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Further Reading for issue 23:
Sources & Bibliography

Junior Skeptic #23 cover

Junior Skeptic is a bit of an odd duck. It is as thoroughly researched as I can possibly make it, to the point that it sometimes breaks new research otherwise unknown in the literature. At the same time, in order to remain kid-friendly, Junior Skeptic has no endnotes, citations, or bibliography. Worse, to avoid bombarding kids with names they don’t need to learn, I remove most names except those of the primary characters within the story. That leaves quotes from unnamed sources such as “an anthropologist” or “one critic.”

For students and researchers who would like to learn more, I’m pleased to share the sources for most of the quotes and assertions in Junior Skeptic #23: “Pyramid Power”. Block quotes are pulled from the text of Junior Skeptic,

in this format. The lighter text is the editorial voice of Junior Skeptic — which is to say, my voice — while “bold text in red and inside quotation marks is from a quoted source.”

Quoted sources are identified as Source in the citations below each block quote.

The Sources sections are followed by a selected Bibliography section.

— Daniel Loxton


sources for ‘Introduction’

Can people really “enter the Alpha State of Consciousness faster and easier when in, or under, a pyramid,” as The Great Pyramid Company’s website claims?

Source: www.greatpyramidco.com/medipyramid.html. [The Great Pyramid Company website is defunct since the original citation. I've linked to the relevant page here using the WayBackMachine Internet Archive — Loxton]

“As a pyramid pours positive energy onto your crystal, it washes the negative energy away.”

Source: www.greatpyramidco.com/news.html. [The Great Pyramid Company website is defunct since the original citation. I've linked to the relevant page here using the WayBackMachine Internet Archive — Loxton]

sources for ‘The Discovery Story’

“Some years ago a Frenchman, a Monsieur Bovis, had visited the Great Pyramid in Egypt. A third of the way up the structure is the pharaoh’s chamber. Tired with the heat, Bovis entered. He found the air surprisingly humid. But there was something else in the room that surprised the Frenchman, something that had no connection to the pharaohs. There were garbage cans in the chamber containing cats and other small animals that had wandered into the pyramid, lost their way, and died. ‘There’s something strange about those animals,’ Bovis thought. ‘There’s no smell of decay from them.’ The animals were dehydrated, mummified despite the humidity. It struck him as very odd.”

Source: Ostrander, Sheila, and Lynn Schroeder. Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970). 340.

According to the story, Bovis realized that the pyramid shape itself had special preserving powers. It’s said that he returned to France and tested this idea using a wooden model pyramid: a “third of the way up in this structure he placed a dead cat. After a time it mummified.”

Source: Ostrander, Sheila, and Lynn Schroeder. Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970). 340.

sources for ‘Who was Antoine Bovis?’

(In fact, it turns out that he owned a hardware store).

Source: Drbal, Karel. “The Struggle for the Pyramid Patent.” Pyramid Power, edited by Max Toth and Greg Nielson. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 143.

“In light of the major importance pyramid power authors attach to Bovis’ pyramid discovery, it’s strange that at the same time no one seems to know when it happened. Toth and Nielsen write that it was ‘sometime during the 1900s.’ Ostrander, Sheila, and Lynn Schroeder. pronounce, with equal exactness, that it occurred ‘some years ago.’ Other authors propose the late 1920s, or the early 30s.”

Source: Laigaard, Jens. Pyramideenergien – kritisk undersøgelse, translated by Daniel Loxton and Jens Laigaard. Read this source in English at Skeptic.com, or in Danish at the website of the Danish skeptics.

The standard story also contains unrealistic details. As Laigaard points out, “The king’s chamber is the most remote and least accessible room in the pyramid. Isn’t it strange that the groundskeepers would carry dead animals up here instead of just throwing them out of the building right away?” Furthermore, “the king’s chamber is the most famous room in the world’s most famous ancient monument. Isn’t it strange that exactly this room would be obstructed with a garbage can filled with dead animals?”

Source: Laigaard, Jens. Pyramideenergien – kritisk undersøgelse, translated by Daniel Loxton and Jens Laigaard. Read this source in English at Skeptic.com, or in Danish at the website of the Danish skeptics.

