The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Circle of Sleuthing Skeptics - #39

(Just want the links? They're at the bottom of this post)

We join the gang as everyone got ready for a weekend adventure...

Everyone piled into the stretch Mystery Machine and headed off on our road trip to Franken Castle. It looked to be a great meeting this week and the change of location from "the 'net", most agreed, was a good idea.
Scooby Gang3

James Downard had the fun thought to stop at a sign that said, Carlotta the Gypsy for a bit of a lark. Not too many of us wanted to, but in the interest of scientific investigation we relented and decided to see what Carlotta could do. James added, "Plus, maybe this will take my mind off of Ann Coulter's silly evolution 'science'." Thomas from Mile Zero thought that Coulter had obviously not heard the scientific argument from moral authority.

"Yeah, I agree with that. The HIV/AIDS deniers I deal with almost melt my brain with their vapid 'reasoning'", Pharma Bawd added.

Oku chimed in saying, "I hear you guys. I got a list of questions from a Young Earth Creationist recently - silly, but at least she's asking, I guess."

Upon seeing the troupe of (in some cases) rather odd looking individuals enter with four cartoon people and a talking great dane, Carlotta was understandably taken aback. She asked one of us to sit in her chair - a task taken up by Orac who said quietly, "I think I might be allergic to woo, but if it's for science..." She looked mysteriously into her crystal ball and said we should not go to Franken Castle as it is haunted and the last caretaker ran away.

"Hot dang!" said Joe Nickell. "A haunting to check out!! Maybe there'll be statues bleeding out their friggin' eyes and stuff!"

"Joe is an enthusiastic skeptic who knows why he's here", Infophile said under his breath to SkepChick Rebecca. The Neurophilosopher stood in the background thinking quietly that hauntings can be understood quite nicely by using neurology, but today would be a nice field trip.

"Hey," questioned Daphne, "how'd she know we're going to Franken Castle?"

"Well, I'd guess from the fact that it's the only tourist destination for fifty miles and because of that pamphlet sticking out of your purse", was the reply from Lord Runolfr. "She has to use cold reading because she is certainly not going to make a fortune - PUN! - with her crappy and misleading advertising."

"I guess that was sort of obvious after a little thought, huh?" said Daph.

"See, once again it's scientists who do the real work, not woo people; just remember 'Atlantis'", finished Runolfr.

Realizing Carlotta was no more accurate than the Sunday paper astrology section, the gang piled back into the van and headed off to check out the mystery. In the back, Jody Devere held a session with the women on how to not get fleeced at the auto mechanic as we drove, which was a hit - especially with Daphne who was quite intimidated by dealerships.

The drive was uneventful, unless you count the thunder. There were no clouds in the sky - which seemed odd until Phil "the Secret Lizard Astronomer" Plait explained that there was a shuttle launch that day and the noise was just the enormous thrust of Discovery shaking the sky. He then licked his left eyeball. Mystery number one solved!

Velma looked up from the travel brochure she was reading to inform the group that Franken Castle was not, indeed, owned by political commentator and comedian Al Franken, but had apparently been imported stone by stone from no place other than Transylvania! The van hummed with harmonic "oooooo's" from the group. Alun skeptically asked if the archeological records were public so he could validate its heritage. Oddly, the answer was a big, "No."

We pulled up to the front of the castle and Daphne jumped out and started to head in over the drawbridge. As the assembled skeptics and cartoons were gathering their investigative tools, we were confronted by what seemed to be a vampire at the gate!
Scooby Doo Vampire

"Go away or you will never see the sun again!" he yelled. Then he appeared to turn into a bat and flew into the castle, the drawbridge closing behind him trapping Daphne inside.

"Well", said Penn Jillette, "I haven't been fooled by a stage illusion for a long time, but that was pretty damn cool. I'll have to talk to Criss and Lance when I get back to Vegas. We could do it in our act, as long as we end up killing the bat with a lot of blood, eh Teller?" Teller stood silently by, shaking his head in disappointment at his partner. The answer was obvious to him, but alas, Teller couldn't tell.

Scooby piped up and said, "Raphne!"

"Right, we should probably get her out, eh?", EoR mentioned. "We're standing here like we're stuck in a dreamland of wackos."

