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Episode 113 - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Myths & Misinfo, Plus a Virus Lesson from Doctor Dan

Squaring the Strange

Release Date: 02/14/2020

Episode 188 - Reading between the Ley Lines show art Episode 188 - Reading between the Ley Lines

Squaring the Strange

Ben has returned from adventures, so we hear about some of his travels and then discuss the Twitter blue checkmark brouhaha. In our main segment we look at Ley Lines, a literal game of connect-the-dots played on the surface of the earth. Somehow these evolved from simple common routes noticed by an early 20th-century landscape photographer to a catch-all mysterious network that affects dowsing, psychic energy, nodes, vortices and crop circles. Called holy lines by Nazis and dragon lines by writers inserting them into ancient Chinese culture, these supposed energy lines are slippery to pin...

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Episode 187 - The Curious Case of Dr. Melba Ketchum's Bigfoot DNA, with guest Sharon Hill show art Episode 187 - The Curious Case of Dr. Melba Ketchum's Bigfoot DNA, with guest Sharon Hill

Squaring the Strange

This week, after we take a moment to tally exactly how many kids were killed by rainbow fentanyl passed off as Halloween candy, we bring Sharon Hill on to speak about the excitement around a decade ago when Dr. Melba Ketchum announced she had tested and confirmed Bigfoot DNA. Ben sets the stage in terms of Bigfoot evidence timeline and the rise of genetic technology. Once a vacuum became apparent, it seemed inevitable that someone would eventually become a self-taught geneticist, open an unaccredited lab, and find some genetic evidence for our big hairy friend.

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Episode 186 - Our Scary Favorites show art Episode 186 - Our Scary Favorites

Squaring the Strange

First, Pascual and Celestia puzzle over Ben's location and discuss a few places in Vegas that skeptics might like to see while they attend CSI Con. Then we celebrate the nearly $1 billion judgment against Alex Jones and look into a minor (non)mystery about a ghost boat from WWII appearing in a California lake. Our main topic this week is a look back at our favorite scary episodes, and why they creep us out.

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Episode 185: Dr. Stan Stepanic on Vampires show art Episode 185: Dr. Stan Stepanic on Vampires

Squaring the Strange

First we get sucked down a bit of a rabbit hole on all the things we never knew about crystal flutes. Then vampire expert Dr. Stanley Stepanic joins us to talk Slavic folklore, rabies and other diseases, shape-shifting, religious clashes in Eastern Europe during the early centuries of Christianity, and how all monster roads seem to lead back to vampires. Stepanic covers a lot of ground, all the way through movies and present-day vampire ostension (oh yes, Vampire: The Masquerade comes up). Grab yourself a tall bloody Mary and strap in, it's quite a crash course!

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Episode 184 - Djinnception and Pirates! show art Episode 184 - Djinnception and Pirates!

Squaring the Strange

First Celestia gushes about "3,000 Years of Longing," starring Idris Elba as a sultry Djinn. Then Ben talks to us about the pirate life, which had a lot more worms than one might expect. What's the difference between a privateer and a buccaneer? Or a sloop and a four-masted mariner? We go into daily activities, reasons people ended up on pirate ships, and of course how pirates typically met their end. Then we spotlight a few female pirates and talk about Blackbeard, who had the greatest PR team on the high seas.

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Episode 183 - Secrets of the Coral Castle show art Episode 183 - Secrets of the Coral Castle

Squaring the Strange

Part roadside attraction -- and apparently also part magnetic marvel, part harmonics and Ley Line energy well, part mystical creation of a stone-singer, part love letter, and part obsession, the Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida, has baffled engineers and scientists for decades. Or so it's been said. What was the real force behind this peculiar non-coral non-castle, exactly? Ben has written about and visited the Coral Castle and pored through the pamphlets of its builder, Latvian-American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin, to peel away the layers of mysterious woo that have been draped over this...

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Episode 182 - Episode 182 - "America the Fearful," with Ben Radford!

Squaring the Strange

Yes, so our guest this episode is . . . Ben! We take a look at a few strange things in the news first, like "Hunger Stones" and a "Surprise Spanish Stonehenge"! (No one expects the Spanish Stonehenge!). Then we dive into some media literacy themes and lessons in Ben's latest book, "America the Fearful: Media and the Marketing of National Panics." Part primer on what ties folklore of old to the anxiety-riddled news of today, part catalog of biases that influence the news, and part exploration of solutions, our talk goes into some familar territory for longtime listeners.  

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Episode 181 - Hey, What Happened to My Penis? Koro Happened. show art Episode 181 - Hey, What Happened to My Penis? Koro Happened.

Squaring the Strange

To our credit, we manage to not giggle like third-graders for most of the episode, as we discuss the strange belief that one's penis has gone missing, become smaller, or been switched out. A peculiar mix of superstition, body dysmorphia, and curse belief, Koro has many traits of a mass sociogenic illness (MSI) and is "contagious" to a degree. When we peel back the layers, it's not such a funny topic after all, and falls into the category of suspicious folklore that results in harm: to victims, to endangered species, and to those suspected of witchcraft.

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Episode 180 - Burn Baby Burn . . . Effigies! show art Episode 180 - Burn Baby Burn . . . Effigies!

Squaring the Strange

This episode is special because all three of us have personal experience -- in Santa Fe, the Black Rock Desert, or Lewes, England -- watching giant effigies burn down in a symbolic cleansing ritual reputed to have dark, murderous roots. Yet this ubiquitous form of expression is also clever, satirical, and a way to showcase public art and bring a community together. From Wicker Man to Zozobra, what kind of strangeness have humans conjured up, only to burn down?

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Episode 179 - Deviant Death Rites and Bizarre Burials show art Episode 179 - Deviant Death Rites and Bizarre Burials

Squaring the Strange

This week, as we await Pascual's time-out due to COVID, Ben and Celestia look into strange burial practices over the ages. With a peppering of pop culture here and there, we hear from Ben on medieval ways to keep your relatives from leaving their graves, from wooden stakes to mouth bricks to even the origins of headstones! Then we look into the Enlightenment and Victorian era and fears of being buried alive, as well as two very recent cases where families feared that had happened. Finally, Celestia takes a look at the surprising practicality of sky burials in the Himalayas.

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More Episodes

We made time to record a special bonus episode this month! Due to the late-breaking nature of the Wuhan/novel coronavirus (now officially named COVID-19), Ben has gathered the latest misinfo and disinfo in order to break it down in terms of recurring folklore, distrust of foreigners, and the psychology of why people grasp for simple memes over complex medical science. Then Doctor Dan Ketterer goes over some of the nuances of viruses and how we treat them. Influenza and HIV provide useful models to how infectious disease doctors can disarm and contain viral outbreaks. There's a lot we don't yet know about COVID-19, but the quarantines and other public health measures should be making us feel safer, not create more panic.