MassimoBiddle POI

The New Stars of Skeptical Investigation

February 21, 2019

The world of skeptical investigation is full of interesting personalities with stories about their run-ins with ghost chasers, debunking charlatans, and dealing with “magic.” Today on Point of Inquiry, Jim Underdown talks with Massimo Polidoro and Kenny Biddle while at CSICon 2018 about what they’ve been through as two of the top investigators in the skeptic movement.

Watch Polidoro’s full CSICon 2018 talk.

In this episode, Polidoro speaks about the fascinating details around the life of genius, Leonardo da Vinci and about his new book, Leonardo.

Underdown and Polidoro also speak about Polidoro’s training under James Randi to be a magician as well as about Sherlock Holmes’s creator, Arthur Conan Doyle and his connection with the occult and spiritualism, specifically Conan Doyle’s fascination with The Cottingley Fairies and Princess Mary’s Gift Book

Princess Mary's Gift Book





Underdown and Biddle speak about Biddle’s work with Skeptical Inquirer, The Independent Investigations Group, and Biddle’s previous life as a ghost chaser.


Massimo Polidoro
Massimo Polidoro

Massimo Polidoro is a writer and an internationally recognized “mystery detective.” He began his career as James Randi’s apprentice and is the cofounder and head of the Italian skeptics group CICAP. He is a TV personality in Italy, a research fellow for CSI, and a longtime columnist for its magazine, the Skeptical Inquirer. He is starting a new series, “Stranger Stories”, on his YouTube channel.

You can find Polidoro on twitter:

Kenny Biddle
Kenny Biddle

Kenny Biddle is a science enthusiast and skeptical investigator of paranormal claims. He’s been involved in photography for over twenty years. He applies his knowledge, experience, and critical thinking skills to analyzing alleged paranormal photographs and video to determine the most plausible causes. His work has been featured in several skeptical publications. Find him on twitter:

“The Time To Run (Finale)” by Dexter Britain / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
“Wahre by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

Hello, everyone, welcome to another edition of Point of Inquiry. I’m Jim Underdown, your host recording live from Hollywood, California. 

Today, we’re going to be talking to two stars of the skeptical community, the skeptical investigation community. I spoke to each of these gentlemen in Las Vegas, Nevada, and October of 2018 and had a lot of fun talking to both of them. First up, as Masimo Paul Adoro, I first met Masimo almost 20 years ago at the Skeptics Tool Box in Eugene, Oregon, and we’ve been friends ever since. Massimo is co-founder of Cheat Cap. That’s the Comet Tatto Italiano pair control low that after Mazzeo as solo Pseudo-Science. She cap in Italian. For those of you keeping score in English, that’s the Italian Committee for the Investigation of claims of the Pseudosciences. But Massimo is much more than the co-founder of that group. He’s an author. He’s a magician. And more recently, he’s become a YouTube story’s, had a series of demonstrations and short videos on YouTube. We’ll talk about that in the interview. Here is Massimo Pulla D’Oro. 

One juror No. One juror, no. Almost I used to be an ethical miss. Hey, Ben and Ben must’ve been OK for you English speakers, the rest of the interview is gonna be in English, not because we’ve if we care about you. 

Speaking Italian, but because I just ran out of my Italian welcome. 

Where are in Las Vegas, Nevada, x icon. 

And you are here speaking. And what are you doing here? 

I am speaking about Leonardo da Vinci. Oh, yeah. She is the subject of my new book coming out. But I’m also here. I see many friends to be with Grandioso. 

Well, I just saw a great talk yesterday that had to do with the Enlightenment and Da Vinci was a key part of the life. Oh, yes. Absolutely. Well, so what was happening before Leonardo da Vinci were that sort of things were not happening? 

What changed? Well, many things changed. And politically, artistically. 

It was a build up, eventually understanding that the medieval mind, everything. 

I’m simplifying, of course, had to be gloomy and dark because you have to repent and everything was a disaster, whatever. Actually, it was changing a lot. The arts became a way of showing how powerful you were if you were somebody white power like it’s a rental. 

Maybe she rented the Magnificat, the magnificent inn in Florence was a patron of the arts. 

Might not be for the sake of art, for the sake of his power, because the more wonderful things surrounding yourself with, the more it meant you were somebody. 

So as a show, a thing like maybe somebody with a gold toilet or something of substance. 

Well, you know, at the same time in the Vatican, that was when the whole building of the Vatican started that right in the beginning of the 16th century with the dual use. The second, the pope who invited Michelangelo, invited Rafael to paint his apartment. And. And it’s part of the Vatican museums right there. And also, you’re not looking to Rome. But he was not involved in anything because the new pope really could not understand this man. He couldn’t understand. Absolutely. 

This man who took a long time to make a painting, wanting to be things to be just perfect. He wanted to study the lies, the shadows, the human body, how the muscles would move. He just wanted a painting. Complicated. Exactly. Well, and he was a man of science. He was a great inventor. He was a man of science before science. 

And that’s the main thing because he was differently from what happened before, which means usually natural students of often the nature, students of nature, let’s say, would observe nature and then repeat what was said by plateau by Aristotle this thousand years earlier. And and that was it. But Leonardo wanted to see the evidence. He wanted to experience things before drawing conclusions. And many times he found it. What the ancient people or his contemporaries believed was wrong because they had never tested it. 

And that sounds also like Galileo, who was just after just almost a century after. 

And so yet Leonardo was reasoning like Galileo before Galileo. But few noticed and few appreciated because it was considered to be a painter, a godlike painter. Why do you waste your time thinking about mathematics and logic and nature? Who cares about that? Just paint. Wow. 

Wow. It’s like saying, well, why go after the Nobel Prize when you could be on reality TV? Exactly. Why? And he’s known for both. I mean, that’s a. Well, I’m going to read the book. It sounds fantastic. What’s the name again? 

It’s going to be Leonardo Rebel Genius. 

