Fourteen years ago, a Bolingbrook resident walked into our office and said he could get us on the World Wide Web. I was skeptical, but I was willing to give him a chance. In November of that year, he put the first Babbler article online. The response was small but promising enough that by the next year, we were putting one story a month online.
Our web site has changed to keep up with the times. Now it’s updated once a week, and we have a global audience. We also feature content from our two sister publications, The Manchester Mumbler and The Red Deer Reporter. When the world wants to know the unbelievable truth, they read The Babbler.
Ah, yes, the Babbler. It is with great enthusiasm that I congratulate the Bolingbrook Babble on their birthday.
Since, we are a straight-shooting site here, (and the Babbler is deliberately wonky), I’ll give you the facts.
The Babbler is the creation of William Brinkman, a writer of short fiction and a follower of the skeptical community since the mid-1990s. He’s currently active in The Chicago Skeptics, participated in two Skepticamps and was also on Women Thinking Inc.’s first board of directors. You might see him at TAM or commenting on some skeptical blogs.
After teaching himself some HTML in the mid-1990s, he began a webpage that included some of his short stories. He tells me about the origin of the Babbler:
“In 1998, I was living in Bolingbrook, Illinois and I wondered what it would be like if Bolingbrook had a publication like the Weekly World News. Bolingbrook is a quiet suburb of Chicago, and I thought it would be a fun challenge to create a tabloid centered around Bolingbrook.
In 1999, I started doing monthly updates until January of 2001. I gained a small following, and was interviewed in a local paper. I also received a legal threat from the Bolingbrook Jaycees for my first weredeer article. A reporter also claimed that a village hall employee was furious that I got mentioned in a newspaper. (They didn’t like that I was critical of Mayor Roger Claar.)
From 2001 to 2007, I stopped writing new articles but left the web page online. During that time I helped write three books for the White Wolf role-playing game, Demon: The Fallen. I was also active in the Camarilla, a White Wolf fan club.
I decided to restart The Babbler in 2007 [after being badgered to restart by a friend]. Since then, I’ve managed to update it at least once a week.
I think of The Babbler as a way of looking at the world through a old-style tabloid lens. It is colored by the fact that I am a skeptic, a liberal, and an atheist, I don’t write The Babbler to specifically promote those views. Instead I hope that the people will read my articles, get a laugh, and then think about my point. They don’t have to be converted, but if they think about what I say, then I’ll consider it a success.
I also see The Babbler as a learning opportunity. I’ve learned a lot by doing research for my stories, and by meeting people through my work. For example, by meeting Mayor Claar, and researching him, I actually gained some respect for him. I still have major issues with him, but I have a better understanding of him thanks to my work on The Babbler.”
Oh, the joys we have gotten out of this work. I’ll point you specifically to this piece that I got endless enjoyment out of: New paranormal show to investigate the Hidden Lakes Monster
For the Hidden Lakes Monster episode, John Downes, directer of Centre for Fortean Zoology, will lead the believer investigative team. Sharon Hill, of The Doubtful Newsblog, will lead the skeptical team, currently nicknamed, “iDoubtit.”
A spokesperson for Downes released a statement which said, “After the dreadful editing of the Penn and Teller episode, I’m looking forward to being vindicated in Bolingbrook.”
A spokesperson for Sharon Hill said, “She looks forward to proving that Hidden Lakes is too small to support a lake monster, and to finally earn money for her skepticism!”
HAHA! That’s me! Well, the joke turned into something unexpected as the story was taken SERIOUSLY by a leading cryptozoologist despite the fact that every story on the site states: “Please note: All articles on this site are works of fiction.”
Cheers to you, William Brinkman, and the continued success of The Bolingbrook Babbler. It’s good to read nonsense and know FOR SURE that it’s fiction. Well, most of us know that.