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NHNE News Update:
SI DIGEST & The Shroud of Turin
Monday, March 30, 1998


Hello Everyone,

As many of you know, the Shroud of Turin is one of the most remarkable historical artifacts on planet Earth. Believed by many to be the actual burial cloth of Christ, the Shroud has been the subject of intense devotion, exhaustive scientific research, heated debates, and ongoing controversies. Recently, SI DIGEST, the online newsletter of the COMMITTEE FOR THE SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION OF CLAIMS OF THE PARANORMAL (CSICOP), published an article by Joe Nickell about the Shroud of Turin that dismissed the Shroud as "perhaps the world's most notorious religious hoax." Since CSICOP claims to champion serious scientific investigation, I immediately wrote the editors and asked them to either issue a public retraction concerning the Shroud article they published and/or offer an explanation as to why they ran an article on the Shroud that was so blatantly biased and uninformed. In case they weren't aware of the serious scientific investigation that has been, and continues to be conducted on the Shroud, my letter also included information from the Shroud of Turin Website (, which was created by Barrie M. Schwortz, the Official Documenting Photographer for the SHROUD OF TURIN RESEARCH PROJECT, INC.(STURP).

While waiting for the editors of SI DIGEST to respond to my first letter, I contacted Schwortz and asked him to comment on the article that SI DIGEST published. Schwortz responded immediately and I forwarded his unflattering review of Nickell's article to the editors of SI DIGEST. They responded by clarifying a sentence in Nickell's story concerning the Shroud being part of a phoney faith-healing scheme to bilk credulous pilgrims (Nickell's, according to the editors of SI DIGEST, was referring to what took place in the 14th century, not what is taking place now in Turin). The SI DIGEST editors also included a longer article by Nickell, which elaborated on Nickell's current Shroud views. After sharing the longer Nickell article with Schwortz -- one of a handful of people on the planet who actually studied the Shroud in person with a team of highly-trained scientific experts -- Schwortz offered a more thorough rebuttal of Nickell's scholarship and views.

This special NHNE News Update contains the following sections:

1. The Shroud story that SI DIGEST published in their March 13, 1998 edition

2. The information from the Shroud of Turin Website that I included in my first letter to the editors of SI DIGEST

3. The second article by Joe Nickell

4. Barrie Schwortz's comments on Nickell's second article

5. General information about CSICOP and their online newsletter, SI DIGEST

6. Especially important Shroud references on the NHNE Website

I felt it was important to share this information with everyone on the NHNE Mailing List for two reasons: 1. To dispel all notions that the Shroud of Turin can be dismissed as easily as Joe Nickell (and SI DIGEST) attempted to do in their recent article; 2. To alert NHNE readers who may be fans of CSICOP and SI DIGEST (as I am) that their stories do not always live up to the kind of thorough, rational, scientific investigation they advocate.

With Love & Best Wishes,
David Sunfellow


1. The Shroud story that SI DIGEST published in their March 13, 1998 edition:

By Joe Nickell

This spring, for the first time in twenty-years, the Shroud of Turin will be on display to the public in the Turin Cathedral. Perhaps the world's most notorious religious hoax, the shroud bears the imprints of an apparently crucified man, but modern forensic tests show the image was done in tempera paint, and radio carbon testing yielded a date between 1260 and 1390. This is consistent with the earliest written record of the cloth, a bishop's report to Pope Clement that an artist confessed he had "cunningly painted" the image. The "shroud" had been part of a phoney faith-healing scheme to bilk credulous pilgrims.

The shroud's public display is part of the 1998 Shroud Exposition in Turin. The occasion is sure to prompt renewed claims from the "shroud crowd" -- people who vociferously promote the shroud's authenticity. Be on the lookout for credulous stories in the media.


2. The information from the Shroud of Turin Website that I included in my first letter to the editors of SI DIGEST:

A Summary of STURP's Conclusions:

After years of exhaustive study and evaluation of the data, the SHROUD OF TURIN RESEARCH PROJECT (STURP) issued its Final Report in 1981. The following official conclusions are reproduced verbatim from that report:

