SW: How did you get involved in skepticism?
KS: I’ve had a deep fascination with the paranormal ever since I was a kid. From a young age I loved reading and writing stories about ghosts, aliens, and psychics. The only problem was, I didn’t believe in any of it! Years later I approached the Australian Skeptics and asked if I could do work experience with them. This led to a project in which I went undercover as a patient and had consultations with a number of alternative therapists, including a homoeopathist, an iridologist, a naturopath, and an aura reader. They all told me I was sick with a variety of illnesses, although no two diagnoses were the same. Then I went to a medical doctor and underwent a battery of tests, which disproved all of the diagnoses of the therapists. I’ve been hooked on doing investigations ever since!
SW: What is the most interesting thing you have investigated? Why?
KS: Certainly one of the strangest things I’ve investigated are the claims of Braco the Gazer. I thought I’d heard of everything until I came across him! Braco is a sort of faith healer who is believed to cure disease, cause miracles, and bring good luck to people by merely gazing at them! I also investigated many weird religious beliefs and practices for God Bless America, including Voodoo rituals and demonic possession and exorcisms. Living in the States I’m never short of interesting things to investigate, and I urge other skeptics to get out there and become involved in investigations too! Why not go and see that psychic show and write a post about it? Or visit a local “haunted” location and vlog about it?
SW: Do you feel you were treated differently in skepticism because you are a woman? If so, how? Any examples?
KS: As far as opportunities are concerned, my answer is no. However, I’ve had some unfortunate personal experiences as a woman in skepticism. Within the community I’ve encountered sexism, and have been the victim of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I think many men and women are aware of these problems within skepticism, if they haven’t been affected personally. Unfortunately, a minority of skeptics prefer to look the other way, reinterpret this behavior as flattery, or dismiss it with, “boys will be boys”. Some are even denialists, but these people are often the culprits. I’m hopeful these problems will disappear with a greater awareness of these issues, an inevitable changing of the guard, and as skepticism matures over time.
SW: You talk about "supernatural language." Can you explain what you mean and give some examples?
KS: Language is the main tool used in the paranormal and pseudoscience. Many topics within skepticism involve supernatural claims about language, whether it’s speaking in tongues, spells, graphology, or J.Z. Knight claiming to channel a 35,000-year-old spirit. My forthcoming book Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic explores a wide range of supernatural claims about language, including chain letters, prayer, monster and alien languages, hidden satanic messages in music, and voices of the dead.
SW: What projects are you working on now? How can the community support these?
KS: I’m working on a new book about alternative therapies called Not What the Doctor Ordered. I intersperse my research with investigations into “haunted” houses, psychics, religions and cults, and various pseudoscientific claims. If the community would like to help support my projects I’d be very grateful if people would check out my books and get in touch with me about topics they’d like me to investigate.
SW: What do you enjoy doing outside of skepticism?
KS: When I’m not cooped up in my office or writing in a coffee shop, I like to go walking, hiking, and to the gym or the beach (just not when living in Colorado, obviously). I enjoy traveling, art, music, cooking, and trying out exotic restaurants. I love reading about anything to do with language, history, and culture. Most of all, I adore spending every second I can with my husband, Matthew Baxter, who is also a skeptical paranormal investigator, which means there’s little I do outside of skepticism!