Maybe the Trickster Did It

when you eat of it your eyes will be opened

imageThe Stumbler, in this part of his “long and circuitous journey from a childhood with two alcoholic parents, through the weird world of anomalous phenomena, to an iconoclastic Christian faith based on experience, observation, study and intuition,” tells us in his blog posting, Oh, no, surely not that old fake the Shroud of Turin?:

It’s highly unlikely you know more about the Shroud than I do.  For one thing, since 1997 I’ve been a devoted follower of  This amazing site was created in 1996 by Barrie Schwortz, Official Documenting Photographer for the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project.  It’s one of the truly great Internet sites, highly organized and with virtually everything published about the Shroud in every language.

The Stumbler tells us:

A First Century result from the carbon dating would’ve been nice, of course, but this didn’t happen.  The tests showed a date range of 1290-1360 AD.

I wasn’t fazed, for two reasons:

First:  As I’d said before the testing, there’s simply too much other evidence the Shroud dates to long before 1290.  Physical evidence, from the cloth itself.  Historical evidence, meticulously pieced together by Ian Wilson and other serious researchers…

Second: If the Shroud were a 14th Century fake, it’d still be the strangest artifact in the history of mankind.  When the carbon dating results were announced, it was very telling to me that the media and the great mass of casual followers seemed almost relieved and chortled at Shroud believers as though they were and always had been credulous fools….

The Stumbler goes on to tell us about “more recent test” with date ranges of 300 BC to 400 AD. And he believes these new tests why?


Please, don’t take my word for it.  Spend at least an afternoon on  Even before you do that, spend a few bucks on Ian Wilson’s The Shroud: The 2,000-year-old mystery solved (2010), a wonderful introduction to Shroud studies. . . .

Just don’t do what too many people do: Don’t dismiss the Shroud because you “once saw a program” on CNN or “once read an article” in Time or on the Internet or, worse yet, “once talked with a guy” whose opinions you respect who thinks the Shroud is a blatant fake and not worth bothering with….

Then there is this. Does this trump the KGB Hacker conspiracy theory or what?

What about our old friend the Trickster?  Haven’t I suggested his antics have infected just about every other area of weirdness studies, from ufology to NDE-ology?  Just because I’m a Christian, do I think Shroud studies are immune to the Trickster?

imageNot at all.  The carbon dating results certainly could be the Trickster at work.  Some of the Shroud studies themselves are major turn-offs, at least for me.  A segment of the research fraternity has purported to find so many additional images on the Shroud we’re only a step away from someone spotting a Domino’s pizza box or a Ford hubcap.  This sort of stuff is eerily reminiscent of what the Trickster has done in ufology and NDE-ology, and I fear it has seriously diminished interest in the Shroud.

But did you notice what is says on the side of that Domino Pizza box?  Maybe there is a hubcap or a coin over the eye or a whole bunch of flowers. That’s got to be good for some strange speculation.  The Stumbler continues:

But still, the Shroud is in a different category from UFOs and NDEs. Unlike them, it isn’t a phenomenon.  It’s an artifact.  It’s right there in front of you.  It can be observed, photographed, handled and even sampled.  It challenges you, head on, to find an explanation.  The Trickster may divert your attention with his antics, but the Shroud remains.

Or has the Stumbler been tricked by the Trickster? 

It would help if we had a better understanding of what tricks the Trickster can do and which tricks he cannot do. Does he change carbon 14 content or does he hack the AMS Control Computer?

10 thoughts on “Maybe the Trickster Did It”

  1. I don’t know if our friend across the Pond is into Bob Dylan but is most oft quoted lyric is this:

    “You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.”

    Or to wrench out of context a line from Peter Paul and Mary’s biggest hit: “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.”

    I expect we will get a big wind answer, but it will be probably like the “Big Wind from Winnetka.”

    1. Typo alert “Big Noise from Winnetka often misquoted as Big Wind.

      The lines is (2nd Repition)
      “Big noise blew in from Winnetka,
      “Big noise blew right out again”

  2. Dan, thanks for highlighting my blog, which has been up for only a few months and has approximately as many readers as the 1994 Winnetka Telephone Directory. The Shroud is merely one of many areas of intense “weirdness studies” in which I’ve engaged over the past six decades. The post you highlighted is likely to be the only one about the Shroud. When 40 years of interest must be condensed to one 1500-word post, there is obviously little room for nuance.

