Aug 222016
 

Recently a journalist contacted me with three or four questions about dowsing. I’ve written about dowsing several times, and last year I wrote a CFI blog about a conversation I had with a dowser. Here’s a transcript of the interview:

1) Why do you believe dowsing is fraudulent? Do you think dowsers are purposefully fraudulent or just deluded?

I don’t believe dowsing per se is fraudulent–that is, for the most part it’s not a scam, hoax, or intentional deception. Instead it’s a form of self-deception that often convinces others. There’s no intent to deceive, it’s more of a mistake or misunderstanding. I’ve met many dowsers over the years and without exception they have been credible, down-to-earth people. They seem sincere because they are sincere: they really believe they have this power, and have convinced themselves over and over with their results. In this way they often convince other people, especially those who haven’t researched skeptical or science-based explanations.

As for its origins, in her book Divining the Future: Prognostication From Astrology to Zoomancy, Eva Shaw writes, “In 1556, De Re Metallica, a book on metallurgy and mining written by George [sic] Agricola, discussed dowsing as an acceptable method of locating rich mineral sources.” This reference to De Re Metallica is widely cited among dowsers as proof of its validity. However it seems that the dowsing advocates didn’t actually read the book because it says exactly the opposite of what they claim: Instead of endorsing dowsing, Agricola states that those seeking minerals “should not make use of an enchanted twig, because if he is prudent and skilled in the natural signs, he understands that a forked stick is of no use to him.” So even 400 years ago, dowsing was recognized as not being useful.

 

You can read the rest HERE. 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 202016
 

An excerpt from my upcoming book on ghost investigation:

“The quantity and variety of alleged spirit images has exploded over the years, but the quality of the evidence remains as disappointingly ambiguous as ever. Some are shadowy, human-like figures; others are flash reflections of light appearing as round white spots dubbed “orbs”. Some ghosts are reported to look and act exactly like living, real people, with their true nature only being revealed when they suddenly vanish or walk through a wall. If those accounts are to be credited, then logically and theoretically there could be tens of millions of ghost photos that are not recognized as such—strangers in crowds or backgrounds in public areas could presumably include ghosts. If these spirits are visually indistinguishable from ordinary people as some eyewitnesses claim, then any photo which contains one or more people whose identity (and therefore status as alive or dead) is not conclusively known could include a ghost. I’m not suggesting this is the case, of course, but merely noting the practical complications that this view of ghosts implies…”

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 182016
 

A new article on Gizmodo about monsters references my chupacabra research: “Other descriptions peg it as looking like a wild dog with a pronounced spinal ridge. Skeptical investigator Benjamin Radford went in-depth into the legend of the chupacabra, and concluded that many sightings were actually dogs or coyotes with mange, which contributes to their strange appearance…” You can read it HERE!

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 152016
 

My article on Seeker (formerly Discovery News) is about the tragic legacy of fake bomb detectors in Iraq… check it out! After years of equipping important security checkpoints throughout Iraq with non-functioning bomb detectors, the Iraqi government has finally banned their use… You can read the rest HERE.

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 122016
 

There’s a YouTube video that’s been around since 2014 about my chupacabra research, though I only recently got around to watching it. It’s a little slow and amateurish, but a decent and concise summary; you can see it HERE. Of me he says, “I think [Ben Radford’s] done a great job and as far as I’m concerned he has solved the chupacabra mystery.”

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Chupacabra illustration by Benjamin Radford

Chupacabra illustration by Benjamin Radford

Aug 112016
 

As you may know, in 2001 I helped solve the mystery of the bizarre 1997 Pokémon seizure incident. I wrote an article that became a cover story in Fortean Times and co-authored a medical journal article about it. I revisit the puzzling case in my new Seeker article:

Only those living under a rock or on a self-imposed news and social media quarantine could fail to have heard about the latest fad sweeping the world: Pokémon Go. The game app uses geolocation features that allow users to view a virtual Pokémon-populated virtual world through their phone’s camera. The goal is to “capture” the digital creatures (“Gotta catch ’em all” is the game’s slogan) and use them to train and battle for virtual territory.

The game has become enormously popular, with millions of people around the world playing the game since its July 6 launch. It’s been credited with getting slothful video game players out for fresh air and exercise—and even sparking romance.

While for most it’s harmless fun, reports have emerged of various pickles that Pokémon players face, and in a recent Seeker piece Aylssa Danigelis listed ten hazards of virtual reality gaming, including trespassing arrests, car crashes, falling or tripping due to inattention, and robberies.

