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facts & arguments

Bats' fear of moonlight

"Moonlight scares bats into hiding in the shadows, new research suggests," says BBC News. "Scientists in Mexico collated studies of bat behaviour from all over the world and analyzed them for evidence of 'lunar phobia' or 'fear of the moon.' The study found that the activity of bats in moonlit habitats decreased on bright nights, compared with bats that live and forage in darker places. This may be explained by a higher risk of predation and lack of feeding opportunities in moonlight, it found."

Extreme haunted houses

"On a recent Friday night in Manhattan, William Friedkin, the director of horror classic The Exorcist, found himself being roughed up with a bag over his head and a serial killer lurking at his side," writes Merissa Marr of The Wall Street Journal. "'I don't recall when I've experienced anything that terrifying,' he says. Friedkin had just entered the chamber of the Angel of Death in a performance of Killers, one of a new breed of haunted house this Halloween that is proving so petrifying that patrons have been known to lose control of their bodily functions midtour. This new generation of extreme entertainment features psychological torture, intense sensory deprivation and hands-on assaults by people playing mass murderers. The houses incorporate Hollywood-grade special effects, some designed by the same crews that build the sets for the biggest-grossing horror movies …"

Haunted-house outlook

"Halloween events can be a lucrative industry," says The (Annapolis, Md.) Capital. "It costs about $300,000 (U.S.) to start a haunted house, and the industry generates as much as $500-million annually. In the 1990s, average ticket prices were $13. But since 2010, prices have gone up to $15-$25. … '(Running a haunted house) isn't for everybody. Somebody who just wants to make money, I definitely don't see the haunted-house business for them,' said Larry Kirchner, editor of, which rates haunted houses. 'For the most part, this is an industry that is getting bigger in popularity. (But) I wouldn't say it's getting bigger from the standpoint there's lots of new attractions opening every year.' "

A ghost-buster reminisces

"Paranormal investigator Joe Nickell has busted a lot of ghostly myths over the past 40 years – but the spookiest part of his job comes when he actually catches a ghost red-handed," writes Alan Boyle for " 'Much of what so-called ghost hunters are detecting is themselves,' Nickell, the author of The Science of Ghosts, told me this [month]. 'If they go through a haunted house and stir up a lot of dust, they shouldn't be surprised if they get a lot of 'orbs' in their photographs.' The orbs are actually out-of-focus reflections from a camera flash, created by dust particles floating in front of the lens. The clumping noises that ghost hunters hear often turn out to be the footsteps of crew members elsewhere in the building … And those weird readings they pick up with thermal imagers? They're typically left behind by the flesh-and-blood visitors."

Uncommon fears

A roundup, from

Optophobia: fear of opening your eyes.

Heliophobia: fear of sunlight.

Deipnophobia: fear of dinner conversations.

Syngenesphobia: fear of relatives.

Ablutophobia: fear of washing and bathing.

Geniophobia: fear of chins. "Further phobias of seemingly innocent body parts include genuphobia (fear of knees), chirophobia (fear of hands) and ishicascadiggaphobia (fear of elbows)."

Chorophobia: fear of dancing.

Thought du jour

"To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe."

Marilyn vos Savant, American author and lecturer (1946- )