Day (part of National Magic Week, the last seven days in October). First called “Houdini Day,” it was initiated by the Society of American Magicians following the death of the great conjurer, escape artist, and nemesis of fake mediums, Harry Houdini, who died at age 52 on Halloween, 1926.

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St. Padre Pio’s Relics Tour U. S.

October 23, 2017

Relics of Padre Pio—the late, alleged stigmatic—attracted the credulous faithful during two tours of the United States in 2017. The show was apparently good for business everywhere.

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“Marshall”: A Nickell-odeon Review

October 17, 2017

If one views Marshall (2017) with the expectation that it will depict the lifetime of its subject—Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993), the civil rights stalwart—one may be surprised (as I was) but not disappointed.

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RIDDLEculous XV

October 10, 2017

More funny riddles from a skeptical view.

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Bigfoot Eyeshine: A Contradiction

September 28, 2017

The fabled North American man-beast, Bigfoot, continues to draw interest after two centuries of searching—despite the lack of a specimen and an utter absence of fossil evidence. Proponents continue to rely on such questioned evidence as photos and films, footprints, hair specimens, and the like.

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Sarsaparilla for Syphilis?

September 22, 2017

I recently acquired an old sarsaparilla bottle, its label stating that it was intended for medical treatment of such diseases as “chronic rheumatism,” "obstinate cutaneous eruptions,” and “syphilitic conditions.” It was to be used orally, not topically. Yes, this is the same sarsaparilla long used as an herbal tea and tonic that evolved into a health drink before finally becoming a soda pop similar to root beer (Nickell 2011).

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Vexed by “Vaxxed”

September 13, 2017

I am long familiar with the anti-vaccination “movement” (a conspiracy-theory cult based on a hoax), but it nevertheless came home to me recently. Literally. A black bus with the word Vaxxed in 4-foot-high letters parked a stone’s throw from CFI headquarters in Amherst, NY. (No, I didn’t throw a stone.)

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