Are Ghost Stories History?

April 25, 2012

I like ghost stories. I like the fictional variety, and I like the non-fictional variety, within reason. That is to say, I enjoy collections of ghost stories that don’t try too hard to convince me that they’re true: “No, really, it was a real ghost. We got photos of orbs and EVPs and everything!” I like the folkloric and historic aspect of ghost stories: an interesting story about an interesting place. Walter Raleigh bopping around the Tower of London, yes; “footsteps” in a 60s ranch house in Indiana, not so much.

I recently found The World’s Most Haunted Places: From the Secret Files of by Jeff Belanger on a discount shelf at Barnes and Noble. Yay, ghost stories. Sadly, the ghost stories are pretty dull: full of clichés and footsteps when no one was there and doors opening when there was no wind. For example, one of the world’s most haunted places is, apparently, the catacombs of Paris. Belanger spends most of his time describing how creepy the place is. Fair enough–the place is full of countless skulls and bones. And the ghosts? The place is “as haunted as it is macabre,” Belanger assures us. Here is the evidence of haunting:

“Avez-vous vu un fantôme?” I asked the man at the ticket counter in my best French if he has seen a ghost. “Je ne sais pas,” was his reply. The man smiled and shrugged his shoulders” (p. 71)

“It’s a little overwhelming with all of the bones,” said Julie Hardman of Tempe, Arizona. I spoke with Hardman after she visited the museum with her daughter, Megan.

A security guard who asked not to be identified told me, “Some people go down and they are very afraid after seeing the bones. Some people say they hear things. Voices” (p. 75)

I was interested, though, in something Belanger says in his introduction:

To study these spirits is to study history. The spirit world and our past are intertwined–there’s a lot we can learn by studying both. (p. 11)

Now, I wouldn’t have put it like that, but to some extent I agree. For one thing, when ghost stories become attached to a place, such as the Tower of London, for instance, they become a part of that place’s history, even if they don’t accurately reflect the events that actually occurred. Like it or not, they become part of the folk history. More importantly, researching ghost stories certainly does involve studying history. In the first place, you are looking at the history of a location and the people associated with it. Secondly, in studying ghost stories in general, you will see how the stories change as the world changes. Belanger, of course, doesn’t look at ghost stories from this point of view–such a study might shake his belief in ghosts–so let’s look at how well he handles the history of the locations he discusses.

First up is Ballygally Castle, now greatly expanded into a hotel in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. According to Belanger,

Ballygally was originally built by James Shaw, a Greenock, Scotland native who came to Northern Ireland in 1613. Shaw built the castle in 1625 in a French chateau style….

Shortly after the completion of the castle’s construction, James Shaw took a wife named Lady Isobel Shaw. The current legend says that  during the first few years of their marriage, Lady Shaw had a daughter. James Shaw became angry that his wife didn’t produce a male heir, and so he locked her in the tiny turret of the castle facing the sea. It’s unclear whether Lady Shaw leapt to her death from the small window while desperately trying to get to her daughter, or whether James Shaw had some henchmen throw her down the steep staircase, killing her.

The first time I heard this bit of folklore, it didn’t sit right with me. (pp. 15-16)

Oh, good, because it doesn’t sit right with me, either. First of all, I’m highly suspicious of that title, which varies between Lady Isobel, indicating that her father was an earl or above, and Lady Shaw, indicating that her husband had a title (which Belanger doesn’t use). Secondly, what a Gothic cliché: evil husband confines wife to turret room for some crappy reason. She jumps or is pushed to her death. What do the records tell us?

If James Shaw was so upset about not getting a male heir, wouldn’t the couple just try for another child? After some digging, I heard another version of the legend that seemed to make more sense. Apparently, Lady Shaw may have been having an affair with a seaman. One could also speculate that her daughter may have been the love-child of this mysterious man. (p. 16)

Oh dear. Apparently, historical research involves looking for unsubstantiated anecdotal legends and choosing the one you like best. Well, I did a bit of extremely superficial historical research myself. That is to say, I asked my friend Google. It was difficult to find information that wasn’t ghost related. Even the Wikipedia entry on Ballygally was infested by legend. I found that Isobel’s name is variously spelled and that she is sometimes called Elizabeth. She didn’t have a title, and her maiden name was Brisbane. The information is confusing, but the following is a typical nugget, which comes from the Brisbane family genealogy. Among the offspring of John Brisbane was

 f-III. Elizabeth, m. to James Shaw, of Bailliegellie, in Ireland, of the family of Shaw of Greenock, and was mother of JAMES SHAW, who is mentioned hereafter, as the husband of his cousin, ELIZABETH BRISBANE, and continuator of the family.

Elsewhere, I did find James Shaw’s wife referred to as Isabella Brisbane Shaw, and they apparently had a daughter named Margaret. I think it’s possible that Isabella got confused with the Elizabeth Brisbane who married the second James Shaw. Regardless, she seems to have had a son, and there is no record of a mysterious death outside the ghostie books.  Nothing I found definitively contradicts Belanger’s legends (except for the erroneous title), but the genealogical information certainly calls certain aspects of the stories into question. And that’s after maybe a half an hour of Googling. Belanger didn’t try to find the truth behind the legends. He didn’t look at historical records–official documents recording births and deaths or genealogical research–he just listened to people telling stories. That is not history. But maybe he’ll improve as he warms to his subject.

The chapter on Ordsall Hall in Salford, England begins,

Here lies Lord have mercy upon her;
One of Elizabeth’s maids of honour.
Margaret Radclyffe fair and witty;
She died a maid, the more the pity.

Margaret Radclyffe’s gravestone is inscribed with the preceding epitaph. Radclyffe died November 10, 1599 at the age of 25. She was one of Queen Elizabeth’s maids of honor, one of the top six ladies in the royal court. The young maiden died in the building she grew up and lived in: Ordsall Hall. Because of her royal connections, she would receive a semi-state funeral and be interred in Westminster Abbey in London, but her spirit will always be at Ordsall Hall. (p. 87)

Margaret Radclyffe was one of Elizabeth I’s ladies in waiting. She did die young. She was not, however, buried in the Abbey, but at St. Margaret’s church on the Abbey’s grounds. As for the epitaph: there are several variants of it. Some do mention Margaret Radclyffe, but not all. I certainly can find no evidence that the passage is on her gravestone: it seems wholly inappropriate. Most of the variants do not name the lady. Here is the most common version. Some sources attribute the poem to John Hoskyns or Hoskins.

