The unexpected facts behind this famous ghost story from the 1970s
It was one of the great ghost stories of the 1970s. One of the world’s newest and flashiest airliners, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, was making one of its first flights for Eastern Air Lines on December 29, 1972. It infamously crashed in Florida’s Everglades swamp just before midnight, killing 101 of the 176 people on board. The story goes that parts from it were salvaged and installed in other L-1011s, and almost immediately, the ghost stories began. Air crews reported seeing apparitions of their dead coworkers on board the planes that had Flight 401’s spare parts. Books and TV movies frightened audiences, and this ghost story that had it all became a permanent fixture in great American tales of the paranormal. Surely, pilots and air crew would never make up such stories, would they? To all who shivered at night in fear of this creepy story, it seemed that it must have been true as reported.
The actual crash was, in fact, true as reported; and there’s never been any real doubt over what the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigators determined. Pilot Bob Loft, copilot Bert Stockstill, and flight engineer Don Repo were bringing the plane in to land at Miami International Airport. They got a warning light on the landing gear. Loft told Stockstill to put the plane on autopilot while Repo went below to the avionics bay (called the “hell hole”) to manually check the landing gear. Loft accidentally nudged the control yoke, perhaps with his knee, while turning around to speak to Repo, and the autopilot mode was one which followed whatever pitch the pilot set with the yoke. None of them realized in the dark that they were gradually descending, as their attention was on debugging the landing gear indicator. Stockstill began a turn to follow the airport’s approach pattern, and immediately noticed their altitude — but it was too late. The plane crashed into the swamp; fortunately, it was a relatively gentle angle into a soft surface, and that’s what allowed so many to survive. All three of Loft, Stockstill, and Repo were among the unlucky majority who perished.
The stories began four years later . . .
Also See: Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 (Wikipedia)
While humanity has yet to generate any universally-accepted proof of ghosts or hauntings, millions of people around the world report seeing apparitions or experiencing ghostly encounters every year (and sometimes these events cluster around specific areas). Why? Is there any possible explanation for the purported appearance of ghosts?
The history of ghost photography and its many problems as evidence.
In books promising you a glimpse of the beyond you find page after page of chilling photographic evidence that spirits of the dead walk the earth! A ghostly baby sits on a grave. A translucent figure descends a staircase. A childs face emerges from the flames of a devastating fire. Do these photographs offer real glimpses of ghosts? Or is there a more rational explanation for ghost photography? Let’s expose these mysterious images to the light of science and see what develops.
The history of ghost photography is closely tied to the history of photography itself. Early photography was much like all new technology in that enthusiasts had to become skilled with the various equipment and chemicals required for producing images. Before the invention of photographic film the photographers worked with chemically treated glass plates which could be cleaned and re-used to make new images. Early photographers were often running small businesses, using their photography to make portraits for 19th century families. Because of the bulk of their equipment, most worked in small studios rather than moving their equipment about. Sittings were arranged and paid for. The expensive glass plates were often cleaned and re-used, but if not cleaned properly the remnants of the old image could be seen in subsequent photos. This method of producing multiple exposures was certainly widely known within the field by the photographers, but was not well understood by the general public.
Before we dive into the story of the early spirit photographers, it is important to talk about the cultural stage upon which they performed. The spread of photography was happening simultaneous to the rise of a new religion or belief system called “Spiritualism.” The main ideas of spiritualism centered around the belief that the dead continue to exist as spirits and maintain their consciousness here on earth after they’ve died. Interaction with these spirits was said to be possible through the use of psychics or mediums. Spiritualism began in the 1840s and grew through the early 20th century, attracting millions of followers and adherents. In the wake of this growing movement, ideas such as parlor seances grew very popular and it was quite easy to find people who openly believed in spirits as a scientific reality.A large population of people seeking proof of life after death made it possible for a robust network of mediums to set up shop in the north east of the United States. It was in this environment that Boston photographer William Mumler introduced spirit photography to a community eager for more proof of life after death.
Mumler had been a jewelry engraver before he began his new career as a spirit photographer with a single photo which he alleged showed the image of one of his deceased relatives who had died several years before his self portrait was taken. In a time when photography was already an expensive proposition for a family looking for a portrait, Mumler was able to fetch several times the normal cost of a traditional photograph for one of his special portraits which would show a ghostly image of some alleged dead loved one along with the mundane image of the living subject.
How would he accomplish this? How did he fool people with his blurry but easy to reproduce multiple exposure photographs? It was a success for him because . . .
Here’s What’s Happening
by Bahar Gholipour via LiveScience
It was an ordinary night, but Salma, a 20-year-old student at The American University in Cairo, had a particularly frightening experience. She woke up, unable to move a muscle, and felt as though there were an intruder in her bedroom. She saw what appeared to be a fanged, bloody creature that looked like “something out of a horror movie,” standing beside her bed.
She later explained her experience to researchers who were conducting a survey about sleep paralysis, a common but somewhat unexplained phenomenon in which a person awakens from sleep but feels unable to move. Up to 40 percent of people report experiencing sleep paralysis at some point in their lives, and a few, like Salma, hallucinate shadowy intruders hovering over them.
“Sleep paralysis can be a very frightening experience for some people, and a clear understanding of what actually causes it would have great implications for people who suffer from it,” said Baland Jalal, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego.
Researchers say that sleep paralysis happens when a person awakens during a stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). People in this stage of sleep are usually dreaming, but their muscles are nearly paralyzed, which might be an evolutionary adaptation that keeps people from acting out their dreams.
It is harder to explain why a subset of people who experience sleep paralysis feel a menacing figure in their room or pressing on their chests.
One possible explanation could be that the hallucination is the brain’s way of . . .
Also See: Senses and Non-Sense: 7 Odd Hallucinations (livescience)
People who’ve stared death in the face and lived to tell about it—mountain climbers who’ve made a harrowing descent, say, or survivors of the World Trade Center attacks—sometimes report that just when their situation seemed impossible, a ghostly presence appeared. People with schizophrenia and certain types of neurological damage sometimes report similar experiences, which scientists call, aptly, “feeling of presence.”
Now a team of neuroscientists says it has identified a set of brain regions that seems to be involved in generating this illusion. Better yet, they’ve built a robot that can cause ordinary people to experience it in the lab.
The team was led by Olaf Blanke, a neurologist and neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. Blanke has a long-standing interest in creepy illusions of bodily perception. Studying these bizarre phenomena, he says, could point to clues about the biology of mental illness and the mechanisms of human consciousness.
In 2006, for example, Blanke and colleagues published a paper in Nature that had one of the best titles you’ll ever see in a scientific journal: “Induction of an illusory shadow person.” In that study, they stimulated the brain of a young woman who was awaiting brain surgery for severe epilepsy. Surgeons had implanted electrodes on the surface of her brain to monitor her seizures, and when the researchers passed a mild current through the electrodes, stimulating a small region at the intersection of the temporal and parietal lobes of her brain, she experienced what she described as a shadowy presence lurking nearby, mimicking her own posture.
Via randi.org – JREF
It’s that time of year…
Fact: Around half of the American population, in survey after survey, say they believe in ghosts and hauntings.
There have been dozens of television shows, books, videos and Internet sites in the past 20 years featuring people who claim to be paranormal investigators who found evidence of the paranormal.
Around Halloween time, the media is dripping with hype about ghost tours, ghost hunts, and local paranormal investigations of the community’s historical places with breathless claims of proof of ghosts from these amateur ghost hunters.
What should we think about ghosts? It’s a complicated question. Here are some facts and FAQs to help get you square about where we are with our knowledge of ghosts and paranormal evidence.
This is a deceptively tricky question! The answer you get will completely depend on whom you ask. The “ghost” is one of the most popular concepts of the paranormal (beyond normal). Yet, there is not one agreed-upon definition across disciplines of what a ghost is since one has never actually been caught and examined.
Fact: No ghost has ever been confirmed caught and/or examined by anyone or anything. Therefore, we can’t determine its actual characteristics with any amount of certainty.
The common features we ascribe to ghosts is what we learn from popular culture where the concept of “ghost” has changed considerably through time.
The most common idea about a ghost is that it is the spirit of a dead person (or animal). This implies there is a “spirit”. However, we can’t define or measure “spirit,” either, because it has not ever been captured or measured. It’s more of a faith-based belief, like the soul.
Ghosts are interpreted as being what remains of a person that has not passed to the next realm of existence.
Fact: There is no scientific conclusion that any other realm exists for our “being” to pass to after death.
For reasons that are not consistent through time, paranormalists conclude that some unlucky folks may remain incorporeally stuck here after bodily death. Alternately, some paranormalists say that ghosts could be a form of psychic projection of the human mind.
Early scientific researchers (in the 1800s) who studied the concept in a methodical way, avoided the term “ghost”. Instead they used terms like “phantasms of the dead” or “apparitions”.
Your neighborhood paranormal investigator is fond of describing a ghost as a manifestation of the “energy” of a former being. “Energy” in this case is also used incorrectly since there is no energy sustained after you die. When bodies decompose, that energy is released into the environment.
by Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia
Yesterday we had a report from Española, New Mexico that a surveillance camera at a police station had caught an image of a ghost walking across a locked compound.
“At first I thought it was a fly or moth, then I saw the legs,” Officer Karl Romero said. “And it was a human. But not a real human. No. A ghost.”