A Director of the Egyptian National Museum told skeptic Jens Laigaard that there were never any garbage cans in the room.

Source: Laigaard, Jens. Pyramideenergien – kritisk undersøgelse, translated by Daniel Loxton and Jens Laigaard. Read this source in English at Skeptic.com, or in Danish at the website of the Danish skeptics.

“It’s beyond strange: in so many words, it’s an outright lie.”

Source: Laigaard, Jens. Pyramideenergien – kritisk undersøgelse, translated by Daniel Loxton and Jens Laigaard. Read this source in English at Skeptic.com, or in Danish at the website of the Danish skeptics.

“If one is claustrophobic, it is best not to go in. To get to the King’s Chamber you have to go up the ascending passageway, which is only four feet high and four feet wide, and slopes upward [steeply]. For more than 150 feet you are crouched over, slowly moving upward, fearful of banging your head or having to stand upright to relieve back pain and not being able to. Finally the narrow passage ends, and what is called the Grand Gallery begins. The Grand Gallery continues the [steep] slope and four-foot width, but is twenty-eight feet high and it too continues for about 150 feet… At the end there is a sudden three-foot step up, and the floor levels but the ceiling drops to less than four feet! The low ceiling continues for less than ten feet, and then one is in a small antechamber leading to the King’s Chamber.”

Source: Brier, Bob. “Twentieth-Century Pilgrimage.” In the anthology Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 31 - 32.

sources for ‘Enter the Razors’

“The following experiment on the magnetization of safety razors may possibly be of interest to your readers. In May, 1931, I conceived it possible that if I oriented my razor blades — i.e., kept them lying N. and S. by the compass, it might effect the life of the blade. Up till then a blade would last … about one month or six weeks. After that date I oriented the blades … [and] they tend to last considerably longer…”

Source: Coleridge, Gilbert. Letter. London Times. 7 Oct. 1933.

“The idea of keeping razor blades in a magnetic field is not quite new. About the year 1900 I found this out…”

Source: Grange, William D’Oyly. Letter. London Times. 19 Oct. 1933.

sources for ‘Something a Bit Odd, as Inventions Go…’

In 1949 … a Czech named Karel Drbal applied for a patent. His invention was a bit odd, as inventions go. It had no moving parts. It had no energy source. It was a simple pyramid model made of paper, cardboard, or plastic. Nonetheless, Drbal claimed it could do something amazing: sharpen steel razor blades without labor, without wear to the blades, and even without touching them. To do this, it used “no mechanical, thermal, chemical or electrical” means.

Source: Drbal, Karel. Patenti Spis c. 91304. Prague, 1959. [I referred to versions posted in English and original Czech at www.amasci.com. These are still available as of October 31, 2008 — Loxton]

Decades later, Drbal admitted, “when I applied for this patent, it was almost a joke for me and my friends, who … encouraged me to apply just to find out how the patent office would react to issuing a patent on a ‘Pharaoh’s shaving device.’” Still, he insisted that these friends were “totally persuaded, as was I … that this strange device really works.”

Source: Drbal, Karel. “The Struggle for the Pyramid Patent.” Pyramid Power, edited by Max Toth and Greg Nielson. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 134.

“When this device was used,” one could expect “111 shaves per blade on the average … against 5 shaves when it is not.”

Source: Drbal, Karel. Patenti Spis c. 91304. Prague, 1959. [I referred to versions posted in English and original Czech at www.amasci.com. These are still available as of October 31, 2008 — Loxton]

Later, Drbal explained “that the cavity of a little cardboard model of the Great Pyramid of Cheops can affect the steel edge of a razor blade!”

Source: Drbal, Karel. “The Struggle for the Pyramid Patent.” Pyramid Power, edited by Max Toth and Greg Nielson. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 133.

“I was able to realize a theory (or hypothesis) about the energization of the resonant cavity of the little pyramid-model by cosmic microwaves (principally from the sun) with help from the concentrating Earth magnetic field. Having ascertained the technical possibility of such energy-feeding of the pyramid,” Drbal wrote, “I was then able to persuade the examiners.”