Don’t feel too bad for Margaret, though. One poet did write an epigram on her death:


M arble, weep, for thou dost cover
A dead beauty underneath thee,
R ich as nature could bequeath thee :
G rant then, no rude hand remove her.
A ll the gazers on the skies
R ead not in fair heaven’s story,
E xpresser truth, or truer glory,
T han they might in her bright eyes.

R are as wonder was her wit ;
A nd, like nectar, ever flowing :
T ill time, strong by her bestowing,
C onquer’d hath both life and it ;
L ife, whose grief was out of fashion
I n these times.  Few so have rued
F ate in a brother.  To conclude,
F or wit, feature, and true passion,
E arth, thou hast not such another. (source)

Oh, I know–it’s not as dignified as a bit of doggerel about how it’s a shame that such a pretty girl died a virgin, and the poet’s no John Hoskins. It’s only Ben Jonson.

I’m beginning to suspect that Belanger and I have a different understanding of the word “history.”



Belanger, Jeff. The World’s Most Haunted Places: From the Secret Files of New York: Barnes and Noble, 2004.

Finucane, Ronald C. Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation. New York: Prometheus, 1996. A book that genuinely combines ghost stories and historical research.

This Week in Conspiracy (23 April 2012)

April 24, 2012

Technically, it will be “These Last Few Weeks and a Bit in Conspiracy,” but who’s keeping score, really?

It is of course well known that careless talk costs lives, but the full scale of the problem is not always appreciated.

For instance, at the very moment that Arthur said “I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle,” a freak wormhole opened up in the fabric of the space-time continuum and carried his words far far back in time across almost infinite reaches of space to a distant Galaxy where strange and warlike beings were poised on the brink of frightful interstellar battle.

The two opposing leaders were meeting for the last time.

A dreadful silence fell across the conference table as the commander of the Vl’hurgs, resplendent in his black jewelled battle shorts, gazed levelly at the G’Gugvuntt leader squatting opposite him in a cloud of green sweet-smelling steam, and, with a million sleek and horribly beweaponed star cruisers poised to unleash electric death at his single word of command, challenged the vile creature to take back what it had said about his mother.

The creature stirred in his sickly broiling vapour, and at that very moment the words I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle drifted across the conference table.

Unfortunately, in the Vl’hurg tongue this was the most dreadful insult imaginable, and there was nothing for it but to wage terrible war for centuries.

Eventually of course, after their Galaxy had been decimated over a few thousand years, it was realized that the whole thing had been a ghastly mistake, and so the two opposing battle fleets settled their few remaining differences in order to launch a joint attack on our own Galaxy – now positively identified as the source of the offending remark.

For thousands more years the mighty ships tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the first planet they came across – which happened to be the Earth – where due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog.

Those who study the complex interplay of cause and effect in the history of the Universe say that this sort of thing is going on all the time, but that we are powerless to prevent it.

“It’s just life,” they say.

Twit of the Week:

Paul of Paul and Storm had a good tweet this week:

Paul and Storm ‏ @paulandstorm

[P] In honor of today’s anniversary of Project MKULTRA, I’m going to secretly feed my family LSD-laced tacos.

The twerpiest tweet of the week won not only because of the horrific violation of the laws of logic the tweet embodies, but also because the article talks at some length about how Anders Breivik told the court how he did it all alone. TURN ON YOUR THINKER, DUDE!

We are speeding into the last weeks of classes right now, and I have a couple of little projects in the works. You will hear of them soon, I am sure.

Muahahaha, as they say.


This Week in Conspiracy (26 March 2012)

March 29, 2012

I’ve been flitting about the country in rental cars for the last couple of weeks, so I’ve amassed a rather largish backlog of entries for this week’s roundup. Enjoy…IF YOU DARE!

Conspiracy Theory of the Week

This week, I am so mad, so singularly and completely angry, that I am going to skip the foreplay and get right down to business. Mike Adams is a horrible, horrible person. The world is just that much worse for his having been born. This week, this shameless crank of obscene proportions penned an exploitative, factually bereft piece called: “A Hundred Trayvons a Day – Why the Real Murder of Blacks is Carried Out by Pharmaceutical Companies, Vaccines and Cancer Clinics.” In this piece he says that AIDS anti-retrovirals destroy the immune system (what if someone ever takes that seriously?), that the government is practicing eugenics, and that drug companies are illegally experimenting on black people. Mike, you are a broken human. Something is dramatically wrong with your mind, and I have finally come across a human for whom I can’t even muster pity. Pathetic.

And elsewhere…

“I realize that marriage scares many people, but Hebrews 13:4 teaches that God will judge adulterers and whoremongers.Walt Disney teaches teenagers to live loose, be immoral, dress immodestly, fornicate, score, and live together without being married; but such wickedness brings the judgment of God.”

“Sad to say, everything going on in America today with the feminist courts, unfair tax laws, State-controlled CPS, feminism, thug police, and other evils in the U.S. are discouraging young people from getting married anymore. Walt Disney and all of the major influences on America’s youth today teaches them to be rebellious, defy their parents, drink booze, fornicate, get pregnant, have an abortion, and do it again and again… party, party, party!”

“Feminism has turned women into monsters, to the point where they’re turning into lesbians instead of marrying a masculine man.”

“The whole court system in America is evil and rotten to the core!”

EXOPOLITICS is a book that was time traveled using advanced Tesla-based quantum access technology by the U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) from the year 2005 (or later) to the year 1971 (or earlier).  The futuristic innovative policy recommendations that Alfred would write in EXOPOLITICS in 2000 about relations with extraterritorial civilizations, and in 2005 about the intelligent civilization on Mars made Alfred a “person of interest” to the CIA in 1971.  Because of the book EXOPOLITICS, Alfred has been subjected to intense political surveillance, harassment and torture by CIA and other alphabet agencies since 1971 to present. CIA has chosen to keep its relations with the Martian civilization, including U.S. President Barack H. Obama’s visits to Mars 1980-83 as part of a secret CIA Mars jump room program, a U.S. national security secret, instead of public knowledge as mandated by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958.