A popular tale tells of a haunted Jewish wine box that brought ill fortune upon its owners… apparently.
Every once in a while, there’s a small, local ghost story that’s not very good, or that even has an obvious commercial origin, and that has no business becoming popular — but it does. The famous “dybbuk box” (also spelled dibbuk) is one such story. It went from a screenwriter’s pen on an eBay auction page, all the way onto the Hollywood big screen, with 2012’s The Possession starring Kyra Sedgwick and directed by Sam Raimi. It is the story of a small antique wooden box designed to hold a few bottles of wine, to which was attached a horror story going all the way back to the Holocaust. Whoever owned the box, it was said, experienced terrible disturbances for as long as the box was in their home. Why? Because, according to the story, the wine box was inhabited by a “dybbuk”, said to be a tormented spirit come back from the dead.
The whole idea of the box being inhabited by a dybbuk (דיבבוק) is nonsensical, according to what a dybbuk is supposed to be. The Encyclopedia Mythica describes it as “a disembodied spirit possessing a living body that belongs to another soul” and usually talks from that person’s mouth. An important 1914 Yiddish play The Dybbuk was about the spirit of a dead man who possessed the living body of the woman he had loved, and had to be exorcised. The word comes from the Hebrew verb “to cling”, so a dybbuk is specifically a soul who clings to another. Nowhere in the folkloric literature is there precedent for a dybbuk inhabiting a box or other inanimate object.
But of course, we’re talking definitions of folkloric terms, fictional by their very definition; so there’s no reason why this particular dybbuk can’t inhabit a wooden box if it wants to. And besides, the fact that folklore exists for a possessing spirit tells us nothing about whether or not factual events did indeed harass the owners of this box. The folklore is irrelevant to the question of whether or not this wine box did indeed cause the frightening disturbances attributed to it. So let’s see what the box’s claimed history is.
One thing to keep in mind is that, if you’ve heard this story before, you’ve probably heard that the box was owned by a whole series of people, each of whom had lots of terrifying experiences, and they then got rid of it to someone else. In fact, the lone skeptical quote associated with this story is from Chris French, who said of these many owners:
“[They were] already primed to be looking out for bad stuff. If you believe you have been cursed, then inevitably you explain the bad stuff that happens in terms of what you perceive to be the cause. Put it like this: I would be happy to own this object.”
But then when we look at its actual history, the number of people whose hands it is documented to have gone through becomes astonishingly small, two or three at most; and each of whom went to great pains to tell the ghost story in a dramatic way. Let’s have a look.
The dybbuk box first appeared in 2003 as an eBay auction by Kevin Mannis, who owned a used furniture shop in Portland, Oregon. But it was not listed as a piece of furniture; it was listed as a mysterious haunted item. Mannis wrote on his eBay page an elaborate horror story.
Are orbs really ghosts, or a common artifact of photography?
Next time you pick up a camera, watch out. You’re holding in your hand the very device responsible for tens of thousands of the most bizarre and unexplainable type of ghost photographs: Orbs.
Orbs, formally called Spirit Orbs, are those semi-transparent white balls seen floating around in many photographs taken in ghostly locations. Orbs are among the class of paranormal phenomena that are visible only to cameras, and not to the naked eye.
The usual hypothesis presented by believers is that orbs represent spirits of dead people, though some support variations on that. The science behind this hypothesis is not clear. For example, there are no plausible hypotheses that describe the mechanism by which a person who dies will become a hovering ball of light that appears on film but is invisible to the eye. There are lots of other things that a dead person might become, presumably; and the only reason believers have chosen orbs seems to be that orbs are the most common unexpected objects seen in photographs. If there was any good science behind this, there would at least be some plausible proposals for what the orb might consist of, how and why it is generated by a dead body, why it floats in the air; and also some good predictions about who will become an orb after they die, what size and color that orb would be, and where and when it can be found. I welcome any hypotheses that would explain how orbs could be a real phenomenon, but I haven’t been able to find any. The only evidence is anecdotal reports and, of course, the obligatory photographs, found on the Internet by the thousand.
Orbs most often appear on camera when a piece of airborne dust, an insect, or a water droplet is close to the camera, outside of the depth of field, and the flash source is no more than a few degrees away from the axis of the camera lens. This causes the object to be brightly light but way out of focus, resulting in a semi-transparent whitish circle. If the flash or other light source is significantly off of the axis of the lens, you won’t get nearly as much light reflected right straight back to the camera. If the object is within the depth of field it will be in focus and generally very small, and probably not noticeable. If the object is not very close to the camera, again it won’t pick up enough light from the flash.
I’m often challenged by believers that if orb photos are so easy to take, why don’t I do it then? I don’t because many people have already done so. If you want great step-by-step instructions for taking an orb photo, go to assap.org and click on Paranormal Photos. You will get all the examples, instructions, and explanations that you could ask for.
I recall watching MTV’s “Fear” back in 2000 (or so) and thinking, “What easy TV drama! People just scare themselves and the viewers get drawn in!” Since the dawn of the modern paranormal encounter show 14 years ago, has anything really changed?
Nope, not really.
With Amy and Adam exiting “Ghost Hunters” we’re left wondering if they can launch a new media venture significantly different than the parade of ghost investigation shows we’ve watched for the past 10 years. I’d be pleasantly surprised if that could be pulled off but I doubt it. Shows are packaged to be different but underneath, it’s the same old lines, same old places and same tired ideas.
The attrition rate for ghost shows is high; “Ghost Hunters” is the standout exception in its 10th year. Many reality paranormal shows are long gone with “Ghost Hunters” remaining. Most of the original cast, however, is gone and the spinoffs have spun down. After losing so many of their key people, can the TAPS crew come up with something new? All the famous places have been “TAP-ped” already.
The ideas have run out so the embellishment and drama is amped up.
We can see evidence for the staleness of the genre from the failure of “Deep South Paranormal” (Syfy), which only lasted one season after it got low ratings. Actual paranormal researchers, which you might think is a key part of the audience, have been vociferous in stating that reality TV ghost hunting shows in no way depict what they see in their own rounds. “Deep South Paranormal” was accused of perpetuating the myth that crews go around with gadgets to “prove” the paranormal, overreacting to any anomaly. Maybe the ghosts weren’t threatening enough so they had to add live alligators and snakes? Everyday paranormal investigators simply don’t like shows that portray their activities as a joke, even inadvertently. A few parodies have hit the web that suggest the concept of ghost hunting can be comedy gold.
It’s time for “Ghost Hunters” to hang up the gadgets and call it a career. They never once found evidence that . . .
America’s most popular true ghost story was a hoax.
In the small town of Amityville on New York’s Long Island, on a dark evening in 1974, 23 year old Ronald “Butch” DeFeo burst into a bar and declared that his entire family had just been shot. Police discovered six bodies in the DeFeo home at 112 Ocean Avenue, and what’s more, the subsequent investigation revealed that Butch DeFeo had himself killed them all: both his parents, and his four younger siblings, with a Marlin rifle. Despite DeFeo’s claim that strange voices in his head compelled him to commit the murders, he was convicted of all six murders and remains imprisoned to this day.
Just over a year after the murders, the home was purchased by newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz, who moved in with their three children. The house was sold furnished so all of the DeFeo’s furniture was still there, just as it had been on the night of the murders. George Lutz had heard of the murders, so just to be on the safe side, they called a priest whom Kathy knew, to bless the house. The trouble began when the priest was driven out of the house by an angry disembodied voice, and received stigmatic blisters on his skin. The family daughter reported a friendly pig named Jodie, who later began making appearances to the rest of the family through windows. A sculpted lion came to life and walked around the house, and even bit George Lutz. The apparition of a demonic boy appeared and was photographed, which you can find online. Angry red eyes looked into the house at night, and left cloven footprints in the snow. George Lutz woke up in a sweat every night at the same hour the DeFeos were murdered. Stephen Kaplan, a local parapsychologist, was called in to investigate. Powerful forces caused doors to explode off their hinges. Kathy developed strange red marks on her chest and levitated two feet off her bed, and George saw her transform into a hideous old hag. Green slime oozed from the walls of the house, and a crucifix on the wall constantly rotated itself upside down. And, in one final night of terror that the Lutzes have never even been able to describe, the family was driven out of the house, never to return. Their stay had lasted only 28 days.
The events are not surprising, since a few hundred years before the Defeos were murdered, the local Shinnecock Indians used the same property as a sort of insane asylum for their sick and dying. Negative demonic energy was nothing new to the Amityville Horror house.
So what happened next?
George Lutz, whose business was failing (ostensibly as a result of the distraction of the haunting), hoped to find a silver lining and called up the publisher Prentice-Hall. The Exorcist had come out only two years before and had been wildly successful, putting things like demons and abused priests firmly in the public consciousness, so Prentice-Hall was keen to capitalize on the Lutzes’ experience. The publisher engaged author Jay Anson to write the book The Amityville Horror, and the rest is history. The book and subsequent nine motion pictures were highly successful, though most critics agree that the movies were all stupid.