Source: Drbal, Karel. “The Struggle for the Pyramid Patent.” Pyramid Power, edited by Max Toth and Greg Nielson. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 135.

sources for ‘Behind the Iron Curtain’

How did the authors make this awesome psychic discovery? In Czechoslovakia, “while visiting some friends, we noticed a small cardboard model of the Great Pyramid sitting on top of a bookcase.” They asked about it. These unnamed friends (“with big grins”) told them that a pyramid shape “generates energy.” The authors wondered if it was all a joke. (So do I.) Joke or not, they explained: “Some years ago a Frenchman, a Monsieur Bovis, had visited the Great Pyramid…”

Source: Ostrander, Sheila, and Lynn Schroeder. Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970). 339-340.

It seems to be the case — and this is a little bit amazing — that every pyramid power book and website got the Bovis story from Drbal, or from Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain (which got the story from Drbal), or from another source that got its information, ultimately, from Drbal!

Source: If you have any information indicating that this story predates Drbal or originates from any other source, please contact Daniel Loxton at juniorskeptic@skeptic.com.

sources for ‘On the Trail of Bovis’

Pyramid author Pat Flanagan told me that he read Bovis’ work in French. Unfortunately, “It was over 30 years ago and I cannot give you the title.” (His book doesn’t cite Bovis; instead, the Bovis story is attributed to Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain.)

Source: Flanagan, Patrick. “RE: A Query from Skeptic Magazine.” Email to Daniel Loxton. 28 Nov. 2005.

Bovis also turned up in an obscure 1950 pamphlet. Occult guru Oscar Brunler promoted the standard humdrum New Age “all-pervading ocean of energy which we call Ether, Divine Essence, or Bio-Cosmic Energy,” which can heal, extend life, and give us psychic powers. Naturally, it’s measurable by divining rod or pendulum, as Brunler learned in France — from a fellow named Bovis.

Source: Brunler, Oscar. Rays and Radiation Phenomena. (California: De Vorss, 1950). 32. [This odd little booklet is available in an inexpensive reprint from Health Research Books — Loxton]

And then there was Drbal, who said, “The indirect initiator of my experiments with the cardboard pyramid models was Mr. Antoine Bovis, a Frenchman for whom intuition, rather than scientific evidence, was fully sufficient: he experimented with both the divining rod and the pendulum and, probably through the use of the pendulum, found the possibility of mummification in small Cheops models.”

Source: Drbal, Karel. “The Struggle for the Pyramid Patent.” Pyramid Power, edited by Max Toth and Greg Nielson. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 141.

sources for ‘Bovis Revealed’

I learned that Drbal “exchanged some agreeable correspondence” with Bovis (but considered him “a little ‘too magic’ for me,” calling Bovis a “white magician” and “anything but a physicist.”)

Source: Drbal, Karel. “The Struggle for the Pyramid Patent.” Pyramid Power, edited by Max Toth and Greg Nielson. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 143.

Source: Ebon, Martin. “It All Began on the French Riveria.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 12.

When Bovis’s story was translated I got a surprise — the founding story of pyramid power wasn’t even vaguely true.

Source: Bovis, Antoine. Exposé de M. A. Bovis au Congrès International de Radiotellerie à Nice (Nice: Bovis, c. 1935). Excerpt, trans. Jean-Paul Buquet. Skeptic.com. READ the English translation at Skeptic.com >

Bovis already thought he could mummify stuff using his arcane arsenal of pendulums and mystical energies. He barely mentioned pyramids. Only later, as an afterthought, did he offer a “new supposition: since with the help of our positive [charged with “Biometric” energy] magnetic plates we can mummify small animals, could the pyramid have the same property? I tried, and as you can observe with the small fish and the little piece of meat still hanging, I succeeded totally.”

Source: Bovis, Antoine. Exposé de M. A. Bovis au Congrès International de Radiotellerie à Nice (Nice: Bovis, c. 1935). Excerpt, trans. Jean-Paul Buquet. Skeptic.com. READ the English translation at Skeptic.com >

When he built his pyramid models he wasn’t even thinking about preservation. Instead, reading that the Great Pyramid was “precisely aligned” with true North, Bovis built models to test his speculation that the “Egyptians were already very good dowsers and had oriented their pyramid by means of rod and pendulum.”