Twit of the week:

“Roseanne Barr ‏ @TheRealRoseanne Honestly, I am scared shitless/witless of wht is coming to this country. I pray to GOD that ppl will wake up to slavery and fascism NOW”

What is is about the name Rosie that makes people crazy, I wonder? #CorrelationDoesNotEqualCausation

So there! Tomorrow I’ll be hosting a member of a WWII bomber crew at Georgia Tech, so I must be off to prepare. I’m sure I will be posting the video on the website. Because I can.


UFOs in 1608 France?

March 12, 2012

Yesterday afternoon, while I was waiting for my bus I heard a loud WOOSH overhead and saw a gigantic silver bird–it must have been 40-feet across–land on top of Federal Reserve Building across from the station. It then made a noise unlike any other I head before, a “screeeeeeee-reeeeeeeeeee screeeeeeee-reeeeeeeeeee!” that shattered windows all over Midtown Atlanta, much to the amazement of everyone present. As we watched this monster in horror, we felt and then heard a rumbling in the streets. Without warning, a herd of ferrets, each the size of a double-decker bus, came tearing around the corner. Also, they were breathing fire. The silver bird and gigantic flaming ferrets then did battle with Laser Tag for the rest of the afternoon. Luckily, I snapped a picture of the battle:

Actual Recreation

What do you think the chances are that this actually happened? Less than none, I’m betting. Congratulations! You’ve earned your critical thinker merit badge!

A similar story has been sitting on my desk for quite a while, and it’s time to purge it from my “to do” list. Did you know that there was a massive battle between the Genovese military and UFOs in 1608? Me neither. This story seems to pop up every few years on the Internet, especially in forums where people are looking for evidence of otherworldly visitations long before the 20th century’s first flying saucers appeared. What UFOlogists are looking for in these apparitions are depictions that are “uncontaminated” with modern notions of UFOs. At first glance, this logic might seem to make sense; however, UFOlogists seem to forget that their interpretations of these sightings are still contaminated with expectations wrought of modern UFO lore. The post that first brought the Genovese story to my attention appeared on Above Top Secret. The source of the story, Discours des terribles et espouvantables signes apparus sur la mer de Gennes, was written shortly after the reported events, and several versions are available online.

I faced a couple of barriers when I decided I wanted to look into this story. First, my 17th-century Mediterranean history is a little shabby (as is yours, admit it). Second, I don’t read archaic French. I ran the original test through Google Translator, and found that Google doesn’t either, translating the title into: “Speech and of the terrible espouvantables signs appeared on the Mer de Gennes.” Third, I’m not all that familiar with the specific type of publication, a “chapbook,” that this account first appeared in. Fourth, except where people are simply copying and pasting modern interpretations of the supposed UFO encounter, there seems to be no single, straightforward, consistent or universally agreed upon modern translation. As is often the case with folklore, embellishments and additions accumulate, and this is complicated by the fact that the French text has been subjected to numerous translations; take the ATS source above–it seems to be a translation from archaic French to Italian to English. Where to start?

Oh, as they say, merde.

The first thing I’m going to do is not worry too much about which modern version of the story I choose as my starting point. When we eventually go back to the earliest versions of the story, whatever we learn there will shed light on the accuracy of all subsequent versions. So, let’s start with the event as it is described by Albert Rosales at in his catalog of ancient UFO sightings.

Location. Genoa, Italy
Date: August 22 1608
Time: unknown
Locals reportedly saw a bizarre creature emerging from sea right off the coast. It was described as a human shaped figure covered in scales and with what appeared to be “snakes” protruding from its hands. Canon fire was directed towards the creature without any apparent effect. Around the same time off the coast of Nice in France fishermen saw an object that descended towards the sea, a blood-like substance was seen to drop from the object. Others saw three “vessels” moving at high speed above the city. The three vessels then approach the local fortress and descend to the water causing a great boiling of the sea and emitting ochre-red vapor. To the great stupor of those present, two humanoid beings, with large heads and large luminous eyes dressed in red scaly combination outfits emerge from the vessels. These humanoids appeared to be connected to their vessels by long tubes. The humanoids spent several hours involved in “strange” work around their vessels. Meanwhile soldiers in the fortress shot cannon at the intruders without any apparent effect.
HC addendum Source: CUN Genoa, Also Jean Pierre Petit France Type: E & B

Location: Near Marseilles, France
Date: August 25 1608
Time: evening
Three days later, a single vessel appeared near Marseilles over the fishing village of Martigues, and again displayed the same erratic flight maneuvers that had been displayed over Nice. It stopped in midair and two beings got out, appearing to engage in an aerial duel of some kind. The following week there was a heavy fall of red rain, and in the months after churches were packed with worshipers begging to be spared whatever disastrous fate that was about to befall them. While accounts of these events are sometimes ambiguously worded, it is remarkable that so many people in three separate locations could have imagined such strange occurrences at a time when no flying machines existed.
HC addendum Source: Type: B?

We’ll start with the last assertion first:

“While accounts of these events are sometimes ambiguously worded, it is remarkable that so many people in three separate locations could have imagined such strange occurrences at a time when no flying machines existed.”

It would be remarkable if so many people in different locations could have such experiences independently of one another in such a short period of time. But that’s not what we have here. We have a single account, variously republished in a number of chapbooks (or “canards” in French–I believe the English term only arrives later). Chapbooks were inexpensive little books meant for wide popular consumption, not durability (much like modern newspapers are not meant to last, but be printed in volume). There could be as few as eight pages in one of these little pocket-sized books. As I said, there are a number of retellings/partial translations of the purported source, identified as the Discours des terribles et espouvantables signes apparus sur la Mer de Gennes on a number of UFO sites, but I can’t rely on them to check the story’s accuracy. The first thing to do is identify the original. I enlisted Eve’s assistance, which is always a good idea.

We first noticed that a surprising number of editions of this story exists, most dating from 1608 and 1609. Most printings actually provide a city of publication and refer to the source of the text it is republishing. A chapbook printed by Parisian bookseller might read: “Jouxte la copie de Lyon” (“following the Lyon edition”). Ideally, you would be able to work backward through the various editions to get to the source; however, in this case, there are references to more editions than actually seem to have survived. We found that one version had been copied from a Lyon printing, but we could not find any reference to any extant copy of that edition. Eve and I turned the Internet inside out…hitting WorldCat, GoogleBooks, JSTOR, every dang database and resource at our disposal to try and find it. No go.