Where it started to get murky was a meeting that George Lutz had during his 28 days in the house. The man he met with was William Weber, who was none other than Butch DeFeo’s defense attorney. Who initiated the meeting is not clear. According to William Weber’s admission in later years, what transpired in that meeting was an agreement that served both men’s interests. The story of the haunting was concocted, based in part upon elements from The Exorcist. George Lutz stood to gain from the potential commerciality of a ghost story based upon the DeFeo murders, and Weber would have a new defense for his client: Demons, as evidenced by the Lutzes’ experience, caused Butch DeFeo to murder his family, at least in Butch’s own mind.
Many years ago I was asked to give a talk to incoming university students on the nature of psychology. As a social psychology professor, I had a lot of interesting material that I was sure students would find fascinating, from blind obedience to authority to the everyday persuasion techniques of salespeople. Yet to my surprise, at the end of my presentation, I had but two questions from the students: “Does The Secret really work?” and, “Can psychics really read minds?” For those unfamiliar with The Secret, it is a bestselling book and film that promotes the idea that we can have whatever we want merely by thinking about it, all couched in New Age terms and a gross misrepresentation of quantum physics. And as for psychics, there has yet to be any solid experimental evidence of extrasensory ability, even though there is $1 million on the line (more on that later). I initially thought that students asked these questions because they did not have much formal training in science at this point in their academic career, though I soon came to realize otherwise.
College and university students, from freshmen to seniors, have asked me similar questions, along with queries about aliens, ghosts, and a wide variety of New Age and alternative health and psychological treatments. Through countless questions on these topics, I’ve realized the need to teach scientific skepticism, and that using examples of pseudoscience — claims that appear to be scientific but are not — can be an invaluable resource for helping students become discerning consumers of real-world claims.
I certainly don’t believe in ghosts, but this is one of the better ghost videos/stories i’ve seen in a while. I’ve gone through the video frame by frame to try and discover how this happened, but the video quality is just too poor to analyze.
Leave any thoughts in the comments section.
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
Surveillance video from a store in Gilford has many people spooked.
The video from Ellacoya Country Store in Gilford depicts what looks a glass object flying off a counter and breaking with no one around.
A store employee is then seen rushing back into the room to see what happened.
The video was shared on the Ellacoya Barn & Grille Facebook page, with the simple description, “Haunted much?”
So, was it a ghost or something paranormal? The store commented on the Facebook post, saying ghost hunters will investigate the place soon.
Four common types of analytical errors in reasoning that we all need to beware of.
Today we’re going to cover a bit of new ground in the basics of critical thinking and critical reasoning. There are several defined types of common analytical errors to which we’re all prone; some, perhaps, more so than others. Reasoning errors can be made accidentally, and some can even be made deliberately as a way to influence the acceptance of ideas. We’re going to take a close look at the Type I false positive error, the Type II false negative error, the Type III error of answering the wrong question, and finally the dreaded Type IV error of asking the wrong question.
By way of example we’ll apply these errors to three hypothetical situations, all of which should be familiar to fans of scientific skepticism:
- From the realm of the paranormal, a house is reported to be haunted. The null hypothesis is that there is no ghost, until we find evidence that there is.
- The conspiracy theory that the government is building prison camps in which to orderly dispose of millions of law-abiding citizens. The null hypothesis is that there are no such camps, until we find evidence of them.
- And from alternative medicine, the claim that vitamins can cure cancer. The null hypothesis is that they don’t, unless it can be proven through controlled testing.
So let’s begin with:
Type I Error: False Positive
A false positive is failing to believe the truth, or more formally, the rejection of a true null hypothesis — it turns out there’s nothing there, but you conclude that there is. In cases where the null hypothesis does turn out to be true, a Type I error incorrectly rejects it in favor of a conclusion that the new claim is true. A Type I error occurs only when the conclusion that’s made is faulty, based on either bad evidence, misinterpreted evidence, an error in analysis, or any number of factors.
In the haunted house, Type I errors are those that occur when the house is not, in fact, haunted; but the investigators erroneously find that it is. They may record an unexplained sound and wrongly consider that to be proof of a ghost, or they may collect eyewitness anecdotes and wrongly consider them to be evidence, or they may have a strange feeling and wrongly reject all other possible causes for it.
The conspiracy theorist commits a Type I error when the government is not, in fact, building prison camps to exterminate citizens, but he comes across something that makes him reject that null hypothesis and conclude that it’s happening after all. Perhaps he sees unmarked cars parked outside a fenced lot that has no other apparent purpose, and wrongly considers that to be unambiguous proof, or perhaps he watches enough YouTube videos and decides that so many other conspiracy theorists can’t be all wrong. Perhaps he simply hates the government, so he automatically accepts any suggestion of their evildoing.
Finally, the alternative medicine hopeful commits a Type I error when he concludes that vitamins successfully treat a cancer that they actually don’t. Perhaps he hears enough anecdotes or testimonials, perhaps he is mistrustful of medical science and erroneously concludes that alternative medicine must therefore work, or whatever his thought process is; but an honest conclusion that the null hypothesis has been proven false is a classic Type I error.
Type II Error: False Negative
Cynics are those who are most often guilty of the Type II error, the acceptance of the null hypothesis when it turns out to actually be false — it turns out that something is there, but you conclude that there isn’t. If you actually do have psychic powers but I am satisfied that you do not, I commit a Type II error. The villagers of the boy who cried “Wolf!” commit a Type II error when they ignore his warning, thinking it false, and lose their sheep to the wolf. The protohuman who hears a rustling in the grass and assumes it’s just the wind commits a Type II error when the panther springs out and eats him.
Perhaps somewhere there is a house that actually is haunted, and maybe the TV ghost hunters find it. If I laugh at their silly program and dismiss the ghost, I commit a Type II error. If it were to transpire that the government actually is implementing plans to exterminate millions of citizens in prison camps, then everyone who has not been particularly concerned about this (myself included) has made a Type II error. The invalid dismissal of vitamin megadosing would also be a Type II error if it turned out to indeed cure cancer, or whatever the hypothesis was.
Type I and II errors are not limited to whether we believe in some pseudoscience; they’re even more applicable in daily life, in business decisions and research. If I have a bunch of Skeptoid T-shirts printed to sell at a conference, I make a Type I error by assuming that people are going to buy, and it turns out that nobody does. The salesman makes a Type II error when he decides that no customers are likely to buy today, so he goes home early, when in fact it turns out that one guy had his checkbook in hand.
Both Type I and II errors can be subtle and complex, but in practice, the Type I error can be thought of as excess idealism, accepting too many new ideas; and the Type II error as excess cynicism, rejecting too many new ideas.
Before talking about Type III and IV errors, it should be noted that these are not universally accepted. Types I and II have been standard for nearly a century, but various people have extended the series in various directions since then; so there is no real convention for what Types III and IV are. However the definitions I’m going to give are probably the most common, and they work very well for the purpose of skeptical analysis.
The RMS Queen Mary, a ship of enormous historical import, has been transformed into a roadside attraction whose owners profit off the allure of “ghosts.” Her glorious factual history has been brushed aside in a bid to pander to eager ghost-hunting tourists who aren’t thinking critically about the claims.
“For me, it is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
—Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World
I’ve had a fascination with classic ocean liners for most of my life. In particular, I have had a sincere awe for the RMS Queen Mary (QM) since I first stayed on board in the early 1980s—well after her retirement in 1967 and subsequent conversion into a hotel. She is a thing of beauty—a near-perfect expression of the industrial design aesthetics of the era (conceived in 1929, launched in 1934, maiden voyage in 1936). To say that we don’t make them like we used to is an insulting understatement.
Anytime in the last few years that I have even mentioned the Queen Mary, the immediate reaction from people within earshot is, “Ooh! I’ve heard that she’s really haunted!” My first reaction is a kind of amusement: how could one even tell the difference between something being really haunted as opposed to fakely haunted? My next reaction is usually a sigh of, “Here we go again,” and my final reaction more recently has been a kind of offense taken on behalf of the ship. I suppose that since an entire generation has passed since the Queen Mary was in service, the popular understanding of her has morphed into something a little weird and otherworldly rather than something that was a practical means of (elegant) travel. I write this article to express my own dismay but also to try to piece together why the QM has this persistent aura as the “haunted ship” and to make a plea to emphasize the real history of the ship as part of her future.
What Is a Haunting?
I suppose the first thing to do is to make a concise case for the problem of claiming that anything is “haunted.” No, I do not believe in ghosts, and at the same time a truly skeptical position must concede that this is not an outright rejection of the possibility that ghosts might exist, only that they haven’t been discovered yet. The problem is that there is no agreement among ghost believers as to what they actually are. If I had to aggregate just from popular ghost-hunting stories, I could paint a picture that ghosts are: sound-producing, light-producing, simultaneously corporeal and noncorporeal representations of “energy” (Electric? Chemical? Nuclear? Magnetic?) that can manipulate electronic devices, temperature, and physical bodies—except for when they don’t. There are so many definitions and assumed qualities of ghosts that it is impossible to come up with a working definition. In science, I would call that a “hypothesis.” Once there is a hypothesis or a working model explaining the properties of ghosts, then one could go about controlled experimentation. No one is at that stage though—because, again, ghosts have no known properties. So, no, the things that are claimed as “evidence” of ghosts (orbs in photos, mysterious sounds on a tape, a creaky door) can’t hold up as scientific evidence until a working hypothesis is established.
