NTS LogoSkeptical News for 7 April 2001

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Saturday, April 07, 2001

E-SKEPTIC: LARRY KING SUMMARY, EXPLORING UNKNOWN SCHEDULE

Here is the April schedule for the re-airing of Exploring the Unknown, starting tonight on the Fox Family channel. It airs in most markets at 10pm, but check local listings.

4/5 (Roswell, Acupuncture, Life on Mars, and Spontaneous Human Combustion)
4/12 (Nellis UFO, Cell Memory, Bible Code, Reflexology, Vampires)
4/19 (Hypnosis, Virtual Eternity, Weather, Haunted Railroad)
4/26 (Mind Over Pain, Seance, Space Travel, Brainwashing)

For those new to this list, this is the "skeptics" show hosted by Mitch Pileggi and me and co-produced by Triage Entertainment (who did the Sightings series) and me. We initially produced a pilot and six one-hour episodes. It was renewed once for another six hours. So we have 13 total hours, and about 65 different specific segments (some are long two-parters, others short two-minute quickies). When you think about it that's quite a few different paranormal subjects to tackle, and I am pleased to say that every one of them has a strong skeptical bent to it. That is to say, the subjects are presented with balance and fairness, and viewers actually get the skeptical and scientific perspective on the subject under investigation. Many of you have inquired about purchasing copies of the show. As yet they are unavailable, so here's your chance to set your VCRs to stun and beam up the show to your tricorder.
-----------------------
SKEPTICS ON LARRY KING LIVE
On Tuesday, April 3, I appeared on Larry King Live for their show on ghosts and haunted houses, along with fellow skeptic James Randi. Also appearing in studio with me were Linda Blair, star of The Exorcist, claimed to be the scariest film ever made, on the show because she hosts a new Fox Family show called "Scariest Places on Earth." Also appearing were Father Michael Manning, a Catholic priest who blesses houses (and cars and other appliances) so they won't be haunted by ghosts and demons. The rest of the guests were various people who have appeared or will appear on the show, either living in a haunted house or sent there to spend the night with video cameras so the show could film them screaming and such. I append highlights from the transcript below so you can read the details for yourself, so I will just make some general remarks.

First, Larry King was exceptionally polite and good humored. Off camera he was friendly with the guests and his staff, and this after already filming an hour with Merv Griffin. During one of the commercials he pointed at me and said "My logical side tells me you're right, Michael, but my emotional side wants there to be an afterlife." I thought that was rather honest and revealing. I've received many e-mails complaining that there were too many guests and that Randi and I were overwhelmed and not allowed to present our side. There certainly were too many guests, but as such shows go, Randi and I got in a number of points. I came prepared to make three, maybe four points, and had them memorized and ready to go. But when I made them all and there was still another 20 minutes left on the show, and I didn't get booted off when Linda Blair was brought on, I got to make another three or four points. And, of course, Randi got in his licks as well, so all in all I was pleased with the show. On the flip side, my wife Kim was in the green room with the friends and family members of the other guests, and she said that they were howling in complaint that Randi and I were getting too much time. Perspective I suppose.

Second, please note the interesting comments many of the guests made in which they were "skeptical" until they had things happen to them they could not explain. This is one of the fundamental reasons why people believe weird things--as an explanation for anomalous experiences unexplained by science. Most people most of the time are uncomfortable (cognitively dissonant we might say) with uncertainty and feel the need to fill in the gaps. There should be nothing wrong with saying "I don't know" and leave it at that, but few do. Like the serious UFOlogists who admit that 90-95% of all sightings are fully explicable through understood phenomena, the ghost hunters admit that they are constructing an entirely different world-view based on 5-10% anomalies. We must remember that a few anomalies do not a new paradigm make. A new paradigm has to ALSO explain the other 90%.

Third, this is an interesting example of how television words. The reason Linda Blair was hired to host this show was, in part, so that she would draw media attention to it. The formula for such shows is that you must have a name "celebrity" to host it so that there is a "draw" to it. I disagree with this entirely and think that an expert should be the host, and/or that the subject of the show should carry the weight. But I realize I am not a normal viewer and TV is not my business. This is why Exploring the Unknown is primarily hosted by Mitch Pileggi from X-Files. Mitch is a nice guy and seems reasonably bright to me, but of course he doesn't know diddly-squat about what we are doing, nor, I suspect does he much care. He's hired to do voice-overs and the show intros, and he does them very well. And, for marketing purposes, he's a "bigger name" than me. Ditto Linda Blair over some professional ghost hunter. (Just before Larry introduced Linda on the show he asked her "so how many of these haunted houses have you been to? Linda said "Larry, I just do the host wraps. I don't know what the show is about until I see it with everyone else on the air." Larry nodded in acknowledgment and didn't ask her any particularly hard questions.)

So, this show came about because the Fox Family publicity department pitched Linda Blair and some great footage of screaming college-aged kids stumbling around in the dark with their strap-on chest cameras filming up their noses Blair Witch style. (The show airs Friday nights at 9pm on Fox Family and is very well produced, but if you're not into ghosts and haunted houses then it probably won't do much for you.) Now, Larry King gets pitched daily by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of celebrities, authors, entertainers, and publicists representing such people. For whatever reason (and I do not know) he liked this topic and gave Fox Family the green light to provide them with guests and footage around which to build a show. Fox Family called me in to be the token skeptic. The next day, the King people called to say they needed another skeptic for better balance because there were going to be quite a few ghost believers on the show. This, I thought, was great, so I recommended Randi, and they booked him. However, they did not tell Fox Family about Randi. In fact, the first time Fox heard Randi was going to be on was just minutes before the show. The publicist was sitting there in the green room having a paroxysm on her cell phone (only in Hollywood, right?!) that Randi was not acceptable to her (as if this were HER show!) As you saw (or will read below), Randi was quite polite and funny, yet firm. (One last Hollywood observation: Linda Blair had some young good-looking guy in toe--Armani suit, slicked back hair, salon tan--whom she introduced as her manager. I figured he had to be a Hollywood type because he was wearing sunglasses indoors. I thought to myself "What laimoid would wear sunglasses inside?" A celebrity "manager," of course!)