"No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils. X-ray, fluorescence and microchemistry on the fibrils preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image. Ultra Violet and infrared evaluation confirm these studies. Computer image enhancement and analysis by a device known as a VP-8 image analyzer show that the image has unique, three-dimensional information encoded in it. Microchemical evaluation has indicated no evidence of any spices, oils, or any biochemicals known to be produced by the body in life or in death. It is clear that there has been a direct contact of the Shroud with a body, which explains certain features such as scourge marks, as well as the blood. However, while this type of contact might explain some of the features of the torso, it is totally incapable of explaining the image of the face with the high resolution that has been amply demonstrated by photography. The basic problem from a scientific point of view is that some explanations which might be tenable from a chemical point of view, are precluded by physics. Contrariwise, certain physical explanations which may be attractive are completely precluded by the chemistry. For an adequate explanation for the image of the Shroud, one must have an explanation which is scientifically sound, from a physical, chemical, biological and medical viewpoint. At the present, this type of solution does not appear to be obtainable by the best efforts of the members of the Shroud Team. Furthermore, experiments in physics and chemistry with old linen have failed to reproduce adequately the phenomenon presented by the Shroud of Turin. The scientific concensus is that the image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself. Such changes can be duplicated in the laboratory by certain chemical and physical processes. A similar type of change in linen can be obtained by sulfuric acid or heat. However, there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image, nor can any combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances explain the image adequately.

"Thus, the answer to the question of how the image was produced or what produced the image remains, now, as it has in the past, a mystery.

"We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved."


The 1978 STURP Team:

The organization listed after each researcher's name is the one he or she was affiliated with in 1978, at the time of the investigation.

Investigators for the SHROUD OF TURIN RESEARCH PROJECT (STURP) include:

Joseph S. Accetta, Lockheed Corporation*

Steven Baumgart, U.S. Air Force Weapons Laboratories*

John D. German, U.S. Air Force Weapons Laboratories*

Ernest H. Brooks II, Brooks Institute of Photography*

Mark Evans, Brooks Institute of Photography*

Vernon D. Miller, Brooks Institute of Photography*

Robert Bucklin, Harris County,Texas, Medical Examiner's Office

Donald Devan, Oceanographic Services Inc.*

Rudolph J. Dichtl, University of Colorado*

Robert Dinegar, Los Alamos National Scientific Laboratories*

Donald & Joan Janney, Los Alamos National Scientific Laboratories*

J. Ronald London, Los Alamos National Scientific Laboratories*

Roger A. Morris, Los Alamos National Scientific Laboratories*

Ray Rogers, Los Alamos National Scientific Laboratories*

Larry Schwalbe, Los Alamos National Scientific Laboratories

Diane Soran, Los Alamos National Scientific Laboratories

Kenneth E. Stevenson, IBM*

Al Adler, Western Connecticut State University

Thomas F. D'Muhala, Nuclear Technology Corporation*

Jim Drusik, Los Angeles County Museum

Joseph Gambescia, St. Agnes Medical Center

Roger & Marty Gilbert, Oriel Corporation*

Thomas Haverty, Rocky Mountain Thermograph*

John Heller, New England Institute

John P. Jackson, U.S. Air Force Academy*

Eric J. Jumper, U.S. Air Force Academy*

Jean Lorre, Jet Propulsion Laboratory*

Donald J. Lynn, Jet Propulsion Laboratory*

Robert W. Mottern, Sandia Laboratories*

Samuel Pellicori, Santa Barbara Research Center*

Barrie M. Schwortz, Barrie Schwortz Studios*

Note: The researchers marked with an * participated directly in the 1978 Examination in Turin. All others are STURP research members who worked with the data or samples after the team returned to the United States.


From Barrie M. Schwortz, the Shroud of Turin website's creator and host:

Dear Guest:

It is with great pride and excitement that I welcome you to this web site. My name is Barrie M. Schwortz, and I am your host. As the Official Documenting Photographer for the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc., (STURP), I was privileged to be a member of the team that completed the first extensive scientific examination of the Shroud of Turin in 1978. Between October 8 and October 14, 1978, our team spent 120 hours with the Shroud of Turin.

In the earliest stages of my involvement , I wondered whether someone raised as an Orthodox Jew should be a part of such a "Christian" project. Even then I clearly understood that this was probably the most important relic of Christianity. In my heart I asked myself, "Should I be a part of this?" But my good friend and fellow team member Don Lynn, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, was quick to remind me that the man in question was also a Jew. He urged me to "shut up, go to Turin and do a good job" and worry about "why and for what purpose" when I got back. I have never regretted taking his advice.

Now, almost twenty years later, my "purpose" has become very clear. As the Documenting Photographer for the project, I feel it is time to complete what I began, and do so in my own words. Frankly, I am still Jewish, yet I believe the Shroud of Turin is the cloth that wrapped the man Jesus after he was crucified. That is not meant as a religious statement, but one based on my privileged position of direct involvement with many of the serious Shroud researchers in the world, and a knowledge of the scientific data, unclouded by media exaggeration and hype. The only reason I am still involved with the Shroud of Turin is because knowing the unbiased facts has convinced me of its authenticity. And I believe only a handful of people have really ever had access to all the unbiased facts. Most of the public has had to depend on the media, who always seem to sensationalize the story or reduce the facts to two minute sound bites from so-called experts who have "solved the mystery."

