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He is also an associate dean of the Center for Inquiry Institute. His parents indulged his interest in magic and investigation, allowing him to set aside a room in their house as a crime lab.
In 1968, he avoided the draft by moving to Canada where he began his careers as a magician, a card dealer, and a private investigator.
At the request of document dealer and historian, Seth Keller, Nickell analyzed documentation in the dispute over the authorship of "The Night Before Christmas", ultimately supporting the Clement Clarke Moore claim.
Nickell is Senior Research Fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and writes regularly for their journal, the Skeptical Inquirer.
When President Jimmy Carter granted unconditional pardons to draft dodgers in 1977, Nickell returned to the United States.
He has helped expose such famous forgeries as the purported diary of Jack the Ripper.
"I don't like debunkers and I don't like dismissers, people who are just trying to say, "Oh, humbug ...
Those people were probably drunk or lying or hoaxing." I just think we shouldn't do that.
could, especially if carrying a candle, see in the resultant glimmering in the tiny eyes, aided by vertical cracks and other streaks, the effect of tears. Grothe on the Point of Inquiry podcast, Nickell proposed that veneration of relics has become a new idolatry; that is, worship of an actual deity within the relics in form of an entity that moves its eyes, weeps, bleeds, and even walks.
Relics of the Christ (British edition, "The Jesus Relics: From the Holy Grail to the Turin Shroud"), written in 2007, focuses on the Christian tradition of relics. He explained that although no icon in history has ever been proven authentic, he approaches each case with a suspension of disbelief: "I'm interested in the evidence because I want us to know what the truth is ... not to be as closed-minded as the other side is ridiculously open-minded." In 2008, Prometheus Books published John Calvin's Treatise on Relics with an introduction by Nickell that included a brief biography of Calvin and references from his 2007 Relics book. It may be asked, how it came to pass that these manufacturers of relics, having collected and forged without any reason all that their imaginations could fancy in any way, could have omitted subjects pertaining to the Old Testament?
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Calvin was more harsh than Nickell on those who believe in relics, writing: Now, as one evil never comes alone but is always followed by another, it thus happened that where people were seeking for relics, either of Jesus Christ or the saints, they became so blind that whatever name was imposed upon any rubbish presented to them, they received it without any examination or judgment; thus the bones of an ass or dog, which any hawker gave out to be the bones of a martyr, were devoutly received without any difficulty ... The only reply I can give to this query is, that they looked with contempt on those subjects, from which they did not anticipate any considerable gain ...