"Like, anyone else see Frankenstein in there?", Shaggy squelched.

"No, hippy, now how 'bout you and Scoob swing across the moat and lower the drawbridge for us?", was the response from Fred, who was obviously irritated by Shaggy's tone.

So with Scooby on his back, Shaggy grabbed the rope and swung across the moat, an alligator nipping at his hindquarters like Steve-o in Jackass: The Movie. "Wow, does that ever remind me of The Stella Awards", said Grrlscientist. "Imagine if Scoob and Shaggy sued the Castle owner because they got bit by the guard-alligator!"

They reached the lever to let in everyone else, but were spotted and chased off screaming by a Wolfman! "Great", said Carl Feagans, "now someone else has to swing over that douchebag Kevin Trudeau...sorry, I mean the stupid alligator - my mind's a little pre-occupied."

"Maybe we can get Uri Geller to bet on the alligator eating us - that way we're sure to live", quipped Randi, to a hearty round of laughter. Thomas Wilburn wondered if there was any truth to the rumour that Randi and Carl Sagan killed a man, but he decided that Amazing was a killer of pseudo-science, not people.

After a quick Tarzan impression by Runolfr (you simply must see him swing across a moat) we were all inside.

Meanwhile, Scooby hid in one of two matching suits of armor while Shaggy made himself hard to find on a window ledge. The werewolf could not see them, so while he was distracted, Scoob scurried over to hide inside a piano. Shaggy, a talented ventriloquist who studied under the famous Wenceslao Moreno, threw his voice into one of the armor suits.

The wolfman thought about using Bayesian probability to figure out which suit Scooby was in, but then he remembered reading Chris' post on Good Math, Bad Math and decided just to smash one suit and throw the other into the piano. Scooby used the broken fingers of a metal glove as fangs and scared the werewolf backwards where Shaggy trapped him by cutting a chandelier to fall on top of him. One monster down!

Fred, Velma, and the rest of the gang ran into the vampire again who taunted everyone by saying, "Your spirits will dwell in this castle forever!"

"Boy is he talking about 'spirits' to the wrong crowd", quipped Theo Clark to the assembled non-believers. "Might as well tell us our 'moons will forever remain in Venus', or that a simple 'experiment' can prove 9/11 was a hoax.'"

Velma's glasses got bumped off in the laughter (BronzeDog had a chuckle off on the side with Phil and his moist eyeball about the Galileo Gambit) and as she crawled around looking for them, she found a secret passageway. Velma Glasses
She went in to explore followed by DrumsNWhistles and Clark Bartram.

Scooby and Shaggy wandered into the kitchen only to find ingredients like "Pickled Bat Wings", "Werewolf Snacks", and "Fried Moonbeams" in the cupboards. At once, they were surprised by none other than Frankenstein, but used their quick thinking (and by "quick thinking" I mean, "adrenaline-fueled terror") to escape on a rail hook. "Like, I'm totally going to rub this in Freddy's face if I ever see him again!", said Shaggy. "Fred thinks he's so intelligent, but BronzeDog showed me once how just because someone is educated, that doesn't mean they're smart. Zoinks."

Velma, Clark, and DrumsNWhistles ended up in what seemed to be a torture chamber complete with skeletons in stocks. "This reminds me of Scientology and the stupid crap they try to pull off", said DrumsNWhistles. They then heard a noise and hid in some barrels, only to be broken out by Shag and Scoob who slid in from a chute in the wall! Scooby Snacks poured out from one of the broken barrels making the speech-impaired canine a very happy pup.
Scooby Gang

Lo and behold, the group found Daphne who was trapped in a dungeon below and was just about to put some lotion in the basket (Silence of the Lambs joke anyone? Anyone...?). As they pulled her out, Dracula approached but Scooby (strong after his treats like Popeye after spinach, or Peter Popoff after installing his wireless ear mic) pushed him into the hole and shut the lid. Clark commented that Dracula's teeth were so messed up that they looked like they had been "worked on" by a quack "biological dentist". In any event, that was two monsters down!

The gang left through a dark passageway but emerged without Shaggy or Scooby. Fred and the rest of the Skeptics, however, were at the other end and Daphne read a note she copied while Frankenstein had her captive. It was from 1668 - or so it said - and it proclaimed, "I've fooled them all, I may perish, but I'll be as rich as King Tut!"