Over the years, my photographs have been used by Shroud researchers and have appeared in many books, magazines, scientific journals, films and television documentaries. Now, I am pleased to announce two new and exciting projects of my own.

First is this website, where you can examine high quality photographs of the Shroud, review scientific papers and articles, find books and other information, access Shroud resources, obtain Shroud materials and even interact directly with Shroud researchers. (Think of it as the first Interactive Center for Shroud Study in Cyberspace!) And all without anyone insisting that you accept their "theory" about the image on the Shroud of Turin. Intelligent people, given the facts, should be able to decide for themselves.

Second is The Shroud of Turin CD Rom Project. This definitive, multi-disk, Research Edition CD Rom set is being designed to allow everyone an opportunity to explore the actual data from all the scientific research carried out on the Shroud of Turin in the 20th century, and to find it all in one place!

Please check the "Updates On The Shroud of Turin CD Rom" page of this site for a more detailed description of the CD Rom project and progress reports as it is developed. Also, check the "Late Breaking Website News" page for up to the minute news or announcements. You can also reach these pages from the MAIN MENU or the pushbutton navigator buttons at the bottom of each page. Also, I apologize for any pages you may find still under construction at this website. It seems that as soon as I complete one page, a new idea crops up for another! Please bear with me! If you wish to participate, send me E-mail directly from the "Send Us E-mail" page of this website or via you own E-mail server to:

The goal is to make this an exciting and informative resource for Shroud study as we enter the next century. Your active participation is necessary for that goal to be achieved. Let's hear from you!

Warmest regards,

Barrie M. Schwortz
3003 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039-1803, U.S.A.


3. The second article by Joe Nickell:

By Joe Nickell

For the first time in 20 years, the controversial Shroud of Turin will be placed on exhibit at its home in northern Italy. Not only are pilgrims expected to flock to the site, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, but many claims are expected to be made for the cloth by its defenders. Some facts are therefore in order.

Historically, the Shroud of Turin is one of some forty reputed burial cloths of Jesus, although it is the only one to bear the apparent imprints and bloodstains of a crucified man. Religious critics have long noted that the Turin shroud is incompatible with the bible, which describes multiple burial wrappings, including a separate napkin that covered Jesus' face (John 20:57).

The Turin cloth first appeared in north-central France in the mid-fourteenth century. At that time the local bishop uncovered an artist who confessed he had cunningly painted the image. Subsequently, in 1389, Pope Clement VII officially declared the shroud to be only a painted representation.

Years later, this finding was conveniently forgotten by the granddaughter of the original owner. She sold it to the House of Savoy, which later became the Italian monarchy. Eventually the cloth was transferred to Turin. In 1983 Italys exiled king died, bequeathing the shroud to the Vatican.

The shrouds modern history has confirmed the assessment of the skeptical bishop and Pope Clement. Forensic tests of the blood which has remained suspiciously bright red were consistently negative, and in 1980 renowned microanalyst Walter C. McCrone determined that the image was composed of red ocher and vermilion tempera paint.

Finally in 1988 the cloth was radiocarbon dated by three independent labs using accelerator mass spectrometry. The resulting age span of circa 1260-1390 was given added credibility by correct dates obtained from a variety of control swatches, including Cleopatras mummy wrapping.

These findings are mutually supportive. The tempera paint indicates the image is the work of an artist, which in turn is supported by the bishops claim that an artist confessed, as well as by the prior lack of historical record. The radiocarbon date is consistent with the time of the reported artists confession. And so on.

The approach of impartial scientists has therefore been to let the evidence lead to a conclusion. In contrast, self-styled sindonologists (sindon being Greek for shroud) typically begin with the desired answer and work backward to the evidence challenging anything that would seem incompatible with authenticity.

For example, they claim to have discovered microbial contamination on shroud samples that may have altered the radiocarbon dating. Yet for there to be sufficient contamination to raise the date thirteen centuries there would have to be twice as much debris, by weight, as the entire shroud itself! Moreover, the Vatican and the Archbishop of Turin have challenged the samples authenticity, and Walter McCrone insists that the fibers shown in photomicrographs of the piece of cloth did not come from the Shroud of Turin.

For some, belief will always take precedence over historical and scientific evidence. For others, however, the realization that the shroud never held a body should come as no surprise.