You can read the rest HERE. 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 102016
 

 

News stories last week have challenged the conventional wisdom dispensed by dentists for decades: that flossing your teeth regularly helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease. But that’s not quite accurate. My article explaining why is HERE! 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 082016
 

My recent article for Seeker (formerly Discovery News) is about the politics of vaccinations…

 

In medicine the benefits of childhood vaccination are widely accepted. The evidence is clear and overwhelming: vaccines do not cause autism (or any other condition), and the benefits of preventing severe diseases far outweigh the small risks of side effects. This is non-controversial, and vaccination is a staple of preventive medicine worldwide.

You can read the rest HERE

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 032016
 

A dowser I was testing once proudly noted (partway through the trials) that so far he had successfully found water at a significantly higher rate than would be expected by random chance (20% instead of 5%). I pointed out that performing better than random chance was a pretty low bar and asked him if he would be eager to hire a doctor, architect, or mechanic who—like him—was wrong 80% of the time. He just glared at me and said my negative attitude was interfering with his powers.

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Aug 012016
 

This is cool.. I was recently mentioned in a Forbes article on ghost hunting science and pseudoscience:

There’s no shortage of retailers to provide for your spooky-seeking needs. Products marketed as “Deluxe Ghost Hunting Kit” and “Ghost Hunting Spirit Box” can be found on Amazon and Ebay…Benjamin Radford, Deputy Editor the Skeptical Inquirer, said using “ghost hunting” equipment in general might be the field’s fatal flaw, “Ghost hunters go after whatever they think is weird. There’s no way of testing for a weird feeling.” Science… life’s wet blanket.

You can read the whole story HERE. 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 302016
 

For those who didn’t see it, I recently wrote a piece about a fascinating 1880s-era scientist/educator/feminist/ghostbuster named Eleanor Sidgwick…

The long-awaited “Ghostbusters” remake is out… While vampire slaying has often been portrayed as a female-dominated profession (at least on television), ghost hunting seems more male-centered, at least as depicted on reality TV shows such as SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters,” now in its eleventh season of not finding ghosts.

The new “Ghostbusters” film has an all-female lead cast, but if you’re looking for a real-life pioneering female ghostbuster, you couldn’t do much better than Eleanor Sidgwick.

You can read the rest of the story HERE. 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 282016
 

My new article on a viral ghost photo claimed to show an accident victim’s soul leaving his body is now out:

A photo taken at the scene of a fatal motorcycle crash in Kentucky has gone viral, with many claiming they can see the accident victim’s spirit leaving his body. The image, showing what seems to be a gray or white vertical form in the air above two ambulances, was photographed and shared on social media by Kentucky resident Saul Vazquez….

You can read the whole piece HERE. 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 252016
 

About three or four times each year I get an e-mail (or, more rarely, a phone call or handwritten letter in block writing) from someone who wants me to read and carefully evaluate their amazing manifesto, usually involving some quasi-mystical “scientific” theory they’ve been working on for years (or decades). They are usually sincere, self-taught laypeople with no real academic education who are sure they’ve figured out universal truths that mainstream scientists are too blind to see, and say that the nuances of their genius can only be revealed by reading 300+ pages of their explanations and diagrams. I usually ignore them but I recently skimmed one and replied…

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You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 232016
 

My mystery-solving investigation skills were praised a recent issue of “The New York Times Magazine,” which notes that I “thoroughly debunked” a famous eyewitness encounter with a monstrous Lizard Man. To the best of my knowledge–and despite many articles and even a whole book on the creature–I’m the first person to have debunked that sighting.

An excerpt:

But when it investigates the paranormal, Fortean Times brings painstaking research and analysis to bear on topics that most sensible observers would dismiss immediately. Consider our mutual friend the Lizard Man. The November cover story traced the South Carolina legend’s roots to a 1988 sighting by a Lee County teenager. This young man claimed that he stopped on his way home from work to change a flat tire when he spotted the seven-­foot-tall creature, which jumped atop his car, curling its long green fingers around the roof. Later, deep scratches were found in the paint. It’s a silver-­screen-­ready scene, recounted in seductive detail. But just when you’ve been sold on the legend, the pendulum swings back to skepticism. Yes, it’s cinematic — “suspiciously cinematic,” the writer Benjamin Radford warns, while thoroughly debunking the story. And I mean thoroughly: “Any bipedal creature running and jumping on the roof of a car would land with its head, hands and fingers toward the front of the car and its windscreen,” Radford noted. But “somehow this acrobatic Lizard Man ended up with its fingers on the rear windshield.” Yeah, right.

