Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Unexplained Conference - Madison, WI 4-26-08

Friend of Uncanny Radio Noah Voss has organized the Unexplained Conference in Madison Wisconsin this weekend.  There's a nice article about Noah and the show here. My partner in the uncanny, Linda Godfrey, will definitely be there, talking and signing her books, and (family schedule willing) I'll be making the trip as well.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gygax - The Best Obit?

Recently, my buddy Steve Winter turned up this very good obit for Gary Gygax.  I may do another blog about Gary's passing -- I never did talk about the funeral or after-service get together -- but this is likely to be the last obit.  Since Steve's comments on this are so to the point, I'll turn you over to him now (with permission).  Thanks, Steve.

Gygax Obit in Economist

It's fairly significant in that The Economist publishes only one obituary per week, and it's generally reserved for heads of state, Nobel prize winners, and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

The author lays it on the line a tad more heavily than most obit writers, but the 2nd-to-last paragraph is priceless.

GHOST HUNTERS - Mount Washington & Ruffstone Tavern

SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 4/16/08

Well into its new season, Ghost Hunters continues to be an amusing paranormal investigation show.  Things have calmed down a bit with the departure of Brian (to GH International), but that's probably good for the show's credibility.  In this episode, they investigate an amazing old hotel, the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire.  Jason and Grant continue to be the heart and soul of the show, and they continue to do good work debunking some of the more obvious hauntings.  During this investigation, they hear footsteps -- which they catch on tape -- and get an EVP (which they stretch out revealing for 3 commercial breaks) which seems to have a female voice interacting with investigators Steve & Tango, and Jason & Grant as well.  Is it the voice of the Princess who used to own the hotel?  I can't be sure, but it certainly seems to be a disembodied voice answering the investigator's questions.  It does not seem likely to be tape noise or the other usual skeptical explanations.  So, either it's a clever hoax by a PA or producer, or something actually uncanny.  It gave me the creeps (and I'm usually immune to these kind of "tricks").

The second (much shorter) investigation is of the Ruffstone Tavern in Providence, RI.  The tavern is experiencing sounds and smells, things falling, and perhaps even an apparition.  Investigating, the team finds a musty smell in a cabinet that isn't always open, and an out-of-plumb shelf -- which may explain the smells and the falling items.  High EMF levels are revealed to be wiring -- which may explain some of the eerie feelings.  (The show calls confined areas with high EMF a "fear cage" -- as it is believed some people may be made uneasy by such fields.)  Opening the main doors may create a reverse vacuum, explaining some of the other movements or sounds.  For once, there are is no unexplained evidence.  Such skeptical conclusions tend to bolster the Ghost Hunters'  paranormal claims -- though, personally, I think some of the sounds and "footsteps" they hear (hear and other times) can be explained by animals.  Living in the country for much of my life, I can attest that intrusive animals -- either inside or on the roof -- can make an amazing variety of sounds, from tapping to things that sound like footsteps.  Yet, I've never heard "mice" or "squirrels" or "raccoons" offered as an explanation for noises on this show.  Perhaps our intrepid plumbers should spend some time with an exterminator to bolster their experiences.  Still, exterminators or not, the TAPS folks continue to be a good watch.

