Posted by: Craig Woolheater on January 31st, 2006
Then, his second hour will focus on the secrets of his magic, how to spot fakes and how to not get ripped off. Brushwood will tell the secrets of street cons, psychic mediums, psychic surgery, crop circles, aliens, UFOs and ESP.
Brushwood calls the second half of his performance "Scams, Sasquatch and the Supernatural."
In this segment, he will go into detail about cryptology, unveiling the secrets of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Then, he will talk about the increasingly popular "scam" of spiritualism, or talking to dead people.
I went to his website and sent him the following email:
I just read the article on the Missouri Southern State University Charter Online website. I’m sure that it meant to say cryptozoology. I am extremely curious what the secrets of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster are that you unveil?
Today, Brian sent me the following reply by email:
That’s funny about the cryptology thing. It’s amazing how well-meaning people tend to get so many details wrong (which is actually one of the points I make in the lecture: people have a tendency to vastly
underestimate the amount of human error inherent in all testimonials, and memory in general).
It is true that I don’t find evidence for cryptozoological creatures very compelling, but in my lecture I’m very careful not to tell the students what to believe: If they believe what I do, just because I tell them to, then they’d be right for the wrong reasons… and no better able to think for themselves when they encounter strange phenomena.
I try to encourage critical thinking in the students. I explain and demonstrate how flawed memory is, including doing an experiment wherein 80% of the audience experiences a false memory. I demonstrate how easy it is to create very compelling hoaxes, and how often natural phenomena can be confused for supernatural phenomena.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to dedicate much of the lecture to the big hairy guy. With belief in Sasquatch under 15%, I have to dedicate more of the lecture’s time to other subjects. But I do talk briefly about Ray Wallace (the "father of bigfoot" , and how after his death his family revealed the extent and depth of his hoaxes.
And I tell a quick story about the Blijdorp Zoo in Holland in 1979: Just before opening a new exhibit featuring a panda bear cub, the panda escaped. The local newspaper was called, and it was requested that anyone who had seen the cub should call a certain phone number. Two hours before the newspaper hit the stands, they found the body of the panda bear cub: it had been hit by a train right behind the zoo. Now here’s the amazing part: in the two days it took the newspaper to update the story, the zoo received over ONE THOUSAND PHONE CALLS from people as far as 70 miles away who had seen the panda bear cub, even though it was already confirmed that the cub was dead.
Now this could mean that there’s ANOTHER panda bear cub running around Holland, or it could mean that honest, intelligent people have a phenomenal ability to see what they want to see. As philosopher Karl Popper put it: "It is easy to find confirmations for any theory, if we look for confirmations."
Again, none of this is to say that there can’t be a bigfoot running around… After all, it’ll only take one captured or killed bigfoot to put the debate immediately to bed. But until then, it seems that our best evidence is stories and testimonials (which can way too easily be misremembered or misinterpereted), and photographs/video (which can way too easily be hoaxes or misinterpretations of natural phenomena).
Obviously, the topic of bigfoot could merit a very in-depth 2-hour lecture on his own, so with only 5 minutes to speak on the subject, I have to settle for throwing out a little "food for thought" on the subject. I try very hard to be respectful in my talks, and offer scientific counterpoints and new ideas to the students, rather than resort to name calling.
Except for people who "talk to the dead." In my opinion, those guys are profiting from the grief of others, and are the lowest form of life.
Bizarre Magic, Inc.