In the latest in a series highlighting past episodes and archives of Squaring the Strange, here's a look back at a show you might have missed: In this “special episode,” what began as an episode on outrage turned into a compilation of several topics. First Ben discusses the History Channel’s failure to “further research” their botched examination of Amelia Earhart. On the topic of follow-up, he then recalls when the 2009 horror flick Orphan caused outrage from adoption experts, who claimed the movie would have a chilling effect on adoption rates. Yet when this effect never materialized, no one said a thing. Then Pascual reads a listener email and discusses Facebook algorithms, echo chambers, and his own personal social media practices. In a fun bit called “Tales from the Road,” Ben and Pascual share real-life experiences they’ve had involving Pinhead from Hellraiser and having one’s guitarist mistaken for a murderer, respectively. In “Ben’s Fan Mail,” we explore a reader’s question on the 1917 Miracle of the Sun in Fátima and what sort of time goes into a case investigation. Then Ben discusses a false rumor about monkeys spreading yellow fever in Brazil, leading to people killing monkeys—a dangerous rumor for the monkeys, certainly, and representative of the danger that false rumors and urban legends can pose. And speaking of danger, Ben talks about that one time he almost ran over George R.R. Martin at Bubonicon. You can here it HERE.
I was recently interviewed for Vice media’s popular Motherboard site about my investigation into the 1997 Pokemon seizure mass hysteria incident, which was published both in the Southern Medical Journal and also in Skeptical Inquirer magazine sixteen years ago this month (May/June 2001). The series is titled “Science Solved It!” and the interview can be heard HERE. You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo, and please check out my podcast Squaring the Strange!
I'm quoted in a recent piece on The Daily Beast, talking about government (sorry, gubmint) mind control conspiracies. You can read it HERE!
“They’re looking for shielding materials, garments, fabrics, metals, paints, and meters for measuring, but oftentimes they can’t really articulate what they’re trying to shield from or trying to measure,” said DeToffol.
That’s because none of what these people are trying to protect against actually exists, says Benjamin Radford, a fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a New York think tank that promotes science-based reasoning. Further, this sort of “thought broadcasting”—which is known among conspiracy theorists as “Remote Neural Monitoring,” or “RNM”—is a classicmanifestation of paranoid schizophrenia, says Dr. Michael Sacks, an attending psychiatrist at NewYork Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
Creepy clowns have recently been reported in Greenville, S.C., allegedly luring children into the woods behind a block of apartments. It's scary and alarming -- but whether they're real is another matter. Most of the handful of reports are from children, though a few are from adults. No one has actually been harmed or even touched. The children believe the clowns live in a house located near a pond at the end of a trail in the woods, though when police investigated they saw no signs of suspicious activity or anyone dressed as a clown.... You can read the rest of the story HERE. And, of course, you can read more about this mysterious menace in my new book Bad Clowns! You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
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.
A mysterious illness shut down 57 schools in Bangladesh last month, causing respiratory distress in hundreds of girls; as I note in my new Discovery News article, it's likely a textbook case of mass hysteria... 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.
Last month reports have surfaced in England of people dressed as clowns stalking and trying to abduct — or at the very least scaring — children. I gave a presentation on this topic earlier this year for the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research. My Discovery News article on it is HERE. You can find more on me and my work with a search for "Benjamin Radford" (not "Ben Radford") on Vimeo.
A creepy clown was sighted recently in a Chicago cemetery late at night... My look at weird clown reports can be found HERE.
I was recently a guest on the ParaTruth Radio show discussing several of my investigations including my chupacabra research... you can find it HERE.
Why is Ebola so scary? For various interesting psychological and sociological reasons... My new article on it for Discovery News is HERE.
Why would someone purposely set himself on fire? It happened earlier this week in Colorado. My new article on the reasons for self-immolation is now out, you can read it HERE.
Ken Burns's recent documentary The Central Park Five tells the story of five Black and Latino teenagers arrested in 1989 for the brutal rape and assault of a white jogger in New York's Central Park. The teens were widely portrayed in the press as part of a "wolf pack" in the midst of a Central Park "wilding" spree that included vandalism, assault, rape, and attempted murder... My new piece about this important case of injustice, false accusations, and false confessions can be found HERE.
Last month I appeared on the Edge of the Unknown Radio on the All 1 Broadcast Network, and talked about a wide variety of weird and non-weird things. It was a fun show, and you can listen to it HERE.
My Discovery News article on the top myths busted this past year is now up! This past year was a strange one, with a variety of popular beliefs being busted. Some were welcome news: Other myths left a funk like a fart-filled balloon when they burst.... You can read it HERE.
The first installment of my occasional series of columns on "Skeptical Cinema" is now up, featuring a horror film by the great William Friedkin... You can read it HERE.
I wrote this for Halloween, but it's a classic urban legend year-round: The history and mystery of Bloody Mary! You can read my Discovery News piece on it HERE.
A “weird news” story circulated in June about a trend among Japanese schoolchildren licking each other’s eyeballs and supposedly spreading the highly contagious disease pink eye. But was it too good to be true? Find out HERE.
I'm sometimes asked for insight into how my articles and columns come about, what the process is for assembling them. HERE's one recent example....
Sharon Hill of Doubtful News reviews my latest book (with Robert Bartholomew), The Martians Have Landed, for eSkeptic! You can read it HERE.
The story of a famous miracle in Fátima, Portugal, began in May 1917, when three children claimed to have encountered the Virgin Mary on their way home from tending a flock of sheep. The oldest girl, Lucia, was the only one to speak to her, and Mary told the children that she would reappear to them on the thirteenth day of the next six months. She then vanished.... You can read the rest HERE.
