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Logging In

by Mark Edward, Jul 31 2012

“Easy as Falling Off a Log”

So you thought that petrified tree trunk in your back yard was just in the way of your koi pond huh? Think again. You may be sitting on a goldmine. From the well-respected “BS Historian” comes this gem:

“A ‘magical log’ in Cambodia is receiving up to 2000 visitors a day, each hoping to gain some good fortune. The log was dug out of a pond on a farm in the Pursat province of the country and measures about 13 metres long, Reuters reports. Word of its ‘magic’ has spread across the country, with visitor numbers increasing dramatically each day. Some people rub talcum powder on the log, and try and read lottery numbers in the residue on their hands. Others hope it will bring miracle medical cures.

‘I have pain in my belly, knee joints and all over my body, so I came here to use the holy water and take pieces of wood to put in my drinking water, to treat these kinds of diseases,’ Bou Sang, a resident of nearby Battambang province told Reuters.

Another Battambang province local, Nem Nay, explained to Reuters why he believed the log was magical:

‘What I think is, why does this log not rot, even though it stayed underground for over a hundred years? It is still in such good state, unlike some metals, which would have rusted if it stayed underground for that long. I have never seen such a well-preserved log before, so when I heard the news, a group of villagers and I came to see it straight away’, he said. There have been no reports of any ‘magical’ results.”

QUESTION: How can there be 2000 people with “numbers increasing every day” and yet no reports of ‘magical’ results?

I suspect free beer may be involved. Something must have started this hysteria. Could there be a fixed Lotto number tie-in?

Obviously basic chemistry or physics has been ruled out in deciding what causes wood to rot, so it’s likely there’s a snake oil salesman loitering nearby. As I write this there is no doubt a small hastily built shrine being erected to facilitate twenty four hour access and provide small chips of this log at a modest price as with the fabled pieces of the “True Cross” peddled for centuries in Europe.

Another report says:  “They believe the log has magical powers,” he said, adding that visitors were coming loaded with offerings such as pig heads and boiled whole chickens after some locals who touched the wood won money in the lottery.

While the village chief himself is not convinced of the log’s powers, “We, the authorities, have no right to stop them,” he said.  others drank water from the pond and smeared nearby mud onto their bodies in a bid to cure their ailments.”


Sounds like a wild party to me. Apparently Cambodians will use any excuse to smear mud on themselves and drink pond water. In bad times like these anything will do to give people hope, even a rotting log. Wow. A new low must have been reached in faith based rituals. Does the Guinness Book of World Records know about this?

At least they haven’t started dragging pig heads and boiled whole chickens to Sylvia Browne appearances yet. We can only hope for such a display of devotion here in the states.

BS Historian is one of my fave links:

Thanks BS.

Keep up the Good work.

40 Responses to “Logging In”

  1. bshistorian says:

    Thanks Mark, much appreciated. I think your link went squiffy at the end there –

    Also, Museum of Hoaxes picked this up too; and before I did apparently;

  2. Mike says:

    I don’t think you intended to give us a URL pointing into your email inbox!

  3. MadScientist says:

    “Apparently Cambodians will use any excuse to smear mud on themselves and drink pond water.”

    Hmm … there’s a woowoo research project: Do Cambodians have the Pica gene?

  4. Chris Howard says:

    So poor. If only I were more sociopathic, and possessed wood… wait. That doesn’t sound right? ;-)

  5. LovleAnjel says:

    It’s log, it’s log, it’s better than bad, it’s good!

  6. Chris Howard says:

    “locals who touched the wood won money in the lottery.” Snicker.

  7. Susan Gerbic says:

    “At least they haven’t started dragging pig heads and boiled whole chickens to Sylvia Browne appearances yet. We can only hope for such a display of devotion here in the states.”

    Loved this. We can only hope!

  8. Shopping Mall says:

    Great, I’ve discovered so many great books through you.

  9. Consumer Reports says:

    Love history have wanted to read these.

    • Susan Gerbic says:

      “Great, I’ve discovered so many great books through you”
      “Love history have wanted to read these.”

      I suspect that SkepticBlog has been hit by spammers? Probably at the end of their comment is a link to their website. I get this all the time on my blog.

      • tmac57 says:

        Oh,I was reading those like a Far Side cartoon…I love a good non sequitur.

      • Mark Edward says:

        Me too. I thought, Oh, …well gee thanks. I’m glad you like books and you found some great ones through me. I’ll take all the credit for that!

        Didn’t quite see the history part though…

      • Max says:

        The comments here used to allow an optional website link to go with your name. That’s where spammers typically hide the link to their website to raise its ranking in search engines.

        There was no link this time, but after their first comment is approved, they can post more comments without moderation.

  10. says:

    Hi Skeptic Blog
    Long time reader, first time commenter. I’m an archaeologist (i.e. someone who values critical thinking and often faces foolish misinterpretations of archaeological data). I’ve also been working in Cambodia since 2005 and studying Khmer since 2006. I have to say that this post (as well as some of the comments) have really rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, many Cambodians are superstitious. Although the official religion is Buddhism, it is mixed with with a healthy dose of animism. Cambodia is also an extremely poor country, with a deeply troubled past, and more importantly for the point of this article a (to be blunt) shitty education system. Most of the people visiting this log are poor, rural villagers who have barely had an education. They likely don’t have a strong background in science or critical thinking. To make fun of them in this context seems deeply condescending. Most of my well-educated Cambodian friends/colleagues no longer practice or believe these types of superstitions. On my most recent trip, one of my colleagues was somewhat resistant to even having a small spirit ceremony, presided by a Buddhist monk, before we began our excavation. However, we proceeded anyway out of respect for the land-owners and others in the area. Cambodia is quickly changing and expanding, but the majority of the population is still rural, underfed, and undereducated.

    These kinds of news stories about Cambodia seem to come around fairly often and the foreign news press loves to use these stories to point out how strange an weird Cambodians are. To me this is a lazy and patronizing way of understanding these events and for you to hold it up as an example about how stupid Cambodians are seems like nothing more than bullying.

  11. Mark Edward says:

    You make my point exactly. Education is the key. Bullying is quite different than healthy sarcasm. I’m sick and tired of superstitious cons that separate poor people from their hard-earned cash and I’m certain, (as noted in the blog) someone is right now turning a ugly profit off the backs of these poorly educated folks. It’s the same all over the world. I see no reason to coddle superstition that is keeping humanity from learning how to take care of themselves without resort to being ripped off, whether from misplaced spiritual teachings or greedy con artists – where do you draw the line?. Any form of magic is power. Ambrose Bierce said it best in his book, “The Devil’s Dictionary.” “Magic is the art of turning superstition into coin.” My guess is that if my blog “rubbed you the wrong way” it’s not due to bullying on my part, rather the hopeless realization we as skeptics are often up against ancient systems that outwardly shun critical thinking. My particular way of dealing with these utter wastes of time and money I see promoted by this sort of charade is to turn to humor – that’s the only way I can get through most days. Observational humor tends to level the playing field in such situations. My respect for tradition ends when I see greed as the basis for any kind of ceremony. It’s a case by case situation, but I’m more apt to do something rather than stand by and watch blatant criminality of the worst kind promulgate un-challenged.

    • Max says:

      “Apparently Cambodians will use any excuse to smear mud on themselves and drink pond water.”


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