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Squaring the Strange

Squaring the Strange brings evidence-based analysis and commentary to a wide variety of topics, ranging from the paranormal to the political.


Investigating ghosts. Debunking conspiracies. Dodging chupacabras.

If a claim seems strange, Ben and Pascual will try to square it with the facts.


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Dec 29, 2023

For our last episode of the year, after Ben lists his upcoming appearances and a nice book accolade, and after Celestia discusses "Skibidi Toilet Syndrome," we speak with Prof. Libby Tucker about dark play. Existing in the liminal spaces of childhood, forbidden yet alluring, dark play takes many forms. Rituals, tests of bravery or belief, chants and rhymes, breathing control games -- all exist as a means for children to test boundaries and take control of otherwise overwhelming concepts. Mortality is a common theme, as only recently have children come to be relatively shielded from death. It was quite common for Victorian children to see siblings, playmates and others their age succumb to illness or injuries, with bodies kept in the family home for funeral rites. From "Light as a Feather" signifying resurrection to Bloody Mary foreshadowing menstruation, old tales and games have both stayed ever-present and evolved to new online pranks and TikTok challenges. Whether it's divination by means of an origami "cootie-catcher" or a vandalism dare, chances are you, too, have dabbled in dark play.