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Episode 72 - Ghost Trains

Squaring the Strange

Release Date: 08/24/2018

Episode 229 - Skepticamp, Spiders, and the West Palm Beach Killer Clown Case show art Episode 229 - Skepticamp, Spiders, and the West Palm Beach Killer Clown Case

Squaring the Strange

We start with a recap of SkeptiCamp New Mexico, then move on to a laundry list of creepy, crawly creatures: Alex Jones, flying Joro spiders, bug zappers, opposite snakes and Sasquatch Sunset. Our main topic is an update to one of the cases in Ben's "Bad Clowns" book. The West Palm Beach Killer Clown case involves a love triangle, a clown costume, and a pile of circumstantial evidence. It sat with no arrests for nearly 30 years, until Sheila Keen-Warren was arrested in 2017. Among the developments as prosecutors and defense lawyers prepared for trial was a so-called "clown sighting file," with...

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Episode 228 - The Science of Weird Sh!t, with Chris French show art Episode 228 - The Science of Weird Sh!t, with Chris French

Squaring the Strange

Celestia and Ben have a lengthy A-segment, between discussing the almost-here SkeptiCamp, Ben's recent folklore convention, and what mischief TV psychic Allison DuBois has been up to. We have thoughts on the recently deceased Morgan Spurlock's legacy, and then talk about two interesting developments from the Catholic Church this week. Professor Chris French joins us to discuss his new book, "The Science of Weird Sh!t: Why Our Minds Conjure the Paranormal." Chris has a vast background in, well, weird sh!t, and shares his thoughts on how it has gained legitimacy in the academic world -- as well...

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Episode 227 - Book bans, then and now show art Episode 227 - Book bans, then and now

Squaring the Strange

Ben and Celestia roll out an abbreviated history of book bans and the psychology behind them. What sorts of fears manifest into the desire to keep information away from people? And which people? Is the current rash of book challenges a panic, or is the fear of such bans a panic? We start this episode with a solid opinion, then find ways to knock that opinion around a bit. Calls for book bans have come from the right and left, for different reasons. The freedom of speech gets complicated in matters of obscenity, "dangerous knowledge" or children's books containing racial slurs. From "The...

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Episode 226 - Dim Mak Episode 226 - Dim Mak "the death touch" with Peter Huston

Squaring the Strange

Can a human being be killed with one well-timed blow? Without question, yes. But is the secret to this fighting style held by ancient Chinese monks, or a flamboyant guy named Count Dante who advertises in the back of comic books? We look at real situations where one punch (or slap, or chiropractic adjustment) can kill a person, either immediately or after a delay. Then we bring in author, EMT and martial artist Peter Huston to discuss the legend of Dim Mak and how propaganda, marketing, Chinese culture, the allure of the ancient, Kung Fu movies and suburban American kids fit into the creation...

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Episode 225 - The folklore of Scooby Doo, with Mark Norman show art Episode 225 - The folklore of Scooby Doo, with Mark Norman

Squaring the Strange

We have a surprise visit from Scooby fan Kenny Biddle, then speak with Mark Norman, folklorist and author of the upcoming "Zoinks!: The Spooky Folklore of Scooby Doo." The show is beloved by skeptics, and for good reason. But did you know the show owes its existence to a panic in the 1960s about violence in kids' shows? Between guest stars like the Harlem Globetrotters and Vincent Price, Scooby Doo also introduced kids to a wide array of cryptids, ghosts, witches and folkloric concepts like curses, mysterious mirrors, and of course haunted houses. The show itself has also become the subject of...

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Episode 224.5 - Bonus episode! Our 6th anniversary! show art Episode 224.5 - Bonus episode! Our 6th anniversary!

Squaring the Strange

This freebie bonus is us shooting the breeze, thanking folks who deserve kudos, asking some questions about skepticism today, and generally having a good time.

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Episode 224 - A Grab Bag of Springtime Skepticism show art Episode 224 - A Grab Bag of Springtime Skepticism

Squaring the Strange

We chat about several topics in the news recently, from a bright streak of burning space junk over Los Angeles to a very realistic crucifixion reenactment in the Philippines. Ben unravels a weeping Madonna story in the tabloids that also casts some shade on a prominent Italian skeptic, then he gives us his review of "Late Night with the Devil," set in the 1970s and complete with a nod to the late Amazing Randi. Pascual and Celestia talk about DEI's increasing role as a boogeyman, and try to figure out how some legislators seem to believe it brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge. And we...

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Episode 223 - Deception Studies with Curt Anderson show art Episode 223 - Deception Studies with Curt Anderson

Squaring the Strange

After some current events involving Brazilian ex-president Bolsonaro, a new study on Havana Syndrome, and migrants with measles in Chicago, we are joined by Curt Anderson. A career magician turned academic researcher, Curt tells us about his pivot to deception studies. Piggybacking on our recent episode about Truth Default Theory, we explore more about how well humans (think we can) detect lies. What can a scientific approach to deception tell us about human communication, and what practical applications does the field have? We hit on many topics, from creating better magic shows to dissecting...

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Episode 222 - Modifying the Weather show art Episode 222 - Modifying the Weather

Squaring the Strange

First, Pascual and Celestia hit recent science news -- a sideways lunar landing, some male-on-male humpback whale action, and recent cell outages. Then Ben and Celestia look at weather modification, from prayer and superstition to very real cloud-seeding efforts. Though in practice almost everywhere for generations, this technology still surprises and confuses people, who lump it in with conspiracies about precise weather control by some all-powerful cabal . . . using a decommissioned array of antennas in Alaska?

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Episode 221 - What Giant Penguins Can Teach Us, with Daniel Loxton show art Episode 221 - What Giant Penguins Can Teach Us, with Daniel Loxton

Squaring the Strange

First, Ben and Celestia have several tidbits to discuss, from Micheal Mann's court win to chemtrails popping up in social media. Ben is watching another cult docuseries, and we get into the unfortunate trend of obituary pirating. For our main segment, we are joined by the delightful Daniel Loxton, illustrator, author, editor and longtime skeptic luminary. He takes us on a tour of the long-debunked story about a 15-foot penguin in Florida. But a simple debunking is only the surface of this tale, which has much to teach us about modern popular paranormal culture, the mixing of sci-comm with...

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More Episodes

This week we start with a discussion of Spike Lee's Black Klansman movie and the notion of holding narrative movies "based on" real events to some imagined standard of full accuracy. Then all aboard for the ghost train express! Ben and Celestia discuss the lure of the locomotive (and train wrecks) in the American imagination, the flickering lights said to be distant spiritual echoes of trains, and the dangers of ghost-trainspotting on elevated trestles. Ben looks into fabled "virtual underground" trains in Russia that have sprung up as folkloric pranks. We go over the legend of Abraham Lincoln's phantom funeral train, and Ben recounts a faked ghost train video he was tasked with examining.