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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Multipurpose “Florida Water”

June 01, 2017

“Florida Water”—popular through most of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth—was neither water nor a product of Florida. It had a surprising number of uses, medicinal and otherwise.

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“Globster” Mysteries

May 22, 2017

Cryptozoologists call them “globsters”—great decaying masses usually seen when they wash ashore somewhere. The unidentified carcasses are typically called “sea monsters”—until science determines their true identity. Such a creature—a 50-foot leviathan—appeared on an Indonesian island beach in early May 2017. The rotting corpse was first thought to be that of a giant squid (the “Kraken” of sea lore).

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“Mouth Elixir”: Bell-shaped Dr. Bell Bottle

May 11, 2017

This distinctive bell-shaped bottle (see photo) is embossed on its bottom, “DR. V. C. BELL’S MOUTH ELIXIR.” What on earth was that?

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Televangelist Hinn Investigated—Again

May 05, 2017

Benny Hinn—the televangelist who talks with God and knocks people down by merely pointing at them—is being investigated for fraud and tax evasion, following a raid executed by a search warrant on April 26, 2017. I am not surprised. He is full of tricks.

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“The Lost City of Z”: A Nickell-odeon Review

April 28, 2017

The Lost City of Z is the story of an alleged indigenous city in Brazil’s Amazon, its name given by British soldier, surveyor, and explorer Col. Percy Fawcett who sought to prove its reality. To understand Fawcett’s quest, we must see it in the context of such myths generally, which—pursued from the fifteenth century—helped lead to the development of archaeology.

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