Monday, April 21, 2008

UFO HUNTERS - Hist. - UFO Dogfights

History Channel - Original Air Date: 4/16/08

The show starts with a US Air Force pilot being skeptical about "dogfights" with UFOs -- pointing out that to have a dogfight, both craft have to be trying to shoot down the other.  As I watch, I expect this will be the last bit of skepticism in this show.  Next up is the story of an Iranian UFO encounter (3 years before the revolution), in which the (actual) F4E pilot describes and encounter with a UFO that shot balls of light toward his aircraft.  The equipment on the plane malfunctioned, and -- just in time -- the UFO broke off and he was able to escape.  Though he believes the UFO followed him until he touched down, with the UFO "crashing" nearby.  Of course, all the info about this crash is rumor, innuendo, or "classified."  The team runs tests but, as usual, they do it to prove the story rather than actually investigate what may have happened.  The point is to "prove" that what the witness described is beyond the capabilities of human technology, therefore, it must be of alien origin.  The hypotheses of optical illusion or electromagnetic anomalies, or other theories less outlandish than alien invaders, are -- as usual -- ignored.  They then set up an EMP which shorts out a computer panel and, as in the sighting, the panel then returns to life after the pulse.  (Which proves exactly nothing.)  Four years later, in 1980, an other UFO "dogfight" took place over Peru.  In this case, the pilot of the F-18 fired on the UFO, but the bullets seemed to pass right through.  More "experiments" prove -- again -- that the UFO encountered performed maneuvers impossible for terrestrial craft.  Again, the hypothesis that UFOs are not craft at all remains unexplored by this show.  The show does, however, make the fact that the US Air Force had a report on this incident seem very important.  Clearly, if the Air Force heard about it, it must be real?  Personally, I'd like to see the gun camera footage for these incidents -- but such shots are never mentioned.  (Were they not available on craft this old?)

If you want to hear amazing UFO stories, this show the thing to watch.  If you want truth, or hard investigation, or good science, forget it.  This show is not about truth; it's not even about hunting UFOs -- they never get near a UFO; it's about building mythology.  Or, perhaps, building circulation for UFO magazine.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Me 'n' Star Wars

Long ago and far away, I worked on a Star Wars project.  So long ago and far away, in fact, that my copy is buried somewhere in my massive game library, and -- until this morning -- I no longer remembered the exact name of the product. The product is Star Wars Galaxy Guide 4: Alien Races , and it was one of the first (if not the first) book to detail many of the aliens in the Star Wars universe.  My friend Troy Denning (now a major Star Wars author) was the lead designer on the product, and Andria Hayday (one of my favorite people and Troy's future wife) and I helped him with the work, taking the aliens from the films and creating their backgrounds out of whole cloth.  Imagine my surprise when, a couple of years ago, Troy casually mentioned to me that everything the three of us had written on that book was now part of the Star Wars cannon -- sacred text for the enormous franchise.  Wow.  Who knew?  At the time, we were just trying to till in the blanks left by the original 3 movies and come up with cool stuff for game players.  (We'd done similar work on the Pacesetter game Star Ace several years before.)

So, for reasons I may go into some other time, it recently became important for me to be able to cite which Star Wars product I'd worked on.  I could have turned to digging through my library to find the book, but I remembered that I'd once seen a pretty long list of my game credits somewhere on line.  A quick search turned it up at the Pen & Paper RPG Database.  It's cool that someone is keeping track of the game products I've worked on over the last 28+ years, because I certainly haven't been.  (Though, again, it's probably all in my library.)  And while this list probably isn't complete (or always entirely accurate), it is a pretty cool list--and impressively long, as well.  So, if you're ever wondering what games I've worked on, that site is probably a good place to start.

Looking through the site is a real trip down memory lane.  There are listings there for products I barely remember doing, and then there are projects I will never forget like B3: Palace of the Silver Princess, the D&D module so infamous that they destroyed the entire original print run.  In a recent conversation among friends about the "good old days," someone posed the question "Who was responsible for that fiasco?"

The short answer is: I was.

But that's a tale for another day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 4/9/08

This final show of the 2nd season takes host Josh Gates and his crew deep into the Amazon jungle in search of legendary giant snakes -- like the ones in the film Anaconda.  Josh meets an anaconda in a local snake institute, and discovers just how dangerous the snake can be, as one of the keepers is badly bit.  Josh and his crew then board a paddle boat and head down river -- which, he notes, basically recreates the plot of the film -- to talk to natives and find the giant snakes.  Big boat soon gives way to small boats, and meetings with villagers ensue.  Josh sees a snake skin of a "baby" anaconda -- which looks pretty large.  He also hears amazing stories of the beast, which one native says can destroy 9-meter long boats.  Despite this, and despite lurking poisonous snakes (falling out of the trees, maybe), Josh continues his quest -- with the best night vision cameras on television.  Those cameras catch something large in the water, but Josh is out of range, and doesn't get back from his river search in time to check it out.  Eventually, they do find an anaconda, but it's only 3-meters long.  They then meet a native chief who claims to have once tangled with a giant anaconda.  He tells Josh where he saw a snake with a head about a meter long, so the crew sails out again.  After several near misses, they do find a huge boa -- perhaps 5 meters long.  Unfortunately, at that point, the Amazon rains drive the team (and their electronics) from the jungle.  Josh concludes that, while they didn't find any, it is entirely possible that huge, undiscovered snakes still exist in the Amazon.

