Grg Lstr's linkdump and thoughts on science, family and things in the ocean that would kill you if given the opportunity.

Category: Skeptic (page 1 of 6)

What in Hickory is going on?

Allow me to start off by saying that I’m an all-around, card-carrying skeptic. Sagan is my bread and Randi is my butter. That said, I loves me some ghost stories. An interest in the paranormal and weirdness is what made me a skeptic, after all.

One of my favorite things to do is to listen to scary stories and one of my favorite sources for scary stories is the Anything Ghost podcast, which is charmingly straightforward.  Nine out of ten of the listener stories he recounts seem to be your classic sleep paralysis tales, but occasionally you get something a little more chilling (there was this a full on “get out of my room” story about a dead sister in the latest). It helps that I tend to listen before dawn while jogging or walking the dog.

This isn’t really about a ghost story, but on the second part of his annual Halloween program, he rebroadcast a story from another podcast about a haunting in Hickory, Pa., which is on the opposite side of the commonwealth from yours truly.

I’ve never heard of Hickory before, but it was described as a pre-Revolutionary town amid the mountains of the Alleghenies.  Since I always wanted to be a Lovecraftian protagonist, my antiquarian heart was all aflutter over the possibilities of casting eyes upon the relics of an ancient borough–so I popped it up on Google maps when I got back from my jog. Turns out, it is just a census designated place in the hills just south of Da Burgh.  Home to

What caught my eye was a lovely little anomaly–see it?

I cast Sacred Flame

Meanwhile, in Hickory


What Do on Dire?

Something weird is going on at the end of Dire Drive, a remote little cul-de-sac community that the Google car didn’t even bother to drive down.  Is it a cool satellite lens flare, a holy sign or, perhaps, Boba Fett entering the atmosphere? (C’mon, Slave 1, anyone?) Here’s a look from another map service:

I can’t see what it was reflecting off of here, though. I was expecting solar panels, but none of the other maps show anything. Weird.

Whole Foods Pseudoscience

How lovely is this icon? Its like a Scout badge for nonsense.

A walk through the isle of Whole Foods  often presents a bewildering array of fads and pseudoscience, and this article over at the Daily Beast calls them on it. While the right has its War on Science, the left has been fighting a guerrilla campaign for some time.

Pa. Craigslist Killing Suspect A Spree-killing Satanist? Probably not, no.

A young woman accused of murder claims she’s part of a satanic cult and that she’s killed at least 22. Are we priming for another moral panic? “Satanic Panic 2: The Revenge”?

Two people falsely accused of satanic ritual abuse in the 80s were finally freed from jail just last year. The charges against them were just as absurd as some of the claims this woman is making, and they had real consequences. Real lives were ruined.

I’m not trying to make light of this–or even trying to debunk her claims–but I think that it is more likely than not she’s simply not telling, or perhaps capable of telling, the truth. Of course, the fact that she’s probably committed one murder means that people are going to pay attention to her claims.

She may have even murdered more, but that’s also not evidence of a satanic cult conspiracy.



Link Dump: Quacks and Dinos

Here’s an interesting essay on homeopathy for those interested in that sort of thing. Regulating over-the-counter curatives is a weird thing, especially when dealing with homeopathy which, if done properly, doesn’t really have anything in it.

Arnica, for example. There’s a big difference between homeopathic arnica preparations (which don’t got no arnica in it) vs. arnica gel (which is often labeled homeopathic even though it has an active amount of ingredient). Arnica gel can actually do something. Anyway, PZ Myers schooled the Jezebel site on the topic, which is worth a read.

I know some folks who have fallen for applied kinesiology…not scams, per se, but some hokum motivational speaker. Here’s a good an interesting look at the phenomena and how its used on Science-Based Medicine, written by the awesome Harriet Hall whose wrath I unfortunately incurred by attributing an article of her’s to Steven Novella, likely because SBM at the time looked identical to NeuroLogica.

Also: Heh, wallet biopsy.

Are blue whales the biggest animals ever? Maybe.

I mean, its one of those factoids that comes up repeatedly in books about either whales or dinosaurs, both of which we have in great heaps at Stinkbug Manor. (Definitely need a new bookcase in Julia’s room.) At 98 ft (30m) long and weighing almost 200 tons (180mt), it is certainly big. Dino-writer extraordinaire, Brian Switek, reexamines the claim with a look at some of the biggest sauropods that may (or may not) have ever existed. Spoiler: some dinos were longer, but none were likely more massive than a big blue.

Argentinosaurs, shamefully hot-linked

Speaking of Switek and sauropods, he mentioned on Twitter the other week about a dinosaur app for the iPad that I felt necessary to buy. It hasn’t been as popular with the kids as Dinosaur Zoo, due to the lack of defecating sauropods, but it is a little more stylish, a lot more expensive, and contains 100 percent more Stephen Fry, which is worth the $15. It is called Inside the World of Dinosaurs, and each morning, as I make coffee, Mr. Fry tells me about a dinosaur. This morning it was Argentinosaurus. Of course, I’d buy a copy of the phone book if Fry were to narrate it. Interestingly, he pronounces Giganotosaurus (which played into the story of Argentinosaurus) differently than they do on Dinosaur Train, favoring Ji-GANT-osaurus over Ji-gah-NOH-ta-saurus (forgive my phonetic approximations).

Ghosts on the loose in the USS Olympia…or maybe just a bid for tourists

Color me skeptical, but I find it odd that they Inky runs a full article on the hauntings of the USS Olympia now that the organization that runs it is threatening to close the site down in November. Odd that the ghost article brushes past that fact. If you haven’t seen it, the USS Olympia is a relic from the Spanish-American War and, along with its WWII-era submarine friend, the Becuna, a staple of regional class trips to the Philadelphia waterfront/historic district.

“I’m a complete rationalist,” said Jesse Lebovics, manager of the Olympia and submarine Becuna for the Independence Seaport Museum. “I can explain most of it.

“But [the ship] certainly has a colorful enough history that I think if something were to be around, it makes sense it would be around the Olympia,” Lebovics said.

Sure, Jesse, nice “but” there. I’d think a few ghosts would be mighty convenient for you though.

I don’t necessarily blame the folks who run the Olympia for pitching this story. After all, we’ve seen Eastern State Penitentiary go from moldering historical curiosity to one of the most popular “haunted” places in America by embracing the ghost tourist industry. (By day a historic gem, by night a history-making cash cow.) And the Independence Seaport Museum is still reeling from the scandal left behind by its former president, who ran the place as his own personal cash/political favor machine.

Apparently, the ISM has already pimped out the ship to the ghost TV reality show industry, a necessary first step, I’m sure, before they partner with a ghost tour outfit. That is, if they can put it together in time. According to previous reports, they’re looking to sell it for $20 million or they’ve threatened to sink it off the coast of Cape May. My thinking is that it will join the SS United States and become another ghost ship of Philadelphia.

Um, not in the haunted sense, but the abandoned, looming over Ikea sense…although the Olympia doesn’t necessarily loom over anything.

You want to save the Olympia? Save the waterfront. May my father, a highway engineer since the 60’s, forgive me, but let’s get rid of I-95. The idea is so mad it might work.


I can’t link it directly, but check out picture number four in the gallery. The caption says it all: “In recordings, Harry Burkhardt says, he has heard voices, including one that told him: ‘Save the ship!'”

Harry, are you certain Jesse wasn’t whispering in your ear?

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