Highlights of the transcript are below. For the complete transcript go to:
http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0104/03/lkl.00.html

Larry King Live
Are There Ghosts?

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, do you believe in ghosts? Whether you're terrified or totally skeptical, you're in for a very spirited hour. We're going to go live to the historic Waverly Plantation in Mississippi. The people living there say it is haunted by a long-dead little girl. We'll also visit a house in Vancouver, Washington. The folks there say they have multiple ghosts.

From San Francisco, parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach,, director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations. In Los Angeles, Father Michael Manning. He recently blessed a house the homeowners say came with a restless ghost. In Miami, the renowned James Randi, devoted much of his life to debunking the paranormal. And back in L.A., the publisher and editor-in-chief of "Skeptic Magazine," Michael Shermer.

Plus, she was the star of "The Exorcist," one of the most frightening movies ever made, and now Linda Blair hosts a new TV show, "Scariest Places on Earth."

Guiding the families who take part in that nail-biting program, British radio host Alan Robson, author of "Grisly Tales and Ghostly Tales." And in Boston, members of a family that endured a terrifying night at a notorious castle in Ireland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

KING: Joining us now at the Waverly Plantation in Columbus, Mississippi is Cindy Snow-Henson, who was raised on that plantation, and Melyssa Rodriguez, who helps out. Cindy, why didn't you leave?

SNOW-HENSON: Well, we were never frightened by the little girl. She was never ominous, and she was just as sweet as could be and never presented any threat to us.

KING: So what do you believe that little girl is?

SNOW-HENSON: I believe that little girl is a spirit who was left behind in this house for some reason after she left this Earth in her physical. I have seen her on three different occasions, and I can guarantee you that she's here.

KING: Now, Melyssa, you help out at the Waverly plantation. Doing what, Melyssa? MELYSSA RODRIGUEZ, BELIEVES PLANTATION HAUNTED: I was director of touring for 2 1/2 years and conducted the tours in the mansion.

KING: Have you ever seen the little girl?

RODRIGUEZ: I have never seen the apparition of the little girl, but she does pull a little prank of sleeping on this bed behind us, and she leaves the impression of her body on the bed. You can definitely see where she is lying, and I have dealt with that.

KING: And you have seen that impression?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I have. I've straightened it out and had it come back repeatedly.

KING: All right. I want to bring our panel in. You stay right there, Cindy. We're going to go back to you and Melyssa. Michael, what's wrong with what we -- why -- I mean, you're not saying they're lying, are you?

MICHAEL SHERMER, "SKEPTIC" MAGAZINE: Oh, no. I think...

KING: What do you think it is?

SHERMER: ... there's a powerful psychology of belief going on here. Two aspects, the physics of ghosts -- that is haunted houses tend to be old, creaky houses that make noise. Often these things happen at night...

KING: Do you think Cindy is imagining it?

SHERMER: No. Well, no. No, two things. There's the physics of it: She's hearing things. But particularly at night, the air is colder, denser, sound travels further. So a noise you might hear during the day that's coming from the other side of the room, it actually sounds like it's now right here next to me. And also, if you are in the state of mind that you're in a, you know, a ghost-haunted house, then all those little noises, which are lost during the day, become part of that sort of spooky story.

KING: How about seeing something?

SHERMER: Seeing things could be two different things. It could be some sort of a hallucination in the mind of the fantasy-prone person, or there could be some apparition that's explained by physics here.

KING: Now, Loyd, what do you think it is?

LOYD AUERBACH, PARAPSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I have to say that Michael makes some very good points. And in fact, when we do our investigations, we really do try to find normal explanations possible. We consider the things that he's talking about. It's very hard for me to say, to make a judgment call on what's being explained for the Mississippi case. But the fact is that we have cases like this, where we have gone through all the circumstances. A lot of things don't happen at night. A lot of things do happen during the day. There is an awful lot of focus being put on seeing apparitions when in fact the other senses are involved as well. And we have some multiple witness sightings of similar apparitions.

KING: And what do you believe they are, Loyd?

AUERBACH: Well, we have to break them down in a couple of categories. In the case of apparitions, or true ghosts, it's the idea of the human consciousness surviving the death of the body and sticking around and somehow being capable of communicating or interacting with us. The other side of it, which is more common, is that somehow the environment picks up information and records information you might say of its past. And people are capable. And this is not necessarily a psychic thing. This is something we're looking at from a nonpsychic perspective.

KING: James Randi in Miami, are these folks, are they living in another world, what?

JAMES RANDI, PARANORMAL DEBUNKER: It is very hard to handle, Larry, stories like this, because you are perceived as someone who's saying, oh, these folks are lying or they're crazy. I don't say either one of those things, of course. I think that what's been lost sight of here is a psychological phenomenon known as hypnopompic or hypnagogic experiences, in which people do honestly hallucinate these things. Now, many people say it wasn't a hallucination, I saw it myself, it was real. But the definition of a hallucination is something which is not there, but it's so real that it appears as if it's real. I mean, you can't deny it.

KING: So they're not lying, they're seeing it?

