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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“Magnetic” Comb Cured Headache?

September 08, 2016

Wow! A “Prof. Long’s Magnetic Comb” not only removed dandruff and stopped falling hair but cured headaches—or so it was claimed at the turn of the last century (see photo—author’s collection).

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“Captain Fantastic”: A Nickell-odeon Review

August 31, 2016

Captain Fantastic is a unique movie without a boring moment. It tells the story of a family of back-to-nature fanatics—not from the political right (which would only have been scary), but from the Sixties left. They have foregone Christmas but added “Noam Chomsky Day,” which apparently can be held whenever father Ben (Viggo Mortensen) deems appropriate.

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The School Auditorium Ghost

August 24, 2016

Sometimes a ghostbusting skeptic just gets lucky. So it was, following my luncheon speech at a CFI conference, when an attendee told me she knew the true facts behind the “haunting” of Pembroke Middle School in Corfu, N.Y.

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New Tests: Dawson Was Piltdown Forger

August 18, 2016

After an eight-year examination, a team of researchers has concluded that the infamous Piltdown Skull hoax—consisting of human skull fragments together with an ape-like jaw having two teeth—was the work of a single forger: the “discoverer” and original suspect Charles Dawson. The study clears other suspects touted over the years, including the French priest Teilhard de Chardin, English paleontologist Arthur Smith Woodward, Scottish anatomist Arthur Keith, and, among others, famed Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Dr. Hartshorn’s Medicines

August 10, 2016

Dr. Edward Hartshorn (1817–1887) was a physician who marketed various cure-alls during the patent medicine era.

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The Dreamed Visit

July 28, 2016

This is about the reality of an illusional experience. Philosopher Paul Kurtz was founder of The Center for Inquiry. (Written in the style I’ve developed, called Improvisational Rhyming, the poem is probably more effective read aloud.)

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W.T. Rawleigh Company

July 22, 2016

William Thomas “Will” Rawleigh (1870–1951) was an American medicine peddler, who eventually parlayed his early success (beginning in 1889) into an international manufacturing enterprise.

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The Memory Keeper

July 13, 2016

This is a poem dedicated to Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who died July 2, 2016. His numerous books included Night, based on his memories of imprisonment at the concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

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