Archive for the ‘Skepticism’ Category

Ghost Hunters Halloween Hoax

November 13, 2008 48 comments

I know I’m a little late on this, but it’s just so, so amazing!

I was watching the evidence episode of Ghost Hunters, from their live Halloween investigation of Fort Delaware, on Hulu last night. While watching it, there was a few out-of-place evidences that just seemed too good to be true and too fake looking to be taken seriously. To my amusement I did a little search for the events and found an overwhelming backlash to them all over paranormal websites and on YouTube, from people who actually believed in the integrity of TAPS. I even found an online petition started by a Ghost Hunters fan which calls for the show to be canceled.

The first piece of “evidence” is a very loud, supposedly ghostly voice, saying, “You’re not supposed to be here” twice, which sounds like someone playing a recording. Here’s the video of that:

The other piece of “evidence” consists of 3 blatantly rigged ghostly pulls on Grant Wilson’s jacket. Grant just kind of awkwardly wanders around for a few minutes with his right arm by his side, and then right next to the camera, someone obviously pulls a line causing a point on the back of his jacket to dip a little. The pull happens in the same place each time, while creating a single point where is obvious that 1 line is attached to it. Grant’s over-exaggeration of the force of the “pull” is hilarious. This clip is a little long, but it’s important to view all the odd behavior, as well as him pre-raising the collar of his jacket so it can be pulled down better:

Grant Wilson wrote a childish blog post about how unfair the criticism was, saying stuff like:

I just wish that people would give us constructive criticism and help us figure out what happened rather than just take the easy way out by saying we fake stuff.

As if when fraud is suspected the best people to “figure out what happened” are the people being accused of committing it. There is a bunch of people in jail right now that probably wish the cops and the courts had left them alone to “figure out what happened” in the crimes they were convicted of.

Of course, he finished off the blog with the typical statement of hoaxers and frauds, blaming it all on people hating them and not being true to them. It reminded me of the statement Sylvia Browne made after Shawn Hornbeck was found alive, even though she said he was dead, proclaiming that the people that don’t believe her were never genuine believers of her and her philosophies anyways.

I’ve tried to point out to people for a while now that the the very least Grant commits hoaxes, but this just proves that the whole group lacks any kind of integrity and the fans are finally seeing the light and they are pissed!

Categories: Ghosts, Paranormal, Skepticism

My Night With MUFON

November 13, 2008 2 comments

Last friday, I attended my local paranormal Meetup group, where the New York state director of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), James Bouck, was to give a talk.

MUFON was officially founded in May of 1969, by Walt Andrus, and MUFON’s official mission statement simply states:

“The scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity”.

And their goals are:

I. Investigate UFO sightings and collect the data in the MUFON Database for use by researchers worldwide.

II.Promote research on UFOs to discover the true nature of the phenomenon,with an eye towards scientific breakthroughs,and improving life on our planet.

III.Educate the public on the UFO phenomenon and its potential impact on society.

When I arrived at the meetup location there was a few men dressed in suits who looked very UFO investigator-ish, who I assumed to be from MUFON since they had not been to the meetup before. I found I was wrong when about 10 minutes later an old, shaky, casually dressed man walked in and identified himself to the meetup organizers as Mr. Bouck. He walked up to the front of the room and perched on a chair a tattered, crudely slapped together looking display board which a preschooler could have better constructed in arts and crafts (Fig. 1). Its hard to see in my camera phone picture, but the edges were full of dents, the papers were aged, damaged and the scotch tape holding them to the board was brown and coming off, and the photo of the Albany Airport UFO (top right) had badly handwritten scribble on it to describe the photo. Not exactly what I expecting from an international UFO organization, which is consulted for just about every TV show on UFO’s you’ve ever seen.



To no surprise, my expectations were lowered considerably and the ensuing “talk” was even more sad and disappointing.

The first part of Mr.Bouck’s “talk” simply consisted of him standing in front of the room and reading local UFO reports, with the papers literally held up directly in front of his face about 3 inches from making contact with it. He did lower them from his face a few times to tell some personal anecdotes, like how he and a group got all excited about a bright UFO on the horizon for more than an hour, only to finally figure out it was Venus rising in the morning sky. I’ve found it to be a trend when attending paranormal talks or classes, that even though the people giving them claim to be doing scientific research, all they ever do is just tell anecdotes. I want to hear the scientific breakthroughs, but all I ever get is stories.

As disapponting and lame the first half was, at least he came off as being somewhat reasonable. Well, that didn’t last long as he dove off the deep end in the second half.