All was not lost, however. While we seemed unable “follow the begats,” as it were, back to the original, we did find that these earliest versions of the story were remarkably consistent with one another, with changes barely more substantive than varied spellings, which at any rate had not yet been standardized. The remarkably stable text suggests a common source.

We contacted historian Yannis Deliyannis, who has looked into the Discours and discusses it in some detail on his blog, Chronicon Mirabilium. We asked him if he had some information about the publishing history of the chapbook. He reports that six contemporary versions of the account are known to exist, two are referenced by other sources and are known to have existed but were lost, and a final, the Genoan edition, is only mentioned as the source for one version of the chapbooks, but there is no corroboration that the book exists. Deliyannis suspects that this lost apocryphal version may have been invented to lend credibility to the edition that claimed to be based on it. We agree; there need not be a Genoan edition. Deliyannis also notes that the number of times that this little book was reprinted suggests that it was a very popular chapbook.*

Even if we can’t go all the way back to the purported “Genoa” edition, we can look at the editions that do exist and come up with a pretty faithful version. And by “we” I mean “other people,” namely, my co-editor Eve, fellow Brittain postdoc Jennifer Orth-Veillon, and Yannis Deliyannis.

(Translation of the “Discours des terribles et espouvantables signes apparus sur la Mer de Gennes” by Eve Siebert, perfected by Yannis Deliyannis, with thanks to Jennifer Orth-Veillon for her help early on.) Eve’s insight that English and French words share a lot of common roots was OED ninjacraft at its most deadly!)

Our direct translation differs from the the modern UFOlogical version in several significant ways.  How does Rosales’ version of the Discours square with what originally appeared? Let’s see:

“Locals reportedly saw a bizarre creature emerging from sea right off the coast. It was described as a human shaped figure covered in scales and with what appeared to be ‘snakes’ protruding from its hands. Canon fire was directed towards the creature without any apparent effect.”

This is sort of close. In the original, however, a variety of monsters appear, popping up in the ocean with two snakes in each hand. Some are in human form and some are more dragon-like, and they are all covered in scales. Also, Rosales does not mention the terrifying cries that these creatures are supposed to have emitted. Most importantly, while UFOlogists always mention that canon were used against the apparitions (perhaps the idea that the military got involved suggests authenticity to them), they never mention what is called the “true remedy.” The Capuchins order processions, fasting, and the saying of the Forty Hours, the latter being the “nuclear option” of penance. These details demonstrate that within the story, the apparitions respond to prayer, underscoring the religious, not factual-historical, nature of the text. I take it back; Rosales’ account is not close at all.

“Around the same time off the coast of Nice in France fishermen saw an object that descended towards the sea, a blood-like substance was seen to drop from the object.”

No. This is wrong. No flying object is associated with the rain of “true and natural blood” described in the Discours. There are no fisher-folk. What is reported is a rain of blood throughout the south of France. The phenomenon of a “red rain” is well-known. In August and September 2001, a widely reported red rain fell in the Indian state of Kerala. Despite widespread accounts that alien cells discolored the water, the real culprit seems to have been “lichen-forming alga spores of local origin.” Red rain can also be caused by wind-born red dust and by other terrestrial mechanisms. The red rain in the south of France, as far as I can tell, is the only event in these stories that is historically verifiable. The naturalist Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc investigated a red rain there in 1608 and decided that it was, charmingly, butterfly droppings.

Back to Rosales:

Others saw three ‘vessels’ moving at high speed above the city. The three vessels then approach the local fortress and descend to the water causing a great boiling of the sea and emitting ochre-red vapor. To the great stupor of those present, two humanoid beings, with large heads and large luminous eyes dressed in red scaly combination outfits emerge from the vessels. These humanoids appeared to be connected to their vessels by long tubes. The humanoids spent several hours involved in “strange” work around their vessels. Meanwhile soldiers in the fortress shot cannon at the intruders without any apparent effect.

This scene takes place back in Genoa. Three carriages appear, each pulled by six fiery dragons. (You do not get to change the carriages to “vessels” unless you want to argue that they are dragon-powered UFOs.) There is no mention of them charging the fortress, boiling the sea, or emitting a vapor, red or otherwise. They are being manned by the same apparitions that were seen earlier, still with flying serpents in their hands. There is no mention of their head size, their eye-luminosity, their “scaly combination outfits,” or doing “strange work” in the air while connected to tubes. They merely bellow loudly, scaring a few people to death. Again, the narrator mentions that after the Te Deum was sung, nobody ever saw the carriages again. What is interesting is that the first part of this episode seems to be a description of an image that often accompanies the account of Genoa:

The problems are numerous. 1) I haven’t seen a source of this image and don’t assume that it accompanies any original edition of the text. 2) It’s not a photograph, so nobody should treat it like it’s an accurate depiction of anything. 3) I don’t even know if it is contemporary to the chapbooks. It doesn’t resemble any Renaissance print I’ve ever seen, though, to be fair…I’m an Americanist who has experience mostly with Renaissance commonplace books in English. (As we shall see, this image only later came to be linked with the story.)

Three days later, a single vessel appeared near Marseilles over the fishing village of Martigues, and again displayed the same erratic flight maneuvers that had been displayed over Nice.

Woah, cowboy! Erratic flight maneuvers? You’re just making things up there. Two men appear in the sky. They are armed and have shields (and no, not like the starship Enterprise). No vehicles, no UFO acrobatics. Two people engaged in combat for two hours, with a brief time-out for a rest. (I swear it’s in there.) A few days later, they are back, wailing on each other “so that they seemed like blacksmiths beating on the anvil.” The next day, they appear on horseback and do combat. On the third day, the combatants reappear, this time in fortresses in the sky. They fire cannon at each other for seven hours, and when the air clears of smoke and the smell of gunpowder, the men are gone.

In the modern version of the story, then, we see a number of important elements suppressed, especially the religious significance applied to the events, the efficacy of prayer as a remedy, and the appearance of dragons. At the same time, elements that fit more closely into the modern UFO narrative are either stressed (“Look–things flying!”, “Look–lizard people!”) or added (“red scaly combination outfits” and EVAs). The modern story, at least as it is retold by UFOlogists, is nothing like the original.

Being able to dismiss the modern version of the UFO story leaves us with another problem. Did strange beasties appear in the sky over the Mediterranean in 1608?

Of course the hell not.

