Anti-ScienceSkepticism

Supernatural Cleaning Methods in the NYT

My buddy and coworker Jennifer sent me this New York Times article called Supernatural Cleaning Methods, possibly in the hopes of seeing the top of my head explode. Despite the fact that it goes on for five pages, is filled with personal anecdotes of ghostly encounters, and the most skeptical voice in the first 2.5 pages comes from those idiots on the Ghost Hunters show, it’s actually quite enjoyable thanks to the tongue-in-cheek style of the journalist. The author, Joyce Wadler, must be familiar with Mary Roach since she has such a similar way of presenting skepticism without stepping all over the fun of the story. For instance:

Suddenly, a Reporter Is Aware of Her Psychic Gifts

It should be noted that when the New England real estate agent mentioned above was reached on her cellphone, it was about 6 in the evening.

“So, are you driving down the Mass Turnpike in pitch-blackness?” she was asked in an attempt to set the mood.

“Oh my God — how did you know?” Ms. Moore said.

Eventually we’re treated to a blurb with everyone’s favorite paranormal investigator Joe Nickel (I always want to call him Uncle Joe for some reason. Uncle Joe Nickel. Wouldn’t he make the greatest uncle ever?). Because of this, I’ll forgive the journalist the subtitle following Uncle Joe’s bit: “Frankly, the Believers Tell a Much Better Story.” Fair enough, since she was referring to Joe’s story of a woman who thought she was photographing ghost orbs but was actually capturing her blurry camera strap. If you ask me though, it’s much more interesting to hear how a woman might fool herself with a camera strap than to hear a True Believer recount an obviously made-up story about floating books and other tropes that have become far too boring for modern day horror films.

Anyway, I often post about really awful, overly credulous “news” articles about the paranormal, so I thought you’d all enjoy one that is actually, well, enjoyable, and even skeptical. Here’s one more favorite bit:

“I recommend making a mixture of powdered sage, holy water and cedar oil, some water from a church or that has been blessed by someone.”

What if you’re an atheist?

There may be something to this occult stuff, because suddenly the reporter feels a deep chill.

“Cedar oil has cleansing properties,” Ms. Hoolihan continued, ignoring the question.

PS: If you liked Ms. Wadler’s article, too, you can tell her so.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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