Rebel Genius. And are you are you going to do a version in England? 

I hope so. Yeah, OK. I will talk to my people about the partnership 54 year. I would. That sounds great. Well, I’ve loved all your books. We’ll talk about your books in a second. 

You are a co-founder and head of an organization. Tell us about that. 

That’s the Italian chica. That’s the name of the Italian committee for me. Mr. Geisha of Claims on Pseudo-Science. And it started almost 30 years ago. It was an idea of pure Angela who came to United States, understood how psychology worked at the time here. You made it a TV series for the Italian Television Corporation. And he said, well, this field is so full. This field is so filled with with Bankim, with the charlatans and frauds that we would need a comedy like Psych up in it. So you started thinking about that. And eventually when I grew up, around 18 years of age, I got news up this idea and wrote to him a letter. And luckily we met. 

And then everything started and asat around the same time you met Randy? Yeah, absolutely. Because Pietro was a friend of Randy and I wrote a letter to both Puro and Randy after reading Piros book on the paranormal, debunking mainly everything. 

And that was incredibly new to me because there were no skeptical approach at the time in Italy. And I was fascinated then wrote to both of them because Randy was a key part of the book and to my surprise, they both replied, as I said, there was a kid a little more than a kid at 18. And we met in Italy when Randy came. And it seems that they saw my great passion for peace. I think they proposed that I should come to the United States study with Randy B’s apprentice and and then bring this experience to Italy back and build this comic. And that’s what I did. 

Fantastic. That’s a great story. And it reminds me, I don’t know if you addressed this claim with Jacob, but there was a commercial TV commercial in the United States when I was a kid where people were harvesting spaghetti from Spaghetti Tree. 

That’s because this. Is there anything to the real glass? 

No, no. Spaghetti trees, alcoholics. Wow. That’s a huge it’ll hold up my mind. And only ball trees is really ball for Châtelet. 

OK, well that’s was I was going to add. I want one. 

I guess I just had to grow the to play everybody else or you buy them at the grocery or buy even. Easy. Easier. 

You’re a magician, too. Is that when you started learning magic or both? 

Well, I was you know, let’s say you’re not a magician because I was not I mean, I was just a kid. But what I was studying magic when it was even younger and I loved it than Houdini was a myth for me. And when I found out that Randy had written a book about being, it could not stop asking things. And so, yes, my apprenticeship also included magical part of it. 

Yeah. How could you be around Randy for much without picking up a little bit? Well, you are also a Houdini enthusiast. 

Yeah, I do. I also wrote to us about Whodini and it’s a fantastic character. And and what’s fascinating is there is that every now and then new things come up in the new version of his biography that I just published. And I talked about the story of the Mirror handcuffs, which is a very famous challenge that he did for a pair of handcuffs. We’ll write for him exactly for this challenge. And there was no precedent and no keys unless the one that the only one and there are only one. And he had his old career at stake. But at the end, BMV succeeded. And nobody knows how he did. 

So there are centuries of hypothesis to this day and age. 

But there was something came up recently and now the handcuffs are in there with Copperfield’s collection here in Las Vegas, which I think both of us have seen. And so he had a possible solution. And then I found that even this possible solution could not be true. So we’re still in in the dark. 


Who made the handcuffs and artisan in Bergen? Again, I think you said it took him five years to build. 

That’s how much people were trying to fool him. 

I loved the story you told once. And I don’t know if we could do this because this is audio. But you told the story. 

Your book was about Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle. 

Tell the story about my thumb. 

Well, that’s a you know, Commando was convinced that Whodini was a supernatural being, a medium, the most powerful medium there was, and there was no way that Whodini could convince him otherwise. And Conan Doyle believed in the supernatural. He was one of the main sponsors of spiritualism, and he traveled the world lecturing on spiritual. 

He’s not on shuttlecocks. Wow. And he used Scherrer comes to finances, is spiritualism passion and say there was no way that Whodini could convince him. And then one day they were traveling in a cab together. And you just wanted to do a simple trick, the one that everybody does, a birthday party where you seem to detach part of your finger, which is just a simple trick. 

Nurit, farmers turned around, so you pull it from the other giant. Exactly. And Conan Doyle is seeing this. 

And there are letters telling about this. I was flabbergasted because he said this is the proof that you really can dematerialize your body. 

Now, I know it’s so disappointing. I mean, if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes was so smart and brilliant and Carquest was followed by a kids trick. 

Yeah, it’s a good lesson for all of us because shows that you don’t have to be stupid to believe. Wacky thing. 

And he was not stupid. No, I was not stupid. Still, he had a strong belief and he wanted. 

I have some memory of him being involved in the cuttingly ferry discussion. What happened there? 

Well, actually, he was the one who made it such a big case because these girls had taken pictures of themselves with little fairies, which were cut out drawings that they did. But the mother want to be the kids. 

It was also an alleged mother is a sort of religion with Madame Blavatsky. Oh, yeah, the. That’s like a spiritual. Yeah. 

But she had the the mother was one of these believe mother was a believer and she took the pictures to a meeting. And these pictures eventually came in the hands of daughter who saw them and said, well, you know, Gerst cannot lie. They are unable to deceive an adult especially. So this must be true. 

Simple as that. Simple as that. You ask an expert at Kodak, are this superimposed picture? Is it. No, they’re not so brave because they were not they were just cut out. Tell us the truth. Yeah. Yeah, they were. 

I remember that they’re like in the woods or something, and they’re just laying down on the ground and posing with these things. And yet they put pins in the of ground. 

Yes. So you wrote a book, The Coming of the Fairies, where you describe all kinds of details about the life of fairies and why we don’t see them. 

But kids can and saw it tells you and the kids could not you know, they could not tell the truth because they were so scared of going against such powerful and famous figures. So they had to wait that everybody was dead. In the nineteen eighties, nineteen eighty two, I think they they finally said, OK, this was a just a joke. 

Then the lady, the girls who are now women older than we are missing admitted it. 