Let’s start the analysis with what we would expect the record to reflect if these apparitions had occurred. There would be multiple, mutually confirming independent reports, including Church, civil, and military records, about the goings on. This type of archival research can only be conducted on-site. Luckily, Diego Cuoghi has visited the archives of Genoa to investigate the original story.  He found no evidence that anything remarkable whatsoever was reflected in the Senate records of the day.  Cuoghi’s research is really rather good, as he identifies the time and place when modern UFOlogists changed the story of the carriages to ovals and when the image of the battle was first–and forever–linked to the story: 1970s France. And let’s face it, with the exception of Tokyo, where this sort of thing happens every other day, someone would have mentioned Gamera and Zigra having it out on the front lawn.

Of course, other scholars would not have bothered to go so far as to actually search the archives. Most would have recognized the fantastic elements for what they were. They would recognize the long-standing tradition of visions in the sky dating as far back as Revelation (clearly influencing this text) and the subgenre of visions of aerial combat presaging disasters. They would have fit the Discours squarely within that tradition. In one collection of 500 French chapbooks/canards examined by Jean-Pierre Seguin at the Bibliothèque Nationale in the 1960s, 51 entries were stories of celestial visions. Seguin’s abstract offers his take on the context and content of this massive collection, and they offer a good guide to the UFOlogist who is interested in getting to the truth:

The Bibliothèque Nationale has some five hundred news-sheets, of the kind called ‘broadsides’ or ‘coqs’, printed between 1529 and 1631, date of publication of the first Gazettes. The stories found in these sheets, some true and some imaginary, some very long and detailed, others quite short and unprecise, differ considerably according both to the subject matter and to the author’s personality. Yet, they all have in common certain fixed characteristics — which they share with contemporary daily newspapers. But, the XVIth and XVIIth century reporters as well as their readers were more concerned with the ‘moral’ of the news item than with its novelty, its oddness or its sensational aspect. The analysis of this ‘moral’ contributes to a better understanding of those troubled times.

So, it turns out that this type of literature was not meant to be taken literally, but understood in terms of the moral lesson it delivered; in the case of the Discours, the message is “pray and repent.” It should therefore not be used as evidence of alien visitation.

*Deliyannis has found a probable sister text, an account of a Maltese dragon that contains similar language and themes as the Discours.  He also identifies a possible historical event that might have initiated the story, albeit heavily embellished, though he cautions that his conclusion is speculative.

Thanks to Eve, Jennifer, and Yannis for their critical contributions to this entry. Without you, nothing!

Works Cited

Cuoghi, Diego. “L’UFO DI GENOVA DEL 1608: Negli Articoli e Nelle testimonianze.” Blog.

Davis, Jennifer R. and Michael McCormick. The long morning of medieval Europe: new directions in early medieval studies. 2008. Online.

Deliyannis, Yannis. Chronicon Mirabilium. Blog.

Dunning, Brian. “Alien Downpour: The Red Rain of India.” Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 21 Sep 2010. Web. 12 Mar 2012.

“Forty Hours’ Devotion.” Catholic Encyclopedia. Online.

L’INFORMATION EN FRANCE AVANT LE PÉRIODIQUE: 500 CANARDS IMPRIMÉS ENTRE 1529 ET 1631 (suite et fin) Jean-Pierre Seguin Arts et traditions populaires, T. 11e, No. 3e/4e (Juillet-Decembre 1963), pp. 203-280.

Rosales, Albert. “2357BC – 1869 HUMANOID SIGHTING REPORTS.” Website.

Sampath, S. T.K. Abraham, V. Sasi Kumar and C.N. Mohanan. “Coloured Rain: A Report on the Phenomenon.” 2001.


This Week in Conspiracy (4 March 2012)

March 4, 2012

Georgia seems to have survived yet another assault of tornados sent to us by HAARP, probably to silence the beacon of reason that is this website. Of course, now that Skeptical Humanities is an international affair, it will be harder to take us down. Muahahaha!

So, this is the Week in Conspiracy, my take on the week in weak. And this week was not weak in terms of its weakness. It was powerful weak.

The biggest story on the scaredy-sphere this week was the death of right-winger and all around truly horrid person Andrew Breitbart, which I imagine was a tragedy for someone, somewhere. Probably someone like Rush Limbaugh.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, you’re lucky, but he would fake stories about supposed devious doings on the left, which, for some reason, the media took seriously. Think of the Shirley Sherrod affair a few years back. Breitbart.

Conspiracy theories appeared almost instantaneously. Alex Jones wondered if the Obama crime machine was responsible for the death. He goes so far as to wonder if there is a Stalinist purge of Administration critics in the works. Truth Excavator wonders:

“Was Breitbart becoming too big of a problem, and needed to be taken out, mafia-style? This is only speculation at this point. But 43 is too young for someone to die of natural causes, so let the conspiracy theories fly and we’ll see where the truth lands.”

People die of natural causes at young ages all the time. Insofar as Breitbart being a big problem, Obama is head and shoulders above whatever goofball the Republicans put up against him in November. The going theory among the less than scrupulous is that Breitbart was going to release college video footage of Obama. Why risk killing someone? As for the question, “Cui bono?” which is being asked all over the conspirasphere, clearly the conspiracy theorists have benefited and are therefor the most likely killers of Andrew Breitbart. Of course Breitbart predicted something would happen on the first of March. Did the CIA use a “heart attack gun” on Breitbart? A poison dart? Perhaps the autopsy will get to the truth. The best part of this story was a comment thread following Gawker’s coverage about the conspiracy theories that exploded on Twitter after Breitbart’s death was announced.

Conspiracy Theory of the Week

I can imagine it now–an adviser to Ron Paul shuffles up to the candidate and whispers: “Dr. Paul, why don’t you stand here in front of this big freaking Confederate flag and bitch about how the Civil War deprived white people of rights…OH, F*CK I WAS JOKING!”


What Happens in the Convent Stays in the Convent…

February 27, 2012

My first article as “The Conspiracy Guy” is up at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website. It’s called, “Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures: A Classic American Conspiracy Theory.”



