Before I start this post, I gotta give a shout out to Naomi (Geek Goddess here on Skepchick) and Mark for organizing another fun gathering of Skeptics in the Pub for the Houston area skeptics tonight. I was drinking Shiner Bock, and fortunately, Shiners were happy hour price. So to keep pace, I lowered my price as well.
Now I know you’re thinking, “Sam, why would you lower your price? You’re already a cheap bastard.” And where that might be true, tonight I was even cheaper. In fact, IÂ was extra cheap. With a coupon, I was actually free.
The sad thing is, there were no takers. Never before was the concept of ‘caveat emptor’ exercised so profoundly. I was like day-old shrimp. I was like a Kevin Trudeau bookÂ on a skeptic’s bookshelf. Are you kidding me? I was being passed over like I was covered in the blood of a spring lamb.
But before I use up the entire Internet with my inane rambling andÂ groan-inducing references, let me just say, we had a good time at the pub. It’s always awesomeÂ catching up with all the Houston bad asses. Thanks again, Naomi and Mark.
So anyway, with my work schedule woes of late, and because I still try to catch a wave or play some beach volleyball games here and there, I’ve been forced to do me some TiVo-ing to get the TV shows that interest me. And I was looking forward to seeing a program on the History Channel called MonsterQuest.
Now, we’ve discussed the History Channel here many times before, and I think we all realize that there is a ton of bad information to sift through in their programming to get to something worth watching. And as you all know,Â MonsterQuest mightÂ actually make upÂ theÂ biggest percentage of theÂ badÂ programming. It’s mostly Squatchy and Loch Nessie type searches that feature so-called investigators — whoÂ are way too impressed with anecdotal evidence andÂ electronic gadgetsÂ —Â placing motion-sensitive cameras around for an hour, until they ultimately admit they’ve found nothing. The quests for monsters on the History Channel are decidedly unsuccessful.
This particular episode wasÂ called Terror from the Sky.Â The description on the website states:
Across North America there is something strange and frightening circling overhead. Witnesses tell of human-like creatures that float or hover in the skies and often descend to attack. Legends and folklore tell of strange flyingcreatures, but in the 1940s and 1950s, strange humanoid forms were spotted above small towns, bringing waves of panic. Sceptics claim that misidentification explains these creatures, however the mounting evidence says otherwise. MonsterQuest will analyze the video proof of this monster while scientists work to discover the identity of an eerie corpse that may unlock the mystery of these flying humanoid monsters.
But the reason I wanted to catch this episode is because, as long as I’ve been writing about skeptical topics, this is the first time I ever heard of this phenomenon.Â Well, it’s the first time I hadÂ heard of it inÂ relation to anything other thanÂ the movie Rocketman. I wanted to find out what it was all about. So I dialed it up, and watched.
It goes without saying that it was about what you’d expect for a MonsterQuest episode. The concept is indeed bizarre, and I suppose if you actually sawÂ a humanoid floating about, descending and attacking, it would be pretty scary. But the evidence the History Channel had for the phenomenon, whichÂ theyÂ providedÂ at the very beginning of the program (at about 2:33 of video),Â set the tone for the rest of the hour.
They offered some shaky video footage ofÂ one of these “beasts” terrorizing some innocent people in the US and in Mexico.
Now, IÂ suppose if you tried real hard, you could see a humanoid figure in the blob floating in the footage. But you can also see Sylvia Browne with an axe in her skull in the clouds, if you try hard enough.
The thought that immediatelyÂ came to my mind when I saw it was, “It’s a cluster of balloons someone released.” In fact, I have a hard time imagining how the witnesses skipped right over that thought in favor of, “It’s a floating demon what’s come to kill me in the face.”
The good news is, the token skeptic for this particular episode of MonsterQuest was our old buddy, Joe Nickell. And of course, Joe looked at the video footage, and immediately said, “Balloons.” He was evenÂ allowed to doÂ a couple of trials (much to the History Channel’s credit) where he released clusters of balloons and videotaped them to see how the footage would look.
Spoiler alert: It looked exactly the same as the evidence footage!
At any rate, I was interested in hearingÂ about a supposed supernatural phenomenon I had never encountered before, but was disappointed itÂ turned out to beÂ such a bad attempt. And the presentation was pretty flimsy as well. If you all have more information on the subject, I would be glad to re-visit it. But I’m not going to hold my breath.
Post edited at 10:40 on August 5 to add links to videos.