Source: Bovis, Antoine. Exposé de M. A. Bovis au Congrès International de Radiotellerie à Nice (Nice: Bovis, c. 1935). Excerpt, trans. Jean-Paul Buquet. Skeptic.com. READ the English translation at Skeptic.com >

What about his trip to Egypt and the mummified cats? Pyramid authors may be in for a shock. Bovis said, “Being unable to go there to experiment and verify the radiations of the Cheops Pyramid, I have built with cardboard some pyramids…”

Source: Bovis, Antoine. Exposé de M. A. Bovis au Congrès International de Radiotellerie à Nice (Nice: Bovis, c. 1935). Excerpt, trans. Jean-Paul Buquet. Skeptic.com. READ the English translation at Skeptic.com >

sources for ‘The Money Factor’

Max Toth told me he made only a few thousand dollars. “My intention was never to make any money,” Toth said. “All the money I made on the pyramid sales I put back into the business.” The company folded for personal reasons, just as business was picking up. Perhaps others did better? Likewise, pyramid author Pat Flanagan sold pyramids, but Toth believes Flanagan’s profits were also fairly modest.

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Max Toth.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

Yet, the New York Times reported that at least one pyramid manufacturer did rake in a fortune. “By Dec. 31, 1975, Pyramid Products had sold 238,000 Cheops Pyramid Tents, with the standard model going for $29.95 and the deluxe tent … priced at $37.50.”

Source: Norman, Edwin. “O great Cheops, what hath thy offspring wrought?” New York Times. August 29, 1976.

sources for ‘Magic Hockey!’

In 1976, pyramid power faced its toughest challenge: the Stanley Cup! The New York Times reported, “Claims of pyramid power penetrated professional ice hockey last April during the Stanley Cup playoffs, when the Toronto Maple Leafs suddenly improved their game. Coach Red Kelly placed pyramids under the Maple Leafs’ bench and his team forthwith won three games.” Team captain (and Hall of Famer) Darryl Sittler “stood with his hockey stick under the pyramid for 10 minutes and then went out and scored five goals in one game, tying a league record.”

Source: Norman, Edwin. “O great Cheops, what hath thy offspring wrought?” New York Times. August 29, 1976.

One hockey mother recalled, “Red Kelly … used pyramid power for good luck. Well, the boys had pyramids hanging all over our television set for good luck.”

Source: Zeisberger, Mike. “Captain Crunch” Edmonton Sun. DATE X. [I copied quotes from this story and bookmarked the link, but the link is no longer current. Because this is common, I typically also archive the web pages themselves. I unfortunately seem not to have done so in this instance — Loxton]

Darryl Sittler pointed out, “I have a tie I wear when it’s a crucial game … I felt this game was so crucial, I went to the cleaners to pick up the tie specially.”

Source: Shea, Kevin. “One on One with Daryl Sittler.” Legends of Hockey. 4 Nov. 2003. <www.legendsofhockey.net/html/spot_oneononep198902.htm >

sources for ‘Put to the test!’

Pyramid power was put to the test almost as soon as it appeared in North America. It was also immediately busted. As a scientific issue, the question was definitively settled way back in 1972…

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 110 - 117.

“When we began research into ‘pyramid power,’” Owen noted, “only two major claims were made by its proponents”: that pyramids preserve organic material, and “that razor blades placed inside the pyramid would re-sharpen themselves and last indefinitely.”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 111.

“We could find no accounts of scientific experiments that proved these claims,” wrote Mrs. Owen. “As there seemed no scientific reason why a pyramid shape should have this effect, we decided to investigate this claim ourselves.”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 111.

“In each experiment, a specimen of test material — as similar as possible in composition, dimension, and age to that in the pyramid — was placed in each of various-shaped cardboard containers, of volume equal to the pyramid.” This probably seems like a commonsense precaution to you, but as Iris Owen commented, “This use of control groups seems to have been omitted in testing done by other groups.”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 112.