And did we ever find the the book that they cut. There was a book that they copied to make the drawings. It was Princess Gift, the Book of Fables and all these little kids. 

No lie. Never. Wow. 

What a gap in his critical thinking. Huge. 

Wrote a book called Secrets of the Psychic. We asked one of the books in The Skeptical Pantheon. It is it’s like one of the ones that everyone should read just to sort of know it’s a collection of investigations. 

They’re psychic. Some people claiming psychic powers and they show that people are easily deceived by themselves. Unfortunately, there are very few trickster here. 

And one of the things I always try to talk to people about is that most people who aren’t in the skeptical world think that most of the reads that you see on TV that John Edward and Theresa Caputo like that. 

A lot of people think they’re all hot reads. 

And I try to tell them they don’t have to work that hard. 

They can just get a hot read for those who don’t know is getting information ahead of time. Or some other means. 

But the cold read is just doing this technique where you’re making a lot of guesses, maybe. 

Looking at the person and now they’re even more advantaged because like there is a computer, she knows who’s coming on the show. Just has to check know the Facebook page. It’s all right there. 

How much can you learn from a Facebook page? A lot. 

Are where she’s gone. Who’s our friends? What’s the problem? What is a job? Everything is there. 

And from if you don’t use that stuff by itself, you can certainly use it to make good guesses. Yeah. Right. 

And then we forget about them all. Mighty powerful editor who can, I guess, make it look like a miracle. All the mistakes are gone and she’s just doing fantastic. 

Tell me about you. You mentioned before you had a YouTube series. 

Yeah, well, I started a YouTube series in Italian in April this year. 

And because I thought that, you know, kids dumb read books, unfortunately, don’t watch television. They are on YouTube or Instagram. And if you want to talk to a new generation about this subject and develop help develop critical thinking mentality, you have to be their. And also, YouTube is particularly helpful because it’s like a search engine. It’s owned by Google and it’s a search engine, because when you want to find something about a subject, just. Right. What you’re looking for and the videos come up. So if you make videos about our subject is terrorism, paranormal, UFOs or whatever, and they are critical but may be done in an entertaining way. You cannot do a lesson. You can not do a lecture. 

Yes, boring. Nobody is going to go to bed. 

So you are giving material so that can be found. And so I started this series which called in Italian Family Story Branch Stories. And then it was it had a great reaction. 

And I decided, why not doing them in English as well? Since there’s not much actually of a skeptical nature on YouTube. Yeah. And so it starting on October 21st. Of course. 

Yes, Halloween. Oh, eBay. And they would do that as well. Right. And it’s called stranger stories. The not too strange things, of course, as you will see from the introduction of the series. And so I am I’m starting it. And it’s every two twice a month. Let’s say one week come in and one week out. The one in Italian is every week. But it takes a long time to make as they are all edited with their images and photos and videos and everything and music. And they’re like, how long? Ten to fifteen minutes. Ten to fifteen minutes. Attention span of PBI. You know, actually, YouTube is promoting longer content. They are now. If you have a 40 minute thing, it. It’s not bad to steal 10 to 15 minutes. I think it’s about the right time to give you an overview of a subject. And then you can go in and learn more. I give all voice the points or books or links or whatever to to look after. 

If you want to know more, you do more, more follow. 

At one point you were working on our bio about Randy. Well, I’m never I never stop working with that. 

But the problem is that we don’t have a publisher for Randy’s bio. I have got everything. I’ve got tons of material. And the stories is incredible. It’s. It’s a fantastic story with field, with episodes of adventures and surprises. And I can’t wait to write it. Problem is that it will take me at least one year of work writing it because the research is done. 

But I need to to have the possibility of taking one year and yeah. 

Getting paid and getting paid because, you know, I’m always asked new books in Italian and from my publishers. Every year I write at least two books. 

And I keep on writing them because they ask them. And then they sell. 

Yeah, you’re a professional writer. Yeah, just. And right on its anymore. 

I would love to. Twenty eight more hours a day just to do this. 

Yeah, well, we would all love to see that one. I mean, what a rich life. Randy is absolutely not over yet. 

Of course. Of course. Is here just this week. Yes. He was here. 

But what is he humming. 

Oh nineteen ninety nine. Ninety years old now. 

Yeah. See I know Geller Geller’s wishing it was no longer here, but never mind. 

Okay. One more thing. Any other projects you’re working out in near ample spare time. 

My ampoules predator. Yes. We just have just how they need to be our own conference let’s say. Oh yeah. It’s called Chick Fest. 

It’s like actually some festival. We had a town. Actually, it’s a city in in Italy. It’s called Padua. It’s where Galileo. Galilee had this. At university I had these was teaching. He was teaching there. And his own chair is still there. Oh yeah. So we had this festival and it lasted three days with over 200 events. And he drew we made all the DVD calculations, over 12000 people, 12000. 

They had fantastic was open to the city and everybody was participate. We did, you know, workshops and laboratories and lectures and panels and shows and performances, all kinds of different things in different locations all over the city. 

Wow. That sounds like great fun. Yeah. And was our friend Richard Wiseman every show was there. Absolutely. Wow. I have to come to that one. 

Absolutely. Now he’s gone and we’re gonna do it every year. 

And before he was every two years. But now we have to do it. 

So it’s a mixture of entertainment. Yeah. Different things. It’s so it has a wider audience than just the hardcore skep. 


We said, you know, we can’t keep on on doing our own conference, but just for skeptic’s. But we keep on telling things we already know to each other. Yeah. So why not open and and let other people see how fun can be to be a scientist, to be involved in science and skepticism? 

Oh, that sounds fantastic. Check up first, everybody head to Padua. Absolutely. Next year in September of Padua in September. 

Here is like fifteen minutes away from Venice. Savannah. 

Yeah. So you can kill two birds with one episode at all levels stomping grounds. And yeah, I want to do a whole Galileo tour and go to Florence. Yeah. I mean I’ve been to these places but not with the lay on mind, but I will consult you about where I should go. Massimo Polidori, thank you so much. 

