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Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures Paperback – February 1, 1999


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Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures + The Science of Miracles: Investigating the Incredible + The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 253 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573926809
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573926805
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,495,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nickell, a thoroughgoing skeptic, debunks Christian and non-Christian miracles alike, as well as alleged paranormal phenomena in this colorful probe. He attributes reports of weeping icons, bleeding effigies and the image of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin to faulty perception or recall, bias, hoaxing and the will to believe. He explains stigmata (the spontaneous duplication of Christ's crucifixion wounds upon the body of a Christian) as due to hoaxes, self-punishment or self-inflicted wounds. Nickell ( Mysterious Realms ) finds no compelling evidence for alleged cures at the French shrine of Lourdes, or for saintly halos, human auras, self-levitation or Pentecostal powers like speaking in tongues and faith healing. He gives flunking grades to Nostradamus, Jeane Dixon and Elizabeth Clare Prophet for their presumed clairvoyant abilities. A useful if one-sided cautionary survey. Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Nickell's career investigating paranormal phenomena produced the earlier Inquest into the Shroud of Turin ( LJ 3/1/83) and Mysterious Realms ( LJ 12/92). His efforts include creating a process that he claims replicates the image on the shroud. His broad search, emphasizing fraud and unreasonable credulity, uncovers no credible miracles. He documents his sources extensively, though he mistakenly calls the Anglican writer C.S. Lewis a Roman Catholic and equates the Trinitarian Holy Spirit with paranormal spirits. His arguments, although not attacking the core tenets of the Christian faith, virtually bludgeon the beliefs of those not sharing his skepticism. For general readers.
- Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Joe Nickell has been called "the modern Sherlock Holmes." Since 1995 he has been the world's only full-time, professional, science-based paranormal investigator. His careful, often innovative investigations have won him international respect in a field charged with controversy.

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Depending on what side of the religious fence you're on, you can find this book to be either annoying and even offensive, or a great reference book about gullibility, to teach us how to think better. I have to confess I'm in the latter category.
What's often befuddles many devout believers is why someone would even analyze miracles in the first place. After all, life without belief in miracles seems to be empty. What Nickell points out, simply, is that before we jump to conclusions, and impulsively accept a supernatural "explanation" for such phenomena, we should at least take a look at NATURAL reasons why they occur -- or look like they occur. He provides one or more natural, logical reason(s) for every "supernatural wonder" he describes. What he's telling the reader is "Examine and test extraordinary claims". Even religious ones, taught to us by people we admmire. If we don't do that, then we're liable to be suckered into swallowing whole any belief system. And in doing so, we can lose touch with reality.
I don't get the sense that the author is singling out the Catholic Church as an evil entity, or that he's coming down hard, personally, on individuals in that organization. However, he uses Catholic claims of miracles as an illustration of the way in which beliefs, once they're given official sanction by authorities, are easily accepted. He might have used Hinduism, Christian Science, or UFO-ology, for that matter, to serve his same purpose. But traditional Catholicism is familiar to many Americans. For that reader, Nickell gives a different slant on a lot of beliefs they would be already acquainted with. He also aids the non-Catholic believers, and the non-religious, to understand Catholic (and some Pentecostal) miracle claims, in scientific terms.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Joe Nickell doesn't question anyone's right to believe what they want, he simply questions those who would manipulate the faithful with false religious tangibility. Religion is not tangible, it is based on faith, and those who would use that faith for their own ends need to be exposed. A previous reviewer asked what could possibly be gained by 6,000 years of religious fakery? The naivete of that question shows that it is obviously being asked by someone too fearful to question the validity of their own faith. Control, power, fortune...aren't those the things we fight for even today? why is the Catholic church so rich? Is it because they don't want to be? That they are indifferent to the wealth gleaned from their faithful? Joe Nickell is among the astute observers of human behavior who simply wants to point out that devout religious faith, to the individual, is a choice for them to make, but devout religious faith manipulation and chicanery are much more common and need to be exposed for what they are, methods of controlling those who would not otherwise ask if the emperor, pope, minister, or faith-healer has any clothes.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jean E. Pouliot on September 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
The good news about the book is that it assembles a wealth on information about the unseen side of what many call miracles -- incorruptible bodies, miraculous apparitions, and medically-inexplicable cures, and so on. He is very clear and convincing that much (if not all) of this material is either phony, or is a misinterpretation by credulous people hungry to get close to the divine. Incorruptibles -- saints who bodies do not decay -- are often no such thing. Saints who may have seemed to defy decay for awhile are no sheathed in obscuring robes and have had their skeletized features replaced with wax masks. Apparitions (the Marian apparition at Garabandal is a notorious example) feature sleight of hand tricks to fool believers -- a girl runs out of a meeting and lo! a communion wafer is found on her tongue! People "cured" of a disease are trumpeted as proof of the divine touch, only to ie of the very same disease months later.

There are times when Joe takes his arguments too far. He does not find fakery on the part of the recipient of the apparition of La Sallette, but is upset that other pious layfolk use the occasion for making a buck or to persecute doubters. While Joe has found a way to duplicate many of the features of the Shroud of Turin, he stretches credulity himself by claiming that it shares features with similar images. Part of the problem is that he offers so few pictures in the book. We are asked to believe Joe as he tells us not to believe the miracle peddlers.

The pious (especially Catholics) come in for plenty of critics. Of course, we are heir to many pious if not outright superstitious traditions from the pre-modern period.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Nightreader on May 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you like the "they done it with mirrors" literature, this is good reading, although author Joe Nickell deliberately picks the silliest "miracles" and debunks them, thus showing how stupid belief in the miraculous is. And while he sniffs at the faulty recherches of the "miraculists", he himself cites an example of an old "folk tale": "For example, there is the story of castle Lockenhaus in Austria, whose sixtenth-century-owner, a countess Bathory, was rumored to have murdered young girls and drunk there blood." Quite right! Only it wasn't Castle Lockenhaus, but Castle Tzetsche, which isn't in Austria, but in Hungary, Countess Erszebeth Bathory was not "rumored" to have killed young girls, but was convicted in public trial before the Hungarian King Matthias (the case of the Blood Countess is famous in Austria and Hungary and much written about by scholars) and she did not drink the blood of sixhundred servant maids, but, being a sexual sadist and a lesbian, tortured them to death. So much for thorough investigation, Mr. Nickell! Still, the book makes interesting reading, especially for a Protestant like me who has always looked askance at weeping icons und "holy" relics, and the scientific explanations of how some miracles are done are most interesting. And, I must admit, Mr. Nickell is fair in so far as he notes that the Catholic Church is not always happy with such miracles. Still, I feel this is the counterpart to the miraculist who will believe anything, proven or not. Joe Nickell disbelieves in anything, proven or not.
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