Doubt and About – Fall 2016

Things always seem to ramp up in the fall, after school starts again and vacation time is over. This September, I started posting again on Doubtful News. I realized that DN had 30x more reach than this personal blog so there was little excuse for posting about news stories here and not there. However, due to the time off and that DN does not get courtesy posts on Facebook or Twitter from any big orgs, we don’t have the hit counts we used to. It’s clear to me, and I hate to keep saying it, effective skeptical outreach requires a support network. Not money so much as basic human support, a foundation of people who believe in the goals and promote the information to their friends and family. If advocacy was less about fundraising and more about getting things done at a grass-roots level, I think we’d be much better off and have made more progress.

In light of those goals – doing what you can to reach people who haven’t been exposed to practical skepticism and applying critical thinking – I’ve been doing things…Read More »


Slenderman on The Folklore Podcast: He’s the “face” of online bullying

For those interested in the more intellectual aspects of ghosts and monsters, I recommend checking out The Folklore Podcast hosted by Mark Norman. The first episode is on Slenderman, a topic I’ve been interested in even before the “Slenderman stabbings” brought the legend into so many peoples’ consciousness. Norman’s guest for this episode was Dr. Andrea Kitta who had some intriguing ideas about what this particular monster represents. Read More »

What I’m watching: Speculative Zoology

I’m sad I can’t be at TetZooCon 2016 in London this weekend.

Best wishes, Darren and John, from your fans in the U.S.

Here is Dr. Darren Naish’s 2014 TetZooCon lecture on Speculative Zoology.

Speculative zoology discussion overlaps MAJORLY with cryptozoology but takes into account evolutionary factors (pushed beyond modern observations). It’s a fun topic.

I prefer my cryptozoology from experts with PhDs rather than blow-hard Bigfoot hunters, thankyouverymuch…


SPR mag provides a charitable view of ‘The Conjuring 2’

The latest copy of Paranormal Review, the magazine of the SPR (Society of Psychical Research), is, as usual, a good read, full of interesting ideas. I like this magazine because of the quality of the content and that it’s done by the SPR and not fly-by-night ghost chasers. This issue provides a thoughtful talk on today’s paranormal (parapsychological) topics for even the skeptically-minded.

The cover features an image from the The Conjuring 2 movie starring fictionalized Ed and Lorraine Warren, “Demonologists”. The Warrens were real but the depiction of their involvement in the Enfield situation and in the Perron house of the original The Conjuring movie are almost entirely dramatized. Why the SPR-affiliated editors decided to take such a charitable view of this movie is beyond me, considering it ignored the far more involved SPR work on the case. I applaud the SPR for taking the high road here.Read More »

angry computer

Moving past the skeptical community era of constant offense and victimization

main-qimg-e50fc45a8a973c846fed73eb98a42039-cAn interesting piece appeared on the Center for Inquiry website exploring opinions about taking offense over others’ speech or actions, faux outrage, and being offended on others’ behalf: Offense by Proxy and the Moral Right to Indignation

This piece explains pretty well why I also do not agree with the views of frequently outraged social justice “warriors” and some outspoken feminist writers.

Read More »

Where’s Wessie? Snake story is confusing and growing cold

It’s now September and there is still no conclusion to the Wessie mystery which surfaced in late June. Is there a giant snake on the loose in Westbrook, Maine?

In my last post, I discussed the evidence advanced so far and the problems with it – eyewitness reports from locals and from two police officers, though the latter was at 3:30 AM. I recently found a reference to the first sighting which is a bit too much to swallow:

…a woman filed a report with the Westbrook police department claiming to have seen a snake as large as a truck, with a head the size of a basketball.

Head the size of a basketball? Only in the movies.

That’s not what the police saw nor does it correspond with the physical evidence discovered – a shed skin from an obviously huge snake (but “truck size?”), just laying there in the open near the Presumpscot River, found by a local on August 20. This was not Titanoboa. Yet, Wessie-mania went into maximum overdrive.Read More »

Cryptozoology “expert” called in to look for Maine serpent (UPDATED: Snakeskin found)

Back in June, locals of Westbrook, Maine said they saw a large snake slithering around. After no sign of the beast a week later, a Westbrook police officer witnessed it eating something near Riverbank Park on the Presumpscot River. A second officer called in also saw it. From their Facebook page:

On 6-29-16 at about 0330 hours an Officer on patrol in the area of Riverbank Park observed a large snake on the riverbank in the area of Speirs Street. The snake was eating a large mammal, possibly a beaver (not joking). A second officer arrived and they both watched it swim across the river to the Brown Street side of the Presumpscot River where it disappeared in the thick underbrush. They estimated its length to be at least 10 feet. WPD contacted the Maine Warden Service and they expect that the snake will remain dormant for a few days because it just ate a substantial meal. The snake has been dubbed “Wessie” or the “Presumpscot Python” by locals. We ask the public to be mindful of the snake’s presence in the area and immediately report any sightings so we can remove the animal from the river.

No northern US snake gets that big. Snakes that size are native to tropical areas. The news of a possible escaped Burmese python set the town abuzz. This article noted that local businesses hoped it would be a draw, a clear case of crypto-tourism. After a week with no additional sightings confirmed, the Mayor said she called in an “expert” but declined to elaborate. Many local people were already looking for it. The article mentioned that “a local cryptozoologist and herpetologist group” had volunteered to help.

Burmese Python by Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble/Creative Commons
Burmese Python by Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble/Creative Commons
Today, an updated article says that the unnamed expert was a cryptozoologist but he has yet to investigate. Hmm…Read More »