What does a bitcoin, a uniquely 21st century electronic currency, have to do with tulips in 1630s Holland? What, exactly, happened? Find out in my Discovery News piece HERE!
I recently wrote about penis-theft panics for LiveScience.com. I'd written about it before, for example in the book I co-authored with Bob Bartholomew, "Hoaxes, Myths, and Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking," and I included it in a talk I gave last year on mass hysterias at a skeptics conference. It's an interesting subject that always gets people tittering... You can read my recent story HERE.
I was recently interviewed by the great guys at the Project: Archivist podcast, talking about cults in general and doomsday cults specifically. I'll post a link once the show's out!
In which I discuss grave robbing and body theft from Burke & Hare to modern-day Benin.... Read it HERE.
My presentation at Atlanta's Dragon*Con conference last weekend on The Sexx Files: Ghost Porn was enthusiastically received by a packed house and standing room only crowd! I also gave a talk on truths and myths about mass hysterias, also known as mass sociogenic illness.
A bizarre illness affecting nearly 20 students at a Western New York Junior-Senior High school now has an official diagnosis: mass hysteria.The students, almost all of them girls, and mostly friends, began experiencing involuntary jerks and tics. Sometimes their limbs, neck or face would suddenly spasm; other times they would twitch, grunt, or shout. It was strange and troubling behavior, made all the more scary because it had no clear cause.... Read the full story HERE.
For Discovery News I wrote a piece about the history of 'real' zombies, derived from Haitian Voodoo belief and folklore. You can read it HERE.
Pulitzer-prize winning writer Deborah Blum mentioned my work in her recent Discover Magazine blog on Pink Slime... you can read it HERE!
I was interviewed by a reporter for the New York Daily News about the marketing and commercialization of the 2012 phenomenon. Yep, everbody's cashing in! You can read the story HERE.
What's scarier than Rick Santorum as president? The orang minyak (Malay for "oily man"), a bizarre monster said to abduct young women by night throughout Malaysia. The creature has been occasionally sighted for decades, but never captured.... My article on this monster appeared on MSNBC; you can read it HERE.
If you’re reading this, the world didn’t end at the beginning of this infamous year. 2012 is a date shrouded in mystery, controversy and—some say—doooom. Here's a primer on the whole 2012 issue and its connection to the Mayan calendar, from the Weekly Alibi. You can read the story HERE.
As we head inexorably toward 2012, I wrote a piece for Discovery News looking back at some of the strangest mysteries of this past year, and some of the mysteries that remain with us as we enter the new year. What's behind, and what's ahead? You can read the story HERE.
A scene in the latest installment of the Twilight franchise has reportedly been causing viewers across the country to have seizures. I investigated the "original" and best known case of photosensitive epilepsy in 2001. You can read the story HERE.
In a Halloween article on Salon.com, writer Tracy Clark-Florey wrote a very good piece on the panic over sex offenders at Halloween (coincidentally, the subject of Chapter 29 in my new book The Martians Have Landed!). In it she referenced some of my work on the topic; you can read the piece HERE.
I'm pleased to announce that my sixth book, The Martians Have Landed! A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes, is now available. The book is co-authored with sociologist Robert Bartholomew (who also co-authored my first book back in 2003, Hoaxes Myths, and Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking). Bob and I also co-authored a report on the Pokemon Panic which solved the mystery and was published in the prestigious Southern Medical Journal. The Martians Have Landed! surveys a wide breadth of social panics and scares that were fueled by the mass media, from classics like the 1938 War of the Worlds scare by Orson Welles and the Halley's Comet panic of 1910, to recent panics like murders following Hurricane Katrina and anti-vaccination fears. Other topics include Morgellons disease; the Ghost Slasher of Taipei; radio disc jockey hoaxes; the bird flu panic; the Bat-men on the Moon hoax; shark attack panics; urban legends; the Curse of the Crying Boy paintings; e-mail virus panics, mass hysterias, and much more. In all there are nearly 40 chapters by experts around the world. Some are hoaxes; others are merely misunderstandings that got out of control. Some are now largely forgotten, while others still have a clear effect on us today and will shape society into the future. I contributed about half the chapters, including on phantom clowns, contrails, Satanic scares, predator panics, kidney theft, and how the Puerto Rican media fueled concern over a certain blood-sucking beast you may have heard of.... Autographed copies of the book can be purchased from me at my Web site for $36 (includes free shipping), or at your local independent bookstore, or at Amazon.com and elsewhere. The cover price is $40.
Harold Camping, the leader of the ministry Family Radio Worldwide, who concluded after careful study of the Bible that the world would end (or begin to end) on May 21, 2011, says the world will end in the next few days... While End Times believers scour the Bible for evidence supporting their beliefs, perhaps they should re-read Proverbs 16:18 ("Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall"). You can read the full story HERE.
In an article on mass hysteria, a Time magazine article referenced my investigation of the 1997 Pokemon Panic (which appears as a chapter in my book Scientific Paranormal Investigation). My co-author Bob Bartholomew, with whom I wrote up the case for the Southern Medical Journal in 2001, is quoted. Read the story HERE.
Researchers from the United Nations recently met in Cambodia to solve the mystery of why large numbers of female workers in that nation have succumbed to an unknown (and temporary) illness. But rather than a physical illness as the source, the scientists may want to look at the mind as the root cause. Read more HERE.