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Penis Castles, Teletubby Purses, and Suicidal Larpers

Squaring the Strange

Release Date: 12/28/2019

Episode 139 - 2020 Hindsight! show art Episode 139 - 2020 Hindsight!

Squaring the Strange

Yay, 2020 is over! This bonus episode is a casual, nonscripted, barely outlined roundtable with Ben, Celestia, and Pascual as we go through how this year affected us both personally and in terms of skeptical outreach. Then we chat about our favorite episodes. We shall return to our normal squaring of strange topics next week!

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Episode 138 - Insurrection Wednesday and an Antivax Primer show art Episode 138 - Insurrection Wednesday and an Antivax Primer

Squaring the Strange

We recorded a special opener to discuss the late-breaking, Capitol-invading events of the past 36 hours and the role misinformation played in getting thousands of people to this point. Then for our main topic, we go through a brief history of antivax sentiment in the US and the dual nature of Covid vaccine hesitancy.

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Episode 137 - Musical Legend Grab Bag show art Episode 137 - Musical Legend Grab Bag

Squaring the Strange

First, Celestia recounts some spooky incidents she's experienced during the pandemic. Then we look at a handful of music-related strangeness. Ben brings some surprising facts about the Pied Piper of Hamelin, which appears to have threads of history woven into its folklore tapestry. We discuss Satanic rumors that surrounded guitarist Robert Johnson, and look into a studio scream that launched many lurid tales. To end, we take a quick tour of pop culture origins for the scatological-sounding "brown note."

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Episode 136 - Revisiting Dr. Leo Igwe on Witchcraft Persecution in Africa show art Episode 136 - Revisiting Dr. Leo Igwe on Witchcraft Persecution in Africa

Squaring the Strange

First we count the "mysterious monoliths" so far, and get a call out to Louie Raffloer, the Seattle blacksmith who created a monolith back in 2001. Then we join Dr. Leo Igwe, who tells of the latest witchcraft attacks he has fought against. Leo delves into factors that cause this superstition to run rampant in the region, and shares his goal to end witchcraft persecution by 2030. You can donate at BetterPlace.org (click on "English" at bottom right, then search "Advocacy for Alleged Witches Nigeria.")

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Episode 135 - Investigative Skepticism with Kenny Biddle show art Episode 135 - Investigative Skepticism with Kenny Biddle

Squaring the Strange

Ben, Celestia, and Pascual discuss the otherworldly monolith that's popped up in a remote part of Utah, and Ben shares another in his series of "used book mysteries," this one perfectly timed for the election. Then we have a lengthy discussion with newly minted CFI fellow (and just plain jolly good fellow) Kenny Biddle. Ben and Kenny bring up some of their investigative heroes, lay out some principles of skeptical investigation, and tell us why they have a passion for digging into cold-case mysteries.

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Episode 134 - The Ghost Army and Military Deception, with Col. Francis Park, Ph.D. show art Episode 134 - The Ghost Army and Military Deception, with Col. Francis Park, Ph.D.

Squaring the Strange

After some chatting about the recent election and alleged voter fraud, we dive into the Ghost Army, a tactical unit of hoaxers in WW2 that saved thousands of lives by pulling off elaborate frauds complete with sound, improvisational theater, props, and set design. Joining us is Col. Francis Park, Ph.D., a military historian who has a few stories about tactical deception from other eras.

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Episode 133 - A History of Contacting the Dead show art Episode 133 - A History of Contacting the Dead

Squaring the Strange

Ben and Celestia go through a timeline of the different ways people have tried (or pretended) to chat with dead people and get meaningful information back. We go from rap-tap-tapping to music to written words, then books, then actual recordings of a ghost's voice! Or so the theory goes. Spiritualism was of course a major development in the "technology" of dead communications, and we examine the social forces at play in that movement and what benefits it bestowed upon its female practitioners.

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Episode 132 - Pop Music Plagiarism, from Vanilla Ice to Alien Globolinks show art Episode 132 - Pop Music Plagiarism, from Vanilla Ice to Alien Globolinks

Squaring the Strange

Pascual brings some pop song lawsuits to puzzle over, and while some are cut and dry, others enter that weird territory of "what IS originality?" Are we all just a product of our creative influences? Are notes just ingredients that can be combined in limited ways, so recurrent themes in music are inevitable? We go from pop music to operas and Gregorian chants, to see the "universality" of particular note combinations that are recycled endlessly. Plus, alien music!

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Episode 131 - Baby Lake & Sea Monsters show art Episode 131 - Baby Lake & Sea Monsters

Squaring the Strange

Ben brings in two guests, Scott Mardis and Darren Naish, to discuss two different instances of alleged "baby" versions of lake monsters and sea serpents. These cryptozoological cuties have made waves a few times in the history of monster lore. Whether it's pipefish in pails, pickled puppies, or plesiosaur progeny, there's some strange things afoot with these tall tales of terrifying tadpoles.

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Episode 130 - The Bangladesh Toilet Ghost: A Study in Mass Hysteria show art Episode 130 - The Bangladesh Toilet Ghost: A Study in Mass Hysteria

Squaring the Strange

After some chatting about current and upcoming events, we dive into a mysterious entity in a women's toilet in Bangladesh. Ben brings his love of ghosts and mass hysterias to the party, as we examine all the cultural and folkloric factors that play into why female factory workers are experiencing ghostly (or djinny?) encounters in the loo.

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More Episodes

This week Ben and Celestia are joined by Erik Kristopher Myers to discuss a short history of a particular sort of easter egg: the dreaded "hidden subversive element" stuck into a kids' show or game, either by a perverse animator or a much more sinister coalition bent on corrupting the youth of America. Disney has made a cottage industry of hiding adult content in cartoons--whether real or simply rumored. And the rumors of subversive dangers in D&D both plagued and popularized the once-obscure RPG. From pareidolia to pranks to the people who wring hands over such dangers, we break down a long list of memorable legends.