You can read the piece HERE.

FT blurb

 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 212016
 

With all the recent discussion of shootings and how the news media have covered it, I thought I’d revisit a blog I wrote in 2014 about how people often misuse (and misunderstand) the phrase “the media.”

As a longtime media and science literacy educator (as well as author of Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us), I regularly see “the media” blamed (and rarely praised) for any number of ills, some justified but many not. The phrase “the media” appears regularly and continually in public discourse-often as the subject of blame or derision: “the media” is said to incite violence, to inflame racial hatred, to manipulate consumers through advertising, and so on. “The media” is said to push an impossible beauty ideal on American women leading to an epidemic of eating disorders; violence in entertainment media such as video games is blamed for real-life violence, and so on. This is nothing new; blaming “the media” is an old tradition-in fact when Jack the Ripper was active in 1880s London, violence in the play “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was blamed for inspiring the serial murders.

You can read my CFI blog HERE.

Jul 182016
 

I’m mentioned, flatteringly, in a recent “New York Times Magazine” for an investigation and article I wrote. You can read it HERE.

“But when it investigates the paranormal, Fortean Times brings painstaking research and analysis to bear on topics that most sensible observers would dismiss immediately. Consider our mutual friend the Lizard Man. The November cover story traced the South Carolina legend’s roots to a 1988 sighting by a Lee County teenager. This young man claimed that he stopped on his way home from work to change a flat tire when he spotted the seven-­foot-tall creature, which jumped atop his car, curling its long green fingers around the roof. Later, deep scratches were found in the paint. It’s a silver-­screen-­ready scene, recounted in seductive detail. But just when you’ve been sold on the legend, the pendulum swings back to skepticism. Yes, it’s cinematic — “suspiciously cinematic,” the writer Benjamin Radford warns, while thoroughly debunking the story. And I mean thoroughly: “Any bipedal creature running and jumping on the roof of a car would land with its head, hands and fingers toward the front of the car and its windscreen,” Radford noted. But “somehow this acrobatic Lizard Man ended up with its fingers on the rear windshield.” Yeah, right.”

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 122016
 

Looks like my new book “Bad Clowns” even made it to the Wikipedia page on clowns. Very cool! If you haven’t read it yet, there’s still a few copies left at your local independent bookstore, or at Amazon.com!

 

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You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 102016
 

The idea that people can levitate under certain circumstances has been discussed for centuries despite a noticeable lack of people flying around. I interviewed Michael Grosso, the author of a new book on the topic, for my new blog… Check it out HERE!

 

I was recently sent a review copy of a new book titled The Man Who Could Fly: St. Joseph of Copertino and the Mystery of Levitation. The accompanying press release included the following summary: “St. Joseph of Copertino [1603-1663] began having mystical visions at the age of seven, but it was not until he began practicing his faith as a Franciscan priest that he realized the full potential of his mind’s power over his body-he was able to levitate. Throughout his priesthood St. Joseph became famous for frequent levitations that were observed on hundreds of occasions and by thousands of witnesses, including many skeptics. Michael Grosso delves into the biography of the saint to explore the many strange phenomena that surrounded his life and develops potential physical explanations for some of the most astounding manifestations of his religious ecstasy. Grosso draws upon contemporary explorations into cognition, the relationship between the human mind and body, and the scientifically recorded effects of meditation and other transcendent practices to reveal the implications of St. Joseph’s experiences and abilities.”…

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 052016
 

In the current issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine I have a column about investigating claims of egg balancing in the Ecuadorean jungle at the equator! Check it out on finer newsstands now!

 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jul 032016
 

Here’s an insightful piece by Sharon Hill from 2014 about attending a paranormal-themed conference; it mirrors my own experiences in many ways. You can read it HERE.

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 302016
 

Last month a group of witches claims to have cast a curse on the man whose light sentence for sexual assault has outraged many in social media. I’m quoted briefly giving my two cents in the HuffPo article HERE. 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 282016
 

It turns out that the widely-shared claims that gays couldn’t donate badly-needed blood for victims of the Orlando shootings was wrong, on at least two key points. Rumors and misinformation always circulate soon after tragedies, and it’s unfortunate. People need accurate, reliable information. You can read my article HERE.

