Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gnome-man's land

Yesterday, I thought we had reached some pinnacle of cryptozoological silliness with "Batsquatch," the denizen of the forested Pacific Northwest that looks like you put a chihuahua's head on Arnold Schwarzenegger's body, and added humongous bat wings.

But no.  Today we do even better, with a report from north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, of a man who saw...

... a gnome.

Yes, a gnome, complete with pot belly and little conical cap.  And no, he says, it was not a garden statue.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

Over at the site EarthFiles, we hear the account of one Keith Sniadach, who owns a cabin in western Pennsylvania.  He set up a game camera, but instead of the usual deer and raccoons, he captured something different -- a moving figure with a "pink, pig-like face, bulbous black eyes, and a coned head (that) seems to be a hat with a white ball on top."  The figure also has "skinny legs" and "seems to be wearing leather."

You'll have to go over to the link provided to read Sniadach's entire account and to see the photographs, because the EarthFiles site has a big warning at the bottom that everything on their site is copyright-protected, and I'd rather avoid legal entanglements.  But when I read this story, three things jumped out at me:

  1. The camera, which Sniadach pronounces an "awesome camera," gave photographs of this thing that are blurred enough that you can turn them into just about anything you want.
  2. A gnome?  Really?
  3. Sniadach is the author of Relics of God: A Supernatural Guide to Religious Artifacts, Sacred Locations and Holy Souls.
Okay, I know #3 may be a little unfair, but it does occur to me how infrequently gnomes appear to skeptics like myself.  So I thought: all right, Sniadach has his own set of biases, as does Linda Moulton Howe, owner of EarthFiles.  But don't we all?  Couldn't Sniadach still be a reliable witness?

Then I scrolled down on the above Amazon link, to read his reviews, and found the following one-star review:
I reviewed this book before and the Author had posted vitriolic and obnoxious comments regarding my view on his work.  This prompted me to read the book for the second time and my stand on this opus remains the same. 
Relics of God is an attempt to compile objects associated with the superphysical realm and other stories about Christianity...  (Yet) eighty-nine percent of the information were taken from internet sites and the only primary source consulted was the bible.
Which, of course, also doesn't mean that he made up the gnome story, but it does call into question his scientific credibility.  Which is not helped by the fact that in his account, he says that there has also been a lot of Bigfoot activity near his cabin, and he and his father have heard and recorded "Bigfoot screams."

He says he's also really interested in The Winged Humanoid of Butler County.

On the other hand, Howe contacted Daniel Drasin, "professional digital image analyzer," who pronounces that on examining the gnome photographs, he sees "no obvious evidence of Photoshop manipulation."

Not, of course, that that's the only way to create a fake paranormal photograph.  My younger son took the following just a couple of days ago, using his old digital camera:

The ghost in the photograph is me, walking across my rec room.  I guess I'm like those creepy guys in The Sixth Sense who are ghosts and don't know they're dead.

In any case, I'm doubtful about the whole Pennsylvania gnome thing, Sniadach's claims to the contrary notwithstanding.  Being a biologist, no one would be more tickled than me if there was some previously-undocumented species of sentient creature moseying around in the woods of my neighbor state.

But I don't think this is it.  I'm placing the gnome in with Batsquatch, squarely in the "nope" file.


  1. Hmm, if you're a ghost, does that mean you don't have to pay taxes anymore? Good luck explaining that to the IRS.
    This sounds rather close to the Cottingly Fairy photos of a hundred years ago, pictures and all. They may not be photo-shopped or faked, but no one ever seems to think that the *subject* itself isn't fake, that is, a real photo of a fake object.
    FWIW, stories of strange little people are centuries old, as you pointed out, some ideas just don't go away.

  2. I feel like you owe me 5 minutes of my life back because I went to that site (your link didn't work for me, by the way) and spent 2 minutes reading that bullshit and the next 3 minutes with my palm over my face.

    1. Sorry about that. I take full responsibility. And thanks for the note on the link, it's fixed now.

      For what it's worth.

  3. Actually I enjoy such reports, erroneous or not. Even if they aren't true, they remind me the world is still full of mysteries and things to explore.

  4. I use Moultrie game cameras very similar to the one used by Mr. Sniadach. You will note looking at the photos that the little gnome statue is far enough away from the camera to not be immediately obvious that it is one of the common gnome statues. Giving Mr. Sniadach the benefit of the doubt, it would be extremely easy for a prankster to shut the camera off from the side, move the gnome, turn the camera on and trigger a photo, shut it back down, move the statue, ect., while never appearing in the photos.

    All I ever get on my game cameras are squatting deer leaving Ukaka in my beeyard. Unfortunately, this gives me some great ideas for practical jokes to play on the owners of some of the deer feeding stations in my area. Hunting season is coming.