Furthermore, of course, anecdotes are not evidence. An anecdote is a personal story of a personal experience. It’s not a reliable way to make a judgment about the validity of a claim. Our minds are subject to bias, misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and conflation. The more anecdotes that accumulate don’t lead to the credence that the claim is true; it’s simply more “noise.” Personal experience is usually the absolute worst way to make a judgment about the veracity of any claim.
So that’s a little taste of why I don’t buy it when people make the “ghost” claim, but there are far better sources to brush up on your scientific understanding, such as Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World, Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things, and 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True by Guy P. Harrison. While you’re at it, check out Brian Dunning’s excellent (and short!) dismantling of ghost claims in “Do Ghosts Exist?” on his blog at www.skepticblog.org/2012/08/30/do-ghosts-exist. There’s much more that can be said here, but I want to get back to the Queen Mary.
The Queen Mary was one of the crowning achievements of the art and industry of shipbuilding. She was created and sailed in an era after the Edwardian opulence of ships like the Titanic and Lusitania and just before the jet age had arrived. She’s a blend of old hand-craftsmanship with the speed and technology of modern industrial achievement. To put it in twenty-first-century terms, she was a marvel of art and design in the way that the space shuttle amazed onlookers thirty years ago or the 787 Dreamliner and Airbus 380 do today. She held the speed record for crossing the Atlantic for nearly two decades and carried more troops at a single time than any other vessel during World War II.
After an exceptional service history (and with the speed and economy of air travel relegating ocean travel to vacation cruising), the QM was set for retirement in Long Beach as a hotel/conference center/tourist attraction. Since 1967, tourists have visited her in dry dock and gotten a small taste of what travel was like when the “Queens” ruled the seas.
Retirement, sadly, would be anything but peaceful. As soon as she pulled into port for the last time, the Queen Mary was subjected to numerous “renovations” and conversions that would forever mar her interior. Entire sections have been gutted, rooms and artifacts lost to history, artwork destroyed, and other blunders of huge proportion. The ship’s operations and ownership have changed hands numerous times in the years since, and she has struggled economically. In many respects, the experience has been “dumbed down” with subpar restaurants (with some notable exceptions), chintzy events, and history taking a backseat to exploitative tours—the most prominent and most egregious of which is the “ghost” tour.
In the early 2000s, the “Ghosts and Legends Tour” was installed. It makes use of some very interesting (and otherwise off limits) spaces of the ship. Fantastical tales of the paranormal are woven into the ship’s actual history and presented with a theatrical flair and some low-rent special effects. Tourists see the magnificent first-class pool area but not in any state resembling its days at sea. This version is fading, cracking and filled with fog. The real-life accident with the Curacao—in which 239 sailors perished—is played out for maudlin drama in a former mail hold that plays the part of the “bow.”
The Problem with the ‘Haunting’
On any night at the Queen Mary, groups of tourists who are interested can also take a guided tour from a “paranormal” expert guide. They bump around waving electronics of dubious utility in the air hoping for some “evidence” of an apparition. They can explore otherwise off limits sections of the ship and really take their time exploring while asking each other, “Did you hear something?”
- The Most Haunted Places in America (nittanypride.wordpress.com)
- Come aboard the Queen Mary for a Halloween fright night (fameandwanderlust.wordpress.com)
- The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor (ktla.com)
- The VERY Haunted HMS Queen Mary Luxury Liner – Long Beach, CA (wheretheghostslive.wordpress.com)
I got a package in the mail from Amazon around the time of my birthday. It was light, not a book, something from my Wish List. I had my very own ghost meter! I started roaming my house looking for sources of electromagnetic fields.
If I just let my ghost meter sit there, it does nothing. But if I find a known source of electricity, then the analog meter bounces upward or, in some cases, pegs all the way to the right causing a flashing light and beeping sound. Around the house, here is what sets it off—the circuit box, the electronic displays on the oven and dishwasher, my digital alarm clock, the microwave, toaster oven and dehumidifier when turned on. No surprises there. My cell phone didn’t trigger it. I tested it outside with an approaching lightning storm. It was slightly greater than 0 milligauss outside compared to inside, and varied slightly from front of the house to back of the house. The storm never got close enough for me to record electromagnetic fields (EMFs) fluxes from lightning discharges. That probably was a good thing because I would have been standing out there in a rather dumb position, you know, for science.
My questions about this device were many and varied. What was it really measuring? Was it telling me anything? And, most importantly, what does this have to do with ghosts?
Earlier this summer, during a ghost hunt in which I was an observer, I saw paranormal researchers each with their own kinds of EMF meters. Some meters registered a change in the surrounding field at the same time. Some individual meters would fluctuate with no apparent electrical sources. The researchers considered these fluctuations to be indicative of responsive entities or paranormal energy around us. It was assumed that these anomalies were paranormal.
Where did this idea come from—this connection between EMFs and ghosts? It looks sciencey and objective. But something is not on the level. I consulted more knowledgeable people and the parapsychology literature to get some clarity on this issue.
There is Science Behind These Devices
My meter was cheap but was noted by reviewers as being a “good beginner device”. Just don’t wave it around too fast, they said, because that makes it go off.
I asked former physicist and one-time paranormal investigator on the Queen Mary “haunted” ship, Yau-Man Chan, what the deal was with these devices. He said they are simple to construct, very straightforward. They are an inductor coil and an amplifier. They pick up “impulsive” EMF signals, like a large inductive load turning on and off—an appliance with a motor, for example. Elevators, he notes, are a huge source of EMF signals like this. But because these hand-held meters are not specific enough in direction or frequency, they aren’t very useful for much and not at all precise enough to conclude what is detected if it’s not obvious. Electricians don’t use these meters. They use more advanced equipment.
There are many other kinds of EMF meters used in paranormal investigations. GhostGadgets.com’s has a discussion about the different types and how they work. I attempted to contact the owner of that site with more questions but got no response.
They do capture seemingly anomalous and transient EMFs during paranormal investigations as I observed. An EMF anomaly is an interesting phenomenon regardless of the paranormal association. It is a recording of an environmental variable that shows an unexpected flux. Yet, ghost hunters are rather convinced of their cause. I found this type of statement often: “When you find an unexplainable field, normally between 2 and 7 milligauss, it is associated with spirit activity”. (Source) This statement is problematic. There are too many leaps in logic and no evidence to support that conclusion. The connection between anomalies and spirit activity is assumed. The best we can rationally say is that we found an anomaly. Concluding “I don’t know what is causing this” (often without even a modicum of effort to find out) does not equal “paranormal”. But that is indeed what happens. According to many in paranormal investigation, it’s the default conclusion.
EMF meters “… detect fluctuations in electromagnetic fields and low strength moving EMF fields that have no source,” says Ghosthunting 101. How do you know there is no source? Has every potential source been eliminated? It is improbable that the investigator has been able to do that. There IS a source. You just didn’t locate it.
“It is a common theory that spirits disrupt this field in such a way that you can tell one is present by higher than normal readings with [an EMF] meter.” (Source) I found that “common theory” assumption in several places – stated that it is “generally accepted” by paranormal investigators that spirits emit an ELF (extremely low frequency) field and this measurement is indicative of their presence. (Curiously, the quote above appeared verbatim and unattributed on many ghost group sites which is evidence that these websites readily copy and paste from each other.) Researchers are often far too conclusive in their baseless assertions: “Nine times out of ten, if a mysterious field is constant and stable, it’s artificial; if it fluctuates wildly, it’s paranormal.” (J.P. Warren, How to Hunt Ghosts, p. 145) Oh, really? Citations please! Show your work! Another possible interpretation of that statement is that the concept of paranormal is too broad and vague to be of any meaning whatsoever.
Messy and Vague Data and Language
Not all paranormal investigators get that excited over EMF spikes because they will admit it’s clearly not a consistent observation. The data are all over the place. Paranormal investigator Kenny Biddle conducted experiments with the widely used K2 Meter made popular due to its appearance in the equipment array of television ghost chasers. He found the readings were inconsistent, the device was very sensitive and also easily manipulated with small electrical devices like cell phones, cameras and camera flashes. [The Bent Spoon magazine V1 p 17-22.]
Some have noted that they had a “paranormal” moment yet the EMF device did nothing. That’s actually a data point that is unsupportive of the theory of EMF=ghosts, but they have not recognized the importance of that. But they would admit that no device conclusive detects ghosts.
There are a few studies that are suggestive that haunt phenomena is correlated to local EMF variances. However, others that have not found this correlation. Much more solid work is needed before we can definitively link EMF anomalies to experiences described as “hauntings”. Yet, the link is widely touted by paranormal researchers.
Vagueness is a problem in this field. We have an unreliable reading of questionable accuracy, positing an unknown source or the source is that which we have not yet conclusively determined to exist. We can’t even get an operational definition of a “ghost”! Science is particular about defining terms and using supporting references. Not so with 99% of paranormal “research.” You can’t do anything resembling science is such a state.