RANDI: I believe that they are seeing something, but remember, we're also hearing a lot of anecdotal material here, stuff that's being told second- and third-hand. And these stories also have a way of growing, so a slight improvement can make a lot of difference.

KING: Father, what do you think?

FATHER MICHAEL MANNING, BLESSED "HAUNTED" HOUSE: Well, I believe that, as a Catholic, I believe that when we die and we're in the grace of God we're going to live and we're going to continue to live. I believe tat there might even be a state of imperfection before we reach the fullness of what it means to be encountering with God. We, as Catholics, talks about purgatory.

KING: You think there might be a little girl?

MANNING: There might even be there. And I think, we also speak of prayer, I was down at a house in San Diego praying, and asking protection of this house in there was something that was going wrong that the house would be safe from that.

KING: And you believe someone is listening to that prayer?

MANNING: Very much so. God is listening and I believe there are angels and I believe that there are spirits; I can intercede with people. Yes.

KING : Michael, supposing it is not there, supposing it is imagination and you are right. So what?

SHERMER: Well, we want to live in a world of reality, and instead of fantasy, and the further away we get from this real world by pretending and basing our lives on wishful thinking, the more we can slide down the road toward more dangerous beliefs.

KING: Loyd, if it is right, then we live on; right? And spirits exist and anything is possible.

AUERBACH: Well, we have some serious implications for human consciousness for our lives. It is really interesting in a lot of the cases because we have so many of the recording type of cases, that there are very few, apparent ghosts out there, and I think it's more important that people consider that these ghosts can't hurt them that it shouldn't be fear related, and I would rather people don't believe in this stuff altogether, than to be afraid by what is portrayed in the TV programs today.

KING : Randi, it's true isn't it? People have written about this as long as writing?

RANDI: Oh, yes indeed. As a matter of fact, I have a theory, Larry. It says that a man with beard can't be all bad, in that case Ed is going to be a very good man, and I think that maybe the million dollar prize that we offer here at the James Randi Educational Foundation might be his, I think I better take a trip out to Washington.

KING : What is that prize? Randi, what is it for?

RANDI: The prize is offered, as you know, a lady took it up on your program a week ago but we haven't heard from her in 29 days. The prize is awardable to any person or persons, who can provide evidence of any paranormal, occult, or supernatural event of any of kind, under proper observing conditions, so Ed, I might be seeing you.

KING : Would you go to Ed's house, sit there, and if you saw somebody cruise through that wasn't there, and you saw them there, Ed gets a million bucks?

RANDI: It is about like that, Larry. But it would be a little more involved, for a million dollars, we take a lot of precautions.

KING: Now, Michael, as with all the other people so far on this show, that lady looked like a wonderful, innocent, nice lady.

MANNING: Sure.

KING: She saw something, Michael.

SHERMER: The experiences are real. The question is are they in here or are they out there? Here is a number: 3 percent of the population is fantasy- prone, psychologists estimate, so they have these fantastic experiences. For them, they're very real. Just like the schizophrenic hears the voice, he really hears the voice. The voice is very real, but the voice is in there, not out there. So my question for the paranormalist is roughly 70 billion people have lived in the history of humanity. Six billion are alive now. Are we to understand that 64 billion are floating around here? Must be a crowded place.

KING: Yeah, Loyd, where are they all?

AUERBACH: I actually -- I don't know where they all are. I don't buy that they are all around here, which is something that the amateur ghost hunters have been stating. It seems that only certain people can stick around as ghosts and even try to communicate, to try to do the interaction. And, I tend to believe, that they're -- and this is pure speculation -- that it has something to do with the psychology of the person who's just died, with their desire to stick around, and probably some environmental conditions. Just as there have been other environmental conditions tied to perception in other ways.

KING: The truth, James Randi, is you can't disprove it, can you?

RANDI: No you can't disprove -- you can't prove some negatives, that's the point. But I'm asking them to make their claim. They are making a claim that there is something here. If they can provide evidence for it, hey, a million dollars. Not only that, but they can make me look like some sort of a fool.

KING: Don't you -- don't you want them, Randi, to be right?

RANDI: I have no particular ax to grind in this sort of thing, Larry. I just want to know what it is. I want to know one way or the other. I don't want it to be true or to be false. I have no desires on the matter. KING: Is it -- Father, is it anti-Christian?

MANNING: Oh, well, to believe that Christ has come and given life to everyone, and that when I die, I'm going to live forever, is a very Christian thing.

KING: So you should believe this all of this.

MANNING: I can believe that there are -- the question comes to balance. Where do you go? Can you start seeing ghosts all around like this? I do believe that when I'm going to die that I'm going to live. I'm going to be out of my body, but in the presence of God, and that moves me out of time and space.

KING: And you don't believe that, Michael.

SHERMER: What's difference between everything we're talking about here, and say, the Yanamamo Indians of inner Brazil, who believe that the rocks have spirits, and the trees have spirits, and everything is alive.

MANNING: But it's a person. It's my person, my mom, my dad, they're alive. They're alive in the presence of God right now, I'm confident.

SHERMER: Of course, but then, the Yanamamo believe this, too, in their own way.

MANNING: But there you were talking about a tree or something like...

SHERMER: But they believe their ancestors live on.

KING: No, it's their belief is as strong as the father's belief.

SHERMER: Absolutely. And I see no difference, other than ours sounds a little more sophisticated. It's a monotheism rather than a polytheism. But it's still this transcendent desire to leave the material world.

MANNING: Sure, sure.

KING: And, Loyd, what you're saying is you believe it's possible? Is that what you're saying? Is that what the office of paranormal investigations looks at?

AUERBACH: Yeah. In every single case, we try to look for normal explanations, and we often find those normal explanations, but my own personal belief is that there are some situations where ghosts are around. And we try to explain away as many of them as we can, but I still come to that conclusion.

