5X5 Episode 34

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5X5 Episode 34
Woman claims wires grow out of her body
27th August 2008

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5X5 33 5X5 35
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
B: Bob Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
Guests
ML: Mike Lacelle
JC: Jack Chodniki
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Show Notes
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Woman claims wires grow out of her body[edit]

You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide 5x5, five minutes with five skeptics, with Steve, Jay, Rebecca, Bob and Evan.


S: This is the SGU 5x5, sitting in tonight for Jay and Rebecca are Mike Lacelle and Jack Chodniki. Guys, welcome to the SGU.

JC: Thanks, Steve.

ML: Thanks.

S: We are talking tonight about the Indonesian woman who claims that wires—metal wires—are growing out of her body. This has been reported in the Indonesian press and has now, through the magic of the Internet, is making its way around the world and is being reported on many blogs.

JC: It looks pretty gross.

(laughter)

S: It does. Yeah, the picture shows the woman's abdomen. She has about 15 wires, maybe 4-6 inches long, sticking out of her... skin. Pretty much coming straight out; the point at which the wires piece the skin are scabbed over; many of them are red; there is probably a little infected, just from the pictures we're seeing.

E: So you think these wires are actually... penetrating the skin.

S: I Oh yeah, yeah.

E: Not just glued on, or...

S: No.

E: ...stuck to her in some other way.

S: No, I think she stuck them through her skin. So she is presenting this as some kind of a cult magic, or as a medical mystery that these wires are growing by themselves and she can't stop them. The reporting of it is typically credulous, at least what I have seen so far.

B: There is one great quote: "skeptics thought that it must be self-inflicted." You think? "Doctors, however, have other theories but have given up on providing any scientific or medical explanation."

S: Which I don't believe for a moment. I mean, I think a physician seeing this phenomenon would easily make the diagnosis that this is self-inflicted. I mean clearly she is sticking these things through herself. This is not an unknown type of behaviour for certain patients to engage in. She could also be just doing it for the publicity; doing it for the attention, as a way of faking some kind of paranormal or mysterious occurrence. The couple of features that I noticed looking at the picture that make it seem suspicious. The wires in many places are extremely evenly placed out, which I think that someone subconsciously would just do that. They're not—they don't appear to be coming out at random. They're also all coming pretty much straight out of her skin, whereas she's claiming that they're just sort of growing inside and poking out at random. That is not what it looks like; it looks like somebody—if you were trying to place something at random you would subconsciously, evenly space them out, and that is exactly what it looks like.

ML: And they have a picture on-line of the wires after they have been removed, and the ends of the wires that were in her body have very sharp points. So I, you know, makes it easier for her to stick in. Also, they haven't specified any other region of her body, other than her abdomen, where they're grown out from, so it would be interesting to know if—

B: Chest.

ML: Oh, OK. It would be interesting to know if any were coming out of her back, like where she can't reach.

E: Ahh, that's right.

S: Mm-hmm (in agreement)

B: Right. This reminds me... tell me, guys, doesn't this remind you a bit of the recent Bigfoot hubbub? I've got this amazing thing that somebody claims—is an extraordinary claim, and it really wouldn't take much to prove it, but they just don't come through with it, which of course rings all the skeptical bells. Like some of the quotes here from the article says that this thing, this metal going from her body is like a living phenomenon. The wires are able, mobile and can change location at will. OK, great; well, can you film that for us? I mean, looking at these wires move would actually, you know, tamp down a little bit of the skepticism. Also, what about studying the wires? There is no mention of actually telling us what are the wires made of. I mean wouldn't that be kind-of a basic thing? What are these things? And the other thing is they actually show it in X-ray, well, they mention it in X-ray, I didn't see an X-ray, and they claim that these X-rays show the wires growing inside of her.

JC: There is actually a picture of an X-ray. It's showing wires in the stomach, but you can't tell really how deep they are, so they could be right under the skin, or...

S: But it doesn't say anything about anything at all about how they got there.

B: When you see bizarre things inside of a person, since when do you just assume that the body is secreting these things and that they weren't placed there? What kind of media conclusion is that? And also, how about this one: if these things are growing in her body, why not look and see how deep the ones that are protruding from her stomach are? If they are relatively shallow, boy, that really makes me think that they were stuck in there. Now if the wire is about 8 inches inside of her, then, you know, maybe, you'd have to consider the other ideas, but I don't think they would be very deep.

S: One other feature that I wanted to point out was her sister made the comment that she would even try to trim the wires, but then the wires would go inside of her and then pop out, fully formed, somewhere else. So what's happening is she trims the wires, well then she just pulls out the ones that have been trimmed and sticks a long one somewhere else. Everything that happens, happens out of sight; these things—no one is seeing these things actually emerging from her, actually growing. It's just that the next time someone sees her, there is a new wire there, or one that was trimmed is gone.

B: Like the crying Madonnas. The next time you go—

S: Yes

B: —"oh look, she's crying again."

S: Or the stigmata, or any phenomenon like that, that is self-inflicted, it always happens, as Mike says, in a part of the body that is accessible and it always happens out of sight. The actual occurrence is never unfolding before a camera or before witnesses. This is also similar—another case this reminds me of is the crystal tears. This was the girl, Hasnah, who produced tears, crystals out of her eyes, and again, claimed that it was being produced out of her body, but Joe Nickell clearly showed that it was just a common quartz crystal that she was simply placing there, and then placing under her eyelid. Very, very easy to do. And there is also a psychiatric syndrome called psychotic parasitosis which has been given the, I think false, diagnostic name of Morgellons syndrome, where people believe that their body is producing these fibres, that fibres are being produced out of their skin, and what's happening is that they are just scratching their skin under their clothes, and working these fibres into abrasions and cuts that they work into their skin, and then they are later pulling out the fibres that they put there themselves, but they claim that these fibres are being produced out of their body. So that's a related phenomena. Although, I think in the case of Morgellons syndrome, that's a real psychiatric illness, not just attention seeking.

S: SGU 5x5 is a companion podcast to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a weekly science podcast brought to you by the New England Skeptical Society in association with skepchick.org. For more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at www.theskepticsguide.org. Music is provided by Jake Wilson.


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