Crypto-Creationism 2: Return of the Killer Crapgasm

February 16, 2012

A couple of days ago, I gave you all a big, steaming Valentine in the form of an overview of Claws, Jaws & Dinsaws Dinosaurs by William J. Gibbons and famous felon “Dr.” Kent Hovind. “Dr.” Crypto and “Dr.” Dino. I’d like to assure everyone I didn’t in any way enrich the authors by my purchase of the book. I bought it used for about a buck.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to some of the highlights of the book, if “highlights” is the right word (it isn’t). The first chapter concerns the Loch Ness Monster. The Scottish Gibbons finds it necessary to add the word “lake” in parentheses after “loch.” Again, I wonder who their intended audience is. The account itself is fairly typical. It begins with St. Columba in the 6th century. They don’t mention that the account was written a hundred years later or that the creature in the account appeared in the River Ness, not the loch (lake). Indeed, they say specifically that “the saint decided to cross the loch (lake).” Oh, well.

The story then jumps to the 1930s, “[a]lthough the local people often discussed the giant creature that many of them had seen in the lake [loch].” Naturally, they offer no evidence for this. What follows is a string of anecdotes (which could be a description of the whole book). They also mention the famous photograph taken in 1934 by Dr. Robert Kenneth Wilson. Gibbons and Hovind describe him as a dentist. According to Wikipedia, however, he was a gynecologist. Take it from me, you don’t want to get those two confused. Anyway, you know the photo we’re talking about: the big fat hoax. Or is it?

Some people claim that the dentist’s nephew (on his death bed) said that the photos were faked, but there is no one alive today who was there at the time the photographs were taken. It is not possible to know who is lying now. Even if Dr. Wilson’s picture were fake, there are many thousands of other witnesses who say they have seen Nessie. (13)

For starters, they’ve gotten the details of the hoax wrong (see Wiki article linked above). Second they use the ever popular argument “You weren’t there man–you don’t know!” Of course, they weren’t there when St. Columba allegedly banished a monster on the River Ness either. They follow this up by arguing that the plural of “anecdote” is, indeed, “data.” And that pretty much sums up the methodology of the book (“Sadly, most scientists will not accept eyewitness accounts, photographs, or even film as evidence that large unidentified animals inhabit the depths of Loch Ness” 16. A sentence similar to this appears in pretty much every chapter).  Of course, the photo is a pretty obvious hoax. The object is quite small and doesn’t even resemble most of the accounts of Nessie. So, it’s very bad evidence, but apparently, the plural of “bad evidence” is “good evidence.”

So, let’s say there are plesiosaurs hanging around in lakes (lochs) the world over. What is the significance? “Perhaps, one day the Lord will allow some intrepid monster hunter to capture one of these amazing creatures as testimony of His awesome presence and power!” (17). Well, the Lord has been allowing the damn things to roam about unmolested in the River Ness, Loch Ness and environs (sometimes it walks around on land) since the 6th century, so we may have a bit a wait until we’re able to see His awesome presence and power.

The next chapter is my favorite. It’s called “Sailors, Sea Serpents and Dragons,” and it features Beowulf. It seems obvious really, what with “dragons” in the title and everything. Yeah, they don’t mention the dragon in Beowulf. Which is odd when you think about it, because dragons are meat and drink to creationists with a cryptozoological bent. They’re big reptiles that in a number of ways resemble dinosaurs. Of course, in a number of ways, they don’t resemble dinosaurs, but that’s okay because–hey! look over there! Is that the Holy Spirit?!

Uh, no, I guess it was just an albino pigeon. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yeah. They don’t mention the dragon in Beowulf in either the dragon chapter or the pterosaur chapter (“Those Terrible Pterosaurs.” I can’t imagine how they resisted the urge to call it “Those Pterrible Pterosaurs”). So, if you eliminate the dragon, where are the dinosaurs in Beowulf? Well, there’s the creature known as “The Grendel.” Yup, they added a definite article and italicized it. No, I don’t know why.

“Grendel a dinosaur,” I hear you scoff, “Surely not.” I sympathize with your scoffing. They seem to have cribbed much of the “information” about Beowulf from Bill Cooper’s magnificent octopus, After the Flood: The Early Post-Flood History of Europe Traced back to Noah. Now, I’ve got 20+ pages of well-researched rant about Cooper and Beowulf, so allow me to summarize:

How does he come to this brilliant conclusion? Again, I shall summarize: dude’s an idiot. I should note that Hovind and Gibbons nowhere credit Cooper although it’s clear they are influenced by him, but–hey–what’s a little plagiarism between zealous loons? Gibbons and Hovind, perhaps realizing that the T. Rex was a North American creature, actually suggest that “the Grendel” was a “fearsome Megalosaurus, a dinosaur found in Britain and similar to Tyrannosaurus-Rex” (19). Still dumb, but very slightly less dumb.

But they’re not through with Beowulf yet because Beowulf also slew some sea serpents. After Grendel’s mother attacks,* the Geats and Danes go to the mere (loch [lake]) where they see these creatures which “were said to surface at dawn and attack sailing ships” (19. This is only slightly garbled). For some reason they don’t mention that one of the Geats killed one of the critters. Pffft, details.

But this, apparently, was only the beginning of Beowulf’s career in the sea-serpent slaying business:

After his victory over Grendel [apparently Beowulf ripped off Grendel's "the"], Beowulf turned his attention to the dragons and serpents that continued to menace ships in the sea. Using large spears that were normally reserved for killing boars, Beowulf and his men began clearing the shipping lanes between Denmark and Sweden. He managed to kill at least nine of the monsters. As a reward for his courage as a monster-hunter, Beowulf was later crowned king of the Geats… (19-21. For anyone  wondering how this passage can span three pages, most of p. 20 is taken up with a long caption explaining a picture of a kronosaur and an elasmosaur apparently kissing in the shadow of the Ark).

At first I was wondering if Gibbons and Hovind had gotten hold of some copy of Beowulf with which I was not familiar. Perhaps an old manuscript of Beowulf II: The Lost Years. But the number nine rang a bell. Could they somehow be talking about Beowulf’s swimming match with Breca? It seems unlikely, but it’s all I can come up with.

The swimming match with Breca happens before the events of the poem take place, not after Beowulf’s fight with Grendel (and his mother, whom Gibbons and Hovind don’t mention). In fact Beowulf tells the story before the fight with Grendel. According to Beowulf, he spent five days in the water swimming (with his sword in his hand). Then the seas became rough, he and Breca were separated and a sea monster dragged him down to the bottom but he was able to kill it and eight other monsters with his sword (no idea where the boar-hunting spear comes from, sorry). There is no mention of shipping lanes that I can see, and it certainly wasn’t because of this feat that Beowulf became king–the swimming match occurred when he was very young. How did he become king? Hygelac, the king, was killed in battle. His widow Hygd offered Beowulf the throne because her son was a child. Beowulf refused. Years later after Hygelac’s son, Heardred, was also killed in battle, Beowulf, Hygelac’s nephew, became king.