KING: Would a skeptic, Michael, would you walk through a dark graveyard at night?

SHERMER: Sure, I would, and it would be fun. And in a way, if this just ghost story-telling kind of thing, since humans are story- telling animals, then this is just good fun.

KING: Nothing wrong with going to castle?

SHERMER: Not at all.

KING: Good fun. You don't have any objections to it.

SHERMER: No, of course not. But think about this analogy: let's say the L.A. Police Department solves 95 percent of all homicides every year. The other 5 percent are unsolved. Are we to assume that these other 5 percent were abducted by aliens, killed by ghosts and poltergeist? No, we just know they can't explain everything. So look, skeptics, scientists, we can't explain all these things that go bump in the night. There will always be mysteries in the unexplained. That's just part of the fun.

KING: Why do we go into that house?

BLAIR: Well, I think a lot of people love the thrill. They love to be scared, and so...

KING: They love to be scared.

BLAIR: They do! Well, look at "The Exorcist," very popular film. So they love to be scared. When they actually get on these locations, not one family has made it through the night. Why? They are terrified.

KING: Randi, can't you accept that that there are just things that you don't know, and Ulrich family doesn't know, and Linda doesn't know, and the father doesn't know?

RANDI: I admit my ignorance on that, Larry. Of course, there are lots of things we don't know. I don't know what makes Sophia Loren look so good at her age, that is a mystery to me, but it doesn't mean it's supernatural.

KING: Would you spend the night in that castle with no qualms?

RANDI: Oh, I want to buy the place. Never mind spend the night there, I want to buy the place and live in it for the rest of my life. And Michael Shermer can come and visit if he wants.

SHERMER: There's an old saying, "If there are no spirits, there is no devil; no devil, no God." That is what scares people.

KING: Loyd, from all your studies, what do you know?

AUERBACH: Well, we know a lot about the behavior of the phenomena; we also know people make mistakes and misinterpret things. We know that these are mysteries to be explored and understood, and not to be afraid of. In all the years I've been doing cases, the only thing I have run into that I have been afraid of, have been living people, because ghosts can't carry guns and knifes.

KING: Randi, have you ever seen anything in all your travels in life as a magician that still puzzles you?

RANDI: Oh, a number of things, Larry, yes, but not things I don't think can be explained by perfectly ordinary means. Linda said something very interesting, there, in her opening comments, she said I choose to believe that, now that phrase itself I can certainly understand, and I applaud it. I choose to believe, and that is what a lot of this is, people choose to believe something fantastic rather than something mundane.

KING: Alan, are you choosing to believe?

ROBSON: I'm not choosing to believe. I believe because I have seen it, I have felt it, but 90 percent of ghosts are not real; 90 percent of people who say they see them are not real, but that 10 percent is amazing it is real and out there.

KING: You don't think about that 10 percent.

SHERMER: Why not -- the 10 percent is just the unexplained; we can't answer everything. We have a limited time in this world; why not the limited as much as we can, the fate of the paranormal is that it becomes normal as our horizons expand, and we understand the world.

KING: All right, anyway, this has been an illuminating show and thank you all very much. Thanks to our guests everywhere for appearing with us on this edition -- a very different edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
-----------------------------
Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Director of the Skeptics Society, the host of the Skeptics Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and a monthly columnist for Scientific American. Go to www.skeptic.com to join the Skeptics Society and subscribe to Skeptic magazine.

Suzanne Somers & Articles of Note

CSICOP List Reader,

Here is a story that is sad on many levels. My deepest sympathies go out to Suzanne Somers as she fights this terrible disease, breast cancer. My sincere hope for her is that she will achieve a full and complete recovery.

But I must admit that, if the story is true as reported, it is so shocking to see the decision she has made on the type of treatment she will undergo -- against the advice of her doctors.

Homeopathy to treat breast cancer?? If anyone on this list would know how to get information to Ms. Somers (her website www.SuzanneSomers.com seems to be mostly for selling beauty products, although I did send an e-mail at the site) - please tell her just to visit one website (www.quackwatch.com) and to do a search on homeopathy. Or, here are three articles she could read:

http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/homeo.html
http://www.csicop.org/si/9709/park.html
http://www.ncahf.org/pp/homeop.html

Barry Karr
CSICOP

http://www.cnn.com/2001/HEALTH/conditions/03/30/cancer.treatment/index.html
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14648-2001Mar29.html

Suzanne Somers has revealed that she has breast cancer and is taking homeopathic treatment for it rather than the chemotherapy her doctors advise.

The 54-year-old actress and former star of the late 1970s TV series "Three's Company" made the announcement Wednesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live" to clarify a National Enquirer report that she had received liposuction at a Southern California clinic.

*************************************************************************

Skeptical newshound Joe Littrell sends in the following Articles of Note

Black Stains Sow Fear, Fuel Theories
Reuters

http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010328/od/stain_dc_1.html

"Venezuelan police are investigating mysterious black stains fouling the streets of the capital, which have spawned conspiracy theories and have some drivers fearing for their lives."

McDonald's Lawsuit Claims Rat Head in Burger
By Cameron French
Reuters

http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010327/od/mcdonalds_dc_1.html

"McDonald's Canada is being sued by a Toronto family that claims a severed rat's head was found nestled between the toppings of a Big Mac that was about to be eaten by a nine-year-old girl."

Rat head put in cooked burger: Lab report
by Robert Cribb
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/cgi-bin/gx.cgi/AppLogic+FTContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=985753947201&call_page=TS_GTA&call_pageid=968350130169&call_pagepath=GTA/News&col=969483202845

"A crushed rat head discovered in a McDonald's hamburger by a 9-year-old Toronto girl was slipped inside the sandwich after the meat was cooked, according to a lab report."

