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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Response to Fake News on Climate Change in “The Federalist”

September 06, 2017

“Prominent Debunker Shows Himself Gullible to Al Gore’s Unsupported Climate Shilling,” read the headline in The Federalist, August 29, 2017 (Gleason 2017a). Why, they were talking about moi!

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H. David Sox (1936–2016)

August 25, 2017

H. David Sox—a onetime advocate for the Shroud of Turin who was later persuaded it was a fake and went on to delve into other art forgeries—has died. He and I knew each other only slightly but respected each other’s work, and I am deeply saddened by his loss.

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“An Inconvenient Sequel”:  A Nickell-odeon Review

August 17, 2017

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006)—his powerful documentary on global warming—justly helped earn him the Nobel Peace Prize of 2007. Now comes his An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, an engrossing presentation of power-point slides and video footage that updates the dynamics of planetary weather change.

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Haunted Buffalo Asylum

August 10, 2017

Among Western New York’s allegedly most haunted sites stands the architecturally acclaimed H.H. Richardson complex, begun in 1871 and opened in 1880 as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane. Its two 185-foot towers rose from a four-story structure originally flanked on either side by five stepped wards, with its female wing being completed in 1895. Based on the humanitarian philosophy of Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, the asylum was intended to provide curative hospitalization for the mentally ill. Crowded by a surge in patients, its occupancy was eventually exceeded by the thousands. In 1927 half the grounds were lost to a college, and more were claimed by modern buildings in the late 1960s.

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Turin Shroud: “Blood” Still Fake

July 28, 2017

“New research,” reports the Catholic News Agency (July 14, 2017), indicates that the “Shroud of Turin Bears Blood of a Torture Victim.” Actually, it was the research that was tortuous: questionable science in the service of confirmation bias.

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Cartoon: Obamacare Repeal

July 21, 2017

Artwork by Joe Nickell.

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Eclectic Medicine

July 07, 2017

In nineteenth century America, a number of what today are called “alternative” medical practices—“magnetic healing” (hypnosis), homeopathy, and eclecticism, among others—vied with each other and with regular or “old school” medicine—i.e., allopathy, today’s science-based medicine.

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Barker’s Nerve and Bone Liniment

June 19, 2017

Barker’s Nerve and Bone Liniment was a proprietary medicine introduced by Thomas Barker in Philadelphia in 1859. It was intended for both man and beast.

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