- Paranormal Investigations and Provo’s Forgotten Past (anguishasylum.wordpress.com)
- Paranormal Corner: Somers Point residence (nj.com)
- Paranormal Corner: Historic Ghost Tour of Salem County (nj.com)
- Ghost-hunting reality show pilot brings rappers Prozac, Bizarre to The Stable in Saginaw (mlive.com)
- Why Paranormal Investigators need Skeptics (and the other way around!) (yankeeskeptic.com)
- Ghost hunters’ new terror: competition (cnn.com)
- Paranormal Workshop and Overnight Ghost Hunting Scheduled (virginiaplantation.wordpress.com)
- Spirits use K-II meter to communicate. AMAZING Results! (howtocommunicatewithspirits.wordpress.com)
- Paranormal Corner: Gearing up for Salem City Cafe investigation (nj.com)
- East Yorkshire Psychic Research Group (eypr.wordpress.com)
A psychic has been accused of hiding a man in an attic to make knocking noises on the ceiling during a hotel “ghost tour”.
By Victoria Ward and agencies via Telegraph – UK
Chris Date, a paranormal medium, is alleged to have rapidly driven away from the scene after suspicious staff who hung around after his tour spotted a man climbing down from the roof.
The 38-year-old, who calls himself Knight Guider, tells guests who pay £12-a-head for the ghost hunt that he can contact the spirit world.
During a recent tour of the “haunted” Halfway Hotel in Llanelli, South Wales, 14 people paid to join him in trying to contact the spirit world.
The ghost hunters were led into the hotel stables where Mr Date asked a spirit to knock twice in answer to a question.
The guests were hushed as two ghostly knocks were heard coming from the ceiling above.
Hotel owner Paul Francis, 33, said: “A member of staff and a member of the public wanted to see if someone came down from the attic where the knocking was coming from.
“Twenty minutes went by and then this guy jumped down.
“Our staff grabbed the guy and threw him out.”
Guest Mike Grimble, 43, said the man claimed he was homeless and had nothing to do with the spooky sounds but was wearing “designer jeans”.
Mr Date denied having any link to the mystery man in the attic and said: “I’m disgusted by it.”
“It was nothing to do with me, that is one of the reasons that I left,” he said.
- Gilbert and the Angry Ghost (biffbampop.com)
- 10 Most Haunted Objects Of All Time (oddee.com)
- Study up on college haunts (bostonherald.com)
- Teenage Lovers Mistaken For Ghosts (newsfromthespiritworld.com)
- Psychics are not real (ryan59479.wordpress.com)
- Ghost Hunters and Paranormal Investigations (writingpis.wordpress.com)
- Family calls in ghost experts to their NE Houston home (khou.com)
- Gilbert’s Helpful Ghost Hunting Tips (biffbampop.com)
- Were Ghosts Sabotaging One of My Books? (spiritspast.com)
Can you really detect ghosts with a few basic instruments? We’re going to look at these tools and find out.
- Fake ghost hunting story leads to meth lab bust (myfox8.com)
- Link between ghost hunting groups and historical societies can get tricky (doubtfulnews.com)
- What constitutes a paranormal experience? (mysteriousuniverse.org)
- So, You Want To Be A Ghost Hunter? (asylumparanormal.com)
- Gettysburg Journal 2013: Ghost Hunting at “The Grove” (gcaggiano.wordpress.com)
When I do interviews for paranormal-themed podcasts or radio-shows, I find myself stressing the difference between my skeptical approach and the paranormalist approach. It’s worlds apart, starting with the core questions we ask. The paranormalist will ask, “Can we find evidence of paranormal activity here?” I start out with, “What, if anything, happened?” I have not begun with the assumption that paranormal activity has played any role in this situation whatsoever. If you do assume that, you are biased from square one. You are far less likely to come to a sound conclusion.
The paranormal researcher, I have found, often is interested in their subject area because of a personal experience. These experiences are emotional and confusing and probably highly disturbing to the individual. Once a person has this type of personal experience and believes it was of a paranormal nature (a haunting, seeing a UFO, or encountering Bigfoot, for example), it is impossible for anyone to reason them out of that interpretation. The memory becomes ingrained as a paranormal experience. It’s unlikely they will change that interpretation as their life progresses. Paranormal belief can be reinforced by positive feedback from social aspects, such as acceptability of the belief in pop culture or a social group of others who feel the same. Thus, we have diehard fans of paranormal reality TV and members of amateur paranormal research groups all over the place.
The emotion and time people invest in their paranormal interest is not unlike a church or even a skeptics society — we feel a deep comfort in being around like minds and having our ideas bolstered.
However, being surrounded only by those who see things the same as you do is a severe roadblock to fair assessment of paranormal claims. We end up mired in group think with no innovative thoughts (which is why I also engage with pro-paranormal people). In order to get the best answer, we must put our ideas up for deliberation, engage in critical thought, and eliminate the subjective bias in the approach.
Many of us have grown up believing in the paranormal. We read all the expert’s books. We listened to the gurus and believed the eyewitnesses. Not too many of that crowd picked up the skeptical literature that addressed the flaws in those beloved paranormal ideas. There are good reasons why we tend only to hear what we want to here.
Watch the video below to see the strangest cloud phenomenon you will ever see! Guaranteed.
Then click the link below the video for the explanation from the good people over at Ghost Theory. Cool stuff.
- Ghost Picture of the Day: Light Anomaly (ghostsnghouls.com)
- The Friendly “Ghost” (rethinkingtheology.com)
- Ghost investigation at Fort Desoto (tampataxihack.com)
- Ghost hunters check Tasmania’s Franklin House for bumps in the night (abc.net.au)
- Ghostly Pics: Hampton Court Ghost (newsfromthespiritworld.com)
One of the hazards of being a “skeptic” about paranormal subjects is that those who have had their own personal experiences or investigated a peculiar case like to play “Stump the Skeptic.”
“Oh, you are a Skeptic. Well, I have a story for you,” and then I get an earful.
How do you explain that?” they conclude, with added self-satisfaction of a story well-told.
I can’t. And I’m not going to try to explain it.
Unless it’s a well researched case which has published documentation, I can’t say anything about it. It’s just a story. If I accepted every story I heard at face value every day, I’d be broke and in a mess of trouble. I am not accusing people of lying. I’m saying “I wasn’t there. It was not my experience,” so I’m not going to speculate about what you saw or what may have happened.
There is nothing to go on when cornered with these stories. I can’t fact check or confirm. I can’t pull an explanation out of a hat. I have no place to go with them except to say, “Hmm, interesting.”
Paranormal books are primarily these types of stories. It’s unusual for a case to be well-investigated compared to the thousands of stories that are related from eyewitnesses or referenced from other sources. Too many stories aren’t referenced at all. I was recently reading a book on local monsters and some accounts lacked accurate locations. There was no town of that name or there were no details. Useless. That is such poor quality evidence, it might as well be discarded since it is more likely wrong than helpful.
Anecdotes do not necessarily garner strength in numbers — not for paranormal subjects. A pile of unreliable tales is no better than one unreliable tale. It’s all hollow.
When it comes to local ghost and monster tales, the stories just exist and it is unclear where they originated. Such tales are great as local folklore. A problem arises when these anecdotes are elevated to “evidence.”
There is an over-reliance on anecdotes in the paranormal community — for hauntings, cryptozoology and ufology — as the basis of investigation. A case will start with an observation but if that is ALL that it is, with no physical evidence, no verification and a cold trail left to follow, there is nothing you can do with it but document it.
Had your own experience? Cherish it as your own. I just can’t help you and it’s a bit rude to put me on the spot. You had the experience. It’s up to you to provide evidence to support it, not for me to disprove your claim.
via Huffington Post
- Weird Word Salad: The Terminology of the Unexplained (illuminutti.com)
- The Internet: A Superhighway of Paranormal Hoaxes and Fakelore (illuminutti.com)
- How Does the Skeptic View Paranormal Folk? (bigseance.com)
- Paranormal Witness – Someone Wants to Tell Me Their Story … (skeptical-science.com)
- Paranormal Corner: Where is Bigfoot? (nj.com)
More humans have died than you will ever meet, see, or learn about. Since our split from the apes, Earth has been littered with the detritus of human demise—nearly 110 billion bodies. If spirits did live on after death, most of the people you meet will have already met their end.
Every single house on Earth would be haunted by default.
If becoming a ghost were the next stage of life after death, our planet would be absolutely packed with ectoplasm. Earth currently harbors over seven billion human beings, all very much alive. We pack them in skyscrapers and in endless suburbs. But adding another 110 billion souls to the population would make everyone a neighbor. If ghosts could interact with matter, they would need space to haunt, and in the United States, we value our space. If the seven billion humans alive today wanted to live like Americans, they would need over four times the landmass currently available on Earth. By extrapolation, all the haunting space required by ghosts would push that number to 185 times all the landmass on Earth. If ghosts existed, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one (or it passing through one). Ghost hunter’s thermal cameras would see a blur of reds and blues wherever they looked.
Famous for being able to pass through matter, ghosts might simply pack together instead of being neighbors to everyone on the planet. Just how much space these phantasmal people would require is impossible to determine. How many ghosts could fit on the head of a pin? How many Ghostbusters’ ecto-containment chambers would you need to hold them all?
A new view of death accompanies real-life ghosts. When the body is just a vessel—a way station for the eternal spirit—life is a race to your best self. If ghosts manifest themselves as a picture of the person at the instant they died, old, grotesque ghosts would evaporate. Like how most animals strive to raise their children to reproductive maturity, all humans would occupy this material plane only until they looked however they wanted to look for eternity. Droves of twenty-somethings would commit suicide, seeking to remain young for all time. Billions of Dorian Grays make their pacts with death. Why live until you are old if you are bound to exist in that form forever? “Live fast, die young” is sound advice in a world where ghosts exist.
