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Episode 146 - 666, the Number / Mark of the Beast

Squaring the Strange

Release Date: 04/16/2021

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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Episode 178 - You Don't Know Jack (alopes)! Michael Branch and the Art of the Hoax show art Episode 178 - You Don't Know Jack (alopes)! Michael Branch and the Art of the Hoax

Squaring the Strange

We are joined by Professor Michael Branch, who has just released his new book "On the Trail of the Jackalope." What began as an idea for a taxidermy correspondence course 90 years ago has blossomed into a cultural phenomenon. Michael Branch shares his appreciation for the Western tall tale, the whimsy and skill that went into original Wyoming jackalopes, and what sets a hoax apart from a scam or a con. We discuss tall tale postcards and other "jackalopiana" and uncover the surprising role jackalopes have played in the history of medicine and public health.

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Episode 177 - Field Trip to Bagansland with Susan and Kenny! show art Episode 177 - Field Trip to Bagansland with Susan and Kenny!

Squaring the Strange

We begin with a look at the continuing danger of online rumors igniting mob violence and the Google engineer who is in the news for his belief that the AI in development there has reached sentience. Then we are joined by Susan Gerbic and Kenny Biddle, who ventured out to Vegas recently and joined Ben for a tour of Zak Bagans' Haunted Museum (but is it, really?). We discuss the "real paranormal" angle versus theatrical haunted house that this museum tries to straddle, and Kenny shares some details on artifacts like the Dybbuk box, which he likely devalued by solving the "mysteries" behind them....

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Episode 176 - Mass Shootings and Media Literacy show art Episode 176 - Mass Shootings and Media Literacy

Squaring the Strange

Ben has done several deep dives into various aspects of how the public processes mass shootings, and recent events moved us to bring this topic out now. As political talking heads and newsmakers cherry-pick and sound off about their own causative theories and narratives, what will and won't work to curb these horrific events, we thought we'd take a look into what we do know, and don't know, about the profile of an "average" mass shooter. Data on mass shootings, and other gun violence, is lacking for a reason, and that's soon to change, which will hopefully allow a more rigorous, public-health...

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Episode 175 - Dangers of DIY Baby Formula and Herbal Abortions show art Episode 175 - Dangers of DIY Baby Formula and Herbal Abortions

Squaring the Strange

Ben announces the release of his new book, "America the Fearful," and then Celestia takes over for a main segment inspired by current events. While we hope these fears turn out to be unfounded, there is much worry presently about parents turning to DIY recipes for baby formula amid the nationwide shortage. Another looming fear is that many lives will be lost to unsafe abortion practices if access is restricted -- herbal abortions share many features with other forms of alternative medicine, but with highly toxic abortifacients the stakes are very high. We look into the history and folklore of...

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Episode 174 - A Musical History of the Devil show art Episode 174 - A Musical History of the Devil

Squaring the Strange

After a few words on current events, Pascual takes us on a tour of tales about Old Scratch influencing music. Whether he's giving free violin lessons, defending himself in court, or even hanging out with Anton LaVey and Sammy Davis Jr., the devil has a longstanding relationship with music of all types.

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Episode 173 - Alien Implants show art Episode 173 - Alien Implants

Squaring the Strange

After some excitement over the release of Science Friction, and Ben's discussion of Huggy Wuggy, we talk about alien implants. No, it's not just about probing jokes. We go into the multiple factors that lead people to think aliens have implanted some kind of technology into them, and what reasons aliens are thought to have for doing so, as well as how useful such implants would really be. Memory, biology, and good old cultural context all come into play.

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Episode 172 - Stigmata and Stigmatics show art Episode 172 - Stigmata and Stigmatics

Squaring the Strange

After a brief diversion about who slapped who at that big pop culture event recently, we look into a much, much different vein of show business. Get it? Vein? Seriously though, what makes people bleed from their hands and other places, allegedly spontaneously, in a replication of Christ's wounds? How many people have become known for this peculiar blessing, and how do they profit from it exactly? We'll discuss miracles versus Munchausen, fakery versus pious frauds, as well as other explanations for the affliction, and Ben recounts his visit with a bona fide stigmatic (as she was advertised,...

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More Episodes

Ben looks into a TikTok-fueled panic about sex trafficking abductions in Target stores, then we move to our main topics, the Mark of the Beast and the Number of the Beast, aka 666. From ambiguous or even invisible marks on accused witches hundreds of years ago to ambiguous or even invisible ways our technology "marks" our commerce, the Satanic fears of some 666-fearing individuals have been going on a long time. Masks and the Covid-19 vaccine are merely the latest in a string of things labelled as the Antichrist's calling card. Pascual rounds us out with some notes on Iron Maiden's 1982 hit Number of the Beast and how various bands used the number to flirt with Satanic showmanship.