Shaman or Sham?
by Matt Steinglass
Feed

http://www.feedmag.com/templates/default.php3?a_id=1673

"DR. COCO TOUDJI is not a doctor. At least, he doesn't have an M.D. He does have a degree as an infirmier, or nurse; but his most important medical qualification is the training he received from his uncle, in the Togolese village of Gboto Vodube, who taught him how to mix herbal remedies. Dr. Toudji is a traditional healer -- although it's not exactly "traditional" for an African healer to bottle and package his treatment under a catchy brand name, or to market it as an "antiretroviral.""

Dear Ann Landers: I'm not anonymous!
By John J. Glisch
FLORIDA TODAY

http://www.floridatoday.com/news/columnists/glisch/032801glisch.htm "Dear Ann Landers:

I'm a columnist for a Florida newspaper and was stunned to see an article I wrote appear under your byline with no credit to me whatsoever. What's going on?"

Bush OKs Outlawing Human Cloning
By Laura Meckler
Associated Press

http://washingtonpost.com:80/wp-dyn/health/specials/genetherapy/A7586-2001Mar28.html

"Scientists called human cloning ethically risky and likely to produce deformed babies, even as researchers who plan to move forward defended their plans Wednesday before a congressional panel. The White House said President Bush would sign a federal law outlawing such research."

Lawmakers Propose Human Cloning Ban, Alien Order Notwithstanding
By AARON ZITNER
Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com:80/news/science/science/20010329/t000027044.html

"A star-shaped pendant around his neck, his hair gathered atop his head in a bun, the white-suited leader of a Canadian religious group told lawmakers Wednesday that they should no more block his plans to clone human beings than they would stop the development of antibiotics, blood transfusions, vaccines and other medical advances."

Stranger Than Fiction
By Mark Hughes
Dallas Observer

http://www.dallasobserver.com:80/issues/2001-03-29/calendar.html

"UFO investigators have a tough time coming up with anythin concrete to support their claims, especially when objects come and go in multiple dimensions and the only witnesses are threatened to silence by a shadowy government that doesn't officially exist. It is not for lack of trying, though. These pursuants of the paranormal are a pretty stalwart bunch and tend to stand by their beliefs in the face of much ridicule and adversity."

The huckster parade
By Glenn McGee, Ph.D.
MSNBC

http://www.msnbc.com:80/news/551118.asp?cp1=1

"The human cloning debate resumed Wednesday in the House of Representatives, with legislators interviewing a dream team of cloning proponents: Brigitte Boisselier, the director of Clonaid, a laboratory run by a UFO cult; a scientist with no medical degree named Panos Zavos who is traveling the world in search of allies so that he can clone a human being within a year, despite the fact that he has no special qualifications to do so; and the nation's lone philosopher on record in support of unregulated human cloning, Gregory Pence of the University of Alabama."

The psychic experience
By Lindsey Foster
The Oracle

http://news.excite.com:80/news/uw/010326/odd-48

"In the current edition of the yellow pages, there are 23 listings that claim to give "free" psychic readings. Even LaToya Jackson has her own group of psychics. Each number dialed prompts a recording about the miracles these psychics can predict, leading to additional numbers to call in which one can receive only the first few minutes free."

Decorating feng shui style
By Christy Speer
Indiana Daily Student

http://news.excite.com:80/news/uw/010328/university-40

"Alissa Koenig had chi problems. The Indiana University senior didn't go to the health center, didn't consult her friends and didn't seek professional help. Instead, she cleaned her room, painted her walls and hung silky pink imitation roses around her bedroom. Disaster averted, her chi was in good shape again and life was better than ever."

Burning of 'Ungodly' Books, CDs Puts Church in Spotlight
Reuters

http://www.latimes.com:80/news/nation/20010328/t000026662.html

"The Rev. George Bender said Tuesday that he never thought a little book burning would get so much publicity."

Razzies Scorch the "Earth"
by Mark Armstrong
E! Online

http://news.excite.com:80/news/eonline/010325/11/razzies-scorch-the

"Talk about a Travoltin' development."

Mobile phone virus hoax: It's back!
By Megan McAuliffe
ZDNet Australia

http://www.zdnet.com.au:80/news/dailynews/story/0,2000013063,20211864,00.htm

"An email disguising itself as a virus alert is doing the rounds again, warning mobile phone users of a nasty virus that will erase all information on their SIM card."

High (tech) jinx run amok
by WINN L. ROSCH
CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER

http://www.cleveland.com:80/business/index.ssf?/business/pd/f29winn.html

"As your boss and co-workers celebrate the Sabbath or Sabbat this weekend, they should pay particular thanks to the calendar that puts the first of next month on Sunday and saves your office from all the awful high jinks of April Fools' Day."

Tampon safety: rumors, facts or Netlore ?
By Kim Kunda
The Oracle

http://news.excite.com:80/news/uw/010328/health-154

"Though time has seen the evolution of tampon ingredients and production processes, information currently circulating the Internet is raising issues again concerning sanitary safety."

N.S. town's new postmark pays homage to UFO visit
by Les Perreaux
National Post

http://www.nationalpost.com/home/story.html?f=/stories/20010328/514600.html

"Residents of Shag Harbour, N.S., will be mailing an image of a flying saucer with every letter and package after Canada Post approved a new postmark commemorating a visit 34 years ago by an unidentified flying object."