As always, this is another fun show in perhaps the best paranormal-hunting series on TV.  The tone is congenial, and Josh Gates is a very engaging hose. I can hardly wait for the next season.  (Though perhaps, since the seasons are so short, it will really be part 2 of this season.)  I only hope in the future that Josh and his crew will be able to turn up more actual beasts.  Certainly, they could spend more time looking for anacondas, or ropen, or Yeti, or some fo the other beasts they've searched for in the first two seasons.  Big HOWL for Destination Truth.  Check it out.

UFO HUNTERS - Hist. - Invasion Texas, 2008

History Channel - Original Air Date: 4/9/08

Investigating a recent sighting is a new tack for this show, thus the team heads to Stephenville, TX to track down what they can about the January 2008 incidents. At first the government said there were no military aircraft in the area; later they recanted, saying that ten F-16s were conducting a training exercise.  Stephenville residents aren't buying it, as they insist the objects made no sounds.  The crew sets up their HQ in Stephenville, goes on the local radio station, and starts taking calls and eyewitness reports.  One eyewitness has a video, and though his testimony is compelling, the fourteen minutes of video is still just a blur of light in a darkened sky.  When slowed down by the show, it makes amazing multicolored ribbon shapes.  But, are these shapes real, or operator error/vibration?  A good scientific set of tests fairly well duplicates the ribbon and multicolored lights; for once the team scientist concludes this video is of a terrestrial aircraft seen at great distance.  A MUFON member insists that the incident in January is just part of a larger "mass sighting."  The show also digresses briefly into stories of cigar-shaped UFOs and century-old airship sightings.  A second video doesn't show UFOs, but does seem to show a mysterious beam of light coming from the sky, but not touching the ground.  Though this looks like a reflection to me, it coincides with other witness reports of UFO activity.  Stephenville, though, is virtually surrounded by military bases.  The team tries to triangulate the sightings, to see if they coincide with military bases or flights.  The team then recreates the sightings using a balloon and lasers.  According to the team's findings, the object on January 8th hovered at 1000 feat near the Stephenville airport -- a place where no aircraft were reported to be.  With the show's history of dodgy investigation and recreation, I'm not sure I buy that.

Several things the show doesn't point out in its usual rush to be sensational: first, that seeing a strange light in the sky doesn't necessarily equate with alien craft.  The second, vis the airships, is that newspapers 100 years ago often printed stories that had been completely fabricated.  (Even before the days of the late, lamented Weekly World News.)  Such fictitious "news" stories have started many a rural US legend.  You may also want to check out my Howl's & Growls segment on Uncanny Radio 011 (David Walks-As-Bear) for a discussion of Radio Lab, the War of the Worlds, and what astonishing things frightened/and or confused people will believe.  Recently, I caught the end of a show titled "An Alien History of Planet Earth" (a.k.a. UFOs: The Secret Evidence).  I hope to catch up with the whole show to do a review one day.  One of its conclusions was that most UFO sightings are military aircraft.  (And the military may be using UFO hysteria to cover up secret tests.)  To me, this seems a likely explanation of Stephenville.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

