F oreword

Advice From a Full-Time Professional Investigator of Strange Mysteries

I wish I’d had books like this when I was young. Like other boys and girls, I was intrigued by ghosts, monsters, and other freaky things. I grew up to become a stage magician and private detective, as well as (among other things) a literary and folklore scholar and a forensic-sci- ence writer. By 1995, I was using my varied background as the world’s only full-time professional investigator of strange mysteries. As I travel around the world, lured by its enigmas, I avoid both uncritical belief and outright dismissal. I insist mysteries should be investigated with the intent of solving them.That requires critical thinking , which begins by asking useful questions. I share three such questions here, applied to brief cases from my own files: Is a particular story really true? Consider Louisiana’s Myrtles Plantation, supposedly haunted by the ghost of a murderous slave, Chloe.We are told that, as revenge against a cruel master, she poisoned three mem- bers of his family. Phenomena that ghost hunters attributed to her spirit included a mysteri- ously swinging door and unexplained banging noises. The DiscoveryTV Channel arranged for me to spend a night there alone. I learned from the local historical society that Chloe never existed and her three alleged victims actually died in a yellow fever epidemic. I prowled the house, discovering that the spooky door was simply hung off center, and that banging noises were easily explained by a loose shutter.

Does a claim involve unnecessary assumptions? In Flatwoods,WV, in 1952, some boys saw a fiery UFO streak across the evening sky and



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