“In all tests,” Mrs. Owen wrote, “the members of the research team … were quite unable to discover any significant differences between material placed in the pyramid and material placed in the control containers. If anything, we had only re-discovered the ‘Cookie-Jar Principle’; that is, any substance placed in a container that keeps out air currents does not spoil as quickly as it would in the open air.”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 112.

Then the blades were microscopically photographed once more. Again the verdict was clear. “The photographs showed little difference, if any, in the before-and-after states of the blades. Moreover, any such slight changes as were present were mimicked by the control blade … As an overall conclusion one must say that the pyramids did not affect the blades in any physical way.”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 114 - 115.

sources for ‘The Twist’

“Our experiments were carefully done and carefully evaluated,” reflected Owen. “We felt that we had settled the ‘pyramid question,’ certainly to our own satisfaction.”

Case closed, right? I bet you won’t be surprised that it wasn’t that simple: “Our results were published, and some of the responses were quite unexpected. People wrote in to say that they were surprised that we could not ‘make the pyramids work’ — had we discovered where we went wrong in our experiments yet? A schoolteacher friend had similar responses when he had his class do some experiments with pyramids. The reactions of his pupils were not ‘How interesting, we seem to have disproved the theory,’ but ‘What have we done wrong — we can’t make it work.’”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 116.

sources for ‘Like Wrestling Smoke’

“It seems obvious that pyramids do contain some as yet unexplainable powers,” wrote pyramid authors Max Toth and Greg Neilson. “Why then have many researchers, both amateur and professional, gotten negative results from their pyramid experiments?” Their explanation was that “many of these experiments have been conducted haphazardly, with improper materials, without proper controls and under less than optimum conditions.”

Source: Toth, Max, and Greg Nielson. Pyramid Power. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 183.

Mrs. Owen related this example: “One enthusiastic exponent of pyramid power, when asked to explain how he got his results (obviously very much better plants under his wire pyramids than the ones in the open), naively explained, ‘Well, I set a row of seeds, and as the first ones come up, I pop a pyramid over them.’”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 117.

…or that you can “use your own miniature pyramid as a thought-form incubator”? What the heck does that even mean?

Source: Toth, Max, and Greg Nielson. Pyramid Power. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 177.

As one pyramid power book put it, “Virtually every man is an expert on shaving … No scientific equipment is needed for this test. Either the razor is sharp or it’s dull.”

Source: Karell, Bill, and Kathy Goggin. The Guide to Pyramid Energy. (Santa Monica: Pyramid Power – V, Inc, 1975). 17.

“How dull is dull when a person considers a blade too dull to shave with?” asked Iris Owen. “Also, how does one tell whether a blade is really sharper or not after it has been in a pyramid for restoration? Judgment on these points is inevitably highly subjective and liable to manipulation by underlying wishes, desires, and expectations.”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 115.

sources for ‘Other Experiments’

Max Toth’s Pyramid Power cited the “hundreds of undocumented experiments have been performed by laymen which support the sharpening ability of the pyramid.”

Source: Toth, Max, and Greg Nielson. Pyramid Power. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 162.

sources for ‘The MythBusters Experiments’

"It was really, really hard to go in with an open mind, because I instinctively don’t believe these sorts of things. But, my old science teacher said that if I’m going to try to be a good scientist I have to walk in without prejudgments and just let the results do the speaking for me!"

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

“We did a lot of internet research, we read a lot of books, and we took the designs that were most commonly believed to be something that worked,” Kari told me. “We did everything to the letter” in constructing test pyramids. “And then, in the back of a lot of magazines, you can actually order little pyramid kits. So we ordered a kit, because they claimed that it could keep your razor sharp forever… And it was just a bunch of copper tubing and some little corners, like a Tinker Toy set. The ones which probably had five dollars of copper tubing — somewhere between $38 and $50, I believe, is what we spent on them.”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

“We picked milk, we picked an apple, we picked a flower,” Kari said, “Because we didn’t want to use raw meat. A lot of people use raw meat. We work in the shop every day! We didn’t want to smell raw meat!”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

(Kari confessed, “That was just disgusting. That just gave me the creepy crawlies for the longest time. I was so glad when it was over!”)

