Six years ago, skeptical investigator Benjamin Radford released his book Tracking the Chupacabra in which he traced the modern story of the goat sucking monster back to 1995, when a series of events in Puerto Rico gave birth to the legend. After a series of mysterious attacks on animals in the spring of 1995 that left farmers thinking that sheep and other livestock had been killed and drained of blood (no evidence ever confirmed exsanguination), in August a woman named Madelyne Tolentino claimed to have seen a monster, describing what Radford correctly identifies as a description of the creature from the then-current movie Species. Shortly afterward, comedian and entertainer Silverio Pérez connected the monster and the mutilations and attached the name “goat sucker” (el chupacabra) to the monster.
As most of you know, former television personality Scott F. Wolter will be delivering a lecture at the Masonic Lodge her in Albany. Unfortunately, due to preexisting commitments this evening, I won’t be able to attend. More’s the pity, but the thought of paying to sit through the same material I’ve read on the internet and watched on TV doesn’t strike me as a lot of fun either.
Ray Grasse Proposes a Framework for Exploring the Fortean, But It's Pretty Much Zeitgeist Theory Applied to Fringe Believers
When I was in college, one of the pieces of anthropological literature that I had to read was an article called “Baseball Magic” by George Gmelch. The article, a revised version of a 1992 journal article, described the way that baseball players engaged in particular rituals in order to secure favorable game outcomes, under the folk magical theory that performing the same actions before a game—whether eating the same meal or wearing the same clothes or even repeating specific gestures—would produce the same positive outcome. The key is that there is no “empirical correlation” between the ritual and perceived result. The meaning, if any, is entirely in the head of the person performing it.
An article in Salon magazine reports that Glenn Beck has started a training camp to indoctrinate incoming college students in fringe views of history. Working with pseudo-historian David Barton, Beck plans to hold a two-week, $375 per student camp to teach students a fundamentalist Christian version of American history so “they can then set their ignorant professors straight on the ‘real’ history of America.” Beck, as you will recall, is a Mormon who has used his media outlets to promote hyper-diffusionism and fringe history views about Mound Builders and other “mysteries” of ancient America in a bid to support the fantasies of the Book of Mormon. Barton believes that the Founders were fundamentalist Christians who ensconced creationism in America’s founding documents because they somehow intuited the theory of evolution and rejected it as ungodly before it had even been proposed. Both men prefer a version of history that places white men at the center of events. Beck’s camp seems to hit all the fringe history sweet spots: fundamentalism, anti-elitism, white nationalism, etc.
Meet the Russian Political Scientist Who Wants to Restore Proto-Indo-European Social Castes and Is a Darling of the Alt-Right
In a case of some fake chickens coming home to roost, the author of the 1980 book The Demonologist, a supposedly true-life account of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s paranormal investigations, is suing Warner Bros. for almost $1 billion, claiming that the Warrens had signed over their rights to the author in 1978 and Warner did not have legal permission to use their tales in The Conjuring and its sequels. Attorneys for the author, Gerald Brittle, further claim that Warner is wrong to alleged that the movies are exempt from copyright infringement because they are based on true events rather than the book about them since the Warrens made up their stories, which Brittle claims to have added to and embellished for the book. In short, the court case will include efforts to expose yet another long-running set of fringe claims as a big scam designed to fool audiences. There are no winners here. Brittle was, by his own account, complicit in what he admits to be the promotion of false claims (which he continues to advertise as real for profit), and his moral problem is that he wasn’t paid enough for lying.
Washington University in St. Louis publishes a magazine called The Ampersand, and last week it offered up an interesting article in which archaeologists from the school discussed the archaeological fantasies and hoaxes that lead the public astray. It should surprise no one that the leading bit of fake history was none other than the ancient astronaut theory. Among the other usual suspects were the lost continent of Atlantis, the myth of the Mound Builders, Indiana Jones, and Eurocentrism, or, in other words, the entire line up of cable TV “history” documentaries. I encourage you to read the whole thing, so here I will highlight one particularly interesting point.
Shaquille O'Neal Believes Europeans Colonized the Pre-Columbian Americas; Plus: Why So Much Time Travel on TV?
As reported on the Patheos blog, former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, who holds a doctorate in education from Barry University, announced that he is a flat earth conspiracy theorist during his podcast this week, but what’s worse is that he also came out as a hyper-diffusionist who seems to have spent too much time watching cable TV “history” shows. He claimed that the Americas had already been colonized by white people long before Columbus reached the Caribbean:
New York Legislators Seek to Censor Online Debate; Plus: L. A. Marzulli Attacks Judges and Peter Levenda on Hitler's Legacy
Remember how a few weeks ago an Arkansas state legislator introduced a bill to ban books by Howard Zinn from the state’s schools? Well, Eugene Volokh reports that two New York state legislators have done her one better. Democratic assemblyman David I. Weprin and Democratic state senator Tony Avella introduced a bill that would require all online publishers, including me, to remove any and all content about any given individual upon that individual’s request if the individual feels that the discussion contains statements that are “‘inaccurate’, ‘irrelevant’, ‘inadequate’, or ‘excessive’” or when the individual feels that the discussion is “no longer material to current public debate.” The ostensible reason for this blatantly unconstitutional law is to promote the “right to be forgotten,” but as written the proposed law would give individuals carte blanche to censor any and all discussion about them online, forever, and to wipe clean the historical record as soon as a 24-hour news cycle has turned over and the “current” debate has moved on. The bill would also forbid those receiving takedown notices from indicating that material had been removed for that reason, on pain of a $250 fine per violation. The bill provides no mechanism other than the individual’s feelings to judge whether material is germane to the public discourse.
Before I talk about Nazis today, I wanted to bring up an unrelated issue. Regular readers will remember that last month, a team of scientists concluded that the hypothesis of a comet hitting the Earth during the Ice Age and thus starting and/or ending the Younger Dryas period could not be supported because the evidence put forward for it, the existence of nanodiamonds in a particular layer associated with the comet, could not be confirmed. Graham Hancock ignored these findings, but on Facebook this week he’s praising two new papers that argue in favor of a cosmic impact around 10,800 BCE. The first claims that features known as the Carolina Bays were caused by a cosmic impact, and the second argues that a thin layer of platinum dating to the same period is evidence of a cosmic impact. I don’t know enough about geology to have any opinion on the evidence, but what I do know is that regardless of whether a comet hit, it implies absolutely nothing about the existence of Atlantis. None of the scientists involved in the research has claimed that the comet smashed into Atlantis or destroyed a technologically advanced human civilization.
Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of the WB/UPN series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), but due to my review of Sekret Machines I wasn’t able to mark the occasion. Because the show was a seminal part of my adolescent years, I feel like I should have more to say about than I do, but somehow I find that the barrage of media coverage has approached the anniversary from every possible angle. Instead, I’ll just talk a little bit about the show. I need a bit of a break anyway after devoting so many hours this past week to Peter Levenda’s pretentious drivel.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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