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 252016
 

According to Google’s Scholar Alert (or in my case “Scholar” alert), my work is referenced in the new book “Policing and Social Media: Social Control in an Era of New Media.” Looks like a pricey textbook, but maybe I’ll see it some time…

new book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 232016
 

A standup comic doing explicitly skeptical material on a regular basis as part of his act is unusual– and I interviewed him about his career. You can read it HERE. 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 212016
 

The new horror film The Conjuring 2 is, like its predecessor, supposedly based on the “true case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren,” a real-life married pair of self-styled demonologists involved (however peripherally) in several high-profile haunted house reports, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s. It reunites writer/director James Wan with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, reprising their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren, respectively.

The first Conjuring film was set at a rural Rhode Island farmhouse in 1971, but this new film begins with a wholly unrelated–and far more famous–case, that of murderer Butch DeFeo who killed his family in their Amityville, New York, home. The killings really happened, and DeFeo’s defense lawyer famously tried to claim that DeFeo should be found not guilty because ghosts made him do it. The jury saw right through this flimsiest of Devil-made-me-do-it defenses but the Warrens did not, taking Butch DeFeo at his word that some unseen evil lurked in the house and compelled him to kill. The heavily fictionalized story was later made into a novel by Jay Anson and spawned a popular horror film franchise…. You can read the rest at my CFI blog HERE. 

 

Conjuring_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 152016
 

From Steve Terrell at The Santa Fe New Mexican:

He’s written factual studies about the mythical chupacabra, about spooky New Mexico folklore like the tales of La Llorona, of monsters who live in lakes. But in his latest book, New Mexico author Benjamin Radford turns his attention to a subject that for some people is much scarier than any of those legendary creatures.

You can read the rest HERE.

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 122016
 

For those who didn’t see it last month, I’m quoted in a news article explaining a new viral “ghost photo,” supposedly of Queen Isabella in a castle… You can read it HERE.

 

Ghost hunters at a 12th-century English castle snapped a photo of a milky white image of a woman in a dress and, a year later, it’s scaring up a lot of interest in British tabloids….

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 102016
 

A few years ago when I was speaking at a Bigfoot conference in Idaho, I took a few of my books to sell. This is Cassie, who asked me to tell her about some monsters. She begged her parents for $10 to add to her allowance and bought my Lake Monster book. She was so excited and said it was the first book she’d ever had autographed to her. She asked how she could look for monsters and I told her to stay in school and go into science. Hopefully 15 years from now she’ll track me down and tell me she’s a molecular biologist!

 

Cassie and my book!

Cassie and my book!

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 082016
 

I recently appeared on 2 KASA Style and had a short but fun interview talking about my new book “Bad Clowns.” You can watch it HERE!

ALBUQUERQUE (KASA) – ‘Bad Clowns’, the phrase alone sends shivers down many people’s spines. Those malicious misfits of the midway who terrorize, haunt, and threaten us have been a cultural icon. But why are we so fascinated and terrified by them? We are making an attempt at answering that question by talking with authorBenjamin Radford to discuss his book “Bad Clowns”.

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 052016
 

I’m quoted in The Santa Fe New Mexican talking about the lure and lore of hidden treasure, you can read it HERE.  

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

Jun 022016
 

There’s a new media-hyped moral panic about clandestine “Sex Roulette” parties. A bizarre sex game with a sinister twist has intrigued the tabloid press, but, on closer investigation, many of the “facts” simply don’t add up.

My closer look is HERE.

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

May 312016
 

This past Friday the 13th, and I was once again interviewed on the subject of superstitions, magical thinking, and luck lore. I appeared on 770 AM in Calgary on the Rob Breakenridge show. You can listen at the link HERE, where I discuss the psychological value of superstitions, why they can actually help athletes in some circumstances, origins, and much more! My segment lasts about 13 minutes, and begins about 13 minutes in… Coincidence?

 

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.

May 302016
 

Last week I spoke to a TV producer who pitched a series to me but said he was getting some resistance from the networks because I seemed to pretty much solve all the cases I investigate, and the suits are worried that audiences won’t watch if I’m finding solutions to mysteries. He said, “I hope that if we can’t get you a show it’s not because you’re too good at what you do.” I wrote about a similar situation in a 2012 blog… you can read it HERE

You can find more on me and my work with a search for “Benjamin Radford” (not “Ben Radford”) on Vimeo.