Thank you. Jim was great being here. Yeah. We’re glad you’re on our team. Great talking to you. 

Grazi Mossimo G.V. Dinamo. Next up is Kenny Biddle. Now, Kenny, I would put in the category of rising star in the world of skeptical investigation, although he’s been doing it for many years now. But it does take some time to cut your teeth in this world. Kenny started out on the dark side as a ghost hunter, but soon realized that many of the techniques ghost hunters were using and beliefs that they bought into were kind of wrong. So Kenny became a skeptic. Boy, we’re glad to have him. He’s really accomplished at certain areas of investigation. We’ve teamed up on a couple investigations and tests and things. So here’s Kenny Biddle. 

I’m here with Kenny Biddle, who, while we are here at Psychon 2018, you gave a talk. You did a workshop. Tell me about your workshop. 

He it really well. I had the opportunity to do a workshop with Joe Niccolò, who is is a mentor of mine. I’ve learned a lot about investigating paranormal mysteries and claims from him in his books. So when this opportunity came up, I jumped on it. I didn’t hesitate and it went really well. He did the first part. So the first hour and I did the second hour. And it was you could really break it down to old school and new school. He really went old school with his techniques, which is still still good methods to do. And I went a little bit more modern with like using more of the Internet resources that we have, like Google and Google Images and Google Earth to solve mysteries. So I think the blending of the two made for a really compelling workshop. 

All I had was pop positive feedback. When I got out of there the last two days. What’s today? Today. Saturday. Wow. The last three days, nothing but positive feedback. And I’ve I’ve gone to everybody that I saw that I recognized sitting in there. I’ve gone to you. I’ve gone to Mark Edward, Robin Plummer, who is the CEO and president. I mean, I talk to everybody. Ask them tell me, you know, how did you like it? Did you didn’t did you not like stuff? Can you give me feedback, criticism, whatever? And no one is giving me any criticism. So, I mean, it’s humbling because I really wanted to do a good job and I and I think I did. 

Yeah, they are great. Well, yeah, that’s. I mean, between you and Joe, that’s like the last 40 or 50 years. That’s it. Yeah. And I’m skeptical of Joe, of course, is the only full time paid paranormal investigator in the whole thing. 

And next year, he celebrates his fiftieth year of doing this. He’s been doing this in 30 years, 50 years old. Oh, he’s way he’s been doing this investigation work for 50 years, 50 years. So that’s that’s a long career and and a great career because he’s done a lot of sound, so many things. And, you know, he’s he’s to me, he’s like the grandfather I’ve never had. It’s just great. I can sit and just listen to him tell me stories all day long. 

It’s funny you say that because, I mean, you know, 20 years ago when I first started doing this stuff, Joe was also like the go to guy. And he I think people like him and Randy and Ray Hyman give guys like us who are coming up into it at different points some confidence that if we, like, run into some brick wall somewhere, there are people we can go to for a little advice. Right. 

All right. I can call him up now. I mean, it it’s it still boggles my mind that I have a phone number for Joe Nickell. I can call him and say, hey, I’ve been investigating this mystery. I’m kind of stuck. That’s comforting. Yeah, in a way. Yeah. 


I mean, do you ever, ever like a time when there’s a rain thunderstorm and you just want to call Joe and like once a week at least? 

Joe, I miss you. What do you think? 

Well, it’s nice to have those resources. And I mean and I’m going to put you on the spot because you help me out with with a challenge that I was putting the ghost hunters, you know, and I reached out to you and you didn’t hesitate. You were right there saying, yeah, let me look at this. Here’s what I think. Here’s what I think you should change. 

And when we went back and forth refining the rules of this challenge, you looked it over. And I mean, it was it was great. It’s so nice to have those resource people you can tap. Yeah, well, you know, I. 

I love having someone else do some of the work gets out. And, you know, as you’re already finding out, you know, once you do some of this stuff a few times over you, you start to know, you know, what to look for. Yeah. 

Although, you know, it’s funny because every time we at the Independent Investigations Group test someone, we always way over think like with the scams are gonna be in everything. 

But you have to be. Yeah, you have to be because there’s it’s so easy to cheat. 

And I’m in most of the people that we’ve dealt with over the years, I’m sure are accustomed to cheating. You know, they’re either they know they’re cheating all out and they’re they’re really trying to just make money or they don’t even realize they’re cheating. 

And those people you really have to try to get to because they don’t realize what they’re doing. But it comes down to people were cheating just as. 

Certainly suspect them of that. But I mean, here’s the weird thing with us, with the actual tests for our one hundred thousand dollars and as it was last money in their earlier years, not a single person has ever cheated. 

We we treat them all as if they are totally going to cheat us and try to burn us. Right. But so far and I try to use that word all the time, remind myself. But so far, they’ve all been sincere believers. I mean, some of the other people we deal with are shady. 

But I think that’s the beauty of it, though, because you put so much into it. One would say you guys are so anal about it that it takes out all the ability or most of the ability that we know that one can cheat. So once you take that away from the start, you’re left with. OK. Show me what you can do. You can’t do this. Can’t do that. You have to do it. Just bare bones. Show us the ability. And that’s when you get the true believers that really think that they can do something that come to you. And I think that’s great. 


And sometimes it’s a little hard to explain to the people are being tested that it’s nothing personal. 

But I think, liar, you might feel like there’s no polite way to say that. No, there’s no way. 

And you have to I mean, the real the scientific way to say that is that we are trying to preclude any other explanation for this happening so that the last possible explanation is you actually having paranormal powers. Right. 

So how does a good job. But doesn’t it in the end, it’s a good job. 

What have you seen at the conference? That’s why would you or made a particular impression? 