The second half consisted of talking about nonsense such as extra-dimensional vortexes in caves, repressed memory therapy, and a quite impassioned rant about the government covering everything up and lying to us. He even ranted about how it took over a decade for the government to “fess up” about the Stealth Bomber.  The stupidity of that was overwhelming, as if the government should tell us everything they do, especially when it comes to the military.

All in all the night was a let down, as I was expecting much much more from the largest and oldest UFO “investigation” group in the world. It was still very informative in that it was further proof that this stuff is much worse when you go see it for yourself, rather than just what you see on TV.

Categories: Skepticism, UFO

To Be “Psychic” In The Eyes Of Geller

November 4, 2008 1 comment

I found this little gem of a very short Uri Geller interview.

The first important bit about this interview, is the anecdote he gives about how he (Geller) influenced the outcome of the ’96 game between England and Scotland in the Euro Championships. In particular, moving the ball during a Scotland penalty kick which helped give the win to England. This, of course, was a very bold claim and smacked me in the face of what we call in the “psychic” world, a “never was” story. Basically, it’s a story that is designed to attest to the authenticity of a “psychic,” which is totally made up and actually never happened. To my surprise, most of the story was true.

Apparently, Geller hovered over the stadium while… and get this… clutching 11 energized crystals – one for each England team member – plus a giant crystal he uses “to receive and transmit positive thoughts.” WOW.

The other fact that does check out is that apparently the ball did move before the shot was taken. I don’t really find that too be much of a mystery since that sort of thing happens all the time, especially outside on a field. But of course Geller claims he made it do that. I also found that after the game, Geller also claimed that he was willing England goalie, David Sherman, to move right to deflect the goal.

This begs the question of if he’s so powerful as to make the ball move to misdirect the shot – which would have gone in if not blocked – and to make the goalie move in the appropriate direction, then why not just will the kicker to kick it in the stands? Why setup this Rune Goldberg machine of wills when you could do it in one direct manor? Obviously he’s just adapting what happened to be congruent with the nonsense he claims to be able to do.

Its funny though how while looking up references about the ’96 game, I stumbled upon a website called The Curse of Uri Geller! , which documents all the times Geller has failed to influence things he claimed he was going to. On that list is that Geller claimed he was going to help Scotland win in ’99, since he had helped England win the first time. England won 2-0. Why didn’t you mention that in your little story, Geller?

Lastly on this point is the fact that England won the game 2-0. Geller implies that willing the penalty shot to not go in was what won the game for England, yet at the time of the penalty shot England was up 1-0. At most the penalty kick would have tied the game at that point. But Scotland still would have lost by a goal in the grand scheme of things. It just doesn’t add up.

Now, I think this short interview was brilliant! It’s amazing how absolutely spot on the reaction was that Randi predicted. First Geller went directly into a red herring about how skeptics help give him attention,which had been his standard answer for a long time. Ever since his appearance as a judge for the show, Phenomenon, Geller has changed his tune to putting himself in the ambiguous category of “Mystifier.” Most people, when talking to Geller, would just accept his “Mystifier” answer and move on. But Mr. Margerrison asks the obvious question of, “what exactly does he mean by that?” Of course, Geller acts like an utter child and hangs up the phone.

So which is it, Geller? Are you a psychic? Or have you just been playing one for the past over 30 years, and wasting a lot of money and people’s careers along the way?  So far the only person with any real predictive power on the has been James Randi, as you just demonstrated.

Categories: All, Skepticism Now Promotes Alleged “Psychics”

November 1, 2008 1 comment

Cross-Posted at In Case You’re Interested…


Yes, you heard right. The famous web site dedicated to the truth about Sylvia Browne and her psychic scams has been taken over by a True Believer.

I got up this morning and noticed a post on the Rogues’ Gallery (the official blog of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe) about this news.

Apparently, the domain name registration had expired and had been auctioned off legally. The site wasn’t hacked, which was the suspicion when the new site showed up.

According to the owner’s (Robert Lancaster’s) wife,…

…I paid for the “hosting” but not the domain name. Notifications were sent to Robert’s email, which I have not had access to. I was told a mailing went out as well, but I never got it.

The domain was sold – legally.

The site initially presents itself as skeptical of Browne.

Now, if you are a fan of Sylvia Browne and you think that she is the best psychic, then you might have another thing coming. She has been proven to be a psychic fraud in many readings that just did not connect to the true story. So, how did this best psychic go on to be the psychic fraud that she is or is not?

But, as you peruse the site, you stumble upon many links to Now, a WHOIS query reveals that it is owned by “kreimanchess.”

It is unclear whether or not this guy also owns as well, because the owner is listed as “Domains by Proxy, Inc.”