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

This one is definitely rotting at a slower rate than this one!”

Source: “Jet Pack”. MythBusters. Discovery Channel. 9 June, 2005.

sources for ‘Captain! We Have an Anomaly’

As Kari explained, MythBusters experiments are “super limited on time and our sample size.”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

The show’s creator told me the same thing: “The television timeframe just doesn’t allow us to go in there and get 50 replications of an individual test. So we have to base our conclusions on … whatever we can get done.”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “MythBusters Exposed!” Skeptic 12.1 (2005): 34–42.

When dealing with a strange finding, Kari cautioned, “Don’t settle for the obvious… You need to check your controls, you need to check the environment … what makes the placement of this apple different from another apple? Is this one getting more sunlight? Is this one near something that makes it more likely that bacteria will attack it?”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

For anyone trying this experiment, Kari had the following advice: “You’re going to have to try more than one apple!” How many more? According to Kari, the right sample size is “as big as you can possibly fit in your space!”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

sources for ‘Experiment Two’

Both sides quickly became uncomfortably (and indistinguishably) dull. As Kari told me, “They tore his face to pieces! They were obviously not staying sharp.”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

After 16 days as a human guinea pig, Tory was even more … well, blunt: "This sucks! This thing is not sharp at all… This part of the myth is totally busted!"

Source: “Jet Pack”. MythBusters. Discovery Channel. 9 June, 2005.

sources for ‘Kari’s Conclusions’

I asked Kari for her bottom line assessment of pyramid power after the MythBusters experiments. “If you’re asking me personally,” she said, “I believe pyramid power is bogus. I don’t think it’s true whatsoever.”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

She told me, “I’ve had a chance to even be inside those pyramids, I’ve walked through them. I didn’t feel any immense power. I walked out the same girl I walked in.”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

sources for ‘MythBusters Criticism’

MythBusters experiments always spark lively critical debate, and the pyramid power experiments were no exception. Many posters pointed out what Kari and the team already knew (that they needed much, much larger sample sizes, that they needed to test many similar objects many times). Others noted that the experiments needed tighter controls. But many critics said the MythBusters failed to follow the “rules” of pyramid power.

Source: <http://community.discovery.com/groupee/forums>

sources for ‘Multiplying Claims’

Paranormal researcher Iris Owen (whose Toronto group debunked pyramid power way back in 1972) noted “the degree to which claims for ‘pyramid power’ multiply and are exaggerated as they pass from country to country, and with the passage of time.”

Source: Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Mysterious Pyramid Power, edited by Martin Ebon. (New York: Signet, 1976). 110.

I asked author Max Toth if people ever got carried away with their claims about pyramids? “Oh, yeah!” he laughed (forthrightly offering a silly example from his own book.)

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Max Toth.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

Kari Byron explained, “If you don’t want to get criticized, you need to go and look for the details and try to follow them to the letter.” But, she added, “there are so many different ideas and designs on what the proper way is to do this… People who really believe in it are going to find something wrong with what you do no matter what.”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

Referring to a debate about whether the MythBusters should have tested pyramids made with solid sides (like Drbal’s original) rather than the (equally popular) framework-style pyramids, one poster to the MythBusters forum summed it up perfectly: “No matter how one does the experiment, some joker can come along and say, ‘It’s supposed to be solid sides,’ or ‘It’s NOT supposed to be solid sides,’ or ‘It’s supposed to point to true North’ or ‘It’s supposed to point to magnetic North,’ or ‘You didn’t jump up and down and spin around three times when you put the apple under the pyramid.’”

Source: “hitandmyth.” Online Posting. 7 Oct. 2005. Discovery Channel Forums. <http: /community.discovery.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/9401967776/m/6491974808/p/2> [broken link]

sources for ‘Hedging Their Bets’

Drbal’s patent recommends a specific shape, but he later wrote, “However, the invention is not limited to this specific form, since I have found, through an extremely large number of different experiences, that other pyramidal shapes (types) are also able to affect the razor-blade edge in the same manner.”