Carrying on as a ghost taking the last form of the deceased still would be spooky.
- CEO testifies that a friend spoke to Michael Jackson’s ghost (illuminutti.com)
- Paranormal Corner: Four types of hauntings (nj.com)
- What are ghosts. (apparitionsandmore.wordpress.com)
- Michael Jackson’s Ghost Testifies in Trial (weeklyworldnews.com)
- The original Ghostbusters: The English Society for the Extermination of Ghosts (1908) (freakyfolktales.wordpress.com)
- Girl Weds A Ghost: 1900 (mrsdaffodildigresses.wordpress.com)
By RICHARD JOHNSON via NYPOST.com
Jurors at the Jacko trial heard testimony from a surprise witness yesterday — the ghost of Michael Jackson!
Randy Phillips, CEO of concert promoterAEG Live, testified about a chat he had with his longtime friend Brenda Richie, who claimed to have talked to a medium who had channeled the spirit of The Gloved One after his 2009 death.
In the supernatural tête-á-tête, Jacko’s ghost allegedly absolved Dr. Conrad Murray of any guilt in his death and admitted he “accidentally killed himself,” Phillips said.
“Brenda called me to tell me that she was in communications with Michael either through a medium or directly,” Phillips told jurors about his talk with Richie, the ex-wife of singer Lionel Richie.
“She said Michael told her that it wasn’t Dr. Murray’s fault, that he had accidentally killed himself.”
Brian Panish, a lawyer for Michael Jackson’s family, objected to Phillips’ ghost story, calling it triple hearsay, since Phillips was relaying a chat from Richie, who had heard from a medium, who — allegedly — spoke to a dead Jacko.
Remarkably — over the laughter of courtroom spectators — LA County Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos allowed Phillips’ explanation to stand.
- GTFOHWTBS: AEG CEO Randy Phillips Testifes He Spoke To Michael Jackson’s Ghost,”It Wasn’t Dr. Conrad Murray’s Fault” (bossip.com)
- michael jacksons ghost says conrad murray is innocent (thescottishsun.co.uk)
- Lionel Richie’s ex-wife says Michael Jackson’s ghost declared his death an accident (breakingnews.ie)
- MICHAEL Jackson’s death has been declared an accident – by his own GHOST (iamnotashamedofthegospelofchrist.com)
- Michael Jackson’s Ghost Testifies in Trial (weeklyworldnews.com)
- This is believable… (realfuzzypolitics.wordpress.com)
- Aeg Live Boss: ‘Michael Jackson’s Spirit Absolved Dr. Conrad Murray’ (contactmusic.com)
- Michael Jackson’s ghost ‘said death was an accident’ (digitalspy.co.uk)
- Michael Jackson so drunk before comeback announcement he had to be slapped sober (mirror.co.uk)
In a nutshell: A Ouija board is used in a game where people ask questions and hope a ghost will move their hands to find the answer.
A Ouija board is a game board with letters, numbers, and the words “yes,” “no,” and “goodbye” printed on it. A 3-legged device with a hole in the middle or a pointer of some sort (called a planchette) is placed on the board. Players put their fingers on the pointer and ask questions that have yes or no answers, or that can be answered with numbers or words spelled out by letters.
There are several weird things about this game. The players don’t ask each other questions. They ask ghosts to join them and answer their questions. The pointer moves under their fingers. The players feel sure they are not moving it.
Try it. It works!
How does it work? Do ghosts really join in board games? Are ghosts moving the pointer? It might seem so, but when players are blindfolded and the board is turned so the top faces the bottom (without the players knowing it), something weird happens. The pointer moves and stops where “yes” and “no” would be if the board was top side up. Without being able to see the words, letters, and numbers on the board, the players move the pointer to places that make no sense. This seems to tell us that the players are moving the pointer to where they think “yes” and “no” (or letters and numbers) are.
Is it possible to move something and not know you’re moving it? Yes. Many scientific experiments have shown that people are unaware of slight movements they make. (Scientists call this the ideomotor effect. See the entries on dowsing and Clever Hans for other examples of moving without being aware of it.)
But what about the answers? Where do they come from? Do ghosts move the fingers of the players? Maybe, but it seems more likely that the answers are coming from the players themselves. Again, if the answers were coming from ghosts, you’d think that it wouldn’t matter whether the players were blindfolded. But it does. When blindfolded, Ouija players’ answers don’t make any sense.
Is it possible for the players to be coming up with answers to their own questions without their being aware of it? Yes. Again, many scientific studies have shown that much of our thinking goes on without our being aware of it. The unconscious (or subconscious) is what scientists call that part of the mind that thinks without our being aware of it.
Even though the Ouija board is a game, many people take it very seriously. Sometimes players give answers that are scary and frighten them. They don’t want to believe that scary answers are coming from their own unconscious thoughts. They might think evil spirits are lurking about the room. One person I know was playing with a Ouija board with her teenage friends many years ago. She asked how old she would be when she died. She and her friends moved the pointer to a 6 and then a 2. She took this to mean that she would die at age 62. “How will I die?” she asked. The fingers moved the pointer to the letter “B.” She took this to mean she’d die of a bee sting. She’s 66 now, but she’s still afraid of bees.
The Ouija board can be fun, if you know what’s really going on. If you think ghosts are listening to your questions, you would probably be better off playing something like Monopoly.
- Oh, my god, ouija boards… (impossiblaaah.wordpress.com)
- Ouija Board and my Boo Boo (majicandmayhem.com)
- The Dangers Of Using Ouija Boards (paranormalintruder.wordpress.com)
- The “mystical” Ouija Board (nobooblog.com)
- Studying ghosts: The equipment part 4 (thefreakyoz.wordpress.com)
- The History Of The Ouija Board (disclose.tv)
People have always been preoccupied with what happens to us after we die, leading some to believe in the existence of ghosts. But is there any real, conclusive evidence that these supernatural beings exist? Tune in to find out.
- “Testable Claims” is Not a “Religious Exemption” (skepticblog.org)
How many times have you heard a paranormal investigator claim to see faces and images of the deceased in everything from a cinnabon swirl to a waft of smoke rising from a candle? Are they seeing the deceased? No. What they’re experiencing is a nearly uncontrollable urge by our brains to seek out and identify patterns. Especially human faces. This phenomenon has a name . . .
«A psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records when played in reverse.» – Wikipedia
«. . . a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct.
«Under ordinary circumstances, pareidolia provides a psychological explanation for many delusions based upon sense perception.» – The Skeptic’s Dictionary
How powerless are we to our own brains? Look at the image to the right and try to NOT see a face in the shadow cast on the garage door. Bet you can’t!!!
See? Our brains are hardwired to seek out and find faces.
Just HOW hardwired are we to see faces where none exist? Look at the following montage of photos and try to NOT see faces. Prepare to lose control of your mind to the power of pareidolia!!!! Bwahaha!!!!!!
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
- Paranormal Corner: What is matrixing? (nj.com)
- Cloud Watching….or Pareidolia education for the young (twodifferentgirls.com)
- 21 Happy Faces Hiding in Your Stuff (mashable.com)
If you ask me, the “ghost” looks like a bug on the surveillance camera lens and the falling cups looks totally faked. Not to mention, the news report tells us “B&D Burgers will be featured in several future ghost tours that run throughout Savannaah …” and the entire story is told to us by B&D Burgers’ Marketing and Event Manager Gena Bilbo
Sounds and looks to me like a money making marketing ploy. I guess ghosts are good for business.
By Josh Colwell via The Coastal Source
SAVANNAH, GA – Surveillance video from B&D burgers on Congress Street in downtown Savannah shows what appears to be a normal night at the bar suddenly appear to take a paranormal turn.
“We saw it on our surveillance video. Our manager Josh Pair saw it and it caught his attention because he was sitting in the office and then he saw it and began filming it on his phone off the surveillance video because there was no way to explain it. I mean, there is no way to explain it,” says Marketing Manager Gena Bilbo.
If the orbiting light doesn’t do it for you, a stack of falling cups may.
“And with no provocation, with no wind, nobody walking by, no anything, the cups just fall over,” says Bilbo.
Low country psychic Kelly Spurlock says the building that B&D Burgers is in was built in 1855 and she says many of the spirits that inhabit it have been here since at least that time.
“One of the reasons it is haunted, all the things that have happened here, good, bad or indifferent, it is all still here.”
Marketing director Gena Bilbo says even their biggest guys won’t go down to the B&D basement alone anymore.
“A lot of the guys don’t want to go down there by themselves and I personally don’t ever go down to the basement by myself either, it is just a weird overwhelming feeling of, eegghh.”
It appears the basement isn’t in need of visitors, as it has plenty of action on its own.
- Ghost busters anyone? (sott.net)
- My dead grandfather scared away evil ghosts! (swns.com)
- Kenyon Myth[Ghost]busters: SMather Tower Graffiti Ghost (thekenyonthrill.com)
- Supernatur-ale! Boozer haunted by ex-landlord’s ghost (thescottishsun.co.uk)
- Studying ghosts: the equipment part 1 (thefreakyoz.wordpress.com)
- ghosts tethered (robertbevandalton.typepad.com)
- Excerpt and giveaway: “The Haunting Season” by Michelle Muto (rebeccaberto.com)
- Do Blind People See Ghosts? (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
Many ghost hunters claim to see the faces and images of the deceased in everything from a smudgy mirror to a swirl of smoke rising from burgers on a barbecue. Religious people claim to see images of holy figures in everything from tree trunks to vines on a telephone pole.
