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Episode 129 - Faked Abductions

Squaring the Strange

Release Date: 09/04/2020

Ep. 159 - Havana Syndrome with Robert Bartholomew show art Ep. 159 - Havana Syndrome with Robert Bartholomew

Squaring the Strange

We all have a few skeptical nuggets to chat about this week, from zebras to the healing power of Satan worship to dangerous rumors. Then we are joined by Robert Bartholomew, mass hysteria expert and author of the book "Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria." He compares the current phenomenon to sociogenic illnesses of the past and then dissects some specifics that the press and the government got wrong.

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Episode 158 - Magic Cards: Decks of Divination and Deception show art Episode 158 - Magic Cards: Decks of Divination and Deception

Squaring the Strange

We begin on somber note, with the passing of friend and contributor Erik Kristopher Myers. Then we look at cards, and how they've been used to foretell, trick, amaze, deceive, and swindle. Learn how racism was "in the cards" for fortune tellers in the early 20th century, and how Tarot isn't as ancient as it seems. We discuss the rise and fall of Zener cards, and how quickly people adapted playing cards to trickery. And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle pops up more than once as we weave our way through card history!

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Episode 157 - The Aztec UFO Crash with Dave Thomas show art Episode 157 - The Aztec UFO Crash with Dave Thomas

Squaring the Strange

First, we are skeptical of the media representations of vaccination "mandates," as well as chiropractors who believe spinally induced immunity can ward off covid. Then we're joined by Dave Thomas of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) to talk about Roswell's lesser-known cousin, the Aztec "Saucer Swindle." It has everything: greedy con men, gullible pulp authors and investors, rigged "doodlebug" gizmos, an intrepid reporter who knows some sleight-of-hand, and a trio of magnetic ships from Venus!

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Episode 156 - Thylacines with Folklorist Daisy Ahlstone show art Episode 156 - Thylacines with Folklorist Daisy Ahlstone

Squaring the Strange

Folklorist Daisy Ahlstone shares some facts, folklore, and even furry art celebrating the thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger. Declared extinct in the 20th century, this creature exists now somewhere between relic and cryptid. It's image went through a complete overhaul, at one time feared and hunted by colonists, yet now revered and domesticated through artwork and role-playing. Ahlstone discusses the commodification of the species, from hunting bounties to gaffed specimens to logos and tourism.

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Episode 155 - The Soothing Sounds of Woo: Vibrational and Sound Healing show art Episode 155 - The Soothing Sounds of Woo: Vibrational and Sound Healing

Squaring the Strange

We explore the somewhat recent trend of trying to heal, calm, or "raise the vibrations" of human beings by means of sound therapy. While sound does have some real medical applications, there's also a concert of woo awaiting the unwary consumer. From singing bowls to tuning forks, it's a web of conflicting benefits, sketchy profit streams, and turgid pseudoscientific jargon that made even Ben's head hurt a little. (But we played some harmonic quantum vibrations to raise his energy and he feels better now.)

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Episode 154 - Fishy, Fraudulent Food show art Episode 154 - Fishy, Fraudulent Food

Squaring the Strange

We examine a history of food fraud stretching back to ancient Rome and continuing today in markets and restaurants everywhere. From honey to virgin olive oil to horse meat, there's a consistent push to bump up profits with a pinch of adulteration and a tablespoon of substitution, especially in the seafood industry. We are joined by D.G. Webster, author of two books on the economics and governance of the seafood chain. Dr. Webster can untangle the nuances of what drives such fraud as well as who it harms.

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Episode 153 - Brian Regal Talks Pseudoscience and Pseudohistory show art Episode 153 - Brian Regal Talks Pseudoscience and Pseudohistory

Squaring the Strange

After some thoughts on the resurgence of dowsing, we sit down with Professor Brian Regal once more, this time to talk about his encyclopedia of pseudoscience. Regal brings his experience teaching critical thinking and history to bear on the topic, and we look at how confirmation bias leads to weaponizing fringe theories.

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Episode 152 - Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot: Spontaneous Human Combustion show art Episode 152 - Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot: Spontaneous Human Combustion

Squaring the Strange

We tackle one of the grand old traditions in weirdness--spontaneous human combustion (SHC), the phenomenon wherein your loved one goes POOF so quickly and inexplicably that little is left but a pile of ash and some extremities. Ben discusses the heyday of these strange deaths and what they all had in common. We go over some purported cases and some folkloric fabrication, and Celestia looks up some 19-century skirts to see why fashion may have played a part in the cultural memories that solidified into SHC.

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Episode 151 - Mick West and UFO video analysis show art Episode 151 - Mick West and UFO video analysis

Squaring the Strange

Mick West joins us to talk about the recent flap of UFO sightings and media interest. Major outlets are giving airtime to unexplained lights in the sky and evidence that the government takes an interest in such phenomena. Mick lays out categories UFOs can be sorted into on his Metabunk.org forum, and explains why journalists take UFOs more seriously than some other conspiracy ideas. He also goes into funding allocated by Senator Harry Reid a few years ago to look into these mysterious lights.

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Episode 150 - Mysterious Masked Musicians show art Episode 150 - Mysterious Masked Musicians

Squaring the Strange

Pascual leads us on a romp through the myriad masked musicians of our time (and a few before our time), and we discuss the reasons why some performers prefer to go incognito--sometimes through their entire careers. We start with a legendary Parisian performer who was brought to life by a writer who drew on current rumors and ghost lore. Then, from the Residents to Buckethead and even urban legends about Dolly Parton, we answer the burning question of who can go to Target and not be recognized?

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More Episodes

Who would fake their own abduction? It turns out, plenty of people. Whether it's the "runaway bride," who says the stress of wedding planning made her snap, or the McDonald's worker who claimed a maniacal clown kept her from getting to work, hoaxed kidnapping cases end up taking time away from legitimate crimes as well as creating fodder for news and social media. Why do people do it? Some crave attention or simply paint themselves into a corner with one lie leading to another. Others narrate a harrowing tale on Facebook about how they narrowly avoided a kidnapper's grasp. People also lie about kidnapping attempts upon their children--or they invent fictional kidnapped children in order to make their stolen car into a high priority carjacking. Ben has researched kidnapping hoaxes for decades and brings us his thoughts on the patterns and repercussions from these bizarre crimes.