“Human Torch” Baby: SHC or Abuse?

August 15, 2013

According to news reports (e.g., timesofindia.india-times.com, August 13, 2013), a baby boy from a village in Tamil Nadu, India, “caught fire” on four occasions. Since so many incidents were unlikely to be accidents, some persons were suggesting the case might be one of “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC). I received a request to “please help this child” from a young Indian man (who sent me the link to the story) and also a request for an interview by a reporter from MSN.com, Dustin Seibert. I told the latter I was concerned about the child’s safety—though not from SHC. (Interview online at news.msn.com/rumors/rumor-baby-suffer-from-spontaneous-combustion; August 14, 2013.)

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Dr. Porter and His Healing Oil

August 12, 2013

In doing some research (for my “Historical Sketches” column in my hometown newspaper) I unexpectedly came across a mid-1920s photo showing small tin signs for “Dr. Porter’s Healing Oil” affixed to the front of a store warehouse. I wondered: just who was Dr. Porter, and what was the story behind his medicinal product?

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Firewalker Willey Cartooned!

August 01, 2013

Skepticism’s great friend, David Willey—who became famous as the “Mad Scientist” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno—has been featured in the nationally syndicated comic strip, Jump Start, drawn by Robb Armstrong.

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“The Conjuring”: A Nickell-odeon Review

July 23, 2013

Being given rave ratings by gee-whiz reviewers, while being panned as just another cliché-ridden scary movie by intelligent film critics, The Conjuring is a piece of work. It depicts Roger and Carolyn Perron (played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor), together with their five daughters, moving into an old Rhode Island farmhouse in 1971 where, well, hysteria soon reigns. The flames are fanned by Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) the famous—or infamous—paranormal “investigators.”

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Boston Strangler Breaking News

July 22, 2013

Between June 14, 1962, and January 5, 1964, eleven Boston-area women—ages 19 to 85—were victims of a serial killer or killers. The cases were linked by similar elements of modus operandi: each victim was attacked in her apartment (except for one murdered in a hotel room); each had been sexually attacked; each was strangled with an article of clothing (although one had also been repeatedly stabbed); and each, with a single exception, was Caucasian.

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RIDDLEculous

July 19, 2013

What is the difference between a skeptic and a free lunch?

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“Oz”: A Nickell-odeon Review

July 17, 2013

A fantasy adventure, Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to the 1939 movie classic, The Wizard of Oz (itself based on the 1900 children’s novel by L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

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Firefighter’s “Miracle Recovery”

July 09, 2013

At 6:54 a.m., December 29, 1995, the roof of a burning house collapsed on Buffalo fireman Donald J. Herbert. Before being rescued he had been starved of oxygen for some six minutes, resulting in brain damage. For almost the next decade he was in a minimally responsive state, unable to communicate effectively.

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The Golden Rule(s)

July 02, 2013

The Golden Rule—a common-sense ethical principle based on mutual empathy—is shared by numerous religious and philosophical traditions. For example, there is Judaism’s Torah verse: “. . . Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). The popular Christian version (paraphrasing Jesus from Matthew 7:12) is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And so on—in Islam, Buddhism, and many others, including Humanism. (See “Golden Rule,” online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule.)

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“Now You See Me”—A Nickell-odeon Review

June 26, 2013

Now You See Me is the story of a four-magician team that somehow pulls off stunning heists while performing, and then, in Robin Hood style, showers their live audiences with the loot—all the while dogged by the FBI and Interpol. Could we ask for more?

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