Are these figures really showing themselves or is there something else going on?
«A psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records when played in reverse.» – Wikipedia
«. . . a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct.
«Under ordinary circumstances, pareidolia provides a psychological explanation for many delusions based upon sense perception.» – The Skeptic’s Dictionary
In other words, our brains are hardwired to seek out and find faces.
Just HOW hardwired are we to see faces where none exist? Look at the following montage of photos and try to NOT see faces. Prepare to lose control of your mind to the power of pareidolia!!!! Bwahaha!!!!!!
- Jesus’ message delivered by bird excrement (doubtfulnews.com)
- Pareidolia (thisistypoegraphic.wordpress.com)
- The Faces of Mars (spacebucket.wordpress.com)
- The Fear And Curiosity Behind Ghosts (nameetshetty.wordpress.com)
- are you looking at me? (elainemcnulty.wordpress.com)
- The Ghost in the Microscope (elodieunderglass.wordpress.com)
- Spirit of Decay Optical Illusion (moillusions.com)
Science Says No-o-o-o
If you believe in ghosts, you’re not alone: A 2005 Gallup poll found that 37 percent of Americans believe in haunted houses, and about one-third believe in ghosts. Tens of thousands of people around the world actively search for ghosts as a hobby. Researcher Sharon Hill of the Doubtful Newsblog counted about 2,000 active amateur ghost-hunting groups in America.
Ghosts have been a popular subject for millennia, appearing in countless stories, from “Macbeth” to the Bible, and even spawning their own folklore genre: ghost stories. Ghosts are perhaps the most common paranormal belief in the world. Part of the reason is that belief in ghosts is part of a larger web of related paranormal beliefs, including near-death experience, life after death, and spirit communication.
The idea that the dead remain with us in spirit is an ancient one, and one that offers many people comfort; who doesn’t want to believe that our beloved but deceased family members aren’t looking out for us, or with us in our times of need? Most people believe in ghosts because of personal experience; they have seen or sensed some unexplained presence.
The science and logic of ghosts
Personal experience is one thing, but scientific evidence is another matter. Part of the difficulty in investigating ghosts is that there is not one universally agreed-upon definition of what a ghost is. Some believe that they are spirits of the dead who for whatever reason get “lost” on their way to The Other Side; others claim that ghosts are instead telepathic entities projected into the world from our minds.
Still others create their own special categories for different types of ghosts, such as poltergeists, residual hauntings, intelligent spirits and shadow people. Of course, it’s all made up, like speculating on the different races of fairies or dragons: there are as many types of ghosts as you want there to be.
There are many contradictions inherent in ideas about ghosts. For example, are ghosts material or not? Either they can move through solid objects without disturbing them, or they can slam doors shut and throw objects across the room. Logically and physically, it’s one or the other. If ghosts are human souls, why do they appear clothed and with (presumably soulless) inanimate objects like hats, canes, and dresses — not to mention the many reports of ghost trains, cars and carriages?
If ghosts are the spirits of those whose deaths were unavenged, why are there unsolved murders, since ghosts are said to communicate with psychic mediums, and should be able to identify their killers for the police. And so on; just about any claim about ghosts raises logical reasons to doubt it.
Ghost hunters use many creative (and dubious) methods to detect the spirits’ presences, often including psychics. Virtually all ghost hunters claim to be scientific, and most give that appearance because they use high-tech scientific equipment such as Geiger counters, Electromagnetic Field (EMF) detectors, ion detectors, infrared cameras and sensitive microphones. Yet none of this equipment has ever been shown to actually detect ghosts.
MORE . . .
- Are Ghosts Real? Science Says No-o-o-o (livescience.com)
- A review of the top paranormal events of 2012 (illuminutti.com)
- Scariest Ghost EVP Recordings 2013 (livescifi.tv)
- USS Hornet’s ghosts and spirits roam the decks, observers say (mercurynews.com)
- Is This A Ghost Stealing An iPhone? [VIDEO] (now100fm.cbslocal.com)
- Haunted Cemetery Mausoleum Ghost Hunters Video LSF Vault 2008 (livescifi.tv)
How do you know if that persistent rapping on your walls is bad plumbing or a mischievous spirit? Here are some of the signs of a haunting
You hear heavy footsteps in the upstairs hallway when you know no one is up there. Doors slam unaccountably. Commonly used items disappear and reappear without cause. The kitchen light turns on by itself. There’s the unmistakable scent of a strange perfume in the air.
These may be indications that your house is haunted. True hauntings are rare occurrences, and it may be difficult to determine whether or not any strange phenomena you are experiencing in your home might be due to a haunting. For one thing, no one really knows what a “real” haunting is – what causes it or why it starts. There are many theories, of course, which we have discussed in this space in the article “Ghosts: What Are They?” But if you think your house may really be haunted, what can you do about it?
THE SIGNS OF A HAUNTING
The first step is to determine, as best you can, whether or not you truly have a legitimate case of a haunting. Not all hauntings are alike, and they may exhibit a variety of phenomena. Some hauntings feature a single phenomenon – such as a particular door slamming shut that occurs repeatedly – while others consist of many different phenomena, ranging from odd noises to full-blown apparitions.
Here’s a partial list of phenomena that might indicate that your house is haunted:
- Unexplained noises – footsteps; knocks, banging, rapping; scratching sounds; sounds of something being dropped. Sometimes these noises can be subtle and other times they can be quite loud.
- Doors, cabinets and cupboards opening and closing – most often, these phenomena are not seen directly. The experiencer either hears the distinct sounds of the doors opening and closing (homeowners get to know quite well the distinctive sounds their houses make) or the experiencer will return to a room to find a door open or closed when they are certain that it was left in the opposite position. Sometimes furniture, like kitchen chairs, are perceived to have been moved. Very rarely will the experiencer actually witness the phenomenon taking place.
- Lights turning off and on – likewise, these events are seldom seen actually occurring, but the lights are switched on or off when the experiencer knows they were not left that way. This can also happen with TVs, radios and other electrically powered items.
- Items disappearing and reappearing – this phenomenon, which we have dubbed “the DOPler Effect” (DOP = Disappearing Object Phenomenon), has been examined in the article “The DOPler Effect.” Others have called this “the borrowers” phenomenon, and it’s the familiar experience of not being able to find a regularly used item – say, your set of car keys – which you believe you placed in a spot you routinely place them. But they’re gone and you look high and low for them with no success. Some time later, the keys are found – in exactly the place you normally put them. It’s as if the object was borrowed by someone or something for a short time, then returned. Sometimes they are not returned for days or even weeks, but when they are, it’s in an obvious place that could not have been missed by even a casual search.
- Unexplained shadows – the sighting of fleeting shapes and shadows, usually seen out of the corner of the eye. This phenomenon has also been discussed in some detail in “Shadow People.” Many times, the shadows have vaguely human forms, while other times they are less distinguishable or smaller.
- Strange animal behavior – a dog, cat or other pet behaves strangely. Dogs may bark at something unseen, cower without apparent reason or refuse to enter a room they normally do. Cats may seem to be “watching” something cross a room. Animals have sharper senses than humans, and many researchers think their psychic abilities might be more finely tuned also. (See “Animals and Ghosts” )
- Feelings of being watched – this is not an uncommon feeling and can be attributed to many things, but it could have a paranormal source if the feeling consistently occurs in a particular part of the house at a particular time.
Those are some of the most common experiences of those who think their houses are haunted. Yet even stranger things can happen…
Next page: Stronger Evidence
- 10 Reasons Why Your House May Be Haunted (supermarcey.com)
- 6 DIY ways to tell if your house is haunted (mnn.com)
- Scary Fun At NC Haunted Farm (thepaganmomblog.com)
- South Jersey Ghost Researchers to unveil haunted history of Olde Stone Village in Washington Township (nj.com)
While in recent weeks stories of “mystery noises” filling the air have captured the attention of many, sometimes the less easily discernible sounds around us could hold the key to unraveling strange secrets of time and space. This is particularly the case with Electronic Voice Phenomenon, also known as EVP.
I’ve always been fascinated with EVP personally, because unlike a number of other elements that are often associated with paranormal research, there seems to be a long history of interest in the recorded sounds of inexplicable voices that have provided tangible proof, according to many, that something strange is indeed going on. But if claims of EVP can be believed, what is the real basis for the phenomenon; how does it occur, and what, if anything, can we hope to learn from it?
Interest in electronic means of gathering voices of unknown origin dates back to the early days of electricity and its use in powering devices within the home. Thomas Edison was even asked whether popular spiritualist practices might be further augmented with the use of sensitive recording equipment that could discern the soft voices of the deceased. Edison agreed that doing so might present a more plausible approach to studying parapsychology of the day, as opposed to the sorts of table-tapping and séances that were so popular around the turn of the last century. This acknowledgment of the “spirit potential” likely contributed to the sense that Edison himself might have attempted to build such a device, though there is little evidence that this actually occurred.