Source: Drbal, Karel. “The Struggle for the Pyramid Patent.” Pyramid Power, edited by Max Toth and Greg Nielson. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976). 135.

…according to the patent: “Only the pyramid shape has been used for this invention, but this invention is not limited to this shape, as it can cover other geometric shapes.”

Source: Drbal, Karel. Patenti Spis c. 91304. Prague, 1959. [I referred to versions posted in English and original Czech at www.amasci.com. These are still available as of October 31, 2008 — Loxton]

He borrowed the idea, but covered his bases: “Although it is not absolutely necessary, it is recommended that the blade be placed … with its … longitudinal axis oriented in North-South direction.”

Source: Drbal, Karel. Patenti Spis c. 91304. Prague, 1959. [I referred to versions posted in English and original Czech at www.amasci.com. These are still available as of October 31, 2008 — Loxton]

Drbal was clear as mud: while magnetic alignment “improves the performance of the device, it is not however essential for the application of the principle of this invention.”

Drbal’s patent also waffled on the materials from which pyramids should be made: “hard paper, paraffin paper, hard cardboard, or some plastic.” Likewise, the pyramid should have a hole in its base that is precisely “square, circular, or oval … or rectangular.”

Source: Drbal, Karel. Patenti Spis c. 91304. Prague, 1959. [I referred to versions posted in English and original Czech at www.amasci.com. These are still available as of October 31, 2008 — Loxton]

sources for ‘Why Would People Believe Such a Weird Thing?’

I asked the MythBusters’ Kari Byron why people believe such weird stuff. She said, “Well, the world is a really hard place to explain, and there are so many things that we can’t explain just yet. I think it’s easier to have faith or put the idea of magic on something because you don’t have to prove it if it’s magic. I think it’s just a lot easier on the noggin to assume rather than to come up with some empirical evidence.”

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

One pro-paranormal pyramid power book complained about “pyramid buffs who can’t seem to help making exaggerated claims or … taking unethical shortcuts in their research. Our biggest pet peeve is those who make exaggerated claims for no other purpose than to peddle pyramid products.” The authors protest, “Altogether too many claims are being made for alleged pyramid powers that rest on nothing more than speculation. Yet, by being repeated endlessly, these groundless claims have achieved the stature of ‘fact’ among pyramid novices.”

Source: Karell, Bill, and Kathy Goggin. The Guide to Pyramid Energy. (Santa Monica: Pyramid Power – V, Inc, 1975). 7.

sources for ‘So, What’s the Bottom Line on Pyramid Power?’

…pyramid author Max Toth believes that Drbal “definitely was on the level”…

Source: Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Max Toth.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >

The razor-blade sharpening pyramid patented by Karel Drbal was totally unoriginal: he just combined Bovis’ model pyramids with an already old urban legend that aligning a razor to magnetic north would keep it sharp. We know from the London Times that people were making these razor-sharpening claims at least 16 years before Drbal’s patent.

Source: Coleridge, Gilbert. Letter. London Times. 7 Oct. 1933.

And, as the New York Times reported, some pyramid-makers did make fabulous fortunes.

Source: Norman, Edwin. “O great Cheops, what hath thy offspring wrought?” New York Times. August 29, 1976.

A poster to the MythBusters forum put their finger right on it: “the goodness of fruit has nothing to do with the goodness of blades.”

Source: “stephanp.” Online Posting. 23 Sept. 2005. Discovery Channel Forums. <http: /community.discovery.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/9401967776/m/6491974808/p/1> [broken link]

Besides, as that same poster asked, “How does a pyramid know that fruit is a good thing to preserve and bacteria and mold are bad things to preserve? How does a pyramid know what molecules of the metal blade are supposed to be moved /removed /added to make the blade sharp?”

Source: “stephanp.” Online Posting. 23 Sept. 2005. Discovery Channel Forums. <http: /community.discovery.com/groupee/forums/a/tpc/f/9401967776/m/6491974808/p/1> [broken link]

sources for ‘P.S. What About Bovis’s Cats?’

(Bovis himself only specified mummifying “small fish.”)

