Gauquelin’s Mars Effect

For Dutch version click on flag.



Michel Gauquelin (bron:,_Michel )

The Mars Effect kept skeptics quite busy for quite some time. One of the amazing things is how easily all kinds of skeptics were fooled and how quickly they launched themselves into investigations without examining properly the source of this effect. Rereading the original articles doesn’t lessen this feeling of amazement.

I have written several articles about this matter. One appeared in Skeptical Inquirer in 1997 and can be found here, and for two others I now give the references and a link.




  1. Paul Kurtz, Jan Willem Nienhuys, Ranjit Sandu (1997) Is the “Mars Effect” genuine? Journal of Scientific Exploration 11 (1), p, 19-39.
  2. Jan Willem Nienhuys (1997) Ertels “Mars Effekt”: Anatomie einer Pseudowissenschaft. Skeptiker 10 (3), p.92-98. The German version ‘Anatomie’ was a translation of an English text. This English text has been checked in 2017 and some comments are added.

My reason to come back to this in 2017 is a publication of many letters between Martin Gardner and Marcello Truzzi (Dear Martin / Dear Marcello: Gardner and Truzzi on Skepticism). Gardner considered the originator of the Mars Effect, namely the French psychologist Michel Gauquelin, a crank because he was such an ardent believer in his own nonsensical theory. Gardner compared him (on March 8) to the example of a man who believes that the center of the earth is made of jello – an example due to Freud. Gardner wrote (in a PS to his letter of March 5) what it was all about: ‘He presents nothing but one man’s analysis of one’s man [sic] accumulation of French statistics. … Claims of statistical correlations, to support wild theories, are a dime a dozen.’ Gardner thought that the wave of interest in astrology was the reason that Gauquelin’s books sold so well.

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Phyllis Newcombe and Fantasy

foto uit krant
The late Miss Phyllis Newcombe.
Photo: Spaldings, Chelmsford

The sad story of Phyllis Newcombe (22) is quickly told. Her dress caught fire after a dance, probably by a discarded match. More than two weeks later she died after her burns had become septic. This happened in 1938, but starting from 1942 the lurid fantasy of writers has made her death into a paranormal horror story.

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Dubious Resonances

Source: Ellywa on

Ion cyclotron resonance was presented in the early 1980s as the biological mechanism responsible for possible carcinogenic effects of 50 or 60 Hz radiation. Electromagnetic radiation of such a frequency is emitted by high-voltage power lines and by devices that take their energy from the power grid. After many years of research, a consensus developed that there are no health effects associated with doses that are normally encountered in daily life. Meanwhile the alternative medicine industry has for many years been making devices that deliberately produce electromagnetic radiation with frequencies in the vicinity of 50 or 60 Hz. Different scientific misconceptions circulate about how such radiation can lead to great health benefits. Ion cyclotron resonance is one of these theories.

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The clairvoyant dog


A personal reminiscenseHondje

It must have been in 1941 or thereabouts. I was a pupil at the highschool in Veendam, a little provincial town near Groningen in the North of the Netherlands. One of our teachers in mathematics was a compact somewhat sturdy gentleman with an unruly head of hair and a five o’clock shadow, accentuated by his slightly yellowish complexion. At least, that’s how I remember him. But as you can gather, it all happened a long time ago.

This teacher was in the habit of straying from his subject, and to pose riddles or to broach areas of general interest. One of these occasions is indelibly printed on my mind: the case of the clairvoyant dog. What it boiled down to was that during his study at the University of Groningen he owned a little dog. And not one of your run-of-the-mill dogs (if dogs can ever be that). This particular dog felt when his master had almost finished his studies for the day, making it time to be taken for a walk. It was the moment to jump up, run to the door and wag its tail. Something normal dogs do as well, by the way.

This ritual was repeated for several weeks, thus confirming the clairvoyance of the dog: studies practically (but not quite) finished, dog anticipates and stands prepared. Now, you don’t study mathematics without any benefit. It sharpens your critical faculties and teaches you to approach problems in a systematical way. Covert observation of the dog did not enlighten our student. The dear animal just slept until the moment suprème. At long last it dawned upon our student: he was in the habit of lighting a cigarette as a reward for his endeavours. And he kept his cigarettes in a metal cigarette case. And closing the lid of the case . . .
The rest you can guess. (1)

(read on)

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