Those Haunted Rocking Chairs

August 14, 2015

Whether the product of imagination or other causes, ghostly phenomena are frequently reported as story elements that folklorists term motifs. Among common examples are the ghost at the bedside, phantom footsteps, a mysteriously moving door, an inexplicable light in a window, and so on (as I explain in my 1995 book Entities (pp. 44–53).

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“Mr. Holmes”: A Nickell-odeon Review

July 29, 2015

As Sherlockians know, one of the great detective’s earliest (pre-Watson) stories (“The Musgrave Ritual”) was set in Sussex, as were some later tales penned by his faithful sidekick (“The Sussex Vampire” for example). And in 1903 Holmes retired to Sussex Downs to enjoy life as a beekeeper, although mystery intervened: In “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane,” Holmes must solve a case of strange horror, but he does so, not with his deductive genius but by his powerful memory (recalling a book he once read).

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My Latest: “American Hauntings”

July 15, 2015

Co-authored by Robert E. Bartholomew, a world expert on panics and hysterias, is our American Hauntings: The True Stories behind Hollywood’s Scariest Movies—from The Exorcist to The Conjuring.

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“It Is Said That . . .”

July 13, 2015

Yawn. Another ghost book, long on mostly unattributed anecdotes and short on anything resembling evidence.

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June 29, 2015

More funny riddles with a science/critical-thinking angle.

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Beginning a Theory of Everything

June 11, 2015

In memory of Victor Stenger

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“Clouds of Sils Maria”: A Nickell-odeon Review

June 01, 2015

Some moviegoers will find the film Clouds of Sils Maria difficult. When my wife Diana and I saw it recently, the young lady sweeping up popcorn afterward confided to us that, at some showings, people actually walked out during the show. It was nearly mid-way through before I really caught on and began to see how this ostensibly humdrum movie was not just “literary,” but profoundly so, and was—rather brilliantly—going somewhere.

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Enfield Haunting: Guy Playfair not a Fair-playing Guy

May 07, 2015

I don’t know if Guy Lyon Playfair has ever been scared by his own shadow, but he is most assuredly a True Believer in some scary things that science can’t prove actually exist—poltergeists, for instance. Skeptics have been following Playfair for years—rather like trailing behind an elephant in a parade to clean up after it.

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“Woman in Gold”: A Nickell-odeon Review

April 28, 2015

Simply put, Woman in Gold is the story of Maria Altmann who—her family’s paintings having been stolen by the Nazis—seeks to reclaim a particularly famous one from the Austrian national art museum that “owns” it.

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