4. Barrie Schwortz's comments on Nickell's second article:

It seems that Mr. Nickel selects the research he likes and that supports his theory and ignores the research that challenges his conclusions. Also, a number of his claims are either grossly inaccurate or totally in error. For example:

He claims that the forensic tests for blood are consistently negative. Yet the work done by Dr. Alan Adler, a world reknown expert on blood chemistry, resulted in a positive test for hemoglobin and porphyrins, both components of blood. This was indicated in the following, highly regarded peer-reviewed journals:

Heller, J.H. and A.D. Adler, "Blood on the Shroud of Turin," Applied Optics, Vol. 19, No. 16, 1980, pp. 2742-2744.

Heller, J.H. and A.D. Adler, "A Chemical Investigation of the Shroud of Turin," Canadian Society of Forensic Sciences Journal, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1981, pp. 81-103.

Instead, Mr. Nickel sites only the conclusions of Dr. Walter McCrone, whose work has primarily been published only in "The Microscope," a journal owned and edited by Walter McCrone. Not exactly a "peer-reviewed" journal in my opinion.

I might also point out that although pigment particles were found on the Shroud, they did not exist in sufficient enough quantities on the cloth to form a visible image. They were evenly dispersed over the surface of the cloth, with no greater concentration in the image or blood areas than in the background. Over the centuries, there are 52 documented occurences of Shroud paintings being put in contact with the actual Shroud to "sanctify" them. No doubt, this is one source for the pigments found on the cloth. Also, during the 5 days and nights of STURP's examination, the Shroud lay exposed under a massive, 400 year old fresco that shed particulates each time a large vehicle drove past the palace and vibrated the 400 year old building. It is certain that some of the particulates, particularly those in the vermillion and red ochre color range came from the fresco that was predominantly painted in those colors.

Although the microbe theory is still only a theory at this point in time, it should be noted that Dr. Harry Gove, the inventor of the AMS radiocarbon dating process used by the three labs to date the Shroud in 1988, says it is credible and more research should be done to test its validity. He is currently collaborating with Dr. Garza-Valdes (the discoverer of the microbe) in this research. Since the work is incomplete at this time, it is impossible to evaluate its validity, but Dr. Gove's involvement certainly lends some crediblity to this issue.

One final note regarding the samples tested by Garza-Valdes. The Church did not challenge their authenticity. They stated that the samples provided by Professor Giovanni Riggi had not been authorized for such testing, and as such, the results could not be recognized as "official." They also formally requested the return of the samples (which was done), indicating they were most assuredly authentic.

Mr. Nickel's practice of "selective science" allows him to pick and choose the data or researchers he likes, while ignoring the data that does not support his point of view. Sadly, he then speaks out in the media with the authority of one who has studied the Shroud himself, rather than as one who has only read what other skeptics have written and adopted it as his own. That is not the way science works. I invite Mr. Nickel to read all of the science before formulating his opinions. That would at least show that he has an open mind.

Barrie M. Schwortz
Official Documenting Photographer
for the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Inc. (STURP)
Webmaster, The Shroud of Turin Website

[Editor's Note: While Schwortz personally challenges both Nickell's views and his scientific credentials concerning the Shroud of Turin, in the interest of providing a thoroughly professional and unbiased overview concerning all aspects of Shroud research, Schwortz currently lists one of Nickell's Shroud books on his website, which is the world's most comprehensive, well-connected, and authoritative source for information concerning all aspects of Shroud research. Many other books, videos, CDs, and important Shroud papers and articles, which examine a wide variety of Shroud issues, are also listed on the Shroud of Turin Website:]


5. General information about CSICOP and their online newsletter, SI DIGEST:

SI ELECTRONIC DIGEST is the weekly email news update of the COMMITTEE FOR THE SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION OF CLAIMS OF THE PARANORMAL (CSICOP). The Digest is written and edited by Matthew Nisbet and Barry Karr. SI DIGEST has over 2000 readers worldwide, and is distributed via email from the CENTER FOR INQUIRY-INTERNATIONAL, Amherst N.Y., USA

Send comments, media inquiries, and news to:
(716) 636-1425

CSICOP encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminates factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public. It also promotes science and scientific inquiry, critical thinking, science education, and the use of reason in examining important issues. The Committee is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization, started 18 years ago. THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER is its official journal. Some of the founding members of CSICOP included scientists, academics, and science writers such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Philip Klass, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman, James Randi, Martin Gardner, Sidney Hook, and others.


6. Especially important Shroud references on the NHNE Website:


Copyright 1998 by NewHeavenNewEarth

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