    Since your views about the Shroud (i.e., what it probably is) seem virtually identical to mine, I’m puzzled by what seems to be a tone of dismissiveness in your comments. It’s also clear that Paulette has completely misunderstood the thrust of my post (as described by you).

    Most everyone has heard of the archetypical Trickster. I have no idea whether the Trickster is “real.” As a Christian, it would be easy to equate the Trickster with Satan and his minions, but I don’t believe this would be helpful in the context of my blog – the goal of which is to at least pique the interest of those who think spirituality in general and Christianity in particular are only for mindless dolts. The Shroud post appears about half-way through what I am calling My Journey; my beliefs will become more explicit toward the end. My Journey is a description of how I arrived at those beliefs.

    Throughout my blog, I use the term “Trickster” not in any technical sense but as shorthand for “Whatever It Is that mysteriously causes every area of potentially serious paranormal research to devolve into silliness.” I have experienced this with ufology, psychical research, Near-Death Experience studies, reincarnation studies and, yes, Shroud studies to some extent. The Trickster seems to have infected each of these with enough silliness to prevent the phenomenon from emerging from the shadows and being taken seriously at the mainstream level. The silliness provides a foothold for those who are inclined to be dismissive toward such phenomena, meaning the vast majority of people. The consistency with which this occurs seems quite mysterious – indeed, supernatural – to me. Something like the Shroud thus is consigned to the dustbins of lunacy by folks who would surely benefit by taking it seriously. In case it was lost on you or Paulette, the title of my post (“That Old Fake”) was entirely ironic.

    Interestingly, perhaps, I ran my post past Barrie Schwortz several weeks ago, and he seemed to have no difficulty understanding what I was saying or any problems with it.

    You ask, “Or has the Stumbler been tricked by the Trickster?” This is, of course, a possibility insofar as the Shroud is concerned. But the Shroud is merely a piece of evidence tending to support my Christian beliefs. My Christian beliefs do not hinge on the Shroud. Even my belief in the Resurrection does not hinge on the Shroud. If I have been duped by the Trickster, it has been at a far deeper and more fundamental level than my beliefs about the Shroud.

    You also say, “It would help if we had a better understanding of what tricks the Trickster can do and which tricks he cannot do.” Indeed, it would – but the Trickster (or Satan, as the case may be) is at a higher pay grade than you or me. As conceived by me, the Trickster is a mysterious entity bent on steering people away from the truth, fascinating and intriguing them until they realize too late that they have been led off the spiritual path and far out into a wasteland of nothingness. All we can do is be aware of the Trickster and stay constantly alert to the possibility we’re becoming caught up in its game.

    The Trickster may or may not be at work in Shroud studies. I believe it is and that there is a possibility of the Shroud becoming an impediment to truth rather than the beacon of truth I believe it to be. If the Shroud is what I believe it to be, it would obviously be a prime target for the Trickster – but likewise, I would hope, an object of special protection by God. Your views may differ, but in any event thanks again for highlighting my obscure blog (somewhat intentionally obscure, I might add). As for Paulette’s comment about “Trickster Excuses Theology,” I really have no idea what this is even supposed to mean; spend an hour or two on the blog, and you’ll surely see than “excusing theology” is several light years away from what the blog is about or my life has been about.

    The Stumbler

    1. Quick addendum: I don’t want to give the appearance of name-dropping Barrie Schwortz, who doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground. I simply sent him a pre-publication copy of my Shroud post, and he was kind enough to respond with an email saying he “liked” it and was appreciative of what the blogosphere has contributed to the discussion of the Shroud.

      1. Runner3350

        I hope you realize when I referred to the Big Noise from Winnetka, I wasn’t referring to you but to a perennial skeptic who posts from England (the other sided of the Pond [Atlantic Ocean])

  3. One of the problem with this blog is at times, people don’t due irony (or humor). I find Paulette to be a master of irony. Thank God we have done a way with gender specific, stereotypical appellations. I once asked a female temp at my office (then in the Empire State Building) what her profession was and she said “Actor.” I thought that was odd for a moment and then validated it in my mind. So Paulette is a master of irony.