Police Alert Women of 'Rape Drug'
Panafrican News Agency (Dakar)

http://allafrica.com/stories/200103280034.html

"Namibian Police have alerted the public, especially women, to be on the look out for a new drug rapists were reportedly using at parties and social functions to tranquillise and rape their victims."

Cops warn about date rape drug - which doesn't exist
by WERNER MENGES
The Namibian

http://www.namibian.com.na/2001/March/news/01DED4DDF6.html

"A DANGEROUS new date rape drug which leaves its female victims as sterile as the kind of horse the pharmaceutical is actually intended for is doing the rounds, the Namibian Police warned yesterday."

Quebec sect will soon clone a human, leader says
http://www.thestar.com/apps/AppLogic+FTContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_PrintFriendly&c=Article&cid=985753901875

"Among the bookish biochemists and medical ethicists appearing before a congressional panel on cloning, there was no mistaking the founder of Clonaid."

Exhumed body of Pope John XXIII 'uncorrupted' 38 years after death
by Philip Pullella
Reuters

http://thescotsman.co.uk/world.cfm?id=59308

"A leading cardinal present when the coffin of Pope John XXIII was opened after 38 years said yesterday the pontiff looked as if he had "died yesterday"."

SORTED: WOMEN AT RISK
The Mirror

http://www.mirror.co.uk/shtml/FEATURES/P16S4.shtml

"BEWARE of a pyramid-selling scheme that's spreading its tentacles. Called Women Empowering Women, it promises a return of pounds 24,000 on a pounds 3,000 investment."

Another editorial on the Arkansas creationism bill

From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette at
http://www.ardemgaz.com/today/edi/wopLyons4.html

FWD [fort] Acambaro collection

Submitted by Terry Colvin

Man co-existed with the dinosaurs?
(Apologies if this was submitted and dubunked before I joined the list)
http://www.bible.ca/tracks/tracks-acambaro.htm
http://creationists.org/livedinos01.html
http://www.bearfabrique.org/sauropods/dinosaurs.html

In 1945 Waldemar Julsrud, a German immigrant and knowledgable archeologist, discovered clay figurines buried at the foot of El Toro Mountain on the outskirts of Acambaro, Guanajuato, Mexico. Eventually over 33,000 ceramic figurines were found near El Toro as well as Chivo Mountain on the other side of town. Similar artifacts found in the area are identified with the Pre-classical Chupicuaro Culture (800 BC to 200 AD).

The authenticity of Julsrud's find was challenged because the huge collection included dinosaurs. Many archeologists believe dinosaurs have been extinct for the past 65 million years and man's knowledge of them has been limited to the past 200 years. If this is true, man could not possibly have seen and modeled them 2,500 years ago.

In 1954 the Mexican government sent four well known archeologists to investigate. A different but nearby site was selected and a meticulous excavation was begun. They found numerous examples of similar figurines and concluded that Julsrud's find was authentic. However, three weeks later their report declared the collection to be a fraud because of the "fantastic representation of man and dinosaur together."

In 1955 Charles Hapgood, respected1 Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Hampshire, conducted an elaborate investigation including extensive radiometric dating. He was accompanied by Earl Stanley Gardner, former District Attorney of the city of Los Angeles, California and the creator of Perry Mason. They falsified the claim that Julsrud manufactured the figurines, by excavating under the house of the Chief of Police, which was built 25 years before the Julsrud arrived in Mexico. Forty three more examples of the same type were found. Three radiocarbon tests were performed by Isotopes Incorporated of New Jersey resulting in dates of 1640 BC, 4530 BC and 1110 BC. Eighteen samples were subjected to thermoluminescent testing by the University of Pennsylvania, all of which gave dates of approximately 2500 BC. These results were subsequently withdrawn when it was learned that some of the samples were from dinosaurs.

In 1990 an investigation was conducted by Neal Steedy, an archeologist who's livelihood depends on contract work from the Mexican government. He arbitrarily selected an excavation site considerably removed from the Julsrud site. Chards were found but no figurines. He commissioned radiocarbon tests for a few samples from the Julsrud collection which produced a range of dates; 4000 years for a human face and 1500 years for a dinosaur. However, he concluded that the laboratory had not given true dates because he felt the samples were too soft to last more than 20 years in the ground. It is true that much of the Julsrud collection is not as well fired as typical Chupicuaro pottery (considered about 2500 years old), still some of the dinosaur pieces are. Furthermore, some of the acknowledged Chupicuaro pieces are of the same consistency as the average figurine in the Julsrud collection. The degree of hardness overlaps, therefore Steedy's objection is unjustified.

(Footnote 1: In the forward to the book, Earth's Shifting Crust, Albert Einstein said Hapgood's concept could be of "great importance to everything that is related to the earth's surface.")

Editor's note: We have covered this issue previously. See:
http://www.ntskeptics.org/1999/1999october/october1999.htm
http://www.ntskeptics.org/books/cryptozoology.htm

Prayers for rain appear to be working in drought-hit county

From Ananova at: http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_265446.html

Officials in a North Carolina county want people to pray for rain to end a three-year drought.

Areas of Cabarrus County received up to two inches of rain after county commissioners adopted the resolution during a meeting in Concord.

Now they plan to send a copy of the proclamation to every town and city asking for more help.

But residents may need to pray for a long time. The county needs above average rainfall for the rest of the year to replenish its water supplies.

Agriculture and textiles are the major industries in the region which has a 300-year-old Presbyterian and Lutheran history.

Last updated: 11:17 Wednesday 4th April 2001


Friday, April 06, 2001

Would-be witches offered lessons in the craft

From Ananova at
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_215481.html?menu=

Adults are being offered the chance to take a course in witchcraft.

Organisers say is is Britain's first professionally-organised course on the subject.