As far as I can tell, “kreimanchess” is using this site to piggyback on Sylvia Browne’s success as a psychic (con-artist). He presents a case against the psychic, but then promotes his own brand of nonsense. Free Tarot readings, tips on how to find a “Valid Psychic,” “spiritual” advice for love and relationships, etc. Here’s an excerpt…

Avoid Psychic Scams

Psychic Scams happen everyday. There are many people out there who play off being a psychic reader to make some quick money but really have no psychic abilities. If you are interested in obtaining a psychic reading research before hand is a must. Look for the best psychic for you and most importantly look for a valid psychic. Learning that your psychic reading turned out to be a psychic scam is frustrating, you wasted your time and money and there is no way to get that back.

Great advice. He forgot the part about avoiding psychics and “spiritual teachers” altogether.

Of course, his best advice is to go to to find a “real psychic.” Of course. Why would you go anywhere else? If you’re going to get swindled out of some money, you’d better make sure they are a “Valid” swindler.

Take Action

The first step is to edit your bookmarks. If you’ve got bookmarked, delete it. The new site is now located at!

Step two is to let everyone know that the site is now being run by a True Believer.

I’d also recommend writing to the webmaster ( Voice your opinion.

Google-Bomb. Read the link for more information.


While this is a blow to the skeptical (truth-driven) community, it is also a call to action. Sylvia may have had something to do with what has transpired, as she has been a vocal opponent of what was on the original site. While this site does speak out against her personally, there are already pages on this site for “Free Tarot Readings” and whatnot.

It is not clear whether or not Sylvia is affiliated with or not. But, I would hardly be surprised if she was.

This site is not the wealth of skeptical information it once was. It’s just another True Believer site dedicated to promoting supernatural nonsense.

Spread the word.!!

Read a book. It’s good for you.

Categories: All, Science, Skepticism

News10Now Touts "Cold Laser Therapy"


Have you ever heard of Cold Laser Therapy? Sometimes it’s referred to as Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). Well, News10Now (Syracuse, NY) did a story on it yesterday (10/4/2008). Here’s the link.

I didn’t really know much about Cold Laser Therapy until I saw this story. The FDA has an interesting page dedicated to it.

The basic idea behind the FDA approving laser therapy is that the laser won’t kill you. So, it’s approved. Here’s what that page says about LLLT:


Biostimulation lasers, also called low level laser therapy (LLLT), cold lasers, soft lasers, or laser acupuncture devices, were cleared for marketing by FDA through the Premarket Notification/510(k) process as adjunctive devices for the temporary relief of pain. These clearances were based on the presentation of clinical data to support such claims. FDA will consider similar applications for these and other claims with the decision to require clinical data being made on an individual basis, taking into consideration both the device and the claim.

Just because something is FDA approved, does not immediately make it effective.

Now, the Premarket Notification/510(k) process simply states that:

A 510(k) is a Premarket submission made to FDA to demonstrate that the device to be marketed is at least as safe and effective, that is, substantially equivalent, to a legally marketed device (21 CFR 807.92(a)(3)) that is not subject to PMA. Submitters must compare their device to one or more similar legally marketed devices and make and support their substantial equivalency claims.

So basically, all the device has to do is work as well as some other device on the market. It just has to be safe enough not to injure or kill you.

The process also speaks of Substantial Equivalence:

1. has the same intended use as the predicate; and

2. has the same technological characteristics as the predicate;or

3. has the same intended use as the predicate; and

4. has different technological characteristics and

1. the information submitted to FDA; does not raise new questions of safety and effectiveness; and

2. demonstrates that the device is at least as safe and effective as the legally marketed device.

Not very sturdy criteria for a “cure.”

In case you’re interested, you can see some nutcases on YouTube peddling Cold Laser Therapy for countless ailments, for humans as well as horses!

The News10Now Story

Back to the story. Here’s the video. And here’s the article.

This story is completely credulous. There is no skepticism presented at all. Dr. Kristy Allen says:

“It does everything from improving range of motion, improving healing rate, and decreasing pain,” Allen said.

Allen said the laser light triggers biological reactions that rid the body of toxins. The treatment itself takes only a few minutes.

With all of these claims, there should be at least some evidence to support any of them. The thing that really triggered my skeptical radar was the part about…

“laser light triggers biological reactions that rid the body of toxins.”

A generic statement made by purveyors of woo to make it sound like their product is doing something incredible. There is no mention of which toxins are being removed. Even more is the assumption that our bodies are “full of toxins.” They are not.

Then there was this quote:

Those who offer the treatment say the red and near infrared light over injuries, lesions, burns, pain, inflammation and other disorders stimulates healing within those tissues. It has also been found to be an extremely successful treatment for alcohol & drug addiction, weight control, and smoking cessation.