Source: Bovis, Antoine. Exposé de M. A. Bovis au Congrès International de Radiotellerie à Nice (Nice: Bovis, c. 1935). Excerpt, trans. Jean-Paul Buquet. Skeptic.com. READ the English translation at Skeptic.com >


selected bibliography for Junior Skeptic #23
  • Bovis, Antoine. Exposé de M. A. Bovis au Congrès International de Radiotellerie à Nice (Nice: Bovis, c. 1935). Excerpt, trans. Jean-Paul Buquet. Skeptic.com. READ the English translation at Skeptic.com >
  • Brunler, Oscar. Rays and Radiation Phenomena. (California: De Vorss, 1950).
  • Coleridge, Gilbert. Letter. London Times. 7 Oct. 1933.
  • Drbal, Karel. Patenti Spis c. 91304. Prague, 1959.
  • Ebon, Martin, ed. Mysterious Pyramid Power. (New York: Signet, 1976).
    • Brier, Bob. “Twentieth-Century Pilgrimage.” Ebon 16–35.
    • Ebon, Martin. “It All Began on the French Riveria.” Ebon 1–15.
    • Owen, Iris. “The Toronto Laboratory Tests.” Ebon 110–117.
    • Toth, Max. “My Research Odyssey.” Ebon 92–93.
  • Flanagan, Patrick. “RE: A Query from Skeptic Magazine.” Email to Daniel Loxton. 28 Nov. 2005.
  • Flanagan, Patrick. Pyramid Power. (Santa Monica: Pyramid Power – V, Inc, 1975).
  • Grange, William D’Oyly. Letter. London Times. 19 Oct. 1933.
  • Karell, Bill, and Kathy Goggin. The Guide to Pyramid Energy. (Santa Monica: Pyramid Power – V, Inc, 1975).
  • King, Serge. Pyramid Energy Handbook. (New York: Warner, 1977).
  • Laigaard, Jens. Pyramideenergien – kritisk undersøgelse, translated by Daniel Loxton and Jens Laigaard. Read this source in English at Skeptic.com, or in Danish at the website of the Danish skeptics.
  • Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Kari Byron.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >
  • Loxton, Daniel. “A Conversation with Max Toth.” Skeptic.com. READ the interview at Skeptic.com >
  • Loxton, Daniel. “MythBusters Exposed!” Skeptic 12.1 (2005): 34–42.
  • “Pilot 2”. MythBusters. Discovery Channel. 23 January, 2003.
  • “Jet Pack”. MythBusters. Discovery Channel. 9 June, 2005.
  • Ostrander, Sheila, and Lynn Schroeder. Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970). 339–340.
  • Norman, Edwin. “O great Cheops, what hath thy offspring wrought?” New York Times. August 29, 1976.
  • Shea, Kevin. “One on One with Daryl Sittler.” Legends of Hockey. 4 Nov. 2003. <www.legendsofhockey.net/html/spot_oneononep198902.htm >
  • Shul, Bill, and Ed Pettit. The Psychic Power of Pyramids. (New York: Fawcett, 1976).
  • Shul, Bill, and Ed Pettit. The Secret Power of Pyramids. (New York: Fawcett, 1975).
  • Toth, Max, and Greg Nielson. Pyramid Power. (New York: Warner Destiny, 1976).
    • Drbal, Karel. “The Struggle for the Pyramid Patent.” Toth and Nielson 133–146.
    • De Mattia, Joan Ann. “Enjoying the Fruits of Pyramid Energy.” Toth and Nielson 193–203.
  • Zeisberger, Mike. “Captain Crunch” Edmonton Sun. DATE X.
cite this web page
Loxton, Daniel. “Sources & Bibliography.” Skeptic.com. https://www.skeptic.com/junior_skeptic/issue23/sources_bibliography/ (accessed October 20, 2017)
Junior Skeptic cover

Junior Skeptic #23
Pyramid Power

Many people believe pyramids can harness strange supernatural energies. Some say pyramids can magically preserve fruit, or even sharpen steel razor blades. Who are the people who make these claims — and why? (Featuring MythBuster Kari Byron.)
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