Places for around 20 people are available on the course run by the Isle of Avalon Foundation in Somerset.

The registered charity says it is an "introduction to modern Wicca with an emphasis on personal development and the practical uses of witchcraft in the 21st century".

Held in Glastonbury the course, costing 650, will involve eight weekends of lessons over a 10-month period starting in June as well as homework. However, course tutor Kevin Saunders says some fieldwork - chiefly herb collecting - may be hampered by foot-and-mouth restrictions.

Mr Saunders, a former chief press officer for the Green Party, is a high priest of Wicca, the modern form of witchcraft synthesised from old pagan traditions and other forms of mysticism by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s.

Lessons will concentrate on personal development, study of things like tarot card reading and herbalism, how to use "natural energies" to help others and ways of worshipping "the god and the goddess", he said.

"We won't be doing a great deal of magic spells because, whilst the general public watches on television so-called witches waving wands around and transforming things with a flash of fairy powder, that is not what it's about."

Mr Saunders says that while witches do not see things from the "dualistic" Christian sense of good and evil, no one who wants to use natural energies to harm others will be allowed on the course.

"We point out that one of the rules within Wicca is the three-fold law, which means anything you give out comes back to you three times. You'll find it will hurt you a damn sight more than the person you are aiming at, therefore it isn't a good idea."

The Happiness Stone

Fortean Times 145, May 2001, p. 47

http://www.forteantimes.com/

Patrick Harpur tells the strange story of a wonderful Welsh stone with healing properties and its double on the other side of the world.

Y Garreg Ddedwydd --- the Happiness Stone --- is what Old Griff, who lived on the Welsh mountain Plynlimmon, called it. He himself was known as the dynhysbis --- 'conjuror', cunning man or wise man --- whose powers were famous throughout Cardiganshire.

The stone rested by his hearth; it weighed about 16 lbs (7kg) and looked like a lump of glass or quartz, blue but with green depths, roughly hewn, with many facets. At least, this was how it was described by Oliver Sandys or Baroness Barcynska, two pen names of the best-selling novelist Marguerite Caradoc Evans. The last two names were those of her husband, the Welsh writer, who took her to live in Aberystwyth in the 1930s and who died in 1945. They had gone to see Old Griff because Caradoc was having property difficulties and Marguerite was suffering from writer's block. These problems were resolved almost as soon as they had finished speaking to Old Griff, and so they became friends.

Old Griff implied that the Stone was, if not the source, then an important ingredient of his magic. It had been in his family for hundreds of years, and he thought that one of his ancestors might have brought it from Palestine. He pointed to some chisel marks and said that it had been cleft in two --- though where the other half was he did not know. He only knew that it could help anyone in distress or sickness. To Marguerite'' surprise, he insisted that she take the Stone just before he died in 1939. But she did not realize its powers for another 15 years --- until the war was over, her husband dead, her long grieving nearly at an end; until, that is, she met, at the house of a mutual friend, Captain Gordon 'Kenya' Hewitt.

They immediately felt a deep, almost mystical affinity. Before long, Hewitt had acquired a promontory of land, Pant-eidal, near Aberdovery, which reminded him of Kenya and where, in a chalet-style house, he installed (strictly as a friend, I think) Marguerite and her Stone. It was he who confirmed the idea that it could be wished on; and this is why:

While out in Kenya developing his coffee plantation, his right-hand man, Songora, had taken him to where his tribe lived on Mount Elgon, a 14,000ft (4,270m) extinct volcano on the Kenya-Uganda border which took a month to reach in the dry season. Songora's tribe lived about a quarter the way up the mountain, partly in caves. They were a tall, thin, coffee-coloured, Nilotic people --- CG Jung, who visited them in 1925, related them to the Masai --- who claimed descent from the ancient Egyptians. He attributed the great peace and happiness of his people to a stone, of which his father was the guardian and which, it was implied, had been passed down from the Egyptians. He called it Mahenge Mzuri, the Good Stone.

The Good Stone was not complete --- at some point it had been split in two --- and he did not know where the other half was. No white man had ever seen the Stone (Jung does not mention it); but Songora took his friend Hewitt to the deepest cave, mammoth bones set above its entrance and running far into the mountain. And "there, in a kind of natural grotto illuminated by tallow lamps," he wrote to Marguerite, "I looked upon the Stone, which seems to be the like of the Blue Stone which is yours."

It was Marguerite's appearance with the Stone on a TV programme, *The Secret Arts*, presented by the archaeologist Glyn Daniel in the early 1950s, which really put the Stone on the map. She was flooded with requests to be allowed to touch it. So many people came that Hewitt was forced to move it out of the house into a homemade grotto based, as close as he could make it, upon the one he had seen in Africa. No one was allowed to see it out of idle curiosity; there had to be some real need or wish. Sure enough, again and again, Marguerite heard how the supplicants had benefited --- a job found, a depression lifted, an alcoholic cured, failing sight restored, asthma and arthritis relieved, a deformed hand healed. The place came to be known as the 'little Welsh Lourdes' --- see The Miracle Stone of Wales by Oliver Sandys (1957).

When Marguerite died in the early 1960s, she bequeathed the Stone to St Fagan's Folk Museum in Cardiff(1), requesting that it should always be made available to anyone in trouble who wanted to touch it. When I wrote to the museum in about 1974 to ask after the Stone's health, the curator informed me that Marguerite's son --- Nick, I think; Evans, I suppose --- had taken the Stone to the USA, never to be heard from again. I'd like to know where it ended up. Perhaps this item could act as an APB --- if anyone out there has seen it, do let FT know.