IS IT REAL? Miracle Cures

National Geographic Channel - Original Air Date: 2005-7

People all over the world believe in faith healing and other miracle cures, but are these things real?  This show examines cases from Lourdes to the US to Brazil and beyond, and features interviews with people who believe they have been cured miraculously.  The show also looks into TV evangelists like Leroy Jenkins, who makes amazing healing claims.  Clips from his show indicate there is a lot of money to be made here, even by selling tap water.  Though Jenkins says his bottled water is nothing special (the healing comes from God), believers buy it up eagerly.  A Brazilian faith healer claims to perform magical surgeries while in a trance; he even has an assistant who lived through a "fatal" brain tumor and attributes his recovery to his boss.  Certainly, there is a history of miracle cures throughout the world.  The Catholic Church even has a system to certify miracles -- and has certified that several have taken place at Lourdes.  Despite the hundreds of thousands of people who've been to Lourdes, though, very few (under a hundred) have been certified as miracle cures.  Other faith healers perform surgery, without ever having been to medical school -- though they claim the real healing is performed by God.  Skeptics say that the desire to be healed makes people put aside their critical faculties, and accept the claims of these "healers."  But is there any evidence that faith heals?  Not according to the studies done at the time of this show; groups prayed for showed no better outcomes than groups who were not.  The placebo effect, however, is well known; people who believe they will be cured, by faith healers or medicine, experience better outcomes.  "The power of suggestion is potent at a healing site," one skeptic notes.  Skeptics also prove that the cutting done in these "surgeries" is not medically significant.  So, while miracles can't be entirely ruled out, ordinary remissions, the placebo effect, and scientific medicine seem a better bet for explaining miraculous recoveries.

IS IT REAL? Extreme Sleepwalking

National Geographic Channel - Original Air Date: 2005-7

Can you kill someone in your sleep?  This edition of Is It Real? looks at parasomnia and other sleep-related and sleepwalking disorders.  There are many causes of sleepwalking, but lack of proper sleep tops the list, according to this show. Alcohol and stress are also factors.  The show studies several people who have sleep problems, including sleep walking, sleep talking, and sleep eating (all parasomnias).  It's amazing what some of these people do while asleep -- very complex actions, like opening locked doors and preparing food.  One man drove 14 miles and killed his mother-in-law (he was acquitted), another stabbed his wife 47 times and drowned her (he was convicted).  Clearly some people do strange and amazing things in their sleep.  But, whether murder is one, or sleepwalking is just a killer's clever defense?  Even after this show's examination, the jury is still out.

Friday, April 11, 2008

IS IT REAL? Spontaneous Human Combustion

National Geographic Channel - Original Air Date: 2005-6

Everyone has heard stories of people who suddenly, and for no apparent reason, catch fire and burn to ashes, leaving only a few grisly remains behind.  But, can people really catch fire just because of something within their bodies?  This show takes a hard look at the phenomenon, and -- as usual -- reaches a skeptical conclusion.  Two investigators travel to Belgium to investigate a woman who may be the only known survivor of spontaneously catching fire.  What kind of fuel would cause that to happen?  Alcohol?  Chemical contamination?  Nuclear reaction of some kind?  The survivor shows signs of being burned on the surface, not from within.  Somehow the case seems connected to a shell the woman picked up on the beach.  Eventually, the investigators -- both believer and skeptic -- conclude that a chemical reaction, perhaps to sodium in the shell, caused spontaneous combustion, but not spontaneous human combustion.

One of the other suspects is ball lightning, or a similar plasma phenomenon.  The ball could knock someone out and start the fire, the unconscious person would then burn to death.  Ball lightning is very rare though. (They have a picture of a lab-created one.)  A simpler explanation is the "wick effect," which means that person acts like a human candle once a fire starts: fire melts fat and flesh which feeds the fire which melts more fat, etc.  Where did the bones go?  Perhaps they were damaged enough by osteoporosis to be destroyed by the heat.  In SHC cases, the person's extremities, hands, feet, legs, sometimes survive.  These things are seldom covered by clothes; no clothes, no wick to catch fire, so the theory goes.  A test of the wick effect shows how easily a fire can run out of control.  Could the effect need a closed room or other rare conditions to work, otherwise, you get a completely burned house?  Many of the victims share common traits: elderly, overweight, infirm, smokers, and alone.  It seems possible that by smoking before they fell asleep, many of the victims may have accidentally caused their own demise.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

