Demon-Haunted Hotels

Some friends of mine came up with a great idea, of which I was recently reminded by a blog I stumbled upon. The blog in question was critical of the idea, but it was a rather misinformed rant, so I thought I’d alert you guys and see what you all think.

You all know those Bible that are in every hotel room on the planet? Why not expand the library a bit with the inclusion of some slightly more educational materials? Demon-Haunted Hotels is hoping to get people organized to begin placing books like Flim Flam!, Demon Haunted World, and Why People Believe Weird Things in hotel nightstands. Perhaps bored travelers might be able to find something more appealing in these texts as opposed to a Bible or the February 1994 issue of Juggs Monthly under the mattress. Not that Juggs isn’t universally appealing, but maybe the person in question has already perused that particular issue.

It’s not just hotel nightstands — any public place can be targeted for drop-off. You can receive an ID from the site so you can track and identify the book, like for skepticism.

It’s a cool idea, and I’m interesting in whether or not people think it could be worthwhile. What do you guys think? How can they make the idea work even better?

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. "…or the February 1994 issue of Juggs Monthly under the mattress. Not that Juggs isn’t universally appealing, but maybe the person in question has already perused that particular issue."

    And no matter where I stay, it's ALWAYS the Feb. 1994 issue! I mean! I just get so–





  2. I never had no Bible at the last hotel I stayed at. Does that completely destroy and/or invalidate this entire blog post?

    This is a nice idea, but consider where you would get the money from for printing all those copies. Skepticism has less funds pumped into it than certain other industries…

  3. I was just out of town for a trade show earlier this week, and I didn't have a copy of Juggs Monthly in my room. Man, I feel so cheated!

  4. I should probably start completing my thoughts before commenting, rather than double-commenting like this. Anyway…

    thad, maybe we could set up a charitable organisation dedicated to performing random acts of skepticism like this. Where by "we", I mean "other, less lazy people".

  5. And!

    There could be a role for Craigslist or some such in all of this. Post ads for people to donate their old skeptical books to Demon-Haunted Hotel projects or whatever else.

    Ok, last comment until someone else says something.

  6. Josh, I think that's a great idea. Profits from this year's Skepchick and Skepdude calendars are going to fund scholarships for people with big ideas like that. I'm definitely on the look-out for ways to get more people active and edjamacated!

  7. I was thinking of making Skepchick Tracts. You know, condense The Demon-Haunted World and such down to little comic books of twenty pages or so apiece. They'd be much cheaper and easier to give away for free. . . . In fact, I'd also like to get more skeptical books published in their entirety online. Sagan and Asimov are up in Heaven now, after all: who could honestly complain that the free e-book editions are hurting their profits?

    (Besides which, Eric Flint and Baen Books argue that it wouldn't have to hurt profits at all.)

  8. The idea is that everyone can just leave a copy themselves, rather than dealing with donations… although I'd like to set it up for donations eventually for people who don't travel much. Right now, though, we're focusing on semi-organizing people to do this on their own.

    Anne Druyan co-authored The Demon-Haunted World with Sagan, and she's still alive, so she might mind giving away reprints… but since we're giving away purchased copies, there's no dent in sales (and, in fact, I've bought one copy since starting this, and intend to buy more, so it will actually *help* sales).

  9. I love the idea of Skepchick Tracks! If you end up making any you should post a link and we can all start printing them and leaving them places. This might work even better than a whole book. I would certainly be easier to distribute more. And nothing says we can't do both.

  10. I think it's a great idea. I have an complimentary idea. Porn magazines have letters pages. Create porn magazine trojan horses – write cheesy porn letters with a sceptical message. Of course, it would be speculative, only new porn would be affected. Not 1994 editions of Juggs magazine.

  11. I already started this skeptic book infiltration some time ago but there is a catch. Many hotels remove books left behind. So what is needed is an organized approach where we go to hotel management and ask permission to have these books in all rooms. Be prepared for a fight… Those religious types will threaten boycots of hotels that keep these books next to the bible. Nevertheless, that's another reason to step up the effort!

    In other words, we need to set up or use an exisitng organization that will aim to have a skeptic "bible" (he he he…) in each hotel room on the planet.

  12. What about those stupid links on Google and what-all? Every time you look for, say, "Bad Astronomy," they post these horrid links to astrology sites!

    Isn't there a way to turn this around? So that when someone googles Madame Cleo or summat, we can have sidebar adverts for "Bad Astronomy," or James Randi's site?

    Oh, and I am all for SkepTracts! I think we should do 'em up like that old whackjob Jack Chick! this'll be fun!

    There are already some good parodies of Chick's stuff, and I think the Freedom From Religion Foundation has some of their own "anti-tracts."