I just enjoy meeting everybody. I think I love the talks. I love all the lectures because I get to learn so much, even more than I can write down because I’m always trying to write down or type it down. There’s so much information. But I think the thing that stands out the most about this conference is that everyone is approachable. Everyone is friendly. I walked up to Bill Nye, who just showed up out of the blue, walked up, started talking to him. And there was no security around him because I’ve been to events where he he’s been a speaker. And, you know, there’s tons of security. You can’t get nerem this. I walked up, had a nice chat. Got my picture with him. Greg walked up to pretty much every speaker just to tell him that I thought they they did a great job. You know, I want to express that in some places you go to, you can’t do that. And we come out in the lobby and everybody’s having coffee, soda water, you know, and we’re all chatting. We’re all talking about things. 

Yeah. James Randi rolls rolls by again. Joe Nichols there. Jonah. Yeah. Joe Nichols down. Hawkins. 

Yeah. Richard. That they’re all here and it’s it’s great. These are people that I’ve read about that I follow their work and it’s like you put them on a pedestal. There are there are people you idolize in and you follow the work. And here they are right in front of it. You know, you can go get a cup of coffee and you look up and two feet from me. Richard Dawkins. Yeah. Like, wow, this is great. And then you get star struck and you’re like, whoa, what do I say? 

And not not to burst your bubble about anybody, but then we just see Bill Nye run out of a room with somebody as well. 


I’m not sure if he had some reason why we might be exaggerating a little bit, but we did see him literally run out of a room down the hallway saying, I gotta go, I gotta go, I gotta go. 

And then somebody chased them and somebody chased them. And so the wall of explanation was Ockham’s Razor. 

Yeah. If that’s the most plausible. He’s gonna hate us just to tell the audience. 

I did have to restrain Kenny from tackling Bill Nye down the hall because wait till further evidence. 

Thank goodness we avoided. Wow. National is it. Yeah, that would have been Bill, if you’re listening. We’re just kidding. Love you, Bill. So let’s see. 

There’s still a few more lectures, lectures happening. 

Anything you have on your list, you can think of. 

But you know what? Party, of course, the pajama party. 

That’s the that’s like the peak of the conference. 

I’ll be hosting that, incidentally. And I hope you’re going to plan on wearing something interest, I. 

I am. I think I am. I mean, you know, when you come that is the first time I came to this convention was three years ago. Three years. Yeah. This is my third time here. So the first time was just a guest. I never been to a science conference before like this, so I wanted to see what was going on. I went to meet James Randi, you know, because he is the man. He’s the man, you know. So. We got here. Loved it. And then the second year, I got to host a workshop by myself, which you introduced me. Which was awesome. And this time we’re here and it’s like we did another workshop. And it’s just I love the whole atmosphere and it’s just it’s incredible. I love coming back here and seen everything. And I guess it’s like my workshop was Thursday, so the beginning of the conference. And I’m nervous. I’m nervous because I want to do a good job, especially because they pair me up with Joe Nichols. So I want to do a good job. I want to impress everyone. I want to make sure that they get their money’s worth because people paid to be there. They paid to come see Joe Nicole and this other guy, me. So I want to make sure that they get their money’s worth and they leave happy. So when when I arrived Wednesday, it was I was just that’s all I could think about, like two o’clock on Thursday. 

Holy shit. OK. Got him. I got to make it to four o’clock. I got to make it the four o’clock. That’s it. Once I was done and that that weight lifted off. Now I can enjoy the conference. I can really sit, I can talk to people, I can laugh. And then tonight, the party, the pajama party is just that is the the reward, you know, that’s when we can really let loose loose. We can for some of us that get too serious, we can take the stick out of our butts and just let loose and party. You know, we can drink. Not that yet. We can drink, we can have fun, we can laugh, we can dance, listen to music, joke around, make fun of each other and just have a good time. 

Yeah, well, you’ve had good costumes in the past too, so we had some fun. 

Yes, absolutely. 

I think I would. Is one of the Blues Brothers. 

Seven or eight years in a row just because the black suits is it. Let’s just talk for a minute. How how are you. How did you get into this world? I mean, which got you started on trying to explain and investigate. 

I started out as a ghost hunter back in ninety seven. I got on this new thing called the Internet and I was fascinated. I always loved ghosts and monsters and like Bigfoot and UFOs, I’ve always had an interest in that. And I grew up in it and a mainly Catholic household. So there wasn’t much talk of that stuff. And when I went to a Catholic school, you can imagine the library in that school did not really have supernatural paranormal kind of books. There was one and I read that pretty much every day of the school year. So the interest grew. I watched TV shows like In Search of and that really got me going like, wow, this stuff really happens out there. This is awesome. When the Internet came around and was available to everybody, I got on start looking at groups that went out and did this because I was amazed, like, wow, there’s people to get together in my area and go out and find this stuff. So I joined the ghost hunting group, went out with them, and for a while I was a believer. I was I was part of that that crowd where I was like, all right, all these balls of light in these smoky wisps in my photographs, there really goes the just go out and have gear and stuff. 

Yeah, I, I had while the latest tech gear at the time was like the IMF detector and you had your Panasonic digital recorder because digital was all new. 

So Sony came out, it was a Sony, it was the one that the box camera that I can’t believe, the maverick Sony maverick. It was the first digital camera that came out where you put a disk, get this get. 

And it took ten pictures per disk. That’s all it was. And there was so low resolution that kit, the photos were just crappy, but it was the new technology. So we had those and they were like eight hundred dollars at the time. So that was the equipment we had. We went out the cemetaries and haunted houses and historical places that might have had ghost stories in every little anomaly that came up, sky was light up. But yeah, we got a good look at this and I thought I was an authority figure. I knew what I was doing because I was with it. Go seventy. And then the ghost hunting shows came out and I was like, Oh, I’m doing what they’re doing. So I love it. I have even more authority. Wow, look at this. I was a jackass. I mean, honestly, that was I had no idea what I was doing. 

