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JREF Swift Blog
Swift, named for Jonathan Swift, is the JREF's daily blog, featuring content from James Randi, the JREF staff, and other featured authors.

Medium Contacts Nonexistent Brother PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   
I'm always on the lookout for skeptical depictions of mediums in fiction, such as Robert Browning's delicious poem "Mr. Sludge the Medium." I just found another example where I least expected, and I wanted to share it with readers of Swift.

Latin American literature is famous for "magical realism" and its fiction is replete with ghosts and spooky doings. Yet I found a thoroughly skeptical view of a medium in Mario Vargas Llosa's novel "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter."

The protagonist is taken to a séance by a friend. The medium is a widower who discovered the spirit world during a phase of abject loneliness after his wife died, and he comments that séances not only allow one to continue seeing and hearing departed loved ones, but they are entertaining and are a great way of killing time. His description makes it sound like a séance is comparable to watching a movie or a sports event, only more boring. In his unimaginative version of the other life, the spirits get sick, fall in love, get married, reproduce, travel... the only difference is that they don't die. He calls up several spirits from Purgatory and engages in stunningly inane conversations, "How are you? It's so nice to hear you. Pray for me. Give my regards to X."
 
Dear "Psychics": SHUT UP PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

NOTE: A few hours after this article was published, metaphysicalbridge.com was redirected to another site. I don't think this article had anything to do with it, but who knows?

I've stated many times that what makes skeptics special is not what they believe in, or what they DON'T believe in, but that they're always willing to change their opinions in the light of new evidence. That said, I'm a bit upset with a site I recently found. There is no new evidence here.

Metaphysicalbridge.com claims to offer free readings about the missing and unsolved crimes. The main site is merely a modified version of shopping cart software, which leads me to believe that their main priority might actually involve the selling of their woo-woo products rather than actually helping people with their "gifts."

 
A UFO Explanation PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeffrey Wagg   

As I've said before, UFO's are real! Yes, there are Unidentified Flying Objects. They may be extraterrestrial, but before we draw that conclusion, maybe we should look at some terrestrial explanations?

Consider this link. 19 articles refer to the UFO in the video at the right. What could it be? News articles appeared in India, Croatia, the UK, the US, and many other places. Seems like a big deal! Could this be the smoking gun that UFO buffs have sought for years? Do we finally have proof positive that we're being visited by otherworldly creatures?

Consider this bit from the Telegraph UK article:

... the unidentified black metal object stands out clearly against the blue sky, where it can be seen darting up and down for more than 10 minutes.

 
Urine: The Money PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Ever since I was part of the Rosemary Hunter challenge, I've been associated with urine. I find this ironic, as the result of that test was NO urine, and I'd prefer to be associated with that. Nonetheless, I received this e-mail from Swift reader Michael:

I have no comment.

And that leaves it to me to comment. The item he had no comment on was this piece in the Telegraph UK concerning a new "cola" beverage that will becoming out soon. From the article:

It will be a revolution of sorts. The acceptance of cow urine as a potent medicine is increasing day by day and once it comes as a cold drink, its demand will definitely increase. It will prove and justify the high stature accorded to a cow in Indian culture.

 
The Parade of Errors PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

The state of Virginia boasts one of the most transparent – yet revered – “psychics” of recent decades. He was known as the "Sleeping Prophet," a photographer named Edgar Cayce who earned his nickname by making medical diagnoses while reclining in a “trance,” though no evidence was ever produced to establish this state, perhaps because experts on the subject are rather rare. Cayce – pronounced “Kay-see” – was the subject of an episode of one of NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries," the TV show that showcased such wonders as the Gulf Breeze UFO photos of Ed Walters, and England's phantom “crop circles,” as genuine wonders. The NBC-TV crew went both to Norfolk and Virginia Beach filming dramatic recreations of Cayce's life for a 15-minute segment which concentrated on Cayce's reputation as a "psychic diagnostician."

Five different time periods from 1890 to 1945 were “creatively” re-created for the show.

 
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