So Gibbons and Hovind get the plot wrong, make a bunch of stuff up, ignore two-thirds of the major monsters in the poem and say silly things about the other monsters. Great. Let’s see how they do with Norse sagas:

In 1001 AD, Leif Erikson, a Viking commander, stepped ashore on a rich wooded land which lay far west of his native Iceland. He called the new land Markland (Woodland). Today, we this call this area [sic], Newfoundland, situated on Canada’s east coast. (41)

Where to start? Well, there’s the garbled sentence and unfortunate punctuation. Then there’s a sort of geographical imprecision. They make Newfoundland sound like Labrador, rather than an island off the coast of Canada. And I suppose this is nitpicky, and Iceland and Norway do both claim Leif, but he had settled in Greenland at this time, not Iceland.

And then there’s Markland. The Norse explorers** certainly did see a forested land they called Markland (as well as a place they named Helluland–Flat Rock Land), but their main settlement, the one in Newfoundland, was called Vinland. Oh, well, it’s all Canada. Anyway while in Canadaland, guess what Leif saw:

Erikson and his men encountered hairy, ugly giants that uttered harsh cries. This is the earliest recorded encounter with Bigfoot, or Sasquatch…. (41)

I’ve read the Vinland sagas. I don’t remember any Bigfeet (Bigfoots?). I’ve just skimmed them again. Guess what I haven’t found. In particular, Leif himself encountered nothing especially odd, though during a later voyage, one of his brothers was killed by a Uniped:

[I]t came bounding down towards where the ship lay. Thorvald, Eirik the Red’s son, was sitting at the helm. The Uniped shot an arrow into his groin. Thorvald pulled out the arrow and said, “This is a rich country we have found; there is plenty of fat around my entrails.” Soon afterwards he died of the wound. (Eirik’s Saga 102)

But that’s just one foot of indeterminate size. Bigfoots are traditionally described as bipeds. The only large, loud hairy beasts in the Vinland sagas are the livestock brought to Vinland by the Scandinavians. That seems to leave the Skraelings, a word that, according to everyone–everyone–refers to Native peoples.

They were small and evil-looking, and their hair was coarse; they had large eyes and broad cheekbones. (Eirik’s Saga 98)

So, kind of insulting and offensive, but not very Bigfooty.

So what’s the creationist point of all this Bigfoot stuff? Damned if I know. After discussing the Russian Alma, however, Gibbons and Hovind say,

Some scientists think that the alma might actually be a surviving race of “primitive” humans–such as the Neanderthal Man. This could be another nail in the coffin for evolution proving that Neanderthals were just odd-shaped humans who lived in the same time frame as the rest of society in the rural areas of Europe. (48)

I don’t even understand that. Does the alma “prove” that Neanderthals were just odd-shaped humans, or is evolution trying to prove that Neanderthals were just odd-shaped humans, and somehow the Alma proves that they weren’t? This shows why it’s so important to be clear when you’re being idiotic.

People tend to maintain that modern man knows all there is to know about this world. (49)

Who are these mysterious people made of straw?

This type of proud and haughty attitude is ungodly and unhealthy. God made a great and beautiful world full of marvels and surprises. Science is the study of God’s creation and should draw us closer to the Creator. Until a Bigfoot is captured and closely examined, the creatures will continue to be one of the Creator’s mysteries. (49)

Okay, first, you might want to look up “science” in a dictionary (different from a creationary). Second, yeah, I’m sure a Bigfoot will be captured any day now.

*Gibbons and Hovind say Beowulf and his men track “the Grendel back to its lair” (19), placing the encounter with the sea monsters directly after Beowulf’s fight with Grendel and before Grendel’s mother’s mission of vengeance. They are mistaken.

**In The Saga of Eirik the Red, Helluland and Markland are actually named during Thorfinn Karsefni’s expedition, not Leif’s.



Cooper, Bill. After the Flood: The Early Post-Flood History of Europe Traced back to Noah. Chichester: New Wine, 1995. This book is available online. Reading this book may cause delirium and extreme stupidity. If you choose not to heed my warning, you can find it for yourself.

Gibbons, William J. and “Dr.” Kent Hovind. Claws, Jaws and Dinosaurs. Pensacola: CSE Publications, 1999. Also potentially dangerous to your sanity and well-being.

Magnusson, Magnus and Hermann Pálsson, tr. The Vinland Sagas: The Norse Discovery of America (Grænlendinga saga and Eiríks saga rauða). Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 1965. This book is safe to read.

This Week in Conspiracy (5 February 2012)

February 6, 2012

BAM! Finished another article and sent it off tonight. What next? I could watch Puppy Bowl reruns….Aw shucks, let’s do a conspiracy theory round-up!

Conspiracy Theory of the Week: Ron Paul Edition

First, an irony of epic proportions. It turns out Ron Paul’s biggest donor is a Bilderberger.

Also, and I know I posted this earlier, but I love, freaking LOVE, this video at the Georgia Guidestones by a Ron Paul supporter/conspiracy theorist. Make sure you watch until after the wind dies down, because, wow, there is some profound linguistic analysis.

Conspiracy is so much fun!

Anyway, I have a couple of reviews in the pipeline, so stay tuned. Keep it classy, Internet!


A Brief Note on the Sokal Hoax

January 31, 2012

Yesterday, chum of the Skeptical Humanities site, Sharon Hill of the Doubtful News blog, posted a generally excellent piece about skeptics putting on hoaxes. Go read it. But be ye warned, she ventures like a deer into the barreling Mack track that is Skeptical Humanities when she says:

Many other hoaxes can be found on the Museum of Hoaxes website including the famous Sokal hoax where Alan Sokal sent in a paper full of gobbledegook words to a journal to see if it would be accepted. It was. He succeeded in dramatically demonstrating the decline in standards of humanities journals and embarrassing his field into reaction.

