Old English Black Oil Liniment

November 22, 2016

“Black Oil” is an old English name for a horse liniment. It eventually came to be sold in America as “a never failing Remedy for Man and Beast.”

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Mother Gray’s Sweet Powders

November 18, 2016

LeRoy, New York, has many claims to fame—apart from the mysterious twitching outbreak I investigated for Skeptical Inquirer in 2012. It was the birthplace of Jell-O in 1897 (the museum is well worth seeing) as well as something called Mother Gray’s Sweet Powders for Children, among other products.

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“Miraculous” Infant Jesus of Prague

November 07, 2016

The Infant Jesus of Prague is a small (18.5 inches tall) wax-covered wood statue of the child Jesus in a church in Prague, Czech Republic. Many of the faithful believe it to have magical powers.

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October 26, 2016

More funny riddles from a skeptical view.

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‘Harmless’ Homeopathy Horror?

October 20, 2016

Skeptics often dramatize the uselessness of homeopathic remedies by taking large doses to prove their point. That may be unwise in light of a recent FDA warning.

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“Magnetic” Medicines

October 12, 2016

Various “magnetic” balms, oils, and other products were common in America, especially during the nineteenth century and before the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (effective January 1907). I have already discussed Prof. Long’s Magnetic Comb, which allegedly stopped falling hair and cured headaches (Nickell 2016). There were numerous magnetic gadgets, but here we look at “magnetic” medicines.

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Poem: Ark Encounter

October 04, 2016

It is, in a word, breathtaking—the replica of an imagined Noah’s Ark built by creationists in northern Kentucky. My wife Diana and I visited the site, called Ark Encounter, August 3, 2016. It prompted the accompanying photo (showing her) and poem (another in the style I call improvisational rhyming).

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Dimming the Paulding Light

September 28, 2016

Having investigated on site in North Carolina the famous Brown Mountain Lights mystery (Nickell 2016), I have learned more about another example of the ghost lights phenomenon (of which there are several): The Paulding Light of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Another Whopper

September 23, 2016

In an earlier article, I detailed my examination—conducted for National Geographic Wild’s TV show, Monster Fish—of an old photograph of a humongous catfish. It proved not to be a fake photo, but rather a genuine photo of a faked scene. (See the Jan./Feb. 2015 Skeptical Inquirer for my “Monster Catfish,” pp. 20–22.). Here is another whopper, from a vintage postcard I am just adding to my collection. Take a look.

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Fink’s Magic Oil: Secret of the Magic

September 14, 2016

Fink’s Magic Oil was a supposed cure for rheumatism, cholera, and numerous other ills, developed by Ohioan Henry George Greatrake Fink, an erstwhile Methodist minister who moved to Pittsburgh to reap a worldly fortune in the patent medicine business.

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