Hello, everyone. Welcome to the weekly summary of Doubtful News. Your Doubtful News crew was busy last week at The Amazing Meeting, presenting, learning and networking. It was a fantastic time, as usual. Many participants were not aware of the Doubtful News website and how it works. We take stories in the mainstream media and question their content and context in terms of what we know about the world. Does this news sound reasonable or is there something here that should give you pause? Also, we keep you up-to-date about the latest developments in the subject areas of anomalies, the paranormal, alternative medicine and more! Here is a rundown of the mysterious, the strange and the credulous claims from this past week that you may have missed in the news, but shouldn't. People really believe this stuff.
Black cat sighting are all the rage these days. In the U.K., many people claim to see black "panthers" and other large, non-native cats all the time but good evidence is hard to come by, as in this story.
A large black cat was apparently photographed in Louisiana in the beginning of July. It turns out to be an example of how we can be fooled by scale.
Uri Geller is in the news. Still. He is a machine, a publicity machine, that is. As a documentary about his covert psychic operations in the military is being aired in the U.K., a new biography outlining his exploits is being rushed to publication.
Headline psychic news occurred as a woman claims she had a vision that compelled her to come to the aid of searchers looking for a missing boy. She says she was dead right. But, hang on, it's not so straightforward and gets less impressive the closer we look.
Woe is the conspiracy theorists as they have lost one of their stalwart scapegoats for everything - HAARP. It did everything from control the weather to make whales beach themselves en masse. Now, it's been shut down due to lack of funding. It was in place to study the Earth's ionosphere. But, all this is what they WANT you to think…
Gullibility was on display this week in a few key stories. First, Doubtful News readers pointed out that the latest beauty trend story (a bit icky but real) was actually shown on an episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit program - snail facials. It's skeptical snark come true.
This story was so ridiculous, I wondered if it was a parody. It wasn't. A writer for the Christian Post decries Christian magicians for dabbling in the occult, because how else could they manage to levitate a bus?
Gullibilty can kill. A tragic story was revealed of a young man so upset over a supposedly bad sign - a crow that landed on his head - that he committed suicide. It indeed was a self-fulfilling bad omen.
Bad information can kill. Anti-vaccination advocate Jenny McCarthy scored a hosting spot on a popular American daytime talk show for women. A surprising wave of outrage about this quickly swelled leaving many of us to wonder if the network did this on purpose. Regardless, I suspect that many will be watching for McCarthy to make a foray into anti-science - the media watchdogs will howl.
Women are targeted to purchase "natural" products during pregnancy. This Ayurvedic "remedy" for morning sickness was found to contain heavy metals, as do many other treatments of this type. Natural? Yes, heavy metals are indeed natural. And they can be toxic in these doses.
I rounded up some stories about paranormal investigations that I saw floating around the media and noticed how the field of ghost hunting is looking more and more like a religion. Old time spiritualism resurging, perhaps?
It's a shame to see former astronaut Edgar Mitchell spouting nonsense that the government is covering up information on UFOs. He has no evidence for this besides a few military folks saying they know something. His excuse for the coverup? Money. His babbling undermines the achievements of the American space program.
The news media falls for some truly obvious gags sometimes - like this one after the San Francisco plane crash. They did not even fact check the name of the victims and almost got themselves sued for it.
The new movie about demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring, is doing well at the box office. Lorraine, still alive, is giving media interviews and sounding a bit out of it. She still claims that she experienced horrific things at the infamous Amityville Horror house even though the evidence is not there, all other evidence points to a concocted hoax, and people have lived there without incident for decades. The Warrens do not have such a good reputation outside the paranormal community but this movie is making them out to be something… supernatural.
Two real but highly unlikely events really did happen last week. A woman was struck by lightning twice while waiting in line at a grocery store.
She survived. A cow fell through a ceiling onto a sleeping man. He did not survive.
And, finally, some believe you might be able to change your destiny: if you don't like the results of your palm reading, change your palm.
Participate in the discussion about the latest news and events as we claw through the nonsense to get to the real story in all it's glory.
Sharon Hill runs Doubtful News, a unique feed of news stories about the paranormal, pseudoscience, the weird and the unexplained with questioning commentary.