Best of PubMed: Halloween special #1

Today and tomorrow see three new posts in this series in honor of Halloween. Part 1 deals with scientific research into the festival of Halloween, witches, and haunted houses. Don’t miss the story at the end about whether undertakers have a sense of humor. Check back later for part 2, on the themes of ghosts, vampires, and zombies. Part 3 will cover various other types of monsters.

J Anal Psychol. 1965 Jan;10:97-108.
PMID: 14253376

No bones about it. It’s almost Halloween, a good time to start thinking about your skeleton.
Park A.
Time. 2004 Oct 25;164(17):101.
PMID: 15554548

The case of the slandered Halloween cupcake.
White SR, Dy G, Wilson JM.
Pediatr Emerg Care. 2002 Jun;18(3):185-8.
PMID: 12066005

Halloween hazards: ocular injury from flying eggs.
Fiore PM, Wagner RS.
N Engl J Med. 1988 Oct 27;319(17):1159.
PMID: 3173453

Size of Halloween witch drawings prior to, on, and after Halloween.
Percept Mot Skills. 1963 Feb;16:235-8.
PMID: 14023602

Head hunting and hair witchcraft.
Kleiss E.
Anat Anz. 1984;156(5):389-401. German.
PMID: 6486467

A visit from the Candy Witch: factors influencing young children’s belief in a novel fantastical being.
Woolley JD, Boerger EA, Markman AB.
Dev Sci. 2004 Sep;7(4):456-68.
PMID: 15484594

Witch nose: an embarassing metaphor for nasal tip dermoid cysts.
Tatlidede S, Egemen O, Ozkaya O, Erol O.
J Craniofac Surg. 2011 Sep;22(5):1948-51. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0b013e31822ea787.
PMID: 21959478

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
Papa A.
J Emerg Nurs. 2011 May;37(3):215-6.
PMID: 21550449

Witches saints and other diseases.
Rimar Y, Rimar D.
Harefuah. 2003 May;142(5):383-6, 396. Hebrew.
PMID: 12803065

Burn the witch.
Ainsworth S.
Pract Midwife. 2005 Sep;8(8):46.
PMID: 16163967

How to become a witch.
Thomas LA.
Nurs Outlook. 1974 Jan;22(1):40-2.
PMID: 4491916

Health, hygiene and haunted houses.
[No authors listed]
JAMA. 2013 Jun 12;309(22):2308.
PMID: 23757060

Spook house sporotrichosis. A point-source outbreak of sporotrichosis associated with hay bale props in a Halloween haunted-house.
Dooley DP, Bostic PS, Beckius ML.
Arch Intern Med. 1997 Sep 8;157(16):1885-7. Review.
PMID: 9290549

The case of the haunted scrotum.
Harding JR.
J R Soc Med. 1996 Oct;89(10):600.
PMID: 8976909

Patient-centered dental care in a haunted house?
Jayson CJ.
Northwest Dent. 1992 Mar-Apr;71(2):33-4.
PMID: 1528726

Diary of events in a thoroughly unhaunted house.
Houran J, Lange R.
Percept Mot Skills. 1996 Oct;83(2):499-502.
PMID: 8902024

Chief complaint: haunted house.
Gilson NR.
Med Econ. 2001 Oct 22;78(20):45-6.
PMID: 11715371

Haunted papers.
Lagnado M.
Lancet. 2002 Mar 9;359(9309):902.
PMID: 11897334

The “Haunt” project: an attempt to build a “haunted” room by manipulating complex electromagnetic fields and infrasound.
French CC, Haque U, Bunton-Stasyshyn R, Davis R.
Cortex. 2009 May;45(5):619-29.
PMID: 18635163

Recent research has suggested that a number of environmental factors may be associated with a tendency for susceptible individuals to report mildly anomalous sensations typically associated with “haunted” locations, including a sense of presence, feeling dizzy, inexplicable smells, and so on. Factors that may be associated with such sensations include fluctuations in the electromagnetic field (EMF) and the presence of infrasound. A review of such work is presented, followed by the results of the “Haunt” project in which an attempt was made to construct an artificial “haunted” room by systematically varying such environmental factors. Participants (N=79) were required to spend 50 min in a specially constructed chamber, within which they were exposed to infrasound, complex EMFs, both or neither. They were informed in advance that during this period they might experience anomalous sensations and asked to record on a floor plan their location at the time of occurrence of any such sensations, along with a note of the time of occurrence and a brief description of the sensation. Upon completing the session in the experimental chamber, they were asked to complete three questionnaires. The first was an EXIT scale asking respondents to indicate whether or not they had experienced particular anomalous sensations. The second was the Australian Sheep-Goat Scale, a widely used measure of belief in and experience of the paranormal. The third was Persinger’s Personal Philosophy Inventory, although only the items that constitute the Temporal Lobe Signs (TLS) Inventory sub-scale were scored. These items deal with psychological experiences typically associated with temporal lobe epilepsy but normally distributed throughout the general population. Although many participants reported anomalous sensations of various kinds, the number reported was unrelated to experimental condition but was related to TLS scores. The most parsimonious explanation for our findings is in terms of suggestibility.

Undertakers’ sense of humor.
Thorson JA, Powell FC.a
Psychol Rep. 2001 Aug;89(1):175-6.
PMID: 11729539

A group of 60 middle-aged morticians at a professional seminar in the midwestern USA who completed a multidimensional sense of humor scale scored significantly lower than another group of 136 men from other occupations. The difference between the two groups appeared almost entirely on scale items having to do with humor generation or creativity.

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I am a science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, author of fiction and popular science books, an artist, and a professional musician who performs on the viola da gamba and Medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments. I edit manuscripts of all types and teach the full range of scientific communication skills. I am doing theoretical work in this subject - see for example

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