And it wasn’t until I discovered the skeptical Inquirer magazine and it turned me on the people like Joe Nicole and Ben Redford. And I started reading their work because they were more focused on the paranormal end of it. And I started realizing, like, all right, maybe there’s explanations that I didn’t think of. And I start looking into more how science looks at this, how to test it and how to test the claims that I’m making and consulting people. And I. Reached out to Ben Radford and sent him some photos and he gave me feedback, which as a ghost on our I was like, no, you’re real role. You’re just a skeptic. You just want to tell me I’m wrong. But then when I tried what he said and duplicated the results, I was like, shit, I’m real. I’m I’m dead broke. And that really started turning me around. 

So how long does this process of this turning the corner process take? What’s the time from being a hardcore successful ghost on to sing or head slap? I got it wrong. 

It was probably took about a year. Looking a little bit here and there, because even though it would explain one anomaly that I would get, I’d still have these other beliefs like, well, I have this still, you know, I have these smoky ectoplasmic miss that I get. And then what about our apparitions? You didn’t explain that yet. And I literally was one of the techniques. What about this? What about this? And you keep moving the goalposts as an explanation comes in and then took the time he really did to address my concerns. So, I mean, I’m thankful for that because it really put me on on the road to this. And I got into photography. I really love photography. I always took pictures. But I was a picture taker. I wasn’t a photographer. So I learned more and more. I did. I bought all the books I could about photography, learning how to do it. Understanding the terms and the process. And that really led me to understand all these anomalies that I’m getting. I can explain it. Not only can I explain it, I can duplicate it at will. And I can show it under the same circumstances, under the same situation. I can do this and that. Really. That that was the. The boost to my conversion over to skepticism. Because now I could not only prove it to myself, I could demonstrate for others. 

Yeah. Now you’re the guy doing the right plantation’s and with a now pretty good idea of the mindset of the people who are inquiring because they’re just running around, they’re trying to see something cool and confirm their beliefs. 

What is the most, most ghost hunters? And I would say across the board for UFO hunters and big vote hunters because I had interaction with them, too. They really believe what they what they think or their belief. They they see things. They take it as evidence right away as soon as you see it or hear it. It’s evidence in support of instant confirmation bias so they don’t look further. And that’s it’s not necessary. It’s role. I mean, it’s honestly, to be honest and blunt, it’s flat out wrong. But it’s I think it’s human. It’s a routine. It’s what we do. You know, we take that belief and we want to believe things. So we just do. And why bother looking for other explanations? That takes a learned mentality. I think to start thinking critically and really trying to look for an answer challenging your own bright idea. So I think there that most people were just content in their beliefs. And I’m fine. I don’t care if you believe Martians are green and they visit us. I don’t care if you think Bigfoot has relations with humans and creates hybrids. I don’t care if you think ghosts come back and possess the living. I don’t really care if you believe that. What I care about is when you start pushing that belief onto other people and trying to force them to believe that that’s when it start bothering me. 

And Newson would what we would consider bad information to convince them. 

They’re saying. 

They’re using that as the explanation for what you’re seeing in this photograph or whatever. And it’s not really the case. 

Right. Right. Right. It’s most most people. And I’m going to say I’m gonna I’m gonna pick on ghost hunters because the other people that I deal with the most. Most of them have no skills or background in the areas they’re giving expert opinion on. Most of them are not photographers. And when you ask them if they are. No, they’re not. I’m a ghost hunter. And that’s that’s their qualification. 

So when you have a photographer and that’s most of the people that I deal with now, when you have a photographer that can look at the photo and say, oh, I recognize certain details, certain conditions that create this effect and I can replicate it right here, I can do it in like ten seconds. 

And that doesn’t just apply to the the the photographic stuff that also applies to the M.F. meters. Yes. And all the rest of this stuff, although, I mean, we had a guy in our independent investigations group who is a cameraman and one of those shoots and he said there were there were just blatant fraudulent things, people throwing a quarter down the stairwell and stuff like that. But otherwise, you know, in other cases, an IMF meter jumps for that could be lots of different reasons. Right. 

And you have to know what those other reasons. 

For an example, most here, the EU, IMF meters that are used by ghost hunters are cheap versions and they’re single axes. Right. Which means they only read one axis, not three at one time. 

So if you turn one of those machines 90 degrees, you may get a different read. 

You will definitely get a different reading. And you have to turn it not only just turn, but you have to spin it on all three axis to see if you get an average reading to get an average reading. And that’s the only way to do it. 

And that begs the question to add measures, electromagnetic frequency. 

So when that dial goes up, it’s seeing electromagnetic frequency. It’s a whole another jump to then say this is then a go, right? 

Right. Who the hell knows what a ghost is made of? 

That’s that’s right. And another misconception is that they they think, oh, well, if it’s between two and seven million dollars, which is the scale that you use, the measurement that we use to him to add seven million calls on the M.F. detector, that means it’s a ghost. They don’t realize that. It’s not actually measuring what frequency you’re picking up. It’s only measuring the strength of that frequency. So it can be any frequency within the range that it reads. And even outside of it, because it’s calibrated for 50 to 60 hertz, which is US and UK based power. 

But it can read all these other frequencies. But it’s not telling you what frequency. It’s just Tonia. Hey, it’s pretty strong right here. And if you move a foot closer to the source, it’s gonna be a lot freakin stronger, which might be an outlet or it’s use it. Yeah. And there’s wiring in the floor and the ceiling all all the walls. And none of this is checked beforehand. 

You know, when you. Yeah. And not to mention the fact that you go the wiring in an old house. Right. May not be as as Armytage. Yes. Yeah. 

There’s so many things that are not accounted for. When you when I start talking about controls. Most go centers, the majority that I talk to glaze over. Now they have no idea what that means. And then I explain it because most of them just aren’t exposed to how science works. And I start explaining it to them. And then they realize how hard science is. 