Well, not exactly. Sokal was a physicist, who was attempting to make a point about certain critics’ misuse of scientific terminology and a sort of absurd posturing that one often sees in the postmodern camps of literary theory.

In the schools of thought that concerned Alan Sokal, all language is basically a game and meaning is never absolute. He was prompted to perpetrate the hoax after he read Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science, by Gross and Levitt. In Higher Superstition, the authors, both working scientists, look at a lot of the big names in critical theory, including Lacan, Derrida, Kristeva, and others and show in excruciating detail how utterly unqualified to have an opinion about the scientific matters on which they publish. Most of what they find is gobbledegook, not unlike the science word-salad of newage gurus like Deepak Chopra and Ramtha, the guy from outer space who lives inside a lady.

Gross and Levitt notice that there are some similarities between the schools of thought that accrete around these academic gurus. In these cliques, you are generally rewarded for exaggerating the socially liberating potential of… whatever text you are looking at, whether it is Finnegans Wake or the back of a Happy Meal. (I’d rather read the back of a Happy Meal, to be honest.) They notice a particular ritual vocabulary, the presence of which seems to validate whatever is being said by the critical theorist, but which is impenetrable to mortals. And, lastly, they especially focus on the ways in which critical theory has presumed to critique not only the language in which science is communicated, but the content of the science itself, that is, that in the extreme forms of this criticism, all reality is merely a linguistic construct, often one that somehow offends the political principles that motivate the cultural critics. Therefore, the critic concludes: “Science is wrong. I just recreated the entire world. I’m pretty much a genius.”

You’d like to think that I’m joking, but take Sandra Harding’s closer to her book, The Science Question in Feminism:

“When we began theorizing our experience…we know our task would be a difficult though exciting one. But I doubt that in our wildest dreams we ever imagined that we would have to reinvent both science and theorizing itself to make sense of women’s social experience.”

So, this sort of self-important posturing by the scientifically illiterate does exist, and this is what Gross and Levitt demonstrated in spades in their book. How far can it go, wondered NYU physicist Alan Sokal?

Pretty far, it turns out.

Sokal submitted a paper to the postmodern critical journal, Social Text, called, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” It’s a screamer. It makes no sense. The editors of Social Text accepted it without any changes (they had asked for some, but Sokal refused, and they ran it anyway). It seems they were excited to have a physicist speaking their language and trusted him.


When “Transgressing the Boundaries” went to press, Sokal released yet another article in a different publication exposing the hoax. I was an undergraduate at the time and missed the controversy the first time around, but it was intense and still ignites fierce debate about the meaning of the hoax, academic honesty, and a whole range of other issues, many of which Sharon identifies with respect to other hoaxes. I discussed this hoax in a paper I gave in April, “The Topography of Ignorance: Science and Literary Theory.”

What is important for the purpose of this post is that the Sokal Hoax does not actually demonstrate what people have said that it demonstrates. A sample size of one does simply does not qualify all-inclusive statements like “[Sokal] succeeded in dramatically demonstrating the decline in standards of humanities journals….” He did, after all, only show that one journal of a specific academic bent, postmodern criticism, was WAY too uncritical about what it accepted, not that humanities journals are in decline.

The type of problem that Social Text represented back in the day (it is not often noted that the editors re-schooled themselves in science after the hoax was revealed, much to their credit) should not reflect on the myriad of other journals that use accumulated evidence and genuine expertise to make statements and meaningful arguments about history, linguistics and languages, literature, rhetoric, media, music, ethics, philosophy, theology, and all the other fields of study that fall under the purview of the humanities writ large. Yes, critical theory sometimes is wacky, but sometimes it’s sensible, even enjoyable. No, critical theory is not the humanities, though by the grandiose posturing that some practitioners have adopted, you might be tempted to think that they were.

This is the point of this blog, to show that there is more to the humanities than theorizing feminist algebra, whatever that is, and to remind our friends in the sciences that we are doing serious, scholarly work as well.


This Week in Conspiracy (28 January 2012)

January 29, 2012

Amazingly, there were no new conspiracy theories this week. Everyone just kind of got it together and things ended up being pretty groovy. OH WHO AM I KIDDING?! I’VE BEEN SENTENCED TO LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE!!!

At any rate, I picked up Conspiracy Rising by Martha F. Lee. I’ll likely review it here in a few days. It’s one of my first few ebooks. I may review the ebook experience while I’m at it, since I have been a holdout for a long time.

  • Nanoparticles? At Fukushima? Oh no! Not NANO! Nano’s the conspiracy theorist’s flubber! Sure, there haven’t been any deaths from the meltdown at Fukushima, that doesn’t mean you can’t scare your readers. Unethical, InfoHub. Would you at least apologize when you are wrong? Reputable news outlets do that when they screw up so epically.
  • A new study finds that some conspiracy theorists are capable of believing two incompatible conspiracy theories at once. We are going to have to revise the definition of “genius,” clearly.
  • Well, a graduate student at Yale is having a bit of a protracted freakout. She was relieved of her teaching duties when she unrolled a mother of a conspiracy theory on her students. It’s out there.
  • Now, I’m not calling Above Top Secret reputable, mind you, but a mod did go out of his/her way to correct misinformation a contributor released. The tweet I received read:

Judge Has Ruled, Secretary Of State Agrees, Obama Off Of Ballot In Georgia!!!!!! (69 flags)

A moment’s consideration reveals that since this is not front page news all over the country it is unlikely to be true. The mod links to the AJC, which is darned respectable. Here’s their take.

The photos and an interview with an eyewitness who described the facility and its inward facing barbed wire fence and one-way turnstiles add more compelling evidence to the indisputable fact that FEMA operates as a modern version of the Gestapo.

Conspiracy Theory of the Week:

I easily could have picked “Extraterrestrial War of the 1930’s reveals Jewish holocaust true masterminds,” but I didn’t. I picked the conspiracy theory I’m calling: “You got the right one–babies!” Mike Adams over at Natural News accuses Pepsi of using aborted fetuses in taste tests. The story does not originate with Adams, who I can’t remember ever being right about anything, but it prompted an Oklahoma state senator to introduce anti-Soylent Green legislation. This guy also happens to be a birther. My favorite headline: “Fun-Hating Legislator Proposes Ban on Eating Aborted Human Fetuses.” Forbes discusses the fake controversy.

Exopolitics let me down this week, I have to day. Oh, well. I’m sure there will be more to it.


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