"Wow...hey, we should find the crypt." said Skeptico, looking around curiously.

"How do you know there's a crypt?" countered Dr. Michael Shermer.

"Well", Skeptico continued, "I'm assuming a castle with a bunch of monsters that comes complete with a dungeon would have a crypt, not that I'm encouraging false hope in silly beliefs or anything."

"Normally I'm not fond of assumptions, but this time I sort of agree", conceded Shermer.

The group headed off in search of the crypt, minus Sailorman who broke off to find the missing twosome.

Fortunately, he found them soon enough and they all ended up in the labratory where they were - for unknown reasons - testing the strenth of the exam tables. Sailorman asked, "Hey, I ever tell you guys my idea for dealing with homeopathy? It's great, all we do is..."

At once, Frankenstein lumbered out and surprised them, pushing the table towards a long winding staircase. Again, with thinking too quick to be attributed to a goateed hippy and his dog, they used a sheet to stop short of the stairs. The boys were shaken, but crisis averted, for the moment at least. Fred, Daphne, Velma, and the skeptics found the threesome and everyone headed for the crypt.

Once there, everyone checked out a coffin lying on a table. Suddenly, Dracula popped out scaring everyone, but moreso impressing the escape artists among the gang. "That dungeon escape was good enough for Copperfield to do!", epsoused Martin Rundkvist. "Of course, I'm about as good an authority on escapes as Rupert Sheldrake is on telepathy!"

"Nah, back in '55 I survived for an hour and thirty three minutes in a sealed coffin to break Houdini's record" said Randi. "This guy's not so hot."

Scooby, Shaggy, and Paul tried to trap Dracula in a tapestry but the vampire ran, covered in the blanket, back to the coffin and slammed the lid. Paul said, "Well I think that proves lax standards in reporting...from our vision, I mean. He obviously didn't actually turn into a bat earlier or he would have again just now to get away from us!"

Funnily, when the lid was opened the vamp was gone. Only a ruby and gold earring remained behind. "Hey", said Fred, "that's the earring that old gypsy was wearing!"

"Thanks", said Big Heathen Mike sarcastically. "What are you, the narrator?" Fred then pulled out a small box about the size of a hardcover book and handed it to Mike. "Open it. I should have given it to you when we first pulled up outside 'cause then maybe you wouldn't be here now."

B.H. Mike tore off the decorative paper and opened the box to reveal a red Star Trek shirt. "Damn you and your 'disposable crewmember' humour, Freddy. I can't decide who I dispise more, you or Deepak Chopra."

The whole gang headed back to the gypsy's trailer. The group started in on her; Tara Smith even said she was as sneaky and underhanded as the anti-science school board in Ohio!

As the skeptics' questions mounted and got louder - many shouted about the Ethics and Common Sense post from The Executioner's Thong - Scooby pulled the tapestry out from under her. She started yelling in a male voice and ran away only to fall on the hood of a police car called by the caretaker when he realized some doins' were a'transpirin'.

The gypsy was revealed to be Big Bob Oakley, the actor and master of disguise who was wanted in seven states. There were jewels sewn into the tapestry that he was after and once in custody, he yelled, "I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those blasted kids and that dog!"

The assembled skeptics were not a small amount miffed to be overlooked by the villian. Joe Kissell piped up and yelled after Oakley, "Hey, what are we? Friggin' holograms!?"

Adam Lee said, "Yeah, we know we're not the centre of the universe, but geez, we did help a bit!"

After a bit of a cooldown, the Skeptics and the Scooby Doo Gang had a nice picnic in a nearby park where Scooby demonstrated the "turn into a bat" trick with a stuffed bat on a wire.

"Wow", said Penn, "that's actually a really lame trick." Teller gave him a sideways look and just took a bite of his sandwich.

"Yeah, I remember when Copperfield did the 'metamorphosis' on TV and it was better than that", said Adam Lee.

"Like, ease up on Scoob, he doesn't have thumbs!" Shaggy scolded. Scooby followed with, "Reah, rake it reasy!" The pooch continued riding along the wire to take a big chomp out of Shaggy's sandwich.

"Like, I take it back", said a disappointed Shaggy, "that was a lame bat. Or duck. Or some other lame animal."