    But SkepTracts will be much cooler. :)

  13. Google Adwords works by letting advertisers bid (Dutch auction style) for keywords in searches and on pages of particular content. So many of these woo advertisers have probably bidded for astronomy as a keyword. It is entirely possible to turn it around and use woo keywords to advertise sceptical content. The other semi-related thing to do would be to make sure that sceptical pages appear on Google searches for woo-woo stuff.

  14. Love this thread!

    You know it's always annoyed me the bible in the hotel bedside draw thing.

    Donating books sounds great, if expensive and a tough logistical challenge??

    I alway thought it would be nice to have a set of page sized stickers handy in your travel bag for sticking on the inside/first page/where-ever with nice some punchy text. Maybe a few bible errors, nice freethought quotes and links to good web sites where people can get a wider view of life.

    A kind of ad-busting campaign on hotel bibles ;-)

  15. I've made it a personal practice to leave at least three different "nontracts" from the Freedom From Religion Foundation ( in between the pages of my hotel room's Gideon. (Placing them in between the pages ensures that they'll eventually hit the intended audience rather than just get tossed.) I read the idea to do so on a forum several years ago, around the time I joined FFRF, and I've been doing it ever since. If SkepTracts become a reality, I'll be the first in line to buy 'em by the bundle to complement the FFRF nontracts.

  16. All you really need is a sticker to put on the back (or front) of all bibles, saying something like "The bible is only a theory, and not a very good one at that".

    Or simply "The content of this book is fiction only, and should not be interpreted in any other way".

  17. I have used the sticker thing in the past. I put in various statements, links to web resources like Talk Origens and whatnot. This probably really shows my geekiness, but my favorite was a sticker with a pic of Yoda on it, and placed somewhere in Genesis where it says Adam is like 930 or something, with the quote "When 900 years you reach, look as good you will not".

    Anyway, stickers are super cheap, take up no room in your bag, and can't be thrown out easily by the religi-nuts.

  18. I think keeping it positive (adding a book) rather than negative (doing something to the Bible that's there) is a better way to go. If we start a campaign to deface the Bibles left by the Gideons, the Gideons will be right if they oppose us. If we start a campaign to add to the selection of bedside books, we can use the "equal time/fairness" argument that the Creationists are trying to use, and be right about it.

    I like the idea of approaching hotel managers when/if we get this thing going enough to have enough skeptical books to leave in all room, but for now we're just trying to leave them in the particular rooms that we stay in–a much smaller piece to bite off. Yes, some of them will be removed, but not all. And if we find out books are being *thrown away*, all we have to do is make a stink, and these books will be in the news. The same would go for people boycotting hotels; if they're afraid to have books available for people to read, that's *good* publicity for the good guys (most Americans get a bad feeling when people start advocating censorship).

    Basically, I want to keep this effort focused on the positive, so I don't have to agree with the religious people complaining about what we're doing.

  19. I definitely think the "equal time" argument can be used there somewhere.

    The only problem is that we're talking about a single room in a hotel/motel that has dozens, maybe hundreds of them. The only way to check the book is still there, is to go to the exact same hotel and check the room. And that's counter productive to the effort, since you want to cover as many different hotels and hotel rooms as possible.

    I think the only thing that might actually have the desired effect is to do what the Gideons do, and target the entire hotel, not the single rooms. Give them stacks of books for every room for free (or, since as skeptics organisations, we're not swimming in money like the religious groups with large flocks of donators) small leaflets or booklets. If the hotel refuses, or throws them out, kick up a big stink with lots of media attention, and thenequal time sound-bite. It's not like we're trying to smuggle something inappropriate into every hotel room, it's merely a small booklet with a skeptical message, conatining far less violence and smut than that book the Gideons are planting everywhere.

    Creating a big media circus is how you get everyone to even know there's a booklet in every hotel bedside drawer. Otherwise, people won't even look in there.

    Financially, it's much more plausible to pull something like that off, rather than hoping that this one book you leave behind in that one single room among many hundreds, is still going to be there when you return.

    Sadly, I fear the "deamonhaunted hotels" effort is just going to result in loads of Sagan books ending up in the trash :(, which I would think is a much bigger waste, no matter how good their intentions are.

  20. Hmm, it seems like the HTML code ate part of my sentence there. That actually should've said:

    "… and then trump up with the equal time sound-bite."

  21. HI! Thanks. As a hotelier who is dealing with new ageism and close minded people that are fervently suggesting they are open minded… I came across this very much by accident… which was markedly fitting as I am a skeptichumanistathiest.

    And spend most of my time debunking stuff. I got off the high horse awhile back and now aliens and conspiracy theories take a backseat to post modernism and deconstructionism.

    THANKS for the idea for our properties… and keep it up!


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