#1 Robin Gwyndaf, Curator of Folklore at the Museum of Welsh Life (previously St Fagan's) adds: "We do not have the Stone, though we still receive many requests from people who are ill, asking if they can come and touch it." Enquiries about the Stone can be addressed to the Museum of Welsh Life, St. Fagan's Cardiff CF5 6XB.

Patrick Harpur is a Dorset-based writer and the author of Daimonic Reality (1995). His new book The Philosopher's Secret Fire will be published by Penguin this year.


Thursday, April 05, 2001

RASPUTIN'S GREATEST PROPHECIES

From the WWN at:
http://www.weeklyworldnews.com

LOS ANGELES -- God-fearing Americans will launch a new holy crusade in the Middle East . . . millions will flee the U.S. to escape a killer plague . . . and Jesus will walk the Earth again in five years! Those are some of the astounding prophesies made by famed Russian holy man Rasputin before his death in 1916 -- in a document buried by KGB officials in a secret vault for over 80 years!

"Soviet leaders kept these papers under wraps because Rasputin not only predicted the rise of Communism -- but also its fall," reveals researcher Dr. David W. Norvalk, who uncovered the 11- page document among files recently declassified by the spy agency.

Though Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a power-hungry lecher, the charismatic monk was widely believed to have genuine psychic powers.

"He used his amazing ESP abilities to advise Russia's last Czar, Nicholas II -- and miraculously stopped the monarch's hemophiliac son from bleeding!" notes Dr. Norvalk.

Incredibly, Rasputin's will was so powerful that when the Czar's cousin and an accomplice tried to assassinate him with a massive dose of poison, he simply didn't die.

"Nor was he killed when they shot him at point-blank range," says the South African researcher.

"They were finally forced to throw his bullet-riddled body into a frozen river and pray for him to drown!"

Just weeks before Rasputin met his bizarre end, the bearded monk wrote down his prophesies and delivered them to the Czar, says Dr. Norvalk.

"In this remarkable document, Rasputin predicts the Russian Revolution of 1917 as well as the murder of Czar Nicholas and his family.

"He also anticipates the rise of Hitler, and -- in very specific language -- predicts the moon landing and breakup of the USSR."

But it is the monk's prophesies for the next two decades that are sure to stir controversy. Here, from researcher Dr. Norvalk, are some highlights:

SPACE ALIENS WILL USE TV -- TO CONTROL YOUR BRAIN!

From the WWN at:
http://www.weeklyworldnews.com

WASHINGTON -- Aliens from space will NOT use death rays or supersonic fighters to conquer the Earth, as they did in the hit movie Independence Day. Instead, they'll use TV to take over our minds! That is the unsettling conclusion of astrophysicist Dr. Roger Hupewell, a leading UFO expert.

"Any aliens capable of interstellar flight will be fully able to commandeer TV signals and turn them against us," he warns.

"The familiar living room television set, which has become a friend, babysitter and source of fun for countless Americans, will be transformed into a tool for mankind's destruction."

TV broadcasts from Earth have been beamed out into the darkness of space for decades, Dr. Hupewell explains.

"Any hostile aliens will already have a sophisticated understanding of the medium."

All the E.T.'s have to do is bring their craft close enough to Earth to intercept TV broadcasts as they are transmitted.

"They can then add a hidden signal of their own that our scientists will be unable to detect," says Dr. Hupewell.

"The aliens will be able to broadcast subliminal messages into every TV in America and around the world."

Unsuspecting human viewers can be ordered to murder each other, destroy military equipment -- or to simply become mindless zombie slaves to the extraterrestrials when they land.

"There are only a small number of Americans who don't own at least one television set, and even in third world countries like Iran, popular shows such as Baywatch, beamed in by satellite, could become vehicles for alien conquest," he notes.

The expert believes that aliens may have already begun to use TV.

"That may explain some of the terrible events that have been taking place around the world, such as terrorist bombings."

Dr. Hupewell believes there's only one way to foil the alien plot: "Unplug your TV now -- and toss it out of the window!"


Tuesday, April 03, 2001

Ain't nobody here but us monkeys

From the Arkansas Times at
http://www.arktimes.com/bob/033001bob.html

By Bob Lancaster
March 30, 2001

I always feel a little sorry for these yokels when another of them comes down from the hills with a new version of the old legislation to repeal the theory of evolution and to refute the insufferable contention that all of mankind, or anyhow him and his'n, burbled up out of the same gene pool that brought forth also J. Fred Muggs and the only creditable emoter in "Every Which Way But Loose," the fightin' orang Clyde.

An interesting skeptical link

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/commentary/0,6115,104073~3~0~scifispsychictalk,00.html

And another:

http://www.randi.org/jr/08-27-2000.html

Ask and ye shall receive

CONCORD, N.C. Cabarrus County commissioners unanimously adopted a proclamation at a meeting that called on residents to fast and pray to God for rain to end the drought that has plagued the county for nearly three years. Residents should pray that the county's lakes and rivers be filled again and that the county experience above-average rainfall for the remainder of the year to replenish its water supply, according to the proclamation. Apparently, it worked. The wet stuff fell two days after the proclamation passed. County officials now plan to send a copy of the proclamation to every city and town in Cabarrus County to ask their help.

Speak of the devil

ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. Someone keeps stealing the road signs for Route 666 in Morris County. County transportation officials believe the signs were stolen by tourists who want offbeat souvenirs and religious people offended by the number, which is associated with Satan in the Bible. The officials are considering changing the name of the road. The problem started in the mid 1970s, when New Jersey officials ordered that all state roads have three digits. Most county governments simply added a "5" or a "6" to the existing road number. Thus Route 66 became Route 666.

From USAToday at http://www.usatoday.com/news/nweird/nweird.htm