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Followups and Extras

Donate Some new facts and extra information on six previous episodes.  

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Feedback & Questions

Skeptoid Podcast #808
November 30, 2021
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Followups and Extras

I was about to open this episode by saying it's time for another of my favorite category of shows, but had to stop myself because, honestly, I love them all equally. So it's time for another type of show I really love. It's a listener feedback episode, and I'm going to feature stuff that any of you have written in about that add some color or new information to past shows. The reason I love these episodes so much is that it's a shotgun blast of blurbs about famous urban legends, most of which you've heard of, some of which you may not have, but all of which are fascinating by themselves in that each offers a unique view into human nature.

Tunguska: The Loudest Bang?

We'll get started with our recent episode #803 on the Tunguska event, the famous explosion over a Siberian forest in 1908, attributed to a large meteor. In the introduction, I said the explosion produced the loudest sound in human history, as reported in the sources for the episode. Quite a few of you replied to this very quickly via email, Twitter, Facebook, pretty much everywhere, asserting that it was either the explosive eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 or the 1961 nuclear test by the Soviet Union called Tsar Bomba that are generally acknowledged as the loudest sounds ever. It is indeed true that most articles on the subject say that, with the highest estimates right around 300 dB.

The reason is that most of those articles were written prior to December 2018, when the primary source for my episode was published, or else they were evidently unaware of this newer information. It came from the international group that met at NASA Ames to use all the new data gathered from the 2013 Chelyabinsk event to more accurately characterize the Tunguska event. Although their published report did not talk about the sound, it did substantially upgrade the probable energy level of the explosion. Previous estimates for Tunguska had ranges up to 300 dB; the revised estimates start at 300 dB. Keeping in mind that all of these are probabilities based on many variables, so every published paper gives different estimates; the top three sounds in human history (meaning they were heard by the ears of modern humans) are Tunguska, Krakatoa, and then Tsar Bomba. However, I should have said Tunguska was probably the loudest sound.

A number of you also pointed out that comparisons like this are invalid, since sound can't actually be louder than 194 dB. At that amplitude, the pressure difference between the peaks and valleys in the acoustic wave is 1 atmosphere, thus it would require negative pressure to get louder, which is impossible. The explosions we're talking about produced shockwaves, which means the wave fronts are moving faster than the speed of sound. Although shockwaves and acoustic waves are not the same thing, both have amplitudes that can be measured in decibels. Thus it's not meaningless to talk about sound produced by explosions like this at levels like 300 dB; though it is, strictly speaking, not really an acoustic sound.

The Boy Who Believed He Was a Fighter Pilot

Next we've got some tasty tidbits on episode #612, about a young boy who made headlines in 2009 when his parents, Andrea and Bruce Leininger, published the book Soul Survivor announcing their son James as a legitimate case of reincarnation: he had lived a past life as a World War II fighter pilot. Believers in reincarnation embraced it eagerly; the boy had what seemed an unnatural interest in fighter planes and even knew the names of specific aircraft carriers and details of certain pilots' careers. But the story was never persuasive to either objective fact checkers or to those knowledgeable in psychology. The parents had, for years, prompted and guided their son in the construction of this narrative, all under the guidance of a professional past-life regression therapist, in whom they placed complete faith.

There are two pieces of new news on this story. First is that I heard from listener Michael Sudduth, who has just written a magnum opus paper deconstructing this case, published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. He interviewed a dozen people and reviewed everything written on the case, and detailed countless times that Bruce Leininger misrepresented the timeline and other facts. His paper is a monumental takedown. According to Sudduth's research, the Leiningers were clearly consciously deceptive in numerous instances; but at its core, it's really a case of them having honestly deluded themselves to begin with, and then tweaked both the narrative and their impressionable young son in order to bolster the fantasy they so desperately want to believe.

The second piece of news involves our old friend Robert Bigelow, the wallet and mastermind behind so much UFO news from recent decades, including all the recent Pentagon stuff and his old Skinwalker Ranch project. Bigelow's current project is the Institute for Consciousness Studies, which seeks to prove the reality of the afterlife. In November of 2021, Bigelow's institute awarded Bruce Leininger $20,000 for a paper about his son as "definitive proof of reincarnation."

Could the bar possibly be set any lower for "definitive proof"?

The Dybbuk Box Revealed

Moving onto episode #428 about the Dybbuk Box, an antique winebox supposedly haunted by a malevolent spirit from Hebrew mythology called a dybbuk. It was originally listed on eBay by Kevin Mannis, and then passed through a string of owners who reported all kinds of terrible things and bad luck caused by the box.

It has since come out that Mannis — a fiction writer — has acknowledged that the entire Dybbuk Box story was a piece of fiction like any other. I first heard about this from my friend Kenny Biddle, who interviewed Mannis on his YouTube show in 2021:

BIDDLE: I used the word confessed when describing what was inside Charles' article here, where you pretty much said yes, you made up everything. So can you elaborate on that?

MANNIS: I didn't make it up, I'm a writer, man, that's what I do. I came up with the concept and wrote a story.