It is of utmost importance to exercise skepticism when someone makes such a wide, all-consuming claim such as this. Not only does it heal injuries, but it helps with alcohol & drug addiction? Where’s the evidence for that?

The Evidence

There have been studies done on this type of therapy. Not as supportive of this story’s conclusion, but there are studies, nonetheless.

Here is a study that was done which compared patients receiving LLLT as compared with a placebo. The patients who received the placebo actually faired better than those receiving LLLT.

The point that wasn’t even considered in this story was the fact that her pain could have gotten better all on its own, with no treatment needed. And it may have improved regardless of the treatment offered.

LLLT, interestingly enough, has its roots in Acupuncture (uh, oh – woo alert!). Here’s what has to say about it:

Clinical Studies

A number of papers have shown a reduction of pain with laser treatments directed over acupuncture points. Altered skin resistance with a reduction of pain were also noted in subjects who receive LLLT over muscular trigger points.

Ah yes, “acupuncture points.” Anyone familiar with the studies done on Acupuncture knows that “effective” is not a word used to describe that methodology. And for LLLT to be associated with Acupuncture says a lot about the basis for this therapy.

This topic has also been discussed on the JREF discussion boards. Very interesting information.

Actual, medicine-based (science-based) treatments, such as recommended for this woman’s “Frozen Shoulder” by states the following:

How is a frozen shoulder treated?

The treatment of a frozen shoulder usually requires an aggressive combination of antiinflammatory medication, cortisone injection(s) into the shoulder, and physical therapy. Without aggressive treatment, a frozen shoulder can be permanent.

Diligent physical therapy is often key and can include ultrasound, electric stimulation, range-of-motion exercise maneuvers, ice packs, and eventually strengthening exercises. Physical therapy can take weeks to months for recovery, depending on the severity of the scarring of the tissues around the shoulder.

It is very important for people with a frozen shoulder to avoid reinjuring the shoulder tissues during the rehabilitation period. These individuals should avoid sudden, jerking motions of or heavy lifting with the affected shoulder.

Sometimes frozen shoulders are resistant to treatment. Patients with resistant frozen shoulders can be considered for release of the scar tissue by arthroscopic surgery or manipulation of the scarred shoulder under anesthesia. This manipulation is performed to physically break up the scar tissue of the joint capsule. It carries the risk of breaking the arm bone (humerus fracture). It is very important for patients that undergo manipulation to partake in an active exercise program for the shoulder after the procedure. It is only with continued exercise of the shoulder that mobility and function is optimized.

Nothing mentioning Acupuncture, Chiropractic, or Laser Treatments. Those things are not effective.


I understand that the media is in it for the money. But, I think there is something wrong with purveying something that is completely untrue. I wonder if the person who did this story even looked into it? I mean, people’s health is at stake with stories like this. It is, in my opinion, unethical to promote a modality which has no evidence to support it, other than anecdotes or stories.

There should be more involved than just interviewing the person making the claim. I doubt the interviewer even asked for evidence, other than the anecdote from the woman receiving the treatment.

I would just say that science in the media does not receive the scrutiny that it truly deserves. To simply make a claim, and for that claim to make it on local television news does not help the scientific or medical community, whatsoever.

What happens when doctors try to tell their patients about real evidence that supports or refutes a claim? People won’t listen because they “saw it on the news.” So their doctor must be wrong. This leads people to mistrust their health care providers, in favor of kooks who promote sham treatments on local television. They’ll just keep looking around until they find a doctor willing to jab, poke, prod, or pump them full of whatever the local homeopath or chiropractor is talking about on the local news channel.

The media (especially local media) needs to exercise scientific skepticism, now more than ever.

Categories: All, Health, Local, Media, Science, Skepticism

New Blog For Skeptics In Central New York!

October 5, 2008 1 comment

There is a desperate need out there for science bloggers. People with a penchant for the scientific method. Too much that’s woo, not enough that’s true.

I’d first started out trying to create a MeetUp group, but you’ve gotta pay for that. So, I thought a blog would be a good place to start. I’m looking for people who are interested in writing about local issues concerning science and skepticism who live in the Central New York area: Syracuse, Skaneateles, Ithaca, Oswego, or anywhere in New York State, really.

Whatever your expertise: cold reading, homeopathy, paranormal investigation, ghosts, etc. Let me know! Even if you’re not an expert, any skeptical information is better than none.

Email me at if you’re interested in writing. Also, check the links list on this site. My blog is listed on there as well: In Case You’re Interested

Categories: All, Blogging, Science, Skepticism