And I’m not a scientist, but I consult scientists that I know to make sure that I do my experiences experiments. Right. And I know that it takes a long time just to set up an experiment. And I don’t think they graph that because it’s TV. You know, they see TV. They think, oh, I can just do that. I can wave this around and I’ll get a reading. And that means ghost. 

Yeah. They’re not after a big teaching opportunity. Yeah. 

Well, I hope all year old ghost haunting friends are listening to this and watch you your your work. So do you think you’re the ghost haunting stuff and the photography based stuff. Is that your biggest strengths you think. I mean, is that what your best dad debts? 

I think I think I do have a knack of figuring things out. I think that’s my. If if I have self diagnosed OCD, that would be a to figure it out. Once I get hooked on a mystery, I want to figure it out. And photography has really been a big deal to me. It’s it’s really been helpful because that photos and video, which a lot of the skills for photography transfer over to video. Those are the biggest pieces of evidence that are presented by ghost hunters and Bigfoot hunters and UFO Aldus. I mean, this is it. They show you the pictures. They show you the video. And they say this is proof positive. 

Prove me wrong. And even though it’s not my frickin job to prove me wrong. You’re supposed to prove me. Prove yourself right. I do it anyway. And yeah, the photography skills have helped me do this. I can look at photos. I can go to the place where the photo was taken. Find out what conditions they were under and then replicate it. And if I don’t understand, if I don’t recognize the cause right away from the photo which happens, I would say more than half the time. Then by going to the location and replicating the situation, I can usually figure it out. 

Yeah, that’s a we’re big advocates are there. Yeah. You show up is show up. 

No. Go to look at. Yeah. Go to location. 

Do you find it odd. Yes. That the story of our lives. 

That there’s a billion people walking around with a camera in their pocket right now. And we still don’t have like a really good video of Bigfoot. You know, like a ghost actually. 


Well, we know we all know Bigfoot is so naturally blurry. That’s just it. He he’s never in focus. And that’s because apparently he’s an alien hybrid. That’s what I hear. But, yes, I have the same problem. If you have all these people, this modern age, especially in America, everybody has a phone. Every even the most people that can afford to have a phone, still have a phone and every phone has a camera. So if you’re out in the woods, if you’re you’re at a haunted location, everyone has the opportunity to take a picture. So why do we have these really crappy photos of Bigfoot? 

What Otterson film? 

I mean, not only the original guy in a gorilla suit, not only is a crappy and shaky and blurry. I mean, you could argue. I guess you could understand it. I mean, if if it was real, was real, you might be a little shaken up by that. But he’s loping away at a very easy pace. 

Why do I go chase this guy, Jason? Yeah. See the footprints. Exactly. 

You know, I you know, if if it’s real and that’s what I’m going to base what I’m going to say off of if that was real. I can understand if they see this, say, eight, 10 foot tall creature that obviously can beat the shit out of you. Easy. I wouldn’t be afraid to approach it to yet. I would still approach it from a safe distance because I do believe they were armed out there. I mean, guys, I’m not advocating killing a creature just because. But I’m saying you can protect yourself. But I would still go after it and follow it. And I would waste every inch of film as I go on the chase. 

Yes, I think we could make an exception with Bigfoot and just shoot one of them, maybe wing it and knock it out or something. 

I’m not a doctor. If we see no problem with that, I think I do, because I’m just not. 

If something’s out there again. If it’s real. Let it live. Yeah. Boy, you know how. Because now we can we can argue with aliens. Alien people. Because they’re like, well, you know, aliens come here and they just pluck up somebody and shove a probe up there. But I don’t want to probe my butt. I really don’t. Me neither. But I don’t want to. I tranquilize. Yeah. Tranquilizers. I would use tranquilizer. I’ll put it to sleep and, you know, just take a sample and let it go. But I know killing it. 

My sentiment was actually about the Bigfoot hunters that I was shooting. 

Well, you know, it’s someone I’m like to some of them shows that you see they’re hunting Bigfoot in there. It’s a bunch of good old boys with shotguns. 

I do hope that I really do root for them to shoot themselves. And I. I don’t know. That’s mean or not. But I’m coming at least as a foot thing. What I do feel bad. I feel bad for the microphone and camera guy because they’re always outside the circle of the men with guns that are facing out in the line of fire. 

Yes. Somewhere. 

And these guys clearly look like guys are just trying to get away from their wives, ours. 

They just want to go out and drink in the woods. I don’t know what they do, but I think it’s those TV shows, especially the Bigfoot ones, are pure silliness. 

Well, I got to tell you, I think it’s it’s now coming up on four years ago. I had a letter in the L.A. Times that asked when one of these shows was just starting or maybe a year into it. And I pointedly asked the question, how long will this show keep going without them finding an actual Bigfoot? And it’s still going. Yup. 

How how do you do that? 

That I mean, how do you know how to blend the audience? The producers? 

The audience is the audience. I blame the audience because they’re the ones that keep tuning in, which keep the ratings up, which have the networks saying, yeah, per quarter more, because then the advertisers say people are watching it. Let’s pay. 

Well, you see, I mean, there’s these videos now. 

Our guests are on YouTube. 

I can’t watch them because my head will explode. It’s people opening up packages or something. 

Yes, I saw that. And one of the talks. Adam. Yeah. Come over. I talked about it. Yeah. 

So humanity is at a point apparently where we have so much free time that somebody opening up a package or not finding Bigfoot is a regular source of energy. 

It’s popular. Yeah. And that that makes me sad. Yeah. That brings a tear to my eye that that our society is is in grossed. 

In that kind of thing, why don’t we have a show where we’re going to do something we could, that’s the hybrid. 

And I think I think such a show, if done right. And by Dunn, right? I mean, it’s it’s the editing control stays partly or mostly with us. Like the people that are are out there investigating and wants to control goes over to editors and producers, then they want to fluff it up and make it, you know, entertainment and the entertainment should be should come from learning, you know, like like myth busters. Great show. Yeah, great show. It was about investigating myths and they went about it in a great way and people loved it. It was on the air for four years and years, stayed at some cool stuff. 

