Monday, February 20, 2017

Shadow of a Doubt - February 2017

 The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics
  • February 11 - The original sleep paralysis and the paranormal - Brian Sharpless
  • February 15 - A rational approach to oral history and Stonehenge - Lynne Kelly
  • March 11 Lecture
  • Coming soon - A brief survey
  • Torn from today's headlines
  • AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
  • Shadow Light
  • Drinking Skeptically on hiatus
  • Member renewals
NCAS Public Lecture Series


The Original Nightmare Sleep Paralysis and the Paranormal

Brian A. Sharpless, PhD
Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology
American School of Professional Psychology
Argosy University - Northern Virginia

Saturday, February 11, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA [map] [directions]
(Ballston-Marymount University Metro stop)
Enter NSF from the corner of 9th N & N Stuart Streets.
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

Humans throughout history have described a peculiar state between sleep and wakefulness characterized by paralysis, conscious awareness of one’s surroundings, and terrifying hallucinations. We currently term this phenomenon "sleep paralysis," but it has gone by many other names depending upon time, place, and culture (e.g., kanashibari, the "old hag", nocturnal alien abductions, the Mara).  Although it is a very scary experience not well-known to the lay public, it is actually a fairly well-understood sleep disorder.  After first discussing the history of sleep paralysis in myth/folklore and its many connections to paranormal beliefs, the current medical and psychological literatures will be summarized. Finally, the many interesting attempts to "treat" these episodes across the ages will be described.

Brian A. Sharpless, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the American School of Professional Psychology (ASPP) at Argosy University - Northern Virginia. After completing his graduate work at Pennsylvania State University, he completed his post-doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Sharpless has broad research interests in psychopathology, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and the history/philosophy of clinical psychology. He (along with Karl Doghrmaji, MD) is author of Sleep Paralysis: Historical, Psychological, and Medical Perspectives and editor of Unusual and Rare Psychological Disorders: A Handbook for Clinical Practice and Research.  Both volumes are currently available through Oxford University Press.

Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

A Rational Approach to Oral Tradition and Stonehenge

Lynne Kelly, PhD
Writer, researcher, science educator and
Foundation member of the Australian Skeptics

Wednesday, February 15, 7:30pm - 9:00pm
2nd Floor Meeting Room
Rockville Memorial Library
21 Maryland Avenue
Rockville, MD [map]
(Rockville Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

Indigenous cultures are usually represented as living in a fog of superstition. A rational glimpse says that they simply wouldn’t have survived if that were the case. We need to be skeptical of simplistic explanations of indigenous cultures that talk only about child-like stories and exotic religious rituals. They needed field guides to all the plants, all the animals, geology and astronomy. They needed navigational charts to travel great distances for trade, and genealogies to ensure they didn’t interbreed. They needed a legal system and ethical rules … but they had no writing. How did they memorize so much stuff?

This talk will explain the tricks of their memory trade and how we can use these methods in contemporary society. Mobile hunter-gatherers, such as Australian Indigenous cultures, embedded a highly pragmatic knowledge system in the landscape. What happens in the transition to farming? That question explains the detailed archaeological record of a vast range of prehistoric monuments including Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines and the statues of Easter Island.

Dr. Lynne Kelly is an Australian writer, researcher and science educator, as well as being a foundation member of the Australian Skeptics. Her academic work focuses on the way indigenous cultures memorize vast amounts of rational information through the mnemonic devices used by ancient and modern oral cultures from around the world. In applying that research to archaeology, she has proposed a new theory for the purpose of Stonehenge and ancient monuments the world over.  Her new book, The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments (Pegasus Books, 2017), has already gone into reprint in Australia.

About Rockville Memorial Library Parking:
Library customers can get 2 hours of free parking when they park in one of the Rockville Town Square garages, which are clearly labeled Garage A (letter A in green - accessible from Maryland Avenue entrance near Beall Avenue and from Hungerford Drive), Garage B (letter B in blue - accessible from the driveway between Gold's Gym and American Tap Room), and Garage C.

Please note that there are two garages accessible from the driveway between Gold's Gym and American Tap Room.  The first garage to the left after driving between the buildings does not have validated parking.  Please continue past the first parking entrance on the left and down the hill under the blue sign that says Garage B to access the garage for which parking can be validated.

To validate your parking when visiting the Rockville Memorial Library building, use the machine to the left as you enter the first floor internal doors of the Library. The validation machine is next to the Internet Sign In Station.

The first two hours with validated parking are free.  Thereafter, the rates are:
2-3 Hours: $2
3-6 Hours $3

March NCAS Lecture
Astrobiologist David Grinspoon will discuss his new book, Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet's Future (Grand Central Publishing, 2016).  Saturday, March 11 at 1:30 PM at National Science Foundation.

Coming Soon: A Brief Survey
The National Science Foundation will be moving its headquarters from Arlington to Alexandria sometime later this year.  The availability of meeting space for NCAS use at the new NSF site isn't known yet.  In the meantime, we're looking for another meeting site in Northern Virginia.  We'll be surveying our members and guests by email to see if choosing a new venue that may not be easily accessible by Metro or other public transportation would pose a hardship.  Your response to this brief (two-question) survey will be greatly appreciated!

Torn From Today's Headlines
By Scott Snell
Nothing torn this month.  But check out Sharon Hill's skeptically-themed news site, Doubtful News (, as well as the blog ( for her book reviews and other writings.

AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the third quarter of 2016 came to $10.94, meaning that over $2000 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's more than enough to cover a half hour of a Montgomery County library lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

For more information:

Shadow Light
Some members and contacts of NCAS receive a postal notification of this and every new monthly Shadow of a Doubt.  The Shadow Light postcard announces the monthly lecture and highlights of the electronic Shadow of a Doubt, which is available online at  NCAS thereby reduces Shadow production and postage costs.  To further reduce costs, members and contacts can opt out of postal notification altogether, while continuing to receive Shadow of a Doubt via e-mail.  To opt out, send us an e-mail at

Drinking Skeptically

NCAS Drinking Skeptically is on indefinite hiatus at our Maryland and Virginia locations.

Time to Renew?
Be sure to check your renewal date above your postal address on the Shadow Light postcard. Send any queries to  Use the online membership form to renew.