Authored by:
Stephen J. Mraz
Senior Editor

I read an article the other day that had some good news, some bad news, and some disturbing implications. It seems eBay is banning the sale of “spells, curses, hexing, conjuring, magic, prayers, magic potions, and healing sessions.” eBay says the policy is part of its effort to “build trust in the marketplace and support sellers.”

Kudos to eBay for putting an end to scammers selling worthless “merchandise” to an all-too gullible public. Those unscrupulous sellers were proving the old saying popularly attributed to P.T. Barnum, but which actually came from his competitor, David Hannum: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

The bad news is that eBay is interfering in the sale of legal and harmless items between willing sellers and buyers. If somebody wants to buy what another offers, why should eBay stand in the way? (Not that there aren’t other sites on the Web eager to sell you a spell or a South American charm vial. Check out the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.) After all, the folks selling spells and hexes on eBay garnered comments from satisfied buyers that included, “Best spell-caster on eBay,” and “We bought four spells! Highly recommend!”

And the disturbing implication is that the people buying all this junk are allowed to vote, drive a car, and have children. The fact that they grew up to be adults with their heads still filled with so much misinformation is a pretty strong indictment against our schools in America.

I also wonder if eBay will continue its efforts toward building trust in the marketplace. It doesn’t look like it. A quick search through its inventory revealed:

— 79 listings for dowsing rods. One model, going for about $55, had “special proportions based on the Pythagorean Theorem and sacred geometry principles found in nature.”

— 51 listings for ear-candling paraphernalia, including a $57 book titled the Practical Guide to Ear Candling: A New Twist on an Ancient Practice. After all, if ancient people used it, especially the Chinese, it must work.

— 401 Homeopathic “medicines.” One, a cure for dizziness, advertises that it’s a 55× dilution, which is homeopathic jargon meaning there’s a 1:10-55 ratio between its inert and active ingredients. That breaks down to 1 × 10-55˜gm/ml. I’m pretty sure science can’t even detect the active ingredient in this concoction, whatever it is.

— 107 listings for ghost detectors. These are mostly gauss meters and handheld devices that detect microwaves and EMF repackaged to appeal to modern-day ghostbusters and people paranoid about health damage from cell phones and power lines.

It seems odd that the Internet, a marvel of science, engineering, and rational thought, is being used to peddle such nonsense. But that’s life in a free country.