Ask some cool questions. 

Yeah. And they made things happen. They they figured out what was what was causing it. They figured out a solution. And if they did, it wasn’t like they were trying to debunk everything. If they if they could. Because the experiments and the data said so, then yeah, they said this was busted. But if it confirmed the myth, they told you, yeah, this is plausible, we can do this. 

They didn’t really have a stake in it. They were just looking for the answer. 

I mean, that’s perfect. And that’s that’s the perfect, I guess, show method for our kind of thing. You know, like we’re looking at mysteries. We’re looking to to investigate and solve them, not perpetuate a mystery. 

And if we can blow some stuff up now and then. 

Oh, yeah. I’m all for that. Like, oh, we can find Bigfoot. We found that, you know, this area is totally clear, but we’re gonna blow up this truck just because you never know what we might learn. 

Is it worth it or are we making any headway? I think so. I know there’s a lot of people that this was a joke and one of the lectures they action. 

Somebody asked about that and nobody really raised their head. But I mean, for me, I look at it as I do skepticism from the little guy. You know, I I’m not only get the opportunity which mazing opportunity to come to places like Psychon and do a workshop and talk to a lot of people. But I also do a lot of small venues. Look, the smaller regional skeptic groups, but also a lot of paranormal groups. I go to the conventions, I talk to them. They let me set up my booth that has nothing but experiments that basically demonstrate why the stuff they use, like Ouija boards and dowsing rods don’t work. They let me do that. They let me talk and I do the same exact talk that I’ve done here at their conventions. I don’t change anything to to cater to my audience. I say what I think right off the bat and. 

I think I’m making progress because I do have people come up and say, I never thought of that. And I’m going to use that information for my next GhostTown or my next inveighs mastication. And I get emails later on from people saying, hey, I went to this public ghosttown. 

I went to this lecture and I raised my hand and I said, no, that’s not the way it’s done. And I can prove it. And they give references and I see I see progress. It may not be on a grand scale where I’m changing hundreds or thousands of minds, but one or two here and there. I’m happy with that. 

Yeah. And there you. They become you. 

Yes, I see. They become male and see. And I, I get that I it’s funny because in a lot of the e-mails that I receive, I get the hey, you’d be proud of me. 

I did a Kenny Bittle and it’s funny, I like oh man, what did you do. And I get this story about that they took on a famous ghosttown or a celebrity or something and they said something. I knew it was rude and I was able to show them right there. Did they wrong in front of the whole crowd. That is beautiful. Make them so happy. Disciple’s. Yes. But it’s good. 

I mean, I have a great relationship with both sides. You know, I love being part of a skeptical community. I love it. These are I look around this conference and these are my peeps. 

These are my people. I love it. I feel so comfortable here. And I’m also comfortable at paranormal events because we have fun. The majority of people at those events know that I’m not out to make them look stupid. I’m not out to just say, oh, you’re wrong. I’m right. They know on their with information and then I’m there to help. So they approach me. I go I can walk around comforters and they approach me and ask, what do you think of it? Well, I did this research. This is what I know. 

That’s great. That makes you a big influencer. Because if if if you have that status among them, they’ll listen to you with real open ears. 

Right. And I. I think I would like to see more people do it. I see I see a lot of great speakers and great thinkers here at this conference. And it would be cool to see them show up at just these little little little comfort as little events and just, you know, talk to people, be friendly, be be open and don’t. Don’t be a dick. That’s that’s it. And sometimes we get that that reputation. Yeah. Right. And I Gordon, I try to fight against that by being as polite as possible. Be as friendly. You know, I’ll hang you. We can debate something, even debate something like pretty aggressively. But then I will definitely buy you a beer afterwards and we can sit and hang out. 

Is there anything you want to plug? What are you working on these days? 

Well, let’s say I do my blog. I am Kenny Bittle on Facebook and I’m constantly updating that. I’ve recently become a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer. Saw that. So, yeah, that is a dream come true. I’m very happy I’m doing that for the online stuff for the last couple months. 

And I’m working on two books that I owe a publisher. And I used to be go stories like I did over a book for them years ago when I was ghost hunter. And it was about local ghost stories. It was a regional book. And part of the contract was two more manuscripts. And I took the opportunity now that I’m on the skeptical side and that I know so much more that the premise of the books is that I take the old ghost hunting cases that I had that I wrote up about my experiences. 

And I’m putting them in as the first part of each chapter as I wrote them then mistakes and all while I try to fix the grammar, but pretty much exactly how it was. And then I do. The second part of that chapter is my modern take on it. 

What I see now and I apply everything I’ve learned over the last 20 years and and the science behind some of the things I did, the psychology behind some of the things I did and I can and should, trying to control everyone I can. So I have my information. Right. But it’s just like a then a nail type of book. And both of them, there’s two of them. I’m hoping to be done by the end of the year. I don’t know what else I’m going to do. I have a few projects, but I can’t go into detail because they’re super secret right now. Oh, boy. But hopefully I’ll be causing more trouble in the next year. 

Well, Kenny Biddle, former ghost on Third Kern, goes to Explainer and Paranormal Explainer. Thanks for being here. Anytime they front. 

Thank you for listening. Point of Inquiry is a production of the Center for Inquiry. The Center for Inquiry is a five, a one, two, three charitable nonprofit organization whose vision is a world in which evidence, science and compassion rather than superstition, pseudoscience or prejudice guide public policy. You can visit us at point of inquiry at OAG. There you can listen to all of piecewise archived episodes and support the show by clicking. The blue support button on the site were available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and your favorite podcast app of choice. Special thanks to Pamela Crosslin of Crosslin Law, located in The Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. She does business and intellectual property law and helped us out with some of the valuable intellectual property information for this program. 

Thank you. See you again. 

Jim Underdown

Jim Underdown

Jim Underdown is executive director of Center for Inquiry–Los Angeles, and the founder of the Independent Investigations Group.