UFO HUNTERS - Hist. - Alien Contact

History Channel - Original Air Date: April 2, 2008

The teaser for this show promises spectacular video images and compelling testimony by people claiming repeated contact with UFOs.  The show begins with a brief explanation of SETI's search for extra-terrestrial life, and then moves on to the two alleged contactees.  They speak to a former marine who claims to see strange lights more and more frequently, lights he claims are not aircraft from the nearby naval base.  He and the investigators believe the objects are focusing on the marine, following him.  The show notes that UFO's have been sighted in Chesapeake Bay since 1813.  The marine's first sightings involved chasing a blue orb that then split into two and became a triangular craft larger than the supermarket where he'd parked his car while chasing the thing.  At first, he thought it was a stealth aircraft, but it seemed too large.  The following year, he had an encounter with two pulsating lights that seemed to follow his movements.  The team promises to send his video (which looks nothing like the show's recreation -- and, in fact, looks much more conventional -- to an expert for analysis.  One team member notes that the military base nearby could explain these encounters.  (The most reasonable explanation given in this entire series.)  The marine then relates an MIB type encounter, along with a "missing time" episode that seems more like a sleep paralysis incident.  The lead investigator, of course, thinks the marine is being recruited, or  is perhaps an alien-human hybrid.  The marine admits to having a rare blood disease; the team doesn't follow up the idea that perhaps this condition could lead to some psychological problems -- such as seeing UFOs and suffering delusions.  For once, one of the investigators calls out the lead man, Bill, for telling this marine he might be a hybrid.  The team member insists the hybrid concept is way, way out, and might even be a harmful idea to lay on this struggling man.

The 2nd half of the show begins with a history of contactees through the centuries; oddly (or perhaps not), the contactees seem to only know about the planets known to science at the time.  More recently, contacts have turned more sinister, including abductees and the Heaven's Gate cult mass suicide.  In Cleveland, the team interviews its second contactee.  (The video proof of these contacts looks amazingly like terrestrial aircraft or other human-made objects.)  The team doesn't believe the films to be of aircraft, as a nearby nuclear power plant makes the area a no-fly zone.  No one mentions that airplane lights can be seen from a , long long way at night.  One team member suggests that some of these images could be reflections within the camera, but naturally this idea is quickly dismissed.  This witness is also seeing orbs and seems to have had sleep paralysis incidents as well, which he believes are alien surgeries.  Video analysis includes a good explanation of several video problems -- but then concludes the lights don't seem normal.  Video evidence doesn't seem to conclusively connect the two contactees, but they are both suffering from similar odd blood conditions.  Rather than conclude that perhaps the medical condition is causing these people's belief that they are being contacted, the team leader concludes that their alien contact is -- somehow -- causing their blood condition.  (Despite a total lack of evidence.)  The two men are then brought together to compare notes -- and to perhaps discuss future lawsuits against the team for practicing medicine and psychiatry without a license.  As a skeptic, I have to ask of the believers: Is this the best you can do?  Fuzzy images of lights in the darkness?  Witnesses desperate for validation?  Because if it is, I'm not impressed. Your best photographic evidence looks like ordinary aircraft and video problems.  Your best witnesses look like they could use a good shrink.  (I'm sure they're very nice, away from the TV cameras.)  On the aircraft, at least, one would think aliens could do better -- though clearly this show cannot.

Nazca Correction

A sharp-eared listener has pointed out that in Uncanny Radio show 003 (with Mark Moran), I mentioned the Nazca lines as being in Chile.  That is, of course, incorrect.  The famous Nazca Lines are actually in Peru.  My apologies to all our Peruvian and South American fans.  Hopefully, any alien tourists trying to land at Nazca won't be confused by my error.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

DESTINATION TRUTH - Sea Monster & Bat Demon

SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 3/26/08

Josh and crew first go to Vietnam to hunt for a sea monster called the Tarasque.  The country is beautiful, and the crew picks up some exotic fishing gear (big anchors) and a big boat to hunt the beast.  They then go to a remote floating village to try and find the monster.  The local cliffs are dotted with caves where the creature supposedly lives.   They set up their detection gear and, when something big turns up on the fish finder, Josh goes night diving for the monster.  They don't find it -- and they nearly get killed by an intruding boat full of rubberneckers.  Then they break out the kayaks and chase the mysterious finder echo into a cave.  After some splashing and some exciting moments, they escape the caves with their lives, but without a monster.  During the day, however, they did manage to get film of a shadowy shape in the bay.  It's something big, and computer enhancement proves it to be... a whale shark, a very rare creature, possibly mistaken by locals for the mythological sea monster.

