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Happy Hallowe'en Harry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jamy Ian Swiss   
Thursday, 31 October 2013 09:00

This Hallowe’en marks the 87th anniversary of the death of the legendary escape artist, Harry Houdini. While on a major North American tour, Houdini was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, after days of suffering high fevers and abdominal pain. Doctors removed his burst appendix, but knew that, his body already wracked with peritonitis, he was beyond saving. His wife, Bess, was told he would not live out the night; the all but indomitable Harry, an extraordinary physical specimen at age 52, somehow fought off the grim reaper for a week, finally telling his wife he could no longer keep up the fight, and succumbing on October 31st, 1926.

Eighty-seven years later, Houdini remains the most famous magician of all time — albeit that many experts and enthusiasts in the world of magic resent this status, since Houdini achieved his greatest performing success as an escape artist, even though he loved magic. His final tour consists of a show in three parts — escapes, magic, and a lecture/demonstration segment exposing the methods of fraudulent séance mediums — in effect, neatly highlighting the three chief elements of Houdini’s extensive career as a live performer.

Homeopathic psychic exorcism: This week in Doubtful News for October 29, 2013 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sharon Hill   
Tuesday, 29 October 2013 09:00

Here is this week's summary of the ridiculous, the nonsensical, and the psychic screwups of the week courtesy of Doubtful News.

Lots of psychic news this week. First, a "psychic" bus driver has a premonition, refuses to drive kids. He gets fired. 

A lucrative psychic ring is busted in Russia. 

A psychic phone network is pranked by people looking for free readings. They weasel out by saying they KNEW they were pranks. Uh-huh… 

Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Harriet Hall   
Monday, 28 October 2013 09:00

Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo-woo in medicine.

Redefining cancer (David Gorski) A legitimate scientific debate about cancer screening and diagnosis is being misused for political ends, being characterized as a way to ration cancer care under the Affordable Care Act by redefining cancer, with the prediction of more cancer deaths. Their ignorance is showing. The debate is about adjusting terminology, screening, and treatment to be more in line with our more recent understanding of complex cancer biology. We now know that ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is not really cancer, but only a premalignant lesion; we have been over-diagnosing and over-treating.

How to Talk to People About CAM (Harriet Hall) If you have friends or relatives who hold unscientific beliefs, how can you set them straight without alienating them? Can you hope to change people’s minds? A few thoughts and suggestions, and an invitation to join the discussion.

Kevin Trudeau in Jail PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Steve Novella   
Friday, 25 October 2013 12:00

One question I am asked virtually every time I am interviewed about the purveyors of dubious health products is – is this person sincere? Do they believe their own sales pitch, or are they a heartless con artist? While this is a fascinating question, the answer is, I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter.

I cannot read people’s minds (I know, you’re shocked), and so there is no way to know for sure how much someone believes their own BS. I suspect that most people who sell pseudoscience are somewhere in between true believer and con artist. They believe their own claims to some degree, and may be convinced by the placebo effect of their customers. They also know they are cutting corners, not being entirely candid about the evidence, and are contorting logic as necessary.

The Castle Project: A documentary about the Croke-Patterson Mansion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   
Thursday, 24 October 2013 09:00

Thomas Croke built the Croke-Patterson Mansion in Denver in 1891. Over the years it has been home to many different residents, as well as a doctor’s office, a dance studio, a radio station, an apartment complex and a bed & breakfast, while it remained unoccupied for many years. As an historical “castle” with a colorful past, the Croke-Patterson has a haunted reputation. At great expense, the house was recently purchased by architect Brian Higgins and converted into a boutique hotel renamed the Patterson Historic Inn, although he’s not so interested in history.

Recently, we received an email at the JREF asking us to help promote The Castle Project, Higgins’ new documentary about the Croke-Patterson Mansion. This begins with skeptics Matthew Baxter and Bryan Bonner bemoaning that the Mansion’s fascinating history is overshadowed by its ghostly lore and urban legends. Twisting this message, the filmmaker promises that he will unearth the “true” ghost stories. The Castle Project’s motto is, “Not based in a true story. It is the true story.”

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