    And the Stumbler is a welcome addition to the Shroud community.

  4. D: “It would help if we had a better understanding of what tricks the Trickster can do and which tricks he cannot do. Does he change carbon 14 content or does he hack the AMS Control Computer?”

    He didn’t have to do either of those. Trickster works by exploiting human ignorance, even among those where it is not expected. In this case, among a group of physicists who it seems knew next to nothing about the fundamental principles of what constitutes valid sampling protocols.

    1. Yes, I would never suggest that what I call the Trickster operates at the level of hacking computers or manipulating scientific evidence. If that were true, I think I’d throw in the towel on my spiritual quest. As you suggest, it operates at the level of manipulating human nature. It takes a perfectly legitimate subject of inquiry, such as the Shroud, and makes it too silly to be taken seriously for most people. Whether we’re talking about the Shroud, the Resurrection, or the assassination of JFK, the great mass of people seem to be looking for simplistic, unchallenging explanations that allow them to get on with the routine of their lives. “Nothing to see here, move on.” If the Gods of Science say the Shroud is a 14th Century artifact, then it is and the case is closed. If the lunatic fringe of Shroud research starts claiming to see things on the Shroud that simply aren’t there, or making claims about the Shroud that are goofy on their face, those who are predisposed to dismiss the Shroud (or the Resurrection, or whatever) now have a foothold. I’ve seen this happen in every area of paranormal studies with which I’ve been associated (and I’ve been deeply immersed in several of them). It’s a small remnant of humanity that is able to say, “Yes, the Shroud research community has its own lunatic fringe that plays right into the Trickster’s hands, but the Shroud remains an object worthy of study that reveals profound truths (or at least may do so) after you filter out the silliness. I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater.” One of the greatest challenges for me (hence the existence of my blog) has not been the daunting challenges I face as a believer, but rather the difficulty of getting non-believers interested enough to do even a bit of investigation and educating themselves to a level where they are even capable of having an intelligent discussion.

  5. Runner3350 has exposed an issue I have avoided for the specific reason if I true, the analogy would throw a monkey wrench into what I was going to do with the study of the Shroud. (I did manage to sneak one of JFK’s most elegant quotes from his speech an American University in Section C, The Challenge to Humanity in Chapter 18, the Challenge of the Shroud

    “For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”
    John F. Kennedy
    American University
    June 10, 1963

    The point is there exist establishments that can not, or will not, deal with facts that are incompatible with their world view. In the Kennedy case it is, among others things, much of the mainstream media. In 1993, I wrote a two page Op-Ed for Newsday about the phenomenon entitled “Why the Media Want the Inquiries to end.” It was placed by Newsday on the Washington Post-LA Times news wire and has been referred to by one Warren report skeptic as the “best short summary of our position.” It may still be cited by other web pages on the Internet


    In the piece I wrote about the NY Times initial attitude about the Warren Report:

    “When the Warren report was issued in September, 1964, the media greeted it with universal praise. Its most popular edition was published by The New York Times. The introduction, written by Assistant Managing Editor Harrison Salisbury, pronounced, ‘No material question now remains unresolved, as far as the death of President Kennedy is concerned.’ To critics of the Warren Commission, Salisbury flashed a contemptuous warning: Those who spread irresponsible rumors about the assassination were either seeking to sow distrust and confusion among the public or intent on conveying to foreign countries the ‘image of a violent America, helpless in the face of dangerous forces.'”

    The issues are different and so is the establishment seeking to still threatening voices. In the Shroud’s case it is that part of the the Scientific establishment that can not deal with the possible reality of Jesus Christ and his purported Resurrection.

    When it comes to the Shroud, JFK is an aside, except what it can teach us about how establishments -political or scientific – react to challenges to their world view. The fancy word for the process is “marginalization.” It is certainly at work in the study of the Shroud and the credibility wrongfully bestowed on the carbon dating continues to be the principal method of marginalizing Shroud studies. Yet, in neither the Kennedy casen or the Shroud, has the marginalization ended debate or study. Thank God!

    More power to you Runner3350.

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