Next, the team travels to Zanzibar to look for the cyclopean bat demon, Popobowa.  If the show is to be believed, Stone Town in Zanzibar is a city in decay -- filled with uninhabited buildings and winding alleyways. The town looks like something out of a Tomb Raider movie.  Popobowa sightings seem to be cyclical, and we're now in the middle of another rash of them. As usual, the locals insist the bat demon is a dangerous creature, and some witnesses claim to have been attacked.  Josh also talks to a healer contracted by the government to help the locals deal with their Popobowa problem.  After that, the crew sets up in the city and scans the sky for the monster.  What follows is a confusing chase through the deserted streets and up to the rooftops. Josh almost falls off of an unfinished stairway as he chases the creature, and the crew catches a fleeting image on video -- probably bats.  In the end, the crew reaches an interesting conclusion.  Fear of the Popobowa seems to spring up regularly during the local election cycle.  A prominent history professor confirms that the monster stories seem to be part of the opposition's strategy to foment dissatisfaction against the government.  Josh comes to believe that the monster is nothing more than a political tool  He concludes, "And you thought the American political system was corrupt."

DESTINATION TRUTH - Sloth Monster & Flying Dinosaur

SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 4/2/2008

After a hard day enduring UFO shows, it's always a pleasure to spend some time with Josh Gates and his crew on Destination Truth.  This show, they're off to Brazil to hunt for a giant sloth-like monster reported by the natives.  After gathering stories from the locals, they head into the Amazon jungle to look for the creature.  They set up night vision cameras around their base camp and begin to tramp through the jungle.  As they do, the crew hears strange sounds, including the snapping of what sounds like big trees.  Investigating, they discover an area where trees have, indeed, been snapped -- and there is no known native creature that could do that.  Try as they might, though, they cannot turn up the elusive sloth.  They do return to the US with audio tape, and a prominent zoologist declares that a big, unknown animal could still exist in the Amazon.  (Maybe they should have looked in the Black Lagoon.)  Another possibility might be ancestral memory, native stories told from the times when men and giant sloths did occupy the landscape together, before the sloths went exinct.

Then Josh and crew head to Zambia to look for a reddish flying creature said to look like a pterodactyl.  They talk to a man whose friend was supposedly attacked by the creature; sadly, the victim refuses to talk.  A local game warden suggest bats or rare storks, like the shoebill, as being a more likely culprit.  As usual, the crew has to travel to a remote swamp to try and find the creature.  And they do find bats -- amazing numbers of bats, swarms like from a SF or horror movie.  Despite strange chirping sounds (frog?) and hits on their thermal camera (bats?), Josh bravely ventures onto the lake at night but finds nothing.  Several large flying creatures captured on camera, when analyzed turn out to be big bats.

So, again, no monsters, but that's okay.  This show doesn't want you to believe; it wants you to go along on the adventure.  And I, for one, am happy to do so.  Sadly, next week is the season finale.