BIDDLE: OK. I do the same thing. I understand the creative part, but wouldn't you agree that's making it up?

MANNIS: Well, yeah, in the same way as H.G. Wells made up The Time Machine.

If it sounds like he's being a bit too cagey, here's what Mannis told Input Magazine just a few days before Kenny's interview:

I am a creative writer. The Dybbuk Box is a story that I created. And the Dybbuk Box story has done exactly what I intended it to do when I posted it 20 years ago, which is to become an interactive horror story in real-time.

So hopefully you can all stop emailing me that my episode needs to be retracted because the Dybbuk Box story is so compelling that it absolutely must be true.

The Simoom Is Still Not That Hot

Episode #424 was about the Santa Barbara Simoom of 1859, an apocryphal event in which a blast of superheated wind hit this coastal California town. Suffice it to say that a lot is wrong with the story. The California coast does get very hot winds, but nowhere near the temperatures or levels of destruction claimed in the 1859 tall tale.

Published accounts about the event point out that the temperature in Santa Barbara that day reached 133°F (about 56°C), and then usually go on to say that it was the world's hottest temperature until Death Valley hit 134°F in 1913. However, meteorologists generally all discount that Death Valley reading as being unreliable, and it's likely to soon be decertified, as happened with a 136°F claimed for Libya in 1922, along with a 131°F from Tunisia in 1931.

But, the Simoom episode has needed a new update on its transcript. Death Valley registered an official, accurate 130.0°F (54.4°C) on July 9, 2021. That is the legitimate new highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, though it has not yet (as of this writing) been officially certified, it probably will. Incidentally, I was there just a few days before but only caught 126°F. I was super bitter that I missed it.

Yet Another Problem with Fracking

An update of my own is next — episode #275 debunked a huge number of false claims about fracking, mostly from the popular 2010 movie Gasland which depicted all kinds of dramatic and bizarre environmental consequences from fracking, very few of which were true. As I always say, if you want to address a problem effectively, you need to have an accurate understanding of the problem, not a cartoonish caricature of it.

There is one major consequence from fracking that was not mentioned in the episode, and that's probably the most important reason to stop it. It's not caused by the fracking process itself, but by the natural gas mines that fracking feeds off. Opening up these natural gas reservoirs is the #1 source of atmospheric methane in the United States and in some other countries. And as we recently discussed in episode #797 on atmospheric methane, curtailing the release of methane is a supercritical tipping point in the fight against global warming. And so, regardless of whether fracking itself causes any strange problems or not, fracking — and all natural gas mining — must be stopped completely as soon as possible.

The short version being there's one true reason to stop fracking. We don't need a bunch of false reasons weakening the argument.

Floating Shadow People

Finally I want to give a quick nod to listener Max, who wrote in with a plausible suggestion that probably explains some eyewitness accounts of so-called "shadow people". Episode #175 was all about these shadow people, black ghostly figures that people see in their house, but who often dart out of the way when they turn to look. Max wrote:

I have a floater in my right eye, that under certain light conditions i.e. low light at night when I am working in my office, creates the illusion that someone just on the edge of my field of vision is trying to sneak up on me or standing still looking at me on my far right hand side. When I turn to look, obviously there is nothing there because of the change in relative position between the floater and where I am looking.

This floater appeared some 20 years ago and first time it happened I genuinely felt that there was someone there and I recalled having read something about people being watched by "shadow people". It was not long after that I saw an ophthalmologist who explained what it was.

While Max's personal story is anecdotal, floaters are a real ophthalmological thing, and do produce dark circles, dots, blobs or lines in the vision. They probably do explain some eyewitness accounts of shadow people, but certainly it would be silly to claim it explains all of them.

So that's all the feedback and followups we have for you this week. Next week we'll back in business with a full regular episode, and until then, keep the show honest, keep that feedback coming in!

By Brian Dunning

Please contact us with any corrections or feedback.


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Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "Followups and Extras." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 30 Nov 2021. Web. 19 Jun 2024. <>


References & Further Reading

Alvarez, R., et. al. "Assessment of methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas supply chain." Science. 13 Jul. 2018, Volume 361, Issue 6398: 186-188.

Boyd, K., Mendoza, O. "What Are Floaters and Flashes?" Eye Health A-Z. American Academy of Ophthalmology, 16 Jan. 2016. Web. 26 Nov. 2021. <>

Masters, J. "Death Valley, California, breaks the all-time world heat record for the second year in a row." Yale Climate Connections. Yale School of the Environment, 12 Jul. 2021. Web. 26 Nov. 2021. <>

Morrison, D. Tunguska Workshop: Applying Modern Tools to Understand the 1908 Tunguska Impact. Moffett Field: Ames Research Center, 2018.

Moss, C. "Finally, the truth behind the 'haunted' Dybbuk Box can be revealed." Input Magazine. BDG, 8 Jul. 2021. Web. 26 Nov. 2021. <>

Sudduth, M. "Crash and Burn: James Leininger Story Debunked." Cup of Nirvana. Dr. Michael Sudduth, 20 Nov. 2021. Web. 26 Nov. 2021. <>


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