A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies


Many, many thanks to Leslie Carroll, Ray Hall, Ivan Kelly, Joe Littrell, Jan Willem Nienhuys, Rich Ownbey, James Randi, Bob Steiner, and the many others who have inspired me, corrected me, guided me, and encouraged me in this mission.

I have been humbled and extremely gratified by the many people who have volunteered their precious time to make this project what it is.

Tim Boettcher, Richard Herren, and John Renish deserve special thanks for their generosity in serving as volunteer editors of my web site, SkepDic.com. Whatever my failings as a writer, they would be much more evident had it not been for their editorial assistance.

Vlado Luknar (Slovakia) was the first of several volunteer translators in the international community to tackle The Skeptic's Dictionary. Antonio Ingles (Portugal) soon followed. The Portuguese translation continues with Ronaldo Cordeiro (Brazil). Les Skeptiques du Québec have translated many entries (636 at last count!) into French. Herman Boel (Belgium) has translated the entire SD into Dutch. George Moustris (Greece) has translated many entries into Greek. Others who have contributed translations include Larissa Wagner and Tobias Budke (Germany), Dario Ventra (Italy), Lovasi Péter (Hungary), Evgeny Volkov (Russia), and Adriana Chávez, Gloria Sánchez and Gerardo Fernández (Mexico). Kim Jeanman (Korea) and Masataka Okubo & Hiroo Yamagata (Japan) have translated many entries. The folks at Vantrú.net have translated some entries into Icelandic. Finally, members of the Swedish Skeptics Society have translated many entries into Swedish.

I am also very grateful to Charles Cazabon of Pyropus Technology for handling the mailing of the SD Newsletter and to Cristian Popa for designing the current layout of the website.

I also owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Jeff Golick (former editor at Wiley & Sons) and Ted Weinstein (literary agent). They believed in the book version of the project, which was published in 2003 and has since been published in Russian, Korean, Japanese, and Dutch.

Without the help of so many people around the world, the Skeptic's Dictionary project might have died out years ago.

I have been motivated and encouraged by the writings of Stephen Barrett, Barry Beyerstein, Susan Blackmore, Arthur C. Clarke, Kenneth Feder, Thomas Gilovich, Terence Hines, Ray Hyman, Janja Lalich, Elizabeth Loftus, Joe Nickell, Robert Park, Oliver Sacks, Daniel Schacter, Al Seckel, Michael Shermer, Margaret Thaler Singer, Nicholas Spanos, Victor Stenger, Carol Tavris, and others of like mettle.

I probably would not have begun this work had it not been for the inspiration I got from reading the books of Stephen Jay Gould, Richard H. Popkin, James Randi, Carl Sagan, and especially the many books of Martin Gardner, whose Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science--I have the 1957 Dover edition--got me started on this mission in the late 60s or early 70s. At the time, I was reading philosophers like Spinoza, Leibniz, and Malebranche, but Gardner introduced me to a world of alternative realities that made the imaginations of these philosophers pale by comparison.

Then there was Freud. His case studies fascinated me, especially his essay on a case of paranoia (1911), a psychological analysis of the memoir of Daniel Paul Schreber (1842-1911), a respected judge and political figure until his psychotic breakdown. Schreber’s memoir gives an account of the delusions that landed him in the asylum for several years. What struck me at the time was that I had studied very similar musings in the writings of various mystics such as Plotinus and had even believed similar notions to Schreber’s for many years--Virgin birth and impregnation of a human by a divinity, for example. Had Schreber lived in the 2nd century instead of the 19th would he have taken his place at the same table with Zarathustra instead of with the other patients in the asylum? Had he put forth his fantasies and delusions as metaphysical speculations or scientific insights would a cult have arisen around his ideas that would have led to an entry in The Skeptic’s Dictionary? When I consider the list of subjects I still have in my “to investigate further” file, I can only say yes, without a doubt.

last updated 28-Jun-2016

© Copyright 1994-2016 Robert T. Carroll * This page was designed by Cristian Popa.