UFO HUNTERS - Hist. - Vortexes

History Channel - Original Air Date: March 26, 2008

"There are certain places on earth UFO skeptics should avoid at all costs," begins this show.  "They are vortexes for strange encounters."  Are there really UFO hot spots in the Hudson River Valley, Stonehenge, and Sedona, Arizona?  The show posits that just as some places on earth have more rain, some places have more UFO sightings.  What conditions on earth could cause this?  Earth energy, or ley lines, the show suggests -- and, as always, the show speaks of these things as if they were scientific fact, rather than mere speculation by believers.  Are UFOs drawn to certain spots because of variations in the earth's magnetic fields?  This is an interesting idea -- but the show doesn't believe UFOs are magnetic phenomena, it believes the UFOs are alien craft drawn to these areas to refuel from them (or something).  Again, we have pseudoscience; again we have fuzzy photos and things that look like airplanes but "can't" be anything that simple.  (Though all of the proofs that they can't be airplanes can be explained by badly made time exposures.  Sorry, show folk, you can still get camera movement on a tripod using an electronic shutter release.  Ever hear of wind or ground vibrations?)  Again, all the experts on the show -- even the "scientists" -- are believers, so there's no chance for real critical analysis.  The show then connects the UFO reports to ancient chamber sites (which its posits are druid sites in the US -- though, again, there's no proof of druids being in the Americas).  According to the show, there are 4 criteria for a place to be a UFO vortex: 1) History of Sightings, 2) Sacred Reputation, 3) Military Presence Nearby, 4) Unusual Energy Field.  At Stonehenge, an analog tape purports to show UFOs in the sky, and strange black objects winking in and out on earth -- though it looked to me like these were fairly standard video problems.  The team then uses dousing rods to prove Stonehenge has ley lines running through it.  (Dousing has been thoroughly debunked by scientists.)  Not surprisingly, a magnetometer turns up nothing.  And, sorry folks, dousing blindfolded doesn't make this pseudoscience any more accurate or reliable.  But dousing is enough to prove criterion #4 for the show's "investigators."  Sidona, AZ presents similar sightings and proofs.  Now, I believe that people see UFOs.  I even believe that some of these sightings are unexplained.  I'm willing to buy that some UFOs may be magnetic anomalies.  After that, though, it seems to me that the most likely kind of UFOs you'll get near military bases are military aircraft -- both known and unknown.  In Sidona, the team sets up a night vision camera and catches something on tape -- airplanes.  One point to the team scientist for figuring that one out.  But people are still seeing something, and UFO Hunters has the recreations to prove it.  Need I mention that these recreations are CGI marvels bearing little resemblance to the reports?  Should I have to mention it?  Nope.  As usual, everything in this show supports its predestined POV and conclusions.  UFO Hunters is a show for true believers only; anyone looking for actual science or serious investigation should look elsewhere.

MYSTERY HUNTERS - Voodoo & Gettysburg

Discovery Kids - Original Air Date: 2002-Present

It's been a while since I blogged about Mystery Hunters, though the show continues to be one of my favorite bits of uncanny TV.  The show is hosted by three people, two teenagers -- Araya & Christina -- and scientist/skeptic/magician "Doubting Dave."  Every week, the two kids travel to some new, and often exotic, locale and look into whatever strange things are going on there.  Usually, the kids are going different places, though they sometimes help each other on cases.  In this show, Christina goes to New Orleans to look into voodoo, while Araya hunts for ghosts in Gettysburg.  Christina sees Marie Laveau's tomb and makes a wish (that Doubting Dave will find love).  Then she visits with a current-day voodoo priestess, and talks to a girl (younger than she is) who believes that voodoo works.  Meanwhile, Doubting Dave (answering viewer mail), says that phone astrologers can't really tell you your future.  He notes that when astrology was invented, there were a lot less planets than we know about now (for one thing), and most horoscopes in the paper are so vague they could apply to anyone.  Araya then goes to Gettysburg and talks to locals about ghosts.  He even goes on a ghost hunt in a former orphanage (run by a wicked head mistress) and, before all the equipment is set up, hears footsteps from the empty building above where they're recording.  That's pretty odd, and the investigators' mico recorder seems to pick up several EVPs (electronic voice phenomena).  Christina meets with an investigator who posits that most EVPs are either sounds from the recorder itself or, in many cases, "pattern stamping."  That's where people impose order (and voices) on otherwise random sounds.  If you've seen Ghost Hunters, you've heard Jason & Grant talk about a similar visual phenomena, which they call "matrixing."  Back at the ranch, Doubting Dave teaches viewers how they can use low-tech means to hunt ghosts like the pros: a compass stands in for an EMF detector, a digital thermometer for a temperature gauge, and simple chalk to outline objects that may (or may not) move on their own.  As usual, the show tends toward skepticism, though they leave other possibilities open.  The only real drawback to this well-produced Canadian show is that it's so short -- just a half hour per episode.  However, the young hosts & Dave manage to cram a lot into that time, and often do as good a job as much longer shows.  In the end, they leave you with their tag-line parting thought, "Remember, things aren't always what they seem."  That may be true, but Mystery Hunters seems darn good to me.