In all likelihood, if EVP does exist, it is capable of being recorded via of one of just a couple of processes. One possibleway this is achieved is by the recording of sounds that may be sub-audible to most natural human hearing; in other words, while an individual with very acute hearing may do better in terms of detecting such noises in real time (something which a few mediums claim to be able to do), these noises would remain almost inaudible to the average listener. (more . . .)
- Does Telepathy Conflict with Science? (realitysandwich.com)
- 7 Signs of Poltergeist Activity (illuminutti.com)
- 10 Reasons the Dead Don’t Move Into the Light (omtimes.com)
- $5 million to research afterlife: Challenging the academic stigma (blogs.vancouversun.com)
- Paranormal group hunts for Saint John hauntings (cbc.ca)
Here is how to recognize when your home might be experiencing poltergeists
DETERMINING THE DIFFERENCE between poltergeist activity and ghost or haunting activity can be difficult. While ghost and haunting activity is the result of spirit energy, poltergeist activity – also known as “recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis” or RSPK – is the result of psychic energy generated (usually unconsciously) by a person, referred to as an agent.
But how do you know there might be poltergeist activity in your home? Most often, you’ll know it if you have it because it is out of the ordinary and pretty obvious: sounds, movements, and odors of unknown origin.
Below are 7 of the most common types of poltergeist activity. Let me be clear, however: Because you experience – or think you experience – one or more of the activities listed below does not automatically mean that it definitely is poltergeist activity. There could be more mundane, everyday causes for the activity. For example, smells of unknown origin could be wafting in from an open window; lightings flickering on and off could be faulty wiring.
You should seek logical explanations before jumping to the conclusion that it is poltergeist activity because true poltergeist activity, although it is a well-documented phenomenon with many hundreds of real cases, is relatively rare. A professional investigator might be able to help you to determine the cause of what you are experiencing.
Having said that, here are 7 signs to recognize:
1 – DISAPPEARING OBJECTS
You put your set of keys or your cell phone down in the place you always put it. You turn around a minute later and it’s gone. You and your family search high and low for it, but it cannot be found. Later – sometimes days later or longer – the object mysteriously reappears in the very place you always put it. Or, more bizarrely, you later find it in a most ridiculous place, like high on a bookshelf, in a shoebox in the closet… or some other spot where you’d never put it in a million years. Read more about this particular phenomenon in the article Disappearing Object Phenomenon.
2 – OBJECTS LEVITATING OR THROWN
You’re sitting there watching TV, totally engrossed in a dramatic movie, when suddenly the bowl of popcorn you’ve been munching from rises from the coffee table, floats through the air a few feet, then drops to the floor. Or… you’re having a loud argument with your teenage daughter, and as she storms out of the room, books and knick-knacks come hurtling off of the bookcase, as if reacting to the young girl’s anger.
The movement of physical objects like this can be quite dramatic and can be as slight as a box of Tic Tacs sliding a few inches across a table top or as amazing as a heavy refrigerator levitating off the kitchen floor.
3 – SCENTS AND ODORS
No one in your house smokes, yet on occasion the distinct smell of cigarette or cigar smoke can be detected in the bathroom. Or… as you’re dressing for bed, suddenly the overpowering scent of lilacs fills the room.
As stated above, all kinds of smells can enter your house from the outside, even from a passing car, so such scents might not necessarily mean poltergeist.
Such scents and odors can also be a sign of ghost activity as they might be associated with a spirit or with a residual haunting.
- Poltergsists (and their paranormal playground) (bangordailynews.com)
- Good Movies with “Paranormal” Themes (izabael.com)
- Is Stocky’s Pizza in Haughton Haunted? Evidence Caught (z6mag.com)
Since so many of my acquaintances know me as “that skeptic guy”, it’s not rare for one of them to challenge me with an experience they had, often reporting something like a ghost experience and saying “Disprove THAT, Mr. Skeptic.”
Of course, this completely misrepresents what I do, and where the process of skeptical science leads us. I’m far less qualified than my friend to prove or disprove his ghost experience; I wasn’t even there. In fact I’m always a little disappointed to find that my friends think I’m obsessively out to tell people that they’re wrong. If there is one thing that obsesses me, it’s the challenge of finding solutions to interesting mysteries — and telling people that they’re wrong is not relevant to that process. Proving alternate explanations wrong is collateral damage when a mystery is eventually solved, but it’s never the goal.
Yet, plenty of unsolved phenomena exist, and so the field for possible explanations remains wide open. Perhaps some strange experiences are caused by ghosts. However, I don’t think that’s a very satisfactory hypothesis, and the main reason is that the rationale for the existence of ghosts is — forgive the term — illusory.
Here, in brief, are a few of the reasons I give most often why it’s never right to jump to the conclusion of “It was a ghost”:
- There is no theory in any life science that makes a prediction that ghosts exist.
- Ghosts have no properties that can be described.
- There has never been a reproducible ghost event. This makes it unlikely that the perceived phenomenon was a real one.
- The logic that most people use to arrive at a conclusion of “ghost” is faulty. It’s usually “Something inexplicable happened, what else could it be?” A ghost is an unknown. By no logic can a set of unknown properties be considered consistent with your experience. Any other unknown – leprechauns, sorcery, Bigfoot – is an equally valid match.
Continue here: Skepticblog » Do Ghosts Exist?.
The subculture of pseudoscientific ghost hunting continues to evolve. Have you heard of a “ghost box?” It seems all you have to do is put the word “ghost” in front of something and it becomes technical jargon for ghost hunters, and also a great example of begging the question. A cold spot in a house is therefore “ghost cold.” An electromagnetic field (EMF) detector becomes a “ghost detector.” And now a radio scanner has been rebranded as a “ghost box.” Of course no one has ever established that any of these phenomena have anything to do with ghosts, so they are putting the cart several miles ahead of the horse.
A more scientific and intellectually honest approach would be to declare such phenomena as anomalous (although I don’t think that they are). Ghost cold would more properly be termed anomalous cold, or a regional cold anomaly, or something like that. One hypothesis for the alleged cold anomaly would be some sort of supernatural entity (call it a ghost) that acts as a heat sink generating cold spots. First, however, researchers should endeavor to find a mundane explanation for the cold. In fact before declaring it an anomaly they should thoroughly rule out any possible explanation. Only when that has been adequately done would they have a tentative anomaly.
It would then be reasonable to generate a hypothesis as to what is causing the anomalous cold, but such hypotheses are only useful if they lead to testable predictions. If the regional cold anomaly phenomenon is the result of “ghosts”, then what might we predict from that and how can we test it?
Read More: NeuroLogica Blog » Ghost Box.
- “Top 10 Real-life Haunted Houses” (illuminutti.com)
- ghost hunters – Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids (illuminutti.com)
- Ghost Hunters Returning to Syfy on September 5th; Synopses of the First Four Epsiodes (dreadcentral.com)
- Watching Paranormal TV Shows… Not Watching Paranormal TV Shows… Does it Really Matter? (greenfringe.wordpress.com)
- TV Ghost Hunters television listings: August 20-26 (Video) (examiner.com)
Ghost hunters look for ghosts or evil spirits (demons) in haunted houses, graveyards, old hotels, and other places. It’s likely that some of the first stories cavemen and cavewomen told their little cavechildren were stories about ghosts and demons. It seems just about everybody loves a good ghost story or a scary tale about some wicked demon’s nasty tricks.
Are the ghosts and demons real? So far, scientists haven’t found proof of a single ghost or demon. But that fact hasn’t stopped many people from throwing a bunch of equipment into the trunk of a car and heading out to see if they can find proof that at least one ghost or demon exists.
You may have seen some of these ghost hunters on television. They load up with things like flashlights, EMF detectors, Geiger counters, Gaussmeters (more about these later), tape recorders, video recorders, motion detectors, thermometers, and sometimes even things like Ouija boards and dowsing rods.
These ghost hunters bring flashlights because they seem to always work in the dark. We don’t really know what a ghost or demon is, but for some reason people who look for them are pretty sure they only come out at night. One problem with looking for something at night is that it’s harder to see and easier to trick ourselves into thinking we see something that isn’t really there.
Keep Reading: ghost hunters – Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids.
- Ghosts, demons and psychics: Paranormal activity takes center stage at Fort Knox (bangordailynews.com)
- Ghost hunters investigate Sandersville museum (m.onlineathens.com)
- Ghost hunters search for paranormal signs at Michigan’s first state prison (mlive.com)
- Paranormal Activity in Laguna Beach Mansion Sets Off Search for Ghost Hunter (prweb.com)
Every October, thousands of people pay to walk through commercial haunted houses, in which costumed actors stand in for otherworldly spirits. Customers can get the adrenaline rush of scary “monsters” popping out at them for a few minutes without any risk of getting their souls stolen or becoming possessed. But real-life haunted houses are a different story. Sure, there are plenty of paranormal enthusiasts who intentionally stay in purportedly haunted hotels and hunt for ghosts. But what if ghosts found their way into your home? If the poll results we just mentioned are accurate, the sensation of an uninvited guest isn’t such an uncommon occurrence.
According to the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP), there are some things to pay attention to if you suspect your house is haunted. Seeing apparitions, hearing weird sounds, smelling odd odors, feeling “cold spots” within a room, noticing objects that …
Keep Reading: HowStuffWorks “Top 10 Real-life Haunted Houses”.