Bora couldn't resist saying, "Just eat your sandwich and don't worry about the confusing metaphors!"

"Re heh heh heh heh heh!"

Leo Lincourt loudly said, "Hey, let's take an unbiased poll of whether or not this was a fun adventure! Yea or nay, everyone!"

Scooby Title Shot - AGGG

This post was based on the 1969 episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You entitled A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts, which was the first episode to feature the classic line, "I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those blasted kids and that dog!"

Scooby Doo was, of course, a great skeptical show for kids showing them that where there was a mystery, usually if you looked closer you'd find something interesting and not as scary or unpleasant as you may have first thought. That dog is my personal choice for a mascot for the Skeptical Movement! Tattoos anyone?

Please tune in over at the fab blog Daylight Atheism in two weeks time for the Skeptic's Circle's big Four-O!

Just the links!
From            Link

Living the Scientific Life - Here
Ask Patty - Here
Humbug Online - Here
ITOTD - Here
The Second Sight - Here
Archaeoastronomy - Here
Talk Reason - Here
Skeptico - Here
The Saga of Runolfr - Here and Here
Orac - Here
Neurophilosopher's Blog - Here
Odd Time Signatures - Here
Hot Cup of Joe - Here
Aetiology - Here and Here
Moderately Insane - Here
Bad Astronomy - Here
Moment of Science - Here
Daylight Atheism - Here
Unintelligent Design - Here
Keep It Simple - Here
Salto Sobrius - Here
Good Math, Bad Math - Here
Aurora Walking Vacation - Here
Mile Zero - Here and Here
A Blog Around the Clock - Here
Rockstar' Ramblings - Here and Here
Infophilia - Here
The Executioner's Thong - Here
Neural Gourmet - Here and here
Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant - Here

13 Barbaric Yawps:

At 19/7/06 11:57 PM, Blogger CFeagans said...

Love the carnival! It makes me want to watch the old episodes of Scoobie Doo before the show sold out. I was junior skeptic back in the 70's when I watched it Saturday mornings & always tried to it out. The modern Scoobie suggests there really are ghosts!

I'm going to spend two days going through the links at least!

Thanks for the work you put into it!

 
At 20/7/06 12:45 AM, Blogger Thursday said...

Dude - you officially ROCK!

I always loved that the big, bad beasties were always just people and tricks - even if they were as astoundingly far fetched as any mythological boogiemen.

Plus, of course, Shaggy and Scoob are total stoners, so they were like people from my own home town.

 
At 20/7/06 1:30 AM, Blogger Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

A wonderful framework for a good collection of articles...
except...
Why did the guys run from a rather mad, elderly psuedo-scientist (after they'd already confronted quite a few)?

Now, if they'd met Frankenstein's MONSTER, that would be different.

Sorry but gotcha.

 
At 20/7/06 8:18 AM, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Damn you! Frankenstein's MONSTER. Goof admitted. Thanks ;)

 
At 20/7/06 1:46 PM, Anonymous Scenedesmeriffic said...

::standing ovation!::

 
At 20/7/06 4:19 PM, Anonymous ATM said...

Bravo! Encore!

 
At 20/7/06 4:38 PM, Anonymous DrumsNWhistles said...

I could almost identify the episode before you named it! Great carnival, and I love the way you presented it. Thanks for including me.

 
At 21/7/06 12:26 AM, Anonymous askpatty said...

Great reading...where do you come up with such fun, creative and entertaining ideas!!!! thanks for the mention.

Jody DeVere
www.askpatty.com

 
At 22/7/06 1:36 PM, Blogger L>T said...

I am enjoying the trip. thanks!

 
At 22/7/06 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was too much fun!

 
At 31/7/06 3:24 PM, Anonymous Helena Constantine said...

I couldnleave a comment at the one about Toronto Today wince it wouldn't let me do so without an AOL screen name, but if Toronto Today is not interested in his criticism, I suspect a competing television channel might be.

 
At 31/7/06 5:08 PM, Blogger iiq374 said...

Fantastic effort - keep up the great work!

 
At 1/8/06 2:20 PM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Good stuff. I only have vague memories of Scooby from my early elementary school days. It's heyday was a bit before my time, admittedly.

 

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